THE CRIME FIGHTERS
By Duane Preimsberger
At a little after nine on a Friday evening, Pumpkin Head and the Turkey were seated next to each other on maroon, naugahyde covered wooden bar stools in the dimly, lit, smokey cave known as O’Leary’s Bar and Grill. Two five-dollar bills occupied a space between their bottles of Guinness Stout, the wager between the two of them over where O’Leary would land.
“Mashed potatoes, mashed potatoes, come on mashed potatoes!” encouraged the Turkey.
“No way!” argued Pumpkin Head, “he’s going to land in the peas.”
The proprietor of this less than classy establishment, 60 year old Patrick Francis O’Leary, was on the nod in one of the small booths that matched the bar stools. In front of him, on the checkered, oilcloth covered table was a plate of roast beef, mashed potatoes, brown gravy and peas. O’Leary’s head continued to make it’s barely perceptible, downward passage toward the slowly growing cold contents of the plate; accompanied by the sounds of O’Leary’s snoring and the Irish Rovers singing, “Danny Boy,” coming from the Seeburg Juke Box.
Margaret Shaugnessy, an elderly regular at O’Leary’s, sat several stools away from Pumpkin Head. She too was drinking Guinness, her 8th or 9th bottle of the evening.
Her speech was difficult to understand, not only because of her alcohol level, but also because, as usual at this hour of the evening, Margaret had removed her upper and lower dentures and was giving them “an air” on the bar top, where they grimaced back at Pumpkin Head.
“Donamakefun ahim,” she slurred, “HezaO.K.guy, usta be mysqueeze!!”
“Put your teeth back in Margaret, them things are giving me the creeps sitting there grinning at me. We’re not making fun of O’Leary; we’ve got a very proper, honorable and gentlemanly wager on where he’s going to land on his plate. As a matter of fact, as soon as he lands in the peas and I pick up the ten bucks, I’ll buy you another bottle.”
“Imustamisunnerstood,” gummed Margaret as a lovely Irish smile appeared on her toothless countenance. “S’cuseme.”
“No offense taken, me dear,” replied Pumpkin Head.
O’Learys head finally came to an abrupt rest on the plate, his nose went into the mashed potatoes and gravy while his forehead hit the peas. He twitched around for a couple of seconds and then inhaled some mashed potatoes and began gasping and coughing. As he sat up in the booth, he gave his head a couple of hard shakes, creating a mini-shower of peas and mashed potatoes and gravy.
“Winner, winner, as usual I’m a winner,” laughed the Turkey, “barkeep, another round for me and my two friends and see if O’Leary wants something to clear his palate.”
“He hit the peas first,” argued Pumpkin Head.
“Bullshit,” replied the Turkey, “O’Leary’s got one of the biggest beezers in all of Los Angeles County. That thing hit a full second before his forehead ever touched the peas.”
“Ya, you’re probably right. OK.”
The two of them watched as Margaret, armed with a stack of paper bar napkins, tried to clean up the semi-awake O’Leary while she crooned along with the next jukebox selection. “Keepaeye on my teeth,” she ordered in between choruses.
Pumpkin Head had a real name; he was baptized Darryl Thomas Horton almost forty years ago and his partner, the Turkey was, in fact, James Keith.
The two of them had gone through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Academy together over fifteen years ago. They had shared the same assignments through out their careers. Working among the winos, thieves and wife beaters at the Hall of Justice Jail in downtown, then on to Norwalk Station as patrol deputies, policing a mostly lower middle class community. Together, they had transferred to the Special Enforcement Bureau, a mobile, highly skilled and well-trained unit. S.E.B. worked specialized assignments and high crime problem areas, when requested, across Los Angeles County.
They were both Sergeants now, assigned to the Detective Bureau at Firestone Station, in South-Central L.A., as partners. Their families had become intertwined in their careers and were fast friends. They had shared vacations, backyard barbecues, birthdays and graduations. Partners, on and off the job.
They had been given the nicknames at the Special Enforcement Bureau after their initiation, “baptism,” which entailed being thrown, fully clothed into a rather slimy, duck pond that was adjacent to the Bureau facility. This rite of passage had begun years ago and the baptism meant acceptance into the Bureau as a full-fledged member.
Pumpkin Head was a stocky man, he had a very short neck and his head was probably 20% larger than average. During late October, one of the sarcastic wags at S.E.B. had suggested that since he hadn’t had time to buy a Halloween pumpkin, that perhaps Darryl would agree to sit on his front porch with a candle in his mouth. “With a head that size, you’d do just great as a makeshift Jack o’Lantern; how about it, Pumpkin Head?”
Turkey, although not skinny, had a wattley neck and sharper features. He was over 6 feet tall and walked with an unusual gait that resembled, to a slight degree, that of the barnyard fowl he came to be named after. What really cemented it, however, was a high-risk warrant service, where the Special Enforcement Bureau was used as the entry team. The location was in a rural area where there was a large barnyard. After the operation had been concluded and the bad guy had been taken into custody, the sun was coming up over the horizon and the birds, including turkeys, began to parade in their pen.
“Jim, your relatives are awake and they want to say hello,” coming from an anonymous voice- that was all it took. Pumpkin Head and Turkey had been given their nicknames.
“Margaret, here’s a handful of quarters, keep the music coming, OK?” Turkey
asked, as he slid the change down the bar where it stopped just short of her teeth.
“I’m in the wind as soon as I finish this one,” said Pumpkin Head.
Bottles emptied, the two partners gave Margaret, the bartender and O’Leary a wave goodnight and went out the back door into the parking lot. They exchanged, “see ya Monday morning,” and then the two partners went off to their homes and families.
On Monday, they both arrived at Firestone Station Detective Bureau around 8:15. Together, they looked at the In Custody Log to determine if they had anybody to interview in the Station Jail who had been busted over the weekend hours for suspicion of robbery or assault or some other crime against a person.
They worked those kinds of cases, however, this morning they were clear of in custodies, all the bad guys had either bailed out or had been transferred to the main jail.
“I’ll read the crime reports,” volunteered Pumpkin Head, taking a stack of paperwork from a metal tray marked “Crimes Against Persons” with a Dynolabel. “You get the coffee.”
“Oh Shit!” Pumpkin Head said to no one in particular as he turned the pages of a crime report, “this guys got a real problem.”
The Turkey approached, carrying two steaming mugs, each emblazoned with
a gold and blue Sheriff’s star and their nicknames in gold script. “Got anything good?”
“Got something weird, there’s a young, white guy who’s flashing women in Laundromats. Apparently, he hides in the restroom until he’s got an audience and then he leaps out at them, fully exposed, dances around, up, on and over the machines and then he’s out the door.”
“O.K., in most parts of town that might be weird, but this is here. Is there something else?”
“Well, perhaps a small item. This guy is naked except for a blue cape, short black boots and a Lone Ranger style eye mask. He sprays his private parts with some kind of glittery gold stuff and has red, white and blue lightening bolts arcing away from his Mr. Johnson.”
“Like I said, what’s the weird part?”
“This is the fifth report in 3 days and you know there’s got to be more where the victims are too flustered to talk to the cops about this kind of thing.
But the worst part about this is that the local newspaper has gotten wind of this and you know they’ll want to know what we’re doing.
The desk man on the morning watch left us a note saying that a news guy read the press board early this morning and was asking about these cases.”
“Well, we’d better tell our Lieutenant so he can brief up the Captain so he won’t get blind sided if somebody calls. Since you got the details from the report you do the talking and I’ll just look pretty.”
“O.K., before we go in lets make some quick calls to the adjoining police departments and see if they have any more info on like cases and maybe want to team up to catch this guy. Then we can get a list of the area laundromats from the Yellow Pages and try to figure out where our Caped Crude Satyr will go next.”
“Wow, that’s why I love you so much, Pumpkin darling, you’re actually going to make us look good, well prepared and knowledgeable, I’m impressed.”
“Ya, I know and when we lay this on em, just forget about the looking pretty part, we’re talking about you.”
“Hey! Margaret likes me! She knows I’m a hunk!”
After a half dozen calls, the two partners had found two more cases and had garnered the support of a Detective from Police Departments in the cities of Huntington Park, Maywood, Bell and South Gate to help them stakeout their flasher. They used red grease pencil on a plastic covered, 8 ½”x 11”, reporting district map to mark and identify the locations of the incidents in sequence and by time of day. Then they walked into the Detective Lieutenant’s office.
“Happy Monday, L.- T., we’ve got something that’s going to make your day.”
Pumpkin addressed Lieutenant Bob Wilburn, a taciturn man, who sat at his desk reading statistical information from an F.B.I. yearly crime report and staring at the two of them from over the top of his Ben Franklin, half glasses.
“What the hell do you two want?”
Pumpkin Head ran down the information they had gathered and showed him the marked up reporting district map for reference as he talked.
“Well, tell me what you’re going to do to put this clown in jail, so I can brief the Captain?”
“Well, L.-T., as you can see he hits regularly, at about 6 A.M. so we’re going to use some guys from the local P.D.s and the two of us for a few days to sit on the local laundromats he hasn’t hit yet. Maybe we’ll get lucky and catch him in the act. We’re going to start tomorrow morning. All we need from you is an O.K. to check out some wheels from the surveillance motor pool.”
“You’ve got my approval, keep me informed.” Lt. Wilburn said as he gathered up the marked up reporting district map. “I’ll have this back to you after I run this by the Boss.”
By noon the two partners had three target laundromats identified, and had given the responsibility for the two in other jurisdictions to the assisting cops teams. They’d sit on the one in their area in a dented, faded blue and primer colored, 65 Ford, pick-up truck, complete with a rusty shell and gardening equipment in the backend. On the way back from the surveillance motor pool, Turkey had dropped off a couple of the Sheriff’s tactical radios so that they and their assisting cops could talk to each other during the operation.
On Tuesday morning, at 4:45, all of the guys involved in their surveillance met at Firestone Station. They had coffee and L.A. County Jail bakery; sweet rolls while Pumpkin Head and Turkey gave them a quick briefing on all they’d learned. By 5:20 the three teams were in route to their assigned laundromat.
The nasty looking Ford pick-up, with its rebuilt engine, transmission and suspension purred along the awakening area streets, with Pumpkin Head at the wheel. They parked as unobtrusively as possible in the parking lot of a 24 hour supermarket parking lot across the street from their empty laundromat in the 2200 block of east Florence Avenue. They had a good view of the interior of the place and were pleased to see that it didn’t have a rear exit.
They settled in and watched as the sun slowly crept into view to the east and began to focus its rays on the automatic sensors that turned off the yellow tinged streetlights.
“Second pass from the blue Volkswagen bug,” said the Turkey. “He’s looking in the window of the place, scooping it out, could be our guy.”
“Yup, here he comes again,” replied Pumpkin Head as he hit the floor mounted radio button with his foot and talked into the sun-visor microphone. “Location One to Two and Three, we’ve got a possible, cruising our spot, he’s on his third pass in a blue V.W.”
“10-4, keep us advised.”
The V.W. made a u-turn and parked in front of the laundromat, just past the front door. Turkey and Pumpkin Head looked on as the lone occupant and driver slid into the passenger seat, then out the door and into the restroom
of the facility. His blue cape flapping behind him.
“Location One to Two and Three, our suspect just entered our location. He’s in the blue cape mode and has gone inside the head. Can you roll and take up locations directly east and west of our spot.
“10-4 this is two, we’ll take the east in two minutes.”
“This is three we got the west, in about two as well.”
In a few minutes, all three teams were set up and ready as two young Mexican women walked toward the establishment. One of them was pushing a baby stroller containing two small children. The second woman pushed a market-shopping cart loaded with dirty clothing while a toddler lurched along the sidewalk beside her.
“This is Two, possible victims just passed us.”
Minutes passed as the women began to load several of the washing machines with the clothes from the shopping cart as they got the wash started. They had seated themselves next to each other, facing the machines, in the well-worn chrome and plastic chairs against the wall when the door on the restroom cracked open.
“This is one, get ready, the head door just opened and we think our flashers about to dash. Two, make sure he doesn’t get to his car, we don’t want this to go mobile.”
“Two, 10-4.” Following the response two cops in plainclothes sauntered to a place at the front of the parked Volkswagen.
Pumpkin Head and Turkey were out of the truck and moving across the street as they watched in near disbelief as the young suspect leapt from the restroom to atop the washing machines, dancing, waving his cape and screaming, “ I’m Super Dong, I’m super hung, gaze upon my golden love stick, you whores.
He did a brief bump and grind and was off the machines and out the front door while the expression of shock was still appearing on the faces of the two women.
For a naked guy with a cape he moved pretty good and in a matter of a millisecond he’d identified the guys closing in on him as cops, and the foot chase was on. Turkey had been a middling track and field jock in high school and junior college and he quickly outdistanced the other pursuers.
The caped guy had about a 15-yard lead as they raced down an alley toward an eight-foot tall, chain linked, barbed wire topped gate and Turkey watched in amazement as the cape came off and was thrown over the top of the barbed wire.
Suddenly the naked man scampered up the gate made an improbable pole vault styled leap, up and over the top and then as he landed on his feet, he ran into the area’s residential back yards.
Turkey could hear the neighborhood dogs barking as the guy fled from them.
Seconds later he was joined by five puffing, out of breath, Detectives who seemed to ask all at once, “Where’d he go?”
Pumpkin Head, breathing hard, was on his handheld radio asking for uniformed officer assistance and black and white patrol cars to help track the naked guy down and four units acknowledged that they were on the way. One of them was a unit with a search dog.
“He jumped the fence like some sort of naked pole vaulted, he did leave his cape as a souvenir. It’s up there on the barbed wire. First time I’ve ever competed against a masked guy with golden privates, I’d be amazed if I ever forget the sight of him going over that gate, it was almost patriotic with that red, white and blue stuff waving in the breeze, I shoulda saluted.”
“Let’s get back to our wheels and help look for this mope, except you guys in Two, maybe you could impound the V.W. for us and get the names and horse powers of the victims?”
The station dispatcher beeped the frequency and began a broadcast. “Attention Firestone units involved in the search, see the woman at 2301 E. Flower Street, she reports a naked man is hiding in her dog house in the backyard. Any unit to respond in two or less, identify?”
The first response came from unit 11-canine, “11 canine, in one and a half.”
“Hell,” said Turkey, “he’s right behind us. Flower Street is the next block south so he’s got to be in a yard real close. We can probably find him just by looking over the fences.”
Within a few seconds they were looking into a small, neat back yard where an old, graying, mongrel dog sat on its haunches, staring at its dog house and barking a slow tired bark at whatever or whoever was inside.
They pushed open the alley gate and entered the yard as the old dog turned his attention to them and the back door of the house flew open. An elderly woman squinted at them while asking in a quavering voice, “Are you the police?”
“Yes ma’am,” Turkey responded as he held his badge up for her to see.
“Well, I can see somebody’s naked fanny in that dog house and Killer has been barking at it. I hope you’ll take em out of here, this scares me and I’ve got a bad heart.”
“We’ll have this taken care of in a few minutes, ma’am.”
Deputy Roosevelt Jones came through the side gate with a leashed Rottweiller at his side that was the size and bulk of a small bedroom dresser.
“What you guys got,” he asked.
Turkey told him and Roosevelt smiled and said, “Bruno and I would be pleased to help get him out if you want.”
“Sounds good to us.”
Roosevelt took Bruno to the side of the dog house and spoke a few commands in Danish to the dog who immediately changed from a docile animal into a raging, snarling, growling, evil intentioned beast who bit and shook the dog house for a few moments. Roosevelt issued another Danish command and the transformation reversed as Bruno sat down by the deputy’s side with his stumpy tail wagging in the grass.
Killer, the old dog, had retreated to the steps leading to the back door and was scratching hard at it, trying to get inside and away from the demonstration of evil he had just witnessed.
“Holy shit,” muttered Pumpkin Head, “I’m glad Bruno’s on our side.”
“If you don’t come out of there with your hands out in front of you where we can see them, I’m going to let my dog go in there and he’ll bring you out and I guarantee you won’t like that very much. Do you hear me?”
O.K, O.K., I’m coming out, just don’t let him bite me!!” came the timid voiced reply from within the doghouse.
Seconds later, a scared, pimply faced, thin, young man emerged from the dog house, trying to hold his hands in view while at the same time concealing his glittering private parts and lighten bolt embellished stomach and thighs from view. “I give up,” he whispered.
Pumpkin Head handcuffed him and then pulled an old dog blanket from the doghouse and draped it around the kid. “Hold onto the end of this, we don’t
want you scaring anybody else with your art work.”
They were busy for a few minutes; retrieving the cape, returning the dog blanket, getting the victim info, doing the vehicle impound paperwork and offering thanks all around to the other Detectives and the uniformed Deputies.
then Pumpkin Head and Turkey loaded Super Dong into the middle seat in the pick-up truck, put new blanket around him and drove to Firestone Station with their prisoner.
They photographed him in his Super Dong outfit, then fingerprinted and booked him into the jail system and gave him some orange coveralls with L.A. County Jail, stenciled on the front and back. Then they took him to a small interrogation room and began to interview him after Turkey read him the Miranda Rights admonition.
Roger William Lynn was 19 years old, an unemployed local resident who lived with his folks. He was a registered sex offender and had several arrests for exposing himself to small school kids. He was on Probation and had been committed for a short time to a State Mental Hospital for evaluation and treatment. He was presently a psychiatric outpatient and was on medication. However, he didn’t like the shape and color of the new pills he’d recently been given so he had stopped taking them several days before the Laundromat incidents had begun.
“They are yucky, they look like bird droppings and I ain’t putting them in my mouth.”
The cape was in reality, a dark blue, and terrycloth bathrobe with the sleeves cut off and a big Superman emblem on the back, it had been a birthday present from his mom. The gold glitter and red, white and blue decoration had been purchased in a local arts and crafts store and applied with tender, loving care to his Mr. Johnson and surrounding areas.
“I’m sort of an artist, ya know? I like to make my thing pretty! Do you like it?”
“That’s it,” said Pumpkin Head to Turkey, “I’m getting us a cup of coffee. You talk to Rembrandt here about his paintings, maybe we can schedule him as an exhibit at one of them art galleries on the west side.”
“Oh my! Wouldn’t that be wonderful, then even more people could see my beautiful, huge, sex machine.”
Pumpkin Head slammed the interrogation room door as he left, shaking his head.
It was early afternoon before they were finished with the paperwork, phone calls to Roger’s Probation Officer, a visit to the District Attorneys Office and a briefing with Lieutenant Wilburn.
“O.K. L.- T., this is a wrap, we got the guy, his P.O. has a hold on him and is going to make arrangements to send him back to the wacko ward. The D.A. at San Antonio Court gave us a weinie waver filing, so if and when Super Dong gets well we can give him another shot at jail.” Pumpkin Head said.
“Well it ain’t quite a wrap, today must be a slow news day so a couple of T.V. crews are going to show up here to film somebody telling them how we managed to nail this guy and stop the terrification of our female population.
The Captain and I can’t think of two better victims than you guys. Handle it.”
“O.K. pretty boy,” Pumpkin said. “This is your chance to star, maybe Margaret will see you and ask for your autograph the next time you’re in O’Leary’s.”
“All right, I’ll do it. Got any hair spray?”
Later, as Turkey walked from his car in the driveway at home, the back door opened and his seven-year-old son, James Jr., exploded out of it, running hard as he approached.
“Daddy, daddy!! You and Mr. Pumpkin are famous! Me and mom just watched you guys on the news, you were great! The lady says you’re real crime fighters and that you caught a bad man who was scaring ladies and put him in jail!”
As Jimmy hugged him the Turkey smiled and replied as he hugged him back, “and you’re a real kid and I’m glad you’re mine. Now let’s see what mom’s got for dinner for her favorite crime fighter.”