One of the best fiction books ever written in my eyes was entitled “The Third Bullet” by the film critic of the Washington Post, Steven Hunter. It was written in 2013 and the hero, former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger – a totally fictitious guy – was called in to investigate one of the most enduring controversies of our time - the JFK assassination - in Dallas. The book is so good you can hardly put it down. I’ve read dozens of Hunter’s books – his writing style is influential (!) and while you know what you are reading is baloney, it is a bless-ed escape from reality.
I’m not one of these guys who gets into conspiracy theories, or the junk the extremists on both the right and the left try to peddle unmercifully.
Law, I’ve gotten where I dare not watch CNN or MSNBC and now that the “fake news” crowd is waltzing with the “woke,” may heaven help us all. What exasperates the whole tangle is that the “spin doctors” have gotten so good at deceit and the gullible public’s misdirection.
Take NY Governor Mario Cuomo as a great example of a successful smoke screen. The repugnant joker was outed in January when New Yorkers were shocked to learn that the actual COVID-19 death tolls in the state’s nursing homes were as much as 50 percent higher than what had previously been disclosed. The misreporting, which was revealed in a report released by New York Attorney General Tish James on January 28, meant that thousands of deaths may have gone uncounted. What’s more, many of these deaths occurred in the early days of the pandemic, as Cuomo told hospitals to send coronavirus-positive patients back to the facilities, leading to rapid spread of the virus. Okay?
But to show how crafty are those who slither and live under rocks, the spin doctors immediately show up with a parade of women who claim “the Gov” got a little frisky with the hands and “touched” them. Yes, scandalous sex sells a bunch more newspapers on Times Square Street corner than some who died from the pandemic. See how it works? What Cuomo did to dying people is absolutely criminal but to caress the flesh of a Lolita ain’t even a misdemeanor and gets Mario the Lecher’s Hall of Fame. And his “desires,” as they are called by the New York tabloids, mean nothing more than he is welcome to the 3 o’clock no-fold card game in the back room at Lefty’s. Who are you trying to kid? The jerk is gonna’ walk.
Now, let me have some fun with historical fiction. There is the most outlandish versions of the George Floyd fiasco making the rounds that you ever heard. This piecemeal story is good, not only because its creators have taken enough fact to carry the weave of fiction but because – get this – turning a criminal ‘hit’ into a racial upheaval disgrace is pure genius. I heard this macabre story over the weekend and again, please let me emphasize there is no credence to what you may want to believe after you read this. This is Disney, Hitchcock, grocery store-checkout line pulp. All of this can be deemed smoke-and mirrors, the old bait-and-switch, three-card monte’, the con … yet you’re the judge.
I promise … You ain’t heard nothing like the Steven King-like fiction that is making the rounds with the George Floyd trial full ablaze. The gossip is that the place the true crime buffs to focus is on the counterfeit $20 that drugged-to-the-gills George tried to pass to buy some cigarettes. The cashier comes running out and yells he’s just been handed a bogus $20. That should have never, ever, happened, so say the make-up artists.
No, the bogus $20 was actually a “marked bill,” (yes!) that George was paid for taking out the garbage at his place of employment, which was once known as the El Nuevo Rodeo, a club for underworld types we are led to understand. It is also said a lot of “marked paper” came from the club. Everybody wishes they knew more but when George died on May 23, 2020, the rioters immediately pushed ‘guess what!’ -- the El Nuevo Rodeo -- on the “to do” list and it went up in flames just three days later. Fire burned really hot, too. That’s right – burned the building to the ground! Alas, it was a total loss.
According to the make-up artists – this ain’t come from me, no sir … skippy! You see, right across the Minnesota border into Canada is this little print shop was making counterfeit bucks for “a close neighbor.” You see, the Feds can trace money, particularly the bouncy kind, and when the seedy types … and the cartels … and the Chinese patrons … would stop by for some El Patron, their change would include “funny money.” Forget the dollar value … how it works is each bill has a serial number, the same number but who’s to check, and if some bad guy gets three $20s in change, or better yet, “Benjamins,” the cops simply “follow the money.” This is how cat-and-mouse works, don’t you see?
So, George was known to frequent Cup Foods, a neighborhood grocery at the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis. From the Land of Make-up and Pretend, the theory is anytime a store clerk spotted a bogus bill, it was to be treated as real cash. But it would be tossed into a cigar box under the counter and every so often a “Mr. Givens” or whoever would drop by, take the cash for processing, and it works better than any calling card ever would. Maybe not that way exactly, but it comes closer than you can.
George – no way he’s lucid – passes a rubber $20 for cigarettes right at 8:00 o’clock. A minute later the cashier comes running out and yells he’s just been handed a bogus $20. That should have never, ever, happened, say the make-up artists.
When George rolled up on May 23rd at 8:00 p.m, the clerk said Floyd was "awfully drunk", and "not in control of himself". The clerk spotted the bad bill, and followed George out to his car, demanding he give back the smokes. George refused. Somebody called the cops and, 8:08 p.m., officers Jim Kueng and Thomas Lane rolled onto the scene. George was in a bad way. He had enough fentanyl in him to kill three men. It was measured at a concentration of 11 nanograms per milliliter. Where he got it is unknown. Why he ingested so much is also unknown. Why he wasn’t already dead was unknown. But it would soon be learned he had so much fentanyl in his system his lungs were almost overflowing with drug-caused body fluids … “I can’t breathe” … you think!
As a second patrol car arrived with a Parks policeman driving, he was told to guard George’s car and watch the two occupants still in the car. The two officers, both in their first week of ‘street duty,’ called for an ambulance but it was a “casual call,” or something that really mean’s “no rush,” and the ambulance never arrived.
But at 8:17 p.m. a third cruiser rolled up with two most interesting officers arriving. Derek Chauvin, a 20-year-old veteran of MPD assumed control of the situation. Chauvin had worked a second job at El Nuevo Rodeo – imagine that – for 17 years but it was said Chauvin and Floyd didn’t know one another “because he worked inside and George was a bouncer outside.” Please! The other officer was Tou Thao, a Hmong American, which is to say he immigrated to the United States from Laos, or the Southeast Asia region.
An insider tickle: In 2010 Chauvin escorted a suspect to the Minneapolis' Hennepin County Medical Center for a medical clearance and became smitten to a radiology tech. Kellie and Derek were married in 2010. What is ironic is that Kellie is also a Hmong American -- which is to say she immigrated to the United States from Laos, or the Southeast Asia region -- and her maiden name is … Thao. Her lawyer says she and officer Thao are not brother-sister. C’mon, man, like the woman says … “Minneapolis is a big city.”
At 8:19 p.m. Floyd was wrestled into a patrol car but constantly said, “I can’t breathe. At 8:20 p.m. he was taken out of the patrol car and Chauvin knelt with his knee on Floyd’s neck for a well-publicized nine minutes and 29 seconds. An unconscious Floyd was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. It is believed these were his last words …
* * *
THE LAST WORDS OF GEORGE FLOYD
(NOTE: This transcription was exported from Officer Derek Chauvin’s body camera and was filed with Hennepin County District Court on July 7, 2020. It was obtained as a manuscript by the New York Times shortly after it was filed)
GEORGE FLOYD: “I’m through, though. I'm claustrophobic. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. I need some water or something, please. Please? I can't breathe officer.
DEREK CHAUVIN: “Then stop talking, stop yelling.”
FLOYD: “You're going to kill me, man.”
CHAUVIN: “Then stop talking, stop yelling, it takes a heck of a lot of oxygen to talk.”
FLOYD: “C’mon, man … I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe. Ah … they’ll kill me! They’ll kill me. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe!” (Please, who is “they?”)
FLOYD: “Ah! Ah! Please! Please! Please!”
THOMAS LANE: “Should we roll him on his side?”
CHAUVIN: “No, he stays put … where we got him.”
LANE: “Just worry about the excited delirium … or whatever.”
CHAUVIN: “Well, that’s why we got the ambulance coming.”
LANE: “Okay … I suppose.”
(According to the certified transcript, George Floyd said nothing more.)
* * *
So, in this my first try at historical fiction, it is almost believable, huh?
What do you think? Should I write a book?