In My Own Defense
by Ace Toscano
"I. Didn't. Do. Any. Thing. Wrong!"
The way they're acting, you'd think I was a fuckin' criminal or something.
I mean, if you want to blame somebody, blame the mambo - forgive me, I guess it would be more respectful to say "Spanish dude". Anyway, this mambo on roller blades came up to me a few months back at the park where I normally do my walking, called me a miserable old fuck, and claimed I didn't get out of his girlfriend's way fast enough when she came skating by me. Forget that his girlfriend couldn't skate a lick; she rolls around with her arms flailing like Helen Keller looking for her car keys. If the path at the park had been as wide as I-95, she still wouldn't have had enough room to get by me. So, I tell Mr. Mambo, "Fuck you and your fuckin' girlfriend," after which he informs me that if I don't get out of his way next time he comes around he's going to knock me on my fuckin' ass. Well, considering the guy had me by at least a hundred pounds and 40 years, I don't think it was the least bit unreasonable for me to go online that very day and buy for my protection a heat treated Smith and Wesson collapsible 21 inch baton. I mean, a bona fide threat had been made upon my person by a certifiably hot-headed spick, I mean mambo, I mean Spanish dude. What was I supposed to do, roll over and play muerto? Anyway, I've felt a hell of a lot safer since I started packin' my heat treated S&W skull buster.
Besides, it isn't like the skater's the only asshole I've had to deal with - the park is a haven for all kinds of creeps and losers. Like the homeless people who spend their nights sleeping on picnic tables and benches and wake up hungry and feeling like the people walking through the park owe them some kind of breakfast. Yeah, sure. "Get lost," is how I usually respond which isn't exactly what they want to hear. And, the dogs. Their dumb-assed owners, openly disrespect all the park rules about keeping their dogs under control, letting their mutts prance around unleashed whenever and wherever they like. It isn't hard to envision several scenarios which end up with me wielding my baton and bashing both bowwow and owner.
And, just because several months went by without me once feeling the necessity to deploy my heat treated baton, I wasn't about to fall into the trap of thinking the threats had disappeared. I stayed on my toes, always on the lookout for fat spicks, angry vagrants and attack Chihuahuas.
Then, Tropical Storm Debbie came roaring through, dumping 19 inches of rain on us and, in the process, inundating the walking trail and turning the park into an enormous fuckin' lake. Three months later, it's still under water and my best guess is that it will stay that way, probably 'til doomsday.
To keep up my walking regimen, I've had to improvise and find new stomping grounds which is why, as I tried to explain to Pasco's finest, I just happened to be walking up Little Road at 7:24 this morning.
The weatherman had warned it was going to be a hot one, and muggy, but I knew that at that hour the sun was still low in the sky, the air was relatively cool, and with woods, fences and pastures edging the east side of the road, most of my trek would be in the shade. This sojourn along Little Road was just one of several enjoyable walks I've discovered outside the park since the flooding. Walking along roads you have previously only covered by car offers you a totally new perspective on a neighborhood and brings to your attention things you might never have noticed if you drove by a million times.
Though I've never encountered anyone the least bit threatening during my Little Road walk, I never let my guard down. Meaning, I keep the stick handy, just in case. This morning, it was a damned good thing I had.
As usual, I left my car in the supermarket lot on the corner of Little Road and Hudson Avenue. Then, I made my way to the sidewalk by stomping through the shrubbery surrounding Wendy's. From there, I headed south. It's a fairly new sidewalk, uniform in width all the way to Hwy 52, with narrow strips of grass on either side. No one - not the state, the county or the town - was breaking their ass to maintain it which is why it looked like a rats nest of cans, bottles, fast food boxes and wrappers and other stuff thrown from passing cars. Several times, I made up my mine to come back with a trash bag and a pick-up tool so I could clean the mess up and make things beautiful. Unfortunately, it wasn't a thought I held onto very long and, by the time I got back to my car, I had forgotten all about it.
Heading south, sparse Sunday morning traffic coming toward me on my right, I passed a series of familiar landmarks on my left. First, was a drainage pond, shielded from view by a tall hedge and a white plastic fence behind it. I figured the pond would be holding water after the recent rains but I wasn't curious enough to find a vantage point that would give me a view. So, I walked on. Next was the entrance road to a housing development called "The Highlands." Sticking the word "Highlands" was a common ploy among developers. It usually meant the place was prone to flooding. Past the entrance road was a yellow concrete wall meant, I suppose, to shield the development from the drone of passing traffic. I wondered how that was working for them.
Beyond the wall was a patch of farmland encircled by an old post fence topped by a single strand of electrified wire. Driving by, I had never noticed the two horses, one a bay, the other a pinto, that grazed on this land and every time I passed on foot I marveled again at their presence in such an unlikely location. I mean, this wasn't the city, but it wasn't what I'd call country either. The pasture, a valuable piece of real estate considering all the recent development in the area, fronted the road for about a hundred and fifty yards. I figured you could fit a grocery store, a bank, a couple fast food joints, a dollar store and ample parking on the lot with no problem.
Next, came a section of woods and brush that served as a repository for a generous quantity of previously mentioned debris. In the midst of it was a path that led into the woods and, although I had never seen anyone use it, I thought it very possibly might lead to a camp used by homeless people. These lowlifes were all over this section of the county and I've often found them living in areas offering far less concealment. For safety, whenever I passed this stretch, I would pull my baton from its sheath and keep it in hand.
When I reached the intersection with Fred Street - the adjacent property was, most likely, once owned by a guy named Fred - I felt secure enough to holster my baton. South of Fred, the walkway passes a thin stand of trees that partly obscure a small four-building apartment complex, each building containing an upstairs and a downstairs apartment. At this point, Little Road curves to the right bringing into view the traffic light where Fivay Road forks to the west and beyond that the light on 52. As usual, I stopped here to check the time and, confirming that I'd already been walking a full fifteen minutes, I reversed course, and headed back to the car. A half hour's walk is what I usually shoot for.
It's not that I love walking, you see. I don't. I walk because of the diabetes. Well, not the diabetes, really, but because of the endocrinologist who monitors my diabetes. She wasn't very impressed when I told her one day that I'd been pumping iron for over ten years. Walk, walk, walk. Every day, she said, and, since she pretty much knows what she's talking about, that's what I've been doing.
On the return trip, moving with the northbound traffic, I went back across Fred toward the thicket which was, now, on my right. I had come to know intimately every piece of trash along the way; nothing seemed out of place, so, I continued on. I always slow down when I come to the pine cones. I mean, these suckers aren't your average pine cones. They are huge, about as big as a loaf of bread. They are by far the biggest pine cones I've laid eyes on, which is saying something considering I moved here from northwest Montana.
I was marveling at those giant cones when, twenty feet in front of me, the first guy stumbled out of the brush and stopped on the sidewalk. He didn't speak, just raised his arms and held them out wide. I could tell he was intent on not letting me get past him. A quick glance over my shoulder revealed that no cars were coming. Crap. That's when, behind me, a second man scrambled out of the woods. Your wallet, he growled, trying to intimidate me with his tone of voice. It didn't work. The first man, apparently content to block my way, was holding his ground. The second man, a bearded, greasy looking mess who smelled like a piss bucket, started towards me with raised fists. I darted quickly to my right and extended the baton with a flick of my wrist. I had never used it before but I had done a lot of practicing along with training videos I'd found on the internet. I stared at the side of his head, as I drew back the baton. He fell for the ploy and brought his hands up to protect the sides of his head. That's when I struck him on the side of the knee. He went down hard and fast. For good measure, I gave him another whack. This one hit his shoulder and produced a cracking sound which, I learned later, was his clavicle snapping. His partner offered less resistance. As I prepared to take a swing at him, he instinctively tried to protect his knees with his arms. The result - a shattered his elbow. I was preparing to deliver the coup de grace when, behind me, a car door slammed. Finally, some help. "They're trying to mug me," I shouted. "Call 911." That's when the driver wrapped his arms around me, pinning my arms to my side. "What the fuck are you doing? These guys are mugging me."
C'mon, give me a hand here, said the driver to assailant number one. Christ, I thought, this guy isn't my savior, he's another dirt bag. With his arms wrapped around me, there wasn't much I could do. I lifted my foot and came down on his instep as hard as I could. His grip loosened a little and he growled but he still had me. I stomped down again, as hard as I could, and this time managed to pull free. Before he knew what happened, I let the baton fly, connecting with the side of his head. He went down, flat and unconscious. Number one was crying by then, Please, Mister, don't hurt me. "Get down on the ground," I ordered, "and shut up." He complied. I saw no reason to strike again, though I stood poised and ready to whack him one alongside his head if he tried anything funny.
One of the southbound drivers must have seen what was going on because I didn't even have a chance to dial my cell phone before a sheriff's car pulled up. Then another. And another.
While I was explaining to one of the officers, Deputy Daniel "I'm-An-Asshole" Borman, for the third time how my attackers came out of the woods, one in front, one in back, another deputy came wading out of the brush carrying an orange nylon backpack and an old pink blanket, suitable for a little girl, a dirty little girl. The deputy looked at me and asked, Are these yours? That's when I realized that I might be in for some trouble.
They kept me secluded at headquarters. I didn't ask for a phone call - I had no one to call. Besides, Detective Sergeant Montgomery, who apparently had caught my case, swore I wasn't a suspect, though I had a distinct feeling that he wasn't being totally up front with me. It seems, he told me, the guy whose head I cracked, the guy with the car who grabbed me from behind, might not make it. Brain injuries. And, according to his wife, he was just a school teacher out to get the Sunday paper. "That's bullshit," I tell him. "He's one of them." As for the other two guys, they weren't talking. They had ID'd the bearded one because of priors. The other guy, Mr. Crying for Mercy, was still a "mystery man."
He kept leaving me alone in the "interview" room. I wondered if he and his boys were watching me through the glass, like on TV. I tried to look like someone who didn't know what the fuck was going on, and was doing a pretty good job of it.
Montgomery came back in and asked if I had someone I wanted to call, like, maybe, a friend, family, tinker, tailor, lawyer. "Why would I want to call a fuckin' lawyer?" I asd him. "I'm the fuckin' victim, here." He says, they're working on the school teacher, Gerald Nimms. He's waiting to hear from the hospital. So, the jerk had a name, now, Nimms. "Like I give a shit! The guy was trying to rob me," I said. "Who knows what else they might have done. They could've killed me." Montgomery raised his eyebrows at that as if to say fat chance of that happening. In retrospect, seeing as the three of them were up in the hospital, he may have had a point. "Hey, one wrong move and it could've been me in the ER," I added as he went back through the door. "And, Nimms was with them."
Alone, again, I tried, now, to look like someone who didn't give a shit about the health of the guys who had been trying to rob me, which I didn't. But, I did care about myself. So, I called out to anyone who might be listening, "I am a diabetic, you know. I require something to eat, like an apple, or a cookie. My sugar's getting low."
A quarter of an hour went by before Montgomery returned carrying an apple, some vending-machine chocolate chip cookies, a bottle of water and a diet coke. "Monty," I said in greeting. He set the apple and the cookies down in front of me, then, held out the two drinks wanting me to choose. I took the water, he the coke. He remained standing. So, Johnny, he said, you were carrying the baton why? We'd been over this - the rollerblader, the dogs, creeps who hang out in the park. I wondered what he was driving at. "Like I said," I began as I bit into the apple, "just in case." So, he says like he's trying to put this puzzle together, you just happen to have the baton in hand when these two derelicts hop out of the woods and try to jump you. "Like I told you, I always whip it out when I pass that stretch. It's automatic. When they jumped out, I looked down at my hand and there it was, lucky for me." Not so lucky for them, he says.
Then, he takes a seat across from me, pops open his coke and takes a sip. How you feeling, he asks. The cookies and the apple - are they enough? I tell him they are. So, he says, let me tell you how some of the guys are seeing this, Johnny. "This should be good," I said. They think you went out this morning for a walk down that particular section of Little Road - "because the park is flooded," I injected - carrying, he continued, your collapsible Smith & Wesson baton - "for protection" - with the sole purpose, in mind, of busting up the heads of a few worthless vagrants. "What about the guy in the car?" I said. "Nimms? The teacher?" A good Samaritan, he says. He sees you beating up on the homeless guys and tries to stop you. "Good Samaritan, my ass! You gotta be fuckin' kidding me. You know what, I think I've had a fuckin' nuff. If you aren't arresting me, I'm gonna get the fuck out of here." I stand up. "And you can tell 'the guys' that they're a bunch of fuckin' idiots. Sorry, Monty, I'm gonna boogie."
No, no, no, no, he says to me. Look, you can leave if you want, but, if you stick around just a while longer, maybe we can settle this thing. "How's that gonna happen?" I ask. We're running more checks, he says. Still trying to identify the mystery man, for one thing. And, verifying other things. Just give us a few more minutes. "A few more minutes?" I ask. Yes, he says, just a few. While I was thinking of it, "Can I have my baton back?" I asked. Not just yet, he said. "Shit," I said, "I don't feel safe without it." Nothing's going to happen to you here, Says Monty. "It already is," I reply.
So, there I was, waiting again. I'd been staring at the door for twenty minutes when, all of a sudden, I wonder if it's locked. Casually, in case someone's watching, I get up and mosie on over to the door, turn the knob and push it open. No problema. I peak out and there's Montgomery reading from a sheet of paper and talking to a younger guy in plain clothes. They both look over towards me. I wave meekly to Montgomery with just my fingers. He holds up his index finger meaning he'll be with me in a minute. I nod and return to my seat at the table.
Running some checks, he said. On me? I wonder. I told them the truth, pretty much. If they want, I'll submit to a polygraph. Well, that's probably not such a hot idea. Who knows what they'll ask. I mean, everybody's got things in their past they wouldn't want people, especially cops, to know about. Let's forget about the polygraph. If they insist, I'll lawyer up. Anyway, they haven't mentioned a polygraph, so, neither am I. They're running checks, he said. They're probably checking to see if I have a record. I don't. I'm clean. Except for some juvenile shit that should be sealed. We stole beer from a beer truck when I was twelve. Big deal! And, I showed up drunk at a high school dance when I was 14. The bastard chaperones called the cops on me. Can you imagine? And, just my luck, Officer Harry Schebendach, who everybody knew had it in for me, answered the call. Anybody else would have let me go, drove me home, even, but not Schebendach. He drags my ass to the station, then calls my fuckin' old man. Asshole.
Then, when I went to juvenile court, up jumped Schebendach complaining to the judge, "When I asked if he had been drinking, Your Honor, he told me 'no'." Big fuckin' deal - I was shit faced. "Were you drinking, son?" asked the judge. "Yes, Your Honor" I replied, and that's when he told Schebendach to sit down and shut up. Old Scheb hated me even more after that.
The judge also wanted to know about another time when I was riding around after school with Charley Jackson and Billy Robinsky and Charley picked up Barbara Mueller and took her up into the woods. Billy and I occupied ourselves by chucking rocks at a tree while Charley and Barbara went off into the woods to do their thing. It turned out that she was under age, which I later learned made Charley guilty of statutory rape. Since Billy and I were also under age and neither of us had interacted with her, something she corroborated, the judge found us not guilty of any wrong doing. Still, guilty or not guilty, I was pretty sure that if Monty and the guys saw the words "statutory rape" on my sheet, it wouldn't be a good thing.
At least I didn't have any assaults on my record. No violence, hardly.
I mean, there was that time in the fourth grade when I whacked Ears McKecknie in the back of the head while he was leaning over the water fountain to get a drink. Cut his mouth up pretty good and got expelled for a week, but that wouldn't be on my record. Would it?
And there was that squabble I had last year with Joe Burrell. I was playing a match in the Tuesday night 8-ball tournament down at Sully's, getting ready to win a game, when Joe, a nasty bastard when he's been drinking, stops on his way out the door, reaches across the table and with a sweeping motion of his arm sends the balls bouncing back and forth. "Asshole," I shout at him. Fuck you, he snarled. That's when I whacked him on top of the head with the butt end of my stick. Man, did he bleed. He threatened to call the police on me, but I told him, very nicely, that if he did, it would be the last fuckin' call he'd ever make. And that settled that. He didn't call.
Then, there was that shit with the exalted ruler. But, there was no way they could find out about my run in with him… unless they canvassed the neighborhood and talked to my neighbors, which, I guess, they might possibly do, especially, if the schoolteacher croaks. Jordy Snyder, the guy living across the street from me, died last winter. Jordy must've been a member of the Moose, the Elks or the Eagles because next day there are a shit load of people over his house paying their respects to his wife. This one guy pulled up and decided to park his car right in front of my driveway. When I went outside to tell him he had to move his car, he confided to me that he was The Exalted Ruler. I told him I didn't give a fuck who he was and that, if he didn't move his fuckin' car, I was going to get my sledge hammer and smash it to smithereens. His exaltedness just glared at me, but he moved pretty quick when he saw me come out of the shed swinging my sixteen pounder. And, that was that - no one got hurt.
I mean, I'm not a violent person. I'm not the kind of guy who gets his rocks off by inflicting pain and suffering on poor defenseless vagrants, drunks and other losers. I'm not.
Unfortunately, these guys, these dumb-assed County Mounties, aren't that fuckin' bright. Like Monty said - they think they've got it all figured out. I woke up this morning wanting to bust some heads, went over to Little Road, blah blah blah.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, we intend to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt that on July 24, 2012 the defendant, Johnny DiMarcello, with malice aforethought, drove his automobile to the Big T Grocery Mart on the corner of Hudson Avenue and Little Road, parked said vehicle in the parking lot of the Big T Grocery Mart and then, on foot, proceeded to the sidewalk and walked south along Little Road, stopped adjacent to a wooded area known to be a refuge for homeless people, waited for said homeless people, as was their habit, to approach him and ask for money, and, then, with his weapon, a Smith and Wesson Heat-Treated Collapsible Baton, savagely assaulted said homeless people and, in the process, murdered Gerald Nimms, a school teacher who was attempting to intercede on behalf of said vagrants...
The door opens, finally. Montgomery doesn't look happy.
"Monty, I think I want a lawyer," I said. Save your money, he says, that won't be necessary. He sits down and shuffles his papers. Nimms, he says. "The teacher," I say. Howard Nimms, he says. "I thought his name was Gerald. Good old Gerry Nimms, The Good Samaritan." I'm referring to the mystery man, Montgomery continues, he has been identified as one Howard Nimms. "Ah, they're related," I say. Brothers are what Gerald's wife tells us. Of course, she also told us Gerald was a teacher… "You mean, he's not? I'm shocked." She may have been overstating things a bit. It seems Gerald was thinking of going to college to become a teacher, but first he would have to get his GED. "Well, of course." He's going to be okay, by the way. Or as good as he was, anyway. So, you don't have to worry on that account. I let out a sigh, not that I cared so much about Gerald, but I figured things would go a lot better if the bastard was alive. We're accepting your version of the events. He rose, signaling me to do the same, and walked me out of the conference room. John, he said, I'd like to thank you on behalf of the Pasco County Sheriff's Department for your cooperation. We're done, here, for now. "Done?" He nodded with what I took as disappointment. You're free to go. You may have to testify, if they go to trial, but, I'm betting they'll take a plea. "My baton?" Sorry, but we're going to have to hold onto that - evidence. You can get it back when everything's wrapped up. He held the outer door open for me and said, be careful. "I sure will," I said and I left the station.
The weatherman had been right - the heat hit me like a gut punch. As I made my way across the parking lot, I couldn't help feeling lucky - lucky to be alive and well, lucky to be heading home, lucky they accepted my version of events, and lucky I had a backup baton in the glove box.
© Copyright 2003- by Ace Toscano. All rights reserved.