Andrew the Raper
This is a true story:
Mothers Day, worst night of the year. I had been driving around for hours with only four or five fares; it was so quiet you could fire a cannon off down any of these streets and not hit a thing. It was hopeless, I knew I wasn't going to make any money; I was just trying to defray some of my expenses (gates and gas). No sense in even trying Mothers Day, good for mothers, bad for cabbies.
In 1981, I was a San Francisco cab driver; my name is John (Veterans Cab #205).
Cab driving is a skill, maybe an art; those who don't do it think that we drive around aimlessly hoping to find pickups. No, there are tactics, strategies, systems, plans. There is downtown, the Financial, North Beach, South of Market, the Mission, the Marina. There are radio orders, cabstands and street fares. There are businessmen, tourists, out-of-towners, locals and regulars (milk runs). There are weekends, holidays, day shift, night shift, graveyard, Monday business, Friday business and no business.
Mothers Day is no business, at least after 8 p.m. That's when you drive around aimlessly hoping to get lucky.
On nights like these most cabbies have a back-up plan: Pull over, take off your badge and check into the pub of your choice. My choice was The Barleycorn (John Barleycorn, 1415 Larkin Street, behind Front Room Pizza). It was about 11 p.m.
Danny was working the bar. Danny and I have had an interesting relationship these many years; not a friendship, but an understanding. I always liked the guy but the feeling wasn't returned. I think it stemmed from the first night I met him some years earlier. His then-most-recent girlfriend flirted with me in the bar, no doubt to cause trouble (which it did) and he could never see me as anyone other than that person. He didn't let it get in the way of his professional duties, so I could always get a drink though our conversations were often short and on the edge of civility.
That night there was only about five of the usual bar rats on their stools. The JB is one of those places where "everyone knows your name." I don't know their names; I never did, and still don't even after all these years. Let's just call them bar rats one through five. I slid up to the bar and ordered a drink (don't know what, probably whiskey, it was a whiskey kind of night) and engaged Danny and the rats in conversation. We marveled at the quiet on the streets and, of course, in the bar. The guys there didn't know one day from another; most of them probably didn't have mothers, it was just another night to get drunk to them. The rats were having the same conversation they had been having for years: "Who was the greatest pitcher that ever lived? Who played Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy? Which Stooge was better, Shemp or Curly?" (Everyone knows its Curly). After a short time I went back to work as the boredom of the streets was less than the asinine conversation available in the JB.
I cruised the neighborhood (Lower Nob Hill) for a couple of minutes when at the corner of Clay and Larkin a street freak hailed me from the curb. Now, when business is good, you can be particular about who you pick up. Normally whores, pimps, drag queens, freaks, little ol' ladies and cops were all on my "no service" list, but on a night like this I was willing to take anyone's money. I recognized this little prick from the area. He was a street hustler who gave blowjobs for a living (before Monica Lewinsky made it a legitimate endeavor if not a cause célèbre) on Polk Street. Others say that he sold drugs, but I know better. It's amazing what you observe around town from the seat of a cab. If you think you are anonymous out there, think again; people are watching. Anyway, he waved me down frantically, jumped in and began screaming.
"My girlfriend is being raped right now in an apartment up Clay Street, Help! Help! Call the police! Use your radio!"
I held my hand up to calm him down. My dispatcher doesn't call the police unless we are personally involved and the police don't accept third-party calls.
"Take it easy, I'll take you to a pay phone." My first surprise was not so much that there was a rape occurring nearby but that he had a girlfriend.
"No! No! Help me now!"
Frankly, I didn't believe the guy, but I had nothing to do and any entertainment was worth it tonight; besides, I had never been to a rape before. I had to go down the one-way part of Larkin the wrong way for half a block I could see more than a mile down the hill to Market Street, but like I said, there was no traffic. There was a bank of phones at the old Chevron station, now gone, at Pine and Larkin, I pulled in. The dirtbag leapt out of the cab, dialed 911 and yelled into the phone.
"This is the driver of cab 205, my girlfriend's being raped at Clay and Larkin ... help!" and hung up.
I had thought this scumbag was up to something, now I was certain. He jumped back in the rear and started screaming again "Let's go! Let's go!" I ignored him, quietly exited the vehicle, walked to the phone and dialed 911.
"Emergency 911, what is your emergency?"
The nutcase was still screaming from my back seat "Where are you going? The rape is at Clay and Larkin!"
"You just received a call from a guy claiming to be me, the driver of Veterans cab number 205, he's not me, I'm me." The sound of my own remark made me cringe.
"Oookaay," said the dispatcher, not sure what to think.
"He's my passenger, I don't know why he said he was me. I'll be glad to take him there to meet the police, but I don't know anything about it," (the rape), I said. In the mere minute that had passed since he first phoned I could hear sirens from all over the City converging on our location on Nob Hill. If you know anything about cops, you know they live for two types of calls: officer in need of assistance and rape in progress.
"Hurry up! Hurry up! Let's go, let's go!" the creep continued to scream from my back seat. I returned to the cab, I could see far down Larkin towards the Civic Center, police cars were converging from all directions onto that main thoroughfare and climbing the hill towards us. As I began to pull out into the lane I had to yield to speeding police units, one cruiser, two cruisers, a paddy wagon with two officers hanging on the running boards like Keystone Cops. I pulled out, a blue-and-white close on my tail. As this speeding convoy crossed California Street, each vehicle bottomed out, sparks flying from the undercarriage as it hit the cable car tracks. When the paddy wagon crossed I thought for sure the two rookies hanging on the back were going to fly off (just my luck, they didn't). This odd caravan passed The Barleycorn just a few feet from the intersection. Through the large picture window of the bar, I could see Danny and the rats watching the show. Cruiser number one; vroom, crash, sparks! Cruiser number two; vroom, crash, sparks! The paddy wagon; vroom, crash, sparks! Veterans cab; vroom, crash, sparks! (Wait! Veteran's cab?) Cruiser number three; vroom, crash, sparks! The heads of Danny and the boys were turning like spectators at a tennis match.
A short two blocks up Larkin was Clay Street. The cops didn't know which way to go; they only knew they were supposed to meet Veteran 205 there, so they circled the intersection like gnats around a light bulb. I snaked my way through them and followed my rider's instructions up Clay Street; the cops followed. Other cops were one block up at Clay and Hyde, also circling, looking for the tell-tale sign of a red, white and green Veterans cab. They saw me and came down one-way Clay Street from the wrong direction. We converged in the middle which, evidently, was the location of the rape.
"Nah nah nah nah nah! Andrew's gonna die-ie!" My sleazebag passenger was out the door of the cab yelling at the first floor window of the nearest apartment building. I shut the engine off and kept my hands on the steering wheel in plain site. I wasn't exiting the cab until the cops said so. They were running helter-skelter with their guns drawn not knowing where the rape was or who to shoot.
"Andrew's gonna die-ie, Andrew's gonna die-ie, Fuck you, Andrew! The cops are gonna' kill ya Andrew!" the nutcase continued to yell.
The main cop (with one stripe on his sleeve) approached him and demanded to know what was going on. The kid took a swipe at him (kid: 5 ft 5, 135 lbs; cop: 6 ft 1, 210 lbs); the cop put him on the hood of my cab with a single throw. The nut's face was pressed against my windshield right in front of me; I thought he was going to come right through it. I positioned my hands higher into view for all to see I liked having a front row seat to this free show but didn't want to be become a part of the act, at least not any more than I already was.
"You're gonna die, Andrew. You're gonna die! The cops are gonna' kill ya, Andrew!" the sleaze kept up the mantra as they cuffed and threw him into one of the units.
In the meantime, the other cops were angrily trying to gain entrance to the building by ringing every bell and yelling up at the windows. After securing the screamer, the head cop motioned with a beckoning finger for me to get out of the cab. I came out. "What's going on?" he demanded. I briefly explained the story, that I knew no more than him. Because the screwball had been yelling "Andrew's gonna' die!" at the first floor window the cops deduced that was the location of the rape (they're not all that stupid.). While the main cop and I watched from the sidewalk, six or seven of them pushed and heaved at the apartment door until it caved in. I couldn't really see anything else from there but I could sure hear it it was a cacophony of unintelligible noises mixed with the crashing of furniture and obvious sounds of breaking glass and china. (I think cops take a class at the academy in knick-knack and vase smashing: Needless Destruction 101.)
I suddenly became alarmed at the level of violence, and fearing that gunfire was imminent I ducked down behind the wheel of a nearby cruiser. Right at that moment, a latecomer rookie came running up from who knows where (he had to have parked at least a block away, there were so many cop cars here). He began waving his chrome-plated revolver around cop-style, pointing it directly at me. "Who are you?" he yells, and then just as quickly points it in another direction. He swings it back to bear on me again. "Who are you?" This guy was a real moron I was right next to a ranking cop who showed me no interest (nor him either), and the noise was coming from inside. This guy was no Sherlock Holmes.
"The rape is inside" I said as I cowered on my haunches and he bolted up the stoop. Meanwhile, I glanced over to the back seat of the cruiser. The goofball was in back laughing hysterically, screaming and at the same time banging his head bloody on the cruiser window. I couldn't make out all he was saying except "Andrew's gonna' die-ie! Andrew's gonna' die-ie!"
The noise from the apartment settled from a tempest to a din. I could hear voices more plainly now.
"Where is she?" said the cops. Where's the girl?"
"What girl?" said the suspect, "I'm watching Johnny Carson!"
"We know you're raping a girl in here, where is she?" (Again, the genius of cops astounds me. It's probably like all San Francisco apartments only three small rooms, where could he be hiding her?) I could hear but not see the suspect pleading his innocence and stating that he was only "cookin" somethin' and watchin' Johnny Carson." He denied knowing anything about a rape. I glanced over at the scumbag; he was laughing hysterically. Disappointed and dejected cops were exiting the building grumbling about there not being any rape, what a shame, no unlucky female citizen was in distress, no damsel to save, no hero to play, no story to tell at the station. Someone was going to have to pay.
They brought the suspect out in cuffs he was wearing a bathrobe with clearly nothing on underneath. It was Andrew Hawk, a friend of mine from the Barleycorn! They paraded him out on the stoop and asked him, "Do you know that guy?" and pointed right at me. (Remember, these cops were under the impression from the original dispatch that I had made the claim that my girlfriend was being raped.) I looked up the stoop at Andrew and with my open hand waving right to left like Howdy Doody I said "Hi, Andrew."
Andrew looked at me and squinted (Andrew was an Englishman and was always half blitzed, except when he was completely blitzed) "Joohn! Joohn!" (pronounced like a cross between June and Joan) "Is that you?" he asked with his heavy Manchester accent.
"Yeah it's me."
"What are you doing here Joohn?"
"I came to see the rape Andrew, are you raping someone in there?" I asked giggling.
"No Joohn. I was just cookin' some chicken pot pies and watchin' Johnny Carson," he answered deadpan. Then the cops on the stoop lunged at me, while I hid behind the head cop. "Which one is the cab driver?" one yelled, I had forgotten to put my ID badge back on when I had left the Barleycorn. In response some cops pointed at the jerk in the back of the cruiser and some at me. "Well which one called in the rape?" I pointed at the dirtbag. Several of them went over and opened the door. They started yelling at him all at once, a standard cop technique certain to get no intelligent response. The kid spit at them so they slapped him around and slammed the door. "What a waste of time" one of them said as they walked back to their units dejected. Yeah, Mothers Day and not a decent rape in the whole City.
Now there was smoke coming from the apartment, it smelled like burnt ... the potpies! Andrew pleaded with them to go in and shut off his oven. The cops mulled it over fire was dangerous and it wasn't their job. They thought about calling the fire department. After some further brainstorming, it was decided that due to the lives of the other tenants they would go back in. Smoke was now billowing out the door. One of the smarter cops grabbed a fire extinguisher from the trunk of one of the units and raced in, a real hero. I could hear the extinguisher gushing and the smoke turn from black to white, a sure sign that it was out. His buddies applauded him as he emerged back onto the stoop; there was a hero tonight after all, maybe he'd get a citation for saving the lives of the tenants (the ones they endangered in the first place) or perhaps a promotion to head bribe-taker or senior doughnut counter.
They took Andrew away along with the nutcase I am not sure why, but after racing all across town, breaking in his door, smashing all his furniture and starting a fire, they had to arrest someone. He was surely guilty after all, he was a drunken Englishman watching Johnny Carson in the nude; there had to be a violation there somewhere. Some of the cops stood around talking for a while, as cops do. They seem to treat their job as subcontractors instead of paid employees. They go to each call and when finished with business hang around and bullshit with each other about what just occurred, how many people they beat up that day or maybe even more inane subjects like who was the greatest pitcher of all time or who was the best Stooge.
Being blocked in by these guys on the worse night of the year wasn't helping my budget any, but I didn't want to put upon them to let me out. So far I was just glad that they hadn't found a reason to run me in, too. I finally asked the most sensible cop (the one with the stripe) if he'd move his unit a tiny bit so I could get out of there as I was desperate to get back to work and make some money. He took pity on me, but looked incredulously and said "can't you get your car past mine?" My cab was six feet wide and there was only five feet of lane. I quickly replied that I wasn't concerned about my vehicle, I just didn't want to scratch his brand-new police unit. That seemed to bring him back to reality. For a moment, you could almost see the light bulb going on in his head. "Yeah, I guess you're right." He moved it just barely one foot over, got out and went back to his cronies. I looked, figured that with a little Vaseline and spit I might just get by. I turned my outside mirror down to give me an extra inch and prayed to St. Francis, the patron saint of cabbies. (Well, one of the patron Saints of cabbies. St. Fiacre is considered by most to be and St. Christopher is also acceptable, though he is the patron saint of travelers, which would be more like the passengers and who cares about them? I like St. Francis because of his love of animals and I thought of old 205 as my steed.) It worked. I snuck past and roared out of there. I didn't really want to rush to work as I told the cop, but like my old Aunt Bea, I wanted to get down to the Barleycorn and be the first to tell this great story! Andrew was in jail (and I was instrumental in putting him there), so I could get the first edition of the story out before him.
I walked into the JB. The bar rats were there, the ball game was on (there was always a ball game on), I had a grin, the famous shit-eatin' grin but before I could get one word out, Danny said "John, ya shoulda' seen the excitement a little while ago, the whole police force, including cops hangin' off a paddy wagon, flew up the street with a taxi in pursuit!"
I stopped him, "Yeah, I was the cab."
"What happened?" they all asked in unison.
"We went to a rape at Andrew Hawk's place it was nothing ... give me a drink." (Whiskey, I think.)
"Whaaat?" they cried.
"Yeah, evidently Andrew's a raper, I didn't believe it either, but they took him away so it must be true."
"Well, who'd he rape?" one asked.
"I don't know, they couldn't find her but he was naked in front of the TV watching Johnny Carson, so he looked guilty." I responded.
"Maybe he was raping himself, if you know what I mean?" said one of the rats. The others laughed.
"In that case we'd all be guilty." Another chortled. They all giggled like jr. high boys in the locker room, I felt a bit uncomfortable by that.
I went on to tell them the whole story as much as I knew of it. Danny was familiar with the street scum I was talking about; we both agreed that he was a tweaked out freak and I discovered that he wasn't allowed in the bar. Hell, I didn't think he was even old enough. Dan said that he was Imelda's new boyfriend. I nearly vomited at the thought. Imelda was the neighborhood diva, a close relation to the then-current Philippines dictator's wife, Imelda Marcos. She lived on an allowance from the dictator, traveling around town in high style with an entourage of five to ten followers at all times. Imelda was as ugly as a monkey with mange. Her teeth were sharpened like a Klingon's and the color of tea. She may have been rich, but she had never made a visit to a dentist. Imelda paid for her courtiers with free meals, drinks, movies and the currency de jure of 1981, cocaine.
Now I was well aware of coke whores (girls who'd sleep with anyone to get high) but I was shocked to find out that guys were sleeping with her for it and especially that Andrew was one of them. Andrew was a hairdresser in San Francisco, a straight hairdresser. Imagine if you will, the carnal possibilities of his chosen profession and the place in which he practiced it. He had no trouble getting girls, but this was coke after all and had nothing to do with sex. Andrew was a coke whore. I lost respect for him when I discovered that not that he did coke, that was cool, but that he screwed that ugly monkey to get it!
The young punk was jealous that Andrew was sleeping with his girlfriend and concocted the rape story in hopes that the cops would kill Andrew in their fervor to "rescue" a victim, which they nearly did.
I reveled in my celebrity with the bar rats for a while longer. The conversation turned to whether or not Wylie Coyote would ever catch the Road Runner and if so, eat him. "No man, he has developed a respect for him after all these years."
"No no no!" responded another. "It's a paradigm of the U.S.-Soviet relationship."
It was my cue to leave. The rats were getting philosophical and, most importantly, lost interest in me. I couldn't wait until the following day to learn what happened to Andrew. It was near bar time (1-2 a.m.) so I went on down to South of Market. In those days SOMA, as it is now called, was a hot bed of gay bars, bathhouses, sex clubs, dungeons and all manner of perverted activity. Homosexuals went out every night of the year; there was no holiday that kept them indoors, so they were the only game in town that night. As there was no bar action in the Marina or North Beach, this was the place for me (to work that is; don't get the wrong idea: I'm straight; I can't stand women, but I'm straight). I got a few of the normal rides off the street, guys picking up street hustlers and going to the bathhouses and sex clubs or a quick run up to Eureka Valley (now called Castro) for final call. As I cruised the wide boulevards and tiny alleys of this neighborhood I kept an ear open for radio orders; I was one of the few Veterans cabs left on the street as cabbies tend to give up and go home early on slow nights (if they even show up for work at all). If there were any calls I'd probably get them. The late night dispatcher, Potter, was an asshole (they all are). He wouldn't answer the phone except for the so-called direct lines so there were few orders.
"Seventh and Bryant." His gravelly voice cracked over the air. "Who's for Seventh and Bryant?"
Seventh and Bryant was the intersection of the city police station, The Hall of Justice, a very hard order to fill on a normal night. You were likely to get a pimp, whore or other street criminal fresh out on bail. Sometimes it was a decent citizen who had befallen some calamity and was in distress. Worst-case scenario was that it would be a cop going home from work and would pressure you for a free ride in exchange for their "card." This was a business card with the cop's name and badge number on it. Supposedly you would use it to avoid incarceration or harassment on your next contact with the police (and you would have contact in the future; the police and cabbies were like cats and dogs or perhaps flies and shit would be a better analogy).
I barked back "205, Eighth and Harrison," (my location, about four blocks away).
"205 pick it up, 850 Bryant for Andrew."
"Oh no!" I thought, "Andrew?" My mind raced wildly. Maybe it was a different Andrew? Yeah, a pimp named Andrew, maybe a man-whore, even a cop. It was past 3 a.m.; surely Andrew Hawk would've been released a long time ago. Potter was waiting for my acknowledgement.
"205?" came his voice.
What to do? I reached for the mic. "Uh, I got a pickup" (an old cabbie trick when the driver didn't like the sound of the order; it was against the company rules to turn back an order after you had already bid for it and Potter enforced this).
"Drop the pickup and get the Hall of Injustice for Andrew!" he bellowed.
"10-4," I almost never used proper radio language.
I was there in a flash; maybe I'd get lucky and it'd be a murderer. Although I was curious about Andrew's ordeal I wasn't sure I wanted to see him quite yet. I was certain he would direct his anger at me. As I approached the jail I could see the figure of a man (I think it was a man) on the steps waiting, blue terry-cloth bathrobe and fluffy pink bedroom slippers with a little ball on the top. Yes, it was Andrew Hawk not Andrew the pimp, Andrew the cop, Andrew the man-whore, but Andrew the raper. There was one last chance to get out of this: I could just cruise by and tell Potter that it was a no-go (cabbie lingo for no passenger found) or I could tell him that the fare was scary looking and I didn't want him. Although not entirely legal in the eyes of the law, dispatchers would always back you up on this. However, Andrew looked so pathetic standing there shivering in the late San Francisco night air, and he was something of a friend, plus I could offer him a free ride as a consolation and get my story to him first before he had time to stew about it. Yeah, this was actually a good thing. This was karma. I pulled to the curb. Andrew eased down the steps, he recognized me right away.
"Joohn! Joohn! Is that you Joohn?"
"Howdy Ma'am." I said trying to be funny, "Where to tonight?" I didn't have to ask where he was going I was now quite familiar with his address.
"Joohn, Joohn, why'd you bring the coppers to me flat?"
I explained that I didn't know it was his place or to whom the dirtbag was referring when he took me there. It was all a comedy of errors. As we drove back up to Nob Hill I asked him to relate the story from his perspective.
"What did the cops do to you when they broke in?" I asked.
"I had just come home, put some potpies in the oven and took a quick shower. I set up the TV tray and sat down to Carson's monologue when there was a fierce banging at the door. My first thought was to call the police but I was frozen with shock and fear." I was withholding my laughter out of respect.
"Then what?" I encouraged.
"I got up the strength to look through the peephole when the door came crashing down on me, they ran through the apartment smashing all of my furniture and overturning everything! They said I was raping somebody. I kept telling them that I was just watching Johnny Carson. That pissed one of them off so he smashed the screen of the TV and said 'You're not watching Johnny anymore, Limey, now where's the girl?' Course, there was no girl."
I started snickering, snot coming out my nose as I tried to hold back my laughter. I feigned sympathy. "They broke your TV? That's un-American! Then what?"
"Then they started searchin' my place for the girl, they pulled all my drawers out dumping my stuff on the floor and kickin' it around. Joohn? What kinda' girl is small enough to fit in a bureau drawer?"
I burst out laughing but quickly turned it into a cough. Cough! Cough! "Sorry Andrew, I think I'm comin' down with somethin'." I was coming down with something all right terminal hilarity! "Why'd they take you in when you were so obviously innocent?" I asked.
"They told me that someone had to pay for their trouble, they threatened me for hours, finally they said they'd let me go if I signed a document."
"What document?" I wondered aloud. He pulled it out of his robe pocket and showed me it was a hold harmless agreement. It specifically stated that he would not sue for the damages to the apartment "door, furnishings and related items" that may have been damaged or destroyed in the course of "normal police duties."
"Joohn?" What kind of normal police duty is it to tear up my carpet looking for a hostage?"
"Maybe they knew how skinny Imelda was?" I thought to myself. I continued my sympathetic act. "Bastards!" I said.
"The Bobbies (English police) would never have done this," he remarked matter of factly. By now we had arrived in front of his place. Though it was nearly 4 a.m., his landlord was outside hammering up the six-by-four-foot picture window with plywood and sweeping the glass off the street. "What now?" cried Andrew to the Chinaman. "That window wasn't broke when I left."
"I not know Mr. Andrew. I watch house, try fix door when crazy boy come and trow dis in window." He showed us a brick. "He say crazy tings and laugh. He say 'ha,ha, you goan die Mr. Andrew.'"
It was the little dirtbag, somehow he had gotten out before my friend. I expressed my regret to Andrew for the incident, excused myself and went back to the cab as he and the landlord were clearly going to fight. The night was over. I needed to get back to the lot.
A few days later on my night off I went to The Barleycorn. As I entered the bar, I could see the back of Andrew's head, hands gesturing as he retold the story, the rats in awed reverence to his words. "Then I looked the biggest copper in the eye and said kiss my English arse!" He was saying, not the way I remembered it.
"Hey Andrew!" I yelled coming up behind him ruining his story's timing. "Whatcha' been doin' lately? Got any good stories?" I asked mockingly.
"Joohn, Joohn! Why'd you bring the coppers to me flat?" He was, characteristically, wasted.
"I was tryin to stop a rape! I still don't know how you got away with it, where'd you hide 'er?" The rats started laughing loudly. The spell of his story now broken, the bar rats wandered off to their own huddles so I could talk to Andrew alone. He told me he was being evicted for the trouble; although San Francisco had very strong tenants' rights laws against it, he wanted to hide from the nutcase. The landlord was charging him a couple of thousand dollars for the damage. He denied having sex with Imelda, which the grapevine said was untrue. I let him maintain this defense after all, it was a guy thing. We have all, at least once, slept with an Imelda and it was in the guy rules to deny it without argument. We drank, we laughed, we had a great craic (Irish talk for fun) and I went home. I didn't see Andrew much after that. Eventually he went back to England where he died young from liver disease. I still go into The Barleycorn once in a great while. The same bar rats are there (the ones whose liver and lungs have lasted); after twenty-eight years I still don't know their names.
"No it wasn't Curly Joe De Rita it was Curly Howard and it was William Frawley that played Mertz," I heard one of the more intelligent ones remark out of the corner of my ear as I left.
Copyright © John Whalen