As a kid reporter I was fascinated by the underbelly of the city. The prostitutes on Middle Street. The Hell’s Angels in The Hollow. The boob bars downtown. The gangsters controlling the rackets.
When you’re 20 and haven’t a clue you tend to gravitate to those you think have a clue. In 1978 working for the Bridgeport Post-Telegram, predecessor to the Connecticut Post, it seemed to me the only sensible thing to do was to get to know just about everyone: the prostitutes, the bikers, the strippers, the gangsters. But how do you get to know them? Sometimes cops made the best introductions. Lieutenant Ed Casey manned the desk in the Detective Division. When he answered the phone he barked liked a rottweiler: “Detective Division, Lieutenant Casey!” But the guy was a sweetheart.
“Casey, what’s going on tonight?”
“Ah, a bunch of Mickey Mouse burglaries.”
But when something serious was going on, Casey caressed a young scribe’s pleasure center. “C’mon in and we’ll talk about it.” That was Casey’s way of saying, “Hey, I ain’t talking about this on the phone.” Casey was the berries. One night I’m bullshitting with him in the detective bureau and he says “You see that couple over there? They got robbed tonight. Go in there and make like a cop. Take a statement.”
“Because no other dicks in the damn building tonight to take their statement! And I’m manning the desk so act like you know what you’re doing.”
“But I’m not a cop.”
“Yeah, asshole, so what, just go in there and do it.”
So I acted like a cop, or what I thought it was like to be a cop. Really, I was just being a reporter, but they thought I was a detective, a dick. I asked a bunch of questions and turned my notes over to Casey. Casey was one of those guys0–“You do for me, I do for you.” Casey threw me lots of great stories.
Jimmy Honis threw me lots of great stories as well during that era. Connecticut Post scribes have been banging phones for information about why Honis, a deputy chief, was suspended several weeks ago with pay. The only official information coming out of the PD is it involves a serious criminal allegation and it’s better to put him on leave. The Post is asking questions about a cold case possibly involving the disappearance of a prostitute.
When I wanted to interview prostitutes 30 years ago to learn about life on Middle Street I went to Honis. Honis was a detective in the Special Services Division, aka vice cop, but to prostitutes he was feared royalty who commanded like a king. They called him “Your Honis.”
Honis was an intimidating, smart undercover detective looking for information about bad guys. Prostitutes could fill in some holes. But how reliable were they? Would they lie to save their skin? Would they lie to appease a cop who wanted info? Honis had a healthy skepticism toward them. Prostitutes feared him because every now and then he pinched a few to keep up appearances. The mayor screamed at the chief who screamed at the captain who screamed down the line about the whores in front of the post office.
There were those nights shot full of heroin, or whatever else got them through the evening, that prostitutes spewed trepidation about Honis. I’d joke to Honis about it and he’d joke back. Through the years I got to know Honis fairly well, although I’ve not spoken to him in more than 10 years.
For the past 30 years Honis has risen tirelessly through the Civil Service ranks–sergeant, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief. You talk to folks in City Hall and they’ll tell you that when he retires the payout for his accumulated hours will make city bean counters wince in pain–such is his addiction to work.
All these years later, as memories fade, how credible are witnesses, if there’s a case to make?
Honis is no dummy. He’s a skilled photographer, he’s skilled at fixing things, but I imagine the waiting is a royal pain in the ass for Your Honis.