I love watching police interrogations because they start every one with an open-ended question. “What happened?” Sales people know the value of casting a wide net and use it to home in on the customer’s WIFM, the “What’s In It For Me?”
Police use this tactic to open floodgates of wide-ranging information.
In 1963, I was accused of stealing a car. I didn’t. Johnny Silva, my Eddie Haskell-like neighbor did it and accused me to spare himself some jail time. At 18, he was considered an adult, and Johnny-boy thought as a still-juvenile, I could do the time standing on my head. I would have preferred doing the time standing on his head.
In those days, an O’Hearn conviction was promotion-worthy at Union Square Police headquarters.
So they grab me off the street and run me down to the oft-visited station. They tell me the jig’s up because Silva spilled the beans. I laugh in their face. They threaten to bring Johnny up from the holding cell to confront me. I’m laughing again. Bring-it-on!
So the rat bastard comes into the room and he’s shackled hand and foot. He had other charges to deal with. This sniveling piece of shit picks up his cowering head and says, “C’mon Bobby, admit it, you stole that car.” I lose it. Only in the movies would someone have the balls to do that.
I’m up and out of the chair and pounced on immediately by my friends in blue. This was almost laughable. They take him out and I’m left there sobbing tears of outrage. My friend, my buddy, my confidante. I didn’t do it. They must have wanted me really bad. I make a mental note to break both his kneecaps or worse. I gotta get out of this mess first.
Now I’m inconsolable. Earlier that month I was held for a week at the facility I was sure to be heading back to pending a court date. What I saw there cured of my Cagney-esque machinations. No, thank you.
So now I’m in full denial mode. Some of these cops really hated Silva and this last performance of his did nothing to endear him to them. They smelled the rat too.
In deep depression, I’m sticking with my story. The memory of my last visit to “Youthie” is etched upon my mind. I could still smell that place.
These cops are getting nowhere fast with me, so they bring in this dashing young lieutenant in a blinding white shirt and an impeccably tied tie. He looks at me and says “get in to my office.” Now we’re getting somewhere.
He reads the complaint against me, exhales deeply and says, “You should have better friends.” I agree wholeheartedly but leave out the part where I kill Johnny and burn his fucking house down.
He drops the file, leans forward and stares deeply into my eyes. He says, “I’m only going to ask you this once. Did you steal that car?” No sir, I said with the conviction only an innocent man could muster.
He says, “OK, sign this and go home to your family.” Oh, there is a God. I can put off killing Silva for a couple of weeks and still enjoy the summer.
Ah, not so fast Bucko. Mr. White Shirt didn’t get to be a lieutenant directing traffic. It turns out he didn’t believe me. At all. In my haste, I signed a full confession. When the summons came to the house, I thought it might be for me to be a witness against my nemesis. Surely, I could manage that.
So the day comes. It’s Tuesday, July, 23, 1963. As usual, my mother doesn’t tell my father. They could go years without speaking. She throws the summons on his chest just as he wakes up. It’s a work day day for a cash strapped father of ten. When I left the house, it was still dark. I’m no fool. He left the house in a murderous rage. At the Somerville Court House, I end up late for my appearance and they issue a warrant for me.
When I did make it and started heading upstairs for the juvenile session, guess who I run in to? Between floors, where we can be intimate? The radiator and both my Daddy’s fists, in that order. When they dragged what was left of me in front of the judge, all the cops were in denial, “It wasn’t us, your honor.”
Johnny Silva wasn’t there. He copped a plea and walked. Me? I was off the street for almost a year. The illusion that my life and all of its challenges would merely be suspended was way off. The fun was just beginning. If I knew what was waiting for me while I was a ward of the state, I would have gone on the run. But that’s another story.