"Obviously a Major Malfunction"
January 28, 1986
In contrast to the first three weeks of January, this week had been pleasantly routine (so far). By now, I had mostly forgotten about Marta, and about her father's confrontation with A.J.. But Tina was still angry at A.J. for causing a scene with her next-door neighbor, and had barred him from her apartment indefinitely. What still bothered me were the two unidentified teenage girls I had seen on that video. A tiny voice in the back of my mind kept insisting that I go to the police.
I wished I had heeded that voice sooner because upon watching the local news that evening, one news story left me ice cold: “Outside a Boeing office complex in Everett this afternoon, an unknown gunman fired an automatic weapon near an employee parking lot at a Boeing aircrew training facility. A car exiting the parking lot was riddled by several bullets - fortunately none of the people in the car were injured. The gunman, who eyewitnesses described as an Afro-American male, escaped in dark red or purple late-70s Chevrolet or Oldsmobile, with tinted windows. We hope to have more on that story at the top of the hour, but now we switch to NBC News for an update on the tragic Challenger Disaster...”
For no other reason than an educated guess, I feared that Marta's father had been the one targeted by the shooter. With my hands trembling, I phoned Tina immediately: "Amazon, have you seen anything unusual going-on with Marta's parents today?"
"Hmm, well, when I got home an hour ago, Mr and Mrs E were rushin' outta their apartment with their suitcases. I said hi but they blew me off - that's not like them."
“Did you see their car?”
“I didn't notice, but what's that got to do with anything?”
"Oh, man! I don't know exactly why, but I think A.J. just tried to kill Marta's dad! There was a shooting near his workplace today, at about 3:30. I saw it on the news, but they didn't have much information - then they started talking about the space shuttle blowing up. The getaway car they described sounded nothing like his car, but that doesn't mean anything.”
“Aw, that's fuckin' crazy.”
“He's the one who's crazy. I thought it had all blown-over by now, but you know how obsessed he was with Marta, and gangbangers aren't known to forgive getting clobbered with a golf club. Her dad really punked him.”
“Yeah but what's this gangbanger shit? He ain't in a gang.”
“Yes he is - the BWMs. At least, that's what Angie told me the other day.”
“Now there's a reliable source of rumors for ya!” Angie had picked up that information from girlfriends of gang members during A.J.'s New Year's Eve party. Tina asked, “What the hell's a B-W-whatchamacallit?”
“Uh, I'm not exactly sure. Blacks With Money - Blacks With Moola, whatever.”
She barked incredulous laughter. “With a name like that, they must be a very exclusive outfit! What's their colors – pink and yellow polka dots? HA!”
I cleared my throat and tersely replied, “Green, actually - green as in money.” Then it dawned on me: “And get this: he drives a green BMW. Coincidence?”
“Ooo – the plot thin-ens.”
“All right-all right, just be careful and watch your back. If he shows-up and even looks at you crossed-eyed, call 9-1-1.”
“I will – right after I knee 'im in the balls. He knows better than to fuck with me.”
“But whatever you do, don't tell Angie anything about this - she can't keep a secret to save her life.”
The news of the drive-by shooting incident got buried under the continuous coverage of the Challenger shuttle explosion and the death of the first school teacher to become an astronaut. A small article in next day's newspaper stated that the police had no suspects in custody, with the speculation that the shooting was gang related. As far as I could determine during the previous 18 hours, the person(s) occupying the bullet-riddled car remained unidentified by the media.
Days later, on February 1st , Mr and Mrs Eichenburger still hadn't returned to their apartment, and the story of the shooting was fading into obscurity, supplanted by fresh headlines of even worse gun mayhem in the region. Tina, by this time, was half-convinced that A.J. had indeed run her neighbors out of town, if not out of the country. Marta had told her that she and her parents would be living there until March, upon her father completing his flight training on the 767. Tina had had friendly relations with the family and was sure they would have told her well ahead of time that they were moving. And she had seen no indication of an emergency that demanded their immediate return to Germany (or to anywhere else for that matter).
I possessed no hard evidence that A.J. had been involved in the attack, but I did possess irrefutable video evidence of him committing equally serious crimes. Finally, I screwed up my courage enough to try to make contact with the relevant department within the King County Sheriff's Office. After obtaining the phone number of the Vice Division, I walked to a public phone several blocks away. Detective Dan Jameson took my call, and I asked him right off: “If I had proof that a guy I know was making sex videos with underage girls, would you be interested?”
A candy wrapper crackled in the background. “Sure, we would definitely look into that. What's your name, sir?”
“No names yet, okay? This guy I'm talking about - he's in a gang - he wouldn't hesitate to have me killed if he found out.”
“All right, sir. So, what do you got for me?”
“I got a videotape with these young chicks having sex with two men, right? This guy I know, Anthony Davis, he was the one operating the camera. And you can even see him in the video a few times, clear enough to identify him.”
“You sure the girls are underage?”
“I know for a fact that one of them is - the other two I never met but it's obvious they're, like, 14 or 15.”
“I'd like to see that tape as soon as possible.”
Within 24 hours, I went to Jameson's office in order to turn over the tape and supply him with all the background information I knew about A.J. and Marta. Then he and two other detectives then went into another room to view the 15-minute videotape, while I grew more apprehensive by the second: Why did I agree to come here? They'll probably throw ME in the clink!
Jameson opened the frosted glass door and bade me to join them. I then sat with the detectives and endured more questioning. I was answering, “...I don't know where the video was made...No, I have no idea who the guys in bed are, or who those other girls either. Like I just said, I only know guy behind the camera, Anthony Davis, and the blonde chick, Marta EIchenburger...No, she's in Frankfurt, Germany. Her dad - Johann - made her go back there a few weeks ago after I told him what Davis was doing with his daughter...Hell no, I never had sex with her or anybody else on the tape!...Okay, freeze the picture right there - that's Davis, he's working the camera. He lives in the airport area but I don't know exactly where...” We went 'round and 'round with questions and answers until a coherent story finally began to emerge. At this juncture, I suggested to Jameson that he should contact the Everett Police Department, since they may have had information about Davis too, in relation to a recent drive-by shooting in that area. He then said, “I heard about that incident, up near Boeing, correct?” I nodded. “What makes you think he was mixed-up in that?”
“I may be wrong, but I think that the intended victim was the father of blonde on the tape, Marta, and he moved out of his apartment immediately after the drive-by happened, like he was scared to death. See, not long after I told Mister Eichenburger that Davis was fucking around with his daughter, he assaulted him with a golf club outside his apartment - that was on January 15th . He phoned for a King County Deputy to come to his apartment that day, so you should have a report from that.”
Jameson turned to one of his colleagues and said, “Bill, run a computer check on a Johann Eichenburger, male Cauc - German citizen, and for an Anthony Davis, middle initial J, black male, age - approximately 35. And pull Davis' jacket if we've got one on him. If we don't, check with NCIC.” After five more minutes of repetitive questioning, Jameson finally got the gist of my convoluted story: “So, the drive-by shooting in Everett may have been in retaliation against the blonde girl's father. Okay, we'll look into it. Everett P.D. may have something useful for the investigation of your videotape. And we, in turn, may have some leads for their own investigation.” He glanced at his watch and stood up. “Well, Denny, thanks for the help. Where can you be contacted if I need you?” During the interview, he had persuaded me to reveal my full name (Denton T. Smith) with the assurance that it would be kept secret.
“Call me only at work or leave a voice mail there, okay?” After giving him my work number, I reiterated, “Now, you'll keep my name out of it, right? At least until it goes to court?”
Next day, at work, I got a call from Jameson, who informed me: “Denny, Everett P.D. tells me that the vehicle targeted in the drive-by shooting was rented by one Johann Eichenburger, and that their only suspect is Anthony Davis, who they can't locate. That case does seem to tie-in with Davis and the blonde girl in the video. Davis is the only one Everett P.D. believes had a motive to attack her father.
I had tried to keep Tina's name out of it, but for her own safety I told Jameson: “There's a friend of mine who happened to be the Eichenburger's next door neighbor. She witnessed Mister Eichenburger smacking Davis with a golf club that night – and I saw it too. Davis will think we ratted him out, if he gets arrested for that shooting.”
“Don't worry about it too much – he can only assume that Eichenburger was smart enough to figure out who might have shot at him. Now what's your friend's name and address?”
“Tina Kincaid.” Then I gave him the address.
“Okay, apartment 203.” He rustled some papers and said, “I see that the Eichenburgers stayed in 202.”
“If you can't find him anywhere else, you might look for him there. He's very tight with Tina - or was, until she threw him out.”
“I'll pass along the information to Everett P.D. They're searching for him on a warrant for suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, but he recently moved and left no forwarding address. As for our videotape case, there's a long way to go before we can nail his ass for sexual exploitation of kids. First, we need the testimony of those girls – two of which we don't know their identities, and the other one isn't even in the United States anymore. Then we got to prove that Davis was one of the men in the video.”
Immediately after talking to Jameson, I phoned Tina's apartment. “Hi, Amazon – don't ask me how I found out, but it really was A.J. who was involved in that shooting, and Mister E had rented the car that got shot-up! Hey, are you there?”
After a prolonged pause, Tina said, “Huh? Naw man, you got the wrong number.”
“You're kidding – he's there right now? Call me right back - I'm at work”
When she called me back minutes later, after A.J. had left, I told her of my conversations about the drive-by shooting with the police, and the fact that they were going to stake-out her apartment complex. Tina replied, “A.J. thinks I know more than I let on. Before ya called, he was askin' me if I talked to Mister or Missus E on the day they moved, and if I knew where they were stayin' now, and askin' what things me 'n' Marta talked about. But I suspected that motherfucka from the beginning, ya know.”
Her last statement wasn't entirely true, but I didn't argue the point. “I don't think you should be alone over there. I'd feel better if you went somewhere for a few days, until they arrest him. You can stay with Angie and me if you want.”
“Me livin' in yer trashy trailer? I-don't-think-so. I was gonna go visit mama tomorrow anyway, so I might stay the whole weekend, who knows?”
When Angie came home from work that day, I finally told her everything I knew about A.J.'s attack on Mr E and the subsequent search for him by the police. She replied, “Why did you wait so long to tell me?”
“Because I wanted you to act like nothing's wrong if you ran into him, that's all. But now it's just a matter of time until they catch him.”
“Oh, wow, I still can't believe he really tried to kill him! He stopped by the restaurant for lunch the other day and sat at my station. We talked for a few minutes - he didn't look worried.”
“The important thing is that you didn't look worried.”
“What's the big deal? We're not the only ones that know about it.”
“But there's more to it than that shooting. He made a video of Marta fucking some guys – I've seen it. After I found out that he attacked her dad, I turned a copy of the tape over to the cops.”
I was taken aback by Angie's physical reaction - her face suddenly blanched into a ghostly white of shock. “What, how, how could you see something like that? I, I don't understand.”
“It was recorded on that party video you got from Tina, and I made a copy of it. If you or Tina had bothered to watch the last few minutes of the tape, you would have seen it for yourself. Angie, why do you look like I just told you your mom just died. Do you happen to know anything about what Marta was up to?”
“Uh, um, well she did tell me that she was going out with A.J. behind her parents' back, but I never imagined - this,” she replied with increasing hesitation.
“You knew he was banging a 16-year old but kept it to yourself?”
“I didn't think it was all that terrible, at the time. I remember when I was 16.”
“So do I. Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately - I was in no position to do anything about it.”
* * *
As the days passed without incident, and having had no further contact by the police, a sense of normalcy returned to our lives (whether justified or not).
On Valentine's Day I drove to my mother's house to deliver a bouquet of somewhat wilted red roses, which she gushed over nonetheless. Mother was a divorcee in her late 40s and currently living alone. She had a shadowy boyfriend whom I had met only on occasion, as she took a dim view of “living in sin”. As we sat talking at her kitchen table and eating homemade pecan pie, my mother said, “...So, you're back with Angie again? I just love her - she's darlin'. Wish y'all would get married,” she drawled in her strong Mississippi accent. While I hemmed and hawed in reply, she informed me, “Honey, a little birdie told me you've been datin' a pretty-lil'-black-girl."
I thought: Susan, you rat! Susan, my younger sister, had informed our mother just to make me squirm, no doubt. I replied as casually as I could: "Oh, she's just a friend of Angie's that hangs-out at the trailer all the time."
"Not that I disapprove, necessarily. It's taken me awhile to get used to the way things are these days."
"Yeah, I know - “
"Down home, they used to call it miscegenation." She had grown up in Biloxi, Mississippi. "One could go to jail fo' race-mixin' back they-en."
I grinned at her and unmercifully teased, "Have you ever dated a black guy?"
After choking on a chunk of pecan, she sputtered, "Oh, go on with you! You've always had such a wicked tongue, honey."
Copyright 2014 by K.D. Bishop