His coffee, resting on the dash, made little balloons of steam against the windshield. He watched them. Headlamps batted against the car and them died. His police radio coughed. He shook his head, bit into a raspberry-filled doughnut.
"Sitting on your hemorrhoids outside a doughnut shop has a lot of glamor, don't it?" the detective said. "You watch, tomorrow night we'll probably be rolling. Couple of Safeways and a Gino's."
A .38-caliber snub nose, department issue, rests on his hip, beneath his jacket. Shiny cuffs, also concealed, are hooked to the back of his belt. The hair is blow-dried, with a little flip up front. The heels may be a trifle stacked.
Detective Robert Good, Badge 3670, robbery, Metropolitan Police, flips shut his lighter. It makes a high, cold, finty sound: SNATT.
It is a little after 4:30 p.m., middle of the week. A four-door, flat-green Plymouth with a bad radio and an engine that likes to die at lights is gunning out New York Avenue. An hour ago somebody pulled a stickup at a motel. Strictly routine.
"Hell of a move," says Detective Joe Kacelik. Kacelik is Good's partner. He has 16 years on the force. He and Good drive in every day together from Waldorf.
"Huh?" says Good. He is drumming his fingers on the rim of the wheel. The other arm is slaked over the back of the seat. He is going 10 miles above the limit. He is popping bubble gum.
"Hell of a move.Over there, in the lot, kid with the ball. Goddam kid runs like O.J."
Forget Dirty Harry. In this naked city you don't close the case in 60 minutes minus the Betamax commercials. No slumming angels on big, rain-slicked, Raymond Chandler boulevards here. Heaters leave holsters about as often as tootsies leave room keys. You ride around all night looking for suspects, and you go see witnesses and nag them into coming to court, and you fill out endless reports, and you eat supper off a tray for $2.30 in the cafeteria of Greater Southeast Community Hospital. Once in a while you get your name in the paper. Then they spell it wrong.
"Stayed up watching that damn movie last night," says Kacelik.
"Nah. But Don Meredith was in it. I like that sonuvabitch."
Robert Good rose at 5:30 today. That's an hour later than he gets up when he's working day shift. Sometimes he runs around the block in the dark. Couple days a week, he has court. It's nothing for him to be away from home 18 hours at a pop.
"Spends a helluva lot more time with me than his wife," Kacelik says.
"No question about that."
Still, it beats selling shoes at Kinney's. It beats punching clocks. And when it's popping out there, when "you are making everything you see," there's nothing like the job. That's one reason Good likes robbery: over 2,000 reported armed crimes in the District already this year, he says. Keeps you hopping. Sometimes.
Kacelik: "Burglaries are dumb. Dead bodies are boring. Sex stuff is weird. I like robbery."
Still: There is a surreal, movie here, a cool that almost seems unintended parody: men with ice in their eyes, who seem to both know and not know. You might dismiss this cool as weariness or even boredom and find out later, when it counts, you're dead wrong. Don't be fooled by the way Robert Good slants against the back wall of an elevator, one foot slung across the other, letting out soft, tired, tight-lipped sighs. That's cover.
"I feel as long as you're cautious, as long as you protect yourself front and rear, then you've done about all you can," says Good. "If something's going to happen, it'll happen."
"And once you get -- I don't know if "scared" is the right word -- then you might as well go get some damn desk job," adds Kacelik.
Robert Good has been fired at only twice in 10 years on the force. That was enough. Still: It's no day at the beach when you have to go on a "turn-up." Both cops have been on plenty of those. You get a warrant, maybe a couple of "uniforms" to back you up. "Usually I go in with my hand on the gun," says Good. "Sometimes I have it in my hand. You just size it up. If I was going in some place where I was sure there were a lot of junkies, I might go in with a shotgun."
Their last turn-up was a week ago. Went in early in the morning while the guy was still asleep. His mother was hiding him. Piece of cake.
In a way, Good and Kacelik are like real-live cowboys who clean up on Saturday night and go to town to watch Glenn Ford play a version of themselves on a screen. What is their word for people who take things by force from other people?
"Bandits, we call them bandits," says Good.
"Or else crooks," says Kacelik.
The car is at Florida Avenue. A young woman is crossing the street in front of them. She has on a tan suit. She swings her hips and a briefcase. "Fox," says Joe Kacelik.
Another stoplight. Two dudes with crazy sky pieces on shuck past the cruiser. They grin. Do they know Good and Kacelik are cops? "Oh, yeah, they know," says Good. "Out in the suburbs, they might think you're Joe Blow riding around with a CB in your car."
The radio, as if on cue, has begun to squawk. "Hecht Co., Seventh and F, French. Subject has record of multiple felonies. My ETA is five minutes." Funny, it is as if neither man has heard.They have, though.
Because later in the evening, cruising 14th Street in a neon, narcotic blackness, looking for a suspect they don't find, Kacelik will say, almost blurt: "Hell, when I'm off duty and in my own car, do you know I'm afraid to go practically anywhere -- even the goddam Seven-Eleven, even if I'm wearing my gun? I just don't understand it."
And Good will say: "It's the radio. I think it's the security of the radio."
The car has slowed -- in the middle of traffic. Good whips a U-turn, across a cut in the median, across two lanes, then wheels into the driveway of a motel. "Attaboy," says Kacelik. Good parks the car in a fire lane, beneath a sign warning him not to.
Inside, in the lobby, some uniforms and a detective from one of the district stations are already on the scene. When Good and Kacelik arrive, there is unspoken assent as to who's in charge: These guys are in charge. They're from downtown, headquarters, CID (Criminal Investigation Division).
A man in a red-and-white polo shirt, maybe in his 60s, is sitting on the couch, talking loudly. The man's wife stands behind him, patting him now and then on the head. The man, on a cross-country trip, is telling how he was held up on the way from the second-floor garage to the motel elevators. Assailant got his wallet and some credit cards.
Later, out of earshot, Kacelik says: "Helluva hello from Washington." No fun to get a cold piece of steel nudged against your belly. Kacelik sits down with the man on a couch. The tough talk is absent. He is almost soft. "We were intending to stay through Friday," the man tells Kacelik. "I never had anything shake me up like that."
Good is upstairs, where the incident took place. He is wide-awake, still moving slowly, missing nothing. But this is a pretty open-and-shut case. "Problem with these things is second-floor access," he says, almost to himself. "We've had a lot of them here." He looks in an ashcan, stands rock-still for a minute in one spot, shrugs, heads for the elevator. Fingerprint guys will be over later, he says.
"A lot of this business is luck."
Robert Good is 33. He has been a detective three years. Before that he was a uniform. "I picked him for his record," says Lt. Jim Waybright, Good's superior. "He's smart."
His early years were military. He went to Ohio University for a year and a half, then joined the Marines. It was 1965. He went to 'Nam, spent 14 months at Chu Lai. "When I got there, it was a speck of sand. When I left, it was the size of a city." One of his jobs was stringing wire. Occasionally he'd get caught in a firefight.
He came home, gave college another shot. Didn't take. In the service a friend had talked up police work. Sounded okay. Washington's riots were over, and the city had gone on a national recruiting drive. Good saw an ad in the Columbus Dispatch.
"So I went for it."
"Got suckered there, didn't you?" said Kacelik.
Dark now, early evening. The two men are at their desks on the second floor of 300 Indiana Ave. They have come in to do some paper work. "Paper work," Good says, scissoring his fingers through his tie dejectedly.
The place looks like a cope shop -- or a set at Universal: sludge-gray desks shoved up on top of one another, pastel-blue walls, linoleum floors. Guys with guns on their belts saunter in, a few with their prisoners. One detective is quizzing a kid swathed in an enormous head bandage. Every chair in the place squeaks.
Like the others, Good has little space to call his own. On his desk is a carbon copy of something titled "Report of Investigation." Beneath the glass desk top is an Orioles schedule. On top of the glass are two small framed photos of his boys, Height and Justin. Taped to a wall: "Rights of the Arrested."
Kacelik is hungry.
"What you got, Joe? You're pacing."
"Nothing, I'm doing footwork."
Kacelik says he is going on a food run.
"You want anything, Bob?"
"Name it, Bob, I'll stop."
"I don't want chicken."
"Sure you don't want chicken?"
"I don't like Gino's."
Kacelik goes. Good talks about his family, away from all this. "My 3-year-old, he knows I'm a policeman. He knows I work in Washington and I have to go there. I might be in court a couple of days and not see him. He'll start asking for me."
And his wife? "Shirley's not crazy about it. She realizes that's what I want to do. She accepts that fact."
Maybe when it's over he'll get a little farm out in Ohio, where his dad lives, and settle down. That would be nice. Might even go back to college and finish up. His dad was always disappointed about that. Lots of cops, they do their 20 years and then get security jobs -- hotels, chain stores, what not. He can't see himself doing that, though. Too much of a comedown. Too much like spitting on yourself.
He talks about the job, the pressures to make arrests, get convictions. He doesn't take to this talk. At first he denies there are pressures, then says, yes, each detective has a rough 30 percent quota to fill: You've got to "close" 30 percent of everything you "make."
There's been only one case, a cab holdup, that really frustrated him. "It came back not guilty.There was no question in my mind. I watched the guy for a while afterward. Couldn't pin him. He cleaned up his act."
He looks down. His ashtray is full. "The cigarettes and coffee you drink all day are no good for you. The more exhausted I get, the more I smoke."
Pause. "Sometimes you wonder why the hell you're out here, beating your head against a wall, ruining your health, neglecting your family. Sometimes you wish you just had something to do, go do it, get done by 5 o'clock. My brother's got a job like that. Du Pont."
Kacelik comes back. He puts Good's order on top of his desk. The two men eat silently. They seem itchy to get back out on the streets. They rise and leave.
The rest of the night is a washout. A search for an address in Anacostia brings nothing. At one point, Kacelik hops out to talk to a uniform. "What'd he know?" says Good. "Nothing," says Kacelik. Later, though, they pick up a name of somebody they think they can tie to two Gino's holdups. They get the name by talking to the manager of a toy store. Luck.
They end the night in the parking lot of Amy Joy Donuts in Northwest. A kind of heaviness hangs between them.
"Well, we didn't exactly get skunked," says Joe Kacelik. "We got a name."
"Maybe we should be glad it was quiet," says Robert Good.
It sounds halfhearted.