I pulled into the parking lot behind The Broadway Jazz Club at about 10:40, maybe 10:45 p.m. I looked at the large lights overhead. This parking lot is well lit, I thought. It feels safe. I need to mention that in my blog.
I’d come from Jazz Winterlude at Johnson County Community College. But this night I also wanted to see singer Dionne Jeroue at The Broadway Jazz Club. I’ve heard her several times in Everette DeVan’s Tuesday jams at The Phoenix, and I’ve been taken by her exceptional voice. But those are Everette’s jams. I wanted to hear her leading her own group.
I was a bit disappointed when I walked in. Dionne was accompanied by Hammond B3 organ, guitar and drums, same as Tuesday nights at The Phoenix. I was hoping to hear that voice backed with different instrumentation. But Rod Fleeman was the guitarist. Several weeks ago, at Take Five, he helped drive Shay Estes’s group to an inspired level. This, I realized, was a promising mix.
Dionne is young and gaining experience in commanding a stage. Her voice is exceptional, smooth yet bold with a punch at the right spots, on jazz standards, pop hits and Motown classics. And there’s charisma on that stage, a sexiness without trying to be sexy, a playfulness exuding joy. Her story of confronting a raccoon in her bedroom worked. It was well told and funny, and it broke up the set. However, that second set featured too long a string of up-tempo songs. It would have benefitted from some pacing. She’s learning. But between her vocal talent and presence, Kansas City, this is a singer watch.
Rod stopped by to chat between sets. This was his first time in this club and, like all of us, he liked what he saw. I voiced concerns about the neighborhood. He decided to move his car, parked on a side street, closer. I mentioned the well lit lot in the back.
The show ended after 1, and I stood to leave. My camera pack was strapped to my waist. I’d photographed Winterlude earlier in the evening and thought I might take some photos here, but didn’t.
I don’t know the exact time I walked out the door, and down 36th Street to the parking lot. But after the incident, the clock in my car read 1:23.
I stepped into the lot. I took my iPhone out of my pocket. On the way home, I’d listen to NPR stories I’d missed earlier in the day, I thought.
I opened my car door.
Suddenly, from across 36th street, a youth, probably in his mid teens, yelled unintelligibly at me and ran towards my car.
I tried to get in and shut the door quickly. If I could just lock the door and start the car, I’d escape him. But the camera pack made sitting in the seat slow and awkward. I slumped in and yanked the car door shut, but the youth was there and pulled the handle from the outside. He was stronger and faster. He opened the door before I could lock it.
“Give me that phone!” he yelled. I didn’t. It was in the hand away from the door. Instinctively, I clasped it tighter.
“Give me the phone!”
Another youth, similar age, ran up from the back of the lot, from Central Street. He stopped at the open car door and looked at me, eyes all open and crazed. He pulled from his pocket what looked like a small gun. He pointed it at my leg, then at my groin, then at my leg.
“Get out!” he demanded.
In the mid 1980s, when I lived off The Plaza, I was mugged one night while walking home. I was on Brush Creek Boulevard, across from Winstead’s. Daylight Savings Time had just ended. The week before it had been light outside at this time, but this night was dark. Four youths walked up Brush Creek Boulevard and demanded my wallet. I wouldn’t give it to them. They started hitting me, knocked me to the ground, broke my eyeglasses, on Brush Creek Boulevard across from Winstead’s. I started to scream for help. When I did, they ran off. I decided then that if I was ever assaulted again, I would scream.
“Help me!” I yelled, as loud as I could. “Help me!”
“Get out! Get out!” yelled the youth with eyes all open and crazed, waving a gun at my leg.
“Help me! Help me!”
The first youth kicked the car door, swinging it as far open as it could go before bouncing back on its springs.
“Help me! Help me!”
Nobody came. But both youths turned and ran off, towards the back of the well lit parking lot, towards Central Street.
I slammed the car door shut and locked it. I tried to put the key in the ignition. But my hand shook, uncontrollably, as I stabbed the key repeatedly at the dashboard and the steering column. Somehow, finally, I found the ignition.
I started the car. I looked at the time. I drove off.
Going home, NPR stories I’d missed earlier in the day streamed from my iPhone through the car radio. But all I heard, on the drive back to Johnson County, was my voice in my head yelling “Help me! Help me!” And just beyond the windshield, throughout the drive, I saw two eyes staring back at me, all open and crazed.