The events chronicled below took place in 1981, long before personal computers and cell phones. And was written at the time all the shit went down.
There is probably no such thing as the perfect crime because people just cannot keep their big yaps shut—like me. The fog is rolling in off the bay and it’s starting to get cold, so I had better get my story down while I can still sit outside.
Let me explain. I’m here at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. I just had a bellhop run out and buy me a portable typewriter and set it up on my balcony facing famous San Francisco Bay, which is where I ended up after committing my perfect crime.
It all started a week ago today. There was really nothing to distinguish that Saturday from any other in recent memory, except I had a very bad cold or a light flu. I got out of bed because I wanted to look over the morning paper. Going straight for the newspaper every morning is more of a habit than anything else. I surely didn’t expect to find another Watergate on the front page. As a matter of fact, the front page held just what I’d expected. Ronald Reagan said this, Ronald Reagan said that. I skipped those articles, which brought my attention down to a small headline on the bottom of the first page.
“RUTHLESS SMUGGLER USED LUXURY YACHT TO FOOL COAST GUARD”
This looks interesting, I thought, as I started to read the article. It seems this individual used large and very expensive yachts, complete with uniformed crew, an old man sitting in a wheelchair on the back deck, and even a phony nurse in attendance when conducting his business—smooth, really smooth.
However, as I read on, it appears this individual, whose name was Thompson, also killed a few of his cronies along the way. Some of them for the usual reasons, such as stealing from him. Others had to die simply because they had made more money than they knew what to do with and decided to retire. Well, Thompson took care of their retirement for them. He had them gagged, wrapped in chains, put on board one of his boats, and brought out to the Gulf Stream, which is about three miles off the coast of Miami. Once there, they were placed on the transom, a bullet put into their heads, and their bodies then dumped into the warm waters of the fast moving Gulf Stream. This Thompson was a real nice kind of guy.
Even though I felt like I was dying, I had to make a quick trip with my girlfriend down to Islamorada—which is in the middle of the Florida Keys—to help her clean a house she owns and which she had contracted to rent. I didn’t drive for a change, because of the way I felt, and this gave me a chance to reflect upon the story I had just read. For some reason, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
It was getting late by the time we hit Islamorada; there would be no cleaning that Saturday. We decided to get some KFC, take it to the house, and cuddle up with it in front of the television. That was the end of Thompson for that day.
The next morning, I awoke first and, half because it was cold and half because I didn’t want to wake my girl, I just lay in bed. However, my mind was going about a thousand miles a minute. And the only thing on my mind was Thompson. I kept thinking about all the cash the newspaper said he had accumulated. The part that struck me the most was how, when things started to get a little warm for him, Thompson had a floor safe installed and encased in concrete at a close friend’s home. His own house was bursting with safes filled with cash. Thompson made frequent deposits, and in a very short time, there was over $600,000.00 in the safe. At this point, his close “friend” rented a jackhammer, removed the safe, and took off. When Thompson caught up with said friend that was the last anyone saw of him—the friend that is. The point being, this cat had a lot of serious cash lying around, and now that he was in jail for probably the rest of his natural life, it wasn’t going to do him very much good. What a shame.
As I lay there on that cold Sunday morning (it’s February as I write this), it came to me. I don’t know exactly when or how, but before I knew it, it was there, fully formed … the whole, gorgeous, wonderful plan. There were a few minor details to work out, but by the time we got back to Miami later that night, even they had worked themselves out in my head.
I could hardly wait for the morning to roll around so I could do what needed doing.
Before I go any further, I want you to know that there was one small catch, or to term it another way, the entire plan hinged on the fact that Thompson was so far outside the law that if he smelled a rat, the coppers would be the last people he’d turn to. But, it was a contingency I had to take into account. No matter how I positioned the plan, it always came back to, What if he goes to the authorities? It was the one weak link. I would have to anticipate it, plan for it, and hope it didn’t happen. Nothing is for certain in this life, and to make the kind of money I envisioned, some risks were bound to be inherent.
The next morning, I stayed in bed until my girlfriend left for work. I didn’t have to worry about mundane things of that sort, seeing as how I hadn’t been able to keep a job for more than a few weeks for the last two years. But that’s another story.
As soon as I heard the door close behind her, I was up and on the phone. My first call was to the Broward County Jail, inquiring as to Mr. Thompson’s attorney of record. When you’re in jail, only your immediate family can visit you, and then only once a week. But your attorney can see you anytime. If he had listed an attorney, then I would have to go through the attorney and that would mean contact with another human being, which would be another weak link, another loose thread, another potential problem. I was afraid the man on the other end of the phone would hear the big smile on my face when he said, “No attorney designated yet.”
Scratch one potential hazard.
That meant I’d have to get up to the jail in Ft. Lauderdale immediately. There was no time to waste. I went right to the closet and got out my blue pinstripe, three-piece suit, and an old battered attaché case I had lying around from a previous life. Ft. Lauderdale is about twenty miles from Miami, and it’s all city driving. On the way, I stopped in at a lawyer’s office, located in a strip shopping center, and availed myself of a few of his business cards, which he had conveniently left lying about his outer waiting room. I wanted an attorney that practiced in Miami as opposed to Ft. Lauderdale, thus cutting down the chances of having the name recognized by one of the correctional officers at the Broward County jail.
I parked two blocks from the courthouse-jail complex. It wouldn’t do to be seen stepping out of a ten-year-old Toyota if I’m supposed to be a big shot lawyer. Besides, if anything went wrong, I didn’t want anyone to get my license number. I walked into the jail annex and inquired of the officer behind the desk as to the proper procedure for seeing an inmate, explaining the family of a Mr. Thompson had sent me. I then handed him one of my new business cards. He in turn handed me a form to fill out, which basically wanted my name and the name of the prisoner I wished to see. After taking the form from me, inspecting said form, and looking at the business card I had given him, he said, “Because you’re not the attorney of record, if he refuses to see you, you’re out of luck.” I smiled at him and shrugged my shoulders. I figured when you’re in jail you’ll see anybody, if for no other reason than to break the monotony. And it turned out I was right.
After about ten minutes, the name I was using—the lawyer’s name—was called over a loud speaker. Because it was not my real name, it took me a moment to realize that it was me they were calling. But I responded before the name had to be called a second time.
I was led into a small room with two chairs and one table. That was all. Even the walls were bare. The officer told me my client would be with me in a minute, and to please have a seat. I didn’t know if I was being watched, filmed, or what. My adrenalin was flowing like white water rapids, but outwardly I looked extremely bored with the entire situation. I knew that to make my plan work, I’d have to come off as cool, calm, and collected. After all, this man kills as easily as you and I go across the street to buy a newspaper. Besides, to accumulate as much money as he had, a portion of which I was hoping to relieve him of, I had to give him his due. He wasn’t a dummy, even if he had been caught.
After a few moments, the door opened and a man in his mid-fifties was led into the room. The guard said nothing; he pointed to the vacant chair, turned, and left. I said nothing until the door closed behind him. They may spy on me, but I knew they were prohibited from listening in on a lawyer and his client. As soon as the door closed, I smiled, extended my hand, and told Thompson my name, the one on the business card, of course. He shook my hand and leaned back in his chair with a smug look on his face. He then said, “Looking for work, counselor?”
I didn’t hesitate. “You want to be free of here?” I asked, looking right into his eyes without the slightest hint of a smile on my face. I continued, “You’re looking at thirty years just for the drugs. We won’t even talk about the murder charges. If you do get the whole enchilada, you’re not going to be doing too much partying when you get out. You’ll be almost ninety.” His smirk slowly faded and with it his air of cockiness. To him I sounded serious about getting him out, and that was no laughing matter. As I saw the look on his face change, I knew I was going to be in charge from then on.
Now I had a chance to take stock of the slight man who sat before me. He didn’t look like a killer, but then, I didn’t know what a killer should look like. The only thing that struck me that day was the deadness of his eyes. They were brutally cold. He had an average face, not one you would remember in a crowd.
I didn’t take too long in sizing him up. If I were going to be in charge, I would have to carry the conversation. I would have to set the tone of our relationship.
I told him I had a plan to get him free. I was going to get him on the streets and then he could disappear. I next referred to the connections I had in the Broward County Jail, which would be of great assistance in getting him free. I went on to tell him that, even though I could get him on the streets, I wouldn’t stop there; I would also get him out of the country.
He had no problem with that. I didn’t think he would. I told him that if he mentioned my plan to anyone, and I meant anyone, he would never see me again. For the pieće de résistance, and to help him along with his silence, I told him I could arrange for someone to be put in with him that would report back to me. And if I heard that he even so much as whispered my plan in his sleep, he could rot in jail for the next six hundred and fifty years.
Up to that point, it was my aim to convince him that I could deliver and that I was deadly serious. I gave him no particulars. I was feeling him out. He then asked for details. I told him he would be told only what he needed to know, having heard that in a movie somewhere. I suggested we discuss the money aspect of the plan first, to see if he could afford my services.
“My fee is $750,000.00, plus expenses,” I told him. I was prepared to defend the expense by explaining that, a) he would be spending at least that much for his defense, b) prosecutors in South Florida, when taking drug cases to trial, had a conviction rate of over 90%—this according to Trial Magazine, which is published by the Florida Bar Association. In addition c) if he ever wanted to see the light of day again, I was his only hope. However, I didn’t need any of that.
All he said was, “What guarantee can you give me?”
I answered, “A lot better than anyone else can, and besides you’ve got my business card, you know who I am, and you know where to find me. With your reputation, I’m going to return your cash if I can’t get you out of here.” He then asked me when I wanted the money. Because we both wanted to get the plan underway, I asked him if he could have it together by the day after tomorrow, Wednesday. He said he could. I then elaborated on the plan, and how it was going to work.
Through my connections in the Broward Sheriff’s Office, I would have him transferred to the hospital. He, of course, would have to be really sick or injured. We could not take the chance of having his request denied; things would have been set up and people would be waiting for him to arrive at the hospital. I informed him I would make sure he got to the hospital. And once there, I would have it arranged for someone to take his place in bed while he was put on a waiting plane that would take him to a small island in the Caribbean with its own lading strip. He would be there before it was known he was missing, and the person taking his place would know nothing. “The guy could not reveal anything even if he wanted to; he’ll be just a dupe that I’ll hire for a few thousand.”
“They’re gonna have me handcuffed to the bed. What about that?”
“I’ll have a key.”
I went on to tell him that, after lying low for a while, another plane, a larger one—a Gulfstream G600—would pick him up and take him to a safe country in Europe. Where, complete with a new identity, he would be left on his own. It all sounded good to Thompson. I thought it would.
I had already worked out the scenario as to how I’d end up with the money in my greedy little hands. I had assumed he would have to make a phone call to someone on the outside to secure the cash and physically hand it to me, and I was right—again. I laid out how, when, and where I wanted the money transferred. $750,000.00 for me, and $250,000.00 for expenses, up to, and including, the new identity in Europe. We also agreed that he would not hire an attorney, as an attorney would be just one more potential hitch in the plan, someone to ask unnecessary questions. After I had the money, I would return to the jail one more time because it would be necessary in order to get him admitted to the hospital.
“If the drop goes according to plan, I’ll be back here on Thursday. By Thursday night, you’ll be enjoying Piña Coladas on the beach, under a palm tree.”
We stood to shake hands. Thompson took a firm grip of my hand, looked straight into my eyes, and said, “If you screw me, I’ll have you killed.” The way he said, I’ll have you killed, left no doubt that’s exactly what would happen if I didn’t come through.
I replied, “I’ve taken that into consideration.” I turned and knocked on the door, leaving Thompson sitting back down in the chair. I did not look back.
As I hit the streets and the bright sunlight made my eyes squint, the adrenaline was really pumping. At that point, I knew only one thing for certain. I needed a drink. So, I stopped in at the first lounge I saw and had a double bourbon on the rocks to calm myself down.
As stated earlier, I was apprehensive that Thompson might rat me out after I left. However, after speaking with him, I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t going to take any chances. The entire plan revolved around the fact that no one but me and Thompson were privy to it. Time after time, you hear about people being arrested because someone talked, or an anonymous tip came in, or whatever. It’s all the same thing, someone talked. As long as it was only Thompson and myself, my chances were good. But I didn’t trust Thompson to keep his mouth shut. I expected someone else might be at the money pickup besides the guy with the cash—probably the cops. I sure as hell wasn’t going there without a plan.
I wanted to make the drop in a public place, to lessen the chances of being picked up. I had told Thompson how I wanted the money prepared and wrapped. If anyone was going to be observing me picking up the loot, I wanted to make sure I got out of there free. So I prepared a duplicate package to look just like the one that was to be left for me. Then I had to come up with a distraction. I found what I needed in a small specialty shop in the neighborhood—a package of Chinese firecrackers.
I’d seen Thompson on Monday afternoon and the drop was to take place exactly at two o’clock Wednesday afternoon. I wanted a crowded, outdoor type of place. Gulfstream Race Track was made to order, and how appropriate, seeing as how Thompson got so much use out of the real Gulf Stream.
I had told Thompson at what level, what column, and at what side of the track the money should be left. I got to Gulfstream at one-thirty. At one-fifty I started for the drop zone; at one-fifty-nine I lit the sixty-second fuse on the Chinese firecrackers, which were in a brown paper bag, and placed the bag in a trash can about one hundred feet from the drop zone.
I proceeded to walk towards the appropriate column. Sitting on the floor, looking like someone’s left over trash, was a large Kentucky Fried Chicken bag, the kind they put four buckets of chicken in. It was an exact duplicate of the one I had concealed under my jacket. A few seconds later, the firecrackers went off. Without hesitation, I switched bags and kept walking. In the split second it took me to switch bags, every eye in the place was looking in the direction of the firecrackers, and if someone was looking for me to make the pick-up, they’re still there waiting for me to show up.
I walked quickly through the crowd, down the stairs, and out to my car before I allowed myself a peek at the contents of the bag. It was all there, one million dollars! That part of the plan was complete. I had gotten the money and I was still on the streets. I had not been arrested, which was a definite plus.
Now that I had the money, I could disappear and no one but Thompson would be any the wiser. Of course, I would have to worry about the fact that Thompson could have me tracked down and taken care of. I figured he had the resources to find out my real identity. After all, he had nothing else to do while sitting in his cell for the rest of his life but hire people to find me. No, I would follow through with the plan as originally conceived.
It was now Thursday morning and the money was well hidden. I went back to the jail with my paper work. I had no trouble gaining admittance. After all, I was now his attorney of record. When Thompson came into the room, we both smiled. He obviously had been informed as to what transpired the day before. He complimented me by saying how smoothly I had handled myself, and that his courier hadn’t even gotten a glimpse of me. That’s the way I had planned it, I thought, but I said nothing. We had things to do.
I brought with me a specially prepared piece of paper. It looked like an ordinary legal document that could be found in any courthouse in the country, except for one thing. I told Thompson that on the upper right-hand corner was enough arsenic to kill a rat, but not a man. (It wasn’t arsenic, but that was something Thompson didn’t need to know.) I had put it on with an eyedropper, and when it had dried, it left a barely visible stain. I directed him to take it back to his cell, and when alone, rip off that section and swallow it. Then he was to burn the remaining paper and flush the ashes down the toilet. I told him not to notify anyone for at least forty-five minutes after digesting the paper, no matter how bad the pain was. I explained how my man would be waiting for him in the infirmary. There would also be a doctor there and it was the doctor that had to be fooled. I went on to tell him that if he got to the infirmary too soon, they would send him back to his cell, thinking he was faking. His pupils had to be dilated and his pulse quickened to a certain point to assure being transferred to the hospital.
I said, “This is it. If you have any qualms, now’s the time to address them.”
He shook his head before saying, “I want out of here.”
“Okay, let’s do it.”
I left the jail and once again walked the two blocks to my car. The first thing I had to do was to get the money and buy myself a new car. After paying cash for a spanking new, though nondescript BMW, I stopped only long enough to purchase a new, larger attaché case and put the remaining $900,000.00 in it. I then drove to the beginning of the Florida Turnpike and stopped at one of the phone booths to call my girl. “Honey, I have some business to attend to. I’ll be out of town for a while. I’ll call you in a day or two.” I then drove straight through to San Francisco. It took me fifty-six hours to get here and check in. Not that I needed to come to this particular city, I just wanted to.
That’s my story. I’m just waiting for the bellhop to bring me the Miami papers from yesterday and today.
There’s a knock on the door. Excuse me a moment.
Ah … here it is, just a small piece in the paper:
“PRISONER KILLS SELF WITH POISON”
Well, I told him it would kill a rat.
If anyone feels so inclined, I’d appreciate it if you’d like my Facebook page. You can click on the button on the right side of the page. Thank you.