EXCERPT: “Man Beheaded; Dentist Sought”

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coverWhen Deputy Frank “Two-Gun” Hopkins went to take the padlock off of his cell and release Dr. Richard M. Brumfield to the bullpen, he found the dentist in a rage, pacing like a wild animal and cursing violently, raging about his father being too old to “do that kind of work.”

“If you unlock that door I’ll kill you,” Brumfield cried as Hopkins started to unwrap the chain, and picked up the heavy wooden chair.

“All right, Doc,” Hopkins said, apparently up for the challenge.
“You’ll have the chance.” He swung the door wide open and stepped inside the cage. Brumfield hurled the chair at him, but Hopkins dodged it with a simple side-step. When Brumfield struck a pose as if to lunge, the deputy showed the prisoner why they called him “Two-Gun” and made a quick draw.

“One more move and you’re a dead man, Doc,” he said.

Brumfield reconsidered his position and withdrew to his cot. Hopkins replaced his gun in its holster and retrieved the basket of food he had set down outside the cell door while Brumfield hurled profane, vindictive epithets at him.

“He is my father and you can’t work him so hard,” he told Hopkins. “You know he can’t do that kind of work, and I’ll not stand for it.”

It finally dawned on Hopkins what Brumfield was rambling on about. The old man Pops Cobb had just been sentenced to the county jail for three months at hard labor, but was prone to laying off sick rather than to go out and grub stumps with the younger men under labor sentences. When he laid in the previous day, he complained constantly to Doc Brumfield about the abuse heaped upon him by the county officials and begged off the second day in a row just before Hopkins delivered breakfast.

“You can’t make him work like that,” Brumfield scolded the deputy as he led him to the bullpen. The other prisoners backed into their solitary cells at the approach of the raving dentist.

Hopkins alerted Brumfield’s attorneys, and Rice said he’d come straight over. When he and Orcutt entered the jail, Brumfield didn’t seem to recognize them.

“Have you come to take my father out?” he asked.

“Where is your father?” Rice asked, trying to figure this out.

“He’s in that cell there,” Brumfield said. “They’re working him too hard. He’s sick.”

As he spoke he resumed his pacing. Orcutt and Rice were at a loss. One of them offered Brumfield the morning newspaper. He snatched it away and hurled it to the floor. After other attempts to distract and quiet him, the attorneys left frankly puzzled by his attitude.

“He appears to be insane,” Rice said. “Of course the officers will say that he is shamming, but it appears to me that such a decision should be reserved at least until he can he given an examination, and his condition accurately determined. He appears to be a mad as a March hare.”

When Mrs. Brumfield appeared at the jail a few minutes later the officers told the dentist that his wife was waiting to see him.

“Why, I have no wife,” he said, surprised, and the jailers did not let Mrs. Brumfield in, the first time she had been denied visitation.

Brumfield continued his pacing, but offered no more violence, except that he once kicked a coal bucket in the direction of a deputy who entered the cell. The jail deputies kept a close eye on him, but he would not look up at them and they were not especially amused by his clever bit of acting.

“He is apparently in the same condition as we found him in at Calgary following his arrest there,” said Sheriff Starmer. “I believe he was acting then and I believe he is acting now. He is too consistent in his actions and he can’t convince me he is insane. It may, however, help out his defense some and I think that is his purpose.”

Was Dr. Richard Brumfield faking insanity? Or did he really believe the old moonshiner was his father? Explore the mystery of the 1921 murder of Roseburg, Oregon, hermit Dennis Russell in A Two-Dollar Terror #7, “Man Beheaded; Dentist Sought”…..