It wasn’t a good time to be a stranger in Houston, Texas, that day I arrived in late December, 1987. There was a serial rapist on the loose (a really sick puppy!), and he had the whole city on edge. His M.O. was making appointments with female rental agents (on the pretense of wanting to rent an apartment), and once alone in the apartment she’d be showing, he’d pounce, beat, rape, and sodomize her—then leave her hog-tied in a closet while he made his escape. I was a career bank robber and two-time prison escapee, on the most-wanted lists of several city, state, county, and federal law enforcement agencies that day I arrived in town, needing to rent an apartment. As luck would have it, I fit the description of the rapist to a “T”. As well, it just so happened that my last good set of identification had bit the dust with my last bank job ten days earlier in Florida. Now it would take me three or four months to build another set of I.D. from scratch. The first thing on my agenda was to acquire an address, which I accomplished at a place called, “Mail Boxes Etc.” by bluffing it with a business card bearing the name Gary B. Stone, an employee of the Aetna Insurance Company. As a rule, Mail Boxes Etc. insists on a piece of identification, such as a driver’s license, state I.D. card, or even a passport, before they’ll rent a person a postal box. I didn’t have any of those. I rented the box and also took out a one year contract for a telephone answering service, paying cash up front for the whole shebang. It’s a pretty good contract for one of these places, being as how they are individually franchised, and although they have a national policy about proof of I.D., they don’t like turning down a quick couple-of-hundred dollars because of a small formality. When the counter person asked me for a driver’s license as proof of who I claimed to be, I whipped my business card holder out of my pocket and searched through it. “Oh darn!” I said, “I don’t have my driver’s license with me. Here is my business card for now,” I said, handing it to her, “and I’ll bring my license in the next time I’m here.” She accepted that, and I never saw her again.
Now, with an address, an answering service, and my Gary Stone – Aetna Insurance Company business cards, I called a rental office at a large apartment complex, called “Oakwood” on Voss Avenue.
The female rental agent assured me she had vacancies, and we agreed to meet at twelve-noon at her office inside the apartment compound. Of course, unbeknownst to me at the time, all rental agents were on the alert for the rapist, described as being: a white male, five-feet-nine inches tall, weight 175 pounds, approx., 35 years old, with dark hair and beard. You’d think they were describing the guy depicted on F.B.I. wanted posters, looking for a two-time prison escaping bank robber…! We met at her office at our scheduled time. When she got a look at me, you would think she was seeing a ghost. She got all red in the face, began to sweat profusely, and shook like a leaf. I didn’t know anything about this rapist being on the loose, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was wrong with her. I kept thinking that maybe I should get my ass out of there, because something was definitely wrong. She gave me an application form to fill out while she disappeared for about ten minutes. When she returned, I handed her the form, and she looked it over. I had made a terrible, amateurish mistake on it and she caught it immediately. Where the application asked where I worked and for how long, I wrote in Eatna Insurance, and that I had been employed there for 10 years. One should know how to spell the name of his employer after working there for 10 years, eh! EH! She looked over the application, then asked, “Is this insurance company you work for a local one?” “Well, of course we have local offices, but we’re world wide,” I answered confidently, having already checked the local phone book and memorizing the address. “Oh!” she said. “Funny, I’ve never heard of it.”
“You’ve never heard of the Aetna Insurance Company?” I asked.
“Oh! Aetna?” she exclaimed. “You misspelled it on your application,” she said—looking at me suspiciously, and pointing it out to me. Now she really started to shake. And the color of her face changed from bright red to ghostly white! “I’ll be with you in a minute,” she said, scurrying towards her office, “I just have to process this.” She closed her door, and I thought I heard her lock it behind her.
She didn’t emerge for about ten minutes, and when she did, she said, “Okay, Mr. Stone, would you like to follow me and I’ll show you a couple of the units we have available.” She seemed a little more reserved, and I figured she must have confirmed that I was legitimate through my answering service. Away we went. She brought me to a furnished, one bedroom apartment, after first showing me some of the amenities the complex had to offer: swimming pools, running track, exercise rooms, lounge, banquet, and TV rooms…but got all nervous again when we entered the apartment. She left the front door wide-open all the time we were in there. When we got to the part where she showed me the bedroom, I thought she was taking an anxiety attack. (This was where the rapist made his move on eight previous occasions.) I knew by her actions that there was definitely something wrong, so I didn’t even go into the bedroom—I was looking to get out of there, probably more than she was. I said everything was fine, that I liked the place, and that I was looking at a couple of other places and I’d make a decision later in the day and get back with her – looking to get the hell out of there, and moving towards the open door. As we exited, there were two men just outside the door—one on each side, leaning on the railing. They had “Cop” written all over them! I guess they thought they had the rapist and were just waiting to rush in the minute they heard from the rental agent—if in fact she wasn’t also a cop! The three of them greeted each other in a surreptitious manner – the old raised eyebrow, shrugged shoulder, “I’m not sure whether if it’s him or not” expression. I bid her goodbye at the bottom of the stairs and hustled to my car. I didn’t have a driver’s license, nor any proper I.D., and had they made their move on me, they would have bagged one of the ten most wanted criminals in the country. I drove away!