BRIAN MOORE-JONES WAS MY BEST FRIEND. HE WAS WITTY, CHARMING, GENEROUS to a fault, a great entertainer, and a successful young account executive for a Dallas network television station.
He was also a murderer.
He was as normal as any of the other ten thousand young executives who drive to work daily on Central, He was ambitious, hard-working, and confident. His downfall came from trying to ride an unending wave of hipness in a city addicted to the new, its streets swarming with hordes of lemming-like players, eager trend-seekers quick to glide from polo shirts and Coronas to miniskirts and bellinis.
I first met Brian in 1980 while I was working on a music video project. As the editor of a Texas music magazine I was at the forefront of the trends in entertainment- We were attempting to produce and package a one-hour special on Texas music, but we needed help in finding sponsorship. A mutual friend suggested Brian to me. Since he sold advertising time and had helped in the production of several commercials, Brian could lend his expertise (and his contacts) to our cause.
On our first meeting we struck up an immediate friendship. We both were goal-oriented, slightly hyper, with the same tastes in music and movies. One of his favorite pastimes was movie memorabilia and movie trivia. We could spend hours over drinks at The Knox Street Pub trying to stump each other. When our wives met each other on a “double date” to a Ranger game, the friendship was cemented. We spent more time with Brian and Sarah than any other couple.
At first glance, they seemed a rather unlikely pair. Brian was a British citizen who spoke with a trace of an accent that became more pronounced when he had been drinking. He told of his days as a youth in London, where his family owned a haberdashery. This accounted for his clotheshorse appetite. He always had to have the finest in suits, ties, and shirts. He even had a closet full of nothing but shoes. He was always dapper and well-dressed, even if it was for a trip to the lake for an afternoon of waterskiing.
His tales of life in London kept us entertained for hours, though they were touched with sadness. Both of Brian’s parents had died when he was just twelve and he had to spend his days in various boarding schools before ending up in Dallas.
Sarah was a Dallas native. She had gone to a Dallas-area school where she was active in the drill team and loved the world of Friday night high school football. She spoke with a Texas twang that had been modified by her job in North Dallas. She had been married once before for a short time. In Brian she had found someone to complement her chicken-fried sensibilities. She had helped him to loosen up and be “one of the boys,” while he had refined and polished her into a model! of the modern career woman.
My wife, Jennifer, and I were a lot like Brian and Sarah and thousands of other two-career couples in Dallas. Although the term “yuppie” was yet to be coined, we fit the mold. We lived in a home in Lake wood, as did Brian and Sarah. Our close proximity to each other made it easy to meet at the Guadalajara restaurant for dinner, or St. Martin’s for brunch, or the Granada for an evening at the movies. I had a ’67 Mercedes that was my pride and joy, while Brian had his BMW that he affectionately called his Beemer.
Like most people our age, we had experimented with drugs in college. I first smoked marijuana at age nineteen while a sophomore at Baylor University. It was pretty much the same story for Sarah and Jennifer. While no one could classify them as “addicts,” they enjoyed having a toke or two after a hard day at work. Brian said that he had tried drugs while a schoolboy in England. He! then went on a summer vacation to Jamaica where he really got into some heavy pot smoking. Shortly after that Jamaican holiday he came to Dallas where he later met Sarah.
By 1980 the fascination with cocaine was going at full speed. It seemed that everyone we knew was doing it, and according to reports, the drug was nonaddictive and fairly harmless. I had tried some while at Baylor, but I found its price prohibitive. Besides, you could get a whole ounce of pot for $40. Why would anyone want to pay $100 for a lousy gram of coke?
What got us into it was the sudden “fashionability” of the drug. Having coke was like making a statement. It said that you were hip, successful, and fun-loving. It was as much a part of your early Eighties Dallas lifestyle as your BMW or your Calvin Kleins.
We started pooling our money and purchasing a gram for the weekends. For a night of dancing, a gram of coke was just the ticket to make you feel good and keep up your energy level. With a little coke on top of that pot and alcohol, you could be fairly loaded, yet wide awake. It was no problem to make it to closing time on your feet.
We started purchasing two grams a weekend instead of just one, but we still felt that we weren’t out of control. After all, we all had good jobs. Our wives worked, too, and since we didn’t have children we were not burdened with any extra expenses. Besides, it was fun. There was something naughty and mischievous about doing drugs semi-publicly. Since coke leaves no telltale odor, our trick was to find daring, unusual places to “toot up.” The most logical place was the public bathroom. You could go into one of the stalls, flush the toilet (to hide your snorting sounds), and get a snootful of the white powder. After a while the thrill of tooting up in a restroom lost its appeal, so the next step was to go into the girl’s restroom and snort up. This was not as difficult as you might think, particularly at many of the clubs along the Greenville strip. The easiest way was to have a girl lead you in there by the hand, then head immediately to one of the stalls. Once inside you then gave your girl a toot and finished up with yourself.
The funny thing about doing drugs is that you suddenly develop an unspoken communication with other drug users. I noticed cocaine popping up among some of my straighter friends, and in the strangest ways.
There was the car dealer with a major Dallas dealership who would throw in a gram if you bought your car from him right then and there. He just took it out of his commission, or more often tacked it onto the selling price. My real estate friends were even more blatant about it. There was many a condo sold under the influence of “blow.”
There was a friend in a music store who sold guitars all over the country. Since he dealt in instruments that regularly ran in the $2,000 range, no one thought it unusual that he used heavy-duty cases with locks on them. They were sent by air freight to California and New York. He received just as many guitars as he sent out. One day I was with him as he opened up the locks on the case of a vintage Fender Stratocaster. There in the accessory panel was an ounce of pure cocaine. He had found the perfect way to ship it across the country and no one had caught on. To make it even more outrageous, he insured the contents. No one thought it unusual when he filed a claim on a lost 1958-59 Gibson Les Paul guitar, valued at $8,000. The damned airline paid for his lost stash!
The most outrageous and blatant use of coke was in the bar and restaurant business. There was a nightclub (now defunct) near Oak Lawn where I once sat down and ordered drinks and a gram of coke from my waitress. She brought it to me, I paid for it, and that was it. Just like ordering a scotch and water. When a waitress is driving a BMW, something has got to be up, yet no one was catching on. She always had a good story to tell, like, “A rich Arab came in last night and laid a $200 tip on the table.”
This was taken to the limits by a club on Greenville Avenue that soon acquired a reputation as a “coke bar.” Several of the more well-known dealers in town hung out there, along with a string of local celebrities and even several members of the Dallas Cowboys. If you needed to score, you could find someone to oblige you. As if that were not enough, you could purchase your coke from a waiter or waitress and charge it to your American Express card. When you signed your slip, it would read that the charge was for dinner and drinks. Some of my friends had the nerve to turn in these charges on their expense account. Imagine: their employers were buying their cocaine!
At the same time, some of our friends were starting to have problems. There was the musician buddy of mine who was making a decent living playing Greenville Avenue bars. He used coke, so he started dealing a little to support his habit. One night he had just finished cutting up a quarter ounce when a gorgeous young lady knocked at his door. The two of them stayed up all night, snorting the entire quarter ounce and making love. It was so much fun he did it again the next night, and the next. Trouble was, he had been “fronted” the quarters, and now it was time to pay up, but since he had snorted it instead of selling it, he didn’t have the money.
About one week later two men showed up at his home. One of them ordered him to sit in a chair in his living room while the other one relieved him of his TV, stereo, furniture, instruments, amplifiers, everything of value. They told him they were now even and left him sitting in that chair in his empty house. He never did coke again.
I AM ALWAYS AMUSED WHEN A POLITIcal figure proclaims yet another “war on drugs” and promises a crackdown. The next thing you know, the TV news is filled with footage of our fearless drug agents busting up another “drug ring,” complete with the obligatory film at 10 o’clock of some black street-corner dealer being handcuffed and hauled off to jail. This reinforces society’s view of drug dealers as being seedy characters who hang out near school yards or in the ghetto, preying on the young, the down-and-out, or the sleazy. In reality, none of these people could finance a $500,000 shipment of coke because they couldn’t come up with that kind of cash. The people who are bringing coke into this country by boat, plane, and car are real estate agents, bankers, lawyers, and doctors. They are the only ones who could go to their bank and draw out $500,000 in cash, yet they escape detection because they wear a suit, go to church, and belong to the Lions club.
Two local suppliers who sold bulk cocaine to dealers decided to carry the coke front game to the max by renting an office in a fashionable building. They proclaimed it to be a precious metals brokerage house. From this prestigious, respectable business address they made huge dope deals, bringing in loads of coke from South America. Of course the brokerage business was the perfect front. This would explain the presence of large amounts of cash and the regular trips to South America. After all, that’s where most of the silver comes from, eh?
By 1982, the year of the oil boom, my wife and I were growing a bit disenchanted with urban living and were entertaining thoughts of moving to the family ranch out in West Texas. The only problem was figuring a way to make a living, since neither of us were really ranchers. But with the spiraling petroleum prices, almost anything connected with the oil industry was making money-lots of it.
Since oil was selling at $32 a barrel, everyone with any investment capital was putting it into a drilling venture. Rigs were sprouting like weeds on the landscape. So many of them were going up that inexperienced hands were being hired to run them. This was resulting in hundreds of accidents, several of which ended in the deaths of rig workers. So Brian and I hatched a plan to start a video Company that would specialize in training tapes for the oil field, With our headquarters at my ranch in the oil-rich Permian Basin, we figured that we could stay busy for the next century.
With our new idea in hand, Jennifer and I packed our belongings into the moving van and prepared to leave Dallas for a new life. The night that we were to depart we held a going away party in our Lakewood home. Brian and Sarah were there, along with eight of our other friends. Besides our usual assortment of party drinks and chips and dips, we had a good supply of “toot.” We all did a few lines, said our goodbyes, and prepared to tike off.
The plan was for me to drive the truck out while Jennifer stayed behind and closed out all of our batik accounts, utility bills, and other items. Before leaving, I gave her a half gram of coke for her own use. She stuck it in the kitchen cabinet. I said my goodbyes to the group and drove away.
About nine hours later I got to the ranch. Almost immediately the phone rang. It was Jennifer.
“Where did you put that coke?” she asked.
I replied that I had seen her place it in the cabinet. She! answered that she had, but when she went to get it in was gone.
“Maybe you misplaced it,” I said. “Look behind all of the cans and see if it’s there.”
She said that she had already done that. She felt that someone at our party had stolen it before they left. She believed it was Brian.
I was angry. How can you accuse one of your close Mends of stealing from you? I soon put the incident behind me, but Jennifer was adamant that Brian was the culprit. When I pressed her for a reason, she would reply that it was her “woman’s intuition.”
A few months later Brian flew out and we applied for an $8,000 loan to purchase cameras and recorders. Brian and I inked the deal, then headed back to the house. After a few drinks to celebrate, we talked it over and both agreed that since Brian worked for a TV station he would be able to get the best possible price on our video hardware. I then signed over the money to him to go back to Dallas and buy our equipment. This move infuriated my wife. “Don’t trust him,” she kept insisting. “He’s crooked.”
There is something about a woman attacking a man’s best friend that causes him to hunker down and take his friend’s side, even at the expense of his marriage. At any rate, I defended Brian to the utmost. Naturally this didn’t help my marriage one bit.
After Brian left, I went to work trying to find our first client. In about two weeks I had lined up a shoot for a local company, and I eagerly called Brian to tell him the good news. When I got him on the phone he had a sad tale to tell about his BMW being stolen and wrecked by two black men. He said that he was a little short of cash, due to the deductible from his insurance, and asked if I could loan him $300. I immediately said yes, and that further infuriated my wife. I told Brian about our job order and he agreed to fly out the following weekend.
By now my marriage was becoming increasingly strained. Jennifer and I fought constantly over Brian, money, our goals, and just about anything else. I kept thinking that once my business took off, she would thank me. It didn’t work out that way. After several months of fighting she packed up and left me one Friday afternoon. That put me close to becoming a basket case. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that our first shoot would take place in two weeks. Despite Jennifer’s pleas for us to get counseling, I figured that I could work on my marriage once the job was in the can.
One gray afternoon, just ten days before our shoot, I answered a knock at the door and found Brian standing there, He had flown out to Midland, rented a car, and driven to the ranch unannounced. I was happy to see him, but sensed that something was wrong. He sat in the living room, wringing his hands, and told me that he had lost his job at the television station. He was behind in his house payments, about to have his new car repossessed, and unable to find steady work. On top of that, he told me that he had borrowed some money from a loan shark and the note was due today. Rather than face the “collectors,” he had fled to my ranch.
I immediately told him that he had to turn around and get back to Dallas. There was no way he could leave his wife and their seven-month-old baby to answer to these men. I pleaded with him to ask his in-laws for help, a loan of some type. He agreed to do this and promised to take the first plane back.
I LATER LEARNED THAT MY FRIEND WAS living a double life. When Brian landed in Dallas, he went to his father-in-law and borrowed close to $7,000, which he immediately used to buy cocaine. He had already gone through our $8,000 without purchasing a speck of equipment, and he had borrowed $2,000 from another friend. About three months prior he had started freebasing coke, and he was going through incredible amounts of both cocaine and money. This was all unknown to me and his wife. How he hid it from us I’ll never know, but somewhere along the line Brian had lost control. He now wanted as much cocaine as he could get his hands on.
He was approached by a friend who had some jewelry for sale. This friend, Arthur, had no inkling that Brian had become a freebaser. He knew that Brian liked to buy Sarah expensive gifts, so he showed him some gold necklaces that he had. Brian asked if he could keep them for a few days to see if Sarah liked them.
Brian immediately pawned the jewelry for money to buy more coke. About a week later, Arthur called to see if Brian wanted to buy the jewelry. Brian stalled him, saying that he hadn’t made up his mind. Meanwhile, he started going through every penny that was in his and Sarah’s bank accounts.
After three weeks of stalling, Arthur was getting upset with Brian. Finally he demanded to pick up either the money or the jewelry or he would go to the police and report the jewelry as stolen. With this threat Brian quickly capitulated.
“Come by tomorrow,” he said. “I’11 have your jewelry for you then.”
When Arthur arrived at Brian and Sarah’s home it was about 2 p.m, Sarah was at work. Brian never told her he was jobless. He would get up in the morning, go through the motions of getting ready for a day at the office, leave the house, wait for Sarah to depart, then come back home and spend the day at the house, leaving again just before Sarah arrived with the baby.
Arthur was ushered in and shown a chair in the den.
“Would you like a beer?” Brian asked. Ardiur answered that he would, and Brian excused himself to go to the refrigerator.
Instead of getting a beer, Brian picked up a .380 automatic, walked into the den, and fired three shots into the back of Arthur’s head. Then he drove to Lakewood Hardware and bought some plastic sheeting. Returning to the house, he wrapped Arthur’s body in the plastic, then dragged the corpse out into the garage. He went back into the house and phoned a wrecker service to tow away Arthur’s car, telling them that “this strange vehicle” had been parked on his street for a week. After that he got down to the task of removing Arthur’s blood from the carpet.
When Sarah came home the house was dark. She was tired, but she noticed a stain on the carpet and called Brian into the room to ask him [what he had done. He mumbled something about spilling something earlier. She asked him to rent a steam cleaner the next day to) clean it up.
The next morning, after Sarah left for work, Brian moved Arthur’s plastic-wrapped body to a rented U-Haul truck. He then motored down Interstate 45, just a few miles out of Dallas, pulled over to the side of the road, and threw the body into a drainage ditch. He then climbed back in the truck and drove home.
When Sarah came home that evening it was very cold. Snow flurries were falling. She had the baby in her arms, along with his baby bag, and she couldn’t get the door open. She saw someone moving around in the house and, figuring that it was Brian, shouted at him to open the door. The door was opened by a stranger in a trenchcoat. He pulled her into the house and threw her down in a chair while another man dumped the contents of her purse onto the floor.
The man, who identified himself as a Dallas County sheriff, proceeded to question Sarah about Arthur. Confused, she asked why he was asking her these questions. Why didn’t he just ask Arthur?
“Your husband murdered Arthur the other day,” said the officer as he flipped on the light switch.
When Sarah had come home the evening after Arthur’s death, Brian had kept the house dark. When she left for work early that morning it had still been dark. Now, with the room fully lit, she looked around and screamed at the sight. There wasn’t just a stain on the carpet; there was blood all over the walls.
I got the phone call at my ranch from a close friend in Dallas. A passing motorist had seen Brian dumping Arthur’s body on the interstate and taken down the license plate number of the U-Haul truck. The sheriffs were at his house in a short time. Brian concocted some wild story about how two men had come to see him with Arthur. Brian had left to get some sandwiches for lunch, he said, and when he got home he found Arthur’s body on the floor. The sheriffs didn’t buy it for a minute. Brian had not covered his tracks well at all, leading several people to believe that he was coked up when he committed the crime, Would he have done such a thing were he not on coke? I doubt it.
Many people couldn’t believe that Sarah hadn’t noticed any changes in Brian. They thought that she was either very dumb or in on the crime. I must confess that Brian had me fooled too. I had not realized the depth of his problem when he visited me just four days before the murder.
Sarah and I talked for several hours on the phone and over lunch. “What happened to him?” she kept asking over and over. I replied that he wasn’t himself, that cocaine had changed his entire persona.
Brian stayed in Dallas County Jail to await his trial. He phoned me a few times from there, asking me to believe that he hadn’t done it, but I couldn’t buy his story. He phoned Sarah several times until she finally quit answering the phone. After a few weeks she filed for divorce.
Just before Brian’s trial, his parents came forward. They were not dead, and he had not been born in England. His parents, who lived in Texas, said that Brian had disappeared several years ago. Now they had been asked to help him with his legal fees.
Brian was found guilty of murder and sentenced to thirty-five years in Huntsville. Sarah had her name changed and went back to work. She became a single parent trying to work, sort out her life, and raise her son. My wife filed for divorce a month after the murder. It was granted three months later.
I never touched cocaine again. To this day, whenever I am at a party and someone pulls out a bottle of white powder, begins to chop it up on a mirror, and giggles as he passes the straw around the room, I pass on the offer and wonder if any of these people would be snorting that stuff if they had any idea of what this flirtation can lead to. The price is just too high to justify the risk.