In the 1970s, Evan Mecham, a Mormon Bishop whose family owned a Pontiac dealership in Phoenix, AZ., started up a daily newspaper to challenge Eugene Pulliam's Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette. He named the newspaper the Evening American and hired two seasoned journalists, Art Heenan and Jack Karie to run the editorial departments.
As I looked over the tabloid newspaper and read the columns on the editorial pages, I was excited. This was the kind of paper I wanted to work for, I told myself.
I drove to the publishing plant and a polite secretary offered me a seat while she summoned Karie from the newsroom.
Karie was a solidly built Irishman with prematurely gray hair. He glanced at my resume and wrote down my phone number, promising to get back to me. Two days later he called me. The call came at 7 a.m.
"I'm going on a story," he said crisply. "If you want to come, meet me in the newspaper parking lot in an hour." He slammed down the receiver.
I was in the parking lot when he arrived an hour later. I was wearing a suit, tie, and low-cut shoes that I had just purchased. Boy, was I wrongly dressed for this journalistic adventure.
Karie was a man of action and few words. He drove, and drove and drove until we had reached Apache Junction and were at the foot of the Superstition Mountains. Then he strapped a gun around his waist and handed me a camera.
"There has been a murder in the Superstitions," he said. "Two gangs are at war with each other over a gold mine. We're going to meet a couple of sheriff's deputies and go looking for the body."
The deputies showed up 10 minutes later. Karie had donned a pair of hiking boots. We drove as far into the massive mountain range as our car could go, and then dismounted.
One of the deputies glanced at my shoes and shook his head. Grinning, he said, 'Welcome to the Superstition Mountains, Son."
We began walking, The ravines and cliffs were treacherous and there were no guard rails. I hung onto the camera like it was a safety rope as we climbed into Arizona's most famous mountain range.
I don't know how many miles we walked. I do remember seeing a sidewinder slither off into the rocks and spotted a Gila Monster sunning itself on a rock. Once I nearly slipped off the trail but caught myself before I plunged into a canyon 500 feet below.
We found the body.
Someone had shot the miner between the eyes. The victim was wearing a gun and he must have died instantly. While Karie scrawled down notes, I took photos of the deputies placing the man in a body bag.
It was too dark to make the trek back to our car. Karie said a helicopter would pick up the body in the morning. He suggested I make myself comfortable because we were in for a long night.
"Find a good rock and try to sleep," he said. He reached into his boot, pulled out a pint of vodka, and handed it to one of the deputies with a wink.
In the morning, after a frightful sleep that was interrupted by howling coyotes and strange sounds in the night, I numbly followed Karie and the deputies out of the mountains. Karie had a page one story in the Evening American and I had a job.
Jack Karie and I became good friends over the next few years. He was a buddy of Del Webb, the construction developer who built Sun City, AZ. and who owned a couple of casinos in Las Vegas. We took several trips to Las Vegas to gamble. Karie played blackjack, while I stuck to poker.
He introduced me to a couple of editors of magazines like Official Detective and Police Gazette, and I ended up freelancing some of my better murder stories to them. Karie often told friends that he knew I would make a reporter after the way I followed him into the Superstition Mountains.
Just for the record, when I got out of the mountains, I threw away the shoes. I had lost one heel and they weren't good for anything. When I suggested to Karie that the newspaper reimburses me for the shoes, he just laughed.
"That's the price of being a reporter," he said.