Eat when you can. I’ve heard both military and law enforcement veterans say this. It is usually followed by, “You never know when you’ll have the next opportunity.” One of the book author sites I follow had a great discussion piece the other day. One contributor was put off by descriptions of food or eating in crime fiction. A lively discussion followed both pro and con. I fell on the con side. There is food in my crime fiction. Cops have to eat too. Out on the street as a working detective, the choices are better and easier than a uniform cop. And in the area I worked food choices were varied and plentiful.
I may have gone a bit overboard though. One of my favorite characters is Walter Stanilaus Ozliewski, Sr., Ozzie. A late 30s state trooper assigned to a local barracks crime unit, Sam’s squad. Ozzie is a big guy, Polish on both sides, and from the “coal country” upstate Pennsylvania. He played tight end at Kutztown University but dropped out mid-junior year to keep from starving and to find a way to pay a mortgage and put diapers on his first born. Ozzie likes to eat, a lot. Not that his whole day revolves around it but almost. So Ozzie gets to introduce my readers to many of the fabulous and not so fabulous eating spots I managed to find and feed in over the years. And when there isn’t one that fits the story, well, it’s fiction after all.
There really is a cafeteria in the Lehigh County Courthouse and Ozzie manages to make the best of a stop to brief the DA on a difficult, unsolved double homicide. From my first crime novel, SINK RATE:
Ozzie had two cheeseburgers, fries, a strawberry milkshake, corn chowder soup, and a jelly doughnut in front of him when he looked up and saw the captain signal him to “come on” from the doorway. Torn over what to do, he hesitated and the captain waved again. Ozzie stood up and retrieved the serving tray he had just put on the stack of trays near the trash can. He gathered up his little lunch and followed the captain over to the elevator where Sam had the DA pulled aside. The captain smiled and shook her head from side to side. Ozzie was Ozzie. He stood there waiting for the elevator holding this pile of food on his tray. Take out service.
Sam grabbed a handful of fries as the elevator doors closed. “Calvin’s got a name from the guy in prison. Gonna call me here. Some guy hooked with McFadden and him. Good fries, how’s the soup?”
The Chief of County Detectives watched the parade come through the office. The DA, followed by the short blonde state police captain, Sam, and Ozzie with his lunch tray. Sam said to the DA, “I’ll be in here with the Chief,” Sam wanted to avoid Assistant District Attorney Bitch Asshole Janice if at all possible. Ozzie plopped down in one of the Chief’s guest chairs and finally got to eat. Sam and the Chief gabbed about their mutual friends and went over the McFadden murder.
“Your call on one,” the DA, now in shirt sleeves, stuck his head in the office and nodded to Sam. The captain slipped past him and took the guest chair next to Ozzie. She watched in awe as Ozzie put the last half of the second cheeseburger into his mouth in one bite.
“Calvin, Dugan will have what he can find on this Jerome at Major Crimes by the time you get there. What did Sylvester tell you?” Sam asked.
“Not much at first. Found him in the infirmary beat up last night and left for dead. Gonna transfer him to Phoenixville Hospital later today for surgery, new face. Johnny had a heart to heart with him in the way only Johnny can and we convinced him we were his pals. Jerome Yancey is a former cellmate. Got out last year. Sylvester set Jerome up with McFadden to buy guns, military theft stuff. Something about gang members and hangers-on in the National Guard. Steal guns and wholesale through places like McFadden’s. Mostly Latin types, Midwest and upstate New York. Sylvester didn’t know about McFadden being dead. Says there’s been some rip offs. Bad blood. Thieves stealing from the thieves. McFadden was mad, Jerome was mad. I guess Jerome was madder,” Calvin winked at his mom and Johnny at the kitchen table. Mom was trying to get Johnny to eat some shortbread cookies she made yesterday. Johnny just wanted a smoke and ducked out the back door with his coffee. “Funny thing, though, not a visitor or any outgoing calls made by this dickhead. Makes me wonder how he kept in touch.”
“Good work. This might turn into something. Nose around the last known address and see if you find him, see if he’ll talk to you. Ask Dugan to tap his sources. He’s got good eyes and ears out on the street. And be careful,” Sam gave the captain and Ozzie a thumbs up. “Who did Sylvester?”
“No go on that. He wants to settle it himself. Local guys are gonna do a crime report, hold it open for a while. Maybe after the pain medication wears off, our punching bag may change his mind,” Calvin said. “Probably got into the middle of whatever killed McFadden. They just didn’t finish the job.”
Sam thought a minute. “Why don’t you call Phoenixville security. Might be a good idea to have extra concern for this guy, while he’s a guest there.”
“Already done, the boss there is a retired trooper,” Calvin told Sam. “We’re at my mom’s. We’ll be heading into the city and hook up with Dugan. Call you later.”
Sam briefed the captain and Ozzie and thanked the chief and the DA for their hospitality. Ozzie didn’t quite know what to do with the tray of dirty dishes until the chief said he was going up for coffee and would take it. Sam and Ozzie didn’t make it to the city limits before Ozzie jerked the Crown Vic into a Burger King and announced, “Gotta hit the head, want anything?”