For the next several years, Billy Joe lived quietly in Santa Fe. He had received some rudimentary training in engine mechanics while in the Army, and he was able to secure steady work as a mechanic’s assistant in a small garage on the outskirts of town. He even decided to give marriage another try. She was a nice local girl named Julia whose parents had immigrated from Mexico about thirty years earlier.
After several years, Julia realized that she could no longer abide Billy Joe’s numerous and prolonged silent bouts of dark and dangerous introspection. So, one fine day, she just upped and left. A couple of years later, Billy Joe received an envelope from some law firm in Abilene, Texas that contained divorce papers along with a brief note from Julia asking him to please sign the papers, and that she wished him well. As she pointed out at the end of her note, at least there were no kids to complicate things. The thought had never entered Billy Joe’s mind. He signed and returned the papers without comment.
Sooner or later, even if they don’t go looking for it, trouble finds people like Billy Joe.
He was playing pool in a bar with a couple of friends from work when four guys came over to the table.
“Okay shitheads. Time to move on. It’s our turn to play now.”
Billy Joe glanced over at the one who had spoken, a big guy, and clearly the leader. Billy Joe calmly ignored him, and started to line up his next shot. Before he could take it, he felt the man’s index finger tap him firmly on the back several times.
“I’m not gonna tell you again, you pipsqueak Mexican fuck. Get lost.”
Billy Joe turned around slowly and faced the guy. He wasn’t just big – he was huge. He was at least six and a half feet tall, and had to weigh at least three hundred and fifty pounds. And none of it was fat. His name was Roy Johnson, and he had been a star defensive lineman at the University of New Mexico.
“First of all, I’m American. And second, when you talk to me, I want you to say ‘Sir’, ‘Please’, and ‘Thank you.’
The big guy’s eyes widened slowly in disbelief. Then he cracked a warped smile, and addressed the posse over his right shoulder.
“Well boys. I guess now you’re going to see what it looks like when I stomp a Dago cockroach to death.”
Billy Joe’s shoulders were level with the man’s navel. So he was perfectly positioned.
Just before the guy finished his sentence and turned back to face him, Billy Joe punched him with as much force as he could muster. He aimed for an area in the midline, about twelve inches below his own shoulder, and just below the guy’s ornate cowboy belt buckle. He felt his fist make vicious contact with a soft and squishy mass.
Bull’s eye! Well, maybe not a bull’s eye. But certainly a man’s testicles.
All the air came out of Roy in one large exhalation, and he slumped over onto his knees as the waves of pain and nausea enveloped him. As his enormous head came down, Billy Joe took a step back and then launched a furious rising kick at the man’s descending lower jaw. Roy’s head snapped back, and the rest of his body followed in tandem. He was now lying motionless on his back, eyes rolling wildly in his head, blood trickling gently out of a mouth pushed grotesquely sideways by a fractured and dislocated jaw.
Billy Joe had no interest in having the big guy get up and chase him, or manhandle him with his meat hook hands. Ever. He walked over to Roy’s prostrate body and jumped up so that his entire body weight was transmitted downwards through Roy’s right knee. Then he stomped on each of Roy’s outstretched hands three times, hard enough that he could hear the little bones crackling under his boot.
The entire episode had taken less than a minute. As Billy Joe had surmised, no one in Roy’s posse moved a muscle.
Unfortunately for Billy Joe, it turned out that Roy was the younger brother of the local district attorney, and was himself a deputy police officer. Even though Roy was out of uniform, Billy Ray was initially charged with aggravated assault and attempted murder of a police officer. The charge became second degree homicide after Roy suffered a massive and fatal pulmonary embolus while lying in a hospital bed recovering from his broken knee.
Billy Joe was sentenced to serve twenty years in the New Mexico state penitentiary, the maximum possible sentence for second degree murder. It was 1985, and he had just turned thirty-six years old.