In last week’s Newspaper Days column I told you the story of a woman who called me because her teenage sons were playing with an unstable World War II-era hand grenade. I said that once I determined it was a live grenade, I called my buddy Rusty, who was a lieutenant with the police department. He, in turn, summoned a police department to deal with the grenade.
Rusty was a great guy with an evil sense of humor, and some of the pranks he pulled were awesome. So awesome that the statute of limitations may not have run out on all of them. And occasionally, when I wasn’t participating in them, I became the target of one of Rusty’s pranks.
For example, always wanting to keep abreast of what was happening in town, like most small-town newspaper people I knew, I had a police scanner in my office, one at home, and one in my car. Now I’ll admit, back in those days I may have occasionally ignored a traffic law or two. I wouldn’t think of speeding through a school zone, but occasionally I might not come to a full stop at a stop sign if there was no other traffic around. But hey, at least I slowed down!
One day I went to the post office and when I left, I made a “California stop” at the stop sign on the corner. I was almost through the intersection when a voice said, “You really need to stop at those signs, Nick.” Okay, we all hear voices in our heads, don’t we? Or is that just me? But usually, those voices don’t speak out loud. This one did!
Since I was the only person in my minivan, I looked at my big German Shepherd, Magic, sitting in the passenger seat, wondering when the heck he learned to talk. Then that same voice said, “Don’t blame it on the dog. You’re the one that ran stop sign.”
By then I thought I really was hearing voices, and I might need to call my shrink. But about that time I heard a siren and looked in my rearview mirror. And there was Rusty in his patrol car with his lights flashing right behind me, holding up his radio’s microphone and grinning. So I did what any law-abiding pillar of the community would do in a situation like that. I gave him the finger and went on about my business.
The story quickly made the rounds around town, and over the next few days several people asked me if I wanted to sell that talking dog of mine. I told them no, while I quietly plotted my revenge.
A few weeks later, a new business was opening in town and they had a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the grand opening. Members of the Chamber of Commerce, other business owners, the mayor, and the Town Council all turned out for the occasion. I was supposed to be there to cover the event for my newspaper, and I was running late. I jumped out of my van with my camera, and Rusty, who was there representing the police department, told me I had not locked my car. I said that was okay, I knew a cop who would keep an eye on it for me. Rusty said no, I had to go back and lock it. So I did, just to humor him.
After the ribbon-cutting and the celebratory round of applause, I went back to my van and realized that Rusty’s car was running. Looking around, I saw him talking to the mayor. So, once again, I did what any law-abiding pillar of the community would do in a situation like that. I reached in and turned on the siren and roof lights, then I locked Rusty’s car and beat a hasty retreat.
A lot of cops I knew kept an extra key to their vehicle in their pockets. Rusty was not one of those cops. So everybody got to stand there and watch his lights flashing and listen to his siren wailing while he went into the new store and used their phone (this was before the days of cell phones) to call the police department and ask them to send an officer to his location with another set of keys. It turns out nobody could locate an extra set of keys, but an officer with a Slim Jim was able to eventually open the car.
I made myself scarce for a week or two, always looking for Rusty anytime I ventured out, until the heat more off. Who says cops and news reporters can’t get along?
Congratulations Barbara Bowers, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. We had 44 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.
Thought For The Day – Decaffeinated coffee is as useless as a hooker who only wants to cuddle.