Criminal Intent
by Susan A. O'Doherty
(from Cantaraville)

What kind of crime are you reporting?

Attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, possibly attempted murder(?)

It looks so evil written down like that. I’m sure the young man didn’t intend to harm us, at least when it all started. But he did stab Joanne, while stating his intention to “slit her throat and throw her in the river,” and it’s not likely she would have survived that, is it? So I guess I’ll go with attempted murder.

When did this incident occur? (Date and Time)
If you know the specific date of the incident, enter that date using the following format: month/day/year. If the incident occurred over a period of time you may bracket the date in the following format: month/day - month/day/year. You may also enter a time range, or "Unk." if you don't know what time the incident occurred. You may also enter "daytime" or "nighttime."

8/5/05, 6:45 PM (Approximately). I know it was close to 6:30 because at exactly 6:23 I looked at my watch and said, “Goodness, I must be going, Jim’s expecting his supper.” This was not strictly true. I had told Jim I was going out for a mandatory drink with the boss again and he should call out for Chinese if he got hungry. He’s used to fending for himself on those nights.

Not that it happens, or happened, that often. Generally speaking she was too busy to notice the likes of me. This is not a complaint. A woman on her way up doesn’t have time to look down, and a not-for-profit is just as much of a shark tank as any law firm, believe me. Anyway, I’m much happier being invisible. But for the three years since AmeriHealthNet took over our little nursing home, every few months she’d decide it was time to “check in” and “make sure the lines of communication are open.” This entailed bringing me to the Golden Spur on my own time and drawing me out about my marriage and other aspects of my personal life that are nobody’s business, and revealing information I would have been happier not knowing, such as how much she had paid for the handbag I’d assumed she’d bought from a street vendor like everybody else. On those nights Jim just had to deal with it.

You may be wondering why I’m talking about all this in the past tense, when after all it was only attempted murder.

The fact is, Joanne didn’t pull me out tonight to boost my morale. She brought me to a public place where she knew I would not make a scene in order to fire me lay me off due to restructuring after fifteen years of loyal and conscientious service, not to mention at least twelve annual uncompensated hours in the Golden Spur of meaningful interpersonal communication through the deployment of active listening techniques.

And she was right, I did not make a scene, even after she flashed her beautiful capped smile and said, “I hope you don’t take this personally, Yolanda. We’re all very happy with your work. It’s purely a financial decision. Your position does not bring in sufficient funds to justify your continued employment with AmeriHealthNet.”

 I am not what you would call a regular at the Golden Spur; I am a churchgoing woman, as Joanne would know if she had ever inquired why I order ginger ale rather than a Sea Breeze as she does. Even so, the bar, like the nursing home, is in my neighborhood (as you can see from my address). Many of the habitués are my neighbors, and I like to keep my business private. I know she was counting on that. So I just said, “I’m not supposed to bring in money, Joanne. I’m the recreation therapist.”

She gave me that smile again, the one that signifies that I have said something stupid but she will overlook it out of noblesse oblige. She said, “It’s a funding issue, Yolanda. ‘Recreation’ is a somewhat nebulous term; it encompasses aspects of occupational therapy, speech therapy, and nursing—all of which are Medicaid and Medicare reimbursable. Recreation itself is not reimbursable. In the past we have been lucky enough to get funding from the Hollman Foundation to support your position. They have notified us that your grant won’t be renewed this year, and the decision was made not to seek out other sources. So”—she shrugged prettily to show that she wasn’t responsible—“we’ll be happy to give you a reference, of course. And your grant is good until the end of the month; you’ll be eligible for unemployment after that.”

That was when I looked at my watch and said, “Goodness, I must be going, Jim’s expecting his supper.” So, yes, I would say, about 6:45 PM.

What is the address or specific location of the incident?
List the address of the location of the incident that you are reporting. If you do not know the address, you may describe the location by name if that location is a commonly recognized landmark. If the crime occurred at a residence, list the address of that residence. If the incident occurred along a street, you may give the nearest cross streets as the location. We must have an exact location of some kind to accept your crime report.

It started on Macon Street, near Stuyvesant. Generally I would walk Joanne to her car because she is uncomfortable by herself in the neighborhood after usual business hours. I had no intention of doing so this evening, however. I did not leave the bar with her; I got up and walked out as soon as I made the above comment about the time and Jim’s dinner. But she was right behind me and sort of hovered around me until I thought, Oh, for pity’s sake, and headed with her toward Greg’s  24-Hour, where she parks her car.

We were about a block away when the young man approached us and asked us for the time. I said, “About 6:30,” and kept walking, because I didn’t recognize him. Then he said, “Do you mind if I ask you something?” I pushed Joanne to keep walking, but he followed us, saying, “Ladies, I’ve got a problem. My boss laid me off last month and I can’t find any work. I haven’t eaten in three days.”

“Welcome to the club,” I said, and kept walking. Joanne looked at me like it was the first time it occurred to her that losing my job might cause a problem for me other than hurting my feelings.

“Yolanda, if you need anything,” she said. I started to tell her, thank you, but Jim is employed and our church would take care of us if need be, but I stopped myself, wanting to hear what she would offer. She didn’t say anything.

“Yes?” I said. “If I need anything?”

“I’m sure Human Resources can arrange for a loan….” She trailed off. She hadn’t thought I’d let her finish.

“I thank you kindly,” I said.

That was when we realized he was still following us, and where I guess you would say the crime began. Macon and Stuyvesant.

Do you have any suspect information?
If you saw any suspects, please describe them. Give us ANY information that you may have, no matter how little that may be. Even very sketchy information may help us solve your (or other) crimes. If you have it, please include such information as height, weight, build, age, color of eyes and hair, facial hair, tattoos, scars, unusual clothing, mannerisms, etc. If you don't have exact information, give us an estimate or a range ("between 150 and 170 pounds," etc.).

All right, this is where it gets complicated. As I explained to the officer, I do know this young man. You know what he looks like because you have him in custody. He is the nephew of Mamie Ferguson, who sings in the choir with me. I did not realize this right away, because he looked so much older and thinner, which is why I did not respond well when he asked us for money again.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just lost my job, too, and I have to think about eating.”

He turned to Joanne.

“No,” she said.

“Ladies,” he said. “I am hungry. My aunt is hungry. I don’t want to hurt you.”

I believed he didn’t intend to hurt us, but I looked around, and there was nobody close to us on the street. I opened the front zipper compartment of my handbag, where I keep $20 for just such occasions, and handed it to him.

“Thank you, Ma’am,” he said.

That was when I realized who it was, when he came closer to take the money. He has odd-colored eyes, as you will have seen, a light greenish brown, like his aunt’s. “You’re Mamie’s boy,” I said.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“You’re so thin I didn’t know you. I thought you were on drugs.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

In fact, I had heard there was trouble with drugs, and I came out and said so.

“Yes, Ma’am. That’s why I can’t get work, because of the prison.”

“Does your aunt know you’re out panhandling?”

He lowered his head. “She’s sick, Ma’am. She’s hungry, too.”

“I hadn’t heard about this.”

“No, Ma’am. She’s not talking to anybody at the church, on account of the new roof.”

This was true, and it had slipped my mind in the excitement. Mamie, as the head of the Building Committee, had been overruled about the allocation of some funds. She did not take it well. Personally, I agreed with her, but I was not about to go up against the Pastor. I opened my purse and pulled out two more twenty-dollar bills. “You will spend this on food for the two of you, won’t you?”

“And Eliza Marie.” That is Mamie’s grandbaby, who lives with them, too. “Thank you, Ma’am.”

“I will call her tomorrow to make sure. Tell her Mrs. Williams will call.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” He took off. Joanne and I resumed walking toward Greg’s 24-hour.

Please provide a brief description of the incident:
Please be brief and to the point but give us enough information so that we can tell exactly what happened.

All right. That would have been the end of it, if Joanne hadn’t turned around then and said to me, “I wish you hadn’t just handed him your money like that. God knows what he’ll use it for. These people create their own problems.”

I thought to tell her that our family is part of “these people,” since our oldest, Adam, had similar troubles a few years ago, though he’s just fine now, thanks to the good people in our community. Instead, I raised my voice down Bedford Street, where the young man was disappearing. “Excuse me,” I said, and then “Sharif!” because his name suddenly came to me. He came loping back.

“Yes, Ma’am?”

I pointed to Joanne. “Sharif, that handbag cost eight hundred dollars,” I said. “Those shoes? Ostrich.” I rattled off everything I remembered from our previous girls’ nights out.

He stared at her, and at me, not knowing what to do.

“Yolanda, what are you doing?” she said. “We’re friends.”

“Oh, yes,” I said. “We’re friends, except that one friend fires the other friend with no idea how she will support herself, and then talks bad about her friend’s church community.”

Sharif’s eyes got wide. “She said something about my auntie?”

“I don’t even know your auntie,” Joanne said. The way she said “auntie” was a mistake, though. She made it clear that she would never know someone so low as Mamie Ferguson.

“She said, ‘These people create their own problems,’” I told him.

“Give me the bag,” he said.

Joanne was pale, but she said, “Absolutely not. I’ll tell you what—let me give you $200. That should buy plenty of McDonald’s or whatever you want, and we’ll have a win-win situation.”

“You let Mrs. Williams give sixty dollars of her own money when you just fired her, and you had two hundred dollars in your wallet the whole time?”

That was when he pulled out the knife. It wasn’t a killing type of knife. That is, it wasn’t designed as a weapon. Well, you saw it. A plain kitchen knife. He must have grabbed it when he left to beg for food money, as a last-minute backup.

She started to run, but her Jimmy Choos were too high. She tripped onto the sidewalk. That’s what all those scrapes are from, not from stabbing and manhandling like she said. He did stab her, though, on the arm. He put the knife right into her, saying, “Give me the bag,” only he added words I do not wish to repeat. “I’m going to slit your throat and throw you in the river.”

I had not expected this at all. I thought she would just give him the bag and justice would be done. But there was Joanne lying on the ground, with Sharif standing over her, stabbing her. I screamed, “Stop! Sharif, stop it!” and pulled his hand back. Suddenly there were people everywhere, and sirens. He didn’t run away, even though I told him to. She could never identify him, not in a million years. But he sat down on the curb and cried until the officers came.

I guess he is going back in. I guess maybe I should go in, too. So now I am another unemployed criminal, and we will have to find a way to feed Mamie and Eliza Marie until Sharif is out again, and possibly afterwards. If you have any suggestions, I would surely welcome them.