CASHING IN…a short story

Feb 23, 2024 by

November 1974, Long Island, New York

I was standing behind the precinct desk holding the “gas board” talking to one of the desk officers while my partner pumped gasoline into our police car. One of the front doors opened and a cold breeze blew into the building. The two cops who drove the car adjoining our sector walked into the lobby with a prisoner in handcuffs.

As one of the officers gave the desk man some information on the arrest to be recorded in the tour blotter, the prisoner broke free and ran headfirst into a large bronze plaque hanging on the cement block wall to their left.

“Jesus Christ!” one cop said.

His partner ran over to the prisoner who had fallen to the floor.

I tossed the clip board to the man I’d been speaking with. “Hang onto this for me, Tommy, and give me some of those paper towels.” I then circled around to a door leading to the lobby to help the cop give first aid to the nitwit who just caused a one inch V-shaped gash to his forehead.

I knew the moron who had just done something I doubt anyone present could explain, having arrested him before or from having answered calls at his home when he decided it was necessary to tune up his mother or younger brother.

“Hold still, Joey,” I said, slapping the wad of soft paper against his forehead. “That’s a bitch of a cut you gave yourself. Press your hand against this and don’t let go. You’re gonna need stitches. ”

The young man looked at me and smiled. “Hey, Wayne, what’s happening, man?”

I shook my head. “What’s happening, sport, is you’re gonna be spending some quality time at the ER before you go into a cell.”

“Okay, man, no sweat.” He didn’t seem concerned at all.

The squad commander had come into the lobby and was standing over the three of us. “What the hell happened to this asshole?”

The lieutenant was tall and thin with a crew cut and light bulb-shaped head. He had sunken eyes with dark semi-circles under them. Everyone affectionately called him The Skull.

The other cop responded. “We didn’t do anything to him, LT, swear to God. He broke free and smashed his head into the wall.”

“You see it?” he asked me.

“Yep. That’s what I saw.”

Again to me: “You doing anything important right now?”

“Just gassing up, boss. What do you need?”

“You and Paul take this shithead to the hospital and take a statement from him when you get back. And make sure he doesn’t get any more cuts or bruises on the way.”

“Sure. You know that’s not our style. Ask the desk to get us clearance. We’ll be outta here in two minutes.”

To the other cop he said: “Write up the prosecution work sheet and a “42” explaining what happened. Use my office, and then get back on the road. When Shitbird gets back I’ll have a desk man do the arrest report.”

“Okay, LT.”

I helped the fool to his feet while he held the bloody paper against his head. “Let’s go Joey. When the ER doctor gets finished with you, they’re gonna be calling you Frankenstein Junior.”

My partner was waiting for me in our blue and white sector car parked next to the precinct gas pump. I told him about our assignment.

“Just what we need,” he said. “I really feel like babysitting this mutt.”

I shrugged. “We could always drop him off the South Ocean Avenue Dock. Hard to swim in handcuffs. Troubles over.”

Paul smiled and put the big Plymouth in gear.

Joey didn’t like the sound of that. “Hey, man, you can’t do that.”

“Yes, we can,” I said. “But we won’t. Your blood would only attract sharks. If one ate you, he’d probably die. I’d feel bad…for him.”

We parked in a “police only” spot outside the emergency room and walked the prisoner into their reception area. A night nurse supervisor was standing next to the clerk’s desk.

“Hey, Marty,” I said, “we’ve got a bleeder for you. Looks like at least six or eight stitches.”

“You do this to him?” she asked.

“Not hardly,” Paul said. “We’re just the taxi service. I don’t want to know anything about this.”

She was around forty years old, short with curly brown hair and with look about her that would have my partner in heat for the rest of the tour.

“Okay, bring him through,” she said, “but it’ll be a few. The doctor is looking at a guy who ran his car into a bridge on Sunrise Highway.”

“Peachy,” I said. “Joey might get us some overtime.”

“Lucky you. I’ll put a proper bandage on that and let you know when the doctor’s coming.”

Paul and I stood next to one of the exam tables in a curtained-off cubby hole at the rear of the ER. The stupid kid sat on the table, his feet dangling just above the floor. The antiseptic smell of the hospital mixed with the alcohol on the prisoner’s breath and his body odor.

“You doing okay, Joey,” I asked. “Not feeling dizzy or any of the other shit that goes with a head wound?”

“Nah. I’m okay. Hurts a little, but I’m okay.”

“Not for nuthin’ Joey,” I said, “but why did you do something stupid like that. Everybody saw you. It’s not like you can claim those cops brutalized you.”

He smiled. “Don’t matter. Haven’t you heard?”

“Heard what,” Paul asked. “You were declared legally insane?”

Joey shook his head gingerly. “You guys are behind the times. I heard about this from my cousin who got a super deal. A 3rd Precinct cop smacked him around for resisting arrest. His Legal Aid lawyer sent a complaint to the County Attorney saying my cousin intended to sue. They had a sit-down with some assistant county attorney who, right of the bat, offers him 85,000 bucks to settle out of court.”

“Eighty-five grand for a smack in the head?” I asked.

“The legal aid guy told my cousin that’s standard procedure now. They would rather settle than go through the time and expense of goin’ to court. Cool, huh?”

“So you figure that ding in your head is worth eighty-five large?” Paul asked.

Joey flashed another Cheshire Cat grin. “Yup.”

“Then you better take us to lunch when you get the check. These taxi rides don’t come cheap,” I said.

“I get eighty-five thou, and I’ll buy you guys a steak…Then you’ll be my friends.”

I looked at Paul. He rolled his eyes.

Back in the precinct, after taking a fairly innocuous statement from Joey, and before lodging him into one of the 5th Precinct’s finer overnight suites, I spent a few minutes at a typewriter in the uniform squad room and then walked into the Lieutenant’s office.

“Here’s your statement, boss.” I handed him two sheets of paper.

“What’s he say for himself, that bastard?”

“Something just as stupid as bashing his head into the plaque. He says, for the record, he got terribly upset over being arrested, something came over him and he wanted to hurt himself, and because the cop didn’t have a tight hold on him, he played battering ram with the wall. He blames the cops for not restraining him better.”

“That’s bullshit. What’s his point?”

“Read the second sheet of paper. It’s a UR 34. I wrote a supplement to the arrest. In the hospital he told us he knows the county will fork over eighty-five thousand for any notice of claim if the complainant will settle out of court. Christmas is coming. He wanted some extra pocket money and doesn’t care about having a scar.

“I figure you can send a copy of that to internal affairs, and the guys in 509 can give one to the PBA attorney so they have the real story—in case some intellect at headquarters decides to charge them with mistreating a prisoner.”

“Good job,” the lieutenant said. “Now quit screwing off and get back out there and do some work for a change.”

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