Before the law caught up with Steve Benifiel last year, he had become known as the biggest badass in West Texas. In the little town of Ranger, 86 miles west of Fort Wroth, people told stories about him the way old-timers once talked about Bonnie and Clyde. He had been called a bully, a thief, a forager, a drug lord, a loan shark, a pimp, a gunrunner. There were rumors that he had been a hit man. That he had Mafia connections. That he had taken a double-crossing friend out into a cornfield and shot him in the kneecaps.
Everyone knew about the aquarium filled with rattlesnakes that Benifiel kept at his auto-body and wrecker shop, Steve’s Garage. One day, so the story goes, a man tried to cheat Steve Benifiel.