March 24, 1958
In the movies, they make it out like reporters aren't averse to
drinking one too many. That they'd trade their mothers' wedding bands
for an exclusive expose. And that when they're on a hot crime story,
they take it as a personal insult if the police butt in and solve it
That's what these guys who make movies would have you believe.
But it's not really like that. I've never known a reporter yet who
violently objected to a little aid from the cops in solving a good
Take, for example, the case of Frank.
Not too long ago, when he was a reporter for one of the morning papers
in town, he got a call from a man who refused to identify himself.
"I'm the guy who shot the gas station attendant a couple hours ago. On
Santa Monica Boulevard," the caller told him. "I gotta talk to you.
It was an hour before midnight and the story of the holdup and shooting
was headlines in both morning papers. So rather than bother the police,
Frank figured he might as well go out and capture the man himself.
His city editor agreed that it would be a nice news beat and told Frank to take a photographer along.
He did. The pair arrived at the bar where the caller said he'd
wait--and sure enough, he was there. They sat down uneasily, one on
each side of the man, wondering where the gun was that he'd used in the
The man was big, broad-shouldered. His hard face had "thug" written all over it. But he spoke gently, almost like a kid.
"I'm sorry," he told them. "I'm sorry I did it. But I can't go straight
to the police. I want you guys to turn me in so I'll get a fair shake."
"You've come to the right guys," said Frank. He pulled out a buck and
bought the man a drink. Then he listened as the man unwound the story
of his life.
It was a long story, frequently punctuated by straight shots of whiskey.
The man, who gave his name as Jack, kept setting them up for the trio as he talked. "How's the attendant? The guy I shot."
"Gonna make it," slurred Frank. He checked his watch. "Getting near
deadline," he addressed the photographer. "Better take a picture or two
of Jack here surrendering to me."
There was no one else in the place. So the photog identified himself to
the bartender, stepped behind the bar and popped a few flashbulbs.
Then, with Jack in tow, they drove back to the city room. There, Frank
knocked out his story about the surrender while copy boys poured coffee
down Jack to sober him up a bit.
But just as Frank finished, the city editor got a call from the police.
"We got a tip that you guys are holding the man who pulled the Santa
Monica Boulevard shooting," the officer said.
"Absurd," replied the city editor, hanging up. Then he called Frank over.
"Does the guy still have his gun?" he asked.
"No," said Frank. "He threw it away."
"Good," said the editor. "Then get him out of here. I think the
bartender must have tipped off the cops. And DON'T turn him in to the
police for another hour yet--till deadline's past. This is our
Frank hustled his prisoner out the back door, taking a couple of other
reporters along to make sure the man didn't escape. They drove around
aimlessly for 10 or 15 minutes before the three reporters and Jack
concluded that a farewell drink would be in order.
They found a quiet bar and stopped.
"It's my farewell," insisted the prisoner. "So I'm buying."
At closing time, the foursome walked out, climbed into their car and
drove to the nearest police station. Frank surrendered his prisoner. By
now, Frank's paper was on the streets with a detailed account of the
story. On the front page was the picture of Frank and Jack at the first
bar, shot glasses lined up in front of them.
The police, to say the least, weren't pleased.
While one was searching the prisoner, another was quoting Frank a law about "harboring a criminal" and "obstructing justice."
"I caught him for you, didn't I?" growled Frank.
It was about then that the first officer announced that the suspect had
less than a dollar in his pockets. "What happened to the $37 you took
from the gas station?" he demanded of Jack.
The prisoner pointed to Frank and the other reporters.
"Why," he said grandly, "I bought my friends here some drinks with it."