Chapter Two Thousand One-Hundred One
5th November 1971
Los Angeles, California
When Big Mike walked into the Ralph’s on West 3rd in Wilshire with Ritchie, he figured that he might as well take advantage of the situation and went to the bakery to get a few boxes of donuts, which would be enough for everyone back at the station. Lucia had called Ritchie just after they had completed rollcall and said that they needed to talk, immediately. That sort of thing seldom meant that great news was going to be conveyed.
Walking back up to the registers, Mike saw that Ritchie and Lucia were talking off to the side. Lucia was looking a bit worse for wear, green around the gills as it were, and Ritchie was carrying himself about the same way he did when they were about to break up a barfight at a biker hangout. He didn’t need to hear the conversation to have an idea as to what it was probably about because he had been in the same place Ritchie was right that moment a few times himself. It meant that Ritchie wouldn’t be able to have anything nice in his house for next couple decades, a shame too, Ritchie’s place in Eagle Rock was one of the places he escaped to when he couldn’t stand the chaos of his own household. So much for that, Mike thought to himself as he put down the boxes down on the counter.
“Will that be all, Sir” The clerk asked as he rang up the purchase, while his words respectful, his tone was not. It was the sort of thing that Mike had grown used to. Police were not loved by everyone. It was just a part of the job.
“Yes” Mike said as he handed the clerk a five-dollar bill.
While the clerk was fishing around the till for the change, Mike surveyed the scene. The store was filled mostly with bored housewives picking up a few odds and ends because it was something to do midmorning after the kids had been sent off to school. The clerks were from the surrounding neighborhoods and seemed like the sort who tolerated their customers because it was what they needed to do to pay the rent. He’d read a book recently that talked about always looking for what seemed out of place, of course in a Los Angeles grocery store that sort of had a fluid definition. The clerk finally handed Mike his change that he took his sweet time counting back to him.
That was when a man who must have been in his early twenties slouched in through the automatic doors at the front of the store. He had a ballcap low over his face like if he didn’t want to be seen and his clothes looked like he had slept in them. He took one look at Mike’s uniform and bolted for the Out Door.
Cursing under his breath, Mike started to give chase. Ritchie must have noticed what was happening because he was after the man in an instant, Lucia staring agape, having no idea what was going on. Just before the man reached the door, Ritchie intercepted him, and he stupidly took a swing at Ritchie. Stupid move, Mike thought to himself. Uncle Sam had spent a lot of time and money training him to take on far worse than the likes of some random hood.
Ritchie sidestepped the punch before grabbing the man’s arm and twisting it up behind him. Momentum carried the two right into a plate glass window that shuttered but didn’t break, the man’s ballcap fell to the floor as his face was pressed against the glass. That was when the man started yelling as Ritchie was slapping handcuffs onto him and the other people in the store were all staring at what had just happened.
“This is brutality man!” The man yelled as Ritchie pulled him away from the window, “I wasn’t doing nothing wrong.”
Years earlier, Mike’s mother had warned him to never use double negatives when he spoke. She said that anyone who heard that would automatically assume that he was stupid. Hearing what the man had just said, Mike saw the truth of that for what must have been the millionth time.
“Then why did you run the instant you saw us?” Ritchie asked, “That wasn’t the least bit suspicious.”
The man was silent for a few seconds, clearly not having thought that through.
“That’s the fucking asshole I told you about the other day!” Lucia yelled, “The one who’s been shoplifting from us!”
Lucia then switched to Spanish, calling the man all sorts of nasty names. With his hands cuffed behind him, the man would be helpless if Lucia decided to get even, and she was clearly moving in that direction. Mike had a great deal of experience and understood what would happen if he tangled with a Mexican woman a third his size. It wasn’t a fight he could win.
“We got him Lucia” Mike said, drawing her attention as Ritchie took the man out to the squad car. “And this time, he isn’t coming back.”
“Oh” Lucia replied, “I guess so.”
“Show’s over!” Mike yelled as he collected the boxes from the check stand, and everyone went back to their business.
Walking out to the car, Ritchie had put the man in the backseat and was waiting behind the wheel. “What am I supposed to do with all this?” Ritchie asked as Mike sat down.
“Don’t know” Mike answered, one thing he didn’t do was give out free advice because you got what you paid for. “Donut?”
“Nah” Ritchie replied, “If I ate those, I’d end up looking like you.”
Real funny, Mike thought to himself as he heard snickering from the back seat. He slammed his fist against the cage that separated the front from back. “No one asked you!” He yelled as the man yelped in response.