I read this week marks the 40th anniversary of the $70 million drug theft ("The French Connection") from a Property Clerk's office, that rocked the NYPD in 1972. So, I thought for today's Sample Sunday of Fractured Facade I would post an excerpt from Chapter 20 which takes place in a Brooklyn police precinct...
During all my Brooklyn years, I never needed, or wanted, to step into the 64th precinct, although I always admired the brick facade flanked by Greek columns. The original copper signs turned green, and intricate wrought iron black bars framing the windows, give it a distinctive, warm, “Old Brooklyn” vibe. Not so, the inside.
We entered the cracked-walled, paint-peeling, hot house, and was met by a less than cooperative staff who greeted us with indifference, and then served us a nice helping of incompetence. I walked over to the desk sergeant, who didn’t bother looking up from his desk.
"Gotta wait over there. She'll let you know where to go,” he said pointing to a woman sitting at a small desk. She didn’t bother to look up either, not at us, and not once at the Korean family who relayed the attack they had experienced as they waited for a bus.
Eventually, another woman plopped down at the small desk too. After I explained the situation, she took my papers and went to the property room right behind the desk. She knocked on the door. There was no answer. She looked as if she tried to turn the door knob, but said it was locked.
"He's not here right now,” the woman said. “You have to come back." It was 4:00pm.
"When will he be back?" I asked.
"Not until tomorrow."
I tried to reason with her, explaining what we had already endured, and that we needed to get back to Virginia. She couldn’t care less.
She handed me back the papers, and said, “I said you had to come back tomorrow.”
My husband saw my jaw and hands clench. He cautioned me in a low voice, “Don’t freak out.”
I stomped over to the desk sergeant and said, “I need to speak to the detective who was at my father’s house.”
Still not looking up from his desk, the sergeant asked, “Who’s that?”
“I don’t know if he’s here.”
“Then I’ll just wait until he gets here.”
He called upstairs. Luckily, the detective was there, and I wouldn’t have to spend my night on a hard bench. As soon as I saw, who I assumed was O’Keefe, hobble down the stairs, I ran towards him, introduced myself, and explained the situation. The detective took the voucher, went behind the desk and asked me, “Why can’t you get the possessions?”
I replied, “They told me the property clerk was gone for the day and the room was locked.”
O’Keefe went over to the same door, turned the knob and walked in. Out of nowhere the property clerk materialized and entered the room behind the detective. They brought out one plastic gallon-sized zip-loc bag which contained some legal papers and a piece of cardboard with a couple of cards taped to it. There was no money, no credit cards, and no bank card. My suspicions of foul play had been raised even more.
“You need to open an investigation,” I demanded.
O’Keefe looked at me like I was nuts. I looked back at him like he was nuts, and pointed out what I thought was obvious, “Clearly there’s items missing from my father’s wallet.”
"Did you look all around the house?" O’Keefe asked.
I was speechless for a moment and then replied, “Well, duh, that's all we've done. You’re missing the point. I’m talking about what my father always kept in his wallet. There's no way in hell he would not have one single dollar on him. Where are his credit cards, his bank cards? Obviously this is a crime scene.”
The detective was not convinced.
“Look, either you’re going to launch an investigation, or I'm bringing it to the District Attorney’s Office. Someone stole from him, and I'm sure it wasn't this precinct."
I almost choked on that last sentence. I remembered the attending police officer had told me over the phone besides two wallets, he packed up my father’s watch. There was only one wallet and no watch. The property clerk suddenly said, “You know, there might be another bag back there,” as he headed back into the property room. He emerged with another plastic bag that contained $200, credit cards, a bloodied watch, but no other wallet. Surprise, surprise. Crooked cops? Incompetent cops? How stupid did they think we were? Did they think we were dumb hillbillies from Virginia?
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