Bullets After Brunch

Marc Kajs repeatedly asked the police for protection. They said theycouldn't do anything until his stalker physically harmed him. Eight bulletslater it was too late.

Marc grabbed his black Cirque du Soleil baseball cap, put it on backward and walked out the door. He got into his car, blew Gloria a kiss, honked twice at the corner and waved good-bye.

Sunday brunch in Montrose is fun. Bellinis are bottomless, and mimosas feel mandatory as people drink off their hangovers eating thick, rich foods. At some places waiters dance on the tables, music blares and people discover who did what to whom the night before. At Urbana, patrons sit under pleasant fans on the fenced-in covered patio watching the palm trees sway slightly in the breeze. The people who eat there are in their Sunday best, wearing expensive dark-framed glasses and armloads of crystal beaded bracelets. People skate by, walk their dogs or stagger into Einstein's for a Sunday bagel.
Gloria and Ed Swidriski want to know why the police didn't protect their son.
Deron Neblett
Gloria and Ed Swidriski want to know why the police didn't protect their son.

Marc called Donna that morning. He told her he was scared. She came to Urbana, sat at the solid cherry bar and ate brunch. Between tables Marc told Donna he hadn't been telling her everything and that he needed to talk. Donna says he showed her the bullet-riddled target. When his shift ended, Marc walked with Donna to her red Mazda MX6, parked in the first spot. They were going to get some drinks at the Blue Iguana and hang out until Marc's dinner shift started. It was a bright, sunny day. They felt safe.

Donna put the keys in the ignition, then spotted Ilhan walking toward them across the parking lot with a .25-caliber handgun. Ilhan was clean-shaven, and his nails were bitten to the quick. Before Donna could think to scream or turn the key, Ilhan fired a shot through the passenger window, hitting Marc in the chest. The glass shattered, and blood covered Donna's legs, soaking through her sundress. Sure that she had been hit, Donna ran inside Urbana and climbed into the cabinet under the coffeemaker to hide. Puente herded customers inside. Someone called 911.

Marc got out of the car and tried to wrestle the gun from Ilhan. Ilhan was six foot and 158 pounds of muscle. Marc was shorter and never went to the gym. Since this wasn't the movies, Marc wasn't strong enough to gain control of the gun and let good champion over evil. Since this was real life, Marc turned and ran. Ilhan followed, still shooting.

Then Urbana manager Craig Anderson (who didn't return calls from the Press) jumped over the patio railing and yelled at Ilhan to stop. Ilhan shot Marc twice more in the right thigh. Under the palm tree in front of the Chinese consulate, Marc fell. He never said a word; neither did Ilhan.

Ilhan looked at the manager, then emptied his gun into Marc. Ilhan fired eight bullets in all, hitting Marc three times in the face, twice in the thigh and once each in the neck, chest and groin. He reloaded, pressed the gun to his own skull and pulled the trigger.

Marc was dead on the spot. Ilhan died a couple of hours later at Ben Taub General Hospital.

Marc always said he wasn't going to live past 30. His favorite book was John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany, and the soundtrack to The Doom Generation is in his CD collection. The opening line of his unpublished novel says that life isn't short: It's too long.

Gloria played Janet Jackson's "Together Again" at Marc's funeral and quoted the W.H. Auden poem featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral. "He was my North, my South, my East and WestŠ.I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong." Gloria still has two children; she sees Marc in their eyes and smiles. But the bullets that killed him shattered her. She relives the shooting like a moment out of a Time-Life Books commercial. She remembers sitting in her bedroom, reading, when she felt a pain in her chest. The pain was so intense she lay face down on the bed, the same way Marc sprawled on the ground. Then the phone rang and she knew it was her Marc. She knew he was gone.

Gloria was so depressed after his death, she couldn't do her housework and cook for her family. And Gloria is an immaculate woman who counts ironing as her most relaxing hobby. No matter how many sleeping pills she takes, she wakes up at 1:30 a.m. (the time Marc called her from the police station) and can't sleep until 5 a.m. (when he got home). She's still waiting up for him. Some nights she tries his bedroom door, hoping he'll be in there, sleeping. Safe.

Pictures of Marc are on the piano and in the bookcases. She still has his contact solution and shaving cream in the bathroom cabinet. The clothes Marc was wearing when he died are in a box. Blood shows through the tape. There are three candles burning on her stove, two for Marc and one for his departed father. Marc named the miniature rabbit, Cadbury, whose cage is in the corner of the kitchen, and Marc's voice is still on the answering machine. Gloria listens to it every day. "It makes me think he's somewhere else," Gloria says.

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