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Story ID:5516
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Middleburgh New York USA
Person:The Victim
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A call came on the radio asking me to go to the Laundromat on Main Street. A woman there had been beaten. I responded immediately and found a woman there who was bleeding about the head and face, and one side of her face was puffed up. A good shiner was beginning to show.

It was a week before Christmas in 1974. I was the Chief of Police in Middleburgh, N.Y., and it was close to 10 P.M. In small towns like Middleburgh, the Chief of Police is not a lofty position. In my case, I was the only full-time officer on the force; the few others were all part time. In other words, I did most of the work.

When I saw her, I asked what had happened. She explained that she was doing her laundry when a woman and two men came in, attacked her and, after knocking her to the ground, took off with her purse. She did not know who her assailants were and was unable to give a useable description of them. I offered to take her to the hospital to be checked over and she declined. She also refused an ambulance.

The woman was especially distraught over losing the purse because of its content. She had been saving up money to buy her son a bicycle for Christmas. That money had been in her purse. Now she had no way to give her son that bicycle.

I asked about her husband. She explained she was divorced and her husband had remarried. She believed she was considered an outcast by the community because she had married a black man and had a black child. She herself was Native American. She said it was hard on her son and her ex-husband visited him infrequently and never provided anything for him. She worked in a commercial laundry to support her and her son. Christmas was now ruined.

She lived more than a mile from the laundromat and it was late at night. She was going to walk home. She had come to the laundromat the same way. I told her I thought it best to drive her home.

As I drove, I thought about some abandoned bicycles I had in custody of the police department. There was one in good shape that was about the right size for a boy the age of her son. It was missing a pedal on one side. The bicycle had been there for over a year and never claimed so it could be legally disposed of. The usual procedure was to turn them over to the village street crew who, in turn, took them to the dump. The amount of abandoned property was too small to be sold at auction as larger departments do.

The woman explained to me that her boy was spending the night with a neighbor so she could take care of laundry and some other errands that evening. I told her when she got out of the car at her mobile home that I wanted to check on something first, and then I might be back in a short time. I asked her to wait an hour before going to bed for that reason.

I went to my office and then checked the records on the bicycle to ensure it was there more than a year. Then I took the bicycle out and loaded it in the trunk of the police car. I drove to the woman’s trailer and knocked on the door. She opened the door and stepped outside and I gave her the bicycle. I asked her if she thought she could get to Cobleskill and obtain a new pedal to replace the missing one and she assured me she could. I gave her a property certificate signed by me, saying she was the rightful owner of that bike. Then I asked if she had a place to hide it from her son before Christmas and she said she could do that.

When I drove home from work that night I had a really good feeling inside. I was pleased I could help that little boy. Unfortunately the trio who beat and robbed her were never found and her purse and contents were never discovered. There had been no witnesses and her description of them was not enough to be useful.

A couple of weeks later, I saw the woman in town and I asked her if her son liked his Christmas present. She assured me that he did. She said I should have seen his face that morning when he saw it. She told me Christmas was even better than that because her ex-husband, who never brought anything for the boy, did visit him Christmas day and brought him a few small gifts as well. It had been a joyful Christmas for the boy.

I drove away feeling it was a very good day.


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