Flashback: Chapter 4: The Briefing

Chapter 4: The Briefing
by MJ

November 5, 1984: 1205

He hadn’t been sure what to expect.

They had assured him the detectives in Vice were dedicated, hard working, determined to see their cases to the bitter end, no matter how long it took or how much personal pain it caused them. If this was true, then Jorgensen had been right when he had said that the Miami: Vice Division had functioned well despite the lack of discipline. The “glue” that held them together must be
very strong.

Just as Trudy had told him, they were all there, assembled in the conference room and waiting. Trudy and the other woman, Gina Calabrese, looked up and smiled slightly when he entered, but no one else bothered to acknowledge his presence.

Stan Switek and Larry Zito had the good sense to look away, embarrassed by the poor impression they knew they had made earlier that morning. Ricardo Tubbs seemed preoccupied with a book of mug shots and even Crockett managed to avoid eye contact by making a big deal out of putting out his cigarette in the ashtray in front of him.

Martin ignored the cold reception. “Let’s begin,” he said quietly.

Trudy and Gina’s case was the opener. It involved a kiddy porn ring that had been working the tourists registered in the most luxurious Miami Beach hotels. They had already established contacts, and were convinced their undercover identities had been accepted, allowing them to be part of a buy that involved importing sexually explicit videotapes from a European source. The plan they had was a good one and both women seemed confident they would succeed in wrapping up the case within the week.

Stan and Zito were the surveillance experts. Although they acted like two overgrown adolescents, they had no difficulty impressing Castillo with their skills. At the moment, they were helping Gina and Trudy obtain evidence for their case and they played back a tape of Gina meeting with a Mr. Jordan, the porn king’s second in command.

“Had that mic in Gina’s hair, right here,” Stan boasted, pointing to a spot behind Gina’s ear. “Blended in real nice. Picked up the whole conversation, too.”

Zito looked over at Stan encouragingly. “Yeah, that was a good one, Stan.”

The case Sonny and Rico were working on involved the racketeer, Al Lombard. He had his sticky fingers into every sort of illegal activity but as soon as an investigator got close to nailing him, he always managed to slip away.

Sonny knew his suspect well enough to be painfully aware of Lombard’s connections. But this time,
he had been hoping to tighten the screws. Martin heard the evidence that he and Rico had gathered so far. It was apparent that while Sonny talked, everyone listened. Martin sensed the respect the squad had for him; saw the admiration in their eyes.

Sonny told them how he and Tubbs were on routine surveillance the day before, listening to a local bookie work the phones in his office when they saw a young woman, Barbara Carroll, get roughed up by a big lug named Rusack. After they broke in and arrested him, they learned he worked for a loan shark named DeMarco, one of Lombard’s men.

“She got behind in her payments and DeMarco took her husband’s tools as payback. So now we have a direct path to Lombard, but the trouble is, Barbara is reluctant to press charges. Fear of reprisal, I guess…”

Castillo waited for Sonny to pause before asking him a question.

“How well do you know this woman, Detective, this Barbara Carroll?”

“We went to school together. We also went out together for a while. But, that was a long time ago.”

“And you’re sure you can separate yourself from that relationship?”

Sonny seemed annoyed. “It won’t be a problem, Lieutenant. I know how to handle it.”

Castillo glared a warning in Sonny’s direction. “Be sure that you do.”

Then he looked up at the others. “That will be all. Thank you, everyone.”

One by one, they stood and began to slowly file out of the room.

“Phone for you, Sonny,” one of the secretaries called out just as Sonny sat back at his desk.

“Yeah, this is Crockett,” he growled into the receiver. He listened to a voice on the other end for a moment and then cursed softly under his breath. Then, pushing himself up, he pulled his jacket from the back of his chair and headed for the door.

“Hey, man. What about lunch?” Rico shouted after him. “Stick around! We’re gonna order Chinese!”

“Not this time, Rico. I’m on my way to Al Lombard’s pool club. Today, I’m having lunch with a slime ball by the name of DeMarco.”

Castillo watched Crockett as he stormed out of the office. “There’s a fire in him,” he mused.

Then he thought back to the briefing. So far, he liked what he saw. These were good people, a little rough around the edges and undisciplined as hell… but innovative and full of heart. They had experience and talents that were invaluable… they worked effectively as a team. He appreciated the caring they showed for each other… he admired their loyalty.

He smiled.

And there was no doubt in his mind that it was Crockett who held them all in the palm of his hand. Infuriating, rude, stubborn, arrogant, impulsive, unorthodox… but also talented, intelligent, charismatic, intuitive… a man who cared passionately about what he was doing. Just the sort of leader Castillo had hoped he would find.

Even so, he had seen cops like Crockett crash and burn over time. Castillo knew he would have to find a way to nurture this man’s idealism while protecting him from a system that could easily destroy him.

It was the same during the war… the cream of the crop, turned bitter from constant defeat and
the presence of death all around them.

He had seen it happen, time and time again. He had seen it had it happened to him.

Nam. 1972.

It was not a time he had thought about often. It was that year he had been part of an elite intelligence group assigned to move thorough Viet Cong territory and warn troop commanders of the
enemy’s position. Mostly, what he had seen were a bunch of young, American boys plucked from their soft lives in the United States and dumped into a steaming jungle, expected to fight the kind of war that men in power knew could never be won.

He had done what he could… he and his buddy Jack, but it had never seemed to be enough. The ones who had fallen had been so young, young like Crockett…anxious to go into combat, filled with that same fire and passion of their convictions.

That is, until the lights went out and there was no one left to care…