Pro Bono

Have you ever been at that point in a project where you’re just about finished, but there’s some nervousness making you a little light-headed because you worry you’ve not done all the steps correctly? Me neither.

I’ve never worried about that. Of course, I can’t say that I’ve ever taken on gargantuan projects, either, so complex they were tougher than building the pyramids or solving a Rubik’s cube.

Can you imagine working on one of the pyramids and just as you’re dragging the last stone to the top, the supervisor says, “Hey, you know what? I think we need a wider base.” Geez, I’m up high enough. I’d jump off. A slave’s life is never great anyway. Might as well go out when you’re on top.

No, I’m trying to think of the tougher projects I’ve undertaken. I used to do all the work on my Karmann Ghia. Well, the doable stuff like oil changes and lube jobs. Changing the spark plugs. Did you know that the very first Idiot’s Guide to X was one about working on your VW/Karmann Ghia?

But take an engine apart and put it back together? No. I’d never try that. I’d be the guy with a few screws leftover, wondering if the car might run anyway without them.

You know, racking my brain, it’s all been small stuff. Assembling Ikea furniture. Putting together models when I was a kid. I mean, when I think about it, I’ve never done much that required that kind of intricate step-by-step work.

Well, with one big exception. There are the murders. They’ve never been solved. Not a single one of them. Knock on wood. I mean you never know, right? But the perfect crime? I’ve committed it over and over again. So far. And I intend to keep my streak going.

This desk. The one I’m writing on right now. I took it from the house of a guy I hit. It’s all koa. I couldn’t resist. It was risky, but I came back with a van to get it.  The perp, me, sometimes does return to the scene of the crime.

I left a typed up receipt for it and on top one of his filing cabinets.  No name.  Just an acknowledgment that money had been received for the sale of the desk.  It noted it was the seller’s copy.  The buyer’s signature was an illegible scribble.

This desk. I love it.  Every time I see it, I remember the expression on the guy’s face when I went upstairs to his bedroom to make sure he was dead.  A mix of surprise and anguish.  He was a crooked lawyer.  Maybe that’s the same way the clients he’d screwed looked after he’d done them.

That hit was beautifully executed. I replaced the medicine canister in his inhaler with one that dispensed only water. Then I fed spores of Tahitian ti leaf pollen – his worst trigger – into his central AC compressor. Over several days, he’d be getting only water with each actuation, and as the pollen count grew in his house, so did the intensity of his asthma attacks. Finally, getting no relief from his inhaler, his last attack, well, it was his last attack. The night I replaced the real medicine canister in his inhaler, I took the desk.

The most recent one, while it’s fresh in my mind, I took out a realtor. He had a reputation for pulling sleazy deals, and the one that brought me into the whole enchilada happened to my next-door neighbor. She was a sweet old lady, a widow. She baked me cookies at Easter and Christmas.

So the house on the other side of her, this young Haole woman, early 30s, she’s selling her house. In this area, the minimum lot size requirement is 5000 square feet. Anything less than that, you build a house on it, and that’s illegal. Well, her lot, it turns out, is only 4300 square feet. She’s not the original owner, but the guy before her pulled a fast one, put up the house, and sold it to her.

And now it comes time to sell the house, and the realtor she chooses, this jerk, he’s going to have his surveyor friend stake out 5000 square feet by taking some of my neighbor’s property. I guess he figured because she was old and alone, she wouldn’t notice the new boundary stakes were encroaching on her lot.

So one day, a couple of months ago, this surveyor showed up and staked out the property. The thing is, my neighbor did notice what the guy was doing. I heard her yelling, and I stepped outside to see what was up.

I could hear her side of it very clearly. She said that the surveyor had better get the stakes off of her property or she was going to sue him.

As the back and forth between her and the surveyor went on, the realtor showed up. When he joined the conversation, he was loud. I could hear his side of it too.

“You’re crazy, old lady,” he says to her. “We used lasers to confirm the property lines. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I do so know what I’m talking about,” she said. “You see that lychee tree over there, and that avocado tree there? My husband planted those at the corners of our property lines.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said the realtor. “They’re old. They’ve grown huge, and they’re now over on this property. According to the City and County rules, we’d be within our rights to cut them down. How’d you like us to do that?”

“Well,” my neighbor yelled, “they may be big, but they’re not that big. You’re trying to sell my property and you won’t get away with it.”

“Oh yeah, right,” said the realtor. “You’re just a crazy old coot who doesn’t know anything. Go back inside your house and leave us alone.”

“I’m calling the cops,” she said.

“You do that,” said the realtor, laughing. “We can prove with our laser measurements that you’re wrong.”

“Okay, I’m going to –”

She stopped talking.

“Hah!” the realtor cried out. “Look at that.”

I went down in my yard and over into hers.

The realtor and the surveyor were over on the other lot, pointing and laughing. My neighbor looked to have fallen down the stairs outside her back door. I ran over to her. Checking her pulse and listening for her breathing, I could see she was dead.

I stood up and turned to the two laughing men. “She’s dead,” I said.

“Well isn’t that too bad,” said the realtor, smirking. And with those kind words, he and the surveyor turned around and walked back to the other house. That was it. No concern. No offer to call 911. I couldn’t believe it.

I mean I kill people for a living, and I was crying when I called the police. Once they showed up, I explained to them what happened. By then the realtor and the surveyor had taken off.

No charges could be pressed, apparently, and in the months that ensued, my neighbor’s son, who inherited her home, launched a surveying project that ended up mapping the entire neighborhood all the way back to the original boundaries of every lot in the subdivision.

In my research, I found out that the survey cost him just over $25,000, and in the end, he’d just given up. Sadder yet, he didn’t sell that part of his property to the young woman. He gave it to her. On top of losing his mother, the whole process beat him up physically and mentally, and he simply did not want to pursue the case in court. The case would have gone on too long anyway, and the son had stretched his financial situation to the limit with the survey.

Well, I felt for the son, and I especially felt for his mother. I don’t do work pro bono. People hire me, and they pay a pretty penny for my services. I’m the best local talent there is, and everyone who needs to know that, knows it.

As I say, my killings are planned out in such a way that they would never get traced back to me. I don’t want to bachi it, but I’m proud of that fact.

My research into the realtor led me to discover that he’d pulled plenty of shady deals over the years. In fact, he and the five other realtors in his company threw 10% of their commissions into a pot that was meant to cover their legal expenses. They were sued often, but they never lost a case. It was amazing. In some ways I had to hand it to them, getting away with everything they’d done.

But what I was going to hand to this clown wasn’t any kind of praise. He wasn’t going to get away from his responsibility for killing my neighbor. I’d make sure of that.

A good murder, what I specialize in, is the kind you make look like an accident. So for instance, when I set up my place to take out the dick surveyor who worked for this dick realtor, I made it look like he slipped and fell in his garage. With the car running, he was dead long before someone found him in there.

I also had a notion to take out not only that realtor but all the realtors in his company at once. In my research, I found out that they did an annual boys-only retreat out at Turtle Bay. I thought about how I might engineer a group accident in the water, maybe a boat explosion.

But when I got into the realtor’s house to check out possibilities, one hit me right away. So I decided to take him out first and then deal with his asshole buddies at a later date.

The idea that hit me, checking out the rooms in his house, was that he had a sizeable basement that looked barely used. The stuff that was piled up in there was dusty. The only area that looked used was the washer-dryer combo, and they were right at the bottom of the stairs.

I’d checked his family background. He was divorced – figures – and lived alone. The plan came to me in a flash. This one would be easy.

New Year’s Eve was only a few weeks away. Here in Hawai‘i, people are crazy for fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Some years the streets are choked with smoke so dense it’s a hazard to drive. Nowadays it sounds like bombs are being set off all the time. Sometimes it seems as if we’re in the middle of a war zone.

So what I did, I bought a huge quantity of fireworks. All kinds. This asshole was going to look like one of the biggest fans of fireworks on O‘ahu. A week before New Year’s Eve, I went over to his house and piled all of them up in his basement, covering them with a huge tarp.

I already knew his sleeping habits, that he was out late a lot of nights, but there were nights when he was home and went to bed pretty early. When the lights went out, I waited another hour. Finally, I went over, popped a window where I’d jammed the latch open when I off-loaded the fireworks, and went down into the basement.

The way I did it when I was a kid, if you wanted a longer fuse, you took the fuses out of several firecrackers and twisted them together. There’d be no way to say a fuse had been used here. Evidence of one was going to be non-existent.

I set the long fuse, lit it, and headed up and out. It would be a short wait. And when the place blew, it was spectacular. The one-story house went up in one huge ball of fire. I had to congratulate myself on the sheer beauty of that asshole’s immolation.

On the drive home, I stopped by my neighbor’s grave. I’d not been there since the funeral. Standing in the dark there, I knelt and laid a hand on the headstone. I told her I wanted her to know that she’d been avenged.

When I came home, I went directly to my koa desk and began thinking about ways to deal with the dead realtor’s cohorts.

And then the phone rang. It was one of my burners. The voice on the other end said a new job had come up.

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