2303 Mulholland Drive.
Joe Friday guided the unmarked Ford Crown Victoria onto the gravel driveway, rolling past the large wooden ANGELS' NEST sign.
His partner Bill Gannon scanned the property from the passenger side window.
"This place doesn't look like an 'angels' nest'," Gannon said as they stopped in front of the bungalow.
"You know how it is, Bill," Friday said stepping from the car. "This is Los Angeles. Things are rarely what they seem."
Two serious men wearing black windbreakers with orange lining stepped through the front door onto the porch.
"Can we help you, gentlemen?" called a blond man with short cropped hair.
Friday pulled back his jacket to reveal the gold badge on his belt as he and Gannon approached.
"Los Angeles Police Department, Robbery-Homicide Division. We'd like to speak to the person in charge, please."
"You got a warrant?" asked the second man.
Gannon hooked his thumbs over his belt buckle and squinted up from behind dark glasses.
"Is there a reason why we would need one?"
The bearded man with shaggy brown hair stepped from inside, wearing a blue, grease stained jumpsuit.
"Come on now, Thad, Joseph," he smiled, stepping off of the porch. "Don't be so inhospitable to our guests. Hello, Officers. I'm Samuel Parsons. My congregation calls me Brother Sam. What can I do for you?"
"Sergeant Friday, Detective Gannon, LAPD," Friday said as they shook his hand. "Your congregation? So you're some sort of clergyman, then?"
"Yes. Although, I've never really thought of myself as such. A lay preacher, if you will. I'm just a man doing the Lord's work. Won't you come inside and we can discuss whatever it is that brings you gentlemen here?"
The two men eyed the detectives suspiciously as Friday and Gannon stepped inside the house. The detectives followed Parsons down the hall and into a small office.
"Please forgive my appearance," Parsons said, easing into a creaky office chair behind his desk. "I was about to go work on my old car. What can I do for you officers?"
Friday pulled the pamphlet from his jacket.
"Is this your literature, sir?"
"Ah, yes. One of our older tracts. Wherever did you find it?"
"In the apartment of a man named Leon Rusnik. Do you know him?"
"Yes. I know Leon very well. He's our handyman. Is he in some sort of trouble?"
"He's dead, sir," Gannon replied. "Killed yesterday in a shootout with our officers. He and another man killed a police officer and attempted to kill several more."
Parsons slumped back in his chair and ran a hand through his mop of hair. His lower lip quivered.
"Oh my goodness. I saw that on the news. That was him? That's very upsetting. I thought something was wrong when he didn't show up for work yesterday. You're sure it was our Leon?"
"Yes, Sir. We're sure," said Friday. "Do you know a man named Michael Carlton?"
Parsons stared thoughtfully at his desk.
"No, can't say that I do. This is just terrible news. Forgive me," he dabbed at his eyes. "I just can't believe that Leon is dead. He'd just begun his walk with the Lord this past year. He'd had a hard life before he was led to us."
"What is it exactly that you do here, Mr. Parsons?" asked Gannon.
"We are a church, Detective. We also offer weary souls respite from the outside world. All are welcome here. People in transition, the homeless, travelers. We have a few bungalows that we've fixed up that serve as living quarters. We also do our best to be self sustaining. We grow our own food, live off the land. A modest existence, but very rewarding, I must say."
"What denomination are you affiliated with, Mr. Parsons?" asked Friday.
"We are non-denominational. We adhere to the basic tenets of the Christian faith. One creator God, who has sent his son to atone for our sins. However, we are more open than other churches. We just worship the Good Lord. Not so many rituals and strict rules."
"I've read through your literature here," Friday nodded. "I must say, it's interesting reading."
"It does my heart good to hear that."
Friday thumbed through the tract.
"Very interesting stuff. Like the one passage where you say that It is the duty of each man and woman to liberate the masses from the bonds of Satan. I don't ever remember reading that in the Bible."
"Ah, yes. Taken from one of my earlier sermons," Parsons stroked his beard. "I simply meant that we must do our best to spread the Lord's message, thus diminishing the hold that Satan has on this world."
"What about the part where you say that there must be a purification of the old guard?" asked Gannon. "What exactly is The Old Guard?"
Parsons gave them a sidelong glance.
"Are you investigating my church, officers?"
"No, sir. Just curious," Friday replied casually.
Parsons cleared his throat.
"Do you have any more questions for me? I'm extremely busy today."
"Fixing your old car?"
"Did Mr. Rusnik ever seem to have a grudge against those in law enforcement?" asked Friday. "A disdain for police? Anything like that?"
"No, though he did speak of having run-ins with the law before he came to Angels' Nest."
Friday folded his arms.
"Would you happen to know where we could locate his next of kin?"
"No. I don't believe I do. As I said, I'm very busy today. So if you gentlemen have no further questions? "
"The jackets that your men-" Gannon started as he and Friday also stood.
"Right. The jackets that they were wearing, is that some sort of uniform that you have here?"
"Uniform? No. We take donations of clothing from time to time. Perhaps that's where they got them from."
"We'll show ourselves out, sir." Friday, passed him his business card. "If you can think of anything else, please don't hesitate to call. Thank you for your time."
The detectives didn't speak again until they were back on the road, headed down Mulholland.
"Those guys looked pretty serious when they saw us pull up, Joe." said Gannon.
"They were pretty quick to ask about a warrant, too. And they were wearing black jackets just like the one Rusnik was wearing. Hondo said Rusnik mentioned the fact that there were more like him. I think we might've just found the more he was talking about."
Gannon stared out his window.
"Somethin' definitely stinks."
"Yep," said Friday as they turned the corner. "Like the L.A. River after a rainstorm."
Candace McPhee, a thin young woman with long blonde hair, walked into Parsons' office wearing faded green military fatigues.
"Baby, Thad said the cops were just here."
"Yeah the cops were here," Parsons said bitterly as he sat with his back to her, staring out the rear window. "Damned LAPD. No wonder. Thanks to Leon and Michael's little hunting trip downtown. Those idiots!"
"They were just practicing what you preached, weren't they?"
"Yes, but it was too damned soon. We need the element of surprise on our side. I don't like the way those two pigs were talking. Like they suspected us of something."
"Cops are stupid, Sammy,", she said, walking around the desk to face him. "And anyway, Mikey and Leon did the world a favor. One less cop, right?"
"I just don't want our work to be jeopardized."
"It won't. You worry too much. Did the Mexican bring our toys?"
He looked up at her and kissed her hand.
"Yes he did. Last night. Are you ready for this afternoon?"
"Of course," she sat on his lap and ran a hand through his hair. "Gotta fund the revolution, right?"
"Money. Yes. A necessary evil. Be careful today, okay?"
"Stop worrying, baby." she lit a cigarette, then took a drag before she placed it in his mouth. She exhaled a cloud of smoke. "It'll be a piece of cake."
Hunter ducked under a line of yellow police tape and made his way down the sidewalk towards a liquor store. He checked in with the officer controlling the scene before entering the store.
Sergeant MacDonald, a burly patrol supervisor, met him just inside the door.
"Hunter. Back slumming it in Central again, are ya?" he said, shaking the detective's hand.
"I got homesick," Hunter smirked, slipping off his shades. "Nice to see ya again, Mac. What've we got?"
"211 gone bad," said MacDonald. "But then again, don't they all?"
Hunter peered over the counter to see a young Asian man laying in a pool of blood with a large gunshot wound to his chest.
"Man, looks like they used a damned cannon on this kid."
"Witnesses say that they heard two gunshots, then they saw a black male about twenty, wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans come running out about ten seconds later. Ran north up Olive."
Hunter nodded, his eyes still fixed on the body. He pointed to the camera mounted above the door with his pen.
"We got any video?"
"Nope. Cameras don't work," the sergeant replied. "Just for show, apparently. You didn't think it would be that easy, did ya?"
A young, dark haired woman wearing a navy blue blazer entered, binder in hand.
"Detective Hunter?" she asked.
"Check it out, Mac," said Hunter. "Coroner's people actually showed up early for once."
"I'm not with the Coroner, I'm your new partner," she said, offering a neatly manicured hand. "Denise Peck. I'm transferring in from Van Nuys."
"Robbery. This is my first assignment in Homicide."
"Peck, huh?" MacDonald, chuckled. "Hunter and Peck? Hunt and Peck. I like that."
"Rick Hunter," Hunter shook her hand. "I didn't know I was getting a new partner."
"Yes sir, well, Captain Devane thought you'd protest less if he did it this way."
Hunter returned his attention to the corpse.
"Don't call me sir. Any reason why you're late, Peck?"
"I had a doctor's appointment. I hitched a ride over with a black and white. "
Hunter turned and stared at the floor. A yellow card covered the spot where a shell casing had landed.
"Great. I don't want you gettin' me sick. I hate taking time off."
"No, actually...it was my cat. She's got an ear infection."
Hunter looked up at her and then over at MacDonald who smiled and looked away.
"Look, just...save it, okay?" she sighed. "We got any wits?"
"Can't tell us much," Hunter replied. "They heard two shots and saw a male black run out and take off up the street."
She gestured with her binder.
"So where's the other slug? If the witnesses heard two shots?"
Hunter turned around and stood approximately where he thought the shooter would have stood. He raised his arm and mimicked a gun with his thumb and forefinger.
"If he missed with the second shot, it would've hit one of the bottles on the shelf behind our vic."
Peck stepped closer. She stared down at the various articles for sale on the counter. She slipped on a glove and carefully inspected a standing rack of potato chips.
"Here. Look at this," she said, carefully lifting a bag of chili cheese corn chips.
Hunter squinted down at the package.
"Looks like a little blood spatter. On the wrong side of the counter."
Peck stepped around the far side of the counter. She crouched near the victim's head.
"Nobody's processed the scene, yet?"
"Nope," answered MacDonald. "SID's a little short today. They're still en route."
Peck laid flat on the floor, palms down and looked under the counter. She then looked under a cabinet near the victim's head.
She reached under the cabinet and then stood up, carefully holding a .32 caliber pistol by the bottom of it's grip.
"It's been fired. One of the shots was from our victim."
"He threw a cap into his killer. Talk about a parting shot. So when he goes down, he drops his piece and it skids under the cabinet there."
"We're looking for a wounded suspect."
"I'll notify the hospitals," said MacDonald. "Not bad, huh, Rick? Looks like ya found a good replacement for the Brass Cupcake."
Peck raised an eyebrow.
"My old partner," Hunter replied. "Come on. Let's go see a man about a horse."
LAPD SWAT training facility.
Michael Boxer retrieved his gear bag from the back of his truck as the rest of the team crossed the parking lot.
"Anybody seen the new guy yet?" asked Street, walking over with his bag slung over one shoulder. A gust of wind scattered leaves across the parking lot.
"Great. He's late," said Deacon. "This cat sure knows how to make an impression."
"We got a bigger issue," said Sanchez. "You owe me money, Deac."
Deacon dropped his bag.
She nodded in Street's direction.
"Our little wager."
"Oh yeah?" said Street, folding his arms. "What kind of wager."
"I bet Deac here, that you wouldn't have enough hair on your ass to call up Boxer's sister," Sanchez smirked.
"Wait, you took a bet on my little sister?," asked Boxer.
Street shifted uncomfortably, his hands in his pockets.
"How do you know I didn't call her?"
"Boxer told me."
"Yeah, what's up with that, Street?" asked Boxer. "I even gave you my blessing. She keeps asking me, 'How's Jimmy? Did you tell him to call me?' Call her or cut her loose, man."
"Street, you didn't call her?" Deacon called, opening his wallet. "I gave you too much credit, man."
"I meant to, I just…uh…" Street stammered.
Deacon grudgingly slapped a $20 dollar bill into Sanchez's hand as Hondo rounded the corner.
"Can we get started now, kids?"
"Just waitin' for the new guy, Hondo," said Boxer.
"New guy's here," Hondo replied. "He's been here."
He led them around the back of the building to the shooting range where a stocky, dark haired young man stood with a boot propped on a bench, loading a Remington .223 sniper rifle.
Hondo stood beside him.
"Everybody, this is the newest member of our team, Dominic Luca."
Luca nodded with a broad smile.
"Hey, everybody. Nice to meet ya. I've wanted to get into Hondo's squad ever since the whole incident with Montel. You guys were awesome."
"Yeah, tell that to Captain Fuller," Deacon replied.
Street motioned towards the targets mounted up on the hill on the far side of the range.
"You're not planning on hitting those today, are you?"
"I already did."
"In this wind?" asked Boxer, skeptically. "At that distance?"
Luca reached into his bag and retrieved a used paper target. There were three holes, neatly punched through the middle.
"No way," said Sanchez, stepping forward to inspect it.
Hondo smiled, tucking his hands into his windbreaker.
"Go ahead and show 'im, Dom."
Luca shrugged. He laid down on the grass berm and positioned his rifle on its stand. He turned his cap backwards, closed one eye and peered through the scope.
The wind blew again, scattering leaves and papers across the lot behind him.
Luca calmly fired three shots, then stood up.
"How was that?"
Hondo grabbed a pair of binoculars from the table and handed them to Boxer.
Boxer lifted them to his eyes and laughed as he focused on the distant target.
"Son of a bitch. He nailed it. Dead center. Damn."
"So then, how did Fuller let us get somebody this good?" asked Deacon. "He hates us."
"Guess you didn't hear. Fuller's been promoted to a command position down at PAB. Due in large part to our actions during the Alex Montel incident."
Sanchez rolled her eyes.
"Glad we could help."
Street shook Luca's hand.
"Welcome to SWAT."
Hunter pulled the sedan to the curb.
"So this guy is your snitch?" asked Peck as they stepped from the car.
"Sporty's not really a snitch," Hunter replied. "He's more of a business man."
A middle aged black man wearing a fedora sat on a shoeshine chair outside of a walk-in news stand, holding the L.A. Times sports section.
"Hunter! My man!" he called. "How ya been? And who is this little filly?"
"Detective Peck," Peck replied sternly.
"Whoa, whoa. I sense I have offended." Sporty waved his paper in the air. "My apologies. Allow me to introduce myself. Arnold James, Esquire, at your service. My friends call me Sporty."
"How's business, Sporty?" asked Hunter.
"Oh man. Rough, Hunter. It is rough. I got a deal on some MP3 players real cheap. All legal, mind you..."
"Nobody is buyin', bruh. It's this economy. It's killin' my bottom line. So what are you here for, or do I already know?"
"You hear about that armed robbery that went down on Olive a little while ago? "
"Yeah. Heard somebody got shot behind that."
"What do you know?" asked Peck.
"I know I'm gonna need some cash to pay that shoeshine boy when he gets back."
Hunter pulled two bills from his jacket and tucked them into Sporty's shirt pocket.
"Nobody's gotten their shoes shined here since 1985, Sporty. What've ya got? "
"Boy named Simon is who ya want. Chubby little kid about nineteen. Came past here about twenty minutes ago carrying a bag from the drugstore and holding his arm."
"Simon what?" asked Peck.
"How should I know? He's a neighborhood kid. Seen 'im around."
"You know where we can find 'im?" asked Hunter.
"Nope. But he usually takes the bus. You can probably still catch 'im. Down the street and around the corner a spell. And that's all I know."
Sporty returned his attention to the newspaper. Peck slapped it out of his hands.
"Why didn't you just tell us that in the first place?"
Hunter grabbed her arm and led her back to their car.
"You need to learn some tact, lady," he said, opening her door. "See ya Sporty."
"Yeah. Good to have ya back, Hunter," Sporty called, snatching his newspaper from the sidewalk. "Sorry to have made your acquaintance, De-tective Peck."
Hunter and Peck rolled through traffic.
"We didn't have time for him to jerk us around," Peck said sullenly from the shotgun seat. "And don't ever manhandle me again, buddy."
"Sporty's a good C.I.," Hunter replied. "He's helped me break more than a few cases. You need to learn a little finesse, Peck."
As they turned the corner, an MTA bus had just pulled away from the curb.
"Let's try it," Hunter said as they sped forward.
He pulled alongside the bus and hit the siren to get the driver's attention. Peck held up her shield and pointed for the driver to pull to the curb.
As soon as the bus pulled over, Hunter stopped the sedan in front of it.
"1-William-56, show us CODE-6 at Flower and Venice. Requesting a black and white unit to assist, Code-2," he called into the radio before stepping from their car.
Peck made her way around the back of the bus and stood near the rear exit, hand on her sidearm. Hunter stepped onto the bus and held up his badge for the driver.
"Hi there," he said good naturedly as he held up his shield. "Sorry for the delay folks, just lookin' for somebody."
He scanned the seats to find the bus mostly empty. Two senior citizens sat near the front, holding hands. A portly Hispanic man sat at the back, eating a sandwich and a teenage girl sat in front of him, lost in the music flowing through her headphones.
Hunter stepped back off of the bus and shook his head.
"Anything?" asked Peck.
"He wasn't there," he sighed as they headed back to their car. "Bus driver hadn't seen him."
Just as Peck opened her door, she stared up the street.
A young black man was sitting on the bus bench on the opposite corner wearing a heavy jacket and holding a plastic shopping bag.
"Hunter." Peck nodded.
As Hunter looked up, the kid glanced over, making eye contact with him. He quickly stood up and began to walk away at a brisk pace which quickly evolved into a full run.
Hunter darted into traffic, forcing two cars to slam on their brakes. He raced up the street towards the suspect.
"Police! Freeze right there!" he shouted.
Peck climbed in behind the wheel of their sedan and hit the siren.
"1-W-56, officers need assistance," she notified the dispatcher. "Southbound Venice from Flower. My partner is in foot pursuit, mid-block on Flower."
The suspect dashed into an alley. Hunter ran after him while Peck was stuck in traffic, waiting for another bus to clear the intersection.
As Hunter entered the alley, a black and white turned the corner and chirped its siren as it pulled into the alley with red and blue lights flashing.
The suspect had run into a dead end. He stood with his back against a twelve foot high brick wall, breathing heavily.
Hunter drew his .45 and leveled it at the young man who reached towards his jacket.
"Don't do it!" he called. "Drop the bag and show me your hands!"
Reed and Malloy stepped from the patrol car and rushed forward, guns trained on the suspect.
The boy dropped the bag and raised his hands.
"Turn around!" Malloy shouted. "On your knees! Hands behind your head!"
Reed stepped forward. He handcuffed the boy and pulled him to his feet.
Peck stepped from the unmarked unit and jogged into the alley.
"Kinda hot to be wearin' a jacket like this, isn't it?" asked Hunter as he searched the young man.
He reached into his waistband and removed a chrome Desert Eagle semiautomatic handgun.
"Well, I'm pretty sure we're gonna match this to that hole ya left in that poor guy at the liquor store," he said, propping the suspect against the hood of the patrol car.
"How ya feelin' Simon?" asked Peck picking up the plastic bag and pulling out a large pack of bandages. "Are you hurt?"
The boy stared at the ground. Hunter yanked down the left side of his jacket to reveal a hole in his upper arm, oozing blood. The boy winced in pain.
"I'll call an R.A.," Malloy said, keying the mic on his chest.
Hunter finished searching the suspect. He pulled out his wallet and flipped it open.
"Simon Dawes, you are under arrest," Hunter said coolly. "You have the right to remain silent…"
As Hunter read him his rights, Reed studied the weapon that Hunter had placed on the hood of the patrol car.
"This is a Desert Eagle," he said, slipping on a pair of latex gloves.
"Uh, Reed, what are you doin'?" asked Malloy, draping an arm over his open door.
"We gotta clear it, right?" Reed cautiously released the magazine, then racked the slide and removed chambered round. He laid the gun down, but continued to stare at it thoughtfully.
"Your partner got a thing for guns, Officer?" asked Peck.
"No, Detective," Malloy replied, drawing out the word. "I've seen that look before. He's thinking about something."
"I'm sorry," the boy began to cry. "I didn't mean to shoot that man. I just needed some cash…"
"Okay, take some deep breaths, son," said Hunter, focusing on Reed. "What is it, Reed?"
"This is a .41 caliber model," said Reed.
"So?" asked Peck.
"So, they don't make these anymore. Pete, remember about three or four weeks ago, there was that 459 at that gun store in Chinatown?"
"Yeah," Malloy nodded. "Yeah, I do. If I remember right, they cleaned 'em out of AR-15's among other things."
"And about five or six .41 caliber Desert Eagles," said Reed. "If the serial number hasn't been filed off, I'd bet good money that this'll be one of the stolen guns."
"Son, where'd you get the gun?" asked Hunter.
The boy stared at the ground, continuing to sob.
"Look, you might as well, give it up, kid," said Malloy. "They'll go easier on you if you tell the whole truth."
The boy shook his head.
"How's that arm doin, Simon?" asked Peck. "Looks pretty bad."
She squeezed the boy's arm below the wound and he howled in pain.
"Sorry about that. I'm not a doctor," she replied. "Let me see if I can get that bullet out…"
"NOOO!" the boy screamed. "My…my brother…"
"Your brother?" asked Hunter.
"His…his gun…" the boy cried. "I took it. It's my brother's gun…he…he gonna kill me…"
Peck lifted the boy's chin so she could stare him in the eye.
"Believe me, your brother is the least of your problems. Where'd he get it?"
"I don't know, ma'am. I swear to God. I don't know."
Hunter led the boy out of the alley, followed by Peck as an ambulance stopped in the street.
"Good eye, Reed," said Hunter. "Looks like we cracked two cases at once."
Reed nodded and sighed. Malloy studied him over the roof of the black and white Crown Vic.
"Somethin' eatin' you, Junior?"
"I don't know, Pete. Seems like Detective Peck was a little rough on him."
"He did just kill a man."
"Yeah, I know," Reed sighed, opening his door. "But still...he's just a kid. He killed a man and he's more upset because his brother'll be mad at him. I don't even know what to say about that."
The officers climbed back into their cruiser.
"Remember what I always say, Jim?"
"Don't get emotionally involved. I know. I know," he sighed as he closed his door and picked up the mic. "1-Adam-12, clear."
Friday and Gannon sat at their desks in the RHD offices, going over paperwork.
Frank Smith walked over holding a computer printout.
"Bill, Joe. I ran your man Parsons through NCIC. Samuel Parsons is an alias. Real name is Samuel Keith Robbins. He did time at Chino a couple of years back for forgery. Also has a domestic violence beef from 2012 out of Santa Monica.
Friday leaned back in his chair.
"So our holy man isn't so holy after all."
Angels' Nest compound.
The small cottage was filled with young men and women sitting on folding chairs.
Parsons stepped to the small pulpit at the front of the room.
"My children, the time is drawing nigh," he called, drawing cheers and applause from the gathering. "The time to begin the Good Lord's work. Can I get an amen, brothers and sisters?"
"AMEN!" the group called.
Candace McPhee sat in the passenger seat of a silver minivan, her blond hair pulled back under what looked like a black watch cap.
Thad Sorenson in the driver's seat and Joseph Flores in the back seat, wore the same type of cap.
She slid the mag into her Desert Eagle and stared at the Topanga Savings and Loan building across the street.
"Yes," they replied plainly.
"You'd better be, 'cause I will not hesitate to leave either of your asses behind."
Flores slid open the van's side door.
"Let's just do this already."
He stepped out, concealing an AK-47 under his trench coat. He and McPhee briskly crossed the street towards the bank.
"Los Angeles is no more the City of the Angels," Parsons called to his congregation. "It is the City of the Fallen Angels! It is our heavenly duty to free the people of this city! To bring about a society free from poverty, free from the few who control the wealth and keep it away from the many...away from the poor! Away from those who are so desperately in need!"
Before they entered the bank, McPhee and Flores pulled the ski-masks down over their faces. As they entered, Flores fired several shots into the air, eliciting frightened screams from the bank patrons.
"Everybody, get on the floor, this is a robbery!" McPhee shouted.
The security guard reached for his pistol as he stepped forward.
McPhee fired, striking the guard in the chest. He collapsed onto the marble floor.
She quickly stepped towards the nearest teller window and leveled her pistol at the woman inside.
"Money. Now," she said, tossing a gym bag onto the counter. "Put a dye bomb in there and you're dead, sister."
"And we will free our brothers and sisters from oppression, my Children!" Parsons continued, banging his fist on the lectern. "We will free them from the heartless storm troopers who have occupied this city!"
McPhee and Flores ran from the bank. They quickly piled back into the mini-van and it sped way from the curb. As they stripped off their masks, Flores opened the bag and pulled out two handfuls of cash.
The three exchanged looks and burst out laughing.
Parsons pulled a pistol from under the lectern and thrust it into the air.
"As our departed brothers have demonstrated, we will wage war on those who would seek to keep us down, to stop the Lord's work! We will wage war, children! We will wage war...on the LAPD!"
The room erupted into cheers.
TO BE CONTINUED...
This is a work of fiction, any similarities to actual persons, places or incidents is purely coincidental. All law enforcement information may not be accurate.