I was once about an inch away from shooting a dude in the back of his head. It wasn’t like a “maybe” moment, or like “Can I really kill a dude?” moment. I was already past all that and fully prepared to pull the trigger. This was already an absolute deal that was just about to happen when I was stopped by two cop cars screaming around the corner with their lights and sirens on. I was 14 years old.
I don’t know if any of you had a crazy friend growing up. But I did. And I always thought Charlie was kind of a harmless crazy. But make no mistake about it, he was fucking crazy. And I think that I owe a lot of my attitude to guys like him. During my life I’ve been shot at, followed by cartels, threatened in every way imaginable, and yet the only impulse I have when these things happen is to get pissed off. I don’t get frightened or become “seeing red” angry. In fact I can very calmly and pretty quickly devise a way to bring immediate discomfort, and even death, to the person threatening me. It has served me pretty well through the years and I owe a big debt of gratitude to guys like Charlie for that.
I met Charlie at our Jr. High school in the 9th grade. I instantly knew he was going to be fun to hang around with because the first day I met him we left school and ditched the rest of the day. We did a lot of things together. We got our first real jobs at the same time about a block away from each other. One night he showed up after work with a bottle of Southern Comfort and we spent the whole night with his neighbors getting shit faced.
It was the summer between the 9th and 10th grades. Charlie’s family had bought a home about a mile from my house on the south side. So I used to walk over to his place occasionally just to shoot the crap. So one day Charlie answers the door with his eyes bugging out and his carotid artery going about 100 miles per minute. I was like “What to hell are you doing Charlie?” He says “We gotta get back down to the basement.” So he rushes downstairs and I’m right on his heels because I’m thinking he might have a wild raccoon or some other animal trapped in a corner down there.
Now Charlie’s dad finished that basement pretty nice. It had a huge screen for movies. Back then there was no VCR’s or big screen TV’s. The true movie lover would rent movies on a 8mm projector. And that’s what they had set up down there.
So the first thing I see is a neighbor girl of his who is handcuffed to the support pole in the middle of the basement. She has duct tape over her mouth. And her eyes are bugging out too. I look over at the screen and there is probably the raunchiest porn movie I have ever seen in my life playing on the screen. At this point my sensory patterns were a bit overloaded. The only words I could muster together is “What in the fuck are you doing?”
Now Charlie starts shaking his head and says “No, no you got it all wrong. She likes it. This is a game we play all the time.” Now if you could have seen that girls eye’s you would agree that if she could she would be screaming “Help me PLEASE.” And since she still had her clothes on I’m assuming Charlie had gone off the deep fucking end. I spent ten minutes to finally convince Charlie to let her go. When she got free she hit that back door like a streak and she was gone man.
That was my friend Charlie.
It was a few weeks before that little episode when another “Charlie incident” occurred. Again I’m knocking on Charlie’s door again and he answers completely out of breath. He reaches out, pulls me by the shirt collar into his house, and immediately slams the door shut. He locks like three dead bolts on the door and then sticks a chair under the handle. And he says, “Man, it’s a little dangerous to be out there right now.” Now you have to understand that the reason I love Charlie is that he is constantly saying shit like that. It’s like living in a fucking sit-com…
And again, I say “Charlie what to fuck are you doing?” So he pulls me into the living room. Now at this point it’s important for you to know that Charlie’s dad is an avid gun collector and aficionado. And per happenstance Charlie’s dad was not home at the moment. His gun collection, however, was home. In fact Charlie had them all loaded, cocked and locked and spread out over the entire living room. There was like 6 shotguns on the sofa, another 12 rifles lined up on the wall by the window, and about 15 handguns on the love seat. Of course seeing all this was begging the question to be repeated: “Charlie, what to fuck are you doing.”
Charlie’s response was pretty much gibberish at this point because I’m pretty sure he was having a stroke. But I managed to hear the word’s “Ray Alsop” in there somewhere. Now I knew who Alsop was, but I was surprised that Charlie did. Alsop was 20 in my sophomore year and I would see him parked at the school often. I always suspected that he was selling dope to the kids but don’t know that for sure. I just couldn’t figure out why else a 20 year old drop out would be hanging around the school. And Charlie didn’t do drugs.
After Charlie calmed down enough to explain I learned that Alsop had been calling him all day threatening to come over and to kill Charlie. Now I knew Alsop to be a thug, but this was even a bit much for me to believe. But just then the phone rang and Charlie started convulsing like he was shitting his pants. “That’s him! That’s him. I know that’s him.”
So I said “Charlie, just wait a minute.” I picked up the phone and said “Hello.” The other end says “Who to fuck is this.” So I said “This is john Richter. Who to fuck are you?” And the other end goes “Oh, your a smart ass. Do you want me to come over there and fuck you like I’m going to fuck your buddy?” So I said, “Yes. In fact I was just telling Charlie that I wish some dickhead would come over here and fuck me.” After that it was mostly just expletives coming from the other end. I don’t know if he was finished with his rant when I just “Fuck you asshole” and hung up.
But it convinced me Charlie was telling the truth. I don’t know to this day what Charlie did to piss Alsop off, and I still don’t want to know. Anyway I get on the horn and have my other buddy Jay come over because this is going to get interesting. Jay shows up, Charlie pulls him by the shirt, locks the door, etc., etc…
Jay walked into the living room and immediately says “Richter, what to fuck are you doing.” So I’m like, “Yeah. I know man. That’s what I said.”
So after about an hour nothing happened and I’ve got about $12 of paper route money burning a hole in my pocket. So Jay and I are going to walk down to the corner store to get some chips or something. Before I left Charlie dropped a little 2-shot Derringer in my coat pocket and said you might need this. I pulled it out and looked at it and it was no tiny gun. It looked like a .45 to me.
So Jay and I started walking down to the corner store. Unbeknownst to us Alsop was parked about two blocks away waiting for me to leave Charlies house. Alsop gunned it and screeched to a stop right in front of us. It happened so fast it kind of took me off guard for a second. But I looked and could clearly see Alsop behind the wheel and a burnt out pot head sitting in the passenger seat. Jay and I turn to run back to Charlie’s house. Now Jay was a sprinter so I will never know why he let me take the lead. The problem with that is that all those row houses look alike to me. So idiot me runs up to the wrong house and Alsop and company had us trapped. He pulls out a knife and says “You’re the little smart ass, huh?” He holds the knife to my chest while he reaches around and takes my wallet of my back pocket. Thank God he didn’t check my coat pocket.
Long story short Alsop forces us into the back seat of his car. One of them told us they were going to take us to a field and fuck us and then kill us. That was enough for me. So Alsop pulls off, does a u-turn and starts driving away from Charlie’s house. During that time I convinced myself that I would not have a problem killing one of these guys in self defense. I didn’t want my buddy Jay to freak out when I popped a bullet into the passenger’s head, so I pulled the gun out of my jacket and showed it to him. Jay freaked out anyway but in a good way. I think he very quietly went into some kind of trance or something. My plan was to shoot the passenger and then put the gun on Alsop to force him to stop the car. I didn’t think there was anyway to control both of them with a two shot pistol.
I was literally extending my arm to place the gun on the back of the passenger’s head when two cop cars came rolling around the corner toward Alsop, lights and sirens blaring. That’s when I decided to put the gun back in my pocket. The cops stopped Alsop and pulled him and his pal out of the car. Then they got Jay and I out of the car. One of the cops told me that Charlie had called and told them that Jay and I were being robbed at knife point and then kidnapped. Can you imagine that?
So Jay, both assholes, and the two cops all go into Charlie’s house and I’m thinking “Oh no! They’re going to see all those guns.” This day was going pretty good for Charlie and I because he had the foresight to move all those guns before the cops came. But I’m still standing there with the Derringer in my pocket. Cops got our money back and took the assholes on outside. I so wanted to show that Derringer to Alsop and mouth the words “I was going to kill you.” But he surely would have told the cops that I had a gun.
The funny thing is that the cops, the two assholes, and my buddy Jay all thought that the cops saved US that day. Only Charlie and I knew that the cops saved Alsop and his asshole partner because I was going to kill them deader than shit.
It’s funny how we can go from a 14 year old fun-loving care-free kid one minute and into a man with no hestiation to kill another human being in the next minute.
A few years later I joined the Army and one of the big questions was “Do you think you would be able to kill another human being.” I acted like I had to think about that for a minute, but it was a no brainer.