CRAIS: THE TWO MINUTE RULE
should I do?"
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know what to do about this. Is there someone
I'm supposed to see? Something I'm
supposed to do?"
Holman had served a total of nine months juvenile time
before he was seventeen years old.
His first adult time came when he
was eighteen—six months for grand
theft auto. This was followed by
sixteen months of state time for
burglary, then three years for a
stacked count of robbery and
breaking and entering. Altogether,
Holman had spent one-third of his
adult life in state and federal
facilities. He was used to people
telling him what to do and where to
do it. Wally seemed to read his
"You go on with what you were doing, I guess. He was a
policeman. Jesus, you never said he
was a policeman. That's intense."
"What about the arrangements?"
"I don't know. I guess the police do that."
Holman tried to imagine what responsible people did at
times like this, but he had no
experience. His mother had died when
he was young and his father had died
when Holman was serving the first
burglary stretch. He had nothing to
do with burying them.
"They sure it's the same Richie Holman?"
"You want to see one of the counselors? We could get
someone in here."
"I don't need a counselor, Wally. I want to know what
happened. You tell me my boy was
killed, I want to know things. You
can't just tell a man his boy was
killed and let it go with that.
Wally made a patting gesture with his hands, trying to
keep Holman calm, but Holman didn't
feel upset. He didn't know what else
to do or what to say or have anyone
to say it to except Wally.
Holman said, "Jesus, Donna must be
devastated. I'd better talk to her."
"Okay. Can I help with that?"
"I don't know. The police gotta know how to reach her.
If they called me they would've
"Let me see what I can find out. I told Gail I'd get
back to her after I saw you. She was
the one got the call from the
Gail Manelli was a business-like young woman with no
sense of humor, but Holman liked
"Okay, Wally," Holman said. "Sure."
Wally spoke with Gail, who told them Holman could
obtain additional information from
Richie's commander at the Devonshire
Station up in Chatsworth, where
Richie worked. Twenty minutes later
Wally drove Holman north out of
Venice on the 405 and into the San
Fernando Valley. The trip took
almost thirty minutes. They parked
outside a clean, flat building that
looked more like a modern suburban
library than a police station. The
air tasted like pencil lead. Holman
had resided at the CCC for twelve
weeks, but had not been outside of
Venice, which always had great air
because it was on the water. Living
on a short leash like that, cons in
transition called it being on the
farm. Cons in transition were called
transitionary inmates. There were
names for everything when you were
in the system.
Wally got out of the car like he was stepping into
"Jesus, it's hotter'n hell up here."
Holman didn't say anything. He liked the heat, enjoying
the way it warmed his skin.
They identified themselves at the reception desk and
asked for Captain Levy. Levy, Gail
said, had been Richard's commanding
officer. Holman had been arrested by
the Los Angeles police department on
a dozen occasions, but had never
seen the Devonshire Station before.
The institutional lighting and
austere government decor left him
with the sense that he had been here
before and would be again. Police
stations, courts, and penal
institutions had been a part of
Holman's life since he was fourteen
years old. They felt normal. His
counselors in prison had drummed it
home that career criminals like
Holman had difficulty going straight
because crime and the penalties of
crime were a normal part of their
lives--the criminal lost his fear of
the penalties of his actions. Holman
knew this to be true. Here he was
surrounded by people with guns and
badges, and he didn't feel a thing.
He was disappointed. He thought he
might feel afraid or at least
apprehensive, but he might as well
have been standing in a Ralphs
A uniformed officer about Holman's age came out, and
the desk officer waved them over. He
had short silvery hair and stars on
his shoulders, so Holman took him
for Levy. He looked at Wally.
"No, I'm Walter Figg, with the CCC."
"Chip Levy. I was Richard's commander. If you'll come
with me I'll tell you what I can."
Levy was a short, compact guy who looked like an aging
gymnast. He shook Holman's hand, and
it was then Holman noticed he was
wearing a black armband. So were the
two officers seated behind the desk
and another officer who was
push-pinning flyers into a bulletin
board: Summer Sports Camp!! Sign
up your kids!!
"I just want to know what happened. I need to find out
about the arrangements, I guess."
"Here, step around through the gate. We'll have some
Wally waited in the reception area. Holman went through
the metal detector, then followed
Levy along a hall and into an
interview room. Another uniformed
officer was already waiting inside,
this one wearing sergeant's stripes.
He stood when they entered.
Levy said, "This is Dale Clark. Dale, this is Richard's
Clark took Holman's hand in a firm grip, and held on
longer than Holman found
comfortable. Unlike Levy, Clark
seemed to study him.
"I was Richard's shift supervisor. He was an
outstanding young man. The best."
Holman muttered a thanks, but didn't know what to say
past that; it occurred to him that
these men had known and worked with
his son, while he knew absolutely
nothing about the boy. Realizing
this left him feeling uncertain how
to act, and he wished Wally was with
Levy asked him to take a seat at a small table. Every
police officer who ever questioned
Holman had hid behind a veneer of
distance as if whatever Holman said
was of no importance. Holman had
long ago realized their eyes
appeared distant because they were
thinking; they were trying to figure
out how to play him in order to get
at the truth. Levy looked no
"Can we get you some coffee?"
"No, I'm good."
"Water or a soft drink?"
Levy settled across from him and folded his hands
together on the table. Clark took a
seat to the side on Holman's left.
Where Levy tipped forward to rest
his forearms on the table, Clark
leaned back with his arms crossed.
Levy said, "All right. Before we proceed I need to see
Right away, Holman felt they were jacking him up. The
Bureau of Prisons had told them he
was coming, and here they were
asking for his ID.
"Didn't Ms. Manelli talk to you?"
"It's just a formality. When something like this
happens, we have people walking in
off the street claiming to be
related. They're usually trying to
float some kind of insurance scam."
Holman felt himself redden even as he reached for his
"I'm not looking for anything."
Levy said, "It's just a formality. Please."
Holman showed them his release document and his
government-issued identity card.
Realizing that many inmates had no
form of identification upon release,
the government provided a picture ID
similar to a driver’s license. Levy
glanced at the card, then returned
"Okay, fine. I'm sorry you had to find out the way you
did--through the Bureau of
Prisons--but we didn't know about
"What does that mean?"
"You weren't listed in the officer's personnel file.
Where it says 'father,' Richard had
Holman felt himself redden even more deeply, but stared
back at Clark. Clark was pissing him
off. It was guys like Clark who had
been busting his balls for most of
"If you didn't know I existed, how did you find me?"
Holman took it in. Richie was married, and neither
Richie nor Donna had told him. Levy
and Clark must have been able to
read him because Levy cleared his
"How long have you been incarcerated?"
"Ten years. I'm at the end of it now. I start
supervised release today."
Clark said, "What were you in for?"
"Uh-huh, so you've had no recent contact with your
Holman cursed himself for glancing away.
"I was hoping to get back in touch now that I'm out."
Clark made a thoughtful nod.
"You could've called him from the correction center,
couldn't you? They give you guys
plenty of freedom."
"I didn't want to call while I was still in custody. If
he wanted to get together I didn't
want to have to ask permission. I
wanted him to see me free with the
prison behind me."
Now it was Levy who seemed embarrassed, so Holman
pushed ahead with his questions.
"Can you tell me how Richie's mother is doing? I want
to make sure she's okay."
Levy glanced at Clark, who took his cue to answer.
"We notified Richard's wife. Our first responsibility
was her, you understand, her being
his spouse? If she notified his
mother or anyone else she didn't
tell us, but that was up to her. It
was Mrs. Holman--Richard's wife--who
told us about you. She wasn't sure
where you were housed, so we
contacted the Bureau of Prisons."
Levy took over.
"We'll bring you up to date with what we know. It isn't
much. Robbery-Homicide is handling
the case out of Parker Center. All
we know at this point is that
Richard was one of four officers
murdered early this morning. We
believe the killings were some sort
of ambush, but we don't know that at
Clark said, "Approximately one-fifty. A little before
two is when it happened."
Levy continued on as if he didn't mind Clark's
"Two of the officers were on duty, and two were
off--Richard was not on duty. They
were gathered together in--"
"So they weren't killed in a shootout or anything like
"If you're asking whether or not they were in a gun
battle we don't know, but the
reports I have don't indicate that
to be the case. They were gathered
together in an informal setting. I
don't know how graphic I should
"I don't need graphic. I just want to know what
"The four officers were taking a break together--that's
what I meant by informal. They were
out of their cars, their weapons
were holstered, and none of them
radioed that a crime was in progress
or a situation was developing. We
believe the weapon or weapons used
"Understand, this happened only a few hours ago. The
task force has just been formed, and
detectives are working right now to
figure out what happened. We'll keep
you informed on the developments,
but right now we just don't know.
The investigation is developing."
Holman shifted, and his chair made a tiny squeal.
"Do you know who did it? You have a suspect?"
"Not at this time."
"So someone just shot him, like when he was looking the
other way? In the back? I'm just
trying to, I don't know, picture it
"We don't know any more, Mr. Holman. I know you have
questions. Believe me, we have
questions, too. We're still trying
to sort it out."
Holman felt as if he didn't know any more than when he
arrived. The harder he tried to
think, the more he saw the boy
running alongside his car, calling
him a loser.
"Did he suffer?"
"I drove down to the crime scene this morning when I
got the call. Richard was one of my
guys. Not the other three, but
Richard was one of us here at
Devonshire so I had to go see. I
don't know, Mr. Holman--I want to
tell you he didn't. I want to think
he didn't even see it coming, but I
Holman watched Levy, and appreciated the man's honesty.
He felt a coldness in his chest, but
he had felt that coldness before.
"I should know about the burial. Is there anything I
need to do?"
Clark said, "The department will take care of that with
his widow. Right now, no date has
been set. We don’t yet know when
they’ll be released from the
"All right, sure, I understand. Could I have her
number? I'd like to talk to her."
Clark shifted backwards, and Levy once more laced his
fingers on the table.
"I can't give you her number. If you give us your
information, we'll pass it on to her
and tell her you'd like to speak
with her. That way, if she wants to
contact you, it's her choice."
"I just want to talk to her."
"I can't give you her number."
Clark said, "It's a privacy issue. Our first obligation
is to the officer's family."
"I'm his father."
"Not according to his personnel file."
There it was. Holman wanted to say more, but he told
himself to take it easy, just like
when he was inside and another con
tried to front him. You had to get
Holman looked at the floor.
"Okay. I understand."
"If she wants to call, she will. You see how it is."
Holman couldn't remember the number at the motel where
he would be living. Levy walked him
out to the reception area where
Wally gave them the number, and Levy
promised to call when they knew
something more. Holman thanked him
for his time. Getting along.
When Levy was heading back inside, Holman stopped him.
"Was my son a good officer?"
"Yes, sir. Yes, he was. He was a fine young man."
Holman watched Levy walk away.
Wally said, "What did they say?"
Holman turned away without answering and walked out to
the car. He watched police officers
entering and leaving the building as
he waited for Wally to catch up. He
looked up at the heavy blue sky and
at the nearby mountains to the
north. He tried to feel like a free
man, but he felt like he was still
up in Lompoc. Holman decided that
was okay. He had spent much of his
life in prison. He knew how to get
along in prison just fine.
© 2006 by Robert Crais