I’m working the day shift with Fred, ten years my senior. We both hit it off pretty good. Freddy, a crusty old Marine from the big WWII, likes two things, The Marine Corps and the Mets.Like all of us he looked forward to his pension and living the easy life. He had a little under three years left before his retirement. We started our tour on Monday, Fred as always, began grumbling about the Mets, hoping they would have a better season than last year. I responded with the usual, “Yeah Fred, lots a luck.”
I liked Mondays, especially the day tour. Everything seem clean and fresh, you could see the kids going to school, the iron grates were off the store windows, people were out and you could stop and inhale the civilized world. Even though we worked in the ghetto, the low life stayed out of the sun, like the vampires. We were looking for an easy day. Last tour we had 35 complaints, plus a vehicle homicide, delivered a baby and had to take an old man who lost his mind, to the psycho ward in a body bag. Maybe today, things would go a little slower. It was the first day of spring and it was being ushered in with a warm breeze that made you think of baseball and the Jersey shore.
Fred spotted a car making a turn into a one way street the wrong way. We followed the car and spotted two teenage males inside.“It looks like two Indians.” (Fred's description of young black males) Fred sneered". I waved them over to stop. They pulled over to the curb and looked nervous. I got out of the car and asked the driver for his license and registration. He handed me his license and nervously said. “I left the registration at home.”“Who owns the car?” I said, bending to look in.You mean this car?" he smiled. That’s right” I said, "The car you’re driving.” giving them a closer look. After furthering questioning, they both admitted to us that, they had borrowed the car from the High School parking lot.“Borrowed, from whom?’ I said.
“From a friend,” the driver said.
“What’s your friends name and where does he live?” I said.
“Ah aah,” he stuttered. “Actually we just kind of took it.”
Fred chimed in. “Looks like we have a couple of car thieves here.”
I told the boys to get out of the car, “So you’re telling me you took the car without the owner’s permission. Right?” I said.“Yes,”
“But we were going to bring it right back, honest.”
I asked them if they were carrying any weapon’s.“No,” they said. “Are you going to arrest us?”
Fred opened their car door and ordered them out and into the back of the patrol car.“Your both are going to be arrested for possession of a stolen car, now get in.” Fred barked I could see they were scared stiff sitting in the back of the patrol car. Their eye’s weld up in tears as they pleaded with us.“Officer’s, we never did anything like this before, this is our senior year, were suppose to graduate in June. We wouldn’t want our parents to find out.
”Fred picked up the mike to call in a PA (police action).“Hold on Fred, let me think this one over.”
Fred gave me that look.” Think! Think what over; we have two admitted car thieves right? So what’s there to think over?”
I told Fred to step outside of the car, I wanted to talk.
“Look Fred”, I said. It looks like they just took the car for a joy ride. Right?”Fred nodded. “Maybe,” he mumbled.
"Its probably belongs to some teacher or whoever and probably doesn’t even know it missing, until schools over, Right?”Fred nodded again and another maybe.“It’s only One o’clock, there’s no damage on the car, they look like good kids, I think they need a break. So how does this sound. I’ll take the car back to the school with these two guys in it. You follow me with the Patrol car. I’ll put the car right back in the same space (hopefully) that they took it from and nobody will be the wiser, got it?”This time Fred didn’t nod. He rolled his eyes in his pissed off manner said “You gotta be kidding me, if this idea of yours goes sour, there goes my pension. Besides, we don’t owe these people anything. You know their type, their hopeless. At their age I was in the Marine Corp, fighting for a cause, so these characters can breathe some free air. I didn’t hang around the corners stealing cars. I did something with my life. Back then, when a cop came by, you show respect or you felt the law at the end of his nightstick. That’s we these two birds need.”I pressed on. ‘Look partner don’t worry, I think we can pull this off, trust me.”
“Ah…okay.” Fred said, but I know I’m gonna be sorry.”I pulled the car into the school lot and sure enough the spot was still there, pointed out to me by the boys. I parked the car and took the them aside and spoke to them like a Dutch Uncle.“Now listen up”, I said, looking both these kids straight in the eye. Where going to forget this ever happened, I want you guys to do the same, understand? Something like this could send you to prison. You’ll be living with a bunch of low lives, you’re lucky if you don’t get raped once a week in the joint. How do you think you parents will feel, you think it’s fair to them. Now what you did was stupid and against the law and a thing like this could ruin your lives.”Speechless, they turned and went into the school building,Fred and I went back patrolling our district. About a year pasted. Fred and I were still in the car patrolling the same district. We often thought about those two kids and wonder what they were doing. Every time I mentioned them. Fred would say. “What else, their probably out there mugging some old lady.”“So you think we made a mistake Fred?He snapped back at me.“We, hold on partner, it was your idea to let those two Indians go. I still think you made a mistake.”Just then the radio kicked in ‘Fifty One car, report to the Precinct.”I responded back, “Car fifty one received.”Fred still somewhat grumpy said, “So what do you think they want?”“I don’t know Fred, maybe they want to give you the “Sam Spade Award,” for cop of the year.”“Okay, funny man, let’s see what they want.” We reported to the desk Lieutenant. He pointed to the back room, “There are a couple of guys in the back that want to see you two birds.” In the back room we were greeted by two young Marines in their dress blue uniforms. They both stuck out their hands to shake ours and said, “I don’t know if you remember us, but were the two knuckle heads you let go over the car incident, remember?”After we graduated, we decided to join the Marine Corps. We’ll be out in two years with an option to go to college, all paid for.”I looked at Fred, he looked at me and we both grinned and shook their hands telling them, “Sure, we remember.” “Well”, they both said, we often thought you two guys. We want to thank you for what you did for us.” Fred and I got back into the patrol car and started our tour.Fred looked at me and without looking back, I said, “You know partner sometimes we win one.”
Fred said. “Just drive.”