About 20 years ago, I was in my young 20s living in a city in Texas. Had an acquaintance — not a friend — who lived in the same apartment complex. Me and my roommate would shoot hoops with him and his roomie sometimes or drink beers on the pool deck after work. Never went out socially. He seemed ok, as did his roommate — not too bright, but a nice enough guy.
One day, came home from work (moving company) hot and sweaty and thought I’d take a swim. Was early in the afternoon, 2ish, and not too many folks were out in the heat. The complex pool had a little changing hut that had a little bar area attached. As I was approaching the gate, thought I heard a cry or shout, sounded like a young voice. Opened the gate and shut it behind me, which made a clang. Heard a thump from in the changing room, then the door bursts open and this kid comes running out. He’s about 12, wearing a bathing suit. I didn’t know him but had seen him around the pool and complex sometimes. He’s crying and runs right past me, to the gate and out. I yell after him, “You ok? What’s wrong?” Turn around to see this guy coming out of the changing room. He’s also in a bathing suit, strappy t-shirt. He says, “I scared him, that’s all. Didn’t know he was in there and went in without knocking.” But he’s clearly nervous, twitchy. Walks past me mumbling something like “It’s cool, I’ll let his folks know I just scared him.” I let him walk on by because I was kind of in shock, but it seemed clear to me he had been messing with this kid in there. I went back home and sat there just thinking about it for a while. I wanted to call the cops but was thinking that I didn’t really see anything, and wasn’t sure the kid would tell the cops what happened, and didn’t want to call the cops if it was just a misunderstanding (and also, at the time, was not a big fan of the police). And I was also just enraged and nauseated and not sure what to do.
Some time goes by, avoided the guy and his roomie when I saw them. Was sick to my stomach half the time with anger but didn’t really have anyone to talk to about it. About two weeks later, I saw the kid on the basketball court, shooting hoops with some other kids. I asked if I could play horse with them and they said sure. So we played a few games. I learned their names and that they all lived in the complex. I told them I’d get some gatorades and then we sat in the shade to cool off. When the kids got up to go play some more, I asked the one kid to sit a minute. Said I didn’t know if he remembered, but a few weeks ago I went to the pool and saw him come running out of the changing room crying, and saw (guy’s name) come out of the changing room right after. I said, “(Guy) said he had come into the changing room without knocking and that you were just scared. That what happened?” He had his head down and didn’t say anything for a bit, and then he started crying.
Man, the feels. He sobbed it out — he was in the pool, guy had shown up, sat on the deck with his feet in the water shooting the shit with the kid. Then (guy) had told kid he had a deck of playing cards with naked ladies on them, did the kid want to look? Of course the kid did. So the guy says he doesn’t want to take them out on the pool deck, in case some mom comes along — he’ll show them to him in the changing room. So the kid goes in with him, he starts showing him the cards, etc. Don’t want to recount exactly, but he basically got the kid aroused and then fondled him, made the kid touch him. And then I banged the gate and the kid ran out.
I sat there with him for a little while and tried to say something useful but didn’t really know what to do. I asked if he had told his parents or anyone else and he said no. I said maybe he should and he said it was just him and his older brother and their dad, and he thought his dad would get mad at him. Which also made me almost cry. So I told him it wasn’t his fault and he shouldn’t feel bad, and that if he ever wanted to talk about it — or if that guy or anyone else ever gave him any trouble — come find me or my roommate. He said ok, and also asked me not to tell anyone else.
So I head back to my apartment, never so enraged in my life. Get together my black jeans and long-sleeved dark t-shirt and batting gloves, and my aluminum baseball bat, and put them near my bed. Then I start spying on the guy. I already know he and his roommate usually stay in nights, and he doesn’t have a steady girlfriend. From my front window on the second floor I can see across the compound to his front door on the lower level, so I rearrange our shitty little kitchen table and chairs so I can sit there and look out the window. My roommate asks me what’s up one night after like three or four days of me sitting at the table every night with a book or magazine pretending to read, and I tell him I’m trying to not watch so much TV, but I’m basically staring at their front door the whole time.
Six days after my talk with the kid, I’m sitting at the table eating when I see their front door open and this asshole come out. He walks across the courtyard to the parking lot, gets in his truck and drives off. I tell my roommie I’m heading out to meet a friend for beers, throw my dark clothes and bat out the bedroom window and then leave. Go around, get my stuff, go to the pool changing room (irony) and change, and then back to the courtyard. Near the parking lot there’s a fenced-off area where the dumpsters are. I open the gate, go in and crouch, and leave the gate open a little so I can see. I’m telling myself in my head the whole time, “You can’t kill him, you can’t kill him.” He comes back about half an hour later. Gets out of his truck, starts walking toward me. He passes behind where I’m hidden toward the corner, to take a right back across the courtyard. I come out, run up behind and swing into his legs. He shouts, falls holding his leg. I stick the end of the bat against his neck and say “If you make one more sound I’ll bash your fucking head in.” Then I beat him, in the knees, stomach, ribs, arms, legs, back — just about everywhere except his head. He was rolling around moaning and yelping when I connected, so I hit whatever he presented. This went on for a good 90 seconds or so. He was crying and slobbering and saying “Please, no more, no more.” I’m panting and scared shitless but also still enraged, so I say “You know EXACTLY what this is for, motherfucker. You say one word to anyone about this or touch any kid around here again and I will fucking kill you.” Then I ran off, went back and changed, ran around to the other side of the complex and over a fence to the complex next door, and chucked my clothes and bat in their dumpster. Then I walked around the block and back home.
About 20 minutes after I get back, watching TV with the roommie when we hear a siren and go out to see an ambulance and cop car pull up in the lot. The guy has crawled halfway across the courtyard, and someone saw him and called an ambulance. We’re standing on our stoop watching along with everyone else in the complex as they load the guy onto a stretcher. I can’t see his face but I keep expecting all heads to turn in my direction and the cops start up my stairs after me. But they take him away and the cops stay for a while, talk to his roommie and knock on a few doors asking if anyone saw anything. Apparently the answer is no because they leave after about an hour.
My roommate’s all excited talking about it, wondering if it’s a drug thing or whatever but I tell him I’m wiped and have to work early and go to bed. Where I’m basically up all night worried this guy will tell the cops it’s me. So next day, I come home from work and my roommate says he talked to the guy’s roommate. The guy has six broken ribs, broken knee, couple bruised vertebra, fingers on both hands broken and contusions everywhere else. Will be in hospital for a week and then in a full leg cast for a few months. I ask do they know who it was or what it was about, and he says the roommate has no clue — guy has no enemies he knows of, and police think it might have been an attempted robbery or carjacking that got out of hand, or maybe just marauding kids.
A week later the guy is home. He spends a couple weeks indoors, and then starts crutching around. He’s black and blue all over and stays close to home. The only time I ever really had any contact with him after that was when me and the roommate brought over a 12-pack a couple days after he got back. We went in to say hi, he was in an easy chair with his leg up. We tell him the beer is to help with his recovery, he says he’s not supposed to drink with the pain meds but fuck it, so we all crack a beer. I look at him a couple times but he doesn’t seem anxious about me or wary, just in some pain. His roommate starts talking about how the police are useless, they have no idea who did it and probably never will, so forth. The guy doesn’t say much, just that he’s happy the mf didn’t beat his ass to death. So we leave. I moved out a couple months later to go back to school and never saw or heard from the guy again or had any contact about it from police. I assumed at the time and still do that HE assumed that the boy’s father was the one who beat him, and he didn’t say anything to the cops because the whole story would have come out. I also never saw the kid again but I hope he knew about the guy’s beating and assumed it was me.
Producer’s note: this is an excerpt from Reddit user imnotmefornow‘s account of his story.
image –michael warren