Category: October 2019 Flash Fiction – Crime du Jour (Page 2 of 4)

Crime du Jour, Day 21: Open Container

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #21: Open Container

BEST MAN

 

So about two years ago, my cousin Joe Griggs here and I had been drinking, first at a strip-mall bar in Saginaw, then out in the parking lot, then walking along the highway, which maybe wasn’t that great an idea, but eventually we caught a break in the traffic and crossed to the other side of the road, then the other side of the railroad tracks, two-three sets of them, then over into this kind of open lot with a bunch of scrub trees in it. It’s behind the steel fabricator place and animal services, so you got your rusty smell and your smell of dogs, and the sound of barking and the highway.

It was a clear night, hot and warm, you could hear the insects singing, a train rolling out along one or another of the tracks, a party off in the distance with music playing tinny and faint off someone’s phone.

Well, Joe and I, we got to arguing about his ex-girlfriend and whether he should get back together with her, and we got in a fight, then kind where you’re half-wrestling and half-trying to punch each other. He hit me real hard and I passed out. Actually, he might not have hit me that hard, but I passed out anyway.  We were that kind of drunk.

When I woke up, it was morning, but only just.

I wasn’t sure what had happened, so I looked around. Right in front of my feet was my cousin Joe’s body, right next to an empty bottle of Jim Beam, which I was sure had been full when I blacked out.  Joe’s face looked pale and dead-looking.  I touched him, and he was colder than anybody had any right to be. No joke, he felt like a wax dummy.

I yelled and shook him. He flopped around like a bag of pinto beans.

I decided he was dead.  D-E-A-D dead.

So I did what any hungover white boy in Texas would have done.  I dragged Joe’s dead body over to the railroad tracks.  I wasn’t sure whether I had killed Joe or he had just drunk himself to death, but I didn’t much feel like taking the blame for it.

The train was coming, close enough to feel the track vibrate and hear the thrumming sound of all the wheels rolling on the rails.  I had to get out of the area, but I didn’t dare go back to my pickup truck.  My story was going to be that Joe and I had fought, and I’d abandoned him out in the open lot and walked home without him.  Whatever had happened to him after that, well, not my fault.

I was about halfway to the opposite end of the open lot when I remembered that I’d left that bottle of Jim Bean behind, and turned around to get it.  I didn’t know whose fingerprints were on it.

As I turned, someone ran across the highway to the place where I’d left Joe on the tracks. A woman, maybe five feet tall in four-inch stilettos, and built like a feather boa.  She screamed and tried to pull Joe off the tracks—the wrong way, that was.  All she woulda had to do was push him sideways off the tracks, and he would have rolled off the track bed and to safety.  But no, she had to try to drag him across the tracks, which meant she’d have to try to drag him over two sets of tracks, because right there, they ran side by side, and it wasn’t clear which tracks the train was on yet.

“Help me!” she screamed, then waved her arms.

I swore under my breath.  She’d seen me.

I ran toward her, grabbing the bottle of Jim Bean off the ground as I ran.  The train was on its way now, you could see it off in the distance as it came around the bend.  I made it to the tracks, dropped the bottle, and grabbed Joe’s body to start pulling him off the tracks and toward the open lot.

This little lady grabbed him and started pulling him back the other way. Between the two of us, we had him half-sitting up.

She was strong.  I don’t know how a lady so tiny got so strong.

“Let go!” I shouted.

“Help me!” she shouted back.

We both kept pulling in opposite directions.

The train came closer, the brakes on it screaming. It was on our set of tracks, all right, headed straight for all three of us.

That’s when Joe’s head rolled back on his shoulders and he started screaming, “I don’t wanna go toward the liiiiight!”

He jerked his arms away from both of us and covered his face with his hands.

Still sitting there, right on the tracks.

The woman yelled, “I’ll save you!” and tried to grab him under the arms and drag him backward along the tracks.  Even with the train trying to stop, she wasn’t going to be able to drag him backward fast enough to do either of them any good.

So I grabbed her and dragged her off the tracks, toward the open lot.  And she—don’t ask me how—kept hold of Joe and dragged him off the tracks.

As we dragged Joe away from the oncoming train, he saw the bottle of Jim Beam and grabbed it, cradling it to his chest like a puppy.

The engine went by, brakes still screaming. We had made it.

After a while, the train came to a stop, and we all heard this weird humming sound.

“What’s that?” the lady asked.

We all looked.

It was a drone floating above our heads and off to the side, a camera right in front.

Filming the whole thing.

Which is why we’re Internet-famous now, how Joe and I got busted for open container, and the hundred-percent truth of how Joe and Meredith met.

THE END

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

 

Crime du Jour, Day 20: Murder, Second-Degree

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #20: Murder, Second-Degree

CRIME DU JOUR

Second-degree murder is an ugly, boring crime. In theory it’s supposed to be a “crime of passion,” when you kill someone in the heat of the moment, or you kill someone you only intended to injure, or you kill someone while you’re committing another crime.  In practice, it’s a crime for stupid people.

Lemme give you some examples.

One guy kills a priest in Marlborough who was hearing his confession, not in a confession booth like in the movies, but in the priest’s office, face to face, over a cup of coffee.  The guy was abused as a kid, and it slips out.  Suddenly the guy is like, “You weren’t supposed to ask about that.” They tussle, the priest gets shot, second-degree murder.

A contractor in Arnold drives over a homeless man in an alleyway near his apartment. Hits the guy, runs over him, then reverses his pickup truck and backs over him again.  He was high and hadn’t meant to do it, second-degree murder.

This guy in Fairview Heights is molesting little kids. One of the moms finds out.  She recruits her brother to help deal with this bastard, then hires the guy to help put together some bunk beds for her even younger twin daughters. They tussle, she accidentally shoots her brother, then the guy. She has a good lawyer. Instead of first-degree murder and manslaughter, the charge about her brother is dismissed and the one about the alleged molester is downgraded—you guessed it—to second-degree murder.

A chorus of domestic disturbance rings out over the St. Louis metropolitan area, as regular as church bells. Second-degree murder.

Two guys stuck in a traffic jam on I-70 on a Friday at 4 p.m., one guy gets out and shoots the other, second-degree murder.

Two guys walk out of a bar just off Vandeventer Avenue, they get in a fight, one of them knocks the other out, the first guy drags the second guy’s unconscious body into a park, the second guy hits his head on a rock and dies, second-degree murder.

Robbery in an old man’s home in Fairview Heights, the robber ties up a 79-year-old man and leaves him there after ransacking the house. The man has diabetes and no family and can’t get to his insulin, second-degree murder.

Three teenaged boys in Ferguson steal some unsecured guns off a second-amendment neighbor, all trigger and no discipline, then break into the house of neighbors who happen to be black. They wear ski masks, one of the guns goes off accidentally, everyone’s in the news, second-degree murder.

A woman’s driving a car in Hi-Pointe. The car is moving. One guy is in the seat beside her, the other is in the seat behind her. A gun goes off—twice. The car swerves and hits a tree. Video from a store across the street shows three people in the car: the dead woman in the driver’s seat, a guy in the front seat, another guy in back. The woman was shot in the back of the head twice. Both of the guys have previous convictions for drug felonies. The guy in the back seat says he got out of the car and went home before the shooting occurred and he wouldn’t have shot her while the car was moving anyway, second-degree murder.

Are you bored yet? Rolling your eyes? Trying to talk to the people on the other side of the story and tell them it wasn’t worth it? I do.

I work for the local daily paper.  You wouldn’t recognize my byline. I started out delivering papers at four a.m. off my bicycle and worked my way up to reporter.  Not one of the top reporters, but a reliable hack with a sympathetic face who works the courts a lot.  The cops recognize me.  I’ve stepped down more than a few situations.  “Oh, it’s her,” they’ll say, and the situation will de-escalate. Apparently my writeups are sarcastic.

But here it is: I started noticing, when I was doing follow-up interviews with the survivors after sentencing, that there would be a snow globe sitting around somewhere.  Small, cheap-looking, white plastic in a glass dome with a white plastic base.  I didn’t think about it until I saw the fifth or sixth one.  Now I see them everywhere.

When I first realized it, I broke off in the middle of the interview.  I said, “What’s that?”

The widow handed the globe over to me.  Her husband had been killed behind a gay bar off 7th Boulevard. She’d known what her husband was like, but she loved him too much to stop him that night, he’d been shot after making out with the wrong closeted gay man, second-degree murder.

“Charles’s snow globe,” she said, like I should have known already. She handed it to me.

Behind the swirling white glitter was a 3D-printed miniature in white plastic. One man standing, the other kneeling, the first man holding a gun to the second man’s head. A little metal plate at the bottom said Charles Garmer, Jan 7 1982 to May 13 2018, Crime du Jour.

“Where’d you get it?” I asked.

“It came in the mail.” She tilted her head. “Didn’t you know? Every day someone gets one of these.”

She showed me the St. Louis survivors’ forum she frequented. One of the top topics was just that: Crime du Jour.  Every day, some anonymous artist selected a second-degree murder case and made a miniature snow globe for it on a 3D printer, then sent it to one of the survivors.

“That’s…” I said, not knowing how to describe it.

The widow shrugged. “We like them. It’s nice knowing someone is paying attention.” She skipped a beat, then added, “Besides you, of course.”

“Of course,” I said, and wrapped things up.

Twenty years of summing up second-degree murder cases, and it was someone else who had found the perfect description for that dull and relentless horror, the horror of human stupidity.

Crime du jour.

THE END

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

Crime du Jour, Day 19: Money Laundering

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #19: Money Laundering

NIMMERFROH

It all started when my latest serial-killer novel was pirated.  I’d only sent out a couple dozen copies of the novel to beta readers, so it wasn’t that hard to track down the guilty party.  Beta readers are people who read an early version of a story and give the author feedback. It’s an informal position, but one of trust. I set my computer guru, Bob, on the job. Bob is a nice guy, pretty ethical, but he owes me big-time.

The suspects were quickly narrowed down to two friends of mine who lived on the other side of the country, but not with each other. (I live in Colorado, up in the mountains.) I immediately leaned toward one of them as the guilty party.

I should explain why I was upset about having my book pirated.  To a reader, it’s no big deal to pirate a Liz Hicks book, or even thousands of Liz Hicks books.  I, myself, have pirated a few books. If I can’t legally buy a copy of a book, I have no scruples about getting one however I can.  The usual problem that authors bring up is that they don’t make money off pirated books. And I have to admit that the idea of all the money that isn’t mine gets my goat sometimes.

But what really pisses me of is that I don’t make rankings off pirated books.  Nobody gets on a USA Today bestseller list based on pirated versions. And Amazon, for example, bases how often my books get shown to readers on how often my books get sold or reviewed.  And book pirates don’t even leave stinking reviews.

The woman I suspected of being the book pirate, let’s call her Jenna, was going to be at a convention in St. Petersburg, Florida, a few weeks after I found out about the pirating.  I looked up the email she had sent after she had read the novel, called Nimmerfroh, about a female serial killer working with the German Resistance during World War II.  Jenna had loved the book, but suggested a few changes. I’d used most of her suggestions.  She’s also a professional writer, and a good one.  She writes thrillers about a female IT specialist who tracks down abducted women.  She’s a computer guru herself, although these days she’s a bit behind on the field, being successful enough as a writer that she quit her IT job.

Aha, I hear you thinking. No wonder she’s the one you suspected.

Let me add that the other suspect was an old college professor of mine, a complete idiot about clicking on any and every email or message that anyone ever sent him, the kind of person constantly posting on Facebook, “Ignore any messages you got from me yesterday.  I’ve been hacked!”

He might have been an inadvertent “leak,” but I didn’t think so. The version of the book that had been pirated had the fixes that Jenna had suggested in it already—worded slightly differently than I would have done it.

A pretty solid clue, in my opinion.

I kept my mouth shut until the Florida convention.  I had intended to take Jenna to lunch as a “thank you” for being a beta-reader, then confront her about the book pirating, but she beat me to it. That is, she offered to take me out to lunch.

We went to an upscale restaurant. She ordered the vegan fettuccine with mushroom Bolognese.  I ordered steak, organic New York strip with togarishi-lime butter, and a double-shot of the most expensive Scotch on the list.  If they had had lobster on the menu, I would have ordered it.

She didn’t blink an eye.

“So,” she said. “You found out about the piracy.”

“Yes,” I said.

“I knew you would.”

“And?”

And, she said, she had a proposition for me.

A certain firm in Indonesia needed to launder some money.  They owned literal laundries all over East Java. Many of the legitimate customers paid in cash.  The way the money got laundered was, the laundry owners would set up fake accounts to bring in suits to be dry-cleaned.  They would charge the accounts for the suits, but—surprise!—no suits were ever cleaned. It’s a simple setup. I’ve heard of it done with housecleaning, restaurants, even house sitters.

Here was where things got more involved.  The firm in Indonesia also wanted a way to introduce computer viruses onto people’s smartphones.  Jenna had a more technical term for it, but that’s what it boiled down to, a computer virus.

Why not, Jenna said with twinkling eyes, target book pirates?

I would “leak” my beta-reader book version to the book pirates. They would introduce this virus thingy onto the pirated book file.  The book pirates would steal the book.  Then bad things would happen to the book pirates.

Instant karma.

“But what do I get out of it?” I asked.

“Isn’t revenge enough?” she asked.

“No,” I said, and she laughed.

“The women who work at the laundry all have Amazon accounts,” Jenna said.  “They buy your book.  Or read it on Kindle Unlimited, if the book is in that program. They’ll even do reviews.”

“In Indonesian?” I asked, thinking, I’m pretty sure most of them don’t speak English.

“All sorts of languages. There’s a network that goes through Russia and all over China, a lot of different places. A lot of the reviews are in English. And, honestly, I’ve made a lot of new fans that way.”

I sat back in my seat.

“And you sent my book out without asking me because…?” I said.

“Never mind that now,” she said. “It’s too late to put the feline back in the Kate Spade clutch. In or out?”

I thought about backlist. I thought about karma.  I thought about getting caught.

But it was breaking into the Russian and Chinese markets that decided me.

Getting reviews.

“In,” I said.

And then I finished my steak.

THE END

This story features the main character (Liz Hicks) from my forthcoming Diane R. Thompson novel, A Dark and Cozy Night.  

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

 

Crime du Jour, Day 18: Manslaughter (Involuntary)

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #18: Manslaughter (Involuntary)

AT THE CARNIVAL, NIGHTTIME IS THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT

It’s one of those traveling carnivals that sets up in open fields or parking lots of dead shopping malls.  It doesn’t have a big top or sideshows.  It isn’t a traveling circus.  It has a single Ferris wheel with twelve topless double seats that creak as they swing.  There’s a merry-go-round with plastic horses on it.  Some of the paint is chipped all the way down to the gray plastic, but the fabric top is still immaculate red and white.  The music comes from a DVD player.  The whole carnival smells of diesel fuel and burnt sugar.  A million cords have been gaffed down to the cracked asphalt of the parking lot. You can get cotton candy, carmel apples, sno kones, popcorn, corn dogs, hot dogs, hamburgers, soft pretzels, and all kinds of big cold drinks.  It’s hot enough, and dry enough, that sweat tacks down the hair on your arms, straight onto your skin.

If you’re lucky, you win an orange stuffed orangutan. A sports jersey. Or a rubber duck.

That’s daytime.

At the carnival, nighttime is the same, but different.

The lights come on.

Some of the lights are regular lights.  There are regular socket bulbs, neon lights, fluorescent lights hanging inside the ticket booths, washing the color out of the ticket-takers’ faces.  Then there are the LED lights.  They sell hand-held mini fans with LEDs all around the outside edges of the fan blades.  The lights show patterns as they spin. More LEDs race each other around the outside of the tent awnings.  They dance between the hanging stuffed animals.  Frogs with their arms outstretched, zebras, pink bears with smaller stuffed animals, monsters mostly, behind a plastic window in their bellies.  All those eyes watching you, once the lights come on.  Some of the eyes have lights inside them.  At night the air turns cold, colder than it really is, so you end up wrapping your arms around your shoulders and shivering.  People are everywhere and nowhere all at once.  One second you’re surrounded. The next, suddenly you’re by yourself, everyone looking at you.

I have two tickets and no money.  The cheapest ride is three tickets, except for the kiddie rides, and I’m too tall for those.  Three tickets for the fun house.  I need four tickets for the Sizzler, or the Pharaoh’s Fury, or the Gravitron. I walk around the edge of the carnival, looking for someone who wants to get rid of their leftover tickets.  I’m shivering.  I’m wearing shorts and a yellow ramen-noodle t-shirt. I told my mom I wasn’t going to bring a sweatshirt. My friends already went home. I have to leave soon too, on my bike. Maybe I’ll find some other kid to give my leftover tickets to.

Then this guy pushes past me, wearing running shoes, no socks, black shorts, and a long-sleeved black t-shirt that sticks to his front.  He has a hemp necklace with cowrie shells on it and a goatee. He looks at me. He looks at me on purpose.

I hear something rattle on the asphalt. Then the guy jumps over the aluminum fence at the edge of the carnival and is gone.

On the asphalt is a curling coil of tickets.  I pick them up.

They’re sticky and dark.

I find a mostly-clean paper napkin and wipe them off.

A dozen tickets! With my two other tickets, that’s fourteen. That’s three four-ticket rides, with two left over.  Or two fives and a four, with nothing left over.

I walk to the Sizzler.  It pulls at me, swooping and turning.  It isn’t the most dangerous ride.  It isn’t the tallest ride.  But I like it.  It has three arms with four carriages on each arm.  It turns like crazy, throwing you back and forth and switching directions. Then, just when you start to get used to it, it starts throwing you up and down.  No seat belt, just a grab bar that fits in front of you. I get in line.

A big guy is taking tickets, the kind of guy who can throw a kid a hundred feet into the air all by himself.  I hand him my two clean tickets and two of the least yucky ones.  He starts to take them, then looks down at the tickets.  “What the hell did you spill all over these, kid?  I can’t be taking these.”

He shoves them back at me and pushes me out of line.  I howl in protest.

“They’re fake! Nice try, kid.  Next!”

He’s lying.  Those tickets are real.  He just doesn’t want to gunk up his ticket pouch.

Two guys behind me hand over their tickets.  They climb into a seat and pull the bar in front of them and put the pin in, even before the ticket taker comes.  For a second the music on the merry-go-round goes silent, and I hear one of them say, “But I know I got him.”

“He’s still moving,” says the other, banging his hand on the arm of the safety bar.

“We’ll find him. Time to start searching—” says the first one, and then the music comes on again.

A few seconds later, the Sizzler starts up.  The two guys are still talking.  Their heads lean one way, then the other.  They’re wearing matching dark-blue polo shirts and khaki pants.

I see something dull and silver lying on the ground where they climbed in.  The ticket taker sees the silver thing too, then does a double-take.

His hand moves for the lever, but it’s too late.

One of the polo shirt guys screams.  Then—

Nobody ever finds out how the guy on the inside end of the seat gets thrown, but not the one on the outside. It’s a freak accident. The big guy is arrested for involuntary manslaughter, but they let him go again.

I keep my mouth shut when they ask me.

Even though I never get to use the rest of those tickets.

THE END

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

Crime du Jour, Day 17: Indecent Exposure

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #17: Indecent Exposure

FLORIDA MAN EXPOSES HIMSELF TO NUNS

October 11, 2019 — PENSACOLA, Fla. — A Florida man found nude inside an after-hours ShopMart Halloween display is facing charges after being reported for indecent exposure by local nuns.

The Sun-Journal reports 34-year-old shopper Elwood “Eddie” Rigsby was arrested in the early hours of last Friday after closing hours of the local ShopMart after being discovered within the store’s seasonal Halloween display at approximately one a.m. by a search party constituting of over forty searchers, including several police officers, three shift supervisors, and the store manager, Hazel Knoblock.

Earlier the previous day, an emergency call was received by the Pensacola Police Department about a topless man who had exposed himself to several nuns who had been perusing the seasonal section.  The nuns, members of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Lidwina (CSL) were preparing to celebrate a Jubilee, or twenty-fifth anniversary of observing the religious life, for one of their members. The sister making the call reported that they had found the man hiding within the racks of adult costumes in the store.

The suspect was reported to have behaved in a “lewd and indecent manner,” and shouted at the nuns to “suck on it like a lollypop,” after which he was reported to have snatched a costume with a men’s short bolero jacket and sombrero and disappeared within the men’s clothing aisles.

But that was only the beginning.

Several officers arrived shortly afterward to search for the suspect, who eluded detection for several hours.  After closing, a more thorough search was performed; however, the suspect was not located for several hours, until a large display of boxes of Halloween candy and decorative streamers, shaped like an enormous jack-o-lantern, was disassembled.  The suspect was found to have created himself a narrow, cramped hiding spot within the boxes using a box-cutter, several rolls of adhesive tape, and a fleece throw quilt, decorated with Halloween themes.

Store Manager Hazel Knoblock stated, “The candy was shipped to us packed in Halloween display boxes, the kind where all you have to do is cut open the front.  You can stack the boxes on the shelves or build them up in displays if you want.  They’re pretty handy.  We have one employee who’s a genius at building seasonal displays for us, everything from football goalposts to thirty-foot beer gator.  He put a lot of work into that jack-o-lantern, and it almost makes you want to cry for the damage that [the suspect] did to it. It was like having a rat get into your pantry. Those boxes looked gnawed on.”

Rigsby was released Sunday on $11,500 bond and faces charges of indecent exposure, criminal trespassing, second degree petty theft, and criminal mischief. It’s unclear if he’s retained an attorney.

Of note is that the suspect returned to the same ShopMart location after his release to purchase the fleece throw quilt he had used earlier the previous week, calling it “the most comfortable blanket I ever passed out on.”

Store Manager Hazel Knoblock states that that type of quilt is currently sold out, but an additional shipment of quilts will be arriving soon.

 

Wireless Device Used to Hack Customer Records At Local Store

October 17, 2019 — PENSACOLA, Fla. — A customer database at a local ShopMart was hacked during the last week using a small wireless device that connected to an unsecured computer network via wireless router, with hundreds of customer records, including the credit card information of several nuns, potentially at risk.

THE END

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

Crime du Jour, Day 16: Identity Theft

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #16: Identity Theft

THE CLOISONNÉ HEART

 

The question of who my mother was only arose after her death. I had put some of her ashes inside a jewel-like, enameled cloisonné heart specially made to hold them. On the back of the heart was a threaded screw—a big plug, really. You put the ashes in, then screwed the plug shut. There was no way to unscrew the plug, no screwdriver slot or edges to grip on, once you had tightened it. Once it was in, it wasn’t coming out. The heart came with a little stand, so you could display it.

The rest of her ashes I scattered around the farm, trespassing because the property had long since been sold.

Our family’s savings and property were stolen by a con man in the late 1980s, when I was in ninth grade. At first no one could believe it. We limped along, trying to pay bills, until finally the bank lay down the law. Then we moved to Cheyenne, where my father got a job with a government bureau helping other farmers navigate their own bankruptcies.

I’ve looked over the paperwork. The con was a fairly common investment scam that involved going in on shares on guaranteed high-yield property around the East Teapot Dome Oil Field.

It was a deal too good to be true.

Mom worked tirelessly to hold the family together, working two jobs and cooking a dozen meals at a time to put in the freezer, for nights when she wouldn’t be home until late. She volunteered at our new church, not because she had the time, but because she felt obliged to repay the community for helping us out when we moved.

As the sale of the farm went through and the debts were paid off and the police had tracked down the man who had fooled Dad so badly, although we were given to understand that we’d never get the money back—that is, as things started to look up—Mom seemed to shrink in upon herself. She lost her temper over the smallest issues. She quit volunteering for the church. She put on weight. More than once, she wasn’t where she said she was. None of us had cell phones back then. She would blame me for the times when no one could find her: she had told me what my curfew was, and I was lying about her behavior in order to shift the blame.

I convinced myself that she was right, and that I should be ashamed of myself.

Then we were hit by identity thieves.

This was the early 1990s by then. A dozen credit cards were opened in my name, in Mom’s name, in Dad’s name. The savings that I had worked summers and after school to pay for college disappeared. All our savings did. Every vehicle we owned had liens taken out against them. A second mortgage had been dumped on the house. The thief had done everything they could to clean us out.

Once again, Mom held us together. Whatever had been wrong with her reversed itself. Her color came back, she lost weight, she took on a second job, and she started volunteering again.

Despite not having a lot of savings—I had switched banks once I turned eighteen—I started college at the University of Wyoming.

I had scholarships that covered most of what I needed, and a loan from my English teacher that covered the rest. I didn’t tell my mother that I was going. I don’t know why. I think I just assumed that she knew, given the mail that came from the college. I had Dad sign anything that needed to be signed. Nobody talked about it. Mom never said, “I know that money is tight, but…” I turned in my two-week notice at the hotel I worked at, washed my laundry, packed clothes and a few other things, and—went.

When I got there, I didn’t know my own phone number at my dorm room yet.

The first night I was at college, I went out to a freshman orientation thing that my roommate, Graciela, had opted to skip. The phone rang off the hook, at least two dozen prank calls of someone “screaming incoherently.” Graciela eventually left the phone off the hook.

By the time I went home for the first time, in October, Mom claimed that she had known all along that I was going to college. She even told everyone that she had saved up “pin money” to give me the last of what I needed that first semester.

I didn’t think, or talk, about it.

I slowly scraped my way out of my identity-theft issues. I fought with credit reporting agencies and wrote letters and studied accounting. The guy who had ripped Dad off initially had gone to prison, with the police telling us that “someday” we might receive pennies on the dollar, based on the guy’s prison-labor wages, at something like a dollar an hour.

Then Mom got sick with liver cancer and Dad got hit by the identity thieves again.

It wiped my parents out. They were lucky they had health insurance.

I had locked everything down, so the thief wasn’t able to get much from me—and I was quickly able to get the charges reversed. But the teacher who had loaned me the money I needed for my first semester got hit, too, at the same time. She lost her house.

Mom died.

It wasn’t until this year that it all started coming out. Dad found some bills stuffed between the drywall and the foundation, after he had had to make some repairs due to water damage last spring. Bills for credit cards taken out under my English teacher’s name.

I tracked down five hundred thousand dollars that Mom stole from us. But never what she did with it.

Afterward, that heart full of ashes, which I kept, seemed mawkishly appropriate.

THE END

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

Crime du Jour, Day 15: Homicide

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #15: Homicide

FELONY MURDER RULE

 

It was a meeting of the Little Old Ladies’ club, and this month the three of them were having brunch at the Oak & Ash, a new restaurant run by a nice gay couple in their thirties, the sort of people who would have been called “roommates” back in the day.

“I think they’re hipsters,” Edna said. “Isn’t that what you call the Millennials these days?  Hipster neckbeards? I bet they named the restaurant after their woods.”

Edna, the oldest, had watched too much Golden Girls while she was going through menopause and it had done things to her mind.

Ronnell said, “I dare you, you redheaded tramp, say that to the waiter’s face. Say it!”

Carrie said, “What do you think about mezcal?”

Edna said, “It’s just the hipster name for tequila.”

“I meant what kind,” Carrie said. “I’m having the ‘Naked and Famous.’ Mezcal, aperol, chartreuse jaune, and lime.” They all knew that aperol was an Italian apéritif with gentian and rhubarb in it; they had been drinking their way through cocktail lists for decades. Ronnell opted for a “Sunshine” with white rum and pineapple juice, and Edna ordered a pear mojito, shouting after the waiter, “And don’t stiff me on the mint!”

Carrie said, “This month’s business starts off with the Ralph Juza case.”

Ronnell flicked her French-manicured nails. “That whole situation annoys me. Two men, Ralph Juza and Arthur Monk, are strangers to each other. Arthur Monk holds up a coffee shop and takes all the money out of the till and the safe in the office.  Juza is a bystander. He’s frozen in terror.  Edmond Crouch, the coffee shop owner, takes a pistol and shoots Monk.  And now Juza is being tried for homicide?  It makes no sense. Unless it’s a set-up.”

Carrie said, “But before Crouch shot Monk, Monk gave the money to Juza. Shoved it at him as he was trying to run. So now Juza’s involved.”

“Juza didn’t even know him!”

Edna said, “It was Juza’s money in the first place, since Crouch stiffed Juza on those plumbing repairs, which you didn’t mention.”

Ronnell said, “I still can’t see how Juza was involved with either the robbery or the murder.”

Carrie said, “Technically, because Juza panicked and ran off with the money after Monk was shot, he became an accessory after the fact, as well as abetting the murder—since he picked up the homeless Monk up off the street and offered to buy the man some coffee.”

Edna muttered, “It was Juza’s money. With Monk as the bill collector.”

Carrie rolled her eyes and continued. “The felony murder rule states that if any death results from the commission of certain violent felonies, that everyone involved in the commission of that felony can also be charged with first-degree murder.”

Ronnell said, “Doesn’t the death have to be someone who isn’t a criminal participant, at least in this state?”

Carrie screwed up her mouth to think as the waiter brought their drinks. Edna got the “Naked and Famous,” Carrie got the “Sunshine,” and Ronnell got the pear mojito, which was positively packed with mint leaves, an alcoholic salad.

“Keep or swap back?” Edna demanded.

“Swap,” Ronnell said.

“Keep,” Carrie said. “No, I want the pear mojito.” Ronnell got her “Sunshine” back and Edna stuck with the “Naked and Famous,” which made Carrie’s nose hairs curl just to smell it.

“Where were we?” Carrie asked.

Ronnell said, “Criminal participants.”

Carrie said, “If that is the case, Ronnell, I’m sure Juza’s lawyer will bring the criminal participant argument into play. Which would make it an easy dismissal.”

Edna said, “Unless someone has a chip on his shoulder.  Get it? Chip? Wood?”

Ronnell said, “Oh, didn’t I mention? There’s a reason why I picked the Oak & Ash for bunch.  And it’s him, Jesse Hall, one of the co-owners. He knows Crouch.”

All three of them turned toward Hall, a willowy young man in his thirties with a pompadour haircut.  He felt the power of their regard, and walked toward them.

“Can I get you anything, ladies? More drinks?”

Edna leaned forward to say something awful. Carrie put a hand over her mouth. Smoothly, Ronnell interjected, “We were just talking about the Juza case. Have you heard of it?”

Hall nodded.

“What’s your opinion?” Carrie asked.  “Is Juza guilty of murder, or isn’t he?”

“Technically…” said Hall.  “Yes?  He stole the money afterward, so he was involved in the shooting as an accessory after the fact. It’s the felony murder rule, which is–”

“We know it,” Carrie and Ronnell said, before he could explain.

Edna ripped Carrie’s hand away from her mouth.  “Crouch acted in self-defense.  So it was never murder in the first place. Justifiable homicide. You can’t charge a man for a crime that was never committed.”

Ronnell said, “I heard Crouch kept blanks in that gun.  Not live ammo.”

Hall pursed his lips.  “I knew Crouch. He told everyone that he kept blanks in it.”

Carrie said, “But did he? What if he kept a box of blanks and a box of live ammo, so he could claim the rounds were switched by an accident?”

Ronnell said, “Or what if someone could have put a box of live ammo in with the blanks and switched it for him.”

Edna chortled.  “I’ve known some women who’ve done that with condoms.”

Carrie said, “But who?”

Ronnell said, “As far as anyone can tell, Monk was just an ordinary robber. An opportunist who had been arrested for the same crime before. He’d never been in the store before.”

Carrie said, “…until Juza brought him to the coffee shop.”

The case spread out before her: Juza had swapped the bullets, set up the murder, with either Monk killing Crouch or vice versa–he didn’t care which–and got himself arrested for a crime that would be dismissed.

All so he couldn’t be forced to go to trial twice over the same crime, because of the Double Jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Clever.

She looked at Ronnell.  Ronnell winked.

Hall shrugged.  “All I know is, Juza was a terrible plumber, and he had gone to the coffee shop to argue with Crouch about whether Crouch was going to sue him for shoddy workmanship. Crouch is going to have to have all his pipes torn out and replaced.”

Edna said, “My ex-husband had to have that done, too.”

As Hall left, the three Little Old Ladies cackled in his wake.

THE END

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

 

 

Crime du Jour, Day 14: Hate Crimes

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #14: Hate Crimes

THE GUY THAT HATED SEAFOOD

 

You are the CEO of a small, but successful, company in Fort Worth, Texas, one that deals with app development.  Some entrepreneur has an idea, you have a team of software developers that can produce an app for it.  Your offices are in a high rise in the downtown area.  The bottom floor of your building has two Mexican restaurants that aren’t half-bad.  And a decent sandwich shop. There’s also a seafood restaurant, but you haven’t bothered with it.  Fort Worth has always had plenty of Mexicans, but it’s never had any sea.  You like the way your building casts a shadow over the other buildings in the neighborhood. You feel like it’s a measure of success, that the place your business calls home functions like a sundial, telling time.

You spend most of your time running your company.  However, you do work on design projects from time to time, both to keep in touch with the field (which you love) and to take on projects that are too risky to assign to your employees.

You’re working on one of the “risky” projects now, under a fictional employee name. The fictional employee collects a salary, goes on travel, pays taxes, and has a social security number.  He has registered software patents under his name, for which he collects the royalties.  He has an apartment.  And a girlfriend.  He is you, except he isn’t.

His name is Wilburn D. Wiser, Bill to his friends.  He wears different clothes than you do: his Hawaiian and retro shirts and sloppy cargo shorts; your suits and starched, white button-up shirts. You wear glasses; he wears blue-green contact lenses.  You have thinning hair which you don’t deign to conceal; he wears a silk wig, specially designed not to frizz up in humid weather, which in Fort Worth is a necessity.  It’s not just appearance, but attitude.  Bill Wiser puts on sunglasses and gets asked if he’s Matthew McConaughey.  You put on sunglasses and get asked if you’re Michael Fassbender.

Bill’s the one with the charming smile. Your “charming smile” is self-conscious and strained.

It’s Monday just before lunch, and Lena, your VP of Accounting, wants to know if you’ll go to the seafood place with her.  You turn her down. You’ve told the joke about the Mexicans and the ocean several times now. Can she not take a hint? Nobody from  Adder Development goes to the seafood place now.

“We need to talk,” she says. Which is woman code for “you’re in deep shit.”

Lena’s idea of what does, or does not, constitute deep shit is generally within twenty percent of your own deep-shit threshold.  You close up everything on your “risky” project, which involves tracking boat registration numbers and flagging them according to race and/or ethnicity, grab your briefcase, and follow her to the elevator.

She doesn’t say anything until you are seated at a table in the back corner.  The maître-d’ gives you a look, as though he recognizes you and is wondering what made you break character: Aren’t you the guy from upstairs who hates seafood?

Then you see something slide across his eyes.  Nah, couldn’t be.

Lena orders salmon with beurre blanc and a Caesar salad, and a glass of chardonnay.  You order seafood gumbo and a filet mignon with hollandaise.

“What’s up?” you ask.

She has her purse with her. She takes out her phone, unlocks it, and slides it over the white tablecloth to you.  It’s a picture of Bill.  He looks like he’s been off-roading in an open-sided Jeep.  Spattered with something, probably mud.

You squint at him.  “Who’s this?”

“An employee of ours, Wilburn D. Wiser.”

You lift an eyebrow.  “I’ve never heard of him.”

“Neither have I.  And yet he’s on our payroll.”

“As a contractor?”

“As a full-time employee.”

“Who put him on the payroll?”

“As far as I can tell, you did.”

You curse under your breath.  “So I’ve been hacked. How?”

“I don’t know how. Yet.”

You chew on the inside of your cheek, feeling intoxicated with adrenaline.  “So where’s the money going?”

“Directly to this guy, as far as I can tell.  He has a social security number and a home address.”

“Have you been able to track him down?”

She takes a breath and blows it between pressed lips, as if she were playing a clarinet.  “Just this photo.”

“Where is this from? It’s like the guy’s been at a mud race or something.”  The background shows Bill against the side of a boat, the kind of motorboat that you take out fishing on a lake. It’s a Stacer Outlaw 449, registered under Bill’s name.  “Is that a boat?”

“This is from last weekend. He was at Eagle Mountain Lake.”

“He kind of looks like Matthew McConaughey.”

“Yeah,” she says.

“How’d you get the picture?”

“He’s got a warrant out for his arrest. Apparently he hit another boat out in the water, capsized the boat, injured the guy, I mean, almost removed the guy’s face, then motored off without providing assistance. The guy he hit just barely lived. He’s black and says he thought he heard the guy yell something derogatory just before he sped off, so the police are treating it as a hate crime for now.”

“You booted him off payroll, right? That’s step one.”

“Done.”

“We have to stay on top of this and protect the company. I want you to—”

Then the waiter arrives with your lunches, and gives you a double-take: Aren’t you the guy that—

Nah, couldn’t be.

The waiter leaves and Lena says, “You want me to…what?”

“Give me a minute,” you say.

And then, savoring the moment, you eat your steak.

THE END

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

 

 

Crime du Jour, Day 13: Harassment

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #13: Harassment

SELL ME YOUR SHADOW

 

Gibs Hanscam received the following message from an anonymous email account, at one of his anonymous email accounts:  Sell me your shadow, Samiscam.

Samiscam was a handle that he often used on the dark web. Sam-I-Scam. It sounded like something out of Dr. Seuss.

But that was just the start of the message.  Sell me your shadow, Samiscam. I want full use of your ID to undertake some illegal activity.  I want you to take the blame for what I’m about to do for a short period, say three to six months max, after which you will be free and clear.  No prison will be involved but your real-life identity might get dragged into the spotlight. I’m not going to rape, murder, or assault anyone. No drugs, no bodily harm. Just freak them the fuck out.  What do you get in return?  Bitcoins.

Five hundred bitcoins. No questions asked or answered. Just five hundred bitcoins.

Hit reply to confirm.

The worth of a bitcoin, at the time that Gibs received the message, was US $8444 and change.  Five hundred bitcoins was over US$4 million. He did some research to try to find out who had sent the email but came up dry.

Setting aside the question of whether he wanted to play cat-and-mouse with the IRS, did he want to do it?

Point number one: why ask?

There was always somebody who could hack your identity. Gibs was small fry, no serious security set up.  He was just a guy who liked to prank people.  Not people he knew. People who were like people he knew, but not the same actual people.  He’d discovered who he hurt didn’t matter. A woman named Tiffany was rude to him on the phone, he’d find another Tiffany and use her credit card to buy a bunch of adult diapers and have them shipped to a third Tiffany, just to fuck up both their days.

Point number two: was this just a scam?

As in, was some kid screwing around? What if one of his “victims” had tracked him down? What if it was the cops or the FBI? Wouldn’t that be entrapment?

Point number three: why not come up with your own ID? People on the dark web did it every day.

The rules were no murder, no rape, no bodily harm.  Gibs tried to work out what was left.  Hate crimes, libel or slander, stalking, harassment…?  Arson, burglary, child pornography?

The Mr. Anonymous had said no questions, but that last one was too big to ignore. Even a guy like Gibs had limits.

Gibs typed No child pornography and hit reply.

He received an almost immediate response: No fucking kiddie porn. Or animal porn. Or feces/piss porn.  That’s your one exemption to the no-question rule, buddy.  Out or in?

In, Gibs replied.

I like to just follow them around, the first poster said.  I don’t do anything to them.  I just follow them around.

The second one said, I like to go up to their doors and leave them delivery boxes, with cadaverine stink bombs inside.

I like to stand on the sidewalk.  I just stand there in a hoodie. It’s not dangerous, because I’m white. I just pull the hoodie down if the cops pull up.

I used to send them things through the mail. Now it’s self-deleting attachments to text messages.  Never dick pics, though.  Low open rates on that shit.

I wrote an algorithm that takes their search results and flags anyone who might be pregnant. I send them pregnancy tests and tell them that I’m watching them. 

I mail them pictures of their boyfriends cheating on them. Photoshop is not their friend.

Fun times, LOL. But did you hear about Samiscam?

That guy’s brilliant. I wondered what happened to him. He hasn’t been on in over a week.

It came out that he worked for a debt collection company in real life. He spent all day harassing people to get them to pay their bills.  Guy named Gibs Hanscom.

No shit? I can’t believe it. Those debt collection dudes are scum. He was better than that.

Ethical Recovery Associates, his company, decided to downsize their staff without paying unemployment. They selected a bunch of their best performers to harass their own fucking staff.  They demoted people, moved their jobs to other states without a moving allowance, fined them for not getting high enough conversion rates…this one chick was $84,000 in debt to her boss for not making her quota.  Like eighteen people killed themselves.

I still don’t believe it.  What happened to Samiscam?

Get this, he was in charge of the special harassment division.  His boss paid him under the table. Five hundred bitcoins.

No shit? Like four million bucks?

No shit.

What happened?

He killed himself this morning. He left a note saying he was depressed and couldn’t take it anymore. Once people found out what he did, they wouldn’t leave him alone. He was sick of the harassment.

Fucking murderers.

Would you do it? For five hundred bitcoins? Drive your coworkers to suicide?

LOL, said poster number two. For four million bucks? Sure.

Ethical Recovery Associates claimed that neither it, nor its employees, had any connection to the Bitcoin payment was made to Gibson Hanscam, or to any policies that would constitute harassment of its own employees. Nobody believed them. Their head lawyer quit.

A week later, an anonymous email showed up on poster number two’s account.

Sell me your shadow, it began, and ended, Out or in?

THE END

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

 

 

 

 

 

Crime du Jour, Day 12: Forgery

Crime du Jour: 31 Days of Malfeasance, Misconduct, and Immorality

One crime story per day, all the way through October. Ebook to be published Nov 1. This will be under my mystery/crime pen name, Diane R. Thompson!

 

Crime du Jour #12: Forgery

SIR RICHARD FRANCIS BURTON’S
SUPPLEMENTAL MISCELLANY OF MILITARY EXERCISES

The book is bound in dark-green patterned cloth, stamped in blind relief—that is, without gold leaf or additional color—with arabesque patterns and grape vines.  A close examination of the blind relief reveals the clever concealment of stilettos, bayonets affixed to rifles, ladies’ pistols, asymmetrical caltrops (possibly improvised), dart-guns with flying darts, bottles (some sort of incendiary grenade?), scythes, and other improvised weapons. Upon a single, central, large gold-leaf illustration, is a group of what appears to be British Raj uniformed officers.  One rides a camel; two others horses.  All eleven wear turbans.  The men carry spears, rifles, scimitars, pistols, long daggers, and other kit. The stamping and printing of the gold leaf, sized with an egg-wash of glair, are exquisite. The gold leaf, further, appears to have been applied in several layers, including a layer of copper leaf to add depth and color. The boards are beveled, the gilding and blind relief worked into the spine as well as the front and back covers, and all page edges are gilt.

In bright gold and in an elaborate font, is the title: Supplemental Miscellany of Military Exercises.  The publisher is William Clowes and Sons, 1859.

The book, I might add, never existed, although one would never guess it, to hold it in one’s hands as I have.

The author is Richard F. Burton (not yet a Sir), the famed explorer and translator of the bawdiest, and most complete, versions of The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments and The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana.

The contents are as follows:

Introductory Remarks, Page 5.

Section I. Principles of Improvisation, Page 11.

Section II. Hand Weapons, Edged, Page 16.

Section III. Hand Weapons, Blunt, Page 60.

Section IV. Explosive Weapons, Fired, Page 90.

Section V. Explosive Weapons, Thrown, Page 137.

Section VI. Explosive Weapons, Placed, Page 199.

Section VII. Chemical Weapons of All Types, Page 217.

Section VIII. Physical Traps, Page 240.

Section IX. Principles of Ambush, Page 263.

Section X. Principles of Defense Against Improvisation, Page 307.

Concluding Remarks, Page 328.

The introductory remarks begin:

While the services officially continue to oppose innovation in the matter of arms and weaponry unrelated to the construction of ever-larger guns in the pattern of the 68-pounder Lancaster, the men themselves have discovered the benefits of investigation and study of smaller, more inventive weapons and the tactics with which to best make use of them, often at the behest of an opponent that has mastered the use of such tools and tactics against them. For those men, a brief primer such as this may found to be of some use.  The objections to these methods offered up by their officers are—that men who depend on the tactics of their service, have no other method of defense but to keep together in line, and rely upon their fellow men, will never abandon or betray their officers. It should be noted, however, that, under this system, one’s fellow men are mutually dependent on the defense of men who are not fully prepared to defend them.

The tools and tactics here provided have been learned, in the most part, from men of great skill and wisdom in Goa, the Scinde, the Valley of Indus, and throughout the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa, and should be considered a thorough, if not complete, manual of such warfare.

The question I have been asked to answer is this:

Is the book genuine?

With assurance, I can answer that the book was not published by William Clowes and Sons.  The predecessor to this book, A Complete System of Bayonet Exercises, was brought out in a simple edition in 1853, with a simple leather cover, and was limited to 86 pages, which edition certainly did not sell enough copies to warrant a magnificently bound sequel by its then-unknown author.  There is no record of the book ever having existed within the records of William Clowes and Sons, and Burton says nothing about it otherwise in his journals.

The book is magnificent.

A colleague of mine described it “as written by a Victorian James Bond about all the gadgets Q gave him, or that he made for himself, and how to use them,” and that seems to be more or less accurate.  The book contains garrotes, improvised explosives, sword canes, pit traps, snares, a proto-mustard gas, and more. If it had existed, and been published, it might have literally changed the course of history.

Sadly, the biggest proof of the book’s forged status was simply my desire for it to have existed.  Those who investigate forgeries often say that they have a “gut feeling” over whether something is real or a forgery.  The sad truth is that that “gut feeling” often leads researchers in the opposite direction to the truth, and that we who have some modicum of lasting success in the field find ourselves the most disappointed, when our hopes are most fervently aroused.

I spent some months exploring the provenance of the book.  It had been offered as Sotheby’s, with the only authentication being that the materials of the book were not of recent manufacture.  This did not mean that the book had not been recently manufactured, only that its materials did not provide any proof contrary to that assumption. My client had hired me not to apply my skills with an electron microscope, white gloves, and chemical reagents, but to find whomever had created it, either recently or otherwise.

I did, eventually, locate a woman in Goa whose name I will not here mention, who said that her great-grandfather had written the book, and had two hundred copies printed, of which the majority were given to family and friends. She showed me other family copies, also exquisite.

Her great-grandfather had claimed to be Burton’s illegitimate grandson (who himself claimed to be illegitimately descended from Louis XIV), and to have channeled the book from dreams, as told him by his ancestor himself.

And, in my heart, I believe that was just what he did.

THE END

 

Geeky gothics and other strange & wonderful fiction: sign up for the Wonderland Press newsletter here. Includes two tales of Doctor Rudolpho, a teenaged fortune-teller who has the Sight.  If you enjoyed today’s story, please consider signing up!

You can find 2018’s story-a-day project, Tales of the Normal, here, and 2017’s story-a-day project, October Nights, here.

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