The good, the bad, and the ugly.


Postby admin » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:29 am

by Mark Baker
© 1996 by Mark Baker




Table of Contents:

Inside Cover
Part One: No Excuses
Part Two: The Life
1. Stickup Artists
2. Armed Robbery
3. Car Thief
4. Craps Mechanic and Pimp
5. Bad Checks
6. Scam Man
7. Drug Smuggler
8. Hustler
9. Rock Monster
Part Three: Same as It Ever Was
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Postby admin » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:30 am

Inside Cover

Bad Guys is a chilling look at the world of crime -- from burglar to drug smuggler, from small-time hustler to full-time scam artist -- told in the words of America's most wanted themselves. Young and old, male and female, career criminal and joyrider, bad guys tell their stories in voices that reveal the full range of emotions, from pride and regret to anger and shame, and even humor. (There's an irresistible account of a robbery gone so awry that the stick-up man has to hail a taxi to try to flee the crime scene.)

The criminals Mark Baker has interviewed for this book talk candidly about how they started on a life of crime, what their lives are like day-to-day (they talk, for example, about the mechanics of money laundering, planning a robbery, manufacturing fake drugs, and so forth), and the often brutal rituals of life in prison, where most career criminals eventually find themselves.

Bad Guys is gritty, compelling, and inimitably authentic. These are stories that take us inside a shadowy world that surrounds us, day and night, but which we seldom see until the terrifying moments that we become crime victims ourselves.


MARK BAKER has been writing about people's lives, using their own words, since 1981. Among his previous books was Cops, the national bestseller that took readers behind the badges and uniforms to reveal the real world of the police. His other books include Nam, Women, What Men Really Think, and Sex Lives. He and his family divide their time between New York City and Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Jacket Design by Rick Pracher

Jacket Photograph by Nina Berman/SIPA Press

Author Photograph by David Behl

Printed in the U.S.A. copyright 1996 Simon & Schuster

Back Cover

"Mark Baker gets the bad guys to talk -- as only he can -- and it's great." -- Elmore Leonard

"Mark Baker has consistently written hardcore, kick-ass books, the kind that might make you miss a night's sleep reading them. I've just finished Bad Guys and I already need another fix." -- Harry Crews, author of The Mulching of America

"The question in America today is no longer who are the victims of crime, it is who hasn't had their home invaded, had their heart in their throat as they walked to their car across a darkened parking lot late at night, or seen a playground in their neighborhood littered with the glint of tiny crack vials.

"For all the hue and cry for more cops on the streets, tougher sentencing, and more prison cells, for all the Congressional reports, screaming headlines, the polls and the statistics, despite the generalized dread among us, we know very little about the people we are so afraid of. Who are the men and women who have us holed up in our houses, who are these bad guys who so thoroughly chill us to the heart?" -- from Bad Guys
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Postby admin » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:31 am


There would be no book without the men and women who contributed their time and the stories of their personal lives. I want to thank them for that generosity. I found them candid and thoughtful. I hope they find their words have been treated honestly and fairly. I know some of them will not appreciate being called bad guys, but in the age-old American game of sheriff and outlaw, they have chosen the black hats. What will be surprising to some readers is how much good there is in them.

My thanks to Michael Berg in the Jacksonville, Florida, Sheriff's Office and especially to Lieutenant Blair Copeland and Sergeant W. R. (Bill) Messick of the Special Projects Unit.

Ms. Paula Bryant of the Florida Department of Corrections Planning and Research Bureau arranged my passport into a large province of this world I have explored. She and her associates were indispensable. I would like to thank Mr. Jerry Wade, the superintendent at Marion Correctional Institution at the time of my visit, and Superintendent Eugene Poole of Florida Correctional Institution for welcoming me into their facilities and putting members of the staff at my disposal. Although I can't list them all, here is a partial list of the men and women who were so helpful to me while I was working in those state prisons: Greg Riska, Hieteenthia Hayes, Brandon Cave, Kate Eldrige, Sandy McGaw, Darlene Quesenberry, and Alnethia Coley.

Peter Townsend and Yoyo Frederick offered their invaluable contacts for my project.

I want to thank Bob Bender, my editor and friend, for believing in me and this book. His ideas, direction, and discretion make this a better book than it would have been otherwise. We've been working together for fifteen years. That's a rare relationship in this industry. Carolyn Reidy also expended much of her valuable time and energy on me and this project. I appreciate her patience and her willingness to stick by her authors. Special thanks to Ted Landry and his colleagues in the Copyediting Department, and to Michael Accordino and the Art Department staff.

Esther Newberg has managed against the odds to keep me alive in the book business. She is my advocate, my protector, a gentle critic (when she doesn't hit), and my friend. Thanks to Esther and all her associates at International Creative Management who have contributed to my survival and this book's success.

Bob's and Esther's assistants, respectively, Johanna Li and Amanda Beesley, deserve much of the credit for keeping their bosses and me on track.

Bob and Gloria Baker, my parents, have given me a lifetime of love and encouragement. I've leaned on them heavily the last couple of years, when they should have been at their leisure to lean on me. My appreciation of their many gifts to me -- from childhood on -- increases daily, especially as my own sons grow up. Joan O'Sullivan, my mother-in-law, is my stalwart fan and cheers me on when my spirit flags. Thanks for always being there, Joanie.

I've been blessed with some very good friends. I'd like to mention a few of them who have made a real difference in my life and in this particular book: Frank Fortunato, Gary Smolek, Bob Leuci, Phil Russel, Helena Angel, Bob and Zivia Jewett, Bob and Joanne Martin, Patrice and Barry Stillwell, Dick and Varaporn Shoberg, Penelope Weiss, Julia and Michael Stauffer, Jim and Rita Tomlinson, Sylvester and Louise Lockett, John and Agnes Calvo, and Helen Pantzis.

Thanks to David Behl for my author's photo and to Bob Conte at HBO and his right hand man, Skip Flynn, for helping keep me afloat. Lorraine Glennon gave me a job when I really needed one.

I feel like I've been hanging on by the skin of my teeth for a while now, and there's no one I would rather have had beside me for this particular part of the rollercoaster ride than Veronica, my wife. She is as smart as she is beautiful, as determined as she is loyal, as hardworking as she is full of love. I've never met anyone quite like her. Ronnie, we'll make a toast to this time we've spent together, and drink to better times to come. I love you.

-- M.B.
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Postby admin » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:32 am

Part 1 of 3

ONE: No Excuses

"Me personally, I have never been arrested for something I didn't do. I grant you that there's nobody that gets the full panoply of due process in the Constitution. We ain't got a perfect system, but it's the only thing we got." This is Howard talking, jailhouse lawyer of some repute and former creeper. Howard claims to have the ''uncanny ability" to enter an occupied room so imperceptibly that he might as well be wearing a cloak of invisibility. The rooms he prefers to "creep" in this manner are usually small businesses with a cash drawer he can rifle. He'll stand at a checkout counter and, if the cashier looks away for an instant, Howard will stick his hand into the register and grab the money. Strictly speaking, Howard is a till-tapping creeper.

"If you had your back turned for just a minute, I could probably creep in this office here, get your tape recorder, take it, and leave. You'd turn around, and it'd be gone. I never broke into nobody's house. I always do my wrong while the businesses are in operation. Not by force-by trickery, by sneaking, by subtlety." I'm not sure how good Howard really is at being invisible. This is his fifth time in prison, but I suspect he's done much more than just creeping and gotten away with the crimes.

"The reason I say I didn't get in trouble for nothing I didn't do is because you probably talked to a lot of inmates who will get up on their escape valve, and say the reason they're here is because they are black, or because they are poor, or because they didn't have no daddy to teach them right from wrong," Howard continues. '"Statistically, I'm not arguing that point. But you're talking to me, and I'm telling you that I ain't never been arrested when I didn't do it. I started getting in trouble when I was sixteen, and I'm thirty-three now. You count how many years that is."

Howard was exactly the kind of guy I wanted to talk to. He is a person who has devised a whole life from cheating on the straight world, maneuvering through our intricate justice system, and building time in prison-a person law enforcement agencies and correctional institutions identify as a career criminal. Howard made a choice to "do wrong." Maybe not the first time he got in trouble, but somewhere along the way he chose to make breaking the law a vocation. He chose to be an outlaw.

We are scared of people like Howard. Crime is one of the most talked about social issues in America today. There is a grass roots conviction that crime is worse every day, even though statisticians claim the overall crime rate has remained relatively stable over the last twenty years, and recent surveys show major crimes have declined in some large metropolitan areas. Part of our perception of lawlessness in the nation has been shaped by television. We are bombarded nightly with lurid images of crime, starting with the evening news, through t1w tabloid magazine shows, right into primetime re-creations of actual felonies in so-called reality programming and TV movies "based on real events." Crime has been dragged to the center of the political arena, so politicians from the local to the national level compete to prove they are tougher on crime than their opponents while partisan radio talk show hosts shout imprecations and fan the flames of fear from the sidelines.

The fear is more than just a media induced mirage. Even if the rate of crime is the same as twenty years ago, still the number of crimes has grown enormously along with the population. The perpetrators are younger every day, more and more prone to violence. Arrest rates among juveniles aged ten to seventeen for violent crimes jumped 100 percent between 1983 and 1992. Many criminologists suggest that we are actually experiencing the calm before the storm of violent crimes beginning full-force near the turn of the century when the number of teenagers in America begins to increase again after a dropoff in the 1980s.

In the past, the cities were considered the incubators of crime, dangerous hot spots that could be avoided. But today's criminals roam our dislocated and mobile society far from the urban centers. The days of leaving doors unlocked in rural America are over. The clipped lawns and shopping malls of the suburbs are posted with warnings of electronic alarms and armed response to intruders. More and more average folks buy handguns every year for personal protection.

There are 1.5 million men and women in local jails, and state and federal prisons, twice as many as two decades ago. America's prison population grows by about fifteen hundred new prisoners a week and, if this growth continues, will easily break two million by the year 2000. Surveys of state prisoners have found that 94 percent had previous convictions or are in prison for violent crimes. Other studies of inmates show that the median number of crimes they committed in the year before they were caught and incarcerated was twelve to fifteen. Since law enforcement agencies admit to solving only a small percentage of the crimes they investigate, there are many more criminals on the street than in the prisons. The danger is very real. The question in America today is no longer who are the victims of crime, it is who hasn't had their home invaded, had their heart in their throat as they walked to their car across a darkened parking lot late at night, or seen a playground in their neighborhood littered with the glint of tiny crack vials.

For all the hue and cry for more cops on the streets, tougher sentencing, and more prison cells, for all the Congressional reports, screaming headlines, the polls and the statistics, despite the generalized dread among us, we know very little about the people we are so afraid of. Who are the men and women who have us holed-up in our houses, who are these bad guys who so thoroughly chill us to the heart?

I'm a writer, not an expert on crime. All I claim to be good at is getting people to talk to me about themselves. So tins book won't give you the answers to the big questions about ('rime and criminals: What are the root causes of crime? Why is criminal activity so much higher in our society than in other countries? Why are there more than seven times as many blacks as whites in prison proportional to the number of blacks and whites in the general population? Why is the problem of crime in our culture so intractable? Certainly racism and poverty are important issues in the discussion of crime, as are privilege, class, and drug and alcohol addiction. Intellectual and scientific arguments take place over the genetic and sociological components of criminal behavior. But all I hoped to accomplish was to put a human face on our fears, to shed some light on a very dark corner of ordinary, everyday life in this country.

Figures compiled by the U.S. Justice Department Bureau of Statistics indicate that the number of crimes committed every year is in the range of 35 million. There are thousands of people -- thousands of us -- out there committing criminal acts day in and day out. I wanted to find out what makes some criminals tick. I wanted a glimpse of that life, and I wondered what a snapshot of the world looked like from their point of view. We call them animals, or worse. Do they see the rest of us as prey, blind marks, the enemy? What makes them so different from us, or are we all that different in the final analysis?

We tend to look at career criminals in one of two ways: The conservative approach is to view them as societal vermin to be exterminated, disturbing statistics, and a drain on the economy. The liberal take is to see criminals as underprivileged, misguided dimwits who just need some psychological counseling and a job skill to help them fid a place in society. Neither point of view has much to do with the reality of the human beings I met.

Howard told me, "I never considered myself a bad guy. I still don't. But again, that's my opinion." Howard offered as proof of his humanity the fact that on one job he had been captured by an older woman confined to a walker. "I snuck into the place, had the money in one of them big money bags you put a key in to open it, and was headed out. I found out later in the trial, man, that there was $36,000 in there.

"I couldn't shove her out of the way. I should have. I probably could have got away. When the judge sentenced me, he said, 'Howard, I know that you got found guilty, and I got to adhere to that, but what I want to know right now is why didn't you run?'

"I told him, 'She was in the way, man, and I wasn't going to knock over that old woman, I probably would have broke something else.' The prosecutor looked crazy, she looked crazy, everybody looked crazy. She said, 'He was extremely nice. He was so polite the way he just sit there while I called the police. I thought maybe he was on drugs, but most people that be on drugs ain't so submissive.' I wasn't on nothing. 1just needed that $36,000. That's why I know, regardless of what anybody say, I don't believe that 1 am a criminal. I got a problem, and I don't believe anybody can solve that problem but me."

Sitting in a department of corrections' conference room, brightly bathed in greenish fluorescent light, flanked by the state and American flags in the corners of the office, Howard seems perfectly reasonable, a thinker. He thinks maybe he is a little too softhearted and easygoing to be a bad guy. Listening to Howard, I begin to rationalize that most people leave a wake of disorder of some magnitude behind them as they pass through life. I've had bosses who caused more panic and heartbreak every day of the week than the average burglar. But as Howard describes just how much he has reformed his behavior lately, he reveals a brief flash of the alternate reality that is the life of crime.

"I've come a long ways from when I first came to prison. started from fighting every day, breaking in lockers, robbing, stealing, jacking, selling marijuana, smoking marijuana, drinking buck, selling buck, messing with homosexuals, although I never been a homosexual myself. You name it. I done it. Now, the last three years, I've been clean, improved psychologically and socially. I got an agenda now, a positive agenda.

"Guy told me about a month ago, "You done got soft.'

"'What you talking about, nigger?'

"'You done got soft. You act like an old cracker-man.' He wanted to trick this dude out of thirty dollars, and he needed my help to do it. I still get commissions to do shit like that, because they know I can do it.

"'Fuck that. Naw, I can't do it.'

"'What's wrong with you, man? Thirty dollars, I'll give you fifteen. You done got soft.' I didn't have a dime either. It would have been easy to do, because it was a white kid just got here in orientation. He didn't know what the fuck was going on. He was scared to death anyway. I could just have called him round the corner of the building and took it out of his pocket, he wouldn't have been able to stop me. But I ain't stole nothing in years, and I've had chances to steal."

Slowly, elliptically, the true brutality, the disregard for human life, and the looking-glass thinking of criminality begins to come through. Howard tells this story about a friend of his, Kimble, a story Howard finds truly tragic for his friend:

"Kimble and me did a lot of time together. Kimble had been in foster homes all his life, ain't never had a stable family. He's twenty-three years old now, six-foot-four, 265 pounds -- this is a big guy. He left me in prison, man, got out, got with these guys that was selling dope. Kimble is in a baseball dugout in a city park. Girl comes up to him one night -- woman about thirty years old -- and she wanted a dime off him, but she didn't have no money. So he said, 'Give me some of that head, and I'll give you a dime off me. '

"He made the mistake and gave her a dime out first. She smoked it, then she wanted another dime, but she ain't give him no head. "'Bitch, stop playing,' he said, and he slapped her, Bow! 'Get down on your knees and get busy! Pay for my dime 'fore I break your shit.'

"She got down there went to sucking his dick, and she bit it off. When she bit down on his dick, his reaction was he broke her neck. She was a crack monster, didn't weigh but 110 pounds, skinny neck they get smoking that shit. Strong as he is, he just broke her neck and killed her. He didn't even know she was dead. He got found guilty at the trial, and he's on Death Row right now. Twenty-three years old, he's on Death Row."

Opening this book, you are passing through a portal into this parallel universe where wrong is right, bad is good. It is a world of lawless acts and outlaw ideas. It is an exploration of the minds of individual men and women through the stories they tell about themselves. As alien as it may seem in places, this is still a very human story: great intelligence and promising potential gone wrong, shrewd ingenuity and bold bravery in the name of a bad cause, the exhilaration of beating the odds, the failure -- sometimes hilarious -- of grand schemes, the banal savagery and creative cruelty we humans are capable of expressing,

I didn't go looking for serial killers who cannibalize their victims, or even the more common murderers who generally kill only once, usually someone they know, I wasn't looking for shock value or headline crimes, I wante.1 to interview the people any of us might run into one day, I talked to the people who really should be feared, the ones who will jack your car at a red light, sneak into your hotel room while you're in there sleeping, prowl the hallway of your home in the middle of the night when you get up to go to the bathroom; the people who will stick up the McDonald's down the street, a drug store, bank, or 7-Eleven where you shop or work; the people who will steal your credit cards, cash your paycheck, bilk you out of your savings, and gorge on your vices.

Many of these men and women are personable, often charming and articulate, sometimes downright sympathetic. A few of the narrators are so full of an electric energy that it is easy to find yourself caught up in tales of wild enterprise that suddenly turn to nightmares of pain, All of these men and women have been dangerous.

It's ironic that so many of the people involved in crime see their profession as the easy way to make money, the easy way to get over on the straight world, when it sounds in the telling like such a strain on their minds and their resourcefulness, not to mention the physical danger and emotional drain. These are certainly not heroes, but many of them possess a heroic stamina and tenacity of purpose that would be admirable under other circumstances,

For all our aversion to crime, Americans have always had an attraction to criminal behavior. As Howard put it, "You ain't trying to get an interview with the governor. That would be boring. That's why you're writing about me." The outlaw is part of American heritage. Many years ago, my great aunt May wanted to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, so she sent off a small check to a mail-order genealogist to confirm her credentials. She was soon gratified to be told that, yes, several of our direct forebears had been modest landowners and the proprietors of small businesses who fought on the side of the Patriots in the war for independence. Greedy for a tinge of blue in the blood line, she sent another payment to the researchers asking that they follow the family history back to the "Old Country," hoping, I suppose, to find nobility. She was told that almost all of our progenitors arrived in the New World with an expedition led by the British General James Edward Oglethorpe. Of Irish, Scottish, and English birth, they were cutthroats, horse thieves, or debtors who chose an uncertain future in the swamps of the king's crown colony of Georgia over the dead certainty of rotting prison ships or the gallows.

Aunt May needn't have been so embarrassed as she was. An overwhelming number of Americans can trace their roots to similar sources -- the poor, the outcast, fugitives from the law or the established Church, the unwanted and the unwashed from nearly every society on Earth. It occurred to me as a boy, when I first heard about Aunt May's predicament, that perhaps the reason the founders of this nation were so keen on freedom was because of all the time they'd spent in jails.

For all our harumphing over moral rectitude and all our handwringing over crime, our heroes are often loners, rebels, mavericks, romanticized outlaws. We treasure the legends of Billy the Kid, Jesse James and the Dalton Brothers, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, John Dillinger, Willie Sutton.

When I first started this project, I naively expected to dig up people who called themselves safecrackers or cat burglars, second-story men or madams -- men and women who considered crime their profession~ with the exacting standards and code of ethics one would expect of professionals. A few of those criminals still exist~ although they are a dying breed from a bygone era. I got the feeling that their perception of themselves, like my expectation, was more influenced by the gangster movies of the 1940s and too much Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett than by the facts. Even as they lamented the passing of crime into the hands of opportunists and young sadists, it's doubtful that their own youth was spent that much differently. As one FBI agent put it, "Who was Dillinger? A guy with an eighth-grade education who got shot to death."

Over the course of a year, I interviewed sixty people for this book. The majority of them were in county jails or state prisons, a few were free on parole or probation. Two had not been involved with any criminal activity for many, many years, and are upstanding members of the communities in which they live and work.

The ages of the people I talked to ranged from twenty to fifty, with most of them in the twenty-five- to thirty-five-year-old range. Fifteen were women. The men and women in prison decided to talk to me for reasons that ranged from simple boredom to egotism to a genuine sense of duty to warn away young people who might be tempted to follow in their footsteps. Others were just curious about me, a real live writer. At least, on one particular day they were more curious about me than they were about going to their prison jobs. I didn't have to be much of an attraction to beat out the dull routine behind bars. On the other hand, all of the prisoners knew that they had nothing to gain from talking with me.

I guaranteed all my subjects anonymity. I thought they might be worried telling me about crimes they had committed in the past, but their actual apprehensions were different. Men and women who had a criminal past, but who are now free, didn't want their neighbors or business associates to know about their pasts, because of the obvious suspicion and stigma that goes along with such a personal history. The main concern of the people still serving time was that they protect their families and friends from embarrassment by association.

Prisoners who agreed to talk to me ran other risks in the complex system of paranoia and suspicion that rules the population behind bars. As Howard explained it, "I'm up here in this conference room talking to you, but somebody is out there, right now, saying I'm in here snitching to the superintendent. Yeah, that's why a lot of guys didn't want to do this, because coming into this building right here is bad, man. When I walk out of here, guys will be saying, 'Why the fuck you been gone so long? Hey, man, what you doing up there?' A snitch in prison is like a person with leprosy." Administrative officials at one prison told me that they assembled over a hundred inmates as meeting the criteria for my interviews -- recidivists who qualified as career criminals. All but a handful of men stampeded for the door when they were told about my project. They wanted nothing to do with me or my questions.


Only a few of the people I interviewed tried to romanticize their stories, to rationalize their behavior as some rebellious act against the unfair restraints of an overbearing society. You could see the romantics coming when they started evoking the name of Robin Hood. None of the self-styled Robin Hoods I met gave anything to the poor, or gave much thought to anyone other than themselves.

I wasn't surprised that there was vanity and exaggeration in these interviews. But I was surprised that there was no whining. No one tried to tell me they didn't do it. When I asked how they got where they are today, there were no excuses. Not one of these men and women blamed anyone but themselves. Most of them had thought a lot about their lives; they were more introspective than I had expected they would be. There's a fair amount of psychobabble about self-esteem and co-dependency, because so many inmates have been exposed to Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous as well as various 12-step programs recently introduced to prisons. That's not all bad since a life of crime superficially seems to be an inability to "just say no" to alcohol, to drugs , to the adrenaline rush of doing the wrong thing. Howard was fairly typical:

"I ain't 'sick,' I don't think. I ain't got no problem recognizing wrong from right, or recognizing what adjustments I need to make in life. Most of my problem comes from a lack of self-discipline, Any time a man got lack of self-discipline, it stands to reason that he's going to have complications. You got to have a management system in your thoughts and your reason, your logic. If that's missing, then it's either prison or the graveyard for you, Have I learned my lesson? Learning your lesson and knowing not to do it anymore are two different things. I believe that I am now labeled a social deviant, no matter what I do, and labels can kill you. I'm not going to take that and say fuck it, fuck society. I'm not going to take that attitude because I know I got to truly love me now. I haven't been doing that in the past, and I can't rely on other people to love me. So I got to fall in love with myself, so to speak."

In between interviews in a state prison, passing the time while the entire institution came to a standstill for one of the many "counts" during the day when every inmate must be accounted for, I sat with a woman corrections officer in a glass booth overlooking a waiting room packed with men on wooden benches. They were supposed to sit in silence, tediously watching the clock until they were called for doctor's appointments and counseling sessions, administrative interviews, and parole hearings. She must have screamed out, "NO TALKING!" a million times a day as she scolded, cajoled, and ordered those men around, separating pairs who misbehaved when they were together. "They're just like a bunch of little kids," she confided in me, "a bunch of grownup, mean, dangerous little kids. They'll try and get away with whatever you'll let them get away with and a little more."

If there is one thing these criminals have in common, it is the inability to grow up. The criminal life outside prison is a ruthless Neverland where pleasure is not deferred, nobody tells them what to do, and adult responsibility is unthinkable.


Almost every career criminal I talked to got started on the wrong path very early in life. A lucky few figure out the odds early, and slip away from the criminal life before it really starts for them. But most of them would never have stopped to think about the course of their lives if they hadn't suddenly found themselves in prison, approaching their mid-thirties with a much longer sentence than they'd ever had before. They are punted into awareness by a growing sense of their own mortality. Only when it looks like they might be wasting most of the rest of their lives being told when to get up, when to go to bed, and when to go to the toilet do they suddenly start to wonder how they got into this fix in the first place.

Their recollections of their early years are as individual as the life stories you'd hear at your twentieth high school reunion. For some, it starts with a mistake that leads to another and another, until doing wrong just becomes a habit. Committing crime seems normal to them. A few of these people grew up in communities where a life of crime is more common than a college degree. Others are rocketed into a life of crime because of the feelings of power they get from the manipulation and mental domination of their suckers, or from the terror a gun inspires in their victims. One or two have been bad to the bone from the day they were born. Howard says, "Myself, I started out just by peer pressure. I was short. I was always short. I'm short now. I wanted people to see how big I could be. But I got brothers ain't never seen the inside of a police car. I'm the only one in my family that's been in jail before, I'm the only one got a prison record. So I know it's got to be me."


I was adopted. My dad was ex-military, worked for a big corporation. My mom finished her degree and taught at a stale university. I really can't blame my past on my parents. I was raised upper-middle-class. I didn't have everything I asked for, but I had everything I needed all my life. I was a straight A student. I always liked learning, but I didn't get anything for that. That was expected of me.

I started shoplifting. not because I needed anything-I had all allowance, I mowed lawns and shoveled snow. I had money in the bank, and I wasn't stupid with it. But I could get attention shoplifting. I'd actually go in places, steal stuff, and then just throw it away if they didn't chase me. It was the thrill I was interested in.

1 got off on my first girlfriend. I was a sophomore, and she was a senior. I say my girlfriend: I sat back and wanted her, she sat up there and didn't know I existed. They had a party after a basketball game, BYOB. I didn't drink, and I didn't know how to get it, so I stole a bottle of Cutty Sark scotch out of my dad's liquor cabinet.

It was a Friday night. I knew she was going to be there. "Then I offered her a drink, she wouldn't drink with me. That was it. I didn't have any conversation. I'd never had a relationship. When she said, "No, I don't want a drink." that was it for me. Evidently. it was obvious on my face that I was disappointed, because she made a point of telling me at school Monday, "The reason I didn't drink with you was because I was doing Crystal Meth."

"Oh, yeah, okay."

"You know what it is, don't you?"

"Oh, yeah, sure." I didn't have the slightest idea what it was.

"My boyfriend who is at State University works in a lab up there, and they're making it," she said. "I can get some for you if you want."

"Yeah, I'll take some," I said, just because I wanted to be cool with her.

"Okay, I'll bring you a dime tomorrow."

So the next day she gives me a little cut-off corner of a baggie with just a match head worth of white crystals in it. I thought, "That's probably worth a dime." And that's what 1gave her was a dime. If she hadn't said, "You do have the ten dollars," I wouldn't have known what she was laughing about. 1wasn't going to back down, but at ten dollars I'm thinking a whole lot more about it than I had been. For ten dollars I'm not putting this in a trash can.

"You can shoot it, snort it, or eat it." I didn't even want to think about what shoot it meant. Snort it -- I had nothing to base what that meant. I don't know if you've ever tasted the stuff, but chewing aspirins is nothing compared to this crap. Some of the nastiest stuff I ever had. So I put it into a Coca-Cola and drank it.

Every school has their star athletes. Every school has their nerd, and then they have their fat kid. I was always the little fat kid, which made gym in particular always embarrassing. It just so happened that I did my first hit of this Crystal Meth about forty-five minutes before gym class. Well, that was the best gym class I ever had in high school. I couldn't do anything wrong. Every basketball I shot went through the hoop. I ran all the laps with everybody. Gym class just wasn't the total embarrassment it had been.

That was it. I bought a dime that day. I bought a dime the next day, and the next day. She even tried to slow me down. She asked me. "Are you eating or sleeping or anything'? You know, you're buying a dime every day, and I know you're not doing all these." It was just a little bit of powder. I didn't know I wasn't supposed to do all of it. Of course. by the fourth time. all of it didn't work as good anymore. Trying to back off a little bit, she gave me some mescaline.

I was working part-time al the stadium -- basketball games, hockey, Ice Capades. I was supposed to work that night, so I took the mescaline. The attraction that evening was The Led Zeppelin Tour. I was not into music at all, not rock music, not any kind. Needless to say, between the mescaline and the Crystal Meth. I got into it that night.

T went relatively crazy at that point. If it was drugs, I was interested. It didn't matter if it was ups. downs. psychedelics, I was into it. Of course, that gets expensive, but I had six hundred dollars saved up that I was going to buy a car with.

Drugs also bring with it another lifestyle. My whitewall haircuts, wearing a tie to school, all that stuff was getting to be pretty bothersome. I got told by the dean of students to get a haircut. I ignored him. The second time he told me, I got detention. Both my parents work. They don't know I'm in detention unless I tell them. so they didn't find out. The third time, I got suspended for three days. They found out about that.

Being raised in a Catholic family, you didn't cuss around my house. You definitely didn't say no to my father. Catholic and ex-military'? It just didn't happen. But it was getting to the point where I thought I could handle everything.

I came in to eat supper, sat down at the table. and my dad handed me two dollars. I said, "What's this for"?"

"Get a haircut."

"No, sir."

He hit the table so hard all the dishes bounced. He said, "I didn't ask you to get a haircut. I told you to get a haircut."

"Fuck you."

He was at one end of the table, and I was at the other. I didn't realize the old man could move that fast. I thought he was going to beat me. I'd gotten spankings before, but I was never an abused child. He was mad. I punched him, just enough to give him a bloody nose. The blood that came out of his nose wasn't as red as his face. The expression on his face made my arms drop to my side. I definitely didn't think about doing it again. He picked me up by my shirt and slammed me into the wall. My shoulders went in between the studs when they broke the plaster board. He gave me one of these, "This is my house, this is my food. If you want to live here then you do what I tell you, when I tell you, the way I tell you. If you don't like that, then there's the door."

I made what was probably the most serious mistake I ever made in my life: I walked out.

I had two or three dollars in my pocket. It was October in the northern Midwest. It was cold already. I was a kid, just turned fourteen. I decided I'd better go someplace warm. I did go by and shoplift a nice leather jacket. Shoplifting quit being a game and became a matter of survival. I hitchhiked down to Daytona Beach, Florida.

At fourteen you can't work full time, and part-time don't pay the rent. Now I gave working a shot. I went to work at a McDonald's down there. But I had to do something to supplement my income. I didn't have any money, so the drugs actually stopped when I left home. My weight kept going down, because the meals became fewer and far between. My first problem was I had no place to sleep. They had the old transients law there. You had to have money and a place to stay or you could be arrested.

I'm hanging out at the beach at night, and I go to lie down on a bench. A couple of other runaways said, "What are you doing?"

"I'm going to sleep."

"Man, you can't go to sleep. They'll put you in jail. You get caught out here at night laying down on the beach, on a bench, in a car, if you're not doing something, they're going to stop you, and put you in jail."

I'm only working half a day, so I'm sleeping on the beach in the day time. You could go to Denny's and drink coffee all night long for a dime. A dime was a lot easier to get than white crosses and Crystal Meth.

Eventually, it got to where I had a little bit of money. If you want to eat ten hits of speed, you buy twenty and sell half to pay for the first ten. This went on for a while. I did all right on the speed, but it got to the point that I was eating too much of it. Where I actually started making a good amount for a kid that age living on the beach is that I was able to find somebody who was selling LSD. I could buy 100 hits for ten dollars, and then sell them for two dollars apiece on the beach. That's two hundred dollars if I don't eat any. So the profit margin was considerably different.

Then I found out about navy bases. I was going up to the naval base at Jacksonville and getting five dollars a hit off the squids coming off the ships. Sometimes it was real acid, and sometimes it wasn't. It was irrelevant. It was a financial thing. I didn't live up there, so I didn't have to worry about it.

But then I got robbed. I lost five hundred dollars, but it was more than that at the time -- I lost everything. I didn't have cash to get the product to get started again, and I didn't have a pay check coming for two weeks.

I was talking to a friend of mine who had done a burglary, and he had a pistol. I said, "Man, let me borrow that pistol." I took it back to my runaway buddies. These guys were going to rob somebody coming out of a club where they had to go through a little alley to get to the parking lot. I said, "Man, you're going to rob them coming out of the club? What money are they going to have?" The robbery didn't make sense. They think I'm just scared. The truth was that I was scared, but I got put in this situation, so I said, "Okay, let's just do a smart robbery."

"What's a smart robbery?"

The one thing I knew about was McDonald's. One thing about Mc- Donald's is they are the same everywhere. Anywhere you go, their training program is identical. The buildings might be a little bigger or smaller, one might have more tables or a playground, but their systems are the same.

McDonald's does night deposits. Nowadays they use older people, but back then they used three kids and the assistant manager who is usually just a kid, too -- maybe nineteen years old. So you got four people. I've been there when they're getting instructed. They're told if you get in an emergency situation, just give it up. Pay attention to detail, call the police as soon as you can, don't get anybody hurt, give them the money.

We pooled our little bit of cash and bought an old shotgun at the pawn shop. It was so old that if you pulled the trigger, the shotgun would break open. You can't fire it, but I'm not planning on shooting anybody. It's all psychological.

You got kids out there today who are doped up, and they'll shoot you, then get your wallet. My sister got killed in a robbery, a purse snatching. She had fourteen cents, but she hung onto her purse, and the guy stabbed her. I've never done a crime high. You don't plan them high, you don't do them high. You get high afterward, and there's an adrenaline rush to doing crime.

The three of us go to this McDonald's. I know when they are going to close. I know that they lock up while they're cleaning. But there's a pan on the side of the grill called a grease catcher. It's where they scrape the grease and the left-over little things of fat. It's collecting grease all day long. Before it cools, it has to be dumped in one of the barrels they keep out back. They can't clean the grill until the place is shut. The guy has to open the back door to get out to empty the grease catcher. While they're cleaning, the assistant manager is sitting at a desk. counting the money for the night deposit. The safe is open, you don't even have to make him open the safe.

We sat out there in the trash bin for about half an hour, which is probably the most scared I've ever been in my life. J didn't want to do it. but I didn't know how to get out of it either. I didn't want to look like a pansy. The other two didn't want to do it either. If anybody had backed out, the other two would have gone in a heartbeat. 'Course they would have blamed the first one.

We went in there. I pointed the gun at the guy and told him to put the money in the bag. I was young. my voice sounded young. I had a ski mask on, and [ had a pistol in my hand. The guy looked at me over his shoulder, snickered, and went back to counting his money. So J aired the hammer back on the pistol. There's a definite sound to that. I'm watching the guy, because at this point I'm ready to piss on myself. When I aired that hammer back, his whole demeanor changed. He put the money in the bag so fast it would make your head swim.

When we got out of there, we had almost seven thousand dollars. These other two guys were saying, "Let's go get some drugs!"

I'm high. I'm high on the control and the power and the being obeyed. I don't know how to put it all in words, but I'm high, and I don't need to go get some drugs. I want my cut of the money, and I want away from these two idiots. So I take my part of the money, and I kept the pistol.

There was a God complex that came with it. I got to the point where I was doing a robbery two or three times a week. You don't need that much money, I don't care what kind of drugs you're doing. I was doing it for the sheer power.

I made my way back to the Midwest, and did three or four more McDonald's with another guy. But when he left, I wasn't quite comfortable doing them alone without any backup. So I went to work for some people who were selling high-end stereo equipment to people. They deliver the equipment and set it up, then they give me the address and tell me when to go there and steal the stuff back. In a three week period, I had done thirteen of these burglaries.

I didn't get caught doing the burglaries, but I made the mistake of letting my girlfriend drive me on them. I got knocked off for public intoxication by a minor, malicious trespassing, and narcotic paraphernalia -- I had a pipe. They gave me sixty days. They were asking me about these burglaries, but they don't have nothing on me. They know something: The one thing all these burglaries had in common was the business that sold the equipment, and I work for them.

The girl I was hanging out with came up to visit me in jail. She was quite a bit older than me, an alcoholic, and not the smartest person in the world. The detectives convinced her that it was a good time for me to get my life in order, and why don't we just go ahead and get it all cleared up now. She told on me.

Even though I was only fifteen, they sentenced me as an adult. My parents weren't willing to stand up for me: "He left. He's been out there for a year and a half. He's involved in drugs. He got in trouble, let him get out of it." The judge gave me a one to five year sentence, but he told me, "You finish your high school education, and I'll consider bringing you back and putting you on probation."

They sent me to an adult prison for first offenders. I only had about a year and a half of credits in high school, so I had quite a bit of work to do. That's the only thing I did. I'd go to school in the day and take tests. I'd take the books for the next test home with me, and I'd read them until lights out at night. I'd go in and take that test again. I maintained an A average all the way through, and tested out to get my diploma in about seven months.

I didn't really have any interest in going to college, because I knew I couldn't afford it, but I thought, "I'll make this look good." You could take classes by correspondence from the State University for one dollar a course. I hustled up a few dollars, and in the next three months I had finished three college level correspondence courses. I was rather proud of my fifteen-year-old self.

I wrote the judge, and he says, "Fuck you." These weren't his exact words. What he said was, "I don't think you're ready yet. I think you just did this to get out."

Yeah, I did. That's what he told me to do, and that's how I thought about it.

I take a copy of the newspaper article where the judge sentenced me, a copy of my high school diploma, my grade sheets with my 4.0 college average at fifteen from prison, and I send it all to the governor. It was an election year, so the governor played this into "Governor Helps Youth."

I'd done twelve months and nineteen days of my sentence, and they paroled me to the university. It was an opportunity that was unheard of. All I had to do was make a C average or above. I had a clothing allowance. They're paying my housing, my tuition, my books, everything. You go into the gym and sign up for classes. They give me a check from the federal grant program, a check from the state, this and that. I signed them. They took the checks back, which was what I expected. I go to the next table, and they gave me the cash for the checks! Okay. There's still four or five more tables. They're going to take this money back from me, aren't they? They only took the first month's housing, the first semester tuition, and paid for my food card. I'm supposed to take care of this year's worth of money. I'd had large chunks of money before, but never when I'd had to be -- what's the word? -- responsible. I'm still kind of dazed when I got out of the back end of the gym with something near three thousand dollars.

"All right," I said. "Cool." I just got out of the joint, too. I went and bought new clothes. 'Course, I had to have a new stereo system, and da da da dah. First thing you know, money's just about gone. I need to invest some of the money I have left. I buy a pound of reefer. The reefer's not selling. So I've screwed up all this money. I also had a checking account. Nobody had taught me how to use checks. I didn't even know what the back of the check book was for. It really was an accident, but I ended up with $350 in bad checks out. The next thing I know they're looking for me for bad checks. I know this violates my parole. Maybe it could have been solved, but I'm not going back to prison on the house. If they want me, they can find me. I take off.

I went to New Orleans and did four or five robberies down there. I got arrested with the two guys I was working with, but I was the only one who ended up getting any time, because my parole violation came up. They send me to Angola, which is definitely not a fun place.

Again, I play the education game to the hilt. There's not six weeks between the time I left college and when this happened down South. I'm still enrolled in college, carried a 4.0 average, still got this endorsement from the governor. I shoot all this to the Department of Corrections. I've only got a five year sentence. They drop my custody, and send me to a place called Jackson Barracks in New Orleans where they have a work/study release program. They're sending me down there to go to school.

I walked in the front door of that place, and out the back door, got on a bus, and went back to Florida. There wasn't anything big to the escape. I conned them into sending me where I could make a move. You don't make a move from Angola. That's a serious prison.

Coming into Florida on 1-10, they had this big welcome station. Right next to it is a Highway Patrol station with one of those yellow signs out front for drivers' licenses. I had been using fake I.D. for a long time. I had memorized the information on one I'd used before in Florida. I walked in and said, "I'm Mike Miller. I've lost my driver's license, and I definitely need to get some I.D. I'm backpacking."

"Just a minute, Mr. Miller. What's your birthday and your Social Security number?" I gave it to them. "Your license is valid." They took my picture, run it through the machine. "Here's your license, sir. That'll be a dollar."

Within ten hours of escaping, I had another set of I.D. I had also snagged a backpack, which contained three changes of clothes that didn't fit, and a pistol.

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Postby admin » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:33 am

Part 2 of 3

I was raised primarily by my grandmother. She took me away from my mother when I was about three months old, because my mother and father were alcoholics. I was very close with my grandmother. She brought me up in the church. She was strict. My grandmother died when I was about twelve years old. Then the flip side came on, different personality, different look at things. Different way of how I wanted to live and do things.

I went back to my mom. I had two sisters and another brother that was under me, but I had four older brothers. It was hard for my mother raising the four younger ones of us at the time. She's been an alcoholic. She didn't know how to read or write. My stepfather was an alcoholic, too. My real father was gone. Whichever way she can get a dollar to help out with the bills, my mother will do. When I got to the age of fourteen, there was new styles of clothes and tennis shoes. I wanted to be hip with the kids. My mother caught a shoplifting charge, and the judge sentenced her to six months. That's when I took to the streets.

I had a brother that was four years older than me, and he started teaching me the ropes. He introduced me to drugs, to marijuana, that was my first drug. Then I started popping pills. I started breaking in houses, shoplifting, stealing bicycles.

I end up catching a real serious charge by following one of my brothers, him and one of my friends. From my old neighborhood where I growed up with my grandmother, there was one of them neighborhood girls that we knew. Me, him, and one of my school friends, we gang-banged her. It was a night thing. She put a charge on us. But it was me being a follower, just wanting to be with the big guys. My brother was big and strong and had been to the federal penitentiary. He done went through all the hard things in life, coming back with scars, done been shot up. By me being young, he was just like Samson to me, the Incredible Hulk. He could withstand anything. I idolized him.

He took me on the run from the law to South Carolina, picking watermelon during the watermelon season. The season was too tough for me. I couldn't get out there in the fields at the age of fourteen and hang in the hot sun from seven o'clock in the morning until five in the evening. We was in a strange town and got to pay the motel bill every day and things, so my brother brought me back home. I turned myself in. My brother turned himself in, too, because he didn't want me to face that kind of pressure. Eventually, they settled for a deal, gave him eleven-month sentence for the reduced charge, because the girl knows she was willing, at first. She just changed her mind because there was so many of us.

I kept getting in trouble. By my mother being an alcoholic, she didn't have time to take us no place or nothing like that. Weekends was hers. Friday, she stay out all night long, come in on Saturday morning. If something wrong with the house, we get a beating. I'm fifteen now, I ain't taking no more whippings like this here, you know what I'm saying? So I caught a strong arm robbery -- snatched purses with one of my friends. They sent him to a halfway house, and they sent me to junior prison. That's when things start clicking into me that I wanted to be tough.

When I was young, I felt soft. When I was in high school, I joined the football team, hut I warmed the bench. I was second string. It was making me feel soft. I got double-teamed a couple times in high school, where I had to bring one of my big brothers to the high school to fight for me. It was making me feel weak. My mother holler at me, I be crying. It was making me feel weak, you know? My mother was saying the same thing, when I go to crying when she hollered at me, "What you crying for? I ain't hit you!" It would make me feel weak. Where I went to prison, they had strict discipline. So I went up there, and toughened up my mind.

I come home in about three and a half months. My fall partner, he got out before I did. It's a little bit easier in a halfway house than the prison.

I followed him again. I hadn't just turned sixteen. They had done passed that law where at sixteen they could sentence you as an adult, but I ain't thinking like this.

One night, we break in this house, and there's this lady in there asleep. We raped again. My fall partner he had been raping all along, but I was unaware of this. The woman that we raped was a prostitute. She had told us, "Ya'll better hurry up and leave. My boyfriend will be home after while, and he going to be mad, because ya'll took the rent money." During the time we were in the house. he done said my name. She caught it, but we had got away.

The night we were caught, they put out a dragnet on us, because we had done terrorized the neighborhood. This is two days later, and we go on the same street, breaking into a house just two doors down from the last one. We been in, and I done left. I'm walking down the street thinking that I'm talking to him, but I'm talking to myself. I remembered that I had thrown a shotgun I found in the house out the window. I say, "Damn, I want to go back and get that shotgun. I throwed it out into the bushes." I turn around, and he ain't behind me. I said, "Damn, this fool gone staying in the house." I run back to the house, go back in the house. He in the room, and he done woke up the lady that live there.

"Hold her legs down," he say.

"Man, no. We done did that shit the other night. I'm not keeping on doing this shit here. We got away the other night, but I ain't up for all that shit there." So the lady raised up in the bed, and I seen her face. I seen how old she is, and how she look. I said, "Oh, my God." I got scared. She went to talking to us about the law, about the Bible. I will never forget it.

"Don't do this," she's begging. "Don't do this to me. Please don't do this to me."

We have made an agreement since he had said my name in the house two nights earlier to use code names. I'm going to call him Lunatic, and he's going to call me Dum-Dum. I said, "Man, you crazy, Lunatic. You just crazy, man."

"Come on, Dum-Dum, man. Hold up, hold up."

"Uh-uh. Naw. I'm gone." I left the house again. But I come back. This is the third time I been back in there, because he ain't came out yet. When we finally go out the house, somebody had done called the police.

The house is on a one way street. The police park at the end and turn on the bright lights, so that if anybody cross the street he can see it, period. He's calling for back up. We're behind a shopping center. I said, "Man, we're busted! The best thing for us to do is to split up and make them chase us. If one of us get away, we don't know nothing."

By the time we had gone fifty yards, there are cars coming from everywhere. We take out running. We get caught about an hour and a half later, but we done split -- one went south, one went north. They bring us back to be identified by the victim. She identified him, but she can't identify me, which I didn't give her an opportunity to see my face.

During the trial process, we were looking at life. I was sixteen. The new law is in effect. They hit me and my partner with fifteen years. They sent me to one of the worst prisons in the state. Sixteen, fresh, young, buying into this shit. I'm scared. Ain't no doubt about it, I'm scared.

It's everything that I ever heard, everything that you want to see -- killing, rape, people turned into homosexuals, guys shot off the fence trying to escape. I ain't got no big brother to run to. Ain't nobody to protect me, help me fight. I got to do everything on my own.

My first two years, I was what you call cutting time-staying in trouble, getting in fights, trying to keep my manhood, getting caught with a shiv (knife) in my bed mattress, selling reefer, contraband money, contraband canteen. Anything to survive, I was doing it.

At that time, they was putting five people in one cell. People sleeping on top of one another in the floor of the cell. You had to fight for your position. Bring the food up there, you ain't woke up, you don't eat. If you is woke, one other person that's there might want to take your tray. You don't stand up to get your tray from him, you don't eat. I took it upon myself that if I can't eat, he can't eat. Lost the fight, but don't lose your manhood, don't lose your respect. You had to keep your respect in that place. That was the bottom line. Gain your respect, keep your manhood.

First two years, I was running so wild and crazy that I wasn't thinking about the fifteen years that I was doing. Third year, the parole man come around to see me. I was in lock up. He said, "You keep this up, you going to do the whole fifteen years."


My grandparents are quite wealthy. When I was growing up, I could have anything I wanted, no problem. Fourteen years old, I had my own checking account and credit cards. Sixteen -- brand new car. Every year after that, brand new cars. When I was seventeen, I got infatuated with black men. That cut off the money, because my grandfather wasn't going for that. He didn't raise me for that, and I was not going to be that way.

They'd take my money away, take my credit cards away. Then, they'd give them back. "If you go to college, we'll pay you." So I went to college for something to do, because they would pay me. But when you're used to having and they're taking away, you must accommodate your lifestyle. So that's what I'd do.

If they would have told me no sometime in my life, I might not have ended up here. I should have been grown up enough to know that this doesn't last forever. My grandfather would just write checks and take care of me. But he had money like that to write checks. He knew it was real money. I'd call up my grandmother, "Oh, I need twelve hundred dollars." My grandmother would wire it to me the next day. "I need five hundred dollars for this or that." They never said no. They might have bitched, but that's all. This is what they'd do. If they told me no, I'd say, "I don't ever want to talk to you again. You won't ever see me again." I'd hang up the phone. They'd call me back in an hour. "How much do you need?" The people at Western Union saw so much of me, they didn't even ask for J.D. They just gave me the money.

I'm like my grandfather's heart. I'm his first grandchild. Even though he knows I did every bit of what they got me in prison for, he makes reasons for why I did it: "Well, your father, he was wild when you were growing up. You got the bad seed from him." He never ever thinks I do anything wrong. He had breakfast every morning with the chief of police and the mayor. They know him very well. When I was younger, they'd tell him, "We picked up your granddaughter drunk last night."

"Oh, no, she probably wasn't drunk at all, I'm sure there's a simple explanation for her behavior:' He's just the type that will justify anything that I do.

Every time I was arrested, my grandfather came and got me out. I had a bondsman I skipped bond on halfway across the country. He came all the way back to get me. He met my grandfather. The bondsman saw that my grandfather was good for the money, so I didn't have to have bail money when I got in trouble there. That bondsman got me out, knowing that my grandfather would pay him.

So I never had to sit in jail. I think that at the very beginning, when I first started getting in trouble, if they'd let me sit in jail, or go to prison, I probably wouldn't have kept coming back. I probably would have stopped a long time ago when time was easy, when it was a little time. The occasions when I did get in trouble. I hired a lawyer, because I had the money back then for a lawyer. If [ didn't have it. my grandfather would get it. "She grew up in this town," my lawyer would say. "Of course, she looks familiar to you. She went to high school here. She went to college here. Of course, you could pick her out of the lineup. She shops in this store and has for years." He could always get me out of anything [ got into, so it was all right.

They even took me to the psychiatrist, "Say something is wrong with her."

"There's nothing wrong with her," he said. "She's just a spoiled brat."

So they used another psychiatrist. Because my lawyer is real good. He says, "What we'll do is say that she has problems. We'll have her take a test. Even if she has to live in a private hospital for a while, we'll do that. At least, she won't go to prison."


I was always antisocial. I always took the side of the outlaw as a kid. When the other kids on the block wanted to play cops and robbers, I wouldn't even think about being a cop. I always volunteered to be the robber. Cowboys and Indians, I was the Indian. In the movies, I always felt bad when the bad guy lost, when I was seven, eight, nine years old.

I had a problem with authority figures. My father was an ex-boxer, and a man of few words. He'd kick the shit out of me. So I didn't give him a lot of hell, but I gave my teachers a lot of hell. I was constantly in trouble. My mother was constantly coming to the principal. I was the kind of a kid in fourth grade who would just get up from his desk, walk to the window, and look outside, kind of bored with the school work. It didn't interest me.

"What are you doing by the window?"

"I'm looking out the window."

"We don't do that. We're here to learn."

"Speak for yourself -- and for them -- but not for me."

"You got a smart mouth. Go to the principal's office."

I had a rebellious nature, but I was never influenced by older kids. No one led me astray, no one seduced me into a life of crime. These were my own internal feelings. I didn't identify with the square people, the working people. Maybe I sensed the hypocrisy. Maybe I saw the kind of respect or admiration they had for the successful outlaw. I associated with this.

As a street kid, I was around adults, people who didn't hide their feelings or change their language because of my presence. I heard who was fucking who, and I'd hear all the street lore. So I knew what life was about. My neighborhood was predominantly white, although a few blocks down, it was a black neighborhood. My neighbors were Italian and Irish. I lived in an apartment building which was Jewish. A clean neighborhood, working class. no crime. no drugs at all.

Don't forget, I'm Jewish, but J hung out with all Italian guys. My best friends were all these wild kids. J disassociated myself from the nice Jewish boys, because I had nothing but contempt for the Herbies and the Samuels. They didn't run around in the streets. They didn't take chances. They went home, they studied. they went to school, they played baseball. To me, these were all sissy things. I wanted to be running through the back alleys with my friends. the feral youth of the neighborhood, gelling into trouble, robbing out of Woolworth's, smoking cigarettes, drinking. This was attractive to me at age ten.

I was okay in school. I graduated the eighth grade, and that was it for me. I said, "Now, I know everything I have to know. I can read. I can write, and I can count. Anything else is superfluous:' I didn't know the word superfluous then, but that was the feeling. [ stopped going to school. I attended high school. They gave me the books, I threw them in my locker, and r never touched them again. [ never took a book to a classroom after that. That was the end of my formal education. I had a C average, and] was launched into life.

At fifteen, I was one of the first kids to be completely let go from school. This was a long series of events. The dean of students called me in and said, "Here's the phone, Mr. Schwartz. Call your father." I threw the phone through the window and said. "You call him!" That was the last straw with them. That was my last official act in school. I was on my own at fifteen by the edict of the educational system.

Now, I just roamed the streets. One day I came out, and these workmen were putting parking meters in my neighborhood. I said to a friend, "Look at all my piggy banks." It was love at first sight.

"Piggy banks? What do you mean?"

"I'll tap them with a hammer, and they'll fall apart." You had to make money, if you wanted to enjoy yourself, if you want to go to the arcade, the rides and all the shit you could eat. You had to have money to go to the movies, meet the girls. So I started breaking into the parking meters. Later on in life I thought, "You know, I was doing better when I was thirteen years old than I'm doing now. Then I was making a hundred dollars a day."

You wouldn't do it in the day time. It wouldn't look good. As soon as it got dark, I'd go out with a friend. Two kids hanging around a meter, work a screwdriver into the crack, jimmy the door open, and take the cash box out -- they're harder to get into these days.

Then I refined it. I would go into different neighborhoods, break open one meter. There might be only seven dollars in it, because they were just cleaned out. When they were full, you'd get as much as fifty dollars. I didn't want just seven dollars. When the repairman would come, he'd put a bag over it. I would write down the location in a book, the day, and the time. I'd come back in four days. If there was no bag over the meter, it means that the other meters had accumulated four days worth of money. Pretty soon I had a record of when they collected on which blocks.

I brought my friends into a criminal conspiracy on the meters. We were organized. The money was split among us. It was an illegal act.

We were also doing a lot of gangbusting. In the gangs, looking for trouble, wanting to be in gang wars, wanting to hurt people, see some violence, motorcycle jackets, and weapons. What changed me, even before I went to reform school, was we beat up some guys we caught in our neighborhood. Stopped them, asked them what they were doing there. They didn't answer us.

"What's wrong with you'? You're in our neighborhood. Who the fuck are you?"

They wouldn't say nothing, so we beat them up. I remember hitting them, kicking them, stomping them. We were vicious kids, and that's the way it was done. Bloodied them up, busted them up, left them laying on the sidewalk. "Hey, they didn't answer us! Forget about them."

I refined the meter thing even further. I wore square clothes, a big Police Athletic League button, combed my hair back square. I was incognito, so the cops wouldn't see me as a hood. That made sense to me. I borrowed my brother's square brown jacket. I didn't mind being perceived as a square. I knew it was business. I would never dress like that in a million years, but this was work, this was crime. Fourteen years old, and I got an outfit for crime. I wrapped my screwdriver in rags and put it in a brown paper bag. If a cop started to come, I could just drop the bag, and it wouldn't make any noise. Maybe I could get away with it, if they actually didn't see me with the screwdriver, doing it. The jacket and the button would help.

The cops knew what was going on. and they were trying to find the kids that were breaking into the meters, taking the city money. One particular time, they brought us in, me and a friend. They didn't have anything. They didn't find the screwdriver, but they wanted to question us. They thought we might have been the ones that were doing it. We walked into the precinct. This young kid I'm with was named Johnson. He'd been there before on some other misdemeanor.

A big Irish detective recognized him when we walked in. He says, "Johnson, you cocksucker! Again'?" He ran across the room and punched him in the mouth. Blood spurted out. The kid went down. The detective was kicking him.

Holy shit! What have I gotten myself into'? It was a real taste of a different kind of reality, police reality. We'd been chased by them and booted in the ass, but I'd never seen a grown man punch a fourteen-year-old in the mouth and kick him.

"You cocksucker, Johnson," the cop said, "I bet you're one of those guys who beat up those deaf and dumb kids." And it struck me. That's why those kids didn't answer. We beat up deaf and dumb kids. I felt real bad about it. Johnson wasn't even part of that particular beating. I ran with another mob of kids, and he wasn't there that night.

I said to myself, "I got to stop this shit." I was ashamed of what I'd done. It was unforgivable to me to beat up kids that are deaf and dumb. You don't pick on the afflicted. That was all that was done in those days as gang busting. Turf. I stopped all that. I stopped the gang fighting.

Even though I got out of that tough-guy mode, I still didn't have a direction. Very shortly after that, I was adjudicated incorrigible by children's court. My mother turned me in because she couldn't control me. I wasn't in school, and no one could control me. They knew what I was headed for. My father was still alive, but there was nothing that he could do with me. I was past that point. I was firmly on the path to where I ultimately ended up.

They sent me to a reformatory, which at that time was all Jewish kids. There wasn't any sentence, you were just turned over to the Youth Authority. It was different meeting all these Jewish tough guys. I didn't know there were that many Jewish tough guys in the world. The place dated back to when they had a terrible problem with Jewish crime in the early 1900s. The same thing as now -- Russian immigrants coming over with a large criminal underbelly. Of course, unlike me, they had an excuse -- they had terrible times. There was one black kid, and he was in trouble. We used to make him play Ping-Pong for his life.

The place was divided in three ways: There were the young kids -- as young as seven years old, the worst cases. If a Jewish mother has to send her seven-year-old away, we're talking serious demon, autistic assaulter, and completely out of it. They were across the way, and we had no congress with them. They would do anything, just maniacs.

On our side were the guys from fourteen up to eighteen, senior cottages. And then on the other side of the place, across the school and shop area, were the girls, fourteen- to sixteen-year-old wild Jewish women. There were no fences up between us. We went to school together. We snuck through the woods at night to get to each other. We had cottage parents who were supposed to watch us, but the kind of people they attracted to this job weren't the most watchful people. Usually alcoholics, or worse, who had their own lives to deal with. It was a good job for the local hicks. They'd get drunk at night.

It wasn't that bad. I had a good time there. I became head of my cottage in not too long of a time. I caused a lot of trouble. I was an instigator. After that incident with the deaf kids, I wasn't really as hands-on as I had been. I really didn't want to hurt people, unless I definitely felt they deserved it. But I saw that I could manipulate other people to hurt the ones I would like to have hurt, and I didn't injure my hands.

It was easy. Look at what I had to work with. The Jewish guys there weren't really very smart -- 90 I.Q.s. There was this kid named Moose. If I didn't like Philly, if he got me pissed off by saying or doing something, not to me but just I didn't like the way he acted, I'd say to Moose, "Moose, does Philly know your mother or something?"

"No, why? He don't come from my neighborhood."

"I don't know, he was saying your mother looked stupid or something. Your mother don't look stupid to me." Then I'd go in my room and listen. Sure enough, within ten minutes, I would hear Moose beating the shit out of Philly. "Hey, this is really neat!" Moose will never figure out that Philly didn't say these things, and Philly would never figure out that I was the one who put Moose on to him.

You could run away, go to town, and then come back. They counted you and had a night watchman, but you had so much free time, and it was so unstructured that you could do this stuff. I had guys going into town to buy marijuana. I got money through scams. Guys would get it from their parents, and I'd get it off of them. There always seemed to be money. I'd burglarize houses on the way to town, or rob stores.

There's a rabbi, there's school, there's shop. They're trying to broaden my horizons, rehabilitate me. No brutality, pretty nice place, but I was so far out of it that I didn't have a clue. I didn't have a plan, just experience life day by day and be able to do what I wanted to do.

"Listen," they finally said at. the reform school, "we'll let you out of here, because the next step for you is state prison ... if you will leave the state. Get out."

I had an uncle who was a military officer in Kentucky. He agreed to take me there, let me live with him, and look for a job. There was no work. All I could have done is pump gas. I wasn't ready to steal in Kentucky, and go on the chain gang. A Jewish boy on a chain gang in Kentucky couldn't have had a very long life expectancy. So I said, I'll join the Army. They'll station me here at Ft. Knox. My uncle will take care of me. I already know all the girls on the base.

I forged a birth certificate, since I was only sixteen. I knew then that joining wouldn't be a legal contract, that I could get out of the service if I wanted to, if I wasn't able to put up with the discipline -- this is a guy who hates discipline. I had that ace in the hole. I knew I was different from all these other jerk-off guys that enlisted. Any time I wanted, I could say, "Fuck you, I'm going home," and there was nothing they could do to me. That's what enabled me to get through basic training, knowing that I had an escape clause. It's my decision, not their decision.

I was a fast kid, among all these older guys, always the one getting out of things, paying people to do things for me, and loan-sharking money -- ten bucks for five. Getting over.

I'd be the first one back from the field. I'd go right into the shower with all my clothes on with the rifle, open the bolt, wash all the muck off me, and wash out my rifle. Come out of the shower, throw my wet clothes in a bag, give my rifle to a guy to clean and oil for me. I'd put on a shirt, a city jacket, and while they were still coming in from the field, I'd be heading out to the enlisted men's club to drink beer. I'd be sitting there drinking beer, thinking how swift I was compared to them.

Pay day nights I used to mug the sergeants that were drunk. All these sergeants that looked like fine figures of men in their creased clothes, real macho guys, I found out a lot of them were fags. It wasn't acting macho that meant a guy was macho. I'd be waiting outside the beer halls when they came stumbling out, blind drunk. I'd bought a set of brass knuckles. This upstanding member of the armed forces comes crawling out, vomiting on himself. If anyone is around it looks like you're giving him a hand. "Come on, Sarge, I'll give you a hand."

"Thanks, buddy."

"I got you, Sergeant."

"Thanks, pal."

I take him behind the building, give him a little rap in the head with the brass knuckles -- not too hard, just enough to put him out of his misery -- take his wallet. So I got a lot of money robbing all these drunken sergeants, and paying guys to do my KP, using all my street smarts to make it as pleasant as possible. I bought my way out of everything, planned my way out.

They were doing these obstacle courses with the big things you have to climb on. I could climb. I was an active street kid. But I said, "This doesn't make sense. I don't want to be crawling under barbed wire in the dust with people shooting machine gun bullets over my head. Hard, strenuous work? They don't pay anything for this." So I was equipment guard, because I kept a case of athlete's foot, purposefully so I couldn't wear boots. I could only wear low quarters, and you weren't allowed to do the obstacle course in low quarters. Couldn't march. I had it, and I kept it. I was sitting as equipment guard and watching the other guys falloff the rope. That could have been me. I'm sixteen, and I'm cooler than the guys in their twenties. They didn't figure out how to beat this thing. Of course, they didn't think in the get-over mode. I'm drinking beer out of my canteen while everybody else is flailing around in the dust.

Now they send me to Germany. I'm buying leave time from personnel. I get into the black market. Gas is worth a lot of money in Germany. Every truck in the motorpool has a bunch of five-gallon cans on it. I was stealing gasoline, selling it to the Germans, replacing it with water. I used to joke that if they ever had a war, and the Russians invaded, this company would only go as far as one tank full of gas and then stop, because I had all the gasoline. But I didn't foresee any war. If I'd had any secrets, I'd have sold whatever I could get my hands on.

But I was having trouble. I was having fights with other soldiers, because I was always goofing off, looking for ways out. I didn't respect many of those guys. Pretty soon, I was labeled a "disruptive element," given an honorable discharge, and sent home.

Back in the neighborhood, I met a different set of guys. They're telling me, "See that guy there? He's a junkie." I made his acquaintance real quick, and started doing heroin and cocaine. All the crowd doing this is young, healthy, hip. Nobody was a dope fiend. I knew those people existed, but not us, not the young crowd. I'd heard all that stuff about how you use it once, and you're a hopeless junkie. I used it on Saturday night with my friends. The whole week would go by, and I wouldn't use it. "This stuff is nothing. It's only the weak people who get hooked." We all thought that.

Then I was using it on Saturday and Sunday. Five days a week I wouldn't use it. People went to work, did whatever they did. I was collecting unemployment. Then on a Wednesday, I bumped into this guy, something happened, and he said, "Let's get some junk." So I'm down. You know something? It feels the same on Wednesday as it does on Saturday night. This is a revelation to me. I could use it on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. I still didn't have to have it on a Thursday or Friday. So I said, "I'm in perfect control. There's no problem with this stuff. This is some great shit. They were full of shit about this stuff."

It wasn't long before Monday was meeting Sunday, and I was doing it every day, but I was still in control. I knew I was doing it because I felt like doing it. That's how you con yourself.

I was using, and then I was stealing for it, running with these people, just a bunch of seventeen-year-old guys and their fast girls.

Then came The Panic. For some reason, there were no drugs. "So what are we going to do, man? There's no drugs?"

"Doctors got drugs in their bags. They leave the bags in their cars to go up into the hospital sometimes to see a patient. They really don't have to take anything but the stethoscope and a prescription pad. They don't lug the bag up," one of my friends had observed. "So let's go around the hospitals, and see if there are any careless doctors that leave the bag." We started taking the doctors' bags, and got through The Panic.

One of my friends found a gun in a doctor's bag, so now we had a gun. "You know, we could cut out the whole middleman. Go right into a drugstore, take the drugs from him -- cocaine, Dilaudids, all the sleeping pills, all the ups, all the downs, maybe a thing of watches, all the money in the cash register, all the money the druggist has in his pockets, and in his safe. All we got to do is say the magic words Stick 'em up."

Doesn't sound too bad, shouldn't be too hard. I went along and stuck up my first drugstore. There were so many of them I can't even recall which one it was. Sticking up drugstores all over, getting all the drugs, selling them, using them, staying high all day every day. That went on for about a year.

Then I got busted. Ratted out by an informant junkie I was selling morphine to. I didn't hurt anybody. I was sick. It wasn't a criminal enterprise. Of course, that first judge knew I was also sending out guys to collect IRS checks from people's mailboxes, and we were cashing them, along with a couple other scams of various sizes and types. Every day was a different adventure. It wasn't cut and dried.

I went in front of one of the roughest sentencing judges in the system. He gave out the most time. Stinging Sol. People said, "You're in a world of trouble." I had to plead guilty. The witnesses had picked me out, and I had the gun. He was really nice. He said, "I want the court to know that these two young boys are victims of a criminal enterprise happening right now outside of my courtroom. They're selling drugs out there on the streets right now. This is a terrible American tragedy that is washing over our society. So on and so on."

I'm thinking, "Hmm, I might get out of this with probation. I'm a victim. I'm sick."

My mother was crying. The judge said, "Don't you worry, ma'am. I'm going to do the right thing for your son."

"Oh, yeah," I'm saying, "probation for sure."

A month later we went for sentencing, and my lawyer said, "Your honor, I don't condone what my client did, but there were mitigating circumstances .... "

The judge cut him right off. "There's no mitigating circumstances. These men ... "

"I was just a boy a month ago," I thought. "I didn't even have a birthday since then. I'm in trouble. Men?"

"These men are professional armed robbers," the judge said.

"Last month I was a victim. Now I'm a professional."

"They take guns and sally forth," he said -- I always remember that expression, "Sally forth into our neighborhoods to prey."

In my mind I'm saying, "Now you're in trouble, 'cause now you're sallying and preying."

He gave me five to ten years for my first offense. Today I'd get counseling, drug rehabilitation, and three years' probation. I have no idea why he changed his tune. He just felt like destructing that day.


I'm twenty-seven right now. When I was a kid, I was a devious one. I grew up quick. I outgrew most of the kids my age. I was one of the biggest kids in school. One of the coolest kids in school. I had hair down past my ass, long curly-ass hair.

I ran away from home when I was about twelve. That was about the time my mom and dad was going through a divorce and everything. Dad was hollering at Mom. That was one thing I just didn't stand for. So I hollered at him, and he jumped all over me. He said, "If you don't like the way I run this show, you can hit the damn road." That's exactly what I did. I only got in one fist fight with my dad, and I was a grown man by then.

I was hitchhiking on the interstate out by the airport. I was at the bottom of this hill, got my thumb out, with a backpack bigger than I am. I had toys and a couple of Kiss albums. All this shit I didn't need and very little clothes.

This bunch of bikers comes thundering over the hill. I said, "Whoops!" and put my thumb down. Billy, the one who took up with me, he's as wide as he is tall. Arms are bigger than my thighs. Here he comes running, beard, no teeth. They stop. "Where you going?"


"What-chu doing on the interstate then?"

"I'm waiting on a friend." We sat there and bullshitted around for a while. He pointed to a bike, and he said, "Get on that bike behind that dude there." Dude had real long hair, looked like a girl from behind. I jumped on and grabbed him by the chest, and he turned around and gave a toothless grin at me.

I told him I was going up North. He said they were going up into the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Carolinas. "You're welcome to join us."

When they got ready to head back home, I said I thought I'd be heading out on my own, and Bill sat there and shot the shit with me a little bit, and then said, "I'm going to go back, and you're welcome to go back with me."

The bottom line is, I ended up going back with him. He got in touch with my parents behind my back. He told them, "If I send him back, he's going to end up running away again. He can stay with me as long as he likes, till you iron this thing out." It never got ironed out.

He was an old tattoo artist. That's where I got my tattoos from. I didn't learn to drive a car or nothing. I learned to drive one of the most dangerous vehicles on the road: a '53 panhead with a mousetrap clutch and a suicide shift. Had a four-speed shift under the leg and a damn clutch on your foot. You rode around with one hand on the handle bars. I skint my ass on the bike more times than I want to count.

I went to school and everything when I was living with him. He was a lot cooler than my dad. With my dad, it was just my lunch money. With Billy, it was lunch money and a couple of joints. "Here's you some lunch money, and here's you some after lunch stuff. But not till after lunch."

"Okay, Billy."

I'd have three or four good joints as big around as your finger. Me and my little buddies would sit back on the bike and get high first thing in the morning before the bell rings. I was a clown in school. I was fun to be around, specially when I was high. I was held back three times in the seventh grade.

I had to have money to fix up my old rattletrap motorcycle, so I went out and mowed lawns. I had one lady who didn't pay me in money, she liked young little boys. So I learned early. It was like going to school with her. She wouldn't come in there and bang my brains out. She would teach me. "You do this, and then you do that, and then you do this. Now let's go!"


I was fucking everything that moved by the time I was thirteen years old. Hell, I barely had hair around that thing, and I'm almost boffing it off. Old drunk used to be laid out on the floor at Billy's place, and I'd tap her real quick.

"What're you doing, little boy?"

"Just hold still, baby, and I'll show you." I was just an arrogant little kid. I thrived on attention. Like that there, people laughed at it. "Look at that little brat fucking that drunk bitch." She was old enough to be my mother. The one that was fucking me whose lawn I was mowing, she was old enough to be my grandmother -- must have been forty-eight years old. I was what -- thirteen or fourteen? I fucked around with her for four years. She was a real nice lady, real well-kept lady. She wasn't no whore, no slut that you see off the street. She just liked watching them little bitty bodies. 'Specially, I'd get out there and get all hot and sweaty, yeah, shit yeah, she loved that. That'd be the time she got me. I'd come in all hot and sweaty, and the first thing she'd do is jump on me.

If she was a man, and I was a little girl, then it'd be a big deal made about it. But being as I was a boy, and she was a woman, there wasn't too much said. There for a long time it never got out, until one of the neighbors told Billy that I spend lengthy amounts of time in her house. That I was seen mowing her yard in the middle of the winter when the grass wouldn't even grow. Every time I'd mow the yard, she'd fuck me. I mowed the yard three or four times a week.

She enjoyed it. It was like a game to her, and to me, too. It was fun. It was educational, you know. I was more experienced when I was fifteen years old than most men ever get.

At fifteen, I was a father with a little daughter. The mother was my science teacher. She was hot, she was something else. She'd always come to work in short skirts. She would sit in front of the class with her books, and if you were in one of the front desks in the middle, you could look down and tell what color panties she had on. She had some wild looking panties. I used to tease her all the time about it. I'd look down there and say, "She's got her pink and purple polkadots on today." She'd just turn red.

I've got four kids now. I'm real potent. The other three were one-shot deals. That's all it took. I got a son who is almost two, I got another one that's six, one nine, and the girl will be thirteen on November 16.

Man, I was always into some kind of mischief. I had a lengthy juvenile record. There was plenty of times that Billy had to come and get me out of jail. I went to Reform School for Boys twice. I never did real good. I was mean in jail. I never had no problems on the street. I was always real people, bro. Once I get in jail, you know, and you got a bunch of people living together, all the same sex and everything, you're going to have problems. They should let pussy come in here once a week, bop us out a little bit. I loved to fight in prison situations. I've walked away from them looking like hamburger meat. I used to fight and fight and fight.

I started doing coke when I was about sixteen. Real heavy. I was shooting cocaine that looked like milk. When I went to Reform School, that science teacher would come and bring me coke. Billy'd come bring me coke, too. I was doing all right. The state school up there, they have a visitation for five or six hours a day on the weekends, and if you're a sophomore, you can leave the campus all day, then they bring you back. Hell, I'd come back blitzed.

You can bring in like Kool-Aid and all kinds of little knickknacks from the house -- Debbie Cakes and things. I had a little container I'd bring back with me, and there wasn't nothing but cocaine in it. I passed it off as sugar, and there was so much of it, they'd believe me. Hell, that lasted me for about three weeks. I was working the outside grounds crew, so I'd hide some in the visiting park -- the syringes and stuff -- I'd get on my tractor and ease on up there. If they asked me what I was doing, I'd say I was policing the area up, picking up the trash. I'd get my syringes, and do all that right in the state school.

Now I don't blame nobody but myself for my long record, because I was just a devious little shit. But now I'm almost twenty-eight years old, and I really want to do something. I think, "Damn, why did I do all that stupid shit to get me fucked up in this mess in the first place?" When you're a kid, you don't listen to nobody. Mothers and fathers make a lot of mistakes with their kids. That's some people's excuse. But I more or less raised myself. I'm a self-made man, you know.


I am the youngest of ten children. The majority of my brothers and sisters have college degrees, and seems like everyone of them is pretty successful, but me. I didn't even finish high school. Not that I couldn't, but that I wouldn't. I had so many people that I had to go behind. I began to get rebellious when my parents were going through a divorce. The hard part for me was that nobody explained anything to me. You didn't get a reason for anything. My family didn't talk about it. A child had to stay in her place. I wasn't supposed to talk back. I was to do what I was told. They sent me off to my aunt's house for the summer when they first started having problems. I knew something was going on that I wasn't supposed to know about. They don't want you to see what's happening. I was supposed to stay for school the next fall, but I really made a fuss so my aunt wouldn't want me there. I made my way back.

I was fifteen. I wanted to hurt them the way I was feeling at the time. And somewhere in my mind, I thought that if I could make money with what I was doing, it would show them that, hey, everybody don't need school. I was wrong.

I started trafficking in drugs. It wasn't that I needed the money. My family had their own business. I was getting an allowance. I saved two weeks' worth of that money -- and in between I knew I'd get money anyway -- and I bought marijuana to sell. I did it in the school, because a lot of the children you go to school with smoke weed.

Then I figured I could go on to bigger and better things. I didn't know how cruel the people I was affiliated with were until I was in too far. At that time, I thought it was a fun thing to do. I didn't think about the lives I was destroying. I didn't think about the children who were taking their parents' checks and spending them on drugs. I was a child myself.

You get involved with the guys who supply. They think that all women are fools. These people have been at this a long time. When they find a young teenager, you are their scapegoat, because you can sell drugs for them and not get that much time if you're caught. So you are used. Some people call it being pimped, and you are, in a way. You don't know the value of what you are doing. This person is buying mansions on what you're doing for him, but you don't have anything.

Sometimes, you know you're being used, but you want to belong. I've been used a lot of times. When you know you've been used and used and used and used, and you finally decide that you want to get back at him, you know where everything is stashed. That's what becomes dangerous, because you want to rob this person. You've been used, and you're just tired of it now. So you're going to get the user.

Part of me likes to take chances. Not everybody can rob. Everybody cannot be taken for a fool. Because I was young and from a small town, they considered me the country mouse. But I catch on quick. I'm always somewhere listening. I was good at that, because that was what I had to do at home to find out anything. I knew when everyone would be there. I knew how much money would be there. I knew how much drugs would be there. Figuring out the street value of everything, I had already pinpointed what I would make from this and what I would share with the other people.

I became addicted to my own drugs. At first, it was just something fun to do. You get to go upstairs to the back room at the clubs where it's off-limits to everybody else, because you've paid the kind of money for your privacy. You can look down on the dance floor where everybody is enjoying themselves. It was just having fun. This is part of the party. You couldn't have told me that I had an addiction. I wouldn't hear that. The people I sold to had the addiction. I didn't have the addiction. It plays tricks on you. You wonder later who's the real fool. I was a young, sophisticated flake monster, but I wasn't stupid. Still dealing, still making money. Still well dressed, still wearing gold. I never wanted no gold in my mouth. If I had four golds in the bottom and the top, the police would know exactly what I was doing. I wouldn't be able to go in somewhere and say I needed a job, look at me. Soon as I smiled and they saw that my mouth cost thousands of dollars, people would know.

Money is a weakness to me, too. It's an addiction, just as bad as drugs. People don't realize that. I've seen people die over a quarter, over a dime, some even over a penny. I look back and think about how many times I have had automatics to my head, how many times I have escaped death. I'm not actually going to say that God wanted me in prison, but this might keep me safe a little longer.

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Postby admin » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:33 am

Part 3 of 3

I grew up in this neighborhood of Italian people mostly. My friends were real Italians. Dey were a-talkin' like-a dis, because they were just coming here. They were blue collar people. My father was a draftsman, but he always aspired to be something else. If you listen to him, you would think you were talking to Wernher von Braun, the engineer who built rockets. He boosted himself up from being a tool and die maker during the war to becoming a draftsman, but he had trouble staying employed, because he was always looking for some big money.

As a kid you pal around. I lived on West 12th Street, so my guys are the West 12th Street Boys. Then there was West 13th Street and West 11th Street. Each street has its own guys. It's a geographical thing. I passed by there about a year or two ago. Actually, the neighborhood hasn't changed at all, it's just populated by the updated version of the Italian-American Rocco, which is what I call them. It's like taking a step back in time. The houses are owned by these families. The grandmother lives downstairs, like mine did. There are the social clubs, like The Sons of Palermo. These clubs are an extension of the West 12th Street Boys.

I was always aware of people going to jail. When you're a kid, you don't get the sense of right and wrong that way. You don't get the sense of right and wrong at all. If you're Jewish, education is valued. If you're Italian, "Hey! You can make yourself three, four hundred balloons, doing this and doing that. This and that. This and that."

What's "this and that"? One of the West 12th Street Boys, he's got twelve cases of tomatoes. "Hey! Let's help him sell them."

Where did he get them?

"None of our business."

The Italians are very good with catch phrases, and they have a nice little catch phrase that would apply to this: "I don't know, and I don't want to know." That means that if this guy stole them, it's okay.

But it's not really okay. You don't think it's wrong, because it's not a question of right and wrong, you see. It's an extension to the camaraderie that you have with the West 12th Street Boys. "Hey! Where'd you get that?"

"It fell off a truck."

The camaraderie is the prime thing. That relationship makes you part of the "In" group, and anybody who's not part of the In group is the "Out" group. They are the other guys, the "Other." We are the West 12th Street Boys. We do this together. What do we do?

"Where did you get that?"

"We found it."

"Where'd you find it?"

"We found it on a truck."

If you try to go against that and say that's wrong, what are you going to do? Turn in your friends? The thought never enters your mind. It's like you cut yourself, but you don't feel it, because it's a razor blade. If you look down, you'll see that you're bleeding to death -- but you have to look down. If you don't look down, you just die. That's what it's like.

I think the Italians invented the sound-bite. Here's another good catch phrase: "You got to do what's right for you." What that means is, "Fuck everybody else." You understand that, but that's not what we're saying out loud. We turn it positive. "Hey! You got to do what's right for you."

If you have two business partners and each of them is doing what's right for him, and both people get together, it's wonderful. But what happens if you're doing what's right for you, and the other guy winds up with a hole in his head? "Hey! You got to take care of Number One."

This is how people get sucked into crime. You get sucked in -- like the thin cuts of the razor blade -- until you're so far in, what are you going to say? "I think I'm tired of doing this for a living. I think I'm going to go be a brain surgeon, because they make a nice living, and they get to enjoy symphony music every once in a while in a place called Tanglewood." What do you do? Go back to school when you're twenty-five? You're in trouble. You have a problem. The reason the unions are so strong is that the unions are an extension of the West 12th Street Boys. "Hey! we're us, we're us. We're not them. We got to watch out for each other." After a while, no matter what enterprise you are engaged in, you're wallowing in the crab muck with everybody else, and there you are -- stuck.

I grew up in this neighborhood, and I made two fast friends. Everybody had names -- Eddie Spaghetti, things like that. Jimmy Petrino was known as The Face, and Angelo Torino had no nickname. It was just like one word -- Angelotorino. My name was John Joseph Benedictus, but you can't have too many Johnny's in the same neighborhood, so they called me Joey Craz -- short for crazy. I used the word a lot. "Oh, my God, it's totally crazy!"

I worked jerking sodas, putting the sections of the newspapers together, and some illegal things. By which I mean stupid things. For instance, we're underage, and you can't be underage and deliver liquor. Who's going to deliver the liquor? College graduates? I'm delivering liquor. Everything I do, I'm off the books. Everything that happens is slightly illegal. This patina of illegality is everywhere. Everyone does it. It becomes the standard way we do business around here. This is not a wrong thing.

As we got older, you look for acceptance from the older guys, the peer group. Who are these guys? Are they brain surgeons? No. They are guys who don't seem to do anything to make a living. But who do something. One runs numbers for the syndicate. It's not like a syndicate that you see in the movies. When I see that, I have to laugh, because they make it look like organized crime has a classic pyramid of leadership and a flow chart. Organized crime is highly disorganized. The way people talk about organized crime you would say to yourself, "Let me sign up. Give me an application. I'm very organized." It's nothing like that. It's all informal.

In my neighborhood, there's a place called Billy's Bar. There are bars allover the place. There's Joe's Bar over there. The Alibi over here. What happens is, I go to Billy's Bar and I talk to the guys. The numbers guy says, "Come here. I want you to take this piece of paper over to So-and-so. I'll give you ten dollars for doing this."

Ten dollars? That was great! Plus he trusts me to go over to this guy with this paper.

This starts when you're about fourteen or so. They involve you in the criminality. "Come here. You go to church, right?"


"Do me a favor. I don't go to church too much. Put this in the Poor Box for me." It's ten dollars, right? I'm going to put this in the Poor Box? Are you crazy? I'll put two dollars in the Poor Box and keep the rest for myself. They know you're going to do this, but I don't know they know. I'm just a kid. That's how you are weaned to this thing. What you're doing is all right to these guys.

"Hey! Did you put that money in the Poor Box like I told you? I bet you put two dollars in the Poor Box, and kept the rest for yourself, right? Hey, what a guy!" It's all right.

As you get bigger, you get different errands to run. When The Face was eighteen, he looked like he was thirty-five and had just killed his brother. He had that look on his face naturally. Torino and Face were big guys. I'm the lightest one, and I weighed 160 then, but I was in pretty good shape. The other two guys were on the football team and could tear your balls off. I was the youngest-looking one -- I looked like a kid -- but I spoke well. I was paying attention. I was well read. Torino and Face were not well read.

The three of us would go to Billy's Bar. Some guy would say, "Listen, do me a favor. There's this guy. He owes us money. He forgot about it. Why don't you give him a call? Get that money from him, and we'll take care of you. We'll cut you in on the money. He probably just forgot, so why don't you just give him a call?"

"Oh, all right."

"And get the money from him. We'll take care of you."

The big guys at Billy's Bar are now trusting me enough to tell me to call this guy. "And if you do good on this, I'll tell you something, we're looking, and we'll keep our eyes on you." And they were, too. It was true. If you were in with those guys, you were somebody: "Hey! Those guys are in with the guys at Billy's Bar." It's the next extension up, the Big Boy extension of the little boy West 12th Street Boys.

"Here's the guy's name and phone number. Call him."

I call him: "Excuse me, I don't think you know me, but we were talking to Eddie, and he says you owe him some money. I think you probably just forgot about it, right? So we're wondering if we could come over and pick up that money, maybe sometime this week. We don't know exactly when, but when we show up -- do me a favor -- make sure you have it on you, so we don't have to make another trip." I hang up.

Then we would go and get the money. We made many of those kinds of calls. Sometimes, guys do forget. They just forget, you know? They give you the money in a second, and that's that. Or maybe the first one is a set up. Nobody forgot anything. They just set you up to see how you do at this job, but you don't know this, you don't think that way. Sometimes, it's a test. Do I want to fail that test? No. You don't want to fail that test. The guy sends you up to bring back ten thousand dollars. You don't bring ten thousand dollars back, I got to tell you, you've got a problem. "He only gave me eight, honest." Oh, no.

Sooner or later, they make sure you know you've been tested and set up from time to time. You have to know this to make sure you become a wiseguy yourself. You don't get too smart. "You don't want to get too smart." I know all the talk. "You get too smart, you'll outsmart yourself. Get in your own way."

You get the idea as you go along that you're being given harder and harder cases as you progress. The first few guys really did forget. But now you've worked up to the guys who didn't forget. But the idea is to intimidate. The whole thing was intimidation. If you had to, you would act on it. Then you have to "do the right thing."

The other two guys roughed somebody up, and we were giggling. I never got roughed up. First of all, I was back, because I'm the smallest one. I make the phone calls. I'm the mouthpiece. I drive the car. I know how to read a map, stuff like that.

There was one guy we had to get some money from who was very overweight, and he would sweat profusely when we came around. What if he dies of a heart attack? "Hey! It's the breaks. If he dies, he dies." You don't think about that. I had seen other guys beat someone up and leave him for dead. Death is explained, "Hey! he had it coming."

"Oh, yeah. Okay."

"He knew what this was all about." This justifies everything. This is the morality of the society. The catch phrases hold it together. "He's a big boy. He knows what he's getting into. You play, you pay." Whatever that means.

Going there once is okay, because no one knows what you look like, and they know that you're connected. Right? They know. But that's once. Going back the second time is a far different story. It takes big balls to go back the second time.

Me, Face, and Angelo used to go back the second time. We got the reputation: "Hey! These guys go back the second time. They don't take no for an answer."

Why does it take big balls to go back the second time? They know who you are, what you look like. They know what the routine is. He's got some time to call up his other friends who may be connected, too. You don't know what you're going to be running into. I got to tell you something, you're running into quite a lot. His magic could be more strong than your magic.

We never worried about them calling the cops. These were not those kinds of debts. These debts are for an eighteen-wheeler truckload of whiskey that is mislaid. It is then sold to some guy owns fourteen Blarney Stone bars. At the hangout there is someone who is owed $35,000 for this truckload of whiskey, but the commercial value of this is probably more like $200,000. We don't say give us the $35,000 or give us the whiskey back. It's just, "Give me the thirty-five grand." That's a lot of money.

I'm the only one who speaks. I call up the guy. I explain in a way that sounds like a legitimate business transaction. "I'm sorry to have to contact you, but we'll probably come by to see you in the next three or four days. Why don't you make sure you have this money with you, so we can clear this matter up." And I'd developed this line, "We'd hate to come back the second time." Once the guy hears that, he's thinking, "Oh, my God. It's the guys who come back a second time."

That happened rarely. Usually, we got the money the first time we showed up. We go to Billy's Bar. I give the guy $35,000 in fifties and hundreds. He's a happy man. He gives you sometimes 10 percent, sometimes 5 percent. What the fuck do you care? It's all found money anyhow. And, you're one of the boys. "Hey! What can be bad about this? We're doing what we're supposed to do. Everybody loves us. Their friends loved them because of us."

Was I successful? When I turned eighteen, I did three things on my birthday. The first thing I did was go down and sign up for the Selective Service -- the draft. I took that draft card and went over to validate my driver's license. Now I had a real license. Then from there I went right back to the Chevrolet dealership, and I bought -- for cash -- a brand new Corvette. And my friend Angelo bought one, too.

Your parents don't understand. Our parents were working hard. Angelo's father worked so hard, he'd come home, eat, and go to sleep. He's asleep at 8:30 P.M., because he's got to get up the next morning and be on the job at 7:00 A.M. So we would use his car at night, and just fill the gas back up. He would never know. Sleep like a dead man, because he works so hard in a factory.

I was like the brains of the outfit. I would find out who we were hitting on. Are we hitting on somebody who's going to kill us? No. Good. It's somebody who's just gotten a little gray. We were almost always in that gray area. There's the Right Citizens -- like I am now -- and there's black: The guys buying heroin from someplace and selling it. These guys don't even have Social Security numbers. They're nobody. Then, where these two overlap, there's gray. There are many people who get involved with this stuff. For instance, the guy who owns the chain of bars. An Irish guy who is not particularly prosperous. He owns fourteen of these Irish gin mills you see allover the place. What are you going to do if you got eighty-seven cases of Dewar's? Who are you going to sell that to? You going to a liquor store? No.

He's having problems anyway. So he buys these cases. But, he's got to pay for them. He actually forgets. Most of the time, that's what happens. He doesn't get a bill from these guys. They're not bill-sending distributors.

"I need $35,000 cash American money, now."

So I find out who we're dealing with. Let's not get sandbagged. Also no one at Billy's Bar would give us an assignment where they were sending these kids to their death. But you don't know. You don't have to know, you don't want to know. It's bad form to ask.

I got married. We were just young kids. She is going to college in the daytime. I'm working and going to college at night. It was difficult. I'm still collecting, but Face and Angelo would call me, "Come on Saturday afternoon." Okay, I take a couple hours off on Saturday and make five hundred bucks or more. My wife knew these two guys I worked with. We used to go out on a boat together. It's not like, "Who're these guys?" She knew what I was doing. Initially, she was afraid that I'd get hurt.

"Hey! Don't worry," the guys make a joke of it. "We're going to let this guy hurt us?"

"Hey! I don't think so. Please. We'll take care of him."

So she starts to put the pressure on me. I'd get these phone calls, then tell her, "I got something to do. I'm going with the guys. I'll be back in a while." I found myself living two lives. I'm going to college, going to work in an advertising agency. My wife is going to graduate soon, she's going to be a teacher. We're hanging out with business people, but also I have these two guys. You can't take Angelo Torino out to a meeting with the Ph.D.s, and Face -- for sure they're going to wonder about him. So she put some pressure on, and I started to think about the whole thing.

Now comes January. 1get a phone call. They want to have a meeting at this stupid place that's not there anymore called Goodies, crummy joint. We meet there. We never meet at Billy's Bar. That was like corporate headquarters. This is more like a regional sales conference.

So now she and I start into the thing. She says, "What are we really doing here?" Actually, I had been thinking about it the same way. What am I doing here?

I get to Goodies. "How you doing?" We were always telling stories about the old days when something happened to us. It was like a male ritual. "Remember the time?" We do about fifteen minutes of "remember the time." Then we talk about what we're going to do now.

"I got to tell you," I said, "I don't know. I don't think I want to do this anymore."

"Aw, come on. Give me a break will you?"

"I don't know."

"Come on. We get in the car, we go over there, we make five hundred or six hundred balloons. What the hell?" It was always even splits. Nobody ever, never gets more. Any time we get money, it is evenly divided by three.

So I left thinking about this. They call me two or three days later. 1 says, "Listen, I told you. I don't want to do it anymore."

"You were serious?"

"Yeah, I'm serious. I think it's tricky. I think we're getting too old for this. I'm doing a lot of things. I'm going to school."

"What are you, getting too much brains?" Stuff like that.

What the trade really was: "We need you. You're going to let us go alone? We have to have another meeting."

This is a joke. I go out with my wife and our downstairs neighbors that night. He's an accountant for a big company. My wife and his wife teach school together. What a jerk. This guy's a nerd, a dork. We go out to a movie and a Chinese restaurant. We get home. I say goodnight. My wife knows I have to go meet the guys. This meeting is at our work time. It's two o'clock in the morning.

"You're going to go and let us do this alone? This is a nothing thing."

"I got to stop sometime. I'm stopping now."

"Oh, man. Come on! Okay, tell you what, tell you what. You got to do this one for us. Make the phone call at least, and drive this one. And this is the last one. You can't just pull out on us like that. So- and-so at Billy's Bar, what are we going to tell this fucking guy? That you finked out on us? You want us to go alone?"

That was most of the thing, "How can we go alone? We can't. You're going to hurt us."

Okay, I did the last one, and it was nothing, a nothing job. They tried for the next one, but I was more strong at that time.

That's how it happens. You just go along. There's no clear-cut vision of what is right and what constitutes wrong. You look at the system, and everybody is doing it. Everybody is beating on their taxes. You look at politics and government.

And you are trading on your friendship. These two guys would kill for me, and I, in turn, would kill for them. I got to tell you something, I've been in some crazy stuff where these guys would stand right up for me. It's not even a question.

There's peer pressure, not bad peer pressure like, ."Here, come on, kill this guy." It's that you just do it, and it's part of what you are doing. You get sucked in on the camaraderie. It's wonderful. "Hey! You're one of the boys." But there is a line. If you do step over the line, then you're finished. You kill somebody or hurt somebody really bad. Or worse, you get hurt really badly, or killed -- hey, you'd be surprised how getting killed can have a real impact on your family life.

My wife was decidedly happy when I quit, but it wasn't like a party or anything. I just wasn't doing it anymore. This wasn't anything we even had to speak of. It wasn't that I did it for her.

I lost those friendships. Absolutely. We were friends for another ten years or so. They wished me well. Your life changes. You move on. They move on. Sometimes parallel, sometimes in opposite directions. Life is only convergent in that you both will end up in a grave somewhere at some point. I can never explain my life to these guys.


I was about ten when I first got into trouble. My older brother and my younger brother talked me into stealing lawn mowers to go cut some yards with. So we did that for a while. The cops would come right to us. We'd be working away with three stolen lawn mowers, little kids, and they'd ask us, "Hey, you seen anybody pushing lawn mowers down the street?"

"No, sir."

After that me and my younger brother started getting into a lot of trouble. Me and him started drinking and partying, doing burglaries, armed robberies, you name it. I was fourteen the first armed robbery I did and got away with it. It was a truck stop that stayed open twenty-four hours a day. We went in there about three o'clock in the morning. I guess the guy didn't believe it was a real gun, two kids coming in to rob him. I was about four feet tall, and my brother was shorter than me.

We get him on the ground. It's the first time I ever did an armed robbery, and I can't figure out how to open the cash register. This guy comes from upstairs where the showers and the bathrooms are. I don't know if he was a bum or a trucker, or what he was. He's asking my little brother, "Is that a real gun?" It's just a little .25. My brother shoots it in the air. I make him give me the gun, and I hold them on the ground while he gets the cash register open. He'd been doing this stuff for a while.

We got a car waiting for us right on the main drag about a block down the road. We got the money and everything, and I'm ready to go. My brother is going through these guys' pockets, taking their jewelry. One of them is talking about his family, asking not to be killed. My brother slaps him in the head with the gun, tells him to be quiet. We go running out. I'm going on down the road thinking my brother's with me. I turn around, and he's still in the store. He comes out with a two-liter bottle of Pepsi.

"What the hell are you doing? We can buy soda."

"I knew we'd be thirsty when we get to the car."

My uncle and my father were two of the biggest drug dealers around at one time. They were these tough guys. I wanted to be like my father, party and hang out with the big guys, spend money like him, and have nice things. A few times I was with him on drug deals, and I seen how easy the money could be. A lot of it was his influence. Then again, a lot of times I didn't want to live like that, but my father took me with him on drug deals, put me in that atmosphere. He lives in another country now, but I call him every once in a while. I tried to explain to him that I was set up for this here charge I'm in on now, "You expect me to believe that?" he says. "You been doing drugs since you was eight years old."


I first come here to prison when I was seventeen years old. There was another guy and girl involved which was seventeen also. Drinking. The whole bit. When you're a teenager out drinking, the first thing you think of is what you're going to try to get. You're going to try and get you a little cooter. We was out partying, and everything else, and the girl says, "Well, what time is it?"

"It's getting close to twelve o'clock." She had to be home by ten o'clock. When we left, all she could say was, "Mama's going to kill me. Mama's going to kill me." We got her home, and everything is fine.

The next thing I know, I'm in jail. They come and picked up me and the other guy. They charged me with rape. Back in them days I faced the electric chair. Back then, they didn't appoint you an attorney. You had to explain it to the judge yourself. After I explained there was no sex involved after she done accused me of this, he broke it down to attempted rape, and asked me would I plead guilty to that.

"Yeah, okay," I said, "I'll plead guilty to that." I guess when you try to talk the girl out of it, you're attempting to do something. But there was no violence, nothing. She knew she was just trying to keep herself out of trouble. And she did. The judge gave me seven years.

I had a chance. 'Course, I'm here. But I can't say that I wasn't raised right, because I was. Shit that I done, I done on my own. But when you was dating, when you was a teenager, God damn, how many girls did you see walking along that you'd say to yourself, "Damn, I wonder what that'd be like?" Then you're lucky, you find one. You go out with her. You're going to try to get the pussy, but you're going to try to talk her out of it. If I'd never have got involved with her, I might never been in prison. But that's what started the whole shit. I'm fifty-one years old, and I've spent a good twenty years out of the last thirty-three years and four months in jail.


When I was eighteen months old, I was taken from my parents. My mom was put in jail, and I don't know what happened to him. I was crippled, so they put me in a home for crippled children, runaways, and problem kids. They put me in braces and corrective shoes. When I was three, I was sent back out to foster homes. I was in a bunch of them.

When I was fourteen, I was put back into the children's home from a foster home for being a runaway when they finally caught up with me. There was this girl they used to bring in there. She wouldn't be there two minutes. As soon as the police would drive off, she would run out the door. She'd be gone until they'd catch her again and bring her back. This girl came in one time, and as soon as the police drove off, she was running. I ran out behind her. Someone had told me that she was a prostitute. I wanted to ask her was that true.

I caught up with her. "Excuse me, is your name Lisa?" She was only about fifteen, but she was real pretty. She was so pretty.

"Yeah, that's me."

"Is it true that you are a prostitute?"


"Where you going? Can I go?"


So I went with her. I don't know why I was attracted to that. I used to watch some kind of sitcom on TV that had police and prostitutes in it, and I used to see the way they dressed and how they act. I always wanted to be like them. I really didn't have any family. I felt like I had been abused in so many different places, so I just said, "If I have to go through this, I'm going through it anyway wherever they place me. I'm going to be out there." I could make a living at it, be on my own, and make my own choices. You don't have to be abused. If somebody abuses you, you just leave. I decided this is the thing for me.

We got downtown, and when the police drove by, Lisa disappeared. But I met this little boy, Jimmy, who had been a good friend of mine at the children's home. I didn't know he lived out on the streets now. He was real young, but he was more experienced than me.

"Laura, what are you doing out here?"

"I don't know. What are you doing out here?"

"Don't worry about it. You better come over here, and we'll get in this car, before we get picked up by the police." So I hooked up with him and the two adults he was living with. I learned how to proposition men. They told me what to do. The first time, 1wasn't out on the street a good minute or two, and a guy in a Corvette drove up. 1got in his car. That man paid me so much money, and I didn't even have to do nothing. 1was in my underwear and bra, 1laid up on his bar, and he took pictures of me. 1wasn't gone very long. That's how it started.

I was out there a long time. I made a lot of money that way. But when I look back on it sometimes, I realize that it wasn't a very good life. When I was sixteen, I met a man, and he said if I really didn't want the street life anymore, he would help me get a job and put me in an apartment. So 1did that, but when we started getting serious, I asked him to marry me, and he wouldn't. 1didn't realize he could be arrested for that since I was so young. So I left him when he wouldn't marry me, and turned myself in. They put me in the detention center for running away, but I really didn't get in trouble.

The center was really locked down tight. I decided I wasn't staying after all. This was no fun. On a Friday night, when I knew a pregnant lady would be working, I talked my roommate into being a guinea pig for me. There was a water fountain outside the rooms where they kept us. I knocked on the woman's door and asked her could I get a drink of water, and my roommate asked could she get one, too. She let us out to get a drink, and I ran. At twelve o'clock at night, the cleaning crew came on, and there was a broom stuck in the door holding it open, so the guard wouldn't have to go back and forth opening it for the cleaners. The pregnant lady grabbed my roommate. I snatched the broom out of the door and it slammed shut. I ran by the control room, and the man in there was asleep. The keys from the cleaning ladies were in the door. I unlocked that door, shut it back, and locked it. Went right out the front door of the place, and I took all my prison clothes off except my underwear. I ran and jumped over a fence into a neighbor's yard. I got under the bushes and just stayed there for three or four hours. When I did finally get up and leave, I hitchhiked in my underwear and bra. Two guys picked me up in a Cadillac, but I must have been a sight, because they were so scared of me. They really were. "Where do you want to go? Let's just get you there."

Running away is not a crime. I didn't steal from nobody. I didn't cause no problems. I didn't do drugs or drink. All I did was try to make a little bit of money to keep myself in food, shelter, and clothes. No excess of anything. I really didn't see why prostitution was illegal, I was so young.

About two weeks later, I was sitting on a park bench. The police drove up, and they didn't ask me no questions. They handcuffed me and put me in the car. I knew I hadn't committed no crime. I felt like I was living the life. I wasn't doing nothing wrong. I was very upset. I didn't want to go back to the detention center. So when the officer who took me in there uncuffed me and was filling out the papers, I grabbed his gun. Me and him rassled to the floor, and the gun went off, but nobody got hurt. It ricocheted off the wall.

I went to screaming and crying, and they put me in this little room for three days. I don't even remember there being a toilet in there, just steel benches. I was so full of hate. When you have someone so young with so much hate on their face and very vicious, that's how I was. I tried to kill that policeman. I was going to kill that man, because I was stupid, I guess. I told them they have to kill me, or I'm going to kill somebody else. I said they could do one of two things: Find my parents or get some papers that show me that my parents are dead.

This is on a Wednesday. Friday night at ten o'clock I spoke to my mama for the first time on the phone. I was sixteen. They knew where she was all along. I told my mom that I was going to escape the next Friday, and I wanted to come see her. She said, "Okay, honey. Just keep in touch and let me know what's happening."

We're allowed to shave our legs once a week on Friday. That Friday, I went into the bathroom and took the razor apart. I gave them the razor back with the lid on it, so they couldn't tell that the blade was pulled out. They were keeping too close a watch on me, since I escaped from there once before, so I needed to get out to someplace else. I told my roommate what was going on, and to scream at the top of her lungs. She did, and I cut my wrists right here where you can see the scar. I was making blood go everywhere. They took me to the emergency room. Once I got there, I told that doctor if he sent me back I was going to kill myself.

They took me to a mental health home for juveniles. I was there about three days. They took us outside for recreation. The lady turned her back for one second, I jumped on top of a cement table, and threw myself over the wall.

I contacted this one foster parent, an older woman I had been close to. She called my brother. He came and got me, and paid for a bus ticket for me to go to my mom's house. I was on the bus for five days. My mom lived in Kansas.

My mom had some more kids and she was pregnant at the time I arrived. I liked seeing my mom. I really liked it. But I was scared for my little sisters. The one was eight years old, and she was so skinny and scared-looking. The other one, I could tell something was wrong with her. She was real, real heavy, but she didn't eat hardly nothing -- nme or two sandwiches a day. They didn't take her to the doctor. The house that they were in, in one room the clothes were piled five feet high all the way around in a circle. The floors were completely filled with cans and bottles. You had to kick stuff out of your way to make a path to the phone or a chair. The kitchen didn't have no food in it. It was filthy. I opened a cabinet, and two mice ran down my left arm. My mom was real nice, so sweet, but she's a real bad alcoholic. She said she hadn't cleaned up in all the sixteen years since they took me from her.

So I called my sister who was seventeen. She had stayed in the same foster care home since she was five. I told her Kansas was like Heaven. Everything was so nice. She flew right up there, too. I tricked her. She wasn't angry with me, but she got into an argument with my mom's husband, and he was going to hit her with a frying pan. We just left and got a motel room.

I contacted my HRS counselor back home, and I told him what was going on. He knew I was escaped, but he said if I would get pictures, and if I would come back there, he would try and help my sisters. We broke into the house when they weren't there and took pictures. HRS flew us back. They took my little sister out of my mama's home for a whole year and let her see a doctor. She had a growth in her neck.

This guy who helped me told me he had to turn me in. I went in front of the judge, and he sentenced me to be in the State School for Girls until I was eighteen.

As soon as you get there to the nurses' station, there was a sign on the wall that said, "If you are pregnant, tell the nurse, because you cannot take these shots." I told the nurse I was pregnant.

"Okay, we'll give you the pregnancy test." It came back negative, even though I knew I was pregnant. They gave me this whole bunch of shots. A week later, I escaped. I was gone for two weeks when they found me with a girlfriend and took me back to the state school.

The same thing. I went to the nurses station. "I am pregnant."

"We will give you the pregnancy test." The test came back negative, and they gave me the shots again.

I decided to stay this time. Two or three months later, I was so big from being pregnant that the lady who ran the place came to see me. I said, "I know. I tried to tell you."

"Laura, I am so sorry."

"What's that going to do for me now?" Everybody was shocked that they had done this to me. I asked what my options were, and she said there was only two things: "If you have the baby it's 99 percent sure the baby will be deformed. Are you capable of taking care of a deformed baby?" I knew I wasn't. "The other option is to have an abortion. If you have one, you're going to have to have a relative sign the paper." I didn't want an abortion, but I was too young at sixteen for a deformed baby. I agreed to the abortion. She drove me down to this other town for the abortion. That man I asked to marry me who tried to help me, I called him. He met us there, paid for the abortion, and signed the papers. He told them he was my uncle. They knew he wasn't really my uncle, but he always went by that. I didn't have anybody else anyway.

It never did change for me. Every time I got out, I went back to the street.
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Postby admin » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:33 am


Murray and Earl couldn't be more different. Murray is a Jewish guy from Brooklyn, a cigar-chomper, built like a fireplug. It's hard to imagine Murray standing on anything but concrete, harder still to imagine him with his mouth shut. Murray's stories are entertaining, like the great stand-up comedians of the late 50s and early 60s. All that's missing are the rim-shots.

At first sight, Murray would probably dismiss Earl as a redneck. "Just an old country boy," is the way Earl describes himself in a well-mannered deep South drawl. He's a big man, powerfully built, but as laconic in his movements as in his speech. Earl is gently good-humored, the kind of God-fearing man who calls on the name of Jesus from time to time, and means it.

In fact, these two men are very much alike. They are both about fifty years old, and they have spent their whole lives as professional criminals, bad guys of the old school. They planned a job, recruited the talent they needed, and then pulled off the robbery, with varying success, as you will see. And both, at one point, picked blue-haired old ladies as their victims.

Earl and Murray also spent much of their lives behind bars. Murray was in prison for more than fifteen years and Earl for about twenty. Prison barely beats the other occupational hazard in the stickup business, which is an early grave. Murray and Earl would both characterize themselves as convicts. Inside prison, there is a distinction between inmates and convicts. An inmate is a person just passing through, who hasn't learned to respect the strict etiquette of prison life, usually because he is too young and full of himself and hasn't been working at crime long enough to get a really stiff sentence. The distinction is expressed like this: An inmate cuts time. A convict builds time. Here is the convict code related to me by another member of the fraternity:

"The convict code is what I live by, bottom line. I am a convict. I am not an inmate. An inmate is somebody who do stupid things. A convict is a person that builds time. I build my time.

"You don't step on my toe, I won't step on yours. If you do step on my toe, and don't say excuse me, you're going to find out who the baddest. It's as simple as that. I'm not going to push my weight around. I'm not going to try and take advantage of nobody. I'm not going to disrespect no officer. If an officer disrespect me, and he make the first disrespect, that's his bad mistake, because now I'm going to disrespect him. I am always going to be in the right. A convict don't want to be aggravated, and he don't want to aggravate nobody. You do time, not cut time, whether you got five years or life."

Earl's last robbery was over ten years ago. He was sentenced to fifteen years on probation, and stayed out of trouble for nine years. "Me and the old lady was kind of going at it, so we decided to get separated, and I was pissed," according to Earl. "My probation violation was moving from my house without telling them. The judge gave me fifty years, for a technical violation, no criminal charge. I saw the parole examiner the other day, and he sets my release date at 2039. That's forty-six years away. I just laughed at him. I said, 'You ought to be ashamed of yourself.'

"'Why's that?' he said.

"'You're not intelligent,' I said. 'If you're going to set a date, set a reasonable date. Forty-six years off. If I build that forty-six years, I'll still be a young ninety-something.'

"'If you're lucky,' he said.

"'That's the way you people feel. And that's the way I feel about y'all. You don't care nothing about me, and I don't care anything about you.' An old-timer can't get no play."

Earl is right. Even though he is way beyond the years when he poses a credible threat to society, his record is liable to kill him now.

Murray is on parole, with a parole officer who drives him nuts. He's convinced she is "out to get" him. Old habits die hard. Murray's wife has stuck by him all these years, even moving from place to place sometimes to be near the prisons where he was busy building his time. When they came into a little money recently, one of the first things she bought Murray was a huge La-Z-Boy recliner. He spends most of his time in their apartment, pushed back in that chair with his feet up, reading. "In prison, I read a book a night. The first few years all I read was the great fiction, any fiction, every fiction. Then for a couple years I only read more technical books -- history, philosophy, psychology. I saved novels as a treat for myself. I have a great vocabulary, but I can't use a lot of it in conversation. Like the word 'rendezvous,' I know what it means, but it's not a word that anybody I knew used all that often. So I don't know how to pronounce it."

Murray's safeguard against his own natural impulses is a self-imposed imprisonment in the La-Z-Boy, away from the temptation to do wrong. More important, Murray is away from the impolite, the thoughtlessly aggressive, the unrepentant boors who step on his toes and don't say excuse me everywhere he goes in the straight world, who don't know the danger they are putting themselves in by ignoring the convict code. It's just not enforced on the streets.


My fence came back from a vacation in Antigua where he said he spotted this lady from Larchmont, owns a bunch of beauty parlors in hotels, who's got this fourteen carat diamond ring. I forget what he guaranteed me, twenty or thirty thousand dollars. No matter what it comes out to, I give him the ring and he gives me the money.

I said, "Listen, I don't have any partners. This kind of job usually requires two people. My regular partner's got a homicide beef. This other guy's retired, he's working as a sandhog."

He says, "I got a kid who lives on Park Avenue. He looks like George Hamilton. He comes from money. He's got a tan, clothes, and the whole bit. He sets up scores for a crew of guys. They got busted. He got bailed out. That's about all I can tell you about him."

"He sounds like he's perfect for helping me set up this lady from Larchmont. He'll know about rich people from Larchmont. What do I know about rich people? Listen, though, I don't even have a gun."

"Ah, I'll get you a gun."

"A .38 would be nice."

"Yeah, okay." So he gets me an old long barrel .38. One of those that breaks open, but it's got a firing pin and a hammer. I look at the bullets. Hey, I'm just taking a ring off an old lady. I don't have to test fire this thing. I'm not going into a shoot-out or anything.

So he introduces me to this kid from Park Avenue and the kid says, "Yeah, we can go up to Larchmont and look at the house." I'd meet him five in the morning, we'd drive up to Larchmont with our binoculars, see what time she leaves the house with the chauffeured limousine. We drive down and follow her to the city, see which hotels she was going to go to, what her thing was. "Do you want to take her in the house? We could be waiting in the garage. We could pull her car over and have an accident." We went into the hotels and checked out what the layout was.

He wanted to go into the house to get more than just the diamond. I said, "I remember a kid from this Italian neighborhood. He was sticking up houses in Westchester. For his first offense they gave him twenty to forty. He was a young kid. I seen him nine years later. He lost his hair and teeth, and he looked like an old man. It really shook me up, so I'm not playing around with going into rich people's houses. I'm a second offender. I'd have to do forty to forever. I think I'll pass on going into rich people's houses. They don't like it. We take the ring, they won't get too bent out of shape over that. Someone wearing a ring that could feed and clothe eight families in Biafra, you can't work up a lot of sympathy for her, if you don't hurt her. But going into the house, people can relate to that."

So we rule out the house. We rule out pulling the car over. I tell the kid, "Go into the beauty parlor and see if you can talk to somebody, make sure if she's got the ring. I want to make sure she's still wearing the ring." He does all that.

I says, "You know the hotel is nice. Why don't we drive down from Larchmont with the limousine. We can tell by which turn she takes which hotel she's going to. When we know it's the one we want, we get ahead of her, park the car and time it that we walk in as she's walking up. We get in the elevator with her. The shop is on the first floor. That time of the morning, there should only be the three of us. If it's not, we'll pass. If it's on, I'll stop the elevator between the floors. Show her the gun. We'll take the ring off her, put a pair of handcuffs on her, something over her mouth. Take her up a few floors, put her off the elevator. We'll go down and walk out of the building. Nice. No problem."

"Yeah, that sounds great."

That's what we did.

I don't drive. He's got to do it. We rent a car with a phony J.D. and wipe it clean. We got it parked so it's right on the corner when we come out. We'll bring attache cases, and we'll be dressed up, so we'll look like we belong there.

She pulls up, we're walking, timing is perfect. She comes out of the limousine, and she's got a crocheting bag. Her hand is in the bag. We get into the elevator. Push the button. Stop the elevator. Show her the gun. "I don't want to hurt you. Just give us the ring, and that's the end of it."

"I don't have the ring."

"What do you mean you don't have the ring?"

"I sold it last week."

"Rich people aren't supposed to sell rings. What the fuck, you need a new limousine?"

"I sold it."

"Let me see the hand." She takes the hand out. She doesn't have the ring. "You threw it in the bag didn't you?"

"No. I don't have the ring." She had sold it.

"You really know how to fuck up a party, you know that?" So I throw the handcuffs on her and put the tape on. Forget about this deal. I push the button to go up to like three or four floors. But the elevator won't go up because somebody in the lobby pushed the button for the elevator and it's got to go down first. I'm trying to go up, it's coming down.

"Oops, handcuffs and tape aren't going to look right when this opens in the lobby. Oh, shit. All right, lady, listen. Nothing happened here. It's no big thing. Obviously, if you scream and carry on, you're going to get hurt. Just keep quiet, let us get out of the hotel, and then you can inform them that we attempted to rob you. Use your common sense."

Really I should knock her out, but I'm not one to hit an old lady, and I thought even if she did scream, I got a gun and we're just going to go out through the lobby. There's no cops in the lobby. In retrospect, I should have knocked her out. Why would she want to scream with armed guys? At least wait for people to get into the elevator and have some people between you and the bullets that might come.

Soon as the elevator opens, she starts screaming. My partner panics and goes out the door. He drops his portfolio. But he had his fingerprints on it, because it was summertime and we weren't wearing gloves. When I bent down to pick up his portfolio, I lost sight of him. He was gone now and I assumed that he went to the car.

As I'm going out of the lobby, there was like a mailman there and a doorman. The mailman trips me, he puts his foot out and he trips me, right? Somebody jumps on me. I'm thinking, this is embarrassing. I can't be taken by civilians in the lobby of the hotel. I had a three hundred bench press. I was a pretty good conditioned guy. I threw him off my back. I pulled the gun out. I went out the door.

I put the gun back in my jacket, because I didn't want to go in the street with the gun out. The doorman grabs me in a bear hug. Huh? So I bite him on the nose, and he lets go. I take out the gun and say, "Get back in the fucking lobby." He's holding his nose. Now I walk toward the corner to the car. But some of the people from the lobby are walking behind me. No problem. The car is right there, and so I walk.

I turn around, take out the gun, and they scatter. I put the gun back. I get to the corner, and there's just a locked car. Now I'm on foot in Manhattan. The embassies are up the block, and there's a million cops. Any minute the squad car's going to show up, and they're going to shoot me down.

Here I am running around New York, waving a gun, and these guys are still following me. So I point the gun at them, and they don't scatter. So what the fuck, I'll put a bullet in the air, cut through the park. So I point the gun in the air and pull the trigger. Nothing happens. What the fuck? Something's wrong. But they don't hear it, they don't know it don't work.

Across the street, there's a mail truck, and there's a mailman in there. A mail truck is open on both sides. I'll make him drive me away. I run up to the mailman. I go in one door, and he goes out the other. He's running around the truck. I don't know how to drive. How do I start a mail truck? I continue on down the block.

I can't believe this is happening to me. One thing after another is going wrong. Worse yet, next I'm going to get shot. Now, it's like a posse behind me. I've got ankle boots on. They were in style, but not really good for running, and I had a bad cold. Later on when I got busted, the guys gave me so much room, because they thought I had TB, that's how bad the cough was. They didn't want to stand next to me.

I'm trudging along in my boots with this posse of runners behind me. I got to get rid of these people. It's like I'm leader of a parade here. I put another shot in the air. That don't work. The cylinder turns and, oh, shit, there's something wrong with the ammunition. Now when I looked at it, it looked kind of green. If I was to go into a situation where I thought I might have to use the gun, I would have tested it. Fired it in a basement or drove out to Coney Island. I didn't think I'd be in any kind of problem. All the ammunition in this gun was old and green molded, and the primers were gone. I shot again, and it don't do nothing. Now, I'm not even aiming in the air. I'm getting kind of pissed off at these people. But it doesn't matter. This thing ain't working.

So I'm heading up the third block in the square block. The hotel is on the corner. There's a guy parking his car. So I run up to him. I say, "Get into the car." He faints. He goes, "Oh, my God. Ick." And he goes out. I don't know where the keys are. The keys ain't going to help me. I need a driver. "Oh, fuck. What the hell's wrong with you?" He's out. "Never seen a fucking gun before?" What's happening to me? I got people running through mail trucks, got people fainting on me, a fucking posse behind me. The gun don't work.

They haven't overrun me yet, because they don't know the gun don't work. But I knew. Get to the corner, and I said, "Maybe I'll be lucky and before they shoot me down like a dog, I'll get a cab. Because I can't run too much anymore with these boots and this cold. I'm getting really winded."

I went to the corner, and I see a cab. The hotel is on the next corner. I waved the cab. I get in. It's a red light. His window is down, but he's got the bullet proof thing between us. I say, "Make a right at the corner." Now the people are yelling at him. I can see the doorman is coming across the street. I know that he's not going to run the light. So I roll down my window and put the gun out and into his window. I put the gun to his head. I said, "Make the fucking right, or I'll blow your brains out." Now out of the corner of my eye, I see the doorman coming at me. He's almost there. I took my eyes off the cab driver, expecting him to make the right. He don't know the gun's not working. As soon as I take my eye off him to see how close the doorman is, the cabby grabs the gun. I'm hanging out my window. He's breaking my finger in the gun that don't work. The doorman gets to me, hits me in the face. So I let the cabby have the gun that don't work, because I don't want my finger broken. I get my finger back and get back into the cab and go out the other door. All these civilians, the mob, descends on me. I don't have the gun anymore. The cabby's got the gun. He's trying to shoot me with the gun, but it still don't work. This is really embarrassing. I've been apprehended by a bunch of ribbon clerks. It wasn't because I was inadequate as a thief. It's just that I had bad luck. I found it funny. But I didn't get shot, so who cares.

I tried robbing banks, too. I didn't like it. We went to a carnival, and I proved I was the better shot in the shooting gallery. And these guys know that my whole life I've never overreacted. I never panic in the heat of the moment. I never had to shoot anybody unnecessarily. I wouldn't whip around at the first loud noise and begin capping. I've always preached about don't use an elephant gun on a fly or a fly swatter on an elephant. The appropriate tool for the appropriate job, and not one iota more or less.

So my job had always been to hold down the bank. I would direct the robbery. I would watch everybody. "You just take care of the drawers, and I'll make the decisions about what's happening. I keep track of the time. Come out when I say."

My coconspirators were behind me at the counters, cleaning out the cash drawers. One guy screwed up. He took all the ones, because he was nervous and wasn't on top of it. When he seen they were ones, he threw them out. But it's taking longer now to collect the big bills. I said, "Come on, let's go, let's go! What the fuck you doing?"

The place was full of people. I turned to them and said, "Good help is so hard to get these days. What are you guys doing? Let's get the fuck out of here?"

People kept coming in the bank. I'm standing there watching them. You could see on their faces how many microseconds it took them to realize that something isn't right, the vibes aren't right. But they couldn't see what was happening there. I'm not standing there with a gun. I'm near the door with the gun down by my side. I can see them, of course, and I'm watching as they come past me through the door, but I don't let them see the mask. They walk in, and they start looking around. Why isn't anybody moving? There are these frozen looks on people's faces. You can almost hear the prayers being silently said. I don't know whether to reassure them or just stand there. They might see me and get frozen in the doorway. People outside might see them and notice.

There is a competent-looking guy in the bank. He just stood out from the other men in there. I found out later from the newspaper clipping that he was a professional hockey player. I says, "You!"

"Yeah? What, what?"

"You, when somebody comes in the door, meet them halfway and seat them for me, please. An old lady comes in, I don't want her scared. It's a funny position for them to be in. You're all standing there, told not to move, and she's already in that far. You just seat them for me, all right?"

"Okay." He was taking people off to the side and saying, "Everything is all right. Don't be upset. Sit down here, now. They're just holding up the bank."

That was a time when there had been a rash of bank robberies. Everybody and their mother was robbing banks. There were two or three in the newspapers every day. Banks are being robbed right now, but they don't write it up. At that particular time, the newspapers were yelling, so they started staking out banks. They had mine staked out. Major case squad, FBI. I would have gotten five years instead of fifteen, but it happened to be right in that time when there was all that publicity on the front page. One of the papers had a scoreboard -- Good Guys: 0, Bad Guys: 5. My luck I was doing banks at the exact time this was going on.

We spent too much time in there, and when we came out, they were all over us. Luckily, there were no shots fired. The only thing that bothered me about it later on when I had time to reflect was that, if a cop shot at me, I would have shot back at him. That's his job to shoot at me. It's not my job to kill cops really. But in that situation, I would have shot back, although I don't think I would have initiated the fire -- not to avoid a jail sentence. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to take a life for that. It's not that big a deal for me to do time. There's a point where they got you, and they got you.

The bank is in a silk stocking area. They pick cops for this neighborhood who are articulate and good-looking. A cop had been alerted by a lady who came to the bank, but did not come in the door. I don't know exactly what she told him, but he was coming across the street, talking into his radio. He was in the middle of the gutter when we came out of the bank.

He sees me, and I see him. He's got his hand on his radio, and he's deciding what he's supposed to do. Bank robbers are exiting the bank, there's no car to duck behind. So with body language, he makes his decision. He puts his other hand up on the radio, too. Now both hands are on the radio, which says, "I'm not going to start shooting at you in the street. Don't kill me." He looked like a male model. This was all flashing through my mind. Good-looking cop, young, hip boy. Doesn't want to get killed today, or have to kill us. Or have something almost as bad happen, which would be by firing at me, get return fire that might kill some rich old lady on the other side of the street. We were thinking exactly alike at this time. He makes the body language signals, and I said, "Cool."

I check him, now that I'm going away. I don't want him to change his mind, but he stays true to the deal. He got good marks for that from me, and not just because I got a little farther away. We're not posing a threat to anyone. We're talking about money out of a federally insured bank. Put everything into perspective, man, you know?

We start going down the block. Squad cars are coming up on us, so I make a dash around the corner. There's an apartment building with a service entrance where the maintenance people go in and out. The squad car is coming, and I know this cop is going to shoot me, or I'm going to have to shoot him. I see the door, and I say, "That's a shot. Maybe there's a back door or a window that will put me out into the courtyard where I can lose them."

I went down the stairs, and now I'm in this whole maze of basement. I'm running all around there, looking for an exit. I can hear the footsteps of all these cops, running after me down the stairs, coming down into this maze with me, and running around in it.

There's no windows. There's no back doors. I'm running around, running around. I passed a laundry room. I get in there. I take off my leather jacket, and I hide it with my hat. I had already gotten rid of the stocking mask. I can hear them running, they're going to be coming by. So let me try and bluff my way through. I'm an innocent bystander. They're cops looking for a robber. My hands are empty. I'll just act like I was down here doing my laundry, and I seen the guy run by. But I don't know what's going on. So I had my motivation -- to escape -- and my lines. So Boom! Let's see how the act goes over. It's time for the audition.

They turn the corner. I'm standing there. I go, "He went that way. He's got a gun! Oh, my God!" It must have been right on the mark, because they didn't even hesitate. They just turned their backs on me and continued on out the door and to the left. I went out the door and turned to the right.

More cops. "My God! They're chasing him! He's got a gun!" I did it perfect, because they bought it. I thought to myself, "Look at this. Opening night, and I'm getting good reviews." Maybe I'll work my way up with this, change it a little bit, try some new material. The "Oh, my God!" may have been a little severe. It was perfect for the laundry room, but now "Oh, my God!" might be a little too dramatic. It might strike a false note. "He went that way. They're chasing him. Be careful, I saw he's got a gun." It sounds weak now, but at the moment I was on the money. They're hopped up, and I said it so it sold. They passed me.

"Look, they're all turning their backs on me. Oh, wow! I'm in character here. I have a vision. Maybe I can get to the steps and out. Damn, if I only had a badge, I could put the badge on, I could bust out the door with the phony badge on, barking orders like a detective. In the confusion, I could get away."

I knew that was the way to do it, but I didn't have the badge, and I didn't really get out into the street. I worked all the way through six or eight cops. At least three sets of two cops turned their backs on me and went on. I got up the steps, and I couldn't figure out how to continue this, because cops are still coming in.

"Who are you?" this one cop said.

"He ran by with a gun! I saw him. They're chasing him, with the gun. I saw it."

"Yeah, but who are you?"

I hesitated. I didn't have the badge, and it wouldn't have worked anyway. I had the impulse to try and take them with me. I said, "No, I was downstairs doing my laundry."

"Yeah, but who are you? Let's see some J.D. Any of you know this guy?" I lost my momentum. I could have been creative. I don't know. Maybe I should have ducked into the workroom and waited.

"I think he's one of them. Hold onto him. Bring someone over from the bank, see if they recognize him."

They bring the guy over. "Yeah, I guess that could be him." Even with the stocking mask over your face they see the nose, the glasses.

Now they take me out. They got my coconspirators. I left them when I ran around a corner and a squad car cut them off. So now the cops are saying, "I think this guy had the money, more guns." I'd hidden my gun when I hid my jacket. This had nothing to do with guns. I ain't shooting my way out of this thing. I'm bluffing my way out, or I'm getting busted. So I left the gun. I didn't have the money.

There's this young cop. My hands are handcuffed behind my back. I had my glasses on. This guy is starting to get tough with me, "Tell us where the money is! Tell us where the guns are!"

"I don't know what you're talking about. I was just walking by. I went in that building for a job, and all of a sudden there were guns and people and cops. I don't know anything about anything, you know?"

"That's a ridiculous story! You were one of the bank robbers!" He was right, but he was going a little overboard. He says, "Take this guy downstairs," like they're going to work me over.

"Listen," I said to the guy, "do me a favor. Take my glasses off. You want to give me a beating, I don't care. But just don't break my glasses, okay?" What I was saying was, "This doesn't mean anything to me. You want to beat up a guy in handcuffs, okay, just take my glasses off so I don't have to try to get them replaced." He looked at me, and I could see his recognition that this was a gratuitous act on his part. I didn't say it, but I'm thinking, "You're not going to break my nose. It's already broken. You can punch me around, but you're not going to kill me. I'm handcuffed, and people see I'm handcuffed. It's not going to work. Nice try, but you kind of misread the person you're working on." He looked sheepish, because as a cop he should have known if there is some technique that might have worked. But this really wasn't appropriate, considering my age and experience. He should have known that the physical thing wasn't really going to happen with me. It was a funny moment when his whole demeanor changed.

When I was in the squad car, the two cops said, "We really got you pretty good."

"Did you see the way the 49ers played last night?" I said. "Do you believe that play in the fourth quarter?" Which says, "Don't even be silly with that stuff. We can talk. We can talk sports. You were doing your job, and I was doing mine -- not as well as you did yours, obviously -- but we can shoot the shit." So we started talking sports, as though the guy never said the other thing. He knew I wasn't going to tell him anything. It was professional courtesy among professionals at work.

There was a lot of stuff in the news at the time about corrupt cops like there is now, so I'm thinking maybe cops are dishonest. I got money at home, six or seven thousand dollars. So I said to the cop who arrested me, "Listen, is there any way we can straighten this out?"

"Like what?" the guy says.

"Let me put it this way, if you were to lose a person, if he were to escape from you, how many days pay would you miss, what would the suspension be like?" I was trying to say, "What's it worth to you to let me make a break and get out of the car?"

"Nah," he says. "Don't even waste your time. I couldn't do it, wouldn't do it." But he didn't say it nasty, and he wasn't insulted or offended.

"You guys are really disillusioning me," I said to him. "I read in the paper how you're supposed to all be on the take, what's happening?"

"Nah, we're not all like that."

"Man, my luck, right? I got to meet the only honest cops in the city." And we're laughing about it. They understand, you know?

All my life, I wanted to be a good thief, and I wanted to gain the acceptance of the other thieves. The money was secondary really. If I'd wanted money, I could have been a slum lord, send people to bed crying at night. It's easy to be successful in this country: You can just be a scumbag. You are guaranteed to become a monetary success if you just fuck all the people. You can't miss.

I found being a thief was easy, and it was getting easier as I was gaining acceptance. At the very end of my career, I had finally gained entrance to all the top echelons of safecrackers, drug dealers, hitmen, top stickup guys -- the armored car really big stickup guys. I finally gained that level of acceptance at age forty-five. I paid my dues, and I'd been recognized by my peers. I was invited to join all these different criminal enterprises that made big money. But it was kind of anticlimactic. I liked the romanticism of it. It was a passage of manhood. But it was misguided. I feel it was.

I stepped out of the life when I finally reached that level. Luckily so, because everybody who I would have thrown in my lot with all came to no good. They got big sentences -- fifty, seventy-five years -- or they got killed, the top guys in all these different trades I aspired to. I said to myself, "You were right to step away from it. There's not that much life left for you." I'm almost fifty, halfway to one hundred. There's enough time left to have a great life, but in the overall context of the world, I have different feelings about what I'd like to leave if I could. Just being a top thief doesn't seem to be that important anymore. It seems pretentious.

I certainly wouldn't sell bonds in thievery, or recommend it to anybody to try and lead a life like this. The dues are horrendous. But there are a lot of other aspects involved: the outlaw thing, being your own boss, calling your own shots, and not having to pay lip service to anything. Even as an entrepreneur, you often have to bite your tongue, because you have an objective of making the sale. But I had no goal. I could say anything I wanted to whoever I want to say it, within reason. I didn't have to be a hypocrite. I didn't have to suffer any fools. The guy was a schmuck, I'd say, "Why are you a schmuck, in ten words or less? What, in your life, made you so schmucky?" I don't care if the guy likes me, doesn't like me. I say whatever I feel. In the straight life, when money comes into it, you often have to bite your tongue for the financial effect, so that you don't lose the sale. If you're going to stick them up, you just stick them up. And you can also talk to them while you stick them up. "Atrocious outfit. Who told you that you could wear blue and green together? Boy, that color thing really hurts."


Stealing. I made as much money over the years in what I done as if somebody went and robbed a bank. There's no money in robbing banks. That is, they get ten thousand dollars, but they're facing all this prison time. It's not worth it. What I done may sound sissified, but I made a pile of money. To my way of thinking, why take the chance of making ten thousand dollars, if you have to take a great chance, when you can risk a little bit of chance -- almost no chance at all -- and make five thousand dollars. I'd rather take the five grand and not have to worry about having my butt busted.

I robbed beauty parlors. Me and another guy just come up with it. If you just get aggravated enough, and you want to make the money, you figure these things out. It may sound silly, but all them women get their hair done on Friday, sure. You may make a few thousand in cash, it depends on how many people you rob. But diamonds never lose their value, you know? You get a handful of jewelry, diamonds, especially off them little old ladies, I mean carat, carat and a half, some of them two carats, and that's some money.

We was all over doing this. There never was no cops involved really. It was just smooth, like going in and taking candy from a baby. I used to be real big, because I worked out. The guy with me was short and stocky. He was kind of grumpy, you know, a smart-ass. I was always real polite. In one incident, I did hold a gun on about fifteen people. I had a ski mask on -- that's part of the thing. This one lady, she was trying to get me to talk. She told me, "You don't look like the kind of boy who'd do something like this."

"Well, ma'am," I told her, "you don't know what I look like."

"I bet your mother don't know you're out doing this."

"No, ma'am, if she did, she'd whip my ass. Now, please hush. I don't want no more talking."

After it was over with, before we left, one lady was crying. She come up to me and said, "Just leave my purse. Take everything else, but leave my purse."

"Which one is your purse?" And she showed me. "No, I'm afraid I can't leave that." Later, the only-est thing I could figure out, she was a golfer, and she'd won a large sum of money, but it was in a check, and I had the check. She was crying real tears, you know. I felt sorry for her. But if you make up your mind to do something, you have to go through with it, and to hell with the rest.

I generally stuck to jewelry. I set up another score on a jewelry store one time. My ex-old lady used to go in there and have her jewelry fixed, and I decided to follow the owner, just to see what the hell he done. This guy carried everything home with him at night in a black box, all the jewelry people bring in to have fixed, plus what belonged to the store, everything. He put it in the trunk of his car every day, took it with him to the grocery store, and then on home. I found out he did this just by watching. I watched him tote the damn thing in his house. And there's nobody there but him and his wife.

I got with this other guy to plan this job. I showed the guy where the store was at, and set it all up. Something happened where for a couple of weeks I didn't see the guy that was going to do it with me. I went by the jewelry store one day, and it had a CLOSED sign on it. I asked somebody, "What the shit happened? What happened?"

"He was robbed," they said.

"Robbed? Shit!" I made a beeline for my "partner's" house. What he done is, he done my score by hisself -- well, come to find out, his wife drove the car for him.

When I got to his house, I had a Miller Lite beer in my hand. I kept a pistol in my pocket. And I was pissed off. Another guy had come with me. They had all the lights off in his house. I kicked his back door down and went in there. Nobody there. I was drinking the beer. I told the guy that was with me, "There ain't nobody here." I pushed open the bedroom door, and this bastard was standing in the corner with a .38 looked like about two feet long, fixing to shoot me in the head. I just reached and got him so damn fast. I grabbed him and throwed my hand over the gun. My thumb went in between the hammer and the pin, and I clamped down on it. I still had the beer in my other hand, and I said to him, "I got you."

I done cocked the gun and put it to his head, and he went to crying, "Please don't kill me." His wife and two little kids is there, or I would have killed him.

"You motherfucker," I said. "I set this whole thing up and tried to include you in it, then you done took it all." I throwed the gun down, and I took him by the hair on the head, he's got long hair -- I drug him in his kitchen and beat his ass. I made his wife sit there. I beat his ass. I hurt him pretty bad. His little kids was there. I hated to do that in front of those young 'uns, but I was just mad. She said, "I'll call the cops!"

"Go call the cops," I said. "You stupid bitch, what you going to tell them? That you robbed this jewelry store, and ripped me off?" I said, "You better shut your mouth, or I'll give you some of what I give your old man here." I made him sit down at the table. I made her look at him, and I said, "Look at what you're married to. He's more pussy than you are. Look at him, he's nothing. Nothing."

If his kids hadn't been there, I'd have really done something to him. I'm looking at $100,000 it was worth, and a little piece of shit like that takes it off me. I don't know if he'd go tell on me or not. If you have any fall partners, and you done a hell of a score or somebody got killed in it, you might as well take them on out there and kill them, too, because some of them is going to tell on you. That's just the way you look at it.

I got involved in a killing on the streets. It was an accident, which I'll tell you about it. The guy who got killed was named Kramer, and he owned a tile company. I'd been selling him the gold and other jewelry that I was stealing. He owed me four thousand dollars. I'd done business with him for a pretty good while, and he keeps putting me off, putting me off, and I know he's got the money. So me and two other guys, we going to do this robbery on him. I'll just take his, too. I knew he had a little floor safe in his closet, and that's where he kept the goodies.

He knew me, so the other two guys went up there and knocked on his door. He come to the door. My guy puts the pistol on him. Now, if somebody puts the pistol on me, I'm going to give him what the hell I got. When he puts the pistol on him, Kramer attacks him. The gun goes off and shoots Kramer through the left arm. The bullet goes up and hits him in the brain. They come on out of there. So we left.

"Well, what happened?" I said.

"We just killed the guy."

"Lord, have mercy. You killed the guy?"

"But it was an accident." He didn't just go up and shoot the man.

I dropped the guy off who had the pistol. I was talking with the other guy, and I was drinking now. I said, "You sure the man is dead?"

"God damn, he looked dead to me."

"I'm going to go back."

"Go back?"

"Yeah, and you're going to drive the fucking car. I want to see if he's dead." If he wasn't dead, I was going to call an ambulance and leave.

When I'd picked them up, the front door was cracked, probably less than a foot wide. I said, "If the door's closed, we'll just go on." We drove by the house, and the door was just like they'd left it. Nobody there or nothing, so I drove around the block and got out. I went in, and I shut the door. He was laying on the floor on his back. He was dead. I found the safe, but I couldn't get it open. So I just took what he had and left.

It come out later, and the other two tried to put the killing on me. The guy who did the killing was kin to me. That's what family is. You can't trust your family either. The only family I trust is my mama. That's all. It's bad when you got family trying to put you away for just bullshit.

You hear people say crime don't pay. It all depends. If the score is big enough, it pays, as long as you can do it long enough and put you some money back. You can't be driving these Cadillacs and wearing all this shit in gold, and not have any money in the bank. You're going to get caught sooner or later. When you get busted, and they set you $100,000 bond, if you ain't got a dime to get out of there, your ass is going to set in jail. You hear people crying that crime don't pay, but sometimes it does.

This is nothing today. A man in them days, you appreciated his art. A man would plan a job, go do it, not hurt anybody, and make him fifty thousand dollars. Now -- hell! -- they don't plan nothing. They kick your door down, run in there, and rob you. Or go rob a 7- Eleven. What do they get, twenty dollars? That's nothing, and they get a life sentence for it. You ain't even safe to ride the roads. You go through a project, if you have to go that way, and you stop at a red light, if your door isn't locked-shit!-they try and tear the doors off your car to get in there to rob you. It's just bad. And it's going to get worse.

Every time you turn on the television, you see kids out shooting people. It disgusts me. Rob somebody. That's one thing. But to have people begging for their life, and they turn around and just shoot anyway, that makes me want to do something to those kids there.
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Postby admin » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:34 am

Armed Robbery

"The more people that I control, the better I like it. Of course, the people I was doing these robberies with began to think that I was a little bit of a bug," said David. He spent the early years of his criminal career specializing in armed robbery of fast-food chains, pharmacies, and convenience stores. David's smooth, boyish face belies his age. Although he's in his mid-thirties, he still looks like the teenager who pulled off all those jobs at age seventeen. He's a smart man. The few times he's been out of prison in the last twenty years, David's done very well for himself, performing computer research, designing security systems for the same sorts of businesses he used to rob, even establishing a charity organization. But things always get a little out of control, because of drugs, or failed marriages, or money problems. He goes back to stealing, and almost inevitably ends up returning to prison.

"If I had six people that I knew I had to control in there, and there's two of us going in, my partners would consider that risky. Me, I didn't see the risk factor. I got the gun. I don't care if there's sixty people in there. They'll do what they're told, if I've got this gun on them. Of course, then you get into the fact that one of them might be a cop, but nobody could tell me anything when I was younger. I thought anybody who did this would get the same charge out of it as I did, but that's not true. What some of them got was just scared. But because I was relatively good at planning the jobs, they either did what I wanted to do, or they went somewhere else."

For David, that sense of being in control, the psychological aspects. of being able to make other people do exactly what he wanted them to do, was perhaps more important than the money. His incredible bravado actually saved him from being locked up for life right from the start. When he was caught and put on trial for three of the numerous robberies he tells about here, he was facing a life sentence on each charge. The best plea agreement his lawyer could get was one life sentence instead of three. The witnesses were all lined up, including some of his former "friends," who knew exactly what he'd been up to.

"One time, I went into a 7-Eleven, and I bought one of those plastic toy guns, and a bottle of black Testors model paint. Painted the gun flat black. It's not even a cap gun. If you pulled back the hammer on it to try to impress somebody, there's a big spring on it, but instead of clanking, it clicks. If you look down the barrel; there's a bar across the end from where it was molded. You can see the seam. If you look down the barrel of a real loaded revolver, you can see the points of the bullets in the cylinder. In my toy gun, the cylinder is solid across the front. Just to see if on voice and eye contact alone I could get away with it, I went into one of the places I held up, and used this gun.

"Now the guy looked at the gun, and he looked back at me, and he looked at the gun again. He put the money in the bag, and I left.

"When we got to court, this assistant manager is up on the witness stand, and things are really looking bad. They've got two or three guns that they found when they arrested me.

The prosecutor asked, 'What kind of gun did he, use?'

"'To tell you the truth,' the assistant manager says. 'I thought it was a toy gun.' The prosecutor come up out of his pad of paper, and he said, 'Pardon me? You thought it was what? Why did you think it was a toy gun?'

"He describes all this stuff that I just said about how he couldn't see the bullets, and it was flat across the front, and it looked like there was a molding in the middle of the barrel. 'If you really thought it was a toy gun, why did you give him the money?'

"'We're told to by management,' he said.

"The judge stopped the trial and sent the jury out of the room. He told the prosecutor, 'You realize that we don't have an armed robbery here.' They have a charge in that state called common law robbery. It only carries fifteen years. On the other two cases, they hadn't talked to the people about what kind of gun I was using. It's not the same situation with the other people. It was a .45, and it definitely wasn't a toy. But they don't know that.

They have this big conference while my lawyer and I are still sitting there, and they say, 'Fifteen years, we're talking all three robberies, running concurrently with your other sentence.'

"'Where do I sign?' I said."

What I found strange about David's story is that he claims that he is not a violent criminal. If any of his victims had just said, "No," David says he would have had no alternative but to walk away. Many of the other people I talked to who had used deadly weapons in the commission of their crimes said that just because they held a pistol or a shotgun or a knife on their victims they had been found guilty of violent crimes, but they'd never killed anybody, never intended to. Nobody even got hurt. What's the big deal?

I keep thinking about the humiliation of the store owner who urinates down his pants leg out of pure fear when that gun is stuck in his face, the teenage counter clerks in a fast-food joint who are literally shaking in their shoes, the drugstore cashier who quits her job because after a robbery she's uncontrollably afraid to go out at night. The last robbery David describes in these pages was broken up by pure chance. If the man who faced David's gun sometimes bolts awake at night dreaming about being shot dead, I wonder whether he thinks of David as a violent man.

I'd been living three or four days in this duplex with this girl I'd met. On the right side of the house, there's two couples, and this girl and me are staying on the other side. She comes out of the back bedroom, sniffing and carrying on. I asked, "What are you doing?"

"Oh, nothing."

"Bullshit. What are you doing?"

"A little heroin." So I tell her to go get the heroin. When she brings it out, it's gray. There's brown heroin, white heroin, and there's white heroin with brown specks in it, depending on how they refine it. The closer it is to being pure white, the closer it is to being pure. But gray had nothing to do with heroin. Gray's the cut. Gray is quinine, but usually they'll put enough real thing with it to make it look a little white. But this is cigarette-ash gray. I say, "What is this? You sure this is heroin?"

"If you don't want any, don't do it. The guy next door gives it to me." That's bullshit, too. People don't give heroin away. That told me what was happening with her and the guy next door. But all I'm thinking about is making some money. So I said, "How about you go get him. Let me talk to this guy a minute. Ask him if he's got a syringe."

So he comes over. He's a seventeen-year-old kid. At the time, I'm not even seventeen, but there was a difference. He'd just moved out of his house five months ago. He's been living with Mom and Dad. There is such a difference in attitude that you would have suspected a ten year difference in our ages. Because of the situation with him and the girl, he's intimidated before he even saw me, which didn't have anything to do with me. It was in his head. It helped things, though.

We get to talking about the heroin. I said, "What are you doing with this?"

"I'm selling it." He had two spoons, and I asked him how much he made out of a spoon.

"Twenty dime bags."

Okay. I make dime bags out of the two spoons that he had there, so I got forty. Then I got this little piece that she had left, and I throw it in, so it should be bigger than what he had. I throw it off in the cooker and shoot it. I'm clean as a whistle. Nothing. I said, "You're selling this? Man, you're full of shit. Somebody'll kill you."

"Naw, man."

"What are they buying?"

"They're buying ten packs." I threw three more off in the spoon. I haven't clicked to the quinine yet, but I start to itch. That doesn't come from heroin either-it comes from the quinine. I said, "Man, you can't sell this stuff. You can't."

"Yeah, I can, too."

"Show me," and I bag it up. He takes me down to a place called The Saloon. You can't buy liquor in the place, so you bring it in, and they'll sell you mixers for two dollars apiece, and you can buy beer and wine. Today, it would be called a video arcade, but then it was pinball machines. He walked in there and was swarmed. The dope was gone in a matter of a minute. He had a couple of people mad at him because he didn't save them some. I've seen some real heroin, and I know this ain't it. I'm going, "What in the hell are these people doing up here?" I'm thinking dollar signs. So I call a friend of mine that by this time is in South Florida, and find out that he's still doing his thing, and how much it will cost me. I say, "I want to buy two ounces."

"Okay, when?"

"I can be down there in three days." "Okay.'

I don't have any money. The place I'm living doesn't have a phone, so I made the phone call on the way back. When I get out of the phone booth, I get back in the car and ask the kid, "You don't by any chance have a pistol, do you?"

"I've got two or three of them." "I'd sure like to borrow one."

"Oh, man, I got a .45 I took for two bags of coke last week. You can have it." Out of all the guns that I'd had along the way, that was a favorite of mine. It was a psychological thing. Didn't matter if there was bullets in the gun. It was how much intimidation went into that chi-ching when you throw the slide on a .45. It's always impressive to whoever you're trying to impress. We go back to the house, and he brings me over the .45. I throw a clip in it. The girl's sitting there. She picks the gun up off the coffee table and says, "What are you doin?”

"I got to go make some money."

"We're not hurting. You don't need to do anything. I got a little money.”

"Yeah, I need to do something. I got some business to take care of." She doesn't know that I made the phone call. It ain't none of her business.

"I'm going to go with you," she says.

“No, you’re not.”

"Listen," she says. "My last old man is up in the joint in Raleigh right now. He left to go do a job, and I didn't even hear from him for two years. I didn't know if he was alive or dead. I'm not going out like that. I love you. So if you're going, I'm going with you." Then she jacked a round in the pistol and said, "Or I'll kill you right now, and we won't have to worry about it anymore."

I really didn't think that she would kill me, but the reality of the situation was that if she had that much heart, then this took care of the partner problem. I was going to use the kid next door.
We went back to the old reliable. Went and hit a McDonald's that night. I got eight thousand dollars, but five grand of that is going into the job, and I have to have a vehicle of my own. So I decided that I had to do another one the next night.

Bought a motorcycle. Rode to Florida. Bought two ounces of heroin. Ride it back. Cut the heroin. Go make a transaction with the guy who was selling the dope to the kid. He don't do dope. He has a girlfriend who's strung out, so he has her try it. I made her cut back on what she was going to shoot. She tries the heroin, falls out. I'm making the deal with the guy, and by that time she comes back around, she's telling him, "Don't do it! Don't do it! It's not heroin!" He thinks I'm selling him Dilaudid or something.

"What do you mean?" I said. She didn't itch. She was so naive about heroin that she thought that was part of the problem. I didn't have any quinine. You don't just walk up and buy that in a supermarket. I had cut this with lactose, milk sugar, but at least it's white. He arranged to get quinine for any future purchases.

But something had happened to me. I got strung back out on the robbery by going and doing the two McDonald's. I could have made a fortune just bussing in the heroin.

I got a pocket full of money, got my own vehicle, and I'm feeling pretty good about things. But it wasn't two days later me and this girl go and case out a big national chain drugstore. This was a little girl, too. She couldn't handle a shotgun or any weapon that big. I got her an "over and under" .410 and sawed it off. A .410 with bird shot doesn't have hardly any kick to it at all, but it was still an impressive gun to look down the barrel at.

It's winter time. I was wearing an army field jacket. She had this leather coat that she wore. We go into the front of the store with ski masks rolled up like regular toboggan hats. Once everybody was between us and the back of the store, and nobody can get out the door, we'd pull the ski masks down. Throw down on the people, take the cashiers and everybody to the back. I've got control of them.

The girls who worked there wore these little blue smocks. Once everybody was down behind the counter where they couldn't see her, she would take one of these girls' smocks and put it on. Take off the ski mask, shake her hair out, and go to the cash register up front. She'd empty the cash register. The gun is under the counter. If anybody came in, she's between them and the door. She can throw down on them and bring them back to me. I've got everybody lying on the floor back in the pharmacy department, and the pharmacist is cleaning out his cash register for me and handing over all the narcotics. Then we just walk out of the place, get in the car and drive away.

That was no problem for eight or nine serious robberies. We had one of them old-timey steamer trunks that have the tray in the top of it. Pharmaceutical bottles have numbers on them that are registered. From that number you can tell where that bottle came from.

We'd throw all the bottles away, count the pills out in plastic baggies of a hundred, seal them, and throw them into the bottom of the steamer trunk. It looked like a rainbow when you opened it-Tuinals, reds, yellows, Seconals, the whole shebang from Dilaudids down to Valium, and everything in between. We're also averaging about thirtyfive hundred dollars in cash each job. I'm doing the jobs because they're fun. I don't need the drugs. Got drugs coming out my ears. After about the fourth job, we're paying the rent on both sides of the duplex. We're supporting everybody's drug habit there, and everybody is strung out. The ones, fives, and tens in cash had gotten to where they were in the way. We had them in paper bags in the kitchen cabinets on one side of the duplex. Anybody that wanted any was welcome to it. There was five vehicles other than my bike, and the keys were on a key ring inside the door-help yourself. Want to go shopping? Let's go to the mall. Drop two thousand dollars on clothes. It was nothing to walk in a record shop and drop two hundred dollars.

For me, the robberies had become as much of an addiction at that point as the drugs had become, maybe even more so. The drugs are what kept me sane until the next time I had something planned to go to work.

We had a job that went bad. Matter of fact, it went real bad. This girl and I had hit everyone of these drugstores in the three-county area except this one.

This one was set up a little differently. Instead of having a double set of doors in the front, it was on the corner of a shopping center, and it had doors in the front and doors on the side. You couldn't see the one set of doors from the other, because of the counter running through the store. We hit this store about four-thirty in the afternoon, same as we'd been doing the rest of them. She was up front.

An off-duty cop came in the side doors, and she couldn't see him. He came to pick up a prescription that had been called in. The first thing we knew about him being there was he had thrown down on me, talking about "drop it." I had six or seven people on the floor. I am about to be caught in this robbery. They're going to pin the rest of them on me. Still, there's no way I can bring my gun to bear on the cop. I don't know what's happened up front, but I know he's there behind me.

You know those big round mirrors they have in the ceiling? She had seen him move in. Without putting her mask back. on, she walked up behind him, and just let go--shot him. Didn't say anything to me. Didn't say anything to him. Just shot him in the small of, the back. If there had been anything besides bird shot in that gun, robberies wouldn't have been fun no more. It was real serious.

Literally scared the piss out of me. He fell into me, and we both went down. The pharmacist was standing there looking straight at her. We get away.

From right then, we left the drugstores alone. Three or four weeks things calm down. The cop didn't die, but the drug chain had a reward out. Lots of things were okay, but things were bad enough. So I got a little more into dealing with the heroin thing that I had been coming to Florida fm. I made a trip down to see the guy in South Florida. I'm supposed to be gone two days. I get there, and the guy is gone to Texas. He's stuck waiting on somebody there, so I'm stuck waiting in Florida.

The people in the duplex are without dope. While I'm gone, they try to collect this fifteen-hundred-dollar reward that the drugstore's got out-information leading to, etc. These are the same people I spent the last seven months with. The old lady is up there, but she don't know nothing about what's going on.

When I get back, the cops were waiting on me. The police throw down and get me with the heroin, although they didn't arrest me for that, and about two weeks later it showed up in a sergeant's locker in the police station.

They arrest me and my old lady, but they only have evidence on a couple little jobs I did on my own. My bond is fifteen thousand dollars. Don't have any cash--the cash was in the heroin. But I've got plenty of drugs at this house. I'm calling bondsmen, "I need you to work with me, here." I finally get this one guy to talk to me. I said, "Listen" I've got a steamer trunk full of drugs. It's not money right now, but it can be money real fast."

"Your old lady's in here too, huh?" "Yeah."

"You need to go over there?" "Yeah."

"You mess with me now, I'm going to shoot you."

After he made my bond, he gets me in his car. He's got a V-bolt through the floorboard. He ran a chain through a pair of handcuffs and locked me to the V-bolt.

We get out to the house, and there is nothing there. The place is totally empty. The furniture is gone, the stereo is gone, the vehicles are gone, and, of course, the drugs are gone. The ones who ratted us out couldn't get the reward money without coming to court and testifying or us making a plea agreement. Since neither of those things happened, they just wiped us out.

The bondsman is looking at me, and he said, "I don't know what I'm going to do with you. What do you think I ought to do with you? You had those drugs here though, didn't you? If you had that much drugs, you're the one doing all those drugstore robberies.

“How’d you guess?” He took the handcuffs off me. "You got any guns?" "No, they got the guns when they busted me."

"Okay." He reaches into his glove box and pulled out a .38 and a box of shells. He said,

"Go get my money."

"What about my old lady?"

"After I get my money, then you can have your old lady. I don't figure you're going anywhere while she's locked up."

"Man, this isn't a realistic situation. I need a partner. I need a vehicle."

"If I leave you here, can you get to a phone in about an hour?

Then let me check with somebody."

I call him an hour later, and he's got somebody else who also needs to make some money, and this guy can get a car for us. Do a job the next morning with this total stranger. The guy teed me off. He slapped a guy in the mouth with his pistol. "Come on, come on, man, let's get out of here." It was uncalled for, plus it's another charge. We got away from that, and I slapped him with my gun. Up till this time, I've done a lot of robberies, and I've hurt no one. At no point have I intended to hurt anyone. It was real simple. The stuff is in a safe. You've got to give it to me. If you don't give it to me, if you say no and you're adamant about it, I'm going to leave. These were open stores in the daytime. If I pull the trigger on this gun, I've got to go. It doesn't accomplish what I came here for. So the deal is just my head against your head, only thing is, I got this little equalizer here, this machine for convincing people.

I have to do two jobs to clear fifteen thousand dollars, because he wants my full bond, not the percentage. I took him the money the next day, an9. I said, "How about my oId lady?"
"It's time for you to go," he said. "The pharmacist from when the cop was shot identified your girlfriend. They want her to testify against you. She's a young girl. I figure she'll do it. There's no bond for her now, so you can't get her out."

Me and this guy I'd hooked up with did a few more little things, one of which was a Pizza Hut-a waste of time, nine hundred dollars on a Friday night. I hired a lawyer for my girlfriend, put some money in an account for her through the bondsman. I split.

From the robberies we just did, I got plenty of drugs and plenty of money. I've got this guy's girlfriend's car, her, and him. I figure I'll take my money down to Florida and see about getting out of the country. And I also decide now that nothing is happening, this is the time for me to do some serious drugs. I stay almost unconscious during the whole drive down.

At a mall, somewhere in North Florida, I had bought a new pair of jeans that didn't have any back pockets, so my wallet is on the dashboard of the car. I got a roll of bills in my front pocket. By this time, I'm not going anywhere without a gun, so I had a small pistol in my pocket as well. Back when I had been stuck in Florida for a couple of days when I got snitched on, I had wrecked the motorcycle, and got road burn on the top of my foot where the concrete had ground through my boot. Every time I put my shoes off and on, it's tearing the scab off. Even shot full of dope, it hurt when I put my boots on.

I went into a pharmacy in a little town on the Interstate, and picked up a small bottle of
Vaseline, and a roll of gauze, and some of those little white pads for a bandage. When I went up front to pay for it, the pharmacist called me to the back, "Sir, would you mind coming back here? She's doing inventory up there."

I'd been shooting Dilaudids, so I'm having trouble keeping out of the nod. I'm moving my head up and down to keep my eyes open. So I climb the three little steps up to the pharmacist's counter and push the half door open. I'm leaning against the post. The guy says, "That'll be $2.98." I went into my pocket, and the pistol was on top of the money. The jeans were just tight enough, and the truth of the matter is I didn't think about not pulling the gun out of my pocket. I took the gun out and put it in my left hand, and put my right hand back in my pocket to get the money. What brought me out of the nod was this big intake of breath from the pharmacist. I look up, and he's got his hands in the air. I forgot what I was doing and told him, "Give me the Class As and Twos and Threes." I threw down on him.

About halfway through while he's getting this stuff, this little girl, I guess it was his daughter, acts like I'm not even there, and she's just going to shoulder me out of the way and go about her business. I pushed her back with the gun, and he just freaked out, "Oh, God! Oh, my God!"

I didn't have control of the situation. That's what triggered me. All of a sudden in my head I said, "What am I doing here? If I want to do this, my ski mask is in the car. I have a green jumpsuit in the car. The guy I've been robbing with is in the car. I could do this right."

I never had people freak out on me before. I always had control with that pistol, with the voice, and eye contact. That was it. They lost it, and then I lost it. I didn't take anything.

"Excuse me, I think I'm in the wrong place." And I left. The police chased us two blocks. When we made the first turn, I got the guns out of the vehicle, which was the difference between life and a maximum of fifteen years. We'd left the girl in a hotel room. She takes the drugs and what money she has, and she's out of there. This guy knows too much about too many other robberies that he can tell on, and he doesn't know anything about this dumb move I just made. I'm dead and busted on this anyway. So I figure, let me cut him loose. I wrote a statement taking the whole rap, and got him out of there.

I tried twice to escape from the county jail while I was there.

Sprained an ankle running from the courtroom and going down four flights of stairs. The second time, we were cutting the bars, and the people in the cell next door told on us before we got the bars all the way out."
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Postby admin » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:34 am


Snake says he got his nickname, not because of the set of his eyes in his triangular face or his mesmerizing nonstop line of gab, but because of his pet, a huge python he's had since he was a boy. He took the reptile with him in his backpack when he ran away from home and an abusive father at the age of twelve. He claims the snake is so big now it must be fed whole pigs, but not very often. Snake has intricate tattoos on his body, some of them half-finished. Several of his front teeth are missing.

Snake is downright irresistible to women. At twenty-eight he's been married more than once and has four children by several different women. One of his ex-girlfriends shot him in the knee with his own .22 squirrel gun when he tried to throw her out of his house.

"I'm an artist. I draw real good. I never been to school for anything, but I been tattooing since I was fifteen." Snake's dream is to go to commercial art school. He plans to get a license to deal in exotic animals to pay his way. He came close to making this dream come true the last time he was out of prison, and was actually enrolled in a technical college. To pay his tuition and rent an apartment, he bought a bunch of snakes, a three-foot-long monitor lizard, iguanas, various parrots, and a pink cockatoo -- that said, "Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit!" over and over again when it was in trouble-from a guy who said he was selling his personal collection to make some fast cash for "a family emergency."

"That bird talked good. I mean real good. That son of a bitch could almost hold an intelligent conversation with you. I felt nervous with this bird, man." Snake said he figured to resell this menagerie and make a tidy profit. "The cockatoo alone was worth three thousand dollars."

It hadn't occurred to Snake, when he met the seller late at night in a bar and got the whole kit-and-kaboodle for less than half the original asking price, that the animals might be hot. They were the loot from a pet store robbery. The animals were confiscated eventually, and Snake was arrested.

He has a temper, and that has gotten Snake in trouble as well. "I was at a red light, and there were some black guys in the car next to me, I think it was two brothers. I was drunk, and one of them kept looking over at me. I said, 'What the hell you looking at, nigger?'

"'Fuck you,' he says.

"Jumped right out of my car, right in the car with them, and went to work on one of the guys. The guy driving went between two cars and sideswiped both of them. Cop pulled us over, and I'm still scrapping in the back seat.

"But like I said, I never did anything really bad. I just had that attitude, you know." In fact, Snake may be most dangerous when he is in prison. He tells this story about being pressured by another inmate to have sex. "I was a pretty strong little guy back then. I worked out a lot and got kind of bulky. I wasn't near as big as this nigger was. That motherfucker was so strong he could shoulder press 225 pounds twenty-five times. I caught him on the weight pile, and when he got up to about rep number twenty-three, and he was straining and everything, and he didn't lock his elbows -- boom! -- I took a little poker and stabbed him. I wanted him to snatch his head back, like you do when you hurl yourself. Then the weights would have come right down on top of his head and just splattered his skull, but it didn't happen that way. He had good reflexes, and he bent forward. The weight fell on his neck and broke his backbone. Now, he don't weigh half what he was lifting, because it put him in a wheelchair."

I met Snake when he was being held in a county jail, one of the most modern and sophisticated prisons ever built. The outside of the building looks like a modern version of a medieval fortress, all cast concrete. Inside, it is an eerily bright glass house. Bars are replaced by floor-to-ceiling multilayered plastic windows. The guards occupy central control rooms with 360-degree views of the prisoners' cells and common areas. They can see all of the inmates all of the time. But Snake is kept alone in confinement, because he has made a name for himself by dismantling the tamper-proof cells. "Here two weeks ago, they were trying to figure out how I got security screws out with my fingers when they had caulking behind them. I only had to get one screw out and the others were a breeze. I had a tool, and I tore that shit all apart. The sergeant up there was fucking with me. You fuck with me, and I'm going to fuck back. I got my pride. I can sit up in that motherfucking cell butt-ass naked for a week, and it don't bother me. I'm used to it now. If you ask these police in here who's the smartest inmate they ever seen, nine out of ten will say it's me."

The officers wouldn't go quite that far in characterizing Snake, but they did admit that he was very imaginative. Nobody knows what he'll do the next time he gets out of prison, not even Snake. "I don't know," he says. "I might get back out there and fuck up again. You can never tell. Even if I did get in school, about the only thing I could do with the education is to better myself in tattooing, 'cause no company is going to hire me with my record. When you got a long record, everything goes real hard against you. It's the same old sad song. You get out there and get in trouble again, or you sit back with these little nine-to-fivers, make minimum wage, and live like a bum for the rest of your life."


I was working as a security guard. God help them, I don't know why they done that stupid move. Wasn't paying but nothing over minimum wage. But, give me a break! I know how to do this. I ended up making sergeant.

I was working at the parking field where they bring vehicles off the boats from overseas and store them before they get sent to the dealerships all around the area. Being a sergeant, I had the rover deal. I'd ride around and punch a key in a clock here and there, all over, so they can keep track of where you been and when.

They had radio call-ins on the night shift every fifteen minutes. You got to repeat your unit number, and let them know you're there and awake. When the guy at the back gate come on with his number, you could hear his radio in the background with that jungle boogie. He's one of them old homeboys.

I heard it, and I was going to say something to him about it anyway, but as soon as I get to the front gate, the captain calls me up, "Nah, nah, nah this and nah, nah, nah that. Not supposed to have no radios." On and on. I let them bring radios on the night shift. It's boring to sit there in the dark. So now the captain says I've got to call a meeting and give them all hell.

About this time, this Ferrari come in there. You got your Toyotas, and you got your fucking Subarus, even the occasional Porsche, but you hardly ever see something like this here. Pinkertons got the damn Porsches in a small fenced-in area by themselves. Boy, getting in there is like trying to get into Fort Knox. I don't know why they didn't have that damn Ferrari in there.

I seen it, and I used the phone in the truck to call up this kid that 1 knew. 1said, "Listen here, 1want you to call my truck when you get into this little store that's right across the street from the lots here."

"All right."

He gets down there and calls me up. I get done with my key round, and I says to the other guards, "Listen here, I'm running to the store. Any of ya'll want anything, cup of coffee or something? I'll bring it back."

When I come back through the front gate, I had this kid in the back of the truck laying down. I called a special meeting about the radio playing all the way to the back dock. So 1dropped him off first, and come back and got the people on the front gate to take them to the meeting. Put an old Pinkerton guy on the front gate, and went out and told everybody about the radios being banned on the job.

While I'm doing this, the kid is getting in the Ferrari. The Ferrari is so low to the ground -- I done measured it -- I told the kid, "You don't have to stop at the guard arm or anything. You can drive right through, underneath that son of a bitch."

I get back up front and the Pinkerton, old dumbfounded guy, says, "I was drinking my coffee, and all of a sudden, ZOOM! I don't know what it was. But I didn't open the gate nor nothing. I seen taillights for a second."

"You been working too long. You just need a vacation."

"I didn't raise the gate. I don't know how he got around it."

"You been drinking? Go back to your post. Leave you here for five minutes, and all hell breaks loose."

The kid waited for me at the jetty. I had an old Camaro at the time. I said, "Okay, you get in my Camaro, and I'll drive the Ferrari, and you keep right on my ass -- but don't hit me. I'm going to sell this thing." I called somebody, and he told me he'd give me ten grand for that car. I said, "Stolen, though. Stolen."

"I don't give a damn if it's stolen. I'd give you a lot more if it had papers on it."

"Okay, cool." He was a big coke dealer like Scarface. Huge house, three or four yachts -- one for every weekend in the month. This guy had it made, and he was crooked as a broke-leg dog.

I steal some tags off some Porsches and switch them around. Me and the kid did that all day long. I took that thing out and opened it up on a deserted highway, and man! I think I got up to 140 miles an hour in that damn thing, and I had to shut her down. I was a cloud moving at full speed, a thunderstorm waiting to blow up. That night, we headed out to Ft. Lauderdale.

It was like two in the morning when we finally got there. I said, "I ain't going to wake this guy up at this hour." So we went out on the strip and picked us up some pussy. The kid told me he was only seventeen, but I said that was okay. I got him in the bars, no problem.

We picked up three chicks. We crammed all five of us in this little bitty two-seat car. 1got one of them on the console, one of them is sitting in his lap, and one of them was laying across me and had her feet out the passenger side window. She was driving. They had a hotel room there, and we were having fun. So I took two of them, and he took one of them. But the girl couldn't get him to do anything. She couldn't even get him to take his clothes off. I got these other two girls, and I'm having a blast. I hear her saying, "Come on, Joey." Finally, this third chick comes to me, but I'd about had enough by then, I was tired out. We got back in the car, and I said, "What's the matter with you? What's your problem, man? That chick was fine."

"I didn't feel like it."

"Bullshit, man. Ain't nobody don't feel like fucking a chick like that there. That's a fine bitch, man." And she was. They were all pretty.

So we get down to this guy's house. He's got one of them damn Cuban girlfriends. She's real pretty, but she don't speak hardly any English. "He gone Cuba."


"He go Cuba two hours ago."

"Two hours ago? Damn, I should have just come on. Did you get the money for the car?"

"What car? I do no business transaction. He take care all that."

"Oh, fuck. We done drove all the way down here for nothing." I wanted to get back to work, keep them from suspecting me. So we sat there a while, and then I said, "We're going to go hook back up with them girls, 'cause 1know where their hotel is. We're going to get back in there, and you're going to do something this time, or I'm going to come over there and beat your ass, take your pants off, and make you do it."

"Okay, okay."

We get over there. Me and the other two girls went out of the room. After about an hour of messing with him, the girl finally got him into doing something. Then, man, he started going like a rabbit. I think, "Cool." So I get into what I'm doing.

The next thing I knew, I hear, "You son of a bitch!" I look over, and he's done shit all over himself, and all over her. "Oh, my God!" He must have hit him a good one, and shit all over himself. It was the biggest mess. She got up. The two girls I was with are saying, "What the hell's wrong with him?"

We're lucky we got out of there with our damn asses still intact. We were outnumbered. I been shot three times by a chick, and I never hit one in my life. They can be real unpredictable.

After we got out of the hotel, I said, "What's your damn problem, man?"

"I don't know, man."

We been partying all night and into the next day, and it was getting late. I said, "Let's get heading home. I got to be at work tomorrow morning. I'll drive for a while and you sleep. When I start fading, I'll wake you up, and you can drive. We'll get back, hide this Ferrari somewhere, and try it again the next time I get some days off."

So we got to about Fort Myers or Fort Pierce or Fort Something, and I started getting sleepy. I weaved in the road a little bit. Nah, I'm not going to do this. So I put the car on cruise control right at sixty. I woke the kid up, gave him some coffee, turned the radio up, and sat there with him for a few minutes. "You good and awake?"

"Oh, yeah, I'm good and awake now."

"Okay, let's switch seats." We did that. "I got the cruise control on. Do not take it anything above sixty. Now do you understand?"

"No problem."

"I'm going to sleep."

I didn't get good asleep, I felt something, and my eyes snapped open. We're sliding sideways down the median.

"I FELL ASLEEP!" he screams at me.

"You dumb ass, get off the brake! Get off the brake!" He's steady on the brake. I'm trying to get the car back straightened out. "Get off the brake!" He's still pounding on the brake. Finally, I slapped the piss out of him, and he just curled up. I'm in the passenger seat trying to get the car to crawl back on the road, give it gas to get it straightened out. I got out of the median, and we're fishtailing in the middle of the road. I about got it under control. Damn back tire fishes off the asphalt, loses traction, and we go into a spin. The next thing I know -- BAM! -- we hit a tree. I went up to my shoulders through the windshield. I black out for a little bit.

I wake up, and this dumb little fuck is on the hood of the car with a crowbar stuck in between my neck and the windshield, trying to pry my head back through the hole in the glass. The impact split my head wide open. I said, "Okay, kid, okay. Hold on a minute! Get that shit off my head!"

"We got to get out of here, man. The police are going to be coming soon. We got to get out of here, man."

"Don't worry about it." The horn's going off. "Get down there and get hold of the fuse box. Snatch that motherfucker out of the damn firewall."

"Where's the fuse box, what's the fuse box?"

"Dummy, the thing's got all the little shit in it." He went down in there fucking around, and he finally got it out.

I got one of them big Rambo knives in my damn boot, so I use the handle to crack all the glass. Then I cut the clear plastic sandwiched in the middle of the glass to keep it from flying allover when it's broke, and pulled my head out. I didn't think I was hurt all that bad. I tied my hair back and braided it, put my hat on. With the hair and the hat, it pretty much held my head together, but I kept getting drops of blood coming down across my eyebrow.

This car had a phone in it. It had a fucking Alpine stereo system in it. I mean, it was jammed packed, loaded. I told the kid, "Okay, we got to get all the fingerprints off the car." We had just cleaned the car up a little earlier for the guy who was going to buy it, so there weren't no fingerprints on the outside. There weren't too many fingerprints on the inside, but we cleaned off the steering wheel, and we cleaned off the dash, the stereo, just went to work on it. I had a bottle of Armor-all, and it's a real oily based stuff, so I sprayed that everywhere.

I'm doing good when I'm sitting down, but when I stand up, I start to getting real dizzy. I said, "We got to get out of here now." We was on a long strip where there wasn't no lights, there wasn't no exits, there wasn't no nothing, just cars passing us. That's why we had so much time. It's pitch black outside now. We got back up on the road, and I said, "Hold on a minute, help me get my balance here. Stand right there." I hauled off and knocked the shit out of the kid. Motherfucker, he hit the ground. He says, "I was expecting that a long time ago."

"Now come on up here and help me get over to the road." We get up to the highway, and some guys picked us up in an old Chevy truck. He must have thought I didn't know what was going on. The kid started running his mouth about the car, "Oh, yeah, it was a Ferrari with a phone in it and this and that." Oh, shit.

"What's wrong with your friend there, man?" the guy says.

"He went through the windshield." Why don't he just tell him we stole the car on top of it, you know? He's flapping his jaws, and the guy eases the choke out on us. I watched him pull it out, but he didn't think I seen him. The pickup coughs and dies.

"Damn, there's something wrong with the truck. I got to pull over and see what's wrong with her." He pulls to the side, and he says, "I don't know what it could be."

"Thanks," I said, "we're going to try to get a ride on out of here." We walk on down the road a bit, and I said to this kid, "I saw him choke the engine down on purpose, you dummy. No shit, dummy. He's going to go call the police. We got to get out of here."

I watched. They turned the headlights off, but I seen the shadow of the truck go across the median. Shit, he's got a good nine miles before he can get to another exit that way, so we got a little time. About thirty minutes later, here come the same guys again. "We got the truck running. You still need a ride?"

"Yeah, sure." I'm getting in the damn truck, and I look in the back. There's plastic bags with a phone cord hanging out of it. I thought, "These fuckers just went back and ransacked the car. Good deal. They done got their fingerprints all over it. Hell, I'm in the clear now, I'm good to go."

They get us down to a Waffle House, and we go in and order us some coffee and everything. I said, "I got to look at my head." I got in the men's room and pulled that hat off, pulled my hair back, and 1was split all the way to the back of my head. I said, "God damn!" 1 could play around with my skull in there. Shit. "I got to get to the hospital, man. This motherfucker is worse than I thought it was."

"How we going to get out of here?" the kid says to me.

"Call your mom."

"Oh, man."

"Call your mom, man. I can't call my mom, you know. Call your mom, she'll come and get you, she'll come and get us. Tell her we had an accident in my dad's car."

I realized I had left my house key in the Ferrari. "Shit, if they trace that key, I'm in trouble." So when his mother got there, I said, "I left my house key in the car, and I got to get it. I called triple A. They might have come got the car already, but let's see." We rode down there to the next exit, and we didn't see the Ferrari.

We get back to town, and I had them drop me off to Baptist Hospital. 1 played the amnesia trick on them. "I don't know. I split my head open, and this guy dropped me off down here in the parking lot."

"Who are you?"

"Right now, I can't remember. But I'll remember later, 1promise." Amnesia patients are admitted automatically. So they took me in there and sewed my head up. I'd take the stitches out later myself. 1 just wanted them to sew my head up. I said, "Don't cut none of the hair. Just sew around it."

"We got to shave a little bit of it. How 'bout just little strips of hair."

"Okay. I feel like my hair is real important, maybe I'm a musician or something." I was giving them all kinds of lines of shit.

They put me in a ward on the second story. I got my clothes out, put them on, went out the window, and hauled ass. Got to work, and everything. Shit, I hadn't had no sleep in so damn long it was pitiful. "Man, you look like shit," the guy on the front gate says.

"Yeah, it was a wild weekend. I was partying. Hadn't had no sleep."

"You think you'll last through the shift?"

"Oh, yeah, shit yeah, sure."

"There was a Ferrari stolen on your shift before you went on your days off."

"You're shitting me. I didn't know we had one of them. Oh, yeah, that red number. That red Ferrari? They stole that?"

"Yeah, that one."

"God damn. Stolen?"

"Sometime on your shift. Better fill out a report on it."

"What do I say in the report? I didn't even know it was gone. I can write, 'Ferrari stolen on my shift.' " I said, "It had to be when I called that damn meeting the captain wanted, because the guy I left on the gate did say he saw something go by real fast. Since he didn't open the gate, I figured he had just fell asleep and was dreaming." That's what I did.

About three days later, they brung the car in. I eased back there and got my key out of the ashtray. Luckily, they didn't find that key. The car had been sitting at the impound station all fucked up.

I still kept my hat on. The guy said, "Damn, looks like somebody's head went through the windshield, and they had to cut him out."

"Then they caught him then," I said.

"Naw, they got away."

"How'd they cut him out, and they come to get away?" I was playing it good.

"Oh, he must have cut hisself out."

"That's a hell of a motherfucker then, boys."

"You ain't, shitting, to go through the windshield, and then cut yourself out." The hole was right in the middle of the windshield. I took the mirror out and everything when I went through.

About three weeks later, I hear they got the guys who stole the car. I call the kid, and I say, "Hey, Joey, man, they caught some kid and blamed him for stealing that car."

"Yeah, I know."

"A thirteen-year-old kid."

"Yeah, I know."

"How you know this before me?"

"That's me."

"What? You're seventeen. You told me."

"No, really I'm thirteen."

"You little son of a bitch. Thirteen? You better keep your fucking mouth shut. You don't know me, motherfucker." His mother told on him, because she come down there to pick us up.

I was on another security guard post on overtime by this point, a big car dealership in town. While I was guarding the place, I broke into the owner's office and stole his personal checkbook, then stole his company car. I'd cashed almost twenty thousand dollars worth of his checks before I got caught that day. All day long, that's all I did was go from one bank to another, cashing checks before they pressed it into the computer. He only had about two thousand dollars in his bank account. I was making money drops, too, so I wouldn't have a lot of cash on me if I did get busted. I was raking in some bucks. When I cashed that last check, I didn't have no money on me.

They busted me and took me down to the police station. They got me for grand auto theft and uttering a forgery. Then another detective comes in there, and he says, "You know Joseph Xavier O'Conner?"

"Joseph Xavier O'Conner?" I says. "No, I don't. Uh-uh."

"He knows you. And his mother does, too."

"They do? Did I put a tattoo on him?"

"No, you stole that car with him."

"What car?"

"That red Ferrari."

"I stole a damn Mercury Sable, man. I didn't steal no Ferrari. I don't want to hear no shit like that. That damn thing didn't go nearly as fast as a Ferrari, and didn't look nothing like a damn Ferrari, so 1 know you got something fucked up along the line. You got your cases wrong or something."

"Naw, buddy. You are the one."

"What do you mean?"

"Naw, we got you. We took a blood sample off the windshield."

"I'm A-positive. How many thousands of A-positive motherfuckers are there in this city? Give me a break, man. I'll take you to trial, and I'll beat you."

"Not with his mother's testimony, you won't. And not with his either."

"Oh, okay." Just screwed me over. I never done nothing with nobody else since that time. I got sent to prison, as you might expect.
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Postby admin » Sat Feb 20, 2016 5:35 am


He showed me his hands. They were smaller than one would expect on a man of his size. The palms he held out for my inspection were bright pink. The backs of his hands were a deep brown. The nails were very short PP the right hand cut down to the fingertips -- meticulously clean and manicured.

"Your fingers got to be so soft, so sensitive. You see my hands soft," Thomas said. "I don't have no calluses or rough spots on my hands. My hands just like a big ass. I keep them like that. I lift weights, but I still keep my hands like that, because this is my trademark."

Thomas spread his fingers, placed his palms ever so lightly on the table top, and closed his eyes as he moved his hands slowly in circles across the surface. "You can take a pin and mark the cards where your fingers are so sensitive you can feel that hole in it. You got to practice to make your fingers that sensitive. Feel things, rub your hands over things lightly. You got to teach yourself. You got to make yourself feel. Close your eyes and run your fingers lightly, lightly across a table top. Feel for little things."

Thomas is a professional gambler, although "gambler" seems a misnomer. When Thomas and his partner get in a game, they know they are going to win, because they are going to cheat. If they're playing craps, he and his partner have a pair of loaded dice in every color of the rainbow. No matter what's being played, they carry a pair that Thomas can switch into the game, in the dim light and fevered excitement, to make his point -- or to crap out, depending on his partner's bet. Even though it may look like the pack of cards he's dealing to you were just broken out of a sealed pack, they have been carefully sanded or pricked or coded in some obscure manner, so that Thomas will know exactly what's in your hand.

"That's the hustle, that's my guarantee. If I got one dollar, and you got fifteen dollars, I can take my dollar and a deck of cards and say, 'Come on. Let's playa game.' When it's all over, you ain't got a penny, 'cause I got the advantage. You got to have the advantage."

Thomas learned his basic skills in prison as a young man. Then he had the luck to meet a highly skilled and well-known craps mechanic who took Thomas under his wing. "I had a good teacher, I got to admit," Thomas told me. "I mean he made me go through hours and hours of training. He taught me everything. But he was so well known from place to place that he had to have somebody to 'drive the car.' He was 'the car.' I was 'the driver.' " Because of his reputation, Thomas's partner would be watched too. closely by the other players. The money goes back into the suckers' pockets when they see him coming, so he couldn't be the front man on the hustle, even though his attraction as a big-time gambler with a lot of cash is an indispensable draw. Thomas played Terrible T., the humorous sidekick, the hulking dumb ass, the ultimate Everyman sucker anybody could beat. The teacher was the car. Thomas was the driver.

The loaded dice and marked cards, the sleight of hand switching, the fingers smooth as a baby's bottom wouldn't mean much without the act. "In the chain gang, you find everything and everybody. When I run into a con man, I can't run the game that I done heard him tell me about, but what he have told me is that in order to be a good con man, you got to be an actor. You got to convince a person. So in the hustle game, you got to be an actor. You got to convince people that you dumb, stupid. I even ask stupid questions about the craps game, 'Hey, man, how'd you buy eight, man?'

"'You can't buy eight. You can't make no money on eight. Eight is a straight number, period.' Shoot twenty dollars. I got the best shot. All the suckers around me are saying, 'Bet you don't make it, bet you don't make it,' and I can't lose."

The smooth act .s also an essential ingredient in the other half of Thomas's profession. His insurance if he loses all his money is his girls. Thomas is a pimp with a string of teenage whores. The only way he can keep them working for him on the street is to convince each one of the women that he is in love with her, and that she is in love with him, no matter what he asks her to do to prove her love. Thomas calls this the Love Thing. Of course, Thomas knows better than to fall in love with a whore, even when she has his children.

He is stoic on the subject of taking advantage of women. Prostitution is just a reality of the streets. When he was in prison, to help him survive, his own sister brought him money that she earned selling herself to men. "My mama used to always tell me, 'Son, you got to think about the fact that you got a sister and you got a mama and they a woman. Why do you do that?' I got to survive, you know? If a woman is foolish enough to go out there and sell her body and give it to a man, I'm not going to turn it down. White, black, yellow, or green, I'm not going to turn it down."

The final element among Thomas's survival skills is violence. People don't like losing money. If he's caught cheating, Thomas could very quickly find himself dead or, at best, fighting his way out of a crowd. There are other criminals who know that there is money to be made by holding up a big game and jacking all the players, including Thomas. Prostitution demands constant surveillance of turf and protection of his product from predatory johns. "You see, you build your reputation, and people don't just come at you any kind of way, because they know you're dangerous. I'd done been in a shoot-out before, I had done pistol-whipped dudes before about my sister. I had done pistol-whipped dudes about my woman. I was considered one of them little small-time gangsters."


I was twenty-one when I got out of prison the first time. I got a job that I kept for three years. Mostly, I was trying to please my mother. She had stopped drinking, cold turkey, by herself. The way she explained it to me, she kept looking back on what it was doing to her and her children. The job I had paid $3.35 an hour.

I tried to be a workaholic, but prison had done put so many ideas up here in my head. You run into millionaires, bank robbers, murderers, rapists, con artists. I run into people who know the hustle game inside and out. That was my survival in the joint. Shooting craps, skinning, all kinds of gambling. Where I come in is how to cheat. I learned how to cheat in the joint. I learned how to take a brand new pack of cards, mark them, put them back in the box, and seal the box without anybody knowing it. As long as you don't break that seal on the top, don't anybody know the cards are marked. I learned how to take a pair of dice down to the vocational training machine shop and load them dice up. Boom. Don't nobody know what they is, but you and your partner.

I'm making $125 a week. I got a car. I stayed at home with mama for four or five months, but now I'm renting a room for forty dollars a week. I want to buy pretty clothes. A pair of pants going to cost me thirty dollars. I got to buy food. I ain't got no kitchen, so every day I got to eat out. Then on the weekend, I want to party. That $125 ain't going to make it.

I run into a crap mechanic who taught me everything from A to Z. He taught me how to put dices in my hand and switch them. I'd go on the road with him. Palatka, Jacksonville, Elkton, Crescent City, Stark, all little towns where they grow potatoes and vegetables. Ain't nothing there but farm workers, digging in the ground, cutting cabbages. They living in them little houses. So when the weekend come, they ain't got nothing to do but drink and gamble:

There's a sucker born every day. Me and my partner hit these little towns every week. I could take my $125-check, work from Friday all the way up to Saturday morning, and by then I could turn it into one thousand dollars, because of everything that I know how to do. Pretty soon, I didn't go back to my job. I went to hustling full time. That and playing the girls -- pimping, whatever you want to call it. I don't call it pimping. I call it management.

I had a sixteen-year-old, my kid's mother was a fifteen-year-old, and I had another chick on the side who was a sixteen-year-old. I turned them out to be prostitutes, all of them. So if I got broke, they made sure I don't stay broke. I put them out there on the street at a young age. You know how the mothers is, "Oh, you got my daughter out there doing this, that, and the other things." I didn't care. I had a sister that was fifteen when she was out there on the streets, and she was coming to jail, bringing me money, so I didn't cry. That's the life. When you out there in the streets, that's the game of life. That's the jungle. That's the chance, right there. When you're out in them streets, trying to take care of yourself, you better know how to take care of yourself. 'Cause mama ain't going to be there all the time to feed you, bathe you, clothe you. My mama wasn't there, but I learned to take care of myself. Then I took the tools that I learned inside prison and applied them on the streets.

I went big time: clothes, jewelry, cars. Oh, man, it was good, you know? The girls do get jealous. They don't want to see you with another woman, even if it's another woman making money. That Love Thing come into it. They fall in love. But, see, I was taught that you don't fall in love with a 'ho. You love them, but you don't love them. See? If you tell a 'ho that you love her, then she got you. You ain't got her no more, 'cause she's going to turn it against you.

Gambling and having a 'ho is probably one of the safest games. As long as you don't have three or four white girls, taking them across county lines, then you ain't got to worry about that pandering or that white slaver charge. Just as long as you got one of them home girls that's right there staying with you, you be okay. Far as the police know, that's my woman.

Me and my partner, we riding up and down the street in a Fleetwood Brougham. I mean tinted windows, a clean machine. We done went to a skin game where we had to play square. What we mean play square is play the game straight, don't cheat. We go in there, and we drop four or five hundred dollars apiece. Then we down to our last fifty. We got to build another bankroll. We know we got to put our thing out. We got to figure where we going to go and put down some crooked dice. But we got all these little towns to go to. All we got to do is put gas in the car. We go to one town after another.

We play the Mexican game. Say I got fifty dollars. We go buy some phony money at the dime store. Then we go to the bank and get a bank wrapper and twenty-five one-dollar bills. Take the play money and put it way in the middle of the one-dollar bills, put the twenty on top, and a five on the bottom. Hey, we're coming to town in a Fleetwood Brougham, all we got to do is sit the money on the dashboard. When we come by, people saying, "Hey, that's a Fleetwood Bomb, man. Hey, it's Terrible T., man." That's what they call me. "Hey, Terrible T., man, put it down, put it down."

I roll down that tinted glass, they look in that window, all they see is a fat bankroll. They don't know it's a bunch of ones and play money. They used to seeing us come in there with twelve hundred dollars, big old rolls of real money. Shoot twenty, shoot fifty. So when they see that bank wrapper around it like that, they think we done went to the bank and drawed out one thousand dollars. With that little Mexican bankroll up there, they think, "Hey, there it is. That's a Fleetwood there with serious money on the dash. They come to gamble."

There might be a third man who come in with us from that town. Say we go to Palatka, and you from Palatka. You know us, and you know we crap mechanics. So when you see us, you say, "Man, I'm doing bad, man. I need some paper, man. Let me hook up with ya'll. I'll take you to one of the spots, man. We can clean up, make about fifteen hundred dollars playing."

You got what you call "the car" and "the driver." My partner is better than me at switching the dice, but they may know he's so sharp, so they ain't going to fade him when he go to shoot. Every time he go to shoot the dice, they going to be watching. Here it is a young jitterbug like me, I probably don't know nothing. He's the car, and I'm the driver.

My partner, he in the back, and he going to cover all bets, all bets, because he know that he got somebody who is capable of doing what needs to be done. When he put his money on the line, he ain't worried, 'cause he don't supposed to be worried. I'm supposed to know what to do.

I grab the dice. They don't think a little jit like me is going to switch. I put some of our dice in there where I can have me some good times. Make two or three numbers. Switch the dice over again, go out, let somebody else shoot.

Say I'm going to play one hundred dollars, my partner going to play two hundred dollars, because he going to cover his side bets. I'm the shooter. The third man, which is you, you going to be the one to "fade me" and to make sure that nobody else don't fade me but you. That way if I slip, or my hand get sweaty and the dice drop, you can cover up for me. I can give you the dice, and you might know how to switch, put those dice in there.

When you get to the crap game you got to have three or four sets of dice. In the car, we got a pair for every color dice made. We got a pair for the red, a pair for the green, a pair for the white. They even started making them in black and brown. All of ours is crooked. So if somebody just shot the white, I might want to grab the green. You, my fade man, know what to do, and we switch over. Can't lose.

You can't get nervous. I done got nervous plenty of times in a crap game and dropped the dice. My partner covered for me. But the squares be nervous, too, man. They got their money in they hand, and they shaking, 'cause they can't believe they done won this much money. They feel so lucky, they just trembling.

But a mechanic got to be cool all the time. I got to be an actor. I say to my partner, "Hey, man, you made all this money, man. Look at you. What's wrong with you? Bet some of that money, man." I got to be talking shit, talking trash. "Throw me another hundred, man. That's four hundred dollars I owe you, man. I know you ain't worried about it." They know he's my partner, but they still figure I'm borrowing money. All the while me and my partner are cleaning up.

When you go to the skin game, that's the magic again. The skin game is probably the most dangerous card game. You have to be good with your fingers. You take a deck of cards and some sandpaper. Sandpaper go by the numbers. You got the real rough kind, that's about 800. Then you got the real fine, smooth kind they use for jewels that's about number 400. You take about fifteen cards out of the deck, and rough up the side of them with the sandpaper. Then you take the fine sandpaper and smooth it out and edge it off. You put that deck back together and back in the box.

When you touch a deck of cards, you can't be fumbling with them. You can't normal shuffle in the skin game, it's illegal. People's eyes so good, they see a good card and they count to know where it's at, so you can't shuffle. You do it like this here: You deal the deck out in piles and then put the piles back together .. You got to know what you're doing to set up the cards in that deck. The cards go in a box like they use for blackjack in the casino where you pull them out one at a time. I'm going to be across from the dealer and the principal. He tells me to cut the cards and I got to do it all in that one time. I can't be fumbling with the cards. My partner is down there at the end of the table. We know what card we going to cut and he's already got one. Say we're going to cut deuces. He will have already scooped a deuce. When I cut the cards, the deuce in the deck got to go to him, and it's got to be his last card to come out of that box. If there's ten players around that table, my partner going to bid all ten players, every dime he can bet. You got peoples who can bet three, four, five hundred dollars on one card, one card. Pile of money on that one card 'cause they feel lucky. Card is coming out of the box. Fifty more dollars. Flip a card, fifty more. Flip a card, fifty more. Flip a card, fifty more, and fifty on top of that. My partner will eat up every bet, because he's got a deuce, and he know when I cut that deck, I got him another one. It don't make no difference that I done fell out of the game. So what if I lost two hundred dollars doing the deal to five or six players? My partner is going to win eight hundred dollars. Then he going to throw me a hundred, so I can bet the next deal. Cut the cards again. Might be a different card this time, might be a ten. You change decks every deal, and the decks are all fixed different, so people can't say there's something wrong with the cards.

He scoops the ten. He's already got it. He'll pick any ten he want before the cards go in the box. Anybody can scoop. He don't care how much the cards run around that table. When I cut, he know that the card going to come right to him.

It takes a trained eye to take the card, hold it up, and see what's wrong with it. It's just a little bit thinner than all the rest of them, and the edge is beveled just a little bit.

There's two things you can't have. You can't have the edges roughed up where they sticky, where a card is hard to pull. If you fumble with the cards and they spill, and you do it again, somebody going to get suspicious. "Why you keep doing the cards like that?" Second, you can't leave scratches on the top of the card. That's why you use that fine sandpaper, and you work it ever so lightly, so lightly.

In a skin house, if the police bust in, everybody got a case, 'cause that gambling is a felony gambling. You could shoot craps on the street, the police bust you, and you might pay one hundred dollars fine. But they come in that skin house and find fifteen thousand dollars, all that money counts. You got a third-degree felony. It's a whole different thing.

You can't just go to a skin game. You knock on the door, and they say, "Well, who is it?" You give them a name. You got to be known. Somebody in that room got to know you. If I'm from out of town, I got to get somebody from that town to take me to that game. When we walk in there, he got to introduce us as players. "Hey, man, I know these peoples. These peoples is cool, man, and it's new money." That's the only way to play, 'cause I done seen peoples come to a skin game, and the winning get so thick -- Bam! -- they the jack man. Throw down on everybody and take the money. I been in a lot of skin games got jacked. You don't want to give it up -- lose your teeth. Money you can always get. That's the way it is. That's the chance. You got peoples sitting right there at the table with pistols on them, so you not smooth enough with the cards, and they get hip -- Pow! I seen people get shot right at the table for being slick.

You got dope dealers, contractors, pimps, straight-out hustlers around that table. Dope dealer can lose four or five grand, it ain't going to bother him. You might find some square come in there and get shit-Iucky. He going to beat you if you have to play it straight. You walk in a game, they might pick me for a sucker. Me and my partner, we come in a game, sit there and watch a deal. Watch the man in the two seat who deal the cards. Look around the bow and see who might be scooping. Watch the man putting them in the box.

You got to act while you doing this. If another hustler in the game, he going to be putting on an act, too. Most people identify theyselves from the way they dress, the jewelry they have on. A trademark I had was my left hand. I let the fingernails grow and put nail hardener on them. I used to wear a diamond ring on my pinky. That's the identification of a player, a pimp. This right hand, the fingernails stay down to the nub, 'cause I got to use this hand for the dice, I got to use this hand to feel the cards. 0 fingernails or nothing. If I go to a city, up with the big boys, they look at my left hand, they might look at the way I'm dressed, the clothes I got on, the type of shoes, the type of hair -- the same way a 'ho identify a person -- they say to me, "What's up, player? What's your name?"

So when I go to a game, I have to look at the signs. Might be a pimp got a hustle game like me. It ain't just his 'hos. A pimp losing that money, he knows something, too. There's crap mechanics better than other crap mechanics. There's somebody. better than me. I'm better than somebody, but there's always somebody better than you are.

I done got suckered before. It ain't no secret. That's part of the game. Some people so good with they hands and they fingers, I can't spot them. See, I'm scared to play poker on the street, because it's so dangerous. If you can't spot a person dealing sec.onds, then you caught. He can have an ace up there on the deck, deal to all five players, and still leave that ace up there when it's time for him to get it.

Me and my partner were down on our luck, and a dude come from Atlanta, Georgia. He had a Longines watch on and gold rings, and he had one girl. But he didn't look like the pimp Lype.He was the gambling type. He got in our skin game, and lost about three hundred dollars. Then we started a crap game. I put some weights down on him that throw five-deuce, and nothing but five-deuce. That's seven out. It can't make no number. You catch a number, the next time you throw the dice, five-deuce -- out. Five-deuce every other roll.

This dude got smart, took a straight pair and mixed it with the crooked pair, one dice from each pair together. Then he's hitting eight every other roll. He got slick on us. There's this whole crowd of people, 'cause we're playing in a park, man. He's betting two hundred dollars. Ain't nobody throwing the dice but him, and he's hitting. People's just jumping on. He done won eight hundred dollars off us.

Due to the fact that me and my partner was putting everything down to cover the bets and the dice, the man stepped to it. He said, "Man, look, let me tell you something. Ya'll got me in the skin game. I didn't figure the jit out right off."

"Hey," I said, "I ain't no jit. I'm twenty-four years old."

"Hey, I don't mean no harm, but you're a sharp little cat, man."

"Yeah, I learned everything from my partner here."

"I never would have known what was going on, if that card hadn't split." When people get mad, they slam the cards down, and if they been sanded, the edge is going to split. "But when I come to the crap game, I seen ya'll putting those weights down on me. I wasn't going to let you get me with that." The man went to his car, opened his trunk, and pulled out all kinds of crooked dice.

"Oh, man," I said.

"I just won fifteen thousand dollars in Atlanta, man," he said, "that same way, mixing the dice up."

"Man, you playing a good confidence game then, 'cause I could have swore you was a square." His old lady, she was so real and gangsta. Every time he was gambling, she was standing behind him with a pistol. So if anybody had got hot, and looked like they were going to threaten him, she was going to shoot them.

This con had a Deuce and a Quarter, so we said, "We going to take you to one of our spots, man. We going to set these dudes up. They know us, so we can't put nothing down on them. They see your gold watch and everything, they going to jump on you." So we behind an old abandoned building on the steps, shooting craps. While we was shooting, his woman is standing behind all of us with a big old .38. That's living.

If I have to go to a game and play straight, maybe lose all my money, then I go to one of my 'hos. "What's up, baby? Hey, I done lost all my money." I might be mad. Ain't no smile on my face. "I lost all my money. The night's still young. It's only one o'clock in the morning, you know what I'm saying? I got to have some paper. You got to get stepping."

She got to go out there and step. 'Course, they don't want to go out there and do it. They're young girls, of course they don't want to do it. They don't want nobody jumping up and down in their body. But it's the Love Thing. There been plenty of times when I lost so much money, and ain't paid the rent, stuck. I done bought a new car and ain't paid my car note for the last week and a half while I been on the road. I can depend on my women, "Babe, go out there and get me about 150 dollar bills. I can do with that. I can make something out of that."

I can turn that into five hundred dollars. Right there in my town, there might be two or three crap games. Go from crap game to crap game. Every crap game ain't going to let me do my magic. You got to pick you a wino, somebody can't see. The best time is at night. People like to shoot crap at night. Catch them with the dim, and they got to strain. You got five or six players down there with their knees and legs and arms in the way, they can't see nothing what you doing. All they watching is that money and the dice. See, the hand is quicker than the eye. When that hand turn over, all they watching is the wall, and what the numbers is going to do. They ain't watching what the hand is doing.

Then when my son was born, his mama she ran off across the country to the Northwest. I had to go up there and get her. She said, "I don't want to go on the streets no more."

I tricked her back, telling her, "Okay, you don't got to do that. Hey, I'm going to get a job and everything." So when I came back, 1 went to selling pot and cocaine. After about a year, the money got bigger. I'm driving big rent-a-cars. I got gold. I'm wearing three piece suits. I mean, money is coming from everywhere. It's the high life now. I'm splurging. When the weekend come, I might start on Thursday partying. I had so many womens and everything that my old lady and me start arguing, so 1moved into a motel. 1started selling dope out of a motel. Big mistake. Big mistake. One of the biggest mistakes to ever do is sell dope out of a motel. Selling powdered cocaine, you got junkies running all during the night shooting cocaine in they arm. Running into plenty of white girls that love the freaking. 1 got set up by a white girl, so I went to jail. But I bonded right out. The bond is twenty-five hundred dollars. Hey, man, I got that money. My old lady I still had her staying in the crib. I had her selling dope. I had an aunt who would jack up the property for the bond as long as I had the money.

My mama told me, "Son, you moving too fast. If you think people don't know what you're doing, you crazy. You should have stayed in jail for a week or so to make them think that you ain't got no kind of money like that there, 'cause the next time they come at you, they going to come at you where you ain't going to be able to move." She said it right.

Every dope man had a section of town. In the big city, if you on somebody's turf, you get hot, you get killed. This is a small town, but you still got your own turf, your own customers. Where I was selling out of the motel was the 'ho stroll, 'hos all up and down it, all night long. That's where the money come in. See, once that night time come, they go out and trick, and every time they turn a trick, Boom! Boom! Boom! -- I can make five or six hundred dollars in three hours with those 'hos shooting up. I got my girls working out of a motel room way up the North end of the stroll, and I'm in a motel room on the other end. When they get done working, I just have them come on down to me.

The police see I'm moving up, now. They had used a prostitute to set me up. She come to the motel room, and it was a homosexual in the room at the time, copping, and she was wired up. I had done tricked with the prostitute a couple of days earlier, and I thought she was coming to trick again, so I felt kind of funny when she say, "No, I ain't got time," and ran out the door. I saw her jump in a car. I didn't know it was the police. They didn't come and get me right away.

What happened was, about a week later, they come. Mama done told me I should have stayed in jail. I got a girl in the room. She a prostitute, but she used to be one of my girls. We getting high. I ain't got no clothes on, nothing but my underwears. We getting high. I'm fixing to freak the thing. I got a bottle of E&J Brandy. I had workers out there selling for me, too, like my fifteen-year-old brother. So I got a pound of reefer, I'm cutting up reefer. Got newspaper all over the bed, cutting up reefer, cutting up cocaine, bagging it up. I done bagged up a quarter pound of reefer, and there's one thousand dollars of cocaine allover the bed.

I see a shadow through the window. I figure I'm fixing to get jacked. I ain't never get jacked.

When I see those shadows going across the window, I go to the door. I'm telling myself that I'm going to take the door and slam it into them to catch them off guard while they trying to listen. I figure, "Hey, this is some homeboy. It's got to be somebody who really know me. Because ain't just anybody going to come and jack me." I ain't too worried about getting shot or nothing like this here.

I jerk open the door. And it's the police.

"AaaahhAAAAAAHHH!" I holler. I got cocaine all in my hands. "AAAAAHHHH!" I jumped in their arms, and they went to rassle me. Ain't got nothing on but my drawers. They went to tussling with me. I went to stuffing cocaine in my mouth. I don't even know why I'm stuffing cocaine in my mouth. I got one thousand dollars worth of it in there in the bed. I can't eat enough of it. The cocaine in my hands was in aluminum foil and everything, and I'm chewing it up. I was a little too strong for them, so they couldn't catch me at first. The girl, she's trying to take the cocaine and throw it up under the bed, run in the bathroom and flush it. But there's so much of it, she can't do nothing. They come from all around the building. They had set me up good.

Took us both to jail. MyoId lady and my other girls is waiting up at the other end of the stroll. You know they going to be pissed, 'cause I done got busted with another Goddog old 'ho.

They got us up there questioning us. I told them, "Look here, she ain't got nothing to do with it." I said, "I brought her there to trick, man. It's as simple as that. She ain't my woman or nothing like that there. 1was just fixing to trick with her -- you know you caught me in my underwear." So they gave her a break, and let her out of the thing.

They put a ninety thousand dollars bond on me. I said, "Lord, who did I kill? The President?" My mama said, "I told you. They know you can get out. They going to make sure you don't get out this time."

All my dope done got busted. What dope I had left I told my mama to give to a friend I thought 1could trust to go out and sell the dope, and give me some money for my case. He sold my dope, and he ain't given narry a dime. Half an ounce. So here I am stuck. I'm broke. That's it, money gone. Ain't got nobody out there going to do nothing for me, but my girls. They keep money in the jailhouse, you know what I'm saying? The judge and the prosecutor stuck it to me, man. That was the second time I went to prison.
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