I’ve been dead for nine hours and thirty-seven minutes.
Nine hours and thirty-eight minutes ago, I had my whole life before me.
Allow me to start at the beginning.
I was standing outside my trailer. It was shortly after 8:00 am when a police car drove onto my property. I live in far western Palm Beach County; my nearest neighbor lives two miles away. I moved out here because I wanted to be left alone. So, the last thing I wanted, or needed, are police-type hassles. Then I noticed something strange. Well, maybe not strange, but out of whack, not quite right. It wasn’t a County car; it was from a small municipality, Lake Worth. Now, only County cops have jurisdiction where I lived, so right away I smelled a rat. My first thought was, This can’t be good, and I was right; it was bad, about as bad as it can get, and it only got worse with each new development.
The officer got out of the car and approached me. When he got to within a few feet of where I was standing, he said, “You Billy Doyle?” I told him yes indeed, that was my name and asked what I could do to help him. He asked me if I knew a Randy McClinton. With that statement, I breathed a sigh of relief; he was looking for someone, it had nothing to do with me. I told him the name was not familiar to me. Then any sense that this was not about me evaporated when he said, “It should be. You assaulted him three nights ago.”
Finally, it dawned on me. He must be talking about that asshole who tried to pick a fight with me in Brownie’s. Brownie’s is a local bar I stopped into on occasion. I had been there on the night in question when some guy that I’ve never seen before, who doesn’t like the look of my face, or the cut of my jib, or maybe he was just in the mood for a fight, came up to me and said, “Why don’t you get your stinking ass out of here?”
I could tell that he was three sheets to the wind, so I told him I would be happy to leave and started for the door. But he scrambled to get between me and the exit, effectively blocking my retreat. By this time, I had had enough. I was willing to leave peacefully, but this guy just wouldn’t have any of it. And I just knew that until I had satisfied his desire for blood, there would be no peace. But I didn’t intend to get myself battered and scraped just for his amusement. So, we’re there, toe to toe, face to face, and I turned to the barmaid and said, “How about another round, darlin’?” With that, my would-be opponent turns his head to see to whom I am speaking. And with that, I lay a haymaker right onto his button. The fool goes down and lays there spread-eagled. I had to be careful to step over him, and not on him, as I made my way out the door.
As I came out of my reverie, I thought, Brownie’s isn’t in Lake Worth, so what’s with the cop? Then another thing struck me … how did this guy find me? As far as I knew, no one at Brownie’s knew my name, certainly not my last name. So I asked, “How did you know it was me, and how did you find me?”
“Identifying you was easy. You showed your business card to the barmaid awhile back, and she remembered your name. She told me it’s her business to remember names because when she calls a customer by name, it increases her tips. And as to finding you, well, that was easy. We have a whole computer system down at headquarters for finding assholes like you.”
By now, my Irish wise-ass was straining to be let loose. But, I held it in check; after all, it wanted to mix it up with a cop. So I respectfully asked, “First of all, what’s it to you?”
“I’ll tell you what it has to do with me; the man you attacked is my baby brother.”
So now I know two things; this is personal and the whole family is made up of assholes.
Thinking I might win a few points by putting him on the defensive, I said, “I thought police computers could not be used for personal matters.”
He forcibly disabused me of any such notion by saying, “Listen, you little fuck; we cops can do anything we please. If I wanted to put a bullet in your ugly head right now, there’s nothing you could do about it. All I’d have to do is walk into your kitchen, grab me a knife, and throw it down next to your dead body. I would simply claim you attacked me when I came out here to apologize for my brother’s behavior. When I’m in uniform and on the streets, I am God. The only thing you have to worry about is how I’m going to even things up for my brother.”
I had time to take stock of the man who stood before me as he was making himself into a god. He was about forty-five, overweight, his belly hung over his belt, and his hair was jet black; an obvious dye job. He had short, stubby, sausage fingers and a double chin, a most unattractive individual. I could also smell the cheap cologne he wore from ten feet away.
As he was wrapping up the deification of himself, my dog Mickey ran into the yard. That was why I was outside when the avenging angel pulled up. Every morning, as is our custom, I let Mickey out to run, sniff, and pretend to hunt in the woods surrounding my trailer. When he appeared, I started for the front door to open it and let him in. I figured there was enough taking place already without throwing a dog into the mix. After opening the door, I turned to call Mickey, and saw what turned out to be my death … but at the time, I thought it was Mickey’s.
I saw a smile cross that fat, evil face as he looked at my dog, who by now had found something new to sniff … the police car. I started to call Mickey in, but had to wait a moment. He had his leg lifted and was peeing on the left rear tire of the police car. I thought, Good boy.
As I waited for Mickey to finish his business, I saw Fatso unsnap the strap covering his gun, place his hand on the butt, and start to draw it from the holster. So, that was it. He was going to kill my dog and claim he had been attacked! Without thinking, I reached my hand around the frame of the door for the baseball bat that I keep there—just in case it was ever needed.
The cop was four steps away, and I covered those four steps before he could draw a bead on Mickey. I didn’t want to kill him, only stop him from what he had in mind. Therefore, I swung and aimed for the side of his neck. I knew from experience that a hit to that part of the body will knock someone out without killing them. And if he experienced what I had experienced when hit in a similar manner, he’d have a nice memory of all those pretty stars he had seen. Well, he went down like a sack of potatoes. For some unknown reason, I stooped down, looked at his watch and made note of the time. That’s how I know the exact time of my death; because from the minute I laid the cop out, I was a dead man.
I knew you can’t win with cops. No matter what I said, no matter what my motivation, I had struck a police officer, and I struck the fucker hard! I was okay with that, but when he finished telling his side of the story, it would mean many years in the state prison for me. And I wasn’t about to sit in a box years on end. No, I would take the easy way out of this mess; get it done and over with in one day. Therefore, I started doing what needed doing.
The first thing that needed doing was to get Fatso off my front lawn. He was lying on his side, so I turned him over onto his stomach. I removed the handcuffs from their pouch on his belt and handcuffed his hands behind his back. Then I grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and dragged him up the two steps leading into my trailer and through the front door. There, he was unceremoniously dumped onto my living room carpet. Next, I had to take care of Mickey. I called him in, and he went right for his would-be murderer’s face and gave it a good licking. My biggest concern was for Mickey; I had to get him off the property and safe. Because in a very short while, all hell was going to break lose.
I called my neighbor, the one who lived two miles down the road. On the very rare occasions I had to go out of town, I had always left Mickey with him. They were a two-member mutual admiration society. I told him something important had come up and I couldn’t leave my property, that I needed him to get his ass over here right away and get Mickey. He said he was on his way. That’s what I liked about Ben; you could count on him in a pinch and with no questions asked.
While I waited for Ben to arrive, I thought I’d get to know my guest a little better. For the second time that morning, I had to roll that big tub of lard onto his stomach. I extracted his wallet to find the proper manner in which he should be addressed. In other words, I wanted to know his name. I had trouble finding his driver’s license among all the crap he carried in his wallet. Once located, it gave me the name of the heap of humanity lying at my feet, Dilbert Chancy McClinton. What a handle!
Just as I ascertained old Dilbert’s name, I heard Ben drive up. I called Mickey to my side, and together we went out to meet him. He was just getting out of his truck as we exited the front door, but he didn’t notice us. He was enthralled with the police car on my front lawn with the driver’s side door wide open and the cop nowhere in sight. Ben finally noticed us when Mickey jumped up on him and licked his face. So Ben says, “What’s up?” while still staring at the police car.
“You don’t want to know, but I got a big favor to ask of you. Can you keep Mickey indefinitely?”
“Sure, you know how I feel about Mickey. But what’s up?”
“Ben, there’s bad, really bad, shit going down, and it’s going to get a whole lot worse. I want to protect you, so you haven’t been here today. They’ll have a record of my phone call to you, so when they ask you about it, just say I called to say good-bye. You tell them you thought I was going on a trip or something. I don’t think they’ll ask about Mickey, but if they do, tell them I gave him to you a week ago and he is now your dog. Unless they’re very vengeful, they’ll leave it at that. But please do all you can to protect him without getting yourself in hot water.”
“You know my brother’s a lawyer. They’ll have a goddamn hard time separating Mickey from me. But maybe my brother can be of some help.”
“Thanks, but it’s beyond that now.”
I told him to get going, I had stuff to do. We shook hands and he and Mickey got into the truck. I walked around to the passenger side and got there just as Mickey stuck his snoot out the window. I cupped his head in my hands and nuzzled him for a moment before telling him to be a good boy and mind what Ben said. As they drove off, a single tear trickled down my cheek.
Now to business. I went back into the trailer and checked on old Dilbert. Can you believe it, he was snoring! The son-of-a-bitch was napping while I had a million things to do.
The first of those million things was to call a local television station. I got Information on the line and asked for Channel 9’s phone number. Once I had it, I called the station. When the phone was answered, I asked for the news department, then the assignment desk. The young lady who picked up the phone sounded as though she should still be in high school. It made me feel old. Or maybe I was just feeling old because of my situation.
I said, “Listen, sweetheart, I’m only going to say this once.” She started to say something, and I cut her off, saying, “Just listen to what I have to say. I have a police officer held hostage in my home. His name is Dilbert C. McClinton and he works for Lake Worth. Call the cops and give them this information and my telephone number. I know it’s showing up on your Caller ID.”
She interrupted by asking, “But where are you?”
“I’m sure there’s a GPS in his car, and that the local constabulary will have no trouble finding the big piece of shit.” I added, “You get a reporter and camera crew out here pronto. Just follow the cops. I know you people do that very well.” I knew once she had called the cops, every television station and newspaper in the county would be in on the story, maybe even the 24-hour cable news networks.
What next, what next? Oh yeah, Dilbert! Before we were descended on by the barbarian horde, I had to get him up and functioning. But even before that, I had to ready him for a lesson in humility and empathy. He seemed to be semi-conscious by then. He was still lying on his stomach, so I had to turn the fuck over one more time. Once I got him situated on his back, I slipped his shoes off, unbuckled his belt, and removed his pants. I was happy to see he was a “boxer” man. It made what I had to do next a little less disagreeable. I grabbed the boxers from the bottom hem and pulled. I left his socks on for two reasons; I didn’t want to touch those fat feet of his, and a man with nothing on but a pair of socks is a rather ridiculous sight. Because I didn’t dare remove the handcuffs—he might have been playing possum—I went into the kitchen and got a knife. Maybe the same knife he would have thrown down next to my dead body. I cut his shirt from his torso. Dilbert C. McClinton was now a sight to behold. Nude as the day he was born, except for the socks.
It was now time to bring him around so he could participate in the festivities. I went to the kitchen and filled a pitcher with water, returned to Dilbert, and with much glee threw it in his fat, stupid face. As he came around, I said, “And how is God feeling this fine morning?” Of course, he didn’t answer. I didn’t expect him to; he just shook his head as if to clear it. I wrestled him into a sitting position on the floor and leaned him against the couch. I then grabbed him by his greasy hair, lifted his head until our eyes met and said, “Get your ass in gear, you sorry son-of-a-bitch. We got company coming.”
I think it’s about time I filled you in on what I had in mind. First of all, I was not a violent man. I did what I did to save my dog’s life. If I had wanted to, I could have swung as hard as I could and hit him upside the head instead of the neck, but then I wouldn’t be sitting here about to start a conversation with the asshole. No, he’d be lying dead on my front lawn. So it was not my intention to do any physical harm to old Dilbert. But if I could fuck with his psyche, why not? The outcome may be a kinder and gentler Dilbert. I was going to make him believe that I was going to do all sort of horrible things to him. In fact, it was my intention that when I got through with Dilbert, he would be asking me to kill him.
Before I could get his undivided attention, the phone rang. I answered it without saying anything; I just waited for whoever was on the other end of the line to identify his or her self. What I got instead was a question. “Is this William Doyle?”
It sounded like a professional negotiator. I had read enough on how this shit goes down to know they don’t give a crap about you, but will come off as your new best friend in an effort to manipulate you into doing their bidding. So, I figured I’d better set the tone of the relationship right off the bat. I said into the phone, “Listen, and listen good. I have a piece of shit in here that goes by the name Dilbert C. McClinton. I also have his service revolver and right now he’s sucking on the barrel, so he can’t come to the phone. I’m already dead, so if you want a dead cop, just come busting in here.” I hung up the phone, turned to Dilbert, and said, “Don’t despair. The cavalry is on the way.”
While we still had a few minutes to ourselves, I got to work on Dilbert. I sat in a chair opposite him and said, “What would you prefer? Being shot through the head or having your spinal cord severed so that you’d be paralyzed from the neck down? Oh, and by the way, if you choose option number two, you’ll need a respirator to breathe.”
His eyes got as wide as they possibly could. I continued, “Dilbert, old buddy, you’re pretty quiet for a god … say something. If you don’t choose, I’ll have to make the choice for you.”
Before he could muster an answer, we heard the sirens closing in. “Well, Dilbert,” I said, “Looks like your brethren are on their way.” As I said that, I picked up his gun and told him to open his mouth. I guess he didn’t quite yet appreciate his plight, so I struck him in the mouth with the barrel. Then I repeated myself. “Open your goddamn mouth!” This time he complied. I shoved the barrel in until he gagged, “You’re going to be the first to go if any heroes show up.”A trickle of blood started to run down to his chin from where metal had met flesh.
Within seconds, the phone rang. Without removing the gun from Dilbert’s mouth, I answered it and said, “Speak.”
“Is this William?”
“That is an inane question,” I responded.
I reckon my reply took him by surprise, because there was a hesitation on the other end of the line before I heard, “William, my name is Jack Kelly, and I was wondering if you would like to tell me what the problem seems to be?”
“Hey Jack,” I said. “We got no problem now; this fat fuck came out here to harass me and he threatened to kill me because I had a fight with his brother. If he didn’t have his mouth full of gun right now, I’d let him tell you what he’s doing out here in the sticks—in uniform—when he should be patrolling in Lake Worth.”
I wanted to leave Mickey out of it; they might track him down and use him as leverage against me. My statement seemed to give Jack pause. He eventually said, “Anything can be worked out. Why not let me come in and talk with you?” To which I replied, “Sure, come on in, but the first sound I hear, the first time my trailer sways in the wind, Dilbert C. has the back of his head ventilated. Hey Jack, let’s make this easy on both of us. You want your cop back and I want to talk to the media, so just call me when they get here and maybe we can wrap this circus up in time for you to get home for dinner.” He started to say something, but I hung up before he could articulate his thoughts.
Dilbert was getting kind of fidgety, so I thought I would do something to alleviate his anxiety; I took the gun out of his mouth. Then I said, “Okay, Dilbert, what’s it to be, blow your head off or put one into your spine?” He finally lost it and started blubbering like a baby. I would have felt sorry for him, but I had the vision of him taking aim at Mickey in my mind. I told him to buck up and be a man. I asked him how he thought the people he played God with felt as he was making their lives miserable—for there was no doubt in my mind that he had abused his police powers on many, many occasions.
I saw that I wasn’t making any headway with him; he didn’t care about the others he had wronged. No, it was all about Dilbert, and I knew that when he got out of here, he’d just continue with his evil ways. Short of killing him, the only thing that might protect the public in the future was to make it known exactly what kind of a stinker he really was. But that didn’t mean I was not going to make the rest of the day a living hell for Dilbert C. McClinton, because that had been my intention all along.
Just then the phone rang and I picked up the receiver. “What’s up, Jack?”
He told me the media was starting to arrive and asked me what I had in mind.
“First things first, Jack. We’ve gotta have a little talk.”
I proceeded to tell him about what.
“I know you have at least one sniper out there, so get this straight; if you see an eyeball peering out a window, be careful because in all likelihood it will belong to Dilbert. The poor boy is so compliant with fear, I think he would do anything I asked. Next: the swat, or tactical, team.” I went on to tell him that I knew those guys are always itching to put their training to use, but to keep in mind Waco and Ruby Ridge. By that, I meant the two prime examples of the government, and by government, I mean overgrown boys with a lot of toys (guns, explosives, etc.), attacking citizens when the serving of an arrest warrant would have done the job. Why do the ATF, FBI, and their ilk go on “raids” wearing black ski masks covering their faces, and nothing to identify them as law enforcement personnel? Why did the ATF deem it necessary to conduct a full-blown “invasion” of Koresh’s compound in Waco? He went to town every day, usually by himself and always unarmed. Why did the US Marshall’s Service traipse through the woods of Ruby Ridge masked and with M-16 machine guns? Why did they shoot a boy’s dog? And later, was it really necessary to shoot a mother through the head, killing her as she held her infant son? Of course, none of those acts were necessary, but the guys practice so long and hard and they have all that firepower, which is such a joy to behold, but more of a joy to use.
I told Jack that if they wanted their cop back in one piece, just play it cool; let me tell my story, and then they could have Dilbert back. But let me hear any strange noise—I knew every sound my trailer normally made—and scratch one cop. I went on to tell him that I hadn’t even locked the doors. “The gun is cocked and in his mouth. I can pull the trigger before a foot can be set inside my trailer.” Jack assured me that wasn’t going to happen. Yeah, right. They would break down the doors and come in blasting given the slightest provocation, like … it’s noon, and they want to wrap things up so they could go to lunch. I told him to call me when all the stations had their cameras set up. “I want to say something on live TV. I’ll come out to my front step and say what I have to say. But, before I do, I want to see the feed on my television.” I thought by telling them I was coming out to make a statement, the boys of the tactical squad would hold off for a while in the hopes of an easier target later on. Not that I intended to make myself a target for all the cops assembled on my front lawn. I mean, there were some were from as far away as Ft. Lauderdale.
I did not have the heart to fuck with Dilbert any further. He was crying and swearing to me he had not intended to harm my dog. “It was all a big misunderstanding,” he sobbed.
I went into the kitchen and got a large grocery bag, one of those brown paper types. My plan was to keep Dilbert docile. I had to inject some hope into his life. I told him that his pleas have touched my heart, and if he would be a good boy, he might just make it out of this mess alive and in one piece. That bit of news cheered him considerably; he nodded his head so vigorously I thought it might detach from his body. But to make sure he would not cause any trouble, I put the bag over his head and told him to just sit still and I would figure a way out of this mess for both of us.
About twenty minutes later, and right on cue, the phone rang.
“What’s up, Jackie?” was how I answered it this time. I wanted him to think I was feeling good because I was going to have my big moment on television. As I’ve intimated, it wasn’t going to be me making my debut on live television, but one Dilbert C. McClinton.
My old pal Jack informed me that they were ready, and if I would check my TV, I’d see the front of my trailer. I was told to turn on any local channel. I did, and lo and behold, there it was, my little domicile. I said to Jack, “Give me five minutes.”
He said, “Okay.”
Now to Dilbert. I removed the bag from his head and told him to pay close attention to what I had to say. It was somewhat pitiful the way he tried to please me. He said, “Yeah, anything you say, you’re the boss.” I agreed with him, and told him to shut up and listen.
“Dilbert—may I call you Dilbert?”
“Dilbert, the next few minutes are going to determine if I live to see a new day, and if you are confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life or get buried with honors. Do you understand?”
“Good. Now here’s the plan. You are going to stand on my front steps and tell the truth of why you came here, how you threatened me, and how I did not strike you until you drew your gun. You got that?”
A third “Yes” came pouring out of his mouth. I didn’t bring up Mickey, and I hoped he wouldn’t, but if he did … well, there are a lot of dog lovers out there in TV Land. Then I had to tell him the bad news. He would go out as he was, with only his socks on. He would be tethered with a line, so the front steps were as far as he was going to get. And most importantly, his gun would be trained on the small of his back the entire time he was out there, and if one untruth, one lie, came out of his mouth, then we would both be very, very sorry. I finished our little talk by telling him that, if he did things right, he would be sent on his way. I knew he was thinking the entire time he could say anything and then retract it, claiming it was said under duress. That was fine with me. I just wanted the truth to get out.
I used Mickey’s extra-long leash to tie Dilbert’s still handcuffed hands to a support column, which would keep him from taking off as soon as the door was opened. There was just enough play to allow him to reach the door, and maybe a foot farther.
Before opening the door for him, I checked the television, same picture. That stopped the production in its tracks. Were they just feeding a loop of an earlier shot to fool me into believing this was all going to go down live? After all, what would I know, standing on my front steps, as they believed I would be doing very shortly.
Only one way to find out, I threw the door open and shoved Dilbert out into the limelight that was intended for me. I immediately stepped back and looked at the television. I need not have worried, this was too good of a story not to be covered live. There was Dilbert, not knowing quite what to do. He was as a deer caught in a set of headlights.
I knew I had to get Dilbert to focus. I said, in a menacing tone of voice, “Start talking or I’ll start shooting!” With that he spilled his guts. He gave the whole story, even admitted he was going to kill my dog. When he had finished, I cut his tether and told him to run. He hesitated a moment, as though he thought it some kind of trick. So I said, “Go, you big piece of shit, before I shoot you in your fat ass.” With that he was gone. I didn’t think the fat fuck could move so fast. I closed the door and sat down on my couch to await the inevitable.
There was no way I was going to get away with any of this. Even if every word Dilbert spoke was believed. I had assaulted and humiliated an officer of the law, and for that the law would come down on me hard. They had me for kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, and attempted murder, just for starters. I was looking at twenty to twenty-five years—if I was lucky. As I’ve said before, I was not going to spend my life in a cage. Then the phone rang. Who else but my old friend, Jack Kelly. Before he could utter a word, I said, “How did a couple of micks like us get ourselves into a situation like this?” He agreed with me that he had experienced better days.
I asked, “Are you going to arrest me after hearing Dilbert’s confession?”
“He’s already recanted everything. But for what it’s worth, I believe every word he said. Cops like him are an embarrassment to all us good cops.”
“Jack ol’ buddy, cut the shit. If he was such an embarrassment, he would be on his way to jail instead of me.”
To that observation, Mr. Kelly had no reply.
“So what’s next?” I asked.
“Well, are you ready to come out and give yourself up?”
“Why don’t you come in here and get me?” And then I hung up.
So that’s it. In a few minutes they’ll break in my door and come looking for me. I won’t be hard to find. My couch, upon which I am sitting, is only a few feet from the front door. As I said at the beginning of this narrative, it’s been nine hours and thirty-seven minutes since this nightmare began, and I’m tired.
There they are, the first one is through the door, I lift Dilbert’s gun and point it at him. I do not intend to fire the thing, I hate guns. He sees me, turns his M-16 in my direction, and the last thing I hear is the staccato rat-a-tat-tat of his weapon …
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