Tag Archives: bill baber

Pancakes

We did not celebrate Christmas in the house I lived in as a kid unless my old man was locked up. He was a mean drunk and he was drunk most of the time. If he was around and you were lucky enough to make it through the day without getting your ass kicked that was a gift.
+++++One year he was doing ninety days for some drunken shit he had pulled. On Christmas morning, my mom made pancakes but she got high and burned them. Kenny and I each got two, with no butter and a splash of syrup. Some judge got in the holiday spirit and gave a bunch of prisoners from the county slam early release. My dad walked in later that day, already drunk, and found mom in the sack with his friend Billy Flynn. He carved them up like Christmas turkeys.
+++++Kenny was two years older than me. We went into the foster system. I got lucky, Kenny didn’t. He bounced from one home to another .He went to juvie when he was 13. He spent most of the next twenty years incarcerated.
+++++An amazing couple adopted me. Frank Carson was a doctor and his wife Maureen a stay at home mom to me and two other kids they had taken in. My first Christmas in their home was like something out of a movie. I had a stocking with my name on it above the fireplace. On Christmas morning, much to my delight, I found it stuffed with candy and little toys. Under the tree were new bikes for all of us and a baseball glove for me.
+++++And that’s how my life went. These wonderful people taught me respect, humility and unconditional love. They told me everyone has opportunities in this life. It fell on the individual to take advantage of them. I counted my blessings and thanked God for my good fortune.
+++++They put me through college and like my adopted dad I became a doctor. I married an incredible, beautiful woman who graced me with two wonderful kids. Our lives were close to perfect. We had a circle of friends; we were involved in our children’s lives and found time to volunteer in the community.

***

Then Kenny came back into my life. I was on my way home from rounds at the hospital when my wife called, asking me to pick something up. Instead of stopping at the super market, I pulled into a convenience store a few miles from home.
+++++It was dusk. In front of the store, a small group of unkempt men all with long, greasy looking hair drank cans of beer concealed in paper bags. When I exited the store, one of them approached me as I reached my Lexus and asked for money. I reached for my wallet and he slugged me, knocking me to the pavement. He grabbed my wallet and ran.
+++++As I unsteadily got to my feet, I saw him returning. This time there was something familiar about him.
+++++He held my wallet, opened to my driver’s license.
+++++“Michael, man is that you? Damn, I’m sorry, I didn’t know”
+++++“Kenny?” I said.
+++++“Yeah, it’s me. Been a long time. Looks like you’ve done okay little brother.”
+++++He hugged me. He reeked of body odor, beer and cigarette smoke.
+++++“What can I do for you Kenny? Are you using?”
+++++He nodded his head.
+++++“Let me get you in rehab,” I offered.
+++++“Nah, I’m good. Guess I got the old man’s genes huh?”
+++++Those words would haunt me.
+++++“You could slip me a twenty if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. I could use a fix.”
+++++I gave him two twenty’s and a ten and went home to my comfortable life.

***

A week later, just after dinner there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, I found Kenny. He looked worse than he had before.
+++++“Swell place you got,” he said as he glanced around. “I’m in a bad way. Can you give me fifty?”
+++++I did and sent him on his way.
+++++Two days later my wife returned from a charity lunch and found our home had been broken into. Jewelry, cash and some other small items were missing. When I got home the police were there. They explained there was a heroin epidemic in the area and burglaries like this were becoming common place. When they left, I drove to the convenience store where I had first encountered Kenny. Sure enough, he was lurking in the shadows with two other men.
+++++I motioned him over.
+++++“Let me get you some help.”
+++++“No man, I don’t think so. I like my fucked up life. Rather live it than that masquerade you take part in every day. You ever think maybe you forgot where you came from?”
+++++“Look, here’s how it’s going to be you won’t get help, don’t come around my house again. Understand?”
+++++He stared at me with a menacing glare that caused me to shiver as I drove away.

***

Two days before Christmas, I arrived home just after dark. No lights were on, nor was the Christmas tree. The front door was open. The house had been ransacked. Wrapping from gifts were strewn about the tree, a bottle of Scotch tipped over on the carpet.
+++++I went from room to room calling my wife and my children. I didn’t get a response.
+++++I found them in our bedroom, swimming in a sea of blood. My wife’s lifeless body covered my kids. She died trying to protect them.
+++++Shock turned to rage. In the garage I had a shotgun I used for duck hunting. I sped to the store.
+++++Kenny grinned at me. I got out of the car and by the time the gun was empty there wasn’t much left of him. Guess I inherited something from my birth father as well.
+++++Christmas in prison isn’t that bad. Just this morning we had bacon. And pancakes- they weren’t burned and they even came with butter and as much syrup as I wanted.

Entry 2 – Hard Time In The Big Easy

Listen instead!
Listen instead!

As the Carousel Bar in the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone slowly revolved, it was easy to pick him out. Among the late morning French Quarter tourists, the dude with the mullet and Canadian tuxedo stood out like, well, like a turd in a bowl of gumbo.
+++++The Candy Man set up the meeting. He was damn good at what he did so I had to trust him. Appearances can be deceiving but I had my doubts. I grabbed a seat next to him and ordered a Jax.
+++++“You must be Markham. Candy Man didn’t say anything about a Kentucky waterfall.”
+++++His look was harder than a straight right to the jaw. I held his gaze and a moment later he broke into a grin.
+++++“Tennessee Tophat, Mississippi Mudflap- I’ve heard ‘em all. We gonna work together or what?”
+++++He sipped a bourbon and water and shook a Marlboro out of a soft pack. His rolled up sleeves showed arms rippled with muscle and adorned with jailhouse ink.
+++++“Looks like it, for better or for worse.”
+++++The Challenger was parked in a handicapped zone on Royal Street with the required placard hanging from the rearview. The Candy Man thought of everything.
+++++“Go down to Canal and take a right.”
+++++I followed directions and after several blocks Markham instructed me to “flip a bitch” at the next corner. Jesus, this guy was a throwback- hadn’t heard that one in twenty years.
+++++“Just wanted to make sure no one was following us.”
+++++“How about just telling me where the hell we’re going?”
+++++The mansion was in the Garden District, two blocks north of St. Charles, owned by some old bastard who was the single heir to a plantation fortune. I guessed that the rich fuck had never worked a day in his life. And the fact that his ancestors had made their money from the toil and sweat of slavery made me want to steal every dime he had.
+++++We cased the place, seeing no signs of life. The old man was supposed to be in Puerto Rico, swallowing Viagra and rum and banging young girls. I tried not to think about that. After walking up the long drive, I knocked at the heavy wood door. There was no answer. The butler must have had the week off too. The front lock and the alarm system were pretty standard. Getting in would be a piece of cake.
+++++Markham had a place uptown so we burned the rest of the day there. After dark, we picked up the van The Candy Man had arranged. It had the name of some plumbing company on the side. We loaded Markham’s tools into it and drove to the mansion.
+++++Danny Markham was the best safe man in the southeast. And the old man was supposed to have a couple of million in a big box in his house. We each carried a box of tools to the door. With a snip here and a jimmy there, we were inside in under a minute. The safe was in the library, behind a false wall. Sometimes rich people skimp on things and the safe was no exception. Markham drilled into it and after a couple of taps it opened up. And it was empty.
+++++“What the fuck?” He said.
+++++We quickly went through the house. No jewelry, nothing of value. Even the damn art looked like it came from Target. I started to get the feeling something wasn’t right. It just wasn’t adding up. We made a dash for the door. Markham never made it. A blast from a shotgun tore him damn near in half. Diving behind a couch, I pulled my Browning. Another round blew the shit out of the couch. But I saw the muzzle flash so I rolled away, pulling the trigger as I went. I hit the guy good. He was dying but still alive.
+++++It wasn’t the old man-it was some Cajun guy. I put my foot on his throat.
+++++“What the hell is this?”
+++++“Markham burned some guys on a deal,” he sputtered. “They used The Candy Man to get to him.”
+++++I shot him in the face. Not to put him out of his misery but because I was pissed.
+++++The Candy Man had a two story craftsman in Marigny, on the far side of the quarter. I had to blast my way in, taking out two body guards. He was a fat son of a bitch, wearing a summer weight suit and a Panama hat. A goatee did nothing to cover voluminous jowls. I put one in his enormous gut just to kick things off.
+++++“I was supposed to get three quarters of a mil out of that job. You set me up so you could have a payday off of Danny getting clipped. What was I, collateral damage? And by the way, I kinda liked that guy.”
+++++“Perhaps we can strike a deal,” he offered with a southern drawl.  Since it sounded like he was begging, I kneecapped him.
+++++“Two million, right now or I kill your fat ass.”
+++++“Imposs…,” he started. I put one in his other knee.
+++++He picked up a phone.
+++++“You’ll never get across the Pontchartrain.”
+++++“I’ll take my chances.”
+++++Fifteen minutes later a guy arrived with a suitcase. Shot him too. Just to let The Candy Man know I wasn’t fucking around.
+++++He was so big he needed two canes to get around under normal conditions. I grabbed the bag while keeping a gun on him.  He howled painfully as he made his way to the front door. There were guys waiting alright, but they couldn’t get me without shooting him. I shoved him in the back of the van.
+++++I drove across Lake Pontchartrain and pulled off the road.
+++++“Looks like you were wrong fat man.”
+++++I emptied the gun into him, got out and started walking into the night thinking that nothing comes easy in this town.

Leaving no Tracks

Riordan had always liked the heft of the Beretta. Liked how it fit in his hand, the feel and the weight of it. It was an older model, all steel. None of that polymer crap. To him, it was a real gun and it had always done what real guns were supposed to do. He saw it as a tool, something he needed to do his job. It had never let him down. He loaded fifteen .40 rounds into the magazine even though he knew he would only need one. This job was going to be quick and easy
+++++He packed it, along with a clean suit, a couple of dress shirts, two ties, socks and underwear in a medium sized suitcase. He wouldn’t need the gun until he reached L.A. The suitcase went in the trunk of his non- descript beige Buick and just before ten on a foggy morning Riordan drove away from his San Francisco apartment.
+++++It would be quicker to cross the Bay Bridge and head down I-5. Riordan was in no real hurry to complete his L.A. business so he headed south on 101. It was more scenic. Not long after he left the city, the sun broke through the overcast revealing a pleasant spring day. He stopped for lunch at a little Mexican place he knew of in Salinas. Traffic was light and by four he was checking into a hotel. After napping for an hour, he had a steak and a couple of glasses of Zinfandel at the hotel restaurant. Back in his room, he rented a pay-per-view movie and was asleep before it was over.

***

Bill Crandall had been married for twenty-one years. His wife was still attractive- when they were out he noticed how other men looked at her- but she was more engrossed in her role as a mother to their two teenaged children than she was in playing the part of seductive lover. So, Bill Crandall took a mistress. He ran a small investment firm and Alisa Burgess was a client. Problem was she was also married- married to a rich, arrogant asshole that was twenty years older than her. When he became suspicious, he hired a private detective who quickly provided proof that Mrs. Burgess was indeed fucking around.
+++++Before he went legit, Carl Burgess had some underworld business dealings. That was how he found Riordan. He was told that Riordan was the best in the biz. No muss, no fuss and no tracks that could lead to him. He was going to teach the bitch a lesson. He didn’t want her killed but he wanted her to understand what might happen if she were ever tempted again. Fifty thousand dollars was a cheap price for her to learn. And to get rid of some prick that either had the balls or was stupid enough to screw what belonged to him.

***

After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, Riordan headed south towards Alyssa Viejo. It was smoggy, his eyes burned and he felt a scratch in his throat. He never had been fond of Southern California and looked forward to getting back to the cool breezes of San Francisco. The Giants would be in town and he thought about seeing a game when he returned.
+++++He had no trouble finding Crandall’s office in a small strip mall. After watching the business for an hour, it was obvious that there were three employees other than Crandall- a secretary and two brokers. Just after noon, they left for lunch. Only Crandall stayed behind.
+++++Putting the Beretta under his suit jacket, he was in the office in four long strides. Crandall was sitting at his desk and looked up as Riordan walked in. The last thing Bill Crandall saw was a tall man with graying hair pointing a gun at him. Then, he was dead, a small hole in the middle of his forehead. One quick shot, again the Beretta had done its job. Now Riordan could go meet with Burgess and collect his fee. He would be back up North before dark.
+++++As he turned to go, he saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, standing just inside the door with a hand over her mouth. It was Alisa Burgess. She turned to run and Riordan shot her at the base of the neck. He had never left a witness. And as beautiful as she was, he wasn’t going to start now.

***

Riordan didn’t like Carl Burgess when he first talked to him about the job. He liked him even less when they met. He was arrogant all right- along with being cocky and downright cruel. He told Riordan now that Crandall was out of the way that he was going to beat the bitch for what she had done and that he hoped Riordan had made Crandall suffer. After he handed Riordan an envelope, he became offended that Riordan had the gall to check the contents. Without speaking a word and showing no emotion what so ever, Riordan shot him in the groin. After Burgess howled for awhile, Riordan put the pistol behind his ear and pulled the trigger. It was the first time a kill had ever taken more than one shot. It was also the first time he really enjoyed shooting someone.
+++++He got behind the wheel of the Buick and headed north, leaving no tracks.

Darkness or Light

There’s no way to say for sure that I would have killed Bobby Ray Lomax if I wasn’t drunk; maybe alcohol provided me with the courage I needed to shoot him. As far as a motive? I’ll get to that in a little while. But I did it and I have no regrets so there it is.
++++When I saw Lucinda in the hospital, she was still alive, barely clinging to the last thread of life, about to let go and fall into the final abyss. She looked nothing like the beautiful girl she had once been. Her face was destroyed almost beyond recognition. I leaned over the bed and softly kissed the side of her head.
++++“I’ll take care of this,” I told her. “Ain’t no way he‘ll get away with it. And Baby, I’m so sorry I didn’t fix it sooner. “
++++There were tears running down my cheeks as I put my hand on top of hers. Just a brief moment later she was gone. It wasn’t long before I was on a stool at McAdoo’s Tavern pounding double shots of Early Times.
++++It was just me now. I had been the oldest. All of them but me had run away from the nightmare we had grown up in. Meth got Carla. Jimmy was killed in Afghanistan and Lucinda got Bobby Ray. I’m not sure there is a difference between nightmares and broken dreams. I am sure my brother and sisters dreamt of some better life, at least of something that approached normal. But all they got was their own kind of hell.
++++Daddy was a mean man. I’m guessing that if I worked underground in semi-darkness breathing black dust I might be mean too. Bu t there was no excuse for the things he did. He’d come home from a day in the mine – after stopping at McAdoo’s- and start in on Mama. He’d beat on her and then start on us. By the time I turned fourteen, I started to stand up to him. Mama was all soft and good. The only thing I ever got from Daddy was a belt, the back of a hand or fists when I started fighting back.
++++One night he had Mama on the floor, left arm pressed against her throat, punching her face with his right hand. We all screamed for him to stop. He looked up, his face red with rage and said;
++++“Every one of y’all is gettin’ a whippin’ next.”
++++I took the poker from alongside the fire place. I think at first I only meant to hit him once. Just to get him to leave Mama alone. But then I couldn’t stop. I stood over him and swung like I was chopping wood and kept up until there was a hole in his head and I could no longer hear the coal dust rattle in his lungs.
++++The state sent me away until I was twenty one. Mama died while I was gone. When I got home, Carla was so far gone there was no saving her. Jimmy was overseas and Lucinda was living with Bobby Ray. She was just seventeen. It seems that by trying to protect us all, I let everyone down. I couldn’t help but think if I hadn’t got sent off I might have at least made it different for my sisters. As far as Jimmy, well you tell me what’s a worse hell- war or a coal mine?
++++I remember the night I heard Lucinda’s tires on the gravel in front of the house. I met her outside. There was blood around her nose and mouth and when we got inside, I could see that her eyes were black.
++++Bobby Ray was a miner and a mean man too. When I got to his single wide, I pounded on the door. He opened it wearing clothes black from the mine, a cigarette in his mouth and a beer in his hand.
++++“What the hell do you want here Donald?” He said.
++++“You ever hit her again and I will kill you, “was my reply.
++++He laughed a mean, cruel laugh then threw the beer can in my face. His punches knocked me to the ground. He added a kick to my ribs.
++++“You ever come ‘round here again and I’ll kill you. Just remember that.”
++++Then, he laughed at me again.

***

After leaving McAdoo’s, I stopped at home to get Daddy’s old Colt. I t was in a shoebox in the closet wrapped in oil cloth. I checked to see that it was loaded then headed for Bobby Ray’s trailer. It was snowing lightly as I headed out Combs Flat Road. I remember thinking that the whiteness of the snow was the first clean, pure thing I had seen in a very long time.
++++I pulled my truck right up to the front step of his trailer with the high beams on. He opened the door before I could even get out.
++++He was drunk too. I guess he couldn’t see with the light in his eyes.
++++“Who the hell’s there?” he slurred.
++++“She’s dead you bastard. Now I’m goin’ to kill you, just like I promised.”
++++Then, I shot him. This time I didn’t give him a chance to laugh.
++++So there it is preacher. My confession and no I ain’t asking any God for forgiveness. Like I said no regrets, they can slip that needle in me now.
++++There’s either going to be darkness or light. If it’s light, I’ll see Mama and them again and it might be like a dream come true. And if it’s dark, all I’ll see is Daddy and Bobby Ray.
++++And I’m prepared to kill them both all over again.