TAMPA, Florida. Officer Mike Brand is a veteran of the Tampa, Florida police who says he’s a member of the world’s second oldest profession. “First came the hookers,” he says with resignation, “then came the guys who have to protect society from ‘em.”
Tonight Brand and his partner Ben Lack are patrolling side streets a few blocks away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum trying to control the hordes of mobile prostitutes who move from one high-profile event to another–the Super Bowl, the Final Four, and now the quadrennial Republican Party convention–in search of big-spending ”johns” to sell their wares to.
“Some of them are pretty familiar to us,” says Lack, who will be transferred to plainclothes duty outside Tampa Bay Buccaneers games once the NFL season starts, “but there’s a lot of ‘newbies’ in town for this one–like that one there.”
Lack gestures towards a street corner where Lyle Hohammer, an alternate delegate from Keokuk, Iowa, is furtively negotiating with Priscilla Lodge, a distant relative of one-time Republican Vice Presidential candidate Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
“Keep your eye on ‘em,” Brand says as he slides his cruiser unobtrusively into a parking spot.
From a distance the two cops see a complex sexual transaction unfold; first an “air kiss,” then a half-hearted hug with Lodge patting her “john” lightly on the back as she says “So good to see you!” The two separate for a moment and for the first time the conversation between them becomes strained.
“I’ll bet he wants her to go ’round the world’ and she’s telling him it’s gonna cost him,” Lack says. His suspicion is confirmed when the two men see Hohammer hand a distinctive Talbots red-and-black gift certificate to the woman.
Brand says “On the nosey,” and starts to turn the key in the ignition, but Lack counsels patience. “We got to see them doin’ the actual act,” he says, and Brand nods reluctantly as he waits for the denouement.
“We’ve had a lovely time tonight,” Lodge says to Hohammer as she shakes his hand, “let’s not spoil it now.”
“The Presbyterian Hand Job,” Lack says. “Let’s roll.”
Brand turns on the squad car’s siren and the policemen soon have the suspects in custody and on their way to Tampa Police Department headquarters on North Franklin Street.
After the two are booked, Lack escorts the female perp into a windowless interrogation room and closes the door. “Whatsa matter with you?” Lack says to Lodge, who appears unrepentant, even defiant. “Why aren’t you home with your family?”
“My husband only buys me new clothes on Valentine’s Day,” she says, “and then it’s off-price knock-offs or Victoria’s Secret, not the things I crave.”
“Like what?” Lack asks.
Lodge doesn’t respond immediately, and averts her gaze, first to the side, then down at her hands in her lap. “Headbands.”
“The preppy kind? Polka dots–plaids–little foulard patterns?”
“Yes,” she says, and as tears roll down her cheeks, her story spills out. She was recruited by force into a brutal Cape Cod street gang–the Cohasset Coquettes–where she learned needlepoint, contract bridge and other pastimes of the mean streets of upscale suburbs. “I fell–hard,” she says between sobs, and Lack sees an opening.
“You know, you could get off easy if you give us a few names,” he says. “We’re after big fish, you know what I’m sayin’?”
Lodge recalls an epigram by E.M. Forster, which she paraphrases to her purpose. “If I had to choose between betraying my party and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my party.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lack asks.
“I don’t know,” Lodge replies. “But I’m not going to talk for nothing.”
Lack looks her over, trying to judge how tough a nut she’ll be to crack. “Excuse me for a second,” he says, and he steps outside to confer with Brand, who’s been watching through a one-way mirror.
“Whadda ya think?”
“She’s a hard case,” Brand says. “You’re gonna need to use the third degree on her.”
“Is that even constitutional anymore?” Lack asks.
“Cable-knit cardigans? Sure–if they got a monogram on the pocket.”