I was getting pretty weary of Cee-Cee's remarks about "shit-fer-brains civilians," but decided she was on a roll and I shouldn't slow her down. I said, "Why do you blame just Leroy? There must have been other officers involved too."
She said, "But it was on his say-so. He developed the case in the first place. He made a stupid mistake. He trusted bad informants, believed bad information. He WANTED to believe it. It's as though he was working on a math problem and decided that 2 and 2 equals 5 because he liked it better that way. And all of us who came after him and tried to solve the problem were stuck with it, and nothing worked out right because 2 and 2 does not equal 5. Never has, never will. Nothing can work right when the information's wrong.
"So now I see you got your frowny face on," she mocked me. "You're thinking, Why didn't one of the other cops stand up and say, 'What the f--k! We don't have jack squat on this case and Leroy has been feeding us horse s--t!'
"I know this will stun you, but cops are busy. We have battles to fight every day. We're not lounging around the police station saying, 'Well, s--t, I don't have a single thing to do all month so I guess I'll second-guess Leroy's cases for the last five years.' We don't do that. We trust each other. We have to, or we'd never get anything done."
She continued, "I'm not mad because he made the mistake in the first place. Every one of us makes mistakes. Everyone is a fool sometimes. I'm mad because he was an ONGOING fool. Out of vanity he never admitted his mistake. He was thinking like a goddamn civilian instead of a cop."
I bristled, but she paid me no mind,
"A cop has to believe what the evidence tells him. HAS to, or he's no use. A civilian gets to believe whatever the hell he wants. This is also the way crazy people think."
Cee-Cee also said she was involved in the case. "I did what undercover cops do to keep suspects shaken up, it's not in the rulebook. I don't want to talk about everything we did. But we tried to entrap them about twenty million times, there was never a response. We investigated the living crap out of them, and nothing but good things came up. I began to get a real bad feeling. I began to be afraid that these were good folks.
"I was working with my friend Mark, smartest cop I ever knew. He said out loud what I'd been thinking. He said, 'Those people are clean.' And that's what they turned out to be. There was no case.
"It was really about a private feud, some kind of bad feeling between neighbors going back fifteen or twenty years. You wouldn't believe how nasty these can get.
One side got all obsessed and decided to use the police as their personal goon squad to make their enemies suffer. We hate that, but it happens. We fell for it.
"This whole bogus case, every dollar, every minute, every airplane flight, every meal or mile, was on the taxpayer's dime. Every chocolate croissant in a fancy B&B. But this is what bothers me the most: personally I'm O.K. with acting like an asshole on the job, if it's for a good cause. But in this case I'd been acting like an asshole to nice folks. I'd been hurting people I should have been protecting, and protecting people I should have been hurting. I'll never forgive Leroy for that."
I said, "I still don't understand why you believed him in the first place."
She sighed. After a minute she said, "I wish I had a better reason, but he was kind of our star. He LOOKED right. He looked like he belonged on a recruitment poster. Still does. A big strapping guy, real confident, a leader. Bright eyes, great big smile. Mark said, 'Those eyes are TOO bright.' But he liked him too. Everybody did."
She set her wine glass down. We sat quietly for a few minutes. Then I paid the bill, and we wove our way out of the restaurant.
TO BE CONTINUED