Chapter 4: (2004-09-12 Sunday noon)
After crossing the traffic congested street, Victor and his partner arrived at the narrow alleyway, sandwiched between two high-rises. They entered the alleyway; to their right, they saw a couple of closed backdoors that lead to stores or restaurants. To the left were two industrial size garbage bins between two other closed doors. The alleyway led to a dead end. A twenty foot brick wall covered in graffiti stood in front of them. There was no access to the other side.
Jack started by turning the doorknob of each door to see if one could gain access through any of them. As he suspected, all were locked from the inside. Meanwhile, Victor looked into the space between the garbage bins and wall. There, Victor found part of a large broken cardboard box. Inside it, there was a rat gnawing on a half-eaten pizza slice and some old clothes. Victor concluded that the place was the home of some destitute soul. They investigated the rest of the alleyway for a few more minutes but could not find any noteworthy clues to whether Timothy had ever been there or not.
They were silent for a moment. The only sound was the muffled sound of cars passing by the open end of the alley. Victor leaned against the garbage bin, stopped for a moment and took out a cigarette from the inside pocket of his jacket. He then pulled out a lighter from his outside jacket pocket and lit the cigarette. He began to raise the cigarette to his mouth. Without taking a puff, Victor stared at the gray smoke rising upwards from his cigarette as it slowly dissipated to the air. Jack stood patiently beside him and watched Victor gazing into the smoke not knowing exactly what was going on in his mind. Suddenly, Victor began to run towards the main road with his cigarette still in his right hand. Jack followed eagerly, though he didn’t know why his partner was running. Within a minute, they were both back at the newsstand. Danny was busily sorting some magazines he had just received from a distributor.
“Hey, Mr. Anderson. We noticed that a homeless man may be living in that alley.” Victor said.
“Well, you must be talking about Chuck.” Danny said not looking up as he sorted his magazines.
“Do you know his last name?” Victor asked.
“His last name? Heck, we don’t even know if Chuck is his real name. I know some of the bums around here and they all call him Chuck.” Danny replied.
“What does he look like?” Jack asked. By this time, Jack caught on to what Victor was thinking back in the alley.
“Uh, he’s about 5 foot 6, medium build, and well… he has a long dark beard and messy hair.” Danny replied.
“You just described all the bums around here.” Jack commented, lightly mocking obvious comment.
Danny stared at Jack with annoyance, but ignored what he said, and continued to explain to Victor,
“He usually wears a dark green baseball hat and a dirty trench coat. You can’t miss him if you see him.”
“How old would he be?” asked Victor.
“If I were guessing, he must be around 60. But you can never tell the age of these guys… They generally look much older than they actually are. They’re so undernourished, with sunken eyes. Whether it’s booze or drugs, it slowly sucks the life out of them,” Danny said as he shook his head with involuntary resignation.
“Do you know where he is now?” Jack asked.
“Hell, no. How would I know the whereabouts of some homeless guy? He wanders around downtown all day long and comes back to that place once in a while.”
“Have you seen him today?” asked Victor.
“No,” Danny replied abruptly, growing impatient with the detectives’ questions.
“Uh, do you know any place close by where homeless people gather during the day?” Victor asked.
“Well… Oh yeah, there is one place where some of those folks meet once in a while.”
“And where would that be?” Jack asked.
“The park near by. If you walk 5 blocks east along this street and then turn right, you should be able to see the park. Just find the public washrooms in the park. Some of them flock around the bushes behind the washrooms.”
“Thanks again, Mr. Anderson. You were most helpful. Have a pleasant day.” Victor said.
Victor smiled at Daniel as he began to leave the newsstand with Jack.
“Good luck officers finding Chuck,” Danny said to Victor, while wishing that he would never see them again, especially the young stocky guy.
But Victor turned toward him and said, ”Oh, one more thing. If you see Chuck again, please ask him to contact us. And tell him that we’ll reward him if he can provide us with any information about the boy. That might give him some incentive. So long Mr. Anderson!”
Both officers rushed off towards the park.
They arrived at a park that was half the size of a football field. The grounds were well maintained and in some places, there were seasonal flowers that welcomed the visitors with a colorful sight. A few benches were spaced along a dirt path. The path was tree lined giving the benches good shade from the noon day sun and an ideal place to rest.
Victor and Jack took a few minutes to locate the public washrooms in the park. They were hidden behind some old growth trees out of the line of sight of anyone casually strolling along.
They started walking toward the small green bricked building that looked like it could use a fresh coat of paint.
A few yards away from the public washrooms, Jack heard the voices of men coming from nearby. There were a few homeless men behind the bushes lounging where they would not be easily spotted.
The detectives approached the men who were chatting amongst themselves.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen.” Jack said to them.
The men stopped talking and looked at Jack and Victor suspiciously.
One of the homeless men who had been talking passionately to the others said, “What do you want? If you know what’s good for you, leave now!” with anger in his voice.
“We’re detectives from the LAPD. We would like to ask you a few questions.” Victor said to them.
“We didn’t do nothing.” answered the man with long gray. He, too, seemed agitated.
Then Victor said, “We know you haven’t done anything wrong. We are not here to bust any of you. We just want to know if any of you know a man named Chuck.”
The men all simultaneously cast their gaze to the ground, not wanting to make eye contact with Victor or Jack. There was a long silence before anyone spoke. Then a grim looking man with a green cap in his hand stepped forward and said,
“I’m Chuck. What do you want from me?”
Surprised by the immediate response, Victor replied gently, “Could you please come with us for a few minutes? It won’t take too long.”
“Why?” he asked.
“I want to talk to you that’s why” Jack snarled.
Chuck hesitated from the retort, but reluctantly followed the detectives to the other side of the washroom structure. There, Victor showed him a picture of Timothy and said,
“All we want to know is whether you saw the boy in this picture yesterday afternoon.”
The homeless man glanced at the picture and looked away as if he’d seen a ghost.
“Well, I don’t know.” Chuck answered with a quivering voice. Victor saw the fear in Chuck’s eyes. Jack began to explain to Chuck with a more stern voice,
“He disappeared yesterday afternoon. We are looking for him. His parents are worried sick about him. He might have been abducted.”
“Abducted? I don’t know nothing!”
“Come on, Chuck. You must know something. Why else would you be shaking?” Jack firmly grabbed Chuck’s arms and shook him with force.
Chuck said, “I don’t know nothing! I’ve never seen the boy.”
“Are you sure?” Jack said impatiently.
“Well… I used to see him. You know, while I’m resting behind the garbage bins in the alleyway. The boy usually waits for this punk. A bad guy… a punk who sells drugs. Selling that shit to innocent kids! They should be locked away…”
Chuck started to get agitated. Victor spoke calmly,
“But you didn’t see him yesterday afternoon, is that right?”
“Well, I’m not sure. I don’t want to talk about it. You won’t believe me.” Chuck was getting nervous. Victor reassured him that they were there to listen and nothing more.
“You know I was having a nap as usual and thought I heard something. I opened my eyes and I saw a boy… At least I thought I did. But you know, he disappeared suddenly. Poof! Right in front of my eyes… So I wasn’t sure I was just dreaming or actually saw the boy… I don’t know.” His body began to shake violently.
“Chuck, are you alright?” Victor said with concern in his voice.
“Well… I thought I saw a light - you know, one of those bright lights. Ones you see in a movie or something. Yeah, one of those lights that comes from the sky. So bright, almost blinded me. I thought it was an alien, you know. I got so scared, almost pissed myself.”
“Was that the time the boy disappeared?” Victor asked.
“Yeah, after I saw the light the boy was gone. Poof, just like that.”
“Poof, just like that? Jack repeated incredulously.
“Are you sure little green men didn’t take him?”
“I didn’t want to say anything. I knew no one would believe me. They all think I’m crazy enough already. I’m NOT crazy, you know! Don’t tell anyone what I said about the light. I don’t need any more trouble around here.”
“Relax this is between us. By the way, who is this punk who tried to sell drugs to the boy? Do you know his name?” Victor asked.
“I don’t know. He showed up a few minutes after the boy disappeared, you know…”
“He was there, too? Perhaps, he saw what you saw… the light?” Victor asked again.
“I really don’t know if he did.”
”Can you tell us about this drug dealer?” Jack asked this time.
“Well, one time this punk was taking a leak on my nest. So I yelled at him. Then he beat me up till I bled. I thought I was going to die… That bastard! He should be locked up.”
“What does he look like? Is he tall? Small?” Jack continued to ask Chuck.
“He is just about my height with short jet black hair – about 20 to 25. I think he’s Mexican. He has a slight accent, you know how they talk, rolling every “r”.”
“Is he heavy or skinny?” Victor asked.
“A stocky guy.”
“Do you remember anything different about him?”
“Well, he has a tattoo on his right arm. Some kind of letter in a foreign language… looks like a Chinese character. I remember that because I bit his arm while he was beating me up.”
“Thanks Chuck. Could we come back to your place if we need to talk to you about the boy again?” Victor said.
“Nope, no sir! I will NEVER go back to that alleyway. I don’t want no alien to take me away.” Chuck said remembering the experience. .
“Where can we find you then? Here around this time again?” Victor asked Chuck again.
“Well, I don’t know… I have to find the new place…” Chuck said.
“That’s okay, Chuck. We’ll find you as long as you stay in downtown area.” Victor said.
“That’s for sure. I will never leave Los Angeles. I’ve been living here for a long time. This is my home.”
“Good-bye Chuck. Thanks for the information.”
Victor said as he handed him a few dollars as a reword. Chuck hesitated while eyeing the money, but then quickly snatched the money from Victor.
“Get some food or something to drink.” Victor said.
Then the two men walked away from the park. Chuck looked both ways to make sure no one was looking at him and then pushed the cash quickly into his coat pocket.
(Writer's Note: Chapter 5 will be uploaded on Tuesday, June 16th.)