As a defense attorney, Grady Query has been around some pretty dangerous criminals. But he never thought they might threaten his life.

Turns out, he was wrong.

On a recent business trip to Miami, Query and his fiancee were walking down a city street and encountered a young man who asked for the time.

"I knew as soon as I lifted my arm and showed him my Rolex watch that I was in trouble," said Query of the gift he received from a client.

A few blocks later another man wearing a hoodie and sunglasses approached them from behind and shouted, "I got a gun, give me that watch."

Query said he was within sight of his hotel, but suddenly the streets were deserted. He tried negotiating with the man, offering him money.

But the man wasn't interested in talking.

Pee Wee's lawyer

If Query's name sounds familiar it's because he defended one of South Carolina's most notorious mass murderers, Donald "Pee Wee" Gaskins, in the mid-1970s.

An evil little man, Gaskins was convicted of 15 killings and was executed in 1991. Query believes Gaskins probably killed another 40 people around the state.

Suffice it to say Query has been around bad guys enough to know they don't always listen to reason.

Within seconds of being approached by this mugger in Miami, the 65-year-old Folly Beach resident found himself in a wrestling match as they pushed and shoved each other against a fence.

"During the struggle, he bit me on my left arm," Query said. "I didn't even feel it at the time. I was busy trying to fend him off."

That's when Lisa Stutts, his fiancee, started banging the robber over the head with a shopping bag filled with big rolls of boat-repair tape.

"That knocked him down and I got in a couple of punches," Query said. "We walked away with the watch, but he got about $100 in cash."

Back at the hotel, Query noticed something running down his left hand. The robber had bitten him, breaking the skin and causing him to bleed.

Tired, exhausted

"I washed the wound with peroxide that night and got a tetanus shot the next day," he said. "But I was still concerned. So when I got home I had the doctor test me for the HIV virus. Twice."

Convinced that he didn't contract AIDS from the bandit, Query felt relieved. Then he felt sick.

"I started feeling tired, exhausted, with muscle aches, fever and cramps," he said. "My doctor did blood work and found I had a strain of hepatitis B, something you usually get from using dirty needles."

Query said he won't die from the wound but is still suffering from the effects of the virus. Meanwhile, his advice to travelers in strange cities is simple: "Travel in large groups and watch out. Because you never know who's watching you."

Reach Ken Burger at 937-5598.