“Over here, Tee-Vee Man!”
Shouldering my camera, I ran over to the ancient Toyota. When I did, the owner of the voice turned on his heavy policeman flashlight and lit up the interior. He trained the beam on the opened glove compartment and I followed it with my lens. Crumpled tens and twenties spilled out of the opened lid, forming a trail of currency all the way down to the grimy floorboard, where a shiny revolver glimmered in the handheld spotlight.
“He’s gonna have a hard time denying THAT!” the cop voice said.
Minutes earlier I’d been sitting in a drive-thru line, trying to decide between chicken nuggets and a hamburger. That’s when the police scanner in my news unit went nuts, spewing distant sirens and out of breath voices. The local cops were most definitely chasing someone and from the tone of their voices, it was the convenience store robber that had been eluding them all month.
Emergency dashboard lights swung wildly, bathing Memorial Drive in a swirling canvas of blue light. All around me cops high-fived each other as the mobile crime lab guys swarmed the battered hatchback. The beefy sergeant who’d just shown me the cash spilling from the glove compartment beckoned me over again with a flick of his thick forearm.
“Follow me. We got somebody needs to be on Tee-Vee!”
With that he motioned me to a unmarked Crown Victoria. Opening the back door and reaching in, he pulled out a weasely looking hippie in handcuffs. Through the viewfinder, I pulled out to a wide shot, popped my toplight and began backpedaling in front of the two men. The sergeant’s hand totally encircled the long-haired man’s bicep and as he walked in front of my camera’s gaze.
“Smile, asshole. We gon' put you in the movies.”
The long-hair shot me a sour look as the cop walked him past several squad cars. Once he figured I'd goten my viewfinder's worth, the sergeant stuffed the dirty young man in the back seat of yet another Crown Vic.
“You got enough?” asked the sergeant. I nodded, thankful for the extra help and newly determined to obey the law on this officer’s shift.
That evening, my footage led the eleven o clock newscast. Starting with a recap of the string of armed robberies, the tightly edited segment showed the money, the gun and the impromptu hippie walk down. Most viewers probably forgot about the story the moment our anchor moved on to something else. But for me, it was a significant notch in my belt; one more surreal episode that further convinced me I was in the right business.
That was more than a dozen years ago, and though I don’t chase a lot of cops anymore, I still remember that night like it was just hours ago. I bet the hippie does too.