Wednesday, April 06, 2005

A bullet-in!

Our friend John, down in Little Rock, recently sent out a message explaining why he's been so out of touch. A gripping tale told with his usual charm, it also contains a reference to dizziness. Enjoy!

* * *

[. . . ] Flash back about three weeks to 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. It was a hot day in the city--too hot. The perfect day for hitting yourself over the head with a rubber truncheon and buying a whole case of Blue Blocker sunglasses. (Actually, I don’t remember what the weather was like.) There I am sleeping on the couch, having fallen asleep the night before watching TV, and I wake to what sounds for all the world like a sudden burst of firecrackers. Getting up, I hear some commotion out in the parking lot outside my door--what sounds like a number of people talking excitedly.

Not entirely awake and, honestly, perhaps not completely sobered up from the night before, I go outside to check out what exactly the dealio is. Come to find out that the not-particularly impressive pop pop pop that I had just heard was gunshots from a "maroon Cadillac" (or did my neighbor-slash-eyewitness say "maroon Chevy"? I wasn’t entirely on top of my game, I repeat) that has just driven through the lot. My neighbor, his girlfriend, as well as a fellow who lives upstairs all are outside, quite abuzz with what has just happened, and it is only at this point that one of them points out to me that there’s a hole in my bedroom window.

No, wait, make that four holes. And as I’m walking back inside my apartment, I realize that there are holes in my hallway as well and...wait...holes in my front door, too! The final, official count will end up being four 45 bullets through the bedroom window...five 22's through the door. As I’m walking through the apartment with my understandably rubbernecking neighbors in tow, I realize that the four big bullets have gone through the bedroom window, through the bedroom wall, across the living room and into and through the opposite wall, where there’s a sliding glass door that opens out onto my balcony. There’s a big bullet hole in the glass and, as will be eventually determined, one bullet has even managed to find its way across the back parking lot and into the building opposite.

"Are you going to call the police?" one of my neighbors ask and, yes, I decide that would be a good idea. The response time is surprisingly quick, which is good because at least I can say one nice thing about the ultimate police response I ended up getting. The "investigation" involves, basically, getting my name, looking over the damage, and asking me if I know anybody who would want to kill me.

No, I say, I can’t think of anyone. (How boring to have no arch-enemies.) At one point as we are standing in my apartment, I point to one of the bullets that is lodged in the living room wall. "I guess you’ll want to take that?" I say to the not particularly interested-looking officer. "Oh, yeah," he responds, and I get the strong suspicion that he wasn’t really planning on doing so until I mentioned as much.

Departing, the officers tell me that I might get a call from some detectives. "Might?" I think to myself. I do receive a call about a half hour later (from the "station," I guess) and am told that, no, I shouldn’t be expecting anybody else to turn up. "So I should go ahead and start cleaning up?" I say. Yes, they reply, but give us a call if you see that car again. I don’t bother mentioning that it was my neighbor, and not I, who ever actually saw the car, as it’s becoming quickly apparent the level of official interest the incident is going to generate. (And I didn’t even make into the newspaper "police blotter," either--what a rip!)

More than a little dazed, I can at this point think of nothing better to do than to go to Burger King. It has occurred to me, yes, that--if you were wanting to kill me, 6:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning is not the likeliest time in the world to expect me to be up and about--but had I been making an early-morning bathroom run (a very legitimate possibility), then things could have turned out quite differently. This does not affect my appetite however and, returning from BK, I am disappointed to find that my string of bad luck is continuing as they have gotten my order wrong. Tator tots? Damn, can't a guy catch a break?

At this point I’ll shift into long-story-short mode. After discussing things with my girlfriend Jennifer--who puts it into perspective with a simple question: "Are you really going to be comfortable still living here?"--I decide that, no, I probably won’t be. All that I can assume is that whoever did the shooting had my apartment confused with another...but how do I know if they will or will not eventually realize their mistake? "Let’s go take another crack at that sumbitch in apartment 126!"

My dad and stepmother, when I call them later, are understandably not too jazzed to hear the whole story. They want me out--right now, they say, and, well, really, who am I to argue? So, over the next day or so, I end up hauling all of my junk over and sticking it in their living room--especially since I have become, now running on a high level of paranoia, convinced that if I move out quickly, somebody’s going to come and rob the place of my remaining possessions while I’m gone.

What followed then was a week-and-a-half or so of living in the old house (particularly stressful when you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re a cigarette smoker from your hosts after an incident that makes you really, really want to smoke!) and looking for a new apartment, which, I’m pleased to say, that I was able to find fairly quickly. I did end up frustrated, though, with my property manager Rector Phillips Morse, who apparently don’t think that near-death is a valid reason to move out before the end of one’s lease. (After much wrangling, I ended up agreeing to pay for the leftover part of April that marked a 30-day-after point from the day of the shooting. Bloodsuckers.)

So now I’m at a new address [. . . ]. It’s one of the off-shoots of the Lanai Apartments complex and is a pretty decent place, a bit bigger, although also a bit more expensive than the old one. [. . . ] I would have been able to share this story sooner but a week ago I--first the shooting, then the Burger King mixup, now this!--came down sick with what would be eventually diagnosed as a sinus infection and spent the whole week home from work lying around on my couch surrounded by boxes that needed unpacking. (Every time I did start trying to get to them, I’d get so dizzy I’d have to lie back down again.)

So that’s the story and why I’ve been so out of touch. When I told the apartment manager at the old place that the police had not seemed particularly interested, she wasn’t surprised. Apparently Crestwood Manor has been getting an ever-worsening reputation as a haven for drug dealers (about six months or so ago, we got a memo from the office asking us to, in effect, "please stop smoking and selling drugs in the parking lot," which I guess should have been a warning sign). And, so, the official diagnosis of the police was probably, well, whoever it was that shot my place up, I most likely had it coming. [. . .]

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