About 40 minutes south of Kansas City, a tiny lake, a big pond really, is surrounded by a dozen homes. We ain't exactly talkin Lake Tahoe, or even lake Quivira for that matter. Imagine a lower income , white trash village, add a few trailer houses, some tiny slapped together shacks, and a few 40 year old starter ranch houses, and that's a pretty good description of the place I'm talking about. The police , or sheriff's deputies are no stranger to this place. Meth labs, a little weed cultivation, domestic disputes, and stolen property recoveries, are a few of the reasons the cops are so familiar with Lake Whiskey Tango. Kansas City detectives and Federal authorities are more familiar with the area because it is home to a guy that was at one time one of the city's most violent career criminals. Lets call him Joe.
He was a regular at my uncles restaurant, back when I was in my teens. He was also a regular at the many after hours crap games that once took place along the far south end of Prospect. Bars like Ronnie's Rabbit Hutch , the Three Moods, and Zorba the Greek, at one time or another in the 1970's were host to illegal crap games. My Uncle loved craps, won often, and more than once I was summoned to one of these bars to drive some losers car home, either for keeps or collateral. One night Joe lost money in a crap game to a guy known as Bird Dog. Joe tried to renege on paying, and was summarily beat down by the afore mentioned Bird Dog.
This would be a good time to give a brief overview of Bird Dog. For starters he was a big guy, I mean linebacker big, but gone to fat. Picture a 30 something white guy who stands 6'4 , 6'5, weighs about 300, 350, looks like he spent his day in a junkyard, he owned one, and he has one of those hideous fucking white guy Afros, made so popular in the late 70's. Now give that mental picture the maturity and thought process of a 14 year old juvenile delinquent, and you have a good picture of Bird Dog. I once saw him piss through an open car window in front of a bar, while the guy was sitting behind the wheel. He took a new dodge challenger for a test drive and rolled it about 6 times. He would spit in a skillet when he was cooking to see if it was hot enough yet. He was shot by a KCPD police sargent, 3 or 4 times. Not only did he survive, he would taunt the cop and flip him off every time he saw the guy.
One unflattering overview deserves another, so here you go. Joe the Killer, was not a big imposing guy like Bird was. He stood 5'8 tops, and he was fat, in that swollen, bloated, red faced way from years of hard drinking. He always wore one of those, golf caps, the kind favored by the old Irish guys here and across the pond. What Joe lacked in stature, he made up for in spades, by being more than a little crazy. Joe shot and killed a guy over a comment the now dead guy made regarding Joe's girlfriend. The victim was drunk, ran his mouth at a party, so Joe shot him, on the spot. Witnesses claimed it was self defense, a knife from the kitchen was placed in the guys hand, and that was that. Truth be told, the guy killed was a bully and a loud mouth, but he was smart enough to know that showing up for a gun fight with a knife was a big faux pas. Why all of the witnesses lied to the police is simple, nobody wanted to be next in line to get ventilated.
Back to the night that the lights went out in Waldo. What I know to be fact, is this; Joe nursed his grudge for a couple of weeks. Late one night he crept in to Birds house, found him in bed, and shot him three times. Bird survived, he had practice at getting shot, and he had luck on his side. I ran across Bird Dog about 6 months after the shooting, and this is the story as he relayed it to me. As for the veracity of his version, who knows, people like Bird Dog have a tendency to ad lib when it comes to the truth. While I took it with a grain of salt, I want to believe his version, because it sounds so good. Bird claimed he was in bed with his next door neighbor, her husband away at work. I would be remiss if I failed to mention that the lady in question was crippled, wheel chair bound from injuries suffered in a car crash. I do know she was crippled, and I know she was friends with Bird. Anyway, Bird was doing the nasty with the crippled lady, when he hears her gasp, and immediately hears a metallic click. He looks over his shoulder and Joe is thumbing the hammer back for a second try. More luck for the Bird dog, maybe it was a bad round, or maybe even sociopaths practice gun safety and keep an empty chamber, either way, if true, it saved Birds life. He told me he grabbed the crippled lady in a bear hug, and started to roll. He claims he was trying to keep her from getting shot too, but I think he was using her as a shield. To make a long story a little shorter, Joe emptied his pistol, hitting Bird 3 times. One in the thigh, one in the ass, and one in the shoulder.
Fast forward to the present. Joe retired to his White Trash "Lake" community. Over the years I never saw Joe come to my Uncles restaurant, or anywhere in the old neighborhood, but from time to time, I would hear about one crazy escapade or another. There were charges of meth manufacturing, which didn't stick, there were a few raids over some weed being grown in the woods surrounding the lake. Finally, a couple of years ago, I saw Joe on the local news. One of his neighbors was accusing him of torching their house. Joe was on the TV rambling on about how he was innocent, the victims set fire to their place for insurance, like any self respecting criminal, Deny,Deny, Deny. He had lost the Irish golf cap, he had lost a bunch of weight, and his hair hung to his shoulders in twin braids ala Willie Nelson. The reporter, was being more than a little condescending, poking fun of this pigtail wearing hillbilly. It struck me that the reporter didn't know who he was dealing with. They were standing a short distance from the the small lake, near the burned out remains of the house that had been torched. I wondered if that reporter would be standing there , poking fun of this old guy in braids if he knew his history. People aren't always as they seem.