Octavio Nuniez had his eye on moving up to Detective One in the Gang and Narcotics Division (GND). The department was plagued with corruption. Stolen evidence, missing cash, bribes, unlawful search and seizure, unnecessary use of force, and rape; it was a way of life well suited to a man who’d been pushed around and berated all of his life. His father was bipolar and prone to punching holes in walls. His mother was so steeped in depression medication that she didn’t recognize her own son. His extended family valued their sanity and kept their distance.
Everything Nuniez did to get an education, to gain acceptance as a recruit, to become an officer, he did without family support. There were times when stealing a TV or cash or someone’s stash was a necessity. He had to eat, and he had to live away from his family’s influence. His first bachelor pad was a closet with a hotplate.
With an unnaturally large frame and massive hands, routine workouts and steroids reshaped Nuniez’s bulging body into an intimidating fortress of muscle. It would serve him well for years to come.
Within five years, he moved into one of fifteen task divisions active in GND. He achieved Detective One in the Field Enforcement Section operating out of LAPDs Temple Street Rampart Division. He moonlighted as a bouncer at some of L.A.’s more notorious nightclubs, earning a reputation for cracking heads at the slightest provocation.
After three years of service in GND, he reached Detective Two and was hiding stolen cash and drugs in concrete vaults below the floorboards of his remodeled Silver Lake home, basking in the satisfaction of beating the shit out of street bangers and profiteering from warrantless night raids on stash houses.
As with all the task units, his unit came into contact with agents of the DEA, Los Angeles Intra-Agency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force (LA IMPACT), U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE), the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Department of Justice, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The GND commander handled primary interaction and negotiations with the Feds, but Nuniez was quick to identify agents that presented future opportunity for expansion of his illicit goals.
The most lucrative opportunity that awaited someone of his corrupt morality was getting inside money-laundering operations, the backbone of upper-level narcotics activities. Eighteen to thirty-five billion dollars a year was leaving the country illegally. The bulk of the cash was funneled outside the country through resident immigrants, easy prey for a determined detective or corrupt agent.
Nuniez developed a plan that would eliminate LAPD scrutiny, allowing him to muscle his way into the inner circles of foreign nationals that were facilitating the movement of cash into Mexico, while nurturing a working relationship with the DEA. To lay a foundation for his ruse, he beat the names of Mexican suppliers out of gang members, ran leads through the Records and Identification Division and placed the data into a private journal. Gang leaders had him at the top of their hit lists but feared his reckless abandon and determination. He didn’t send out announcement cards. If he arrived, with or without backup, there’d be guns and night sticks and bailing wire to deal with.
For Nuniez, the final step up the ladder would be to quit the department and hang up a shingle as a licensed private detective. He’d chase down the leads noted in his journal and use the information to foster relationships inside the DEA. He’d double up by establishing a working relationship with Mexican drug suppliers. The alliance would provide protection and unhindered opportunity for financial gain.
Celia Rodriguez’s first contact with Octavio Nuniez came during a probationary period “opportunity seminar” at GND headquarters.
Nuniez had scanned the room of officers-in-training and noticed the young, brown-eyed, dark-haired figure standing off to the side of her seated companions. He’d been around long enough that he could visually disrobe a female officer, freeing her body from the undefined lines of an oversized uniform. He liked what he saw.
During the meet-and-greet, he made his way to Celia, reached to shake her hand and flipped a Detective Two card that he palmed like a cheap illusionist.
Celia’s eyes rolled upward into her head. “Same shit. It don’t matter what department you end up in, the wolves will come crawling out from their hole when there’s a pair of legs around. Show a little respect. You’re twice my age.”
“Give me a break, cadet. A man’s not supposed to honor a beautiful lady when he sees one? What’s the harm?”
“It’s officer, I did my eighteen months.” Celia snapped. “Look, I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. Let’s keep it that way, José.”
“It’s not José, it’s Octavio. And maybe we could dull those claws a little? Coffee?”
Nuniez turned and headed towards a table lined with coffee pumps, paper cups and donuts. “What do you take in it?” he shouted.
“Asshole,” Celia mumbled. “Black, I take it black.”
Nuniez returned and the two shared burnt coffee and floating grounds.
“I didn’t catch your name,” he said.
Celia stared at the card. Octavio Nuniez.
“Well, Mr. Nuniez, this is what it’s really all about, isn’t it? I fuck the right guy and next thing you know I’ve got a promotion.”
“Who said anything about a promotion?” Nuniez inquired.
“Rodriguez … Celia Rodriguez.”
“Officer Rodriguez, the only thing that’s a guarantee screw around here is someone dishing out attitude. I’ve been in GND for three years. You’re probationary—you haven’t made P2. What’s the harm in taking advantage of making friends in the department? How do you think I got here?”
Celia felt like she’d overshot the pissing match. All across the room, cadets were interacting with members of the various task divisions.
“Do you have to be the size of an ape to make grade in this department?” she quipped.
“So now I’m an ape?”
They both laughed, the ice was broken. At least the guy was a straight shooter and knew how to deflect a punch. She extended a hand but refused to allow the physical contact to linger more than a couple seconds. Six months of training, ten months of probationary work, she’d lost count of all the times a male officer’s propositions started with a hand shake.
“I don’t know why I’m here. I have no intention of joining GND. Everyone on the street knows what you guys are up to.”
“Like attending meet-and-greets with rookies?”
“Fuck it, maybe you’re not on the take, but the buzz is seventy percent low-life, forty-five percent on the take and the rest are thinking about it while they’re out busting heads with zero consequences.”
“I didn’t think training was so thorough.”
“An officer of the peace. That’s all I want to be.”
“And who keeps the peace, baby? GND is dealing with the lowest motherfuckers on the planet. The guys we’re tagging will cut your throat the second you turn your back on them.”
“Why so hostile?”
“Because you’re young and you’re going to need friends on the streets of this fucking rat-hole they call civilization. Give me a call someday and I’ll take you on a ride through Toon Town.”
With that, Nuniez smiled and walked away.