Announcements: The Citizen’s Police Academy begins March 10th with nineteen students in the class. These participants will be getting a unique look into the inside workings of the Justice system from basic law enforcement principals to in depth criminal investigations. The last academy was a great success according to the students and we have refined the program to be even better this time around. The Sheriff’s Office will be announcing the next academy dates following the conclusion of the current program.
And now, on to our story…
One hot September night in Chinese Camp, Jim was relaxing in an above ground Wal-Mart pool behind a single wide trailer belonging to a friend who was doing time for Grand Theft. “How ironic”, he thought to himself, “my buddy got three years for theft and here I am splashing around in a stolen pool in his backyard.”
He smiled to himself and sweeping his hand across the scene in a grandiose gesture he said aloud to himself, “If you play your cards right Jimmy boy, some day all this could be yours.” Just then he noticed he wasn’t alone. Squinting in the semi darkness, he made out the form of his old partner in crime, Martin Leakey, standing there next to a rusted out swing set. Marty, a small, nervous man, who was always scratching some part of himself, insisted that everyone call him Ghost Dog. He stood there grinning at Jim and said “You should get out more often, my man.”
“It’s Ghost Dog, Dog, or GD,” Marty replied firmly.
“What ever Marty, what do you want?”
Marty pretended not to hear the brush off and said “I got this riding lawn mower I need to stash here for awhile.”
The fact that the mower was stolen and Marty was looking for a buyer was understood. Jim looked at Marty and said “What’s in it for me?”
“I’ll cut you in when the deals goes down man” Marty replied.
“Right, like I’m gonna risk getting caught with it here for fifty bucks” said Jim.
Marty fixed him with a weary look and said “Check it out.” Jim followed Marty around the trailer to the dirt driveway where an old pick up was parked. The truck was hooked up to a new trailer loaded with a brand new mower with a five foot wide blade. It looked like it might have been used one or two times.
“I want five hundred up front” said Jim, crossing his arms.
Marty held up a hand and snapped his fingers a few times. “Helloooo, who ever’s in there, tell Jimmy to come back now. “One fifty, that’s all.
“Drive away then,” Jim countered. “And you might want to steal a tarp to throw over that thing.”
“All right, three hundred but only half now,” Marty said.
“Deal,” Jim replied. They both nodded, they’d known each other far too long to bother with a handshake. Marty went to the cab of the old truck and came back a few minutes later with a plastic bag containing $150.00 in rolled quarters. Amateur, thought Jim shaking his head. He tossed the rolls in his car for gas money, and then helped Marty position the trailer and mower where it would be out of site among all the junk in the yard.
“Hey, write down your number so I can call you if we need to move this thing in a hurry” Jim said. Marty scribbled a number on a scrap of paper and Jim threw it in the bag with the coins.
They didn’t notice the curtains in one of the front windows of the house across the street, slowly relaxing.
Emma Saunders was seventy two years old and a short phone call later, Sheriff’s Dispatch had the information. When a Deputy drove by he noticed clean brightly painted surface under a tarp but not enough to tell what the object was.
After two days of Sheriff Officer drive bys, Jim was sweating bullets. He had already spray painted the mower flat black but he knew he had to get it out of there pronto. He called Marty and left message after message on his cell phone, and just about the time he was going to borrow a truck and haul the mower off himself, Marty showed up in his back yard again.
“Where you been Marty…”
“It’s Ghost Dog” said Marty, pouting like a little kid.
“Look Marty, Jim’s voice getting louder by the second, the cops are acting like there’s a donut shop in back yard, got it? We don’t have time for this. That mower is outta here TONIGHT!”
“Easy Bro,” said Marty, “I got a buyer down in the valley. Whenever you want to go, we’ll go.”
At 3:30 a.m. it was just cooling off to something like comfortable when Marty pulled out onto Red Hills road pulling the trailer with the mower on board. A tarp was cinched down on all sides making it difficult to tell what was underneath. He headed toward J59 where he planned to go south to 132, the tweaker route, in the hope of avoiding law enforcement. Jim decided that what ever happened, it would be best to be somewhere else. So, twenty seconds after Marty left, Jim pulled on to Red Hills road going the other way. Jim’s stomach began to unknot for the first time in two days. He slowed on the deserted road and held the steering wheel straight with his knees while he lit the last bit of a tiny roach, and glanced back into the rearview mirror. Way back there he could still just make out a glow of headlights. But as he watched, the faint yellow/white light turned to flashing red and blue. He lost his grip on the roach and it promptly shot down his throat causing him to choke, sneeze, and gasp all at the same time. His sinus cavities instantly filled with smoke and tiny bits of burnt rolling paper. He wasn’t sure what hurt more, the burning roach or the spasm in his throat but the gagging definitely interfered with his ability to drive. Before he could get control he plowed into a fence post and the car settled in a deep ditch. Even though he hadn’t been going very fast, his left knee smacked against the dash board and he limped away as fast as he could still gasping and sneezing out marijuana ashes. His eyes were so teary from his burning throat he almost couldn’t see the black and white Sheriff’s car go by with Marty in the back.
Knowing he couldn’t go home, Jim began limping toward J59. He was still trying to figure out what to do when he looked up and saw Marty’s truck on the side of the road. He looked in both directions… listened…nothing. He wasn’t sure why the cops had left the truck and the mower there but suddenly he knew what to do. The ignition switch had been missing for as long as Marty owned the truck. Jim knew all he had to do was touch two wires together and he could drive off to the valley, sell the mower, have a friend get his car out of the ditch and meet him somewhere, and come out of this with nothing but a sore throat.
Jim hurried to the truck and tried the doors, both locked. Having no choice, he picked up a hefty rock, broke the window, brushed most of the broken glass aside and slid behind the wheel. Small sparks jumped off the wires when he touched them together and the truck grumbled to life.
At the same time Jim began accelerating toward J59, a CHP unit was pulling up to his car, still in the ditch on Red Hills road. A Sheriff’s unit joined him and they searched the entire car while they waited for the tow truck to arrive. The results were very interesting. Marijuana, methamphetamine, hypodermic needles, OxyContin tablets, an electronic scale, burglary tools, a plastic bag containing rolled coins taken during a burglary the previous week, and a piece of paper with the name and phone number of a guy who was just arrested down the road, for possession of stolen property in the form of a brand new trailer and riding mower. Also, several pieces of mail with Jim’s name on them were found in the glove compartment along with a small family of terrified mice. It didn’t take long for the Deputy to put two and two together and he scooted down the road to where Marty’s truck was supposed to be waiting for the mower’s owner to come identify his property. He broadcast the appropriate information and shortly, all available CHP and Sheriff’s units were converging on possible routes leading away from the area.
Jim was having a really bad day. He was on the far side of Snelling heading toward Merced. And every time the old truck hit a bump, or leaned around a curve, fragments of broken glass from the back window worked their way a little deeper into his legs and cheeks. He’d given up trying to brush them away after several attempts, which only left his fingers bleeding all over the steering wheel and anything else he touched. He tried wiping it up with a rag he found on the floor but all the gas and oil in the rag made his fingers sting like wasp bites and he began whimpering softly whenever he saw a curve or a bump coming up. Just when he was certain he was going to die, the tarp came halfway undone, flapping loudly in the wind. He groaned miserably and pulled onto a shoulder of the road. Not realizing how badly his knee had swelled up, he jumped out and it buckled as soon as he put weight on it, dumping him on the ground in a heap. He sat there hacking up partly burnt flakes of marijuana and had himself a good cry. Eventually he pulled himself up, tied the tarp back down and was making his way to the truck when a CHP unit flew by going the other way. Jim turned his face away, pretending to be closely inspecting a tire. The Officer had seen that move before and as soon as Jim saw his brake lights come on he started limping as fast as he could into the field hoping to hide in the brush. He didn’t see the partially downed barbed wire fence until it was hopelessly tangled around his legs. He twitched twice trying to stay balanced but slowly toppled like a bowling pin and hit the ground with a defeated squeak.
When it was all said and done, Jim faced charges for Possession of Stolen Property-for the mower, trailer, and rolled coins, Burglary-for breaking into the locked truck, Grand theft-for stealing the truck, Conspiracy-for acting in collusion with Ghost Dog Marty, three counts of Vandalism-for breaking the truck’s window, spray painting the mower, and knocking down a fence post, Leaving the Scene of a Collision, Driving with a Suspended License, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and a Probation Violation.