Contrary to popular belief, crime does pay. But there’s always a cost.
I’m not a lawless man by nature or given over to urges of violence against my fellow creatures but circumstances of economy had driven me to consider the extremes of normal social behavior. I was flat broke. Jobs were scarcer than my ability to find one and the only measure left to me was a desperate choice. I must become a criminal and steal my way out.
Without any real world experience in the field, I undertook to study my new profession by first researching the classic crimes. From simple robbery to bank heists, from blackmail to kidnapping, something always went wrong and the perpetrator caught and punished. But then, I thought, the only crimes you hear about are the unsuccessful ones; the successful crimes remain hidden. I could only guess at why.
The question gnawed at me developing into obsession. I knew the solution lie somewhere in the data, the key to a successful caper where one walked away free, unencumbered and rich. What was I overlooking?
The answer came, as most answers do, when I wasn’t searching for it in the most unlikely, unconnected and absurd circumstance. Cookin’ with Judy! is a TV cooking show with a chirpy host dispensing affected expertise about this food and that ingredient and the best way to combine them over a hot stove. As I lazily watched from my couch, Judy explained that the best tasting lobster is female and there are two ways to cook her. The first approach is to boil a pot of water and then throw the live lobster in while trying to ignore her scrabbling agonies. The second is to put the lobster into a pot of cold water and then slowly turn up the heat; the lobster never knows she’s been cooked.
It took but a moment for my mind to leap along the logical path. Doesn’t know she’s been cooked. The victim doesn’t know she’s been cooked. The victim doesn’t know she’s been robbed! That was it; the answer to the perfect crime is that no one knows that there’s been a crime!
From that point on, my planning moved quickly. I worked my way through the options, weighed the risks and benefits of each crime, researched opportunities and charted it all in a spreadsheet that generated a visual graph comparing my choices. The answer was obvious: kidnap the spoiled 20-something daughter of a wealthy and well-known software mogul. Anyone else might hesitate to carry out such an audacious crime that is fated to become messy, complicated and holds little chance of success. But I had the secret key: kidnap her without letting on that she was being kidnapped! If I were caught, how could she ever testify against me? With confidence, I moved forward.
Now one just doesn’t walk up to Angela Conway and announce excuse me, but I’m here to kidnap you, so come along then. It has to be done with subtlety and finesse. Fortunately, I had help. My cousin Peachy, was best friends forever with Angela (although Peachy hadn’t a clue to what I was up to and hopefully never would). Theirs is a fast crowd with too much money and too much time. I’d attended one or two of Angela’s famously wild parties through the years and knew her in a vague sort of way. She’d even mistakenly planted a kiss on me one New Year’s Eve thinking that I was different guy. We were just close enough that I’d arouse no suspicions but far enough apart to do what had to be done. It was perfect.
People rarely believe dull truths but will whole-hardily swallow outrageous lies. Knowing that the two girls were together that afternoon, I called up Peachy and announced that I had just won an all-expenses paid ship cruise for three and how about I take one cabin while her and Angela take the other. But it was a last minute deal and we had to pack up and leave right now!
I held my breath as Peachy covered the phone and then heard muffled but excited squeals of delight. The hook was set.
On my way over to pick them up, I delivered the ransom note into the Conway’s mail slot. In addition to the usual and expected threatening message made up of pasted letters cut from fashion magazines, I enclosed a picture of Angela, grimacing and blindfolded. (The picture came from Peachy’s Facebook page. It was really taken at a bachelorette party when fun-loving Angela was engaged in a game of Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey only it wasn’t a donkey and it wasn’t a tail).
Finally, safely aboard the good ship Intrigue, it was just a matter of keeping Angela occupied and the Conway’s worried sick about their precious daughter for a day or two. Then, I’d make contact for demands and arrangements.
Even the perfect crime has a glitch or two. The first came from my dear cousin Peachy whom I had counted on keeping Angela distracted. Even though the seas were unseasonably calm, Peachy became seasick and took to her deckchair by the pool from which she refused to move. That left Angela in my care with an exhausting routine of shipboard aerobics, spa treatments and video bowling during the day with expensive private dinners, exotically-named drinks and dance clubbing at night. Frequent shopping sprees at over-priced boutiques were the norm. My credit cards, which were financing this little venture, were stretched dangerously close to the limit. I had had enough; it was time to call the Conway’s.
I won’t bore you with the details of how one makes a call from a moving ship at sea while remaining anonymous but I assure you it is not easy. The first time, the call went straight to voicemail as did the second try. Three hours later, I finally got through to the family.
With a deep breath, I put on my menacing punk persona (which I had diligently practiced in front of the mirror) and began my spiel.
“Mr. Conway? I got your daughter.”
“Um, yes,” answered a somewhat distracted male voice, “and what is this pertaining to?”
“Angela!” I snarled. “She’s been kidnapped!”
At this point in the conversation, the conventional reply would indicate shock and panic from the victim’s relatives. But this wasn’t going according to script.
“Angela gone, you say? Well it has been pleasantly quiet around here the last few days. Oh, here’s the note.”
It was time to turn up the pressure. “Look at the pic. Your daughter’s scared, blindfolded, crying out in pain. If I don’t get what I want, it’ll get woise!” (I have no idea why I started to sound like a cheap cartoon crook; I just did. Nerves).
“Hello? This is Mrs. Conway,” said a new voice on the line. Now we were getting somewhere. “Look here, we know that she’s just fine and having the time of her life as usual without a thought in her head for anyone else.”
“You do?” I stammered. “Uh…”
“Oh for God’s sake,” she said exasperated and annoyed.” Don’t you think we get her Facebook posts? She uploaded a video of herself dancing away at some party with a lopsided smirk. I suppose that you’re the young man she’s been doing the shimmy-shimmy with.”
And then the final blow. “Frankly, we’re done with it. We’re sick to death of the endless parties and her relentless need to go-go-go. She’s been kicked out of six private schools, wrecked three brand-new cars and sent her psychiatrist into therapy. Her constant need to be the center of attention has nearly driven us crazy. Young man, if you’ve kidnapped her, well… you can just keep her. “
The connection broke. Stunned, I looked at the phone and felt the cabin’s tiny walls close in ever tighter. There was a quick rapping on the door accompanied by the klaxon of doom.
“I’m bored!” whined Angela’s insistent voice. “Let’s go have some fun.” Dully, I went along to watch her get her hair done, hold her bag while she tried on the cutest little outfit and listlessly spun the roulette wheel while trying to ignore her piercing laugh ricocheting through the noisy casino.
They were right of course. Being around Angela was exhausting, frustrating and maddening. After 24 years of this, I could see why they wanted out.
I briefly considered going through with it and killing her. An accidental fall off the promenade deck railing should do it and with her known tendency to dance on tables no one would question my story. Yet I knew that I couldn’t do it for I’m not that kind of person. I had also violated one of the core rules of criminality by developing a slight fondness for my victim. I was stuck.
Or was I? I called the Conway’s back with a new deal. At first they thought I was trying again for ransom but when I told them what I had in mind, they sputtered and called me a vicious monster. That may be so but I was a desperate man driven to desperate measures. You see, unless I got what I wanted, I threatened to return their daughter!
Well, we went back and forth on the details and finally came up with a plan that satisfied everyone. As long as I kept Angela out of their house, I would receive a regular sum of money that was both generous and necessary to pay expenses of her extravagant lifestyle. On paper, I became a consultant to Conway Software, Inc. with duties unspecified.
Now it was up to me to fulfill the contract and there was only one way to do that. Angela and I were married later that night by the ship’s dour captain with a beaming Peachy in attendance.
As we shared an intimate dinner in the Honeymoon Suite, Angela gazed into my eyes with her dark wide pupils that one could get lost in and confessed her secret.
“I’ve always had a crush on you but you never seemed to notice, even when I threw myself at you. I had just about given up when you invited us …me, on this cruise. Peachy wasn’t really seasick; she just wanted to leave us alone and see what happened.”
Angela lifted a buttery morsel of lobster upon her fork and fed it to me.
“More, Sweetheart? Did you know there’s two ways of cooking a lobster…?”
As I said at the beginning, crime does pay. But there’s always a cost.