The Perfect Crime: Did It Happen?

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Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

A story I didn’t write. And a tale of a scenario that could easily have been a novel.

Sometime in the mid nineties. A group of friends in their forties sitting around a fire at a camp in the Adirondacks, drinking scotch, with at least one smoking a cigar. The conversation is quiet but filled with old jokes- we go back a long way. In some ways, we are celebrating having survived life to this point, while being fully aware of those who didn’t, or haven’t. A subject is proposed. What would be the perfect crime? And if we determined that, would we do it?

We don’t find that perfect crime because we set parameters. No one can get hurt. No individual can lose, unless they’re completely evil, but who determines that? So, no victims, period. These restrictions narrow the potential. No murders or blackmail, no armed robberies. The actors must be completely hidden by layers of protection and distance. The rewards must be untraceable and the crime must never be solved, or even investigated because no one realizes it has happened, or they think the crime is something different than what actually took place. A tough scenario, that we don’t solve, succumbing to drinks and sleep by a peaceful lake, with the sound of loons…

It happened just like that. And the weekend ended and we drove back into mundane life, except for one thing. I figured it out.

The perfect psychological thriller and I don’t write it

I can’t tell you why I didn’t write this story when I conceived it. I might not have had the confidence, as a writer, to do it. I know now, in hindsight of course, that I should have just plunged in and told the story and not worried about whether it was ‘good’ But I was just starting to figure that stuff out. If you’ve got a novel in you trying to get out, see this as a cautionary story: don’t wait, call eight (sorry, could resist). Seriously, just write the thing. But I digress.

RAM chips, fire, and things that go terribly wrong

Rewind that group by the campfire, but watch as an omniscient writer a few feet away in the darkness. This is the nineties. One of the people sits silently contemplating the challenge. He has recently read an article about the crazily volatile market in trading RAM chips, random access memory for computers. The demand is enormous as the internet looms and memory is the roadblock to a perfect technological world, but…only one factory in South Korea has the capacity to build these things. And it is owned by a publicly traded company. The only other source is a small company in the UK.

After thinking this through he speaks up and says he thinks he might have figured this thing out. He explains the story about the RAM chip factory. What if they pooled their funds and optioned a bunch of the UK stock, then paid someone in Korea to burn the other factory down? This is a problem of course, finding someone in Korea, because it creates a trail back to them, but it might be solvable. If the factory goes out of commission demand will drive up the price of the competing stock and the criminals will score big.

The crime can’t be easy- that wouldn’t be any fun

So, more scotch flows, and they decide to try and finish this game. And it gets serious. They find a high school friend who went to prison and he knows a guy in the Korean mafia…the factory burns, they cash out, and then everything goes wrong. A night watchman in the factory dies in the fire. He has a big family. The perps are middle class waspy white folks with liberal consciouses. Their social construct can’t support an omerta level of not talking and leaving guilt out of the picture. The entire scenario descends into chaos and disaster.

That’s the story. In hindsight I know I didn’t write it because I actually wanted to figure out an actual perfect crime, not the flawed one I just described. And I did.

But that’s another story…

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