The Case of Hilda Kase

I guess police stations and hospital emergency rooms are
about the most depressing places I can think of. That's
only natural, since cops and medical personnel see people at
their worst. It makes you wonder how they keep their own
emotional stability after dealing with so many mangled
bodies and souls.

On second thought, maybe a psychiatric ward would be
more depressing, but I've never been in one-yet.

Which is a roundabout way of getting to why I was
spending a recent Saturday night in our local P.D. station.
I needed some background material and technical information
for a detective story I was writing. The cops turned out
to be very friendly and cooperative. Especially the desk
sergeant, who told me to be sure to put him in my story and
have him make out with a sexy femme fatale.

He was a good-natured dude named Larry Morel. I pegged
him at a youngish forty with a shock of black hair just
sprouting a few white streaks and rugged good looks that
probably appealed to certain types of women. If I knew
anything about women's types. Between kidding around, he
was all business while booking the unfortunate creatures
that other officers brought in.

They were mostly minor cases-"bait fish," as Sergeant
Morel called them: disoriented drunks and druggies, hot-
tempered brawlers, shoplifters, streetwalkers who hadn't
been active long enough to spot undercover vice cops, a 15-
year-old boy who had taken the family car without permission
and was less terrified of jail than what his father would do
to him. The most exciting specimen was a liquor store
holdup man who had fired a couple of shots to frighten the
clerk, but he surrendered without a fight when the patrol
cars rolled up.

Around one A.M. a male and female officer arrived with
a tall woman literally at the falling-down stage of
intoxication. They had to hold her up between them as she
slurred a nearly incoherent stream of obscenities at no one
in particular. She appeared to be in her early thirties and
was perhaps attractive, if her bleached hair and make-up
hadn't been such a mess.

"Nice to see you again, Hilda," Morel greeted her, taking
down the pertinent information. "Having a good time?"

"Fudgew, ashhole," she snarled. "Shu thing I can' get home?
Gimme m' garlam jar keys."

"Sure thing. Just after you have a little nap."

She swore at him again, then swiveled her head toward me,
trying to focus watery hazel eyes. "Whagew lookin' at,
muffer fudger? Wanna peasa m' pooty? You ain' man'nuff."

I didn't say anything. She was probably right. It would have
required a stronger libido than mine to take her in that
condition.

"Be polite to the gentleman, Hilda," Morel urged. "Maybe
he'll write a story about you: 'The Fabulous Adventures
of Hilda Kase.'"

If her thick-tongued babbling told him to shove that idea
where I think she meant, it could not have been very
comfortable. Suddenly she straightened up and looked almost
composed, except for a wild panic in her eyes.

"Where's Nicky?" she cried. "Where's my baby?"

Then just as abruptly, she sank back into slobbering bathos.
"I din' meana do it," she sobbed. "I din' meana shoot m' son |
inna arm." She stared appealingly around at us. "Don' chew
know I never meana shoot m' son inna arm?"

"Yes, we know, Hilda," Morel said soothingly. "Now go with
this young lady and she'll fix you up for the night."

The female cop led her away to be photographed and
fingerprinted before going into the drunk tank.

"Well, that was colorful," I said to Morel. "In a pitiful sort
of way."

"Yeah. Hilda's one of our regulars," he said. "About ten
years ago she had a bad heroin habit. Both her and her
husband, or old man. I don't know if they ever got married.
Then he killed himself with an overdose, right next to their
baby's crib. That seemed to bring her to her senses. She
went into rehab and managed to stay clean for several
months. Then she relapsed and was desperate to get the
stuff-prostitution, burglary, petty crimes, whatever.
Finally she started dealing herself. That's when we nailed
her. She served three years in prison and since then she's
been pretty straight. Just loses control every few months.
With booze, not drugs."

"What about shooting her son in the arm?" I asked. "Did
she really do that?"

Morel looked blank, then brightened. "Oh, that. Of course
you wouldn't understand. You know how it is with a
severe drug problem. A junkie will do anything for a fix,
exploit the people around him, sacrifice everything he can
get hold of. His whole world comes down to keeping the
needle flowing. With Hilda, it became more important than
even her child. Eventually a neighbor took him to the
hospital, but it was too late. Advanced malnutrition and
pneumonia.

"She shot everything into her arm, including her son."