Evolution

byAdrian Leverkuhn©

Evolution

+++++

I didn't know what to think of her.

There were times that first day I thought she had to be some kind of vapid moron, stupid beyond any rational measure. As in: totally clueless. And I was sure of it, too.

How she had made it through academy – well, I had no idea – but after two nights on the street with her I was sure she was going to be nothing more or less than a danger to everyone she came in contact with – myself included. It wasn't just, as far as I could tell those first few days, that she was simply stupid. No, with each passing hour I spent with her those first few nights it became clear she reveled in her own joyous asininity, because after each and every one of her stomach turning comments she laughed – and more obscenely so, in direct proportion to the inappropriateness of her last "joke".

And now that I think about it, maybe 'snorted' or 'chortled' are the best, most appropriate words to describe her outbursts of inappropriateness, because the word 'laugh' really doesn't convey the sheer embarrassment around her. Because, well, she made these rough snorting noises when she laughed, and her eyes squinted down into narrow slits – causing her eyes to water and her cheeks turned red – leaving the impression of having seen a mad pig screaming at a passing garbage truck.

Her name was Amy, Amy Goodman, and she'd been out of academy for two months; the word on her was that she was brilliant at classwork – and perfectly terrifying when anything had to do with so-called 'people skills.' In mock person-to-person encounters she'd been through during academy, the ones where cadets get to intervene during a staged domestic fights, she drew down on the woman in her first encounter, called the 'actress' playing the 'aggrieved housewife' an overbearing, self-absorbed slut and pushed the poor woman down to the floor before 'cuffing her. Instructors had been quite impressed with that, before reminding her that her class that they lived in a litigious society, and actions like this would cost the city a million and change, plus assorted court costs, in damages.

It turned out that she'd alienated every one of her classmates during the course of academy, to the point the academy staff almost felt sorry for her. Almost. I think she managed to piss off every one of them, too. That was the rumor, anyway, and she'd almost washed out, too. Runs through Glen Canyon almost got her, and she'd just managed to do the required ten pull-ups to pass the graduating physical agility test, then fallen to the side of the court and flashed hash all over the gym floor.

Following our standard rotation, she went from academy to work a week in a precinct jail, then was sent to day shift for her first two month rotation with an FTO, or Field Training Officer.

And I knew her FTO, too. If not quite a real friend, Ben Royal and I were close in the way cops that have worked together for twenty years usually are, and we had been training rookies long enough to know all the signs of a real, classic loo-loo. Goodman had all the makings of one of those, yet he said she wasn't a hopeless case. Not yet, anyway. Still, she was a presence, always bigger than life wherever she went anyway, and certainly a lot bigger than the average female cop. Six feet tall, probably a hundred and sixty pounds when I first met her, she was gangly, all arms and legs, though for some reason I thought her feet tiny, like a size six or so, and I only mention this in passing as I wondered how the hell she could run on feet that small.

Well...not very well, as it turned out.

On a foot patrol down along the pedestrian mall beside Fisherman's Wharf, Ben spotted a purse-snatcher about the same time Amy did, and they both took off after the kid, weaving through people and bicycles as they gained on the suspect. But at some point Ben noticed Amy had both hands on her "Sam Browne" belt, and after a few hundred yards her hands slipped and her pants flew down around her ankles – and down she went, tumbling down the sidewalk in a blur. Ben caught the kid about the time Amy managed to get herself up and put back together, and she found the owner of the purse and got all the information for the report – like right out of the department's procedures manual – but she'd been embarrassed by the whole thing, enough to talk about quitting.

And I guess that's the rub a lot of people had with her. It was like she just didn't fit in, like she'd grown up on the outside – and had always been looking in.

She had always been a tall girl, which had – as far as I could tell – kept her socially isolated as a kid, though in truth it was really difficult to tell what was under her uniform and vest and all the other horse-shit we have to wear. And another truth she had to contend with: women were still the odd man out, if you know what I mean, in a department that was still very much a male oriented organization.

Why was that a problem?

Because of quotas, and stigma, because the department didn't have enough women in uniform on the street, and so the feeling was, as was perhaps true for most of the women on the force, she'd been passed along despite some glaring issues. Once upon a time, or so the saying went, a girl like Amy would have never made it into academy, let alone pass, but a lot of us who'd been around for a while had seen the handwriting on the wall. Times had changed, or so we'd heard, and we had to change along with the times – or get steamrollered by forces we'd never see. So resentments bloomed, men vs women in the beginning, but this is the real hard part of the equation we all had to confront: we, the old white male vanguard, had to change in such a way we didn't get new officers – let alone innocent civilians – killed. Affirmative action forced real change on departments everywhere, and somehow I had to get Goodman through the next part of the ritual in one piece.

The first time I saw her, in uniform in the briefing room, she looked like just about every other cop in the room. Uniform starched with razor creases on her trousers, brass shined and blazing away, and the only thing even marginally out of place was her longish blond hair done up in a bun and her pale lipstick, and when I walked into the briefing room that first afternoon she locked onto me quicker than a heat seeking missile. Yet the odd thing? I didn't see anxiety in her eyes, or fear of any kind. In it's place was an easy-going curiosity lurking in those cool, greenish-blue orbs, and I could see she'd held the seat next to her's open – for me.

After I was seated next to her the shift sergeant came in and began the briefing, going over the most troubling episodes and calls from the evening shift, pointing out the few lurking hotspots we might get called back to. All pretty mundane stuff I guess you'd say, and when briefing was over I let Goodman get her briefcase put back together before I let her lead us out to our squad car. She had picked up a lot over the last two months – the rough edges weren't as glaring, anyway, but just listening to her I could tell she was going to be a real character.

My usual beat back then was 'Snob Knob' – the area north of Golden Gate Park and west of the bridge. Lot of money in that neighborhood and all-in-all about as far from South San Francisco as you could get. Still, we got some world class domestic disturbances on deep-nights, not to mention big-time burglaries from time to time, so 'the Knob' was a good training ground for rookies – a little more action than 'days' – but not quite up to the bruising pace on evenings, so think of her training as a planned progression. She'd worked downtown on days, and would go south for evenings – assuming she made it out of deep nights in one piece – before being cut loose to ride solo for a few years. Then she'd be able to try for sergeant or CID or, heaven forbid, traffic.

But let me jump ahead a little...just a couple of days, though.

She seemed in good spirits that night, our third night together. She ran through the car's inventory of flares and cones softly singing some old 'Sinatra' type song, and the thing is...Amy could sing. I don't mean like sounding good in the shower type singing; no, I mean like Ginger Rogers or Judy Garland. I mean...what the hell was she doing out here wearing a gun and a badge? Why the hell wasn't she cutting record deals down in Hollywood?

"What is that?" I asked, knowing the tune but not able to place it.

"What?"

"What's that song?"

"Glenn Miller's Moonlight Serenade," she said, looking at me like I was the moron.

"Oh," I said, knowingly. Then, "You have a nice voice. Soothing."

She looked at me again and smiled that time, yet for some reason I felt like I had just uttered the singularly most inappropriate words in the department's history.

"You think so?" she said, letting me, gently, off the hook.

"Yeah, like Ella Fitzgerald. Smooth as good whiskey."

"You like jazz?" she asked.

"It's against the law to live in The City and not like jazz," I tossed back, the all-knowing FTO.

"I never heard that one in academy."

"Dereliction of duty," I muttered as the shift sergeant walked by, but the thing of it was, her voice was familiar.

"Y'all gonna hit the street sometime tonight?" The sergeant said as he climbed into his Explorer and checked in service. Nonplussed, I tossed her the keys and told her she was driving that night, then got in and buckled up for the ride, and all the while I was looking at her, casting little sidelong glances her way...because something had clicked inside. She sounded familiar – because she was familiar. Not just the voice, either...

Anyway, we were heading west on Geary when we got our first call: predictably, a family disturbance. She was writing the address down on her notepad when she started in on Luck Be A Lady, another Sinatra classic, and I had to shake my head again...

"Man, what are you doing out here? You should be down in LA cutting records, making millions."

"Stop it, would you? My neighbors say I sound like two cats fucking in a garbage can."

I winced. "They need a hearing check. By the way, what day of the week is it?"

"Friday – morning. Why, is this anal sex night?"

Another wince, like turning away from a bad movie. "Okay, family disturbance on a Thursday night, Friday morning. Does that ring any bells to you?"

"No."

"What usually happens on Fridays?"

She shrugged her shoulders. "Husbands ask wives to swallow?"

"Payday," I said, groaning. "Now, what are most family disturbances about?"

"I don't know? Who gets to sleep in the wet spot?"

I looked out at the sky. "Okay, other than that, what else comes to mind?"

"Money?"

"Good, right you are. Now, if payday is later today odds are our customers have had a pretty good fight about money tonight. And fights about money tend to be bad..."

"2141," dispatch said over the radio.

"2141, go ahead."

"2141, signal 4 at your 38f. Neighbors advise multiple gunshots that location."

"2141 code three," I advised as Goodman hit the lights and siren.

"See," she said with a grin. "Told you it was about anal sex."

I groaned again as I looked over at her, because there was simply no way to reconcile this girl. Sinatra one minute, off color jokes about anal sex the next. Singing like a bird one moment then completely off key the next. Still, I couldn't help thinking maybe she was like the proverbial canary in a coal mine...

+++++

So, five minutes later we're in a cozy, upscale house out on Sea Cliff. Dead guy in the hot tub, fat, bald and maybe – maybe – fifty years old. Screaming hysterically, enter stage left the Russian speaking platinum blond bimbette, waving a chrome plated Beretta .25 all over the place as she lets us in the door. While this may be acceptable behavior in Minsk (or wherever this particular canary came from), Goodman (being number one through the door) did a decent imitation of an NFL linebacker and hit the bimbette in a bruising stiff-arm tackle and before you can say 'cat-fight' the two were down on the (polished white marble) floor playing Wrestle-mania. I don't know how else to say it either, because within a few seconds Goodman tossed me the (now clip-less) .25 and it was apparent the bimbette is seriously unconscious. So, first of all, color me impressed, because there's no way I'd ever moved that fast – ever. Not even when I was 25 years old. And never have I taken a bimbette down and put her in a snot-lock so fast; I would have been too dazed by the woman's 42 DDs to even consider such a possibility.

The good thing about all this?

The bimbette was out like a light, so the lucky gal doesn't have to listen to a nonstop stream of off color jokes about 'having a bad hair day' that ensued. Still, when Goodman sighed "I hope it was as good for her as it was for me..." I think I was about to fall in love with her – if not for the fact that our shift's watch commander had just walked through the front door. Still, by that time we'd searched the premises and found the stiff (and I mean very, as I think he'd had two too many 100mg Viagras), and it looked like the guy died happy. Goodman took the L-T out to the hot tub, and so of course said something nice about the fat man's erection, something like: "Gee, I sure would have liked a ride on that one tonight...", at which point Lieutenant Neidermeier rolled his eyes – while all the blood drained out of my face.

He walked by on his way out, by the way, and said, "Is she always like this?"

To which I blithely replied: "You have no idea, sir."

I heard his muttered "Jesus H Fucking Christ" as he walked out to his car, and I completely understood.

Still, she'd impressed me on that call, and in more ways than I can relay just now. She'd never lost her composure, her reactions were not only quicker than mine, they were spot-on, too. Far from the picture of incompetence I'd heard before I met her, I saw a sharp, competent cop that night. A cop that just happened to have what was surely the singularly most inappropriate sense of humor in human history.

Then I discovered her first fatal flaw.

She disliked donuts.

+++++

When we cleared from the call on Sea Cliff (homicide detectives took over after we secured the scene and left with our report), we took off for Chinatown, home of the best donuts in California, and therefore on earth. Us old farts always kept the best locations secret, and never, ever took rookies to them, but there was an ancient place down on Gold Street I was willing to share with her – until she said she hated donuts. Fuck, I said, Dunkin Donuts it is, slick. No, she said. "I don't drink coffee."

"What?" I said, not knowing if law enforcement was in her DNA anymore. "What DO you like?"

"Ice water."

"Ice water?"

"Ice water."

"Shit."

"No. Ice water."

"That's fucked up."

She turned and looked at me again, confusion all over her face. "Why?" she asked.

If the girl had a humor switch, someone had just flipped it off. I shrugged and pulled into a 24 hour diner for our lunch break, and while I had a sandwich and tea she had – ice water. She sat across from me and watched my every move – closely – as I took a bite, as I sipped iced tea, as I looked out the window at passing traffic, then...

"I'm going to sing at a club," she said, out of the blue.

"Oh? Where?"

"Next weekend, at the Fairmont."

"No kidding?"

"It's my first time," she added hesitantly.

"Nervous?"

She looked down before she bit her lower lip, nodding her head quickly like a little girl's. "Yes. Very."

"If you need some moral support, I'll be happy to come down."

"Could you? Please?" She said please just like my daughter did – when she was, like, maybe, six.

"Sure, but from what I've heard I doubt you'll need any."

She nodded her head again...just as my radio chimed in: "2141, can you clear for a call?"

"Well, they're playing our song," I said, trying not to smile. "2141, go ahead."

"2141, respond to a 36B, Park Presidio and Balboa, report from a BART driver that she's been struck by a motorcycle."

"-41, show us en route."

"2141, Code 5 at zero four thirty hours."

Goodman was already out the door by the time I'd dropped some money on the table, and I was in a foul mood, too. The donuts at that place sucked.

+++++

The only accident investigator on-duty was working a pile-up way down south on the 280, so this was our call, like it or not. Still, the only thing I saw on approach was an old GMC bus askew in the middle of the intersection, both right-side passenger doors open and the driver milling around beside the front of the bus. Any and everyone else around the scene had already beat-feet, and to make matters even less interesting the usual early morning Golden Gate fog was rolling in – so visibility was already down to about fifty feet (and closing). Still, the right side of the old bus looked undamaged, even in the fog...

Ah, San Francisco. Things are never as simple as they seem...

The left side of the bus was another matter, entirely, because about fifteen feet behind the driver's seat was some kind of crotch-rocket, only the rear wheel was visible within the tangled gnarl of sheet metal.

The rest of the Kawasaki (I knew this because I could see fluorescent baby shit green, if I recall the official name for that color correctly) 'inside' the bus. Along with various bits and pieces of the rider.

First thing we did was summon another unit to help set up flares and help with traffic control, then I set Goodman on the enviable task of interviewing the bus driver while I looked over the scene.

You see, once upon a time, when I had slightly more hair on my head, and a good deal more dexterity, I had been a motor jack, and as a result, an accident investigator. With my receding hairline had come a transfer back to patrol, with the proviso that I become an FTO. The thinking was I could get rookies fresh from academy up to speed, AND teach them a fair bit of relevant knowledge about working wrecks, from traffic control and witness interrogations to taking measurements and working up precise drawings of accident scenes. Hell, I was good at it and I figured when I retired I'd go work for an insurance company to make some extra dough. Anyway, that was the plan; it's just that patrol was turning out to be a helluva lot more dangerous than it had been when I started.

Because things had changed. The department had changed, true enough, but now it seemed that all my hard-won preconceptions about the streets had been upended. Terror used to mean a bad slasher-flick at the drive-in; gangs were innocuous groups with Marlon Brando wearing silly looking hats, and money wasn't a pervasive dark force doing the work of cartels and other grifters. And most of all, politicians could be counted on to attend the public's needs, yet cynics back then used to say we would soon be living in a first rate third world country. But the biggest change? We'd always been able to count on the politicians 'having our backs.'

Guess what? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss...because San Francisco was beginning to feel more and more like any other third world berg, and I wondered when the change had happened. Or why.

Still, all this felt vaguely too familiar, like I had done it all before, and now I was looking at a bus laying at an odd angle in the middle of this foggy intersection and looking around I saw potholes everywhere, and two out of five red traffic signal lights were burned out. Pavement lane markings were faded beyond useful recognition, too, despite my having sent memos to Public Works many times over the years, and traffic signs were rusted memories of another era. And yet out on Sea Cliff the streets were pristine. Maybe because, what? Wealthy people lived out there? Politicians, perhaps?

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