THE PANHANDLER WAS thirty-eight, young for someone hustling money on the street. He was at his favourite location, about twenty yards from the entrance to St. Catherine’s Church. People seemed to be more generous when coming from mass or confessions. He wore dark glasses, to give the illusion of poor eyesight and had crutches leaning against the brick wall behind him. He was sitting, his legs straight out with a tin cup between them, further enhancing the eyesight difficulty. A well-dressed woman stopped and dropped a quarter into his cup, causing a clink. He thanked her in a faltering voice, while musing, “Cheap bitch, I hope that quarter doesn’t bankrupt her.”
A man in an overcoat was walking by. He looked as if he might have money to donate. Instead, he pulled a shotgun from beneath the overcoat: twelve-gauge, barrel sawed off, double-ought buckshot, folding stock. The man blasted the panhandler’s right ankle off with one shell from the shotgun. People began running and screaming, including the man with the shotgun. Some passersby actually tried to help the wounded panhandler; others called 911. In the pandemonium, the shooter returned, minus his overcoat, hat and fake beard. He knelt next to three men who were trying to control the bleeding and pressed a business card into the wounded man’s hand. The card said, 'Paid in Full.'
* * * *
RUSSELL JORDAN WAS a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. He was thirty-four years old, six feet, three inches tall, handsome, well-built, dark hair, storm-gray eyes, a Cabo San Lucas tan and divorced. He worked out three night a week at his gym, preferring iron. Being handsome and divorced made him fair game as far as the women in his precinct were concerned. Technically the attacks were not homicides, but any of the three attacks could have resulted in death. The first attack had occurred in his division, so he had been assigned to the case. The next two attacks had also been perpetrated in Los Angeles and the other divisions had agreed to let Russell and his partner handle all the cases. Russell’s partner was Amber St. Clair: beautiful, fire-red hair, incredible shape, five feet, six inches tall, and practiced an alternative lifestyle, which accounted for her being single. Her flame-red hair was worn short, but was very appealing.
Today they were headed for the County Hospital to interview the panhandler whose ankle had been blown off two days ago. Since there had been a two-week delay between the second attack and this one, the lull had given them time to do their homework. They had a high school yearbook with them, along with copies of the class reunion information sheets.
As they got off the elevator on the third floor, Amber complained, “Every time I come here, I thank God for our insurance plan.”
Russell tended to agree, “The ambulance brought me here three years ago, when I was shot. As soon as I found out where I was, I had them dig out my insurance card and transfer me to St. Luke’s.”
“If this guy was hustling money and living in a shelter, he won’t have insurance.”
Russell stated, “He’ll be eligible for California Care, but he’ll still stay here.”
They arrived at room #335 and since the patient would be undergoing further surgery, he was the only one in the room. He was awake and sitting up and in better shape than they expected. The pain was under control and he had finally accepted the fact that he was a one-legged man, or in his case, a one-ankle man.
Russell introduced them, “I’m Sergeant Jordan and this is my partner Detective St. Clair.”
They showed the man their ID.
He looked at the IDs, but had seen too many lately to be impressed. “I’m Johnny Nelson. Two cops were here yesterday and I told them everything I knew.”
Russell explained, “We have their report, and we’ll try not to ask you any questions that they already asked.”
“I don’t understand. They thought it was some guy who had a hard-on for people trying to make a living off donations.” He appeared underweight and needed a haircut. He might have been almost handsome at one point in the distant past. Because he spent so much time outdoors hustling money, he had a rather good tan.