When the shit hits the fan
One more in our series of chapters that didn't make THE NIGHT POLICE final cut. This may have been round filed, but like all the rest, it's a true account fictionalized, only names and places have been changed to protect identities. Sometimes these excerpts aren't "publish-ready" as they were drafts, but you'll get the drift.
In Part Three find out how this all went down. Blood, prison, kilos of dope, broken cops...
This is a three-part blog post, and this wraps it up. Links to Parts One and Two are here:
“Let Me Make This Right” Part 3
We planned to meet Brodie at 9 PM. We’d have the money with us, in the trunk of our car, but would not carry it into the meet. If all went well, we’d try to talk Brodie into showing us the dope before we had to show him the money. If it worked out that way, once we saw the dope, the door would come crashing down. If it didn’t, well we had to plan for that contingency.
In this case, if we had to “flash the cash”, we’d try to make that happen at the car. Mookie would allow Brodie or the other unidentified guy to go out to the car with him, where he’d open the trunk and the briefcase and show the money.
Show the money, not count the money. That was always an issue for us, we never had enough buy money unless we pulled in state DOJ or DEA. Once you did that, you could kiss your case goodbye. You just don’t own your case anymore, no matter how much time and effort you put into it. Their money, they run the show. Sometimes you just took a calculated risk to flash what looked like the right amount of money, and then you assumed you would be good enough to pull it all off. We didn’t lack self confidence.
Back to the money flash, with a rip off always a concern, at least at the car Mookie’d be very closely surveilled by our own. And not just to protect the money, but also for officer safety reasons. There was a secondary rationale to get to the car. On the off chance the body wire was not transmitting, he’d be able to give a visual high sign once outside that would indicate status of the deal.
For this transaction, we were not bringing a briefcase of money into the apartment under any circumstances. Because Brodie was new to us, and had significant weapons history and a dope sheet, we would go simple and clean. If it all worked out, we could add a touch more sophistication to the following deals. Always the optimists, were we.
A big portion of our plan was coordination of the patrol support and the detectives who would be our safety net on the “outside”. They orchestrated where patrol and surveillance vehicles would be, who’d be on foot. Chase cars, and the audio surveillance team needed a place to be and obviously all of this would be hopefully out of sight of the two we knew about and any others they might have brought to the dance but had neglected to tell us about.
The surveillance guys we’re on the ground at 1313 Apricot Ave., in Menhome, a full twelve hours before the planned deal time and were relaying basic intel back to our team. For most of that time, they had seen no one enter the apartment, and they hadn’t picked up on any counter surveillance. About six pm they observed a white male in his 30s driving a spanking new white Ford pickup pull into the lot and make his way to Brodie’s apartment. They immediately started working the vehicle up to see if we could identify the driver and learn a bit about him. We now knew there’d likely be at least two bad guys in the apartment.
A bit after nine thirty, with the finishing touches to my body wire complete, Mookie and I slipped out the back door of the PD and walked around the corner to my car. Before heading to the Apricot Pit, I radio and wire checked, and both seemed to be in working order.
After parking in the lot at the apartment, we looked around. Everything seemed kosher. We stepped into the cool of the evening, not anxious but perhaps a little tight. Because of our surveillance team’s efforts, Mookie and I knew exactly where apartment #113 was, but we took a route that would look like we were trying to find it. At the end of a long brick walkway we took a jog to the left, and the apartment was the first door on the right. This was a clapboard apartment building, two stories and maybe a bit above average in terms of aesthetics. It wasn’t the waste yards we normally worked in.
Mookie knocked. We waited. I could hear movement inside but couldn’t make it out. Just then the door opened, about halfway. At the door was not Brodie, but a guy who fit the description of the white pickup guy. “Whatcha need?” he asked nonchalantly. I said we were there to see Brodie, that we were expected. The door shut. We waited.
After an inordinately long wait, which I did not like at all, Brodie Gottardi opened the door. He had a weak smile on his goatee’d face. As they said in a movie might have been “Serpico”, he looked like a goats ass with teeth. “Hmm, right on time”. That was a perfect example of the doper mentality and time clock. Almost an hour late is not only right on time in that world. In actuality, it was early. Brodie looked us up and down, then opened the door.
Brodie and his sidekick took the couch, each sporting a Schlitz, just what you might expect from these knuckleheads. The balance of the sixpack, on the table they offered up to us. Because we’re cooperative types, we were happy to oblige. The apartment had pretty bare furnishing, as best I could tell. With only a Lynda Carter Wonder Woman poster on the living room wall, the rest of the place was stripped down. It didn’t really look like we were in Brodie’s apartment. Perhaps he kept the space for other reasons.
One aspect of buying dope could be a lot like taking a business meeting at some rust belt steel mill. Before you could get to the point of your meeting, there would be small talk. Engaging in this routine bullshit chit chat gives you some time to evaluate the players, look for secreted weapons or other suspects for that matter and to collect information about the environment you’ve just been introduced to.
This was your basic, standard living room with a kitchen, I couldn’t completely see off to the left. Down a short hall and behind the living room would be one or more bedrooms. I didn’t have eyes on them and had no clue if there were any other “associates” back there. I also didn’t see any indicators of weapons, at least none were obvious and neither of them were dressed to conceal.
When there was a pause in the conversation I said to Brodie, “Hey let’s take care of business if we can, I still gotta get back to the city.” Brodie in agreement, “Good. I got plans too. You boys got the cash? Where is it?” Guess the foreplay was over.
“Yeah, we have it together, we want to see the product first.” I ignored the where is it question, but he didn’t let it drop.
“How do I know you guys have the cash?” As the dance continued I offered up,
“It’s three minutes away. Easy to make this happen.”
We both seemed to be working to put the other at ease.
I’ll give Brodie credit, he was prepared. When he reached for the floor and under the couch, I’ll admit puckering up for a moment, at least until I saw him slide an Adidas box out from under. He set it on his lap, and opened it, revealing a plastic bag with a large quantity of white powder in it. This looked like what you’d expect a kilo of cocaine would look like, we’d bought enough to to have that understanding. What we couldn’t guess was the purity (had they cut it with mannite, or talcum powder, or as we once ran across, finely ground sheet rock?). Purity mattered to most buyers, but not to us. If it contained cocaine they’d go down.
Having actual cocaine mattered in one respect. You could still get arrested for selling “in lieu of”, essentially bunk, but that wasn’t what we were trying to take off the streets. Portraying the typical buyers, we’d want to test it and weigh it, which is just what I suggested. I added, that if this was the quality suggested, we had a business partner in Lake Olena, with him on board, we could do some larger quantity purchases.
I really had no intention of weighing or testing the dope, as long as things went as planned. If my body wire successfully transmitted “Lake Olena” our entry teams, anxiously awaiting to hear those words, would immediately recognize them as the “bust signal”.
Brodie suggested we could test and weigh in the kitchen. I hardly heard him, I was listening for the telltale signs outside the door that entry was imminent. A scuffling boot, a bump against the wall, maybe a murmur of conversation just outside was what normally was heard if you were listening for it. We hoped the crooks weren’t.
I heard nothing outside until we were all insulted by a blast at the front door. What the bad guys heard and saw, I’m sure took a few seconds to register. What I saw was the front door, near the knob breaching open but just wide enough for about a foot and a half of a thirty-five pound, tactical battering ram to join us in the living room.
Outside the door the entry team had swung the ram, aiming for the doorknob to crush the mechanism and slam the door open. What in fact happened was, they missed. Just to the left of the knob, they knocked a seven inch hole in the door. Unfortunately for us, the door did not open.
On the inside there were startled shouts and instant confusion. “What the fuck” seemed to be the common thread shared. It was a moment before the collective brain kicked in there was any movement. I did see the ram withdraw from the hole and heard “Police, open up!” as the door finally crashed in. “On the floor motherfuckers! On the floor! Police on the fucking floor!” was the full-throated chorus as narcs and detectives, all decked in raid jackets, as well as uniformed deputies, flooded the apartment, each brandishing a shotgun or large calibre pistol.
Happening simultaneously, Brodie grabbed the shoebox full of coke and started to move towards the back of the apartment. Before he got two steps, I crashed into him as if making my getaway as well. My intent was to make sure that neither he nor the dope escaped, but I needn’t have worried. Before I could secure it or Brodie, a growling, red headed, tomato faced deputy crushed the two of us, grinding us face first into the floor. “Don’t fucking move motherfucker.” His twelve-gauge shotgun about six inches from both or our heads. “Get your hands where I can see them or I’ll blow your fucking head off”.
I was the police, but I was more than convinced he meant it. Part of that had to do with the fact that Tomato Face had one of his size 13E tactical boots parked in the middle of my spine just above my ass. In the heat of his takedown, I felt something in my back tear loose from wherever the fuck it was supposed to be attached. At that exact moment, I can’t say it was terrifically painful, but I was aware something was amiss.
After maybe ten minutes on the floor, cuffs cutting into my wrists, my curiosity was up. I wanted to look around and survey what my brothers had done to the joint and if we’d come up with any additional dope. Unfortunately for me, Deputy Tomato Face still assumed I was one of the bad guys and he’d have none of it. Brodie was getting a similar treatment, which of course, he deserved. Mookie and unidentified associate # 1 were likewise face down, hands cuffed behind their backs.
While we lay there, a couple of the entry team guys secured the dope and some scales in the kitchen. The atmospherics had changed in the room as the cops prepped to get a telephonic search warrant. The four of us “crooks” had returned to something like normal respirations, and the fear had, for the most part, subsided, at least for Mookie and I. It was then that I saw a uniform, pull a loaded 9mm from between the couch cushions. I looked into Brodie’s face and he seemed resigned. “Cocksucker” he hissed. Not at me really, just in the frustration that he was likely headed back to prison. At least that’s what I thought.
I heard some radio chatter about an ambulance request, but I didn’t see the need unless somehow Tomato Face realized he’d fuckered me up and was being thoughtful of my condition. Somehow I was sure there was another reason.
As the situation normalized the detectives, deputies and my narc team clotted together in like groups to chew the fat about the entry, the dirtbags they’d accumulated, and the choir practice on the short horizon. The narcs knew it would be a long night as their search team waited for the warrant to happen.
Just about that time, two paramedics were escorted past us and out of sight in the back of the apartment. Turns out there was some mousey blonde hiding out in the back bedroom and when the front door came down, she launched herself out the bedroom window. If she could’ve done it over again, she probably would’ve opened it first. Unfortunately for her, she was only about halfway through the window, when one of the entry guys grabbed her and yanked her back into the room. I heard later she was filleted like sushi-grade tuna, from her scalp to her calves. I know when they wheeled her out, there was a lot of blood and a modicum of unladylike whimpering.
One of the Menhome detectives had a bad gash across his bicep too. I know his Men’s Warehouse, two for the price of one, sport coat was a goner.
When the boys in blue decided to transport us to the county jail, they shuttled us out the door one at a time. As pre-planned, Mookie and I were the last to head out the door because we had a minor detail to complete. It wouldn’t be good form for us to show up at the slammer and for me to be found wearing a body wire. No, that would not be good form at all. One of the boys from my narco team, quickly plucked the wire, transmitter, and harness from my stomach and they pushed me out the door, none of the crooks any the wiser.
At the curb, the coppers bundled up me and Brodie, Mookie, and unnamed associate #1 who became the named Delaine Alpa, into separate cruisers for our ride to county jail. Karen Fawnster would eventually make it to women’s jail after some rather extensive surgery.
As planned, when we made county jail, we were to go through the booking process and then be separated, ostensibly for interrogations. The idea was if we all got booked and then they separated us, there’d be no question we were all bad guys. Unfortunately for all of us, it was Saturday night and there was little room at the inn.
They stuffed us in the Salley Port holding pen where we waited. Then we went to a strip search area where we waited. Nothing like spending an hour or so watching the deputies edumacating various dirt buckets on contraband control. You know, “Open your mouth, lift your tongue, run your fingers through your hair, lift your nut sack, bend the fuck over, and spread your cheeks”.
Then there was getting your turn to have someone scrutinize your asshole. Alright, get dressed and wait. Wait while bored deputies and clerks go through your valuables accounting for all your shit. Then you wait to go through all the booking paperwork, name, address, blah, blah, blah. Then you are afforded the opportunity to wait for a short chat with the Own Recognizance Release people while they go through your background and determine if you can be cut loose without bail. Oh wait, then there’s waiting to be fingerprinted and photographed.
Normally, at this point, you’d be plunked down in a glassed-in holding cell, euphemistically known as the “fishbowl”. It’s essentially a waiting room. This is where our handlers intercepted us and made it obvious we were going with detectives to be interrogated.
By the time I’d made my way from the jail and back to the streets, I was in pretty bad shape. My lower back and both legs were killing me. I walked just like Grandpa Amos McCoy in The Real McCoys TV show of my youth. That did not however keep me from meeting the boys at Bimi’s Bar for a post dope deal, choir practice.
I colonized a corner of the bar, gingerly, and ordered a Schaefer’s. It was a party atmosphere, almost everyone there had a part in our deal. A kilo deal didn’t come easily or often back in those days. There were lots of shots and lots of lies. As I settled in my task force Sergeant Bobby Brooks and I got into a long conversation about the deal, most of it, self-congratulatory.
At one point, I turned to the civilian on my left and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t Deputy Tomato Face all dressed down and in his civvies. About the time I figured out who he was, he reached for the big ass jar of pickled garlic sausages at the bar and I saw him do a double-take when he saw me. “Oh shit man, I’m so sorry, I heard I fucked you up.” He told me that during the briefing for the deal he and the other uniforms knew there were two undercovers inside, but he’d never seen pictures of us. He said, “I just grabbed the first shit bag and dumped him. Guess that was you. I’m really sorry man.” I told him the least he could do was buy me a drink, we laughed about it. I never bought another drink that night.
Tomato Face and I have become lifelong friends, I owe him my life from other occasions we experienced together on the job. He is my brother.
Mitch Laughler and Brodie Gottardi, both found their way to prison. Brodie again and this time, with the weapons enhancements and Mitch for his introductory term. I sort of felt bad for Mitch, he never really knew the depth of what he was in to.
The DA eventually dropped charges against Karen Fawnster, she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. She got all fucked up and for what?
Delaine Alpa, the unidentified associate, also made state prison. Conspiracy, sales, etc. He turned out to be a complete prick whom I’m sure got turned out in the joint.
We did end up seizing the 2.2 pounds of dope we purchased, plus a second kilo that had been secreted in an air conditioning duct. They’d shoved it in the duct and pushed it around a corner of the ducting so it wouldn’t be seen if you looked in. They’d attached it with fishing line monofilament. It was clever.
And our friend, TripleThick, made it through unscathed. He did more pound and kilo cases for us. He got a pass on his charges and while I don’t know, I’d guess he graduated magna cum laude.
Oh, I did spend about six weeks off the job, mostly doing physical therapy and annoying the crap out of my girlfriend. I couldn’t wait to get back to the streets.
To pull this story together, here are links to the full three-part series:
About The Night Police:
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