Zero Ave 1998: Chapter Seven- The Prince and the Pedophile

(This chapter is part of a series. Click here to read chapter six.)

The bell rings as Kevin walks into science class. The room is buzzing with students and sunlight floods the room through tall windows bringing the temperature just above a comfortable level. He sits down at a table next to his friend Leo; a stocky young man with long thick black hair pulled into a tight braid at the back of his head and wearing a white t-shirt that hangs over his torso as if it were tailor made for his wide frame. He’s a black, white and Native American mix, and bears a striking resemblance to Kevin despite having no blood relation.

Leo greets Kevin as he sits down.

“What up bruh.”

“What up” Kevin replies as the boys slap hands. “Where you been? I haven’t seen you around for like a week.”

“You know, just kicking it with my cousins and shit. Didn’t really feel like being at school cause there ain’t nothing to do and I don’t wanna hang around bullshitting” Leo says in his typical nonchalant manner. “But yo, Richie was telling me about the shit that went down. You good?”

Kevin knew sooner or later Richie would tell everybody about his short lived career as a drug smuggler. Now he’ll have to spend the next few weeks downplaying the situation to everyone who asks.

“Yeah, I’m good. Just a misunderstanding.”

Leo can sense there’s more to the story than what Kevin is letting on.

“Why didn’t you call the homies? You know we’ll hold you down my nigga.”

Kevin shakes his head and almost laughs at the thought of showing up to a confrontation with James and his organization of bonafied killers with a crew of teenage thugs.

“Believe me, there’s nothing anybody could do.”

Karina enters the classroom as Kevin finishes his sentence as if acting upon a psychic cue tuned to the exact seconds Kevin would be paying attention. She smiles as she walks by, half looking at Kevin.

“Fuck dude. She’s so hot” Kevin mutters as Karina takes a seat a few desks down.

Leo nods in agreement, “She’s a bad motherfucker man.”

Mr. Goldstein walks into the room and takes his place at the front of the class. He’s an older man with a receding hairline and thick glasses. With only weeks left in the school year, he’s one of the few teachers who refuses to give his students a break and let them coast into summer.

“Ok everybody. Open your textbooks to page eighty four please. This will be on the final exam so listen up.”

Mr. Goldstein turns around and wipes down the white board as Leo turns to Kevin.

“Did you talk to her yet?” he whispers.

“A little bit here and there but not really” Kevin whispers back.

“Review chapter eight with your partner and we’ll get started in a few minutes” Mr. Goldstein announces as he returns to the white board and clears it of the scattered notes from the previous class.

Student voices fill the room and Leo’s voice returns to a normal volume.

“She likes you my nigga. Just ask her out.”

Kevin shrugs. The thought of doing something so bold petrifies him.

“I don’t know. Yeah, I guess-“

Leo interrupts, “It’s easy. Check this shit out.”

Leo gets up from his desk and saunters over to the front of the class where two girls are sitting. Kevin watches in amazement as Leo leans over their table and after less than a minute of talking one of the girls is writing her phone number down. She then rips the piece of paper out of her notebook and hands it to him.

“Back to your desk, please” Mr. Goldstein nags Leo as he turns around and catches him in the act.

Leo walks back to his desk where Kevin is watching. He holds the open piece of paper in front of his chest with the phone number on it and sticks his tongue out through a mischievous smile.

“Holy shit! What the fuck was that?” Kevin exclaims, in awe of what he just observed.

Leo sits back down and shoves the piece of paper in his pocket.

“Skills bruh. You gotta have confidence.”

“I could never do that” Kevin confesses as he looks over at Karina. His body fills with panic at the very thought of being so brazen. The fantasy of who Karina might be has carried him through the last year of high school and not knowing what could develop if he took that leap of faith is far better than having that dream shattered.

Detective Paul MacMillan is ordering food at a hamburger stand on the city’s east side. Sweat has begun to collect around the collar and back of his button up shirt as the early summer heat bakes the pavement under the picnic tables that surround the establishment.

“Yeah, I’ll get two knight burgers and fries. Double cheese on one, double onions on the other. Large coke for both please.”

The cashier rings in his order lackadaisically. She’s an older woman with rubbery skin that appears to be losing a battle with gravity after years of working in this grease filled hut.

“That’ll be twelve dollars and thirty five cents, sir.”

Paul opens his wallet and hands her $15.

“Here’s fifteen. Keep the change.”

The cashier tries to feign gratefulness for the $2.65 tip, but her total lack of enthusiasm is impossible to hide.

“Thank you, sir. Have a nice day.”

Detective MacMillan lifts the tray off of the counter and walks to where Detective Mark Ferreira is seated at a picnic table waiting. Detective Ferreira is a huge man; 6’4” and well over 300 lbs. He’s not particularly muscular, but he’s not obese either. He carries an aura of classic masculinity; the type of man that could fix anything as long as a wrench and cold beer were present. He’s the archetypical 1980’s suburban father of 3 with a ’68 Chevy Nova in the driveway that is always in a state of repair, however he has never been married and has no children.

“Best burgers in town right here” Detective MacMillan declares as he rests the tray on the table and sits across from Mark.

Detective Ferreira stuffs some fries in his mouth and grunts, “Uh huh.”

MacMillan watches his partner eat as he shuffles through something that’s been weighing on his mind. He’s been waiting for the right time to bring it up to Ferreira.

“So what do you know about James Donovan?”

Detective Ferreira swallows his food and takes a sip of soda before responding.

“Local extortionist and drug dealer. A big black thorn in my side.”

MacMillan’s now excited. He has Ferreira’s attention and he’s itching to share an important discovery.

“Ok, check this out. A couple of nights ago I’m driving around following up on a few leads for the Williams case down on the south side. As I’m driving a call comes in; a traffic accident a few blocks away from where I am. So I figure fuck it- I’m close by, might as well go down there and see if EMT and patrol needs any help. I get there and it’s a disaster, I mean glass and metal everywhere. Some drunk completely pancaked a guy driving through the intersection. The drunk is halfway through the windshield looking like a pepperoni pizza and the other guy is on his way to the hospital. Anyways, I run the tags on both cars. The pizza man is some florist with a clean record, but the other car is registered to a James Theodore Donovan.”

The mention of James causes Ferreira to put his food down and listen more intently than before.

MacMillan continues, “Here’s the catch. Donovan is nowhere to be found and the driver is some kid I’ve never seen before. So I walk over to this wreck to get a better look and I’m thinking this kid is the unluckiest car thief in the world- you know, I’m expecting to see a ripped apart steering column, scissors in the ignition, that sort of thing. But as I get closer, I see this glowing piece of metal laying on the floor of the car. I reach into the car and I pull out a forty five caliber Smith and Wesson. I can’t fucking believe it! If it wasn’t for a street light shining right down on this thing, I never would’ve seen it.”

MacMillan chuckles at the serendipity of it all.

“I get back to the station and run ballistics on the gun. Guess what? The rounds from the forty five are a perfect match with the rounds that we pulled out of Manuel Garcia. Even better, we pulled three different prints off of the weapon itself and one of them just so happens to belong to James Donovan. It’s like they were playing hot potato with the fucking thing.”

Ferreira looks at MacMillan unimpressed.

“So what? You think this kid stole Donovan’s car and then shot Garcia?”

Paul swallows the food in his mouth and shakes his head as he rests his burger back down on its grease covered wrapper.

“No. I think Donovan shot Garcia and this kid was just some nickel and dimer Donovan hired to get rid of the piece.”

Ferreira shoots down MacMillan’s theory, “Manuel Garcia was James Donovan’s adopted son. Donovan found him when he was a kid and raised him as his own. There is no scenario in which I can imagine Donovan having Garcia killed. It makes no sense.”

This is not the reaction MacMillan was looking for. Ferreira can feel his disappointment and is intent on deflating his excitement.

“You transferred here, what, about three months ago?”

MacMillan nods, “Yeah.”

Ferreira wipes his mouth with a napkin and takes another sip of his soda.

“I’m going to tell you a pair of stories and it’s imperative you listen.”

MacMillan leans in, “Yeah, of course. I’m all ears.”

Ferreira pushes the tray with the half eaten burger and fries to the side as he begins.

“Ok. First story. About five years ago we had this Iranian guy show up here in town- called himself ‘Prince’ something or another. Anyways, the guy’s got money and he doesn’t mind throwing it around. Patrol picks him up one night on a DUI and he’s driving an eighty thousand dollar Porsche. He’s got gold on every finger, on his teeth, even gold buckles on his shoes for fuck’s sakes. Around that same time, heroin floods the city in waves. You could take a swan dive off city hall and swim in that shit up and down Cambie Street.”

Ferreira pauses to make sure he has MacMillan’s attention and then continues, “A few months go by and Iranians are popping up everywhere. It’s an endless sea of fucking gold chains, Versace shirts and heroin. Word on the streets is these guys have some Afghani connection shipping this stuff in by the boat load. So James has a meeting with the prince and it doesn’t go well. James tells him he’s free to operate in the city as long as he pays a tax and keeps a low profile. Prince Ali Baba doesn’t like that too much and tells Donovan to go fuck himself. A couple days later patrol pulls one of them out of the river. At the time we’re thinking maybe some sort of internal dispute; a weak link in the chain.”

“Natural selection” MacMillan adds.

Ferreira nods, “Exactly. But then the next day we pull two more of’em out of the river. The day after that we pull out another two. Then three, then four- we had patrol down on the river watching day and night. Still, every morning we’re pulling Arabs out of the water. If I didn’t know any better I would say we pulled Saddam Hussein himself out of that river. Now, here’s the thing. Anybody worth their salt knows that if you’re gonna dump a body in water, you have to gut it and chop it up, otherwise that body is gonna float.”

“He wanted us to find them” MacMillan comments.

Ferreira continues, “A few days after we pulled the last one out, the fire department up north gets a call about a small forest fire half a mile from the highway. They show up and find the prince. Somebody dunked him in kerosene and lit a match. The son of a bitch ran four hundred yards through the bush engulfed in flames before he died. They found his Porsche a couple miles up the road at a rest stop.”

MacMillan looks at Ferreira baffled.

“Kerosene? Why Kerosene?”

Ferreira answers, “Kerosene burns much slower and longer than gasoline. If you really want somebody to suffer, that’s the way to go.”

MacMillan stares into the distance over Ferreira’s shoulder. The level of sadism necessary to carry out such a thing is hard for him to comprehend.

“Alright, story number two” Ferreira proceeds, unmoved by the previous tale. “Remember that kid who went missing from the Wal-Mart a couple years ago? The Johnson boy?”

MacMillan has clicked back into the present moment and meets eyes with Ferreira.

“Of course, that was national news. You guys had dogs, helicopters, pretty much the entire city looking for him.”

“Yeah, well we found him” Ferreira says as he adjusts in his seat. This next part makes even him uncomfortable. “He was left in a dumpster. Brutally raped and his head was smashed to pieces. We had to use his footprints just to get a positive ID on him.”

“Yeah, I heard about that” MacMillan laments. The barbarous nature of the boy’s murder gives him chills.

Ferreira recalls, “We had no leads, no nothing at the time. We didn’t even know where to begin looking for the piece of shit who did it. Then, almost twenty four hours after we found the boy, we also found Dale Autenberg; some drifter from Florida. Showed up in town from god knows where. This guy had a rap sheet the length of a football field. Multiple counts of child pornography, sex offences. I still get nightmares thinking about some of the shit he did. How he ended up here and why they never locked him up and threw away the key, I have no idea.”

Ferreira pauses and shakes his head as he relives the experience.

“Anyways, patrol found him hung up behind the Wal-Mart where the boy went missing. He had been cut from here to here” Ferreira leans back and draws a line across his belly. “Totally disemboweled. His guts were piled up on the ground below him.”

“Jesus” MacMillan remarks, shocked.

Ferreira has told this story so many times the impact has worn off on him.

“They cut his cock off and shoved it down his throat. We ran Autenberg’s DNA and it matched the semen we found on the kid. We were never able to link Donovan to it, but I suspect I know who gave the order.”

Ferreira pauses again and watches as the pieces fall together in MacMillan’s mind.

“Do you ever wonder why there are no street gangs in this city? Why old ladies can walk around at any time of night without fear of some scumbag snatching their purse? I mean, you and I are homicide detectives and we spend most of our time at hamburger stands and pulling kittens out of trees. We get five, maybe six legitimate homicides a year and even then it’s open and shut- some junkie killing another junkie over a ten dollar rock. We’re working the Williams case right now and that motherfucker has been cold for a long time. We keep reopening the same handful of cases just to stay busy because without them we don’t have a fucking job.”

MacMillan knows where Ferreira is going with this. Ferreira postures as if he’s about to share some great universal secret.

“James Donovan is a necessary evil. He has access to places we can’t go. He’s privy to people we can’t reach. As long as he’s murdering drug dealers, pedophiles and other low lifes, I’m fine with him being out there. It’s a fair trade.”

Ferreira lowers his voice and a grim sincerity enters.

“You need to leave James Donovan alone. Forget about that gun, forget about Manuel Garcia and move on. James Donovan is off limits.”

A pregnant woman is rushed into the emergency room in a wheelchair as Steve sits on a bench in front of the hospital. He watches as her husband awkwardly carries a heavy bag while he pushes her through the doors. The constant pandemonium around him is just one of the many reasons he hates hospitals. Sick people, dying people, the smell of antiseptic cleaners; all of it makes his stomach turn. As his friend Zeus pulls up to the curb he wills himself to his feet and baby steps his way to the car.

“Fuck, doggie. You look terrible” Zeus shouts as Steve opens the door and slowly sits down in the passenger seat. Zeus is a skinny Mexican man in his mid 20’s. His large googly eyes are vibrant behind his thick black sunglasses and his collar bones stick out through his t-shirt even though he’s wearing two of them; a black on top of a white one.

Steve exhales painfully, “Thanks, dick.”

Zeus is impervious to Steve’s response.

“How long did they have you in there?”

Steve leans his head back against the headrest. He’s not prepared for Zeus’ constant exuberance but he needed a ride and nobody else picked up the phone.

“A couple of days. They had to do a bunch of tests and shit. Make sure I wasn’t bleeding in my brain or whatever.”

“Damn homie. I would’ve came to see you but I didn’t know you were in there till today” Zeus explains as he pulls onto the road heading back to the neighborhood.

Steve didn’t tell Zeus he was in the hospital since Zeus would probably try to follow him into the CT scan machine and light a joint while they’re in there.

“All good man. I didn’t want anybody to come anyways.”

“Ain’t nothing wrong with a little vacation, right?” Zeus says energetically. He always tries to find the silver lining in bad situations. When he was 10 years old he broke both of his arms after he fell off of a second story roof and thought it was cool that he looked like Mega Man with his casts on.

Steve lacks the ability to find the bright side of his current circumstance though.

“I guess. If your idea of a vacation is waiting for Bobby to come and hold a pillow over your face while you’re sleeping.”

Zeus redirects the conversation. He doesn’t like to entertain the thought of Bobby being anywhere near him.

“Did your mom come see you?”

Steve looks out the window and shakes his head, “Nah.”

Silence falls between them. They’ve been best friends since 4th grade and Steve’s mother has been an alcoholic since as far back as Zeus can remember. In 5th grade Steve was sent to live with his aunt after child protective services discovered his mother had left him home alone for a week without food or money. Their relationship has never recovered.

Zeus breaks the silence, “You talk to James yet?”

Steve continues his gaze out of the window. The reminder that sooner or later he’ll have to see James causes a sharp pain to shoot up his neck into the back of his head.

“Nah. You hear anything?”

“Nothing. I think they’re spending most of their time trying to find the fuckers that shot Manuel” Zeus replies. “Kind of fucked up they found him on the south side. I don’t know anybody who had beef with him.”

The mention of Manuel’s name still strikes a chord in Steve. He was one of his best friends along with Zeus and he’s the first close friend that he’s ever lost.

“How was the funeral? It fucking killed me that I couldn’t go.”

“It was good. James did it right” Zeus chirps as if talking about something of little consequence. “They had the finger sandwiches and the meat platter; all that shit. The guy who dressed him up had him looking fresh as fuck too. Buried him in a suit and all that. You could still see the bullet holes in his face though. I feel bad for the maricón who did it. James is gonna cut him up bad when he finds him.”

Zeus’ ability to talk about their friend’s funeral so bluntly is a bit disturbing to Steve. Nothing is real in Zeus’ world and he’s treating Manuel’s death as if he was a character in a video game. But maybe this is his way of processing things, Steve thinks to himself. Maybe this is Zeus’ way of guarding himself from actual pain.

Zeus pulls into a driveway leading to an older light blue fourplex home located 6 blocks down from Kevin and his grandmother. A large front patio sits on columns overtop of a parking stall that is home to Steve’s 1964 Chevy Impala. Parked behind the Impala is his beat up Honda Civic.

“Alright muchacho. Home sweet home” Zeus announces as he pulls in behind the vehicles.

Steve opens the door and painstakingly begins the process of pulling his banged up body out of the car. All he can think about is the flight of steps from the front door to his living room and how he’s going to climb up them. Zeus hops out and walks around the front of the car to help him.

“Thanks for the ride bro” Steve says as Zeus helps him stand up.

“No problem homie! Hey, what are friends for, right?” Zeus happily exclaims.

Steve slowly limps to his front door and pulls the keys out of his pocket as Zeus stands by the open driver’s side door of the car.

“I got some DVD’s with these big titty bitches taking some monster cocks! I’ll bring them by later! Big titties always make me feel better!” Zeus shouts at an unnecessarily loud volume as Steve fumbles with his keys.

“No, no. I’m good. Thanks” Steve replies. They’re surrounded by families with small children living in the other 3 units of the fourplex.

“You sure? There’s this one bitch that’s like a 12 out of 10 with these big ass double D’s like this” Zeus yells as he holds his hands way out in front of his chest.

“No! Please! Fuck! I’m good!” Steve yells back. If his neighbors didn’t hear Zeus’ remark about big titties and monster cocks, they undoubtedly caught the end part.

Zeus disregards Steve’s outburst. His cluelessness is one of the keys to what makes their friendship work.

“Alright homie! Catch you on the flip side!”

Zeus gets into his car and pulls away as Steve walks through his front door. He exhales in agony as he bends over to slip off his black and red Air Jordan 13’s. The patterned linoleum floor in his entrance way is making his head spin as he slowly limps to the stairs. The familiar smell of marijuana and cologne is a welcoming scent after spending two days in the hospital.

As he lifts his foot onto the first step the muscles in his back and legs ache horribly, so he drops and climbs the stairs on his knees, relying on his arms to pull him up the handrail. He reaches the top step and collapses onto the floor with relief. It’s good to be home.

Footsteps echo through the hallway of the south side police detachment as Paul MacMillan passes a few patrol officers on his way to a small office at the end of the corridor. As he enters, a pretty Filipino lady with caked on make-up sits behind a computer playing solitaire. She wears a low cut blouse exposing just enough cleavage to move the gears of the male imagination.

“Hey beautiful. How are ya?” MacMillan greets Maribel as he sits on her desk.

She looks up from her screen dispassionately, bothered that the detective has disrupted her digital card game.

“Hi Paul. I’m fine.”

MacMillan can feel her discontent but he likes flirting with her. Maribel’s lack of interest in anything other than her mahjong and solitaire games is funny to him.

“You know the kid we pulled out of that car accident on 70th? Did we get an ID on him?”

Maribel closes her solitaire window and searches the database.

“We did. His name is Steven Woodley.”

“Do we have an address for him?” MacMillan asks. “I just need to ask him a few questions.”

“We do. Printing it out now” Maribel says in her monotone voice.

MacMillan jumps off of the desk and grabs the piece of paper from the printer.

“Thanks!” he shouts as he exits the room.

Maribel opens her solitaire game and gets back to business as usual while MacMillan hurriedly bounces down the hallway and out of the building.

(Click here to read chapter eight.)