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By Hal Collier
We are pleased to feature Hal’s reminiscences.
The following story is true. Some may find this short story a bit morbid, but you have to put yourself in the shoes of a street cop looking for a bad guy, keeping in mind officer safety issues. The character may be only known to a few officers as he flew under the radar. He wasn’t a crook, but a colorful drunk.
Robert Pen Dragon Ball.
First the story.
Officers often get alarms at closed businesses and find burglars have broken into the building. The first step is to request the additional cops to secure the perimeter and then they have to search the interior. Some buildings are multiple stories and some are small in area but have special concerns. This story is about a single story building but with many special concerns.
Guns and a Pencil
It’s the middle of the night and I get a burglary alarm on Santa Monica Boulevard. The business is a mortuary across the street from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. We check the exterior and discover that entry has been made via one of the side doors. I’m not squeamish but I know there are people inside, only most are dead.
My mind is racing. If I was a burglar caught inside a mortuary with cops outside where would I hide? Inside a coffin in the viewing room? In the embalming area with my bare feet sticking out of a sheet and a toe tag attached? Inside a display casket in the sales room?
The first room we search is the embalming room. Oh crap, there’s six pairs of bare feet, all with toe tags. I know what’s under the sheets and I don’t want to look. I take out my #2 pencil and with gun in one hand I begin checking the bottom of their feet. I use the pencil to check for a reaction when I run the pencil across the bottom of every foot. Nothing, thank goodness. We move on to the viewing rooms. The caskets lids are open and a quick look is sufficient. If they look dead and there alive I don’t want to catch them.
The next room is filled with the caskets that are for sale. They are all closed and we’ll have to open each one. I’m beginning to wish I was an electrician like my dad. After fifteen tension-filled minutes we decide that there isn’t anyone inside. I step outside and throw away my pencil. Now do you think cops are paid too much? I’ll never forget guns and a pencil.
Hollywood Character: Robert Pen-Dragon Ball
With a name like that who needs a nick name? Robert lived somewhere north of Hollywood Boulevard. I don’t know if he was on a disability pension or living on a family trust, all I know is that he always had money for beer. Working graveyard, I seldom saw Robert sober. He was just like Otis of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith TV show. He was always friendly and I think he even liked cops.
I was working with Dave. One night, we saw Robert on roller skates, drunk on his ass. He was rolling downhill on Wilcox Avenue. He rolled from one parking meter to the next. It was amusing to watch. Picture a guy letting go of a parking meter, rolling downhill and only stopping when he straddled the next parking meter. Ouch. We stopped Robert two parking meters from Hollywood Boulevard. Dave suggested we take him back up the hill and watch him roll down again.
Another time we saw Robert walking along a side street with a large grocery bag under his arms. it was past midnight and of course, Robert was already drunk. I talked to Robert while Dave looked in the bag. Inside was an unopened six pack of beer. Dave popped open all six beer cans and handed them back to Robert, upside down. Robert staggered away with beer dripping down his pants. We probably saved his life. Last time I saw Robert he was standing outside the 7-11 waiting until 6 AM so he could buy his beer. Robert was just another Hollywood Character who made police work amusing.