Officer Hank Mergatroyd kissed his wife, Sally Bee, goodbye at the front door of their home. She handed him a brown paper bag with his lunch inside. He thanked her and went to his car, a faded red 1985 Dodge Ram Charger with 500,000 miles.
As Hank drove out of his subdivision and up to the freeway, he saw Slim Jones, the panhandler at his usual duty station. He had a new sign which read, “Wife and 10 kids. Please Help.” Slim was flipping off a driver who pulled away as the light changed. Hank caught the red light and pulled up next to Slim, who stood on the curb mumbling to himself.
“Morning, Slim,” Mergtroyd said cheerfully as he rolled down his window halfway. It wouldn’t go down any further. “What did that guy in the car in front of me say? Looks like it made you angry.”
“He looked at my sign and said I needed a vasectomy,” said Slim. “Everybody’s a comedian these days, ha, ha.”
“Where’d you get that sign, Slim? You don’t have any children,” Mergatroyd asked.
“Found it this morning outside the McDonalds where I ate breakfast,” Slim replied. “Beats the one I had before. It said, ‘Will work for food.’ Stupid people kept offering me jobs,” he said.
“You want my lunch, Slim?” Hank asked as he held up the brown bag Sally Bee had given him.
“Whatcha got today, officer Mergatroyd?” Slim asked as he took the bag. He looked inside and rummaged around with a dirty hand. He pulled out a can of shoe polish.
“This is your lunch?” Slim asked. He pulled out a can opener, a bag of thumbtacks and a kitten.
“I guess it’s time to get my wife a new prescription for her eye glasses,” Hank said.
“I’ll keep the cat,” Slim said. “You can have the rest of your lunch back,” he said giving the bag back to Mergatroyd. The car behind him honked several times.
“See ya, Slim,” Hank said as he pulled away.
Hank got to the station in time for late side roll call. He walked in the back door and went to the radio room for his shop keys. Officer Ben Toolong was handing out the keys today.
“Unit number?” Toolong asked Mergatroyd.
“Ben, I’ve been riding 15E21D for five years now. Every morning you ask me my unit number. Why?” said Hank.
“Oh, you think you’re special, eh?” Toolong asked sarcastically. “You think I’m supposed to memorize your unit number and have everything all ready and tied up in a bow for you, Mergatroyd?” Toolong turned away and spoke to himself. “When I was a rookie in 19 hundred and ought 7, we wouldn’t have put up with snot-nosed guys like you, expecting special treatment and all.” He pulled the shop keys off the hook, turned and slammed them on the counter. He glared at Hank.
Hank glared back at Toolong. Then he growled and barked like a dog. Toolong’s old face broke into a smile. “Be careful out there, Mergatroyd,” he said.
“Will do,” Hank said as he grabbed the shop keys. “Don’t forget to take your medicine, Ben.” He walked to the roll call room.
Sergeant Gonzalo “Lalo” Gomez was just entering the roll call room ahead of Hank. Hank quickly took a seat next to his friend, Bob Bunion. They were the only officers present.
“Where is everybody?” Hank whispered to Bob. Bunion shrugged his shoulders.
“Okay, let’s keep it down in here,” Sgt. Gomez said. He put the roll call clipboard on the podium, leaned over it and with his face three inches from the page, began to read aloud.
“Okay, we have a crime bulletin here. Says they’ve been doing a lot of burglaries in 15E10’s beat. No suspect descriptions.” He flipped the page. “Here’s a wanted bulletin for Harry, ‘the Lip’ Lemons, who is wanted for scamming old men out of their Bermuda shorts and funny hats. Bulletin says he works around senior apartment complexes and Bingo halls. He is described as a dapper-looking man with a pencil mustache and walking cane. He talks like Cary Grant. Be on the lookout,” Lalo said seriously, holding up his index finger.
“Okay, listen up for your assignments,” Sgt. Gomez said. He looked up from the roll call clipboard and scanned the room. “Where is everybody?” he asked. “Oh, that’s right, everybody called in sick today. I think there’s a big party at Captain Jenkins’ place. He invited everybody. Except us, I suppose,” Lalo said sadly.
As you can guess, Hank and Bob had to run all the calls for service in 15 district that day. But that was all right with them. Mergatroyd and Bunion had been buddies since the police academy. They were a study in contrasts. Hank was tall, slim and clean shaven. Bunion was short, stocky and had a full beard. Not just any beard, but a long red beard. It hung down to his uniform shirt. He looked like a short Viking. Bob carried his doctor’s note and the letter from the Chief authorizing him to have a beard until his skin condition cleared up. Which would be never. The doctor was his brother-in-law. The note and the letter were laminated. All the supervisors at his station had quit asking him about his beard long ago.
Hank and Bob had just settled a disturbance in a rundown apartment complex and were walking back to their shops. “Let’s get something to eat,” suggested Bob.
“Bob, it’s only 0945. We’ve had breakfast, late breakfast and now you want what, a brunch?” Hank asked.
“I get hungry, you know,” Bob said, a little defensively. “I think it’s part of my condition,” he added.
“I don’t think you have a condition. I think you’re a Hobbit,” Hank said to Bob. “Take off your boots and let me look at your feet,” he said.
“15E11 and 15E21,” said the dispatcher over the radio.
“15E21, go ahead,” said Hank into his shoulder mike.
“See the citizen holding a theft suspect at 5400 North Braeswood, Heaven’s Waiting Room apartments. They are in the main office. No other information,” said the bored voice.
Hank and Bob arrived shortly. Bob wolfed down a candy bar on the way over but he was still hungry. They walked into the apartment office and found one elderly gentleman clothed only in his boxer shorts, t-shirt, therapeutic shoes and compression socks standing next to the desk. On the floor were a man and a blue-haired elderly woman. The woman had the man in a scissor-leg lock hold around his waist and a full-nelson hold around his neck and arms. The man also appeared to be elderly. He was clothed in Bermuda shorts and a funny hat. His most distinguishing physical characteristic was an enormous pair of thick red lips. Bob Bunion immediately thought of candy-wax lips when he saw them.
Hank looked at the elderly man in his underwear and asked, “What’s going on here, sir?” The elderly man could only shake his head as he pointed at the couple on the floor.
“I’m glad you’re here, officers,” said the man being held. “I’ve been assaulted and held against my will by these people. I would thank you if you would order Judith, who is the lady holding me, to cease and desist,” he said.
“Oh no you don’t Bub,” said the woman holding the man. “Officers, this man stole my husband’s Bermuda shorts and funny hat. Talked him right out of them. I caught him just as he was about to leave here. I made a citizen’s arrest,” she said. The man struggled a bit and she tightened her hold on him. “Oh Judy, Judy, Judy!” gasped the man.
Bob and Hank looked at each other and held a quick conference. “I think that’s Harry, ‘the Lip’ Lemons that lady is holding. Remember the crime bulletin at roll call?” Hank said to Bob.
“Well, no duh, partner. Who else could it be?” Bob replied.
Hank stepped forward and said in his official voice, “Ma’am, please release that man you are holding. We will take him into custody and take him to jail.”
“Okay, officers, but be careful. He’s slippery,” the woman said. She released her holds on him. Harry ‘the Lip’ Lemon, sprang to his feet and rushed past the officers. Hank managed to get a hand on one arm, but just as Judith said, he was slippery. The Lip ran out the office door and into the parking lot. He was closely pursued by Mergatroyd and Bunion.
The Lip was surprisingly fast and he was leaving the officers behind. They caught sight of him just as he ran into a hotel lobby. He disappeared into the building. The Lip ran into a ballroom off the main lobby. The officers saw him just in time and went in after him.
Hank and Bob burst through the ballroom doors. Inside, there was a disco party in progress. The lights were dim, the music was loud, disco balls hung from the ceiling and people were dancing on the dance floor. The Bee Gees were on stage singing “Night Fever” as people dressed in 1970s clothing drank daquiris and Mai Tais at their tables.
Hank and Bob tried to see where the Lip had gone but he was out of sight. They walked around the dance floor, scanning the crowd. Then they saw him, on the dance floor, gyrating to the beat with a lady dance partner. But the Lip’s hands were behind him. As he turned around, still dancing, the officers saw the Lip had handcuffs on.
“What is going on, partner?” Bob asked Hank. Then they saw Captain Jenkins on the dance floor. And they looked again and recognized that everyone from the Southwest Patrol station was there. All shifts, even the Gang and Tac units. The music stopped and the crowd applauded. Captain Jenkins brought the Lip over.
“Hey boys. Here’s Harry ‘the Lip’ Lemons. We recognized him as soon as he ran in and we nabbed him. But Harry loves disco. We let him have one dance. Now you can have him,” Jenkins said.
Harry ‘the Lip’ Lemon was smiling with his big red lips. He went peacefully with Hank and Bob, still doing his disco dance.