This story is by Vernon Friday and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
As the door clicked shut and locked behind him, Craig Foster jumped a bit. He looked around the small, windowless room. There was a small table and two straight back chairs in the room. He was in what he assumed to be a holding cell at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Devonshire Division. Or was it an interrogation room? At this point, he guessed it did not matter. He was trying to figure out how he got here.
Craig was a freshman at California State University, San Fernando Valley. This semester, the Fall 1988 semester, was his first one. At 21 years of age, he was one of the older freshmen at the university after doing four years in the Army. He had been working on his baby, a primer grey 1967 International Scout 4×4, in the parking lot outside his dormitory when the two campus police officers showed up. He had not seen the patrol car roll up on him. His body had been halfway under the hood; his feet were off the ground as he teetered replacing the short black rubber hose on the fuel filter. As one of the campus police officers, the shorter one of the two, addressed him, he lifted his head and upper body from under the hood planting his feet on the ground.
“Drop the screwdriver, Asshole! Put your hands on the vehicle,” The officer yelled. Craig dropped the screwdriver on the pavement and placed his hands on the fender of his truck.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” The officer asked him. Craig did not understand the question. He just squinted at the officer and cocked his head quizzically. Craig looked at his nametag. His name was Officer Lawson, and his hand was on the butt of his service revolver. Why was his hand on the butt of his service revolver?
“Are you retarded or something? Answer my question. What are you doing here?”
“Working on my truck,” Craig replied.
“We got a call that there was a homeboy in the dorm parking lot breaking into cars,” Lawson said.
“This is my truck. I’m not breaking into it. I own it,” Craig said.
“Well, what is it doing here? Did it break down in the parking lot, Homeboy?”
“No, I’m a student. I live right there,” Craig said as he pointed at the fourplex of dorm room about 20 yards in the distance. “That’s my dorm room. The one on the second floor… left side.”
“Yeah, right, Homeboy. I ain’t seen you around here. I keep my eye on all the homeboys on this campus. If you are a student here, then get it out.”
“Get what out?”
“Student identification card, Homeboy,” Lawson said.
“Can I take my hands off the fender?”
“Homeboy, now how are you gonna show me that you have an ID card if you keep your hands on the fender? You sure you smart enough to go to college? And while you are at it, give me your drivers license, Homeboy,” Lawson laughingly replied.
Craig reached into the front pocket of his Levis and removed his wallet. He took out his student identification card and his California drivers license then handed them to Officer Lawson. Lawson took the cards and looked at them closely, turning them over in his hands.
“Have a seat on the curb and don’t fuckin’ move, Homeboy. I will be right back,” Lawson said as he pointed in the direction of the passenger side of the Scout.
Lawson walked back to the driver’s side of his patrol car, opened the door and got in. After about five minutes, which seemed to Craig like five hours, he walked back over to where Craig was sitting. Craig noticed that Officer Lawson had his hand on his service revolver again. His partner had drawn his revolver, and pointed it at Craig.
“Stand up and put your hands behind your back, Homeboy!!!” Lawson yelled.
“What? Why?” Craig asked.
“Do it,” Lawson said as he yanked Craig up to his feet. “Turn around.”
Lawson spun Craig around, yanked his hands behind his back and cuffed him.
“What did I do?” Craig asked.
“Warrant out for your arrest. Failure to appear. February of this year,” Lawson said.
“Officer, I was just discharged from the Army last month. I was stationed in Yongsan, Korea, for the past two years. I haven’t been in the States for two years.”
“All I know is what the computer tells me, Homeboy,” Lawson replied. He added that he had also called for the LAPD to come and pick up Craig.
“Officer, this is some kind of mistake!”
“Don’t raise your voice with me, Homeboy! Tell it to the LAPD. You ain’t my problem. Here’s your ride now,” Lawson said as he pointed to the black and white LAPD cruiser as it turned into the dormitory parking lot.
The cruiser stopped behind the campus police vehicle, and a tall, burly, ruddy-faced patrolman named Renfro exited the driver’s side and walked up to Lawson. “What we got?” Officer Renfro asked.
“Warrant. Failure to appear,” Lawson replied.
“You frisk him?” Renfro asked.
“I was waiting for you,” Lawson said.
“Fuckin’ lazy campus rent-a-cop,” Renfro thought to himself.
As Renfro frisked Craig, he asked, “Got any guns, knives, or drugs on you? Any needles?” He added, “If I get stuck with something and I get fucked up, I’m gonna fuck you up.” Craig shook his head. Renfro then read Craig his Miranda rights. Craig replied that he understood his rights.
“Can I lock up my truck?” Craig asked.
“You got bigger problems than that, bro. Plus nobody wants that piece of shit. What is that shit? An old ass Ford Bronco?” Renfro said.
Renfro removed Lawson’s handcuffs and handed them to him. He then placed his cuffs on Craig’s wrists and walked him to the cruiser. “Watch your head,” Renfro said as he bumped Craig’s head on the edge of the vehicle and placed him in the back of his cruiser. “Bye, Homeboy,” Lawson said, waving to Craig as they drove off.
“Officer, this is a mistake. I wasn’t even in the country when I supposedly got this warrant. I was stationed in Korea with the Army” Craig said from the back seat of the stifling hot cruiser.
“Oh, you were in the Army? I was in the Army too. Did a tour in The ‘Nam,” Renfro said. Renfro was never in Vietnam. Why does he always lie about being in “The ‘Nam?” he asked himself. He had even bought a Vietnam Service Medal from the Swap Meet to support his lie. But, he was in the Army in the early 1970s. That was no lie. Billy Renfro was a truck mechanic stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina from 1971 to 1973.
“I tell you what,” Renfro said as they pulled into the Devonshire Division’s parking lot. “Since we are both vets, I am going to make a couple of phone calls, and check out your ‘I was outta the country’ story,” Renfro said. “If it checks out, I will kick it up to my desk sergeant and see what he can do for you. If it don’t check out and you’re just a sorry-assed, lying fuckin’ Homeboy who is wasting my fuckin’ time, I am going to “find” the ten crack rocks and knife in your sock that I missed when I frisked you earlier. You got any people who can verify your story?”
Renfro parked the cruiser and Craig gave him the phone number to his old company orderly room and the name of his former first sergeant, Billy Washington in Korea. Renfro walked Craig into the station and placed him in the small room. “Don’t go nowhere” Renfro said as he smiled and turned to leave the room.
Craig sat in one of the small straight back chairs in the puke green colored room. He continued to think about how he got into this situation. After a few seconds, he said, “Vincent.” Vincent was Craig’s brother. He was a serious criminal, with a long rap sheet, who had a habit of using Craig’s name when he was pulled over by the cops in the Los Angeles area. Vincent was also not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He was constantly arrested by the LAPD and the Sheriff’s Department. He once robbed the mom and pop grocery store in the neighborhood in which they grew up. When the police came to investigate the armed robbery, the store owner told them that “Vincent Foster robbed us.” Vincent must have used Craig’s name earlier this year. Vincent was not just Craig’s brother. He was Craig’s identical twin.