Officer Alex recalls a long day with an ideal truck and an idiot partner
“So…you want a fruit roll-up?”
“What the hell’s a fruit roll-up?”
“What do you mean ‘what’s a fruit roll-up,’ it’s a kind of a…Well, now that you mention it I don’t know what the hell it is,” my partner paused. “It’s kind of a candy, but it’s obviously a fruit, so I’m not really sure. But it’s good.” Another pause. “OK, it’s not too good, it’s kind of tangy and weird, but you can eat holes in it and stuff and pretend it’s paper.”
I never made eye contact and instead sighed long and low enough to fog part of the sheet of the torn window tinting that ran at a 30-degree angle down the driver’s side window on the 1984 Datsun pickup I was currently serving time in. This, my dear readers, was a “stakeout”.
Some rotten bastard (or bastards) had been breaking into cars on the lot of an apartment complex in our team area on such a frequent basis that it surpassed being an “inconvenience” and went straight into becoming an “active embarrassment,” such was their volume of work. Something had to be done about it.
Phone calls had been made and memos drafted, and shift supervisors began operating in an umbrella of fear of the threat of a Phone Call From The Mayor, one of the worst things that could happen in a given two-week span of administrative attention. Swift action was not only demanded, it was executed, in the form of me and one of the dumbest human beings to ever wear the badge being placed in a pickup truck in the middle of the lot, like two polyester trap-door spiders…except angry and bored. And, apparently, hungry.
“Hey, man,” I said, “I’m just not hungry. Knock yourself out.” I tossed a handful of M&Ms in my mouth from the inside coat pocket of my Levi jeans jacket as I said so.
“OK, man. Your loss—hey! Are those M&Ms?” he asked.
“No, these are Valium. They’re a laxative.”
My partner’s brow furrowed, analyzing the accuracy of this statement, and for once, he thought better of responding.
The truck in this case was actually a stroke of brilliance compared to most undercover vehicles. The last time I’d asked to do some plainclothes work, it took three weeks for the request to go through, and when it did, I was magnanimously granted a car, all right—a metallic purple 1992 Crown Victoria with a tan interior and untinted windows. It had everything but yellow spray paint on the outside stating “UNMARKED POLICE CAR” straight out of “Running Scared” (1986, Billy Crystal, look it up), and by then of course the crime spree at hand had ended.
This baby,p though, this was a 1984 Datsun 720 straight shift, faded, thick, dark-blue pinstriping on a faded light-blue metallic exterior with a tint job installed by what I assumed were the inmates of a South American insane asylum; the only thing I added to it was a pump 12-gauge Mossberg 500A in the center of the bench seat. It was then, and still is, the coolest and most effective undercover car I’d ever seen. No one, and I mean no self-respecting criminal would ever consider this a cop-car. Whoever went to the trouble of seizing this $200 dollar piece of shit in the name of the Great State of Tennessee will always have my respect, and I hope to this day it was crushed somewhere with dignity. But…back to the past.
I sat in the dark bundled as warmly as I could allow myself to be while still remotely tactically able to snatch a gun from my hip should the situation arise, the winter beating angrily on the outside of the vehicle. My partner had arrived wearing combat boots, blue jeans, a web belt, a cop T-shirt I prayed was a gift from his mother, and an old Army field jacket to go with his crew cut, and I couldn’t imagine a more stereotypical picture of an “undercover cop” if I had been slinging weed in a middle school hallway myself. Jesus.
“I hope we catch these guys, you know,” he stated with the obviousness of the sun that would soon be rising in the east. “They’re really pissing me off.”
“Channel that energy,” I replied. “Get some sleep. You’ve earned it.”
Again, he paused and furrowed his brow in confusion. “But we just got here.”
“Exactly,” I replied. “And that is how we’ll win.” He considered this, and this time his brow relaxed, he shook his head, and leaned back in his seat slowly closing his eyes. This was not my first rodeo working either a stakeout, or WITH one of the Fratelli Brothers from “The Goonies”.
Seeking closure? Excitement? Even a punch line?
Sorry, dear reader, but Feel the Rush: THIS…is the essence of a stakeout.
(Academy applications are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You’re welcome.)