Inside the firehouse, sweeping floors, cooking meals and maintaining equipment are routine parts of the job. However when the doors go up and the rigs go out you have to be as flexible as Gumby, because you do not know what you are going to be faced with next.
While responding to alarms, we always scan the sky for smoke and the streets for crowds because different combinations of these factors can be early indications of what is awaiting us. Arriving at this box, there is no smoke in the air but a crowd has gathered so my brain shifts from thoughts of firefighting to assisting a civilian.
It is 1978 and we are on Edgewater Road, the street made famous in the HBO documentary about the hookers of Hunts Point, one of whom I am about to become very intimate with.
Lying atop the garbage that has been dumped in this vacant lot, she is staring directly at the summer sun. If ever there was a crime scene this is it, so I am thinking bullet hole and not heart attack when I start examining her. In cases that have no obvious wounds, SOP is to start at the head and work your way down. As my fingers probe through her hair it slips from her head and I nearly shit my drawers.
She’s been scalped!
That was my first thought but in reality it was just her wig that slipped off. Let me tell you something, if it is possible to feel relief while kneeling in a pile of stinking garbage, examining an unconscious hooker for bullet wounds, well then I felt relief! It doesn’t take long to find those wounds either. There are two of ’em just above her right ear, from the size of the holes my guess is a 22. Twenty minutes ago this was a person, now it’s just another DOA to be bagged and toe tagged.
While I am wiping her blood from my hands, one of her co-workers walks over to me and says… Hey FIREMANS, those mother fuckers by that van did it.
Let me ask you something, if you just murdered someone in front of witnesses no less, would you be hanging around the scene of the crime?
Getting on my radio I call the boss.
Ladder 48 roof man to Ladder 48.
Go ahead Tom.
Hey Lou, one of the girls just told me those guys by the van are the perps.
The Boss relays this info to the PD who is already on the scene.
As the cops approach the van, the assholes realize somebody has fingered them and it is time to leave. Hopping into the van they take off with the cops right on their tail, the chase is on. The sound of the police siren fading in the distance starts to get louder again when suddenly; from around the corner here comes the van. Can you believe this, they are driving around in circles! Apparently, the same amount of planning that went into the crime has gone into the escape. Before reaching the end of the street their way is blocked by another cop car and they are arrested. Just then an ambulance arrives and we take up.
A few hours later, the cops who made the collar stop by the firehouse for a cup of coffee and to fill us in on the details. The six occupants of the van picked up the hooker and after agreeing on a price of $10 each for blowjobs, had a fuckfest. After finishing them off she asked for her money and they refused to pay.
For those of you who don’t know, Hunts Point hookers are the great white sharks of prostitution. You do not fuck over a Hunts Point girl without paying a price. She made a fist and punched the closest one of them right in the snotlocker. That is when he produced a gun and she started running away across the lot. She was tougher but he was faster and when he caught up to her…two slugs in the head.
Anyway, in those days the idea of universal precautions was unknown to us. I have been squirted by arterial bleeds, delt with traumatic amputations, even had people puke into my mouth during CPR, hooker blood was just more of the same. At least it was until finding out that I was Hepatitis “C” positive.
So, am I saying I got this virus from a Hunts Point hooker? No. What I am saying is, just liking sweeping the firehouse floor, getting Hepatitis “C” was just a routine part of the job!