He killed a Hells Angel. That should give you an idea of the kind of guy he is. Actually, he’s a real good guy. But...feral is a little strong, yet wild isn’t strong enough. Crazy might be the best description, yet I write that with great fondness.
My first bulldog was Dudley. In The Staircase, there’s a clip of us playing on the beach in San Diego in 1969 when I was in the Marines. I loved that dog, but there’s no getting around it, he was deranged. Sometimes without warning he would throw himself on a tree and try to climb it. There were no squirrels or anything else in the tree he might be chasing; it was just some mad impulse to climb a tree. Once he got so far up an apple tree he couldn’t get down; we had to go up and get him. It was a bizarre sight: an English Bulldog perched on a branch in an apple tree.
He also had a thing about motorcycles. That’s not terribly unusual for dogs, but Dudley carried it to extremes. Once near Fort Knox, he was in the backseat of my Cutlass Convertible as I was driving home at about 60 mph when a motorcycle roared past going the other way. The top was down and Dudley jumped out. All I saw in the rearview mirror was him hitting the pavement, tumbling over and over.
I pulled over immediately and jumped out expecting to see his dead body in the bushes, but instead, I watched him get up, shake himself off and amble back towards me. Another time on a Dallas freeway, he jumped out and chased a motorcycle going the other way. I pulled onto the median and chased him through traffic half a mile, screaming his names as I dodged honking cars.
He also had an eyeball that every now and then popped out of the socket. I was horrified the first time it happened and spent five anxious moments massaging it back into place. Then I got used to it, but when it was out, he looked like a mad dog in a horror flick.
You couldn’t help but love a dog like that.
That’s sort of how I felt about Kruger. I called him The Kraut, which he took as a great compliment. He really was German, someone out of an old Fritz Lang or von Stroheim movie; he would have been right at home in the SS.
The Hells Angel guy picked up Kruger in his truck when Kruger’s car broke down. They knew each other and had smoked pot together a few times; I think Kruger knew the guy’s sister intimately. Kruger was 19, very scruffy and a bit of a flake, if Hitler could have been called a flake. To Kruger’s shock, the guy put his hand on Kruger’s crotch and started to fondle him.
Kruger jumped out of the truck.
The guy pulled over and came at Kruger with a pistol—he could not let his gang bros know that he was gay,
Kruger held up his hands and said, “Whoa, whoa, dude, take it easy; everything’s cool.”
“You won’t tell anyone?”
“Nah man, it’s cool. I don’t care if you’re queer.”
Not the wisest remark.
The guy shot him, but missed and took aim again, so of course Kruger pulled his own pistol from his waistband and emptied the clip on him; six bullets!
He tossed the body in the front seat of the truck and drove off. But to where? It was too late for a hospital—he was dead—and the morgue would just cause him embarrassing questions, like: Why are there six bullet holes in him? What are you doing with the corpse?
So he drove down a deserted road, smoked a joint, and tossed the body in a river, but before the corpse floated away, Kruger waded into the water and took two necklaces, several rings, a watch, and a rope bracelet off the body. These were traced back to him, and of course his fingerprints were all over the truck which he tried to sell to someone.
In the end, Kruger pled guilty to second degree murder and was given a life sentence.
His first prison violations came within two weeks—Disobey Order and Verbal Threat. He got eight violations that year, 6 his second year, 5 the third year, 6 his fourth year, and on and on. Many of the violations were for “weapon possession.” Lots of young guys have shanks for protection, and Kruger was determined that no one was going to take his ass.
He spent a lot of time on Lock Down at Central Prison--maximum security and the site of the state’s Death Row.
Kruger’s background is pretty much a cliché—foster homes, unruly behavior, and juvie court. Unsurprisingly, he grew up with several standard prejudices, but also with some unconventional views. He was a self-described Viking; Thor was a god. This was way before Marvel Movies and Chris Hemsworth.
When I met him, he had been down fourteen years, facing the rest of his life in prison. We spent a lot of time together on the weight pile; he was very strong—he could jerk a 135 pound bar over his head with one hand. And very intelligent, but like many Germans, he didn’t have much of a sense of humor. He understood jokes, but rarely found them—or anything—funny. He also had an unnerving trait of cocking his head when he looked at you, and his eyes would become…well, possessed: demonic. At least they stayed in the socket.
And of course he was absolutely paranoid. Prison does that to guys: people are out to get you—guards and other prisoners; you are constantly checking behind your back, but The Kraut raised paranoia to another level: he saw everything as a threat and everyone as an enemy—with two exceptions: Al G and me, Al because Al had survived Death Row and was the meanest motherfucker in prison, and me because I was old, constantly battled the guards, and frequently on TV, a sure sign of success and wisdom in his mind. He listened to our counsel.
He met Al at Central Prison when Al was taken off Death Row after 9 years. Al had been convicted of murdering three men (he later told me there were several others; I believed him). He got off Death Row on a technicality and is now serving three Life sentences—he’s 79.
Al took Kruger under his wing (sort of Pterodactyl and baby Pterodactyl) and told him he would not survive unless he settled down. When Kruger would go bug eyed and begin volcanic rumblings, Al didn’t even have to talk to him; he’d just sit silently beside him, sort of like Yoda, if Yoda had been a mass murderer.
Alas, I had to talk to him to calm him down. He’d start screaming about someone who had offended him, threaten murderous mayhem, and I’d say, “Let’s take a walk.” We walked miles around the track. I’d listen to his grievances and gently point out that perhaps they weren’t so grievous, or even meant, and suggest alternatives to “shanking the motherfucker.”
I even found a healthy outlet for his aggression.
Not having learned from my last coaching lesson (softball: story in the book), when several Hispanics asked me to coach the newly formed unit soccer team, I said yes. I’d had dealings with several of them and had helped other Hispanics in GED class.
Six had been in my class; they were smart and quick, but English was their second language. They could take the GED test in Spanish, but we had no study materials in Spanish.
My Spanish certainly wasn’t good enough to help them. Though I’d taken four years of Spanish at Duke, my grades had been abysmal. I’d managed to pass only two of the four years and at one time held the record for lowest grade ever scored on a Romance Language final exam: 17. It might still be a record. And that score came with immense help from fraternity brothers—one of whom was Spanish. What added to the indignity was that I thought I’d done well.
How bad was my Spanish? Once near Barcelona, my Simca caught fire and all I could do was point to the flames—I’d forgotten (may never have known) the word for FIRE!
Wanting to help the Hispanics, I went to Captain Lucita and asked for assistance in getting Spanish study guides because she was from Puerto Rico and the only Spanish speaking officer. I thought she’d want to help, but she declined brusquely, so I had friends on the Street send me four copies of the Steck-Vaughn Spanish language GED study book that cost $25 each.
Before they could take the test, Frau Himmler had all the Hispanics shipped to other prisons.
The incident intensified my “Fuck you” attitude to officials.
Though not confident of my Spanish language ability, I felt confident about coaching soccer because I’d coached soccer teams in Germany and the US and gone to hundreds of games when my son Todd played. I called the team Real Nash (after Real Madrid), which all the Hispanics understood and appreciated, but it confused everyone else: “Is there an ‘unreal’ Nash? I want to go there.”
We never lost a game, a little because of my coaching, but mostly because the Hispanics could play soccer—it was their game. They had played in Mexico and Latin America since childhood. Rae Carruth, the NFL pro, told me that soccer was his second-best sport and talked about joining the team, but finally declined to play—I think because they were better and he wouldn’t have been the star.
Luis was the star. He and Speedy were MS-13, the most vicious brutal gang in America with ties to Mexican and Columbian drug cartels. Founded in El Salvador, they’ve spread throughout this country. Murder, dismemberment, torture, drugs, prostitution, sex trafficking highlight their criminal activities that reached North Carolina in early 2000.
Even my Mafia mentor Gino warned me about them: “They are some evil evil motherfuckers.”
But I got along well with Luis and Speedy. They were excellent soccer players and good team members. I had several “business” dealings with them in which I lent them stamps until “payday” when their drug deals came through. They paid me back immediately.
All was good until one day on the rec yard as we were all chatting and joking at the fence I asked Luis about MS-13.
His eyes flashed like lightning, all amicability gone: DANGER DANGER DANGER!
But Speedy quickly interceded. He patted me on the head gently and said, “Just coach, Mr. Peterson,” and both of them walked away.
Luis, Speedy and the other Hispanics were illegal aliens and would be sent back when their sentences were over.
We practiced every afternoon on a portion of the dirt rec yard, mostly offensive strategy with Luis as striker; Speedy handled the defense with Jorge as goalie. They were really good.
My major contribution was to bring Kruger to the team. The Hispanics had ball skills, Kruger had utter fearlessness: on and off the field. Even the MS-13 guys respected him, and of course he bonded well with them. He and Luis were awesome on attack, especially Kruger.
My coaching advice was simple. I told Kruger to charge the player on the other team with the ball: scream and run at him, but don’t touch him--no fouls. He did. Picture a crazed screaming murderer charging you at full speed. You might run away—the other player invariably did. Kruger would then take the abandoned ball and charge the terrified goalie, scoring effortlessly.
The first time Kruger did it, the ref blew his whistle and red carded him.
“For what?” I yelled, running onto the field.
“He’s scaring everybody,” the ref said.
“I told him to do that. He didn’t foul or touch anyone. There’s no violation.”
The ref pulled me aside. “Jesus, Peterson, tell him to calm down. He’s scaring me too.”
When the season ended, I gave up sports for good, except for weight lifting where I encountered someone just as forbidding as Luis, Speedy, and Kruger: T Monsta, and that sums him up perfectly—picture a gigantic tattooed boulder. He was a 32 year-old brute with shaved bald head, thick arms, legs, and neck, yet he had a soft almost gentle smile, and he loved to joke and laugh.
I would have been killed a hundred times except for my age and jokes. Humor is one of the most prized assets in prison; making people laugh counts for a lot, like jesters in old royal courts. You just have to make sure the behemoths get the joke. Fortunately, T Monsta got the jokes.
He was in for murder of course—actually two murders and an involuntary manslaughter. He was a very bad boy and prison had not tamed him. Among his many write-up/violations were: Assault with Weapon, Taking hostages (!), Substance Abuse, Bribery, Active Rioter (!) and naturally, Gangs/STG.
Since prison is so much about violence—who cares about college degrees or penmanship awards? —you had to respect guys like JS, Johnny Blood (lots of stories about them in the book), and T Monsta, Alpha Plus Plus males in a jungle of Alpha males. They dominated by sheer force. And I did respect them--not just for their strength, but for their savvy and survivor skills. They were brutes, but clever ones who had managed the shoals of prison for decades.
I never feared JS or Johnny Blood because there was trust and mutual respect. T Monsta…not so much. I liked and respected him, but I think it was his baby-faced smile that kept me more cautious with him than with the others. I always had the feeling that while we got along great and always joked, he’d stab me just for the fun of it with that smile on his face.
At the time I knew him (through JS and Johnny Blood), T Monsta was the number two Blood, a definite shot caller. We got off to a rocky start over his name.
When we first worked out on the weight pile, he told me his moniker was T Monsta, but his real name was Todd.
“Todd? That is such a gay name,” I said.
“What!” he shouted, moving in on me threateningly.
I immediately put up my hands: “My son has never forgiven me for naming him Todd. He’s always wanted to change it because he said it was a gay name.”
“It’s not! And I’m not!”
I smiled. “I know, and neither is my son.” That seemed to mollify him.
A few days later while I was on the phone talking to my son, T Monsta walked by. I called him over and handed him the phone. “Here’s another gay Todd you can talk with.”
They joked and laughed. Later T Monsta asked me why I was using the unit phone. He offered me his contraband cell phone to make calls.
A cell phone was required for upper echelon gang members—for business and status. You couldn’t have bling, but a cell phone was a must and often suitcased when not in use because authorities considered them such a threat that possession of one brought an escape attempt charge and I-Con, deep deep isolation.
I declined T Monsta’s phone offer because I would never use one. I feared the phone might be seized and when Frau Himmler ran a check on all calls, mine would turn up with disastrous publicity consequences. Besides, I didn’t make many calls and I could afford them.
But then he asked me if I wanted to go to the yard and watch porn on his phone. I knew I should have run straight to the chapel, but the temptation and irony were too great—in prison, on the weight pile, watching porn on a contraband cell phone—so of course I said yes.
Alas, like many “thugs” at Nash, T Monsta had a short shelf life. He was too threatening to guards (inmates too) and was shipped to a higher security prison.
Most thugs were happy to go to Close Custody (highest security level) because they’d have more freedom/excitement and be with friends/gang brothers. T Monsta looked forward to it.
His projected release date is 2027 when he’ll be 50. Perhaps he’ll have calmed down by then, though I’m not sure I want to be around to witness it—if I’m still alive; I’ll be 84.
Kruger will still be in prison, but I hope not—he’s mellowed enough for release.
Luis and Speedy will have been sent back to El Salvador, and that will be just fine.