Let’s call him Mulligan. Mulligan was part of the People’s Park street scene for awhile about 5 years ago. And Mulligan was your typical weasel junkie. He was about 40, skinny, with long, frizzed-out, prematurely gray hair. His most distinctive feature were his eyes, which always had a look of fear and paranoia, like somebody was out to get him (they probably were). Like a lot of junkies, Mulligan always reminded me of Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. You could easily imagine Mulligan rubbing his hands together and licking his lips with a yellow-eyed smile as he repeated over and over “MY PRECIOUS!! MY PRECIOUS!!” as he lurched off in pursuit of his drug of choice. Which, in Mulligan’s case, was just about any substance that would stimulate some kind of flicker in the burning embers that were his brain cells. He was a hell of a guy, Mulligan.
Mulligan’s basic M.O. was to bound over to you with a big smile and this fake positive act. “Hey brother man, what’s HAPPENING?? How are YOU doing today, man!!” And then shortly thereafter he’d hit you up for a cigarette, or a hit off your beer, or a hit off of anything else you might have going. And always moving fast and herky-jerky, like he’s watching his back like somebody is out to get him (they probably were). And his haunted eyes would always be darting back and forth, like he was constantly casing the joint for anything he could steal (he probably was).
And whenever Mulligan showed up, things would suddenly turn up missing all over the Park.
“HEY, SOMEBODY JUST STOLE MY BICYCLE!!”
“YEAH! SOMEBODY STOLE MY BACKPACK LAST NIGHT WHEN I WASN’T LOOKING!!”
But then later that night, we’re all hanging out at Hate Camp at the top of the Park. And this small posse of cops and plain-clothes detectives descended on our scene.
“A guy got murdered across the street last night in those bushes over there on Haste Street,” said the detective. “So we’re just making the rounds seeing if anybody saw anything or heard anything last night.”
“He was a 19-year-old college student from Sacramento,” said the detective,” said the detective. “A black kid. And pretty straight-laced from what we’ve learned. Didn’t seem to have any involvement in the street scene. So it’s a mystery how he ended up here in People’s Park. The last anybody say him was last night around 2AM at closing time at Pappy’s, the sports bar on Telegraph. He was in town visiting with some friends for the weekend. And one theory is that he met somebody outside Pappy’s who offered to sell him weed or something. Then they lured him over there and tried to rob him, And then it went wrong and he ended up beaten to death.”
“This morning, at first everybody just thought he was a homeless guy who was sleeping. But then somebody realized he was dead and contacted us.”
None of us knew anything. And probably wouldn’t have said anything to the cops even if we did (that was sort of the code me and my street crew lived by).
But then later it occurred to me. “Ya know, Hate Man. Just this morning I saw Mulligan and his face was all beat in like he’d been in a bad fight. And now it turns out there was a bad fight the night before, just a half a block from where I passed Mulligan. You don’t suppose the two things are connected. . . .”
I could see the gears whizzing in Hate’s brain. “You know, you might be on to something,” he said. Hate knew Mulligan all too well.
“Maybe he showed up this morning to get something he might have left as evidence at the crime scene,” I said.
“That sounds plausible,” said Hate Man.
Well, Mulligan almost never showed his face in park after that. “And the few times he approached me,” said Hate, “he would never look me in the eye.”
It’s like Mulligan knew that Hate Man knew.
A week after the murder, this crew of young men from Sacramento showed up at Hate Camp one night. They were friends of the guy who had been murdered. And they were distributing fliers offering a reward to anyone with any information that would lead to the arrest of the murderer. And from how they were talking about the guy, you could tell he had been a really cool guy and that all of his friends really missed him and wanted justice for him.
I took one of the fliers and put it in my back pocket. And I kept it for a couple weeks. Mulling over the situation. But eventually decided against getting involved. And who knows. Maybe it WAS just a coincidence. There were plenty of guys on the scene who wanted to beat Mulligan’s ass.
But now here’s the weird part. About a year later, it’s Memorial Day. So I hit the Park around 4 in the afternoon. And I notice they had roped off the entire lawn part of the park with police tape. And in the middle of lawn were these big blankets that had been fashioned into sort of a tent.
“What’s going on?” I asked Hate Man.
“Two guys that were under the blankets died around noon,” said Hate. “It looks like they ODed or something. So the cops roped off the area so they could investigate it as a potential crime scene. The two bodies are still under the blankets. They’ve been lying there all afternoon.”
“That’s creepy,” I said.
“Yeah. And one of the bodies Is Mulligan.”
“No I’m not.”
According to the newspaper reports later that week, they had died from acute alcohol poisoning. Apparently they had an incredible amount of hard liquor in their system. And, knowing Mulligan, he had probably mixed it with other substances.
“But the really weird thing is,” I said to Hate Man. “Mulligan is laying there dead in People’s Park, just about 30 yards away from where that other dead guy had been lying across the street.”
“It’s almost as if the dead guy’s soul had been haunting that area. And Mulligan got too close to that vortex. And he got him. The dead guy put a curse on him and killed him.”
“Yeah, that wouldn’t surprise me,” said Hate Man. Like me, Hate also believed in all that sort of supernatural stuff.
“And that it happened on Memorial Day is even more eerie,” I said.
I guess Memorial Day is a day where we remember the dead. But maybe sometimes, some of the dead are also still remembering us, too.