Kenneth James Crist
My name is Crank. Not really,
no. I got that name on the police department long ago and it stuck. It had to
do with a really large drug bust, a biker gang and meth. Long story, but that
was it. I’m retired now, and I do all the shit most retirees do. And I also
work some little projects. Things the cops can’t do.
The last time I needed some
plastic explosive for one of my projects, I took some common window putty and
packed it into a mold the same size and shape as a stick of Semtex. Semtex is
some foreign-made shit, and very powerful. It is also very stable, and
practically odorless. Like all plastic explosives, it is easily molded into
shapes, and therefore it's great for making small devices. It also can be set
off without a blasting cap. All it takes is a spark of the proper intensity,
introduced into the explosive itself. I took my block of window putty and put
it in a Ziplock bag and put it in my pocket and went looking for Marty Collins.
Marty runs the property and evidence section at the police station.
I knew exactly where to find
Marty, actually. He would be drinking his lunch at the same bar he had used for
the last ten years, The Roll Call on Second and Main. Marty is a dedicated
alcoholic, and probably the only lush I can say I have ever really admired. He
has exquisite control. He can maintain a certain degree of drunkenness the way
a diabetic can keep his blood sugar balanced, and he can walk that teetering
edge for days. He is an alcoholic, but he's not trying to solve any problems
with booze. He's just thirsty. All the time. And he's pretty much a mellow
drunk. I doubt that he's been in a fight, or even an argument, in years.
Marty got pulled off the street
years ago because of his drinking problems and they put him in a program,
because he was a good cop, and got him dried out for a while, then, just to be
on the safe side, they put him in property. He didn't stay dry long, but at
least now he wouldn't get anybody hurt.
After "running into"
Marty, and buying him a few, I walked back over to the property office with him
and sat around and shot the shit about old times. Finally, he went to the can
to take a dump, and asked me to mind the phone. I was only too happy. While he
was occupied, I went to the "hot locker" and exchanged my window
putty for a similar stick of Semtex. Just that simple. The explosive had
already been analyzed for court, so there was no worry about the switch being
discovered, and after that particular case was over, it would be destroyed.
Now, a little Semtex goes a long
way. Like I said, it's powerful stuff. The project that I had in mind involved
another friend, who ran the best damn pawnshop in the city. I won't tell this
guy's name, but he was a swell fella, even if he was an Arab. And I have
nothing against anyone because of race, color, religion, or whatever. In my
book, you’re a good guy or you’re an asshole. Anyway, he called me one day
after I retired and asked me to stop by. Over the years, he'd cut me some
pretty sweet deals on guns and stuff, so I was happy to oblige.
When I got down there, he put
his nephew to minding the shop and took me upstairs, where he and his family
lived, an honor he'd never bestowed upon me in all the time I'd known him. Over
tiny cups of thick, dark coffee and sweet rolls, he told me about a guy he
called Big George the Greek. Real theatrical- sounding name. Anyway, this loser
had been coming around for some time now, making my friend and everyone else in
the area pay him protection, so nothing bad would happen to them or their
business. At first, he would just shake them down for a few bucks a week, all
friendly-like, and it was no big deal. But lately he was cutting himself in for
a larger and larger percentage, and it was starting to hurt. Not just my
friend, but a lot of other people in the area, too.
This guy made a lot of noise
about his "mob connections," which I knew was bullshit. For one
thing, the actual Cosa Nostra families have never found the Midwest to be very
profitable. The cops aren't crooked enough for those people to run most of
their rackets, and there aren't enough really big cities, where the population
will support a large gang of thugs. The other reason I knew Big George the
Greek was really Big George the Gasbag was because people who are really mob-connected
don't go around telling everybody. Not if they want to stay alive. The word
"Mafia," after all, means "silence."
So, I found out everything I
could about ol' Georgie and started working on my plan.
Microchips are truly wonders of
the modern age. Consisting of tiny circuits and transistors, they can
accomplish very complex tasks, or very simple ones. In this case, I needed a
way to set off a charge and kill a man, while being reasonably certain that it
would harm no one else in the process.
I got my microchip from an old
telephone answering machine that I had chosen to replace, because it had
started cutting off messages before the hang-up. This was a cheap unit, made in
Taiwan, but it still had some nice features. One of the things it would do was
to allow the owner to call from any touch-tone phone and retrieve messages. You
just called home, waited through the message, and after the beep, put in a
three-digit code. This one was 613. I took out the microchip and tested it by
hooking it up to the receiver in a phone, and to a multi-tester, to check
current flow. Sure enough, every time it "heard" 613 on the keypad,
it showed current flow through the secondary circuit. This was my remote
control. This bomb would need no batteries, because it would use the power
supply of the telephone itself. All I had to do was design the package and get
it into a phone ol' Georgie would use.
House burglary is not nearly as
difficult as most people think. If it was, there wouldn't be as many stupid
assholes doing it every day as there are. One of the best burglary tools for
popping house and apartment doors is a common two-pronged dandelion digger. The
end is sharp enough to dig into the door jamb, and the shaft is sturdy enough
to spring the door over in its opening enough to defeat the latch. Now if the
homeowner is smart enough to have deadbolts with say, a one-inch throw or
better, then you might as well just kick it in and risk the noise. Of course,
there are always dogs and alarms to worry about, but there are still lots of
unprotected homes out there to pilfer, if that's your inclination.
In twenty years of police work,
one thing I did learn: If you're going to commit crimes, work alone. Most
criminals get caught because they shot off their mouth to impress someone, or
because someone they committed a crime with shot off their mouth. So the rules
are: work alone, never admit anything, no matter what, and if you’re caught,
never talk to the cops and always get a lawyer.
Georgie had a very common
two-bedroom bungalow on Hyacinth street in one of the seedier areas of town.
Knowing that the best time to do residence burglaries is in broad daylight, I
started watching Georgie to get his routine down.
Not much to see, really. Turned
out his wife worked to support his lazy ass, and when he wasn't out shaking
down good working people, he was at a pool hall a few blocks from my friend's
pawnshop. Little Wife left the house at seven-twenty every morning to be at her
job, and one could see Georgie stagger out anytime from then till noon.
On the day I planted the device,
I watched him leave at about nine-thirty, and as soon as he was out of sight, I
pulled up in my truck, got out in my blue coveralls, and set an orange traffic
cone in front and at the rear of my truck. I mean, what could a guy do to look
more like some utility repairman, than set out cones? Then I got out a tool
belt full of tools and strapped it on and went into the backyard. I went
directly to the back door and knocked. You should always knock at least twice,
and wait a minute or so, just to be sure that the house is empty. Burglars wind
up becoming murderers all the time because they get in a house, get surprised,
Nobody answered my knock, and
dogs barked. While I was waiting for a response, I looked for signs of an
alarm. No tape on the windows, no alarm company signs in the yard. It's funny
how many thieves think that they can't be ripped off. Like they're in some kind
of fraternity or something. Fraternity, my ass. Most thieves will rip off their
mother, given half a chance.
Anyway, I felt good about my
odds, so I cracked the door and went in. Once inside, I made myself stand just
inside the door for one full minute by my watch. This wasn't just to listen to
the house and to get used to its layout; it was also to let the old heart
settle down from the adrenaline.
After the full minute, I walked
quietly through the whole house, looking for telephones, but touching nothing.
I reasoned that there would be one phone in the house that would be used more
than any of the others, and that would be the one I'd booby-trap. Turned out
the cheap bastard only had one phone, a wall type, hanging in the
kitchen. Five minutes later the receiver was packed with Semtex and the trigger
was hooked up. All it needed was to be off the hook and receive the correct
Don't let anyone tell you that
the telephone company isn't part of Big Brother's network. The phone company
computers log the source and destination of every phone call made in this
country. The police, with or without a court order, can see these records. So if
you have dirty work to do on the telephone, use a pay phone, never use the same
one twice, and get away from it as soon as you're done. And don't leave prints.
I called Georgie from a pay
phone in the biggest shopping mall in town at 7:35 the next morning. It
wouldn't have been necessary to have any conversation with him at all, but in
his final moments, I wanted him to know he'd stepped on his dick.
When he answered, he sounded
sleepy. I said, "Hey, George. Are you awake?"
"Yeah, who's this?"
"This is the devil, George.
Calling you home."
"Yeah, right. Is that you,
"No, George. It's not
Vinnie. It's not anyone you know, and you're not paying attention. For a guy
that's about to die, you're not paying attention well at all."
"What the fuck're you talkin'
Slowly and patiently, I
explained it to him. "George, you fucked up. Let me explain it to you. You
leaned on the wrong people, then to make matters worse, you told people you
were with the Family. I understand you may have even named some names."
Silence now, only breathing,
trying to figure it out, then: "I didn't name no names."
"That's because you don't
really know anybody, Georgie. Say it."
"Say you don't really know
anybody in the Family, and then I'll give you a message."
Silence again, then a heavy
sigh. "Okay, Okay. I really don't know anybody that's in the Family. Now
what's the message?"
"613, George. That's the
"What's it mean?"
"It means you're dead,
George." And then I dialed it. There was an electronic shriek from the
phone in my hand, then a dial tone.
By the time I walked through the
mall, got back to my pickup, and turned on the police scanner, the dispatcher
was putting out the call of an unknown explosion on Hyacinth. I switched over
to the fire department "A" channel and as I drove home, listened to
the rescue squad and first engine arrive and report no smoke or fire visible.
Semtex is a very clean explosive
and will often use up so much oxygen when it explodes, that there will be no
associated fire after the fact. I switched back to the P.D. channels, and just
before I shut off the truck at my home, I heard the officers at the scene
request the homicide team and coroner.
couple days later, I stopped by the pawnshop
and had some of that black, bitter coffee the Arabs make, with the friend. He
wanted to give me practically everything in the shop, he was so happy about Big
George biting the big one, but I just accepted a heartfelt handshake and a hug.
Anything more might be traced back to the pawnshop, and we can’t have that,
now, can we?
Besides, what I do is fun, in
grisly sort of way and keeps me entertained in my old age. . . .
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.
D. Duncan was born 1958 in Alton,
Illinois where he still resides. He has degrees in Political Science, Classics, and
Art & Design. He has been freelancing illustration and cartoons for over 25 years.
He has done editorial cartoons and editorial illustration for local and regional newspapers,
including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His award-winning
work has appeared in numerous small press zines, e-zines, and he has illustrated
a few books.