Saturday, October 25, 2014

Haints! Crazy Mary and My One and Only X-File

"Haints," you might say, is a deep southern or east Texican word for ghosts, and this story is my one and only run-in or brush by with what folks love to tell - a ghost story in a hospital. Now I am skeptic. Totally. I am such a skeptic, I am skeptical of my skepticism. But many years ago I experienced something that I never had before and never have since.  

In a city I worked in, there was once a major hospital called Flow Hospital atop a hill in the center of town. It reigned as the medical place to go for many a moon. Both my kids were born there. When I got busted up as a cop, they "wheelchaired" me around inside there. I have had fights with prisoners in there and outside on the grounds. I investigated shootings, suicides, and killings in and around the parking lots. 

Huge, modern hospitals were built over town, and Flow eventually lost business. Hospitals change owners, etc., and Flow was suddenly shut down. Empty. Being an owned property by ... someone or something somewhere else, these owners hired out our police department to work security in the empty Flow in the evenings and through the nights. Then eventually after a front office was fully shut down, we covered it 24 hours a day.

It was, as we cops love, a solid, great, easy overtime gig. I signed up also and worked out there three or four times a month for years. We had to walk the three-story building, morgue, and the basement - and, well, at 2 a.m. on a winter's night, it is a great setting for a horror movie. But the gig was problem-free. Between these foot patrols, officers brought in small campers' TV sets. The office also had a VCR and TV, and video tapes were kind of new in that decade, but there were still movies aplenty to rent. I wrote a lot and practiced my karate katas (hey, it was the 1980s!) between patrol walks. It was an easy gig. 

Easy that is, except for ... Crazy Mary. Ahhh, ... that'll be the ghost of this story. Through the years, all the nurses and doctors knew about Mary the Ghost. You know the classic story, someone died violently on the second floor, and they all had run-ins and weird stories about ... Mary. But seriously, how many people died in an age-old hospital? A lot! Mary or somebody else died there. Anyway, the legend grew. Skeptic that I am, I totally ignored it ... until something weird happened to ME!

One summer evening shift at the hospital, in required uniform, I was blissfully wandering around the place. It was still daylight. I walked into the first-floor office, clicked on the TV, and scattered the contents of my briefcase on a big desk. I had to work on my detective cases. 

“Hmmm, I need copies of this,” I told myself of some reports I had. I walked into a supply room right off the main office to a copy machine. Opened the lid, put in the paper, and hit the copy button. Boring, right?

I was suddenly struck by a whole-body, cold, spine-tingling chill that took my breath. Someone was behind me! It touched my back, but yet it didn't. I had to spin around. Instinctively. Reflexively. But as soon as I spun, this thing in the furthest corner of my left eye stayed right behind me just over my shoulder just, just ... over my shoulder and a hair out of sight. You know I saw something, but didn't. Couldn't, but did!

I probably spun around twice in front of that copy machine. Twice. Like a goddamned idiot. I felt like one. Then the electric feeling was gone. Flat gone. This chill, as fast as it came, was gone. "Well, what in the hell was that?" I said out loud to ... no one. No one?

I retrieved my papers and returned to the desk, trying to shake off that feeling. A feeling I've never had before and never since. I wasn't concerned or even thinking, even on the lowest subliminal level, about Mary or any haints. 

I continued to work overtime there for years, even when they shut the front office down and moved our headquarters into the empty basement emergency room. The idea of Mary was scary; but if she was there, she kinda floated around and didn't seem to hurt anyone, huh? Even with her legend and my supply room, circular pass-by, I walked the halls of that building in the dead of night and never had that feeling again. You would think I would be mentally predisposed to feel something after that, but no. It came only when I was utterly, completely, thoughtlessly un-predisposed to the idea. 

Years later, Officer Scotty Langford was wandering the halls at about 3 a.m., heard weird noises, and responded. No haints that time! He single-handedly caught three burglars in the building, with which I was quite impressed. Not just because he had to wrangle three bad guys, which he successfully did, but he was walking around and heard really weird noises in a suspected haunted building. And like Scully and Mulder in the X-Files, Scotty pulled his gun and flashlight and went forth to investigate.

 Now, I only have one file in my personal X-Files. This one supply room experience. I am open to any explanation any pro in the field might have about that evening. Haint explanation? Dizzy from allergies? Ghost/no ghost? I have zero agenda. No dog is this hunt. It was just weird.

I think in six or more years at Flow, Scotty's arrests was the only time any of us had to take any action at Flow. Eventually, they ripped the whole outfit down, and I hear it was replaced with a University of North Texas dormitory. But I wonder where Mary is? Does she still "haint" those grounds? 

Don't Even Think About It! The book. 

"This short story is an excerpt from this book. I know many of you through the years have seen this cover and read the hints that the book would be released "soon." Fact is, the book has been pitched, in and out of contract, expired, promised to, stalled, and contracted again; and, well, years go by in this dirty, damn, flaky book business. Years. I cannot tell you how screwed up the book business is. 

          "Don't Think" has now risen to the near-top of the happening list again and should be coming out in early 2015." - Hock 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Some Gunplay and Some Fisticuffs! Night of the Mad "Pay-tre-ons"

Some Gunplay and Some Fisticuffs!  Night of the Mad "Pay-tre-ons"

     Country and Disco, Rednecks and Hippies. Back then when I first patrolled the streets in the 1970s, be it in the Army or out, I … profiled … or rather nicknamed the guys I would see roaming the bars and restaurants at night. When the dancing parlors shut down each night, waves of “Country and Disco” folks would gravitate into the 24-hour diners. Some gravitated into our jails. It didn't take long to realize you were more likely to have trouble with a guy dressed in black with a felt cowboy hat than one "duded" up like a hair-sprayed member of the BeeGees. Profiles in wardrobes.

     Some of the bouncers of the country and western clubs were rough and rowdy people, and I have written some of their stories before. Like them or not, we got to, had to work with them, and they were indeed the first line of eyes and ears for a lot of stuff. They tipped us off, they pulled us out of scrapes, and they watched our backs. We watched theirs. When working as a detective later on, they helped cleared some cases, even murders, for me.

     One night at the Duster's Club, two bouncers I'll just call Ralph and Randy were whistled over by a barkeep pointing to a loud patron who was starting trouble. As they approached the disturbance, the patron turned, yelled, and held them at bay with an open palm.

     “You stay outta this!” the man screamed.

     Ralph thought the man was drugged more than he was drunk.  

     “Say padnah," Randy said, “come on, we just need you to leave, hear?”

     “Fuck you, skunk!” the man declared. “I ain't cha padnah!”

     With this, the man pulled a big revolver at them from under his jacket and shoved it straight out at arm's length. Randy and Ralph ducked and backed away, and the customers nearby shrieked and ran. But overall, this place is noisy and big, and the shock wave didn't rumble through the whole crowd. The rest of the place just two-stepped right on by. Kind of like life, really, when you think about it.

     The man charged the bouncers swearing he would kill them. The barkeep called the police. And that would be me. I was about two miles away.

     “Pay-tre-on at the Duster with a pistol,” the dispatcher told me on the car radio. This dispatcher - not a mental giant - always mispronounced the word "patron," calling them “pay-tre-ons," like they were some kind of an alien race. Our running joke for the night shift when this dispatcher was on duty was, “wonder if we'll be invaded by the Pay-tre-ons tonight?”

     “Ten-four,” I said; and, of course, there was no backup available. Everyone was busy with their own Saturday-night alien invasions.

     As I pulled up into the Duster parking lot, to my surprise, I saw Randy and Ralph kneeling beside some parked cars in the parking lot and peeking over the trunks and hoods to the north, to a cheap motel beside the nightclub. They ran to a wall and motioned me over.

     “He's in there!” Randy told me as I walked up to them. He pointed to the motel.  I stared, ducking down, too, because … I can take a hint.

     “Who?” I asked. “The guy with the gun? I thought he was in the Duster.”

     "He ran out the door and across the lot. Ralph and I follered behind him. Come here,” Randy said and brought me to the corner of the motel. “He is in that room.”  

     "He's madder 'en hell. He is on drugs,” Ralph said. “I swear he was gonna kill us. He's got a big-assed revolver. He pointed it at us and at half a dozen people at the bar.”

     He singled out the room window for me, and I could see a light was on inside and there was a lot of movement inside. The curtain was partially open. I worked my way around the corner while staring at the room window for any action, then slipped down the motel's south wall, up the west wall, until I was right beside this window.

     This was an old-fashioned, cinder-block constructed motel. Each room had a horizontal window with a sliding-glass windowpane and a curtain. The window was partially open. No screen on the window. I peered inside.

     An angry man was pacing the small room from the bathroom door to the front door. He was quietly cursing to himself, clenching his fists, and waving his arms. On the corner of the dresser by the front door was this “big-assed revolver.” I pulled out my .357 Python, my own big-assed gun, in case he decided to continue his angry walk out the door holding that damn thing.

     I stepped back and saw Randy and Ralph looking at me from across the parking lot. The loud and busy interstate highway ran behind them. I made a big circling motion with my hand and then pointed to a spot on the far side of the door, a signal for them to go up the service road and down the far side of the motel. I was all alone here and needed their help. (This was back in the day before God made SWAT. Nowadays you know this type of simple thing could become a full-fledged police parade today; but in those days, we had to handle stuff like this.) If my quick plan would work, I needed Randy and Ralph, and they were itching to help.

     I watched the man pace. When Randy and Ralph got into position on the far side of the door, I got into mine. At a moment when the man was near the bathroom door and far from his gun, I reached into the partially open window, hooked the curtain, and pointed my Python at him.

     “Police! Freeze!” I barked. Which he did. His eyes cut for his pistol.

     “No! Don't even think about it.”  

     Outside, Ralph tried to open the door, but it was locked.

     “You will walk over to the door with your hands up. You will unlock the door,” I told him in the most menacing voice I could muster. "If you touch that pistol, I will cut you in half.”

     He understood that and marched over to the door. As he got close to his gun, I inched my pistol in just a bit more for accent. Yes, I would have cut him in half. He unlocked the door.

     As soon as the knob jiggled, Ralph and Randy barged in, with quite a double tackle of this guy right onto the bed. I thought the bed would collapse, but it didn’t. They immediately proceeded to pummel and beat the tar out of him. I stepped around the wall into the room and stuck his pistol into my belt line. I took a quick peek into the bathroom for anyone else. Accomplices. Beaten-up girlfriend. Dead guys. Yeah, no telling. But it was empty this time. Meanwhile, the beating on the bed continued.

     “OK, OK, OK,” I said, trying to tone these guys down just enough to get a space to handcuff this guy. The suspect was busted up a bit by now, but way back when, which I still affectionately refer to as “the good old days,” the jailers accepted and booked-in near-dead prisoners and never so much as offered an aspirin to them. Today they get new teeth, a manicure, and a scholarship.

     Off to jail. Detectives on Monday morning would work the rest of this. Get statements. The guy, a Texican but an out-of-towner, had no prior criminal history. I charged him with possession of a firearm in a bar, which was a felony then, and for the assault of pointing that pistola at Randy and Ralph. Why’d he do it? Hell if I know. I just did my part of the job. As usual, I never saw nor heard from this suspect again. He must have plea-bargained himself a deal.   

     Yup, I never saw him again. Just a whole lot of folks like him. The world is full of these damn “Pay-tre-ons.” It's an invasion, I tell ya. The truth is out there.

Don't Even Think About It! The book.

     "This short story is an excerpt from this book. I know many of you through the years have seen this cover and read the hints that the book would be released "soon." Fact is, the book has been pitched, in and out of contract, expired, promised to, stalled, and contracted again; and, well, years go by in this dirty, damn, flaky book business. Years. I cannot tell you how screwed up the book business is. It is now risen to the near-top again and should be coming out in early 2015." - Hock 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pistol Muzzling

     I started shooting paper targets in about 1969. It is now 2014. Lots of years have passed. Shooting at the range kind of bores me now after all the years. Through them, in the Army and police, I have qualified expert many times with handguns and rifles and at one time was even on a police pistol shooting team; so I have passed through some level of understanding for the process of shooting paper targets.

     For me, regular range shooting is just a bit like going to the dentist these last few years. Or maybe I have an attention span problem? I trudge out and do it, but I find it another chore in life; and it still kind of surprises me how very quickly I become bored once I start shooting at the range. I must also add that shooting is a very serious business to me. Except for maybe skeet shooting, the routine pistol, shotgun, and rifle training is as serious as a heart attack; and the word "fun" doesn't quite fit. I think that in 26 years, my job took all the fun out of it.

     But since shooting skills are, as they say, perishable and there are many different kinds of firearms to learn, there is no better way to stay fresh yet invented than to run some real bullets through real guns at the range. Must do. This simply has to be done periodically. Yes.

     Occasionally, I get cornered into teaching live fire. For me, teaching people to shoot or refreshing their target-shooting skills is even a higher level of discontent and discomfort. Just not my thing, as they say. That is why I pair up with good live-fire instructors, and they do their thing; and then I do my simulated ammo thing.

     Unlike paper target shooting, I get totally excited and motivated about interactive shooting with various levels of simulated ammo. Learn to run the gun at the range. Return to the range and re-familiarize with it periodically; but if you are in the combat business, get on to shooting at moving, thinking people who are shooting back at you in various real-world environments with simulated ammo. I am all in!

     I have come to believe in the 15/45 split. After you fully familiarize on a weapon, however long that takes, then you return for re-familiarization. Spend 15 minutes doing that and then 45 minutes with safe, simulated ammo in scenario training. Obviously the ratios/percentages change with 2, 4, 8, … whatever … hours in training. I’ll even go 30/30 with you. This concept is a slow growing trend but never forget that you are not really learning to gunfight unless moving, thinking people are shooting back at you.

     These last 17 years, I stayed away from teaching live fire on the range as much as possible. I leave that to the “experts,” plus I get to avoid all the anal retention debates involved in that subject matter. But once in a very rare while, I get myself roped into doing some live fire instruction by some training groups at odd-ball times when we are trying to organize certain training missions and there are just no other options for me. I can do it, but don't want or like to.

     One of the things I do was something I picked up decades ago in a police course - a test run on the range. First event on the line with empty weapons or replica weapons, I have everyone stand on the firing line and we run through the commands. Watch and see what they do (especially new shooters) with their unloaded weapons. They draw. They stand in their various  positions. They change empty magazines. They holster. You might spot dangerous moves and quirks and correct them before the real explosions start.

     And a big problem on the range and in real life is muzzling or lasering themselves and/or each other. Here are some of the common problems.

Muzzling Your Own Thigh and Foot – Standing
     During that “quick draw process,” the barrel of your weapon might cross some part of your holster-side leg and even foot.

Muzzling Your Thigh While Dropping

     Loud explosions and sudden gunfire often make combatants drop to a knee while drawing their pistols, as shown below. It is often a reflexive move, in which case reflex is reflex. The drawn pistol will often muzzle your thigh as shown in the photo. One solution is to practice dropping to the weak knee, thus limiting exposure.

Muzzling Your Support Hand

     In the haste to shoot with two hands, you may muzzle your support hand as it moves into position.

Malfunctions and Reloading

     When a shooter has a malfunction or when he reloads under stress, he may accidentally point the barrel at himself or anyone near him. Take care when clearing malfunctions and reloading.

Shooting Your Own Arm

     In the course of very close quarter combat, a large percentage of the time you are engaged in battling an enemy. Your arm is placed or pulled in the way of your line of fire. You have a choice to shoot high (over your arm) or low (under your arm). But it is a chaotic moment of motion. Take care not to shoot your arm.

Fickle Flight Muzzling - Accidentally Shooting Yourself in Very Close Quarters

     The flight path of bullets is fickle when they hit your opponent. If you are extremely close, these rounds may bang around inside his body and exit back into you somewhere down the line.

The Unsafe Re-Holstering (Or ... Just "Holstering" As They Say)

     When the shooting segment is over, careless shooters with their eyes glued to the targets down range, "scoring from a distance," and those who take little regard when re-holstering, often muzzle themselves; and this can be dangerous be it a belt line or shoulder holster. There is a case on record of a man who shot himself in his own heart when holstering his semi-automatic into a shoulder holster, all the while walking down range and squinting to see his shots on the target.

     Veteran range instructors have probably seen these and many more. Start your own list.


Pistol Retention Training Film

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