I Ain’t That Hard To Find

My Line; “I ain’t that hard to find”. I’ve been using for a long time. I use it to end conversations, start conversations, or just end situations. Here’s how it started.

Fort Street Mall

In the 70’s everyone who’d ever been in trouble jumped onto big “kids at risk” gig. Most of them were trying to con their parole officer (p.o.), or their attorney before sentencing or just trying to scam the state out of funding.

Usually their help would consist of giving the kids a bunch of “don’t do what I did” speeches, and then cashing the state funding check.

The real good one’s would get a church or other establishment to donate/lend them a room, garage, or park area and do then same thing.

About the only time these “counselors” would end up getting recognition for their efforts was when they were re-arrested for getting too helpful with some of their underage “at risk” charges.

There was one such location in the basement of a small store on Fort Street Mall. The store itself was run by former world class body builder Rex Revelle, who had loaned the basement to an “at risk” program being run by an ex-con who touted it as a place the kids could go hang out, be off the streets, after school.

Somehow he managed to get a couple of pool tables, coin operated of course, and some ping pong tables that you could play at, if you had a paddle and ball. Otherwise it was couches, conversation, and a hangout for runaways.

Which is how the cops got involved.

It was a Tuesday and we had just started the 3rd watch shift, 2:30 pm. To 11 pm.

The time and day are important as school was still in session and there shouldn’t have been anyone in the lower room since they supposed to be in school.

The original call was from a mother that had seen her teenage runaway going down the unmarked stairs. She had called dispatch at 2:20 pm. That was right when the watches changed, and this wasn’t a life and death circumstance, so nobody was dispatched until we signed on. Area sergeants usually got on the road a little later. A classic formula for a problem to happen.

It was just short of 3 pm when I got the runaway location call. I was first on the road; there would be 2 more “servi-bike” officers, a blue and white vehicle, and a sergeant supervisor when we were fully staffed.

Our regular sergeant was off and the relief sergeant was well known for taking his time getting on the road.

I took the call and stopped fronting Revelle’s storefront where I met the reporting mother. I took her information, promised I’d check it out and called it in. It started going downhill from there. Out of the store walks an off-duty officer who immediately decided since I’m by myself  he’s going to assist me. A decision I did not agree with and told him it was okay, only a runaway kid.

This guy was normally in a plain clothes unit, had several years less experience than I had, and in my opinion was a drunk. And he was drunk then.

Mostly he was an accomplished ass kisser and a master at covering his butt and letting someone else take the blame when things went wrong. He was so good, he usually managed to convince himself it was always someone else’s fault and he didn’t do anything wrong. Today, he’d be called a functional alcoholic.

So there I was, looking for a teenage runaway, at the start of the watch, alone except for drunken off duty plainclothes officer, and no sector sergeant around. And it was going to get worse.

I went down the stairs first. As I reached the middle landing I noticed there was a mirrored window facing the stairway.  Except for the mirrored exterior it resembled a teller’s window, with the big round hole in the center and an oblong opening at the bottom. But tellers windows weren’t mirrored to the extent you can’t see inside and there appeared to be some kind of plug filling the center hole and the bottom tray was dark.

To the left of the window was a good sized door that didn’t have an exterior handle, only a key-way. It could only be opened from the inside. Together these would allow the people inside to control who came in or out of the room. I figured if there was a backdoor, it was probably set up the same. This runaway had picked his location with security in mind. Or the guy running it wanted to control who came into his “counseling” room.

I had just reached the last couple of steps, and my drunk “back-up” was halfway down when the whole thing went to hell.

The first indication was the sound of a rifle bolt being “cocked”. It’s a distinctive sound made me look up at the mirrored window in time to see light from the center opening blocked out by the muzzle and flash cone of a rifle coming out of the hole. It was pointed at me.

I dove headfirst off the stairs trying to get to the corner of the landing which would put me below and a little, very little, behind the muzzle.

Diving headfirst, in full uniform, from 3 steps up, is not something you practice much. Add the muzzle of a gun and trying to reach a specific spot on the floor that that muzzle couldn’t cover, and it’s math that basically says, “You’re screwed.”

I barely managed the required tuck and roll and literally crashed into the corner I was aiming for as I tried to squirm around and keep an eye on the rifle muzzle. As I did this I became aware my back-up was frozen in place, both hands empty, and the rifle was aimed directly at him. Then I became aware I was already clutching my revolver, not having any memory of even reaching for it, let alone making the draw. I must have drawn it in mid-air, or maybe after I hit the ground, whatever, it was in my hand and pointing at the window.

Whoever was behind the window, and the rifle, called out to the plainclothes, and called him by name.

Now let me total this; I’m on a runaway juvenile call, my area partners have not signed on yet, my sector sergeant is nowhere around, my only back-up is a drunk off-duty officer, there is a person pointing a rifle at both of us, and he knows the other cop. I’m on the floor in the corner trying to stay out of the muzzle range of the rifle, after having thrown myself headfirst onto the concrete floor from the stairway. Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, I didn’t have a freaking radio. Yep, that about covers it.

I watch as my buddy held his hands out in front of him and started to back up the stairs. I hoped he would have enough sense to call dispatch when he got all the way up. Having a large caliber rifle pointed at you will make you sober, quick.

Well, it turned out he didn’t have to. Dispatch had already sent back up and they were arriving as he backed out of the stairway.

He told them what had happened, who the guy inside was, and what had happened. Then at the advice of the other officers he took off because, well whatever the reason, he took off. He had never told me he knew this guy.

The whole thing was eventually settled, in about an hour and a half. I was on the floor for about 20 minutes when they started talking to the gunman by telephone and he told them to get me out of there. I got out of there.

Nobody got shot or otherwise hurt, except for my bruises. The rifle, stolen of course, was recovered, and the ex-con was violated and returned to prison. Nobody was ever charged with pointing the rifle at me since I couldn’t say who had been holding it and nobody inside would say they saw him with it. At least nobody we ever found.

The real end of this story bears out my description of the other cop. A few years later we were both at the same function, off duty. He was standing by some other off duty officers. He was drunk, I wasn’t.

As soon as he saw me he launched into the “whole” story for the benefit of the other officers.

By the time he got done telling it; he had saved my life by talking the ex-con into not shooting me, I had charged the front door with my gun in hand and that was why the guy had grabbed the rifle to protect “his kids”, I had almost gotten him killed by drawing my gun and then taking a cowardly dive to the floor leaving him exposed while I stayed on the floor; yes he actually said “cowardly”. He wrapped this all up by saying he should kick my ass right here, right now for what I had done.

His buddies all agreed he should kick my ass but it would break up the party and maybe he should wait until next time. He agreed, rather quickly, and then warned me the next time he saw me that’s just what would happen.

This may be the first time I ever used one of my favorite lines. I looked this human roach in the eye and told him loudly enough for all to hear; “Hey. I ain’t that hard to find.”

And I walked away.

That was the last time I ever saw him, anywhere. Maybe I was hard to find after all.

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