By Bearded Mike
This is a true account of a chance meeting I had a few years back in NYC.
I was on a business trip to New York, and on a morning when I had no commitments I’d been down to Battery Park and was travelling back uptown by bus. It was around lunchtime and the bus was already crowded – people were standing but I was OK and had one of those side-facing seats toward the front of the bus.
I found myself staring at the back-side of a guy who was strap-hanging the same as all the other standing passengers but there was something different about this guy – showing through a back pocket of his jeans I could clearly see the outline of a pair of handcuffs!
My heart was racing, the adrenaline pumping. Was this guy a cop? But he wasn’t in uniform. Was he a collector of cuffs like myself? Or was there some other reason why he was carrying cuffs? I had no way of knowing.
But suddenly I did have a possible way of knowing. Unexpectedly the bus lurched and the standing passengers were jolted to such an extent that “my” guy stepped backward – right onto my foot. He half turned, looked down at me and muttered an apology. I assured him that I was perfectly OK and he went back to his strap-hanging – and I went back to staring at his cuffs. I was fantasising about trying to strike up some sort of conversation with the guy; a perfect opportunity had presented itself when he stepped on my foot, but I’d bottled out and hadn’t had the guts to get into conversation
Suddenly I realised that the guy was moving toward the exit door and as the bus came to a halt I jumped up, pushed my way through the strap-hangers and followed him off the bus. This was my opportunity – now or never. “Go for it, Mike,” I thought to myself, so I went for it!
“Excuse me,” I shouted to him from a few paces behind. He looked round quizzically but continued walking. I increased my pace and drew level with him. He stopped and looked at me, suddenly realising that I was the one he’d almost crippled on the bus.
“Excuse me, but are you a cop?” I blurted out. At that remark he didn’t look at all pleased, snapped back “I’d rather not say,” and started walking again. There were loads of people on the sidewalk, but I moved off and kept up with him, saying, “well I’m sorry to bother you but on the bus I could see that you’re carrying a pair of cuffs in your back pocket and I thought you might be a cop?”
“So what!” He snapped back and for a moment I thought he was going to punch me on the nose and I decided I’d better explain myself.
“Well,” I said, “I’m a collector of handcuffs from England and whenever I see a guy with cuffs they always get my attention.”
His expression relaxed a bit. He stopped walking and looked me straight in the eyes as he said, “Are you serious, buddy?” I managed a smile and assured him that I was perfectly serious. He returned my smile and suggested we move to the side and not block the sidewalk where people were rushing around in the lunchtime melee. We moved to the side and stood in a doorway where I again assured him that I was a collector of handcuffs. I added that I had a large collection but then added (untruthfully!) that I didn’t have any American police cuffs and wanted to add a pair to my collection. Again I asked him whether he was a cop.
“Yes,” he confirmed.
“So what sort of cuffs do you guys use?” I asked him.
His response was to look around quickly and then reach to his back pocket, pull out his cuffs and hold them up for me to see. I reached forward to take hold of them but he pulled them back and said “not here!” as he continued to hold them so that I could see them. I could see that they were Smith & Wesson and that they were the Model 90, not the Model 100 that I knew were now issued to NYPD officers.
“How long have you been a cop?” I asked, unable to take my eyes off those beauties, the dull nickel bracelets reflecting the lunchtime sunlight as he continued to hold them up in front of me.
He explained that he’s an Auxilary police officer and had been doing the voluntary work for about 15 years – that explained the old-style cuffs that he said had been issued to him when he joined. I asked him whether I could have a proper look at his cuffs and he looked around again, satisfied himself that we weren’t in anybody’s direct line of vision and handed the cuffs to me. Yes they were Smith & Wesson Model 90 and they clicked in a very familiar way as I ratcheted the bows through the body of the cuffs; at the same time I thought of the many pairs of wrists they’d most likely have adorned in the last 15 years or so since this guy entered the service.
“So do all you cops use the same model of cuffs?” I asked (an unnecessary question as I was well aware that the current issue was the later Model 100). He replied that so far as he knew most in the NYPD used Smith & Wesson, but since he joined the newer entrants were issued with a later model, but he was satisfied with his. I knew that he was talking about Model 100s for the new guys, but I didn’t say so. Instead, I asked, “Can you please tell me where can I purchase a pair of the current-issue cuffs?”
“We get ’em from our Equipment Bureau down at Police Headquarters,” he answered, and added, “but that’s for cops only and not open to members of the public.”
I liked the way this conversation was developing, as the guy had really relaxed now and I decided that it was worthwhile pursuing what had now become a quest for me – to get hold of a pair of police-issued handcuffs!
So I asked him, “Any chance you can get me a pair to take back to England for my collection?”
He looked thoughtful, in fact he looked doubtful and explained that it would be risky for him because although it would be no problem for him to purchase more cuffs, he couldn’t afford to be seen accepting cash from a member of the public. I assured him that I could be very discrete and as he wasn’t in uniform (unfortunately!) nobody would even know that he was a cop, although I would make sure that nobody saw me hand over any cash. So in my best English accent I again asked him whether he could get a pair for me and I reminded him that I would be taking them back to England for my collection. He still looked thoughtful but suddenly nodded and said “OK” as he returned the cuffs to his back pocket.
He asked my name and where I was staying. As I gave him the information he handed me a small business card and added “I’m also an actor – I’ll call you.” And with that he stepped out of the doorway, into the lunchtime crowd and disappeared.
I looked at the business card he’d given me – his name was Kevin and he seemed to work for some sort of charity for deprived people, there was a 212 phone number but no email address. It was strange, his final words kept going through my mind – “I’m also an actor …” – what did he mean? Why did he tell me that? Was he really a cop or was he some sort of idiot who’d been winding me up when I told him of my interest in cuffs? It didn’t make sense.
I decided to walk back to my hotel and I enjoyed the warm Manhattan sunshine as I strolled through the crowded streets. By the time I reached my hotel I’d decided that Kevin had been winding me up and that he was a timewaster. I put him out of my mind.
The next morning the hotel phone woke me sometime before 7 a.m. I hadn’t requested a wake-up call and wondered who the hell was calling me at that time and I picked up the receiver.
“Hi, it’s Kevin here, remember me?”
Well of course I remembered him, so perhaps he wasn’t a timewaster after all so I assured him that I most certainly did remember him and that it was good of him to get back in touch.
He came straight to the point, saying that he could help me get what I wanted and that later that morning I should take a Subway train to City Hall, where he would meet me outside the Hall on the steps at 11 a.m. He added, “and don’t be late” – then he hung up.
As early as I could, I re-scheduled my appointments to the following day and then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, but all the time wondering once again whether it was all a joke and whether the guy would show.
Sometime after 10 o’clock, and allowing myself plenty of time, I made my way to the Subway station and caught a train to City Hall. I exited the station and as I approached the Hall I could see Kevin at the bottom of the steps, pacing slowly backward and forward. Yes, he was there, it wasn’t a hoax, he had been serious about meeting me.
As I got closer he came over with a smile and we shook hands. He told me that we were going to Police Headquarters, and when I asked him where that was he said, “It’s at One Police Plaza, just a few minutes walk from here, let’s get going.”
He turned to lead the way, and as he did so I took the opportunity to snatch a quick look at his backside, and – as I’d expected (and hoped) – there was the outline of his cuffs in his back pocket.
As we walked away from City Hall I took the opportunity to ask him why he’d told me the day before that he was an actor – he laughed and said that as part of another part-time job he was the presenter of a local TV show and thought that I would have recognised him. I hadn’t, and told him so – and added that after all I was only on a quick visit to New York; he understood that, so there was no damage to his ego!
We approached police headquarters and I saw the sign “ONE POLICE PLAZA” and the whole area seemed to be a buzz of activity with what appeared to be endless streams of people entering and leaving the building. Kevin steered me over to a door on the right-hand side that was for visitors and we went inside. He showed his ID to the cop at the desk and signed me in as a visitor after I’d shown my UK drivers licence as photo ID. The cop gave me a “Visitor” badge, told me to pin it on my shirt and turned his attention to the people who were behind us – I put the badge in my back pocket!
Kevin pointed across the hallway to a group of people who were standing at a counter on the far side, some in uniform and some civilians. He said that they were waiting at the Equipment Bureau and that I should wait where we were standing while he went to make the purchase for me. He left me and went to stand in line while I looked around at all the activity in the large hallway. There was activity everywhere I looked, everybody seemed to be in a rush – they all seemed to have their own mission – and I felt rather conspicuous just standing around and waiting. But during the few minutes that I was waiting for Kevin to come back to me, on several occasions I saw guys being escorted through the hallway in handcuffs behind their back – in fact it was quite a common sight during that few minutes, and it gave me an idea!
At last I saw Kevin coming back toward me – and, yes, he was holding a small box and there was no doubt what was inside it!
“Pay me when we’re outside,” he said as he handed me the box and the till receipt. He added that I’d better check the locks before we left to make sure that the cuffs worked OK. I took the cuffs out of the box, removed the wrapping paper and as I did so the keys fell on the floor. I picked them up and we headed over to a waste bin where I dumped the box and the wrapper and then checked both keys in the locks and was satisfied that they worked properly. I put the keys in my pocket. And that was when I brought my “idea” into play!
“These are the current issue,” I said to him, “how do they compare with your older ones?” (as if I didn’t already know!) He pulled out his cuffs and we compared them, noting some obvious differences of which I was already well aware, but didn’t let him know that. Looking at my new acquisition I added, “mine are the current model but I like the look of yours better, would you do an exchange so that you get a new set of cuffs and I get to keep your old pair that have no doubt seen plenty of use?” He thought for a moment then smiled as he said, “yep, you’ve got a deal.” He handed me his cuffs, I passed the new ones to him and he put them in his back pocket.
At this stage my “idea” seemed to be progressing well. I’d now got his cuffs and there was just one more thing to be accomplished!
“I’d like to try them on,” I said as I held the cuffs out to him.
“No, I can’t do that here,” he said, but I immediately pointed out that I’d already seen numerous guys being escorted through the hallway in cuffs, so it wouldn’t be an unusual sight and we wouldn’t be drawing undue attention to ourselves.
He looked around, nodded his head, took the cuffs from me and said, “OK, it’s a strange request but I’ll go along with it – turn around!”
I turned to face away from him and put my hands behind my back – and of course I turned my palms to face out. Above all the noise in the large hallway I heard the ratcheting of the cuffs as he put them on my wrists and I felt him double-lock them. I was handcuffed in public by a real cop in Manhattan’s police headquarters – incredible!
Without saying a word, Kevin took hold of my right arm and led me into the middle of the hallway and then led me to the far end, still holding on to my arm. We halted as he said, “I guess you’re enjoying this?”
I assured him that I was and I added, “It’s most likely to be the nearest I’ll ever get to the real thing.” We set off again through the busy hallway toward the other end and on the way there were several other guys who were obviously in cuffs, but nobody took any notice. It was the norm in that location. In fact the only thing that set us apart from the rest of the crowd was that Kevin was leading me slowly through the hallway, everybody else seemed to be in an almighty hurry.
When we reached the end of the hallway, he said, “Sorry Mike, but I’ve gotta take these things off, need to get back to do some work.”
The crazy idea of mine had worked, it had been a great experience and I’d finished up with a pair of cuffs that had seen plenty of use since they’d been issued to Kevin. I turned my back to him and he removed the cuffs. Suddenly I felt very conspicuous as he removed them – I’d already seen loads of guys there who were hooked up but hadn’t seen anybody having their restraints removed – but nobody seemed to take any notice and I rubbed my wrists in the time-honoured manner. Kevin slipped the cuffs into the other back pocket of his jeans as he said, “I’ll hand these back to you when we get outside.”
We went to the exit and I handed back my “Visitor” pass, Kevin showed his ID and we went out into the mid-day sunshine. I needn’t have concerned myself about when I’d get hold of the cuffs because once we were just a few paces outside the HQ building Kevin produced them from his back pocket with a flourish, handed them to me and said, “Have fun with them, Mike, and pay me when we’re well away from here.”
He went on to explain that he’d got to get back to his office but he’d walk with me to City Hall and then leave me to make my own way to wherever I was going. During the short walk we talked about his work as an Auxiliary cop and he said he was surprised at my interest in cuffs as he’d never come across a collector before and he’d always just regarded handcuffs as a tool of the trade. I asked him how often he got to use his cuffs and he explained that some of the work he did was assisting with the transfer of prisoners from holding cells to Court and vice versa, so his tended to get plenty of use – and he added with a smile “as a tool of the trade!”
Just before we arrived back at City Hall I took out some cash and discretely passed to him sufficient to cover the cost of the cuffs as shown on the receipt he’d given me. We arrived at City Hall, I said my thanks, we shook hands and he turned to leave me.
As he walked away I could see the outline of his new cuffs in his back pocket. Instinctively my hand went round to the left-hand rear pocket of my own jeans and I felt the comforting outline of “his” handcuffs – now my handcuffs!
I decided to walk back to my hotel and after a while I stopped in Broadway and checked my reflection in a window – sure enough, there was the outline of my cuffs clearly showing through the denim – perfect!!
As soon as I arrived back at my hotel I stripped off and locked my “new” cuffs on in front. I double-locked them, lay on the bed and …
… well, I’ll leave the rest to your imagination!
Before I left New York I called his office number a couple of times, just to say one more thank you and goodbye, but each time I was told that he wasn’t in the office that day.
I never saw him again.
Kevin – in case you read this (you’ll know who you are), please get back in touch through Metal who runs this site, it would be good to make contact again.
Metal would like to thank Bearded Mike for sharing this story