The Bolton Hill butcher knife babe

John Lewis

January 04, 1993|By John Lewis

A FEW weeks ago, burglars broke into my friend Leigh Anne' Bolton Hill apartment while she was at work. The thieves made off with most of her appliances, stereo equipment and computer hardware, and after discovering the theft and alerting the police -- who made a list of the stolen items and promptly told her to kiss them goodbye -- Leigh Anne called me.

"The CD-player-boombox-microwave-TV-VCR all gone," she practically screamed into my ear.

"Where?" I asked feebly.

"I don't know!" she hollered. "They were stolen. It happened this afternoon while I was at work. At least, the police think it was this afternoon. They think it was more than one guy."

For the next 15 minutes, Leigh Anne rapped relentlessly, and I stammered intermittently. She talked about her lost stuff, the indifference of the police and crime in her neighborhood. She spoke again and again of two things: a gun and the likelihood of getting robbed again. She wanted the former, because she was sure the latter was inevitable.

I did my best to convince Leigh Anne that having just been robbed made her statistically unlikely to be victimized again, but it didn't work. She was sure the culprits -- pleased with their haul -- were plotting to return.

"But what would they take?" I asked. "It sounds like they already got everything."

"I'm talking on a telephone, aren't I?" she snapped. "And they also didn't touch my compact discs."

Knowing Leigh Anne's somewhat peculiar musical tastes, I had figured that if the robbers had checked her CD collection, they would have exchanged puzzled looks and turned their attention to more obviously valuable objects. Most folks who break into houses aren't looking for the new Lungfish CD, but the CD player will do just fine.

Anyway, I dropped the statistics and tried to dissuade Leigh Anne from purchasing a gun. I made all the usual safety arguments about firearms, but she was unmoved. I mentioned )) other precautions she could take -- like installing an alarm -- but she was sure a gun was her only means of protection.

Until I told her about the Tucson butcher knife lady.

I met the Tucson butcher knife lady about four years ago,in Tombstone, Ariz., a small town between Tucson and the Mexican border. I was sitting in a bar nursing a beer, when a thin, white-haired, old woman -- she appeared to be in her mid-60s -- sat down on the stool next to me and began what appeared to be a familiar ritual with the bartender.

He poured her a shot of whisky and a ginger ale. She didn't even have to ask for it. After she quickly downed the shot, the bartender refilled the small glass. After she swallowed another shot, she reached for the ginger ale, turned to me and asked if I knew who she was. Before I could answer, she proudly identified herself as "the Tucson butcher knife lady," and she had the newspaper clippings to prove it.

"I used to work as a live-in maid for rich people in Tucson," she explained. "I'd live in these real nice houses in ritzy neighborhoods, and it seemed like the houses were always getting robbed. So I started sleeping with a butcher knife, and when I'd hear something suspicious, I'd investigate."

If her investigation turned up an uninvited guest -- as it did on at least three occasions -- she used the knife.

"I'd sneak up on them and stick the knife in about this far," she said, holding the thumb and index finger of her right hand about three inches apart.

"I'd stick it in them just enough to hurt them and let them know I meant business.

"But that's all. I never killed anyone. The papers started calling me the Tucson butcher knife lady."

Was she ever hurt doing this sort of thing? "Nope," she said a bit cockily. "But some other folks were."

Did she ever consider buying a gun? "Nope. Like I said, I never wanted to kill anyone. The knife worked just fine."

At that point, she thanked me for my company, paid her tab, and hurried out the door. After she left, a guy sitting on a barstool next to me howled with laughter. "Where I come from, they don't make them that loony," he said.

The guy turned out to be from Glen Burnie.

After finishing the story, I waited for a comment from Leigh Anne.

"The Bolton Hill butcher knife babe has quite a ring to it, doesn't it?" she asked, and we both laughed.

The subject of purchasing a gun hasn't come up since.

John Lewis, a former reporter for the City Paper, now lives in Boston.

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