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Flipping Out Chapter 2 of 5

FO.NEW.jpgI read Dante’s Inferno when I was in college. From what I can remember, there are nine circles of hell. The first one is for the unbaptized, who weren’t really sinners but wound up in limbo because they didn’t accept Jesus. From a cop perspective, I think of it as the misdemeanor circle.

As you move your way along the ladder of sin, you go deeper and deeper into hell. The eighth circle is for those who knowingly commit evil deeds. That includes panderers, false prophets, sowers of discord, and the way I see it, building contractors who take your money, don’t do the work, and never return your phone calls.

So there’s a spot reserved in the eighth circle of hell for Hal Hooper.

He’s the reason Diana and I are currently homeless. We’d been living together for over a year. Sometimes her place, sometimes mine. A few months ago we bought a house together. A fixer-upper.

We hired Hooper to fix it up.

We were supposed to move in by the end of August, but by September first, the house was still missing half a roof, a working bathroom, and several other amenities. Hooper gave us a bunch of lame excuses and swore it would be livable in another month. He didn’t say finished. Just livable.

We had each given up our rentals, our furniture was in storage, and we couldn’t afford thirty nights in a hotel. In desperation, we moved in with Big Jim. I told Diana it would be a big mistake to try to live with my father, but she’s a glass-half-full person. “It’s only a month,” she said. “How bad could it be?”

It didn’t take long to find out.

I had braced Diana for the meddling. I warned her that he would pry into every corner of our personal lives and drop less than-subtle hints about the joys of getting married and bearing children. But I never mentioned the peeing.

The first night, Diana and I went upstairs to our bedroom and Jim took the dogs out for one last pee. They stood in the yard, he yelled, “Business,” and the four of them relieved themselves under our window. Three dogs and Jim.

When I called him on it the next morning, he said, “So I took a piss. For God’s sake, Mike, it’s dark out.”

But darkness does not cover up industrial-strength farting or Big Jim’s orgasmic groans of relief. You want to take the romance out of your evening? Get a three-hundred-pound teamster to empty his bladder under your bedroom window every night. Even Jim’s wife, Angel, who is usually pretty successful at reining him in, couldn’t stop him from putting his nose in our business or his foot in his mouth. After five days and a variety of personal-boundary violations, the topper came when Jim, ever helpful, took our laundry from the dryer, folded it, and left it in our room. That Friday night at dinner, he suggested that Angel buy “one of those sexy black thongs like Diana wears.”

Angel smacked the back of his fat head, Diana covered her eyes, and I grabbed the phone. By Saturday morning Diana and I were packed and headed to Sherman Oaks to move in with Terry, Marilyn, and the girls.

It was my first day commuting to work from the Valley, and we were creeping along the 101 at twenty miles an hour. The ribbon of taillights in front of us went bright red, and Terry rolled the car to a stop. “So far, so good,” he said.

“We’re going to be late for Kilcullen’s Monday morning briefing, so you can’t be talking about the traffic. You must be bragging about the fact that we’ve managed to live under the same roof for forty-eight hours without any bloodshed.”

“Hey, I know it’s only been one weekend, but you’ve got to admit that bunking with us is more fun than living with Big Jim.”

I nodded. “Bunking with the Taliban would be more fun than living with Big Jim.”

We were fifteen minutes late getting to the station, but as it turned out, Kilcullen’s meeting was canceled. Just as we pulled into the parking lot, about twenty cops, some in plainclothes, some in uniform, came pouring out of the station and began jumping into their cars.

We saw Wendy Burns, and Terry honked at her.

Wendy is our direct supervisor, the Detective III who assigns cases to the homicide teams. She’s a total pro, smart, reasonable, and a great buffer to have between us and our less-than-reasonable boss, Lieutenant Brendan Kilcullen.

“You guys just caught a big one,” she said as Terry and I got out of the car. “Follow me.”

“What’s going on?” I said.

“Reggie Drabyak’s wife was shot.”

“Jesus, is she okay?”

“She’s dead.”

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