© Copyright 2005 Kurt Snyder

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Games

One evening in late spring, I was sitting with Judy at their breakfast table in their home near Annapolis. She has a very long driveway that comes from the main road in a long curve up to the garage. From the table you can see a cars headlights coming up the driveway. Sometime in the early evening we were at the table talking, and we saw a car drive up. At the same time, one of the automatic garage doors opened. At first, we thought it was Woody coming home. Then the car drove off. We confirmed with Woody that it was not him. We wondered who had opened the garage door. Later that same week, Judy reported that the garage door opened again and neither Judy nor Woody had opened it. It seemed that someone else had the ability to open their garage door. Judy and Woody quickly decided to have the garage door openers replaced. I wondered whether this incident was some kind of game like the doll and the ribbon I found in my truck.

Another month passed. It was now June 1999. I had tried my best to forget about any surveillance issues, but the truth was, they were still a significant part of my everyday thoughts. Sometime around June 12, Woody and Judy asked me if I would do a special project for them. Their daughter, Melissa, who lived in New York City, wanted a special piece of antique furniture that was located at Woody and Judy's house near Annapolis. They asked me if I would transport it in my van to their daughter's apartment in New York. I said "Sure, I'll do it."

I happened to be working late at Woody and Judy's house the day before I was scheduled to go to New York. To save a trip the next day, we decided to load the furniture into the van that night. It was about 10:30 at night. We put the piece in the van and I left. On my way home, I stopped for gas at a local gas station. While I was filling up the tank, a young man approached me and said, "I'm stranded out here, could you give me a ride to downtown Annapolis?" I thought, Downtown Annapolis is only a few minutes out of my way. I said "Where do you want to go downtown?". The place he mentioned was not a very good neighborhood. I did not want to drive there at night. I looked at him carefully. He was wearing a tee shirt and gym shorts. He didn't seem to have any pockets. I thought he looked harmless. I said "I won't take you where you want to go, but I'll drop you off at the hospital, that's only a few blocks away from there...you can walk the rest of the way." He said, "OK". I finished filling up the van, and we left.

In ten or fifteen minutes, we were already downtown and only a few blocks from the hospital. I couldn't remember which street to turn on. I turned down the wrong street, only one block short of the correct one. Immediately, I realized my error, and I stopped the van to decide what to do. My passenger said something, I looked over, and I saw he was holding a knife in his right hand with a blade about four or five inches long. I thought, "Great! Where the hell did he get that?" I quickly put my hands up and started to focus on his hand with the knife. At first, I was not listening to him, I was only focusing on the knife. I could not get out of the van because I had my seatbelt on. I was not about to reach down to undo the seatbelt because I would be putting my guard down. He was screaming something at me. I finally understood he was saying "Put your hands on the dashboard!". I said to him "There is NO WAY I am going to put my hands on the dashboard. You can forget it." He said again, "Put your hands on the dashboard!" I then leaned across towards him and tried to grab the hand that was holding the knife. He moved his hand back and easily kept it out of my reach. It was a long way across both seats. He said, "What's the matter with you? Do you want me to stab you or something?" I said "No sir, I don't want you to stab me, but I AM NOT going to put my hands on the dashboard!" I tried to grab the knife hand again, but was unsuccessful. He screamed something else at me, I don't know what. I tried to think of something to confuse him. I said "I'm an undercover police officer." He said nothing. He reached over with his left hand and undid my seatbelt. I waited a few seconds while I watched him carefully and kept my focus on the knife. I saw a chance to get out, and I took it. I quickly exited the van. I ran about twenty feet away from the van and turned around to look. I thought, "Damn, I left the keys in the van!" The van was not moving. I thought, maybe he won't steal the van. I decided to run to the hospital to call the police as fast as I could. I made it to the hospital in about one minute, went straight past the sign in booth to a back room. I told a nurse what happened and she let me use a phone to call 911.

A police officer arrived at the hospital within 5 minutes. I explained to the officer what happened. He got on the radio and said, "I think we found your van already...come with me." Apparently, the guy with the knife had driven the van away and was driving through red lights on his way out of town. Another officer had spotted the van and had been chasing it for several miles. I got in the officer's car and we drove to where the van had been stopped. It had run off the road into the woods and crashed into a streambed. It was totaled beyond repair. The driver was nowhere to be seen. He had fled into the woods.

The police brought in dogs, and a helicopter with powerful searchlights, but they could not find the thief. The police would not let me go near the van until after the dogs had finished searching the area. This took about an hour. All I could think about was Judy and Woody's furniture in the back of the van. I wondered what kind of damage had occurred to it. I was embarrassed that I was so stupid. Other than that, I did not feel very stressed by the whole situation. I thought, "So I was stupid, oh well." I did not think "I could have gotten killed!" I did not think 'I could have gotten stabbed!" I did not think much about my personal safety at all. What I did think was "I should have waited for him to try to climb over the seat of the van, then he would have been at a disadvantage!"

At about 1 am, the police let me inspect my van. The furniture was damaged, but not significantly. I thought I could repair it. The police called a tow truck on my behalf. In the meantime, I called some close friends in Annapolis and asked them to get my other truck from my apartment. They got to the scene about 2 am and helped me move the furniture from the van to the truck. The next morning, I continued with my plan to take the furniture to New York.

I drove up to New York in a few hours. Judy and Woody had already given me the keys to Melissa's Apartment. When I arrived, Melissa was at work. I moved the furniture inside and then immediately got to work repairing it. All that was needed was some wood glue and clamps to secure a paneled door. Later that day, Melissa came home and we went out together for dinner. I told her what had happened to me the night before. She insisted that I call and tell her mother immediately upon returning to the apartment. In the meantime, I found out from a friend in Annapolis that there was already an article in the local Annapolis newspaper detailing what happened to me. It seemed that the press had read the police reports from the night before and was able to get an article into the morning newspaper. I did not know exactly what was in the article when I called Judy. I expected Judy to be upset that I had given a ride to a stranger while I was transporting their special piece of furniture. I tried to avoid telling her that part of the story. If I recall, I tried to invent a little white lie to cover up my stupidity. However, I had told the police the truth about what happened, and everything I had described was in the newspaper article. Judy had the local newspaper at home and after reading the article, she called me back to question what had happened. I then had to admit to her the truth. I was sure she and Woody would be upset with me. Later, neither Judy nor Woody was angry with me, and I was relieved.

Part of the deal of delivering the furniture to New York involved an understanding with Melissa that I would be able to spend a few days at her apartment and just enjoy the city. During those days, there was another handyman named Joe doing a small wall repair job at her apartment. Melissa told me he would be coming. Joe said he was working for the landlord. He came to the apartment twice while I was there to spackle over a hole in the wall in the stairwell leading to the basement. While he was doing his job, Joe and I started talking, and we compared our experience on the various jobs we had done over the years. After he finished, we spent maybe another half an hour talking. Somehow the subject of crime became a topic during our conversation. I told him what had happened to me a few days earlier with the stranger, the knife, and my van. He said to me, "Maybe this guy with the knife was a hitman". I said, "No, I don't really think so. I don't have anybody who's out to get me. Besides, he had the opportunity to stab me several times, and he didn't". He said, "You can't make those kind of assumptions in this game." I said, "What game?" He said, "Forget it. what I meant to say is life. The whole thing is about not making assumptions. How do you know he wasn't a hitman?" I said "He just didn't seem like a hitman." Joe said, "You couldn't tell if he was or not. I know a hitman named Larry Schorer. On the outside, he seems like the nicest guy in the world. On the inside, he's an empty shell, cold as hell. You'd never know it by looking at him or by talking to him. That's how they get close. So you don't really know what this guy wanted. Maybe he wanted to kill you. Maybe he wanted your van. Maybe he wanted your money. You just don't know. The next time something unusual happens, don't make assumptions, Instead try to figure out what the game is. If you figure out the game, you'll be on the fast track." "Ok. I'll take it under consideration." I thought to myself, "He kept mentioning the 'game'. What did he really mean? What kind of game was he talking about?"

© Copyright 2005 Kurt Snyder

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