Thursday, November 20, 2014

This Illegal Immigrant Thing by W. Hock Hochheim

Immigration and Texas...with the latest news, I thought I would print this true story from one of my books...

“Units 61, 63, 69 report into the squad room,” the dispatcher said, interrupting the 3 am calm of a Fall, midnight shift, circa 1977. 

“10-4,” as unit 64, I answered. This was new to me. Several units called in like this? Such a thing not mentioned in the squad room briefing as a meeting or training? This was still my first year at this job in 1977, so maybe everything was still new to me? I drove across town, parked and walked into the squad room as ordered. I did take notice of four large buses on the front parking lot of the police station. 

Our shift Sgt. Jacksboro and LT. Blue were in the room with about a dozen or so other men and women dressed in brown and some in black. Border patrol and Immigration. The Feds. 

Sgt. Jackson spoke up and said that the Feds were raiding several known illegal alien houses through the city and we were to offer support. He handed us papers with addresses on them. There were three houses just off the interstate in my south side district. I recognized them immediately. Very large, older wooden homes that we all knew housed  illegal immigrants from Mexico. Many illegal aliens. Lots of them. The Feds were gathered to arrest them and the buses on the front lot were for transport. 

The other officers present from our agency had done this work before. As a rookie in Texas, I hadn't, but I gathered the Feds would be doing all the heavy-lifting. I noted they were armed and badged-up. We all filtered out to the parking lots and I introduced myself to guys hitting District 64. 

“Anything in particular you want me to do?” I asked the senior agent. 

“No, podna. Not really. Just be there in case something happens. We like to have local law enforcement present.” 

I nodded. Frankly, anything that didn't involve any extra paperwork was just fine with me. I mounted my squad and drove over to the first house on the list, leading the way. I parked up the street and waited. Several black sedans slowly drove by me, waved at me and parked quietly by the house. Suddenly they all bailed out and I followed suit. No car doors were slammed. They flooded the massive house front, sides and back and I didn't quite know which way to go to help? I was a professional sore thumb.

Silence shattered! Doors where kicked in, some windows busted out. Yells. Screams. I heard all kinds of intro shouts, 

“Federal agents!” 


“US Border Patrol ” 

I had nothing to say to add to that. I dashed through the splintered and bashed front doors…. 

Once in the living room - well, it was once a living room - I saw quite a number of people were sleeping on the floor in makeshift beds. Mexican women screamed and children cried as they emerged from various hallways and doors. They were not shoved by the agents. Herded. Some men busted a move for a door or a window. One ran for the front door and I played a game of side-to-side tag with him until an agent grabbed him. 

    Honestly, it felt like I was in a science fiction movie where they rounded up the people for some reason, like Soylent Green or something. When you are actually part of the process, its different. Agents outside were still yelling.

     Everyone was handcuffed. Man, woman but not child. Long lines were formed. Two buses were called in on a handheld radio. I stepped out onto the yard. The buses pulled up in front of the house, making those old, big bus brake-and-stop screeches and gush sounds. The doors were shoved open by levers and an odd hue of yellow and orange lights came on, peppering the lawn and street. 

I was surprised at the long line emerging from the house. That many people were in there? Sleeping? Living? They were seated on the buses. A bus and a half of Mexicans. The remaining agents jogged to me and passed me.

One said, "the second house." 

Okay then, to the second house we go. I started my car and waited for the agents to get onto theirs and off we went. It was only three blocks away. The same game plan unfolded. The third house. The same again. I drove back to the station along with the last of the buses and agents. The diesel engines of the buses groaned and chugged on the city hall parking lot as the agents said goodbye to us. They climbed into their cars and drove off with the buses full of Mexicans.

I stood on the lot beside Lt. Blue who smirked at me and said, "they gotta' do that every once in awhile." He turned to the rest of us and said, "you all check back into service. Just fill out a general report for the dispatch card." 

We wandered back to our squad cars. It was about 6 am now, and a red sun was just barely cracking open a new day. I still had a few things to do before shift change. I got behind the wheel of my car, but sat still for just a moment. 

"That was weird," I thought. Three houses raided. Crying women and kids. Men. Bus loads of them. Carted off to Dallas, where they would be "processed." I had an idea what that meant. Then shipped back to ol' Mexico? Probably see many of them back in three weeks. 

Weird because about 6 blocks from the police station, about 20 or more illegal Mexicans would soon be gathering at well-known street corner looking for day work. Seven days a week. And nobody cared. Not us. We weren’t raiding them. In fact, people needed the help. Nobody would raid them. We would not cram them in buses every single morning for deportation. Not us. I guess not the Feds either, because they only came once in awhile.

I recall every other Texas city I'd been to has these "street corners" of Mexicans, like hitch-hikers waiting for a ride, they waited as construction bosses, or whomever drove by and picked up workers. Housewives drove by and picked out guys for landscaping. In all of my years, I can’t recall a single problem from them. 

In fact we'd see dozens of illegals every day, everywhere. Dozens and dozens of them. In stores. Walking around. Everywhere. Did we arrest them? Why not? 

The moral of the story, the thing must people wonder about the good ol' days, is why every cop in Texas, every cop in any border state and eventually in all 50 states weren't arresting busloads of illegal aliens back then. Just as the newer laws in states like Arizona suggests, you only arrest them when your paths cross legitimately. 

Here's how my old agency handled this. Back in the day, we were...unofficially...required to do at least "5 pieces of work" each shift. That is, let's say 1 ticket, 1 arrest, 2 crime reports and an accident report. Or, any combination thereof of any significant police activity. Too much of one thing meant you were obsessing about one topic. Well rounded was appreciated. There was no "mark," no piece of work for an illegal alien arrest on that basis alone. Such was uncounted and unrewarded. ANYONE could walk out into the street and fill a busload. We simply could not handle the enormous job and could not over-reward some obsessive officer who did 5 illegals a day to make their unofficial quota. So they simply went uncounted for. The operative order was leave them alone unless something happens that causes you to take such action (and even then, it didn't count as illegal immigrant arrest. It was an arrest, plain and simple for a charge). I certainly did not want to arrest illegals back then. Too much paperwork! You could investigate the immigration status. Sure. But such was used as a tool for some other goal. 

I think in the late 1970s the word came down from the Feds that we were to stop arresting them at all for those charges. At first it seemed like a temporary legal issue. But it never went away.

    I became a detective and discovered other related problems. Illegals were afraid to report crimes. Afraid to become witnesses. Fugitives fleeing to Mexico. Lots of problems. We had to work with the local so-called "coyotes" and then some of what might be called Mexican Mafia. These were area people who transported, hired and housed these people. Some of these guys were taking a percentage of their pay, selling them cars with never-ending was much like the old coal mine stories. 

"You load 15 tons and whatta ya get, another day older and deeper in debt." 

We had a local kingpin that owned and operated out of a barber shop. I'll call him Mayan Cando here. The shop looked like the northeastern mafia pizza parlor or some such place the Sopranos would operate. Cando had a gaudy mansion in town with very old school, Mexican design architecture. He ran the runners, the housing, the jobs and the justice. Made loans. Smuggled relatives in for fees. 

Sometimes he would be a big friendly help to us and other times, a real pain in the ass. I dealt with him on a very grass roots level. A personal level about Hispanic on Hispanic crime. Sometimes to chase down Hispanic fugitives. It was that classic, uneasy, creepy alliance. I never quite knew how I would be treated when I walked into the Cando Barber shop on a case. 

The USA has big problems now. Security problems. I want everyone to enter legally. I have no great solution to offer to this mess. I do like that expression, "tall fences and big gates." This would help some to clean out the underworld, shadow network that prostitutes these poor people. 

Today in my old city, the Latino groups have constructed a picnic grounds, park-like areas for those standing around seeking some morning, "pick up" work. This evolved through time. Like a fancy, covered bus stop. Almost daring the authorities to challenge the spot and the cause? It is an uneasy alliance. The cops drive by. They wave. We wave. The employers and housewives stop, hire and pick up. The Mexicans work very hard in the heat and in the rain and on holidays. It is almost like the people ranted about in the news are not the same hardworking, friendly people I know and we see and like in our neighborhoods everyday down here in Texas.

Yeah, yeah. I get the big picture. Yeah. It's important to remember, this ain't no "perfect union." Just a "more perfect union." One shot full of holes, trying to be more perfect. But anyway, in this old gringo's mind - and I not the least bit religious - if I said “God bless em all,” you’d know what I mean.

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Coming soon!

This book will be published in early 2015. Available in over-sized paperback and ebook.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Normal / Abnormal? Hey! What's wrong with this picture?

     Stay alert! Are you a bit sick of being told that? Be alert for rapists? Be alert for terrorists?

     "Oh! Ahhh, okay," the populace says, your squad says, your family says. Then you move on with your day, never really knowing what that phrase truly means, or what precisely you should be this alert for.  

     "No worries," some leaders say, "why you've been anointed with the "gift of fear!" That ESP! That magic Spidey Sense. You just tingle when you mingle with the scoundrel. Then the concealed bear trap snaps shut on your ankle, and you're in it. In deep. While our brains are natural spotters of the unusual and the abnormal, we need more help and hope avoiding the bear traps than just icky feelings about pending danger. 

     One of the key, built-in radars we have in life is spotting the abnormal. Spotting even the tiniest things that don't fit properly. Much, much has been written and studied about this subject in the minutest detail. Pages and pages of psycho-techno-jargon and pontification, and even just in the last 5 to 10 hears. I can steer you to these sources. You do need to know them and have them on your shelves if even for reference. There are thousands of examples and stories. To save time here, I will simply cleave it down to a few sentences. In our business, our world of safety, crime and war, we want to spot suspicious people, criminals and enemy soldiers/terrorists. And we need to spot their dangerous deeds and plans a forehand!

     First, you must become a student of the normal to be a spotter of the abnormal. You might think this is a new discovery by some self defense instructor, but its, not. It was explained to me, for example, about 45 years ago in the Army's military police academy. They ordered us to study the neighborhoods we patrolled, so we could become "students of the the obvious," so we could spot the unusual.

  "...become "students of the the obvious," so we could spot the unusual..."

      Your brain does a lot of this automatically and I have written about this neural functions in other blogs. The sub-committees in the brain that sends messages to the conscious. It helps greatly if you'll add some effort to the cause. Educate your subconscious and conscious of your brain. In shorthand, this time-and-grade-process equals the vital term - "experience." But either way, you can't spot the abnormal in its domain, be it the woods, the jungle, the desert, the streets, etc, and their inhabitants, without first being a student of the normal.

     Yeah, we have a low-running, radar system. But it's not enough. You must couple this with intelligence information you glean on what we call M.O. - the method of operation - of the people we watch for. Do this, and you are breathing life and depth into that shallow, unfulfilling term..."stay alert."     

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tarzan - Free.

      No one in this or any country is completely free. I mean free like the uneducated airheads chant about ... "freedoms." I mean free like Tarzan. Tarzan-free. All governments are a hair-splitting act of regulations and rules all existing on one big continuum from a hippy commune on one end on to a fascist dictatorship on the other. Abby Hoffman or Adolf Hitler. An evolution of give-and-take.

     A crafted presentation of advertising and psychology. And geography and ignorance is on their side. Many people won't leave their homes or local homeland, even under dire and deadly pressures and controls. Many people on the planet never travel 100 miles from their homes.

     If you love and/or believe in your country then be prepared to articulate why. Explain why and not just with platitudes and accolades. The US of A was founded on an intellectual metamorphosis. It has to examined regularly as such by educated people. I think we are running out of those kinds of people.

     Even Tarzan was Tarzan by choice. He left Africa, lived in England and decided to go back to Africa. If he just stayed in the Congo, he would not have made a choice. He is Tarzan by choice, by metamorphosis. Not by accident. This makes the educated Tarzan more interesting than just being the first guy raised by apes, chest-thumping around in the jungle. He' s a man of karma and distinction.


     Tarzan…by choice.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Haints! Crazy Mary and My One and Only X-File

     "Haints" you might say, is a deep southern, or east Texican word for ghosts and this story is my one and only run-in or brush-by with what folks love to tell - a ghost story in a hospital. Now I am skeptic. Totally. I am such a skeptic, I am skeptical of my skepticism. But many years ago I experienced something that I never had before and never have since.   

In a city I worked in, there was once a major hospital called Flow Hospital, atop a hill in the center of town. It reigned as thee medical place to go for many a moon. Both my kids were born there, when I got busted up as a cop, they wheel-chaired me around inside there. I have had fights with prisoners in there and outside on the grounds. I investigated shootings, suicides and killings in and around the parking lots. 

Huge, modern hospitals were built over town and Flow eventually lost business. Hospitals change owners, etc and Flow was suddenly shut down. Empty. Being an owned property by...someone or something somewhere else, these owners hired out our police department to work security in the empty Flow in the evenings and nights. Then eventually, after a front office was fully shut down, we covered it 24 hours a day.

It was, as we cops love, a solid, great, easy overtime gig. I signed up also and worked out there 3 or 4 times a month for years. We had to walk the three-story building, morgue and the basement- and well, at 2 am on a winter's night, it is a great setting for horror movie. But the gig was problem free. Between these foot patrols, officers brought in small, "camper's" TV sets. The office also had a VCR and TV and video tapes were kind of new in that decade but there were still movies aplenty to rent. I wrote a lot and practiced my karate katas (hey, it was the 1980s!) between patrol walks. It was an easy gig. 

Easy that is except for...Crazy Mary. Ahhh...that'll be the ghost of this story. Through the years, all the nurses and doctors knew about Mary the Ghost. You know, the classic story, someone died violently on the 2nd floor and they all had run-ins and weird stories about...Mary. But seriously, how many people died in an age-old hospital. A lot! Mary or somebody else died there. Anyway, the legend grew. Skeptic that I am, I totally ignored it...until something weird happened to ME!

One summer evening shift at the hospital, in required uniform, I was blissfully wandering around the place. It was still daylight. I walked into the first floor office, clicked on the TV and scattered the contents of my briefcase on a big desk.I had to work on my detective cases. 

“Hmmm, I need copies of this,” I told myself of some reports I had. I walked into a supply room right off the main office to a copy machine. Opened the lid, put in the paper and hit the copy button. Boring, right?

I was suddenly struck by a complete body, cold, spine-tingling chill which took my breath. Someone was behind me! It touched my back, but yet it didn't. I had to spin around. Instinctively. Reflexively. But as soon as I spun, this thing in the furthest corner of my left eye stayed right behind me, just over my shoulder, just, just...over my shoulder and a hair out of sight. You know I saw something, but didn't. Couldn't, but did!

I probably spun around twice in front of that copy machine. Twice. Like a goddamned idiot. I felt like one. Then, the electric feeling was gone. Flat gone. This chill, as fast as it came, was gone. "Well, what in the hell as that?" I said out loud one. No one?

I retrieved my papers and returned to the desk, trying to shake off that feeling. A feeling I've never had before and never since. I wasn't concerned or even thinking, even on the lowest subliminal level, about Mary or any haints. 

I continued to work overtime there for years, even when they shut the front office down and moved our headquarters into the empty basement emergency room. The idea of Mary was scary, but if she was there, she kinda' floated around and didn't seem to hurt anyone, huh? Even with her legend and my supply-room, circular pass-by, I walked the halls of that building in the dead of night and never had that feeling again. You would think I would be mentally predisposed to feel something after that, but no. It came only when I was utterly, completely, thoughtlessly un-predisposed to the idea. 

Years later, Officer Scotty Langford was wandering the halls at about 3 am, heard weird noises and responded. No haints that time! He single-handedly caught three burglars in the building, of which I was quite impressed with. Not just because he had to wrangle three bad guys, which he successfully did, but he was walking around and heard really weird noises in a suspected, haunted building. And like Scully and Mulder in the X-Files, Scotty pulled his gun and flashlight and went forth to investigate.

Now, I only have one file in my personal X-Files. This one supply-room experience. I am open to any explanation any pro in the field might have about that evening. Haint explanation? Dizzy from allergies? Ghost/no ghost? I have zero agenda. No dog is this hunt. It was just weird.

I think in six or more years at Flow, Scotty's arrests is the only time any of us had to take any action at Flow. Eventually they ripped the whole outfit down and I hear it was replaced with a University of North Texas dormitory. But, I wonder where Mary is? Does she still "haint" those grounds? 

Don't Even Think About it! The book. 

"This short story is an excerpt from this book. I know many of you through the years have seen this cover and read the hints that the book would be released "soon." Fact is the book has been pitched, in and out of contract, expired, promised too, stalled, contracted again and well, years go by in this dirty, damn, flaky book business. Years. I cannot tell you how screwed up the book business is. 
"Don't think" has now risen to the near top of the happening list again and should be coming out in early 2015." - Hock 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Some Gunplay and Some Fisticuffs! Night of the Mad "Pay-tre-ons"

Some gunplay and some fisticuffs!  Night of the Mad "Pay-tre-ons"

     Country and Disco, Rednecks and Hippies. Back then when I first patrolled the streets in the 1970s, be it in the Army or out, I …profiled… or rather nicknamed the guys I would see roaming the bars and restaurants at night. When the dancing parlors shut down each night, waves of “Country and Disco” folks would gravitate into the 24-hour diners. Some gravitated into our jails. It didn't take long to realize you were more likely to have trouble with a guy in dressed in black with a felt cowboy hat, than one duded up like a hair sprayed member of the BeeGees. Profiles in wardrobes.

     Some of the bouncers of the country and western clubs were rough and rowdy people and I have written some of their stories before. Like them or not, we got to, had to, work with them and they were indeed the first line of eyes and ears for a lot of stuff. They tipped us off, they pulled us out of scrapes, they watched our back. We watched theirs. As a detective later on, they helped cleared some cases, even murders for me.

     One night at the Dusters Club, two bouncers I'll just call Ralph and Randy were whistled over by a barkeep pointing to a loud patron, who was starting trouble. As they approached the disturbance, the patron turned, yelled and held them at bay with an open palm.

     “You stay outta this!” the man screamed.

     Ralph thought the man was drugged more than he was drunk.  

     “Say padnah, “ Randy said, “come on, we just need you to leave, hear?”

     “Fuck you, skunk!” the man declared, “I ain't cha padnah!”

     With this, the man pulled a big revolver at them from under his jacket and shoved it straight out, arm's length. Randy and Ralph ducked and backed away and the customers nearby shrieked and ran. But overall, this place is noisy and big and the shock wave didn't rumble through the whole crowd. The rest of the place just two-stepped right on by. Kind of like life, really, when you think about it.

     The man charged the bouncers swearing he would kill them. The barkeep called the police. And, that would be me. I was about 2 miles away.

     “Pay-tre-ron at the Duster with a pistol,” the dispatcher told me on the car radio. This dispatcher - not a mental giant - always mispronounced the word patron, calling them “pay-tre-ons, like they were some kind of an alien race. Our running joke for night shift when this dispatcher was on duty was, “wonder if we'll be invaded by the Pay-tre-ons tonight?”

     “10-4” I said, and of course, there was no back up available. Everyone was busy with their own Saturday night, alien invasions.

     As I pulled up onto the Duster parking lot, to my surprise I saw Randy and Ralph kneeling beside some parked cars on the parking lot, peeking over the trunks and hoods to the north, to a cheap motel beside the nightclub. They ran to a wall and motioned me over.

     “He's in there!” Randy told me as I walked up to them. He pointed to the motel.  I stared ducking down too because…I can take a hint.

     “Who?” I asked. “The guy with the gun? I thought he was in the Duster.”

     "He ran out the door, and across the lot. Ralph and I follered behind him. Come here,” Randy said and brought me to the corner of the motel. “He is in that room.”  

     "He's madder en' hell. He is on drugs,” Ralph said. “I swear he was gonna kill us. He's got a big-ass revolver. He pointed it at us and at half a dozen people at the bar.”

     He singled out the room window for me and I could see a light was on inside and there was a lot of movement inside. The curtain was partially open. I worked my way around the corner while staring at the room window for any action, then slipped down the motel's south wall, up the west wall, until I was right beside this window.

     This was an old-fashioned, cinder block constructed motel. Each room had a horizontal window with a sliding-glass, windowpane and a curtain. The window was partially open. No screen on the window. I peered inside.

     An angry man was pacing the small room, from the bathroom door to the front door. He was quietly cursing to himself, clenching his fists and waving his arms. On the corner of the dresser by the front door was this “big-assed revolver.” I pulled out my .357 Python, my own big-assed gun, in case he decided to continue his angry walk out the door holding that damn thing.

     I stepped back and saw Randy and Ralph looking at me from across the parking lot. The loud and busy Interstate highway ran behind them. I made a big circling motion with my hand and then pointed to a spot on the far side of the door, a signal for them to go up the service road and down the far said of the motel. I was all alone here and needed their help. (This was back in the day before God made SWAT. Nowadays, you know this type of simple thing could become a full-fledged, police parade today, but in those days, we had to handle stuff like this.) If my quick plan would work, I needed Randy and Ralph and they were itching to help.

     I watched the man pace. When Randy and Ralph got into position on the far side of the door, I got into mine. At a moment when the man was near the bathroom door and far from his gun, I reached into the partially open window, hooked the curtain and threw both and pointed my Python at him.

     “Police! Freeze!” I barked. Which he did. His eyes cut for his pistol.

     “No! Don't even think about it.”  

     Outside, Ralph tired to open the door, but it was locked.

     “You will walk over to the door with your hands up. You will unlock the door,” I told him in my most menacing voice I could muster. "If you touch that pistol I will cut you in half.”

     He understood that and marched over to the door. As he got close to his gun, I inched my pistol in just a bit more for accent. Yes, I would have cut him in half. He unlocked the door.

     As soon as the knob jiggled, Ralph and Randy barged in, in quite a double tackle of this guy right onto the bed. I thought the bed would collapse, but it didn’t. They immediately proceeded to pommel and beat the tar out of him. I stepped around the wall into the room and stuck his pistol into my belt line. I took a quick peek into the bathroom for anyone else. Accomplices. Beaten up girlfriend. Dead guys. Yeah, no telling. But it was empty this time. Meanwhile, the beating on the bed ensued.

     “Ok, ok, ok,” I said, trying to tone these guys down just enough to get a space to handcuff this guy. The suspect was busted up a bit by now, but way back when, which I still affectionately refer to as – “the good old days,” the jailers accepted and booked-in near-dead prisoners and never so much as offered an aspirin to them. Today they get new teeth, a manicure and a scholarship.

     Off to jail. Detectives on Monday morning would work the rest of this. Get statements. The guy, a Texican but an out-of-towner, had no prior criminal history. I charged him with possession of a firearm in a bar, which was a felony then, and for the assault of pointing that pistola at Randy and Ralph. Why’d he do it? Hell if I know. I just did my part of the job. As usual, I never saw nor heard from this suspect again. He must have plea-bargained himself a deal.   

      Yup, I never saw him again. Just a whole lot of folks like him. The world is full of these damn “Pay-tre-ons.” Its an invasion, I tell ya. The truth is out there.

Don't Even Think About it! The book.

     "This short story is an excerpt from this book. I know many of you through the years have seen this cover and read the hints that the book would be released "soon." Fact is the book has been pitched, in and out of contract, expired, promised too, stalled, contracted again and well, years go by in this dirty, damn, flaky book business. Years. I cannot tell you how screwed up the book business is. It is now risen to the near top again and should be coming out in early 2015." - Hock