possible BP involvement

DC and his cousin Malik had disassembled the device on the kitchen table before Cathy arrived. Malik disliked Cathy for being white, her only character flaw as he saw it. DC made sure Malik buried his feelings under jurassic layers of courtesy.

It was a teeny tiny tape recorder. Had DC not slept late, had Mrs. Jackson across the street not been the self-appointed block warden, had she not noticed the lack of a helmet or telephone company uniform on the man on the telephone pole outside her third floor apartment, had the person on the block to report such an event to not been DC Baines, they would never have found it taped to the grey switchbox on the cross-ties of the pole.

“Man didn’t even have a truck,” said DC. “She said he got in a grey car and drove off.”

“Think we’re so stupid they don’t got to pretend,” said Malik.

Cathy turned it over, studied it a while before she wondered aloud if the eentsy-weentsy battery had anything inscribed on it. And sure it did. Malik had to run to Mrs. Jackson’s and borrow her reading glasses to make it out. SOG, it said, surprise surprise.

“How do we know it was attached to your line?” she asked.

“Who else, man?” said Malik, offended she thought anyone in the neighborhood outranked his cousin in phonetap-worthiness.

“That’s one I never heard of,” said DC. “FBI, CIA, OPD, AID, KGB, NSA, CHP, Sheriff’s, city government, Navy, Army, Airforce. Maybe we got it upside down.” But upside down it just said .

She did not say what she knew; her motives were too mixed. She took Officer Todes’ warning seriously. She wished she could scare DC into leaving the city. Fear would not do it. DC feared nothing except flying in airplanes. He would not leave the city from fear for himself. She did not want him to leave the city. She would not have him run out of town and away from her. She took SOG more seriously than the Oakland Police, but SOG, murderous as it might be, had not threatened to kill him. She said nothing, concentrated instead on — ¡amazingly for a chick! — figuring how to rewind and playback the device using only her fingernail file. There was nothing to play back; Mrs. Jackson had warned DC too soon, before he used the phone.

“I’d hook it back up and make some phony phone calls,” said DC, “but we ripped it out too damn fast, broke the wires.”

“I think you should get rid of it. When they find out it’s gone they may bust in on you.”

“And accuse me of stealing their illegal property?”

“Stranger things have happened.”

“Good idea," said DC. "Malik, take this to the corner, drop it in the trash and get us some hot dogs.” Malik, vexed that Cathy had had a good idea, but worshipful of his cousin, wiped it clean, stuffed the jewel-like recorder and its battery in his pocket, took off down the stairs.

“They been cruising past the house odd hours.”

“Can you stay with a friend?” she asked.

“You inviting me home?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Hell, pigs curb crime. The dealers on the corner already took off.”

“Until they kill you.”

“Hon, they won’t kill me here. Too many witnesses. I stay on the busy streets.”


“Cath, this is my town. They ran my folks out of Mississippi. Nobody knows better than me what they’re capable of. Where am I safe? Nowhere. This is an uncivilized country. No one’s safe. I’m comfortable here. I’ve got the North Oakland Community Organization, the Welfare Rights Organization. Where am I to run to? Hey.” He patted the kitchen table. “Where’s Malik with those hotdogs?” In pain, she almost said, “Stay with me,” retreated. He looked down on 32nd Street, which Cathy thought of as his street in a way 17th Street was not her and Jimmy’s street. They knew no one on 17th. DC knew everyone on 32nd, like riverboat captains knew the curves and sandbars and currents of the Mississippi. Who fell off welfare, was pregnant, knew of a job opening, beat his wife, could be asked to influence a meeting, would run an errand, had a friend downtown, a favor due. Whose opinion mattered, whose habits made him dangerous, whose friendship could be counted on. DC added the threat to his life to the existing list of North Oakland conditions to be assayed, endured, turned to his advantage and if possible, incorporated.

“Here he comes. Got a bag.” DC leaned into the bay window. “Cath, c’mere quick. Keep watch.” He started for the door.

On the street, Malik had not yet seen the police car behind him. As DC opened the door to the stairs, the car stopped. The cop in the passenger seat, white, that’s all Cathy could tell from above, leaned out, yelled to Malik, motioned him to the car. Malik froze.

“Don’t panic,” she said in a whisper. “Don’t run, don’t talk back.”

Malik held the bag out toward the officers. The cop must have said What you got in the bag, boy? The policeman beckoned; Malik took two steps forward, within reach. Cathy saw the cop was gesturing with his left hand, his right still inside the car. Not a gun, not in broad daylight. She heard the downstairs front door slam, DC’s feet on the street steps. Then the arm disappeared, the right arm flashed out with a nightstick (held on the lap) whipped it toward Malik, snapped the bag from his hand. She jerked the window; paintchips and dryrot flaked into the room. The bag broke on the sidewalk, Malik held his wrist, the prowl car burning rubber down the block. “Fuck you you fucking pigs!” Malik screamed, “Fuck you motherfuckers, fucking honky pigs!” Plus DC running toward his cousin, past the hotrodding cops whooping in the front seat. Mission accomplished. They had drawn DC into an “incident” that could go any way, day or night. The officers involved were forced to employ their weapons in the face of a life-threatening situation provoked by black militants. Possible Black Panther involvement.