My last entry was about Enigma, the studio owner I knew back in my Yakima days, and I promised you a couple more stories about him. Well, now is as good a time as any, and I’m ready for one if you are.

After I’d spent a few nights recording my own songs, and Enigma saw that I could play a number of instruments, he started calling me in to play keyboards or guitar on sessions for other people. One of the people was a singer-songwriter who A) fancied himself the next Otis Redding (despite the fact that he was white and had difficulty singing in tune), and B) coincidentally enough, had the same name as my childhood optometrist. We also worked with a group of four guys who were modeling themselves after the New Kids on the Block. Ever the budding entrepreneur, Enigma had the brilliant idea of introducing WhiteOtis to the NewKids and creating a ‘supergroup’ of sorts, which he himself would manage. I was called in to help them write some songs. This relationship proved to be ill-fated, and everybody went back to what they’d been doing separately. Otis continued working on his solo project, “Do It,” which would be the first session work on my musical resumé.

One night, we were working on one of the songs for that album—I should really call it a ‘tape’, since calling it an ‘album’ makes it sound much more glamorous and legitimate than it was—and I invited a couple of my bandmates to the studio so that they could hear what Enigma and I were up to. We arrived early, and hung out with Enigma in the studio’s front office for ten minutes or so, until Otis arrived and we all made our way to the main room of the studio. Not more than a few minutes after we had moved to the main room, we heard a bunch of loud sounds that we assumed were firecrackers until we heard things hit the window and saw the curtains moving. It was then we realized were being shot at, and we ducked behind whatever cover we could find. Otis and I hid underneath the studio’s large mixing console, which was sitting on top of a sturdy wooden table. My two bandmates hid around the corner by the bathroom, while Enigma grabbed his shotgun and climbed up a ladder and into the crawlspace above the ceiling. He intended to climb up to the roof and survey the situation from there.

Otis and I were nearest to the phone, so I suggested that we call Nine-One-One and report what was going on. He lifted the receiver and made the call. “We’re being shot at,” he said tersely.

“Okay, where are you located?” the operator asked.

“Uhh. . .we’re kind of. . .on Lincoln and 26th. No, 24th—” He lowered the handset and whispered to me, What’s the address here?

I happened to know it (it was on 20th), so I whispered it to him. He relayed it to the operator, who said that the police were on their way. We thanked her and hung up.

After that, the shooting stopped, but the five of us stayed crouched and hidden until we saw the flashing red and blue lights of the police cars a few minutes later. Enigma had come down from the roof and joined us in the studio again, although he returned by way of a different route than he exited. He jumped down from the ceiling with his shotgun slung over his shoulder, and he tucked it behind his back as he peeked through the front door’s mail slot. “You might want to put that away,” I told him, gesturing at the huge gun.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, and returned it to its hiding place somewhere. While he was putting it away, the police called for us to come out with our hands up, and we walked single-file toward the door. I was the first one outside, and I was faced with the horrifying sight of four handguns pointed at me. I was told to put my hands on the car, and I did so immediately. My bandmates were the next in line, and they followed suit. Enigma was behind them, and he sauntered over to the car next to us. Otis was the last one out of the building, and he was just as calm and cool as can be. “It’s okay,” he said to the police, “we called YOU.” The guns were lowered and the officers came over to talk with us.

We told them what happened, to the best of our ability, and there were lots of rounds of ammunition strewn about on the ground outside the studio, which the police said were from a .22-caliber rifle. We showed them the holes in the windows and curtains, and even found a few rounds embedded in the desk and shelves near where we’d all been standing only minutes before. It was pretty scary, and I’ll never forget that experience. Here’s a picture of the building today, thanks to GoogleMaps.

I love that there’s a derelict shopping cart in the photo. I could have easily cropped it out or chosen a different angle, but why? The cart seems so apropos, somehow. Also, there used to be a row of tall, beautiful trees across the street from that building, but they’ve been cut down in favor of. . .a lawn for whatever business is located there now.

Anyway. That’s neither here nor there.

The full story came out as Otis was telling his story to the police. Otis and Enigma had been hanging out at the studio earlier that afternoon, when a group of four or five young guys came to the door and said, “Hey, we’re looking for [Otis Redding].”

“Yeah, that’s me,” he replied.

“Oh, uhhhh—” they stammered, “we were looking for the [Otis Redding] who went to Hick High School.” [For the record, I had recently graduated from Hick High School, and there was no one named Otis Redding.]

“No, I go to Redneck High School.”

“Okay, sorry to bother you guys.” They walked to their car and drove off.

Otis stood in the doorway and watched them leave, then turned back and said to Enigma, “That was kinda weird. Don’tcha think that was weird?”

Enigma agreed that it WAS weird, and Otis decided to go out and get some food (and, I suspect, to try and hunt down the group of guys), which is around the time that my bandmates and I arrived, unaware of that conversation. In retrospect, it seems that Otis had stolen a girl from one or more of the guys in question, and they were out for revenge. They knew he was a singer, and that he was working with Enigma, so he was easy enough to track down. The rest of us would have been collateral damage.

That was one of the strangest moments of my life. It was certainly the only time I’ve been shot at, as far as I know.

The shooting incident also scared Enigma into moving his studio to a more secure location, and when the biggest music store in town had an open room in its basement, Enigma jumped at the chance to move in. That’s the starting point for the story I’ll tell you next time on. . .The Enigma Files. Or something like that.

To be continued.