This story is part one of a three part series I am doing on my friend Tom Walker. He rates this treatment not because he is an extraordinary fellow, though he is quite capable as his diverse career, which includes twelve years as a paramedic, bears testimony . He rates a three parter because of three extraordinary episodes he has lived through.
Like everyone, life has given Tom a varied hand of cards to deal with, but three of his are once, if ever, in a lifetime cards. They make fascinating stories by themselves and then it is fascinating that one person was given all three cards. He is one of those guys that lightening keeps striking.
Who do you know that was kidnapped and forced at gunpoint into a car trunk with four other naked teenage boys? Then there was the time he was a prime suspect in a tragic Spokane murder case that was so scandalous NBC’s Dateline did an episode on it. Lastly, does anyone know someone who won $3,000,000 playing the Washington Lottery?
Of the three bizarre cards, winning the lottery may be the most common and some may know or know of a lottery winner but do they know them well enough for the lucky winner to tell their story from the moment they bought the winning ticket on a lark through to 8 years later until now when all but $6,000 a year is long gone with very little to show for their extraordinary windfall.
The first story, the one that eventually culminated with his abductor being sentenced to life for the crime of kidnapping Tom and four other teenagers, began late in the night on the 4th of July, 1975.
A SCENE FROM AMERICAN GRAFFITI
Tom was 14 and his buddy and co-worker, Alan, was 15 that summer and they both worked in the kitchen at Strobels, an upscale downtown restaurant.Getting off around 10:30 at night on July the 4th, the two buddies made the short jaunt over to Riverside and Washington where they locked up their bikes. It was fun just to hang out while taking in the slow-moving, bumper-to-bumper flotilla of cars cruising back and forth on Riverside.
After an hour or so they went back to their bikes and discovered someone had taken the opportunity to flatten the tires on Tom’s bike. It had to be Tom’s bike, everything happens to Tom. So they headed south up Howard to call Tom’s grandfather from a pay phone at the PM Jacoys store at Sprague and Howard.
ARMED AND THIRSTY
Just as they walked by the small alleyway behind PM Jacoys, a man passed them on the sidewalk heading north.”Hey, did you guys see this?” he said after the boys walked past him. They stopped and turned around to see the man looking intently in a store front window. Curious and unsuspecting, they walked back and peered into the window to see what they had missed.
“I have a gun,” the man said quietly. They saw he held a gun in the right pocket of his light jacket when the medium-height , black-haired man turned towards them with a menacing look on his deeply tanned face. He forced them back into the dark alleyway, and demanded them to give him what little money they had, but it wasn’t enough for what he was after that night.
“I want enough money for a case of beer, and you guys are going to help me get it,” the man said and then pulled out the gun to show them that he was deadly serious and meant business in regards to getting drunk that night.
ONE SCARY BIG TRUNK
Positioning Alan on his right and Tom on his left, the man walked a half step behind as they all headed back down to Riverside where the two freaked-out teenagers would be forced to panhandle at gunpoint. They futilely did as they were told for a few minutes and then happened upon three older teenagers standing together on the sidewalk that they knew from Ferris High School where they all went to school.
Allen asked them how it was going and if they had any beer while Tom on the other side and slightly behind the armed man tried to motion with his eyes while mouthing to their schoolmates that the guy between them had a gun. When one of them looked at him funny and started to say something, Tom quickly stopped as the man turned to look at him while asking the new boys, “Hey do you guys mind giving us a ride to a store so we can buy some beer?”
The three new boys were more than happy to take a willing adult on a beer run. Tom and Allen did not share their enthusiasm as they piled into a mid-60’s boat-of-a-car Chevy Impala with the man with the gun sitting between them in the backseat. “I have a gun,” he told the boys in the front seat as soon as the car pulled out onto the road.”And to all of you guys my name is Seattle Slim.”
He instructed the driver get on the freeway and head west. From the backseat he navigated their way off the freeway at the airport exit and eventually well off the beaten path to somewhere in the middle of nowhere. On a dark and empty stretch of road between Airway Heights and Medical Lake, he ordered the driver to pull over and everyone out of the car.
The beer run from hell took a nasty turn when Seattle Slim ordered them to give him all their money and jewelry, then take off their clothes and climb into the trunk one by one. It is a testimony to the incredible carrying capacity of the 60’s Impala trunk that all five naked teenage boys were able fit as Seattle Slim closed the lid and began to drive off to who knew where.
The five boys had no idea what would happen next but they were very fearful it could be bad. Would he back down a boat launch and drown them. What if he abandoned the car somewhere secluded where noone would find them for days or weeks or years? Tom, who had been the last one to get in, pulled the tail light wires with his hands and feet in hopes of getting Slim pulled over by the cops.
After several minutes the boys felt the car slowing down and pulling over. “Don’t anybody make a sound,” Slim hollered back to them. “If you do, your’e all dead.” Then the boys heard the passenger door open and someone get in. They could hear Slim carrying on a casual conversation for several miles and then the car slowed down and pulled over. Thanking Slim for the lift, the hitchhiker got out and went on his way unaware of the five terrified boys crammed quietly in the car’s trunk.
Slim didn’t say anything more as he drove on for several minutes and then he stopped and they could hear him talking to someone on the roadside. The next thing they know the trunk is open and there stands Slim with his gun pointed at a tall and heavy- set transient looking dazed and confused by not just the sight of Slim and his gun but even more so by this new sight of five naked boys looking up at him from the trunk of Slim’s car.
“Take off your clothes and get in,” Slim commanded him to the astonishment of the five boys who were now somehow supposed to make room in the trunk for this soon-to-be nude heffer of man.
As the big man disrobed , Tom was trying to think of something to do that might help them get out of this crazy and dangerous situation.”I gotta take a pee,” he said even though he did not. “Go ahead and get out,” Slim told him. “Pee right over there and you get in the trunk,” Slim said as he turned and pointed the gun at the big and now nude man. Barefooted and without a stitch of clothing on, Tom went to where he was told and then through the motions while Slim tried to stuff the man into the trunk with boys.
Tom recognized his surroundings as he looked around and saw that they were back in town in a storage and moving company’s parking lot at Pacific and McClellen close to the Gatsby’s nightclub. By the time Tom had drained the last drop from his fake pee, Slim had given up on squeezing the fat man into trunk. “You drive,” he told Tom out of the blue. “Sure I can drive,” said Tom who was too young to have a license. “But I better put on some clothes so I don’t get pulled over.”
Seeing Tom’s point and everything else, Slim allowed him to quickly put on some clothes. Then he closed trunk, got in front next to Tom and told him drive south. They left the big transient shaking bewildered and nude, standing in the parking lot. At the last minute Slim benevolently tossed his clothes out onto the road.
As they approached the downtown Sambos restaurant just a few blocks up the road, Slim asked Tom if he wanted to get a cup of coffee. “Sure, I could use some coffee,” Tom said though he had never tried it before. Tom pulled into the Sambos parking lot and they both got out.
“We are going in the restaurant, but you will not know if I am standing here or inside so don’t make a sound,” he said to the trunk loud enough for the boys inside to hear. ” If I hear a sound, I will kill you all.” They walked twenty feet away and then he made Tom stand silently with him for a couple minutes. “O.K. now we are really going in. Maybe.” Slim told the boys in trunk. “Don’t make a sound.”
Slim wanted to sit at a booth table at the far end of the restaurant next to the windows that looked out to the parking lot. He had his back to the door so he could watch the Impala parked just a few yards away. He wanted to discuss how Tom could help him get money for the boys’ jewelry which did not amount to more than three inexpensive watches, a thin gold necklace and a copper bracelet.
But first he wanted a smoke and so he got up and walked to the cigerrete machine by the entrance. Just as he was putting in his money, he saw a waitress in her early twenties bring waters to the table where Tom sat alone more than a hundred feet away. He saw them talking.
“That man has a gun and four people in the trunk of our car,” Tom said casually as he watched Slim watching him.
“What did you just say?” she asked with eyes as wide as a Sambo’s pancake.
“I said that man has a gun and four people in the truck of our car,” he said and then watched her turn and leave without saying another word.
“What were you saying to the waitress?” Slim asked as soon as he sat back down.
“She asked if we were going to order food and I told her I didn’t know,” Tom improvised.
“Well if any cops show up, I have my gun pointed right at your balls and I will blow them off first thing, ” Slim warned.
Tom quickly turned the conversation back to the ideas he had been thinking about in regards to fencing the boys’ valuables so Slim could buy that case of beer. He kept up a steady stream of chatter and did not let on as he watched two cops enter the front door and quietly walk right up behind Slim.
As one cop put his hand on Slim’s shoulder, Tom stood up and quickly got behind the other cop. “We understand you have a gun and four people in the trunk,” the cop said with his other hand on his unsnapped gun holster.
“That is right,” was the only thing Slim had say and he peacefully let them handcuff him.
RELEASE AND REJOICE
It only took a few more minutes and Sambo’s was lit up like the Griswald’s at Christmas as cop cars streamed in from every direction. Ironically, while the two cops had approached Slim with their weapons holstered, the ten cops who surrounded the trunk as it was opened all had their guns drawn and aimed even though Tom was standing there telling them no one had any guns and the boys inside were yelling out to their rescuers that they were unarmed. Why would they have been in a trunk if they had had a gun to shoot whoever was trying to put them in a trunk?
Although the oddity of seeing the cops with their guns drawn as the boys saw freedom for the first time created the most memorable moment of the entire episode for Tom, it passed almost unnoticed to the ecstatic boys as they scrambled out and began hugging each other and Tom and the waitress, oblivious to their nakedness. All that mattered was that the nightmare was over and they were safe.
The article below appeared in the evening newspaper. The account above is Tom’s firsthand account as he has remembered it since he was 14. The news story below was far briefer and inaccurate about a few things but it does reveal two things that will surprise you. One about the age of the Slim and the other about his weapon.
The next article appeared at the end of the Summer covering Slim’s plea bargain and sentencing. It fleshes out who Slim really was and is surprising in the state of mind Slim claimed to have been in during the kidnapping.
For a few years the five boys met with the waitress, Annette Lynn Hall, on the anniversary of the kidnapping at the Sambo’s downtown. Eventually the waitress moved on and the boys all graduated from high school and went their separate ways. Tom lost all track of everyone.