Page 2 of 305

Crime du Jour, Day 28: Tax Evasion

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 #28: Tax Evasion

HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY

 

I long since discovered that I cannot live the life of an innocent man. Instead I have tried to live the life of an honest one.  After high school, I went to work as an errand-boy for a life insurance company, National Life & Trust. They liked me well enough, and promoted me to sales agent, a career at which I was moderately, but not extravagantly, successful.

My first fraud case was that of Anthony Lombardi.

When a kid starts out as an errand boy at National Life & Trust, he’s tested. For example, two agents will both claim they’ve sold a policy to the same client. It’s clear that there’s something wrong with the situation. One of the agents is the boy’s “special” mentor. The way the boy handles the situation marks him.

Conspiracy and dishonesty are complications that all life-insurance agents should avoid.  That’s what Mr. Roberts, the president of the company always said, and I agree with him.

Anthony Lombardi was a self-employed accountant, age 63, married to Veronica Lombardi, age 58, living in Rhode Island. One of Lombardi’s clients was Louis Andreozzi, the owner of a profitable groundskeeping company with possible ties to the mob. We had a saying at National Life & Trust: it’s not the crime that gets you, it’s the cleanup.  Mr. Lombardi was one of the first people I ever sold a policy to.  The other agents complimented me on my success, but conversation would fall suspiciously short whenever his name came up.

Several years passed.

Mr. Andreozzi was arrested and charged with tax evasion and racketeering.

One day, Mr. Roberts called me into his office to chat. “So, Mr. O’Neil.  Tell me about your cases.” Naturally, the subject of Mr. Andreozzi came up.

I told Mr. Roberts about the hush that fell whenever the case was mentioned. “I’m not sure what will come of it, Mr. Roberts, but I will do my best to handle the situation with integrity and good judgment.”

Mr. Roberts shook my hand when he dismissed me, but I wasn’t sure that I’d deserved it—yet.

When the other shoe dropped, it fell so strangely I almost missed it.

Mr. Lombardi, as expected, was arrested for aiding and abetting his client, Mr. Andreozzi, in evading the payment of his taxes. In case of such an eventuality, I had looked up the details of his policy.  The policy would be paid to Mrs. Lombardi if Mr. Lombardi died in prison, as long as he didn’t commit suicide or benefit financially from his crime.

Mr. Lombardi was released on bail.  (A high amount was set for Mr. Andreozzi’s bail, and he remained in prison.)  The night before Mr. Lombardi was to return to court, he drove off an embankment into the Scituate Reservoir and drowned.

The question was: was it an accident, murder, or had he killed himself? Was National Life & Trust required to pay out the policy, or wasn’t it?

The coroner seemed to be of the opinion that Lombardi’s death was suicide.

National Life & Trust had several investigators especially trained to look into such matters, but, as a rule, the agent who had sold the policy accompanied the investigator on his investigations.

The investigator’s name was John Madeiros. He had been my mentor when I had been but an errand boy, and had been promoted to investigator the same time I’d made agent. We went to the morgue in Providence where Mr. Lombardi’s body was being held pending identification.  The widow, Mrs. Lombardi, had fainted when she had been given the news, and had hit her head. Most of Mr. Lombardi’s family did not live in the United States, and his employer, Mr. Andreozzi, was obviously not available.

As we were waiting for someone who could perform the official identification, in walked Mr. Lombardi.

He was greeted with surprise, as you might imagine.  He was shown into the room where “his” body was being kept.  He took one look at it, shook his head, and said, “Nope, that ain’t me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I got a trial to go to.”

He never arrived.

Even my mentor was puzzled by the case. If Mr. Lombardi wished to fake his own death, why reappear to identify the body?  If it was a simple case of mistaken identity, why not take advantage of the situation to simply disappear? Or was the second man the imposter?  If so, who had sent him, and how had the disguise been made so convincing? I had spoken to Mr. Lombardi during the sale of his policy, and recognized him by appearance as well as by voice.

John offered to let me avoid the autopsy of the dead man—whoever he was—but I stuck it out. Afterward, we went to the widow’s home for an interview. She seemed remarkably well. My mentor did the interviewing, while I wandered the house, searching for something.

I soon found it.

And that’s how Mr. Andreozzi got off charges of tax evasion: Mr. and Mrs. Lombardi had cooked up a scheme to launder money for the Mafia without Mr. Lombardi’s knowledge, stripped the business profits clean when Mr. Andreozzi became suspicious, and arranged to flee to South America. A clever plan.

But they had tried to take it one step too far.

Mrs. Lombardi was arrested at home, Mr. Lombardi was stopped before boarding an international flight out of San Francisco, and both went to prison for first-degree, premeditated murder, as well as multiple other charges. National Life & Trust might have argued that Mr. Lombardi’s policy was invalid, but instead earmarked the money for charity upon the resolution of Mr. Lombardi’s estate, or the cessation of monthly payments—whichever came first.

When the coroner had hinted that Mr. Lombardi’s death might be a suicide, he had put the life-insurance policy at stake, and Mr. Lombardi’s conveniently-invited-to-visit-America twin brother suddenly became an inconvenience.

Mrs. Lombardi had missed taking down a photo of the twin brothers from the old country, you see.

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 27: Shoplifting

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 #27: Shoplifting

GOOD LUCK PIG GLUCKSSCHWEIN
SILVER ANTIQUE CHARM
LUCKY BRACELET PROTECTION SPELL

 

Condition: New, handmade
Volume Pricing:
1: $39.99 (each)
2+: $35.99 (10% off each)
10 available

279 sold / See Feedback

Shipping:
SHIPS FROM UNITED STATES
No Returns
99 watchers
FREE Standard Shipping / See details
   Ships to: Worldwide

Delivery:
Estimated on or before Nov 6
Ships today if paid with 16 hours 5 minutes Details

Payments:
PayPal—Visa—MasterCard—American Express—Discover

Returns:
Seller does not accept returns See details

Item Specifics:

Condition: New without tags: A brand-new, unused, and unworn item (including handmade items) that is not in the original packaging and/or does not have the original tags attached.

Color: Silver

Metal: Silver Plated

Brand: Unbranded

UPC: Does not apply

Metal purity: German silver

Style: Chain

Length (inches): 8.5”

Theme: Luck

Every charm comes with a FREE gift!

I am a practitioner of the magical arts, and I have performed a ritual over each silver Glücksschwein charm bracelet, imbuing it with positive energy. A Glücksschwein, or “good-luck pig,” is a traditional German symbol of good luck, and many Germans of all ages carry them!

Along with each Glücksschwein bracelet comes an extra charm, a tiny handcuff charm! Just clip the handcuff charm to your Glücksschwein bracelet, and, if you’re ever in trouble with the law, twist the handcuffs to snap the handcuff attaching it to your bracelet, drop it somewhere it won’t be found, and you’ll receive extra good luck! If your handcuff charm falls off, that mean it has already…

!!!PROTECTED YOU!!!

You can order other Glücksschwein items at my store, including necklaces, keychains, cell phone charms, and more! I also carry extra handcuff charms for purchase in case yours falls off!

WINK WINK 😉

Please send me a message if you would like a CUSTOM RITUAL for your charm!

!!!Please note!!!

All charms have a small LUCK symbol scratched in the back!! Your charm is not damaged!!! Just lucky!!!!!

Specifications:

Silver Pig Charm

Length: 7.5”, extension 1”

Lock: Lobster

***approximate measurement***

Shipping & Return:
Free shipping to all US addresses (please go to Shipping and payments tab for more details)

NO RETURNS ACCEPTED

Your Glücksschwein charm will do its best, but some situations are more than even a Glücksschwein can handle! No returns accepted!  It is not fair to use the luck on a Glücksschwein charm, then try to pass off a used charm to someone else!

No luck is guaranteed! Sometimes the stars just have it in for you.  Your Glücksschwein tried…but sometimes even the best spells can’t do what you need them to do!

!!!FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY!!!

Feedback is very important. I strive for 5-star service. I will do whatever I can to satisfy my buyers! Please contact me if you need to change your luck spell…I will see what I can do!  Please contact me about any problems before leaving negative feedback!!!

Armstrong Jewelry has been doing business since 2001. I am located in downtown Los Angeles.  You can contact me for lots of different charms, bracelets, palm and tarot readings including SOULMATE readings, PSYCHIC HEALINGS, and more!  If you come to the store in person, you can ALWAYS pick up a free handcuff charm, or recharge the spell on your Glücksschwein!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ratings and Reviews:
4.9
48 product ratings

Most Relevant Reviews:

Good luck pig kept the real pigs off my back as I did a walkout with over $500 of electronics stuffed down my sweatpants, lol. Didn’t even have to snap my CUFFS.
—edyilope-2

Chain broke first day I put it on, attached it back together with both ends of cuff charm, cuff charm broke while I was in changing room. Got a bad feeling, put $$$ yoga pants back on hanger and walked out. Stopped by store dick but I was CLEAN. Listen 2UR CHARM!
—alexpursesco

Six people, six lucky pig charms, six stores, six hours, SIX THOUSAND DOLLARS merch. Good planning or good luck!?! EXTRA LUCK if you pay for the charm using the buy it once, return it twice trick.
—richrichrich777

My credit card LOVES my Armstrong lucky pig bracelet!!!
—lizangel2003

I got arrested in 2012 wearing FIRST lucky pig bracelet, grocery store in my hometown. I was broke and it was my first time, lol. I got off with a warning, cop didn’t even write my name down, on my way home he bought me food at a gas station. I cried and said I would never do it again, only thing I did right. I wasn’t even wearing a jacket, lol. Cuff charm even fell off in cop car, I kicked it under the mat so the cop wouldn’t see it.

Five years pass, it’s 2017, my time had come. I’m in a porn shop, I get cocky, try to steal some magazines.  TIP: NEVER STEAL FROM A PORN STORE.  Much heavier security than the big box stores, lol.  The clerk who busted me sees the charm and starts laughing so hard he’s crying, tears thru his mascara. He shows me his keychain, he’s got a charm too!  We both laugh.  He let me go after I gave him my handcuff charm. We dated and the handcuff charm broke the day we broke up, and I went to Armstrong’s to get Madame Armstrong to pick up a new charm and get a new spell put on mine. Like she says, some situations are more than even a lucky pig can handle.

2019, same bracelet, about a dozen different cuff charms later. I’m in the hospital for cancer and they say I have six months. No more boosting for me, it’s the end—or is it? Chain breaks, suddenly I’m in remission. Lucky pig boosted me out of the back seat of Death’s cop car, lol.  Got chain replaced on old bracelet, buying new bracelet for nephew. Happy boosting!
—divela_69

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 26: Sexual Assault

Note: This one goes very dark, but not brutally dark. 

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 #26: Sexual Assault

THE FLARE OF HER NOSTRILS

 

Warren Wade had been exonerated.  Everyone knew who his family was, but no one said that explicitly.  It didn’t have to be said. Before that, he’d been suspended last year for a day for stockpiling guns—basically, his mother had freaked out about his antique Colt collection after an incident where he’d threatened her if she ever came in his room again, and she’d called Superintendent Rideout, a friend of hers, to say that Warren planned to take his guns to school and start shooting. But he hadn’t been planning to do anything like that. He’d broken up with that one girl Rebecca, but it wasn’t about that, either, the way the gossip said. It was literally just about his mom going into his room.

And then that bitch Elizabeth had started stuffing notes inside lockers.

There’s a rapist here and you know who it is.

Rideout had had Elizabeth suspended for three days. Plus the two other girls who had helped pass the notes, but only Elizabeth had stood on the front steps and protested about it.

He’d seen her on the steps that afternoon, turned around, and gone home out the door the teachers used for smoke breaks. First he’d gone to Principal Farris to tell her that Elizabeth was bullying him, making him uncomfortable. And then Farris had taken him to the teachers’ lounge and let him out that way, promising him that she’d send homework home for him.

She had a mean look in her eye, which Warren liked.

So far, he’d received about a dozen expressions of sympathy from the staff, and his grades had gone up. The girl who’d gone whining to Elizabeth had even started smiling him again.

I should do this more often, he thought. It was a nice game of chess.

Warren’s house overlooked a tiny cove leading out onto the Atlantic. Looking out that direction, you could see nothing but ocean. The beach was full of rocks, good for skipping but absolute shit for lying out on, with or without a towel. Plus it was fucking cold.  Warren’s room on the second floor overlooked the back terrace, flagstones, his dad’s lap pool, and a heated jacuzzi built into the hillside.  Warren imagined a serial killer or one of the masked attackers from The Purge breaking into the French doors on the lower floor some night, and him going downstairs with one his Colts—he kept a few of them loaded—and then stalking and killing the attacker.  He hadn’t been planning to shoot up his school.  Some nights, he left the back door “accidentally” unlocked, hoping that some thief would at least check. But none ever did.

Elizabeth’s protest was on the news.  The liberals picked it up and ran with it.  Warren’s friends asked him if he was going to do anything about it, if he was polishing his guns and they should stay home from school.

Nah.

Not like that.

He waited a week, two weeks. Then he went back to school.

He waited. Two days after he went back—the story was still in the news—he got another note shoved into his locker.

There’s a rapist here and you know who it is.

Nobody was supposed to know about it, but Elizabeth had a girlfriend.  Her name was Max, a boy’s name. Elizabeth didn’t look like a lesbian, either the porn kind or the butch kind. She just looked like a girl, with long blonde hair and chubbo thighs. But her girlfriend was definitely a lesbian. She wore a leather jacket and a biker hat and rode a motorcycle. Warren had had to find out for sure that she wasn’t actually trans, because Max had serious MAN-VIBES. But no, she was just a lesbian. For now. Maybe she’d change her mind later and start peeing in the men’s room. Warren wasn’t disgusted by her. In fact he’d been briefly intrigued, but it turned out actual lesbians were just as boring as everyone else. Except that no one was supposed to know she and Elizabeth were dating. They didn’t hang out at school. But Max lived near him. He’d seen Elizabeth on the back of Max’s bike, her blonde head leaning against Max’s shoulder. Max’s parents weren’t rich. They were barely middle-class. But the town was weird like that: multi-million-dollar houses overlooking the ocean, and three- to five-hundred thousand dollars everywhere else. There weren’t any actual poor people in their town—except for the help, but they drove in from shitty apartments in Portland with their shitty cars and their shitty buckets of cleaning supplies.

He had toyed with the idea of revenge the whole time he was away from school.  How to get back at Elizabeth.

Then Max had come to his house with his homework, looking disgusted, and it had all dropped into place as she handed him a plastic grocery sack with books and papers in it.

“Thanks,” he’d said.

Her nostrils had flared. And that was what had made up his mind.

All he had to do was stuff a note inside Max’s locker, saying what he was going to do to Elizabeth that night, and making fun of Max for not being man enough to stop him.

And then leave the French doors unlocked and the security system off, make sure his mom had plenty of Valium in her system—his dad was out of town, in New York for the week on business—clean a couple of his guns, and wait.

He’d even say that Max had tried to rape him before he shot her.

It would be a nice touch.

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 25: Racketeering

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 #25: Racketeering

HOW TO TELL IF YOUR SHOES ARE KNOCKOFFS

Many famous brands of athletic shoes are not only marvels of engineering that protect your foot from strain and injury during exercise, but serve as status symbols.  Many a famous actor or actress has been spotted wearing a famous logo on their feet while being snapped by the paparazzi! It’s well known, even if it’s not logical, that putting on a new pair of well-known kicks can boost your ego as well as your performance. That’s not to say that expensive shoes aren’t really worth it—they are! Authentic shoes from well-known brands are safe and extremely comfortable, as well as stylish.

However, expensive athletic shoes are expensive. Those of us who aren’t rich and famous can find ourselves at the online store for an expensive shoe brand, thinking, “If only these shoes weren’t so expensive!”

We often find ourselves turning to our search engines to find a better deal.  Nobody wants to pay full price!

Unfortunately, what happens is that customers often end up at scam websites!  Cheap knockoff versions of expensive brands are all over the place.

Besides being cheap, those knockoff brands are often badly built and uncomfortable, and can lead to injury. Beware!

Here are five tips for determining whether your shoes are the real thing:

  1. Beware of inexpensive shoes!

The first thing to beware of is shoes that are unreasonably inexpensive.  Even a used pair of expensive, authentic shoes can be more expensive than a brand-new pair from a cheaper brand.

  1. Compare the photos of the shoes with the authorized versions from the brand’s website page.

Often, manufacturers of knockoff shoes will make a version of the shoe that doesn’t quite match the authentic one.  If it looks fake, it probably is. Some details may be skipped, or be a slightly different color, be in the wrong position—or be from an outdated version of the shoe! Always check for the manufacturing date 🙂

  1. Check the packaging and tags.

Counterfeit shoes aren’t necessarily sold on big-name retailer websites. Sometimes they’re sold one pair at a time, on e-commerce, message-board, and used-clothing websites. Counterfeit shoes sold that way are often marked “New without box” or “New without tags.” Counterfeiters have already done all the work to produce cheap shoes—they don’t want to take the extra step to make the boxes and tags, too!

Counterfeit shoes will often arrive in a plastic bag with no box, in an unmarked shoe box, or in a cheaply made “brand-name” box that doesn’t hold together very well.

Another good thing to check on the box is the item’s SKU number, or Stock Keeping Unit number.  Knockoff shoes will often have last year’s number!

  1. Check the materials.

If your shoes have stood up to the tests so far, the next step is checking the materials of the shoe.  Brand-name shoes are generally made with the most expensive, high-tech materials available.  Knockoff shoes will often substitute cheaper materials, such as inferior grades of cushioning plastic, and pleather accent materials rather than genuine leather.  If your shoe doesn’t feel securely sewed and glued together—run!

  1. Check the performance.

The last step is to put your shoes on.  Do they feel comfortable?  Do they fit your feet properly? Do you feel secure?  Before taking your shoes outside, try out several different stances, including standing, squatting, moving into and out of a runner’s pose, or even a few yoga positions.  Knockoff shoes will often feel flimsy, unstable, and, well…just poorly engineered!

Don’t be afraid to return uncomfortable shoes for a refund, even if the seller pretends not to understand English. You are not required to prove that the shoes are knockoffs in order to return them! If an individual seller gives you any trouble, go to the retailer’s website for assistance. Retailers are used to dealing with customer complaints about knockoff products, and have a standard protocol for getting you your money back!

In 2017, over $1.2 billion dollars of counterfeit goods were captured and destroyed by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, an increase of over 8% from the year before. Also, in 2017, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property says that the loss from the U.S. economy caused by counterfeit goods, software and other types of piracy, and theft of trade secrets may be up to $600 billion dollars a year!  China counts as the #1 world culprit, accounting for about 87% of counterfeit goods entering the U.S.  That’s a lot of jobs!

Most of those counterfeit goods come from Chinese factories dedicated to mass-producing knockoff goods.  In fact, there’s an entire town dedicated to making “replicas” of U.S. goods.  They are sold in large lots to American resellers, often college students or stay-at-home moms working out of their basements.  They’ll collect orders and the cash, then serve as a middleman for Chinese black-market sellers, who drop-ship the illegal shoes directly from China. It’s like a Mafia for knockoff shoes!

And most of these shoes are worth exactly what you pay for!  But, mes chiots, a little bird once told me that, when the authorized brand-name factories in China shut down for the night, they sometimes end up with a few more boxes of shoes than shows up on their reports.  Real shoes, made at the real factories, sold straight to the black market, can you imagine?

With some pairs of brand-name shoes going for U.S. $1500 and up as shoe collectors go to war with each other, everyone wants into the knockoff market!

But these knockoffs-of-a-knockoff shoes, if they even exist, are far and few between.

If your shoes check out, then congratulations! While there is no way to be 100% sure that you’re wearing the “real deal” with expensive, name-brand sneakers, with due diligence, you can be 99.99% sure—and for that other .01%, then at least you have the satisfaction of knowing that nobody else can tell, either!

Happy shoe hunting, shoe hounds!

Marie of La Chienne de Chausseur

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 24: Pyramid Scheme

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 #24: Pyramid Scheme

SHARES IN DUTCH TULIPS

All a good pyramid scheme requires is shares in something, and a smooth talker to sell them. Or not so much a smooth talker as someone short-sighted enough to think the con will last forever.

“Here’s how it works,” I say. And I explain. You pick something that people can imagine they want, and can imagine buying low and selling high. The classic scams involve silver mines and stock shares. Futures are always good, like corn futures or pork futures. But I’ve heard of expeditions to dive for Spanish gold off the coast of Florida, or, one time, I kid you not, it was tulips. Shares in Dutch tulips. It has to be something risky but essentially legal. This all happens out in public. It’s so public that nobody can believe it’s a scam. That’s important. You want public opinion to sway your direction, to make it seem—among the core group of investors that make up your marks—like you’d have to be a fool not to get involved. There’s also something called a “Ponzi” scheme where each investor doesn’t have to actively recruit the next investor after them. But the lines get blurred, so let’s not quibble the difference. The government is supposed to protect investors against this kind of thing, but it always takes them longer than it should. What you want to do is throw as many delays in the way as you can, and run out the clock.

Once you have your material for shares, you get some word moving. Not a gale force wind of press releases and advertising, but a sly little breeze, the kind that blows right through a good mark. You have to think like a gossip. “Did you hear about so-and-so? I can’t believe it, but what I heard was—” Like that. And then you flash some cash while acting like you’re getting away with something. People will come sniffing around like bloodhounds.

When they do, you send them over to someone else. Never try to play all the roles in a pyramid scheme. Don’t short yourself on running the store. Don’t tell yourself you can get by without. The great schemes are time-tested. A mark should get completely screwed by one set of operators, yet still be hungry for more when the next con comes through. Don’t think of it as money lost in the split. Think of it as seeding the soil for future investments. When you get the right people backing you, you can more than offset the cost of splitting the profits with them, and shuffling around marks and investigators takes longer with five people than it does with two. See what I said above, about running out the clock.

So you send the mark to the second operator, who doesn’t want to sell. In fact they refuse to sell.

The first operator apologizes, and talks to the second operator. The second operator has to be convinced. Now, if you were running a simpler con, here’s where you get off the main track. The second operator can’t be persuaded to let the mark in on the big con. The first operator feels bad about it. “Sorry about that silver mine. How about I let you in on this smaller project instead…?” Many a good mark has been milked by such a bait and switch.

But for an actual pyramid scheme, you stay on track.

After some negotiation, the second operator reluctantly agrees to sell. Numbers get thrown around at this stage. The mark invests X, minus a cut off the top (percentage Y), as a transaction fee. The mark gets back returns Z as profit. The mark can either collect their Z profits and get their investment X back, or keep their investment X in the scheme and get their Z profits back, or take their investment X and roll their Z profits into their investment. Usually what happens is the mark invests X, collects profits Z, can’t believe their good luck, then comes back with profits Z to reinvest. A lot of them come back with more capital to add to X as well.  You pay your outgoing profits Z out of your incoming X investments. The exact math is tricky. You have to balance startup costs against giving the marks a deal that’s too good to be true.

Never let the mark negotiate the numbers. Use the same rates for everybody. That way, the marks will screw each other. Investor A will recruit investor B, and take a little cut under the table for the privilege. Just ignore it. It helps muddy the water, and it keeps investor A from going to the authorities. Investor A effectively becomes an operator for you, not a trusted one, but one who risks prison time if things fall apart.

Make it exclusive, too. Literally refuse to sell to people. Don’t always let yourself get “talked in” to letting someone join.  The more exclusive you are, the longer you can take to run out that clock.

But, eventually, that clock will run out. It might take thirty years, but it will run out. The danger of this business is that a successful operator always half-believes what they tell the marks. But your scheme will have always been a con, and it was never going to work out the way you told the marks it would.  Even the most perfect system collapses.  There’s just too much chaos in the world, and you can’t control it.

But you can control who you pick as your smooth talker.  My advice here is to pick one of the world’s non-violent psychopaths.  If you know where to look, you can find a lot of them. No soul, no morals, no emotions other than a craving for “winning” at something, no awareness that they were always going to have taken the fall.  They’re the asshole in the limelight.

You’re just the accountant.

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 23: Prostitution

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 #23: Prostitution

TWO SISTERS ALONG BASIN STREET, STORYVILLE, NEW ORLEANS

 

Sadie Broussard was one of the girls working Mahogany Hall, a famous house in New Orleans run by Lulu White. This was the days of Storyville, the red-light district down by the Vieux Carré. Sadie had a long face like a grayhound’s, fine dark hair, and arresting eyes, the old French sort of face which is, by turns, cruel and beautiful. When she was in a high mood, she wore a thin black ribbon wrapped around her neck and tied behind, so the ends lay down the track of her spine. Lulu always told Sadie she would be found dead in a canal some day: Sadie was the kind of girl who was made for trouble.

One day a nun walking along Basin Street, likely on her way to the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, saw Sadie at the third-floor balcony. Sadie was wearing a lace slip with one shoulder down, decently covered, and waving at the traffic along the street. The nun was wearing a habit like a racehorse’s blinkers and her mouth was soft and bowed, like a spoiled girl’s. When the nun turned her eyes up to Sadie’s, she shuddered and clutched at a crucifix lying upon a thin black ribbon upon her chest, giving a little gasp that echoed along the street.

The woman took something from within her dark clothing, and cast it at the bottom of Lulu’s long marble stairs. Then she slipped off with mincing steps and was soon out of sight.

Sadie slunk downstairs, throwing a wrap over her slip and putting on a pair of leather gentleman’s boots at the door, large enough that she could slip her feet in without tying them.

It was early, before noon, and she lifted her chin high as she descended. At the bottom of the stairs she found a tooled wallet the size of a cigarette case. Sadie fled to her room, which had a flowered rug on the floor, dark flowered wallpaper, and flowers carved in her dresser, mirror-frame, and Empire-style bed: and a tiny, dim window with colored flowers in the upper panes, too pretty to break and too small to climb through.

By the dim light of the bubbled glass, Sadie looked inside the wallet. It held an old photograph of two women in prim Victorian dresses and veiled hats. One woman’s veil was pulled back. She wore a thick ribbon around her neck, which was bruised. She faced directly toward the camera, and was perfectly clear. The other, turned toward the first woman and holding her stiff hand, was slightly blurred. In old photographs, only the dead are perfectly clear.

The dead woman had Sadie’s face, the live woman had the nun’s.

Sadie left her wrap draped over the end of the bed and went back to the third-floor parlor. The light was better there. Another girl, Chloe Sonnier, was sunning herself and drinking café au lait at the little wrought-iron table.

“What have you got there?” Chloe asked.

Sadie showed it to her, without comment.

Chloe gave a little scream and dropped the wallet on the table, crossing herself. “Where did you get that unholy thing?”

Sadie laughed and related the morning’s little tale.

“Whatever does it mean?”

Sadie shrugged. “That my double had her throat cut, and the other girl became a nun because of it, what else?”

Chloe crossed herself again, and went back into the house, leaving her café au lait behind.

Sadie leaned back against the wall of the house, holding the café in one hand and the memento mori in the other. Now she would hold it at arm’s length. Now she would bring it close to her face, giving the photograph a squint.

Her double, she decided, had also been the kind of girl who was made for trouble, and had been killed over a man. There had been a jealous spat, a straight razor, and—why not?—a luscious opera singer that both of them wanted. The other woman in the photograph was the good sister, the one who had been left behind. She had loved the wicked sister. The good were often not so good, but only afraid to be wicked. But Sadie had a feeling that the good sister in the photograph was truly good, the soft and wonderful kind of goodness that would bring the wicked sister back to her, time and again, for comfort, and to see the plain joy upon her face.

After the death of wicked sister, the good sister had gone to Louisiana to be married to a man of property, and had two daughters—one who looked like her, and one who looked like her dead sister, the wicked one.

One day, the wicked sister had run away, never to be seen again, very young. Or had she been kidnapped? The good sister had pined. Their parents had had other children—but the two sisters had never truly been separated. They were joined, as if by a long, black ribbon, which stretched from the Catholic orphanage that had raised Sadie, to the good sister’s girlhood in Broussard, the only word young Sadie could speak beside her own name, when she had been found.

With one look, that connection had been drawn taught as a piano wire, and tomorrow her sister would see Sadie, for one last time.

They would have their photograph taken together. By then, Sadie would be dead, her image perfectly clear, propped up in Lulu’s front parlor, next to her sister—who would swear to discover who had killed her, and take her revenge.

Later, the good sister would discover the name of the police officer who had arrested Sadie, then killed her. He would disappear, only to be found later, floating face-down in a canal. No one would suspect the nun. Sadie would be dead—but loved.

Everyone made up whatever stories they liked, in Storyville.

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 22: Probation Violation

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 #22: Probation Violation

PETROSINELLA (A FAIRY TALE)

Petrosinella had been born to a poor family over in the old country.  Her mother had traded her for some fresh parsley to an ogress, which wasn’t as bad a deal as it sounded, since it meant that the child would be born alive, and live long enough to get given up, which was longer than some children got.  The ogress often gave her family good food, even in the dead of winter.  Ogresses eat better than anyone.  No matter what you hear, it isn’t because they eat babies.  Why would they do that?  All they have to do is whistle, and rabbits jump into their snares, and fish into their nets.

The mother tried to hold off giving up her pretty little Petrosinella for as long as possible. The ogress was not the sort to take a child, even one she was owed, without permission.  She would stop little Petrosinella along the road and say, “Tell your mother to remember her promise,” which message Petrosinella would faithfully repeat. She wasn’t the least bit afraid of the ogress, and thought of her as a sort of holy sister, for the ogress would wear a nun’s habit to keep the eyes of cruel men off her, when she was out.

The mother always pretended she did not hear Petrosinella’s reminders, until one day she cried, “If you think that ogress is so gentle and so sweet,” for the ogress always gave the little girl bread, or sweets, or flowers, “you tell her she can take what is owed!”

The next day, Petrosinella told the ogress exactly that, and was swept up into the ogress’s arms and taken off to a tower far away from her village, where she was taught to read and to cipher and to say her prayers, which, I am ashamed to say, her mother and father had not taught her.  That is not to say that Petrosinella was imprisoned in the tower.  She spent most of her days in the forest with the ogress, learning to whistle up rabbits and fish, to name all the plants and their uses, and to make all sorts of elixirs and medicines.

Then, one night, a prince found Petrosinella’s tower.  Princes are like fleas, they get everywhere and bite you until you scratch.  He climbed the tower, found Petrosinella there, and had his way with her, leaving her behind to face the music.  He never offered to take her with him. She was only the daughter of a poor family and he could not have married her, even if he had wanted to.

The next day, the ogress asked Petrosinella what the matter was, and Petrosinella, in all innocence, told her, not knowing that the ogress had promised Petrosinella to an order of friendly sisters nearby, in honor of her friendship with the old Abbess. So you see that everyone has debts to pay, even an ogress.

The ogress tore at her hair, and cried that she had never seen such a fool of a girl.  The girl answered that she hadn’t meant to disappoint her foster mother, and hadn’t wanted the prince’s attentions anyway.  But it was no use: what was done was done, and soon Petrosinella began to swell about the belly.

The ogress wailed that she would never be able to pay her debts now, and that Petrosinella would have only the worst sort of life ahead of her, the life her own mother had given her to an ogress to avoid.

Petrosinella said that she would go, but the ogress forbade it.  She was not cruel or unkind, and had great fondness for Petrosinella, whom she considered her daughter.  The ogress made Petrosinella agree to stay at the tower as punishment for betraying her trust, then went to her bed, to weep such tears that the tower was soon surrounded by tall mounds of rue.

Long waited Petrosinella in the tower.  When the babe quickened, the face of the ogress darkened even further, and Petrosinella vowed to leave the tower and find the prince, so the ogress would be longer troubled by her disobedient foster-daughter no more.

And off she went, to look for the prince.

She was not blind, as some of the stories say, except in the way that young women are always blind to princes, and when she whistled, the rabbits leapt into her snares, so she wasn’t hungry, either.

The ogress followed after her, as soon as she discovered her foster-daughter was missing. She looked everywhere, only to find trouble at every turn.  Finally a villager came to her, and, thinking her a nun, begged her to help ease the birthing pains of a woman, although a sinner—at least come, begged the villager, and pray.

It was Petrosinella, and she was very close to death, for she had conceived of twins.

The ogress saved both her and her twin sons, and said, “And all this, after I forbid you to go.”

Petrosinella asked what her punishment was to be, saying she had never wished to have the ogress for a mother, and had not wished to be trapped in the tower forever, and did not wish to be punished for her mother’s cravings, or to be given to nuns: and so you can see that even a woman raised by the kindest of ogresses can sometimes lose her temper.

The ogress declared that Petrosinella was so free that she would have to invent her own punishments, and went home.

One day, a long time later, Petrosinella returned to the tower. It was after her sons were grown.  All was badly worn and broken, the garden untended.  The ogress came to the window and squinted at her, for her eyes were bad and her limbs were weak. In fact she could hardly whistle the rabbits into her snares anymore.

“I have come to face my punishment,” said Petrosinella, and gathered up some parsley, which had gone wild, to start on some soup.

THE END

Note: this story is based on the early Italian version of the tale more familiarly known as “Rapunzel.” Actual probation violations proved to be almost as depressing as second-degree murder charges, and I just couldn’t do it. So that’s why it’s a fairy tale today.

 

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 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.

 

Page 2 of 305

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén