NOTE FROM JESS WAID: Sergeant Alex Shearer, a good friend, now deceased, is the man the character Alex Strait is based on in my Mike Montego novels.
Alex, who truly liked being called “Uncle Alex,” was a member of the LAPD’s long-distance running team that ran relays across the nation.
In a letter to me dated March 22, 1994, Alex wrote the following:
It was early afternoon and I was getting ready for my leg when a squad car with three local deputies drove up. I soon learned that one of the deputies was going to “run a ways with me.”
Now you know how I hate these unscheduled running partners, so I walked over to him. Bob Hickey was probably only 15 minutes away.
The deputy was in full uniform, complete with Sam Brown and Smokey the Bear hat.
I asked him, “You going to run with me?”
“You going to wear that hat?”
“What about the gun belt and gun?”
My pissed-off point went up a notch or two.
“You are going to change those cowboy boots, aren’t you?”
That did it. This guy would rue the day he met me. He was about to undergo exquisite punishment.
As Hickey and I made the baton exchange, I cranked along fast enough to let my fellow runner know that he had made a grievous error, but not fast enough to make him drop out.
After a few hundred yards, my struggling companion removed his hat and threw it in the following squad car.
A hundred yards farther on, off came the gun and gun belt.
My floundering companion could not stop long enough to remove his cowboy boots. It must have been pure agony for him.
I loved it!
As we approached the town I decided the deputy had learned the folly of his ways and was ready to put it in gear and leave him to his blisters and misery.
Starting to sprint off, I looked ahead and spied a fairly large number of the population had gathered along the street to watch. I figured they had come out to watch one of their locals run through town with a runner from the Big City.
I don’t know whether it was because he was a fellow police officer, or I didn’t want to humiliate him in front of his fellow citizens, but I decided to drop back.
We ran through the town together.
Upon leaving the town folks behind us, he dropped off.
I’ll never forget his last words, “Thanks for cutting me some slack.”
I finished my leg with a good feeling. But I would probably have felt better if I had punished him a bit more.
What nerve running with me in that outfit!