To Catch a Cop on Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is here! Books on relationships are huge this time of year, and hopefully, if you have such a book, you tapped into that natural momentum and attention. If not, there are other times of year that will work, and of course, there is next Valentine’s Day.

Years ago I had several stories published in the Chocolate for a Woman’s Soul series, by Kay Allenbaugh. The story of how my husband and I met is in the book titled, Chocolate for a Lover’s Heart, and I thought it would be fun to share that story here.

Before I do, however, as Kay’s publicist and marketer, we knew months before that the publication date was going to be Valentine’s Day, so we were able to use the significant momentum around that holiday to increase book sales.

Here is the story of Gary and me. I wrote it with Kay as its editor, and it is excerpted from Chocolate for a Lover’s Heart, Simon & Schuster New York, A Fireside Book.

To Catch a Cop

“Welcome to the late-night request and dedication show on Kool 108. I’m Joanne McCall with a special tune going out to Steve tonight, and the entire gang at the U! Thanks for the call, Steve!”

Because of the solid ratings from my radio show in Minneapolis/St. Paul, the program director, gave me the freedom to call my own shots. Putting myself out there resulted in lots of audience interaction, but a few of the “crazies” in radio land also surfaced.

One Friday night, the first of several death threat phone calls came into the station – aimed directly at me. Shaken, I immediately called the cops to try to ease my mounting concern. Officer Gary Lee arrived about four minutes later, in his blue uniform, shiny badge, and big gun ready to take my report.

“The guy sounded really creepy,” I said with Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly” blaring in the background. We were an oldies station, after all. “How can you possibly catch him? Do you think you can?”

The officer outlined some strategies they would use as the tune “I Fought the Law and the Law Won,” by the Bobby Fuller Four, played on.

“Hmmm. That’s appropriate,” he said, and we both laughed. Nice smile, I thought.

I pulled into the parking lot of Kool 108 the next afternoon and saw a squad car in front of the building.

“Hi!” Officer Gary called.

“Did you catch the guy already?” I replied.

“Well, no. Uh, actually, I have a couple more questions for you.”

“ Come on in,” I said.

After the fourth time checking on me in as many days, “to protect and serve” took on a whole new meaning. I also realized I’d probably miss seeing his sparking blue eyes once the investigation was over. Am I missing him already? This is getting interesting!

The next day, a blizzard swept through the Twin Cities. I wondered how in the world I was going to get to the studio to advise my listeners to stay home under these unsafe conditions. Moments later, I heard my apartment buzzer. It was the law. This guy keeps showing up in my life!

“Care to join me for a cup of hot chocolate?” Officer Gary asked.

“Now?” I asked, stunned.

“Sure,” he said. “Why not? Don’t you like hot chocolate on a cold day?” Well, he had me there. I do. “By the way, it’s okay if you call me Gary.”

He certainly looks handsome in that uniform, I thought.

He broke through my daydream and said, “We caught the guy making those threatening phone calls to you.”

“You did?! That’s great!” I replied. “Thank you so much! What a relief. There are so many oddballs out there.”

“You’re telling me,” he said. “Let’s go get that hot chocolate, then I’ll drive you to the radio station. It’s not far, and you shouldn’t be out on these roads. Then I’ll pick you up afterward and get you home safely.” Having your own cop is a very handy thing, I reflected. And I haven’t even seen him eat one doughnut yet.

I had a great show that night. No one could go out, so my listening audience mushroomed. After my show, I waited inside the front lobby for Gary. A four-wheel drive truck with a plow pulled right up onto the sidewalk in front of me–clearing the way to the door. It took a moment to realize that–it was Gary!

“What are you doing driving a snowplow?” I asked as I stepped outside.

“This is what I’ll be driving on duty until the storm blows over. I’ll plow the snow out of the way of any ambulances that have to get people to the hospital.”

The ride home was quiet, except for the swishing noise of the plow pushing the snow off the road. I thanked him for the ride, and as I got out of the truck, I leaned over and gave him a quick kiss – right on the lips! He looked shocked. I shouldn’t have done that, I thought. Why did you do that?

Back in my apartment, I looked out the window to see Gary plowing the driveway to my garage. While everyone else in the apartment building would be confronted with mounds of morning snow, they’re going to wonder why my driveway has been plowed! I smiled to myself as I got ready for bed.

From that day on, our relationship grew. We continued to date and get to know each other. I discovered he was the funniest person I’d ever known, with a history of playing lots of pranks. But, now and then, I was able to pull a fast one on him, too.

One hot summer evening, I got off the air at 6:00 p.m. Gary took his dinner break at the same time. He led the way in his squad car to a new Italian restaurant, and I followed behind in my own car. At a major intersection, he pulled to a stop at the red light and started to make a right turn. At that moment, something came over me. I pulled up closer and closer and intentionally nudged his rear bumper with my car. I then stuck my head out my window, and at the top of my lungs shouted, “Hey, get that piece of junk out of the road!” I thought I was so funny–until I looked up and saw Gary’s eyes in his rearview mirror.

People everywhere turned with their mouths open and incredulous looks on their faces, convinced I was in big trouble with the law. My stomach sank as his red and blue flashing lights suddenly lit up the sky. He opened his door and sauntered back to my car. I noticed his cop “stone-face” expression and set jaw.

Even though the traffic signal turned green, nobody moved as they sat in stunned silence to watch how this policeman would handle an “out-of-control” woman driver. With his ticket book opened and pen in hand, he leaned into my window, eyes locked onto mind, and asked, “So, do you still want to do Italian for dinner?”

Not long after I received a phone call from another radio station in the same company enticing me to come back home to the West Coast. More money, more opportunity, better weather, and a chance to work closely with someone in the business I really respected.

That night, we held each other close as we talked about what this move would mean for us. It was a slow and agonizing process. He’s lived his life in Minneapolis, and my heart belonged near the Pacific Ocean. We cried, but it became apparent, all the fun set aside, that we were not ready for a long-term commitment.

Back in the Northwest, I dated a little, but didn’t find another guy who made me laugh as hard, or who would listen to me as intently as Gary did. Every time I saw a squad car, I squinted to see if Gary might be behind the wheel–knowing full well he was two thousand miles away. I would look anyway, and my heart would break.

We called and talked to each other from time to time, neither one of us knowing quite what to do.

Nearly two years later, when my phone rang, it was the law. But something was different with this call. His tone of voice had a sense of determination.

“I am not letting you go again. I am not living this way anymore. And I’m on the next fight out there. You haven’t married the potato chip guy you were dating, have you?”

“No, I said. “I’ve been waiting for you!”

So, what’s a girl to do? I’ll tell you what I did–I fought the law and the law won. I married that cop!

So that’s my story. Seems appropriate to share it this Valentine’s Day. And whether you have a Valentine currently or not, give yourself a big hug. You deserve it. And let’s continue promoting your book! For now…

To your success!


P.S. What would Valentine’s Day be without a love song? This one played at our wedding.







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