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The hot Florida sun shot through the blinds, piercing my brain as I came to. Bleary-eyed I gazed around the room trying to figure out where the hell I was. It was July 5, 1982. I was 36 years old, and hanging from the bedpost was my .44 Magnum in its western-style holster. For some reason, I was more uneasy about why I had my gun with me than about whose bed I was in.
The curtains were drawn, and I lay alone in the darkness with an impending sense of doom, trying to remember how I ended up celebrating the good old Fourth of July. Foggy memories of the earlier part of the night came to me, and I relaxed a bit as I recalled shooting my gun off into the night sky. That's right, I thought. I was just entertaining some of the lads and lassies at the Tender Trap Saloon by showing off my own brand of fireworks.
A sudden knock at the door interrupted my thoughts and Karen's weathered face appeared. 'Oh no, not her . . .' I muttered under my breath, pissed at myself for winding up with Karen again. I didn't even like her.
'Dick, grab the damn phone. Someone wants to talk to you,' she snapped and slammed the door shut.
After fumbling around in the shadows, I finally found the phone. My good friend Cherie was on the other end of the line. 'Hey, darlin'! How's it going?' I asked.
'Dick, what the hell are you doing?' Her voice trembled. 'Don't you know that the police are looking for you? You shot two people last night!'
After a brief pause, I quietly asked, 'I what?' Despite what she said, I had no recollection of what had happened. All I knew was that I must have really screwed up this time. Desperate to put the pieces of the puzzle together, I tried to focus on what Cherie was saying.
I lit a smoke, lay back in bed, and listened as she nervously told me about what went down in the Tender Trap—a dumpy topless bar where I used to work. I had quit that job over a month before because I couldn't take the place anymore. The only reason I even worked there was because I was able to drink ten to twenty beers a night for free during my shift. Apparently, I had plenty in me by midnight when I popped two guys right in the bar.
'That's all I really know, honey. I wish I had more to tell you,' said Cherie sadly.
'I'm sure I'll hear more,' I groaned. 'Thanks for filling me in.'
'Be safe,' she whispered and she was gone.
My first move after hanging up with Cherie was to venture out to the kitchen to find a drink so I could think. I wasn't too picky—anything would do—but I was comforted when I dug into the fridge and found a small supply of Old Milwaukee I'd purchased the night before.
Once armed with a beer, I eased into the living room and plopped down next to Karen on the couch. 'So, uhhh . . .' I stammered. 'Do you know what the heck happened last night?'
'You shot two guys, idiot,' Karen snarled, not even taking her eyes off the TV. 'You really did it this time. You're lucky my sister is out of town and you have a place to figure out what the hell you're gonna do.'
I sat in silence but my head was pounding. I tried to quiet it down and recall any details from the night before. Who did I shoot? Why did I do it? But nothing came to me. Blackouts weren't new to me. They had been happening for many years, and over the past eighteen months I was having them three or four times a week. I knew that no matter how hard I tried, I wasn't going to remember anything, so I hopped on the phone and started calling around to see if anyone could fill me in on what had happened.
By beer number three, I had called a bunch of people and hadn't found out anything. I realized that it was time to evaluate my options. I could call a lawyer I knew in Fort Lauderdale and turn myself in. I could also try to sneak back to the house I shared with my friend Bart and take off in the 'company car,' or I could just kill myself and end the goddamn drama already. I had half-heartedly tried to do it a bunch of times over the past year. Hell, just three days ago I'd had the same .44 Magnum in my mouth, hammer cocked.
As I considered my options that fateful afternoon, another idea popped into my head. I could make the cops kill me—commit suicide by police. Weren't they looking for me at this very minute? Maybe I could even take a couple of them with me and go out in a real blaze of glory.
I decided to call Paul the attorney first. If that didn't work out, then I would find a way to get the car and take off. And if the cops caught up with me beforehand—screw it; let 'em kill me.
After grabbing another brew, I pulled out my wallet and rifled through scraps of papers with women's phone numbers, pictures of my kids, my social security card, and rolling papers. I eventually found Paul's card and dialed.
'I need to talk to Paul,' I said.
'Oh, sorry. He is out of the office today. Since the Fourth of July was on a Sunday, everyone has off today for the holiday. Would you like to leave a message?'
'Can you get it to him right away?' I asked politely, trying to stay calm.
'Well, he's on the golf course today, sir. But I'm sure he'll get back to you at his earliest convenience.'
'I'll guess I'll try to get back to him tomorrow. Enjoy the holiday,' I said sweetly while giving her the finger. 'That's a hell of a way to run a law firm,' I growled to Karen after slamming down the phone. She just rolled her eyes and went to take a shower.
With that option off the table, I tried to figure out how to get to the car parked in front of the little shitbox I called home. The police probably had the place staked out already, so the car and the money I had buried in plastic bags around the house would be impossible to get to.
The only option left was to grab another beer. Once that was polished off and Karen was polished up, I coaxed her to head out to a couple of the local watering holes. To keep under the radar, we went to a bunch of new places where we wouldn't be known.
All afternoon, I repeated my rationale for not being able to turn myself in without a lawyer. 'Are you kidding me? I know what will happen to me. I've already had my face smashed into a sergeant's desk and been whacked on the head by troopers with a billy club. No way am I going in there without my own cavalry.' Of course, I failed to mention why I might have deserved this kind of treatment.
At each bar, Karen listened half-heartedly to my pitch as she chain-smoked and tossed down her scotch and soda. She would nod her head or occasionally chime in and say something like, 'Yeah, you'd be crazy to go in alone.' The truth was she couldn't have cared less whether or not they kicked my ass. She just wanted me to shut up.
Hours later we stumbled back to Karen's sister's house, and I continued my drinking and thinking routine. At the same time I realized that I would run out of beer soon—there were only seven left—and Karen said she wanted to get some grub. 'Here's a couple of bucks. Grab me a case of OM and some smokes. Go get yourself some chow, too,' I said as I tossed her some cash. The screen door slammed behind her before I could mutter, 'Thanks for listening to me.'
Alone, the gravity of the situation began to sink in. Lying on the couch, I slammed two more beers. I closed my eyes and nervously thought to myself, How the hell did I get here? What am I going to do? What's going to happen to me? I need to get out of this house and out of this town.
An hour later I came to. I didn't wake up anymore, I just came to. Typically, I would be unconscious for three or four hours until I needed a beer again. When I walked to the fridge and realized that there were still only five beers stocked in the fridge, it hit me that Karen wasn't back yet. Maybe she got scared and took off. The truth was that would be a relief. My only problem with her not coming back was that I was going to run out of beer soon.
Needing a partner in crime, I decided to call my friend Martha after pulling her number out of my wallet. 'Hey, girl. What's shakin'?'
'Dick! Oh my god! The cops came by here looking for you. What are you going to do?' she cried.
'I'm gonna meet you at the bar on the corner of Forest Hill Boulevard and we're going to enjoy a couple of cocktails. How does that sound to you?'
'Are you okay?' she asked hesitantly.
'I'm fine and I'll be better when I see you,' I said and hung up before she had a chance to say no. I immediately felt a sense of calm.
Cocked & Loaded. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442