March 4th, 2023
The Christmas Party
There are no free passes when it comes to working in the field of executive protection. The hours are long, your Principals (the person you are tasked with protecting) tend to be personality types that are problematic. You can be berated by society for not only a misdeed but, I perceived misdeed. The media is always quick to label “the bodyguard” as the aggressor. Often doing so without consideration to the fact that you were jet lagged, had not slept more than four hours over the last 35, or that before the “innocent victim” was knocked to the ground he walked up and sucker punched you when no one was looking. Everyone after all is more interested in the aggressive response and not the provocation. It is often a terribly boring job, with long hours on your feet, trying to stay alert and ready while your back is on fire.
None of this of course was on my mind on the night that follows. I was fresh and young at 25 years old, and had landed into the role of being an outside contractor to a Fortune 500 Executive who was also the scion to an American family dynasty, ten years my senior. He had sought out his own protection agent outside of the in-house corporate security team that reported to his Machiavellian father and the CEO of the billion dollar empire. I was at that point in my career that I was highly trained, and lightly experienced, leaving me at times feeling extremely overjoyed or overwhelmed.
After we had ridden up the service elevator from the hotel’s service garage the doors we, my Principal, his literal model girlfriend, his executive assistant, his girlfriend and myself, walked through the kitchen area and out onto the plush carpet of the lavish ball room. The Christmas party, while technically a corporate party, was also a private corporate party for the division of the company that my Principal oversaw and also those invited members of society. As such, there were no in-house corporate security guys invited. Just myself and two off duty metro police officers outside to handle traffic, and any “exterior problems”. Thus security for the black tie event was…me. So backed into a small dark corner, drinking coffee from a cup and saucer, in my tuxedo, shoulder holster, and leather soled shoes I stood. Watching.
The party was not, “the work” party, but instead was what in a different era would have been referred to as “the social event of the season”. Not just because of the who’s in attendance but, also because of the where. The hotel itself had once been a place where Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin performed, where every President of the U.S. had stayed from FDR to Reagan. Then it fell into disrepair and time passed it by. Then just a year prior it was completely renovated and modernized where needed, but the developers wanted to focus on the art deco heart of the hotel and return it to the glory it once was. In doing so, everything one would desire for a black-tie event was achieved. It was to be a spectacular evening, but as my Principal had explained on the ride up, “I know you have your job to do, but remember to keep it low key. These are all our people, it’s a fun easy night. If I need you I’ll give you ‘the look’. We’ll probably head out around ten.” Three months on the job and already placed into a few uncomfortable situations he and I were still learning to navigate the relationship between Principal and Protector. Ten could mean, 10pm and home or 10pm and then the night would end around 4am.
It was in fact, as the evening went on, a quiet affair. Once the guests had arrived snow had begun falling, so I made my way outside to find the two cops. They stood under the hotel awning bitching about the weather, smoking and watching traffic. “Hey guys” I said coming out. One looked old enough to be my father, and the other an uncle. They gave me that nod that said “how in the hell did this baby faced kid land this job?”, they didn’t hide it either but gave me the “hey” and the upward nod. “Did you guys eat yet?”, “Nobody said anything about us eating.” the older of the two said, “well it looks like everything is quiet and I’m under order to get you both fed, Unless steak and lobster doesn’t interest you?”, “Are you serious?” I was in fact serious. From the Man himself to make sure that the cops were taken care of, and that is what I intended to do. Ten minutes later they were parked at a table set with linen and silverware inside of a stairwell landing along with their own waiter, asking me repeatedly if I was sure about this. I insisted I was and went back out into the ballroom and made my way to where I could watch both the front door and a large swath of the event through a set of double doors. The lights were going down, and a band that had a then current top ten hit on the radio took stage, with the lead singer miking up and saying “Goood evening”, followed by the crowd cheering.
About three songs later “Chris” came out. I know he was named Chris because as he entered my orbit, red faced, tie askew with his girlfriend trying to scream-whisper “CHRIS!… CHRIS!” and grab ahold of his sleeve to get him to stop. Apparently Chris was having none of it, while simultaneously having had “all if it”. Meaning the open bar.
He was mad and storming around the mostly empty lobby pointing his finger at her, with her crying and begging him to please calm down, this was her work event and he was embarrassing her. I walked over and closed the double doors to the event in order to give her the dignity of not having two hundred of her co-workers watch the scene unfold. Turning around, I heard “Chris” say “WHO the FUCK IS HE!”, pointing at the dapper young bodyguard. “Chris please don’t. He is with Corporate Security. He’s my Boss’ bodyguard.” This earned a snort from Chris and he decided to start in on me. “Chris. Let me get you a cab, your evening here is over.”, “Fuck you asshole. I don’t work for you,”, “That is true, but this is my event and I am telling you that your evening is over.” The girlfriend was now sobbing, and Chris started saying something about how this happens everywhere they went , and I bet it did. “Chris…” I said in a firm voice and was met with “Fucking look at me again and I will beat the shit out of you Mr. Bodyguard.” I could feel my nostrils flare a bit and my brain began whirring up defensive variables. He had me outweighed by thirty pounds and was probably a full inch shorter. He also was barely standing upright because he was so drunk. “No Chris. You won’t.” We were now locked in on each other, and Chris suddenly started walking back and forth and trash talking before saying “FUCK YOU BOTH!” and stormed off into another part of the hotel, with the Girlfriend apologizing and chasing after him.
Closing my eyes, shaking my head, and exhaling I figured I should go find those two cops and we would get him off the property, pour him into a cab and let the night go on with no one the wiser if possible. The stairwell where the cops were parked was at the very back of the ballroom, and I was at the front and needed to use to bathroom first.
In old school fashion, the restrooms were down two flights of elegant stairs, and entering the Men’s Room it was like stepping back in time. The art deco style of the 1920s was not missed in the restroom, and it was as big as the roaring 20s had been. There were a dozen or so porcelain urinals that went to the floor and as many stalls. It was also blissfully empty and as quiet as a tomb. I had a few minutes to myself before the fracas that was Chris would occur. The Galco shoulder holster where my Kahr 9mm was stowed, balanced out against the two spare magazines under the other arm, and while I had planned on wearing my 1911 that evening, I opted at the last minute for the smaller gun. While I couldn’t wait to take it off at the end of the night, at the moment the weight wasn’t bad. An Emerson Elishewitz Stryker rode in my waistband, and I had opted to leave the ASP baton and a backup .22 pistol at home that evening. The lack of a belt on the tuxedo pants having made the decision for me.
In the last moments of my time in front of one of the urinals, I heard the bathroom door open and a guy entered, zipping up I suddenly felt the rush of movement across the marble floor. Before I could turn my head around, my body was smashed against the urinal and my ribs catching the top. The shove then turned into a fierce grip on my arms and I was quite literally flung across the floor, tripping over myself as my feet scrambled to catch up with the unexpected momentum. Fifteen feet later I managed to almost self-arrest before slamming into the opposite tiled wall. One leg behind me, knee on the ground, and my left foot trying to find enough purchase between the slick floor and my leather soled shoes. Chris had arrived.
Not waiting for me to stand, he rushed covering the short distance before my brain could formulate anything beyond putting my left shoulder forward and lowering my head just as he came in. Thrusting my body upward with the idea that I would throw him over me, the lack of decent footing and the incoming power instead resulted in a redirection of him. In layman’s terms I managed to trip Chris with my entire body in a crouch. He bounced off the wall, and then landed back on top of me. Chris managed to snake his left arm over my left shoulder, trying to get me in a drunken choke hold, while I was fighting to stand up. I did not want to be on the ground. I wanted to fight him on my feet. Chris sensed this, and began clawing at my leg with his right hand to pull me off balance, which was unnecessary as I was doing just fine in falling down without his assistance. Slick floors, slick soled shoes and a two hundred plus pound man on what felt like various parts of my body was making this simple feat impossible. As he pulled back I leaned hard forward while trying to get both feet parallel to one another, thinking that I would either get to my feet with him on my back, or I could roll forward with or without him connected to me. If I could get to my feet, I could end this. Then he let go of my leg and starting throwing sloppy punches at my back. They were short hits and lacked any real power, but he kept targeting the same spot. If he decided to punch me in the back of my skull or the base of my neck this whole thing would go from bad to worse. It was at this point that my perspective changed. Now it was understood that I was losing, and why. My focus had not been on fighting my attacker, but rather fighting to get on my feet, and my inner voice kicked in very clearly “Fight it here. The floor is too slick”. With the priorities now in place, I pushed and rolled my weight backward attempting to stay curled in a ball while laying on top of him. My intent was to center as much of my weight on his chest as I could making it difficult for him to breath, but more importantly both hands were free to find whatever assailable target of opportunity there was.
It came in the form of his left index finger. Using what part of my left hand that I could I pulled hard down on the arm around me, and then used my right hand to peel the index finger upward, and then wrapping my entire hand around it I began bending it the wrong direction, for a split second hesitating. The voice in my head simply said “break it” and I did. There was a howl of pain. I cranked the finger around in a semi-circle and a slew of words flew from his mouth as the left arm now desperately tried to recoil backward like a snake back into a hole. Following the arm I rolled to my left, not to stand up but rather allow my right elbow better access to his face. I began delivering short and largely under powered blows to his eye socket, but they were landing with greater effect than I thought as he was now actively trying to get out from under me and away.
Free from his grip I got to my feet, bent over and gasping for breath. Chris rolled onto his hands and knees and brought his left hand up to his eye, the index finger bent in very unnatural ways. I looked down at his right hand, palm flat against the marble floor and stomped it in four or five quick successions with the heel of my dress shoe, my only dress shoe, because apparently the other one had come off. I heard a voice behind me yell “OOOOOOH” as if they were watching a boxing match. I turned around quickly to see the older of the two cops standing by the sinks. “How long have you been standing there?” I asked, trying to find my other shoe and my composure, “long enough to have my doubts about your ability to fight, but you turned it around. That was some dirty street fighting shit kid.”
I felt…off. There had been this bizarre whirlwind of blurred violence and now it was over and it felt like a tornado rolled over me. “It’s okay, we found his girlfriend upstairs crying and we split up to find him. I saw him walk in the bathroom as I came down the stairs. He straight up assaulted you.“, “Gee thanks, you could have stepped in and gave me a hand.” The cop had his cuffs out and began putting them on Chris as he sat on the floor not looking so great. He then said something to me that stuck with me ever since. “Yeah I could have, but I gotta be honest, you uh look a little ‘green’, you needed this fight, probably more than you know. You work this gig alone right?” Nodding, and feeling kind of like a fraud, I wondered if I was in a business that I was not as capable to be in as I wanted to be, “Hey at least you won.“ he interjected, as if he could read my thoughts. “I gotta be honest. I feel like I barely won, to the point I’m not sure I did.”. “Kid let me tell you something, that is exactly what winning a shit kicking contest feel like.”
Two decades later in this politically correct utopia we live in, you may cringe at the thought of that foot stomp to the hand. I do not. The problem when you are being assaulted is that you have no way of knowing what the intent is of the attacker. Did Chris see me and have the intent on beating me to death? Or beating me and then taking my gun from me to shoot me, walk up to his girlfriend and kill her? Had I not been able to break his finger and open the choke hold I was going to transition to my knife, plant it in his right leg and unzip about five inches of his thigh. You are not under a moral obligation to “fight fair” because someone who has never been there thinks you should. Had I been a woman and Chris found me alone and did all of those same things your mindset would be completely different. There would be no objections to the actions I took, nor the actions I almost took. The stomp to the hand was more because there was no certainty that the barrage was over. I had not been on my feet for more than a few seconds when the action was undertaken. Chris may have been down, but there was no indication it was over. In an instant he could have been up and back on. A broken dominant hand was going to make that far more difficult. One also has to wonder if there wasn’t some “karmic justice” there for him.
Chris lived rent free in my head for a good long time after that. In some bad ways and in some good ways. On paper everything I had done to prevail had proven successful, which was saying something given the fact I was having to get creative at an exponential rate. In the reality of my head I was bothered by how fast it happened and how he had caught me off guard. To this day I will use a stall if given the opportunity, part of it from a sense of practicality of having a gun on my hip. But get blindsided standing at a urinal and you find some mental barrier to standing in a stall with the door closed and latched.
The fact that my feet went out from under me so quickly essentially ended my relationship with leather soled dress shoes. That weekend I went and purchased a pair of black Bates combat boots that could carry a polish and paired them with my suits. In the summer I wore tan desert boots and modeled my attire that was akin to professional Banana Republic 1980s. To this day, I wear boots, and tennis shoes aside, I have two pairs of street shoes. Neither of them with leather soles.
I also started carrying a second handgun on my ankle. I rotated between a Beretta Bobcat, that eventually “disappeared” in Central America and a North American Arms .22 Minimag, stuffed into a generalized nylon ankle holster from a gun show. They were the backup guns that I had, because at 25 years old…that is what I had. A few months later I picked up a lightly used Smith & Wesson 442 Airweight Snub nose.
The altercation pushed me into a spot where I chose to break a law in my state that has since been repealed. A leather handled lead sap, brass knuckles, or an ASP baton lived in my back pocket. I would go on to use both on various occasions, but if you were to ask me which I ultimately preferred it was the sap. A few years back Mike Barranti, of Barranti Leather, and I collaborated on a leather coin purse called “the Life Changer” because ten dollars in quarters can do more than feed the parking meter.
Above all of those, the ability to fight dirtier and being in better physical shape became paramount. Because even if there is a cop in the room, you are going to be on your own.
Some lessons are hard won.