Dusty - Silicon Snow
Catanich returns to the thrilling historical fiction he has so brilliantly made his own. This is the first of seven side stories from the infamous Gopal affair told as a chillingly dark, hard-edged series of novels of theft, conspiracy and espionage.
Dusty - Silicon Snow
Starting on page 3, column 2 just above the fold, the LA Times reported:
"Eight people were killed including an LA County Undercover Police officer and his partner was gravely wounded after 54 shots were fired during a drug bust that had gone bad"
It took a 5-hour operation, 4 days unconscious, and 11 days of Intensive Care at UCLA Medical Center before Dusty left the hospital. By then, Internal Affairs had completed their investigation and the Chief had dealt with the outcry of excessive force after the newspapers reported that 21 of the 54 shots fired were by the police. Witnesses stated that it took less than 14 seconds for all the shots to be fired. Eleven of the bullets wound up in the adjacent house's walls or windows and there were seven ricochets off the fireplace. One of them even appeared to have kill Taylor. Ballistics verified that seven of Dan's shots had stopped four. All but one of Dusty's rounds found their mark. However, two of those "thru & thru's" ricocheted outside, breaking a bedroom window next door and spraying broken glass over a baby. And it was this single bullet that triggered the public outcry.
Five weeks after the shooting, a seventeen-minute hearing was completed. 8-year veteran Los Angeles Undercover Sheriff's Officer, Carl "Dusty" Dusitmier was asked to turn in his badge. The 15 round clip was considered excessive, the weapon itself was considered to be "unauthorized" and his conduct was "out of control".
As he walked out of the building, he kept thinking "…15 rounds were excessive? Bull shit, Dan died because his gun was empty and out of control… They were still shooting at us". One thing about being "retired" was that you are now allowed to drink scotch at noon. If nothing else, it was a good gauge of his nerves as he picked up the scotch without spilling it.
The doctor said the right shoulder wound would cause his right arm to shake but it should go away. The lower right side wound turned out to be minor, if a broken rib is minor. Taylor's shot penetrated the table and it's leg before it hit him. Everything else was considered as debris wounds if you don't count the two ricochet wounds in his back. As Dusty opened his final package containing his paychecks and retirement benefit information, he muttered to himself "I was just [email protected]#ing lucky".
The other envelope contained the hospital personnel items that were collected when his clothes were removed and thrown away. The envelope had written on it "Cash in pocket $123.18, 1 wallet with 2 credit cards, 1 set of car keys".
"Car keys?" As Dusty peered thru the bottom of the glass of scotch, he said, "Shit… I wonder…? Naw…" and then he downed his drink and left.
"Taxi!" he yelled as the first yellow cab drove by.
It's amazing… although Dusty had driven to the meet, Dan took the keys. There was an argument originally about who was the better driver. It was finally settled, if there ever was a need for a getaway, Dan should drive, and Dusty should shoot. Dusty had more rounds.
On leaving, Dusty's was informed that his car was impounded at the crime scene for safety and he could pick it up anytime.
Everyone was nice to him if you don't mind the "big chill". His two boxes of "personal items" which were released to him included his car and a spare set of keys.
His first stop was a "drive by" of Taylor's house where there were boards still on the windows. Both adjoining homes had boards on their windows as well. It was the first time he had the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach just before you barf.
However, it was at the stop sign at the end of the street that the question finally hit him "What the [email protected]# really happened?"
After a brief stop for a deep breath, Dusty headed south to think. He drove thru Long Beach, thru Newport Beach, and finally around 9:30 pm, he pulled off the freeway for gas and headed toward the hotel that said "Open".
There are only two things a good hotel needs to be, first be clean. The second have house cleaners that honor the "do not disturb" signs. It was noon when his eyes opened and finally registered where he was. The shower lasted for 40 minutes as he went over and over the images in his mind. There was something wrong. It was there. He knew it. But it hadn't registered yet. He knew it was just fatigue but when the fatigue ended, the dreams would start. And he knew from the past, the dreams would be the worst.
He paid for another night and headed out for food. The front desk stated that the beach was only ½ mile away, or "within walking distance". As he walked toward the beach, he ordered fast food from a restaurant along the way. The road ended with a slow turn down to the sandy beach where a sign said "Welcome to Moonlight Beach".
As he sat down, he closed his eyes to think.
"Hey mister, you better move or you're going to get wet," a kid yelled.
As Dusty jumped up, he looked at his watch "Shit it's five already". He had fallen asleep and during this time, the tide had come in. Talk about a rude awaking if a wave would hit him. "Hey kid thanks," he yelled as he waved at the kid.
One thing about the Southern California sun, you get sunburned and Dusty got burned; he could already feel it. Instead of heading directly back to the hotel, he walked south along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) looking for a drug store. He found places for food, and what appeared to be a couple of great bars, but no drug store. As he continued walking, he passed in front of a two-story building with some kid tapping away with his drumsticks on a side railing of the overhang…
"Tic Tic"… "Tic Tic Tic"
"Tic Tic" … "Tic Tic Tic"
As Dusty walked by, he found himself counting and then he heard Dan's gun firing all over again.
"Tic Tic Tic"…
"Tic Tic" …
"Tic Tic" …
The report said his gun was found to be empty. That "7 shots" were fired. However, Dan's P4 used an eight round clip. Add one in the chamber, that's nine". Dusty now knew what was bothering him "Crap, someone walked away".
It was shortly after 9 am when Dusty drove past Ramos' house in Rancho Palos Verdes. It didn't seem like anything had changed. There were a great many papers in the drive but that's it, no cars. As he continued driving down the hill to Redondo Beach, he kept asking himself "what's missing that I can't see".
An hour later, he parked the car on the south end of Redondo Beach and walked back up the 2 miles heading north. This included the walk on the pier, the u-turn backtrack and finally the walk north to see if Dan's car was still there.
Ramos told him that parking was available to members and their guests of the King Harbor Yacht Club. "No questions asked". It turned out that Ramos was right; the car was parked exactly where they had left it 36 days earlier. Dirty, but no tickets.
As Dusty walked up, one of the boat mechanics yelled "Hi Mr. Ramos" and waved.
With a wave back, he headed toward the docks just to see if the "Judy Lynn" was still at her mooring. As with all private moorings, there is a common locked gate that you must go thru to get to the boats and one of the keys in his pocket would unlocked it. "Damn, she's still there" he thought when he saw her and walked down to check her out.
Half way down the ramp, he got a wave from two other people. As he walked to the end of the mooring, he had to say "Naw. This is way too simple". He turned around and walked back the 25 yards to the boat, climbed on board, opened the cabin door with one of the keys and the. It seemed he now had the keys to the "Judy Lynn".
As he locked up and left, there were waves again from two girls who yelled "Hi Jason".
Then came the hard part he walked back to Dan's car to check it out. Yea, the keys were still sitting on top of the rear tire just where they left them. The keys unlocked the trunk where 36 days before Dusty and Dan had left their real lives locked away. Inside the spare tire compartment was what he came for, his back up Beretta and cash. There, lying between the spare clips was Dan's badge. Dan had not taken it with him.
As Dusty packed up the various items in a small duffel bag, he decided to take Dan's badge as well. You never know when it may come in handy. With the car now empty, Dusty locked up, placed the keys back on the tire, and walked away.
Dusty's walk back to his car included a late lunch, the purchase of sunscreen, and a new tee shirt. It was just after six in the evening when Dusty got back to his car and wouldn't you know it, he got a parking ticket.
The drive back to Ramos' house took longer than expected due to the evening traffic, but with the additional turns to avoid being followed, it took over 1 ½ hours. He had decided to park the car in the High School parking lot and do a walk by first. Despite the summer heat, using a jacket to hide his Berretta wasn't an option and anything other than a tee shirt would look out of place. Therefore, he emptied his overnight duffel bag and put the Berretta in it. Then he stuffed the four extra clips into his pockets.
The walk to the house convinced Dusty that Ramos was definably a spoiled rotten kid. It was less than ¼ of a mile or 7 minutes. He walked passed the house the first time and continued to the end of the block where he made a right turn. Just to be safe, he decided to walk around the block.
As he got back to the house, he heard "Hi Jason".
Now, Dusty has been around the block several hundred times, but not as Jason. So not knowing who this knock out blonde was, he did what any "A type" personality would say "Ah…?"
"Julie Christine Eichels, we dated in high school, remember".
"Hi, boy you've changed… a little" he responded with a blank look still on his face.
As she spun around "Like I lost 65 lbs and got my nose fixed. You approve?"
"Well yea, I'm sorry, I didn't recognize you. Of course I should but it been kind of busy".
"Can a girl come in and see if anything has changed?"
"Ah… ok, ah… look, it's not really a good time right now".
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't think. Did you get married or something. I'm sorry. I'll get out of here. Sorry" and away she walked.
As he was about to leave as well, he said to himself "What the [email protected]#…" and he turned around. He knew he would come back someday and he found that the second key on the key ring did unlock the front door. No alarm.
"Hi, anyone here" he yelled? Still no answer.
He took a quick walk thru to see if anything appeared out of place. There in what looked like the mom's room, was a picture of Dusty or should I say, a chubby Ramos. As he held the picture up in front of a mirror, he could see the resemblance. Ramos must have lost 40 lbs since this picture was taken and had changed his hair color to a light brown.
He also knew that he had been there too long, so he quickly left and closed the door. Instead of walking away, he started to pick up the papers.
From out of nowhere, his neighbor called out "Hi Jason, we wondered what happened to you. Been away on business?"
He said, "Ah, yea, I have the project in the Bay Area that I'm working on and the hours are very long".
"Well, it's nice to see you back. Oh, if you need a name of a good gardener to take care of the house while you're gone, you should use ours. He will pick up the papers and keep thing neat and tidy for you since you seem too busy to do it".
"Well yes, I would like that. Just put the name in the mailbox when you come by next and I will give him a call. I really appreciate it".
As they walked away, she leaned into her husband and said, "I bet it was drug rehab. They say that it puts a lot of weight on you".
"Now Joan, you don't know that. He just looked very tired. He could be sick".
Ah, don't you love neighbors. It seemed that Jason was chubby again.
The walk back to the High School went quickly and with a slam of the trunk, the duffle bag and its contents were safe inside. As Dusty pulled on to Cloyden Road and passed over Dalton Road, there she was again holding her shoes and walking down the sidewalk barefoot.
"Hey, you interested in ride" he yelled out the window?
Julie answered, "I thought you weren't interested?"
"I'm sorry, come on, eat with me and I'll try to explain".
You could see that she didn't want to, but she also didn't want to walk either. "Ok" and she got in.
"So do you still live in the area" he asked as they headed down the hill for that quiet restaurant dinner.
As they entered, she said, "No, mom moved to North Hollywood to live with her boyfriend and I headed to UCLA. After graduation, I got married to the love of my life and it seems he brought his girlfriend with him. Anyway, the marriage lasted for just under two years. So I took his money, paid for this" as she pointed to her waist "and left. Well, he said he loved me, and all that bull, so we got back together. Out of know where last week, he threw me out. The checking account was empty and my car's missing. So, you said if I ever needed help, just look you up, so I did. So… well… can you help me get my car back at least?"
"Boy and I thought I had problems".
"What happened to you? You look so different, anything wrong?"
"No, I just got into an accident and kind of got torn up. I'm having a hard time remembering things right now but the Doctor said my memory should come back but it's hasn't so far. There is just this big void. People will come up to me like you and say hi. There's nothing, not even a flicker".
As he took a sip of his wine, he finished with "So it wasn't that I don't remember you, I just don't remember anyone or anything".
"I only know where I live because the hospital told me that. I have my keys but I just stare at pictures in the house and I just don't remember anything yet. I don't even remember my mom or dad. You want another glass of wine?"
"No, I got to be heading out to find some place to sleep".
"Oh, that's simple. You can come back with me and use the guest room. We'll take care of your car in the morning. Maybe you can go over things with me tonight and maybe help me remember". And with that, the conversation shifted to anything but their current problems. "Ma'am, may we have two more and the check?" he asked.
The drive back was quiet and peaceful. No one was in the rear view mirror, so he just pulled in and parked. As he opened the door, he said "After you, madam" and they walked in. The lights were on some type of automatic timers and were on. There was no food of any kind in the refrigerator. "I think I have wine here some place if you would like some?
"No, I'm fine. Hey, do you mind if I go clean up?"
"Oh, no, please go ahead. Sorry, I wasn't thinking".
It was less than an hour before she returned in something she found in the closet. It definitely got Dusty to do a double take.
"Do you still hide everything in here" and she showed Dusty where the home stash was kept. She then opened the sliding doors to the pool and sat outside while she lit up.
"I take it you still don't imbibe," she asked.
"No, it's not for me". Dusty found the wine and opened the first red he found. There were many to choose from, but he wanted to spend the time looking around for other things.
He found what appeared to be a phone book, but without names. It had numbers in place of the name. He also found a floor safe and an unlocked filing cabinet with an envelope containing $2,308.
"Hey Jason, come on out" Julie yelled.
As Dusty went outside, there was a "Sit" as she patted the edge of the pool next to her. She was dangling her feet in the pool water. As Dusty sat down, she noticed the new scars up and down his legs. "Wow, you really did get some booboos, didn't you".
"Well, yea, I did get it good".
Then she took off the nightie and slipped into the water. "Come on, let's swim".
"Ah, I don't think so. I'm still not ready for that yet. The doctor made it quite specific that there must not be any aggressive activity for at least eight more weeks. Something about give my body time to heal all the way first". She really did look good. "I'm going to go in and clean up. Enjoy".
With that, Dusty went back into the house to look around the main bedroom. "God, this guy had a lot of clothes" as he looked in the closet. The left side nightstand had an interesting surprise, a P4 like Dan's. The other side had nothing. So it seemed that Ramos sleeps on the left side. The bathroom was very large with a stand-alone two-man tub and a very large shower.
The day had been long with many surprises, most of which were minor. However, his resemblance to Jason was becoming most interesting. Jason was killed less than two months ago; however, everything was still in place just as when he left. As Dusty stared into his own eyes, the bathroom mirror said everything. A small smile came across Dusty face as slid out of his clothes, he said to himself, "Why not become Ramos, all those years under cover got me nothing…"
He had lost track of how long he had been in the shower, when he heard "You want company" and in she came. "Oh shit, are those real? Are those gunshots? My god what happened?"
"Here, look", as Dusty turned to showing her everything. "I woke up with these and I can't tell you how or by whom".
You could see the fear subside and curiosity take over as she took a closer look. "I've never see one before. Do they still hurt?"
"Yes, a little if you touch them, but otherwise, they're just uncomfortable now".
"Wow, I thought I was [email protected]#ed up. And you don't even know who or what did it".
"Come on, grab a towel and let's talk" and for the next 3 hours, Julie gave Jason (i.e. Dusty) answers about everything she knew about him. It went back as far as 4th grade where they both were chubby and ended the day after graduation when her mom moved.
Morning came early when the doorbell rang. It was FedEx who wanted Dusty to sign for the package. He just scribbled something down and took the package.
Inside the package were 14 sheets of paper. The top one read, "Please find enclosed the finalized title transfers per your request. If there is anything else we may assist you with, please contact any of our attorneys". The copies showed that the "Judy Lynn" was now in Ramos' name as well as the house and a plane.
Early that morning, Dusty called in a favor. The police report showed the names of the nine people killed during the shooting. However, the only name that stood out was a "Tanner Williams". Nowhere was the name "Jason Ramos" used.
In a brief conversation later that morning with Taylor's father, Dusty was informed that the street was saying that a gang had warned Taylor to stop selling drugs in their area. He didn't and was killed for it. Everyone else was just collateral damage. As for the three cops who were shot, they shouldn't have been there.
Dusty asked him if he knew any of the three cops. The only one he knew for sure was this "rent-a-cop" Summerton out of Manhattan Beach. It was there Dusty had his rental house and it would be an even bet that the bastard lived around there as well.
Now it was Dusty's confirmed belief that any 10 to 12 year old kid in a neighborhood knows everyone who was important or anyone that posed a risk to their late night pranks and Dusty found just the perfect candidate.
As he cornered the kid, Dusty asked, "You can choose one of two ways to go. You can jack me around some more and go to juvy. On the other hand, tell me where the cop is and you can keep your cigarettes and make twenty to keep quiet. It's your choice?"
"It's three doors down and across the street with the green door," the kid said. As Dusty turned around and walked away, $20 fell out of his pocket.
The neighbors said that Summerton had been away for over a month or so and no one had seen him. They said he had family in the Bay Area. "The address should be on the mail he gets" one said.
A letter in the mail box had the address of "Nancy Summerton, Half Moon Bay, CA".
Dusty got back to the house by 1:00 pm and as he entered thru the front door, he said "Hi. How are you doing? Feel like getting your car?"
"Then let's go". As they started out, he asked "Which way?"
"Go north to Studio City and then take Laurel Canyon over the hill".
It was two hours later when they had pulled up to a small hillside home overlooking the San Fernando Valley to the north. Dusty's instructions to her were very simple "Go up there, and get him to come down here".
As Julie rang the door bell ring, her ex came out using foul language and told her to "get out of here bitch.
With a "[email protected]# you. I want my things", she attempted to push her way in when he pushed her back out. As Julie started scream, she run down the stairs to Dusty's safety.
Her ex was about halfway down the stairs, just as you make the turn when Dusty's roundhouse swing caught her ex across the chest. With his momentum stopped, his feet went airborne and with a loud thud his legs, butt, and back hit the ground about the same time. A split second later his head the ground. He then received a knee to the midsection and Dusty shoved the barrel of the Berretta into his mouth.
"Listen to me clearly" he said with a threatening tone in his voice. "You will write her a check for an amount that will make her happy. You will not cancel it. You will leave her alone. Now, where are her keys to the car?"
With a quick squeaky muffled voice he mumbled "In my pocket, here" and with that, Julie got her car back.
"Oh, one final thing" Dusty said as he got up. "You really don't want me to come back" and with that, Dusty walked away. It's just amazing that these guys beat up their wives and when the roles are reversed, they wet their pants. "Damn, now I have to get my pants cleaned".
As Dusty walked up to Julie, he said, "I think he has a check for you". He watched her walk up to the front door and then he turned to check her car that started immediately. It had about a half a tank of gas. Within 5 minutes, she came walking down the stairs with a picture in her hands and a big smile across her face.
"I take it you did get the check" he asked?
"Oh, yea, and I always wanted this picture".
"Well then here's your car my lady" and Dusty opened her car door for her.
"Thank you. Are you coming," she asked.
"No, I have business to do myself. When you get settled in, stop by with your new address, and I will let you cook me dinner".
"I'd like that. Be careful" and away she drove.
As for Dusty, he headed north to Bakersfield and then west to the coast. "It's time to check out Half Moon Bay".
For Julie, the drive down the hill was one of immense happiness now that she had her car back and had some money as well. But, it was also a disappointment that Jason left. She really liked him, but he had changed so much since high school. It was the eyes. They no longer had joy in them. However, to walk around without knowing your past, or more to the point, who your friends are, had to really suck.
First thing she did was to go to her ex's bank to cash the check and to her surprise, it cleared without any problem. At least she still had her ID to cash it. The clerk was very kind and offered her a spouse credit card. Now talk about revenge, but instead "Why thank you, but no. Please let me go home and talk to my husband to see if he will allow me".
"Well then, think about it. Many of our customers are now doing it. Now, please sign each of the traveler's checks here and that should take care of everything".
As she got back to the car, she now realized that she needed a place to live until she figured out what she would do. Her part time job as a property manager for a North Hollywood apartment complex might give her a 1 bedroom but it wasn't where she wanted to live. She knew her ex would get drunk and want some. That meant he would pound on the door like always. No, it should be somewhere south and as close to the beach as she could afford.
She stopped at a Carl's Jr. for a hamburger. Few things had ever tasted as good as the hamburger and fries that day. It also helped as she kept looking at $5,700 in Travelers Checks in her purse. She just loved Jason.
One thing about Carl's Jr., their hamburgers drip. And drip it did on the right leg of her last pair of clean pants. Checking to see if she had napkins, she opened the glove compartment. In it was the envelope with the $2,308 and a short note written on the outside:
"This should get you started again"
The rentals on the beach had many vacancies and after looking for 2 days, she found the one she wanted. It was a small one bedroom furnished apartment about ½ mile from the beach. The apartment manager fell in love with her the minute she paid the first and last in cash. "No pets" he said.
Her ex was kind enough to bag her cloths when she was gone, and so that you understand, I mean, "trash-bagged". There was a thrift store in town that had coat hangers and used appliances for sale. $58 later she had almost a place setting for two and the pots and pans to cook with.
She set up her new account at the local bank and decided to keep the travels checks for now. With her cloths hung up, dishes washed and put away, it was off to the beach.
She was well into her fifties but knew the real estate market. Business had been good but with her partner leaving, she knew she would need help. So she placed the sign in the window saying, "Help wanted, Property Management"
As Julie walked by, she noticed the sign, smile as she walked in and said "Hi, I'm Julie. I have property management background".
"Great, come on in, let's talk". It wasn't until the question "Why did you move to Huntington Beach" did she get the job.
"My ex hit me, threw me out, and I love it here".
"Where's he now?"
Now that brought a big smile to her face and she said, "How soon can you start?"
"Tomorrow, I would like to walk in the sand right now".