Harry said, “Be useful, kid. There’s a cop killer at Georgia Street. Chief Horrall thinks you should take care of it. This is an opportunity you don’t want to pass up.”
I said, “Take care of what? The cop he shot isn’t dead.”
Harry rolled his eyes. He passed me a key fob. He said, “4-A-32. It’s in the watch commander’s space. Look under the backseat.”
I got it. Harry locked on my look. He went Nooowww, he gets it. He winked and waltzed away from me.
I steadied myself and stood still. I loaded up on that lynch-mob gestalt. I lurched through the squadroom and zombie-walked downstairs. I hit the garage.
I found the watch commander’s space. There’s 4-A-32. The key fits the ignition. The garage was dark. Ceiling pipes leaked. Water drops turned wiggy colors and morphed into wild shapes.
I gunned the gas and pulled out onto Spring Street. I drove sloooooow. The heist geek was jacked in the jail ward. It was a lockup-transfer ruse. It was forty-three years ago. It’s still etched in Sinemascope and surround sound. I can still see the passersby on the street.
There it is. There’s Georgia Street Receiving.
The jail ward sat on the north side. The squarejohn ward sat to the south. A narrow pathway bisected the buildings. It hit me then:
They know you’ll do it. They know you’re that kind of guy.
I reached under the backseat. I pulled out transfer papers for Ralph Mitchell Horvath. I grabbed a .32 snubnose revolver.
I put the gun in my front pocket and grabbed the papers. I slid out of the sled. I popped down the pathway and went through the jail-ward door.
The deskman was PD. He pointed to a punk cuffed to a drainpipe. The punk wore a loafer jacket and slit-bottomed khakis. He sported a left-arm splint. He was acne-addled and chancre-sored. He vibed hophead. He looked smack-back insolent.
The deskman did the knife-across-throat thing. I handed him the papers and uncuffed and recuffed the punk. The deskman said, “Bon voyage, sweetheart.”
I shoved the punk outside and pointed him up the pathway. He walked ahead of me. I couldn’t feel my feet. I couldn’t feel my legs. My heart hammered on overdrive. I lost my limbs somewhere.
There’s no telltale windows. There’s no pedestrians on Georgia Street. There’s no witnesses.
I pulled the gun from my pocket and fired over my own head. The gun kicked and lashed life back in my limbs. My pulse topped 200 rpms.
The punk wheeled around. He moved his lips. A word came out as a squeak. I pulled my service revolver and shot him in the mouth. His teeth exploded. He dropped. I placed the throwdown piece in his right hand.
He tried to say “Please.” This dream’s a routine reenactment. The details veer and vary. The “Please” always sticks. I’m alive. He’s not. That’s the baleful bottom line.
The cop lived. He sustained a through-and-through wound. He was back on duty inside a week.
Vicious vengeance. Wrathfully wrong in retrospect. A crack in the crypt of my soul. Harry Fremont passed the word. Freddy O. is kosher. Chief C. B. Horrall sent me a jug of Old Crow. The grand jury sacked him two months later. He got caught up in a call-girl racket. An interim chief was brought in.
Ralph Mitchell Horvath. 1918–1949. Car thief/stickup man/weenie wagger. Hooked on yellow jackets and muscatel.
Ralphie left a widow and two kids. I got the gust-wind guilts and shot them penance payoffs. Money orders. Once a month. Fake signatures. All anonymous. Dig—Ralphie’s dead, and I’m not.
Copyright © 2021 by James Ellroy. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.