You might as well
call me Crank. Everybody does. I was Crank when I was still a copper and I’ll
be Crank when I die, which will happen sooner or later. I plan to have it
carved on my tombstone. See, the idea of dying doesn’t bother me. What bothers
me is what pretty much bothers all cops. Dying while looking stupid.
I’m not a cop
anymore. I retired from that shit quite a few years ago. Now I draw my pension
and my Social Security and I live my life the way I want to. I take care of
business. We’ll get to that.
Crank Howland. It’s
Kerry, actually, and I never minded my real name, but once, while I was working
narcotics, I developed leads that took us to a house on Wichita’s north side
that was so full of methamphetamine that the cleanup crew had to wear hazmat
suits. I got the handle then and it kinda stuck. Meth was known as “crank”
among this particular bunch of biker trash, you see.
Nowadays, I stumble
outta bed whenever the mood strikes me or the prostate demands, and after a
wicked pee, I go find any type of hot brown liquid that might be handy,
preferably loaded with caffeine. After I get the handful of pills down, for
cholesterol, blood pressure, acid reflux, joint pain, and memory loss, plus the
vitamins and iron and a testosterone booster, I head for the north crapper and
get that outta the way. Then I hit the shower and I’m ready to get to work.
Martha likes to
sleep in. She’s number three. I married the first two, then I gave up on that
shit. Martha is younger than my daughter and pretty set in her ways. I don’t
bug her much and she leaves me alone, too. She works as a dental hygienist and
has a little two-seat sports car I can hardly cram myself into. She likes to
eat out, and she doesn’t cook. She also likes lots of kinky sex and, even
though I’m old, I ain’t dead.
I would describe my
typical day for you, but you see, there are no typical days anymore. Another
thing I gave up. The case I just finished with two days ago was a murdering
piece of shit named Buck Cardington. He was arrested in connection with the
disappearance of two girls from East High School more than four years ago. They
were found eventually in an old barn in Butler County, almost forty miles from
Wichita. They had been repeatedly raped and sodomized and tortured in various
grisly ways, then made to kneel in the dirt and shot in the head.
The cops and the
district attorney thought they had an airtight case and the papers had him
headed for death row, even though the death penalty hasn’t actually been used
in Kansas since 1965. But, he walked on a technicality. Seems the DNA they used
to match him up with all the jizz and spit they found on the corpses was
obtained illegally, or at least ruled that way by the pussy of a judge, who was
so scared of being overturned on appeal, he let this fuck-stick go. And of
course, once he was acquitted, because of the double jeopardy rule, he could
never be tried again for those crimes. I had no doubt he would eventually be
caught again for something equally heinous, but there were two families out
there to consider. They needed closure. And they would get it. And then there
are the families of his future victims. So, you see, from my point of view,
there is some pressure to get this done.
Tracking these guys
down is never that difficult. And eliminating them wouldn’t be, either. But
when I say the families needed closure, that’s just what I mean. They need to
know this bastard suffered for what he did to their children. This is the part
where it needs to get nasty.
I started by finding
out where he was living. Not hard to do, since all court proceedings are
available to the public unless sealed by a judge. I never use contacts within
the police department, even though there are lots of guys there who would be
more than glad to help me. I can’t risk someone remembering that I was
inquiring about this guy or that one, when they turn up later.
Cardington actually lived on my old beat on the northeast side in a run-down
duplex with a chubby sometime prostitute named Samantha Healy. It had been
speculated, but never proven, that Healy helped lure the two girls he’d killed
into their van and maybe even helped with some of the nasty stuff. I decided
early on that I wouldn’t mess with her unless she got in my way.
I needed a place
that was remote, but not too remote. I needed people close enough to hear the
action. Maybe hear the screams. But far enough away I could ease outta the area
and not be seen.
My transportation is
a 1990 Ford F-150 pickup truck. Hunter green and rust. Talk about a blend-in
vehicle. This is farm country out here. This truck doesn’t get a second look. I
bought it at the Wichita Auto Auction a couple years ago, then took it to some
guys I know. I call it my “sleeper” and my “joke truck”. Privately, I call it
the War Wagon.
We crammed the
biggest V-8 motor we could fit into it, fitted with special heads, valves,
carbs and a supercharger with a demand system, so it didn’t pull all the time,
only when needed. We fitted a beefed-up six-speed automatic tranny, with a
lock-up converter and a Dodge Ram rear end. It would do just a tad over a
hundred and forty.
Since the girls had
been found in Butler County, I decided ol’ Buck should be found out there, too.
Butler county had become much more populated in the years since the girls were
found, though, and it was harder to find a good place.
I finally decided on
an abandoned mobile home, settled on its foundation and slowly going to ruin on
a side road only a half mile from the nearest farmhouse. The Burlington
railroad tracks ran by a quarter mile south. Just about perfect.
Buck liked to drink
and carouse and it made him an easy target when I was ready. I had scoped out
his two favorite drinking establishments and both were as nasty as he was. The
Slicker was an old clapboard building on north Broadway. The back parking lot
was butted up against an auto salvage and the War Wagon looked right at home
there. It took a couple evenings to get his routine down, but then when I was
ready, it was no trick to just wait by his car, with my truck right there,
backed in, and when he staggered out, I thumped him with a blackjack and rolled
him into the back of the truck. Took a look around to make sure I was
unobserved, then hopped up into the back and trussed him up with plastic
I had spent a week
getting the old nasty trailer ready for him. Each time I went out there, I
drove up the Burlington tracks until I was behind the house, then drove the
truck down the embankment so it was out of sight. I would then make my approach
from the back using natural cover.
The explosives might
have been a problem, were it not for a publication called The Anarchist’s
Cookbook. Anybody can get a copy and it makes for very interesting reading. The
difference is, I actually do the things outlined in the book. Like making my
own plastic explosive on a hotplate in my garage. Can’t make the shit in the
house. Martha would have a cow.
The detonator was
constructed in my garage, too, along with the pressure switch. I wore surgical
gloves the entire time I was working with the components, knowing very well
that the department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would be
called in by the Butler County Sheriff and they would collect every speck they
Each time I went out
to the trailer, I took a brand new plastic gas can full of gasoline and set
them inside the place. I wanted a fire, and not just a fire. I wanted a conflagration.
The only thing I wanted blown clear was fuck-face Cardington’s wallet, with ID
“What the fuck,
Fuck-face was awake.
He was no longer trussed up. At least not like he had been. He was now
suspended from a block and tackle, with his toes touching a bathroom scale.
I walked over to him
and offered him a snort of meth, just to clear his head. He snorted. Then I
said, “You and I need to come to an understanding, Buck.”
“Fuck you, Man!
You’re a cop! You can’t get away with this shit…”
“Not a cop anymore,
Buck. Retired now, but still taking care of business. Now shut up and pay
“Let me down,
cocksucker and I’ll kill yer ass!”
“No, Buck. Your
killing days are over. Your dying day is here now…”
“Oh, what? You gonna
cut me up? What?”
“Nope. I’m not gonna
do anything to ya. You’re gonna do it to yourself.”
“Yeah, fuck you, Man…”
“Listen to me, Buck.
Your life depends on this…you ready?” He merely glared at me.
“I took your wallet,
Buck. It’s lying on the front steps. Underneath that bathroom scale is about
eleven pounds of plastic explosive. See all these gas cans? They’re all full.
There’s a pressure switch in the bathroom scale, Buck. When I lower you down
and your full weight is on the scale, it will prime the fuse. Nothing will
happen until the weight is removed. Then the whole thing goes bang. Understand?”
Suddenly, fear and
concentration overruled booze and meth and he was cold sober. “Like—like one of
those Bouncing Betty mines they used in ‘Nam…”
“Bingo! You win the
booby prize. I want you to know this is for the two girls from East High…”
“Hey, Man! I was
acquitted for that, Man! Not guilty! You understand that, Cop?”
“Yep. I understand.
And I know you did it. Look around. See the video cameras, Buck? As I leave,
I’ll start them running and a live feed will go out over the Internet and it’ll
be uploaded to my private server at my place. You know about YouTube, Buck? Of
course you do. Lotsa porn there and I bet you know just how to get to it. After
I look the tape over and edit it just a tad, it’ll go up on YouTube. Anyway,
all you gotta do is stand still. As long as you stand on the scale, you live. Try
and jump and run, you’re fucked. The plastic has an explosive velocity of
twenty-four thousand feet per second. Think you can outrun that. Buck?”
Buck continued to
swear and call me names, as I lowered him down until his full weight was on the
scale and he felt that tell-tale click of the pressure switch arming itself.
Then, suddenly, he was my buddy. He begged and wheedled and moaned and cried as
I was leaving.
Forty feet outside
the door, I used the remote to start the cameras. I made it to my truck and
drove on out. Buck lasted a long time. Pissed himself several times. Shit
himself once. Cried, apologized to me and to everyone he ever hurt. Begged some
more. Screamed my name over forty times. Of course, I edited those parts out.
Then I took it to the public library and used one of their computers to upload
it to the net. The video makes very interesting watching. And the families can
watch it any time they want. It shows how to destroy a man, be he predator or
saint. How to reduce him to a blubbering, whining gob of protoplasm. He lasted
nineteen hours, standing on ol’ Betty. They say the explosion was deafening.
And the fire burned a long time…
Kenneth James Crist is Editor Emeritus of Black Petals Magazine and is
on staff at Yellow Mama ezine. He has been a published writer since 1998,
having had almost two hundred short stories and poems in venues ranging from
Skin and Bones and The Edge-Tales of Suspense to Kudzu Monthly. He is
particularly fond of supernatural biker stories. He reads everything he can get
his hands on, not just in horror or sci-fi, but in mystery, hardboiled,
biographies, westerns and adventure tales. He retired from the Wichita, Kansas
police department in 1992 and from the security department at Wesley Medical
Center in Wichita in 2016. Now 76, he is an avid motorcyclist and handgun
shooter. He is active in the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard,
helping to honor and look after our military. He is also a volunteer driver for
the American Red Cross, Midway Kansas Chapter. He is the owner of Fossil
Publications, a desktop publishing venture that seems incapable of making any
money at all. On June the ninth, 2018, he did his first (and last) parachute
jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.
Mike Knowles has spent over
40 years working mainly in comics, along with contributions to TV, Radio,
animation, gonzo-style journalism for a “top-of-the-shelf” magazine and odd
spells as a digital artist. Not to mention three gruesome years writing gags
for comedians (even though they begged him not to. But what did THEY know about
I wrote for the comic papers.