scribbly address books; a printed invitation to a 101st Airborne reunion decorated with a map of Korea; a news clipping about his shoot-out with the hired killer Clyde Reno; a dog-eared photograph of his mother and father sitting on the front porch of their tiny home in Boyle Heights; a stack of letters from Sally Malone. He stuffed the items into dresser drawers.

Because his belongings were being shipped by government bill of lading (known to federal civil servants as the Wagon Train), he had no utensils. At the kitchen sink, he rinsed out a Styrofoam cup he found in the cabinet and drank two cups of water. He left the apartment and headed downtown.

A tepid Santa Ana wind swirled in the open windows of Charles Carr's sedan as he sped east along the Santa Monica freeway. The breeze had wafted the city's stultifying layer of smog to sea, revealing a panorama of chaparral-covered foothills and mountains extending from Hollywood east past Cucamonga: nature's infrequent reminder that without neon, asphalt, Chevron stations, and tract homes with television aerials, Los Angeles was a desert basin touching an ocean.

Years ago he had chased a counterfeiter at more than a hundred miles an hour along the same freeway. Each of the familiar exit signs stirred other such memories; a rooftop chase along LaCienega; a three-week surveillance on Sepulveda; a shoot-out in front of a bank on Robertson Boulevard. Hell, he had chased paper pushers and passers around the city for so long that few streets were unfamiliar to him. It was no secret that he thrived on the big-city action: the bizarre people, the jungle politics of the underworld, the challenge of trying to beat the counterfeiters and hoods at their own game.

Off duty, his activities centered around police watering holes, maudlin retirement-and-promotion parties, barroom celebrations after big cases, and Dodger games. Though his attachments to women were usually characterized by casual dates and one-night stands, this was due to no particular creed or philosophy.

Certainly by any normal standards his existence could be described as neither wholesome nor particularly fruitful. But for a man who more than twenty years ago had volunteered for the army- the 101st Airborne, and combat in Korea-it was not without its rewards.

At Vermont Avenue he pulled into the slow lane and took the turnoff. He headed north through a crowded business district. At the edge of Hollywood, he pulled up in front of a fast-food stand, a four-seater operation fashioned out of sheet metal that had been painted bright red. On the awning over the stools was a crudely painted sign of a hot dog dripping with mustard: 'Calhoun's' was lettered on the bun. Charles Carr parked his sedan and got out.

'The Snake has returned,' Calhoun said as Carr straddled a stool. The 260-pound black man wore a white T-shirt and trousers, apron, and a paper chef's hat. Without using tongs, he plopped a frankfurter into a bun. Having loaded the bun with relish and mustard, he wrapped the hot dog and set it down in front of Carr. Calhoun wiped his fingers on a rag. The men shook hands. 'Kelly told me you'd transferred back,' Calhoun said. 'I've been waiting for you to stop by.'

Carr picked up the hot dog and took a bite. He chewed and swallowed. 'What's going on?' he said.

'There's some twenties and phony driver's licenses around,' Calhoun said. 'Nothing really hot and heavy, you understand. Just the usual. If you want it, it's out there.'

'Money talks,' Carr said casually. He took another bite.

'You got that right,' Calhoun said. 'Just wave a little of that green shit around a few people, and a man can get exactly what he wants. Hell, yesterday the dude who lives next door told me he could get any brand of TV I wanted. It'll be stolen, but I could actually order the brand I wanted ahead of time. Can you believe that shit?'

Carr nodded. He finished the hot dog.

Calhoun plopped another frankfurter into a bun. Carr gestured no, and Calhoun tossed the frank back in the steamer.

'How's your son doing?' Carr asked.

Calhoun shook his head. 'Tyrone's gotten worse since I wrote you that letter,' he said. 'He won't listen to me and he calls his mother names. It's all because he moved into an apartment with a bunch of jive-ass niggers. A couple of weeks ago I drove him down to the army recruiting office. A sergeant gave him a real nice talking-to. He actually got him to fill out all the papers and take a physical. He was ready to go. The wife and I were all set to have a real nice going-away party for him-a barbecue in Griffith Park.' Calhoun adjusted his cap and shook his head again. 'Then those jive-ass punks he's been hanging around with talked him out of it. They told him he was an asshole for wanting to go in the army and be a paratrooper. They're dope dealers, a bunch of jack-jawed no- good hophead motherfuckers. I know they're into funny money too. I heard my boy whispering on the telephone about it. At first I figured I'd go over there and cave their damn heads in, but I'd be taking a chance at ending up in San Quentin my own self. I'm afraid that once I got started I wouldn't know when to quit. You know how I am.'

Carr nodded.

A gray-faced old man wearing a filthy baseball cap and T-shirt sat down at the counter. Calhoun served him a hot dog and a cup of coffee. He returned to Carr. 'Them jive-ass punks my boy is living with all drive Cadillacs. I raised my son in the Baptist Church. I saw to it that his ass was in Sunday school all the way through the tenth grade. But now he's eighteen years old and he's met some punks that deal dope and have enough money to drive their bitches around in Cadillacs.' He slapped the counter violently. 'Damn! And to think my boy came within an inch of being an airborne trooper. He woulda been a second-generation paratrooper instead of a goddamn hophead.'

'A person can't even eat a bog dog in peace,' said the old man at the counter. He stood up angrily and walked away with his frankfurter and coffee.

Calhoun tipped his hat at the man.

'On second thought, maybe I will have another,' Carr said.

Calhoun winked. He prepared a hot dog and handed it to Carr. 'Tyrone just don't know any better. He's grown up in the city and it's all he knows. He's at the age where he needs a change in environment … to find out that there's other people in the world besides the punks that live around the corner. I was the same way when I was his age. I know what I'm talking about.'

'The boy needs to jump out of an airplane,' Carr said.

Calhoun folded his arms and leaned forward over the counter. 'Or have the jumpmaster kick his ass out the door,' he said.

Carr took a bite of the hog dog. He wiped his mouth with a paper napkin. 'Still wearing 'em?' he said.

Calhoun stepped back from the counter and held up his foot. The black, round-toed paratrooper's boot had an even shine. 'I've had 'em resoled more than thirteen times,' he said.

'I'll need an address,' Carr said.

Calhoun smiled. He dug a pencil out of a drawer and scribbled something on a napkin. He handed it to Carr.

Carr stuffed the napkin into his wallet. He finished the hot dog, stood up to leave, and said, 'Be home tonight.'

'I'll be standing by, Sarge,' Calhoun said.

Chapter 3

The squad-room walls were covered with federal wanted posters, blowups of counterfeit twenties, and street maps dotted with red stickpins.

Charles Carr swiveled his desk chair around to look out the window. The view below was of downtown Los Angeles in darkness: lifeless buildings, grayish-white streetlights, and a freeway still bustling even after rush hour. Across the road the neon lamps of Chinatown gave off an exotic rainbow glimmer. He was glad to be back.

He thumbed through the latest stack of L.A. area intelligence reports, squinting as he turned the pages. He would not give in to wearing glasses.

Jack Kelly, a man of Carr's age with the jaw and limbs of a grizzly bear, hunched at the desk next to him. Tacked to the bulletin board behind his desk was a watercolor of an automobile that looked like a box with wheels. 'To Daddy from Junior' was printed in a child's letters along the bottom. 'Did you find yourself an apartment?' he

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