Now that I think about it, I doubt Fred thought he’d ever see me again.
More than a week had passed since I’d witnessed the way cool Fred Berdine nearly choked to death in the clutches of his former boss. That was the day “The amazing Mr. George Heaton” had talked his way out of that Norfolk city jail, packed up his small army of predators and scammers and caravanned the lot of us (with a police escort) out of the entire State of Nebraska.
The day Fred had made his play.
I couldn’t even be sure he was still in Norfolk. As I left the entryway of the random building in which I’d chosen to hide from that crazy little fucker who’d picked me up on the road in Oklahoma and drove me back across two state lines at gunpoint, all I had was a suitcase, what was left of the the twenty bucks those two rodeo cowboys had given me… and an address.
It wasn’t too late at night, but it was dark. There’s no way he could have expected it to be me but when Fred opened the door, he sure didn’t show any surprise. Yea, Fred was a player. A penny-ante player perhaps, but still a player. He didn’t flinch. He took one look at me, assessed the situation and welcomed his former scammer in training, into the apartment with a smile.
It was clear that Fred saw me as an asset and as I recounted my tale, his smile widened as he heard about what I’d given up to get back. Back into what he clearly saw as his domain. I was an asset and now I was completely under his wing… his tutelage. No doubt whatever schemes and/or scams he’d already had in the works, they were gladly and seamlessly modified to include me.
That very night, Fred started stacking up the lies and checking me out to see which ones would best suit those schemes and/or scams of his. Checking out which lies would hold me, which ones would mold me. Which lies to shake me and which ones to break me.
Fred was a special kind of liar. Possibly as good a one as Mr. George Heaton himself, possibly even better in a way. Fred was of a much different style. While all these liars manipulated their marks with the classic carrot and stick, George’s stick was that of the brute, the big bully. Fred was smart but he wasn’t scary-slick like some of the other predators among George’s upper level men who (like Fred) cast a more diminutive shadow than their obviously imposing big boss. Fred would also have never thrown all in with George like Guy had.
No doubt that was what had pissed George off so completely and led to all that violence. No doubt George saw how Fred’s style of manipulating prospective minions in the operation was something special. George must have given up a level of control to keep Fred as long as he did. He’d recognized he didn’t have a carrot anything like the one Fred had.
Fred was cool!
Fred was so very cool and I was so very captivated by his coolness. I wanted to be cool and he was promising me a coolness I’d been dreaming of for a long time.
That night I went to sleep on the couch in “Fred’s apartment” feeling closer to realizing those cool rock n roll adventures of which I’d been dreaming. Ever since he’d introduced me to the idea that such things might just be possible by hanging out with him, Fred had me hook, line and sinker. And since it was all a pack of lies… in the end, sinker it would be.
I put that bit about it being Fred’s apartment in quotes because it was not, yet it was. Over the past week, Fred had appropriated the apartment from Mary, his girlfriend. The lies he’d used to secure “his” apartment from her (and her two young boys) were far more conventional. The kind of lies men have been using to control women for their own selfish ends since forever.
It wouldn’t be long before my good boy self would get yet another affirmation because of Mary. It would happen after Norfolk though. After another of Fred’s lies led to us all moving to Omaha, and well after I’d realized that Fred was lying to me all along about the band. Good boy me, got affirmed to me… by me throwing Fred out of “his” apartment, for Mary. “His” apartment in that city where a special kind of liar like him could really get something for himself.
That event would also eventually lead to me coming home to face some of the mess I’d left there. I would be home in Rochester, Minnesota by the following spring. The spring of 1979.
But there’s quite a bit more storytelling to go into first so…