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Precinct 11 01 the b.., p.20
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       Precinct 11 - 01 - The Brotherhood, p.20

           Jerry B. Jenkins
 
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  “You’ll start with a meeting in Joliet with the chaplain.” Keller found a slip of paper in one of Wade’s file folders. “Name’s George Harrell. You’ll meet him at a Billy’s, the chain restaurant on the main drag there, heading into town.”

  “Been there,” Boone said.

  “This’ll be like a scavenger hunt. Get what you can from Harrell, and tell him enough to get him to sell Candelario on trusting you. He’ll tell you where to meet PC, if and when they’re both satisfied that you can be trusted.”

  Boone nodded, scribbling notes. “Then . . . ?”

  Pete Wade sat back and crossed his arms. “Then you work out with PC how we’re going to take down the leadership of the DiLoKi Brotherhood, the big three street gangs, and the Outfit.”

  “That’s it?” Boone said.

  “That’s not enough?”

  “We’re not trying to find bin Laden and win in Afghanistan too?”

  “I hope you still have a sense of humor by the time this is over,” Wade said. “You know this is classified top secret confidential. No one else can know a thing about this. No family or coworkers or colleagues, past or present.”

  “Really? I shouldn’t put it in my Christmas letter?”

  “Only your life depends on it.”

  “Give me a little credit. I got that. And I need to say, I appreciate your confidence in me, wagers aside.”

  “This could be a career maker,” Jack said.

  “Or a career breaker,” Pete said. “Any more questions before we get the chief’s blessing?”

  “Yeah. How does Candelario survive this?”

  “That’s your job, Boone,” Pete said. “I thought you understood that.”

  “No, I mean in the end, when it’s all said and done. We get everything we need on all these guys, everything goes like clockwork, and we cripple them by putting away their leadership. Normally a rat goes into the Witness Protection Program, but where are you going to hide a guy like PC?”

  “Good point, Boones,” Jack said. “You don’t. He’ll have to be overtly protected, not try to hide or blend in somewhere.”

  “That’s no kind of life.”

  “But it’s a life, anyway. He has only one other option, and he doesn’t want that.”

  “What else is in this for him? There has to be some sort of a deal. I mean, obviously he’ll get immunity from whatever’s hanging over his head. But what else? Anything?”

  “I’m going to leave you with all these files,” Wade said, “but here are some of his bargaining chips.”

  Pete pulled out several pictures of young Hispanics. “These are relatives of his, mostly nieces and nephews. Within reason we’re going to exonerate them and somehow get them out of the Latin Kings and Queens.”

  “That’s it?”

  “That’s all he asks. Well, and protection for the rest of his immediate family. He’s got a mother and some aunts and uncles he wants kept safe.”

  “Not a bad deal for us,” Boone said.

  “You kiddin’?” Jack said. “If this goes down the way we hope it will, it will be the best deal the Chicago PD has ever had.”

  The three passed Haeley Lamonica’s desk on their way to Organized Crime Division Chief Fletcher Galloway’s office. She glanced up only long enough to acknowledge them with a nod, and Boone had to wonder how much she knew about all this. He couldn’t imagine she would want to be burdened with even one detail of it, and yet it seemed inconceivable that in her role she would have no knowledge. Problem was, he couldn’t ask. If she was aware, at some point the brass might ask if Boone had ever broached the subject with her. And if she was not aware, he would violate the code of silence to mention it.

  Despite having an office just down the hall from the chief, Boone had seen Fletcher Galloway only in passing during the whole time he had been with Organized Crime. It did strike him, however, that he had never seen the man in anything but his formal and heavily decorated uniform. Boone didn’t know whether a chief was required to dress that way on duty or if Galloway simply preferred it. He thought he had seen other brass in business suits occasionally.

  Galloway was tall and thin, in his late sixties. He reminded Boone of an older version of his own father. The man stood to greet the three, then pointed to chairs around a conference table in his office. He spoke softly as if he expected them to pay attention.

  “Your reputation precedes you, Detective Drake,” he said. “Stellar service in the face of deep personal tragedy.”

  “Thank you, sir.”

  “Thank you for taking on this assignment. I’m assuming from your presence that you have agreed.”

  “That’s affirmative, sir.”

  Galloway turned to Keller. “You going with the cell phone setup, Jack?”

  “That’s our hope, though we have not discussed that with Drake yet.”

  Galloway stood suddenly, causing the others to do the same. “I’d better let you get back to it, then. Thanks again, Drake, and I’ll look forward to being kept up to date.”

  Not knowing how late his meeting would go with Chaplain Harrell, Boone headed home early in the afternoon and ran through what was to become his daily routine. He worked out, prayed, and read from both his devotional book and his one-year Bible. Wearing thick-soled shoes, jeans, an untucked flannel shirt, and a heavy winter parka, Boone strapped on an ankle holster and set out, briskly walking the six blocks to the parking garage.

  There he found a nine-year-old Chevy with a lot of wear and junk in the backseat and on the back shelf. Knowing how the CPD worked, this would be an impounded vehicle whose owner was doing time somewhere. And the car would have had all its invisible needs met to a T by the department mechanics. It would have healthy tires, shocks, struts, transmission, electrical system, and be freshly lubricated and tuned. It only looked like a junker.

  Settling into rush-hour traffic, Boone had a sudden urge to call Haeley and just talk. He resisted the temptation; he didn’t want to blow whatever chance he might have had to establish a relationship, even if it was destined to be merely a friendship.

  Instead he called George Harrell and settled on where they would meet inside the restaurant. “Nobody ever wants the booth back by the kitchen,” Harrell said with a Southern lilt. “So look for me there.”

  The traffic was heavier and the drive farther than Boone had anticipated, to the point where as he was pulling in, Harrell was calling to see if he’d gotten lost. “That would give you a real sense of confidence, wouldn’t it, sir?”

  Harrell chuckled. “Well, I was gonna say . . .”

  The chaplain didn’t rise from the booth when Boone finally approached, but he reached with a long bony arm to shake hands. He reminded Boone of a carpenter from the church he grew up in. With a lined, chiseled face, Harrell looked to be pushing seventy, but his crew cut was still dark.

  “Hungry?” he said. “This place is all right if you like big, unhealthy portions.”

  “Sounds perfect,” Boone said, despite that he had been on a healthy eating regimen for months.

  “I recommend the meat loaf. Comes with mashed potatoes scooped with an ice cream scooper, dark gravy, and old-fashioned white bread and butter. The beans are canned, almost gray, and probably lethal, so it’s your call on those.”

  Boone liked the man already. He was sitting there with a cup of coffee, and when the waitress came to refill it, she asked if Boone wanted any.

  “Coke,” he said.

  “Man after my own heart,” Harrell said. “Caffeine or sugar, I say go for the poison straight up. And you goin’ with my recommendation?”

  Boone nodded, and Harrell ordered two meat loaf dinners.

  While they waited, Harrell got straight to the point, leaning forward and nodding for Boone to do the same. “Now, listen,” he said, “they tell me you’re a Christian man. Can I take their word for that?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “When the food comes, I’ll say grace, ’cause folks round here know
who I am and it won’t look out of the ordinary. For all anybody knows you’re some friend or relative. I reckon you need to hear my side of this story, but then you’re on your own, and leave me out of it.

  “That’s important to me, ’cause I’m coming up on retirement and the wife and me want to get out of Illinois and enjoy ourselves somewhere that costs less to live. I been in this game a long time, so I know danger when I see it. You don’t need to be telling me how bad this thing could get.

  “Now, I want you to know I’ve been played and conned by so many inmates over the years that I’ve got a 360-degree bull detector. Past decade, I don’t think a one of them has pulled a thing over on me, though they keep tryin’, you follow?”

  “I do.”

  “I’ve had gangbangers show up for chapel a lot, and I can usually tell within five minutes what their deal is. Best-case scenario is that they’re scared out of their minds, know their days are short, and want to get back to their faith or try it for the first time. Then you’ve got the ones who think something religious is going to look good on their record. Worse-case scenario is somebody showing up because someone he’s after comes to chapel thinking he’s going to be safe there. I try to assure safety, but we’ve had violence. If somebody’s out to kill somebody, there’s enough opportunities.

  “I don’t get too many Hispanics because most of ’em, if they’ve got any church background at all, it’s Catholic. And they got their own chaplain. Good guy. I like him. But like I say, I don’t get too many of ’em. Well, one morning, who shows up but Pascual Candelario himself? Even I was scared. You ever see this guy?”

  “Only in pictures.”

  “Biggest Mexican I ever saw. Goes about six-six and three hundred pounds, tattoos telling his whole history. Bald with ink around the eyes, tiny crosses encircling his neck—I guess one for each murder—and every gang symbol and image you can think of on his forearms and hands. Besides all the Latin King stuff with the crowns and lions and such, he’s got the DiLoKi Brotherhood symbol near his eyebrows and a permanent teardrop.

  “And a scowl? This guy looked like he’d rather tear you in two than look at you. Well, we had maybe fifty or sixty guys for chapel that morning, and PC plants himself dead center of the second row, arms crossed, staring straight at me. I have a simple little routine each week where we’ll stand and sing a couple of choruses, have testimonies and prayer requests, and then I do a short message. Well, PC doesn’t stand when everyone else stands, and he has no interest in sharing a chorus book or looking on at one of the Bibles we issue. In fact, he won’t even pass stuff down the row.

  “The place was quieter than I’ve ever seen it, and if there was a guy in there who didn’t know PC was among us, I’d be surprised. Some left before we hardly got started. The singing was quieter, the testimonies and prayer requests shorter, and I admit I got right on with my part of it too. I don’t know if I looked as scared as I was. I’ve learned to hide it pretty good. But I saw a lot of terrified faces that morning, every one of ’em wondering if he was the reason the king of the DiLoKi himself was there.”

  George Harrell quieted when their meals arrived. Then he bowed his head and said, “Lord, thanks for this and please protect us. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

  The chaplain began eating quickly. Boone said, “Take your time, Reverend. I’m in no hurry unless you are.”

  “Nah, force of habit, and I don’t want to keep you. Already told the wife I’d be late.”

  “Then slow down and enjoy.”

  Boone found the meal delicious but so heavy that he ate only half of it—eschewing the beans at Harrell’s suggestion—and passed on dessert while urging the chaplain to have some. And he did. A huge piece of cherry pie à la mode. Boone almost wished he still had that kind of an appetite.

  “That’s really kinda awful,” Harrell said.

  “What, the pie?”

  The man nodded but finished it anyway. “Not sure what’s wrong with it. Not spoiled, but old, you know? Like me, I guess.”

  When the waitress came by again, Harrell said, “You got any more of that pie?”

  “Why, yes I do!”

  “Well, you’d better throw it out.”

  Harrell roared at that one, and when the waitress looked horrified, he assured her it was probably all right but just didn’t sit well with him. She offered to take it off the bill, but he said, “No, no. I was able to force it down, wasn’t I?”

  Boone found the whole exchange puzzling, and Harrell must have noticed. He shook his head. “Sorry, but I gotta keep things light outside the joint. Pretty depressing in there, day after day, year after year. In a lot of ways we correctional employees are in prison too, you know?”

  “I can only imagine.”

  “Well, take it from me.” Harrell maneuvered his rangy frame till he was sitting sideways in the booth, his feet jutting into the aisle. “Anyway, I got Pascual Candelario himself in chapel, and we’re all on edge. So it’s finally over and everybody’s startin’ to leave, except for the two or three guys who help me pick up the chorus books and Bibles and fold the chairs. Only PC says to them, ‘I got this,’ and they immediately take off. Now there I am, alone with him. Just terrific.”

  “What’re you thinking at this point?”

  “Well, I don’t know what to think. I say, ‘Thanks for your help, man.’ He says, ‘No problem,’ and I have to admit, I was kind of stunned by his tone. I mean, I had never heard him speak before, but you see a guy that huge and you know his reputation and all, and you assume he’s gonna sound scary, right? But he sounded gentle.”

  “For real?”

  “Gave me courage. I said, ‘To what do we owe the pleasure of your presence this morning?’ That made him smile. He said, ‘My presence gave you pleasure, man?’ Well, he’d caught me, and I had to laugh. That really seemed to amuse him, because a guy like that is certainly aware of how people respond to him. It broke the ice.

  “I said, ‘Are you interested in the things of God?’ He nodded, shy-like. I said, ‘Well, you came to the right place, unless you’d be more comfortable at Mass.’ He said, ‘You tryin’ to get rid of me already?’ I assured him I was not and that if he wanted to join us, he was certainly welcome. He said, ‘Wonder what that’ll do to attendance.’”

  “So PC is that engaging, huh? Doesn’t sound scary at all.”

  “Oh, I was still scared, and I was hoping he wasn’t really planning on becoming a regular. Which he wasn’t. He looked around and asked if we could talk in private. I said sure, but I wasn’t excited about it. I took him into my office, which fortunately has a security camera and a panic button. ’Course a guy like that coulda broke my neck and had me dead before anybody came to help, but I’ve always known the risks of a job like mine.”

  “I’m dying to hear what he told you.”

  “And I’ll tell ya, at least the basics. But you should hear most of it from him. It’s quite a story, and you’ll be as intrigued as I was. Bottom line is he was raised dirt-poor in Guadalajara, his dad died when he was young, and the rest of the family somehow found their way to the States and migrated to Chicago. He got involved in the Almighty Latin King Nation when he was pretty young, committed his first murder as a teenager.”

  “Wow.”

  “Well, it was blood in and blood out, you know? If you want in, you’ve got to shed blood, and if you want out, you’re gonna shed some of your own. Came up through the ranks. As he got bigger and stronger and had no qualms about murdering his rivals, he became the most feared gangbanger in the city.”

  “That’s pretty much common knowledge.”

  “I know, Detective, and like I say, I want you to get the details from him. But the bottom line is that he was raised in a Christian home. Maybe not Christian in the way you and I think of it, but they were sort of outcasts in their own community because they weren’t Catholics. They weren’t traditional evangelicals either, more charismatic or Pentecostal. His mother, he says, was into speaking i
n tongues and healing and all that, and while Pascual turned his back on church, he remembered what he was taught about being saved.”

  “It obviously didn’t affect his life.”

  “No, it didn’t. Broke his mother’s heart. Anyway, you know several years ago they finally got him on a laundry list of lesser charges, and he gets sent up. He’s still running things from Stateville and gangbanging even inside, then comes up with the idea of the DiLoKi Brotherhood. It just makes him bigger and more powerful and more feared than ever. The DiLoKi are open to just about everybody, and you’re either in or you’re in trouble.

  “But if you can believe him—and frankly at first I didn’t—he says his conscience started working on him because of the constant letters and visits from his mother, telling him she and her little church were praying for him. In every letter this little lady spells out the gospel, how he can repent of his sins and be saved from hell. Funny thing was, he says his motto used to be—you know, to his fellow gangbangers—‘Let’s all go to hell together.’ He really believed that was what was going to become of them. They didn’t care about anything or anybody, and they weren’t afraid to die. They just figured it was inevitable.”

  “So he finally decided he was afraid of hell?”

  “You know, I never gathered that from him. I don’t see this as a deathbed conversion or something to make things easier for him in the future. He tells me that he finally waited till he knew his cellmate was asleep and nobody was watching, and he knelt by his bunk and prayed the prayer. Asked forgiveness for all the murders—would you believe more than twenty?”

  “We had him down for twelve or thirteen.”

  “He tells me close to two dozen. And he asked Jesus to come into his life and save him.”

  “And you believe him.”

  “I told you, at first I didn’t. I know finding Jesus is a common ploy for the worst of these guys, and I was looking for all the holes in the story. I know God can save even the worst of sinners if they are sincere, no matter what anybody else thinks about how easy and convenient it is for a multimurderer to get assured of heaven. The reason I came to believe PC is because of how conflicted he still was, still is.”

 
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