We were leaving Kansas City
by Russell Buddy Helm copyright 2013 All rights reserved.
We were leaving Kansas City. Sitting at the Kansas City airport, waiting for a flight. The morning was just ending, so Mack decided to start on his vodka gimlets. He started to feel antsy, so got up and started to spook around the waiting area, hiding behind columns and spying on people. I was standing off to myself, leaning against a column, just getting some alone time. Mack motioned surreptitiously to me, and then pointed at an unsuspecting traveler, reading a newspaper. Mack hand signaled to me that he would go around the other side, and that I should go around this side and surround that guy. Then we would “get him”. It was a game he liked to play; Secret Agent. I formed a pistol with my fingers and pointed it back at Mack and pretended to shoot him instead. That pissed him off. He came over to me and hissed in my face, “Why can’t you be a team player?!”
“I’m not a joiner…” I muttered back at him. He stalked back to the round table where the rest of the band was sitting, waiting. He slumped down on the seat and nursed his series of gimlets. Finally Tim said to him, “Mack, If I get political again. Will you kill me like you did Jimi and Janis?”
Without hesitation Mack responded in a voice that he had not used before. It was serious, not the silly drunked up voice that he usually put on. “When Buddy picks up a gun, that’s when everybody goes to jail.”
Just after Tim Buckley was murdered, later, I was crying in our living room in the Santa Cruz mountains when the phone rang and Katherine said with a great deal of trepidation, “It’s Mack.”
He had left the band a year ago, during the time I had quit. Or he was fired. I didn’t know the circumstances. How could he have gotten this phone number? It wasn’t in my name. I answered the phone, “Hello?”
“Look, man. Tim was loved by a lot of people back here. And we’re impressed that you found the guy who killed him. So…we can ‘do’ this guy for you. No charge. No strings attached. All you have to do is say yes….” I could feel the set up. Recording machines were running. This was my father’s business. My instincts woke up.
“No Mack. Let justice take it’s course.” I hung up gently. That was a call from the devil himself. I was not going to participate but ‘they’ knew I wanted to. They wanted me involved in something that would end up with me being in trouble. It was a frame. I had seen enough bad detective movies to know that. But I didn’t really know what his motives were. The old fears came up. I inherited them from my mother, who had fallen in love with a spy.
Was I that much of a threat? What did my father do? Is it about me at all… Tim was the real target; was it a murder for money or politics, or revenge? Whatever the reasons, it was a very, very professional job. The coroner never found out what killed his brain.
Tim’s dream was to record an album with Fred Neil, Odetta, and himself all singing together. I would have liked to have played drums on that one.