Charlie Ronald

{Disclaimer: The name Charlie Ronald was chosen arbitrarily to represent another person whose identity will not be revealed.  I know no person named Charlie Ronald, and any similarities to anyone named Charlie Ronald are purely coincidental.}

“When I decided that I was going to hurt Charlie Ronald,” Dean M. Schwertley told me in the visitation room of the Douglas County Detention Center. “I was as shocked as anyone else that knows me. It wasn’t an impulsive act, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t remember the exact moment when I made this decision. It was just a thought I had that managed to worm its way through all of my other thoughts, until it was all I could think about. I’ve never experienced anything like that. It convinced me that once a horrific thought like that is seeded in the brain –depending on what drove the person to think about it in the first place, I guess– it can be difficult to stop.

“The thing that kept me up at night, with these thoughts,” Dean said. “Was that no one considered Charlie Ronald a bad guy? I think that has something to do with the idea that Charlie Ronald doesn’t fit the mold of a bad guy. We can all see some of ourselves in a Charlie Ronald, but he is a bad guy. He’s the type that those of us that try to live honest and virtuous lives cringe at, when we realize that the deception a Charlie Ronald type engages in, leads them to living better lives than the rest of us. I thought that someone needed step up and do something to bring order back to the universe, and when I say universe, I don’t mean universe. I mean my little world, my little universe of people, and my universal definition of order, where people act and interact with one another in a more honest, and open manner. The order that calls for people to live as honest as possible to contribute to that order. I’m talking about a universe so tenuously balanced that one chink can throw off the magnetic relationships one has to the others around him that can lead to a whole chain of unintended consequences.

“Seeing Charlie Ronald succeed in all of the duplicitous ways he did, with no ramifications, was the equivalent to me, at least, of seeing the Sun fall off its axis with no discernible consequences to the rest of our universe. It made no sense to me. The fiber of Charlie Ronald’s being, and his eventual success as a result of it, was a denunciation of the order I knew, and everything I had been taught by those that established and fortified my definition of order, and he did it all with a twinkle in his eye.

“Was he a handsome man? A number of women told me that he was. ‘Sorry,’ they said when they saw my expression. ‘He just is.’

“Was he a smart guy? He appeared to be, but in a total summation of a man’s character, I would say that a measure of one’s intellect matters far less than how that person uses that gift. Charlie Ronald used his gift to deceive people. I’ve witnessed the lives of intellectually gifted people, we all have, and we’ve all seen these people patiently wait for that opportunity to arise when they can display their wares. I’ve also witnessed some intellectually gifted types fail to ever arrive at such an opportunity. If one could declare Charlie Ronald intellectually gifted, and a good guy that patiently waited for his opportunity to arise, he got impatient. I wouldn’t apply the term intellectually gifted to the man, but my perspective is jaded, and I’ve come to believe that he deceptively, and proactively, decided to fill in all the blanks between smart and intellectually gifted for those that knew him, but probably didn’t pay enough attention. I think he decided to create opportunities for himself, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I consider that such an admirable trait that it’s worthy of mimicry if, and I say if, an individual achieves such a place honestly.

“‘I’d just like to take a moment here,’” Dean stated that he said in a meeting behind closed doors with Charlie Ronald, before the managers of the other department, that had set up this meeting, could arrive. “‘To tell you that I know what you’re up to.’

“I could’ve listed off all of the characteristics I witnessed, for Charlie, and how I knew he was a no good, conniving S.O.B. that sought shortcuts to getting all that he wanted, but I knew doing so would’ve offered him a chance to refute each charge with half-truths and obfuscation. Charlie Ronald knew I was an observant person, and I knew how powerful a statement like, ‘I know what you’re up to’ would be to a deceptive person that seeks to undermine the process a Charlie Ronald-type does with the half-truths they tell people to get ahead. I also knew, as a former, dishonest person, on a much lower scale, that a statement like that would’ve absolutely hobbled me from an observant person.

“‘‘Whaddya think you know, Dean Schwertley’ Charlie Ronald asked me with a James Bond-like smile and soft giggle.

“I allowed a space to follow this in which all of the details could’ve come bursting out of me. I allowed the speculation to dance in his head. ‘I see you do it every day Charlie Ronald,’ and I allowed the possibilities of the word ‘it’ to play around in his head for a bit before adding, ‘and I just want you to know that someone that knows is watching.’ He had a twinkle in his eye. That twinkle suggested to me that he enjoyed this wordplay, as if we were playing chess, and it was his move. The competitive part of me would’ve loved to hear what came out of his mouth next. Would he confess to it, in a smarmy, half-truth manner that suggested that I was jealous? Would he suggest that he isn’t doing anything that anyone else in his position would do? Would he have denied it all and put the onus of convicting him on the table before me. I don’t know, and we’ll never know, because the managers from the other department arrived, conveniently disrupting our verbal chess match before the two of us could complete this little match of the minds. I don’t know if it would’ve changed anything, but I think it may have devolved into me telling him exactly what I knew. I didn’t want to do that, as I said. I wanted my little sneak peak in his brain, procreating other thoughts in his head, until he thought I knew things I didn’t actually know. I wanted him paranoid, as I thought that might become a better person as a result.

“In the aftermath of that boardroom confrontation, I did get some respect from Charlie Ronald in that he was wary of me. I saw the smile he shared with others fall flat when he spotted me, and I saw him avoid walking down the same halls that he saw me coming down, but in a number of other ways, he stepped up his game. It’s impossible to remove that little boardroom confrontation from the equation of all that would occur later, but I swear that he stepped up his game in the aftermath. He became more ambitious and more conniving in his pursuits, and he became more successful as a result.

“As a good Catholic student, I had fears and guilt imbued in me by nuns. They informed me of greater consequences in this life, and in the life beyond. They spoke of my character flaws, and if you’ve ever had a nun as a teacher, you know that most of the ‘come to Jesus’ sessions they have with you in the hall can be grueling, reoccurring, and very confrontational. One nun informed me, at very high volume, that my character flaws would eventually come back to bite me if I didn’t come correct. She was so amped, so often, that by the time I graduated junior high, I was too afraid to cheat on tests and assignments. In my naiveté, I believed that there was greater valor in failing a test than in cheating to succeed. When I lied, in my post-junior high school life, I thought everyone could see through my lies. When I hurt people with words and actions, I was sure that I would experience some form of tangible retribution. Another nun, a Sister Mary Lawrence, considered it her mission in life, for two straight years, to shape me up in a way that would ready me for the life that occurred after I left her classroom. This woman terrified me, and she tortured me into fearing the road of dishonest and immoral I was heading down. I may have had some guilt prior to entering the fifth grade, but once I left her sixth grade classroom, I was terrified that even those not paying attention to me knew everything I was doing.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I became the most honest and virtuous man that ever left Sister Mary Lawrence’s classroom intact, but for everything I became, Charlie Ronald became the exact opposite. He became the 80’s movie visage Oliver Stone had of the corporate villain that is willing to cheat and lie his way to the top, and for Charlie Ronald, at least, it worked.

When it came to job interviews, I was 100%, to my own detriment at times, honest. I thought that those interviewing me would know, or that they’d see right through me, or that Sister Mary Lawrence would take me out into the hall and scream at me some more, or God would strike me down with a lightning bolt, or I’d live in the afterlife of fire and brimstone. Charlie Ronald, as evidence by his ability to lie about his technical proficiency, lived with none of these fears. He lived with the idea that if he could get away with fooling the person sitting right in front of him, there were no greater consequences to doing so, and that there would be nothing but rewards for doing so.

“These interviews meant everything to me, and I probably should’ve been prescribed anxiety medication for all the mental duress the thought of such character analysis caused me. To Charlie Ronald, it presumably meant little to nothing. On the off chance that they discovered that he was fibbing, he would just submit his resume to another department. The most agonizing conclusion I took away from my intimate and parallel interactions with Charlie Ronald were that he acted in a manner that stood in direct contrast to everything I my mentors taught me about the ways of the world. This resulted in him not only proving that his ways were more advantageous in the short-term, but there didn’t appear to be any greater consequences for it. Charlie Ronald rattled the magnetic core of my universe, and I thought that someone had to step in and right all the wrongs he committed on a daily basis.

“I can only guess that Charlie Ronald had to be an atheist, for who would go about flaunting immoral ways of thinking but a person that has no fear of greater consequences. I don’t want to condemn atheists unilaterally, but I’ve found that they’re more susceptible to the idea that and long as he’s not breaking any laws, and they’re not hurting anyone, there are fewer ramifications to living dishonestly. Unless, that is, he’s worried about what others think of him, which from everything I could see of Charlie Ronald he didn’t. As long as he assumed that character that appeased management, and kept his dishonesty in a good light when management was around, there was absolutely nothing to stop him from living the life that the rest of us naïve, nun-taught nubiles hoped to achieve honestly.

“That’s when I decided that Charlie Ronald should experience a little pain in his life. I don’t remember the exact moment when this thought hit me, as I said. To my mind, there was no specific Eureka style moment when this thought began to consume me, but at some point after our boardroom meeting, I decided that this course he was on required external correction. If there was never going to be a natural re-balancing of the karmic ledger ­–and I did wait for it– someone needed to step in.

“As a male with a little brother, one would think that the violent nature of boys would find its place somewhere, but other than a couple incidents here and there, I can’t remember ever indulging in the natural course of violence that will occur between two boys trapped in the same home struggling for greater stature in the house hierarchy. I got in maybe two fights in high school, and maybe one in my postgraduate career. I am not, nor had I ever been a violent man prior to meeting Charlie Ronald. I’m not going to say I was a pacifist, as I politically disagree with most pacifist tenants, but if you were to look at the whole of my life, before I met Charlie Ronald, you may have mistaken me for a pacifist.

Dean Schwertley took his first sip of the coffee that had been sitting before him, a cup that had to be, at least, room temperature at this time. He did it, I can only assume to compose himself before he continued. “If someone stopped me on the street and informed me that I would one day hire two people to beat up another person, I would’ve laughed. I would’ve considered the notion of it so foolish that it wouldn’t even deserve a response. As I said, however, once a person decides to commit a violent act, it eats away at a person. I like to think I’m a normal guy, maybe I’m not. It may be difficult to think of me that way now, being a person that very well could have a felony on his record when the trial is done, but prior to meeting Charlie Ronald, I think most people would’ve considered me so normal as to be boring.

“So the guys that I hired to carry this out for me were a couple of muscle heads that I knew from high school. These guys got off on putting a pounding on people, and when I told them most of the things I just told you about Charlie Ronald, they went ape shit. They started punching a wall. ‘Let’s get him!’ they said, punching that wall. I hired them to put a pounding on Charlie Ronald in a way that would scare him. I had to calm them down a bit. I had to talk them out of some of their more adventurous plans. ‘No headshots,’ I told them, ‘or at least none that would permanently cripple the man. Scare the shit out of him,’ I said, ‘and let him know that all is not right in his world. Let him know that there are bad guys in the world, guys worse than him. Ask him his name,’ I said, ‘before you beat him. Then let it all loose.’

“The two of us, Charlie Ronald and I, worked the overnight shift, and he always stayed late to kiss the supervisor’s butt a couple more times than our normal ten hour shift would permit. By the time he left, he was one of the few, if any, people anywhere near the grounds of the company. I told my high school buddies what car Charlie Ronald drives, and what he looked like. I sat down and mapped out an exit plan for them, I told them what to wear, and all the ideas I had about concealing their identity. I told them the one thing that I took away from all of my cousin’s cop stories: ‘It’s almost impossible to solve random crimes. The more you do to cover up what you do, the more you reveal to investigating officers. Swoop in, beat the shit out of him, and leave. And don’t look anyone in the eyes, if there are any witnesses,’ I said quoting The Godfather, ‘and don’t look away either.’

“The three of us decided that there would be no communication between the three of us,” Dean continued. “So, I didn’t know if the incident occurred for hours. There was one moment, in my apartment, when three cars drove up to the apartment complex at once. I feared that it was the police coming to arrest me. That thought kept me up the rest of the night. It didn’t happen, of course, and by all measures, we got away with it.

“I heard about it, at the same time everyone at our company did. I heard about it secondhand, from fellow employees. I learned about it in the group that surrounded Charlie Ronald, waiting to hear the details from the man himself. I watched Charlie Ronald work the incident to his favor. The idea that he had the cops on the property, investigating for clues, and witness testimony, tuned everyone into Charlie Ronald and turned them on to the details on the incident when he repeated them. Everyone wanted to speak to him and ask him what happened. I heard him say that he was a victim of circumstances, and that it was a wrong place, wrong time type of incident. I thought he might have gained more prestige in his little moment in the spotlight, if he said they asked him his name before the beating. He didn’t mention it. He wanted them to think it was random.

“I texted one of my muscle head friends, when the emotion and turmoil of the incident blew over. He texted back that they had asked his name, and he said that Charlie Ronald screamed at one point in the beating, and that he began crying when they walked away.

“When I witnessed Charlie Ronald begin smiling more in the aftermath of that incident, I began to believe that it gave him a new lease on life. He appeared to feel rejuvenated, in the manner some survivors will. He had apparently convinced himself that this was a totally random beating. He appeared convinced that the beating had nothing to do with him, or it appeared he convinced himself of that idea.

“I decided one more beating, that followed the exact same steps as the first one, with two totally different guys, was my only course of action.

“My muscle head, high school buddies set me up with a couple of other muscle heads that were dying to put a pounding on this guy, once they learned of his characteristics, and those guys upped price. ‘That’s fine,’ I said, and I even went so far as to pay my high school buddies the difference between the two … to keep them happy and quiet. After the second beating, a beating that followed them calling out his name and chasing him around the parking lot for about four minutes, Charlie Ronald returned to our place of work a shaken man. His smile was gone, and that gawdamned twinkle in his eye was but a distant memory. The consensus of the co-workers, that had once surrounded his desk, was, “Again, Charlie? That really sucks man.” That appeared to be the extent of it. He had to live his life, and presumably sleep in his bed, with the fear that there were bad people in this world waiting for him and his next vulnerable moment. He also, much to my delight, asked a security guard to escort him to his car from that point forward. Only single women, in our company, leaving at such odd hours, have ever asked for security to escort them.

“I don’t know if these beatings fundamentally changed Charlie Ronald. I don’t think he became an honest man as a direct result of them. I do think, or at least I hope, that Charlie Ronald has learned that there are bad guys in the universe. He probably thinks I am one of them, and you know what? That’s fine with me. If it leads Charlie Ronald to being a little more reticent about being dishonest and/or deceptive, then I all I have to say is mission accomplished. I understand that in the greater scheme of things, he wins if I’m convicted of all this and I know others are saying that regardless the jury’s ruling he got the best of me. All I can say, in my defense, is that there are people that slip through the cracks of this ordered universe, and not only are there no ramifications for their actions; their dishonesty bears fruit. When this happens, and a person patiently waits for karma to catch up to him, and it doesn’t, I see nothing wrong with a vigilante, of sorts, stepping in to right those wrongs, so the world makes sense to those involved again.”


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