Wardlow and Spencer are two likeable chaps with a problem determining which end of a stick is ‘up.’ Mostly well-intended, their unusual logic sometimes puts them in unpleasant situations. Fortuitously, their follies rarely adversely affect others. The following anecdote illustrates Wardlow and Spencer’s difficulty connecting the dots.
Two hours after lunch and hungry, I had two hours left on my shift. The Trading Post convenience store was in my patrol area. I thought I’d pop in and get something to munch. Pulling off the highway, it looked that two cars had a territorial dispute; front ends mangled spitting steam into the sky. Wardlow and Spencer were standing between the cars. That promised something interesting if not problematic. I stepped away from my unit and addressed them.
“Wardlow. Spencer. What’s going on here?”
Wardlow answered, “Constable Pilcher! There was a robbery! These are the guys. They’re both out cold.”
Two gents were sprawled at Wardlow’s feet. “These men okay?” I asked.
“They’re just unconscious. Seen it a lot when I drove the am-a-lance.”
I checked, taking a paper bag containing not a lot of cash from the larger man’s grasp. I guess convenience store robbery doesn’t pay that well. Rolling him over, I found an old military automatic pistol. It’d not been fired. Matter of fact, it wasn’t loaded, didn’t have a clip. There was a glob of what looked like mustard covering his right eye. No blood except on the smaller man – a little cut across his chin. I’ve done worse shaving. Only half-believing the ‘robbery’ story, I cuffed the two men together anyway. I looked at Wardlow. “Back up a bit, Wardlow. Start from the beginning. Tell me what’s happened.”
“From the beginning, Constable?”
“Good place to start, Wardlow.”
“Well, you see,” started Spencer.
Wardlow interrupted. “You keep quiet Spencer. You was sitting in the car. You don’t know the whole of it.”
Spencer acquiesced. Wardlow continued. “Spencer and I are a mite low on funds. We figured to hold-up the Trading Post. Not to take all the money. Just enough for a couple weeks. I was going in to get the money and Spencer was gonna wait in the car so we could get away if there was any problem.”
“I suggested,” interrupted Spencer, “long as Wardlow was in there, he could get two of them big frankfurters. With lots of mustard.”
Wardlow shook his head disapprovingly and resumed. “They was nobody inside except McElroy. Couldn’t see him but I hollered ‘Yo!’ He hollered back, ‘Yo!’ I was standing right by the machine that does those franks. They smelled good. Down to my last ten dollars, but I thought I was gonna take care of that pretty quick. I guess getting a couple of dogs, you know, for the road, wouldn’t be a bad idea. I started fixing two dogs.”
McElroy interrupted Wardlow’s tale, coming out the front door of the store towards Spencer, Wardlow, me, and the two handcuffed strangers. McElroy looked a little wobbly. “You all right?” I yelled at him. As he sat on a bench beside the door, McElroy nodded. I yelled again, “You call the department?” Nodding vigorously, McElroy bent over and grabbed the bench with both hands to keep it from throwing him to the ground.
“Okay, then what?” I prompted Wardlow.
“Well, this big dude,” Wardlow nudged the bigger unknown with the toe of his boot, “came flying in through the door. Nearly knocked the dogs outta my hands. See, I couldn’t find the mustard.”
“Gotta have mustard,” interrupted Spencer. That got another disapproving look from Wardlow, but Spencer added anyway, “Lots of mustard!”
“Yeah,” said Wardlow, shaking his head. “So, I yelled at McElroy, ‘where’s the mustard?’ McElroy didn’t answer fast. Finally, he yelled, ‘Left end of the counter!’ And there it was. So, I dobbed a bunch of mustard on one dog, not so much on the other, and went to pay. Before I got there, the big dude here came rushing past me again. Took another shot at messing up my dogs.”
“Then?” I goaded. Spencer shrugged. Wardlow took a breath.
“Got to the counter when I seen McElroy had his hands in the air. Thought that strange he should know why I was there, but okay. I put ten dollars on the counter and said, ‘That’s for the dogs, eh.’ McElroy stood there shaking, so I said, ‘You don’t need to keep your hands up. Long as we understand, you know?’ He said, ‘We been robbed!’ No! I said. McElroy said, ‘Yeah, that big guy just robbed us!’”
Sometimes you have to work to keep Wardlow focused. This was one of those times; I said, “And?”
“About then I hear tires screeching and a big thump. Dropped the dogs and came running out.”
Spencer grinned and started, “I know this part. I seen this big dude coming out. I thought it was Wardlow. I started driving the car to pick up Wardlow. Except it wasn’t Wardlow. The dude didn’t see me and ran smack into the side of the car. Hard. I tried to swerve but when I did, I hit the other car, the car the big dude was headed for.” Spencer was proud of his contribution.
Another Patrol unit arrived. We chatted briefly and they went to interview McElroy. A third unit arrived and took the two unknowns, who were coming around, into the station.
“We under arrest, Constable Pilcher?” asked Spencer.
“Either of you have a weapon?” I asked.
“Nah. McElroy knows us. No need to embarrass him like that.”
“You didn’t rob the place?”
“No. We was gonna.”
“Those guys beat you to it.”
“Yeah. Some nerve.”
Wardlow yelled at McElroy, “McElroy, we’re gonna get those dogs. That okay, eh?”
Headed to my unit I said, “Wardlow, make sure you pay for those dogs.”
“Yeah. Sure. Probably cold now.”
I didn’t get anything to munch on. For the paperwork, my shift ran a lot longer than two more hours.