Breach Kick


I drove to Spring Valley. A cold, damp November evening. The leaves saturated from the previous day's rain. The few leaves still on the trees hung limply from their branches, but the rest lay rotting on the ground. I could almost smell the leaves and the forage in the fields decaying into humus. Anyone who grows up in the country or near the country knows this cold, earthy smell: it's bitter and it's cold, and it smarts inside your nostrils. I wished the leaves would just freeze; they'd seem less cold if frozen; frozen leaves often curl into elegant, shell-like shapes, glazed with crystalline hoar frost.

As I drove, I wondered what I was really doing chasing down this lead. Blondie had tossed Sneed's name out, almost as an afterthought. I should have been looking for Bruce. Bruce had never mentioned Sneed to me, hadn't even mentioned a union organizer. I had no reason to believe that Bruce knew about Sneed. Then again, Durney never mentioned Sneed either, and Blondie was certain that Durney knew about Sneed.

But then there was the cryptic message on that postcard: "there's somebody up there you know, only you don't know, and even if you ever do know, you still don't know."

In any case, I had no other leads to go on.

I kept trying to remember when I first met Bruce, when Bruce first turned up. I knew it was at Shady Grove, Durney's stag club outside Tiskilwa, on a pretty crazy night: drunks hanging from the rafters and guys fucking girls all over the place, even outside on the ground. I was watching the main floor, the video poker machines, where the clientele was pretty calm—gambling addicts don't usually act out when in the presence of a poker machine, which seems to almost mesmerize them. Durney appeared in the stairwell that connected the basement with the first and second floors. Strobe lights from the basement illuminated the doorway to the stairwell. I remember that strobe lighting in the stairwell made me think of electrocution-by-jump-starter-cables. Durney stepped out of the stairwell with his arm around the shoulder of a guy I'd never seen before. They walked right up to me, and Durney said, "Ora, meet Bruce. Bruce, Ora." When Durney didn't give a last name, that meant no last names: you didn't ask, and you didn't tell. He introduced a lot of people that way, and I didn't think anything of it. That was just something you got used to, in our line of work: knowing people by only a first name, which, as often as not, was an alias. But Durney had given Bruce my real first name, so I assumed that he had also given me Bruce's real first name. Durney said, "I hope you two will like each other. You're my two guys, the only ones I trust completely."

I never had a compliment that meant more to me than that one. Granted, I didn't like sharing it with this new guy, Bruce, but it electrified me nevertheless. And god did I hunger for more: I wanted to ask him why, in part simply to prolong the moment, but also so that I could savor it better, get to experience it from every possible angle: what was it about me that made him feel that way? I would have given anything to know, but you didn't ask Durney to explain something like that. With Durney, every statement was a surface you had no business trying to get beneath.

Anyway, that was the night I first met Bruce. Over the next few months Bruce and I got to know each other very well, and yet there remained some basic, superficial things about each other that we never asked about. I did, however, once ask him how he knew Durney. I shouldn't have asked that question, and Bruce knew I shouldn't have, but Bruce and I had become pretty good friends, just as Durney hoped me would. Bruce said that he had run Durney's rackets in Marshall County for years. I didn't ask any follow up questions. A guy who asks a lot of questions is liable to learn something he doesn't want to know, and believe me, there are lots of reasons why you might not want to know something, and the fact that it might get you killed isn't even always number one. Still, I did often think about Bruce's answer, and I never understood why Durney pulled Bruce out of Marshall County, why he brought Bruce up to Bureau County. Looking back, I wonder if the real reason I didn't ask more questions was because I had come to enjoy my friendship with Bruce, and I didn't want to learn anything that might ruin this friendship. Friendship is like a drug: so easy to enjoy, and it always leaves you wanting more. I think friendship is the most dangerous relationship a man can form with another person; it rots you from the inside out.

So I guess that's how I first met Bruce. I wish I never had; I wish Durney never had.

When I finally arrived in Spring Valley, I still had 5 hours to kill before midnight. I drove to a park, where I parked my car and listened to a relaxation cassette tape. While listening to the cassette tape, an unexpected knock at the car window scared the fuck out of me. Jesus Christ did it ever—if I had been holding a cup of coffee, I would have spilled the whole goddam thing all over my pants.

The person knocking at my window looked like a Boy Scout or a Cub Scout or maybe a Hitler Jugend—how the fuck was I supposed to know what paramilitary youth club he belonged to? I waved my hand in a shooing motion, which I thought pretty clearly conveyed my desire for him to leave me alone. Instead he just stood there grinning like an imbecile; the idiot wasn't even wearing a winter jacket, probably so he could display all his faggoty merit badges. I rolled my window halfway down, and said "Jesus Christ, kid, it's freezing fucking cold outside. Go home and dress yourself properly." It then occurred to me that I probably shouldn't use profane language when speaking to somebody his age, especially not to a Boy Scout.

Completely unfazed by my swearing, however, he reached up and dropped a brochure over the half-open car window, saying, "Good evening sir. My name is Tony Sottosanti. I'm a Webelo from Cub Scout Pack 580. We're selling popcorn, summer sausages, and smoked cheese spreads. The flier I just gave you—"

I dropped the brochure back out the half-open window, said, "Get lost kid," and rolled the window back up. What the hell was an unaccompanied child, not dressed properly for the weather, doing in the park at that hour anyway? And soliciting, for Christ's sake! What's wrong with parents these days?

I left my vehicle and walked away from him, trying to calm myself down by smoking cigarettes. I hate smokers, but then I also hate myself.

As the night deepened, I again tried to understand what I was really doing there in Spring Valley. I didn't feel that I was coming any closer to Durney's killer. What was I doing, chasing down this lead, if it could even be called that? Blondie's "lead", thrown to me almost as an afterthought, like table scraps thrown to a dog. Was Blondie really the crack-of-a-whip that Durney used to think she was? If she was, then even table scraps from her could be worth something. If she wasn't...well, what if I wasn't whatever Durney had imagined me to be? What if Durney wasn't what I thought he was? Blondie had to be what he had said she was, or else everything would have to be second guessed.

I walked and I thought: Will Sneed, you sorry son-of-a-bitch, where do you figure into all this? My grade school teachers taught me, with a ruler applied briskly and fiercely to my knuckles, that the word "this" must always be followed by a noun. But there was no noun to follow this "this". Or rather, the noun remained unknown to me. This what? This life, I guessed: this life, or this part of life that you could maybe call a plot or a conspiracy or a frammis. Is that what life is, just a handful of conspiracies strung together? Each of us trying, by hook and by crook, to get what we want, and devising elaborate plots to conceal from ourselves the essential selfishness of it all? If so, then what did I really want? What was my selfish motive for wanting to find Durney's killer? Was justice a lie? Revenge a lie? Loyalty a lie? Would I actually have the guts to kill Bruce if I ever even found him? I couldn't tolerate these questions. I had to begin doing, to act. In action I would find relief, and maybe even fulfillment. But my next action had to wait until midnight, when the waitress who might have been present when Sneed made his midnight rendezvous at the Royal Donuts, she might again be on her shift and she might be able to tell me something.

A flashlight beam opened onto the sidewalk directly ahead of me, and then moved up my body to my face. I stopped walking, but the person holding the flashlight continued approaching, and I prepared to draw my gun. When the person holding the flashlight was within speaking distance, he announced himself, "Police," and then turned the flashlight onto his police badge.

I said, in greeting, "Officer."

He said, "Are you aware that the park closes at sunset?"

"No sir, I was not."

"What are you doing out here?"

"Just taking a stroll."

"Awfully cold for a walk in the park at night, isn't it?" I hate it when people state the obvious. I hate it even more when cocky cops do it.

I answered, in my most docile tone of voice, "Yes, officer, I guess it is." What a fucking asshole. I would have loved to rip his throat out.

Not finished interrogating me, he asked, "You from around here?"

"Tiskilwa, sir."

"What are you doing in Spring Valley?"

I decided just to use Sneed's story as my own: "I'm meeting a friend at the Royal Donuts, at midnight. Just killing time until then."

"Well you'll have to kill it someplace else. Park is closed."

"Sorry about that officer. Like I said, I didn't realize. You know, if you really want to get a suspicious character, there's a Cub Scout on the loose somewhere around here, in the park. He came up to my car window and tried to sell me sausages and smoked cheese spread. Solicitation on public property without a permit is surely a crime in this town?"

The policeman grimaced, took a notepad from his pocket, and said, "What's your name, sir?"

"Ora Thomas."

"Do you have any identification on you?"

I gave him my wallet. A wise cop usually knows enough to take whatever bribe he wants from the wallet.

He handed the wallet back, and said, "Please remove your identification from the wallet, sir."

Realizing that I had possibly gotten myself into a spot of trouble, I said, as I handed him my driver's license, "I work for Peoria Vending and Amusements." You see, Spring Valley would be in the Peoria mob's territory, now that they had taken over Todd Menocken's rackets. I figured they must have somebody up here squaring the raps. Why shouldn't I benefit a little?

It seemed to work: he returned my driver's license, without writing my name in his notepad, and said, "That'll be fine sir. Just remember, sir, park closes at sunset."

As he turned to walk away, I said, "Don't forget about that Cub Scout on the loose! He's the real menace!"

I drove around the town until midnight.

When midnight finally arrived, I entered the Royal Donuts and sat at the counter. The place was teal and pink and bright bright white. I was the only customer. A waitress said, "Cup of coffee?"

"Seven Up, if you have it."

"Small, medium, or large?" From a soda fountain! Soda always seems fizzier from a soda fountain than from a bottle or a can. I love the feeling of fizz on my tongue and in my mouth. It's one of those sensations, like pushing on a loose tooth, that feels good right up until it almost starts to hurt. Listerine's like that too. But soda's only that way when it's really cold

"Large please, with as much ice as possible." When you want as much ice as I do, you have to order a large or else you hardly get any soda.

After a few minutes, the waitress said, "Did you want a donut?"

"Sure." I scanned the selection in the donut racks behind her, and said, "Vanilla long john, please."

She served my long john on a piece of wax paper, and then asked, "So, what brings in?"

I was glad she asked, because it's always easier to get information from the chatty, gossipy type. I said, "You must not get many strangers in here."

"Not at midnight on a Tuesday we don't. Although this Tuesday, we might. A lot of people go out drinking before Thanksgiving, and then come in for donuts."

I asked, "How long have you been working here?"

"Longer than I like to say," and she laughed: "About six years."

"Do you usually work this shift?"

"It's not the kind of shift you work every now-and-again. You either get used to it, and keep it, or else you quit. I like it because there's usually not that much work to do. Basically just keeping the place open. I can read my magazines. What's your name," she asked?

"Ora." I realized I would have to ask her the same, even though I didn't really care: "What's your name?"

She smiled, pointed to her name badge, winked at me, and said "Cheryl." She had a good personality; she was nice.

I asked, "Would you remember somebody who was in here about two months ago?"

"Maybe. Like I said, we don't get many customers during this shift."

I removed Will Sneed's photograph from my coat pocket and handed it to her.

She took the photograph, studied it. "Yeah, I think I remember him, though I couldn't say for sure. You say he was in here about two months ago?"

"That's right."

"Yes, I remember. He looked a little younger than he does in your picture."

"Do you remember if he was alone?"

She squinted her eyes and grimaced, like maybe she was thinking so hard it hurt. "He was alone. At first. That's right. Yes, I can picture him now. He came in alone. He was sitting at a booth over there," and she pointed to the row of booths against the wall. "He sat facing the front door, and I remember thinking he looked worried and also that he looked like he was expecting somebody, but that he wasn't too pleased about it, or else maybe he didn't know who he was expecting. He had that kind of look on his face. A suspicious look, I guess is what you'd call it. Who is he?"

"A friend," I said. This lie, that Sneed and I were friends, was beginning to open itself up inside my mind, like a flower blossom that opened itself to the morning sunlight, or like a woman spreading her legs for a man, and it felt perverse and intimate and wrong. I wasn't a friend of Will Sneed's, but I was impersonating one. It reminded me of people who wear masks during sex. "His name is Will Sneed. You ever heard that name before?"


"You said he was alone at first. What happened later?"

"Well, that was sort of strange too," she said, as if the memory was becoming clearer, and she had begun to enjoy remembering it. "A guy, about the same age as your friend, shows up. He was carrying a brief case, which is unusual, at least during my shift. He comes to the counter and asks for a Bavarian cream horn. We never have those here, and I told him so. Then he asks for a jelly donut and a cup of coffee. After I served him, he turns toward the booths, and your friend—Will?—held up his hand in a sort of half-wave. A half-wave, like in high school, when the teacher is taking attendance, and you have to raise your hand when she calls your name, but there's never any enthusiasm in it. So this other guy walks over to your friend's booth and says, 'Will Sneed?' I remember that now because you told me his name. The other guy sits down, and takes a folder out of his brief case."

"Did this other guy give his name?"

"I don't remember. In any case, I stopped watching them and started reading People. I read the magazine for maybe five minutes. I had about an hour before the bars closed, and I decided to step outside for a cigarette. We can smoke inside, but when the weather's tolerable I like getting outside for a few minutes if I can. Usually I stand right outside the front door here, so I can keep an eye on the counter." She looked out the front window, and I followed her gaze to where the "Royal Donuts" sign towered high above the parking lot in hot teal and pink neon. She continued, "While I was outside, I noticed your friend's car, because he had parked it right outside the front door. The other guy, though, had parked his car about as far from the front door as possible. I got a little curious why he would park that far away from the entrance, so I walk over to take a look at his car. It was a black sedan with tinted windows, but I don't remember anything else about it. I decided to finish smoking my cigarette at the back of the building instead of the front, which I could do on that night because we had the rear door open on account of the air conditioning wasn't working in the back of the shop and it was so hot and humid out, so we had the back door open and three fans blowing full blast to keep the bathrooms and the kitchen from getting moldy. Anyway, the point is that with the back door open I could see right through to the front of the shop, so that if any customers came in, I'd be able to see them. Now, there's a concrete retaining wall back there. I walked back to the concrete wall and leaned against it as I finished my cigarette. While I was back there, I see the other guy, the one who met your friend, come out of the men's bathroom. He looks left and right, a little bit suspiciously, I thought. I was kind of surprised that he didn't see me, but then I was way back by the retaining wall, and probably with the noise of the fans blowing he just didn't notice. Anyway, he comes out of the bathroom and looks left and right, as if to make sure no one's watching. Then he takes something from his pocket and pins it to the bulletin board we have back there, by the bathrooms and the payphone. The boss lets customers use that bulletin board to post announcements or business cards—that kind of stuff. I was curious why this guy didn't want anybody to see him posting whatever it was he posted to the bulletin board, and I didn't want him to know that I seen him, in case he might run back and remove it. So when I finish my cigarette, I walk back around to the front of the building, instead of entering through the back door, like I had planned, because, like I said, I didn't want him to guess that I was out back watching. So I reenter the shop through the front door, and the other guy is sitting back down again, and he's sitting with his back to the door. I wonder if he even knew I left the building."

I could see that this woman was leading up to something with her story, possibly something useful, but her lengthy recital was getting on my nerves and I felt like saying to her, "Will you please just get to the fucking point?" Unfortunately, I was in no position to handle her roughly, because she could clam up at any moment, and I had no means of coercing her to speak, so I was stuck listening to her long story. I realized something about myself, that I am not a very patient person. This realization actually came as a surprise to me, because I had always thought of myself as extraordinarily patient. How many stakeouts had I endured, hour after hour, without uttering a complaint? Impatience with people was, maybe, something different? I didn't care about this woman, just as I didn't care about Amy or Johnny or even Blondie; I didn't care about their stories. I only wanted to extract from them the information that I needed. It's much easier to communicate with people when I'm pointing a gun at their heads. They get to the point real fast when they're staring into the muzzle of a gun. Life would be so much easier if all human interactions could be conducted at gunpoint. And why not? It could be just another social convention. Realistically, though, I didn't think it had much chance of being accepted into polite society.

All this time she had been talking, but she caught my attention again when she said, "Anyway, when they left—."

"Sorry to interrupt," I said, "But did they leave together or separately?"

"Together. They left in the other guy's car. I know that because your friend's car was parked right out front here, like I said, and about five minutes after they left, I got curious and stepped outside real quick and the other guy's car was gone, but, like I said, your friend's car was still here. It was still there when my shift ended."

"What time did your shift end?"

"It ends at three o'clock—that's when the morning crew comes in to start making the donuts."

"Okay, thanks. You were going to say?"

"I don't remember," she said, "What was I going to say?"

"You were going to say something about what happened when they left."

"Oh yes, that's right. When they left, I went back to the bulletin board to see if I could find the card the other guy had posted to it. It's amazing, really, how you can look at the bulletin board a dozen times a day, and not really notice anything on it—it's always the same old stuff about garage sales and church bazaars and beauticians and attorneys who specialize in this-and-that. I hadn't actually looked hard at that bulletin board for a couple years. So it's amazing, actually, how you can just glance at something like that and take in much more information than you realize. In just a few moments I was able to spot the card that was new."

"What did it say?"

"I don't remember. It might still be up there, though I wouldn't be surprised if the boss took it down."

"Why would he do that?"

"I remember thinking it was for a place that sounded kinda shady. The boss don't like that kind of stuff on the bulletin board."

"A place?"

"The place where the guy worked. Hold on—I'll see if it's still up there."

She walked back to the hallway by the bathrooms and the payphone. I could see her staring at the bulletin board on the wall. She unpinned a card, returned to the counter, and handed it to me:

Aaron Cawley, MSW

Admissions Counselor

Health Clinic and Rest Home of La Salle

(815) 223-2065

Pregnant? Addiction? Alcoholism? Mental Illness? Elder Care? In Trouble?

We Can Help.

I knew about this place. They specialized in late term abortions, doping, prescription drugs—the kind of place where they'll do just about anything that a real hospital wouldn't. They had a side racket in Medicare and Medicaid fraud, with other forms of insurance fraud taken on a case-by-case basis, private insurance companies being notoriously more difficult to defraud than the government. I had been there myself for gunshot wounds—Durney sent all his men there for gunshot wounds because this place doesn't notify the police when they treat a gunshot wound the way a regular hospital would. They also buy up old adoption agencies for the records.

As I stared at the card, wondering why Sneed would be meeting with an admissions counselor from a place like this, the waitress said, somewhat irrelevantly I thought, "That's actually an Oglesby phone number, not La Salle." She was correct, though: the Health Clinic and Rest Home of La Salle was in Oglesby, not La Salle.

I set the card on the counter, thanked her, and left the Royal Donuts.

She called out after me, "But you didn't eat your long john..."

The Health Clinic and Rest Home of La Salle was about ten miles further east, and then south across the river. I always forget I'm near the river, until the ground unexpectedly disappears beneath me. The road arcs above the river's vast floodplain, onto a truss bridge, from which you can see the river far below: an entirely different world, with its barges and tugs, palisades of grain elevators and factories, and the people who make their lives down there. The bridge lands you safely on the other side, and then, just like that, the land flattens out, and you wonder if the river was ever really there.

The clinic wasn't difficult to find, but it also wasn't a place you'd stumble upon without directions. It was secluded from the main road by a heavy timber, and the entrance was unmarked, except by a street number. The building itself was situated at the end of a long drive, and looked like an old tuberculosis sanitarium, with a vast lawn and a long veranda fronting the building. I could picture patients convalescing in wicker chairs on sunny summer afternoons, and nurses carrying trays of ice water and pill bottles and sterilized hypodermic needles.

I parked my car and stepped outside. The back of the building looked out over the bluffs. I listened carefully. Though I could not see the river, I knew that it was there, somewhere beyond the bluffs where the earth appeared simply to end. I sensed the river by its eerie silence. Despite all the activity on the river, it could only be comprehended, from where I stood, by its silences and the empty spaces it created: I couldn't see the river, or hear it either, but it made itself known through a power to negate.

I walked up the clinic's front steps. Above the entrance, etched in old limestone, were the words "South Bluff Sanitarium." I entered the building. At the reception desk, a very efficient looking nurse greeted me, "Hello. How may I help you?"

"I'd like to speak with Aaron Cawley, please."

"And who may I say you are?"

"A friend of William Sneed's."

"What's your name, sir?"


She wrote something on a pad of paper before asking, "And may I have your last name please?"


She didn't seem to get the joke, because she continued writing with all the seriousness of a court stenographer.

"And what may I say this is regarding?"

"An admission," I said.

"Just one moment please," and she disappeared through a door behind the reception desk. About 5 minutes later she reappeared, only now she was in the lobby, standing directly in front of me, clutching a clip board to her breast with her left forearm. She said, "Right this way Mr. Wayne," and I followed her. We turned right, down a long hallway, at the end of which we took another right. The walls were green ceramic tile on the bottom half, and white painted plaster on the top; the floor was old linoleum and the ceiling at least 9 feet high, probably 10. At the end of this hallway, she opened a door to the right, and said, "If you'll just wait in here, Mr. Wayne, somebody will be right with you."

It was a waiting room, but it resembled the hallway we had just left. Molded plastic chairs were arranged along 3 walls. One of the walls had a window in it, and the window was barred. Against the fourth wall was an old television sitting on a steel cabinet that was painted brown to look like wood, except for 2 sliding panel doors, one of which was painted orange, the other yellow. Next to the television and cabinet was a door. A nameplate on the door identified the occupant of the office behind it as Aaron Cawley, MSW. The nurse walked across the room and knocked on this door. She then left the room by the door through which we had entered, and she closed it behind her.

The television set had bunny ear antennas and a black-and-white screen. A rerun of Three's Company was playing on it. The sound had been turned off. It was creepy watching Three's Company on a black-and-white screen television with no sound. I was especially disturbed by not being able to hear the laughter of the live studio audience. It was like watching the ghost of a television show, or like I myself had died and was simply remembering life without the benefit all of my living senses. Chrissy had just accidentally entered the living room from the kitchen, while Jack and his girlfriend were necking. For some reason the scene wasn't even funny without the laughter of the live studio audience. A friend of mine once said that there was no live studio audience anyway, and that the laughter was generated by what he called a "laugh track". We stopped being friends after that. I don't care if it is fake, as long as it sounds real.

On the television, Chrissy was awkwardly trying to sneak back into the kitchen, when, in real life, the door to Cawley's office opened and a man appeared. He was holding a clipboard, and he said, in a somewhat peremptory tone, "Mr. Wayne." He extended his arm, whch I understood to mean that he was inviting me into his office. I entered the office, which was furnished quite unlike the waiting room. First, the walls were covered with vinyl wood paneling. The floor was carpeted in a light tan shag; the ceiling had been dropped and replaced with black-spotted foam tiles, probably sound proof. A stereo in the corner filled the room with soothing, new age music. I considered asking Cawley for the name of the album.

"Have a seat," he said, pointing to a chair in front of his desk. As he closed the door and seated himself behind his desk, he asked, "Now, how can I help you?"

"I'm looking for William Sneed."

"Oh, there must be a misunderstanding. You see, I'm an admissions counselor here, Mr. Wayne. Have you come to be admitted for treatment?"

I decided to ask him for the name of that album after all: "Well, I would like to know the name of this cassette tape."

He smiled, and said "Yes, this is a wonderful compact disc. We might be able to include music therapy in your treatment plan—many insurance companies are covering that now. The use of a compact disc like this one, as part of a holistic, integrated therapy plan, under the guidance of a qualified professional, has been clinically proven to release emotional blockages in your body. This particular disc contains messages or signals at infrasonic levels that operate sub-consciously to actually teach your body how to heal itself, and to elminiate toxic emotional energy centers—."

"Damn your disc then," I interrupted. I could feel an impatient edge creeping into my voice, but I wouldn't even have asked about the album if I had known he was going to preach all that mumbo-jumbo. "I told you what I came for. I'm looking for Will Sneed."

"Why did you think I could help you find Mr...Sneed, I think you said?"

"Because you're the last person to be seen with him."

"You mean you think he was a patient in this hospital?"

"Call it that if you want."

"Well, even if he was, patient information is strictly confidential and we don't disclose it without the proper legal instruments."

I stood up and pulled my .38 on him. "I think you do disclose such information, Mr. Cawley, and you can, and you will."

He looked at my gun, and smiled nervously. "Well, now, Let's just talk this thing through Mr. Wayne. If you are looking for somebody you think might have been a patient here, then you'd need to speak with the clinic director. But it's past midnight, and she won't be here until the morning."

"Don't try to give me the run-around goddammit. Two months ago you met Will Sneed at the Royal Donuts in Spring Valley. He thought you were going to give him money. He was never seen again. I want to know what you did with him."

"Mr. Wayne, you are clearly worked up. We can help you. Might I suggest a mild sedative," he said, and began to reach for his desk drawer, "just something to calm—."

"Keep your hands up where I can see them you smarmy son-of-a-bitch. Don't think for a minute that I'm afraid to use this."

He put his arms in the air. "Okay, okay. I did admit Mr. Sneed here for treatment. I went to the Royal Dounts, at his invitation, to perform an informal evaluation. He had contacted the clinic to inquire about treatment for depression. After I completed the evaluation, I told him it was my opinion that he would in fact benefit from treatment. If you want more information, I'll need to consult his file," and he glanced at a large filing cabinet to his left.

"Alright, but move real slow now. One sudden move and I blast your brains."

He did as he was told now—I have to give him credit for that. Just goes to show the truth of what I was trying to explain earlier, how much easier it is to communicate with people when you can do it at gunpoint.

Cawley sat back down, opened Sneed's folder, and began reading from it, "Patient was in a highly disturbed state, and suffering from nervous exhaustion. Patient delusional. Patient treated for one night. The following day, patient discharged himself." Cawley looked up, as if to explain, "We tried to help him, but he wanted to be left alone. We can't force a patient to accept treatment."

"He discharged himself, huh? What time would that have been?"

"Oh, early the next morning. I should think not after eight."

"And how did he get back home?"

"Well he drove, I imagine."

I shook my head, and said, "Uh-uh. Try again."

"What do you mean?" His forehead began to perspire.

"He came here with you, in your car. He left his car at the Royal Donuts."

"Oh, of course, that's right. I remember now. When he discharged himself, an orderly drove him back to his car at the Royal Donuts."

"Nice try bright-eyes. He met somebody, you, at the Royal Donuts, thinking this person was going to give him some money that was owed him. He left with you, and his car was taken from the Royal Donuts parking lot long before you say he discharged himself. So I'm going to ask you one last time: where is Will Sneed?"

"I don't know; I think my shift had ended—."

I shot him in the hand and he screamed. I had lost my temper; I sometimes do. "Don't fuck with me you motherfucking piece of cocksucking shit. What the good-goddamn-fuck did you do with Will Sneed?"

Squealing now, like a pig in pain, he said, "Okay okay. He was sent someplace to be gotten rid of. I was just doing what I was told. The director, she sent me to get Sneed. I was supposed to tell him that he had to come with me to get the money. But she was the one who said to have him admitted; she was the one who told me to order the emergency pre-frontal; and she was the one who sent him away the next day. By that time he was a drooling zombie who didn't know—."

He suddenly dummied up.

"Who didn't know what?"

"He didn't bad his condition was."

"Who's this director?"

Very defensive now, he said "No, I never said anything about a director. It was his girlfriend, Sneed's girlfriend, who ordered all this. She was real concerned about him. She set this all up. That's what I meant if I said 'directing'; I never meant director."

"Okay then, what was his girlfriend's name?"

Ignoring my question, apparently, he began reading again from Sneed's file: "Patient in very poor condition. By next day, patient completely delusional and psychotically paranoid. Patient believes somebody is looking for him. Patient believes that this person has been going through his motel room, reading his mail. Patient believes he has a meeting with this person and demands to be released. When asked who is looking for him and who he has to meet, patient will only say 'the liar', even after being asked repeatedly."

I said, "All of this was after you treated him?"

"It was after."

"And you treated him with a pre-frontal lobotomy?"

Again reading from the file, he said, "Emergency bilateral cingulotomy performed at attending physician's recommendation—."

"That's a lobotomy?"

"Yes, basically."

"And you say his girlfriend approved of this treatment? She 'directed' it?"

"Well, she didn't direct it. She doesn't have the legal authority even to authorize it. But in an emergency situation, we can act on an informant's information, and the informant was his girlfriend. My evaluation of the patient confirmed her reports."

Again, I asked, "What was his girlfriend's name?"

"I don't know. It's not in his file. I don't see it in here anywhere."

"That's bullshit and you know it. If his girlfriend had really set this all up, you would have her name in your records."

He was trying to stop the bleeding on his hand, and whimpering like a little pussy. I was about to tell him to take it like a man, when suddenly a gun fired from behind me, and a woman said, "Drop the gat or you're dead."