"My Own Private Murderer Part II"

"My Own Private Murderer"
Part II
Over the next month things were fairly quiet in and around o’Bagelo’s. Other than watching over my shoulder and circling the store every morning a few times before I entered, all was calm and the world spun at the same rate as before.  I was, however, much more attentive each day and continually on the look out for my new "friend". The neighborhood was chock full of characters that I was familiar with, but now I was looking for my own personal murderer in the mix of suits and goofs that walked the streets. 
It was the quiet moments that were most difficult. The hustle and bustle of each day kept me distracted with work and gave me a feeling of safety through numbers. Those quiet moments that used to be mine alone were now interrupted by a fear of what might be lurking in the shadows. Time slowed down to a crawl at these moments and it felt as if they consumed and long parts of each day. Thanks for pointing that out Mr. Einstein.
I was rarely in a vulnerable position (alone or in a dark alley) so the fear wasn’t debilitating but there was a distraction that hovered over most of my daily activities.  The accusations concerning Mr. Spahalski’s murderous antics during drug and prostitution transactions were well outside my daily routine but apparently that didn’t stop him from finding me on at least one occasion. 
One of the distractions helping me forget about the fear was the increase in break-ins in the last few months.  Burglary wasn't a new problem at o’Bagelo’s as the store had been the target of mischief with a varied degree of success since before we opened.  CD’s were the most common loss as they were a  hot item in these years and apparently had enough value someplace to finance an evening’s worth of elicit behavior. I don’t think I was ever thanked for unwittingly being the sponsor of any of those evenings. 
It is quite startling to approach the front of your business in the predawn hours only to find there had been a breach to the outer perimeter. And once again, before I have even had my coffee. On each occasion time had muted the memory of the previous violation and each time the surprise released a gushing flow of cortisol in my brain. 
The damage of each event usually amounted to more expense than the value of anything stolen, but the effects still unsettled me for at least a few days.  My former business partner taught me early on to leave the cash register open with some change in the drawer. This would stop an intruder from breaking the machine to get what was a total of a few dollars. This trick worked very well as I only had to replace the cash register once over the years. 
So the place suffered a small broken window; Wooden door hammered to shreds; Front door pried open and damaged; Wooden door in the back smashed open. Each new point of entry caused a few days of creative reinforcement,  moving the next intruder's attention to the another point of weakness. Although I didn’t like playing business defense, the offense was much more determined in their efforts. Piece by piece and section by section the options were being eliminated. 
At one point I started collecting the debris used in each attempt and each success.  I would display the items on a ledge in the store like a museum exhibit.  One morning it was a rock sent through a 2’x 8’ window.  Another morning I found a green steel street sign post leaning against my front door after it was used to pry open a gap big enough to crawl through.  A few times I found a 10 lb. gas cover from the local utility company thrown threw a window. I remember when a representative from that gas company was shopping in the store and asked me with an accusatory tone about the covers. His attitude changed quickly when I told him I was looking for someone to take ownership as they were used in a burglary attempt. He quieted down and left without the evidence. These are just a few examples of the 21 successful break-ins over my 21 years on State Street. Yes, that is a correct number, 21.  
All of this is necessary to the tale of the my murderer. In was October of 1998 and there was an unusual spot used to enter the store. I remember it well based on the location. It was a Thursday morning when I found the breach. The night before someone had mule kicked a small wooden panel on the lower part of a large old door that was not in use. It couldn’t have been much more than 2 feet wide and a foot and half in height (I will measure it for the reader). It was not secured very well and the burglar was able to crawl in and out through the opening. Bold and nimble, I thought. 
That thursday I replaced the panel and reinforced the inside with a few 2x4’s on the inside of the door. Not a pretty sight but I hoped it would hold up for a while as I worked on my new defensive tactic. The following Wednesday I found myself working later than usual. It was about 6:00 p.m. and the evening had a beautiful blue hue heading into an early fall darkness. Remember, it was October in the northeast. I looked around as I left the store and pulled out of my parking spot. After turning down Andrews street, less than a block away, it occurred to me that I had forgot something. The specific day I remember but what I went back for is lost. I drove around the block and as I pulled in front of my store I noticed a tall lanky man lurking in the same doorway that was breached exactly one week earlier. 
“AHA! I had one!” That was my initial reaction. I was going to catch one of these sons of a bitch in action. After all these years I would finally have some revenge.  First I needed to  make sure he was going to try and use the same technique and then I would put my plan into action. Exactly what that plan entailed was still not defined, but i knew it included approaching this bold derelict. I mean, come on now, it was 6:00 p.m. and there were plenty of cars on the streets even for a dark fall evening.
          
          All those recent break-ins increased my communication with the police department. I think they were just as tired of showing up at my store early in the morning as I was at finding out the place had been hit again. We had been working on some options including finally putting in a security system. I wasn't opposed to it but I never thought the burglars were there long enough to be caught by the system. The end result being summoned much earlier to come into work to assess the damage and start my day. The police had offered to put someone in the store overnight to help solve the problem. I refused the offer as I thought it was a waste of resources, but apparently they took great offense to my response as this was considered an excessively generous offer. An issue I did not recognize through the anxiety of fixing another hole in the store (That's yet another post). 

          My point here is that the police and I had been on edge for several months in an effort to stop the carnage of the buildings and businesses in the neighborhood. Whatever was happening was beyond an acceptable level for any of us.

I planned on driving by and parking up the street so I could make sure the guy wasn’t just loitering. I wanted to witness him trying to break the panel and call the police before I approached. With all the recent action, this might be our chance to put and end to some of the problems. 

       As I drove by I took a closer look at the man in the doorway and my plan changed pretty quickly.  Mr. Spahalski was standing in the recess of my doorway that evening, eyeing his options on my reinforced portal. 
“Son of a Bitch!” was the thought in my head, but this time with a streak of fear and a yellow tinge. I have convinced myself it was nature’s flight or fight doing battle within me and it appears flight was winning in the early rounds. I drove past the store and made a U-turn to park on the other side of the street. I called 911 as I drove (no laws against it at the time) and watched the man at my door while I waited. 
I had become naively arrogant over the years and if it was nearly anyone else at the door I would have been out of my car and in confrontation mode (most likely after I called the police, of course).  There go those cortisol levels again. The stress in my body was in full overdrive. If those two detectives hadn’t taken the time to stop by my store the morning after my initial meeting with Mr. Spahalski, the battle  in my brain would have taken a different turn, and who knows how that night would have ended.  It was dark enough that I may never have seen the horrors that lie in those eyes. 
I watched him mule kick the door a few times. A sense of pride replaced the fear for a brief moment as I realized my ad hoc carpentry was holding up to the crack induced force pounding at it’s core. That feeling didn’t last long as Mr. Spahalski spotted me across the street. I can’t be sure if he knew it was me or if he just thought someone was watching him, but he started to walk away. He wasn’t heading directly at me but he was heading in my direction on the other side of the street. He passed my car and then crossed the street behind my car. That’s when I saw the police officers pulling up to my storefront.

         The quick response was most likely do the steady stream of reports over the last few months or just a stroke of luck that the guys were nearby. I am more likely to believe  the area was a priority due to the recent activity.  In addition it was a call for an "in progress" rather than a "past tense" and we might have the answer. 

Either way, Mr. Spahalski was getting away, albeit at a slow pace, and I needed to talk to the cops. I quickly got out of my car and crossed the street to meet them. There wasn’t enough time to go into all the details so I told them a guy was trying to break into my store at the exact location of a break-in the previous week. I pointed out the image walking down the road and one of the cops drove off after Mr. Spahalski while the other stayed with me. 
Now I had the time to go into further detail. Trying to tell a cop, or anyone for that matter, that there is a man suspected of a few murders harassing my business is a tough sell, especially in a few minutes time. I did the best I could to relay the developing story and my high level of concern over the situation. The police officer listened politely but I’m not so sure he believed me. I had given him all the names involved but he was probably too young to know all the older players on such a large police force.
The second police car returned and parked in front of my car across the street.  I thought that was going to be the end of a narrowly averted confrontation. Nope, wrong again. The cop that stood with me crossed the street to speak to the second car and then returned: 
“I need you to identify the man you saw in the doorway.”
“Okay.” I said. “How am I going to do that?” 
“He’s in the back of the police car.” He said with a causal tone. 
        Now my panic is in back in overdrive. “What!? You want me to go over there and look at this guy? Didn’t you hear what I told you about him? He’s a killer!”
       Unassuaged is probably the best way to describe his mannerism. Either based on disbelief or the ease of knowing they each had guns and badges. I, on the other hand,  knew they would be leaving before long and I would be left to fend for myself with an accused murdered in need of another fix for his drug habit.. 
After gathering myself and the manhood that had fallen to pieces on the sidewalk, I agreed to the request. We both walked over to the car and Mr. Spahalski was seated in the back directly behind the driver. As we approached the car I noticed the window was down and I could see Mr. Spahalski's  hands were cuffed behind his back. I looked at him and he stared right back at me without blinking or moving as if to intimidate me. I glanced back to the police officer and said “Yeah, that’s him. That’s the guy that was at the front door and the guy I told you about at my back door a month ago.”
At this point I have no idea what’s going to happen or what the cops can do about the situation. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long for the circumstances to change. Upon hearing me identity him as a someone engaged in illegal activity, Mr Spahalski looked directly at my face, squinted his drug addled eyes and through a slightly clenched jaw growled, “Paybacks, Asshole!” 
There was an awkward silence for a moment until I looked at the cop standing next to me and asked “Did he just threaten me? From the back of a police car? And in cuffs?”
Although the primary emotion going through my entire being was fear and self preservation, I honesty believe that my statements emanated with genuine surprise and confusion. It didn’t replace the fear, it just superseded it for that brief statement.
The police officer standing with me responded to my inquiry by asking Spahalski (He is no longer a Mr. to me. Once I have been threatened, you are degraded to surname only) 
Cop 1: “What did you just say?” 
Spahalski: “Nothing”
Cop 1: “Where you talking to him” said the cop pointing to me,
Spahalski: “No”
Cop 2: “Well, if you weren't talking to him, you were talking to one of us. I’m placing you under arrest for threatening a police officer.”
The cop in the car starting reading Spahalski his rights. I was stunned and frankly quite relieved. I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t be released with only an appearance ticket and at least tonight I didn’t have to worry about my store or my safety.
After Spahalski was driven away I had a conversation with the police officer about the process and my next steps.  I thanked him and asked him to thank his partner for me. Their actions to trap a would be criminal using a deductive argument from logic was certainly above my expectations. Pretty quick thinking and it put me at ease to know maybe, just maybe, these two cops were starting to place some merit in the story I had told them.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t going to be the case for other police officers when I asked for their assistance in future encounters. 
That’s where Part III of this tale will take us. 


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