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Ode to Jimmy Zimbabwe
By Joel L Young
Thursday, March 14, 2002
A revised version with added story line and characters.
Ode to Jimmy Zimbabwe
My name is William Harrow. I'm a detective 3rd grade with the Jacksonville Police department. The job is about helping people so I try. So do my brother's in blue. Most of the one's that give a damn.
When I was a kid, my father read me stories like they were affidavits. I used to think Robin Hood was the best undercover cop before Serpico. Richard the Lionheart must have had a lot of faith in him. His strike team wasn't too bad either.
I'll make this statement and you can examine the facts any way you want. I've known investigations that have taken months, even a year. The most they ever came up with, resembling evidence, is enough to fill a blurb in a Saturday morning paper. On another given day, they'll be a domestic dispute between spouses. The fives will read like a crime novel with three part harmony and sound effects thrown out. Its nuts!
My story is about Jimmy Zimbabwe. He was African American, a confidential informant for me. Zimbabwe was a code name for Jimmy. He was among of group of CI's who hung out together in the west end of the city.
David Falkland, Bishop Grimes, Marcus Saint, Sandy Malibu, were among the best to name a few. Bobby Peru was their mentor, a king of snitches, who went legitimate, made his way from the streets, in his twenties, and went on to be a pretty good cop in his short time. A bullet ended his career; now he gets around in wheelchair.
On weekends, Jimmy played timbales like you wouldn't believe. His rhythm was impeccable but he liked to play rough too. He was a good kid I liked him, looked out for him and his mother. Than late one night they found him. He said he had something the night before they found him in a gutter on 4th and Vine.
"What up, Detective Bill?"
"What up, Jimmy? Still playing drums?
"Still banging and hammering. There's word about a big prize, coming from some Latin brothers. This came straight from Ms. Gina Monterey. Nobody's seen her in two days?
"Jimmy, you call Santana at MP (missing persons)?"
"Yeah I called him. He told me to contact you. Come on, Detective H. It comes with the trade. Some of us are snitching for dope, money or something, dodging cops and criminals alike, ain't no one gonna to take us serious. I did hear she wanted to go back home. Stardom never found her or what she was looking for."
"Okay, so the Latino's are acting froggy on the ponds?"
"Hopping and Jumping. It's got the Asians restless. The Italians are pissed as usual. The Irish and Russians are just as nervous. TK (Tony Korea) said there's been a lot of action down at the docks. You may want to invite your custom compadre's to take a look at some of the merchandise coming through Dunn's Island."
Dunn's Island was once run by the military for import/exports. When the military downsized bases, the port authority took it over for the local shipping unions. The Long shore men thought it was great.
Jimmy and I chatted a little more than said our goodbyes. "Thanks kiddo. You need anything. Blow your bugle, and the cavalry will come running."
"Have you been watching Lone Ranger episodes again? Cool keem-a-sabe. I'll circle my wagons and sit tight, adios amigo!"
It was the last time I saw Jimmy alive.
Rain puddles surrounded his body like a moat. It was just as tough examining the remains. But our CSU guys are pretty good. Jim Ballen was the crime tech on the scene. He showed me a five ten, one hundred and fifty five pound frame, displayed in a gutter.
"Detective Harrow, you have here, Jimmy Zimbabwe. Just from surface, the blood in the nose, scratch marks, bruises on the chin and gut. They worked him over pretty good than force-fed him. I don't have to tell you what." The pathologist showed me marks on his right arm laid out like a rail line. I knew. Jimmy was no doper.
"What else Doc?"
"Not much, Bill. We wont have all the answers until we autopsy."
"We need to call his mother for permission."
I called his mother. Esmerelda Winters (Essie) took it hard. Jimmy had been her only son. His father had taken a stage left off the Independent Life tower, when the kid was five. Essie took on two jobs to support him; until the streets grabbed him at the age of thirteen. I met him at fourteen and played big brother.
At his grave, Essie played the grieving mother, "Bill, I loved that boy, as much as a mother could love her son. I tried to raise him best I could. You find this man or men and bring'em to justice."
"Essie I'll do my best. We'll catch them. The story is it was part of a gang, organized, ruthless covering most of the eastside. To my superiors, Jimmy was just another lost cause with an axe to grind or feed his habit."
"Jimmy wasn't an addict! Who are these men Detective? I'd like to give them a piece of my mind."
Essie, had every right to be angry. Prosecution didn't want to follow through. Downtown thought it was an OD. Essie and I knew better. Old-fashioned detective work and tedious long hours of clues, depositions, statements, canvassing, and the streets where the body was found, led to a fellow all the undercover cops knew. Not to mention, the West End kids got involved, to help find those responsible.
His name was Diego Torrez. He is one tough hombre. The word on the street it was best not the cross him. They (police plaza) had a plan. In the peremptory hearings, a plea bargain was suggested but nobody had anything on Torrez. The sonata on the street was nada. City hall wanted a power play. Torrez was a rising player in town. Not to mention, he owned half the eastside. He knew most of the cops from 102 to 159 blocks. The Southside was wide open as the new frontier. I transferred there and began my descent as a wannabe criminal.
How give you some idea how it all went down. It's 2am now. You're in your room writing, talking on the phone to an esai, you'd just soon arrest for jaywalking.
They tell you a man will call at your apartment in twenty minutes. You take your badge, tape some Velcro onto it, added another piece to the back of my mirror and attached it.
I called my superior. "Chief? This is badge number 442, have made contact. Meets in a few minutes."
"Bill, be careful out there. Keep in touch through usual channels. You have undisclosed backup just in case. Nail the Sonofabitch!."
"Okay boss, I will contact soon."
I took a cell phone the department gave me. The number was transferred to a pseudonym account. Undercover work is dangerous. It's also boring, tedious, and the logistics of dealing with perpetrators is suspect at best. It's a hard job. Hazard pay is not even included but I volunteered. I haven't failed yet but there's always a first time. Crime does have its moments. The rent's not bad but the pay sucks.
My phone rang and I picked up, "Como Estas, Esai!"
"Robbin's that you? We checked you man. Three years in Raiford? What the chick was that all about, Starke, the vegetable farm, Atlanta too? You got around in your day. I take it you're ready to settle down?"
"Come on Devilla, It breaking & entering., grand theft, make some scratch, spend some fantasy time with the female population. Things go wrong. You fall in with a bad crowd. It happens right? Yeah it's me Kenny. Yeah I could use a steady gig."
"We'll let you know in a few days. Being careful, especially with the city's finest looking for undesirables every five minutes. You Dig brother?"
"I dig." I took out my small caliber. It's a spare I keep on my ankle, if I need an extra weapon. I popped a 25 clip and put it in my boot.
I thought of Jimmy and his mom and blessed them. A knock on my door came sooner than I expected. A big smiling Latino appeared and smiled at a tall man with sunglasses, white t-shirt, jeans, and ten bucks in his pocket. A blue bandana was wrapped around his head.
A mechanic I arrested inspired my look, Gary Feirs (he pronounced it fires) His street name was Gary Firestone. He was a southern kid from the Appalachians. He did the usual from dirt track racing to running shine on the back roads from Alabama all the way up the Appalachian ridge into the Smokey Mountains.
The guy could hustle anything, cars, women, booze, and drugs. His jacket looked like a treatment to one of those b movies from the seventies, Roger Corman used to make. The guy never made it off the farm. They found him hung in his cell one night. The murderer never caught, but some might say, they found a body of a man Jackson Gillem, shot dead in a shootout with local authorities. William Harrow was one of the cops there the day of the shooting. Do the math. The story is nobody's business but mine.
Torrez and his gang appreciated the way I had of working with a motor. I was put in charge of the motor pool. I was asked to do the usual, make sure the cars were good, hustle in imports, and arrange all the cars like ducks in a row.
It was a nice job. I was never asked to get behind a wheel. What can I say some prefer using their own drivers.
At the chop shop, it was grand central/underground railroad, and a bus depot combined, not to mention, a meeting place, garage, and massage parlor. Torrez, met with everyone there. Italians, The Irish, conmen, hustlers, salesmen of every nationality, including a former Russian tough, who tried to sell him Ukrainian Mail order brides. The women were surprisingly attractive. In person, they were as good or better. Yuri Tesslov almost gave the store away. I had arrested him once several years before while working with the FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) in Miami. He gave the usual spiel and détente was called.
In a thick Russian accent he said, "Detective Bill, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. You help me. I help you destroy Torrez. Snitching was popular in my country before the wall fell. My brother in law, rest his soul, a man of many talents worked for KGB, and western interests. He was transferred to Siberia and we never heard from him again. One of his wives found out he was cheating on her with a British attaché’s secretary. She turned him in."
"Yuri, I could see how that might be a commodity, so much for community property. She got everything the Kremlin didn't want."
Yuri giggled, "of course. You are sharp American detective. Let's call this a professional courtesy. Perhaps, if you need a wife, you'll let me know? Careful with Torrez, such men as him are to be reckoned with cleverly."
Yuri was the least of my worries. He was right about Torrez. The grapevine grew over the course of several months, from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Petersburg to Biloxi, St. Louis to the Yucatan peninsula covering the Gulf of Mexico to a Swiss bank in the Cayman Islands. Jimmy's killer was found later at a warehouse in Cocoa Beach. The same man who introduced me, to Torrez. Juan Devilla had clipped him.
Jimmy had just come from a gig, was taking a leak in back of the club when he saw a deal go down. Devilla didn't hesitate. He left Jimmy drowning in the gutter from his own blood.
Now, the game's been settled square. Goodnight Jimmy where ever you are. Rest easy Brother Music.
. Copyright Joel L Young 2003
Site: My Stories
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|Reviewed by Mitzi Jackson
|this is a good story,I figure with a little more room,I could see it as if it was on my tv set|