Read Luggage By Kroger: A True Crime Memoir Online

Authors: Gary Taylor

Tags: #crime, #dallas, #femme fatale, #houston, #journalism, #law, #lawyers, #legal thriller, #memoir, #mental illness, #murder, #mystery, #noir, #stalkers, #suicide, #suspense, #texas, #true crime, #women

Luggage By Kroger: A True Crime Memoir (30 page)

BOOK: Luggage By Kroger: A True Crime Memoir
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"Go around back, Kenneth, and set
up at the bottom of the back staircase. I don't want him getting
away when I come in the front."

Then she looked at me and sighed.

"Taylor, can you just stand right
here to make sure he doesn't get past me down these stairs? You
think you can handle that?"

Kenneth offered the knife again, and I
declined. He shrugged his shoulders and headed for his station,
disappearing around a corner of the building. Catherine stared at
me with that mischievous grin while waiting for him to set up. Then
she tiptoed up the staircase, holding the wrought iron rail and
watching for any movement from above. When she reached the landing,
Catherine crouched down and peeked into the apartment window where
I could see lights and shadows of people moving around inside. I
could hear music, too, and suspected some sort of small party under
way. Satisfied her quarry awaited inside, Catherine looked back to
me, flashed a thumbs up, and stepped to the door. I watched her
knock three times and then place her left eye directly on the fish
lens peep hole to block anyone looking out. Her speed surprised me
when the door opened a crack, and she drove her shoulder into the
wood, forcing it all the way. As it swung backward, she raced into
the apartment and people started screaming.

What a fucking
freak show!
I said to myself and moved up a
couple of steps, hoping to get a better view of the devastation in
Catherine's wake. I could hear frantic footsteps and assumed the
bond jumper had chosen flight over fight just as I heard Catherine
scream for Kenneth to "Stop that son of a bitch." If I had chosen
to make my living as an accountant or an engineer, I probably would
have been the kind of guy to walk away. But just as my natural
sense of curiosity dictated my profession, it also beckoned me the
rest of the way up those stairs, where I wanted a view of that
apartment living room. I could see the back door stood open, and I
heard the sound of a body hitting the pavement from down the back
staircase. In the living room, a small, mixed-gender group of kids
in their early twenties sat lounging around on the floor or leaning
up against the couch smoking marijuana.

"Man," said one guy to nobody in
particular as I stood in the doorway, "did you see that shit? Who
was she?"

"I don't know," said another guy,
passing a joint to the girl on his right. "She was
fast."

Confident I faced no threat from
the stoners inside, I retreated back down the front stairs and
headed around the building to see how Kenneth had fared. I walked
along a narrow alley that opened into a parking area behind that
building and spotted Kenneth right away as he climbed out of a
ligustrum bush, looking a bit dazed. Catherine's bond jumper
obviously had breeched the perimeter, depositing Kenneth in the
bushes, and likely was somewhere in the parking lot fleeing
Catherine herself. I looked around, and then I saw them. She had
him on his knees, over in a corner of the parking lot between a
couple of parked cars. He was pleading, but she stood
firm.

"You know who I am," she said,
pulling a pair of handcuffs from her jacket pocket. "Run from me,
you cocksucker? You are going to the county jail."

This guy looked every bit of six feet five
inches tall. Still, he volunteered his wrists and sobbed while she
snapped the cuffs around them. She nudged him to stand up and
marched him back toward me and Kenneth.

"My brave warriors," Catherine
muttered as we fell in line. "What would I do without
you?"

"Motherfucker," Kenneth shouted as
he shoved the bond jumper. Catherine stepped quickly between them
and admonished Kenneth.

"Tough guy, now, huh?" she scolded
with a laugh. The bond jumper climbed in the back seat with me and
rode sobbing in handcuffs all the way to the old Harris County Jail
downtown, where Catherine took about forty-five minutes to
surrender him. Then she treated us to a dinner at the Cadillac Bar
& Grill.

"Enjoy the show?" she asked as we
sipped on beers.

"You know how to have a good time
on Saturday night," I replied with a wink. "You always do your own
bounty hunting?"

"I never needed to before," she
said sternly. "My men usually behave."

I understood painfully well the
point of this night's adventure. In one escapade, she had proven
that she indeed enjoyed access to goons with buck knives who owed
her favors. She also proved she had the power to bring a grown man
to his knees. Still bursting with adrenalin a couple of hours
later, she took charge of our lovemaking with a cocky, primal
aggression and forced an orgasm I imagined her bond jumper felt all
the way back at the county jail. I wasn't sure I had even been
involved.

FORTY-TWO

December, 1979

I have always been ambivalent about
Christmas. In many ways I loathe that time of year. Since the
holiday has no religious hold on me, I must consider other reasons
to understand it. On one hand, I am revolted by the selfish
behavior in the name of the season. Children and many adults lose
control when their wishes go unfulfilled. There's no doubt the
holiday has evolved into an undisciplined waste of financial
resources, as the retail sector feeds the frenzy of material
consumption beyond any practical limitation. Even as a kid I
dreaded the day itself and felt embarrassed about the presents. I
wanted the visitors to leave my house so I could get on with my
life of playing ball or reading books on December 26. As a father,
I faked enthusiasm so my daughters could enjoy Christmas the way
the retailers want all children to do. At the same time, however, I
realize the season forms a foundation for sharing and giving, too.
I've also enjoyed the parties, particularly those hosted by lawyers
willing to spend more on a single night celebration than I earn in
a year. By and large, however, for me those days on the calendar
have always loomed largely as a black hole in the year, a place
where I lose time and just have to accept it. So, surrendering the
Christmas season of 1979 to Catherine Mehaffey meant nothing to me.
I gave her something I wouldn't have had anyway.

Those weeks between Thanksgiving
and New Year's Eve of 1979 sit in my memory as a blur with a few
crucial highlights leaping out. Catherine's plan for finally
launching her law practice never fulfilled my limited expectations.
Her good intentions only reminded me that was the material used to
pave the road to hell. For every time she showed signs of accepting
the past and just moving forward, she offered a contrary blow that
destroyed whatever good will she might have engendered. I began to
see more clearly her Machiavellian flaw. Viewing herself as an
omnipotent manipulator forced her to plot about everything. She
concocted strategies for getting things she wanted and even things
she didn't want. The more complex the strategy, the more forcefully
she embraced it. I had the feeling I had become the target of some
such strategy, a rival she had to defeat. And still, I kept looking
for a peaceful way out.

We had a lot of sex that month,
often several times each day. It had a calming effect on her,
almost like an injection of valium that tended to control her
outbursts. I considered her a nymphomaniac at that time and took
every advantage I could. Our activity gave new meaning to my view
of Christmas as a black hole. I came to see it as a wet one,
too.

"Jesus, did you fuck this much when
you were married?" she asked me once.

"Of course not," I replied. "Before
meeting you?"

I had to admit all that sex helped
my condition as well. I had told Cindy I didn't think it safe for
me to be around the girls much until I had figured some way to get
Catherine out of my life. So constant sex with Catherine helped
cover the melancholy mood derived from constantly thinking about
the divorce. That depression probably made it possible for me to
answer Catherine's bell as often as she wanted, using it as an
avenue for escape from my own predicament.

One afternoon she rang that bell
with a phone call to the press room from her office.

"Lloyd had one of his whores in
here giving him a blow job yesterday," she claimed. "Today it's my
turn. You can be my whore."

"What the hell," I said. "It's a
slow news day anyhow."

She left her office door propped
open wide enough for Lloyd to get the message as we used her couch
to show him he wasn't the only one there with a private
life.

Catherine held her Christmas party in her
apartment. The place was small, but so was the crowd. She attracted
a larger group than I had expected, however. After it ended she
asked me to move one of her wooden kitchen chairs back to her
bedroom. I set it against the wall by her closet and later would be
glad that I did.

We had dinner one night with a lawyer friend
and his wife. In the course of routine chitchat, the lawyer asked
me about Cindy. He wondered if I had a picture. So, I pulled one
from my wallet.

"She's attractive," he said. Before
he could hand it back, Catherine snatched it out of his hand and
ripped it to shreds.

"You still carry a picture of that
whore?" she screamed. "Not any more."

While she was in the bathroom, he
offered some succinct advice: "Leave town."

When Catherine and I attended the large
criminal lawyers party hosted every year at that time by the
legendary Mike Ramsey, I accepted a wager from an old
friend.

"I bet you a hundred dollars you
don't live to come back here next year," whispered Kent Schaffer,
at that time a private investigator working his way through law
school.

"You're on," I said, shaking his
hand.

I also introduced
her that night to a younger reporter from
The Post
named Mark. A
twenty-five-year-old athletic hunk, he had joined the staff about a
year before and also was in the midst of a divorce. I hoped
Catherine might catch his eye, and I crossed my fingers when I saw
them talking together in a corner of the room. I was sure they'd be
seeing each other again soon.

Catherine gave me a baby-blue
sweater for Christmas. I don't remember what I gave her. But I do
remember what she wanted. She asked me to find a small replica of
the creature from the science fiction blockbuster Alien. She called
it the "perfect predator." I couldn't find one. But I had to admit
I really didn't look very hard.

Besides killing her fun with my
humbug attitude about Christmas, I also disappointed her with my
New Year's Eve superstition of making sure I'm asleep before
midnight. We dined that evening on cold-cut sandwiches from a
convenience store, drank some scotch, and then went to bed. The
decade of the 1970s ended before I arose the next day. For me, the
holiday season of 1979 had ended, and a showdown loomed
ahead.

FORTY-THREE

January 6, 1980

"Why the hell is that there?" I
asked, bolting upright where I had just awakened from a Sunday
afternoon nap to see a pistol lying beside the lamp on the table
beside the bed. I had only slept a short while after a quick tryst
and had fallen asleep on my left side, eyes focused on that table
where nothing sat but the lamp as I drifted away. Catherine
obviously had taken that pistol from its hiding place while I slept
and then laid it on the table where I could see it when I awoke. I
wondered how close I had come to dying in my sleep.

"I heard a noise," she said,
leaning around the doorway that separated her bedroom from the hall
toward the kitchen and the front of her apartment. "I was
scared."

I sat up on the bed and rubbed my
eyes. I gave the pistol another look and shook my head. I imagined
the scene that must have unfolded while I slept:

Catherine paces the floor beside
the bed, her pistol in hand. She wonders if she should take her
chances now. She knows Christmas and New Year's have come and gone.
It will be time to move on separately with our lives. "Did I tell
him anything that will ruin me?" she asks herself, trying to
remember all he's seen and heard in the weeks since September. And
what about that tape recording on file at Special Crimes? What did
he tell them that would be so dangerous? "Can I get away with
this?" she ponders as she prepares for her statement to the police.
"Shot dead while sleeping half-naked in your house?" the detective
would ask. "He raped me," she could explain. "Then he had the nerve
to fall asleep there in my bed. I got my gun and watched him,
trying to control my anger. He woke up and said he was going to
rape me again. I've been used mercilessly by that bastard. I
decided to fight back this time. I had my pistol. He started to
climb out of bed. I warned him to put on his clothes and leave. But
the son of a bitch just laughed. He laughed in my face and said he
was going to rape me again. So I shot him. Right between the eyes."
"Could that work?" Catherine asks herself. And how would that play
around town? "Two men in her life dead, murdered, in the space of a
year. Don't fuck with Catherine," they'd all have to say. "She's
like the Old West gunslinger with notches on her belt." "But what
about that tape at Special Crimes?" Catherine wonders. She
considers it further. "That damned tape. What did he tell them?
This is too risky now," she decides. "I can pick a better time and
make it look like self defense. I can get away with it, but not
now. So I'll just put the pistol down beside the bed and watch him
shit his pants."

BOOK: Luggage By Kroger: A True Crime Memoir
7.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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