I sat at my typewriter one night, making a futile attempt at catching up on reports. It seemed that either the phone was ringing or someone was walking in off the street, interrupting my train of thought.
That’s the way it was in a small town, people would just stop in to chat. I just got rid of the last interruption and hit the keys a few times when the police radio came to life beside me. It was the Sheriff’s department dispatcher. A call reached their office regarding a disturbance at the Shell gas station on the east side of town. The station closed for the night and the clerk reported a male subject at the front door.
I walked out of the police department into the cool summer night. It had been hot earlier but then cooled off dramatically, leaving a coating of dew on the lawns. It was at that temperature when 5 degrees’ cooler, and you’d need a wind breaker. I loved this type of weather for it indicated fall was right around the corner, my favorite time of the year.
As I headed for the Shell station, I activated the overhead lights just long enough to clear a couple vehicles out of my way and then proceeded at a speed that was safe but would still expedite my arrival.
As I pulled into the front entrance to the Shell station, I noticed the gas pump lights were off and most of the interior lighting also. I could not see anyone inside, and I found there to be no one outside. I went to the front door and pulled on it. It was locked. I banged on the thick glass in the door with my fist.
I saw a woman’s head appear from around the corner of a door that entered a room located behind the designated area where the cash registers were at. It was a small office used by the clerks and store manager to tally up night receipts, away from customers during store hours. I had seen the woman working there before, but she hadn’t been an employee over a couple months, so I didn’t know her name. She lived on the north side of town with her child who was about four years old. The woman was slim with dark shoulder length hair, about twenty-seven years’ old.The woman peered past the doorway she stood in. Just so that she could tell it was a police officer I directed my flashlight beam through the window and then placed the beam of light onto my shirt badge and my face. The woman cautiously came to the door and opened it.
“There was a man who came to the door a few minutes ago,” the woman said excitedly.
I looked at her as if to say. ”And?”
“ He wasn’t wearing any clothes,” she said.
‘Well, this certainly put things in a different perspective.’ I genuinely thought.
“ Do you know who it was?” I ask.
“ No,” the clerk responded.
“ Can you describe him for me please?” I ask, as I took out my note pad.
“ He was about your height [ 5 foot nine], with light brown hair to his collar. Medium build [ blushing as she said this] and about 28 to 30 years old,” she replied.
“Which direction did he go?” I ask.
The woman indicated with her finger that he went around the east corner of the building.
“ All right, you stay inside here and keep the door locked. I’ll let you know when I feel it’s safe,” I said, as I turned to start my search for the unknown male.
“ Okay,” the clerk said, then hurriedly locked the door as I walked out. I saw her go back to the office behind the cash registers and close that door also.
The Shell station was located on the south side of Monroe Street, just a few yards west of the city’s east limits. To its west about fifty feet was a coin operated laundry owned by Larry Nelson. To its east was the Chicken Coop restaurant. On the other side of the Chicken Coop were a Lutheran church and school. The lot where the church was located had several large pine trees with their tops’ well above the buildings.
Approximately 300 yards south from the Shell station, across an open lot of grass, was my residence. I lived in a duplex on the east end of Arlington Street. To the north of the Shell station, across Monroe Street, was another open lot of grass. Just on the other side of that grassy lot was Cass Street, which dead ended just a few hundred feet to the east.
Not seeing anyone either to the east or west, I walked toward the rear of the station. There was a cement apron that ran from the east side, all the way around the back side of the station. At the rear of the station were two bathrooms for its patrons. To gain entrance to either of the restrooms required a key from the clerk on duty. I turned the corner at the rear of the station and immediately felt a relief, for there on the cement apron, between the two bathrooms, was a set of cowboy boots, denim trousers and a white T-shirt. The person who left the clothing also left themselves in a very awkward position.
I called the Sheriff’s dispatch on my two-way radio and advised them of what I had. I then gathered the boots and clothing, placing them in the back seat of my patrol car. Seconds after I did so the Sheriff’s dispatch called me and stated a resident on Randolph Street, which ran north and south and was west of the Shell station by a block, called to inform them of a motorcycle that had been left next to their house.I went to the address given, finding the motorcycle leaning against the wall of a garage beside the home. On the seat was a helmet. I ran the registration plate attached to the rear of the bike through the SOS [ Secretary of State]. It came back to an individual from the Gobles area, about 25 miles to the northeast of Bangor. The bikes’ motor was still warm.
I requested the Sheriff’s department do a check for outstanding warrants on the individual listed as the owner of the motorcycle, using the name and drivers license number listed on the registration.
As I checked out the motorcycle further, I received another call from the Sheriff’s dispatcher, this time of a report from a resident on east Arlington Street. The resident was my wife, Janie. My wife informed the dispatcher that a man without any clothes was hiding behind a tree near our drive.
‘ Great!’ I thought. ‘ I wonder how much she could see?’
I was in my driveway within a few minutes and my wife came out to tell me that the man she saw ran north, across Arlington, toward the Lutheran church. She gave me a wry smile as I backed out of the drive.
‘ We’ll discuss this further when I get home,’ I thought.
I drove east on Arlington to where it intercepted Monroe [ known as Michigan 43, outside our limits]. I turned back west on Monroe and was in the Lutheran church lot within seconds. I checked the Church’s parking lot, then the church and school. Not finding anyone, I then checked around the residence where the minister lived. I saw no sign of movement, so I got out on foot and went to the grassy lot that started from the north side of Arlington and ran to the church’s parking lot.
I cast the light beam from my flashlight across the grass as I walked. With the dew being so heavy I figured any disturbance would appear like a warm hand print on a cold glass. I was right, there were prints in the dewed grass indicating someone crossed the lot.
I followed the prints north toward the church and then lost them at the parking lot. I checked the north side of the church and again found more prints in the grass. The prints stopped in a stand of large pine trees between the church and Monroe Street. With the pine needles on the ground and the wide- ranging branches at the bottom of the trees it was impossible to track any further. I checked on the north side of the pines in a small strip of grass beside the shoulder of the road. I found no prints there.
‘ The man must be hiding beneath one of these pines,’ I thought.
The trees had thickly nettled branches, which, in some areas, touched the ground, providing little visual access to the trunk area. I checked several trees by walking around and pulling the branches back, peering in using the beam from my flashlight.
‘ If this guy got past these nettled branches without any clothes on its going to leave some serious scratch marks,’ I thought, as I pulled back each branch. The pine needles pricked at my bare forearms as I burrowed inside several branches.
I was nearly ready to look elsewhere when I checked a tree near the edge of the tree line. I pulled a large limb back and peered in, casting the bright beam of my light inside. There, hunkered down, was the naked man I was hunting for, the front portion of his body facing the trunk of the tree.
“ All right, come on out of there,” I directed.
The man, still stooping due to the confined area between branches, turned and slowly came out from the tree. He remained in a hunched position after getting out from the confinement of the pine branches, now on account of shame. On the nearby street, an occasional car would pass by, slowing as the occupants peered out of their windows, mouths’ agape at the sight.
I directed the young man to where my squad sat and then retrieved his clothes from the vehicle.
“ Here, put these back on,” I said, handing them over to him.
He took the clothes and hastily put them on, a relieved look on his face.
I told the man he was under arrest for being a disorderly person and placed my handcuffs on his wrists, he offered no resistance. I told him to take a seat in the rear of the squad, and then I notified the Sheriff’s department dispatch that I held the suspect in custody and would be transporting momentarily. I ask the dispatcher to call the Shell station and tell the clerk there that she could leave now.
“ So what’s this all about?” I ask the man in my rear seat.
The young man in back lowered his head and said that he was asked to pull a prank on someone. He stated he worked at a convenience store in Gobles and knew a woman in Bangor who knew a close friend that worked as a clerk at one of the gas stations in Bangor. The woman asked him to come over some night when her friend was working and streak by with no clothes on. He said either he was given wrong directions to the store or did not pay close enough attention.
“In either event,” he said. “ I got the wrong store and person.”
“ You certainly did,” I replied. “ We have three convenience stores.“
“ Who’s the friend that wanted you to do this?” I ask.
“ Leona Pitcher,” the man said.
“ I see,” I said. “ Well, I’m quite sure she was talking about the Starvin Marvin gas station downtown, that’s where Leona works anyway.”
On the way to the county jail the young man asked. “ What do you genuinely think I’ll get out of this?”
I told him if there were no prior arrests or convictions probably just a fine with no time in jail, other than tonight.
“ Boy, I can’t believe I did such a stupid thing,” the man said.
I didn’t reply, for his comment said it all.
When I did the report on the incident I played its severity down so that the prosecutor and judge would be more inclined to go easy on the guy, and they did.
While I find this incident humorous, I don’t mean to make light of the fact the clerk had been scared. The act was illegal, but it was done with no intention of harm. The perpetrator was not some hardened criminal, sexual predator or even pervert. I’m quite sure that if the man made his appearance at the store where it was supposed to have taken place the clerk would have been surprised, to say the least: Maybe frightened, mad or all three, but not for long. I’m sure Leona planned to be present at the other store when she thought the guy was supposed to arrive, to keep it from going too far. Bottom line. It just went bad.
When I got off duty that morning, I found my wife awake and waiting for me. I ask her where she was when she first noticed this naked person. She said she’d been upstairs in our bedroom, which looked out over the parking lot. She said she was making our bed when she happened to look out to the lot and saw the man behind a tree. She said he then ran in a crouched down position to a bush and hid behind it.
“So, would you say you’d be able to identify him better with his clothes off, or on?” I ask, raising one eyebrow.
“ I wouldn’t be able to recognize him at all,” she said, a serious look on her face. “ Other than seeing he had no clothes on, I couldn’t give you a description. I can say that he was a white guy, probably in his late twenties.”
“ Are you sure about that?” I ask, in my most authoritative sounding voice.
“ Of course dear,” she replied, turning to go into the kitchen, another of those mischievous smiles spreading across her face.
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