CHAPTER 9

Workplace sexual harassment

The shift change was all but complete when Dee slipped into a workstation next to Lina—Faye and Inga were already situated at adjacent desks. All were unwrapping breakfast sandwiches as they attended to the run-of-the-mill Tuesday morning calls. Inga finger-muted her voice tube with one hand while tossing Dee a paper-wrapped sandwich with the other.

“Breakfast is on me today. It’s my birthday,” she explained.

Dee’s eyes brightened, “Thanks! And happy birthday!”

After ending her call, Inga called out, “Hey, where’s Marley? I’ve got a cheese ‘n bacon biscuit sandwich with her name on it.”

“I didn’t see her on the way in,” Dee answered. “I hope she’s okay. I heard she had a rough day yesterday.”

“No kidding,” replied Inga. “I heard Gravel Gertie ripped her a new one for dispatching an officer to crazy Gladys—”

Inga stopped short, interrupted by Sergeant Hook who’d just slapped down a stack of Operations Orders amendments on her desk. As he did, he yelled out to the room, for all to hear:

“Be sure to update your black binders with these. It’s mandatory!”

Next, he slapped down a two-page, stapled memorandum titled, ‘Exceptional Incidents Report’, a listing of the noteworthy police calls that had occurred during the previous 24 hours.

“Yesterday’s E.I.’s,” he said to Inga. “Check out number three.”

At that moment Marley appeared, flushed and perspiring. She slid behind the desk opposite Inga.

“You’re late,” Hook said flatly, then tossed the updates and E.I. pages onto her desk.

“Sorry. I couldn’t find a parking spot. I ran as fast as I could,” she said, huffing and puffing, making every effort to avoid looking at him as she still felt creeped out by his phone call from the night before.

“Good god, girl, don’t you know running is bad for your health?” joked Inga who then tossed a biscuit sandwich across the conveyor belt. “I saved the last one for you,” she added as she picked up the E.I. report. Within seconds, a huge smile broke across her face and she let out a roar of laughter. Everyone in the vicinity—Marley, Dee, Faye, and Lina—turned to her, keen to be let in on the joke.

“Oh! My! God!” cried Inga. She waved the E.I.s at Marley. “Read number three!” All within earshot grabbed up their E.I.’s and began reading. Gasps and convulsive laughter erupted among them.

Marley sat, slack-jawed, as she read the third entry of the E.I. report. Slowly, her gaping mouth evolved into a smile and a twinkle danced in her eyes. She unplugged her headset jack, rose from her desk and strode, with head held high, over to Officer Cooper’s workstation.

Cooper looked up when she approached. “What’s up?” he asked.

A smug Marley set the E.I. report on the desk in front of him, then patted it. “Read number three.”

Cooper looked down at the report. He couldn’t believe his eyes. “You have got to be shitting me.”

As Marley took a victory lap back to her desk, Cooper read the report aloud:

“At approximately 1500 hours, officers responded to a code 900, check welfare, at the residence of complainant, Gladys Sheffield. Upon arrival, the complainant insisted she heard voices and a knocking noise from within her ceiling. While inspecting the ceiling, officers, too, heard muffled screams and a pounding noise. Officers then called for additional units and for tools to open up the ceiling. After more than an hour of tearing apart the ceiling, officers extricated an adult white male subject, later identified as Theodore Moroni. Moroni was subsequently arrested for felony burglary after officers ascertained he had forcibly entered into the home via an air conditioning duct where he became stuck.”

Cooper couldn’t contain his amusement or the big-as-Texas smile emblazoned on his face.

“Hey,” he yelled out to Marley. “Didn’t I tell you today would be a better day?”

Marley smiled back, vindicated, then basked in the high fives and raucous congratulations offered by her coworkers. But the celebration was cut short as Hook emerged from the Lieutenant’s office, clipboard in hand.

“Listen up! I have some announcements to make. First, are there any of you who have not been scheduled for a ride-a-long yet?”

Nearly all of the civilian new-hires raised their hands, including Marley, Inga, and their fellow bacon-biscuit comrades, Dee, Lina, and Faye.

“Looks like most of you,” he mumbled as he jotted all their names onto his clipboard. After a beat, he looked back up. “Also, I need a volunteer for either this Saturday or Sunday to help man the Phoenix Police community relations booth at the State Fair.”

A single hand shot up. Agnes’.

Hook quickly turned his back, pretending not to see her. “Anyone?”

“I’ll do it!” yelled Agnes, arm frantically waving.

Hook ignored her again and quickly sidled over to Dee’s workstation. “How about you, Deirdre?”

Across the room, Agnes’ upraised arm sank down. “Well fuck you, too,” she managed to spit out before being waylaid by an incoming call. “Phoenix Police…”

Relieved to have Agnes off his back, Hook again asked Dee: “Deirdre?”

“I’d love to; it sounds like fun,” feigned Dee. “But I’ll be busy moving this weekend.”

Hook moved in behind her and started massaging her shoulders through the sleeveless cotton blouse she was wearing.

“I can give you Friday off as comp time—you could move then, couldn’t you?” cooed Hook as his hands continued their massage.

“I, uh, don’t have a babysitter on the weekends,” she said, and it was the truth; Tad’s daycare school was only open Monday through Friday.

Hook’s massaging hands slid down to her bare upper arms. Some of the other Com Ops began to look askance at the inappropriate show Dee now found herself at the center of.

“Take him with you,” Hook bargained. “What kid doesn’t love the fair?”

Dee really didn’t want to, but taking Friday off would mean one less day of daycare she’d have to pay for—she could sure use the extra money to help pay for the move.

“And I could take Friday off?” she asked, trying to wriggle away from Hook’s hands.

“Yep. So you’ll do it?”

Daycare issue aside, thought Dee, if saying ‘yes’ would make him stop touching her, then ‘yes’ it was.

“Sure, why not,” she said, trying again to pull away from Hook’s grasp.

But Hook kept on, doubling down on the pressure of his kneading hands, the pleasure of doing so written all over his face.

“Sergeant Hook!”

The sharp bark of his name scared Hook so completely he nearly jumped out of his leather Oxfords. He whipped his head around to the source of the bark:

Lieutenant Dirk Forrest, face crumpled with anger, stood rigidly fixed outside his office, glaring daggers at Hook. “In my office! Now!”

Hook spun on his heels and scampered to Forrest’s office, tail between his legs. A loud slam reverberated throughout the basement as the lieutenant flung the door shut behind him.

All eyes in the basement were on the lieutenant’s office window…until the blinds snapped shut. Dee, Faye, Lina, Marley, and Inga exchanged looks of surprise and consternation. No one dared speak. A tense hush fell over the complaint room. It was Lina who finally broke the silence.

“Ruh-roh,” she said, in her best Scooby-Doo impersonation, an impersonation so bad it shattered the tension into shards of laughter.

“‘Ruh-roh’ is right,” echoed Faye who then cleared her throat. “Ahem, don’t look now, but Officer Tampon has just arrived.”

All four heads swiveled in unison to see the officer with the piercing blue eyes hand off a report to one of the departmental secretaries. They all watched, enrapt, as he turned and fixed his bedroom eyes on Lina.

Lina turned away, flustered, and busied herself with inserting the updates into her Ops Orders binder.

“He wants you,” teased Faye.

Inga broke into song, adding to the burn:

“You are here, sha-bop sha-bop, and so am I, sha-bop sha-bop; maybe millions of people go by. But they all disappear from view…”

Faye, Dee, and Marley joined in to harmonize on the last bar:

“And I only have eyes for you!”

Amidst the ensuing giggles, Lina snuck a furtive look back at the officer. He was still there, enjoying watching her laugh. He caught her eyes and flashed a smile intended only for her.

For the first time, Lina smiled back. The officer tipped an invisible hat to her before turning to leave. The five still-giggling women watched his every step as he ascended the ramp and disappeared from view.

“You have got to reel that man in,” Faye insisted.

“You don’t think he’s too old for me?” asked Lina, posing the question to the group at large.

“How old do you think he is?” Faye asked.

Lina ventured a guess: “Twenty-five, maybe twenty-six…”

“He’s thirty if he’s a day,” Inga scoffed.

“At least,” agreed Marley.

“Thirty!” cried Lina. “That’s twelve years older than me!”

Dee jumped into the fray: “That’s not so much, really. Humphrey Bogart was twenty-five years older than Lauren Bacall. And Frank Sinatra was thirty years older than—” The ringing of her four-digit extension stopped her. “A1827,” she answered. She listened patiently before replying, “Yes, of course. I’ll be right there.”  She looked at the other women, eyes big. “The lieutenant wants to see me.”

“Ruh-roh,” said Lina again, but in a deadly serious tone.

The others watched as Dee approached the Lieutenant’s office. A moment before she arrived, Hook shot out the door and disappeared up the ramp, without so much as a backward glance.

“She’d better not be in trouble because of him,” snorted Inga. “Phoenix Police…”

One by one, the others, too, received incoming calls, forcing their attention and concern away from Dee and the horrible fate befalling her behind the shuttered blinds of the glass-paned office.

After several minutes, Dee emerged. The others watched her closely for any signs of trauma as she made her way back to her desk. She didn’t speak a word as she put her headset on and punched back into the Crime Stop line.

Inga couldn’t stand the suspense. “Well!” she burst out, “What happened?”

“Are you in trouble?” asked the others, tripping over each other’s words.

Dee glanced around the room, checking for eavesdroppers before replying: “No. But I have a hunch Sergeant Hook is,” she said, keeping her voice low.

The other four leaned in toward Dee as she spilled the goods.

“Lieutenant Forrest apologized to me for Sergeant Hook’s inappropriate touching. Apparently, Hook’s behavior toward female civilians is under review. The lieutenant said he needed to document any other incidents involving Sergeant Hook and asked me if Hook had, on any other occasions, touched me or made me feel uncomfortable in any way.” Dee paused, then added: “So, I told him about Sergeant Hook calling me last Friday night to ask me over to his place for a party he was throwing.”

 “He called you on Friday night?” asked Marley, confused.

“Yes,” replied Dee. “Late Friday; it was after ten o’clock, which I thought was weird because it was so late. And he sounded like he’d had one too many.”

“He called me last night…at a quarter to ten,” Marley confided.

Lina and Faye began to laugh.

“Holy shit! He called us, too. He called me Sunday night,” said Faye.

“Saturday night,” chimed Lina, raising her hand. “He sure throws a lot of parties,” she said, appropriately sarcastic.

Inga asked: “Did any of you go?” only to get bombarded by a loud chorus of indignant denials: No! No way! Of course not! Oh, hell no!

The scandalous conversation had caught the attention of the other Com Ops in the room, including Agnes, who bulleted her chair across the aisle to butt in.

“Sergeant Hook invited all of you to a party?” she asked, sounding both offended and wounded at the same time.

“He didn’t call me,” laughed Inga.

Agnes shot Inga a dismissive look. “But why didn’t he call me?” she demanded.

An awkward silence engulfed the group, all too afraid of Agnes to state the obvious. Fortunately, an incoming call saved them.

“Phoenix Police,” spat Agnes, as she reluctantly rolled her chair back across the aisle.

The five friends let out a collective breath, relieved to have gotten off the Agnes hook so easily. Inga picked up the conversation where they’d left off.

“So, let me get this straight, Sergeant Sleazy called and invited each one of you to a ‘party’ at his place, on four consecutive nights: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday,” she said, pointing to Dee, Lina, Faye, and Marley, respectively. She shook her head in disgust then let out a gut-busting laugh. “Oh, Lieutenant Forrest will want to hear this!” Inga rose from her chair, unplugged her jack, and made for the lieutenant’s office.

“She’s got balls, I’ll hand her that,” said Faye as the four of them gazed after her, awestruck. But the return of Sergeant Hook to his duty desk broke their reverie. All four did an abrupt about-face and returned their focus to their phone consoles and CAD monitors.

By the time they finished their next round of incoming calls, Inga was back, looking quite satisfied. She downed the last of her breakfast sandwich, crumpled up its wrapper and tossed it into the trash basket under her desk. “Phoenix Police,” she said, responding to the click! in her ear. The other women just stared at Inga, mesmerized by her chutzpah yet addled by her leaving them to wonder what had transpired between their ballsy colleague and the bureau lieutenant. They didn’t have long to wonder. The first four-digit extension to ring was Marley’s. Next, Lina’s…then Faye’s. One by one, each of them slipped off their headsets and silently marched, single file, to the lieutenant’s office.

Sergeant Hook, sitting at his desk, watched the parade of women pass before him as if watching a funeral procession. All the while the women were in with the lieutenant, Hook haplessly busied himself by rearranging his desk, gulping his coffee, snapping the metal clip of his clipboard up and down and up and down…swiveling back and forth in his chair, dropping his pen to the floor and knocking his head on the underside of his desk when he retrieved it. After what must have felt like a lifetime to Hook, the office door opened and, one by one, the women walked out, passing by his desk as they headed back to their workstations. As each woman walked past, Hook forced an ingratiating smile of acknowledgment, accompanied by a look of entreaty—a silent appeal for some sort of assurance from the women. But not one of the unsmiling women dared to look his way, let alone offer him assurances.

“Sergeant!”

Hook ripped his eyes from the departing women and spun around in his chair so hard he nearly toppled over. Lieutenant Forrest stood in the doorway of his office. He crooked a finger at Hook and motioned him inside. Hook—perspiring profusely and looking as if about to shit his pants at any moment—heeded the summons; he walked, as though to the gallows, into the office of Lieutenant Dirk Forrest who, in turn, closed the door softly, yet decisively, behind him.

CHAPTER 8
CHAPTER 10

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