At times, missions, rules of engagement, the law, and use of force standards require the capture, containment and control, not the death of an enemy. This is once called by professionals as “non-lethal” measures, but military and law enforcement specialists recognize that the term “less-than-lethal” is a smarter, and a more comprehensive phrase than “non-lethal” – as various tactics and equipment designed not to kill and called non-lethal, might still actually kill despite the intent, design and name. This renders the term “non-lethal,” into an operational misnomer and confusing liability.
A comprehensive knife program also covers less-than lethal applications. This is important for the mission and legality. Your knife course must drop all the death cult, over-the-top, violent, macho imagery (unless you are a member of an elite military unit where such imagery is psychologically smart -which is NOT the majority of us). The knife is “just a tool,” as the old saying goes, but a tool with stigma. The following tactics are less-than-lethal and can be substituted for lethal movement.
We know that the knife strikes with:
1-the pommel (and or the ends of a closed folder)
3-the edge or edges
4-flat of the blade
5-the clenched hand-fist grip on the handle
Less than lethal applications of this are:
1-the pommel (and or the ends of a closed folder)
2-if single-edge, a dull edge for striking.
3-flat of the blade.
4-hand grip as a punch.
Less-Than-Lethal 1: Verbal Skills and the Art of Surrender
Your presence, your weapon presentation, your speech, your threats, your disarm, in the onset of a fight may cause the enemy to surrender. At times, getting in and getting the tip of your knife up against the enemy, along with a verbal threat, may coerce him to surrender.
Less-Than-Lethal 2: The knife pommel strike
The pommel strikes, saber or reverse grips are other less-than-lethal strikes unless it cracks the skull. Or, your pommel has a “Klingon-spiked-end” which renders a whole range of pommel use, useless.
Less-Than-Lethal 3: All support hand strikes and kicks
Striking and kicking the enemy are less-than-lethal moves. The enemy has dropped his weapon and is theoretically an unarmed man and in many situations, both military and civilian cannot be killed.
Less-Than-Lethal 4: The knife hand grip punches
The practitioner can turn his knife grip into a punch with the flat of his fist, forgoing the stab or slash, with a saber or reverse grip.
Less-Than-Lethal 5: The closed folder
The practitioner may fail to open, or close his or her tactical folder and use the closed folder as a “palm stick,” impact weapon.”
Less-Than-Lethal 5: Knife slashes on secondary targets
With a working knowledge of anatomy, a practitioner may slash various “secondary” targets like muscles and so forth that may cause an enemy to surrender or collapse, without a fatality.
Less-Than-Lethal 6: The flat of the blade strikes a stunning blow and grappling
Many militaries teach the flat of the blade strike to the head of an enemy to stun and bewilder them, as a set-up for further action. When a less-than-lethal mission becomes mandatory this flat strike becomes an option for striking, as well as a considerable amount of pushing and pulling of grappling.
In Summary… Of course the use of the knife is always stigmatized trouble. It is a nasty weapon, but every one who dares “study” the knife for the military, for enforcement or self defense, one who engages in a knife system, should be aware of its full potential, and that includes the “who, what, when, where, how and why” to minimize its damage.
I really enjoy the numerous youtube videos of people being attacked and the victim unleashes a smart boxing combination and the badman drops like rock. The smart integration of boxing, kickboxing, Thai combinations are worthy studies in self defense combatives, not the whole systems remember, mind you, just what’s smart. Just what applies. (Untrained people – mostly everyone – respond differently than trained people, but we can’t go off on that whole topic here.)
“There is no second round in the street,”might be an old and corny expression for some, but some folks need to hear it once, or once in a while, to get them back on track for what they want, and what they are forced to do in classes and programs.
Attrition is defined as – “the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure.” It’s a word used in military battles and war, and here in sport fighting “physical attrition” is a strategy.
In sports, it is indeed the coaches job to map out a strategy to your first or next fight, give you a game plan. You know that in amateur and pro fights, where a history and film exists on your next opponent, these histories are studied and strategies evolve. A properly prepped, fighter, MMA, BJJ, UFC or otherwise needs to walk in with a strategy, a plan. And in this process, the plan is made and you might hear from your coach, “Do this, then do this and this, and the fourth round is yours.” “You…make your move,” Kind of talk. Or ideas about tiring him out in among the battle plan. “First round? Check him out, probe. Probe with the jab. See how he reacts. Second round do ‘this or that’ with the discoveries from your probing. Third round is yours, as you will…”
Coaches say – tire him, move around, also deliver body shots too and kicks too in kickboxing, to weaken and confuse the opponent in round one and round two for the theoretical victory in Round 3.
In one example of body shots, there were numerous successful (and unsuccessful) boxers who spent rounds pounding the upper arms of their opponents so that eventually their guard, through multiple rounds, would eventually drop, their beaten arms down for their eventual, head shots, so that the… ” ______ (fill in the blank) round is yours.”
I think it would be odd for a coach to simply say, “knock him cold with a head shot in the first two seconds. That is all. Now go jog and hit that bag.” Fighters do indeed knock people out quickly, but aren’t they always handed an overall, planning, staging, strategy, etc.? Despite the delaying plans, bingo!
For many fighters, this plan is laid out in the first meeting for training for a specific fight. This fighter then and quite possibly gets this message buried in his head for months, “Third round is mine. Third Round is mine.” Even in the first round, he is fixated on the third round, deep in his head.
This type off delay-progression, advice was advice I had been given for decades by various boxing, kick boxing, and even Thai boxing coaches.
The transition of these delay ideas and advice can get blended over and into, for lack of a better term, “self-defense-street-fighting” courses. Training by short-sighted, self defense course trainers and coaches can, have and will get these borders confused. I was told these off-mission tips at times in several self defense courses that included boxing, kickboxing and Thai methods. For examples:
I was in a very, popular, modern, street-fighting system back in the 1980s, in a course considered a pioneer program back then, that emphasized, “the probing jab.” In fact, the association newsletter was called “The Probe.” The head guy would often take months of money from certain “monied” people and make them study the jab only…for four to six months. The…probe. Yes, jabs only for many months? Imagine that. Then you graduated to the cross punch – for who knows how long – $$$$? People did not stay with him for that long when he tried that approach. Yet, he did many other things too, effective things too, but some of his people got caught in this “jab scam.” Once again that odd mix of overdoing some boxing strategies in with some survival strategies.
The military police academy boxing coaches, assigned to create a fighting spirit with a boxing program, taught off-mission, sport boxing concepts and strategies that weren’t the smartest things for street survival. I am convinced these instructors did not understand what I am saying here. Despite the generic “toughness” mission, they were immersed in boxing, taught boxing only, with boxing strategies. Wrong place. Wrong time.
Martial arts can get easily confused, innocently blending sport strategies with self defense themes, and vice-versa as self defense courses can get sporty-artsy.
The “who, what, when, where, how and why” questions arises again.. Briefly, as these questions run deep…
Who am I, who is teaching and who am I really going to be fighting?
What do I need to learn? What are they teaching here? What do I really want? What are my real goals? What are they turning me into? What am I wearing? What happens when I am not fighting a mirror-image of myself and regular thug?
When will I use this? When is this legal?
Where am I going with this course? Where will I use this training?
How will it work?
Why I am doing this in the first place? Why are they telling me and making me do these things?
I called these off-mission, missteps – “sport cancers” to be on the lookout for in all transitions from sports to the non-sports world. This is actually quite hard to dissect, especially buried within small steps. Even after 40 years I STILL spot things that I, or we, should not be doing. Enlightened coaches look for these, but I must tell you I don’t find many such enlightened coaches. Many are so immersed in what they do systemically, via their mindset, via hero or system worship or franchise dues, they will not or can’t detect the discrepancies and will not or cannot rebel against them.
“There was no second or third round in the street fight,”…to use a corny phrase. These street fights/arrests I was in and ones I had to break up and later investigate had little time for the experimental probing jabs, trick footwork or secondary blows to wear an opponent down through time, and other “second-third-or-more round,” ring sport, strategies.”
Upon self-examination, be happy with what you do and know why and what you are doing. I want you to be happy in your pursuits.
Physical attrition. We don’t have time for physical attrition. I hate to use the over simplistic term “street fight” because real encounters occur inside and outside of homes and businesses in rural, suburban and urban locations. But these so-called “street fights” were almost always hard, fast, crazy and over quickly. You were bum-rushed, or wild-man-tackled and, or sucker-punched, hit with chairs and lamps, etc…I was attacked once by a man with a big ax. No time for several probing, experimental sport jabs versus the swinging ax man.
“In Combatives, self defense and Krav Maga we should not spend exorbitant amounts of time hitting bags and mitts with big boxing gloves. It is ‘off-mission.’ We need to take things from boxing, but not with ‘big-boxing-gloves.’ When we fight crime and war we will be bare knuckle. Our bare hands and bare wrists will be unprepared. At very least train with MMA gloves.” – Hock
Any time this boxing glove topic comes up. I always wait for the comments on the open hand versus closed fist punching, etc. Closed fist punching and hammer-fists can occur on the torso, on the arms, on the neck on the lower jaw (because the jaw “gives” and the head can “give” on the neck. The danger zone is really, consistently the general, bicycle helmet area of the head/skull.
And heads drop when one detects an incoming blow. But, history is replete with successful bare-knuckle punching. Even my history (except for an uppercut once to a pointy jaw which led to a small hand surgery years later. Open hand strikes and elbow strikes are not without injuries also.) The sole point of this meme/photo being, when you train with big boxing gloves, you lose and miss a lot of important survival, experience, info and preparation. (Unless you are a boxer-boxer who boxes-boxes. Then the boxing gloves are very important.)
I know people with “cinder-block” hands. Let them hit tanks. I always think it is important for instructors, a system, to examine the hands of a practitioner and make an evaluation of “should they even punch? Should they be much of a puncher?” Rather than throw folks indiscriminately, small and fragile hands alike, into a crowd to punch away with everyone else, like I have seen in many martial arts. Most have no regard for the their student’s hands, and never looked at them, and never mention what might happen where you hit bones/people with them. Just punch, punch, punch away in the air or on soft things. Or, under the guise of self-defense, wrap and strap big gloves on them and let them for 5, 10, 15 minutes a class, let them mindlessly pepper away on a heavy bag, or…or have them hit focus mitts in endless, endless “show” patterns that don’t or won’t remotely match the actual responses of a real opponent. (People who teach kids can’t make these hand-fist assessments because their hands aren’t formed yet.)
You can work on punching impacts for survival short of having hand tumors and arthritis in your old age. Does punching hard things make your hands stronger? “Punching walls could theoretically improve hand strength by increasing bone density over time, but the chance of breaking your hands is extremely high. A better alternative would be to practice hitting the heavy bag bare knuckle, and increase the force over time.” – CombatMuseum.com
Hit smart things. I have come to appreciate these water bag options. To me, they have a “fleshy” feel. Different sizes available.
Another important point is bare-knuckle bag work (water or otherwise develops proper alignment of the knuckles, fists, and forearms, something totally ignored in big glove training in comparison.
Boxing gloves are for boxing, but I also use them as a tool to hit-on/distract practitioners while they are doing chores like pulling weapons, be they standing or on the ground, etc. under stress. Specific things like that. They are handy to have around for specific assignments.
MMA gloves are fine. Especially for extended use (and their open fingers allow for grappling). Big-ass boxing gloves are perfect for big-ass boxing. Even “official” bare-knuckle fighters still wrap their wrists. Sometimes I see them run a layer over their knuckles too, but mostly their wrists.
But my mission, the mission of combatives, the mission of self defense and Krav is NOT to create competition boxers or MMA fighters or bare-knuckle competitors. Nor do I make wrestling-only champs. I am not making pro boxers or pro kick boxers, people who square off and exchange blows in multiple timed rounds. In our world, we also kick a few nuts, face maul and hair pull too and throw chairs.
There are seriously off-mission, misguiding doctrines/schools out there. Be what you are supposed to be and not what you are not. For example, I know a quite famous combatives guy, who spends a few hours covering boxing with big gloves in his combatives seminars. Attendees mindlessly do and accept. Not good. It’s only good if in his fliers, his ads for those seminars, he advertises-
“Self defense combatives AND a very special session on sport boxing.”
Okay then. Explained. Couple that with an intro reminder speech before the boxing session. Then he is on-mission. No mixed doctrines. Or say the lesson plan calls for “classic boxing applications for self defense moves” (in which case, take off those damn big gloves!) Back on mission.
I have attended a few Joe Lewis (the kickboxer) seminars and he has a great line, “Nothing replaces ring-time.” Which I repeat. Getting in there and kick boxing a bit (not just boxing alone) and I agree with this experience. We do that as part of every Force Necessary: Hand test, but again, I am not making pro kick boxers. I don’t expect to see an Olympic sports performance. (I suggest people fool around with MMA over just boxing alone and just BBJ alone. MMA is bigger and better and does both. Take tips from it.)
Worth saying twice, there are seriously off-mission, mindless, misguiding doctrines out there. Be what you are supposed to be and not what you are not. Who, what, where, when, how and why. It is a hand, stick, knife, gun world, inside and outside of buildings in rural, suburban and urban environments.
Popular Science wants to inform you on how to properly, bare-knuckle punch Click here
How to condition your knuckles: A guide to harden your fists for fighting. Click here
(In my true police/detective books, I wrote an essay called, “Most Dead Ever,” a compilation of the calls and cases I went on where the tally was high to horrific. Here is one…)
1970s. North of our Army base in the U.S. was an enormous artillery range. Troops were constantly blowing up all kinds of big and small ordnance. For those not familiar, “ordnance” is defined as:
“All munitions containing explosives, nuclear fission or fusion materials, and biological and chemical agents. This includes bombs and warheads; guided and ballistic missiles; artillery, mortar, rocket, and small arms ammunition; all mines, torpedoes, and depth charges; demolition charges; pyrotechnics; clusters and dispensers; cartridge and propellant actuated devices; electro/explosive devices; clandestine and improvised explosive devices; and all similar correlated items or components explosive in nature.”
A Dud defined: A dud is all of the above that didn’t go boom. Now, enter the ordnance, the grenade. And enter then, the dud hand grenade story. Officially also – “DUD-a thrown grenade that failed to detonate after the expected fuze time has elapsed.”
As I said, artillery troops were always out on the northern ranges, blowing all kinds of stuff up. And a small percentage are duds. As the later investigations discloses – One fine morning, out on a said field, a young private stumbled upon what appeared to be a very old hand grenade. He closed in on it and looked it over. No pin. No lever. Hmmmm. A dud, he presumes. What fun!
He threw some rocks at it. His buddies giggling nearby. Nothing. Deadness. He hit it with a stick. Then he kicked it and jumped back. It bounced across the rocky, dry terrain. He picked it up, tossed it up and down a few times and then stuck it in his jacket pocket. What a coup. What a toy.! A dud grenade!
The unit took a long, one-hour bouncy ride in the back of a deuce-and-a-half truck. The private pulled the grenade from his pocket and declared to those around him, “Look what I found!”
The others leaned away, aghast. But it became clear by his manipulations and juggling, it had to be a dud.
Once at their multi-story barracks building, they bailed out of the trucks, unloaded and hit the showers. The private went to his multi-person quarters and tossed the grenade on his bunk. He combed his wet hair, got in casual clothes – civvies – picked up his dud grenade and walked to the day room (TV, pool tables, a rec room, etc.) for some fun and games with his new toy.
He got to the day room door and peeked in. He saw many of his friends day-rooming about in there. Some were with him on the training day, and some not.
“GRENADE!” he yelled. He tossed the dud grenade into the middle of the room, then he ducked back into the hall, just for effect. Big joke.
The so called dud hit the floor and exploded. It blew with all its originally designed and planned intent. BAM! In the middle of the day room.
Our private and other nearby troops in the hall and other rooms ran to the door. The room was a bloody mess. Shreds of the room still floating in the air, they said. One or two seemed dead. Others wounded. Dying. Splinters everywhere. Lots of blood and guts and whines, yells and screams. The first instinct of bystanders was to call for an ambulance. Someone did, and the hospital called the police.
I was one of the units dispatched. I was assigned that day to the patrol district next to this one, or maybe as a rover? I just can’t remember. When I arrived, I was not the first. The district police car and the patrol sergeant’s car were there and several ambulances. At the moment, I was not clear exactly what had happened, nor was our police dispatcher clear either. We only knew that some kind of a “bomb” went off on the third floor.
A sample photo of the actual building, another day.
Hearing of a possible “bomb,” as I parked, I looked up to survey the building. I didn’t know what to expect. Was the huge barracks building bombed? By whom? By what? I saw broken glass in some third story windows and curtains flapping in and out with the wind.
Soldiers were standing outside, looking up too. As I got close to the main doors, someone told me a grenade touched off up there. I entered the building, climbed the stairs to the third floor, and saw the commotion in the hallway.
When I stepped in the room, it looked like some 8 or 10 guys were pretty hurt. Another two or three were slightly hurt. Some laid dead still, mashed and abandoned. The room looked like, well, like a small bomb went off in it! I wandered around and tried to help out where I could, but the paramedics had done their triage assessment and were hard at work. Plus, some of the unit cadre were Nam vets and were already pitching in with the EMTs.
I walked out of the room and asked some Sergeants in the hall what had happened. They pointed to the kid who threw the “dud” in. I spoke with him. Our patrol sergeant walked up and listened to us talk it out. The kid was practically crying and in real shock. The district MP (military police) came over to us.
The Sarge pulled us aside and told the district MP to arrest the kid. “For what Sarge?” the district MP asked. “What charge?” “I don’t know. For something. Charge him with something,” he said. “We have to arrest him for this. Manslaughter. Something. Negligent something.”
Then the Sarge’s portable radio announced that, “CID was in route.” “Ten-four,” he said into the radio, and told us, “Good. Okay. We’ll let CID decide what to do with him.”
We stuck around until two CID investigators (our FBI, more or less) arrived. We filled them in and pointed out the kid. They looked around and marched the kid off to one of the nearby offices. And we were ready to leave. As the Lone Ranger would say, “Tonto, our work here is done.” A few hours later I had to go and give blood at the hospital. Three or four troops died, best I can recall.
I have thrown a few grenades. I have even qualified as expert on the old Army, grenade throwing range. I got the targeting knack quickly. It was like throwing a football only heavier, so I aimed higher than the target to offset the weight, be it a window or whatever set up we were supposed to blow up. I always joke about how cavalier vets and movie actors are about these small bombs hanging off their uniforms, in comparison to the very first ones they hand you and you baby them like they are nitroglycerin.
But they are certainly no joke. Very generically speaking, the grenade kill zone is 5 meters or 16 feet. The injury range is 15 meters pr 50 feet. Shrapnel can go even further. A hand grenade, especially an older one, ’70s and pre-’70s had a varying reputation back then. Some called them as devastating and some didn’t. There are lots of fascinating, jaw-dropping stories. They weren’t all always perfect like the distances above. I guess it was situational.
But that “dud” took a toll on the day room and the unit that late afternoon, and also took a toll on my memory.
First off that’s me and the “Irreplaceable” Tim Llacuna in March, 2018’s big Central California Stick seminar weekend at Ron Esteller’s Kaju. Though the Bay Area, CA seminar that weekend was listed as Force Necessary: Stick, I also promised a little segment on Filipino stick too, just to round things off. And, as a result, we got a request for…Filipino Sumbrada. And since I “sing for my supper” as Sinatra use to say, so we, by God, did us some Sumbrada.
Which…can be complicated for some folks to do such things. I am not a fan of Sumbrada, per say. I certainly do not believe it should be the foundation format for a system, as it somehow is for some, which I find short-sighted. It is but one drill in a bunch of skill drills/exercises. It has been declared a “dead drill,” blah, blah, blah and yes, to some extent I agree with these naysayers. But it is still a very universal drill for many, many Filipino systems and I…in good conscious, cannot put a PAC/Filipino practitioner out on the street that doesn’t know about Sumbrada and hasn’t fooled with it. I just…can’t. I’ve been forced, more or less, to mess with it since 1986 and that is why. It does develop a few healthy attack recognitions and mannerisms.
I first learned Sumbrada from Paul Vunak in the 1980s. Sumbrada means a few things, like “counter for counter” and sort of like “shadowing.” Sumbrada range is when the tip of your stick can touch the opponent’s head and your hand can touch the opponent’s hand. That hand contact is a very deep subject. People tend to forget that on the end of all these drills, you break the pattern. Like the Bruce Lee example, folks get busy looking at the finger and not the moon, people get too busy worrying over the pattern and forget you are supposed to free-style fight.
In that FMA-PAC course I require folks do hand sumbrada, single stick sumbrada, double stick sumbrada, Knife sumbrada, espada y daga sumbrada. And, we make folks do at least three inserts/interruptions for each, all in Level 7 of the PAC course. Sumbrada is just another exercise, among many exercises, which include wind sprints and chin-ups and beating tires and war posts, etc. Doing too much of one thing and not enough of other things is the real problem.
But the Force Necessary: Stick course is NOT Filipino martial arts stuff. There is no sumbrada in FN: Stick. The FN: Stick course is laid out this way:
Impact weapon vs hand
Impact weapon vs stick (rare, huh?)
Impact weapon vs knife
Impact weapon vs gun threats
Level 1: Impact Weapons & their Stress Quick Draws Level 2: Stick Retention Primer Level 3: Stick Blocking Primer Level 4: Single Hand Grip Striking Primer Level 5: Riot Stick (Double Hand Grip) Level 6: “While Holding,” Supporting the Stick Level 7: The Push Series Grappling & Spartan Module Level 8: The Pull Series Grappling & “Chain of the Stick” Level 9: The Turn Series Grappling & “In the Clutches” Level 10: The “Black Belt” Combat Scenario Test Level 11: Intensive Stick Ground Fighting Level 12: “Crossing Sticks” Stick Dueling Expertise Level 13: …and up…levels upon Individual request
(Now here's ya some readen'. Interrogated by one of the greats, LAPD decades-long vet/investigator and author Paul Bishop strapped me in for some incriminating questions about my writing! I confess! I confess!)
Bishop: If you were to go rogue and Interpol was foolish enough to issue a most wanted BOLO, what pertinent information would be on it?
Hock: BOLO! Calling all cars! Calling all cars! Be on the look-out for W. Hock Hochheim! Grew up in New Your City area and became an illegal immigrant in Texas in 1972. Finally granted Texican citizenship after an Apache initiation. Be advised. Former Army patrolmen, Former Army investigator. Former Texas patrol office. Former Texas detective. Has several black belts in martial arts. Once described himself as – first and foremost a writer, second a detective, third a martialist. In that order. Since retirement, travels the world (11 countries) —like Cain in Kung Fu — teaching hand, stick, knife and gun combatives, but would prefer being a hermit and writing westerns, with an occasional crime thriller and how-to-fight book.
Bishop: When did you first consciously begin to develop the skills of a storyteller?
Hock: As a kid, as I was fascinated with comics and books — and covers! Both hardcover and paperback. I began to draw and write in the ‘60s, in what is now called graphic novels—a combination of illustrations and words. In my case, while they played off each other, they also took from each other. I noticed that in phases of time, the art was fantastic and the words seemed to suffer, and vice versa. Great words, lazy art. It seemed I had only enough energy for one at a time. I created western stories back then for some unknown reason, as I was interested in all genres. I majored in art and was bound for art college in New York City, but instead, climbed on a motorcycle and took off for points unknown.
Bishop: You have written a diverse mix of non-fiction and fiction. Is your approach to each different or the same?
Hock: If there is a singular approach through all, it is to be different than the usual formulas. Not follow the mainstream storylines. Say, in terms of a western, the "cattle man vs the sheep man" formulas. The "land grabber vs the settlers." My western character Gunther is set in the early 1900s, which is already different. He is reading HG Wells and Freud. This approach has not endeared me to classic western readers, but it’s still rather classic—with a twist. In Last of the Gunmen, Gunther is up against a minor league baseball team whose players commit robberies when they are playing away games — robbing church money being sent to the Pope, is their big caper. Not exactly a classic saloon, cowboy showdown.
In Blood Rust, our hero was an NYPD detective. I love good NYPD detective stories when the style is just right. I wanted to capture that motif, but not in the usual way. Enter Rusty who, after being shot in the head in an ambush, becomes a New Jersey criminal—he’s a psycho, until he finds out he convicted the wrong man for murder. Something goes…BOOM…in his head. Crazy Rusty has become a popular character and, with any luck, I can write the next one in a few years. But the approach is recognizably the same—but different.
Bishop:When writing your books specific to tactics and strategies of self-defense, how do you separate yourself from the other books on the subject?
Hock: The how-to textbooks are very rote, step-by-step, unless there is a support essay, in which a bit of personality may appear. Fightin’ Words: The Psychology and Physicality of Fighting book is full of personal, flavorful essays on fighting subjects. In my novels, all this fighting stuff manifests in the action and fight scenes, which I am happy to say readers like. I try to put people in the driver’s seat. In terms of writing, the fighting the fictional fight, it becomes checkers not chess. The sentences are structured to be quick and personal, matching the speed of the fight whenever possible. Violent poetry.
Bishop: How is what you teach in seminars different and how did you develop your tactics?
Hock: I started doing Ed Parker Kenpo Karate in 1972—I was not a kid, which will tell you how old I am — right before I joined the Army. I have never stopped studying various martial arts since. I messed with them from a police and military perspective, so, I realized arts and their dogmas were not perfect fits for fighting crime and war. I studied many different arts, always looking for the next best thing. I discovered there was no next best thing. Soooo, I decided to create the next best thing—The essence of hand, stick, knife and gun.
Bishop: What are the most common self-defense misconceptions you run up against?
Hock: Oh, like…that size doesn’t matter—It does matter…it’s why God made weight class/levels in combat sports. That being alert is the key to safety. You can be as alert as a skittish fawn, but then you may well have to fight. How much gas (endurance) and how much dynamite (explosive power) and savvy (fighting time and grade) do you have? It’s great you were alert to a bad guy approaching, but how long will you remain alert when he is smashing your face in? Another misconception is a knife or gun solves everything. People have to draw these weapon under stress — with almost no practice for doing so — and often it is morally, ethically, and illegal to shoot or stab somebody based on the situation. That’s just three. It’s a lengthy list.
Bishop: What prompted you to turn your hand to fiction and the slam-bang action tales of adventurer Johann Gunther?
Hock: Serial characters make the world go round, whether you are a child reading Dick, Jane and Spot, a teen reading Harry Potter, or adults reading and watching Harry Bosch or Batman. People fall in love with serial characters. We like to stick with good characters, especially when they age. I wanted to take a shot at that concept. Gunther exists in a time gap between the western gun fighter of the 1890s, and the Sam Spades of 1920s. He is a mix of both. Detectives were indeed popular then, and Gunther is a "problem-solving" detective.
Bishop: Did you have a specific real life of fictional character who provided the inspiration for Johann Gunther?
Looks-wise, since Gunther is an immigrant German, I imagine him to look like the actor Rutger Hauer, when he was in his ‘30s and ‘40s. Gunther is a highly realistic, fully-fleshed out version of the old Paladin, from the 1950s TV show Have Gun, Will Travel, which was a sophisticated show in its day, but not by modern complex standards. We learn how Gunther wound up in the US, the Army, the stint as a deputy in Paris, Texas, his appointment to West Point, etc. So, he is a mix of various fiction models, but different. My first fictional character was Jumpin’ Jack Kellog, a Houston area police detective in Be Bad Now, who is a mix of several real Texas detectives I worked with and knew. Ol’ Rusty, of Blood Rust, is not anyone really—just a red-headed, crazy guy, who can’t think straight and solves his problems and the crime with half psychopathic measures.
Bishop: Have you found anything in the psychology or practice of martial arts that has application to the writing process?
Hock: I guess so. In the arts end of martial arts, they try to develop various qualities of perseverance and—if you think about it—the good qualities of a bring a better person. For me, sitting down to write is a torturous process with rare flashes of rewards. I guess these martial arts qualities help keep me in the chair through the torture.
Bishop: Your new book, Dead Right There: More Memories and Confessions of a Former Military and Texas Lawman, Private Investigator, and Bodyguard, is a sequel to your first collection of real life cases in which you were involved—Don't Even Think About It. What prompted you to share more of your experiences?
Hock: In the 1980s, while I was a police detective, my father-in-law was visiting. He was reading a non-fiction, book written by an insurance investigator. He loved it, claiming, “These stories are great. Interesting.” I looked the book over. Jeez, it was the most boring, paper-crime, cases. Fraud cases. People like this? I mean, a few days before I cleared a murder and we were shot at trying to arrest the guy, but people were mesmerized by the very simple fraud stories in the book. Really?
I thought about this. People like true action. They also like true procedurals. Everyone loved the stories I told them. I was very lucky to have been a detective in the Army and in Texas for about 18 years. It was a very interesting time and place in Texas and law enforcement history. A lot of things happened, killings, robberies, rapes, and it was the era of lone-wolf-detective. You got your cases, or went to the crime scene when on call, and you worked them hard—by yourself. Occasionally, you could ask your close-friend detectives for help. It wasn’t just detective stories. People also liked to hear my patrol stories. (I have an odd sense of humor).
I always felt the urge to write, and had been doing it on the side. I was the editor of the international Close Quarter Combat Magazine, and had many articles published elsewhere, as well as a history book on Pancho Villa, and the police novel, Be Bad Now back in the 1980s. However, it was about 2002, when I began writing down these true police stories. It’s a long, back story.
I collected the stories and composed quite a hefty book called, Don’t Even Think About It, a line I used a lot when arresting people and predicting they were going to resist arrest in some way. I think I heard Randolph Scott say it in a western once, and it stuck with me. The book was bought. Then, publishers bought out publishers and the book was in the classic development-hell of a hidden file cabinet somewhere. I pretty much forgot about it.
Then in 2009, someone called and said they now owned the book and were going to publish it and others they had acquired. Next, they told me the book was too big and needed to be cut in half. I cut it in half, still trying to keep some chronology of the stories. Thus, Don’t Even Think About It—half of it anyway—made it into print. A promise of a two-book deal contract was forthcoming, to cover the second half of the original big manuscript. The contract never came—and like all other vanishing, distressed book publishers, these people caved too.
So, there I sat with a whole other complete book. I then owned the rights to book 2 Dead Right There, which was what I had titled it. Over the years, thousands of copies of Don’t Even Think About It have sold. People liked my blogs, and they liked the book. So I hope they will also like Dead Right There. “Dead right there,” was another phrase we used back in the day — “Do that and your dead right there.” There are a lot more action stories in this new one.
Bishop: Will there be a third Texas Detective book?
Hock: You know, I don’t know. I don’t think so, but my wife keeps reminding me of strange stories I have told her, which I have forgotten! So, maybe there is another one in the future.
Bishop: Clearly your schedule is packed with seminars and writing. Do you still find time to read for pleasure, and if so, which authors do you reach for on your bookshelf?
Hock: I am gone so much, I write a lot on planes and in hotels. But I write obsessively at home, too. It is not healthy. I work out quite a bit, and listen to a lot of audio books. I usually have one book going on audio and one paper book going at the same time.
I recently went through a lot of Matt Helm books and revisited Mike Hammer. Also some Ian Fleming. I have read several Longmire books lately. Like I dissect a boxing match, I dissect these books for plot, pacing, style. Why do they work? When did they work? I think fiction is the poetry of non-fiction. The emotional connection that, most times, non-fiction can’t seem to touch. Let’s face it, more people know about the Civil War from the movie Gone with the Wind, than any history class they attended as kids and teens. Such emotional fiction is very powerful. And, the writer’s challenge is to make the uninteresting, interesting—you know those in-between scenes needed to knit a story together. make them iteresting! Write it and skin it like Hemingway. What’s left is the poetry, if you’re good—If you’re very good.
I am currently reading a history book on Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and listening to The Memory Illusion, which covers the very latest neurology research on memory. If I pick a new author of a fiction series, it’s like I investigate them. But, most of book series leaves me scratching my head.
Bishop: What are you looking for in the year ahead in your writing and in your seminars?
Hock: I have to write a textbook on gun combatives. I do not teach marksmanship. I only cover interactive shooting with safe ammunition. I have amassed quite a bit of knowledge on how people shoot each other, in common and some uncommon situations. You are not really learning to gunfight unless moving and thinking people are shooting back at you. I use safe to painful, but not real, ammo to organize this exercises. Fiction – and, I am pitching a book about a terrific female action character and Japanese terrorists. And my German publishers/distributors have accepted my third Gunther plot, Rio Grande Black Magic. I am really excited about it — as all writers say – but that ones for 2019.
As far as seminars go, I am 65 years old and the stopwatch is ticking on how long I can zip around teaching hand, stick, knife and gun combatives. I tell people every weekend that I only play touch football and everyone else plays tackle. But when you’re older, even touch takes its toll. Then, there’s that flicker of macho, a flash of youth I shouldn’t have, then there's mistakes or missteps I shouldn't have taken. Wrong place. Wrong time. Wham. I just survived my most recent surgery from being hit with a stick at the wrong place, wrong time. But I will go on until I can’t or shouldn’t—or I get a big book deal that makes even Clive Cussler and the ghost of Clancy jealous!
Bishop: Thx Hock for sharing and for all you do for law enforcement across the country and around the world. You are a true warrior…
(What a title huh? I have changed some of the names here because people have been killed over this mess!)
Meanwhile, an evening shift in the 1980s…
Typing a report at my desk, My Detective Sgt Howard Kelly walked up and stood in the open door frame of my office.
“Whatcha doin?” he asked.
The question was rhetorical, because I knew we were going somewhere.
“Let’s go for a ride,” he said and walked out of sight.
“Ooookay…,” I muttered, getting my jacket. Many of our misadventures started off this way.
On the parking lot we got into his Chevy pick-up, not his sedan, he put on his cowboy hat and off we drove, but randomly. He turned on his handheld police radio and his CB radio, keeping us in touch with HQ.
“I have to tell somebody about this,” he said. “It’s big. It’s secret.”
Big? Secret? Nowadays, any adult with a mature, open, unbiased mind knows that the United States, Russia, China, and smaller countries have been screwing around with each other’s countries. Even the o’ revered, great one of all times, star-child himself, Obama was learning from tapped Euro leaders, phone calls, messing with Israeli politics, colluding with Russia over nukes, etc. Can't name them all here. This kind of business has been going on forever. But those are big issues. What about bizarre, crazy issues? Crazy, concocted influences? And folks still get killed over them. In Howard Kelly’s truck that night, he told about a bizarre one.
“The Texas Rangers and the FBI called me into Weldon’s office two weeks ago,” Kelly began. “You know Congressman ______ __________ ?”
“Yeah,” I said. He was kind of a big deal in DC leadership. Texan. Democrat.
“There are some people in Dallas, who want to hook up with a big Chinese oil company. Big bucks. Big money. You know that ain’t gonna happen with the Chi-Coms. But they want to figure out a way to do this. It’s the ________ Oil company.”
“Okay,” I said. Not a familiar name to me.
“They are pushing to get this deal done on many levels. One trick they are using? Trying to get Nancy Reagan to convince Ronnie that the Chinese are safe and okay to worth with, and push this oil deal.”
“Well how are they gonna’ do that?” I asked.
“They want to plant a maid, an assistant to Nancy Reagan into the White House.”
"They have contacted Congressman _________ . They have asked him to vouch for a woman for that job. Plant her in and work on Nancy, get Nancy convinced, about it all. Then if….IF…the topic comes up with the president, Nancy will talk up the deal. The Congressman is in on it, and is pushing for her to be hired.”
I chuckled. What a long, long shot!
“One problem. The woman they chose? Alice Jones. She’s a real fast talker and charming and all, but she’s a nut. And she’s a nympho.”
“A…nympho,” I repeated.
“Yeah. As the deal was being cut, Alice was running around here screwing about 6 guys at the same time.”
“Okay,” I said, wondering where I fit in all this?
“The Rangers and the FBI think she has told all 6 of those guys about the plan. One of them told the Feds. And the Feds told the Rangers.”
“Then told you. Okay.” And now me, still wondering.
“Well, one of the guys she told? Was a local veterinarian. Horse doctor out on Highway 318.”
“There’s a vet missing…” I said.
“Yeah, Doc Reed Smith.”
“Him? It’s an unassigned case. He’s just gone. His wife said he packed up his bags, took off in his truck. Yeah. No one is working the case because it looks like he took off.”
“He’s on the run.”
“He’s running. For some reason. Some threat. Over this.”
“What about the other five guys?”
“They don’t live in our city. They didn't tell me about the other guys.”
We drove around the quiet, dark streets of downtown.
“What will we do?” I finally asked. This is usually the point where I am told where I fit in.
“Nothing. Nothing right now. But I want you to know all this. I don’t think one person in our PD should know all this. So now you know. Just keep your ears open for anything that sounds connected to this.”
Nothing! Whew! I sez to myself.
Back at the station, I pulled the missing persons report. About three weeks prior, a patrolman documented the sudden disappearance. Doc Smith acted real funny, scared, packed his bags and left the wife and daughters. Our admin did not assign the case because there was no apparent crime. A BOLO was dispatched on NCIC. Just one. And that was that.
That was that. Until two weeks later at my home. I opened the local newspaper to read a story about our local citizen, a veterinarian Doctor Reed Smith. He was shot and killed in a motel out Amarillo way, the previous night.
“Damn!” I declared.
“What?” my wife asked.
“A dead guy. Too complicated to explain,” I said.
The next day at work, I walked into Kelly’s office, closed the door and sat down. Howard leaned back in his chair and looked at me over his reading glasses.
“What about the other five guys?” I asked. We knew what we were talking about.
“Not our problem. Ranger problem. FBI problem. They live all over north Texas.
“Any leads out west?”
“Nope. He was living in motels. He was shot dead in his room. Looks like a hit.”
I nodded. I knew the shooting was not our case either.
“They call us for any background on the Doc?”
“I referred them to the FBI.”
“Oh, I’ll be they were thrilled to hear that,” I said.
Me and Howard Kelly, yesteryear and last year
About three weeks later, Howard Kelly and I were working the same shift and called me on the radio.
“Eighty-nine, go ahead.”
“Meet me behind the Wells Fargo Bank.”
I did. We drove up, the usual car-door-to-car-door style, meet.
“You remember that Alice Jones, the woman they tried to plant with Nancy Reagan?” he asked.
“Yeah. The so-called nympho spy.”
“The Feds just told me this. They have been follerin’ her. She went to the funeral home here where Doc Smith's body was taken.”
“Haaa-ha. Well, get this…she went in after hours and visited one of the directors. She paid the director to visit the Doc Smith corpse. She paid him to leave her alone with the corpse for a while.”
“Uh-oh,” I said.
“Yeah. She had sex with the corpse. The Feds saw it.”
“I think that goes a bit beyond nymphomania,” I said.
"They report the funeral home yet?” I asked. The State of Texas is very anal retention about the rules and regs of funeral homes. I knew the home. I also knew weird things happen in all these homes, but that’s another few stories.
“Nope. Probably won’t. It’ll blow the surveillance. Maybe someday?”
And we both laughed, because man…we have a sick sense of humor and that shit was off-the-charts, weird.
And life for us went on from there. We never heard another word about this. Alice Jones was never hired by the White House. No one was ever arrested for Doc Smith’s murder. There was never a Chi-Com, oil deal cut with the Dallas company. The famous congressman died in a car crash years later.
Who would imagine such a plot? And how such a gamble might pay off, that Alice could coyly, talk up China and oil with Nancy, and then Nancy would talk to Ronnie about this subject? What I learned was how small and how low and conniving, how multi-level, these conspirators have been, are, and will be in good ol’ politics and it doesn’t matter what form of government is in play, commies, socialists or republics. All this modern Russia-Trump crap just cracks me up. Like this is new in any way?
Oh, and never hire a nymphomaniac, necrophiliac as an undercover spy. Just saying…
Death Notifications. All Horrible. All this talk about Trump and his death notification, made me think of the thee WORST one I ever had to do. It is bizarre and funny and twisted…
It was tough being Iranian in Texas after the embassy hostage takeover in the 1970s. We had a warrant officer, Merle Culbert, who spent his workweek arresting people with active traffic warrants. After the hostage grab, Merle declared a personal war on Iranians and put them on the top of his hunting list each day. It gave him great personal pleasure to shackle up an “A-rab” like that and toss him in jail while our hostages were blindfolded and held captive. BUT, the pastime proved fairly pointless because the happy Iranians in the USA were the exact opposite of those radicals in their homeland!
Iranians started calling themselves Persians back then; and most of us dull-headed Americans, who could barely learn to drive to the big city shopping mall, were not historically and geographically hip enough to make this Iran-Persia connection.
“What? Persia? Ya mean that place where they make them pointy slippers?”
While off duty when I was a young cop, I frequently hung out in a nightclub called the Esalom. The slightly upscale bar and restaurant with sort of a Casablanca look was owned by a “Persian” named “Matt.” American nicknames like “Matt” were common. Inside the club each night, a clutch of interesting characters like an airline pilot, a biker, a few cops, and a few others (the ones I can’t recall because of alcohol or brain damage) drank and caroused as “the regulars.” Later in the evenings, I might troll some of the country Western bars in the city if I was feeling horsy. Well, that about wraps up approximately eight years of my elite social life! But Matt would often run the bar on some weeknights; and on quiet ones, he would tell me stories about his Persia-Iran. Crazy place. Very Americanized and modern except for, as he would put it, “very crazy religious people.” I had no idea how crazy. Matt did. That was why he left his homeland. I began to discover that Matt was highly educated from several American colleges. In fact, most “Persians” were here for college and tried to stay after they graduated.
During and then, well, after the Hostage Crisis, there were many educated and successful “Persians” … living and working among us (as McCarthy would say)! Americanized or not, there were still unshakeable cultural differences. One such Persian family ran a hair salon and nail shop in the main shopping center. Through the years, cops and detectives generally got to know many business people in their areas and cities. I got to meet the Shans: Momma Shan, Daddy Shan, and 18-year-old daughter Shan. And it was there, in the 1980s and in the political, multi-cultural maelstrom, that my tale began one spring evening….
“Hock, there is a dead guy at the hospital from a traffic accident,” Patrol Lieutenant Walter Keene told me on the phone. It was about 6 p.m., and I was eating dinner at my house with my second wife and first and second kids. The evening-shift detectives had left town on a case; and I was on call for the week, so “call” started at 5 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. as usual.
“Traffic?” I mumbled with a mouthful. I don’t do traffic."
“Well, the doctor at the hospital said when they looked over his body, his body had about 20 large, fresh circular … wounds all over it. He said something wasn’t right about it.”
“Fresh circular wounds?”
“Enjoying that dinner are ya?” Keene chided, hearing me chew. He loved interrupting my life for call-outs, whether morning, noon, or night.
“Well, set it aside Mister Detective; and you can eat it nice and cold later,” he laughed out loud. It was just a routine he and I had. When he woke me at night, I’d answer the phone and hear his gravelly voice ask, “Sleepin’ good are ya? Havin’ ya a real nice, sleepy-time dream, are ya? HAHAHA-haha!”
Within about 20 minutes, I was at the hospital emergency room.
A patrol woman was finishing a fatality accident report.
“This is a mystery crash, Hock,” she said, showing me her diagram on a clipboard. “He was driving south on Mingo Road and veered off smack into a telephone pole at a high speed. When we got there, he was dead.”
She handed me a Polaroid of the car. It was totaled. A giant, v-shaped crash wrapped around a telephone pole. “No skids. Just straight into the pole.”
“Who is he?” I asked.
“Ahram Shan. The guy who owns the hair salon on University Drive in the Johnson Center.”
I nodded, and we walked to one of the ER surgery rooms. I was no traffic investigator; and, frankly, I deeply despised all aspects of traffic work—the tickets, the endless accident reports, all that. My version of an upper rung of hell would be an assignment in a traffic division. But I knew that often those kinds of crashes involved sudden heart attacks, passing out, sleep deprivation, or whatever glitch caused a feller to black out and drive high speed straight into his smashing death.
Shan was naked on a metal gurney. The doctor followed us in.
“Look at these,” the doc pointed out to me. Sure enough there were tens of fresh, circular cuts and bruises all over his body on his face, arms, chest, and legs; and when we turned him over, we saw them on his back. All about the size of small jar lid. One side worse and deeper than the other. I took a real close look. They were not complete, perfect circles. They were somewhat oblong. What the hell? That was before Scully, Mulder, and the X-Files; otherwise, I’d have called them for help.
“Did … something blow up in the car that…?”
“Nope,” the officer said.
Did a really odd beating happen just before the car drive that caused this man to pass out? What would cause those oddball wounds? Some kind of sex fetish deal? What? “Well, I guess I need to find out from whence he was coming.
And I have to go to the Shan house. Where does he live?”
She handed me his driver’s license AND with it, she handed off another major, nasty responsibility, the dreaded death notification. Before our county organized a medical examiner’s office in the 1990s, we used our nearby Dallas and Ft. Worth offices for autopsies and major forensics; and these modern offices now have investigators who go to the scenes and make the death notification. But back then, death notices were performed by patrolmen and detectives. Detectives did it when it might matter in their investigation. Such as now.
There was an art to death notifications. There were police schools for death notifications. I had been to them; and it was touchy, touchy business. I was not “Mister Warmth,” but was not cold-hearted enough not to try to do a good job with it. Good God, what a terrible thing to have to tell people. I had delivered many; and this unique, American-Persian one I am telling you about was the worst death message I had ever had to do and the worst I had ever heard of anywhere else! So get yourself ready for this ugly ride.
I telephoned the police station and asked for our forensics guy, Russell Lewis, to come out and take some 35 mm photos of the wounds on the body. I ordered an autopsy. I called the evening-shift Detective Sergeant Howard Kelly as protocol indicated and informed him of my little mess. He, too, was eating dinner at home; and there was no need for him to stop because I was holding the bag, so to speak. Then I girded my loins for the trip to the Shan house and the death notification.
I rehearsed the speech in my mind as I drove across the city. The lines are pretty short and not sweet. My guess is that anyone who is at home, has a loved one not at home, and then sees the police show up with grim, sober expressions at the door is already expecting bad news before an officer opens his mouth. I often wonder about the miserable job of doing this chore for the military. Imagine having a full-time job of making death notifications? Anyhow, I kept in mind that the Shan house might contain the secret source of the wounds; so I would approach this as an investigator AND as a death notifier. A greasy tightrope.
The Shan house was a typical residence in a middle-class housing addition. Cars in the driveway. Grass cut. Clean. I parked, took a deep breath, and approached the door. Listened first. Nothing. Then rang the doorbell.
Daughter Shan answered. She recognized me and smiled. No surprise on her face. Just a genuine half smile.
“Is your mother home?” I asked.
“Yes,” she turned to summon her and left the door open. I stepped right in and scanned the joint. Clean, orderly, nothing out of the usual; it was just a lived-in house with some lived-in clutter here and there.
Mrs. Shan walked in with a welcoming smile and a curious expression. I was glad the daughter was there because they could comfort each other when they heard the news. Always good to have support handy.
“Mrs. Shan,” I started, “I have some bad news. Your husband had a car crash. I hate to tell you this, but … he is dead. He crashed into a telephone pole just two hours ago.” There it was. Boom.
She stared at me with the same expression. Unchanged. The curious smile. The daughter was a little more serious.
“Oh, Hock, that is funny,” she said.
“Ahh … funny?”
“I know what you are doing,” she said.
“What am I doing?” I asked. Then I noticed a wound on her neck. That same oblong shape, cut, and bruise.
“You are trying to make the peace.”
“But it is a cruel joke for you to play. I will not forgive him.”
“I am not trying to make any joke, Mrs. Shan.”
“Ooooh, yes you are!” she wagged her finger in my face. The smile disappeared.
“Momma!” the daughter said and stepped back into the dining room. I remember her moving or crossing her arms in some way that indicated she was getting nervous and believing me.
“It is very cruel for you to do this favor for him.”
“Favor? Mrs. Shan, your husband was killed on Mingo Road in a traffic accident.”
“No, he was not.”
“Yes, he was.”
“You are here to scare me for him,” she said. She was getting angry. The lips curled.
“His body is at the hospital.”
“No, it is not. He has asked you to do this.”
“And his body is full of round bruises and cuts just like the one on your neck,” I proclaimed.
“Momma!” the daughter declared.
“You are trying to make me feel bad about fighting with my husband. I know he has asked you to come here and tell me he is dead to make me feel bad. This is such a rotten trick,” she said. As her words progressed, the anger grew in her face. Lots of teeth. Red skin. She started moving around.
“He is dead,” I insisted.
“HE IS NOT DEAD!”
“HE IS DEAD!” I shouted back.
“Where did he get those bruises? How did YOU get those bruises?” I demanded. My eyes shifted from the mother and the daughter.
“We had a fight! You know this! He told you this!”
“A fight with what?”
“Belts! We … we had a fight with belts.”
There was a belt on the floor and one lying over the back of a living room couch. They both had large buckles. Oblong in shape.
“Belts? You were swinging belt buckles at each other?” I picked them up, with intention to keep.
“Yes, this is how we fight. It is not the first time. We have these fights. I will not forgive him for this evil lie!”
“Well, he is dead. Dead at the Westgate Hospital Emergency Room.”
“YOU are lying! LYING. You are just as bad as he is!” she screamed with a banshee face. “LIAR!” She went for the belt on the couch.
How did it come to this? DAMN! This all went to hell in less than two minutes. It is not too often you yell at the surviving spouse in a death notification.
“He is not dead!”
“Your husband is dead! Dead, I tell you. Dead.”
“No! Liar! LIAR!”
“Come down to the hospital with me. Right now. And I will show you. Both of you.”
The daughter convinced the mother to go. The daughter was in a state of shock. While they grabbed their purses, I decided to grab up those two belts. I had many legal reasons to do so. I was there on an official death notice. Heard a spontaneous admission from the wife. Belts in plain view. My safety issues. I had many reasons to seize those belts, so seize them I did.
It was now nightfall. We got into our cars—me in mine, the mother and daughter in theirs—and I led the way to Westgate. I was steaming a bit, and all pretense of my caring about her feelings was pretty much gone.
We entered the ER, and I walked them straight through and into the operating room. Mr. Shan was still there. Naked. Gray. Deader than hell.
The daughter stopped at the doorway and gasped. The mother marched right up to the body.
“Wake up!” she shouted, inches from his face.
“This joke is over. I will never forgive you. Stop this joke!”
She started beating the body and the face, and a nurse and I pulled her off.
“Momma! Momma! Daddy is dead! He is dead!” the daughter shouted to her, gushing with emotion and tears. She helped us pull Mrs. Shan from the body.
The mother froze. Then she began emitting that shrill scream of the Middle Eastern women we hear on the news these days. She ran down the hallway bouncing off the walls, swinging her purse wildly, and striking her back and chest in an act of self-flagellation. Some of her purse items flew through the air. She dashed outside in the parking lot. Needless to say, she was indeed the main show of the emergency room. The daughter scooped up the items and chased out after her.
The nurse and I just looked at each. I could only mumble, “Iranian,” as some sort of excuse for the behavior?
About 20 minutes later, I had a quiet conversation with the daughter and the ER doctor. She told us that her parents had a vicious belt-buckle battle that afternoon at home. She said he left the house in a fit of anger. And then and there he crashed. I asked her if he had a heart condition. She said no. Anyone in her family have one? Her grandfather did, Shan’s father. In the week of her grandfather’s 54th birthday, he dropped dead of a heart attack.
“And how old was your dad?” I asked.
“He was 54. His birthday was just 4 days ago.”
Father and son! Both men died in the same week of their 54th birthdays. Sound amazing? That coincidence was not all that amazing and was not medically uncommon. I knew the syndrome existed; but for my final reports, I had to do a little research to support my findings. The doctor nodded. Of course, he knew right away. That’s the kind of stuff docs know.
Within a week, the autopsy results were in. Mr. Shan died of a sudden heart attack while driving and coasted right into a telephone pole. Did he also die from the rage of his belt-buckle fight? I didn’t know, and I couldn’t prove it if I did know.
When I left the hospital that night, Mrs. Shan was in the dark leaning against the wall outside the hospital. Exhausted. Crying. Mumbling. Her daughter was inside taking care of the paperwork. I guess I could have stopped. You know … said something. Apologized. Sympathy. Whatever. But instead, I passed her right by and walked to my car, got in, and left. I was not a social worker or a psychiatrist. I was a detective. I just investigated shit.
I got home; and, indeed, the dinner was cold. My second wife started ragging on me for some insignificant thing I did or didn’t do. I poured a shot of whiskey and grabbed the cold pork chop off the plate and stepped out into the backyard. She followed me, of course. In the pasture out back, some cattle were up and moving slowly, uneasily about in the dark. I strolled up to the barbed-wire fence, put the glass on a fence post, and gnawed on the chop. She went on; I missed dinner and I missed the kids’ going to bed. I missed this. Missed that. The complaining droned on and on behind me.
I gnawed on that pork chop bone, and I hoped they’d call me out again for serious crime.
This and other great stories appear in "Don't Even Think About It!"