Figuring Things Out in Arlington: Somebody Did Something, But Heaven Knows What

I couldn’t figure it out. The nice-looking Hispanic woman in the apartment had a brother. The guy in the apartment with her wasn’t the brother. He may have been the husband. Or maybe he was the boyfriend. Both were nearing thirty, I guessed. Nice people, to the extent you can tell in a confused few minutes. He spoke good English. I think she spoke some English, but it was hard to tell because Eliseo Pilco, the Arlington cop I was riding with, spoke to her mostly in Spanish.

It was Sunday night. The call as I had heard it had been malicious wounding — some guy had tried to stab someone with a screwdriver, and then hit him with a car. Somewhere in there the screwdriver turned into a knife, and anyway nobody was hurt. The bad guy had left the scene in a gray Honda, the radio said.

On the way Pilco saw a Honda fitting the description turning off Route 50 into burb streets. By the time we turned, the car had disappeared. Pilco managed to find it. We pulled up beside it. The driver was a woman. Oh well. Back to Route 50 and on to the call.

When we got there a couple of other cops had already arrived, including Rosa Ortiz, with whom I had ridden a couple of times in the past. The story as I still didn’t quite understand it was that the bad guy had done something wrong in Alexandria about a year ago, but the Hispanic woman hadn’t prosecuted. Now he had done something else, and she wanted to prosecute for the original misbehavior. The cops explained that if it had happened in Alexandria, then she had to pursue it there.

The Hispanic couple — I think she was Salvadoran and he was Peruvian — had said they didn’t mind my coming in. A Supreme Court decision some time ago determined that reporters do not have the right to come into home with police unless invited. Of course they don’t. But most did it anyway. For years I had been very careful not to write anything from inside a home that might embarrass someone and invite a complaint. But it was just a matter of time. Sooner or later the Supreme Court had to make an intelligent decision, even if only by chance.

Pilco and I went off in search of the bad guy, who was thought perhaps to be at an address on Tenth Street. Pilco incidentally is a youngish former Marine who speaks native English and Spanish. So does Rosa Ortiz. You need them these days in Arlington. The Hispanic presence is large and growing. I’m not real upset about it. The young males get in trouble, as do just about everybody’s young males, and a lot of their dads drink too much. But they work hard, take care of their families, don’t get into any other kind of trouble, and generally are pretty good folk, sez me.

So we got to the address on Tenth Street and knocked on the door. An Hispanic couple, middle-aged and middle-class, answered. Something told me this guy hadn’t been chasing anyone with a knife. They were friendly, which is normal for Hispanics — I wish the stiff chilly Anglos hereabouts would take lessons — and they had no idea why we were there. Neither did we.

Pilco knew they weren’t the bad guys and chatted for a moment, trying to figure out what was going on.

Tenth Place, not Tenth Street. Ah. Off we went again. Thing was, the number we were looking for didn’t exist. Pilco kept getting on the radio to Ortiz, who was still at the apartment, to get better information. There wasn’t any. As best I could understand it, the bad guy had lied to someone.

Bad guys are like that. They probably need counseling or something.

Now, any of the foregoing may be wrong. When you have several cops working a case involving five or six people speaking a couple of languages, with the cops communicating by radio, and the participants changing their stories, not because they are lying but because they remember details or didn’t understand the question, the result can be shaky. Ortiz probably had it figured out. She was there and talked to the couple at length.

Anyhow, Pilco cleared out of the case and we went off to do something about the Anglo lunatic undressed on a Metro bus. At that point we didn’t know he existed, but he sure ‘nough did. I’ll tell you about him next week.

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