Book Excerpt: TRUE BLUE: Pigeons and Monkeys and Snakes, Oh My!
Ed. Note: The following selection is from the book TRUE BLUE: To Protect and Serve by Lt. Randy Sutton, Copyright 2008 and is reprinted by permission of the author and St. Martin's Press. Purchase your copy of Randy Sutton's book by clicking here.
I was very lucky in the seventies to have worked with a unique group of cops. In all of our diversity there was a lot of love, hate, scandal, triumph, tragedy, and vengeance. There were about seven cliques of guys on our watch, each messing with the others. We had hunters, drinkers, lovers, bikers, boaters, skiers, and dogs. Individuals were often members of several groups because of working relationships and shared interests. Make no mistake, there was plenty of friction in our crew, but when it came to getting the job done, dislike, animosity, or hate were cast aside. We’d pull together, cover each other’s back, and even put our lives on the line for each other. We may have appeared a shrill and screaming dysfunctional family behind closed doors, but in public we looked like the Cleavers.
Practical jokes were standard fare for reasons of fun, vengeance, boredom, or a combination of all three. Jokes ranged from dangerous to cunning. Like the time Polish Bob and Harold were pulling away from a job shared by another car and Bob decided a cherry bomb would be an appropriate farewell note. When the unsuspecting boys entered the street, returning to their car, Bob lit a cherry bomb, intending to toss it at their feet as he pulled away. He flicked his Zippo closed as soon as the wick started spritzing sparks and tossed the bomb in their general direction. All would have gone as planned had he opened the car window. Harold barely had the words, “You asshole!” out of his mouth when the firework hit the clean glass and bounced back between his legs. A shrill scream and a reflexive flick of Bob’s fingers sent the fizzling object to the floor between the pedals. Before Polish Bob could get the car in park and grab the door handle it ran out of wick. All Harold could do was cover his head and ears as he turned toward the door in a curl. Kablooooie!
Hearing the report, the would-be victims dived for cover. Peering from behind their shields, they saw Bob and Harold, exiting their smoke-filled vehicle shrieking in tongues. Bob’s pants were shredded from the inside ankle to the knee. When the intended victims realized what had happened, they laughed at their bloody buddy Bob and his half-deaf partner Harold.
As they drove to Evangelical Hospital, the only sympathetic words Harold could muster over and over were: “You stupid motherfucker.” Since both were excellent working cops, the bosses just rolled their eyes at the reports and didn’t investigate further.
For many of us it confirmed our suspicions. Polish Bob hadn’t been right since Officer Tony rolled over his head with a souped-up mini-bike the previous year.
You would think that pranksters might back off after near castration by explosion, but no. They turned away from pyrotechnic pranks to things they knew better—animal pranks. Their favorite marks were the guys who used the car on the following shift. Kenny and Wally were jokesters, too, and well aware of the risk in using a car inhabited by Polish Bob and Harold for eight hours a day.
We were trained to expect the unexpected from the citizenry but less apt to detect things awry after carefully inspecting a vehicle at the beginning of a tour. All it takes is finding one back-from-the dead wino in your trunk to make you more adept at vehicle inspection.
One night after giving their car the once-over Ken and Wally confidently headed toward their beat. It wasn’t until they parked to sip coffee and write a report that they discovered their car was inhabited by a creature not native to Dodge Monacos. It was a good thing the season was summer. Wally was holding the hot coffee out the window as Kenny wrote. He felt something strange hit his shoe and move over his ankle. He jerked a bit, spilling just a little coffee. He looked down and threw the cup while screaming the Lord’s name in vain when he realized there was a snake in his car. It was a garter snake. After the initial shock they both realized there was no real danger. The snake was tossed in the nearest prairie.
Less than ten minutes later two more serpents came out of hiding. The car was infested. In all they recovered at least a dozen snakes from under the dashboard and seats and in the glove box.
Kenny and Wally continually threatened the boys they relieved, but never pulled a coup de grace. They just weren’t as devious.
One very cold midnight shift Bob and Harold spied a lone pigeon in the middle of the street. They surmised the bitter cold had grounded the poor pigeon. Feeling sorry for the flyin’ rat they brought him in the car ,placing the critter on the back windshield deck. There he sat for a few hours, ruffled up, with his head buried in a wing. By quitting time they had forgotten the bird was there.
Taking over the car 10-99 on the day shift, Kenny did his outside inspection and pulled out the rear seat looking for weapons or drugs. He never saw the bird. Pulling out of the station lot, he must have taken the corner too fast for the feathered friend. The bird took flight, banging into the windows and shitting all over the place. Kenny almost hit a few parked cars and cussed and almost shit on himself.
I’ve saved the monkey tale for last. This made the front page of the Chicago Sun Times absent these details.
Bob and Harold were about to get off shift when Del the dispatcher asked if they would take a quick one on the way in. They consented, and they were sent to an address in Canaryville to check on an intruder in a lady’s garden. The lady met them in front and told them, “He’s in my backyard ruining my cucumbers.”
They, of course, asked, “Who?”
She snapped, “That damn monkey.”
They laughed a bit and said they’d take a look. Sure enough, there was a monkey in the garden, a ring-tailed monkey.
Not really wanting to catch the monkey, they mused out loud in front of the lady about what they could do. Harold mumbled, “Gee, if we only had a monkey net.”
Her eyes lit up and she said, “I’ve got a fishing net in the basement. You could use that.”
Bob just wanted to go home. He said, “Oh, I don’t think so, ma’am. He’d probably tear a fishing net to shreds. We really need a monkey net.”
“I don’t care about the damn net. I just want that monkey outta here. I’ll go get it.”
She wasn’t about to take no for an answer and rushed to the basement. Returning, she thrust her arms out, handing the boys the net.
They shrugged and took it. None too carefully they “snuck” up on the dining primate, hoping it would bolt. It didn’t seem too concerned about being netted. Taking him to the car they figured they would put him in a dog cage in the station. He was fine till they got to the station and were about to bring him in. He jumped from the net and scooted under the car seat.
They had been wondering what type of radio code to give the dispatcher for recovering a malicious monkey, and when he took refuge under the front seat they decided on a 5-E,Edward.* Without even trying, they were going to stick it to their favorite marks again.
They turned over the keys to the unsuspecting, you guessed it, Kenny and Wally.
Right out of the box Kenny and Wally got a traffic accident call on the Damen overpass, a ten-block stretch that rose above trucking companies and railroad tracks built to relieve rush-hour traffic.
Still hiding under the seat, the monkey must have been shaken by the change in the angle of the floor when the car ascended the hill of the overpass. He screeched, left his hiding place, and hopped on the dashboard. Both coppers screamed. Kenny hit the brakes, and as the car was fishtailing to a stop, both were opening their doors to bail out. This was in the days when our radios were still attached to the dashboard. Wally had the presence of mind to grab the mike on his way out. He slammed the door on the cord.
Both looked at the monkey inside, then at each other, and in unison exclaimed, “Those dirty sons of bitches.” Unfortunately, the Channel 7 news truck was stopped next to them.
It was about 5:10 p.m. Harold was sitting down to supper. The phone rang. Bob’s voice was on the other end saying, “Harold, when the phone rings again, don’t pick it up. You got that? Don’t pick the damn phone up.”
“Bob, what the hell are you talking about?”
“You’ll see, Harold. You’ll see on the Channel 7 ten o’clock news.” The phone went dead.
Harold called back. It rang and rang. Bob was taking his own advice. Sitting back down to supper, his wife knew something was awry, and she asked what the call was all about.
Harold could only say that he had to watch the news at ten.
Many of us know that sick feeling of waiting to see something you said or did on the news and not knowing how they’ll spin it. It sucks your energy as you wait for the worst.
This happened in the days before everyone had answering machines and little jacks that easily disconnect the phone. Harold forbade his family from answering. He stared at the phone when it rang. His family stared at him.
At ten all eyes were glued to Channel 7 Eyewitness News. The lead story showed the ring-tailed monkey on the dash of Beat 907’s car, backlit by the setting sun. Interviews with Kenny and Wally made them sound like Clinton’s crew or Sergeant Shultz from Hogan’s Heroes. “I know nothing!”
Harold and his wife roared. After the news Harold tried calling Bob again. The phone just rang and rang and rang.
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