Kerry Howland. My friends all call me Crank. I’m a retired cop and I do all the
shit most retirees do, play a little golf, ride my motorcycle. And I have a
hobby most guys don’t have. I kill fuckers who really need to be dead. How do I
get away with that, you ask? Who better than a former homicide detective to be
able to commit murders and slip quietly away? I do what the cops can’t and I
get away with it every time. Well, so far…
first time I ever wanted to kill someone was when I was eight years old. I was
always a nerdy little fucker, and that meant that there was always a certain
element of kids that delighted in picking on me. Not the really big kids that
were at the top of the pecking order. They seldom even acknowledged the fact
that I existed, and that was fine by me. Besides, I offered no challenge to
them, and because I was so small and so pitiful, they could actually make
themselves look bad by fucking with me.
always a certain group of low-life little pricks that couldn't pass up the
chance to make my life miserable. Like I said before, I was a farm kid, and in
those days, that meant poor. Don't get me wrong, we always ate good, and our
clothes were clean, even though they were patched, and probably hand-me-downs
as well, but we didn't have a lot of money. What that usually meant was that
the town kids had the shiny new bikes and the latest fad toys (remember hula
hoops?) and I was lucky to get enough money at Christmas to buy a model kit.
eight years old, in fact on my eighth birthday, my Grandfather bought me a new
bicycle. It was a Wards 24-inch "Hawthorne", and it was beautiful. It
had maroon paint and cream-colored pinstriping, and boy was I proud of that
machine. I guess I'd had it about a week, and I'd gotten pretty good with it,
when I took it to town for the first time.
in front of the little five and dime store and went in to browse through the
comic book collection. In those days a dime would buy a comic book, and I had
quite a few at home, dog-eared and tattered from constant reading. I was
perusing the current Batman, when I glanced up through the grimy glass of the
front window, and saw Bobby Hammond leaving on my bike.
momentarily frozen in place. I had never before been the victim of a crime,
other than getting beat up and intimidated, but this was THEFT. Then I was out
the door as fast as my short, skinny legs could carry me, and I found myself
running after Bobby and screaming, “Stop! Stop, you bastard!”
He did slow down some, but only so he could
again speed up and stay just out of reach while he teased me along.
stop, you little…little FUCK!” I screamed and yelled and raised hell for quite
a while, I suppose. Today, it’s all a blur, but back then it was very real.
chased that asshole for half an hour, until he tired of the game. By this time,
I was threatening to call the law on his ass, and I don't think he really
thought I would do it, as much as he just got tired of listening to my shit.
Bobby was a blonde-headed bully of a town kid, and this wasn't the first time
he'd picked on me. In fact, he usually made a habit of grabbing my hat, or
going through my lunchbox almost every day. If there was a juicy mud puddle on
the playground, there would be ol' Bobby, pushing smaller kids into it, and
laughing at them when they cried.
place we were at by that time was the RAVINE. Most every kid in town was
forbidden to go there, especially around or on the railroad trestle that
crossed it. But, like I say, Bobby was an asshole, and as such he couldn't be
forbidden to go anywhere. He took the bike and just hiked his ass right out to
the middle of that ol' train trestle, and there he stood, glaring at me.
precious widdle bike, ya mouthy asshole! Or are ya chicken?”
around for a few minutes, trying to get up the nerve to go out there. I had
heard tales of kids getting caught out on the trestle by a fast freight, and
having to hang by their hands from the timbers over a forty-foot drop while the
train rumbled overhead shaking the shit out of everything and trying to
dislodge their grip. I'm quite certain now that all of those tales were
bullshit, pure and simple, but back then they were gospel.
the whistle. We still had steam trains back then, big beautiful black monsters,
that chuffed and smoked and gave off thrilling smells of steam, coal, and hot
oil, and there's just nothing like a steam whistle to give you chills and put
the wind up your ass if you're near the crossing. Bobby heard it, too. And that
was when he did the unforgivable. He grinned at me, and tossed my prized
possession, my beautiful new bike, which had been given me by the only strong
father figure in my life, over the side and into the ravine. Then he turned and
ran for the other end of the trestle. He knew he was safe. For one thing, the
train was coming from my side, and besides, he knew I wouldn't go out on that
bridge, even if there was never going to be another train until Gabriel blew
down into the ravine that afternoon and rescued my bike. I had a hell of a time
getting it out, too. When I reached the bottom and found it, there was a lump
in my throat, made up of rage, as I took in the damage. He had dropped it right
in the middle, where the little stream bed ran, and that stream bed was full of
rocks. Now my prized possession was scratched and dented, the seat torn, and
the handlebars twisted. I sat and cried for a while, then drug it out of the
ravine and walked it home. I repaired most of the damage myself, but some of
the scars it carried for the rest of its days. And on that day, I vowed to kill
an idle threat, or a passing fancy. This was an assassination plot that would
be carried out at the end of the summer when school took up again. I would have
a surprise for that bullying, bike-wrecking asshole.
really hard about the best way to kill that little fucker. Remember now, I was
eight years old. I thought of putting snakes in his bed, and shooting him with
any gun I could get my hands on, but I wouldn't get my own first gun for
another two years, and along with it I got some healthy lessons on firearms
and rejected plan after plan, and then one fine summer day I was roused out of
my daydreaming by the sound of an explosion. It had come from our neighbor's
apple orchard, a half-mile away, and it had been a resounding bang. The
neighbor was blasting out some old tree stumps, and I was not the only kid who
showed up to watch, but I was the one most under foot that day, and the only
one with murder on his mind.
the smell of the shattered wood on that day. It had a sickly-sweet aroma that
I'd never smelled before, and I asked the man what it was.
time answering me. He stopped what he was doing, pulled out a big red
handkerchief, and blew his nose. He examined the result with some satisfaction,
then he hawked and spat on the ground and said, "That's dynamite, little Kerry.
Powerful goddamn stuff. Blow a man's head right off. Pretty safe though, if ya
know how ta use it."
to watch and learn. While the other kids were yelling and running around and
making mouth noises approximating explosions, I learned how to set dynamite. I
learned about blasting caps and how dangerous they were. I learned how to bore
underneath a stump and pack charges, and how to "telephone" the
dynamite when you were ready for it to blow. That's what the neighbor called
it, because he used an old hand-crank generator out of a telephone to set off
his charges. I spent all day at the neighbor's, and part of the next, too, and
when the blasting was all done, I watched to see where he put the dynamite and
farm in those days, nobody locked anything up. If they locked up their barn or
tool shed, or even their house, it might inconvenience a neighbor who badly
needed to borrow something. Life on the farm was tough enough without causing
each other any inconvenience. So it wasn't very difficult to sneak into the
neighbor's tool shed and take one stick of dynamite and one blasting cap. And I
wouldn't need a phone generator to set it off. The neighbor had told me that
any amount of electricity would set off a blasting cap, and even told me it was
best to always keep the wires on the cap twisted together until just before the
charge was set, because the wires could act as an antenna, and radio waves
could generate enough juice to set it off. So I figured a couple of flashlight
batteries would suffice. I hid the dynamite and blasting cap, and kept it
hidden until the last week before school took up at the end of summer, then I
built my device.
designs are the ones that usually work best, and this was simplicity itself. I
put the thing together in about twenty minutes. All it amounted to was two
batteries, some wire, a spring-type clothespin, a piece of plastic from a model
kit, a piece of string, two pennies and, of course, the dynamite and blasting
cap. The whole thing was built onto a board, and glued inside my lunchbox. The
string ran from inside the lid and was tied to the piece of plastic. The
plastic, of course, was to keep the two pennies from touching each other. The
pennies were glued into the jaws of the clothespin, and had wires soldered to
them, one wire attached to the blasting cap and one to the batteries. The other
wire from the blasting cap went to the other end of the battery pack. Simple.
Open the lid just a little, and you could unhook the string and have lunch.
Open it too far and the string pulls the piece of plastic out from between the
two pennies, and it eats your lunch. The next time Bobby took my
lunchbox would be the last theft he would ever commit. I don't think I even
thought about the consequences of my actions at all. I only had one goal in
mind. Paybacks, as they say, are a motherfucker.
bus to school on that first day after Labor Day all primed to kill Bobby
Cannon. At last, I would get my revenge on that bullying prick. I never gave
any thought at all to collateral damage. My only excuse is that I had just
turned nine years old and had not learned everything I needed to know about
lockers in elementary school. We had those desks with the wooden top that was a
solid slab of maple and it was hinged at the front and lifted up to reveal
storage space beneath and you could put your lunch box in there along with
notebooks, pencils and anything else you wanted stolen.
after arrival at the school, the bomb was in my desk and Bobby Cannon was in
the back of the room, his fate firmly lodged in my hands.
unusually fidgety throughout the morning and when the lunch bell rang, my heart
rate was right up there, pounding along. This was going to be a hell of a bang.
Getting caught had never entered my mind.
lunchroom, I sat down, and sure enough, here came good old Bobby. I figured the
moment was at hand.
the overhead speakers of the principal’s P. A. system came an announcement.
everyone! We have received a telephone bomb threat. Please evacuate the school
building immediately. Exit the building by whatever door is nearest to where
you are. The police are on their way. We will continue lunch next hour, after
the building has been cleared.”
bomb threat? Really? Bobby looked at me and I looked at him and he said, “I
need to talk to you. Outside.”
my lunch box and we hurried outside. We went to the playground and that was
when I noticed Bobby was carrying something, too. I looked closer and saw it
was a Bible. Yep, over the summer, Bobby had gone to church camp, and he had
gotten religion in a big way.
over to me and said, “Kerry, I need to apologize for all the bad stuff I did to
you, but especially for your bike. What I did was wrong, and I just want you to
know how sorry I am…” Then he walked away.
was, with a perfectly good bomb in my lunchbox and nobody to kill with it. Late
that same day, I dismantled my device and took the dynamite way back to the
woods on the back of our property and buried it. I set off the blasting cap the
next Fourth of July when the air was full of fireworks, and nobody ever knew
up much with kids I went to school with, but I did hear Bobby went to seminary
and later that he had his own church in Ohio. I still shudder to think what might
have happened if that single stick of dynamite had gone off in the crowded
police made a big show of checking the school building, but they knew the bomb
threat was just some prankster fucking around. They never found a thing…
Kenneth James Crist is
Editor 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 Dark Dossier
and The Edge-Tales of Suspense to Kudzu Monthly. He has several books in print,
and the Big Green Booger, and What Really Lives in Loch Ness, both children’s books, and Groaning for Burial, a book of zombie stories, plus
A Motorcycle Cop’s Motorcycle Manual, all available through Amazon.
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 77, 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 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.
If Charles Addams, Edgar Allan
Poe, and Willy Wonka sired a bastard child it would be the fat asthmatic by the name of Michael D. Davis. He has been called warped by dear friends and a freak by passing
strangers. Michael started drawing cartoons when he was ten, and his skill has improved
with his humor, which isn’t saying much. He is for the most part self-taught, only
ever crediting the help of one great high school art teacher. His art has been shown at
his local library for multiple years only during October due to its macabre nature. If
you want to see more of Michael’s strange, odd, weird, cartoons you can follow him
on Instagram at mad_hatters_mania.