Rule of thumb: in the station house, you’ll find some brilliant cops, some dumb as dirt, and a few crazy as a fruit orchard boar. Some take the job just to tote around a gun, some to actually serve and protect, and others God knows why. I learned pretty quick, my new partner in Dallas Narcotics, Jackson “Three Hairs” McBride, ranked about halfway along the “odd-but-sliding-toward-crazy-as-hell” scale. Story was he only had three head-hairs, each a hundred feet long which he kept wrapped around in a snake whorl, then covered with a gimme cap.
When Thomas Rousseau, Jr. turned nineteen, he was three feet, four inches tall. Some called him a little person, some unkindly said midget or dwarf, and the street tagged him “Short T”, but anyone who knew him was careful not to call him at all. His Dallas County Jail card warned: “CAUTION, BITES”. But until he nearly bit off Muscles Muldoon’s balls, cops had never paid Short T Rousseau much never no mind.
Louisville Red, pimp, dope dealer, murderer, ran a joint out of a residence on Pennsylvania Avenue. Fat, one gold tooth, he’d never seen Louisville. The name had to do with beating people to death with a Louisville Slugger.
Short T was Red’s nephew’s illegitimate son by a streetwalker named Flossie. Employment prospects for a guy under four feet are pretty crappy. Even ordering at McDonald’s was an uphill deal. So he hung around Red’s joint, sweeping up, running smack, and occasionally taking a giant little-guy bite of the sensitive area of an unruly patron. Nobody ever screwed up twice in Red’s joint.
One day, Red commenced beating on a hooker with his Slugger, but she smashed his jaw with a bottle of muscatel. Only softball to a badass like Red, he got wired back together and resumed activity in mumble-mode.
City Council Person Cecelia Carberry summoned McBride and me to her office and threw a screaming, twenty minute shit-hemorrhage about Red’s joint, smack in the middle of her district. We explained the eight hundred other similar joints – far too many to do much about. Scratch that excuse. She grew too hoarse to scream and tossed us out. McBride wondered if his ass was chewed severely enough to qualify him for a disability pension.
That evening, Flat Trap the snitch, trotted down Oakland, grinning like he’d learned to read, and waved a dime bag of China white. Bad news for Red. This deal would have ended a bit better had that dimwit snitch mentioned Red’s jaw was wired shut.
Armed with a search warrant and too many cops, we kicked Red’s door – piece of cake. Then about twenty helper-cops charged the door, propelling Three Hairs McBride into and then under a table surrounded by pissed-off crap shooters. Louisville Red landed on the bottom.
A patrolman recognized Red in the pile, grabbed a leg and drug him free. Seeing the clenched jaw the cop responded: “He’s eating the damned dope.”
In the ensuing melee, Red lost a front tooth to a prying nightstick, but the wire held. Red mumbled about a broken jaw, but nobody listened. Then, narcotics cop Manfred “Muscles” Muldoon ambled in, skinny enough to stand under a clothesline and avoid rain.
Enter Short T. Riding a hit of coke, he plunged into the fray, teeth first, except he never got to the actual human-heap. As he passed Muldoon, basically a bystander, Short T acquired a giant bite of Muscles Muldoon’s package.
“Balls, balls, balls!” Muldoon shrieked. He bounced up and down like a Christmas jack-in-the-box making siren sounds – the electronic type, complete with barking coyote-whoops.
We pried Short T off, although Muldoon continued making siren noises. Order was restored, and somebody figured out the jaw situation. Always anxious to serve and protect, I safety-pinned a note to Red’s back: “This man has a broken jaw. He is not eating the damned dope.”
Internal Affairs would question why I didn’t pin the note on Red’s lapel. When the E.M.T.’S wheeled Red into Parkland Hospital on his back, my note was invisible. The rookie cop on duty spotted Red’s clenched jaw and reacted as he been trained in cop school: “He’s eatin’ the Goddam dope,” he pounced on Red.
Two karate trained nuns, in the hospital for benevolent work, sprang like crazed banshees to assist. The gurney tipped over and broke Red’s nose. “Give it up sucker,” Sister Gertrude had Red in a chokehold. The cop and the Divine Ones used several medical instruments as crowbars between the lips. None worked so well.
A young physician discovered and clipped the jaw-wire. The doctor then slapped Three Hairs McBride on his ass, metaphorically speaking. “You have a serious contusion on your forehead, Officer. You’ll have to slip onto a gurney so we can have a look. Might need a stitch.”
McBride’s big blue eyes assumed deer in headlights mode. Terror augmented by horror, he looked for a path to freedom. He half rose, hyperventilated, then collapsed onto the gurney, surrendering like a rented mule.
A half hour and they rolled McBride out. His tortured eyes reflected every sin of mankind for all eternity times twenty-seven. “They shaved my head,” he gasped groggily, clearly a man now ruined by sedation and hair-loss-shock.
“I’m wishin’ that sawed-off sucker hadda bit you in the balls,” Muldoon’s voice wafted over the emergency room curtains. “Then you wouldn’t be bitchin’ about losing no three damned hairs.”
“Five,” McBride wailed like a wounded water buffalo. “My God, all five.”
Gary Clifton was forty years a Federal officer (ATF etal). He published a murder mystery in national paperback and has short fiction pieces on Spintingler, Dumb Butt Magazine, and Broadkill Review with additional pieces pending on other sites. Clifton has an M.S. in psychology from Abilene Christian University.