(This true-crime event took place the night of Nov. 13th 1981.)
A duck hunt loomed in the morning so I hit the bed early, where my wife Shirley (six-months pregnant) was reading. Elaine, her sister, was due home from the show any minute……
Suddenly all hell broke loose downstairs— door crashed in, shrieks, bumps, whacks. “Shut-up!”
“Oh NO!! NO!!”
“SHUT UP, I SAID!!”
Geezum! Somebody broke in?! And I could hear Elaine screaming. I leaped from my bed to the gun rack, grabbed the pump shotgun and started slipping in shells.
“Don’t shoot!” came Elaine’s cry from the darkness downstairs. She could hear the loading (sha-wuck—sha-wuck.) She knew me. “Don’t shoot, Humberto! PLEASE!”
Geezum, I thought. You rehearse these things all the time in your head — at least in high-crime cities like New Orleans. Now it’s happening! And I’m standing here in my underwear with a loaded shotgun, finally facing game that can shoot back. I swear I wasn’t scared at the time (that came later, and big-time.)
“Don’t shoot, Humberto!” my terrified sister-in-law shrieked again.
To heck with that, I thought. I’m gonna shoot up a storm! Not every day you get the jump on some scumbags, and a legal excuse to splatter their guts around. The saps had no idea they were walking into an armory. Hah! Can’t wait to see their eyes when they look down this barrel. I’ll scatter their brains all over my den. Heck, we’re insured.
The hallway was dark as I moved toward the stairway. My finger was tense on the safety and trigger. “Under fire, a man’s powers of life heighten in proportion to the proximity of death,” writes Phil Caputo in Rumor of War. “He feels an elation as extreme as his dread. His senses quicken.”
Phil has a point. This was a far cry from combat. But there was some of that feeling here. I swear I wasn’t scared (that came later, big-time). I got to the stairs, hit the light switch, and aimed--ready to start blasting away.
But that would have been very stupid. At the foot of the stairs stood my sister-in-law, a grimy hand covering her mouth, and two dreadlocked savages gripping her from each side. They’d been staked in the bushes and grabbed her as she opened the door. One held a revolver to her temple. The other pointed a .44 straight at my face. He looked like Snoop Dog, his partner like Bob Marley. Elaine’s eyes looked like cue-balls. Hmmmmm.
My sweet 16 pump was aimed at Snoop, who was aiming at me. He was about 30 feet away. The bead covered his ugly, filthy head, everything but the dreadlocks, which came to his shoulders.