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Encounter On Catawba Street, A Short Story
Early one Friday night in October 1976, Detective Sergeant Carl Hardin drove his three year old Corvette through the streets of small town Lancaster, S. C. He was hoping for some sort of exciting call to come over his police walkie talkie. Single and with little else to do during his off hours, he often rode around town at night in the black sports car wearing a 2 1/2 inch Smith & Wesson in a shoulder rig under a jean jacket listening for a hot call - a call that hardly ever came.
When he cut the corner at Catawba and Arch and headed north, he had about decided to go check out the high school football game. Then he saw her walking in the dark. She was tall, black with tight jeans and a walk that screamed "hooker". Hardin had never seen a working girl before, but somehow he knew and cut a block looking for someone that might be a pimp.
Three right turns brought him back to the intersection, but the girl had disappeared. The Captain and Tennile sang a song on his radio about muskrak love as he eased into a parking lot, then back onto Arch and behind the drug store through the alley. He stopped at the highway back on Catawba, looked right and when he looked left she simply materialized at his window.
"Hey, sugar," the girl said."What cha up to?" She had light brown perfect skin, brown luminous eyes and, as Hardin's eyes dropped, he noted the absence of any restraining force under her skin tight T-shirt.
"Not much," Hardin said.
"You looking for some company?"
Hardin's second thought was that he could make his first prostitution case if not for the blue light lying on the floorboard that would be in plain sight if he invited her into the car and the walkie talkie that was turned up to full blast on the seat.
(His first thought had absolutely nothing to do with police procedure.)
Hardin reached over and pushed the cord into his cigarette lighter and the blue light began to twirl. Instantly, the girl jerked back.
"Sorry, thought you were somebody else," she said as she turned to go.
Hardin pulled away, laughing and drove about three blocks before he decided to go back and conduct an interview. Of course, the hooker was no where to be found.
Two weeks later on a Monday morning, Sgt. Hardin sat at his desk going through the weekend roll call book. Sipping the last of his third cup of coffee, he pulled a couple of burglaries, a stolen car and a child abuse case to log in the case assigned file. Hardin slid his chair back and headed downstairs for a refill and to bum a cigarette. He liked to think he was trying to quit.
Randy Tidwell was on the desk so, walking on by, Hardin knew the smoke was out. “Tidwell’s not even old enough to smoke,” he thought but he stopped on his way back with his fresh cup of Folgers.
"Hey, Sergeant," Tidwell said as he absently rubbed his upper lip. "I'm still hoping to work for you one day."
"Got the mug shots from the weekend?"
Tidwell handed over a stack of black and white 4x5 photographs.
"You forget to shave this morning?" Hardin enjoyed Tidwell's reaction, then lay the stack on the corner of the desk and started going through them. He would file these copies upstairs in another cabinet to use for the occasional line up. In person lineups were a TV staple, in the real world you used five black and white shots of people who looked as similar as possible to your suspect and hoped the defense attorney didn't find any thing wrong that would get your case kicked.
Hardin once put five bald black guys in a line up with a long haired white suspect just to see the expression on the Solicitor's face. The "Hardin Lineup" became a yearly joke at the annual Sixth Circuit Christmas banquet.
The hooker from Catawba Street was the tenth one down in the stack.
"Hey, Kojack pull me the arrest sheet on this one," Hardin said and slid the picture over.
Tidwell pulled a drawer most of the way out on an old gray file cabinet, thumbed to the back and slid an arrest report out.
"Who loves ya, baby?" He said as he handed over the paper.
Hardin had a mouth full of coffee when his eyes locked on the report:
LANCASTER POLICE DEPARTMENT ARREST SHEET
- Case # 1976-Bravo-10-22-567323
- Last Name: Stanton
- First Name: Joseph
- AKA : "Josephine"
- Height: 5’ 8”
- Weight: 115 lbs
- Sex: Male
Most of Hardin’s coffee ended up on Tidwell’s uniform!