Dwayne emerged as a surprisingly deep person. His early life was easily found in the newspaper capsule biographies. Born in Vicksburg Mississippi, he led a troubled youth. He ran with the gangs and was often in conflict with the law. In his teen, while doing time in juvenile detention, a counselor introduced him to karate. Dwayne had found an outlet for his excess of energy.
He took any classes he could once he was released, often paying for them by performing chores for his teachers. Dwayne learned tae kwan do, boxing and judo in addition to karate. He started attending school regularly as several teachers required proof of good grades in order for him to continue.
During his senior year Dwayne entered his first tournament and won the youth sparring competition. The excitement of winning and being looked up to drew him more into his hobby until it became a job. He showed enough promise to come to Las Vegas to try his hand here. That is when reality reared its ugly head. After a couple of amateur victories he moved into the pro ranks and found that there were people much better than he was. Victories came rarely while losses came often, at the hands and feet of those who specialized in a few forms.
Dwayne worked as a sparring partner for better fighter while still making the occasional appearance on cards. He remembered his past and volunteered teaching youth around the city.
It took until late afternoon before we located Dwayne's trainer. Murphy was an old school Irish boxer who had hung his gloves up nearly forty years ago. All I could think of was Burgess Meredith in Rocky.
We tracked him to a one bedroom apartment off the beaten track in a run down 1950's type neighborhood. When we told him we wanted to talk about Dwayne he brought us to a tiny kitchen table.
"Sit down," Murphy told us while pouring coffee without asking. "You want to know about Dwayne? Good kid, real good for a colored."
Jax noticeably cleared her throat.
Murphy looked apologetic, "Sorry Miss, I mean no disrespect. I grew up in a less sensitive day and I sometimes forget my manners. No, no disrespect at all. Dwayne was a man I was proud to know."
He set cups in front of all of us and sat down. "Tell us about him please," Jax asked.
"Heart of a lion," Murphy boasted, "a true fighter, unfortunately with the skills of an alley cat. I always tried to tell him he wasted too much time on that kung fu stuff and focus on boxing. He'd just laugh me off and tell me it was a mixed competition and keep kicking, jabbing and elbowing.
He could take a beating like a man; what a boxer he would have made. He lost a lot but it was never easy on the other guy. I saw the skill he had with that left. I taught him that." He said proudly. "He knew Ozeki was too cocksure and would leave an opening. 'Dwayne,' I told him, 'you open him up then use that left. You'll rock that arrogant bum back on his heels, yessir' and he did. Damn it he did just that then finished that big boy with the elbow. Maybe there was something to that kung fu stuff at that." I noticed a tear rolling down Murphy's check. "Maybe there was something at that," he repeated.
I placed a hand on the old fighter's wrist; he covered mine with his other. "Who would want Dwayne dead?"
"Nobody," Murphy shook his head still in denial, "nobody at all. He was in good with the gang kids; mobs never took note of him. He gave to everyone. After the match I helped him clean up, he said he was going to go to the shelter. Can you believe that, going to the shelter after winning his biggest match?"
"Didn't you know? He volunteered at the Heart of Gold. It's a soup kitchen near the VA. He helped out there twice a week, though lately he had been going more often."
"Do you know why?"
"No, said there was something troubling some of the regulars and he wanted to help out. 'Fraid I didn't pay attention to the details."
"It's ok," I assured him, "you've been a big help."
"Do you have any other fighters you are training?" Jax asked.
"Dwayne was the last," he replied softly. "It may be time to finally take retirement. Let the younger guys have their shot."
With nothing more to say we said our goodbyes and he walked us to the door. "You find who did this and give them to the cops. They need to pay for what they did."
"We'll do that," I promised. "Do you know when he left the arena? It must have taken some time to patch him up after a tough fight like that."
"Eh?" Murphy stopped at the door. "He was out a half hour after the match. Hardly had a scratch; the big galoot couldn't lay a good shot on Dwayne. I gave him some pain killers and he took a shower."
That didn't match the report or what we saw in the photos, "No cuts or bruises?"
"None," Murphy replied, "only one solid hit and Dwayne took that on the side of the head. It gave him a headache."
We would have to look those injuries over again. "Thanks."
Jax stopped at the door, "Murphy, would you consider training a woman?"
"What?" I exclaimed.
"The ring ain't no place for no lady." Murphy had a touch of fire in his gravelly voice.
"Not for the ring," she explained. "Working with Gabe takes me around some rough types and I think it would be a good idea to learn to take care of myself."
"Wouldn't you rather learn that ladies' kung fu?"
"Nope," she shook her head, "I don't think they teach what I would need. I think it would take someone with experience to teach me to fight."
Murphy looked her up and down, entirely different from the way Ozeki did, "Ain't got much muscle," he critiqued, "not much weight either. We could fix that with some work if ya ain't afraid of sweat. I bet you would have good speed and footwork. I'll tell the truth, I ain't ever trained no lady before but you look like your root may touch the old sod. If you're willing lass, I'll teach ya."
"When do I start?"
"You know the gym I worked with Dwayne?" Jax nodded. "Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday Mornings in the gym, I'll give you workouts to do for the other days of the week and a diet. We start Monday at seven. Don't buy any gloves and come in sweats and don't be late," he ordered.
I told Jax she was crazy and she stuck her tongue at me in answer. I thought that was very mature for a psychiatrist. We left with light hearts, knowing that we had brought an ounce of happiness to an old man.