The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious WritingThe Blue Monkey - Issue Thirty-Four
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The Blue Monkey  from Christiano Artuso The Blue Monkey is a species of Old World monkey native to Central and East Africa, ranging from the upper Congo River basin east to the East African Rift and south to northern Angola and Zambia. They are found in evergreen forests and montane bamboo forests, and lives largely in the forest canopy, which provides both food and shelter. They are very dependent on humid, shady areas with plenty of water and eat mainly fruit and leaves, but will take some slower-moving invertebrates. Despite their name, the blue monkey is not noticeably blue; they are mainly olive or grey apart from the face, the blackish cap, feet, and front legs, and the mantle, which is brown, olive, or grey depending on the subspecies. They range from 50 to 65 cm in length, (not including the tail, which is almost as long as the rest of the animal), with females weighing a little over 4 kg and males up to 8 kg. The blue monkeys live in female-philopatric social systems where females stay in their natal groups, while males disperse once they reach adulthood. Group sizes range from 10 to 40, containing only a single adult male. They are often found in groups with other species of monkeys such as the red-tailed monkey and various red colobus monkeys since they sometimes join other monkeys for extra protection. Their groups usually consist of one male with several females and infants, and this gives rise to matrilinear societies. In these female-bonded societies, only 5-15% of their activity budget is occupied by social interactions and the most common social interactions within a group are grooming and playing. Relationships between group members vary: infants interact most frequently with their peers and adult or juvenile females and are rarely seen near adult males. Alloparenting is common among blue monkeys. The most common infant handlers are juvenile females, and usually one infant is carried by a number of alloparents, possibly to allow the infant to learn to socialise at an early stage in life. Their mating system is polygynous, with a corresponding sexual dimorphism in size, as the males are the substantially larger sex. The males mate with more than one female, but the females only mate with one male. The female attracts males to copulate with her through body language. Females normally give birth every two years, during the onset of the warm, rainy season; gestation is around five months, and the infants are born with fur and with their eyes open. Like almost all guenons, the Blue Monkey suffers from a loss of its natural habitat. As well, where pine plantations replace natural forest, they may be treated as a threat by foresters, since they sometimes strip bark from exotic trees in a search for food or moisture. They are also hunted for bushmeat.


Job Collateral Lies Dead on Compton Creek


Ron Dowell

Early morning shift begins at 10 pm Saturday when Cowboy rolls the Vic onto Willowbrook Avenue. At 10:05, we stop well-dressed Latina millennials in a brand new Beamer, front plate missing. We search their car for drugs. All four shift their asses against the cold oily curb, thighs tight together, knees bent. They tug and pull at the hem of their miniskirts. Bastards, one says. Cowboy hands back her driver's license and says, Have a nice night ladies. Their dirty skirts? "Collateral, comes with the job, Buck," Cowboy says. "Always." Did the Lancaster deputy that killed my dad seventeen years ago see him as collateral? He had said in court that he feared for his life although my dad never hurt anyone, didn't even spank his four kids.

Scott "Cowboy" Farris is my training officer, my TO. He's tall, built like Tim Tebow when he won the Heisman. His shifting velvet-brown eyes are inserted into his taut porcelain face. Part of a tat shows under rolled sleeves when he taps Cupid's bow lips with curled tapered fingers. He's jimber-jawed and his sideburns challenge sheriff policy, mousy hair seems to leap to attention on the crown of his head like a quill pig.

Since 2001 I've worked Men's Central Jail, CJ, where deputies start careers in little sunlight, nonstop plumbing leaks, lockdowns, and power outages, where nineteen thousand men jostle for fifteen thousand beds, where we get to know bad guys best from shift start to finish. After a while, everyone starts to look like inmates.

I'd fought with them at first, when I was new, until a widely-read jailhouse lawyer said, "All we want is respect. We aren't all assholes. Isn't that what we all want, brother?" After that, if I gave it, more often than not, respect is what I got back.

This is my first night with Cowboy on a moonless winter. After seven years in CJ I'm glad for field duty, which I wanted from the start, a chance to show that not all police are dirty, that even black communities could learn to trust them, despite history. I'd be the change, maybe offset the LAPD-Rodney King effect. Maybe understand why dad had to die.

I keep in my mind a book Jailhouse Lawyer had mentioned to me, Community-oriented Policing Styles. COPS. It's about respect-based, community partnership problem solving.

Our black and white Crown Victoria purrs down Long Beach Blvd past mottled bark sycamore trees, roots have buckled sidewalks, winter warblers sing on skeletal branches, to Primo Plaza, a strip mall with a coin laundry, a smoke shop. Wonton soup scent from Chinese takeout makes me hungry. We turn slowly onto Marcelle Street. Cowboy brakes, grins wide, mutes the audio from dispatch, and types a message into the MDT computer to another patrol unit.

In the chill a figure materializes from the shadowy alley behind the plaza, smacks green-goddess covered lips and says, "What the fuck you want this time, Cowboy?" She's rail-thin, dressed in a dark brown skirt to match her skin that's so short it reveals the bottom quarter of her butt. She crosses her arms over a loud pink halter top that barely covers her nipples.

"A quick pop, honey," he says. "This is my new partner."

One hand on Cowboy's doorsill, the woman cranes her neck to glare at me, strong perfume rushes into the Vic. "Pop for Buck too, sweetie." A salty, sweet taste forms on the back of my tongue.

Cowboy unzips his fly, creaks open the Vic door, throws two duty work boots to the asphalt, props himself between the steering wheel and bucket seat back, his back to me. The woman kneels between Cowboy's legs and sucks his dick.

He twists his neck slightly and hitches his head up to me; his lips turn up at the corners in diminished light from the MDT keyboard and small dash-cam screen above the rearview. I offer a watery smile and turn away.

A few minutes later he groans and his body sags like a nut sack. She stands, runs a backhand across her mouth, again glares at me and says, "You too?"

Hair lifts off the back of my neck. "No." Nothing's wrong here, just job collateral I say to my mind. I try to slow my breathing. "Maybe next time."

She shrugs and says, "Might not be no next time, Buck." Her high heels clippity-clop into the lee of a darkened doorway.

Cowboy's eyes sparkle, he turns the Vic around and heads back to Primo Plaza's parking lot where we regard the latest sex trade victims, a rainbow of young girls, minimally clothed who shiver in shadows. Cowboy says the girls are trafficked by Bompton Pirus, Compton thugs that lost money when community drug habits shifted away from crack cocaine to prescription drugs and medical marijuana.

Tupac Shakur's Dear Momma bass line thumps from a low-rider parked perpendicular across tight parking lanes. A guy dressed in all red gestures like a madman at a young girl in front of the smoke shop. Bitch, just do what I tell you to do, he says. She lowers her head, turns, and heads for the corner. My eyes connect with Red Man; Bompton Piru he mouths, hops in the low-rider, guns the engine, and bounces away to the burnt smell of hydraulic lifters.

"I've got two daughters--two angels." Cowboy pulls a tattered picture from his wallet and points to his wife, a furrowed faced sturdy woman with alabaster skin, aquiline nose; her ash-blonde hair is styled in a flip. On each side of her in the Sears family photo sat two mop-headed, inscrutable girls, early teen's maybe. "That's a few years back. They grow up too fast." Then he spits out, "I've no pity for guerilla pimps that prey on children." He reads an MDT message. In front of us clothes tumble inside a heavy-duty Laundromat dryer. "Scumbags abduct them." His face reddens. "They beat, tat 'em up like cattle brands, gang rape 'em if they try to run--"

"My son's twelve," I say. Same age I was when dad was shot. I share custody with my ex. The COPS book had said pimps were hard to prosecute since their victims rarely testified against them and its best to deter johns, if you can. Good thing that I don't have a daughter.

Cowboy rolls the Vic several meters and points to a lone waif in an oversized hoodie under the lighted portico of an animal hospital.

"That's a young boy," he says.

The child, maybe twelve dances around like a sign twirler, lobs a hand at lines of cars that creep by. His face is like what musty jail pimps often bragged about, their "ho's," their "work," the money they made, unlike child pornographers who were usually mute about their exploitation. All were Megan Law felons no one would hire which made them unrecoverable, recidivist. Hungry moments before, I lose my appetite.

"Let's eat, Buck."


At El Pollo Loco drive-through, Cowboy ignores several unread service calls flashing red and yellow on his MDT screen. I fold two twenties, reach over, and offer to pay for our dinner at the window but he pushes back my hand. He's not wearing the required metal nametag on his beige Class A uniform shirt, so I squeeze the pin and remove mine. My thoughts freeze. Maybe this is not the best way for community people to know me, but I go with the flow anyway.

"We don't pay, Buck," Cowboy says, grabs the grub, and passes the warm plastic bag to me. "They feed us to keep us coming around their businesses--they feel safer. Not all but most pop us. TGIF's free, Sizzler's half-off."

In the parking lot we smell fresh grilled chicken that's spread out and kept piping atop the Vic hood; the engine's always running. "Those that don't pop us will wait if they call us. No pop, no cop." I put the nametag and money in my olive-green pants pocket.

"How do you like the yard bird, my nigger," Cowboy says. "If you like chicken you'll love Compton."

"Beats cornbread, beans, and biscuits like you Simi Valley Okie's eat." I expected hazing but damn, the Nword right off. Asshole's had my personnel jacket for weeks. "My name's Daniel Brown." Heat flushed though me.

"Really? Not Demetrius, Malik, or some African shit like that?" I have to tread carefully; his evaluation could have me back working jails or assigned to a cold foggy post in Rolling Hills Estates, frost in Santa Clarita, or some other dull-ass place. It's like that in the department, best to go along to get along, one person's bullshit opinion sticks to your career like Super Glue. "Okay, Danise," he says.

Maybe he's a Skinhead. They'd never invited me to the party but I'd seen deputy cliques gang up on jail inmates, especially mental patients, dings we call them in CJ. I perspire and pull the collar on my new Kevlar armor vest. "Don't confuse me with your mother, Cowboy."

He laughs. "I'm just fuckin' with you partner. We gotta trust each other--right? I gotta know you have my back dude."

"I gotcha Cowboy."

Back in the Vic, more messages fill the MDT screen.

"Why'd you become a cop?"

He pushes away the swing-arm mounted MDT, leans toward me and whispers, "Tell ya a secret--the Association for the Advancement of White People doesn't pay as much." He laughs. "Seriously. I want to help these people out here. Gangs and pimps terrorize them--hold neighborhoods back. Shiiit," he stretches the word. "I put bad guys away."

"With arrests?" The taste of jalapeno sauce burns my mouth. I put stuff from the COPS book out there to see what comes back.

"Whatever," Cowboy says. "These people hate gangs as much as they hate us--maybe more so but they have to call us--they don't call Bompton Pirus for help." He pulls the MDT back and types. "Conflict?--they call us."

"How do you know you're helping them?"

"What? Come again."

"Do you ever ask them?"

He sighs, "Its police work, Buck." The Vic engine snarls like a cat. "What are you, some kind of radical? Probably believe that community policing, get-to-know-the-community-we-work-for-them bullshit, eh Danny?"

"Do you respect them?"

He reaches toward the radio then hesitates. "Well…" Cowboy touches the keyboard, the MDT screen, the rearview mirror. "What's that got to do with anything? I'm a cop."

I went COPS on him. "Can we really serve and not respect?"

"What the fuck, Newbie?" He blows short breaths, reminds me that I'm new here, holds up his palm to me and snaps, "I'm no social worker--go to your pastor if you want love. I take bad guys off the street." His eyes turn cold, flinty, "Whatever it takes to get bad guys off the street."

Cowboy drives back to the animal hospital and hands the hooded boy food.

"Thank you," the boy says. He stuffs his mouth like he hasn't eaten in days.

"I know of a shelter when you're ready to go," Cowboy says. The boy nods.

I feel the nametag with my fingers but leave it in my pocket.


In the car Cowboy white-knuckles the wheel with one hand; the other hand pushes MDT buttons to check the first of a swollen list of service calls. A woman moving out of her apartment fears that her ex-boyfriend will interfere. Cowboy pokes another button; the address is in East Compton, four miles away. Then he clicks the zoom bar to zero in on the location, turns on the Christmas tree lights, and the Vic growls.

We're about halfway when Cowboy says, "Do you see that?"

"See what?"

"His rear plate lamp is out. Call it in."

Eastbound on Rosecrans Blvd he pulls over guys limping along four deep in a sunflower-yellow four-door Pontiac Aztek. Like a klieg the Vic's spotlight lights up the car from behind.

"Back me up, Danny."

We exit the Vic. Cowboy approaches from the driver's side, Beretta drawn. I hang back; hand on holster just behind the rear passenger door. From there I can see two guys in the back seat and the reflection in the side door mirror of the front seat passenger who's looking all around, especially behind him.

Cowboy orders them all out, "Hands on heads," he tells them. He directs them toward the Vic that seems to be beckoning us to use the backseat prisoner cage. "Put your hands on the hood." We kick apart their legs, pat them down. A rear seat guy lifts his hands from the hood. Cowboy trembles a little when he aims the Beretta at the guy's face. "Hands on the hood shit-head," he says. Cowboy searches the Aztec. Fear is palpable.

I understand why he's called Cowboy. He makes the job tougher than it probably has to be with hard charging take no prisoners stuff. I don't like him but will keep my mind open.

"Keep your hands on the hood," I say to the guy from the front passenger seat. He's wearing a maroon Morehouse College t-shirt and nerdy glasses.

The guy's voice pitches high when he says to me, "Tom."

Oh hell no, he didn't just call me Uncle Tom. "Asshole." Before I know it I'm back into jail deputy mode. I snatch the guy's collar, sling him to the asphalt like a sack of potatoes, and force my knee into his back. He pisses himself and I smell it. Cowboy slides over and draws down on the guy and the guy starts bawling. His friends shake visibly but keep their hands pressed to the hood.

"They're clean, Danny."

I hoist the guy up, dust him off. He's cries like a baby fresh from the womb. Looky-loos slow their cars. A woman across on the corner looks as if she's recording on her cellphone.

"Disrespectful sonofabitch," I say to the guy. Death is one perceived comment, one suspicious move away, for these guys. There's a sour taste in my mouth.

"Get out of here," Cowboy says to the driver. "Have that plate lamp fixed the next time I see you."

Back in the Vic backlogged messages are down to the next page prompt when Cowboy says, "That was good, Dan. Teach those mothers respect."

"Yeah." I checked, and then rechecked the time.

"That's my boy. Keep that shit up and I'll set you up for a commendation, maybe promote, Danise."


The Vic siren wails when we barrel across town to a highly illuminated dingy-green two story apartment building. To build trust, the book said, police should stop on occasion, leave their vehicles and engage residents as partners instead of adversaries.

We stop in front of a parked U-Haul, two voices argue from the upstairs unit where a storage box holds open a metal security door. La Granja, a narco-corrido tune popular among jail inmates shakes windows in downstairs apartments. We smell weed smoke everywhere but can't pinpoint the source.

"I hate DV calls," Cowboy says. "People are crazy as shit, especially Mexicans. They drink too much cerveza and then beat up their women."

"Yeah, domestic violence is a problem everywhere."

"Usually I take both parties to jail. Let the courts sort the shit out," Cowboy says.

Glass breaks. "Don't yell at me," a woman's voice screams from upstairs. Under the dome light Cowboy inventories his gun belt, touches each piece. The Beretta is holstered--check; two fifteen round magazine cases--check; double handcuff case and OC spray canister holder next to it--check; knife case--check; Taser X2 holster is clipped opposite the firearm--check; Sig Sauer P290RS ankle backup--check; and, he loosens the telescoping Handler 12 device he's chosen over a baton. He's Robocop prepared for World War III.

Mine's standard issues, Beretta, side handle baton, cuffs, Taser, and extra magazine case. "You take the woman, I'll take the dude. Separate them," Cowboy says.

At the top of the stairs a wisp of a woman runs past Cowboy. "Help me," she says. We both tumble when she slams into me. I grab her camisole and we bump down about ten steps. At the bottom she bounces right up. I swipe away hungry red harvester ants, sit holding my forehead between thumb and forefinger.

A man covered in blood stumbles out of the unit. "Chinga tu madre," he scowls, Cowboy's face turns ashen. I'm not sure if Cowboy understands he's being called a bitch and it probably doesn't matter as he strikes the man's head and body with the metal Handler repeatedly until he falls to the concrete walk. Cowboy's voice is shrill, "Damn illegal." I reach the top of the stairs, the man looks barely conscious. Cowboy pepper sprays him, Tasers him, with the cuffs he punches the man in the stomach before slapping them to his wrists behind his back.

"That's for bullying the little woman, shit-face," he says to the guy.

"Don't hurt him," the woman screams, rushes up the stairs, pushes Cowboy aside, and tries to comfort the injured guy. "I'm sorry, sweetheart," she says. "I didn't mean to cut you." She presses his bloodied head against her bosom. "You know I hate being yelled at," she says.

His face is swollen twice its size. He gurgles, "I'm sorry, baby." He weeps.

She reaches under the neck of the guy's t-shirt, pulls over his head bloody dog tags, and hurls them at Cowboy.

We're back in the Vic where I'm copying Cowboy's report word for word. Clearly those two are threats to officer safety. For resisting we send him to lockup infirmary and take her to jail for assaulting a peace officer.

"Don't mention that the guy's a Marine vet, okay?" Cowboy says. A mist hugs the ground. "Have you ever seen shit like that? Motherfucker's blood all over me."

"No, never," I say. "Only thing close was cell extractions in CJ."

A red warning light blinks on the keyboard. Cowboy opens the next service call. There wasn't much time for community engagement so far.


The COPS book had said that part of our job is to help the community identify their problems. We should talk to people and as leaders, take the initiative to help solve concerns as they identified them. I'll try it.

We arrive at a strip mall parking lot. Alley cats attracted to the odor of rotting sea food surround a dumpster behind Matt's Fried Fish. A stray black pit bull-Lab mix chases them.

A slip of a man, dark brown, maybe in his early to middle thirties paces back and forth screaming gibberish, palms pressed like a vice to his temples. He's in a dirty orange t-shirt and blue jeans. Cowboy and I flank him on each side to cut off his path. He's between us and a white Ford dually about twenty-five feet away.

One way for me to build trust is to talk respectfully to people. "Hey, is there a problem sir?" I say, hands on my gun belt. "The call said you might need help." He smells like he's dived through Matt's dumpster.

The guy shakes his head from side to side, his jowls shimmy, lips purse, he voices an odd sound, Cowboy flinches.

"Stop right there." Face pallid, fearful, Cowboy unstraps his Beretta holster, left hand on his Taser. He hitches his head for me to move further right. "We got a gorilla here, Danny," he says.

The man ignores us, seemingly occupied with his own thoughts. A light fog surrounds our ankles. It's obvious to me the man is mental, reminds me of my dad in some ways. Was Lancaster deputy that killed him afraid? The guy walks backwards as if it were normal. Many Blacks fear police. I mean any black man that ignores police presence is either deaf or crazy, even when one cop is black and the other, like Cowboy. That's why I signed up. Change it must.

Ding continues to mumble nonsense. A few people peer out windows from inside 7-Eleven, others rush away from where the three of us circle dance.

"Let me see your hands," Cowboy yells at the man.

The man stops for a brief moment in the bright light from store windows and lot lamps, tightens the circle in which he walks, and puts his hands in his pockets.

He mumbles louder, "Fuck it, I don't care what they say I'm not going back never they can't do nothing to me bastards I'll show them fuck with me a child of God called everything except my name, everything but no respect."

Crazy shit. I un-holster my X2, put two laser sights to his chest. "Shouldn't we call the ding docs, Cowboy? Psych emergency team?" PET teams were regulars at our house growing up whenever dad had his spells. He'd go long periods without food, fasting he called it, threaten to hurt mama and us but he never did.

Like Wyatt Earp did at Tombstone, Cowboy points both Taser and Beretta. "Show your hands," he says.

In my command voice, "Show us your hands, SIR."

Ding puts weight on his right foot, slowly slides hands from pockets, and clasps them together. Something in them glints and I fire the X2 Taser. He writhes over. Seconds later, bang! bang! Cowboy blasts him with Taser and Beretta. Ding stops and plops down like a lead weight, legs bent awkwardly beneath him. His old flip phone clunks against pavement.

"What'd you shoot him for?" A woman screams. "That man is sick--can't you see?"

"It’s Cowboy—no fuckin wonder!"Someone else yells. "How many you kill this week biaatch?!"

The guy lays still, bleeds from his torso. Cowboy kicks the flip phone away and combs through the guys empty pockets. "Suspect down," he says into the radio mike pinned to his shirt lapel. "Send back-up and paramedics."

Ding has no pulse and we make little effort to revive him.

Adrenaline tingles through me. "Oh fuck--what happened Cowboy? Why'd you use your firearm?"

"We can't trust them," someone says from the fast forming crowd of people. "Fuck the police."

"Looked like he had a firearm," Cowboy says as he motions for people to stand back and we begin to control the area.

"Pig ass mothafuckas shot another black man."

"Dude, he was ding all day," I say. "We didn't need to go lethal."

"I feared for my life." His lips, his chin, tremble. "Can't take chances." He glares down as a blood pool spreads. "Got a family to get back to." In his mind the ding somehow stood in the way of him seeing his Sears photograph family, his long faced wife, blowsy daughters. "We'll

huddle on the report--right?" he says. "Scumbags all look the same to me," Cowboy says.

"All what? Blacks Cowboy--mentally ill? All what?" My body tenses. "Fuck that."

"It was an accident, Dan." He lifted his hands up then let them fall. "Should've let you handle that one."

Crowd tension is thick like ground fog.

I try to talk, deescalate tensions, "Come on people," I say.

"Black cop is just like the white cop--they don't give a damn about us." Bodies push against and stretch the yellow tape.

"Lo van a dejar sangrar hasta morir--we're gonna get your ass Cowboy-- Eso es suficiente."

Backup arrives before paramedics and forces the pissed off crowd back further. White foam rolls from corners of Ding's mouth.

Eventually homicide detectives, the DA, and sheriff's oversight people arrive and Cowboy and I answer in tandem how we feared for our lives, how we thought Ding had a weapon, how he appeared normal to us.

What a fucking first night. I've not shown that not all cops are bad and untrustworthy.

We're assigned desk duty.


The taskforce is in town; FBI, DEA, ATF, an army to suppress crime, to help build trust for law enforcement in the tiny community. This could be an opportunity to improve community relationships and I can help with that but in the newspaper photo op, no community members are on the team. But first things first; there were a series of home invasions in Rancho Palos Verdes Estates and gangs in Compton are suspect. During briefing the captain had said to concentrate on Bompton Pirus, check parole and probation status, take names.

It's a week after desk duty, after the police-involved shooting that in the news Al Sharpton calls murder. Cowboy and I turn onto Wilmington Avenue, I'm driving. Cowboy says that I need more familiarity with the streets.

"Just like driving Miss Daisy," Cowboy says.

"Hated it," I say.

He rolls up his sleeve and shows me a tat of a skull and revolver with three green bullets in the chamber. "Reaper," he says. I'd heard about the rogue gang when I worked jails but doubted that it really existed, that it even could exist. "Got three kills," he says.

It's Friday, two hours after the sun dipped below the horizon, a fog rolls in under the high thumbnail moon. The Vic engine rumbles on a full gas tank.

We're east of a concrete box channel that connects downstream to Compton Creek. We'd patrolled this trashy, smelly, well known street gang area our first night. Fatly populated with people, cars are dense in driveways, close against curbs.

A young guy, twenties maybe, eats Flamin Hot Cheetos, drinks Mountain Dew, dressed in red baseball cap, red t-shirt, red Converse All-stars, and red calf-length Dickies leaves a

neighborhood market at Arbutus Street. Cowboy points. "Parolee," he directs me to stop, "maybe the Rolling Hills shit," he says.

"Yeah, I saw that mothafucker at Primo Plaza--calling young girls bitches."

I screech a stop in front of the market. Red Man sprints north then west into low fog down Poplar Street, under dim street lights, past tiny shotgun type residences. Cowboy pulls his Beretta and runs fingers over his arsenal. "Call backup--stay with the Vic," he says before he gives chase. "I'll catch the rabbit."

I squawk into the radio and throw the Vic into reverse. They race past a bent and rusted Compton Creek Garden Natural Park sign, to the cul-de-sac in misty darkness toward a pedestrian bridge over storm drain channels that run to the Los Angeles River watershed. It smells of runoff from horse stables and underground septic tanks. On the west bank is Compton Creek trail, on the east, sycamores, cattails, a walking path embedded with bicycle and off-road motorcycle tire marks, next to houses bordered with decrepit fences.

Gunshots explode over Banda music from clapboard houses along the west bank. Cowboy has probably added another bullet or two to his tattoo. I peel rubber to the end of the cul-de-sac, the Vic engine roars like a lion over a kill, grab my flashlight, hustle across the bridge toward gunfire, gravel crunches under my boots. Cowboy might've gotten this one right. My heart pounds.

Spent shell casings are on the ground to the left barely visible under my high lumen flashlight. My insides quiver.

A sheriff helicopter arrives and illuminates through cold ground fog.

About thirty meters down, duty boots and two olive-green pant legs poke from holes cut into chain link that leads onto Arbutus Street from the trail.

In clumps of sage and bark debris, Cowboy lays still, his blood pools on decomposed twigs. Ambushed. I empty a full clip and extra magazine in the direction of voices at the end of the street. I shoulder away tears, perform CPR on Cowboy's lifeless red ant covered body. When support arrives I run toward three bodies sprawled in the street. It's Red Man. A few feet away lay job collateral, a young Latina maybe sixteen, and a baby.


At his funeral, I wear a black memorial badge. A guy in red, green, and white plaid kilt plays Taps, the bagpiper's tasseled cap sways in the light wind. Me and five other pallbearers creep the flag draped casket slowly down a path formed by rows of deputies, their hands raised in crisp salute. Formaldehyde smell is faint in the huge church.

It's like a death in the family, or, in this instance, maybe it's a distant cousin. By design, we'd spent so much time chasing the box from one call to another or getting pop, that except for hookers and gangsters, like working jails, we never really knew good people, the vast majority, hard workers, and everyday people in Compton. I'd done little to prove that all cops aren't bad and untrustworthy.

Policing style is hard to change. Should I even expect that it ever will?

Inside the church is packed, crowd hushed, eyes dabbled with handkerchiefs, butts shift against the hardwood pews. Cowboy's wife's face is firm, her vision focused straight ahead. A daughter, in spiked purple Mohawk and diamond nose stud, bends to pick up the obituary that her mother drops. The other daughter, to her mother's left, wears dark sunglasses and a black dress. She accepts the folded casket flag from the sheriff.

The family receives commendations and from the pulpit the pastor says how great a deputy Cowboy was, how he served the community, how he knew his tactics and reduced crime, how he was a hero.

Outside the sun beams heat as we hoist the casket into the hearse. I hug Cowboy's wife and daughters.

"He really loved you," I say to them collectively. "You're all he talked about."

Tears cascade down Mrs. Farris' face like a waterfall. She takes a deep breath and says, "Scott really liked you. He said that you're the best trainee he's ever had."

My thoughts scrambled to understand. I nod.

"He liked your policing style, that you're right to serve and respect people."

I rub my cuff across my Class A shirt nametag, Daniel Brown. Dad would be proud.

Ron L. Dowell holds two Master’s degrees from California State University Long Beach. In June 2017, he received the UCLA Certificate in Fiction Writing. His short stories have appeared in Oyster Rivers Pages and in Stories Through The Ages Baby Boomers Plus 2018. He is a 2018 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow.
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