Rons Rants

A Blog Is A Self-Inflicted Invasion Of Privacy

Location: Newland, North Carolina, United States

I'm a fifty two year old happily married man who doesn't really like many people which is why I live on the top of a mountain.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Guilt….The End

To this day I remember how bad I felt upon finding out that Colonel Ashley had been beaten up by his piece of crap grandson. I can still muster a portion of the anger I felt back then as well.

The Colonel deserved a hell of a lot better treatment than that but….life ain’t fair right?

I remember hearing about it through my friend Sharon, the cop. She had been on duty when the call came in that night and she called me immediately after realizing who the old man was.

At the time, I was playing at a place called…oh hell…what does it matter anymore? I think it was called The Shire in the triangle city area in West Columbia. Triangle City referred to the fact that some moron had laid out a really stupid intersection some years before and a bunch of stores and shops had sprung up around it. To put it more plainly…it wasn’t exactly an historical or cultural destination. Basically, after dark….you went there to get drunk, high, laid, arrested and/or…a combination of all of the above.

Putting it plainly….this was not a high end neighborhood.

I say all this to explain how things came to happen as they did in the next week or so.

Sharon the cop found me hanging out at the Shire after playing a set with my old buddy Tony H.. we were laughing, joking and having a good time until Sharon made her appearance.

She explained in detail what Brett had done to his grandfather.

A brief synopsis of the event goes as follows:

Brett had come home from a day’s disappearance and demanded money and car keys from the Colonel who denied him both.

Brett proceeded to beat the hell out of the old guy and shove him down four brick patio steps while Mrs. Ashley looked on. Brett had somehow locked her inside the sliding glass door while he beat his grandfather unmercifully.

Mrs. Amy called the police after Brett left.

After a few days, Brett turned himself in to the police but not before his grandparents told him that they would not press charges nor testify against him.

Needless to say…the prick skated on all charges.

A week or so, I don’t know…maybe it was a month later…it’s been awhile. Anyway, I saw Brett again. I was doing a solo gig at my neighborhood bar, Ashley B’s when I spotted him walking in with another guy. He went to the game room side of the little place and began to shoot pool with his friend.

As the night went on….I really tried to ignore him. He made this difficult however because he and his friend made quite a bit of noise as they shot pool and slammed shots of something.

It was quite obvious to me that they were especially loud and obnoxious when I was playing. After each song, they got noticeably quite.

Randy, the owner of the bar, asked them several times to quiet down but they kept it up. I just remembered….this was actually a kind of a special gathering for a couple who had just become engaged. They were locals…regulars of the place and friends with a bunch of us. Their names were Darlene and Mike and they were a nice couple.

I know….I digressed.

Anyhow…..slowly but surely, the whole damned place got really tired of Brett and his buddy. Being a blue collar, semi-red necked kind of crowd of about forty people….things got a wee bit edgy pretty quick. As the drinks flowed and the necks got redder….I could see things were going to turn nasty pretty soon. Honestly….I was kind of hoping for just that reaction to these idiots behavior.

A guy named Mike F. (not the guy who was getting engaged) had finally had enough. Old Mike looked like a half chubby science teacher but was actually, one bad assed SOB. Many a stranger had made the mistake of taking him lightly or trying to bully him…much to their displeasure. Mike was one of those guys who seemed to be in a perpetual state of irritation. I suppose that the word which best fit him is ‘surly’. To put it bluntly…he was an asshole but, he was sort of a local legend. He would fight at the drop of a hat and usually prevailed.

Mike F. walked over and told Brett and his partner to shut up. No prelude, no introduction, no discussion. He simply told them to shut up.

Well, instead of simply shutting up, Brett tossed his pool cue across the room, pushed his buddy toward the door and left.

Simple as that.

The night wore on and a good time was had by all.

Until around one in the morning.

I was sitting at a table talking to some friends when Cecil B. came running through the front door shouting.

“Randy! Call 911!” he screamed to be heard over the juke box. “I think Mike is dead!!”

Turns out….Mike wasn’t dead but he wasn’t far from it. His head had been bashed in with a blunt object and he had been damn near stomped to death as he lay bleeding on the ground.

The police were called and Mike was taken to the hospital where he spent a couple of weeks. No evidence was found at the scene and Mike had never seen the attack coming but everyone knew who had committed the crime. No guess work was needed.

The very next night following the attack on Mike, Brett and his friend returned to Ashley B’s, sauntered to the pool tables and began showing their asses again. To top it off, Brett repeatedly asked anyone who would listen one question.

“Anybody else wanna tell us to shut the fuck up?”

There weren’t any takers and Randy told me that almost everyone left the place immediately.

Brett was having a ball.

Well, to make a long story short….

The final straw came a week or so later when I woke up early one morning to the sounds of an ambulance pulling into my neighbor’s driveway. Police cars came screeching up as well. Lights flashed everywhere and I went out to my porch to investigate. After a while, I was able to flag down a cop who explained to me that my neighbor had reported that a man had tried to break into her house.

Do you remember the girl who Brett had tried to spy on?

Yep…it was Layla Collins.

She told the cops that she had seen a guy standing on her back porch making strange noises. The guy was wearing something over his face so she didn’t know who it was but that he was calling her name while masturbating! She screamed that she was calling the police and he went crazy. He lunged at her back door and almost broke through before she told him that she had a gun.

He disappeared.

For several days after that, she got anonymous phone calls.

Some guy was singing/laughing the song ‘Layla’ until she slammed the phone down.

The calls continued.

Well….of course, I KNEW who it was and so did the cops but…they couldn’t prove it so…I took things upon myself.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m pretty sure that I could have kicked Brett’s ass pretty well by myself but honestly, I didn’t want to deal with the aftermath. I didn’t want to ‘get involved’ with the sick bastard and I damn sure didn’t want to go to jail over HIM. So…thanks to an idea that soon presented itself....I did the next best thing.

I’m not particularly proud of my solution to the problem but…it WAS effective.

Here’s what happened next…

Sitting at the bar of Ashley B’s one afternoon, Randy, Cecil, Eddie, Dale and I were discussing the ‘Brett Problem’. I remember the conversation as though it was yesterday. It was a Sunday and the place was technically closed for business but…well…we were just a few friends having a beer and shooting the breeze.

After rehashing the details of why Brett should be shot, stabbed, horsewhipped, castrated, or simply killed, there was a knock on the back door.

Well, more like a hammering really.

“Aw shit!” Randy groaned. “I’ll bet you anything you wanna bet that ain’t the cops!”

He got off his bar stool, walked behind the bar and stared into the kitchen.

“Aw shit!” he repeated. “I wish it WAS the friggin’ cops! It’s Chet and his biker boys wantin’ me to sell ‘em beer.”

South Carolina still had Blue Laws back then…hell maybe they still do. I don’t know. But….back then at least, alcohol sales were a no no on Sundays.

Grudingly, Randy let Chet and his two cohorts in through the back door.

Chet was a well known local figure. The kind of biker who gave biker’s a bad name. He seemed to relish his prototypical ‘Biker’ persona. Everyone who knew him was well aware of his past. He had worked hard all his adult life to build a ‘rep’ and, to his credit…the son of a bitch had certainly done so.

As Randy got Chet’s ‘order’ together, Chet and his buddy’s bellied up to the bar. Chet leaned against the bar and surveyed us.

“Why ain’t you boys in Sunday school this morning?” he asked.

“It’s four o’clock in the afternoon Chet.” Cecil said meekly.

“Well hell!” Chet laughed. “How the fuck should I know when Sunday school lets out?”

The conversation went downhill from there until he happened to ask what we had been talking about when he had interrupted us.

All of the sudden….I had a flash of brilliance!

From that second forward….Brett’s days were numbered.

“We were talking about the guy who’s been trying to rape Layla Collins.” I said innocently as though I didn’t know that Chet was infatuated with Layla. To him, she was like a fairy princess who was to be wanted but one that he wasn’t ever going to be able to have for his own. I had seen him moon over her for a long time. He never tried to force himself on her or really even talk to her much but…..he had a THING for Layla. It was sort of a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ thing going on with Chet and everyone knew it. Hell, we laughed about it….well, not so Chet could hear us but still….everyone thought it was funny.

Between the five of us…..we related what had been going on with Brett. It was obvious that Chet was going into a slow burn. About that time, I noticed the Marine Corps tattoo on Chet’s arm.

Oh hell…..this was TOO damned easy.

Chet had never been in the Marine Corps but, his brother had been killed in Vietnam while serving in the Corp. Chet was a hard core Marine fan.

I just happened to let it slip that Brett had robbed, beaten and terrorized his own grandfather, Colonel Ashley….a retired Marine Corp hero.

Chet and his two friends were drinking and fuming.

While this was going on, Randy, Cecil, Dale, Eddie and I were exchanging knowing glances. We knew exactly what we were doing and, honestly….we were having a ball.

As time went by, we were all stirring the pot.

“The son of bitch oughta be shot.”

“The law’s not going to do ANYTHING!”

“I wish I could shoot that SOB!”

“Somebody oughta do SOMETHING!”

You know....old west lynch mob type talk!

We were doing our best to stoke the fires in Chet and his boys.

It was really going well. The liquor, beer and trash talking were flowing like water until Eddie managed to touch a lit torch to the gunpowder.

“You know….they caught him molestin’ a couple of kids last year but they let him go. The kids were too scared to testify against him!”

Well shit!

That pretty much sealed Brett's sorry fate.

Apparently, only Eddie knew that Chet was the devoted Super Dad of the Bikers! Apparently he had four small kids and doted on them.

The rest is history.

Chet finished his beer and looked at all of us.

I know it sounds like something from a bad “B” movie but this is the truth.

Chet said quietly and simply.

“Problem solved boys….problem solved.”

A couple of days later, a strange thing happened.

Brett was found lying in the parking lot of a Waffle House at three in the morning.

He wasn’t dead although he probably wished they would have killed him.

SOMEONE….no one ever found out WHO….but someone had thoroughly thrashed his ass.

Man….they destroyed this bastard.

He was never the same after that. He was severely brain damaged to the point that he had to be confined. He never walked again and was pretty much blind. Someone had beaten him and then set him on fire but….the guy didn’t die.

Well...actually, he finally did die when he launched himself out of a four story window a few years later but….he did suffer for a few years so….I suppose that was a good thing.

Wasn’t it?

I still can’t believe that his grandparents were devastated by the ‘incident’. Hell, they acted as though a perfectly wonderful grand child had been ‘taken from them’. As though Brett had never harmed them!

I felt bad about that for a long time….still do.

Whether or not I understand their grief…..they DID mourn their grandson’s fate.

And so…I DO feel guilt.

I guess I won’t know the right or wrong of it until that big ‘Ah ha’ day as my Mom says.

All I know is that while I think I would feel better if I had simply shot the SOB myself, I BELIEVE that Brett was evil. Hell…..I think HE knew that he was evil. I and all those involved back then also believe that he would have ended up hurting a LOT of people had he not been stopped.

But who knows if that’s true?

I BELIEVE it’s true but….

I suspect that some part of me HAS to believe it in order to be able to live with myself.


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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guilt….Part Two

After a late night, I slept until around noon but awoke seriously pissed off and motivated to find that little sucker punching prick!

I got dressed and walked into my front yard. Looking down the street, I didn’t see Col. Ashley’s car in their driveway but decided to walk over and see if they were at home. As I approached their yard, I saw the Colonel working in his flower garden. He must have been in his mid to late seventies but he still looked ramrod straight and carried himself with a military bearing. Trying not to startle him, I made as much noise as possible as I purposely walked on pinecones and branches.

He turned around, straightened up and smiled broadly.

“Well….it’s good to see you awake before evening young man.” He said cheerfully. “Don’t see how you can live your life in the dark.”

I laughed and shook the bony hand he offered me.

“Come look at these azaleas Ron….are they not getting beautiful?” he asked. “My own special fertilizer is the secret.”

“Yessir Colonel….they are gorgeous.” I said. “What’s in your special fertilizer?”

He smiled a clever smile.

“Couldn’t tell you young fellow….my eyesight is too bad to read the small print on that damned bag!” He laughed at his own joke.

“Your secret is safe with me sir.” I promised.

“Yes well….it’s not a complete fabrication…we DO mix in coffee grounds, egg shells and of course….” He looked both ways before continuing. “Don’t tell the Mrs…..but I occasionally a drain the old lizard on the damned things!”

He roared again at his humor.

He waved a hand toward his garden table.

“Come on….sit down and have some of my Amy’s iced tea.” It wasn’t so much an offer as an order.

We sat and made small talk for a bit. After a while, Mrs. Ashley came through the garden and joined us. The Colonel popped tall and I quickly followed his lead and we waited until she was seated before we sat down again.

“It’s so nice of you to visit Ron…we don’t see much of you these days.” Mrs. Ashley said sweetly.

“Amy…the boy is a damned vampire musician.” He growled. “He’s not much on daylight.”

I laughed and sipped my tea. It was really great and I told her so which, of course, led into an in depth description of the production process behind her wonderful tea.

Turns out….she put lemon juice in it after she brewed it.

Wow….another “secret”!

After a bit, Mrs. Ashley asked if I had seen Brett that day. Of course, this question made me wince a bit and I absently rubbed the spot where he had decked me. I really didn’t want to upset them but I thought that they should know about their budding Peeping Tom. However, before I could answer her, she gently slapped the glass top of the table.

“The little monster stole our car last night!!” She hissed.

“AMY!!” the Colonel almost shouted. “Family business!”

Mrs. Ashley looked at her husband intensely but the old man’s withering glare seemed to overpower her because didn’t say another word. She stared off in the distance.

I squirmed in my seat a bit but quickly made the decision to tell them what had happened. And so I did.

The Colonel and Mrs. Ashley were quiet for minute. I thought that I had upset them and that I had better exit the scene. They had a lot to think about. Before I left however, Mrs. Ashley reached over and took my left hand in both of hers.

“Brett hit the Colonel last week.” She had tears in her eyes and she had spoken almost in a whisper.

I looked at the Colonel who appeared to be embarrassed for a second but then his eyes flashed with anger.

“My own grandson!” He shouted. “My daughter didn’t raise him to be the way he is. He’s mean as a snake. I should have shot the young prick after he hit me! He wasn’t even man enough to face me….he hit me when I wasn’t looking.”

Again, I rubbed my head.

“Yeah Colonel….that seems to be the way he operates.” I said.

For the next half hour or so, they told me all about Brett.

Man what a bastard this guy was!

I can’t remember everything they told me way back then but I do remember a few choice details.

At the age of twenty one, Brett had been out on his own for a few years before his mother Amelia died. Almost immediately after her death, he got in touch with his grandparents and gave them a long sob story about how life had whipped his sorry ass and was invited to come with live with the Ashley’s.

Within one week, Brett had stolen his grandfather’s war medals and sold them to a pawn shop.


Colonel Ashley had fought in World War Two, Korea AND Vietnam! Mrs. Ashley informed me that among the medals that Brett stole were the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, the Combat Action ribbon, three Purple Hearts, and I can’t remember the unit citation medals. He served for something like thirty plus years!

This old man was an honest to goodness hero.

Oh yeah….I almost forgot. Brett also stole Colonel Ashley’s retirement gift from his troops in Korea.

A gold plated, custom engraved 1911 Colt Automatic .45 pistol.

That was the only thing stolen that REALLY seemed to shake the Colonel.


Mrs. Ashley told how her jewelry had mysteriously disappeared since Brett had come to live with them.

Brett had stolen money and tried to forge their checks several times. He had charged merchandise on their accounts at several local stores.

The first time the Colonel and his wife had confronted Brett, he had managed to charm them with his denials.

As time went by however, Brett became menacing and threatening. He made thinly veiled references about violence.

It didn’t take long before he advanced to bold physical threats and, at times, actual physical harm.

Even to this day, I feel sadness at what those poor old folks were living through but…what the hell could I do?

I mean, it wasn’t MY problem and besides…I didn’t really even KNOW these people! Yes, they were nice old neighbors but, I felt no particular need or desire to get involved in their personal problems. I did however, feel a desire to kick Brett’s ass. Beyond that, I just felt bad for the Ahleys.

For a guy who didn’t want to air his family’s dirty laundry in public, Colonel Ashley readily told me about how screwed up Brett was and how badly he treated them. I really felt sorry for an old war horse like the Colonel…in his younger days he would have handled Brett easily. I think the death of his daughter combined with his advanced age made him feel helpless. He didn’t want to harm his daughter’s son. Even if the piece of crap was no good, he couldn’t justify washing his hands of Brett. He was having a tough time dealing with the situation.

To be honest, I remember just thinking that I needed to get out of there. This was not exactly a conversation or predicament I wanted to involve myself in. So….I made my excuses and went back home after telling them to call me if they needed me.

I remember going back home and going through my normal routine until it was time to go to the club.

I honestly don’t remember much of what happened that night except that I played all night and went home. Pretty memorable huh?

Anyway….what I DO remember is that upon my arrival back home in the wee hours of the morning, I pulled into my driveway and noticed that all the lights in my house were turned on. I knew that I hadn’t left any light on except my front porch lamp. My first thought was that my girlfriend at the time, Kathy had decided to surprise me. She knew where I kept my ‘hideout’ key so…she had probably used it to gain entry.

As I reached the front door, I realized that my assumption was wrong.

My front door looked as though someone had taken a sledge hammer to it with a vengeance! It was sort of leaning half opened and hanging off its hinges at a 45 degree angle to the floor. A large hole had been beaten through it near the handle. It was destroyed.

As I stepped into the house, I set my guitar down and grabbed an aluminum bat I kept in an old umbrella stand in the corner of the front room. I slowly and quietly made my way through the house until I reached my bedroom. I quickly went to my night stand, reached behind it and thankfully found my pistol, a .38 Special with a four inch barrel. I still have that gun.

Well, it took me several minutes to survey the small house but I didn’t find anyone lurking in the shadows. I did find lots of senseless damage and a few stolen items. Thankfully, my guitars and most of my equipment were at the club or elsewhere but whoever had broken in had stolen some money (not much because I didn’t have much to steal) and a few small items. No big deal really but I was pretty damned pissed about the holes in the walls, furniture damaged and the toilet that was intentionally clogged and overflowed!

Of course, I called the police and spent the rest of the early morning hours talking to them.

I finally made it to sleep around dawn.

Sometime that morning/early afternoon, my phone rang.

“Hello” I answered.

All I could hear on the other end was some guy laughing his ass off for a minute or so until the line went dead.

Of course, this disturbed the hell out of me but I didn’t have any idea of what to do. This was in the days before star 69 so….I just went on with my life.

I changed the locks on my doors, cleaned the house up and went about my business.

A day or so later, I noticed that the Ashley’s car was back in their driveway but saw no sign of Brett for maybe a week.

Around two in the afternoon one week day, I was mowing my front yard with an old push mower when I saw Brett walking down the street. He glared at me but didn’t stop as he walked by so I killed the engine and shouted at him.

“Hey Brett, come over here, I wanna talk to you.”

He looked at me but kept walking.

“Brett….don’t make me come after you!” I shouted.

He stopped and turned towards me.

“What?” he asked.

I slowly walked toward him.

“What do you THINK I want to talk to you about Brett?”

“How should I know?” he asked innocently.

I got to within five feet of him and looked as though he was ready to run. He wasn’t a really big kid but he was not much smaller than me. Hell, he really wasn’t that much younger than me either. He was probably 21 or 22 and I was only 27, 28 years old.

“If I ever catch you playing peeping Tom again, I’m going to call the cops on you Brett.” I said evenly. “You got lucky the other night.”

He didn’t say a word. All he did was look at me with a sort of belligerent smirk.

“Do you hear me asshole?” I asked.

He still said nothing.

Frustrated, I started to walk away when I heard him say something under his breath. I could have sworn he said something but I wasn’t exactly sure what it was so I asked him.

“What did you say?” I demanded.

He just started laughing.

It was definitely the same laugh I heard on my phone the day after my house was broken into!

I sprinted toward him and he took off like a deer! Damn that little prick could RUN!! I chased him all the way to his grandparent’s house and, I’m ashamed to say that he had plenty of time to make it in the house, slam the door and probably fix himself a glass of Mrs. Amy’s special iced tea!

I never thought of myself as a sprinter but damn….that was pretty humiliating!

I pounded on the door and screamed at him to open up to absolutely NO avail.

He wasn’t coming out.

I finally gave up and began to walk away. When I was half way across the yard, I heard the door open. As I turned around, he was standing with one foot out of the door.

“Hey man….were you trying to break into this house?” he grinned. “You know…I might just have to call the police. You could get into BIG trouble for breaking into a house in this neighborhood.”

He gave me that same horse laugh again.

I knew I was handcuffed here. I tried to calm down and catch my temper.

“Look Brett, I know you broke into my house and I know you’re an asshole but don’t fuck with me again. I’m not going to tell you again.” I turned to walk away but remembered something else. “Oh yeah….if I hear about you roughing up your grandparents again, I’m gonna kick your ass. I'm serious Brett. Don’t try me.”

“Fuck you.” Was his only response. A very calm response at that. This guy was sure of himself.

I walked away feeling absolutely useless, impotent, enraged, hot, tired and sweaty! Oh yeah….I was also a little bit….hell, I guess to be honest….I was a little bit scared. I mean seriously…the guy was obviously a bit insane. He really didn’t give a damn that I knew he broke into my house, stole his grandparents car and abused them. No shame, no guilt…no normal human emotion that I could discern.

The dude was almost like a movie villain. So yeah…I guess I was a bit frightened at the prospect of having to deal with this crazy bastard in the future. I had the feeling that he really didn’t give a shit whether or not he went to jail or not.

I DID care!

How do you deal with that?

As it turns out…I’m still asking that question.

A few more days passed during which time, I got in touch with a friend of mine who was a West Columbia cop. She was also a girl who I had gone out with for a while and we were still friendly. I asked her to check up on Brett and she willingly did just that. She came up with the fact that he had a juvenile record which she couldn’t access as well as several violations as an adult.

I met Sharon (the cop) at Maurice Bessenger’s Barbeque drive in (look up his sauce on the internet and ORDER some! Damn…it’ll make your tongue slap your brains out!). She began to tell about young master Brett.

“This guy is a freakin’ moron Ron….seriously weird.” She half laughed-half looked spooky. “We’re talking just really disturbed.”

I wasn’t feeling real good about this.

She went on to tell me that he had been arrested six times in the past three years. He had only served ninety days on one conviction for assault on a minor during a fight at a football game he had attended. HOWEVER…..his other five arrests were for suspected acts of public masturbation, indecent exposure, arson, grand theft and….get this…..rape of a child.

Dear lord!

“Why the hell is this sonofabitch still running around free?” I asked.

“I couldn’t tell you dude. All I know is that he wasn’t found guilty. They couldn’t prove anything against him and only one charge even made it to court…the arson charge.... The judge kicked it out before it really got started.” She shrugged. “He’s either innocent or really sneaky.”

I told her again what I knew about him.

“He ain’t innocent. Hell, he’s tormenting his poor old grandparents. He’s hit the old man and even stole their car but they’re not talking to the cops.” I explained. “Hell, the old man even talked about shooting the bastard but, I don’t think they’ll go to the cops.”

“Well….all I can suggest is that you stay the hell away from this punk. He isn’t someone you want to mess around with.” She warned me. “You and I both know that you don’t need the hassle!”

She was referring to the fact that, while she and I were seeing each other, I had become the unwitting focus of an investigation into alleged drug activities at a bar I was playing at regularly. Imagine that! A musician hanging out in a bar being linked with smoking pot and doing the occasional line!

There was some really fine police work going on there at the time.

Anyway…Sharon had warned me of the situation and even though she had known of my activities before we got together, she realized that it probably wasn’t a great career move to continue to hang out with me. I agreed with her and while we remained friendly, we weren’t actually involved anymore.

The last thing she asked me that day was whether or not I wanted her to have someone go talk with the Ashley’s.

I remember distinctly telling her that it would probably only serve to humiliate the old people and most likely accomplish nothing.

You know….they say that hindsight is supposed to be twenty-twenty but…in this case, I think it’s more like twenty-two hundred because I STILL don’t know the correct answer to her question.

Damn it.

Two days later, I was visiting Colonel Ashley at the Lexington County Hospital where he was suffering from several broken ribs, a sprained wrist and a broken jaw.

To Be Continued Again….sorry, gotta get some sleep!

I’ll try and finish this soon. I can’t wait to get your feedback on what happened.

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