The Gas Man
Kenneth James Crist
So, I’ve told you
about Big George the Gasbag. George bought it with a phone call and some
plastic explosive in the receiver. And another time when I blew up an old
trailer house with a guy inside who was a serial killer and the D.A. failed to
convict the louse.
I do stuff like
that. My name is Kerry Howland but you can call me Crank.
got the nickname when I was a cop. Twenty
years and eleven months and I’m remembered for that one drug bust. It made all
the papers and I had my fifteen minutes of fame. There was so much meth in that
place when we took it down, guys in hazmat suits spent weeks on the cleanup.
Big George was
number nine, and there are some, like I say, that really aren't very
interesting at all, and some I can't even remember clearly, but numbers twenty
through twenty-nine sure made headlines, and were probably the safest ones I
did, from the standpoint of getting caught, that is. Nobody likes a dope
dealer, the cops least of all, so when I took out the crack house, with nine
dealers and users inside, I didn't expect much of an investigation.
Of course, like most
large cities, we have our share of drug houses. The police gather what evidence
they can, make their undercover buys, and their raids, take care of their
arrests and reports, and eventually some of these cases even come to trial,
those that aren't bargained out by prosecutors who have full dockets and scant
time in which to work up most cases. There are even convictions, but the
penalties bear little resemblance to what they should be for the total amount
of lives ruined by their addictive poison. Of course, the same could be said
for the companies that produce tobacco products and liquor. If there were no
market for these things, there would be no business, no dealers, and no
problem. But the market is always there, especially among teenagers who want to
be cool and are often pressured into drug use by their peers.
This particular drug
house sold the poison that killed my niece. She was with some other kids, and
they went there on a weekend. They probably felt safe going into that area of
town, because there was a carload of them, and two of the boys had been there
before, and knew the dealers. Anyway, they went there, made their purchases,
and left, and went to one of the city parks to get high. Caroline knew better
than to do this shit, of course, but I think she was just excited to be with
this particular crowd, and one of her friends later revealed that she had a bad
crush on one of the boys in the group.
Crack cocaine is a
very pure form of the drug that is smoked by placing the "rock" on a
small screen in a crack pipe, and heating the drug with a flame, while drawing
the vapors into the lungs. The effects are an immediate and intense
"high", along with a racing heart and feelings of power and
invincibility. The downside is crushing depression after the high is over, and
a very real danger of cardiac arrest, not to mention an intense addiction that
is one of the hardest of any to break.
Caroline never got
to the addiction stage. The very first time she smoked it, she went into ventricular
fibrillation, and by the time all her friends, who were all high at the time,
realized something was really wrong with her, and rushed her to the nearest
trauma center, it was too late. The attending physician pronounced her six
minutes after she came in the door, having found no vital signs present. My
sister, a single mom, was devastated. Caroline had been her sun and moon, her
reason for living, and her hope for the future. I was a pall-bearer at
Caroline's funeral. Naturally, all of her dip-shit druggie friends were there,
all weepy and sniveling. I could have cheerfully killed them, too, but I figure
they'll keep fucking around with drugs, and take care of themselves, soon
From the records
section at the police department I was able to obtain the investigating
officer's reports, just long enough to read them "for my own peace of
mind", as I told the kindly clerk, Jancy Ferguson.
“This is just
something, I have to do,” I told her, “Caroline was my niece, you know…”
“I’m sorry, Crank,”
she said, and I was pretty sure I saw a tear in her eye as she went to pull the
file. She was very understanding. The interviews the cops had done with the
other kids gave me the location of the house, but not the identity of the
particular asshole who sold to them that night. On that one point, all of the
kids agreed. They wouldn't tell who the seller was. Whether they were afraid of
him, or just felt uncomfortable "squealing" is anybody's guess. No
matter. I soon came up with a solution that would take care of the problem.
At a gun show which
was held out in the County, I purchased a half-dozen very special 12 Ga.
shotgun shells, called "Dragon's Breath". These are a nasty
combination of sodium and phosphorus, and are guaranteed to throw a blast of
flame for 300 feet, and light up any combustibles they come in contact with. I
also purchased a second-hand Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun, because it was
cheap, and in good working order, and I didn't want to shoot this shit through
any of my better shotguns—it tends to fuck up gun barrels.
The Fire Marshall of
our fair city has declared these shells to be a fire hazard (no shit!) and made
it illegal to sell them within the city limits, but at the gun shows, you'd be
amazed what you can find. I've seen illegal bayonets being sold as "tent
The afternoon before
my strike, I went to the crack house, dressed in my blue coveralls, and wearing
a gas company I.D. that I made on my computer, and printed on my color
laser-jet, then laminated. I had a Sears Multi-tester, one of the old ones with
a dial and needle on the front, and I set out my cones in front and back of the
truck and walked right up like I knew exactly what I was doing. As I came up
the walk, I heard one of the fine, upstanding citizens say, “Wonder what da
fuck dis here cracker wants?”
“Hi,” I said,
“Kansas Gas and Electric. We’re checking furnaces and meters in the area. We’ve
got some pressure issues and we have to find out where the gas is going. It’s a
public safety thing. Won’t take very long.”
The biggest and
oldest of the three idiots on the porch looked me up and down and said, “Yeah,
shit, whatever man…”
And I was in the
house. Just that easy. This dumpy old house had a floor furnace, and it was
warm weather, so when I got to the basement, the first thing I did was cut off
the pilot, then I clamped a set of vise-grips on the valve and bent it back and
forth until it cracked. Not much of a crack, just a little one. Enough to start
a small gas leak. Natural gas is heavier than air, so I knew it would settle to
the floor of the basement, and build up until it was discovered or ignited. I
could tell by looking around their basement that nobody ever went down there.
Next, I looked for and found a convenient gap in the basement wall, not far
from the meter, and left a walnut-sized piece of my Semtex plastic explosive
mashed onto the broken concrete. Then I headed back upstairs.
with the furnace. I’ll check the meter and then I’ll be outta your hair.”
“Okay, man, don’t
the doe hit ya in the ass…”
That got a laugh
from his buds and a skinny little red-headed chick who had come out to see what
was going on. She was clearly stoned and she looked like she hadn’t bathed in a
few days. Grubby nails, smeared makeup. Needle tracks. So crack wasn’t all they
sold. I made a show out of checking around the meter with the “sniffer”, then I
returned to the truck, pulled the cones and left.
I came back after
dark, truly amazed that they hadn't smelled the gas, and also that the place
hadn't already blown up.
I parked a block
away, and took the shotgun, which was wiped clean, and wearing gloves to avoid
prints, I carried it up the alley, and stood at the back of the neighbor's garage.
I was about ninety feet away, too close really, but it couldn't be helped. I
had five Dragon's Breath rounds in the shotgun, and my Colt 1911A1 semi-auto,
in case I needed to convince someone not to fuck with me.
When I fired the
first round at the gap in the basement wall, I guess I expected that there
would be a pause or a time lag between the shot and the result, but apparently
I must have gotten the gas-air mixture pretty close to perfect combustion
stage, because it was the God-damnedest ball of fire I'd seen in a long time,
and the house just went up like a bomb. I had enough time to duck back around
the garage before the blast wave hit, and enough time to hear screams, then I
hauled ass back down the alley to my truck, and drove sedately away.
Two of those pukes
actually lived to make it to the local burn unit, where they later expired, but
seven were blown to bits and cinders, and chunks of the house rained down as
much as two blocks away. Of course, it also cost a lot of neighbors their windows,
but I figure they could have stopped the drug activity any time they wanted, by
doing nothing more than making a few phone calls, so let them pay, too.
There was the usual
boo-hoo from every slick preacher and councilman that could get near a
microphone, or TV camera, and there was an "intensive manhunt" for
the "unknown assailant", which just meant that the police didn't have
a clue, and if they did, they didn't give a fuck.
I sold the Mossberg
at the next gun show, five minutes inside the door, for exactly what I paid for
it, and God only knows who's got it now.
Do I sound calloused in my attitude? As if maybe
I don't care? Well, as I said starting out, there are a lot of assholes out
there that the world would be better off without. I could cheerfully bomb a
crack house a day, until Hell freezes over, and never feel any remorse.
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.
Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites
and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent
poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated
poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer,
Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red
River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have
appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens
Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well
as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from
the Big Easy, Thuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White
Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited
"all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007
Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada,
and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona. https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/