March 28, 2013

"Another Day at the Short Stop" - Leroy B. Vaughn

I met Don Winslow in 1975 about the time I first started hanging out at the Short Stop bar, near an area of Los Angeles that used to be called Chavez Ravine, before the L.A. Dodgers came to town.
The Short Stop was and may still be in Echo Park, part of the L.A.P.D. Rampart Division. The Rampart Division became well known to television viewers when Jack Webb produced his show, Adam 12.
This is the same Short Stop bar that Joseph Wambaugh, one of the best known writers of books about real police work was known to frequent.
L.A.P.D. old timers will tell you that Joseph Wambaugh spent countless hours sitting at one of the tiny tables in the Short Stop sipping beer, and taking notes while he listened to the other cops from the Rampart Division tell their stories.
I was not an L.A.P.D. Officer, but I was a peace officer with another agency and a former military policeman, so I was accepted at the Short Stop. I knew and worked with Darrell Jansen, after he retired from the L.A.P.D.
Darrell never told me, but I heard it from Don Winslow and a few other people that knew Darrell that he was the cop that Joseph Wambaugh modeled his fictional lead character Bumper Morgan after, in his book, The Blue Knight, in 1973.
I do know that Darrell Jansen was one of the original Metro cops in Los Angeles. He was the one that was walking a foot beat alone one night in the early '60s, when a Folsom prison escapee came up on him from behind and ordered Darrell to hand him his gun, without turning around.
The escapee got the gun all right.  Darrell had a hideaway gun in his inside coat pocket and he was able to slip it out and shoot through his jacket, killing the crook without turning around.
It was about one year later that Darrell Jansen became a legend in the Rampart Division. There was a series of liquor store robberies in his beat and Jansen and his partner were ordered to stake out a liquor store in plain clothes that had been hit several times.
The brass figured that it was just a matter of time before the store was robbed again and Jansen positioned himself on top of the beer coolers with a 12 gauge pump shotgun, watching the front door, while his partner waited in the store room with a shotgun.
Jansen spotted the bad guys before they hit the front door of the liquor store. Two robbers armed with sawed off shotguns wearing Bugs Bunny masks came in yelling, “This is a stick-up.”
Jansen’s partner told everyone at the Short Stop the next day that he heard Jansen yell, “That’s all folks,” just before he heard the first round of buck shot kill the first bandit. Within seconds, the second bandit was dead on the floor also.
Don Winslow and I were standing at the bar and Don was telling me about the sign above the bar that said, “Use a gun, go to jail.”
The sign was L.A.P.D.s latest effort to try to stop the rash of robberies in the area. I asked Don if he thought anyone would be crazy enough to try to rob the Short Stop. There was always at least 15 off-duty cops in the joint and sometimes there was a motor officer in uniform drinking out of a coffee cup at the bar.
As the bartender walked away to serve another customer, Don pointed at him and said, “The bartender took out some clown not too long that tried to rob the place. He came in off the street with a towel wrapped around his hand, pointed the object at the bartender and told the bartender to give him the money.
The bartender reached under the counter, pulled out a .357 magnum and shot the punk from three feet away.
After that, the saying around here changed to use a "pick comb, go to heaven." That’s what this moron had under the towel, one of those big afro pick combs.
I looked at Skip the big retired Marine bartender with his gray crew cut and the tattoo of a mean looking red woodpeckers head, smoking a cigar on his bicep. There was no doubt in my mind that no one could get away with robbing this bruiser.
Don Winslow began to talk a lot after his third beer and I asked him, “So why did you leave the L.A.P.D.?"
He replied, “I was a real hot-dog, fresh out of the academy and assigned to the Rampart Division. We were working the day watch and my training officer and I went over to the Short Stop one afternoon, after we got off work.”
They drank a couple of beers and the training officer suggested that they head down to Tijuana for the evening.
Why not? Winslow thought. They were both single men and this was the end of the workweek for them.
They headed for the red light district as soon as they crossed the border. They started out at the Chicago Club. The place was packed with Marines and Sailors from San Diego and Camp Pendelton.
They hit another dive before deciding to go to the Blue Fox. The Blue Fox made a lot of money selling t-shirts that said, “Eat at the Blue Fox.” They didn’t serve food at the Blue Fox.
It was strictly a skivvy bar. Some of the “dancers” that worked there didn’t even bother to wear street clothes or a costume. They worked the tables in bras and panties.
The pimp/doorman stood at the front door inviting servicemen to come in to see the donkey show that would be starting soon.
Winslow and his training officer found a seat near the stage and watched the dancers bump and grind in their underwear, while they drank inexpensive Mexican beer.
They were both getting a little tipsy from all the beer they were pouring down, when a Chiquita approached them and offered to take them around the world.
The training officer had his eye on another entertainer and told Winslow that he would meet him back at the table in about 15 minutes.
They both left their beers on the little table with instructions for the drink girl to watch the beers, as both cops were lead out the backdoor, to the cribs.
Winslow finished with the woman and was heading out of her crib, when two street punks with knives stepped out of the shadows and demanded his watch and wallet.
Winslow wasn’t packing. Both of the cops had left their guns in California. He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and handed it to one of the bandits, before reaching into his other pocket and pulling his L.A.P.D. badge out.
He flashed the badge at both punks and said, “L.A.P.D., you’re under arrest.”
One punk laughed at him, while the other punk touched the blade of the knife to his chest and said, “We’ll take that too,” as he took Winslow’s badge and put it in his pocket.
The next day, Don Winslow was called into the Internal Affairs office and was asked about the lost city property report that he had filed.
He was terminated that afternoon.

Leroy B. Vaughn is a retired law enforcement officer from Southern California. He has written several short stories, both non-fiction and fiction. He has had stories published in 10 magazines in the U.S. and Mexico.

Click here to get his short novel, The Free Lancers, from Smashwords for free for a limited time.

Two of Leroy’s Fingerprints crime flash stories have been recorded on the crime podcast, To listen to these stories, click here to go to episodes #35 and #32.

March 17, 2013

News: Russell Johnson Cult Story to be Adapted

Fingerprints received this press release from Russell Johnson, who relayed the martial arts cult story in a previous post here. Please join Fingerprints in wishing Mr. Johnson success with this new project.
Long time Vail Valley local Russell Johnson has signed a co-author agreement with English novelist, Matilda Wren, to write his memoirs. The autobiography, Deceived, will detail his coerced involvement in the notorious martial arts cult known as Chung Moo Quan. Known in the 1970s, 80’s and 90’ as a cult of greed and violence. This is a true crime story with many twist and turns.

Bullied throughout childhood, a vulnerable and confused teenager thought he had finally found the security and protection he had been searching for in the martial arts fraternity, however, the following eight years were to be a journey into a darkness Russell never knew existed. Brainwashing, deception, and fraud were only the beginning. Murder, cover-ups and physical abuse left him fearing for his life.

In 1988 Russell left Chung Moo Quan and despite numerous threats and attempts to silence him, he has spent the last 20 years advocating just how destructive the cult is, but even with the incarceration of cult leader John C Kim, it didn’t put a stop to Russell constantly looking over his shoulder; even more so now Kim has been released and is still running cults today.

Co-author Matilda Wren lives in the UK and is the author of crime thriller When Ravens Fall and her new book, Lowlands which will be released later this year. Matilda is a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Psychology and writes about the abnormal and anti-social behaviours of society. She wanted to write this book with Russell because his story is harrowing yet exceptional at the same time. It’s not about being a victim. It’s not about being a survivor. It’s about strength, character and power.

The book is to be published in 2014 and is expected to be adapted to film based on the life of Russell Johnson.

January 2, 2013

"A Martial Arts Cult?" - Russell Johnson

Editor's note: Today's post comes courtesy of Russell Johnson. In the 1980s, Johnson became involved with a martial art called Chung Moo Quan.

Chung Moo Quan advertises its teachings as "Eight Martial Arts Taught as One," stemming from the "1500-year-old royal line of Chung Moo." Currently there are schools in at least six states, including five in Minnesota. 
City Pages left unreturned messages at three of the Minnesota schools and got the same repeated response "We decline to be interviewed" from the other two. By Russ Johnson's estimate, there are 50-60 students at each Minnesota outlet. There is no way to make an educated guess about school revenues in Minnesota, but a 1990 news report about the ten schools in Chicago area placed revenues there at up to $1.8 million annually.
However, Russell says not all was what it appeared. He sent Fingerprints these two news pieces on what happened next. (Note that the video quality is poor.)

Here is a longer documentary about the organization:

Johnson has posted many documents and photos from his experiences on his Facebook page here. (Warning: Some of them are gruesome.)

Johnson is looking for a writer to help adapt his experiences with Chung Moo Quan for print and/or screen. Interested parties should contact him at his Facebook page here.

October 22, 2012

"Orange Spray-Painted Testicles" - Leroy B. Vaughn

"Home again," Corporal Walt Gleason said as he watched the Golden Gate bridge come into view from the deck of the troop transport ship.

"You been away long?," the merchant marine standing next to him at the rail asked.
"Four years," Gleason told him as the merchant marine lit a cigarette.

"Looks like you didn't spend all that time in the Military Police in Japan," the merchant marine said as he looked at the Combat Infantry Badge on the Corporals Ike jacket.

"I came in at the end of the war and got some trigger time in the battle for Okinawa," Gleason said before excusing himself. He needed to go below to pick up his gear, before the ship landed.

Walt Gleason had been overseas for four years. He re-enlisted after the war for three more years and spent that time in Japan, during the occupation. He thought about staying in the Army, but things were getting hot in Korea and he just wanted to go home. He told himself that he was never leaving California again, once he got back.

One month after he came home he was working as a stevedore at the Oakland docks. He wasn't fond of the heavy labor, but the pay was good, especially compared to Army pay.

After a few years on the job, he broke his collarbone one day at work. He met his future wife at the hospital, while he was getting patched up. They dated for several months before he popped the question to her.

It was 1955, and he decided that he needed to find a job that was less physical than working at the docks. He drove over to the Delta and took the entrance test for the Stockton Police Department.

Being an ex-GI and former Military Policeman put him close to the top of the list and he went to work in the patrol division. It didn't take him long to start putting on the pounds. By the time his five-year anniversary came around he was over two hundred and fifty pounds.

He applied for motorcycle duty but the Captain told him no, stating "If I put you on a motor, you'll be eating dough-nuts all day and in no time you will be over three hundred pounds. Puts too much weight on the machine and your uniform doesn't fit properly. You already look like three hundred pounds of steer manure in a two hundred pound sack."

Gleason wasn't going to argue with the Captain. He told himself that if he was going to be nothing more than a harness bull, he was going to retire early on the job as he walked out of the Captain's office.

Both Gleason and his wife liked to drink and they were both hitting the bottle fairly hard by the time Gleason was assigned to the night shift. Being a nurse, it wasn't difficult for his wife to transfer to the night shift either. They didn't want any children, so they had plenty of time to spend together, usually drinking.

He had never been a very good police officer and now he was getting worse. Other officers considered him insufferable and didn't want to work around him. Most of his shift was spent orbiting the district in the patrol car, missing calls and waiting to go home. He was in the habit of getting at least one hour of sleep on duty every night.

Most officers would never consider taking a nap in the patrol car, unless they had a partner that would stay awake. He was able to work alone because no one wanted to work with Gleason, as every officer that knew him considered him to be useless.

He carried a little .25 auto pistol in an empty handcuff case and would place the pistol under his left arm when he got ready for his nap. It never occurred to him that he might shoot himself accidentally one night while the little gun was under his flabby arm and his hand was always on the pistol, but safety was not an issue to him. He needed his naps.

At dinner one night, Gleason and his wife were watching the late news on their day off. The newscaster reported on a Viet Nam war protest in nearby Oakland. The year was 1968 and Gleason told his wife, "I'd like to kill a commie for you, mommy."

She replied, "You are so sweet Walt. Now eat your pork chop."

Two days later, Gleason was heading back to the station after a long night in the field. It was early in the morning as he rounded a corner and spotted a teenage boy spray painting a block wall with orange paint.

Normally he would have figured out a way to avoid the boy, but this little turd had written "STOP THE WAR" in big block letters on the wall. The kid was not a real criminal because he didn't even try to run when the fat cop yelled for him to drop the paint and put his hands on his head.

No one at the station could tell you when Gleason had last made an arrest or written a report. He got out of his car, looked at the boy and said, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

The sixteen year old boy knew better than to try to answer the big brute, so he kept his mouth shut. Gleason said, "Well, we can do this the hard way, or we can do this the easy way."

 When he asked the kid, "How do you want to do this?" the kid asked him what was the easy way. Gleason told him to drop his jeans and underwear and stand still.

"Now pick up your pecker and don't move," Gleason told him as he picked up the can of spray paint and began to spray the kid's testicles with the orange paint.

It didn't hurt at first and Gleason figured that the incident had been handled without any paperwork. After he left the station, he went home and fixed a highball while he waited for his wife to come home. She had been held over on her shift for two hours.

When she got home, Mrs. Gleason was extremely mad.

"Guess what, Mr. Harness Bull?" she said as she fixed her highball.

"What?" Gleason wanted to know.

"Your Lieutenant is at the hospital right now taking a statement from a sixteen year old kid with orange painted balls the size of grapefruits."

"Oh, shit," was all Gleason had to say before the phone rang.

Mrs. Gleason could hear every word the Lieutenant was saying from the other side of the room as Gleason took a severe ass chewing over the phone.

Gleason was fired two days after the spray paint incident. The Chief told him that he was getting off lucky. The kid's parents agreed not to pursue a criminal complaint with the City attorney, or to not sue the City if the Chief agreed to terminate Gleason.

Gleason was like a lost child now. He didn't know what to do with himself. There wasn't a police department in California that would hire him after that stunt. He could not sleep at night or in the daytime when his wife was at home.

They had several highballs each. Mrs. Gleason needed to get some sleep before her midnight shift started. Walt tossed and turned as he lay in the bed trying to go to sleep. His wife knew that he never had any problem sleeping in his patrol car parked down by the waterfront and she got an idea.

She opened the bedroom window before going out to their car and starting the engine. She left the engine running and went back into the bedroom to find Walt Gleason sound asleep as the engine purred next to the window.


Leroy B. Vaughn is a retired law enforcement officer from Southern California. He has written several short stories, true and fiction. He has had stories published in 10 magazines in the U.S. and Mexico.

Click here to get his short novel, The Free Lancers, from Smashwords for free for a limited time.

Image at top via

July 24, 2012

"Shoot the Machete" - Leroy B. Vaughn

Editor's Note: It's a privilege to once again bring you a true crime short story from Leroy B. Vaughn. His willingness to share his experiences in law enforcement impresses me every time. This one is no different. I hope it provides perspective about the life-and-death decisions officers make in difficult situations.


* * * 

I was lucky to be able to work with Glen Webster. He was an old timer by the time I started out in law enforcement. I met Glen in 1975, after he had retired from the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

We worked together for two years. Glen was my supervisor and I was a security agent for the Los Angeles City School District. We were plain clothes agents. We worked evenings and mainly investigated burglaries on City Schools property. The job no longer exists. City Schools now has a uniformed police department, one of the largest in the county of Los Angeles.

I wasn't crazy about the job, but it did put me through the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Academy, the best academy in the state at that time. After I left that job I realized that it was a good experience.

Glen had a lot of experience. Besides being a highway patrol officer, he had spent World War II in the North Atlantic as a merchant marine. After the war, he kicked around with various jobs until 1951, when he joined the CHP.

We would start our shift in the afternoon, taking unmarked cars into the field. At sundown, we would meet another agent in the field and park one car at a local police or sheriff's station and ride together until one or three in the morning, depending on the day of the week.

Glen would be out in the field, and he often checked on me. I usually worked the Watts area of Los Angeles. Watts was gang territory and a dangerous place to be, if you weren't careful.

We drove unmarked cars in those days. I drove an old light blue Plymouth and Glen used a big Chrysler sedan that did not look like a cop car. It had power windows, leather seats and air conditioning.

Glen would call me on the radio, and I would meet him at an all-night hamburger stand in the Florence district. We would sit in the big Chrysler, and Glen would smoke cigarettes and talk about the old days.

He had a lot of great stories, and I didn't mind the smoke too much as he talked about the 50s and 60s. I was around in those days, but as a kid. I went into the Marines in 1965.

One night, Glen took another drag on his Lucky Strike and began to tell me about the time in 1951, when he went to the Highway Patrol Academy in Sacramento. He went to the academy with the entire Wyoming Highway Patrol. Deputy sheriffs took over for the highway patrol, and every highway patrol officer in Wyoming went to the academy in California. There were more Wyoming officers than there were officers from California in his class.

He had been stationed in Ventura, California and had worked on closed highways while a television show was filmed in the area. The studios liked to use back roads in Ventura County, and Glen picked up extra money by working on the set of the Highway Patrol, staring Broderick Crawford. The show ran from 1955-1959.

"You know why they always showed Broderick Crawford standing by the car door saying set up roadblocks?" Glen said. I didn't know.

Glen said, "Because he was always tanked on the job and the director wouldn't let him drive the car."

He finished his soda, and we talked about an incident that had occurred on our day off, to an agent on another shift. It happened in Watts, and Glen wanted his men to be careful. The agent was alone, looking for a burglar at a high school just before dark. The burglar, an ex-con, got the jump on the agent and wrestled his service revolver from him.

The agent, against district policy, was carrying a back-up gun (something I always did) and was able to shoot the bad guy, then take him into custody.

Glen lit another smoke and told me he did not want to shoot anyone else. But if some punk wanted a meal, Glen would at least get a sandwich.

Before Ventura, he had been stationed in Salinas for a few years. Even today, it is not uncommon for the highway patrol to be the first on the scene of a crime in rural areas.

It was 1953, and the day had started out quiet for Glen. He was on Highway 101 watching for speeders when he got a call. A sheriff's deputy had been dispatched to a call of a man with a machete tearing up a bar on the highway.

Glen was real close. He told the dispatcher he would be there in five minutes, or less. He was rolling code three as he slammed on the brakes and skidded into the gravel parking lot of the bar.

He drew his six-inch service revolver and approached the door carefully. He heard a person screaming like a maniac, and peeked his head into the bar far enough to see a bartender being held at bay by a little Filipino man holding a big machete.

The bartender was trying to calm the man down, but the farm worker was not listening to reason. He continued to scream in a Filipino dialect that neither the bartender or Glen could understand. Glen slipped into the bar.

The bar was empty except for the crazy man, the bartender and Glen Webster. The bartender glanced at Glen, and the little man spun around. He was about 15 feet from Glen. He turned towards Glen and began to advance on him. He held the big mean looking machete in his hand and swung it as he came closer to Glen.

Glen was one of those cops who wanted to be a peace officer. He was going to do everything he could to get the little man to drop the machete. He asked the man several times to put the weapon down and place his hands on his head. He wasn't sure the man could understand him, but he knew that pointing a pistol at him would get his point across.

The man screamed and Glen assumed that the man was cussing at him, but the man could or would not speak English. The man was now less than seven feet from Glen. Glen knew he had no choice. He was going to have to shoot the man to stop him, or Glen would be dead.

Glen was a big fan of cowboy movies, and he thought that at that distance he could shoot the machete out of the man's right hand. The man started to swing the machete as he moved closer. Glen fired one round from his .38 revolver at the man's hand.

Glen was surprised when the man went down. Glen kicked the machete out of the man's hand as he lay bleeding on the sawdust covered floor. Glen bent down to check the man as the bartender came over to look at the man on the floor. Glen looked at the bartender and told him the man was dead, having felt for a pulse on the man's carotid artery.

"Where did you hit him? I thought you went for his hand," I told him as he lit another cigarette. "I did aim for the hand, but I was the worst shot in my class at the academy. I couldn't hit an elephant with a bazooka. There was a coroners inquest the next week, and I was told that I had shot him right through the heart."


Leroy B. Vaughn is a retired law enforcement officer from Southern California. He has written several short stories, true and fiction. He has had stories published in 10 magazines in the U.S. and Mexico.


July 16, 2012

"Thank You: The True Story of the Bathroom Basher" - Natasha Amadaeus

Editor's Note: The man known as the "Bathroom Basher" killed several women in rural Idaho in the 1960s. The murders, especially the gruesome finale, became the stuff of legend in the area. The following story has been told many times by the author's family.

She laid there, blood pooling under her head, tears streaming. She was barely breathing. Slow, deep breaths, the kind they teach you in Lamaze class. He could see her eyes beginning to glaze over, and he knew she soon would be dead. He stood there, watching, that same sad glee he always felt as he watched them die. And then, she whispered two small words.

"Thank you."

The words came out softly, gently. Like a sensual Amy Winehouse lyric. Her lips stretched into a smile. Her eyes rolled back. And with that, she was gone.

He stood over her. The smile stared back at him.

The little tramp. The good-for-nothing whore. Bitch.

He’d always had the last laugh. And now, this one with the jet black hair, fair skin and pursed red lips was mocking him.

He kicked her. Kicked her and threw the toothpaste at her, the lotion, the hand soap, everything from the counter that he could, he threw at her even though he knew she was dead. He wanted desperately to bring her back and hurt her more. He kicked more and screamed obscenities; her corpse simply smiled. Rage kicked in.

When police arrived, he was still there, mutilating the body, screaming and throwing bits of her across the bathroom. The toilet overflowed with her hands and feet. Her intestines bathed in the tub.

It went down in the record books in Bartersville as the most grisly murder scene. The Bathroom Basher, as cops dubbed him, had been caught. But there would be no cheerleading press conference on this evening, no parading the psycho in front of local reporters before stuffing him in the backseat, no celebratory Jack and Coke at Appleby’s.

Their uniforms were stained with too much blood.

The only pieces of her still intact were her lips. The officer who had to cuff the Bathroom Basher found them in his right hand. He’d ripped them from her face. The lips seemed to be smiling like the Joker in Batman, the officer wrote in the police report.

Seventeen families got closure that night, knowing the man who had killed their loved ones had been found. For the Bathroom Basher, that night would be the last thing he remembered. His defense team had him cop a plea rather than go through the lengthy red tape of an insanity plea – he admitted that up until the moment that his final victim spoke, he had known exactly what he was doing and enjoyed every second of it.

She ruined it for him, and he only prayed that somehow she could still feel his utter hate.


Natasha Amadaeus has always been fascinated with true crime and pulp fiction, especially the psychology of criminals. Working for a mental health service fueled her interest. This background inspires her writing.


June 14, 2012

"A Quickie" - Leroy B. Vaughn

It was the summer of 1968, and Jake Pederson was on top of the world. He had been out of the Navy for one year and had a good paying job with the State of California.

Jake had left for work early that day. He wanted to run his New Mercury Marauder on the back roads of Riverside County, since he had just finished breaking the engine in last week.

He also planned to stop at the coffee shop in Corona, before he checked in for the swing shift at work. He had the Merc cranked up to 90 miles per hour as he flew past a woman walking down the road.

It was unusual for anyone to be walking on a farm road at that time of the day, especially a woman in a dress. Jake slowed the big car down, turned on the radio and turned around. Maybe this woman needed help.

He sang along with the Beach Boys, wishing they could all be California girls, as he came to a stop across from the woman. She was not as old as he expected her to be and was fairly good looking. He figured her to be in her late 20s, two or three years older than he was.

He asked if everything was alright. She said, "Yes, thank you. I'm just going over to Norco."

Norco was three or four miles away, and Jake wondered why a young, good-looking woman would be wearing a cotton work-type dress. He had her figured for a housekeeper, or some member of a religious cult.

"Can I give you a ride?" he said. She accepted and waited for him to turn the big car around. She said, "Thank you, sir," as she slid into the passenger seat.

"You don't have to sir me, I was enlisted," he said to her, before thinking how dumb that sounded.

No one her age dressed the way this woman did, and Jake had to find out why she was wearing a dress.

"So, are you a housekeeper?" he said.

"How did you guess?" she told him as she smiled sweetly at him.

They had not moved yet, and Jake asked where she wanted to go. "If you don't mind, you can drop me at the big truck stop in Norco," she instructed him.

"No problem at all," he told her as he put the car in gear.

They had just pulled onto the road when she grinned at him and said, "Why don't you pull into the orange trees for a few minutes, before we head for Norco."

Jake was confused at first. Why would anybody want to go into an orange grove? The woman did not say anything. She just continued to smile a sweet little smile at Jake as she slipped her panties off and placed them on the dashboard in front of him.

Then it hit Jake, as he looked at the old lady looking white panties that lay in front of him. She must be one of those lonely farmers' daughters he had heard so many stories about when he was in the Navy.

He barely had time to put the gear shift in park. The farmer's daughter was riding him like a Missouri mule. It didn't last long, but it was some of the best, if not the best sex Jake had ever had. Even better than Da Nang or Okinawa.

They didn't talk much on the short ride to the truck stop. Jake didn't ask why she wanted to go to the truck stop, but assumed that she might be a janitor there.

Before she got out of the car, Jake asked if he could see her again. She was nice, but told him she would be going out of state soon.

Jake drove away as the strange woman walked into the truck stop. He would have no way of knowing that she had spotted a woman about the same size as her, getting ready to go into the women's shower room.

The woman in the house dress took the other woman's clothes as they hung on a rack, and walked out of the truck stop in a pair of blue jeans and a Western-style blouse.

The first trucker that she asked for a ride told her that he was going to El Paso, if she wanted to ride along.

Jake was now running a little late. He and his buddies at work always came to work at least 20 minutes early, in order to change clothes and get ready for guard mount.

The guard at the gate looked at his identification card and opened the gate for Jake to enter the grounds of the Chino State Prison. His buddy, Frank, was already in uniform as Jake walked into the locker room.

"Hey buddy, I was wondering if you were gonna make it today," his pal told him as Jake opened his locker. "I just met a really wild woman on the way to work," Jake explained.

"Tell me about it after briefing. I need to see the Lieutenant before we get started. I've got some vacation time and I want to use it if I can," Frank told him as he left the locker room.

"Nice to see you could make it today, Pederson, " the Lieutenant growled. The other officers laughed while Jake struggled with his uniform. He was still getting dressed while he walked into the squad room. Frank noticed that Jake was sweating a little more than usual.

"All right men, settle down. Let's get started," the Lieutenant told his squad. "They had an escape from the women's prison at Frontera this morning. No one is sure about the time of the escape, but there's a good chance that this woman may be hiding in the fields near Frontera, waiting for dark to make her run for it.

"I'm going to pass this picture around. Someone may spot her on the way home tonight. If you do, use caution. Don't try to take her yourself, call the Sheriff's office or the Highway Patrol. This innocent-looking little chickie murdered two bad dudes in a drug deal three years ago, earning her a long stay at Frontera."

The Lieutenant passed the picture around. Frank saw a strange look on Jake's face as he stared at the photo. Jake handed the photo to the man next to him. The Lieutenant concluded the briefing after he gave the officers their assignments for the shift.

Frank and the other officers headed for work, but Jake hung back. He need to speak to the Lieutenant.


Leroy B. Vaughn is a retired law enforcement officer from Southern California. He has written several short stories, true and fiction. He has had stories published in 10 magazines in the U.S. and Mexico.

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May 7, 2012

"The Bag" - Leroy B. Vaughn

The rookie could feel his stomach turn sour, as the watch commander called his name. This would be the second week in a row that he had been assigned to ride with the old guy, and he was hoping to get a new training officer for this week.

He had already spent one week riding with the old harness bull, and he couldn't wait until his probationary period was over. The rookie knew that he would be treated like this, until he paid his dues, which usually took about two years as a cop.

For six nights now, the new guy had walked out of the briefing room and picked up a shotgun at the armory, while Earl had gone to his old Pontiac to remove a big canvas bag from the trunk of the dented car and place the bag in the trunk of the San Jose police cruiser.

No one ever asked him what was in the bag. Earl never bothered to volunteer any information about the contents of the bag to anyone.

They left the yard, headed to their beat, and the old guy said, "You know what I like best about riding alone."

The new guy knew better, but he fell for it and asked what.

Earl passed gas and stated, "You don't have to share your farts with anyone."

It was the 1970s, and San Jose, California, was not one of those cool, laid back bay area towns that the hippies had come out west to hang out in.

San Jose was a gritty, working-class city with a high crime rate. Besides the bay area working stiffs, San Jose had street gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs and Black Panthers - to name a few of the trouble makers in the city.

Besides those denizens, "now we got this disco shit," Earl told the new guy as they watched a group of men and women in outlandish suits and dresses. They walked in front of the patrol car, at a stop light.

Contrary to the popular song of the 1960s, no one appeared to want to know the way to San Jose, except for its residents.

The rookie pretended to be interested as Earl mumbled on about his time in the Marines, during the Korean War, and about all the
Chi-Coms he had sent to the promised land during the battle at the Chosin Reservoir.

The old harness bull was in good shape for a man of his age, the rookie had to admit to himself. He just needed to shave off the white, dictator-style mustache that he had worn since being promoted to Lance Corporal at the end of the war.

Before they left the station, the watch commander had advised Earl and the new guy to be careful. There was a lot of Black Panther activity in their beat.

The harness bull was telling the new guy about a problem that he was having with his live-in girlfriend. He always referred to this woman as his aunt when talking about her with the other cops.

The rookie pretended again to be interested when he heard something make a zinging sound. It ripped across the roof of the squad car.

"What the hell," Earl said as he heard a second shot. He looked towards the second story of a rundown apartment building.

"Sons of bitches are shooting at us," the old timer said to the new guy as he slammed the cruiser to the curb, jumped out and crouched behind the rear passenger fender.

The rookie started to pull the shotgun from its rack, but Earl yelled, "Leave it, they're outta range." The rookie did not understand why they didn't drive out of the ambush, but he did not waste any time joining the old timer behind the rear fender. They both knew that one of the safest places in a car to be during a firefight was behind a wheel.

"Looks like two guys with hand guns," the old timer said. "Call it in."

There were no hand held radios at that time. The rookie carefully pulled the mike out through the open passenger door and called the station for back-up.

"OK," Earl told the new guy, "Cover me when I say go. Lay down some fire power while I get the bag."

"The bag," the rookie said to himself as he popped up to get a quick glance at the window. The two Black Panthers unleashed a lethal dose of fire at the squad car when they saw the rookie's hat pop up.

The harness bull slapped the rookies hat off before making his move. He gave the signal and the rookie placed six shots into the window, trying to give Earl enough time to get to the trunk and open it. The rookie was amazed. Earl had taken the keys to the car with him, before bailing out.

Earl was back, next to the rookie in no time flat, as the Panthers sent another deadly fusillade into the side of the patrol car.

The rookie had reloaded and was returning fire when he heard the thumping sound of a heavy-caliber automatic weapon. The harness bull knew how to handle the weapon. The rookie never took his eyes off the window until both Panthers went down.

The watch commander rolled to the scene, code three with two squad cars behind him. Under his command, four officers crossed the street and approached the apartment where the shooting had come from.

The rookie was reloading for the second time when the watch commander put his hand on his shoulder and said, "It's all right, Johnson, why don't you hand me your weapon."

Johnson was confused, but the old timer told him that it was OK. The old timer knew that it was standard procedure to take officers' weapons after an officer-involved-shooting. He also handed his weapon over to the watch commander.

"Holy shit, Earl, is this a B.A.R.? the watch commander asked as he accepted the Browning Automatic Rifle from the harness bull.

"Sure is," the old timer replied. "I lugged this baby all the way across North Korea. It's what you might call a war souvenir."

"Well, Earl," the watch commander said. "There's two dead suspects upstairs, and the good news is that you have enough time with the department to retire."

"I'd like to have my B.A.R. back," Earl said as the watch commander carried it to his police vehicle.

"After the coroners inquest Earl," the watch commander replied.


Leroy B. Vaughn is a retired law enforcement officer from Southern California. He has written several short stories, true and fiction. He has had stories published in 10 magazines in the U.S. and Mexico. 

Image from Wikipedia

May 4, 2012

Interview with Les Edgerton, Author/Ex-Con

Les Edgerton's The Bitch is one of the most arresting crime novels I've read this year (no pun intended). It chronicles ex-con Jake Bishop's attempts to avoid "The Bitch," a slang term for "habitual criminal." It's similar to the Three Strike Rule. Jake already has two strikes when a prison buddy calls him up for one last job.

The yarn itself was compelling on its own, but I suspected I was reading a story-within-a-story. Author Edgerton served time in the same prison as his Jake character. His colorful past is already well-known in the crime fiction world, but I still wanted to pick his brain. How much of the story was true?

Fortunately, the author was more than happy to do an interview. Here it is, unedited and unfiltered. Just 100% pure Edgerton. Read the whole thing. His real-world answers could put fiction to shame.

P.S. Click here to buy The Bitch on Amazon. It's available at all other fine e-retailers, too.

* * *

BEN: It's impossible not to compare the lead character in The Bitch, Jake Bishop, to yourself. You both did time in Indiana's Pendleton Correctional Facility, for example. Was The Bitch catharic to write?

LES: First, a small correction. When I was in prison, it was “Pendleton Reformatory.” Only, it wasn’t a “reformatory,” but one of the two Indiana maximum prisons, the other one being Michigan City. The only difference between them was that cons 30 and younger were sent to Pendleton and cons older than 30 went to Michigan City.

The “correctional facility” is a recent name change and nowadays they have a juvie facility in addition to the main prison. While I was there, then-President Johnson conducted a national study and concluded that Pendleton was “the single worst prison in the U.S.”

And, it was. There were eight riots during my stay, not including the one I walked in on when first sent up.

As to your question, Ben, writing it wasn’t much in the way of a catharsis at all. For a couple of reasons.

One, I’ve written about my experiences there in many of my previous novels and short stories, and so the “catharsis” value has pretty much been exhausted by now.

And, two, I’ve never lost a lot of sleep over my experience there. I was a criminal and going to prison is just part of the deal of being “in the life.” That “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the time” is pretty much the way it is. Just a part of the job description. Criminals are pretty good at compartmentalizing things and when you’re in the joint, you’re in the “zone” and not outside, on the bricks in your mind, and when you’re out on the bricks, you don’t waste a lot of time thinking about the joint.

I see a new breed of criminal today on TV where these guys are crying when they get caught. What kind of punk cries?

BEN: One of the themes throughout The Bitch was having to make a bad choice in the pursuit of something better. For example, kill Person X to save Person Y, yet create a new problem with Person Z. It's almost like the game is rigged. Does this reflect your view of the world, that we're doomed to a certain fate no matter what we choose?

LES: Ah! So you’re asking me if I have a Calvinistic view of life—that predestination thingy!

Well, on Monday’s I think that, and on Tuesdays I don’t. On Wednesdays, I don’t care.

To be honest, on most days I don’t care. I have a different vision of morality and God and all that. Most days, I fit the definition of a nihilist quite accurately. Expediency is what gets me through life.

For instance, I don’t perform criminal activities any longer and it’s not because I had some kind of “come to Jesus” moment or some kind of epiphany. I’ve just weighed the pros and cons of performing a criminal act and since I’ve been there (inside the walls), I have a clear idea of what that’s like and so far I haven’t come across a crime whose possible rewards outweigh the possible penalties.

If I ever do, I’m pretty sure I’m off that good citizen dais and out there doing the crime. But, it’ll have to be the perfect crime with an enormous upside. At my age, to go back to the joint is a certain death sentence and I’m not quite ready for that. Incarceration really is a good deterrent once you’ve experienced it.

BEN: On that same note, Jake is sucked back into the world of crime despite trying to get as far from it as possible. Is this a fear you were exorcising through Jake's character?

LES: Not really, but I can understand Jake completely. He’s the guy I could be if I had a moral view of the universe. Except, he’s really kidding himself that he’s a moral person.

In the end, he’s as nihilistic as I am. Not trying to come across as some kind of “badass” hardened criminal type, but I really don’t feel like I have a lot of fears. I’ve done time, been homeless, been shot at, been stabbed, had just about everything you can imagine thrown at me and can never remember feeling anything at the time than the same thing—that what was happening was interesting and would make great material for my fiction.

Detached is the best way to describe my feelings at any of those times. I’ve always thought “what’s the worst that can happen” in any situation I’ve been in, and never has that “worst thing” been all that bad.

It’s the feeling I had when I was in a shootout with what I thought were cops in a grade school and it’s the feeling I had when my call girl girlfriend Cat had stabbed one of my other girlfriends and was trying to eviscerate me. “What’s the worst that can happen here?”

In those cases (and others) the worst was death, and hey… nobody gets out of life alive, so what’s the fuss all about? It’s going to happen to all of us (death) and if you worry about it, it seems to me that you’re kind of… what’s the word?... oh, yeah… stupid. It’s going to happen at some time, so when it does what’s awakened is a feeling of avid curiosity. What’s it going to be like?

BEN: "The Bitch" refers to the slang term for "habitual" criminal, which others refer to as the "Three Strike Rule." Wind up in prison three times, and you're "out" for life. Advocates of these laws say they deter crime. Yet in your novel, it seems to encourage it. Jake will do anything - no matter how extreme - to avoid a third term in Pendleton. Which side of this issue do you fall on?

LES: These “law and order” types—politicians and the media, especially—don’t have a clue what deters crime. Or, rather, I suspect they do, but their agenda isn’t to keep people out of prison. It’s to gain votes for pols (for being seen as “tough on crime") and for viewers and readers (in the case of media.). It’s sexy and it’s popular to appear to exhibit the attitude of “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.” The things they do don’t deter crime in the least.

Here’s what deters crime. Barber school. (I’m using this as an example.) When I was in Pendleton, I had a much higher degree of education than most—I’d graduated high school and spent four years in the Navy and was a radioman and cryptographer. The average educational level of my fellow inmates was about third grade. When most of these guys got out—and most do get out, which straights don’t seem to realize will happen—they have no skills to gain any kind of meaningful employment. Which means, they’ll be on the street again, with no way to gain money for a meal, for a place to crash, for any of that. So, they’ll end up doing what they know how to do. Stick up a 7-11, sell drugs, break into a place.

Well, Pendleton at that time operated under the philosophy of rehabilitation. They actually meant it. The barber school was the best “lick” in the place and inmates fought over getting in. The reason was, the training was the best in the country and as a result barber shop and hairstyle salons were waiting in line to hire us. On the bricks, a guy in a civilian barber school got to cut maybe 1-2 heads of hair a day. He went to school for seven months. In Pendleton, we cut 12-14 heads a day. For at least two years and often a lot longer. When we were released, we were just far, far better at cutting hair than anyone else. Our services were valued and highly. I had to field offers of employment from literally hundreds of places. Guys from civilian barber and beauty schools couldn’t buy a job. They took our leavings, basically.

The result was, about 82% of us stayed on the bricks. We made serious money and got married. Bought homes, joined the Rotary, had kids and coached Little League. Why? Because we had excellent jobs. I was making $500 a week in 1968, which was great money in those days and it went up from there. Legitimately.

And, as great as the barber school was, it was virtually the only program in Pendleton that had this kind of success rate. The reason was we learned a very marketable skill. The second-best lick was the machine shop. Theoretically, guys could learn to be machinists and go out and secure a good job. The problem was, the machinery they learned on was outdated by at least 50 years and so the inmate who’d gone through that program wasn’t much better off than the guy who worked in the laundry or in the chow hall. The barber school program was a huge success and showed what was possible. Very few guys who went through the barber school came back.

But then… civilian barber students started protesting that all the good jobs were going to ex-cons and support for the program went away… Lock ‘em up and throw away the key…

The thing is, nothing the “authorities” do these days deters crime. I can’t think of a single thing. Warehousing criminals is the worst thing to ever happen for a lot of reasons space doesn’t allow me to go into here. What’s needed is a realistic look at criminals and prisons and the wrong-minded approach pervasive in corrections today, but that’s a pipe dream. Too many people making a lot of money off crime and I’m not referring to the criminals.

BEN: "Prison rape" is often the punchline in a joke. The Bitch takes a different approach and details the long-term psychological damage of rapes behind bars. The survivors might be prisoners, but they're still human beings. Is that a point you were trying to make?

LES: First of all, “prison rape” doesn’t go on nearly as much as straights think it does. It’s actually fairly rare. If one were to believe movies, books, and comedians, one would think it’s all that goes on in the joint. And, it doesn’t.

In fact, in my two+ years inside, among over 2,000 inmates, I was aware of maybe 5-10 such instances. There were more going on, I’m aware, but those were all I was aware of. This is one of the biggest myths perpetuated. It’s not a sexual thing—it’s a power thing and most often between blacks and whites. Whites don’t rape blacks as a rule, but blacks will often try to rape whites. In their minds, shows they’re in control.

I got hit on twice in two years. The first was in jail, not prison, so only one time in prison. And, that came about after I got my parole and made the mistake of talking about it. (You don’t tell anyone as there are lots of guys who can’t stand it that someone’s getting out and they’re not and they try their best to fuck up a guy’s parole.) A black guy got in my barber’s chair (a no-no—blacks don’t sit in white barber’s chairs and vice versa, unless one of them’s a punk), and told me he was going to make me his kid.

I’d made up my mind what I was going to do if that ever happened and I did exactly that. Grabbed my straight edge and went after him, trying to cut his throat. Chased him all over the barber school and then Jonesy, a black hack, caught me, ran me into the office, locked the door, and took the black inmate over to his dorm. Jonesy could have written me up—and he should have—but he didn’t, which saved my life as I would have lost my parole and I knew if I had to do the whole five years of my bit, I’d have to kill the dude who fronted me and once I did that, I’d be in there the rest of my life. So, Jonesy saved my life, in my opinion.

The guys who get hit on are guys who are all alone. In Pendleton, that meant guys from small towns who weren’t career criminals before and didn’t know anyone. I was from South Bend and had been pulling jobs for years and knew everybody from South Bend and so had all kinds of buddies who had my back as I had theirs. A good example of what happens is one day a new kid came onto our tier from a small town—Tipton—and he seemed like an all-right guy, albeit naïve, and I kind of took him under my wing. Well, a black dude started romancing him (although the kid didn’t realize what he was doing)—giving him cookies, cigarettes and all that.

I warned the kid that he needed to get away from this guy, but he was convinced the black guy was just trying to be friendly. He was. A week later, he’d turned the kid out. Big-time. Not just for himself, but he put the kid on the block. First thing he did was get a ball-peen hammer and knock out all the kid’s front teeth. (Better for blow jobs.) A week after I’d tried to warn him off, the kid was roaming the aisles on movie day, giving blow jobs to other inmates for cigarettes and green, turning them over to his new “friend.” Sad, but he was too ignorant to know when help was offered him.

But, that’s where most rapes come from. It’s just not a common deal at all. It wasn’t something most of us even think about or worry about at all. Seems to happen a lot in movies and in novels written by writers who don’t have a clue.

All that said, I’ve got rape in THE BITCH, don’t I! But, both took place in jail, not prison. One is far more likely to be raped in jail than in prison for several reasons. One, many guys in jail haven’t done time so all they know is from books and movies. So, they try to imitate what they think goes on, especially black guys. Not trying to come across as a racist, but it is what it is.

Second, and more important, guys in jail are hours or mere days away from being under the influence of drugs and that makes you do things and act in ways you wouldn’t when sober. Third, often guys in jail haven’t made the alliances they will in prison and so are more at risk. Jail and prison are vastly different animals.

Your original question was if I was trying to show that survivors or prison rape were still human beings. Well, not consciously. I simply assume they are (still human beings). I think a lot of straights think all criminals are rapists, child-molesters, serial killers and the like. The fact is, the vast majority of convicts are involved in crimes of property more than in crimes of person. Far more guys inside for burglarizing bars and gas stations, for stealing cars, for sticking up 7-11’s, for check-kiting, for assault on the wife who they walked in on as they were banging their best friends, than are in there for the crimes commonly portrayed on TV.

So, yeah; I think most of the guys inside are still human beings. Books, TV and movies are all engaged in sensationalizing prisons and are a long way off from any accurate portrayal. That series on MSNBC is typical bullshit—if a person believed that show, they’d think most inmates are pumping iron all day long or are total nut jobs. Totally unrealistic show, but if they showed the boredom that prison truly is, ratings would plunge.

BEN: You're candid about your colorful past, even writing about it in your bio on your website. Why? As you point out in The Bitch, people can react negatively to finding out one is an ex-con.

LES: For years, I did just that—kept my past secret. Then, I got tired of listening to people who usually had it all wrong. The truth is, most criminals are pretty much like your average citizen. Not that many hang out in strip clubs, have tatts, use drugs and drink like there was no tomorrow. Not that many have killed someone. Not that many have raped or been raped in the joint.

If you took the population of the average prison and set these folks down in the food court of your average mall and dressed them “normally” I doubt if anyone looking at them or listening to them would ever think they were any different than anyone else who might be in the mall. In fact, the average citizen probably talks to an excon every week and doesn’t have a clue. At one time, for instance, I could walk into just about any barbershop in Indiana and almost always someone cutting hair there would be someone I knew from Pendleton. The average lame who came in for their haircut didn’t have a clue. Well, we’re out there in your neighborhood.

Some of us are working in fast food, some are selling insurance, some are working on your car, some are taking your dry cleaning and handing you the pickup ticket, some are managing movie theaters… you name it, ex-cons are doing the same jobs and living the same lives as anyone else. Remember, I was a college prof (still am), was in college and elected student body president, worked as a reporter for The South Bend Tribune, sold Prudential life insurance, worked as a headhunter for an executive recruiting firm—in short, did a whole bunch of jobs that, if you believed bad novels, bad movies, and bad TV wouldn’t be the case. But it is. We’re (ex-cons) are in every segment of life on the bricks and doing virtually any job you can think of.

BEN: Let's wrap up with a lighter question. What would be on the Les Edgerton sandwich?

LES: A tunafish sandwich made with the recipe of this place I used to go to in Bermuda. I’ve never tasted anything like it since. And, I don’t even like tunafish much, but this sandwich was awesome. Second choice, would be fried oysters.

Thanks for having me on, Ben. This was fun!

April 16, 2012

"A Cop, His Dog and Some Gun Thugs " - Leroy B. Vaughn

Editor's Note: This piece of flash non-fiction blew me away. Not even a brutal Mexican gang war can break the bonds of man's best friend. Thanks for sharing this incredible story, Leroy.

In present times, Sahuayo is a bustling city of approximately 350,000 people located in the Mexican state of Michoacan. The streets are packed with people, and traffic is non-stop from daylight until well after dark.

People stand in doorways and gossip with passing neighbors. Teenagers try to see which car stereo can shake the windows of the little block houses as they drive through the narrow streets, often going the wrong way.

This is a different Sahuayo than the one of 1949, when Everado Ochoa was a town policeman. The town had a population of about 10,000 people and was controlled by five powerful families.

Everado Ochoa had been appointed to the town patrol, as the law enforcement agency for Sahuayo was called at that time, by his uncle, Antonio Ochoa.

Antonio Ochoa was the commandant of the patrol. He had made his bones as a Cristero rebel chief during the rebellion that lasted from 1926 until 1929.

After Antonio Ochoa gained control of the town patrol, he deputized several of his relatives as patrolmen, allowing them to carry guns. They had little or no training in law enforcement, and Sahuayo was ruled with an iron fist.

As an example, Commandant Ochoa appointed his brother, Alfredo Ochoa, to assist in crime fighting in the town. Alfredo Ochoa was working as an off-duty officer at a local event, and was assigned to collect a small fee to use a public toilet. A local man did not feel that he should have to pay to use a toilet and told Alfredo the same. After a brief argument, Alfredo Ochoa shot the man dead.

After that incident, no one argued about pay toilets in Sahuayo.

The Cristero rebellion had been over for 20 years, but killers still roamed the streets of Sahuayo, bent on vendettas. By most accounts, the commandant's nephew, Everado Ochoa, was known as a decent person who was just trying to make a living in the town of Sahuayo.

At that time, Sahuayo was a rural town with narrow streets. There were more horse-drawn carts and donkeys in the town than there were cars or trucks. Everado Ochoa patrolled the streets on foot and knew everyone on his beat. He was a devoted husband and the father of a boy and a girl, both toddlers.

He looked forward to going home at the end of the day and spending time with his wife and kids, as well as his faithful dog, King.

Everado had found King when the dog was a pup. He bartered with the man selling the dog, saying that the bull terrier was the ugliest mutt he had ever seen. The man was going to charge him full price, ugly or not, until he realized that Everado was the nephew of the commandant. All of a sudden the price for King got much better.

Everado's wife didn't want a dog, especially one as ugly as this white bull terrier with the big brown spots and yellow eyes. Still, she knew Everado and King were going to be great friends.

Everado and King were soon seen all over the town, walking the narrow streets. At home, King was at Everado's feet while the patrolman relaxed in his favorite chair. At night, when Everado and his wife went to their bedroom, King followed them. He slept next to Everado's side of the bed.

One day, King was at his usual place by the front door, waiting for Everado to return from his patrol. Everado's wife was in the little kitchen, preparing something eat. Her two little children were at her side.

Everado was only a few blocks from home when a man ran up. He said someone was shooting a gun on a street a few blocks away. There were no police radios at that time in Sahuayo, and most of the citizens did not own telephones or cars. The man was sent to find the commandant. The 20-year-old patrolman headed to the scene on his own.

Everado was shot dead as soon as he arrived on the scene.

Everado's brother, Leopoldo, arrived at the scene before the commandant and his posse. He spotted two men he knew and did not like. Leopoldo shot both men, wounding but not killing them.

It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. Neither man had anything to do with the death of his brother.

The real shooter was never found. He made his getaway during the confusion caused by Leopoldo Ochoa shooting the wrong men.

The next evening, Everado's wife sat in a corner of the house, wearing all black, as the women of the family prepared food for mourners at the wake. The men gathered on the street in front of the house and drank tequila.

Everado's casket was in the living room of the house on sawhorses. King, the bull terrier, guarded the casket from beneath it.

When the casket was moved from the house to the church for the funeral mass, King followed the horse-drawn wagon through the narrow streets of town.

After the mass, King followed the cortege to the cemetery. The mourners left after the graveside service, but not King. He stayed by his master's grave.

At first, the new widow did not notice King missing. One of the brothers brought him home after finding him in the cemetery at Everado's grave.

King did not sleep or eat after the death of his master. He sat at his spot near Everado's chair, as if he were waiting for the young patrolman to come home from work.

Three months after the funeral, Everado's wife came out of her bedroom and found King dead near Everado's chair. King, Everado's faithful companion, was two and one-half years old.

Thirty-three years after the death of Everado Ochoa, his brother, Leopoldo, died from complications after being shot several times in the knees. Unknown assailants shot him in his second-hand store in Los Angeles, California. Fifteen-hundred miles from Sahuayo.

Leroy Vaughn is a retired law enforment officer from southern California. He and his wife, Cecilia, lived in central Mexico for more than three years. This story was written after interviewing several surviving members of the Ochoa family. His short stories have been published in 10 magazines in the U.S. and Mexico.