I try to keep my blog light and upbeat. But serious stuff does happen sometimes, like last Sunday. I know I usually break my longer stories into several posts, but this one is a little too important to do that with. So it’s going to be a lot longer than my usual blogs. I hope y’all won’t hold that against it.
I had Sunday off, and Keaton didn’t have to go into work until 7, so I was over at his place hanging out and watching the Cowboys game after I got back from church. Keaton wanted another pair of hands to finish up his Christmas decorating (you wouldn’t think he’d be the type to decorate, but his apartment looks awesome), so we were hanging lights when we heard this loud thud from the apartment above Keaton’s. It wasn’t like the footsteps you hear a lot from up there, and it wasn’t like something had fallen over. It was this super loud and dull thud.
Then we heard a woman’s voice come through the ceiling. She sounded like she was begging someone to stop something. Then we got, loud and clear, a man’s voice saying “I’ll do whatever the fuck I want, bitch!”.
Even before that was over, Keaton dropped the string of lights he was holding and ran for the door.
“Follow me, bubba. I may need a witness.”
And he was out the door and in the hallway.
He’d gotten into his boots faster than I got into my sneakers, but I made it outside in time to see him disappear into the stairwell at the other end of the corridor. I take stairs real fast, so I was close behind him when he ran into the third floor hallway and began knocking on the door of the apartment above his.
I was kinda scared. I’d never seen that look on his face.
“Open the fuck up!”
Keaton’s knocking was now more like pounding.
“Open the fuckin door or I’m busting it in.”
I reckon I was just standing there with my mouth open.
“Stand back, bubba.”
Maybe the doors in Keaton’s building aren’t as solid as they look. In any case, Keaton took care of it in two kicks. I got the feeling that this wasn’t the first door he’s kicked in.
It was pretty clear what was going on when I followed Keaton through the door. Keaton had told me that his upstairs neighbors were a white man and his Asian girlfriend. What I saw was the woman on the floor with a big red mark on the side of her face; the man was standing over her, ready to hit her again.
In other words, we’d walked in on a domestic violence scene. I just wasn’t sure what we were doing there.
I found that out pretty quick.
Within seconds, Keaton pushed the man out of the way and was helping the woman up.
“You take care of her, bubba.” I walked more into the living room and took hold of her. She was sobbing, but no tears were coming out. I wasn’t really sure what to do, but I kept my arm around her so she wouldn’t fall back onto the floor. Both sides of her face were marked up, but at least she wasn’t bleeding.
Meanwhile Keaton was dealing with the man. Who looked like the total asshole he obviously was.
“What did I tell you I was gonna do to you if I found out you touched her again?”
“Fuck you, asshole. She’s my girlfriend. And none of your business.”
“Any motherfucker who lays a hand on a woman is my business.”
Keaton kept moving in on the dude. Once he was close enough, he shoved him. Hard. I mean so hard that the dude literally bounced off the wall behind him. It was lucky for him that his body hit the wall before his head. The rebound off the wall brought him back in range for Keaton, who landed his right in the dude’s gut. Three times in a row.
Let’s just say that the dude wasn’t getting up anytime soon.
“Just consider yourself lucky that I didn’t beat the living fuck outta you like I said I would. Give me one fuckin excuse and I will.”
The Keaton backed towards us.
“Let’s get the fuck outta here, bubba.” I guess I looked real confused, which is what I felt, since I didn’t know what I should do with the woman. I reckon she looked confused too. Keaton saw that, so he said, “you’re coming with us, ma’am.”
The woman – who was still sobbing – came with me as I led her out of the apartment. Keaton wanted to take us down in the elevator, but there was a sign saying it was broken. He slammed his hand on the door and said, well, you can guess what he said. I walked her down the stairs using both of my arms to support her. It wasn’t that she was so heavy, but she was pretty freaked out. I was a little freaked out myself.
When we got back to Keaton’s apartment, he took her and very carefully put her on the couch. That’s when she started crying tears. Keaton signed to me to just let her cry and that I should come into the kitchen.
“You ok, bubba? Sorry I didn’t explain, but I wanted to get up there fast.”
“So this happened before?”
“Yeah, about six months ago. I heard the same kind of thing from upstairs, went up and banged on the door until that goddamn motherfucker opened it. Then I scared the shit out of him and told him I’d be back if he tried anything again. I reckon it worked for a while, but…you saw what happened today.”
“What if he calls the police on you?”
“Read me my rights.”
I guess I need to explain to you Yankees that that’s a song by Brantley Gilbert. Keaton plays it a lot in the truck.
“That’s why I told you to come along and be a witness. If he accuses me of assault, we can accuse him of domestic violence. Who are the cops gonna arrest – the motherfucker who’s beaten his wife or the dude who comes upstairs to save her?”
We could still hear the woman crying, so Keaton got a box of kleenex from the bathroom and brought them over to the couch.
“I reckon you could do with something to steady you out. Bubba, get her some Jim Beam. It’s in the cabinet on the right.”
“I’m ok, thanks. I mean…” She smiled a little. “I’m not ok, but I don’t need anything.”
“Bring a glass of water too,” he called to me in the kitchen.
When I took the two glasses into the living room, I was able to get a good look at the woman. She was a petite Asian, 5’0” and 100 pounds max. Takes a really big man to beat on someone like that. I’ve beaten up bullies in my time, and half wanted to go upstairs and finish the job Keaton started. Keaton may be more intimidating than me, but I hit dang hard for a pretty boy.
So back to the woman…I reckon she was a little more than 30. She had long hair pulled back in a pony tail and was wearing yoga pants, a tshirt and flipflops. I guess you’d say she was pretty, but she’s definitely not my type. She stopped crying, but now she was shaking. Keaton got her to drink a little of the bourbon. It looked like it helped a little.
“You’re going to need to put ice on that,” I said after I’d gotten that good look at her. “Otherwise it’s going to swell up like…” I didn’t think it would be cool to finish that sentence. So I asked Keaton: “do you have ice in the freezer?”
“Yeah. I’ve also got a couple cold packs. Bring those.”
I’ve never seen the inside of Keaton’s freezer. It had more in it than I expected. But he knows how to cook. There was also a container of Breyer’s strawberry ice cream for me, on top of which I found the cold packs. They were a little big for a little Asian woman’s face, but they’d do better than a bunch of ice in a plastic bag.
“Try and hold these in place,” I told her. “Maybe if you lean back it’ll be easier.”
She took my suggestion, and Keaton signed me back into the kitchen.
“We have to figure out what to do with her. She can’t stay here. Do you know anything about a shelter or something?”
I didn’t. But I had an idea:
“I can call Joyce. I’m not sure she works with domestic violence victims, but I reckon she’ll know someone who does.”
So I called her and, trying to keep my voice down, told Joyce about the situation.
“You mean you broke into someone’s apartment and Keaton beat up the man inside…”
“We saved her from being beaten. He was going to hit her when we got there.”
“You guys realize that we have the police for that, right?”
I didn’t want to get into a long discussion with Joyce and explain that we got there in 30 seconds, which was less time than it would have taken us to call the police. So I asked her about shelters again and if she knew anyone.
“You’re lucky that I do. Muffy is on the board of a local women’s shelter and does some volunteer work there. I’ll call her and tell you what she says.”
So I hung up and we went back to the living room. The woman was still laying back with the ice packs.
“I haven’t thanked you yet,” she said. “And I don’t even know your names.”
We told her who we were and asked who she was. She told us her name, but I obviously can’t write it here. I don’t know anything about Chinese names, so I’m going to call her Ling. It’s the best I can do.
“I don’t know how to thank you…”
Keaton looked away and kind of grunted. When he realized she wanted something more, he mumbled “anytime.”
“You’re welcome,” I said, just as my phone rang. I went into the kitchen to take it.
It was a short call. Joyce told me that she was going to pick Muffy up and they’d be at Keaton’s in under twenty minutes.
I could tell that Ling was afraid that her boyfriend would come downstairs to get her, but Keaton tried to reassure her. I wasn’t worried either: any fucked up coward who’d hit a woman Ling’s size wasn’t going to fuck with a man who was 6’1”, weighed in at 215 and could hit as hard as Keaton.
When Joyce and Muffy got to the apartment, Muffy told us again and again that we should have called the police instead of going upstairs ourselves. I could see how that made some sense, but Keaton didn’t. His job at the bar is taking care of things before the cops get there. I don’t think he hates the police; he just doesn’t think they’re very efficient.
I think he was getting a little pissed off at Muffy (she’s not my favorite person in the world either, y’all may remember), but she did know all about the local shelter and was a lot more helpful than a call to a domestic violence hotline would have been. (Okay, I’ll admit it: we didn’t think of calling a hotline for advice.)
Only Ling wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to go.
“Do you think it’s what I should do?,” she asked Keaton.
“You’re not going back upstairs to that motherfucker, and you can’t stay here because he knows where you are and I have to go to work tonight…”
“I could go to a motel maybe…until he cools down.”
I saw the look on Muffy’s face when she suggested that.
“Or I could go to my family. My aunt and uncle live in San Gabriel…”
“He’d find you there in no time,” Keaton said. “You need to go somewhere you’ll be safe. So the shelter is probably your best bet. I’d trust anything bubba’s girlfriend says about this kinda thing.”
I think I saw a flicker of confusion on Ling’s face because I had an older girlfriend, but it went away real fast.
“But look at how I look. I’m not dressed to go anywhere.”
I thought Muffy was going to get impatient at that, but it turned out she knew exactly what to say. I got the feeling that Ling was trusting Joyce and Muffy more than when they first got to the apartment. They needed to talk about it for another five minutes before Ling got up to go.
“You can take those with you if you like,” Keaton said, pointing to the ice packs.
“I’m good. They’ve kind of defrosted anyway.”
They helped. One side of her face was a lot less red. The other side was going to have a real ugly bruise on it, not that I said anything about that. It definitely looked like she’d been hit hard enough to fall and make the noise we heard.
“You two can make yourselves useful,” Muffy said, as they were getting ready to go. “Make sure the husband…”
“…he’s my boyfriend…”
“…the boyfriend isn’t watching when we leave.”
That sounded like something we could do, although I doubted that Ling’s boyfriend was hiding in the trash room or something. I was right. I went ahead to make sure the coast was clear, and the four of us got Ling safely to the Tesla.
Ling didn’t have her phone with her, but we still asked her to call us and let us know she was okay. I got why Muffy didn’t want us to know where she was taking Ling, since the less people that know, the safer she was. Ling said she would call if she could, and then tried to thank Keaton again.
The first thing I did when we got back to Keaton’s apartment was pop open a Pilsner Urquell (since that’s what he had in the refrigerator.) It had been a stressful couple of hours. Keaton grabbed a beer too and we sat down. The game was still playing on mute. The Cowboys were going down in flames, so I turned it off.
A few hours later, I heard from Joyce that Ling was safe and getting help where Muffy took her. That was all the information I got. Keaton’s heard nothing from the motherfucker upstairs. I think Joyce is a little worried that he’s going to go after Keaton, maybe with a gun – but I didn’t explain to her that Keaton can take care of himself with a gun just as well as with his fists. One of the things I’ve learned in California is that you gotta be careful who you tell you own a gun.
But Ling is okay for the time being, and that’s the most important part. The sermon in church on Sunday was about finding out of the box ways of helping people. I reckon we (I admit it was mostly Keaton) did that with Ling.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I’ll try and let y’all know when I do find out something. I know this has been way more serious than anything I’ve written about so far, but I thought it was important. Joyce told me I need to mention that, even if you only suspect a domestic violence situation with a neighbor, the right thing to do is call the police. I reckon I should also tell you about the National Domestic Violence Hotline. We were lucky that we had Joyce and Muffy to help us, but, if you don’t have friends who are involved like they are, you should call the hotline the minute you or anyone you know finds themselves in a domestic violence situation. You can also make contributions on their website. It’s Christmas, remember.