Charles Henderson was high on opium when Los Angeles Police officers, lead by Detective Bean, raided his home/club room at 3631 Trinity Street. The cops weren’t looking for drugs, they were following up on a tip they’d received from a local hop head. The tipster, whom the police refused to name because they feared for his safety, had told them that he knew of at least four men who had been murdered by a gang operating out the Trinity Street house. According to the snitch, the gang was killing men in order to collect insurance policies which they had taken out on the men’s lives.
When Charles was coherent enough to make a statement to police, he scoffed at the idea of a murder house. Charles said, “You know anyone who has got the ‘habit’ ain’t got nerve enough to pull off a stunt like that fellow described. If a man ever did have any nerve he certainly loses all of it when he becomes an opium fiend. Why I couldn’t kill a chicken much less a human being.”
Charles spoke with the authority of a long-time hop head with a $9/day habit. That may not sound like much now, but in 1915, when Charles was buying dope, $9 was equivalent to $220.
Local police and Federal authorities had arrested Charles many times. His club room was a safe haven for opium users, and they were willing to pay for a refuge. The room made Charles a lot of money, but he set fire to most of it every time he filled a pipe.
“I have been smoking the pills for twenty years,” Charles told Bean, “and know the game all the way but I can’t believe there is any murders that can be traced to the fiends in this city.”
Charles had a point. When police raided his home/club room he was flying so high he hadn’t the will to to resist or flee.
He told Detective Bean that when the raid began he thought, “This ain’t no dream.”
He continued, “I have been one of the worst victims of the whole bunch. The other morning when you folks came and got me I was about the happiest man in the whole world. You know this stuff makes you feel that way. For a little while I didn’t know what you meant when you started to going through my house with all of them electric lights. They looked like shooting stars to me and I kind of thought that I was riding in an airship and that was the reason so many stars was so close to me.”
Captain Bean waited for Charles to resume.
“When I woke up here in jail and didn’t have no more opium it all came back to me. I realized then that I was just naturally arrested again. I tell you this comes hard on me. It costs me $9 every day to keep me dreaming right and of course I am no millionaire.”
“Gee, but I wish times was like they used to be. When I was down in Mexicali I used to get all the opium I wanted for $1.50 a day,” Charles reminisced.
“I have been tryin’ off and on for twenty years to get away from the habit but it don’t seem to be any use. In fact I don’t remember of a single man who ever quit the stuff for good who had smoked it as long as I have.”
There were no further reports regarding the murder house on Trinity Street in the Los Angeles Times, so we can only assume that Charles was right, the snitch had related one of his more sinister hop dreams to the cops.
As for Charles, did he ever quit kickin’ the gong around?*
Not that I know of.
* kickin’ the gong is 1930s slang for smoking opium.