Lunch hour for the night crew at White Rose Frozen Foods (just outside of the Jersey side of the Holland Tunnel) was midnight to 1:10AM. Some guys’d run across the street to the diner or Arby’s, others would bring something from home. On payday, many might live it up, so to speak, by calling for pizza or a Blimpie. Not The Friendly Stranger – former bodybuilder, former mental patient and Tae Kwon Do black belt; he’d have drugs delivered.
Sometime after midnight I was on the loading dock at White Rose, finishing off some french fries. The Friendly Stranger, returning from cashing his check, half jumped, half climbed up in through the little space left between the warehouse and a backed-in truck. He walked over to the wall and leaned his shoulders and the sole of one foot against it, waiting for Chemical Delight.
At that section of the warehouse there were two phones. As luck would have it, just then, one of the bosses from the office came in to make a personal call without having it show up on the bill for his desk phone. As The Friendly Stranger’s supplier was given to dramatic entrances (better even than Henry Silva’s in A Hatful of Rain), the situation appeared to be developing complications.
The call sounded like it was going to be short and so the tension started to subside. Then, in walked Don Nagle — Karate expert and Jersey City Narcotics Officer — who had a part-time job at White Rose. Ending the phone conversation, the manager turned around. Seeing Don Nagle, the unexpected party of the first part stood there with his back to the wall as Don walked towards both him and the Friendly Stranger. Nagle stopped directly in front of the boss and started talking about some office business.
I imagined the dealer arriving hooting and hollering at any moment. Was the Friendly Stranger going to assist him against the volcano eruption of an attack from Nagle? And even if they might fend off Don Nagle right there, what good would that do them against the entire Jersey City police force in the hours to follow? And no matter what, it seemed certain that the Friendly Stranger was soon to be out of a job.
Suddenly, I was aware of a pair of Cheshire Cat eyes silently staring out of the shadows of the loading dock in the same narrow space the Friendly Stranger had used to enter. Jersey’s City’s own Mystery Tramp was on a little ledge some eight feet away from and directly behind Nagle, whose head blocked the boss’s view. The Friendly Stranger walked over and stood in front of where the dealer was in the dark, with his back to him and one arm held slightly out, the hand forming a cup. A glint of aluminum foil was held against the palm and the fingers did a venus flytrap around it. The Friendly Stranger put the little package in one pocket. With the other hand he took some money out of his pocket and held that backwards. The eyes disappeared and the Friendly Stranger went to the locker room.