Pizzas, prostitution, pilfering prove pithy


World’s oldest professions 

If selling sex is truly the World’s Oldest Profession, then extortion has got to be right behind it. 

After all, how long do you think it took the first cave lady of the evening to figure out the first caveman customer would give her five pretty rocks instead of two pretty rocks if she promised to not tell his wife that he was sticking his spear in another lady’s cave? 

Well, like some recurring myth cycle first described by Joseph Campbell to a drunken grad student while exploring Bangkok, the ancient tale repeated itself recently at a rural home in the Powell community of North Knox County.

A 27-year-old man who may not have a clear grasp of what types of behavior are illegal called E-911 on Feb. 24 to report that he was being extorted due to his, um, relationships with several hookers he’d been communicating with via an unnamed phone app.

A Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputy was dutifully dispatched to the man’s home, where he explained that “he began getting texts from an unknown male demanding money or he would hurt his family,” according to the subsequent police report.

“The victim stated he transferred money to the unknown male and a second number began texting him demanding money and sending videos of males holding rifles,” the report said. 

By the time the tawdry tale was reported, the offending app had already been deleted and it wasn’t entirely clear what the responding officer could do for the jilted John, unless it was to give him a stern lecture about not treating gangster rap lyrics as a relationship guide.

Prolific purloiner prepares pizzas 

Rent has apparently gone way, way up since the halcyon days when Knoxville repeatedly topped national livability studies thanks to its low real estate costs. 

At least, that seemed to be the driving force behind the monetary melodrama that recently gripped a popular pizza joint on the fringe of the Fourth and Gill neighborhood.

Instead of the perfect pizza-pusher, the operator of the Domino’s at 900 N. Broadway found out that a trusted employee was in fact was a prolific purloiner who used his position to steal enough money to buy nearly 1,100 large cheese pies (with hand-tossed crusts, of course). 

The thief apparently had an old-fashioned streak, as he decided upon a truly vintage plan: over a period of months, he repeatedly took cash from the store’s safe and wrote the withdrawals up as store expenses. 

Unfortunately, at least for the purloining pizza prepper, criminal schemes don’t age like fine wine. They go sour.

After four months, the thief found out the hard way that the Good Guys had access to a newfangled investigative technique against which he had no defense: arithmetic.

The store’s head honcho got suspicious and did the books. He then made his worker sit in  the proverbial-yet-still-pepperoni-scented Hot Seat and demanded an explanation.

“When confronted by the complainant, the suspect stated he did take the money to help him pay his rent and was planning to pay it back over time,” according to the Feb. 24 police report.

Of course, the guy’s excuse might have been a tad more plausible if it wasn’t for the amount he’d stolen: $11,026. 

That’s right. Twelve grand for rent. In Knoxville.

Which, upon reflection and a quick perusal of residential rentals near the eatery, might not be so far-fetched after all. 

You tell us — is it possible for an entire city to be gentrifying at once, or is it just that our perception is skewed by the haze rising from a thousand hipster-scented hookah rooms and a hundred beer gardens serving authentic, organic, gluten-free hot tamales?  We just can’t tell anymore….

Man is the measure of all things

Some criminals really ought to just arrest themselves.

Take the two rocket scientists who were speeding up and down Rutledge Pike in a stolen pickup truck just before dawn on Feb. 24. 

They were spotted by Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputy Preston Davis as they inconspicuously tore out of the parking lot of a closed gas staton near the county line. Davis lit up the white 2006 Chevy Colorado and immediately found himself embroiled in a high-speed chase that didn’t end until the two Mensa candidates decided to take the pickup truck into a field and somehow got caught up in a pair of barbed wire fences near Clear Springs Road.

The occupants of the truck must have paused here for at least a moment in order to weigh how their escapades might be viewed by the Nobel Prize Committee. The men carefully reasoned that the committee should value boldness above all other virtues, and who among us can truly say they were wrong?

Aristotle himself would have approved, they surely thought, as they threw open the truck’s doors and took off on foot. 

As the brilliant gold light of dawn broke over English Mountain, the pair of tragic heroes ran as though borne on the wings of Apollo but were unable to escape the steely handcuffs of Fate when they closed upon their wrists.

They didn’t get far because, all bullshit aside, a pair of middle-aged rednecks who are blitzed on heroin aren’t going to outdrive, outrun or outthink a rural beat cop in East Tennessee.

If turned out that, by arresting the Einstein twins, Deputy Davis had not only recovered a stolen truck but also cleared a half-dozen active arrest warrants from the computerized system. He also confiscated a half-gram of “a grey, gravel-like substance consistent with heroin along with numerous syringes,” according to the report he filed.

The best and brightest of humanity breathed a sigh of relief following the release of a statement from the Nobel Prize Committee that assured them bars cannot cage the human intellect and many great books have been written in prison. 

Tales of the Scruffy City is compiled from public records provided on request by the Knoxville Police Department, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, and other government agencies. We do not identify the citizens who appear in these reports in order to protect their privacy. Many of those who appear in police reports are guilty of nothing more than having a bad day, while even those who are formally accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty. Tales of the Scruffy City is Copyright 2021 by Hard Knox Wire.

J.J. Stambaugh may be reached at 

Published on March 9, 2021