While I Lay Sleeping
I was sleeping the blissful sleep of ignorance when the shit really hit the fan. Snuggled up with my girlfriend of 10 years in a quiet little beach town along the California coast. I had no idea that 1,000 miles away, Robert and Maria were handing a package containing over four pounds of cocaine to two undercover officers of the DEA. The first words out of their mouths, when they ID'ed themselves and slapped the cuffs on my friends, were “Where's MacFeeters?”
That was the shit hitting the fan. That was El Paso. In my little world, the waves lapped at the sand and the seagulls dove for their morning snack. I was unemployed at the time and had no idea of what was to ensue from that one little sentence, “Where's MacFeeters?”
Ten years earlier, I was a freshman in a small Colorado College. This is where I met my girlfriend. In the laundry room. I was having a little trouble figuring out the cycles and the correct amount of soap to put in. Suddenly, the cutest little redhead offered to help. She was a fox with knowledge I didn't posses so obviously I took her up on her offer.
In the same dormitory was a guy named Barry who happened to be from El Paso. We were like minded in a lot of areas so we became friends. Good friends.
We all did our time at the U of NC and ended up going our separate ways. Not Gwendolyn and I, though. We stayed together. And moved out to cal where I was from. Barry and another college buddy ended up teaching school in El Paso as Barry's father was the number two man in their system.
Both Barry and Red taught at the high school level in The Pass, as the locals call EP. And they both ended up shacking up with their students. Barry brought his Hispanic girlfriend Juanita to Cal where we got in touch again. I showed him the area and they rented an apartment together. I got him a job at the fine Italian restaurant where I worked as a waiter. Life was good for all concerned. For awhile.
Then Juanita's brother, Robert came out for a quick visit. Nicest guy in the world. As I tend to get along with most people, Robert was no exception. We became pretty good friends.
In time, Barry and Juanita split up and Barry wandered back to Texas. But Robert continued to come out every now and then and we would party. He loved the beach and I loved to party. A marriage made in heaven. I never gave it a second thought. He'd show up and we'd party till the cows came home and then he would be gone again.
This cycle lasted a couple of years until the day when I got a call from him. I expected the usual, “I'll be out on Wednesday. Want to get together?” Not this time. His call was much more frantic. He said; “The DEA is looking for you,” and proceeded to tell me what had happened to Maria and himself. With the kicker being me. He told me that his exact words to the DEA were “Who's MacFeeters” but that didn't seem to satisfy the DEA. And there was a reason for that. The most ridiculous reason I had ever heard of.
An acquaintance of Robert's had been arrested selling a gram of cocaine to a high school kid. The DEA had his balls in a vice and he started singing like a bird. Any name he could think of and then some. Now, I had never met nor seen or knew this person even existed, but sure enough he spit my name out to the FEDS. They took the ball and ran as far as they could with it. They almost scored a touchdown.
Robert, who this guy set up like the proverbial bowling pin for the DEA, would tell people in The Pass that he was going to the coast to see Dave Mac and to do a little partying. What he was doing was seeing me, doing a little partying, and then heading over to east LA and scoring pounds of blow that he would then take back to El Paso to sell. These days it's a little like taking coal to Newcastle but this was late 1980 and the Mexican mafia had the setup here in LA. I, of course, had no idea about his ELA connection.
And, of course, the brain surgeons at the DEA were convinced that I was Robert's connection. Nothing could have been further from the truth. And nothing could have convinced them otherwise.
When I got over the initial shock of that phone call, my survival instincts kicked into high gear. I called the authorities in EP and asked about a warrant for my arrest. Nothing. I called a close friend who was a sergeant with the LA County Sheriffs. I asked him if he could look into it. He did and came up with nothing. So, I felt a little bit relieved.
A week went by and Robert called again. Dave, the DEA are trying to find you. I said that I had done some checking and had come up with nothing, Nada, zip. He brought to my attention the fact that the warrant had been sealed and that now the damned thing had become public knowledge. Up and down, up and down. I still felt that I was all right as I hadn't done anything. They couldn't have me on tape of any kind and there was nothing in my house that would interest them.
So I waited. And in the meantime I got married to that cute little redhead. She wanted the service to be on Nov 22 but being a big fan of JFK, I said no way. So we did it on Nov 23 out of deference to Bill. The honeymoon was very short lived.
Our plan was to move to Durango and start a business and learn how to ski. My brother (whom the brain surgeons at the DEA thought were me) and my new wife were loading up a truck at my parent's house, while I was at another house loading up another truck when I got another call. This time from my brother, although it might as well have been from Robert
He was short and sweet. Get out of wherever you are. The DEA is at the house and they want you something fierce. The person who was closest to me when I got that call told me to sit down, that I didn't look too good. Well, I didn't feel too good either. But immediately, those survival instincts kicked in again and off I went, flying out the door to the nearest payphone.
This time I needed a ride to my attorney's office. I couldn't tell anybody why as I didn't want them involved in any way. After about four phone calls, my pal Bill told me to hang tight and he'd be there in a minute. It seemed like an hour but after about ten minutes, there he was. I was never happier to see my friend then I was that day. He dropped me off at my attorney's and off he went. Once inside the office, I told my counselor what was happening. He already knew the beginning of the story but things had ratchet up a notch or three. He reached into his little refrigerator and handed me one of those Bacardi, pre-mixed canned cocktails which I sucked down quickly. Then we got down to business.
The first thing he did was call our friend, the LA Sheriff, and asked his advice. He called a bail bondsman he knew and ran down the scenario. As it was just before Thanksgiving, the Bail bondsman felt that the Feds wanted to whisk me off to EP and lose me in the system before we could get our ducks in order. He advised all of us to hide me get a good attorney (one who specialized in drug cases) and turn myself in, on my terms, not theirs.
Having no money, this presented somewhat of a problem. A friend who was on the fringes of the underworld came to my rescue. His gig was major league dealing and automatic weapons which the street gangs of LA paid top dollar for. His specialty; MAC-10 and 11's. Fully auto and silenced. A very illegal commodity to be sure. His brother, Jackie, also was involved and his thing was ounces of pure china white from the Thais. Not my first choice for help but when in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout. And I was doing all of those things.
Next thing I knew, I was ensconced at the Tasman Inn in San Pedro, under an assumed name, of course. No one knew where I was except the gun dealer. Not even my brand new bride. Can I describe to you the feeling of hopelessness and despair? Not a chance in the world. It's similar to a death in the family. You can't describe it to someone who has not gone through it.
It was a pretty short time until I thought that I was caught. Things were fine until the night when the LAPD, with tens of squad cars surrounded the motel. I peeked out the window to see a trillion flashing lights and was sure that I was done.
But wait, they were after someone else. A very popular spot, that Tasman Sea , for those on the lam. This incident caused us to move me, something I was all for. My benefactor asked me for a place that nobody knew about. Not my friends, family or wife. I suggested an old girlfriend who was a graduate student at Cal Tech, in Pasadena. I gave her a buzz, explained the situation in its entirety and she (being the bighearted woman that she is) agreed to take me in, no questions asked.
While I was in hiding in the middle of Pasadena, my family, especially my new wife, was busy setting up the many things that are involved in straightening something like this out. Lawyers, bail, travel arrangements from LA to Texas and other sundry items.
While in Pasadena I changed my appearance completely. Gone was the full beard which drastically changed my look. Remember, the DEA had swooped down on my parent's house thinking that my brother was me. They were clueless. Lisa went about her normal routine of going to class and keeping me from going off the deep end. And I couldn't help but think about how ironic it was to be married to my wife and three days later living in the same house as my first real girlfriend.
My wife had no idea where I was but she did know that I was safe, relatively speaking. Now, I could tell you that I and Lisa had wild sex for if no other reason than to take my mind off of my problems. And, for the fun of it. We didn't. We each respected each others place in time. And I will say this. She is one sweet lady. I often wonder what happened to her but I have no clue. With a doctorate in Chem. Eng from Cal tech, I'm sure she's fine. I just hope she's happy.
The day came for my departure for Dallas , where I was to turn myself in. My pal came to pick me up at night and had NO idea who I was when I went to jump into his car. The missing beard worked great.
This was the plan that my wife had set up. She had acquired an attorney from Dallas. I was to drive to downtown LA, take the bus to SD and jump on a plane and meet my attorney at DFW. It went perfectly. I got to DFW without a hitch and there was O'Connor holding one of those signs “DMAC!” We went straight from the airport to the Federal Building downtown. I was printed and brought before the magistrate. Bail was set and paid and I was a relatively free man for the first time in weeks.
We went to O'Connor's office on chic South Street and I discovered that he worked out of an old Victorian that doubled as his home. The first thing I saw; a skull and crossbones flag flying from the roof. I wasn't sure how to read this. On one hand, I liked the idea of a rebel defending my freedom. On the other hand, I knew that the Feds were not fucking around with me and that maybe, just maybe, this was not a good sign. But, the die was cast and I had crossed the Rubicon long ago so I went with it. Like I had a choice.
We got inside and went over the entire story, as I knew it. This was a very exhausting task. Trying to remember every little thing that could mean the difference between 15 years in a Federal Prison and freedom. Trust me; it really makes you think hard, very hard.
© Douglas Macdonald 2007