posted on Jan, 22 2009 @ 02:31 AM
We’d been on Dale Clark’s ass for years. He and a girl lived with two other addicts in a South side dump. We’d busted them for petty thefts
and shoplifting that supported their habits. They weren’t bad; Dale was actually sorta funny, in a Southside trash kind of way.
But there’d been a string of Coke machine robberies for the past six months and they’d all been caught; they were dumb-ass dopers after all. But
you don’t get much in Texas for stealing 20 bucks; they always got “time served.”
“I’m tired of this #; someone’s gonna get hurt soon,” I groused to my partner as we drove to the latest break-in. “Isn’t there anything
we can do to get these guys off the street?” We’d been assigned the “Coca Cola Bandits” because Tommy and I knew the gang, their haunts, and
had absolutely no seniority. “What a crock.”
I knew Tommy was pissed, too. But he was glad to have made detective on his first try, and wasn’t going to bitch. He was just glad to be off
patrol and in plainclothes. “Look,” he said, “Walker’s son is in Special Crimes now, and I know Jim’s partners have taken some real # cases
there to work up.”
“They get him to try some real crap, but he comes through. Other guys in the office don’t want to even look at the files. Let’s get this done,
make our case, go see J.R.”
We took pictures, dusted, found a couple witnesses and the tools they’d left behind. They must have been high as kites to be so stupid. The prints
matched, same ‘m. o.,’ and the witnesses gave adequate descriptions. Still, it felt like wasted effort as we returned to headquarters.
We had the “Coke Bandits” again, but I didn’t see any use going over to see a prosecutor. All he’d do was throw the file back at us or plead
'em out. They’d be back on the streets before Court recessed.
J. R. Walker was visiting with a couple of lawyers when we got to the D. A.’s office. Tommy knew him from the Southside; they’d both been cops’
kids, went to the same schools.
“Tom Doyle, what're you bringin’ me? Walker was a young prosecutor in Special Crimes. He’d tried some strange cases, so we spelled it out for
“I’m not even givin’ you the file if you’re gonna reject it or let these pricks out. They’re getting to be a pain in the ass, not to
mention a menace to machinery,” Tommy laughed.
“What’ve you got, vandalism? Theft of a mower?” Walker seemed amused.
We explained; well Tommy did most of it, because I thought it was stupid to even try. “Coca Cola Bandits?” Walker was laughing now. “You
gotta be kidding. Are these kids, or just idiots? Lemme see it, it’s been quiet here lately.” Walker reached across a gunmetal-gray desk
covered with folders and pads of chicken scratch.
“Oh #!” The prosecutor’s face was serious now and it looked like we’d pissed him off, wasted our time. “I know these guys. Clark was a
school buddy; class clown. Got messed up with dope. I haven’t seen him or this girl in years,” he continued. “His bud died from hepC or
something, years ago. Whatta you want to do,” he asked.
“Want ‘em off the streets. For a long time,” I butted in. “Can’t do that, can you,” I challenged.
“I can get ‘em,” Walker said. “I’m not happy about it. Clark used to be a nice guy, ‘cept for the dope. But they ain’t gonna stop
unless we do it for ‘em.” Walker leaned forward. “We’re going to have to set 'em up, though. Could take a while. We can aggregate three
misdemeanors into a felony, but they have to occur in what we call ‘a continuing pattern’,” he explained.
“You’ve got two recent misdemeanors. We’ll need a third. How long do they wait between hits? If we bust ‘em, hold ‘em for about a week,
then cut ‘em loose, they’ll be strung out and go right back to work,” he said. “It’s not nice, but it’ll work. Would you or someone on
patrol be able to stake them out the day they walk, if I promise to get indictments?”
I couldn’t believe my ears. “Damn straight, “ I said. “Hell, I’ll stake ‘em out if you’d do that,” I promised, foolishly. I sure
hated the idea of those creeps back out on the street; but, if it meant they’d go away, I was willing. “Sure, bring ‘em in, let ‘em go, send
‘em to prison. You got a deal,” I told him. I looked at Tommy nodding and grinning
“I told you we'd get it done,” he gloated. “I’ll cover you when you stake ‘em out.”
In a week, the "Bandits" were rounded up, convicted, and released time served. We had our third misdemeanor, and I was ready to get this thing
Tommy and I took a car from the pound, a ratty old Chevy pickup and parked about a block from the dump the “Bandits” called home. Sure enough,
about 9 that night, they piled into another ratty truck and headed down the street. We didn’t go six blocks before they turned in to a strip
center. We passed, turned around about three blocks away.
Tommy radioed for a patrolman to start for the west driveway and we headed for the east. I was antsy as #.
We cut our lights, entered the lot. The façade of a building shielded us from the Coke machine, and we were right in front of the truck as the
patrolman and a backup entered from the other side.
Clark saw us, dropped his tools, started laughing. He was wasted, along with his friends, and didn’t even try to run. He’d gotten the machine
open but hadn’t gotten the coin box out. It didn’t matter, because attempt is as good as completion for our purposes. He and his friends were so
high that two of them even gave a statement: “How’d you know we was gonna rob this machine? Pricks.”
Like Walker told us, he took the new case to the grand jury, got an indictment. After about a month, and two hearings, their lawyers waived a jury
and truied them to the Court. Appointed lawyers hate juries; they take up valuable time, especially when clients are losers. Big mistake. They were
in front of Mike Granada, a crippled war vet who’d been on the Bench for 12 years and detested dopers.
After Tommy and I testified, and Walker offered the tools and judgments into evidence, it was pretty much a done deal. All were found guilty, and got
10 years to do. They’d only be gone 3 of 10 because of crowding, but we got the “Bandits” out of our hair, maybe for good.
You know, I don’t know if Clark and his girl recognized Walker. He never said anything far as I know. He looked a little sad as we left court; so
we went to the Cadillac and I bought him a Coke. He kicked the machine.