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I patrolled like I meant it: if I couldn't stop the mob, I'd clean up the world one crook at a time. Amy left just shy of our third anniversary, the day I passed the sergeant's exam. She said she couldn't live with my anger.

"Have I ever hit you?" I said, barely holding it back. "Have I ever even yelled at you?"

But I could see her cringe. "I'm always afraid you're going to."

I celebrated my sergeanthood by punching the wall, yelling, "Why? Why? Why?!" and resolved to be a better cop, since I didn't have anything else. People always leave.

They sent me to Criminal Investigations, working robberies and petty thefts. Meanwhile, Homicide Sergeant Joey Velez was trying to convince the Fifth Floor that there was such a thing as organized crime outside of the movies, but no one wanted to hear the news.

Joey zeroed in on Bertrand Gautier, who ran a record label out of his famous blues club, Gautier's, Austin home of the greats: B.B. and Albert King, Arlo, Clapton, Stevie Ray—all Gautier's close friends. A rash of car thefts was blowing through town, and Joey was tracking a murder that happened near one of them when an owner caught the theft in action. "The witness said he never saw anything like it," he told me. "A dozen of 'em pulled the doors and windows, yanked the radio, hoisted the engine and hauled ass all in about fifteen seconds. You gotta admire that! " Joey connected the killing to the thefts and the dub: they were selling the parts and turning the money into coke they could have on the street the same day.

Joey put together a team with guys from Vice, Narco and Surveillance. He said he needed somebody on CIB to track the car thefts, somebody smart.

"Reles. Where's that from?" he asked as he drove us toward the club.

"My old man's family's from Galicia, but—"

He laughed. "Pueth, ereth Gallego! No tuve ninguna idea!"

I had to wait till he was done saying Buenoth diath and Thí, thí, theñor before I could tell him it wasn't Galicia, Spain, but Galicia that laid over part of Poland and the Ukraine.

He chuckled. "So you're not—"

"Nah, I'm a Jew."

"Yeah, I didn't think so." He flashed a grin. "You could be passing."

"If I was passing, would I tell you I was a Jew?"

"You might. Have to work on that Spanish, though, mi'jo."

"I took it in school, but, y'know ... I'm thinking about taking a class ..."

"You should." Long pause. "I never met a Jewish cop before. You're my first."

I said, "Bueno, mazel tov, amigo." He roared with laughter, a big booming laugh that made me laugh with him. It occurred to me that I could be friends with this guy. I didn't tend to make friends. But for years afterward, long after I'd learned enough barrio Spanish to rattle the homies, he'd find a reason once in a blue moon to turn to me and say, "Mazel tov, amigo."

We'd sit at the Magnolia Cafe and he'd jive with Paul the manager while scribbling crazy diagrams on napkins. A family tree: Big Bosses lead down to Gautier, leads down to car gangs and coke dealers. Or he'd draw a triangle: car theft to car sales to coke, like molasses to rum to slaves. Every time it was a new diagram—lineage, circles, 3-D scrawls that cut across time—but once in a while he'd point to a spot where a name was missing and say, "This-is the guy we need."

We started hanging around Gautier's club. Joey "bumped into" Gautier a few times and they became pals. Gautier sold him grams of coke, like a pal. One weeknight we were in there and a local group was on the bandstand, five guys with short mohawks doing Rolling Stones covers for a small crowd of about fifty people. Gautier stood at the bar, shmoozing with customers in his signature cowboy hat, string tie and plaid jacket. Joey was holding court at a table with a guy and some women, doing kamikaze shots. I stood at a wall scanning the room and pretending to watch the band.

So I was the first to see a heavyset, fiftyish white guy at the bar eyeball Joey and stagger across the room to him like a drunk with a mission. "I know you," the man said when he got within ten feet of Joey, with the unmistakable look of someone about to finger a narc. The comment caught Joey as he raised another shot to his lips and the smile froze on his face.

Later Joey told me he'd ID'd the guy as Rush Clayton, a child molester Joey had sent to Huntsville "for a little reverse therapy," transferred to county jail because of overcrowding and released after thirty months for the same reason. Joey didn't wait for details: he tossed his drink into Clayton's eyes and lunged for him, pops to the mouth too close together for Clayton to spit out the word "cop" in between. A bouncer the size of a truck grabbed Joey from behind and pinned his arms. The crowd tumbled away from them. Clayton climbed up on all fours, drooling blood, and spotted Gautier. I grabbed a wooden chair and flung it through the front window, alarm ringing a high C. The crowd rushed the doors so fast you could see the smoke swirling. Clayton made it toward Gautier, who flashed a look of horror back at him. I ran for Clayton and grabbed him, said, "Stay away from that motherfucker"—with a nod at Joey—"he's crazy," and pulled him toward the door, glancing back at a grateful Gautier. Joey was bloody in the mouth but just getting the better of the bouncer as Gautier made toward them to intervene.

Patrol cars rounded up the few drunks and stragglers who hadn't made it out of the parking lot. They hauled in Gautier, the bouncer, the bartenders, Clayton, Joey and me, the last three of us sitting silently in the back of the same patrol car. At Central Booking they split us up, let Gautier and his people go, and put Joey in a room alone with Clayton.

Joey went back to the club the next afternoon while they were caulking the new window in place. He brought a bottle of Chivas an an apology for starting a fight. Gautier, already three sheets to the wind, said, "S' okay, man, happens all the time. Wanna do some candy?" Rush Clayton left town that day and never came back. The next story Joey told a cluster of detectives was how I protected hid cover by throwing a chair through a window and beating the crap out of a child molester, not half the true story but it made me out to be a team player. And out of a barroom brawl a partnership was born.

We piled the evidence. Joey wore a wire, witnessed the deals and brought everyone in: car thieves, dealers, Gautier and—thanks to the RICO Act—everyone up to the hands-off guys on top, hiding their faces from the TV cameras as patrols marched them into Central Booking. Joey was a big hero: the press loved him, the Organized Crime Division was made permanent with Joey and me on regular staff, and the DA got reelected. When the DA was indicted for tax fraud eight months later, the Department decided OC needed to be "reorganized," and Joey and I got sent back down. Joey saved me from the scrap heap of a long-term assignment on CIB and mentored me onto Homicide—the squad's youngest member, first Yankee, first Jew, and, now with Joey gone, the designated outsider, the foreigner.

Mazel tov, amigo.

I cut under the interstate, a mortician's wet dream of fifteen-foot entrance ramps—zero to sixty in half a second or you're dead—separating East Austin from White Austin, headed south on the frontage road and parked under the highway at Eighth Street behind a minivan with a cute bumper sticker reading WHATS YOUR HURRY YOU'RE ALREADY IN AUSTIN! The municipal parking lots served APD staff and visitors, the municipal courts, Central Booking and, quietly in back, the office of Margaret Hay, M.D., the Travis County Medical Examiner.

That's when I first met Aaron Gold.


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