For several days and nights Clarence stayed glued to his TV set. Countless cartoons, talk shows, movies and news reports were without a single message for him. Then, one evening, it happened.
A news segment on animal rights activists featured their spokesman, Sonny Barlow, showing clips of animal torture by cosmetics companies. Rabbits were shown, strapped down while various cosmetics were put in their eyes.. The purpose was to see if their eyes would be damaged. If not, the eye cosmetics and shampoos would be safe for humans.
Sonny ended his short talk with, “One would have to be from outer space to not know this is the willful torture of helpless animals.”
Clarence had watched in horror. He had not imagined such cruelty. There had been cages holding cats in the same room. He pictured in his mind his own cat in one of those cages, awaiting some awful experiment.
As he thought about it he grew enraged and tearful. He looked over at his cat and the cat looked back at him. His guides assured him that those monsters would get around to his cat in time.
“But they won’t”, shouted Clarence. “They’re Martians, all right. The man said you would have to be from outer space not to know it was torture. Of course they’re from outer space. So they’re our next targets.”
He discussed the matter through the night with his guides. Clarence was willing to kill anyone connected with such brutality. But it was not as simple as that. These were businesses, with mainly Earth people duped into doing the dirty work. He could kill a dozen employees without getting to one Martian.
So how to ruin the Martians’ business? The main culprit Barlow named was Tressallure. This was a hair cosmetic firm which came out of nowhere to flood the TV with dazzling commercials. Tressallure was owned by Vito Benno, a greasy slug said to have mob connections.
As Clarence and his guides discussed Tressallure, one of the guides brought up Milton, the electro-chemist back at the hospital. Milton had refused to use shampoo and would only wash his hair with soap. He had assured Clarence that the pyrithione zinc in most shampoos made the scalp a conductor. Space people could then beam their messages to those zinc-coated skulls and cause those people to vote for politicians who were actually space people up to no good.
“The best way to stop that is to make people afraid to buy Tressallure”, said Clarence to his guides. “That would not only stop the Martian radio beams but would stop the torture of rabbits and cats.”
After more discussion they hit upon the idea of buying two hundred bottles of Tressallure and substituting hair remover for the shampoo. Clarence decided to doctor the two hundred bottles of Tressallure with hair remover. That would cost maybe $2,000.
He needed nearly $1,000 so he loaded up four pipe shotguns and went hunting for Martian muggers that night. With his padding to rest the handle of the gun on, he looked sort of fat, and being loaded down, a little drunk.
After a few blocks into the rougher part of his neighborhood, he was approached by two blacks who saw him as an easy mark. Clarence pretended to scratch himself and put his hand through the slit in his jacket.
Neither of the two blacks even pulled a weapon, thinking Clarence was that easy. When they stopped in front of him and demanded his money, Clarence pulled out the gun, rested its handle on the padding and fired. Sixteen .30 caliber pellets ripped into the throat of one, nearly tearing his head off. Clarence quickly pulled out the barrel and smashed it into the skull of the other.
He took his time searching the bodies on the dark street. These two had been at work. He collected over $400. Since it was now 10 o’clock, Clarence stayed out hunting. He no longer enjoyed it. He had gotten so skilled at spotting, attracting and killing muggers it had become boring.
The next morning newspaper headlines screamed, “SHOTGUN VIGILANTE SLAYS 8 MORE!” The TV gave his night’s work full coverage. Commentators accused the police of laxity and demanded troops to protect New Yorkers from the killer of muggers.
That afternoon Clarence walked to the drug store and bought one bottle of Tressallure and one of a popular lotion hair remover. It was for coarse, dark hair, supposedly the strongest. He had intended to mix it half and half and so he smeared a generous helping of the mixture on one arm and let it alone for five minutes. When he scraped it off he was disappointed to see it did not work.
So much for that. He would have to use it full strength. He then put the pure lotion on his arm and, sure enough, all the hair in that spot came off at the roots after five minutes.
Clarence reasoned that since Tressallure was a relatively new product, people would not know what to expect. They would just rub it in like their regular shampoo, usually while in the shower, or even over a sink. Then after a few minutes they would try for lather, of which there was none, and rinse it out; along with their hair.
Clarence bought two hundred twelve ounce bottles of Tressallure and four hundred six ounce bottles of the lotion hair remover. This took him five days as he visited six hundred drug stores, mom and pops and supermarkets in a ten square mile area. It cost him nearly all he had, but easy come, easy go.
To avoid suspicion, although he could have bought a dozen bottles without arousing comment, Clarence bought one at a time. He was methodical to the extreme. He would buy a bottle, stick it in a pocket in its sack with receipt and go on until front, back and jacket pockets were filled. When he had six, he would go to a trash receptacle, find a dirty sack and put the six bottles in it and stuff it down in the receptacle. When he had five sacks of six bottles each, he would go back and collect them and take the thirty bottles back to his room.
After twenty trips he set to work emptying the Tressallure down the sink and refilling the bottles with the lotion hair remover. He had bought a pair of rubber gloves at a pharmacy and was careful to wipe off any fingerprints. He also made sure to put each Tressallure bottle back in its original marked sack so it would go back to the store he bought it from.
When he had the two hundred bottles filled, he made the rounds, going into each store and putting its bottle or bottles of Tressallure back among the rest, up front.
Molly Franklin was coming out. She expected to see Todd Jordan at the ball this evening. He had twenty million and she wanted it. Her parents had pulled a lot of strings to get Todd to the coming out. She was pretty enough, but with Tressallure (she believed commercials), she was a cinch.
She undressed and stepped into the shower. The Tressallure had a different smell from most shampoos she had used, but so what? She massaged it in, took the bar of Lady Beauty soap and commenced to soap herself all over while the Tressallure worked its magic. She luxuriated for several minutes while bathing then stood on one foot, then the other, making sure she got between her toes clean.
Then she turned the faucet on full and bent her head, eyes closed. She then directed the spray to he underarms and the rest of her. As she rinsed out her eyes, she noticed the water coming up over her ankles and begin to flow out under the shower door. She looked closer and noticed the drain clogged with hair. She screamed.
Her mother fainted when Molly appeared in a towel, shrieking hysterically. Only a few dripping wisps were left. “I can’t go”, yelled Molly. “I don’t even have a wig. Now that slut, Angela, will get him.”
Mr. Franklin examined the Tressallure bottle and had his now recovered wife search out the receipt. That snot Todd’s twenty million was chickenfeed compared to what he could get from Safeway and Tressallure.
By noon the next day an alert had gone out over every radio and TV station. Within hours Tressallure was being taken off the shelves of every store in the city. Then it was statewide. The networks joined in and by that evening Tressallure was pulled from every store nationwide.
Eighteen lawsuits were filed in the next three days. Then the phenomena began. The networks had described the substitution as a matter of course. Hundreds of persons around the country were turning in bottles of Tressallure they had bought before the recall and filing suits.
Anyone willing to lose his or her hair in expectation of collecting big in court was claiming his or her bottle had been spiked with hair remover. Even other shampoos were affected, as all one needed was any shampoo bottle filled with hair remover, even without a receipt. Within another week there was no shampoo of any kind for sale.
Vito Benno was hunted down by the media and found in a massage parlor. His attorney was with him and nervously advised him not to make any statements. Vito Benno waved him aside and shouted, “You call this justice? I hire the best looking broads for my TV commercials, with the nicest hair. I even hired a nigger teenager to tell those broads to shake their bodies for him, like in the Revlon commercials. Who says I ain’t got class?” His lawyer left the room.
Then Vito Benno began to weep. He swept the toupee off his head and used it to wipe his eyes. Then he blew his nose in it. “Just because we blinded some rabbits those animal activist freaks gotta go and put me out of business. I’ll get them, see if I don’t.”
The next evening Sonny Barlow was found shot dead. Everyone suspected Vito Benno but two women swore they were in bed with him at the time. Vito Benno had mob connections but nothing could be proven.
When his TV informed him of Sonny Barlow’s death, Clarence was shattered. He had caused the death of a human being! He wept with shame and recrimination.
But he would avenge Sonny Barlow. Vito Benno was a Martian and so would have to die. But how? Clarence did not know where Vito Benno lived and supposed he would be guarded, anyway.
He would have to draw Vito Benno into the open and in a situation where he could be gotten at without much risk. His guides came up with a plan to burn Vito Benno’s warehouse, thus getting him into the open as a spectator.
But first, Clarence needed a weapon which was easily concealed, not too noisy and disposable. One of his guides suggested an ice pick. This was logical, since an ice pick would be silent and would produce a small but deep wound. Clarence liked the idea but naturally improved on it.
He went to a dime store and bought two wooden handled ice picks and a packet of large fish hooks, size 5/0. When he got to his room he tried to pull the picks from their handles. They were in too tight so he put a knife blade alongside the pick and whacked it with a pair of pliers. The handle split and he took the pick out. He then put a piece of match stick in the slot so the pick would not go in farther than three-eighths of an inch.
Next he bent back two of the fish hooks until they broke. He used GOOP to glue their points onto the points of the picks. Then he used more GOOP to glue the handles back together. He then whittled the pick ends of the handles to within a sixteenth of an inch of the pick. Thus, he had the absolutely perfect murder weapon.
At the hospital he had often discussed surgery with Dr. Blount, a fellow patient and defrocked surgeon. Dr. Blount had taken to searching for CIA electronic implants during routine surgery. He had told Clarence how the body tissues tended to instantly close in around wounds. Clarence also remembered how in war movies, a soldier often had to use his foot on an enemy while withdrawing a bayonet.
The pick would stay in the handle but was plenty loose enough to stay in a body after entering. Nonetheless, Clarence put the pick point-up in his shirt pocket and the handle in his jacket pocket. He then went to Central Park looking for someone to test it out on.
As he stopped to watch some children at play, he heard a small voice at his side. “Hey, Mister.” He looked down and there was a little girl. He was amazed that he could see right through her.
He called her to the attention of his guides and was told that they could not see her at all. One even accused him of hallucinating. Clarence was angered and protested that he did not hallucinate. “What do you think I am, crazy?”
He turned back to the little girl and she said, “That man over there on the bench did bad things to me and then he choked me.”
So she was a ghost. Clarence had never seen a ghost but did not doubt the child. Still, not one to overreact, he watched the man the little girl had pointed out before taking any action.
The man was watching the children intently. One of the girls called another little girl by name, “Margie”. The man stood up and approached Margie. “Margie”, he said, “your mother’s been hurt and she wants me to take you to her.”
The little girl burst into tears and asked, “Is Mommy hurt bad?”
The man answered, “Pretty bad. So you had better come along now.” He reached out his hand and Margie took it and the man proceeded to lead her out of the park.
Clarence had heard it all. He took the pick out of his shirt pocket and inserted its end into the handle. He followed the two a few paces and as he got alongside the man, he plunged the ice pick into his side, below the ribs, with enough force to cause the handle to push the flesh a couple of inches inward.
When the handle was pulled away the pick stayed deep inside the body, held partly by the 5/0 fish hook. As the flesh rebounded, it closed over the end of the pick. There was hardly any blood and little appearance of a wound, especially since what wound there was was covered by clothing.
Medics just coming on the scene would be hard put to find the wound and it would certainly be fatal before any sort of surgery could remove the pick. It had also passed through organs and intestines, making dozens of holes which could not have been mended in time.
The man screamed, clutched his side, staggered around for a while and fell to the ground writhing. Margie had no idea of what had happened but stood apart, worrying about her mother. Clarence stepped away unnoticed. The little girl had disappeared.
A small crowd finally gathered around the man as Clarence stood and watched. The man could have been drunk, doped, epileptic. There was no sign of an injury. One concerned comforter relieved the man of his wallet. Another took his wristwatch. After a half hour, medics appeared to take away the corpse.
Clarence was satisfied. On the way back to his room, he went to a drugstore and bought a two-liter enema bag. Then he called the Tressallure company. When the receptionist answered, Clarence said, “Hey, Babe, I’ve got a load of Tressallure from Nevada and the bill of lading got coffee spilled on it. I can’t read the address. What’s your warehouse address?”
The receptionist rummaged around and finally told him where the warehouse was. Clarence then took a bus to the address and found it was an old warehouse down near the docks. He had expected to need a cordless drill to make a hole in the wood or metal front to stick the enema bag tube through.
He was lucky, since the warehouse, old but sturdy, had several slits as wide as a half-inch. The warehouse was nearly full of cartons of returned Tressallure. There was nothing else there, since the product was put up by a commercial bottling plant elsewhere.
Clarence went back into his room and waited until near dark before taking the bus again. This time he carried the enema bag by a cord around his neck, under his jacket, filled with two liters of gasoline.
There was no one around so he stuck the bag’s tube through a crack and pressed the bag. The gasoline squirted several feet into the warehouse. Clarence made sure to ease up near the last so there would be a gasoline trail up to the crack.
Then he lit a match, thrust it through the crack and walked away. The two liters of gasoline made a glorious fire, which would not be noticed for several minutes. He disposed of the enema bag.
Clarence then went to the nearest fire alarm and set it off. He then went to a public phone and called the Tressallure office. He expected an answering machine but someone was still there. He reported the fire, saying he was with the Fire Department. He suggested that Vito Benno should be notified and told to go to the warehouse.
Clarence sat in a nearby coffee shop until the fire trucks arrived. Then he ambled back to make up part of the small crowd collecting.
The firemen did not seem much interested in Vito Benno’s warehouse, probably because the plastic bottles in the cartons were such good fuel. While they concentrated on keeping the fire from spreading to the nearby buildings, Vito Benno was driven up. He and two obvious bodyguards poured out of the limo and Vito Benno commenced to scream hysterically at the firemen.
While the bodyguards looked around for recognizable enemies, Clarence edged near and plunged the ice pick into Vito Benno’s side. As Vito Benno gasped, Clarence flicked the handle to the ground and looked at his victim as would any bystander. Vito Benno clutched his side and his bodyguards quickly looked him over for any signs of a wound.
His suit jacket showed no holes and Clarence told one of the bodyguards, “This man’s having a heart attack or a stroke or something. I don’t like his color. You shouldn’t let him get so excited.”
The bodyguards just scowled at Clarence and half carried Vito Benno back to his car. That evening the TV announced Vito Benno’s death, speculating it was a mob hit. The anchorman explained that Vito Benno had probably borrowed millions of dollars of mob money and could not begin to pay it back. That sounded reasonable to Clarence.
Clarence then settled back to watch his favorite TV evangelist, Brother John, the white shepherd of New York’s Ebony Baptist Church. Brother John was holding a telethon, beginning the next day. He showed the large hall he had rented for the assembly of hundreds of storefront pastors and politicians. If Jerry Lewis could hold telethons for muscular dystrophy, he, Brother John, could hold a telethon for Jesus, to bring the brothers together for a renewal of faith and faith offerings.
Brother John then launched into a sermon on how the devil’s servants would try to disrupt his telethon. Some would come to the telethon as wolves in sheep’s clothing. “You know who the devils are,” shouted Brother John to his TV audience. His meaning, of course, was that some of the pastors and politicians might come but be less than supportive. Brother John was subtly telling them that those who withheld full support would lose his support.
Clarence heard a different message. He imagined Martian infiltrators disrupting the telethon. So when Brother John asked for volunteers to help set up the show and answer the phones, Clarence decided to be a volunteer.
Onward to Clarence’s next adventure…