You Can Walk Away. Just Pay $1,000 Cash

You’ll understand this post better if you first read the two other articles in this series.

  1. Busted for Possession
  2. You Might Need a Friend, Someday

Late one afternoon, mid-Fall of 1968, shortly after I turned 35-years-old, as I was visiting the office of our advertising agency, a young woman there invited me to her place that night and share some marijuana. I had never smoked it but was curious. She had an apartment in the Lincoln Park area.

When I arrived around 7pm, I learned she also had invited another young woman from that same office, as well as a guy in his mid-20s, visiting Chicago as an IBM management trainee.

It was going to be an interesting evening. That turned out to be true, but not the way I had expected.

We lit up and the room soon became heavy with pungent blue smoke.  We were passing around one joint. A small pile of weed, maybe enough for two more Js, was in a plastic baggie on the low table in front of us.

There was a sudden pounding on the door. “OPEN THE DOOR. CHICAGO POLICE”

It was repeated, punctuated by the sharp crack of a police baton on the metal door.

“OPEN THE DOOR. RIGHT NOW. CHICAGO POLICE”

The host jumped to the security peephole. “Oh my God. It’s cops. There’s four of them. What will I do?”

“OPEN THE DOOR. RIGHT NOW. CHICAGO POLICE. OPEN THIS FUCKING DOOR RIGHT NOW OR WE’LL BREAK IT DOWN. OPEN THE DOOR”

When I saw her reach for the security chain, I grabbed the baggie and the burning roach, heading for the kitchen. The sink was filled with dirty water and dishes. I pushed the baggie under the water and dropped a dishrag from the counter over it to keep it submerged.

But in my stoned haste (it was powerful shit) I dropped the short, smoldering joint on the kitchen floor. Before I could pick it up, there was a cop in front of me.

I later learned that the IBM guy, intending to demand a warrant, had tried to stop the girl from opening the door. But she complied before he could get to her. The door slammed open and the four uniformed cops poured into the small apartment.

The cop never saw the baggie, but he sneered at me as he picked up the roach. The thick smoke in the air smothered any idea of denial. So, the cops took us out and put us in two separate police cars; girls in one, guys in the other.  Off to the police station close to the corner of Clark and Fullerton.

In the car, the IBM guy told me, “They’ll fire me. I’ll never get another job like this.”

One of the cops said, “Don’t worry. They’ll give you a job in Joliet.”

I did not think it unusual that they parked around back of the police station. But I did begin to think it strange that they bypassed the well lighted ground floor entrance where I thought there would be booking, etc, but herded us up the outside stairs to the second floor. Us guys were stone faced; the girls were sobbing.

Inside, we were separated into different rooms. I was cuffed by one wrist to the arm of a heavy metal bench and left alone to sit for what seemed like hours, but probably was no more than 15 or 20 minutes.

Officer Bad Cop came in and told me I was good for 10 years. In those days, that was pretty much true. That’s what newspapers were reporting regularly. He slid a form into the manual typewriter and started demanding the usual info.

After he got the basics, he then roughly pulled my wallet out of my back pocket and compared the info on the form. He found my business cards. The registration for the new car. No loan against it. Fully paid. My driver’s license showed an address in an upsacle suburb. He knew he had a ripe one.

He was the same cop who had picked up the roach. “Your ass is mine, buddy. This will cost you the next 10 in Joliet.”

He took the wallet with him when he abruptly walked out of the room. A few minutes later, Officer Good Cop came in, holding the wallet.

“Bad situation. Really bad.”  He removed the handcuff and handed me back my wallet.

“How often do you smoke marijuana?

“Tonight was the first time.”

“That’s too bad. The States Attorney doesn’t give a shit. He just goes by what you did, not by what you didn’t do. And the judge will make an example of a guy like you who should have known better.  You have a family?”

“Yeah, my wife and I separated last month. I have three children. Oldest is 12, almost 13.”

“Damn. it’s a shame. You gonna lose all that. You could easily get 8 to 10. Maybe a good lawyer will get it down to 5. We’ll take you downstairs in a few minutes and book you. Fingerprints, photo, the whole thing. You’ll see a judge in the morning.  Probably have to post your house for bail. Damn shame.”

My head was clearing real fast. The foggy buzz of the grass was being replaced by hyper-awareness of everything in that room and everything about this oh-so-sympathetic cop.

I saw with eye-burning clarity he was not wearing the usual nametag on his shirt. I could see the two parallel  reinforced holes in his short where the pin on the back of the missing badge should have been inserted.

I knew what was coming and it came almost as if I had asked the question. He said it looking me right in the eye.

“Yeah. This is bad. You’re gonna have a felony record when you get out of prison but if you come up with $1,000 cash, you can walk out of here right now, like it never happened.”

“You saw in my wallet. I don’t have that kind of money. ” This was before ATMs and the banks closed hours ago.

“But you can get it. And each of your friends will need the same thousand, unless you want to leave them here.”

“Yes, I can. But I need to make a phone call to someone who can bring it.”

“Who will you call?”

“A guy I know. You know what I mean. A guy who has cash. His name is Ed.”

“Give me his number.”

“I will but he won’t talk to you and if he thinks someone else is on the line he won’t talk with me either.”

“OK, dial it but don’t pull anything funny. You are not near a door and your three friends are still here.”

The number was on the back of a card in one of those clear plastic leaves in my wallet.  I didn’t have to pull it out to see it the number. The front of the CPD card, with Detective Lieutenant Ed Johnson’s name (I’ve changed it) and rank was facing the back of another card. I guess that’s why he didn’t realize whose name and rank were on the other side.

As I dialed Officer Good Cop leaned in so he could hear. The phone on the other end was picked up on the second ring. A woman.

“May I speak to Ed?”

“He’s not here. He’s at work.”

“This is an emergency. I’m in trouble and I need a lot of money right now. He said I could call and he would help me. Please call him.”  I gave her my name. I added, “He’ll remember my forest green Crown Vic.”

I gave her the number on the handset. “I’ll call him and tell him. Wait for him to call you.”

I hung up and sat back down. Silence for a few minutes.

“What was that about your car? Who is he?”

“He helped me when my car was in an accident. He . . . ”

The phone rang. The cop waved me to answer. This time he didn’t bother to listen in.

“This is Johnson. This is a police number. Where are you and what’s going on?”

“I’m in the police station near Fullerton and Clark. I need a $1,000 cash.”

“What for?”

“Me and my three friends have been arrested smoking marijuana and the cops will let us go if I give them $1,00o cash right now. ”

Officer GC spoke up loud enough that Johnson heard on the other end of the line. “It’s each one thousand.”

Johnson paused for moment. “Let me talk with him. What’s his name on his shirt tag and badge number.”

“I don’t know. There isn’t any.”

“Of course not. Give him the phone.”

Officer Good Cop started off strong. “What ya mean, what’s my name. Who the fuck . . are y . .  .”

The Lieutenant must have told him who the fuck he is because Officer Good Cop went red in the face and then white. He turned and looked me with murder in his eyes.

“Yes. Sir” Followed by a pause while he listened, “Yes. yes. My name is (he rattled off name, rank and badge number).”

The cop was silent but I could hear the bark of Johnson’s voice. Not the words. Just the bark.

Officer Good Cop said, “Yes sir. Yes. I will. Yes, we will. Yes sir.”

He hung up the phone, turned his face to me and said, “You motherfucker. Get the fuck out of here.”

“All of us, OK? And we need a ride back to her place. ”

Back at her apartment, the girl with the grass explained that she she had invited a guy she met a Butch McGuire’s (the big pickup bar off Rush Street) the night before, not knowing he was a cop. She claimed she had thought he wasn’t taking her invitation seriously. He was one of the four uniformed who busted us. To this day, I suspect that all of it was a setup and she was in on it for a piece of the action.

The next morning, around 10am, back in my office, my secretary said, “There’s an Ed Johnson on the phone. He didn’t give me a company. Said he’s a friend of yours. I think he’s the cop who was here last August.”

“So Joe. You all got home OK last night?”

“Yes we did. I want to thank you.”

“No need. I promised to be a friend when you needed one. You got what I promised. Don’t call me again.”

He hung up.

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