Author’s Note: First off this is NOT about “Kill Bill” the movie. Secondly, sadly, this is ALL true.
“What do you mean ‘Bill’s dead?’”
“I mean…Bill. Is. Dead.”
“Yeah. Like Ministry says, he’s ‘The Dead Guy.’”
I own a dog walking company in New York City, the busiest “dog-city” in the world. It’s a small company but it pays the bills and it’s an enjoyable business. I’ve got 5 employees, including my wife, my sister, and myself.
Dog walking is an odd job. It’s a ubiquitous thing in New York, like being groped in the subway, or a hot dog vendor selling $17 hot pretzels with mustard. It’s everywhere. But for all its far-flung reach it’s still a fringe profession. When you say you’re a dog walker people look at you like you just said you clean windshields for a living or collect and eat cans for the fiber. And its main proponents don’t help. They’re mostly societal rejects – stoners, schizos, alkies, loners, losers, students, immigrants, retirees, animal advocates, and general freaks – essentially anyone who can’t hold a job. It’s not unusual to see a burned out dog walker being dragged down the street, spidered into a net of dogs like a screaming, barking, salivating dervish, cursing the god who invented $20 vials of crack and dog poop. And the clients aren’t far behind. It takes a certain kind of person to hire a dog walker. Actually it takes 2 kinds:
1. The basic dog lover: This person understands and respects their pet and feels like they owe it to their dog to make sure that its needs are met. They’ve made a commitment to another living creature by taking it into their home and they have every intention of living up to that commitment. Fortunately, these are most of our clients. Then there’s the other.
2. The freak-ass, co-dependent, needy, crazy-assed dog lover who’s transferred the love and attention they would normally lavish on the radiant fruit of their loins onto a poor fuckin’ unsuspecting shitzu, mostly because they can’t find somebody equally fucking crazy to mate with: These crazy bastards make up the rest of them.
As you can imagine, trying to run a reputable dog walking business for fun and profit under these circumstances can be a ball. (read: Big Laffs!!)
And it’s a weird thing to have keys to people’s homes. You try to come and go quietly, disturbing as little as possible. The idea is to be a wraith, make it seem as though no one has ever been there and leave behind total peace when you go. That way no one ever feels like, “Hmmm… someone’s been here.” But it can be disturbing to see slices of people’s lives. The things they own, the things they forget about cleaning up; the secrets we all hide from one another. When you first begin walking a dog, things are different. The owners are polite. They straighten up the rooms and put all their illegal substances neatly away. Dishes are done and dogs have pretty bows. There are few mysterious sticky spots on the floor. But before you know it the rooms get a little messier. Dishes begin to stack. Laundry trails out of the bedroom and finds its way to front the door. Pretty soon they become casual enough to forget that anyone comes during the day at all. That’s when the fun starts. Little things begin to make an appearance. Dirty underwear. Porn. Joints and roaches in the ashtrays. Mirrors with razor blades and funny powder still sitting on them. Dildos, strap ons, and vibrators. Bank statements. Wads of cash. Open journals. Dead bodies.
It’s this last category that makes the most trouble.
It happened 2 months after I’d started walking dogs. My wife had been running her dog walking business for a year and needed help. It was either hire a walker or have me come on. So of course I told my boss to go fuck himself, lit a match, and threw it behind me. Then I started on the illustrious path to dog walking.
It was fall and we’d taken on a new client, a young, professional, gay couple with a large rottweiler named Joe. Bill and Floyd, I’ll never forget them. We’d only walked Joe a few times when they called in for a pet sit, meaning they’d be out of town and we’d be visiting Joe twice a day while they were gone. The first visit was scheduled for Friday night.
I walked in to the darkened apartment on Friday and Joe met me at the door. He seemed anxious but dogs always get fidgety when their “parents” are out of town, so I ignored it. I’d only taken three steps into the apartment to retrieve his leash so I didn’t get much of a look around before we went out. The walk went as usual, 10 minutes out, 10 minutes back. Pretty straight forward. We got back to the apartment, though, and right away something was wrong.
NOTE: Now, this was a huge fucking place. Pre-war building, three bedrooms (which is unusual for New York) long hallways, high ceilings, dining room, big-ass eat-in kitchen. Not your standard Manhattan apartment.
Ok, so the front door opened onto a long, 30-foot or so darkened hallway that opened onto a small black living room. The back of the two-person couch was to me and it faced the television, so I could see the screen. The television was on but the screen was dark. The vague illumination projected all the available light in the house. The screen was black except for the ghostly green word “VIDEO” in the upper right hand corner. And even worse I could just make out a vague, lumpy silhouette on the couch.
Very fucking creepy.
I reached for the light switch.
Shit, no switch.
I had no idea where the switch was, there are odd shapes in the dark, ghostly TV’s, and now I’m pretty sure I’m in a movie where the dog walker walks in, looks around and gets iced by an evil puppet. Where the fuck is Karen Black? I was starting to get REALLY creeped out.
The shape could easily have been a jacket, but I couldn’t be sure. Man, I was really hoping it was a jacket. Maybe they lent their apartment out to a friend who fell asleep watching the TV. I called out just in case.
All right, now I was just fucking with myself. This is crazy. We have procedures for this kind of thing (run, call the cops, cry) but I decided I didn’t feel like being laughed at by cops barging in and finding a jacket on the couch, a hungry dog, and a dog walker shaking like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. So I decided it was just a jacket and left for the night. I’d be back in the morning when I could see better.
The next day I arrived and Joe the dog was fully agitated. Not good. I ignored the long hallway, averting my eyes, and headed for the nearby kitchen, instead. I fed Joe in the kitchen and decided it was time to see what was what. I walked to the dark hallway, now a little better lit from a nearby window, and looked to the living room. TV’s still on. Jacket’s still on the couch.
I walk a little closer. Now the jacket’s not a jacket. What the hell is that? Looks like it could be a mannequin. Why the fuck would they have a dummy?
(Please God, no evil puppets.)
Another few steps. Maybe it is a jacket.
Another few steps. Looks like a guy. Maybe it’s a drunken neighbor.
Hmmm, wait a minute. It’s definitely a dummy. Why the fuck do they have a dummy? Now I’m at the living room entrance and the couch is 3 feet from me. Oh shit. That’s not a dummy.
It’s a guy.
Now I’m in the room, standing in front of the couch. The TV’s still on. There’s a bottle of diet coke on the floor. There’s a dead guy on the couch. Oh fuck.
His arms are spread over the back of the couch like a guy on a date. He’s in a t-shirt and shorts and his head is leaning waaay too far back. Scary far back. His skin is a mottled red and gray. Fuck.
Ok, wait. Get a grip. Maybe he’s not dead.
Maybe if I hit him with something. I look around. There’s a hairbrush on the table. Ok, if Bill’s alive he’s gonna be really mad. I take a breath, jump in the air, and whack the shit out of his leg.
Oh fuck. Bill’s dead.
I reach for my cell phone, still staring at Bill, and dial my wife.
“What do you mean ‘Bill’s dead?’”
“I mean…Bill…Is…Dead. You know how you do that thing where you breath? He’s not doing that.”
“Yeah. Like Ministry says, he’s ‘The Dead Guy.’”
“Damn. What are you gonna do? Damn.”
“I guess I’ll call the cops. They’re gonna think I did it. I’ll totally be the first fucking suspect.”
And I was.
The cops got there an hour later, leaving me to hang with Bill for a while. Oddly, it wasn’t creepy now. As much a fan as I am of horror movies, I never once think about zombies. (‘Till the week after, that is. Then I’m thoroughly convinced that Bill walks the earth and is eating human flesh.) I just hang out with Joe and head to the kitchen. An hour later four of New York’s Fattest walk in carrying coffee cups, assess the situation, question me, instantly assume I’ve killed Bill, and begin touching his stuff. They smoke cigars in the house, play Floyd’s guitars, and touch big wads of cash that were in the bedroom. They laugh and joke, stupidly and loudly, never once being considerate of me or Bill’s home or, hell, even the crime-scene! (Cigars – Jesus Christ! “Uh yeah chief, we have reason to believe the killer smoked cheap ass cigars, mostly because there’s FUCKING CIGAR ASH EVERYWHERE!!”) IDIOTS! All the while I keep telling them that they’ve gotta find Floyd. PLEASE find Floyd. No response. It’s like talking to idiots. An hour later Floyd calls and begins to leave a message. I begin yelling:
“That’s Floyd!! Pick it up!! Pick it up!!
5 seconds have gone by.
“Pick up the phone!” That’s the boyfriend!”
10 seconds now.
“GET THE PHONE!!!!”
About 20 seconds have now gone by since I heard Floyd’s voice. He’s about to hang up. Finally a young Hispanic cop gets the phone and rudely says, “Hello? This is the police. Yes, you’ll have to come home immediately.”
Crack team of fuckin idiots.
After 6 hours and the addition of several teams of paramedics and detectives, and while I waited in the lobby with the huge, sweet natured rottweiler that all the cops were afraid of, they come to the conclusion that Bill had died of an overdose. Probably one that was self-inflicted. (Read: Suicide. This was corroborated by a note later found.) Floyd has arrived and is being questioned. He’s clueless and totally freaked out. Some more cops, detectives this time, take another statement from me and my wife (who’s there by this time) and I’m off the hook. But now I’m just pissed.
I’m pissed at these suck-ass, supposed professionals who can’t enter a crime scene and conduct an investigation in a dignified manner.
I’m pissed that I was a suspect, although I understand it.
And mostly I’m pissed at Bill.
I was setup.
This whole thing was planned and I was a pawn. I realized later that Bill’d left not only a payment for us and a little note that sounded a bit ominous, but he left A $10 TIP for me along with his payment! A little “sorry for going to prison for my fucking murder” money! (“Don’t forget to take this 10 bucks and buy cigarettes, Bitch, cause you’re gonna need ‘em! They’re money in prison!”)