When I woke up this morning, this old war story of Sgt. WJL came to mind. The events really happened, back in the early 70's. I remember Mr. (Lt., ret.) FDW. telling us to "Ask ol' WJ if that guy ever got himself together out in San Fernando, last night." Followed by a big laugh. Of course one of the bright boys in class just had to ask. Poor WJ. He had gotten the call at home at about 10:30, after having had the day (Sunday) off, working around the house, and here it was noon on Monday, and he hadn't made it to bed yet. In fact, he was still in his bomb squad overalls. I realized how nicely this translated into TS universe, and decided to adapt it. If Joe Wambaugh can do it, I can do it. Only I'll try to keep closer to the facts and will acknowledge from whom I borrowed the story. If WJ reads this (which I doubt) please contact me. I miss you.
I apologize for the gruesome description, but when dealing with explosives, that's kind of what happens. Due to that one scene, I'm afraid I'll have to slap an 'R' rating on this for gruesomness. I can't resist titling this one:
The Definition Of Chutzpah
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He hated it when a call came in late at night. It meant that he wouldn't get any sleep that night at all. The good news was that it wasn't a bomb in need of diffusing. This one had already gone off, killing one person. Fortunately it had gone off in an empty field, so there was no real damage done. Except to the dead person.
Arriving on the scene at 11:00pm, he took a look around prior to approaching. Cassie was already there, poking around the blast site. For such a large man, he could move remarkably quietly. She never heard him coming.
"What are you doing?" he asked softly. Startling her.
She jumped, standing and turning. "Oh, hi, Joel. I was just..."
"You were just messing up my crime scene before I could get a good look at it. And you don't know me well enough to call me Joel. It's Captain Taggart." He hadn't had to deal with the new head of forensics before, but he'd seen how she jerked the chains of the guys in Major Crimes and he wasn't about to let her get away with anything with him. He had his own methods, and he didn't like to have his routine changed. He turned to get another overview of the scene. Everyone else had wisely stayed behind the caution tape line.
"Now, just you wait a minute..." Cassie started. Joel turned to her, his massive body seeming to grow larger as his irritation grew.
"No. You wait a minute. You are not going to run roughshod over my crime scene. When I'm finished, I'll let you know that I'm ready for you to do your thing. Until then, please stop contaminating my crime scene." He turned his back on her and headed unerringly to the centre of the blast site, leaving her in stunned silence.
She was livid, steaming. How dare he? But she, for once, followed directions and retraced her steps to behind the yellow tape. She stood there, watching him as he slowly spiraled from the centre out to the edges of the blast zone. Carefully stepping where there was no evidence.
When he was finished with his initial inspection, he looked up at one of the uniformed officers and asked, softly, "Any idea who the victim was?"
"No, sir. We received the report of the blast, and when we saw it, we just put up the tape, called you and waited." He looked sideways at Cassie, who had come up to listen in. "No one except her has been in there, Captain." Cassie glared daggers at the offending patrolman.
Joel just nodded, looking at Cassie again. "You can go in and take pictures, now. Don't touch anything until you have all the photos. Let me know when you're finished." He turned away from her, dismissively. Unaware and uncaring how angry she was at his treatment of her.
She called in her team, who had wisely not followed her into the scene earlier. They were quick and efficient. Taking photos of every square inch of the area. Another man took a video of the scene, carefully stepping around any possible evidence. Yet another member was doing the crime scene sketch. By the time they had finished, it was nearly 2:30 in the morning. When the forensics photographers had finished, they exited the area, giving Cassie a wide berth as they passed her.
She turned to Captain Taggart, "OK. The pictures are done. Now what?" still angry.
"Now, we go and pick up the body. What's left of it, that is." He allowed her to follow him as he led the coronor's men to the body. While they picked up the larger pieces, he traced around the area, indicating other body parts for them to pick up.
"It's going to be hard, getting an ID on this guy. I don't see any sign of his hands, and his face is gone, as well. Did anyone notice a wallet?" he asked the crew. He was not surprised by their negative replies.
When the body had been removed, Joel again circled the area. When he was finished, he had placed evidence bags in numerous locations. He then looked at Cassie, who had followed him like a puppy, only quieter (for a change. She didn't want to irritate this man any further. Something told her it would not be a good idea).
"I want you to pick up all the evidence I have marked." He indicated certain areas of concern. "Most of the explosives evidence is concentrated in that area. It looks like half a dozen sticks of dynamite, with an alarm clock for a timer. I'd guess that he was making a bomb, and it just went off." He turned to her, finally acknowledging her presence, "Now, Cassie. It's your turn. Just let me know if I'm wrong on anything. I'm going down to the coronor's to see about an ID on the victim."
Cassie was left with her jaw gaping as the captain left. Somehow, she'd never managed to say a word. How did he do that?
Blair rode up in the elevator, getting off on the seventh floor. He stopped at the break room for some coffee, on his way to Major Crimes to meet his partner, after having taught his class that morning. He noticed Joel Taggart sitting at one of the tables, leaning his head on his fist, nearly dozing.
"Hey, Joel? You OK?" he asked as he poured himself a cup of coffee.
Joel lifted his weary head and looked at the much younger man. "Oh, sure. I'm fine. Just didn't get any sleep last night, is all."
"How come?" Blair asked, pulling out a chair and sitting across the table from the captain.
"Got a late night call for an explosion." came the tired reply, as the captain sipped his cooling coffe. Then, before Blair could ask, "Some guy blew himself up with six sticks of dynamite, out in an empty field at the edge of town."
Blair flinched, imagining the results. "Ouch. Got any leads?"
"Yeah. We finally got an ID on him from his big toe, at about five this morning. Some kid messing with trying to build a bomb, it went off, he went....well, you know." Knowing how squeamish the anthropologist could be, grateful that the sensitive young man hadn't yet become immune to the horrors of policework.
Blair grimaced, trying to not imagine it. "That sucks, man. Why don't you go home and get some sleep now?" He asked, worried about his friend.
"I'm still waiting for..." he started, only to be interrupted by Cassie, as she swirled into the break room.
"I've confirmed your analysis of the scene, Captain, " she said politely, much to Blair's surprise. He cast a curious glance at Joel, wondering how he managed to turn off the overly enthusiastic Cassie.
"Good." Was Joel's tired reply.
"Joel, is there anything I can do to help?" Blair asked, worried by his friend's attitude.
"No, thanks, Blair. I'm just gonna go back to my office and catch a few z's. I'll be fine. I'll catch you later."
"OK. I'll be with Jim, if you need anything. See you later. Cassie." Blair beat a hasty retreat, he couldn't wait to tell Jim about Cassie's attitude adjustment where Joel was concerned.
Cassie was pissed. "How come that, little, police observer gets to call you by your first name, and I don't?" She demanded.
Joel looked at her. "He's earned it." He said, simply. He stood, dumped his cold coffee in the sink, rinsed out his cup, and left her standing there. Mouth open. Nothing coming out. Again.
She shook her head, in annoyance. This was not how things were supposed to work. She did the bulldozing, not the men. She led the investigation, not the detectives. She...wasn't getting anywhere with the big Bomb Squad captain. Time for a change in strategy.
Jim chuckled at the Sandburg Zone version of Joel and Cassie. He hoped that his friend could keep the live-wire forensics specialist in line. Maybe he could take notes. Maybe Joel could cure her of her overbearing attitude. It wasn't that she wasn't good at her job, she just tried to do everyone else's job, as well. Only she tended to jump to conclusions not supported by the facts. And, on top of everything else, she used people. Accusing he and his partner of being competitive. Well, sticking her with the check had certainly helped their bruised feelings about that one.
"Maybe he can keep her under control. If so, I'm going to ask him how he does it. Maybe whatever it is he does will work for us." Jim grinned at his partner.
It was nearly 2:00 in the afternoon when Joel Taggart emerged from his office. The hour long nap hadn't really helped, just reminded him of how tired he still was. He checked with his people and decided to go and interview the family of the dead man.
He had sent his entire crew home to get some sleep. He remained behind to continue working the case. That was why they paid him the big bucks. It made him a very popular supervisor. It was easy, when you led by example and never asked more of your people than you were willing to give yourself. However, it was policy to not go on an interview alone. He stopped in at Major Crimes.
"Hey. Joel." Sandburg greeted him. He was the only one in the bull pen. "How're you feeling?"
"I'm still tired, but I'll get over it. Where is everybody?" Curious.
"Simon dragged Jim off to a meeting, Ryf and Brown are out on a case." Blair answered.
"Oh." Joel thought about it for a minute. "You busy?"
"No. I just finished grading some papers, why?"
"You want to tag along with me while I question the relatives of the dead guy?" Keeping the hopefullness from his voice with an effort. He liked this kid, he had a way with people. He could be a real asset when he conducted his interviews.
Blair looked at him in surprise. "Sure, why not?" he replied, standing up and putting his school work away in his backpack. "Let me clear up my mess and leave Jim a note and I'll be ready to go." Suiting action to words. As he followed Joel down to the garage, he started bouncing in the excitement of being asked along.
It was almost anticlimactic. When they arrived at the dead man's home, his grandparents let them in. They couldn't understand what could have possessed their eldest grandson to try to build a bomb. The grandmother was nearly prostrate in her grief. They had given their grandchildren everything, having raised them after their parents were killed in a car accident when they were ten and eight years old. They carried on about how good the boys were.
Blair had a funny feeling. Where was the dead guy's brother? He started to fidget. When the grandparents stopped talking, he got Joel's attention, his worried expression causing the captain to ask him what was wrong.
"Uh, excuse me, but, where's your other grandson?" He asked the grieving elderly couple.
"He's outside in the garage. The boys have a private apartment out there above the garage." The grandfather informed them.
Blair exchanged looks with Joel, who nodded in agreement, realizing where he was going with this.
"May we speak with him?" The captain asked the couple.
"Of course, officer. Just go around the back, I'm sure he's upstairs. The news of Johnny's death really hit him hard."
"Uh, what's his name?" Blair asked.
They found him, sitting on the floor of the apartment above the garage, crying. Blair approached the young man. He was only twenty, according to his grandparents.
"Tommy?" Blair asked gently. Joel stayed in the background recognizing that Blair would relate to the distraught young man better than he would.
Tommy lifted his tear stained face to the long-haired anthropologist. "Yes, sir?"
"Tell us what happened." Blair knew, somehow, that the kid knew perfectly well what had happened, and why.
"He said it would be easy." The young man sobbed. "He said there wouldn't be any problem."
Blair was puzzled. What could he mean? Joel came closer and helped the youngster to stand. "Just start at the beginning. First of all, is there any more dynamite?" Knowing that the six sticks had come from a box that had been reported missing from a local construction site. There were nearly fifty sticks unaccounted for.
Tommy cried through the entire time he related the story. Johnny had wanted his inheritance, he was twenty-two, and his parent's trust fund stated that he was of age to have access when he turned twenty-five, unless his grandparents decided to turn it over to him early, or if something happened to them. His grandparents were well aware of Johnny's gambling and womanizing and had refused his repeated attempts to access his inheritance. He had convinced Tommy to help him. He had been making bombs for the past several weeks, wiring them together beneath his grandparent's home. Tommy showed them where the charges were set.
Blair couldn't remember anything even approaching this, in all his experience. Then, again, neither could Joel. Blair had never been this close to this much explosives before. He hoped he never would be, again. As the only one available, he was tasked with holding the flashlight, while the expert disconnected all the explosives. Fortunately, it was a simple task of removing the blasting caps from the charges and then removing the dynamite from the numerous places it was affixed beneath the foundation of the house.
By the time they were finished, it was nearly 6:00, and it was after 7:00 by the time they got back to the station, after having turned Tommy over for booking. Jim looked up as they entered.
"About time you two got back. How'd it go?" Noticing the exhaustion on both men's faces. Simon came out of his office and joined them, just as curious as Jim.
"Oh, the surviving brother showed us where the rest of the dynamite was. They were going to blow up their grandparents for their inheritance. Kind of sad, really. They had just about everything money could buy, but they still weren't satisfied." Joel told them. "It's a sign of the times I could definitely do without." he added. The other men nodded.
Sandburg summed it up. "You know, times haven't really changed all that much. Do you know the word 'chutzpah'?" At the older men's puzzled looks. "It's Yiddish."
"Yeah. Doesn't it mean...brass, gall?" Jim asked.
"Well, sort of. The traditional translation is about a young man who murdered his parents and then pled for the mercy of the court, because he was an orphan. I think this case definitely qualifies, don't you?"
Yes. This is the end. The events really did happen, pretty much as I related them. Of course, if you were to look up the word 'chutzpah' today, you'd find a picture of the Menendez brothers. It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. R.I. Eaton
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