Cover Image
David B. Barnes

Life was chock full of surprises for me, Bear Martin, and my partner R.T. Furr. We were both Special Agents with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and worked together for nearly a decade. We conducted investigations to ferret out people who chose to break the law. Most times these crooks were drug dealers.

     On a sunny afternoon, we parked in a quiet location just off the University of North Carolina at Asheville's campus, in what's known as the Montford area. The street was lined with decades-old houses and maple trees. R.T. and I met with a source of information, or informant…Freddie. He was a drug user, a drug dealer, a petty criminal. He became an informant when a local uniformed cop called us after arresting Freddie while he was trying to break into a drug store in the middle of the night. He was offered a choice of probable jail time or helping us. Months passed and Freddie seemed to like our side of the law and the money it sometimes brought. We were a kind of insurance for him, and from time to time, he needed something from us. Freddie came to us this time with what he called a "big damn scoop about a big damn outlaw."

     Freddie was just shy of six feet tall and dresses like a college student. We could never figure out how he could be such a mental mess and always appear clean and neat, with a nice haircut. I thought he had to get some kind of assistance to stay so clean and neat. R.T. said he didn't care. He was just thankful we didn't have to decontaminate our car after a visit from Freddie. We weren't always so lucky.

     "Slow down Freddie. What did you say this guy's name is? Junior Blount?" I rubbed my hand over my face. "I can't tell if you're stoned, scared, or drunk. Take a damn breath."

     Freddie was in the back seat. He sometimes scooted down and sometimes sat up straight. He was squirming. Dealing with the boy was not an easy task.

     I looked at R.T. and shrugged my shoulders. "Can you understand him?" I asked.

<  2  >

     "Nope." R.T. was looking at Freddie across the front seat. R.T. shook his head and turned around to look out the windshield.

     I rubbed my eyes again. "Freddie, do you want a Pepsi or something?" I asked. This was a trick we accidentally learned a couple of years ago. If we asked him something he had to focus on or make a decision about, his brain would ease back into sync and we could effectively communicate with him.

     Most times I was good to go with informants, but Freddie was on my last nerve. He skipped from idea to idea and from one piece of information to another. It was next to impossible to fully understand what he was trying to tell us.

     When the word "Pepsi" registered in his fried brain, Freddie suddenly stopped trying to talk. He looked at R.T. and then me. We'd seen this countless times. He was trying to figure out if he wanted a soft drink and, if so, which one. I wasn't feeling all that supportive of the boy, so I offered an addendum to the original question, "Freddie, Pepsi or Mountain Dew?"

     R.T. shot me a nasty look but I gave him a blank stare in return. Freddie was now into full on concentration. From experience, we knew this cogitation was going to take a bit to complete.

     I was just getting ready to ask if he wanted a grape Nehi when R.T. threw up his hand in front of my face, held up an index finger, and growled, "Enough!"

     "Freddie, I'll get you a Pepsi just as soon as you tell us about this Blount fella. No talkin', you have to get to walkin'," R.T. said without turning back around. He was nearing his own patience boundary.

     Freddie sat back and sighed heavily. He settled into the seat and stopped squirming. Then he nodded his head and began again.

     "This Blount guy...Junior Blount is out of Newport. You know them Cocke County boys is tough! Well, he's tougher that anything you've seen. Word is he's killed three men over in Sevier County and three more in Unicoi County. There's no tellin' how many in Newport."

<  3  >

     "Well besides being a one-man extermination crew, what's his game in North Carolina Freddie?" R.T. asked.

     "He's dealing Dilaudid by the bucketful. Gets it from a guy in Kingsport. He takes it to a trailer off 25-E and re-packages it. Then he brings it into Madison County to a cabin or a trailer and starts making phone calls. He normally brings 500 4-milligram tabs over and sells them all in a couple of hours. He meets people near the Madison/Buncombe County line at Cowboys Lounge or the Tennessee rest area on 26 to do the deals."

     "OK. Good Freddie! What's he drive?" I asked.

     Freddie looked at me like he just realized I was in the Bronco. He stared at me for a few seconds, blinked, and looked back at R.T.

     "He has a damn nice ride. It's a silver Trans Am, 1976, I think," Freddie said.

     "Outstanding Freddie," I said. "What does he look like?"

     "Blount's about six feet four and has long brown hair and a beard...a mountain with legs. The boy always carries a .357 and will damn sure use it. He wears the same thing you do...jeans, tee shirt, and western boots."

     "Well, he has good taste in firearms and clothes anyway. How do you know this mutt, Freddie? Truthfully careful," I said while wagging my finger in front of his face.

     "Stop with the fingers Bear. I'm telling you guys straight up. No lies."

     "Freddie, how do you know this guy, or have you just heard stuff? Do you know him or not?" I asked again.

     When Freddie didn't answer, R.T. and I thought we knew why. He was most likely buying pills from this guy, but something had happened. We'd never find out, but my guess was he was fronted some Dilaudid and never paid Blount. Now he was looking to get out from under a nasty situation. But that's how informants worked. The trick for the cops was ferreting out the bottom line. Most times we just had to use our prior experience to get answers. Sometimes we guessed. Most confidential informants had one thing in common: they lied about something.

<  4  >

     R.T. looked at me and gave a quick shake of his head. Freddie was taking a long time. Most likely he was parsing his answer. He was wondering what he could he say that we would buy. Neither of us said anything. Sometimes the best way to deal with a liar was to let them talk first. I sat back on the seat and took out my pipe that I'd prefilled with Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco. R.T. was still sitting sideways with his back against the driver's door. He maintained eye contact with our buddy in the back seat. I lit the pipe and blew smoke out the side window. Neither R.T. nor I were going to say a word until Freddie spoke.

     Finally, Freddie started an explanation.

     "Blount beat up a girl I was seeing. I can't do anything about it; he's too damn mean. I figure since you two carry guns you can arrest him and if he fights, you can shoot him." Freddie sat back, crossed his arms over his chest, pleased with himself. But that didn't last long.

     "Freddie," I said. "You haven't had a girlfriend in the years we've known you. Neither one of us believe that crap you just laid out. For the last're very close to being evicted from that nice comfortable seat. What's the real deal dude?"

     R.T. was through with this game. He put his hand in the air again to stop all talking and said, "I don't care. How do we meet this guy, Freddie? I mean meet him and not get shot right off the bat."

     Freddie sighed, relieved, and said, "I can set up a meet. It'll need to be at Cowboy's though. Anybody know you guys in there?"

     R.T. looked at me and I shrugged.

     "We're good. But we don't want you there. Arrange the meet and make an excuse at the last minute. We don't want you within a mile of Cowboys," R.T. said.

<  5  >

     That last comment appeared to cause Freddie some concern. He was afraid he wouldn't get any money for setting this meet up. I told him we'd pay him a hundred bucks if it went as planned. He asked if he could get a bonus if we didn't get killed. At that point, I opened the car door and requested his departure. He got out but acted like his feelings were hurt.

     Freddie called later and said it was set up for the next day at Cowboys. He gave Blount our descriptions and we just had to show up.

     The meet was set for 7:00 PM. R.T. and I were parked a little bit off the road by 5:30 where we could see Cowboy's parking lot. We went past Cowboys and found a place we could watch from but not be seen. We always tried to get to a meet about an hour or so ahead of time just to see what we could see. Sometimes we were supposed to deal with one person, but a carload showed up. We had to be early to know how many we might have to handle if things got wonky.

     This time nothing unusual happened. Right at 7:00, a silver Trans Am pulled into the lot and a large man stepped out. He was alone and stopped to look the parking lot over but that was it. He turned and went into Cowboys.

     We drove up and parked. As we were walking to the front door of Cowboy's, Blount came out with a glass mug of beer. He walked straight up to us and said, "What'd you do to Freddie?"

     I walked on by.

     He grabbed me by the arm, and I stopped. I looked at R.T. to see if he wanted me to react or if he was. He stopped and turned to face Blount.

     "Big man, what is your problem?" R.T. asked.

     We wanted this to be on our terms. Blount was trying to intimidate us so he would run the meeting. He failed.

<  6  >

     "Freddie told me he had a couple of guys he wanted me to meet. He told me the car they were driving." Blount pointed to our Bronco and added, "That's the car so you're the guys. I'll ask again. Where's Freddie?"

     "You want to talk out here big man?" I asked. "You sure?" I looked around as I talked.

     He just stared at me with a look that was between stupid and vacant.

     "OK, Freddie called just before we left to come here. He said he had some kind of stomach issue and couldn't leave the vicinity of his toilet right now. You are correct. We're the guys he sent to meet with you. I'll ask again. Do you want to meet out here? If you do it's no problem but we need to get a beer first." I waited for his answer.

     "Out here, in there, it don't matter. Why'd you want to meet up with me? I don't know you guys and I'm pretty damn sure you don't know me either."

     R.T. took a step toward Blount and said, "We want to talk business. We really don't care if it's out here, but you have a beer, and we want to be on the same page. OK? So, just make a there or out here. Which is it? If we're doing this out here, I'm going to get us a couple of brews."

     Blount seemed to relax just a bit and said he'd wait at the back of our car. R.T. went in and came back with two mugs of beer. I waited with Blount. He wouldn't look at me. He just stood there facing away. We didn't talk.

     First meetings with bad guys set a tone. If we allowed Blount to dictate the rules as he wanted, then we would have to find a way to reset at some point. The easiest for us was to try to get to a middle ground early in a relationship. Sometimes it worked and then there were the other times.

<  7  >

     R.T. came out and handed me a beer and I took a long pull. I kept my eyes on Blount all the while. His eyes shifted between me and R.T. He seemed to be trying to make some kind of decision.

     He shifted his stance just as I swallowed. He allowed or caused his shirt to come open. When he had arrived with a long-sleeved shirt over his tee-shirt, we both figured the over shirt was hiding his revolver. Of course, we were hiding ours too. I wore a denim jacket that covered a shoulder holster and my own .357 magnum. R.T. favored a .38 and had his in a holster at the small of his back under a flannel shirt. The biggest difference here was that we trained with ours and Blount most likely didn't.

     I turned away from Blount for just a second. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him clumsily put his hands in his front jeans pockets, so his long-sleeved shirt opened just a bit more. It was just enough for his gun to be visible. As he did this, I saw him stand up even straighter and become even taller than he was a few seconds earlier. This was another attempt at intimidation. It also failed.

     I was just about to say something to Blount, but a couple of yellow jackets started buzzing around us. Blount swatted at them, and they seemed to fly away. I stepped back from Blount, and he was now, head to toe, in my view. I looked at R.T. and he was also several paces away from the big man. When I looked back at Blount, I saw a couple of yellow jackets on the toe of his boot. He was standing stock still with his feet spread. He had a typical "I'm in charge" stance. His arms were folded across his chest, and he had a tough guy scowl. I looked at him with as complete a neutral look as I could muster. I took another drink of beer and watched both yellow jackets disappear up Blount's jeans leg.

     Now I had a problem. I believed I knew what was about to happen and believed I was going to start laughing when it did. R.T. couldn't see anything about the yellow jackets and I couldn't find a way to let him know. I just hoped Blount would react calmly. R.T. was mighty jumpy when it came to bad guys acting stupid.

<  8  >

     Blount started to say something but stopped. He suddenly had a puzzled look on his face. Then it changed to concern. Then it morphed to terror and then all matters of Ned broke loose.

     Blount started grabbing at his pants leg. He was emitting some kind of sound like a screech or a little girl's scream. Next, he fell down and at the same time was unbuckling his belt. His pistol shimmied out of his waistband and landed on the parking lot. He rolled away from it as he tried to get his jeans down. Blount was terrified.

     I walked over to R.T. who was not at all pleased by these antics. I took another drink of beer, nodded in the direction of Blount, and simply said, "Yellow jackets in his pants."

     R.T. first looked puzzled and then broke into a Texas-size grin. He started to laugh then thought better of it and tried to take a sip of his beer but only succeeded in spitting it all over the parking lot. I gave him a stern look and a quick shake of my head. He put his hand up signaling he had it under control now. He understood. Now I was trying not to laugh.

     Blount had rolled about five feet from where he first hit the parking lot. I walked over and picked up his gun. I opened the cylinder and emptied out three unspent rounds. Crap, three bullets in a cylinder that carried six told us that at least part of this old boy's story was bogus. R.T. and I had faced real bad guys, real outlaws in the course of our work. Not one would carry a weapon that was partially loaded. The real deal might not have extra shells, but he would be loaded with six if his pistol carried six. Blount was still wearing the possibility of being dangerous but the story he told was baloney.

     We could have helped him stand up, but we didn't. We stood there waiting and sipping our beer. It took a few more minutes to get everything calmed down. When Blount stood up, and before he pulled his jeans all the way up, we saw his underwear...light blue with Disney characters. He had Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and others. I lost it.

<  9  >

     He looked at me. I think he thought I was laughing at his failed yellow jacket mini-war. Nope. Then he looked down and immediately looked back at me. Then he looked at R.T. We had calmed down a bit. The out-and-out laughter was no longer. We were back to businessmen. But I'm a smart ass by birth. I pointed at his underwear and asked, "Hey big man, you got any jammies that match those?"

     He didn't say anything. After he got all cinched back together, he started for the front door of Cowboys. No one had come out while he was rolling around on the ground, so I guess he felt comfortable going back in.

     He took three steps and suddenly ran his hand to his belt where his gun should be. When he looked up, I held it out in front of me. "Lose something?"

     He walked over, didn't say a word, and snatched it from my hand. He never checked the cylinder. I didn't volunteer any information. After Blount disappeared inside, I turned to R.T.

     "What do we do now son?" R.T. asked.

     "Damn if I know. Wait to see if he comes out maybe."

     After about fifteen minutes, we decided he wasn't coming out, so we went in. It was a typical honky-tonk: dark, smelled of stale beer, with a hint of urine. There were various beer advertisements hanging on the walls and a dart board. The requisite jukebox was in one corner. Johnny Cash was going on about cocaine and getting busted for killing his old lady. Booths lined the walls and there were stools at the bar. The middle of the room was void of furniture. It was most likely the dance floor.

     We spotted Blount at a booth in the far corner. We walked over and sat down. I asked him if he'd like a beer. He just shrugged his shoulders. R.T. went to the bar and brought three mugs of Bud back. At first, nobody said anything. Blount just drank his beer and looked at the tabletop.

<  10  >

     R.T. decided to begin anew. "Big man we want to do business with you. Word is you have a decent connection for pills. We have a need for a regular supply of those same pills. If the price is right, we can all make a bunch of money. Can we talk about that?"

     We waited for him to say something. I hoped he'd let the yellow jacket escapade pass and get down to business. He took another drink of beer and wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve. Blount looked at each one of us but talked to me. "I don't know you guys. How come you think I have a supply of anything like pills?"

     "Freddie told us," I said.

     "Freddie, huh?" Blount looked at the tabletop and then at each of us.

     "Freddie ain't here for me to ask about that but I'll look him up later and give him my thanks. I don't know you guys and while you seem too...too...relaxed to be narcs, I. Do. Not. Know. You. I'm just a poor old mountain boy from Newport. If you guys are talking about illegal dope, you got the wrong guy. White likker? I can hook you up with a quart or so. But that's it."

     I nodded and took a drink of beer. I looked at R.T. and then said to Blount, "We give thirty bucks a pill if we can get at least a hundred at a time. Less than a hundred don't bother with us; we'll go elsewhere. Oh, and when you look Freddie up to give him a proper thanks...remember he's the only way you have to contact us. If he's beat up or really hurt bad, he may decide he's had enough of you, and you'll miss some regular money. Shoot, after the first couple of deals, you won't even have to come here. We'll meet you in Cocke County. Hope we can do business big man." We turned and went back to our Bronco.

     We left Cowboy's and drove straight up to the four-lane. We stayed on it till we crossed into Tennessee and took the first exit. We went cross country until we were sure there was no tail and turned around. We pulled over for insurance. Neither of us thought we were being followed, but we were always careful.

<  11  >

     R.T. put his head back and closed his eyes. "What do you think?" he asked.

     "A dilemma." After a few minutes I said, "We don't believe he's a real deal bad ass. But he might have told people he is for so long he believes it deep down. Doing a deal with him is going to be dicey. That yellow jacket sideshow didn't help either. We should have let him work it out instead of standing there laughing. He may feel he has to be John Dillinger to show us he's a real deal outlaw.

     Nothing happened for several days. On Saturday morning R.T. got a call from Freddie. He said Blount came to see him and roughed him up some, but it wasn't too bad. He asked Freddie a bunch of questions about us, and Freddie only repeated our cover story. He left after telling Freddie to quit trying to be an ad man for his Dilaudid business. R.T. and I talked it over. We agreed we might still be in play. If not, Blount would most likely have put a real hurting on Freddie.

     We were patient.

     Monday afternoon Freddie called to tell us Blount wanted to meet. This time though we had to meet on his terms. He wanted us to come to a state road in Cocke County and meet him. I explained to Freddie that we told Blount we'd come to Tennessee only after we'd done a couple of deals with him. We wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page before we did any traveling.

     Freddie called back Tuesday morning and relayed that Blount agreed to come to North Carolina, but he wanted to pick the place. He said he'd meet us at 7:00 p.m. at a pull-off up Searcy Mountain near a large Christmas tree farm. The pull-off was in front of a big sign that advertised Coleman Tree Farm.

     "Freddie, did he say we'd do a deal or is this some other macho show intended to make us shake and rattle?" R.T. asked.

<  12  >

     "I have no clue man. I asked if he had the number of pills you wanted. He told me to mind my business and hung up. I guess he knows you'll show up but I'm not sure what this meet is about." Freddie sounded worried.

     After we hung up from Freddie, we went to the District Office in Asheville. The Boss, Special Agent in Charge Tommy Davis, was a cool head. He used to be a narc and knew most if not all, the stuff dealers pulled. We told him what had happened and what Blount said. He stood and looked out his office window; then sat back in his chair. He smiled and dialed the intercom.

     "Jennings can you come up here for a minute?" he asked.

     In a couple of minutes, a short, stocky, African American guy stood in the doorway of Davis's office. Special Agent Jennings was a close friend of R.T. and me. He was an arson agent but had the additional duty of being the team leader of the Western District's Special Response Team. These were the agents who responded to hostage situations, conducted high risk surveillances, and arrested dangerous felons. In short: they didn't play.

     The Boss repeated to Jennings about the meeting with Blount. He told Jennings to have SRT in place at the meeting location by 4:00. He said he had a kind of itchy feeling about this. He thought there was a good possibility Blount might try to show how much of an outlaw he was...Disney undies and all.

     The next afternoon we showed up at Freddie's trailer. When I knocked on the front door it swung open. I went inside and looked around. Freddie was not in residence. I came back to the car and told R.T.

     "Well," he said, "he was just going to be in the way anyhow." We drove on.

     At 4:45 pm I pulled off the side of a gravel road and parked in front of the sign Freddie had told us about. We got out of the car and walked over to a wooden fence that divided the parking area from what appeared to be a tree farm. We waited there so we could see both directions of approach.

<  13  >

     R.T. and I weren't concerned about where the team was. He and I were former members of SRT and knew the team was present. We also knew we wouldn't be able to locate them. The team was decent insurance but R.T. and I knew there was no way they could intervene before we had to act if Blount tried to do some foolishness.

     We heard a vehicle coming from the opposite direction we used. Soon enough the grill of a black Ram pickup came into view. We couldn't see who was in the cab. The light was such that we could see the outline of two people though. The truck pulled in nose to nose with ours and Freddie got out of the passenger side. Blount got out of the driver's side and left his door open. Freddie came over to us and didn't need to say a word. We saw the look on his face and knew there was no pending dope deal. Blount was there to make a statement.

     Blount stepped around to the front of his truck and pointed at Freddie. "Hey dimwit, get back over here!"

     When Freddie started to move toward Blount, I grabbed Freddie's arm and pulled him to my side. We were so close we were touching.

     "Hey big man you need to be careful how you talk to my cousin Freddie. He has a delicate system." I patted Freddie on the arm.

     While I stood still with Freddie, R.T. started to slowly move to my right. He didn't jerk when he moved. He was melted butter. If you weren't watching him intently you might not even notice him moving. After he had separated about 8 or so feet he stopped.

     All the time I was chattering away at Blount. This time I wasn't trying to get under his skin. I was just giving him something to do besides notice R.T. moving. After R.T. settled, I told Freddie to stand behind me and wherever I moved to stay behind me. "Use me as a shield."

<  14  >

     "Freddie, get your sorry butt over here." Blount pointed to his side. "Get over here now!"

     "Big man, Freddie's scared, and he needs my attention so he's staying right here." I patted Freddie's arm again. "Get behind me Freddie," I said in a low voice.

     "We doin' a deal or what Blount? I'm a busy man and my bet is you are too," I said.

     Blount was just looking at me now. Freddie was right behind me and R.T. was standing loose but ready. Blount never looked left or right.

     "Ain't no dope deal with the likes of you two." Blount raised up like he'd done at Cowboy's. He tried to make himself big, bad, and aggressive.

     "So, what are we doing Blount? Like I said, I'm a busy man."

     Blount pushed his over shirt back to reveal that .357. He swaggered a few steps closer, then stopped. "I'm busy myself. But you guys really pissed me off. I feel a need to do something about it." Blount's hand hadn't touched the revolver yet.

     I decided to try to slow stuff down. "I'm not at all certain what you're talking about big man. I just want to make money same as you."

     "Naw, you boys laughed at me the other day." He shook his head. "Can't have people laughing at me. Next thing they'll think I'm not serious and start messing with my income. I've killed six already and after tonight it'll be nine."

     His hand moved toward his revolver. I didn't know if the SRT agents could hear this exchange, but it was no matter. R.T. and I had to deal with it.

     "Blount, first thing, we're agents with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Second, you're not killing anyone tonight. Third, I really believe you need to rethink your pathway here. See my partner over there?"

<  15  >

     I pointed to where R.T. was standing. He hadn't pulled his weapon yet, but we don't pull ours to warn. If it comes out there's a bad time coming for somebody.

     I continued. "He hasn't said anything and he's not going to. That's because our training tells us a person can't talk and accurately shoot a firearm. It's not possible." I shrugged, "He won't say a letter of a word. If you're determined to try to use your pistol as soon as he sees it out of your belt, he will double tap your ass. You'll be dead and my partner will be free to talk again."

     Blount looked at R.T. and then at me. He was in a rage internally, but he didn't know what to do.

     At the precise time I thought he was going to pull his gun a voice came over a bullhorn.

     "Mr. Blount, look over the fence to the right and then the left of the sign." When he looked, he saw two men and a woman with long guns appear out of the high grass. He turned to get back to his truck only to hear the door he'd left open shut. There were three agents in dark blue SBI windbreakers at his truck.

     "Mr. Blount we're also SBI agents. We'd like you to keep your hands away from your body and as carefully as you can, lay down on your stomach."

     Blount didn't move. He was staring at me then at R.T.

     Blount still hadn't spoken, and I got the notion he was unable to form words. He simply was too scared or conflicted.

     Another voice from over the bullhorn, "Mr. Blount you have not seen all the people that are here to help the two agents you have been talking to. There's more...a sniper team. At this very moment, the shooter has a crosshair over your heart. At the first move other than what I just said he's been cleared to shoot you. If he does, you will be dead, and we'll have lots of paperwork to fill out. Mr. Blount, lie down and keep your hands away from the gun."

<  16  >

     While Blount was focused, sort of, on the voice from the bullhorn, I whispered to Freddie.

     "Freddie, was he drinking on the way over here?"

     Freddie nodded and said, "He was drinking shine like it was water. He must really drink a lot 'cause I never saw no sign from his driving that he was high. Could smell it though."

     Great, I thought, chugging alcohol to bolster his courage. I wondered if he thought the voice he was hearing might be from another world. He did look a bit confused.

     There was one more loudspeaker command, then silence. Blount was looking around trying to get his bearings. Then he raised himself up to his full height and thumbed his shirt back, so his revolver was just a flick of the wrist away from being pulled.

     "I don't really care who's out here other than you two. You laughed at me the other day and I can't have that. Haven't been able to sleep since then and I figure there must be some kind of comeuppance." Slightly slurred words showed that Blount was now demonstrating a reaction to the shine he drank earlier.

     "Look big man, we don't want anything to happen here. The other day was just three guys having a small laugh. It was no major deal to us. I should have warned you about those yellow jackets. Same thing happened to me last year. Those damn things are sneaky and man they hurt when they sting. We didn't think anything more about it. Don't let this bee business get somebody hurt, OK?"

     I was trying to slow this thing down.

     From behind Blount came a calm but serious voice. It was Jennings. He had crossed the fence with two other SRT agents.

     "Mr. Blount let's all talk about this for just a minute. There's no need for you to prove anything to us. Look at what you caused. There's about ten of us out here for one man. You must be some kind of real-deal bad guy. How 'bout it? Can we talk about it?" Jennings was the real deal himself. Slow the incident down and divert attention away from a bad intention was SRT's main focus. Using force was its absolute last step.

<  17  >

     "How about it Mr. Blount? Can we talk a bit?" Jennings tried again.

     Blount's face relaxed and he nodded. He dropped his head in resignation and started to move his hand away from his gun. But then he looked up at me and his face changed. He was rising to fury. As fast as a yellow jacket's sting, his hand went to the gun. When he pulled the revolver and started to raise it toward me, there were three shots from different angles within milliseconds of each other. The third was much louder than the first two.

     I looked at R.T. and his duty weapon was pointed at Blount with white smoke causing a faint fog in front of him. The third round came from the sniper team Jennings warned Blount was on overwatch.

     R.T. and I ran to Blount but there was really no reason. He was gone. Three rounds to the middle of Blount's chest meant the ambulance Jennings requested wouldn't be needed.

     Freddie walked over to R.T. and me. He looked at the sprawled body of Junior Blount. "Guess he told so many people he was a real outlaw that he believed it hisself." Freddie wandered away as a marked unit and ambulance arrived. I thought I heard him mutter, "I'm a real outlaw. I'm a real outlaw."

     We stood by while agents assigned to conduct a use-of-force investigation arrived. R.T. and the sniper would surrender their weapons and submit to long interviews. Then came the administrative suspension and internal investigation. The District Attorney would decide on charges and the NCSBI Director would decide if we had followed Bureau procedures.

     Eventually I drove Freddie to downtown Asheville. He wanted out near Pritchard Park, but I suspected after wandering a bit he'd end up in a honky-tonk. I paid him for his help and warned him to refrain from talking about what had happened. But Freddie is what Freddie is.

     When he got out of my car he walked away and just threw his hand up to wave. As he walked, he shook his head and nodded like he was talking to someone. I wondered, not for the first time since I'd known Freddie, when he'd show up again, and what he'd have to tell us. Never a dull moment dealing with the boy.

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