A hook kick to the side of the head slowed his advance, so I did it again. It connected like the first, and he stalled. In a frantic effort to keep the colossus from harming me, I decided to go to the water hole for a third time. That was a sizable blunder. He seized my body, hoisted it in the air and smacked me down on the hardwood floor. Everything was knocked loose inside my chest. This is how I met my best friend Mitch, in a martial arts class. Mitch was a powerlifter and one of the few strength athletes to ever wander from the weightlifting half of the gym to the Combat Karate section. Years later, I became Mitch’s physical therapist and a powerlifting magazine featured us in an article entitled, “MITCH GENE AND JOHNNY KEENAN: THEIR FRIENDSHIP BEGAN WITH A KICK TO THE HEAD.”
After returning to my office from lunch one afternoon, I received a call telling me to go to the Nassau County Medical Center. Mitch had collapsed at work. The ambulance dashed him to the hospital and after a CT scan, it was confirmed that he had a large, high grade IV astrocytoma primary brain tumor, usually called a glioblastoma multiforme. They removed it, but found six other tumors regarded too small to operate on. When Mitch woke up four days after the operation, specialists informed him that the smaller tumors probably should be treated with chemotherapy – but they were not optimistic. When I told Mitch about a new medical center I’d heard of that specialized in brain tumor research, he asked me to take him there. Immediately I made the necessary calls and we set out a few days later for the Vincent-Marcus Brain Surgery and Research Center, far out on Long Island, in the Hamptons.
Acting as Mitch’s advocate, we were both scheduled to meet with Dr. Leah Vincent and Dr. Henry Marcus to discuss Mitch’s condition and treatment. After driving two hours through Suffolk County to reach the center and filling out a heap of forms in their lobby, we were shuffled into a plush, tranquil office and told to wait. Within minutes Dr. Vincent and Dr. Marcus entered the room. Dr. Marcus’s expression exuded arrogance and boredom. As they sat down in the chairs facing us, Dr. Vincent, who was a tall maiden with long auburn hair, threw me a quick knowing smile. Her eyes sparkled when she smiled. Dr. Vincent explained to Mitch the scores of tests scheduled that day to precisely evaluate his situation.
Mitch asked, “Do you really think you can help me?”
Dr. Vincent reached over and touched his shoulder. “We will try our best, Mr. Gene.”
Mitch signed the necessary forms. Dr. Marcus abruptly grabbed them up and left the office never bothering to say a word to either one of us. Then Dr. Vincent and I approached each other. I was confused as to why this obviously compassionate doctor would partner with a man like that. Perhaps she could sense what I was thinking because she returned my baffled look with a sad expression and a shoulder shrug. The nurses came in with a wheelchair and took Mitch. Dr. Vincent suggested that I leave for the day since Mitch would be exhausted when they finished with him.
Eight hours after leaving the hospital, I was sitting outside the bungalow of the inn I had checked into. Across the street was a single house with yellow crime scene tape streamed around it. Down the road was the bay. With nothing much to do, I decided to go for an evening walk on the beach. After journeying about a quarter mile through the sand, I discovered an enormous wooden log lying on its side. Obviously, the town parks department had it transported to the beach for tourists and local residents to sit on while viewing the ocean. Most likely an old telephone pole, this piece of timber was about nine feet long with a circumference close to fifty inches. Judging from the numerous beer bottles strewn around the log, I was obviously not the first person to take advantage of this man-made respite. As I tried to relax by watching distant waves in the moonlight, I knew Mitch was not going to make it.
The following morning I received a call from the hospital telling me how Mitch’s condition had worsened overnight. I drove to the Vincent-Marcus Center and was greeted in the lobby by Dr. Vincent who explained that because Mitch’s brain was bleeding out, he would not survive more than an hour. She suggested I go sit with him until he stopped breathing. As I slowly, fearfully, made my way down the hall, I noticed a police officer standing guard outside another room. From inside that room I could hear a patient holler, “You know why I fight and drink and rob houses?!”
The cop looked disgusted. “No, Simeon, why do you do those things?”
Simeon responded with words that would never leave me. “Because it’s the most fun in the world!”
Upon entering Mitch’s room, I could see that he was unconscious and yet in terrible pain. he was writhing in his bed. Because of his immense strength, they had him securely bound with heavy duty straps. Arms that can hoist a thousand pounds are not ones you want flailing about. I’d brought Mitch to this center hoping to save him, but that is not what happened. I hung my head in sorrow and began to pray. Unfortunately, the loudmouth criminal across the hall made it impossible to focus. Losing all patience, I stomped over to the police officer, pushed him aside, and entered the room. What I saw ended my diatribe before it started. Simeon’s skin was such a deep yellow that it appeared almost green under the room’s lighting. From my own medical training I could tell he was in the advanced stages of cirrhosis of the liver. Even the whites of his eyes had become yellow. He also had a large scar across the side of his face, a nuthouse grin, and a black metal spike in place of a tooth. As I stood before him, unable to express a word, the police officer grabbed me and shoved me out of the room.
“You don’t put your hands on a cop?” he yelled.
“My friend is about to die, can’t this creature show a little respect?” I shot back.
The officer looked confused. “Respect? Don’t you know who this is?”
He then invited me to sit in the chair next to him so he could adequately explain who the guy was – the notorious Jacob Simeon.
Simeon’s story began twenty-seven years ago when he was being chased by three police officers after a significant drug purchase. As he was running through a series of backyards frantically throwing away all the pills he was carrying, one of the cops, Officer McNally, circled around in an attempt to cut him off. He jumped in front of Simeon who responded by trying to punch him to death. The other two officers, Manzo and Hardedge, arrived, pulled their weapons and ordered Simeon to stop. He did cease for a moment and then lunged at Officer Hardedge, who was aiming a shotgun at him. As the officer fired, Simeon moved his head slightly to the right, and the left side of his face was sprayed with the blast. Because it was at such close range, a large portion of skin peeled away. The rest of the shot went directly into the face of Officer McNally, killing him. After months of surgery, Simeon went to prison for a long time.
When finally released, Simeon pursued a life of bar fights, DWI’s and burglaries. He continued in this manner until cirrhosis of the liver brought him down. Sensing he was almost through, Simeon decided to finally take revenge on the two remaining officers who had sent him a way for so many years. By this time, both men had retired from the force and were living quiet lives in Hampton Bays. Shortly after leaving the job, Manzo’s kidneys failed and he had to go for regular dialysis treatments at Southampton Hospital. Three times a week for five hours a day, Manzo had his blood pumped out of his body into a ;machine and back into his body again. One day Simeon walked into Manzo’s busy dialysis unit and sliced the hose used to carry Manzo’s blood out of the machine and back into his body. As Manzo’s blood pumped out onto the floor, the nurses frantically tried to save him. Simeon stayed and watched him die before easily slinking away.
The police found Simeon hiding in the house his deceased mother had left him. It was located across the street from the inn where I was staying. They discovered him lying on the bathroom floor almost dead from liver disease. When arrested, Simeon informed the officers that he wanted to take advantage of a special arrangement he’d heard about that was being offered by a local hospital to terminally ill prison inmates. That is how he wound up at the Vincent-Marcus Center.
Simeon’s story did honestly grip me. However, as soon as the police officer finished telling it, I remembered Mitch and bolted back to his room. But it was too late. Mitch was no longer writhing – nor breathing. I bent over his body, pressed my forehead into his shoulder and began to sob. Moments later I was pushed away by Dr. Marcus who appeared suited up for surgery. I had no strength to protest the matter.
I left the hospital and drove and cried for hours. Eventually I returned to the inn and fell asleep, exhausted from so much weeping. The following afternoon, while still lying in bed, I heard banging on the door accompanied by an authoritative command. “Open up, Keenan, this is the police!” The herniated discs in my back made it impossible for me to quickly travel from the bed to the door, so the police opened it themselves with a key supplied by the inn manager. My eyes were then splashed with the visual of several police officers pointing their guns. As they pushed me against the wall I heard one say, “We are arresting you for the murder of Dr. Henry Marcus!” I was handcuffed, brought to the police station and hurried into a room for questioning. A short man with a wolverine-looking haircut and a pubescent-looking moustache approached me and introduced himself, “I am Detective Trulick.”
The he barked, “You participated in Karate tournaments years ago, didn’t you?”
He continued, “And isn’t it true that you were trained by a guy who used to break cement blocks on the Tonight Show?”
“Well, it seems pretty obvious – at least to me – who murdered Dr. Marcus early this morning.” Detective Trulick held his fist close to my face. “It’s still too early to tell for sure, but my buddies at forensics say that Dr. Marcus’s sternum and heart were destroyed by what looks like a powerful strike from a clenched hand.” He paused and grinned, “You know anybody who can punch like that Johnny?”
Irritated by Trulick’s incompetence, I shot back, “Why would I want to kill this guy?!”
The detective’s voice became smarmy. “No doubt you blame him for the death of your – um – friend. Come on, Johnny, you know you want to confess.”
The combination of him implying that Mitch and I were gay and his certainty that I had killed Dr. Marcus made me despise him. After several hours of grilling me, he became frustrated and I was put in a cell for the rest of the day and the entire night. The following morning a fat, smiling officer sauntered up to the cage I was in, unlocked it, and proclaimed in a loud voice, “Keenan, you are free to go!”
“Not until I know what’s going on!” I demanded.
The officer explained everything as he drove e to the police impound to retrieve my car – which they had searched thoroughly. While I was in the holding cell overnight, two more people were killed. Since one of the two slayings was identical to Dr. Marcus’s, this was enough to exonerate me. The first murder took place in the parking lot of a restaurant called the Villa Pietro. After drinking at the restaurant’s bar, retired police officer Jackson Hardedge and his brother-in-law James Ruckman walked outside and headed for Ruckman’s car. Apparently, when they reached the vehicle, both men were attacked. Ruckman’s body was discovered soon afterward in the parking lot. His sternum was cracked and his heart appeared to have exploded. medical experts determined this damage was caused by an enormous strike with an object resembling a fist.
Both Ruckman’s car and his brother-in-law, however, were missing. At first it was assumed by police that Hardedge had murdered both Ruckman and Dr. Marcus, since he was a powerful man standing six foot six. However, this theory was quickly proven wrong. After investigators found Ruckman’s car at the corner of West Landing Road and Petrel Lane directly in front of the gate opening for Shinnecock Bay, they discovered Hardedge’s body crushed on the beach. A thousand pound log was placed on top of him. Since Hardedge also had a broken cheekbone, it was determined that his attacker first rendered him unconscious in the restaurant parking lot before dragging him into Ruckman’s car and driving to the bay. Investigators were not ruling out the possibility that several men were involved in the crime. It seemed outrageous that any one man alone could have raised the log that was dropped down onto Hardedge.
Remembering that Hardedge was the remaining cop that Simeon wanted to kill, I asked the officer if any detectives had gone to the Vincent-Marcus Center to question him. The officer responded, “So, you know about our little town drama? Well, we went down to the center early this morning to talk to him, but he died two days ago. It sure looks like the bum arranged it though.”
After recovering my car, the officer said I could return to the inn where I had been staying. He informed me, “Detective Trulick took the time to call the innkeeper and tell him you were not the killer and so he should still give you a room. I tell you, that Trulick is a hell of a guy -- ain’t he?”
“The best of the best,” I responded.
The officer warned me, “Look, not for nothing, but if you’re staying in town, be careful going out after dark. The Giant is still out there.”
Thanks to local and national news reports, this is how everybody started referring to this ludicrously potent and brutal murderer. He became known as the Giant.
As I drove up to the inn, I noticed that the crime scene tape was no longer neatly streamed around the house across the street. It was partially torn down. dismissing it, I checked into the same room, unpacked all my belongings that the police had confiscated, and fell asleep. Waking up about nine o’clock in the evening, I ventured outside for some fresh air. After several minutes of enjoying the cool night breeze, I heard a crashing sound coming from Simeon’s house. Since a side window appeared open and relatively low, I decided to cross the street and go look inside.
I stood in front of the window, pushed away the curtain and peered into the house. What I saw made my legs quiver and dropped me to the ground. Managing a prostrate position, I struggled not to vomit. It was Mitch! He had his massive hand over Dr. Vincent’s mouth and was whispering something into her ear. There were many stitches running around his head and he was wearing hospital scrubs. I got up, sprinted to the front of the house and side-kicked the door open. Unfortunately, Mitch was ready for me. The moment I entered, he hoisted me into the air and slammed me down on the hardwood floor. Now, flat on my back, I strained to catch my breath. Rolling my head to the right, I saw Dr. Vincent lying across from me. She was bruised up but still breathing.
Mitch clapped his hands. “Bravo! That was a pretty big door you just kicked in.”
I slowly picked myself up off the floor. “Mitch, why are you hurting her? She only tried to help you.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I guess that’s true enough. But I never squelch on a deal.”
I coughed out some words. “What deal?”
“Well, the doc said if he gave me life than I’d have to take hers in return.” Mitch started laughing. “Of course the doc never mentioned in the deal that I couldn’t take his.”
I dared to question his logic. “So, you’re following through on a deal with a man you already murdered?”
He frowned. “A deal’s a deal!”
I lost it. “But you’ve never killed anybody! Why are you killing people now?!”
Finding my existence too much of an irritant to suffer any longer, he bounded towards me with a nuthouse grin, hollering, “Because it’s the most fun in the world!”
My memory of Mitch’s media circus funeral and the months that followed are still blotched and hazy. Last week I purchased an issue of the magazine that had written about us years earlier. On the cover was a picture of Mitch and I during happier times. Just above our heads, spelled out in block letters, were the morbid words: “MITCH GENE AND JOHNNY KEENAN: THEIR FRIENDSHIP BEGAN – AND ENDED – WITH A KICK TO THE HEAD!”
Forgive me dear friend but I am unable to clear your name. Dr. Vincent refuses to confess what Dr. Marcus’s surgical pursuits were really all about.
Bio: I am a Professor at Davis College (in Johnson City, just outside of Binghamton, NY) and Mid-America Theological Seminary (Schenectady, NY).
I have also had some of my work published by the online science fiction magazine, the Cross and the Cosmos