Saturday, 13 February 2010

THE COP CAME CALLING by Robert Crisman


Schindler’d been sitting there in his car for close to an hour, waiting for Yolanda to show. It was late afternoon, climbing on five. If the guy’d told Schindler right, Yolanda was at this address, two houses from Greenwood here on 105th. Not that far from the dopehouse Yolanda’s old man had knocked off. Another of life’s tiny ironies, right?

A dank, drizzly February day, Schindler’s day off. It had taken him a month and four days to catch up with Yolanda. She’d up and split from the Burien house, her face full of stitches, broken jaw wired, eyes all but closed. She’d done a quick in-and-out of the Burien house. She’d gathered up Esme and stuff she could throw in two bags. They socked in at Carmens’ for two nights. Then she’d sent Esme back home on a bus and went underground to let the bones knit and decide what to do with the rest of her life.

A neighbor’d told Schindler that he’d picked Yolanda up off the street a half a block from her house. She was bleeding, half-conscious, and all busted up. She wouldn’t or couldn’t tell him what happened. He took her up to the hospital then and that’s all he knew.

The landlord had said she’d been a good tenant, her and her husband. Paid rent on time. The guy came on kind of scary but…

Davis over in Yakima said that, as far the YPD knew, she hadn’t showed up back around.

Then they got lucky. Parker in Narco had dropped a snitch in their lap. A julio, trying to dig out from under some warrants. His old lady’s sister was stashing this bitch up in Greenwood. His old lady had told him the bitch’s old man was in on that thing at that dopehouse, the one where those people got killed Christmas Eve. He’d heard it was really Rodriguez’s gig. Rodriguez the dopeman. Yolanda’s big brother.
The snitch also heard that Rodriguez had offed Yolanda’s old man and beat town.
Yolanda wasn’t home when he knocked, so Schindler went back to wait in the car. He had the evening if that’s what it took.

She showed at ten after five. Walking slow, tired, hunched, bundled up. A good-looking woman, delicate features — until the threshing machine had ripped up her face. The scars just leaped out, even at this distance. Her nose had been flattened and her face was lumped up on the side where her jaw had been broken.

Ramon did this. Schindler knew it. She’d been the one who called in. Ramon maestro’d the Christmas Eve slaughter and then wrecked Yolanda. Stone fucking bastard…

Schindler got out of his car and walked over. Yolanda, key in the door, turned around. They locked eyes. Hers narrowed, then widened, then went into shadows. She’d known cops forever. She watched Schindler come to the foot of the steps. He stopped and looked at her there on the porch. Yolanda’s heart banged. This gray-suited white man with hawk’s eyes and big, meaty fists. Fucking cop.

Like she needed this. But — something… What was this guy doing?

She knew what filled up cops’ eyes: ice and contempt, and, so often, lust. They all want to fuck the cute little Mexican bitch. But this one… No trace of ice or contempt or lust in his eyes. What does he want?

She knew, though. Ramon. And then she knew: Ramon was this cop’s mission in life.
He stood there, eyes on her face, the destruction… She wanted to hide but, those eyes — she couldn’t move. Rage leapt in those eyes. Rage at the harm that was done her.

“He really did a number on you.” He said it so quietly.

She heard all the rage in the world. She still could not move. The key in her hand… She broke from his eyes, looked off down the street, and she nodded. It was a half-nod, staccato, and she could not stop. She turned to the door to let herself in, to escape, and she fumbled the key.

He said, “Ms.—Yolanda?”

She had to turn.

He said, “I’d like to talk.” He gave her his name and said, “I think you know why I’m here.”

She looked at him and darted a glance at the door, barely breathing. “I can’t talk…”

He watched her. This woman shrieked fear. Talk to a cop? Cops had always meant harm to women like her. He could take her downtown. Material witness, you know? They could take her and sweat her — for what? No comprendes? Chinga du madres? She’d spit on their graves if she could. For her, in the end, the cops and Ramons were the same.
He would rather lose her at this point than take her downtown.

“Those people at that house,” Schindler said, so quietly still. “The one Dennis robbed. Three people were killed at that house. The two people who lived there and an old woman walking by on the street. We know Ramon set it up. And Dennis. We found him dead on Capitol Hill. And then you. I see what Ramon did to you.”
Schindler’s eyes, burning, took in the wreckage. “We want him.”

Yolanda, stricken, stared off and away. An instant of memory flashed: Ramon’s fists and feet. With memory this thought: how helpless the weak really are.

Yolanda and Schindler stared at each other. A raw blink of time charged with — what? Shared outrage and pain? Or the conviction, brought to the surface within her, then swiftly tamped down, that the evil who prey on the weak should be taken right out of this world by whatever means.

Yolanda and Schindler stared at each other. Yolanda said, “I—I’ve got to go in.” Her eyes, almost pleading. Fear still held sway.

Another long moment, then Schindler nodded. “Okay,” he said. He went in his pocket, came out with a card, and handed it over. She hesitated, then slowly took it, eyes on him, refusing to look at the card.

The card meant commitment…

“You can reach me anytime at one of those numbers,” Schindler said. “The bottom’s my home phone.” He turned to go, then looked back. “Call me, Yolanda.” He walked toward the street.

In the car he remembered the pain and the rage in her eyes at the ruin inflicted upon her. Her ruin forever. She needed time…

He’d give her time. They’d put an eye on the house and see how she went.
He had a feeling. Give her the time, she’d come in.

Robert Crisman knew Eddies and learned early on that they'd die for nothing. He wanted to live so he cut them loose. He tries to bring them alive in his stories, however, through acid-noir looks at the way they did business. He loves Dashiell Hammett, who also knew Eddies, and thinks Raymond Chandler is bullshit.


  1. Welcome back, Robert.
    Lot goin' on here.
    Noir as hell this one.

  2. Col,
    Thanks. Happy to be back.

  3. Atmospheric - thought it almost smelled of a Bronx tale, till I realised we were in Seattle!

    A very professional, slick piece of writing - can we have a follow-up, please!

  4. Acid-noir. New term for me, I have to admit. But I get it. Great writing Robert.

  5. Thanks Matt. I think noir as it's played out in the movies and most of the literature is a romantic genre, made so by the typical use of atmosphere and often by the physical beauty of the doomed ones and so forth. Somehow, some way, these are people that we'd like to be. I was out in the milieu depicted in noir for a long time and there is nothing whatever romantic about it and we were not the beautiful people. There were plenty of romantics out there for sure, at least they were at the start, but their lives were travesties of romance and they were doomed without much saving grace whatsoever. I try to remain faithful to the travesty, which is central to the horror, and thereby show the people as they lived it. This involves first of all pouring acid on the romance to get to the human reality beneath.

  6. this is definitely NOT romantic. grit to the max. slick in the telling and a good hanging end. well done.

  7. Loved this, Robert. You're turning me into a fan of noir... I like your thinking about pouring acid on the romance. That's all you have to tell a publisher, that you're remaining faithful to the travesty. Lead the way.

  8. Fingers down the throat of love! Very stylish and hard edged.

  9. I think it is a realistic piece in that there is little hope for any of the characters involved, though maybe the tiniest spark for Yolande, and for justice at the end.

    I enjoyed the fast pace and the darkness and I could quite see this well written tale played out to full novel length.

  10. Actually, the story is excerpted and reshaped from a novel I wrote entitled Red Christmas, about three guys who rob a dopehouse, then turn on each other when the whole thing goes south.

  11. Hey, Robert. Great description of acid-noir. I loved that almost as much as the story. Almost. The story was A-One.

  12. Like Teresa, I'm getting a taste for this rich black writing of yours, and I like that this follows the previous one.
    To be continued I hope?