or, more verbosely, “How I Ended Up Spending A Week in the Marion County Jail”:
A couple of weeks ago I was standing out on the sidewalk talking with Kent, the contractor who rents the first floor of my building. A blue sedan pulled up to the curb; I stooped to peer in the car’s window to see who it was. A friend of mine named Rosamund was in the driver’s seat; she said “Larry, I need to talk with you!”.
Rosamund is a black woman a few years older than I am. She lives on Spruce Street, way down in the depths of the ‘hood. I got to know her at the Pickadilly station across the street. I’m grateful to her for the numerous warnings she has given me, some of which I ignored, to my regret. Rosamund knows everyone in the ‘hood and she is a shrewd judge of character.
Our local newspaper doesn’t cover the West Side and gossip and general talk alleviates this news deficit. The local grapevine has a thick and sinewy trunk and I suspect it has feeder roots in Bear Creek and Minnow Branch.
But I digress…
That day Rosamund said to me:
“Larry, that guy who bought your pickup truck has never paid taxes on it and he hasn’t changed the title. He or someone else is drivin’ the truck around town and if the cops would run the plates your name will come up as the owner. You might be liable if the truck was in an accident. You ought to look into it before you get in trouble again!”
This was certainly worrisome. I thanked Rosamund for the warning and pedaled my bike down to the police station. I might as well have blithely entered a lion’s den.
After waiting several minutes, idly perusing cautionary pamphlets about drunk driving, a police officer came out and listened to my questions about liability and such. He wasn’t much help and seemed distracted. He abruptly interrupted me and said “Mr. Ayers, we have three outstanding warrants against you; please put your hands behind your back.”
I was flabbergasted. I said “What did I do?” The cop handcuffed me and took me downstairs. As we walked he said that all three warrants concerned my dog Tucker. This was unexpected! I had already spent three days in jail and paid a fine just two weeks before and I had assumed that the matter was settled.
What was strange (and illegal) about this arrest is that I had never been informed about the fines I supposedly owed or the court dates I had missed. The Hannibal Municipal Court is supposed to send a letter about such city violations — otherwise how would you know to pay a fine or go to court?
The surety bond had been set at $800.00, cash only, which meant that I couldn’t avail myself of the services of a bail bondsman.
During the uncomfortable trip to Palmyra, where the county jail is inexplicably located, I talked with the officer about my plight. I said “What possible good for either myself or the city of Hannibal comes from arresting me and putting me in jail? I had a job tomorrow working for a friend — I’ll have lost that opportunity, and the county will have to feed me. Not to mention that I was never informed and given a chance to deal with the charges!!”
The cop looked uncomfortable.
He said “Well, I’m just doing my job — I admit that it’s a raw deal for you.”
“I’m just doing my job” — isn’t that what Nazi guards once said?
While I was being booked at the jail’s front desk I outlined my plight to the jail employee while he bagged up the contents of my pockets and issued me the orange jail clothing and sandals.
He said “Yeah, I don’t like this. Frankly, it stinks!”
I was led to cell-block D, or D-block, as the residents call it.
[to be continued]