When I was a kid, I loved to go the the Wallace Post Office and look at the walls. Why? Because on those walls were some of the most exciting pictures that spoke of big time things. Things that we kids in Wallace would never see. The pictures spoke of dangers, excitement, exotic places, and things that movies were made from. I am talking, of course, about the lists that use to grace every Post Office wall,the FBI Ten Most Wanted List, complete with pictures and descriptions of these shady characters.
Back in the old days, all hotels received the FBI posters once a month. We were to, by law, post these lists where all desk clerks could read them and study the pictures. I am not sure that many clerks took it seriously. After all, what were the chances of one of these modern day version of Jesse James, by the way, a distant relative of mine, would come waltzing though the door and sign up fro a room. I can just see it happening now."Hi, I am Jessee James, the notorious bank robber, you may have seen my poster, and I would like a room, please". It just was not going to happen that way.
However, at the Carlton, I was brand new to the hotel business, and to me it was exciting to get the posters, post them , and study the faces of these dangerous characters. It was January, and I had just received the new batch list. I looked them over, and posted them as required. I had been especially drawn to one of the faces on the posters, and for some unexplained reason, I read all of the information about this guy. To this day, I can't explain to you why I picked this one out and memorized the face.
It was about five PM when he walked through the front door.No, it couldn't be! My imagination must be working overtime. I needed to quit reading those darn posters. But, wait, there was such an uncanny resemblance. And as he got closer to the desk, my heart started beating faster and faster, for there, right in front of me stood the guy whose face I had just memorized not one hour earlier. Keeping my voice calm, and my hands as steady as possible, I had him fill out the registration card. I glanced down quickly, and sure enough, the name was the same as the one on the poster.
I took the man's money, gave him a key, and told him to have a nice evening. After he left for his room, I played with some ideas on what to do for about five minutes. It was then that I decided to call the Tacoma PD and tell them who I had as a guest. Surely they would be jubilant to have the arrest of a genuine, FBI most wanted criminal. Hands shaking, I picked up the phone and dialed. Before I could even say who the criminal was, the dispatcher cut me off and said"that is not our department, call Pierce County. WTF? I then called Pierce County. Same thing here."You will have to call the FBI, it is not our case".
This was not what I expected. Didn't all police departments work together? I guess not. No one seemed to actually want to come and get this guy. I almost didn't care by then, Maybe I would not say anything and let the guy have a good's night sleep. If the police didn't care, why should I?
The fear of having this guy right up above me fianlly won out, and I called the FBI. Finally, we got some action.Within fifteen minutes, FBI agents came in the door. Now, the fun began. They wanted me to go with them to the guy's room. I was to knock on the door, and if he answered, I was to make up some bull story of why he needed to open the door.If he did not answer my knock, I was to take the key, open the door, and step back quickly as the Agents went in.
Wow, this was just like the movies. But wait minute! Whoa! I would be right in front of the door!
Oh well, it might be fun.
So, up we went. I knocked on the door. No Answer. I knocked again, Still no answer. The FBI agent in charge nodded at me. OK, here we go, I thought to myself. I inserted the key in the door, and as a I did the FBI kicked at the door, and they all rushed in shouting "FBI" with their guns drawn. Well, guess what. The room was empty, and the FBI missed out on getting one of the most wanted men in the country.
To me, it was almost poetic justice. If the Tacoma PD or the Pierce County cops had done their part, they would have had the guy cold. No wonder a 9/11 could happen. The agencies don't communicate with each other. I lost a lot of respect for the PD of Tacoma., and now I know how dangerous criminals run so freely throughout the country.