I could hear the din from the bar as I exited my SUV and I was still almost a block away. What a shame! I knew from long experience that would change as soon as my foot crossed the threshold. I tend to have that effect on people. I’m six feet six inches tall and I weigh an even 250 pounds—all of it broad shouldered muscle. My Body Mass Index at my last physical was less than four percent. My light brown hair is styled exactly the way it’s been for the past fifteen years—ever since I first joined the Navy.
Sure enough, no sooner had I taken my first step into the bar than the noise died. When I turned left and stepped up to the bar the people there couldn’t back away fast enough. I took a stool in the middle of the empty space and sat down, waiting for the bartender to approach. “I’m not looking for any trouble.”
“Good…neither am I. Give me a ginger ale.” He reached under the bar for a glass and some ice. Twenty seconds later he slid the glass in my direction. I pulled a fiver from my pocket and dropped it on the bar. He ignored it and walked away to draw a few beers and pour some wine. It looked to me that this was a pretty cheap crowd. Checking up and down the bar all I could see were longnecks and drafts.
I reached into the lower left pocket of my cargo pants. Like almost everything else I was wearing they were a true deep navy blue. My heavy shoes were black as was my wide belt. My belt said as much about me as the bold white lettering across my chest. Just below the American flag over my heart were the letters that were my life—U. S. MARSHAL. On my right hip was my nickel plated .44 Magnum Colt Python, just behind two speed loaders in addition to the twenty-four rounds on the belt. On my left hip was my ASP Talon baton—every bit as deadly a weapon in my hands as the revolver. A pouch at the back of my right hip held my stainless steel handcuffs and its partner on the opposite side held my radio—my link to my backup team.
I placed the photo flat on the bar as the bartender returned to me. “I’ll have another,” I said in a loud voice, continuing soto voce so I wouldn’t be overheard. “Don’t pick it up and don’t make a production of looking at it. I’ve been told that he comes here a lot. Is he here tonight? If he is and he escapes because you’ve given me away I’ll see to it that you’re arrested for obstruction of justice.”
He gulped a few times but did as he was told, nodding slightly in response. I continued almost at a whisper. “If my nose is pointing to twelve o’clock, my right ear to three, the back of my head to six, and my left ear to nine, tell me where he is. Again, don’t point or do anything obvious and we’ll be fine.”
He pretended to wipe the bar as he whispered, “About 4:30 with his back to you.”
I picked up the reflection in the mirror then asked, “Red shirt with black and white stripes, looking away from me?” He nodded again. Now, in my normal tone of voice I asked, “Where’s the men’s room?”
He must have been a quick study because he caught on immediately. “Take the hallway to your right…last door on your right.” I turned, not to my right, but to my left so the people at his table wouldn’t see me loosen the leather strap from my holster, tucking it up and under the top edge where it wouldn’t interfere with my draw. I thumbed the safety off then I spun around and slowly walked toward the hallway.
I was only a few feet from him when I pivoted, my left foot crossing in front of my right. A fraction of a second later my big left hand was on his neck, pushing his head onto the table. “Michael Clifford, you are under arrest for kidnapping, rape, sodomy, murder, interstate flight to avoid prosecution, and violations of the Mann Act. Place your hands flat on the table. In fact, all of you…hands flat on the table.”
I was pleased to see the two at my left comply immediately as well as those seated at nearby tables. Clifford, however, and his buddy to the right needed a bit more persuasion. The sound as I cocked the hammer on my Python reverberated through the now silent room. “Listen carefully because I’m only saying this once. What you feel at the back of your head is the business end of a Colt Python—a .44-Magnum. If I see either you or your friend pull any kind of weapon there will be about a half-inch hole in the back of your skull, but in the front there will be nothing but gore. It will blow your face half way across the room. NOW! Place your hands on the table.” I wasn’t at all surprised to hear something “clunk” as it fell to the floor.
Clifford’s hands came up empty. His friend, however, was either deaf or just plain stupid. I didn’t want to shoot him out of fear that the bullet might pass through his body then strike and injure one of the bar’s patrons behind him. I holstered the revolver quickly and pulled my ASP Talon baton. It’s roughly nine inches closed, but expands to almost twenty-eight with a flick of my wrist. I brought it down on his right wrist as soon as he moved to raise his hand. A switchblade rolled harmlessly onto the floor just a millisecond after my second blow, a backhand that blew out his bicep and badly bruised his upper arm.
I still had my left hand on Clifford’s neck when I kicked the knife away toward the bar. I grabbed his friend by the hair and pulled him to the floor. I turned now to face the door.
“You…in the green shirt.” I continued once he pointed to his chest. “Yes…you; open the door and hold it open, but don’t stand in the doorway.” I moved a thin brass tube to my mouth and blew twice. There was no sound—nothing we could hear, but less than ten seconds later people in the bar gasped as Max, a 130-pound German Shepherd, ran through the portal. He stopped at my side as I pointed down at Clifford’s friend.
“You’ll be fine as long as you don’t move, but he’ll tear you to ribbons if you even blink. Max growled and bared his fangs as the hairs on the back of his neck stood straight up. The guy laid there not even breathing. My attention returned to Clifford as I pulled his left hand behind his back, applying the handcuff with my right. I followed up by snapping the cuff tightly around his right wrist.
Digging into the right-hand cargo pocket I removed a plastic wrist cuff that I wrapped tightly around his friend’s crossed wrists. Max was only inches from his face when I told him, “You’re either the best or the stupidest friend I’ve ever encountered. Your actions tonight will cost you at least ten years of your life.” I pulled both prisoners to the bar where I searched them once I had them off balance—legs back and apart, leaning forward against the edge of the high wooden structure. Clifford had a switchblade tucked into the cup of his briefs. Under the table I found two .38 caliber snub-nosed revolvers. I tucked them into my waistband. Only then did I radio my backup team. They ran in thirty seconds later with a team of EMT’s. I stood by while both captives were read their Miranda rights and were searched again. Both were wearing cowboy boots and, sure enough, both had large hunting knives hidden within their right boots.
We unloaded the pistols then tagged and bagged them before removing both suspects. I was the last one to leave and, as Max and I crossed the threshold, I turned to address the crowd. “I really am sorry to have ruined your evening. We’ve been chasing that bastard all over the Midwest for months. Believe me when I tell you this: you’ll sleep a whole lot better tonight knowing he’s behind bars.”
“How many women, Marshal?” A middle-aged man had stood to ask the question.
“Six…six beautiful young women kidnapped, raped, and sodomized before being brutally tortured and murdered—six families torn apart by their violent and senseless crimes. If all of you weren’t in potential danger I would have gladly exterminated vermin like him in a heartbeat. We thought he had an accomplice, but we weren’t sure. Now it looks like we were right.” I turned and strode into the dark starless night, Max walking easily at my side.