Thursday, September 9, 2010
The perils of being too clever for your own good
Tamara links to a tale of a bad guy who arranged for his friend to shoot him 'a little bit' in order to further his nefarious ends. Trouble is, his friend wasn't that good a shot, and ended up killing him.
The story reminded me of an incident back in South Africa during the late 1980's. At the time, township violence was at its height, and AK-47 assault rifles (the full-auto 'real deal', not the neutered semi-auto-only versions commonly sold in US gun shops) were available on the street for about $50, including a magazine with 30 rounds of ammunition. Human life was cheap, too . . . the average 'hit' could be arranged for a hundred bucks or so.
Anyhoo, the (anti)hero of our story was a (very) criminal lawyer in Soweto. He'd bought a new car, and found he didn't like it as much as he'd anticipated: but he couldn't afford to trade it in on a better model. He came up with what must have seemed (at the time) like a brilliant idea. He paid a 'friend' to shoot up his new car, so that the insurance would pay to replace it, and he could apply the insurance payout to something more to his tastes.
Not a bad idea, in theory . . . but his 'friend' was blessed (or, perhaps, cursed) with a tendency to do a really, really thorough job. While sitting at home, waiting for nightfall and tenderly stroking his AK-47, said 'friend' thought of an improvement to the lawyer's plans. Bullets alone might not do enough damage for the insurance company to write off the car . . . but what if it was hit with an RPG-7 rocket?
The 'friend' tarried not to act upon his brilliant idea. He hurried off to the local arms broker, handed over a couple of banknotes, and was duly issued an RPG-7 launcher tube and one rocket, along with instructions as to how to use it. Hiding it under a blanket in the back of his car, he set off, and duly arrived at the lawyer's house shortly after darkness fell.
This is where things started to go wrong . . .
The lawyer, as previously arranged, had parked his new car in the driveway of his home. His wife, arriving home a short while later, had not had room to pull her car into the driveway; so she'd gone inside, fetched the keys to her husband's new car (without telling him what she was doing), and pulled it further forward and over to one side of the driveway, so that it was now halfway into the garage. She then pulled her car up alongside it, and proceeded to unload her shopping and take it inside.
The lawyer's 'friend' didn't stop to think about the implications of this new position for his plans. He duly stopped his car across the street, lined up the rocket launcher, and let fly. The RPG-7, reliable and accurate as always, streaked across the road, slammed into the trunk of the lawyer's new car, and exploded - taking with it an (almost full) tank of gas. A huge fireball bloomed over the house as the burning liquid splashed all over the lawyer's car, his wife's car, and the inside of the garage.
The 'friend' must have realized that he'd accomplished rather more than the lawyer had intended, because he vanished into the distance. The lawyer and his wife ran outside, but could do nothing. They had to watch as the flames spread to the entire house, gutting it and destroying all their possessions, while the lawyer jumped up and down, screaming, ranting and raving about incompetent 'friends' who went beyond their brief, and what he was going to do to said 'friend' when he got his hands on him.
Unfortunately for the lawyer, his neighbors (all of whom had come out to watch the fun) heard the whole thing . . . and weren't slow in informing the cops and the fire brigade about what they'd heard when the latter finally arrived. The result? Our lawyer friend lost everything he owned, his insurers refused to pay out a cent on the grounds that it was self-inflicted injury, and he found himself facing charges of arson and a few other interesting felonies. In the end, he wasn't convicted, because they never did find his 'friend' to give evidence in the matter. (If he had any sense, he didn't stop running until he crossed the border, several hundred miles to the north - and he probably still hasn't come back!) The lawyer ended up out of pocket for everything he and his wife had accumulated during their lives. She divorced him soon afterward.
Those of us who knew the lawyer reckoned that it couldn't have happened to a more deserving person . . .