“He was gonna kill me!”
The barfly said it with absolute earnest certainty.
So I turned to the homeless guy – who I’d seen two days earlier riding through town on his bike with two Yuppie kid carts tied with a bit of rope – and asked him, “You gonna kill this guy?”
The homeless man sort of shrugged; a non-verbal, “Unless I get a better offer.”
All right, I can deal with that.
See, the homeless guy, who told me he was going to Montana “to die,” had stopped on that death trip in town. And during his death trip stop in town, he stopped at a bar.
At said stop on said death trip, he got into a…hmmm…what to call it…disagreement, shall we say, with just about everyone in the bar.
Apparently, he said he’d take care of all 35+ people and then flashed what everyone said was a knife. It was a blade but not really a knife. And I’m pretty sure he would have hurt himself more than anyone else.
But hey, it’s aggravated assault, right? Wear the badge, deal with the bullshit. Arrest, prosecute, jail. Except this is the real world. Prosecuting attorney would have dropped the charges because he’s homeless and broke. And if the attorney hadn’t, the judge would…because the guy’s homeless and broke. If we arrested him, then he becomes a longer term problem for the city and the jail and besides, it would have interrupted his death trip to Montana.
So we worked out a deal with the bar patrons and the homeless man that I’d take him on down the road, get him closer to Montana. Yeah, it’s a horrible way to deal with problems, but what other real option did we have? The last place this guy needs to be is jail. And what about his twelve tons of crap? Where would we have held that? We have no place so what happens to that? And what if we did arrest him and he was released pending trial? Does he stay in town and if so, where? And how does he pay for it?
“I wanna get you closer to Montana,” I said.
“Get me the fuck outta Dodge and you and me are good,” was his response. (Not exactly; it’s the sentiment if not the verbiage)
So we head west on the highway. And on the way…he sings to me.
Terrible voice; a cracked tenor with nary a relationship with intervals between notes. You’ve not heard bad until you’ve heard hymns in a monotone. Between every verse, a joke or a bizarre question, including one about which position I preferred when it came to sex. Unsure of where that was headed, I said something along the lines of, “Well, the position matters less than the genitalia.”
He laughed. “Yeah, tha’ss pro’ly true, ain’t it?”
Uh…did he just call me a homophobe? Whatever.
About halfway there, he asks me, quite seriously, “Are you some sort of backwoods Christian?”
Now, I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but never a Christian and certainly never backwoods.
When we get to the next county up the line, I started getting his stuff outta the truck I wrangled into helping us, and I noticed that down the street, at a convenience store, there was a local city police department car. Guy was probably getting some coffee or donuts or something.
But while I’m getting my guy’s stuff from the truck, the fucker’s talking and talking and going through my duty coat pockets.
“Hey. Watch the wandering hands.”
“Yes, sir…yes, sir.”
Then he got outta my squad with my jacket. Fucker’s trying to put it on.
“Hey, that’s my coat.”
He frowned, looked at it. “Oh, I thought it was mine.”
“Yeah, I can see how the sheriff’s office patch and the badge would throw you off.”
“I used to have one just like it.”
“When was that?”
“Ten or twelve years ago.”
“So you thought it just miraculously made an appearance?”
“Just made a mistake, dude, chill out.”
“Chill out, huh?”
“Yeah.” He nodded intently, as though I’d made a monumental mistake. “Yeah, take a pill. And can I have five bucks?”
“Payment for the jacket? You get the coat and the money? Helluva deal. How about this? How about you keep on keeping on for Montana and I won’t charge you with aggravated assault and throw you in jail? How’s that sound?”
He thought hard for a long minute, rubbing his chin and letting his eyes dart side to side. “Well, I like my deal better, but I recognize when I’m holding the weaker hand.”
I laughed, clapped him on the back, and told him good luck.
“I’m dying,” he said. “How much luck do you need with that?”
“Depends on the death, I guess.”
So then I left.
And within ten minutes, my Sheriff’s Office got a call from the local PD. They wanted to know why we’d dumped that guy on them. I told dispatch to tell them we hadn’t dumped anyone, that we had merely assisted in a nationwide travel program and that they should do the same.
“Have them call the next county down and have that county call the next and so on and so on.”
Not the best solution, but the only one I could come up with. Sometimes, as a police officer, my choices are limited to bad or shitty.
But remember this: fucker got away with two of my bottles of water.
Hah. Distracted me with the coat and then slipped away with something of more immediate value. And got a free ride of thirty miles.
So who had the weaker hand?