The Shield Maiden and I had been working on our ground fighting skills, as husbands and wives often do, when the call came in.
It was five "9"s in succession. Translated that meant, "call station right now shit is going down". This was long before texts...and even before Al Gore invented the internet...we carried pagers. I grab up the phone and call in.
"Gang-related Murder. Sgt. Cooper thinks it was the mom".
Shit...I hated those kinds of calls. I tossed the Go-Bag in the back seat of the T-Bird and sped down La Tuna Canyon to PCH as Phil Collins tuned out on the stereo in the summer evening. The victim was a known gang member and the common thought back then was that all of the family were gang members as well, from the 90 year old deaf grandfather to the five year old little brother with snot running down his face.
I walked in past the uniforms as I threw on my "Gang Unit" jacket to explain my shaved head and long fu manchu. The victim, "Cricket" was laying on the floor of his bedroom upstairs with a gaping hole in his chest the size of my fist. On the floor at his feet by the wall was a Mossberg 500 shotgun, loaded and chambered. On the floor by his right hand was a spent case (its not a casing...casing is what they make sausages with). The entire room had that odd yet familiar smell of death: a combination of gunsmoke and blood and things that belong inside a body, not outside.
Those who have smelled it will know what I mean...and will never forget it.
"The mom...or the sister...one of them killed him...those Mexicans...you know how they are...I am going to hook them up and take them to the station. They will talk", Detective Sgt. Cooper interrupted my Sherlock moment with his usual candor and investigative skill.
I wasn't yet sure what happened, but I knew that neither the mom nor sister had not done this.
"Give me a minute with them", I asked - and told at the same time. The despondent women could barely speak, and I wanted to get to them before the "Inspector Clouseau" had them handcuffed and marched off away from the dead son and brother.
They were downstairs and heard a shot.
They ran upstairs and saw him lying on the floor.
They called the police.
He had just broken up with his girl.
She had not been by.
Then the sound of handcuffs stopped my interview.
I walked back upstairs. Cricket's eyes were still open, as well as his mouth in that death mask that speaks of the surrender of death and the surprise of its arrival.
The blood had begun to congeal on the carpet.
Murder? I had investigated plenty of them. This was not a murder. I wasn't sure but it didn't seem to fit.
Cooper had a "gang thing" and wanted badly for it to be a murder...but this was not it.
I began to look closer. I noticed what is commonly called powder burns on Cricket's chest wound. This meant that it was a contact shot, like with the muzzle making contact with his sternum, and not from across the room. I began to look more closely. I noticed a mark on the inside and outside of his right thumb...as if it had just been hit by something.
...a trigger guard?
I looked deeper....
THERE...on the wall, a pointed indentation on the stucco wall about two feet up from the floor.
What would do that?
On the point of the pistol grip only Mossberg...also some stucco. Then there...in the linoleum floor...a half crescent remarkably like the size of a shotgun barrel.
I got on my radio and called for the ID technicians immediately (long before they were called CSI).
Cricket (his gang name) - it turns out had GSR on his hands.
He had brought the 12 gauge up to his chest with his left hand and pulled the trigger with his right thumb. The shotgun was launched away from his body as he fell back. It hit the wall and ejected the fired case, and dove muzzle first onto the floor where that next shell was chambered. And it lay as found until the patrol officers and "Detective Sergeant" rolled up and determined what happened.
The mom and daughter went home that night, not as homicide suspects, but as a grieving mother and daughter to clean up the son's blood.
I filed my report and ignored the glare from my new friend the "Detective Sergeant". I went home early about 0400 HRS. Just in time for a little more Jujitsu before the sun came up. Such was the life of the Gang Investigator.
Oh...I almost forgot. I made some powerful enemies that night that would come calling for retribution soon enough.