Although the people and events portrayed in this story are true, the names of those involoved and time period have been drastically altered. Therefore this story is classified as a work of fiction.
The author retains copyright to this story. Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.
If you have enjoyed reading this story, you will find other stories by me at John's Lovescape
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The kid in front of me was sweating bullets.
"What do you mean? I caught you red handed!" I yelled.
"But I found it in the alley! I didn't take anything!"
"Do you take me for a fool? Billy, how long have I known you?"
"I arrested you for the FIRST time six months ago. That was for theft. Do you really think you can lie to me and get away that easily? I know you Billy."
I looked at him again. The young man was shaking visibly with fear. I knew if I arrested him, it would be a violation of his probation and he would be locked up for quite a while. I checked what he had in the bag. Not even worth the time to run him in, and certainly not worth violating him.
I knew he was underage from his previous arrests. This happened time and time again. I would arrest these kids. They would be sent home or to a foster home and in no time at all they were right back on the streets. On my beat.
"I only wanted something to eat, Sam. I'm really hungry. It has been two days since I ate." He pleaded.
"Damn it Billy, when you need food, just ask me, ok?"
He nodded his head as he looked at me with admiration. Then I had an idea.
"Now you have a choice, either you go back to the store where you took this stuff and apologize to the proprietor or you go to jail. It's your choice."
Billy started to object but once he saw the look in my face, he stopped and nodded his head in agreement. I grabbed him by the arm and marched him down the street to Papa Joe's Market.
I guess it is about time that I tell you a little about what is going on here. I am a cop. Yes, you heard it right I said a cop. To be politically correct, I am a Law Enforcement Officer in the great city and county of San Francisco. I walk a beat up and down Polk Street in our fair city. I haven't been a cop all of my life. I just wasn't suited to carrying a gun and shooting people. But after some persuasion from a few people, here I am.
Would you like to hear the circumstances around my changing careers? Sure you do!
They recruited me right here on Polk Street. That is a story in itself. Just to give you a little idea of what happened that night, I'll tell you the abbreviated version of the story. I was out partying that night. I had been working myself to death at my old job and after a particularly bad week, I decided to have a little fun. I had been doing a bit of bar hopping. You know, go to one bar, have a couple of drinks and then walk to the next, have a couple of drinks and then do it again and again and..........Well, you get the idea.
After about the third or fourth bar, I don't really remember for sure, I was stumbling out of the door onto the sidewalk and ran right into a hold up. Two guys were robbing a kid at knife point. When I ran into them and I mean it literally. I knocked the knife out of the assailant's hand. The guy took a swing at me and my old military training took over. Even being drunk I reacted. (The reason I have all of the details is because of the police report, I don't remember a thing.) I apparently took the guy out and his accomplice immediately after. By the time the cops arrived, I had continued on my way, destination, the next bar. Oblivious to the two guys laying on the sidewalk, bleeding and the young kid standing next to them shaking with fear.
Later that evening as I stumbled out of the 6th or 7th bar of the evening, I was confronted by two of San Francisco's finest. I would get into the details but as I said before I don't really remember. Those two cops from that night are still giving me a bad time about the whole thing. Fred and Tom are veterans, having both been on the force for more than 20 years. They are very good friends of mine now, but it didn't start out that way. I am getting off track here. They wanted to question me about that little scene earlier. Well, obviously I was way too drunk to help them at that time so they arrested me for public drunkenness. I spent the night in the drunk tank with about 15 other guys. The next morning I woke up with one hell of a hangover. You see, I don't drink that often. I just go out and party once in a while and this once happened to be the time that I got into trouble. After I woke up, a detective took me to an interrogation room and started asking me questions about the night before.
"Honestly! I don't remember a thing sir. Really!"
"You are telling me that you took out two men that were in the process of committing an armed robbery and you don't remember? That is difficult to believe Mr. Peterson."
"Hey, I was a little drunk at the time, give me a break."
"That is a bunch of bullshit." He yelled. "There is no way that you could have been that drunk and taken those two out like you did. That is a physical impossibility Mr. Peterson."
"Then sir, this must be a case of mistaken identity." I replied sarcastically.
The detective slammed his fist on the table attempting to intimidate me, but all it did was make my head pound worse and piss me off more. I shut my eyes while the pain subsided.
"Look here Peterson, if you don't come clean and start talking, I will personally see to it that you spend a hell of a lot more time in jail for obstructing justice." He bent over so his face was right in mine and yelled. "DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME MISTER?"
I hate it when people do that. I was really getting pissed now. Hold on a minute Sam. You are starting to loose control. Breathe, breathe, there that's better. Ok, now what can I say to this asshole to make him understand? Damn my head hurts.
"Sir, I don't see how you can do that. Clearly this is a misunderstanding. I honestly don't remember anything about last night." I raised my voice. "I'll take a damn lie detector test if you don't believe me."
"And that is exactly what you are going to do Mr. Peterson."
He stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him. I sat there, still nursing that damn hangover. This is exactly why I don't drink. Well not very often. I always suffer the consequences the next day.
I must have sat there for two hours before someone opened the door.
"Mr. Peterson, come with me please." A big burly officer politely asked.
That's more like it. Someone with a little courtesy.
He guided me down the hall to another room. When he opened the door, there was the lie detector sitting on a table and the specialist sitting in a chair behind it. I looked around the room and saw my favorite detective sitting in the corner behind the door.
"Sit down Peterson." He barked, a look of disgust on his face.
"Most certainly detective. May I make a suggestion?" I looked at the detective waiting for a response and when I didn't get one. "You might consider taking a course in courtesy from this officer." I pointed over my shoulder, with my thumb, at the officer behind me.
The detective's face got real red as his anger boiled. He didn't say a thing, but if looks could kill, I wouldn't be here telling this story right now.
Oh! I did say that I was going to keep this short didn't I. Ok, I'll leave out the details from now on.
I passed the lie detector test with flying colors. I really didn't remember a thing. The detective was livid. He stood up, dumping his chair over. As it clattered to the floor, he stormed out of the room, slamming the door once again. I think that guy has a penchant for slamming doors. I looked at the specialist and shook my head. He just smiled back at me.
I was released shortly after and gingerly made my way back to my apartment on the corner of Polk and Geary Streets. That rickety old elevator was louder than normal as it rattled up to the 5th floor of the building. I opened my door and went directly to bed. My head felt as if it was going to explode.
About two weeks after my stay in the city's best accommodations, I received a call from a Captain Severs. He wanted me to come down to the precinct office for an interview. An interview? I kept asking him why he wanted to talk and he said that it was relating to the case I was involved in two weeks ago. I was lost as to why they wanted to talk to me again, but I went anyway. As if I had a choice.
"Mr. Peterson, please sit down." The Captain offered, all smiles, acting much like a politician on the campaign trail.
I was in his office. Not the interrogation room where I expected to be. This is going to be interesting.
"Would you like some coffee?" He said smiling.
"Yes please, that would be great."
He produced two cups of coffee and sat behind his desk, looking at me.
"Mr. Peterson, the reason that I asked you here today is to offer you a rare opportunity."
"After your stay with us two weeks ago, we ran a background check on you and discovered that you have a little experience in law enforcement." He said as he shuffled a few papers, finally picking up one and reading. "From 1982 to 1984 you served in the US Army as a military police officer. Upon your honorable discharge from the service you joined the Sheriffs Department in Northern California. You remained in that position for 4 years. Is this correct?"
"Yes it is. What does this have to do with the opportunity?"
"I'll get to that in a moment. You have a degree in Administration of Justice. You hold a 2nd Dan in Kempo Karate. And you are Gay."
He stopped with that last statement, looking at me for any reaction.
"That is correct." I said, not even batting an eye.
"Mr. Peterson, the city of San Francisco is instituting a new program. Specifically, this program involves a few changes in the way the police department operates. We are going to bring back the beat cop. The community cop. A cop that lives and works in his own community. A cop that knows everyone and that everyone knows. The first area that is being considered is the Polk District, my district Mr. Peterson"
"And what does this have to do with me?" I asked bluntly, still not putting two and two together.
"With your background and the fact that you live in the Polk District makes you a perfect candidate for that position Mr. Peterson."
"I don't think you have the right person Captain. I left law enforcement for a good reason and I don't have any desire to return to that profession."
"Don't think of this as returning to law enforcement Mr. Peterson. Think of it as becoming the community Ambassador. You will be a buffer between the police department and those that live in your community. This could be a very satisfying job. A rare opportunity."
"Captain, I have my reasons and I don't think there is anything you can say to change my mind. I really think you are wasting your time."
"Ok, Mr. Peterson, but before you completely decide against it, take some time to think about it please. Oh yes, another little matter that I want to discuss with you is the arrest from two weeks ago." Again he looked at me to see how I would react. "We feel that we were in error and we want to make it right."
"Oh, I see. A little bribery?"
"I am insulted Mr. Peterson. This is not bribery at all. It is only correcting a mistake that should have never happened. If there had been a community officer on duty, your arrest would most likely not have happened. It would not have happened because he would have known the person involved and that person's history. That is a very valuable tool."
Well, as you already know, I did think about it and after several months of cajoling by the Captain and several ride along's with the two guys who had arrested me that night, I finally gave in. I did see the need for a beat cop. I saw the need for someone that was a part of the community. Someone that would personally know the people here. Suddenly one day I had this uncontrollable desire to help my people. Yes, I thought of them as my people, the people that are my neighbors. So here I am, a 46 year old cop walking a beat in San Francisco when most guys my age are sitting behind a desk taking it easy. I must be a glutton for punishment. But you know what? I love my job, the Captain was correct when he said this job would be very satisfying.
Ok, that is the condensed version of how I got to where I am now. Aren't you glad I didn't tell the long version? Let's get back to the story.
I dragged Billy into Papa Joe's Market and luckily Papa Joe was working. Just picture a very old, short Italian man with thinning silver hair, kind of crouched over and walking slowly. I think Papa Joe must be at least 150 years old. He brightened as I walked into the market.
"Hi ya Sam! What are you draggin behind you?"
"Hi Joe, I have someone here that wants to talk to you."
I shoved Billy in front of me so he was face to face with Papa Joe. We stood there for a minute before I nudged him in the ribs. He let out a grunt.....
"S-sir, I-I'm here to apologize to you."
Papa Joe stood looking at the boy. His sparkling brown eyes sizing up the trembling young man before him.
"So what are you apologizing for young man?" He asked.
"S-sir, I-I stole some food from you earlier."
"You did now, did you? Why is it that I didn't catch you? I don't miss much sonny."
Billy took the bag and handed it to Papa Joe. Joe took the bag from him and stood there staring. Billy started squirming under his gaze.
"In this bag here." Joe said lifting the bag up. "I bet I will find a 2 candy bars, a carton of milk and two, no, three packages of crackers. Is that correct young man?"
Billy's eyes grew to the size of pie plates and his jaw dropped open.
"I knew you took them young man. I have seen you around for a while now and I know that you're not a troublemaker. I was going to talk to Sam about it when he came by this evening. I don't condone theft of any kind but this totals," He looked up at the ceiling, placing his finger on his lips as if it would help him think. "About $3.85 plus tax." Then he looked at me with a grin. "Young man, if you ever need food, I think I can find a few chores around here that will earn you a good meal. Sam, I won't press charges if this little tyke will agree to working off his debt."
Billy visibly relaxed and looked back at me with a pleading expression on his face.
"Ok Joe, it is your call." I frowned at Billy. "If I ever hear of you stealing again Billy, you will regret the day you were born. Got it?"
"Y-yes sir." Billy replied with a grin, visibly relieved.
I left the two to hammer out an agreement and hit the streets again. I told you I love my job and that was one of the reasons right there. It was very satisfying to bring another case to a close and with a happy ending to boot. I rounded the corner of Post and Polk, light on my feet, whistling a tune, one of those old classics, Knights in White Satin. You remember that one don't you? I love the Moody Blues.
I looked down the street toward Market and saw the usual crowd hanging around on the sidewalk outside of the Crossroads bar, smoking cigarettes. Directly across the street was the Depot bar, again with it's usual crowd doing the same thing. It looks like tonight is going to be a busy one. There were more people walking the streets than normal for a Friday night. I looked just past the Crossroads where there was a young man standing next to the Chinese restaurant. Leaning against the wall, shirt open down the front. This was the typical hustler pose on the Polk. They stand or lean against a wall, exposing their smooth chests, some with muscled chests and washboard abs, others just skinny. This was the bait for prospective customers. This was how these kids survived on the streets of this city. Some of them underage, some not, but all of them young.
I hated what these kids had to do to survive. Billy is an example, he came to the city just about a year ago. He looked so much younger then. He was only 15 at the time. Now he looks like he is 25 and it has only been a year, 16 going on 25. That really pisses me off. A kid like him, cute, smart, living on the streets most of the time. He has lost his amazement at the world around him, he has lost the innocence of his youth, and I think he is no longer afraid to die. SHIT!! I get mad every time I start thinking about this. I'm going to change the subject.
I decided that a quick walk through the Crossroads and the Depot were in order so I turned my attention back to the crowd in front of the two bars. As I approached the Crossroads, I heard someone say something about a cop coming. Several of the guys around this speaker laughed and said.
"That's only Sam. Don't worry man. He's cool."
I smiled as I approached the small crowd.
"Hey guys, what's up tonight?"
I heard several voices call back, "Hey Sam." "Hi Sam."
This from the regulars on the street.
"Ok boys, who's smoking the pot?" I growled jokingly.
Several of the guys turned red in the face and looked at the ground in front of them.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to bust you. Just keep a low profile ok? Besides, pot is almost legal here anyway but remember, we are still fighting a battle with the Feds."
Now I know what you are thinking. Here is a cop allowing someone to break the law, is he on the take or something? The answer to your question is, 'HELL NO I'M NOT ON THE TAKE.' I just think there are more serious crimes to be dealt with. If I happen upon someone doing something stronger, you can bet your ass that I will bust'em and I have.
That is where being a community beat cop comes in handy. I know most of these guys. They hardly ever get into trouble, they just like to have a little fun once in a while and personally, I don't think pot is any worse than alcohol. I have seen some really mean drunks and I've had some real problems with them, but I have yet to see anyone other than very, very happy when stoned.
I stood there for a few minutes talking to the guys, they introduced me to the new faces that were in the group. I mentally filed their faces and names for later reference. That is one of the requirements of the job. Always remember faces and names. It really comes in handy. I told them all to be good and entered the bar.
"Hey Sam, how you doin tonight?" Yelled Charlie, the bartender.
"Hey Charlie, great. How about you?"
"Couldn't be better. You want some coffee?"
That was one of the perks of walking a beat. I would constantly get free coffee and sometimes food too. I didn't take advantage of my position. It was just a way for the people in the community to show their appreciation. If I refused, they would take it as an insult. I sat at the bar drinking my coffee, chatting with Charlie when I heard someone yell from outside.
"OH MY GOD! NO, NO! PLEASE SOMEONE HELP!"
I jumped up and ran outside to see what all the commotion was about and there was Billy clinging to someone crying and screaming,
"Please help him. Please." He sobbed.
I walked over to Billy and pulled him to me. When he saw who it was he collapsed into my arms.
"Help him Sam, Please help him!"
"Billy, tell me what is going on? Help who? Where?"
"Papa Joe, he, he's in the alley."
I pushed Billy into someone else's arms and ran toward the alley. I stopped at the corner and cautiously surveyed the area. Not seeing anything out of the ordinary I unsnapped the strap on my service revolver and entered the alley.
I slowly walked toward several dumpsters about half way down. I didn't hear a sound except my own footsteps and my heart pounding in my chest.
I moved to the far side of the alley, away from the dumpsters and continued my advance. Once I was just about even with the first smelly box, I saw a pair of feet sticking out of one of them.
That is when I started shaking, my heart started pounding in my chest and I was breathing fast.
I grabbed the flashlight off of my belt and switched it on, playing it around the area, looking for any threat as I slowly approached. Do you think I was scared? A somewhat seasoned cop should be use to these things right? Well, let me tell you something. I will never get use to this.
Once I made it to the dumpster, I peered over the side to see what was connected to the feet.
I immediately turned around and retched my guts out.
To be continued......
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