Buddy

I’ve been thinking about writing this story for a number of days now, struggling with the idea of sharing this with you because it’s dark, unsettling, and true. I think in order for me to be true to all of you I should also include stories like this one, as it is a true personal experience and is part of the broader picture of incarceration. This story about Buddy offers you a glimpse at the darker side of incarceration. It’s a snap shot from within This World.

Those of you that know me already know that I have a deep interest in understanding personalities and why people do the things they do. This is partly born out of necessity due to my environment, but also because I’m fascinated with understanding others. To read and understand others is to be able to survive while incarcerated. I tell my friends I can read their souls, and they usually let out a chuckle saying, “Aw, yeah right. Quit kidding…um, you’re kidding right?” Yeah guys, I’m kidding–maybe.

Of all the personalities that exist, one truly scares me. This is a story about that personality and about someone I knew for years. Men here with this personality are dangerous–truly dangerous. You often don’t know you are in their presence for they look and sound like everyone else. Some are even charismatic and very disarming. All of them are hard to read.

This story is about a fellow I knew who I’ll call Buddy. We were incarcerated at the same security level for many years, before he decided to transfer to another institution. Buddy is serving a life sentence for a gruesome murder. He once told me that every two years he planned to transfer to a different Ohio prison. When I asked him why, he said that it was part of his “world tour”. He was dead serious. His life sentence meant nothing to him.

Finally, Buddy does not represent the typical murderer–if such a thing existed. There is no typical murderer, and I’m willing to debate that with anyone who thinks otherwise. While some murderers share common clinical characteristics as viewed from the DSM-IV, in my opinion it is only marginally useful when attempting to apply it to everyone who commits homicide. I base this on my life experience interacting with these men.

The following story picks up in the middle of a conversation I was having with Buddy one day during the summer of 2003. We were standing in the day room, and he wanted to tell me about the crime he committed. Why? Because he was bored, and because he found excitement and satisfaction in doing so.

“The detective testified that it was the most gruesome crime scene he’d ever seen in his thirty years of service,” Buddy said, smiling.

“Gruesome?” I asked.

Buddy wasn’t a stranger to me. We had known each other for years, having met initially on the softball team we played on. Every summer we’d play together, he and a dozen other men we knew, and our team was very good. As for Buddy, he was by far the best player in the institution.

He was also a psychopath.

“Yeah,” he replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Ah, dude!” His face lit with excitement. “I’ve never told you the story?”

I shook my head ‘no’. The story he went on to tell would cause me to never view him the same again.

“I killed my best friend with a hammer!” he exclaimed.

“Man, you’re kidding me–right? Why?”

“Ah, dude, I was fucked up back then. I was strung out on that Dog, and I’d gone to his house to steal his dope.” Dog was heroin. I wasn’t surprised to hear this, because I knew he had a bad drug habit. He was always getting high.

“Not your best friend,” I said, trying to gather my thoughts.

“Yeah. As I said, I was fucked up.” His eyes lowered for a second, as if he felt a pang of sadness. Then the next second he was over it. His arms were in animated motion now. “Ah, wait ’til you hear this part!” His eyes were wide and he was smiling again.

“So,” he said, “he was sleeping on the couch, right, and I crept past him looking”–he crept forward, all cat paws and silence–“like this, right? And I couldn’t find the shit. Then, as I was leaving”–he crept cat-like, the other way now–“I thought I saw him move a little.”

“Thought?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Was he still asleep?”

“Yeah, dude. And I froze”–the cat froze–“and I was like, shit!”

“But he was asleep, yes?”

“Yeah,” he replied. He seemed momentarily annoyed I kept interrupting.

“So-o, then what?” I said.

“I looked around and there was this hammer on the floor.”

Holy Jeezus, I thought.

“What?” I said. “Just sitting there? A hammer?”

“Yeah, man.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. So, anyway,” he said, dismissing the interruption, “I picked up the hammer.” His hand out now, clutching an invisible hammer.

“No way. I thought you said he was asleep?”

“Well, he was,” he said, slightly perplexed at my inquiry.

“Then why would you use the hammer to–”

“No, no man! It wasn’t like that. I just wanted to tap him on the head–”

“Tap him on the head?”

“To knock him out you know?” His hand now made a ginger tapping motion. “I just wanted to make sure he wouldn’t wake up. But when the hammer hit his head it went into his skull.”

“What the hell?! But you said he was asleep!”

“I barely tapped him–”

“Yeah,” I interrupted, “it’s a friggin’ hammer, what did you expect?”

“Well I didn’t think it would go all the way in.” His eyes grew wide again with excitement. He tapped me on the shoulder with the hammer hand to drive home what he was about to say: “Dude, he started twitching!”

Holy shit, I thought. Buddy’s a fucking psychopath.

“You called an ambulance, right?”

“Uh, no,” he said. “I thought, ‘Ah, shit, he’s suffering,’ so I began hitting him on the head with the hammer.” His hand was up high, plunging the invisible hammer down again and again.

“Why?! You could have called an ambulance!”

He stopped all motion and looked at me. And then just like that he shrugged his shoulders as if he could care less. He simply shrugged.

“I just wanted to put him out of his misery,” he said, “you know”–no, I didn’t know–“so he wouldn’t suffer.”

I was stunned, shocked, and dismayed. I knew Buddy was in for murder and had an unusually long sentence, but up until this point he never told me what he had done. For the first time in the 10 years I knew him, I feared Buddy. It had nothing to do with him being a murderer, they’re everywhere around here, but everything to do with how much pleasure he took in telling me the story as he relived events. It was as if he felt nothing. He seemed to be truly reliving the moment.

“And, you started hitting him in the head?”

“Yup.”

“How many times?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. At trial, the detectives testified it was more than thirty times from the best they could tell, but nobody really knew because his skull was obliterated.

“They testified that blood was everywhere. Brain matter everywhere–on the ceiling, on the walls–everywhere. But I don’t remember anything from the point I started hitting him until I was back home.”

I was speechless.

Buddy continued: “Crime scene photos showed that there was so much blood that it soaked through the floor and down through the ceiling in the apartment below.”

I told myself from that moment forward I would never, ever piss Buddy off for any reason. Suddenly every odd comment, every angry moment, every confrontation I’d witnessed him in over the years took on new meaning and significance. For the rest of my life I will never forget the day he told me this story.

He relished being able to relive the moment. He found joy in telling the story, and he truly enjoyed it. Then, as if to punctuate his true nature, he walked over to someone standing nearby and punched him, just like that right out of the blue. He hit the man so hard it knocked him off his feet. When the man fell, he soccer kicked him in the ribs and called him a child-molesting bitch.

It wasn’t the fact that Buddy had assaulted the man because he had committed a sex crime against a child that shocked me; assaults happen all the time around here. It was the way he showboated for everyone watching. Before he had kicked him, he said, “Watch this!” and before he bent down to punch him again he winked at all of us.

As if it was all fun and games.