If there’s a Fifth District cop more afraid than I am, it’s Homicide Detective Sergeant Hendrick Andsell.
I’ve never met any cop better than hiding that fear.
I met Andsell on my third day as a Narco Detective. He swallowed me up in the squad room with a look that added another three feet to his six-and-a-half height.
“Didn’t think they let Girl Scouts in here.” Andsell didn’t offer a hand.
“Didn’t think they stacked shit high as you.” I didn’t smile.
He had to crack one. “Full Metal Jacket. Nice. Come into my parlor.”
He led me into Homicide’s broom-closet office and smacked a row of file cabinets.
“These here are for the open murder cases.”
“Where are the closed cases?”
“You’re just chockfull of jokes, aren’t you?” Andsell grabbed a hip flask from his desk. “You’ll fit in just fine.”
Turns out, he was right. I’m still around, while a lot of the Fifth have gone on to other Districts, disability checks, death in the line of duty.
Cops with a good head of fear survive just fine in the Fifth.
We worked the Ripley Dawkins execution-style shooting that morning. Three months later, I moved on to purely Narco cases. Andsell was still working Ripley.
Andsell never won any commendations and he never found a partner he could hold onto. I don’t blame them. A single dayshift under his fire-hose of idiosyncrasies was enough to send most officers crying to Integrity Control.
Andsell carried a retractable baton he’d tickle passer-bys and patrol officers with on a whim. After investigating the death of Baron Ghede, a local voodoo priest, he picked up the habit of throwing salt over his shoulder at murder scenes and kept it up for nearly a year of pissing off the CSIs. He played the Mimic Game with witnesses:
“I didn’t see nothing,” they’d go.
“I didn’t see nothing,” Andsell would say pointedly.
“Well why you asking me?”
“Well, why you asking me?”
“Man, why don’t you go find who shot my cousin?”
Laugh riot the whole way. Andsell never got reprimanded though. He must have had dirt on Lieutenant Morrissey of Integrity Control. The two went catting in Chalmette dive bars enough.
He never quit with his jokes. They would’ve been bad enough. Andsell never quit drinking either.
He was falling-over trashed at the Brown strangulation, the Divers stabbing, the Hensley, Carmichael and Urich shootings. Peed in a meat wagon on one occasion. After a warranted search for the Ripley Dawkins gun turned up empty, two years after the case fell on his desk, he drunk-dialed me to pick him up.
Andsell poured into my cruiser wearing a Saints jersey over slacks ironed tight enough to cut your finger.
“What’s with the home team pride?” I asked.
“Yep.” Andsell lit a Newport. He smoked menthol that autumn, ‘to get into the minds of the killers’.
“Everybody here loves the Saints,” he said, “No way they’d ruin a jersey with a bullet hole.”
“You really believe that?”
“I’ll believe in whatever it takes,” Andsell said, then mimed a gun with his fingers, picking off all the pedestrians we passed.
Andsell believed in something: His badge.
He always kept it on hand and shined. Not a speck on his dress blues. Somebody filed all those reports he turned in.
I saw the report on Ripley Dawkins being closed one Spring morning in ‘07.
I rushed to find Andsell sitting frozen in his FEMA-trailer office. I frowned. He didn’t move—just held stock still like a kid hiding under the covers.
“Saw you closed Ridley Dawkins,” I said.
“Solid forensics on his cousin,” I said.
“This is a good thing.”
He glared. “The fuck it is.”
“No.” Hendrick braved a glance at the file cabinets. “Not when it means I might make a difference.”
It took four more cold cases before Hendrick’s hands stopped shaking. A dozen later, he was drinking again. Six months in, he stormed a barricaded suspect with only Deuce McAllister’s number to protect him.