This adventure started on Saturday morning Jan. 11th, 2014. I received a call from a young man that I’ve known his entire life, but haven’t had much contact with for many years.
Johnny, as I’ll call him here, said he was down on his luck and could I give him some work. Being in Corpus Christi, 250 miles from Bertram, I said no I really didn’t have any work.
I cut the conversation pretty short. A few minutes later I got a text from Johnny. Would I loan him $300. The answer was “NO”.
Telling my wife about the call a few minutes later, she reminded me that we really needed to do some tree trimming and it is that time of year. Nothing to difficult, mostly just striping sucker growth from trunks.
I called Johnny back and told him to go out, take a look and call me to give me a price. That’s when the excuses started.
“But I don’t have gas”………”I don’t have a ride”……….”I need some money to pay my rent and get something to eat before I can go out there”.
I said “Johnny let’s just call this off. I am withdrawing my offer”
“But you can’t do me this way, I really need the work”.
“Johnny you are doing it to yourself”, then the phone went CLICK as I hung it up.
I while later I received a call – “I’m out at your place”…….I’m ready to go to work, I’ll get it done, I’ll do you a good job”
Okay Johnny, how much are you going to charge me?
“Ah, ah, ah ……….…… $300”.
Okay, how long will it take you? “
“Ah, ah, ah………. I’ll have it finished by 5:00 o’clock.”
“Johnny, it’s 1:00 o’clock now. So you expect me to pay you $75 per hour to trim suckers off of my trees?”
“Yes sir, but I have a friend here to help me”
The bells immediately went off in my head. Ding Ding Ding. This wasn’t what I had planned on.
“but I swear he is a good worker, I’ve known him for 10 years”.
I told him to get to work and I’d send the money on Monday morning, he should get it by Tuesday. “Can you just Western Union it to me”?
I then told him to get the trees trimmed and I’d get him the money that afternoon when he finished.
I had him to take photos before and would have him to do the same afterwards. Great plan huh.
I contacted my son, Mike, and ask him to go by my place with $100 in one envelope and $200 in another, and gave him instructions as to where to secretly hide each envelope. That would give me some flexibility on how much I would pay him.
Sorry job – $100
Mediocre job – $200
Good job – $300
At 5:00 o’clock I received a call that the job was complete. I requested the second round of pictures. I could tell that they weren’t trimmed as well as I would have liked, but there was a pretty good pile of limbs on the ground. Since I was just glad to have them out of there I told him where to go find each stash of money. Deal complete.
When I got to Bertram a few days later, being late at night I noticed a strange glow out by a tree. Wondering what it was, I decide to investigate. An extension cord with a lighted end and an electric chainsaw was left laying on the ground right by a trimmed tree. I left it, so I could take a picture the next morning when it was light.
When I got up and around the next morning I walked out to my shop where a new large Stihl chainsaw had been left. It was gone.
I called Johnny, to see if he knew anything about my missing chainsaw. Instead of asking straight out, I chatted for a minute then ask what they used to trim the trees. (I had really expected him to supply his own tools, since he operates a lawn service business)
“I only used some loppers I found out in your shop”.
Then real fast I said, “did you use my CHAINSAW”.
“No sir, I didn’t, I only used those loppers”. His focus went to the bright new $600 chainsaw.
I then said, “you didn’t use my little electric chainsaw”?
“Oh no, just a couple of pairs of loppers”
Being already committed, the lying really got underway. “Johnny, I’m sitting here looking at an electric chainsaw y’all left laying on the ground”.
“No sir I never saw a chainsaw” and then with additional pressuring it was “maybe my buddy may have used it”.
“Why are you lying to me, Johnny? Why don’t you admit you used it”? He wasn’t admitting anything that connected him to a chainsaw.
Then I dropped the bomb about the missing $600 chainsaw.
Deny deny deny.
Johnny who is the boy that was with you?
“Well his name is Turkey”
Well what is his real name?
“I think it’s Michael, but I don’t know his last name”.
“You’ve known him for 10 years and you don’t know his last name”
I swear I don’t know his name, but here is his cell phone number, xxx-xxx-xxxx.” then CLICK.
Fast forward to the morning of Sunday Jan. 19. I called Turkey from my Onstar phone, I didn’t know but what Johnny had tipped him off with what my cell number was. No answer. (I guess meth-heads don’t always get up early)
I had been told the general area of town that he lived in. I drove around hoping to make a connection through some other boys around town about the same age as Turkey. No luck.
I headed back home. Not willing to give up, I tried one last way to contact Turkey.
I texted him and said I heard he was a good tree trimmer and would he like to meet me and go look at a job. I didn’t hear back so I figured it was a lost cause.
I came home and placed a call to the Sheriffs Office to get them to send an officer so I could at least fill out a report and the serial number registered into the national database.
Shortly after hanging up with the Sheriff dispatcher, Turkey returned my text. “Yes I’m interested, where can we meet up”?
I told him I’d meet you at the city park so I could take him to show him what I had. I drove over to pick him up. Just then my wife called to say the deputy was at the house. I told her I’d be right back.
Shortly thereafter Turkey came sauntering down the street. I drove up to him and told him to get in.
He told me he didn’t have any tools, that if he did the work he’d need me to furnish him with the equipment. He had just sold everything so he could get money together to go to North Carolina for the birthday of his two year old son.
It became apparent to him that we were headed to a place he was familiar with. He said, “what’s going on here? Am I being accused of something?”
I said why do you ask? “Well I heard I was being accused of something I had nothing to do with”.
I told him to hang on, he’d find out shortly what was going on.
I could tell he was nervous. I stopped at the end of my long driveway, while waiting for the automatic gate to open, I took my iPad and said “here place both your hands on here so I can yet your complete hand prints in case you decide to jump out and run”. He placed his hands right there on the screen. I pretended to click and get a shot of them. I needed something to make myself feel good. Him being nervous was it.
As we drove up to the house and he saw the police car setting there, he said “I guess this means I’m going to jail”.
I told Turkey to just stay seated while I talked to the man. He did just as he was told. Dang now I wish I had put him under citizen arrest. I just didn’t think about it.
The officer and I visited for a while, as I went over everything that had happened. After a bit I told the Deputy that perhaps we should get the young man out before he soils my seat cover.
Upon questioning, he admitted they had used the electric chainsaw. In fact contrary to Johnny not knowing anything about using it, supposedly Johnny had rummaged around and found the long extension cord to power it with and had even used it part of the time.
As the officer was running his drivers license, Turkey and I chatted a bit. I had previously found him on FaceBook and there was a picture of him squatted down holding a small baby.
I ask him to spell his name for me as I pretended to type it in my iPhone, and shortly handed it to him with a screen shot of his baby and him and ask him if this was the baby he is trying to get back to North Carolina to see?
The miracles of technology !
After continuing out to the shop so he could show us exactly where all they had been and where everything was located, him spinning one lie after another, the officer put him in handcuffs. A warrant came back on a prior charge not connected to this case.
While I didn’t expect to ever see my chainsaw again, I feel like a message was sent to this young man to not ever come back on my property again. Hopefully this little meth addict will find his way to North Carolina and stay.
After spending considerable money to completely revamp my security system. Anytime someone drives up my driveway, I’ll get an alert on my iPhone. Every time someone walks up to my shop or to my house, they can give me a big smile, because they will be on camera.
That was my excitement for the day. How was yours?
BTW: why would I spend all the time to write this out to share with all you fine folks? Let’s just say I needed to write out a summary for the police report, and why waste it on them. No one there will probably ever read it.
Footnote to the story:
A few days later, after spending a bunch of money on improving my security system and purchasing another new $600 saw, the original one showed back up. It was hidden in some bushes out behind the shop. I suppose it had been stashed so they could return on foot later to get it. Or Johnny walked cross country to bring it back. Nothing could ever be seen on camera.
But now I had 2 nice new chainsaws.