The Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office will be starting the next Citizen’s Academy Class on March 10th 2011. Participants will learn from law enforcement professionals who are experts in areas such as narcotics enforcement, patrol operations, gang suppression, crime scene analysis, SWAT, criminal investigations, K-9 and many more. This is a unique opportunity to learn how the men and women of your Sheriff’s department serve you, and how you can serve your community. Applications are available at the Sheriff’s Office, Community Service Unit Offices, and the County website. Space is limited.
And now, on to our story…*
It was around 11:30 on a cold, foggy night when Charley Auerbach’s 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner rolled slowly into Jamestown for the first time. He took his time driving through town, looking right and left, at the buildings on either side of the road. Being from Los Angeles, he was surprised to see everything closed for the night and no one walking the streets. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected to see when he’d made up his mind to leave Shakytown six hours earlier; possibly a bunch of rednecks line dancing in the parking lot of the local saloon, maybe a few donut chomping cops hanging out at an all night gas station with Daisy Duke sitting on the hood of a police car, but this? He rolled down a window and was startled at the strange smells that practically assaulted his nose; early spring grass, sharp wood smoke, clean cold air, very different from the exhaust fumes and garbage he was used to. He had to admit he felt out of place and not too sure this was a good idea.
Lights came into view up ahead and he slowed to read the words “Old Dog House Bar” on the front of a low roofed building that had seen better days. Feeling a little more at home he pulled into the parking lot, aware that all eyes were admiring the tricked out Roadrunner as it rumbled slowly by. He got out and looked at the small crowd gathering and put on a friendly smile. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” he said to himself as he began looking for the kind of young impressionable types he needed to start his new operation. Pretty soon he was smoke’n and joke’n with all the night children and well on the way to being the new Mr. Fly.
After half an hour or so he took his leave, and in order to make a really big impression, he lit up a joint just before pulling out onto the road; the unmistakable odor drifting out ahead of him. He succeeded in impressing his new friends alright, but it also made an impression on the pair of Deputies sitting in their patrol car across the road, back in the shadows. And so, Charley Auerbach won an all expense paid trip to County Jail, got his picture taken, and spent his first night in captivity.
A few years and a lot of small time arrests later, Charley had earned a mess of frequent flyer miles at the jail and even he was smart enough to see his empire and therefore his chances for financial independence slip sliding away.
For most, the road to financial success is a long and anxious process. Lucky for Charley, he didn’t know this. He formed his plan, keeping it flexible like it said in the money management book he stole from a book store, set his goals, and moved forward. The first thing he did was upgrade to a higher end product; from marijuana to cocaine in this case, thus concentrating his earning potential and lowering his overhead at the same time. The next step was to locate a secure storage facility. He’d decided to rebuild the motor from his Roadrunner a month before and the result rested on an engine stand in a shack behind his…shack. What better place to keep his inventory? Conveniently at hand to better serve his client base, protected from the elements, safe from prying eyes; especially official eyes, and not even his friendly, helpful staff would think of looking there.
Being a little short on investment capital, Charley began building his inventory by procuring small amounts of product in little plastic bags whenever he could afford it, and secretly depositing them down the oil filler tube of the rebuilt engine, where they fell to the bottom of the oil pan. He kept a meticulous business deposit ledger so he’d know when the time was right to find a buyer, make his big score, and begin looking for a small Mediterranean island to buy. In order to speed things up a little, he let it be known to all his friends that he preferred Christmas and Birthday presents to take the form of cocaine; or cash, which he quickly converted to cocaine, based on the belief that inflation applied to cocaine as well as anything else, and thereby increasing his profit margin without any of those detestable mark ups. After all, He didn’t want to do anything that might raise questions about his ethics, it was bad for business.
During the next few years Charley struggled with many of the same issues any small business owner deals with, especially high employee turnover. He assumed this was because he offered no pension plan, medical or dental insurance, and no paid vacation. As a matter of fact, he didn’t pay his employees at all. He just took advantage of their friendship until they got tired of it and left. Not that he had anything for them to do except carry out personal business, like going to the store for cigarettes and beer etc. But one kid in particular didn’t seem to mind this. He was shy and probably a little slow in the head but extremely devoted and just seemed to like being useful. Some times it was overwhelming and he had to send the kid home only to find him sleeping under the porch with the dogs and spiders the next morning. Despite the fact that Charley could never remember the kid’s name, he’d turned into a fixture after awhile so Charley just called the kid, Kid.
Finally the long awaited day came and Charley bought himself a couple of loud Hawaiian shirts; in order to blend, and hopped on a bus headed for Southern California, in search of a buyer. He left the kid in charge and warned him not to make any deals, talk to any strangers, or sit in his favorite chair.
LAPD’s narcotics enforcement unit was clickish and difficult to get into. You had to work your way in and pay your dues for awhile; earning the trust and respect of the other Narcs. Detective Brad Neilson was the newest guy in the unit. He wore the very expensive, but very cool sunglasses, faded 501s and pointed cowboy boots. He’d grown the long hair and side burns, had the tan, the tattoos, and worked out twice a day with the other Narcs. He was pretty sure he was safely in but was still looking for that “really good bust” in order to make his reputation. He was sure he’d found it when one of his informants told him there was a guy in town looking to sell a lot of cocaine.
Neilson had his informant set up a meeting in a sleazy motel room just off Sunset Blvd. His informant, complete with recording device, brought the guy in about ten minutes late. His first impression of Charley was that he was playing dumb and that he was just a go between. But after a little verbal ping pong, he realized Charley wasn’t playing. Charley, on their first meeting, actually wanted to sell him at least a kilo of cocaine. He couldn’t believe it. This guy even said he was in a hurry and if Neilson didn’t want to deal, he’d take it elsewhere. All he had to do was drive the guy back to some place called Tooleeme, and do the deal.
It took all of thirty seconds for Neilson to get approval from his Sgt. to go ahead with the plan. He set up a second meeting with Charley to introduce him to his brother and sister, (actually narcotics officers) who wanted to come along for the ride. Charley quickly agreed; which made the all the Narcs think the guy was setting them up for an ambush, but they’d checked him out and Tuolumne knew him as a small time drug user who flew pretty low on the radar most of the time. So, several hours later, they were all East bound on Hwy 108 in Neilson’s car and getting close to Charley’s place. And that’s when things got complicated.
They had just pulled off the Highway onto a small dark road. As they drove around a blind curve, Neilson saw something come waddling out of the bushes right into the roadway. Never having seen a possum before, he slammed on the brakes and stared at the weird looking creature in the headlights staring back at him.
Things started to happen very quickly now and Charley watched it all, feeling as if he were just a spectator in someone else’s dream. He’d felt like that many times before but only when he had some pretty good drugs on board… this was scary.
Neilson didn’t notice when the car stopped abruptly, that his hideaway gun slid out from under his seat…but Charley did. And at the same moment in the back seat, Officer Janet Burton saw the creature in the road and knew her worst nightmares had come true. “OH MY Gahhh…” she screamed, pulling her feet up off the floorboard, “Its’ a giant RAAAAT.” Since she wasn’t really his sister, Neilson didn’t see anything unusual about yelling back at her, “Calm down Burton”…but Charley did. And none of the others were all that surprised when she drew a 2” Smith and Wesson revolver from an ankle holster and yelled “If that THING gets anywhere near me I’ll splatter it!”…but Charley was.
Now Charley actually believed he had a mind like a steel trap. He often told his friends this and the general consensus among them was that Charley’s trap had been left out in the rain too long and rusted shut. Even so, Charley realized he was surrounded by cops and he knew he had to get out…fast. The possum was still wandering around in the road and now four smaller versions came trundling toward it in single file. “IT’S REPRODUCING! Burton screeched, then much softer, “I think I’m gonna barf.” Seizing the opportunity Charley said, “Relax, it’s just a possum. I go get her outta the way.” He got out of the car and immediately ran back the way they’d come and then off the road into the brush and trees. Eventually, he made it back to the highway where he waited for the Narc’s car to stop looking for him. When it looked safe, Charley went to the phone booth at Circle K and called the kid.
“Yeah it’s me. Listen up; you have to come get me. There’s cops all over the place. Just drive up and down the Highway until you see me come out of the bushes. Borrow you brother’s truck or something.
Silence for a few seconds…
“Yeah I’m here. I was saving this as a surprise but I guess I’ll tell you now. I won’t have to borrow my brother’s truck. While you were gone I put the motor back in your Roadrunner. I haven’t started it yet but she’s ready to roll. I’ll see you in a few.”
Charley was running back into the bushes when he realized what the kid had just said. Frantically he ran back to phone booth and called the kid again. No answer. He was only a couple hundred yards from his place and if he went overland, he might be able to stop the kid in time. He started running and within a few minutes he came out on the long dirt driveway that led to his shack. When he was about fifty yards away he heard the unmistakable sound of a Chrysler starter as it cranked the 440 cubic inch engine over. It coughed once and roared to life ripping up hundreds of little bindles of cocaine and mixing it into the oil. Within seconds the oil pickup was blocked, the bearings overheated and the engine seized up. Charley sat down right where he was and started crying.
He was still crying when the Narcs and three Deputies drove up and took him into custody. Everybody seemed surprised when a narcotics canine alerted on the engine compartment…but Charley wasn’t.
* The story is based on actual facts however, the names and circumstances of the people involved have been changed to protect their privacy.