How I hitchhiked into my first big drug bust

I was a wannabe police officer when I helped the cops get the bad guys


During my 33-year career I was involved in more drug busts than I can count, but my most memorable bust will always be my first.

It was the winter of 1972, and I was a police science student in Madison, Wisconsin. I was missing my fiancée, so I found myself, on the spur of the moment, standing on the ramp to I-90 West holding a homemade sign that read, “To La Crosse, please.” (I know. Dumb move.)  

After quite a time waiting I was thrilled when a gold-four-door-beater-mobile pulled over and the passenger yelled, “Jump in!”

Pictured is a young Dan Marcou. (Photo/Dan Marcou)
Pictured is a young Dan Marcou. (Photo/Dan Marcou)

When I climbed in I discovered that in place of the back seat there was an old couch cushion. I had to nudge a large suitcase over to make room. As I slammed the door the driver squealed away to the music of The Doors’ “Love Her Madly,” which seemed appropriate as both the passenger and the driver were Jim Morrison look-alikes.

As soon as the car slid into traffic on I-90 the driver and passenger, undeterred by my presence, each lit up a doobie.  The passenger turned, leaned over to the back seat and popped open the suitcase next to me.

“The grass is free, but you will have to pay for anything else. We got it all…ludes, uppers, downers, acid, smack. What’s your poison?” he asked.

As a police-officer-wannabe I answered, “No, thanks. I have allergies.”

“Dude! That’s so sad,” was the response.

He turned around and took a long toke, held it in and then blew it out repeating, “That’s so sad.”

Plan A: Be Afraid       

Fear! 

I was riding in a car that had no working muffler with a driver who did not feel compelled to respect either speed limits or lane markers. If the car was stopped I doubted any police officer on the planet would believe I was just hitchhiking.

The drug-filled suitcase next to me had the capacity to not only kill my dream of becoming a police officer, but also land me in prison.

Plan B: Escape

I decided I had to get out of the car. I asked, “Can you drop me at Portage?”

The passenger replied puzzled, “But your sign said La Crosse.”

I answered as nonchalantly as I could, “The trip was a last-minute decision and the La Crosse Sign was all I had. I figured if someone was going to La Crosse they would be going by Portage as well. My girlfriend in Portage is upset with me so I got to try to make things right.”

Unmoved, the driver answered, “Sounds good. We’ll drop you at Portage.”

The passenger turned, looked at me and slowly turned back. “Portage,” he declared, clearly suspicious. I was thankful when one more hit of THC changed his focus.

Plan C: Call the Police

I counted the miles, while dripping with dread, until the ever-careening-drug-dealer-carrying-car pulled off the interstate and dropped me on the Portage ramp. I climbed out of the car, thanking them for the ride. Shouldering my pack, I leisurely walked to the back of the car, waving as I mentally noted the tag number.

Instantly the passenger shouted, “He’s getting our plate, man!”

I looked for cover, but there was none.

I was relieved as the driver accelerated, causing the back tire to spit gravel loudly. Standing alone on the ramp I watched the car’s single tail light disappear into the line of traffic on the interstate.

Without a second thought I walked to the pay phone at the nearest diner/gas station. I had little money on me so I dialed zero and asked to be connected to the Wisconsin State Patrol Dispatcher. The operator connected me for free.

The dispatcher was a pro. He kept me on the line and took down the description of the vehicle and plates, the description of the drugs I saw, as well as the description of Jim Morrison one and two. I heard the call go out and the trooper acknowledge he was in position to intercept the vehicle. The dispatcher told me to stand by and put me on hold.

I stood holding the phone for what seemed like forever until the dispatcher’s voice said, “Mr. Marcou, are you still there?”

I answered, “Yes, sir.”

“The suspects are in custody and the officers found the suitcase you described.”

 “Do you need me for anything else?” I asked.

“No. We’ve got it all. They are cooperating. We may not even need your testimony, but we have your information if we need to follow-up. Thanks for your help, sir. Goodbye.”

I felt a rush that had to be as exhilarating as anything the drugs in the suitcase could produce. In time, as a police officer, I would become just as addicted to it. The reason for the feeling was caused by five little words:

“The suspects are in custody.”

I longed for the day when I would not just be hearing those words, but saying them. I wanted to be a police officer and catch the bad guys before they killed innocent people with their bad deeds, bad driving and bad drugs.

While coming down from the rush I realized I was standing in the middle of nowhere with a buck twenty five in my pocket without a ride. But that didn’t matter because the suspects were in custody!

I shuffled over to the counter of the diner and ordered a Mountain Dew on ice knowing that in order to get home, I would need to initiate Plan D.

But that’s another story.

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