My Uncle Rick Tricked a Guy Into Thinking He Was Killing Him One Time
Pro tip: tying a bunch of rocks to a dude and threatening to throw him in the river WILL freak him the fuck out.
Uncle Rick is a 49-year-old man from Detroit, Michigan currently living with his sister and her husband on a one acre piece of land approximately 20 minutes outside of San Antonio, Texas. It’s a slow, sparse part of the state. That’s good because there are not a lot of people in the area. And that’s good because that means there’s a less likely chance that he will kill somebody.
I suppose there are two Uncle Ricks that exist. There’s the Good Uncle Rick, whom I grew up underneath, the biggest and toughest of a family of six brothers and one sister. Good Uncle Rick’s first instinct always seemed to be to protect, which he was very good at because he was carved out of granite. Nothing made you feel safer than being with him. Having him behind you was like having your own personal terminator.
But there’s also the Bad Uncle Rick, whom I only ever saw glimpses of before I moved cities. Bad Uncle Rick’s first instinct always seemed to be to destroy. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve watched the reverb of his past life vibrate his current one, the more interested I’ve become in learning about Bad Uncle Rick. Crimes and criminals are involved, felonious and malevolent. Jails and prisons and police officers and police chases are involved. Drugs and drug using and drug dealing are involved. So on and so on and so on.
This column will be about that. There will be music embedded into it for you to listen to while you read, a specific soundtrack for each particular story offered by Uncle Rick.
The way that somebody cries when they think they’re about to be murdered is different than a normal cry. It’s more broken. It’s defeated. There’s no hope in the sound. I guess it’s not something that a lot of people get to hear, so let me tell you: It’s really something.
This was the idea we had: We were gonna tie this guy up to a bunch of rocks and then throw him in the river. That’s it. That was the whole idea. Me and my brother were gonna do that. There was a version floating around where we took the guy and tied a belt around his neck and then attached it to the bumper of a car. But that never happened. Or, if it did, it was us that did it. We were throwing him in the river. That’s us.
The guy, he was this lowlife liar and thief. He was also my brother-in-law. I’ll call him Eric for this story.
Eric was just a very amoral person. I mean, I was a criminal. I was doing criminal stuff. But it was different. Eric didn’t care. You’d invite him over to your house, he’d try and steal all your shit when you turned around. He’d lie dead in your face. He was always trying to get over on people. He was always around because we were living with my wife’s mom, but I tried to keep a distance from him. We had—we had a professional relationship, I’ll call it. I used to have him do stuff for me. I’d send him here or there to steal this or that—usually I’d pay him in meth. I was dealing meth for a good bit, but that’s a different story. With Eric, I’d send him to rob something and pay him a twenty of meth and then go and sell what I had him get me for a few hundred bucks. I guess sometimes I was amoral, too.
With the river thing, let me be clear here: We didn’t want to kill Eric. We wanted to teach him a lesson. We were just gonna scare him some; let him drink a little water. But he didn’t know that. He thought he was gonna die. When all that was happening, he cried like he was a man looking at the unfortunate end of his even more unfortunate life. It’s crazy to me how that works. He was a nothing. He didn’t contribute anything to anything. And he knew that. He knew he was no good. But when he was gonna be murdered he sure did seem to think himself worthy of being alive. Roaches run away from danger by instinct. I guess this was the same.
Anyway, this is when I was in my mid-20s. It was 1988 or ‘89. This whole thing actually started because I was building this hot rod Volkswagen. I’d done a bunch of work on this house and that’s how they paid me. They paid me with a fucking car. That’s just how things worked backed then. I mean, you didn’t get paid in cars for everything. This wasn’t a community that ran on a car-based currency. I just mean that the neighborhood—this was Valley Hi in San Antonio; it was a poorer area, but it wasn’t desolate like Detroit was. It was mostly just Mexican families that lived there trying to make. So the neighborhood, it didn’t have a lot of money in it, so people just worked things out like that.
But so now I have this car. And I loved it. We fixed it all up. Got it painted, a bad ass sound system, all that. So one day my brother Jesse and I are cruising around. We’re drinking, have a good time. We grab Eric because he’s there. And that was a mistake.
We stop at this corner store and Jesse gets out and he’s walking in and I guess some guy says something to him. Jesse, he was quick to get after it. He liked to fight. He’d hit you with a stick, stab you, whatever. That’s just how we were raised. And I wasn’t afraid to fight, so a lot of times us hanging out was really just us waiting to fight someone. The guy has a weapon or something so Jesse runs back to car and grabs this buck knife. He chases the guy around the corner; I’m there with them now. And there are three dudes back there about to jump on Jesse. I take out my gun—I’d just bought this .22 pistol. It was perfect. It was small enough that you could carry it in your pocket without anyone noticing it.
I whip the gun out and the dudes, they just fly off, take off running. That’s when I noticed there were these cops across the street at a carwash. I see ‘em so I’m like, “Come on! Let’s go!” We get back to the car and I’m thinking we need to just get far enough in front of them that we can ditch the gun. But they pull up on us real quick, I try to duck down into this alley and it’s a fucking dead end. That’s my luck, man. The cops jump out, they’ve got their guns drawn, they’re screaming at us. They rip us out of the car, throw us down on the ground. They’d just repaved the road and I wasn’t wearing a shirt so that gravel was eating up my chest.
The cop that was on me, I don’t know if he was new or what but he was real nervous. I’m like, “You’re shaking, man! Hey! Hey! Don’t fucking shoot me!”
Actually, yeah, I’m pretty sure he was new. One of the things you learn when you go to jail is that when you’re out and you’re gonna do a crime, you try and do it around shift change. That’s when the police head back to the station so there are fewer of them out. In Valley Hi, shift change during the day was 3 p.m. They call it “the freeze.” I’d been in jail a few times already by that point; public intoxication, moving violations, burglary. Nothing too serious, but often enough to be able to recognize the police.
But so they search the car and they find the knife and the gun. And that’s when Eric starts. He’s over there screaming about how he didn’t have anything to do with it, that it was me and Jesse. He didn’t have to say shit. They had everything. He just offered that up. That’s not something that you do.
So the cops take me and Jesse to jail. And we’re fuming. We knew right then we were gonna get him back. Not just for selling us out like that, but for all the shit he’d done.
We’re not in there too long; they let us go pretty quick. We didn’t see Eric for a while. He was just gone. He probably knew we were gonna fuck him up. A week goes by and we finally end up across Eric. We act like nothing’s nothing. We tell him we’re gonna go get some beers, smoke some weed. Of course he says he wants to come. That’s the type of guy he was.
Once we get out there though—there’s nobody there, mind you. Once we get out there, we start laying into him, digging him up for what he did. I’m like, “Fuck it! Get on your knees!” We throw him down on his knees. We start gathering these big ass rocks and we get the rope. He’s started crying. He’s like, “Don’t fucking kill me. Don’t kill me. Please.” Really, we probably could’ve pretty easily. He had ripped off so many people that even if they found him in the river they’d have never tied it to us.
We never threw him in. We just let him lay there for 30 minutes tied to rocks thinking he was gonna die. Maybe that was worse.
Shea Serrano is a writer living in Houston. He's on Twitter - @SheaSerrano