The Five Second Rule

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Is it murder if they deserve to die?

Beware, this is a dark story. No happy endings here.

There has always been a devil on my shoulder. Without him, I’d have no experiences worth writing about. Now that my devil has had a chance to chat with some of his peers on Booksie, he’s getting some bad ideas…

Submitted: March 04, 2015

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Submitted: March 04, 2015

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In my day, kids walked or rode their bikes to school.  Some took the bus.  You couldn’t cuss or tell dirty jokes on the bus, and you had to get up earlier.  Most rode bicycles.  You won’t see this today, but yearbooks back then had photographs of hundreds of bicycles parked in the racks in front of the school.

Blacksburg Middle School was across a busy street from my neighborhood.  The city fathers made a good decision when the school was built.  They dug a trench across the road and put in an underpass.  If you were a Blacksburg Lion, you could go through a 70 foot long tunnel to avoid the traffic above.  The tunnel served another purpose.  It was the location of my first business.  I sold cigarettes in the underpass to my classmates.  At the age of ten, I was a successful capitalist.

Believe it or not, cigarettes cost $2.50 per carton back then.  That is not a typo.  That was before politicians figured out how to pick on drinkers and smokers.  I paid 1 ¼ cents for each cigarette, and sold them for a quarter each.  That is a 2000% return on investment.  At the age of ten, ROI wise, I was kicking Warren Buffet’s ass.

The cigarettes came from my poker winnings.  My older brother had been a regular at a standing game for years.  He would take me along sometimes to watch.  When he left for Viet Nam, I talked my way into the game.  I was good enough to win more often than not.  When I won, I often was able to get the adults to pay me with cigarettes instead of cash, by knocking a few dollars off of what they owed.

I was in business almost a year when someone squealed.  The Assistant Principal was waiting for me when I showed up for work.  He was the one in charge of paddling.  I got a whooping I could feel for days.

When I told the story at the game that evening, one of the regulars offered me a job.  He was a small time drug dealer.  He needed a runner.  The pay was decent.  The next day, I dropped out of school and went to work full time.

After a few months, I knew how the drug trade worked.  I knew who the players were.  I realized the opportunities were endless, and started dealing on my own.  My boss fired me when he found out.  He made some threats about what would happen if I tried to horn in on his turf.  I wasn’t worried.  I’d played poker against him.  I could tell when he was bluffing.

By the time I was 20, I was a seasoned veteran of the drug trade.  As I approached 25, I realized I probably had enough money to retire. 

Then I found the watch.

It was sitting on a table at a restaurant.  I looked around to see if the person who had left it was still there.  The place was almost empty.I picked it up and gave it a look.  I’d never heard of an Anton Picasso pocket watch.  It had weird symbols instead of numbers but it looked expensive.  I pocketed it.

At the library I found out the symbols were the 12 signs of the zodiac.  But the watch wasn’t running.  The hands were at 12 O’clock, or Aries.  The hour, minute, and second hand all pointed straight up.  I turned it over to see if there was a place to put a battery, but the back was solid.  I looked the case over.  No seams.  A one piece watch. 

Back home, I tried turning the stem on the top.  Maybe it was a windup.  It didn’t turn.  I tried pulling it out, no go.  Then I pushed the stem in.  And the picture and sound on my TV froze.  I thought, I haven’t found a watch, it’s a remote control. 

In a moment, the TV started back up.  I looked at the watch.  The second hand had moved to the first symbol, Taurus, and stopped.  Five seconds.

A few moments later, while I was looking out the window, I pushed the stem again.  The car driving down the hill stopped abruptly.  I realized I no longer heard the faint sound of the wheels on the road.  In fact, I couldn’t hear anything.  The TV paused again. 

Like before, everything was back to normal in a moment.  The second hand of the watch was pointed at 2 O’clock.  Gemini.  Ten seconds.  I didn’t have a watch that was a TV remote.  I had a watch that was an Earth remote.  One that could pause the entire planet, five seconds at a time.

With some testing, I found out that the watch needs one minute to recharge, or whatever it is doing, after each five second pause.

Five seconds isn’t a long time.  You can’t rob a bank that quickly.  Yet it didn’t take too long to figure out what to do.  I already had an edge in the drug business.  It is the kind of business where the profits stay in people’s houses or businesses, not in banks. 

In public, there are security cameras everywhere.  One place you won’t find a lot of cameras is anywhere drug dealers do their thing.

At first my motivation was purely financial.  Not only was I not interested in killing anyone, my plans were specifically laid out to avoid it.  No drug dealer with half a brain is going to call the police if his stash and his cash get stolen.  Someone will call an ambulance or the police if they find a bloody drug dealer on the floor.

The strategy I came up with was simple.  I already knew most of the dealers in town.  Word gets around.  When you talk to your customers, they talk to you.  I would stake out a dealer I knew had cash and drugs.  Only dealers that lived alone, or maybe with a girlfriend who worked.  Ones who lived somewhere that didn’t have a heavily secured door.  When the place was empty, five seconds was enough time for me to kick in the door, get inside, and close the door.

Then, fill my backpack with cash, drugs, and guns.  Maybe even some jewelry, you never knew what you might find.  I filled some holes in my CD collection.  Homemade chocolate chip cookies are good.  One more push on the stem, five seconds later I was on the street and on my way.  

Although my intention was to not use violence, I was always prepared.  There is no way you can plan for every possibility.  When you play for keeps, you better have a backup plan.  And a backout plan.

In addition to the watch, I carried a Taser, pepper spray, a switchblade, and a Colt Cobra .38 Special.  All pocket-sized.  I always wore flesh colored latex gloves.  No fingerprints.  Kept my head and face shaved, wore tight fitting clothes with snug elastic fittings at the ankles and wrists.  All to minimize the likelihood of leaving hair or skin cells at the scene of the crime.

I got so good at the game that I quickly stopped taking anything but cash.  Guns and drugs can be turned into cash, but when the cash rolls in so easily, why fool around with anything bulky and illegal?  I made an exception every now and then when I came across some sweet smelling bud. 

It wasn’t long before I was burying money in the crawlspace under my house.  I didn’t know how much I had.

Then things took a dark turn.  I made my first mistake.  I kicked in the front door as usual, only to realize the house wasn’t empty.  Not only that, there was a sawed off shotgun on the sofa next to the occupant.  Sometimes it is a small world.  The man sitting on the sofa was none other than one of my high school enemies, Bobby Degas. 

Bobby and I were the same size, so he didn’t bully me like he did some of the other kids.  But I fought him twice.  Once when he accused me of cheating at cards.  That time I broke his nose and gave him a pair of black eyes.  The second time was when he retaliated.  He hit me in the back of the head with a beer bottle in a bar.  It didn’t knock me out, but it stunned me so bad I couldn’t fight back.  I was on the ground and he was kicking me in the stomach when the bouncer pulled him away from me.

Once I saw Bobby push a kid down the stairs at school.  I remember the thud the kid’s skull made when it bounced off of the floor.  It knocked him unconscious and he had a seizure.  While the boy twitched on the floor, Bobby stood over him with his hands on his hips and a smug look on his face.  That was when I learned a human being can truly be evil.

The five seconds were up.  Bobby realized an unwelcome stranger was standing in front of him.  He reached for the shotgun.  I tasered him.  His back arched and he rolled off the sofa on to the floor.  It was Bobby’s turn to twitch.  A ring of urine spread out on the rug. 

I had to think fast.  He would be waking up momentarily.  My first instinct was the rational, intelligent one.  Abort the mission.  Push the stem, run like hell out of the house.  Instead of rational, I went visceral.

Bobby stopped twitching and lay face down on the floor.  His rib cage heaved up and down as he was coming out of it.  I pulled the switchblade out of my pocket and flipped it open.  I reached down, grabbed a handful of Bobby’s hair, and pulled his head as far back as it would go.  I slashed the blade across his throat, as hard as I could.  A sharp, stainless steel edge can easily go through things like Bobby Degas’ trachea and esophagus, not to mention the odd carotid artery or jugular vein.  It will bounce off bone, such as his cervical vertebrae.  I made a mess on the rug.

That solved the immediate problem.  I gathered the money, and started toward the front door.  Then it got really weird.  I decided to collect a souvenir.  I’ve always been a collector.  Coins, stamps, rocks, and Hot Wheels.

There was a dollar bill on the coffee table next to a small bag of weed.  Smokers often use a bill to cradle the rolling paper when they roll a joint. 

Maybe it was the adrenaline, or maybe there is something evil inside of me. 

I picked up the dollar bill and wiped it across the blood spilling out of Bobby’s neck.  Then I pushed my thumb into his neck, covering the end in blood.  I made a thumbprint on the bill next to George Washington’s portrait.  I emptied the weed out of the baggy and put the bill inside.  I loaded up the backpack, headed to the door, pushed in the stem and was out of there.

When I got home it sunk in.  I was a murderer now.  There was no going back.  I also realized I could never commit another five second crime in my town.  Any act as violent as this was going to cause a lot of publicity.  There was a chance my name will be mentioned when the police are asking Bobby’s people who were his enemies. 

But he was an asshole with dozens of enemies, all who would be more likely suspects than me.  The police knew him well and were probably happy to see one of their problems solved.  I doubted they would investigate very hard. 

Considering everything, I felt great.  I had a smile on my face when I pulled the dollar bill out of the baggy.  The blood had dried to a deep crimson.  The color of my favorite college team.  That was when I realized what was going on.  I had more than enough money to last for the rest of my life.  I could have stopped using the watch long ago.  Now it was about something else.  I didn’t want more money.  I wanted more dollar bills. 

I wrote the date and the name of my town on the unbloody part of the bill.  I put it in the side compartment of the backpack.

It occurred to me, there are drug dealers and scumbags everywhere.  The world was my oyster.  Inside the oyster were plenty of very dirty pearls.  I could still use the same basic game plan.  Now it was time to go mobile.

I laid low while the murder played out in the press.  The word on the street was that the police had no evidence. They did have a long list of people who had a reason to want Bobby gone.  No one knocked on my door asking any questions.

That gave me time to hash out a new plan.  I went to the library and photocopied a list of the 300 biggest cities in the United States.  An itinerary came together.

I would move around.No more than one murder at a time in any city.  The bigger the city, the better.  Since New York was the biggest, I decided to start there.  Unlike the jobs I planned out in my hometown, I didn’t know who the drug dealers were in other places.  But it doesn’t take long to find out.  The key is to find the right part of town.  Or should I say, the wrong part of town.  Every town, big or small, rich or poor, has one.

When you are in the part of town where the prostitutes don’t bother to not be obvious, you also won’t have any trouble identifying the street level dealers.  I would follow one of those to their guy, then follow him to his guy.  That’s the guy with the money.

I’d watch the big man for a couple of days.  Long enough to identify patterns, and to be sure there were never too many people in the house or apartment.  I’d kick in the door, then push the stem.  Anyone close enough to get to in five seconds would get knifed.  Anyone too far away, I’d be crouched and have the Colt pointed at their chest when normal time resumed.  Knives work while the five second rule is in effect.  Guns don’t. 

That first time in New York City, I kicked in the door, pushed the stem, and rushed in.  The dealer was by himself, pouring milk into a bowl of Cheerios in the kitchen.  The clock expired as I rounded the corner.  He had time to look up and to reach for the gun on the table.  My lowered shoulder hit him in the gut at full speed.  I heard the wind rush out of his lungs as he fell backwards.  His ass hit the floor the same time his head bounced off the refrigerator.

He was awake, but couldn’t move.  He was still trying to remember how to breathe.  He was looking straight at me, eye to eye, when I jacked the knife.  I plunged it between his ribs and pulled back out, three times.  Once in each lung, once in the heart.  I could tell I got the heart, each beat made the stain on his chest grow larger.  He never broke his gaze with me.  Before they closed for the last time, I could see the question in his eyes. “Why?”

It was a fair question.  The best answer I could come up with was, “Because it makes me happy.”

I fell into a pattern.  It generally took 3-5 days to set up each kill, and typically a day to travel between sites.  I averaged 6 kills a month. 

While I was planning and carrying out a job, I didn’t think about anything else.  I never worried about getting caught.  People who worry about getting caught don’t carry around dollar bills with a thumbprint made from their victim’s blood. 

I had a lot of time to think while driving between jobs.  I came to the conclusion I was not a normal serial killer.

Eventually the thrill wore off, and I decided I would retire from killing when my collection hit 200.  But, my luck ran out at 197.

I was just finishing up.  I had the money and the dollar bill bagged up and was ready to go.  As I stood, the door opened and someone stepped in.  I heard several voices.  The lead guy saw me and was pulling a gun out of his pocket when I pushed in the stem.  There was no back door and there were an unknown number of people in the hall, presumably armed.  I realized I was going to have to shoot my way out of this one.

When the five seconds elapsed, I had the Colt pointed at the first man, he went down as blood spurted from two wounds in his chest.  The man behind him suffered a similar fate.  But there were others in the hall and I heard them retreating and shouting at each other.  The element of surprise was gone.I was outnumbered.  But I still had my secret weapon.

The best backup plan I had was to activate the watch then run like hell.  I was counting to 60 while I reloaded.  When I got to the magic number, I pushed and ran out into the hall.  I saw three men, frozen, looking in my direction.

The five seconds elapsed as I ran past them.  I turned, and pumped six bullets into their backs.  The men went down.  I had exceeded my retirement goal.  I was up to 202.  But there was no time to collect the last five dollar bills.  I ran down the stairs as fast as I could.

That was when I made my last mistake.  The adrenaline was flowing so hard, I didn’t realize I was still holding the gun in my hand when I ran out on the sidewalk.  It had been several minutes since the first shots were fired, plenty of time for the police to appear. 

The officer had his gun pointed at me when he told me to drop mine.  He pulled the trigger as I pushed the stem.  The bullet struck me in the chest as the world froze again.  I hit the ground.  Before I faded to black, I dropped the watch through the drainage grate next to me.

That was the end of my hobby, the end of my freedom, and almost the end of my life.  The miracle of modern medicine fixed the damage caused by the bullet.  Modern lawyers were nowhere near as skillful.  Mine pointed out, correctly, that having 197 sets of bloody thumbprints in my backpack was the most effective confession he’d ever seen. 

I pled guilty to 202 counts of first degree murder.  No point in arguing about the ones I didn’t have dollar bills for.  They had the bodies and me in the same location.

I’m on death row now.  It’s a matter of time before I meet Old Yeller.  That’s what they call the electric chair in my neck of the woods.  It will be okay.  I wish they would have let me keep the dollar bills.


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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