THE ART OF PLANTING THE CON
“Hello Police.” Snickered the female voice on the other end of the telephone. “I’d like to report a gruesome murder.”
She was killed while still snickering. Before realizing the call she had been practicing was not a prank.
“You are a male, Cau-casian is that correct?”
I didn’t know which was thicker, this pinhead’s skull, his southern drawl, or the retched stink of his dime-
“Yes.” I stammered positioning my back and ass between the splinters of an old wooden schoolhouse
chair at an angle geometry had yet to identify.
“Today is Friday, the thirteenth. Is that correct?”
The word “Yes.” sputtered out of my dry mouth.
“Please state your full name.”
“Why?” I asked sarcastically. “It’s printed right here,” I tried pointing to my jailed- issued ID bracelet. Seeing
as I was wired like NASA’s first space monkey, all I could do was point with my chin.
“Please state your full name.” scolded ‘Pinhead’.
Add the shit odor of Pinhead’s breath to my complaints.
“Your legal name!” barked the ‘Pinhead’ sitting behind the box where all of my wires ran into and from.
I looked directly into his green eyes. By-passing the thick black frame of his glasses, gaunt face, and
tobacco-stained teeth. “Conrad Allen Troy.” I tried to spit at him, but could not. So I snarled instead.
“What is today’s date?”
“Friday, June thirteenth . . . Hey. It’s my birthday. Where‘s the cake?”
“I bet your mother’s proud she raised a murderer.” ‘Pinhead’ responded without looking at me.
“Your age Mr. Troy?”
I smiled. “Twenty-three. Thanks for the acknowledging my mother ‘Pinhead’. Seeing you had two queers
“Please state your current address.”
“Hmm. Mercyville, Texas. . .” ‘Pinhead’ wrote something on the trail of paper rolling by him in the box.
“Cell number 32.” 32. My lucky number on Friday the thirteenth, huh. For the first time since I was four
years old and my Granddad had put a switch to my butt for stealing his Civil War pocketknife I began
to feel myself sweat.
When ‘Pinhead’ had finished writing, he peered at the other men in the room (the same two monkey-
slumped, toothless goons that had been my personal escorts this morning) nodded his head and said,
“Okay. Let’s begin.”
“It’s about time.” I complained as much as a man strapped in a chair could. “And by the way,” -scolding
the two goons- “when this crap is over and when you find out you got the wrong guy, I’m taking you boys
up on that Texas-size steak and potato dinner you promised.” The goons pointed at me and laughed aloud. How much trouble am I in I began thinking?
“Mr. Troy. Do you know a Terry Scott?”
The question caused me to snap my head back sharply. What? I asked myself gazing over towards the
silent goons in bewilderment. Then back at the ‘Pinhead’.
Who is he? I thought. “No? I don‘t know any man named Terry Scott.”
“Do you know any women who goes by the name Terry Scott?”
“Still no.” ‘Pinhead’ began writing again. Terry Scott’s a woman?
“Do you know a Randall Murphy?”
“Yes. He’s the sonofa . . .”
“Your answer is either a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ Mr. Troy. Again. Do you know a Randall Murphy?”
“How do you know Mr. Murphy?”
“He works for the bank.” Works for? Huh. He IS the bank.
“Did you talk to Mr. Murphy about a Terry Scott?”
Stop scribbling ‘Pinhead’ and look at me I wanted to scream. “No! Absolutely not.”
“One more time. Did you talk to Mr. Murphy about a woman named Terry Scott?”
“O.K.. I made up a false story about some woman who had ruined my credit. I needed an excuse to try to
get the loan and I thought Murphy would buy it . . . feel sorry for me you know and approve the loan. I didn’t
mean any harm by lying to him and all. I just made up the name.”
“Please limit your answers to either ‘Yes’ or ‘No‘.” scolded ‘Pinhead’.
“Did you tell Mr. Murphy that you killed Terry Scott?”
Is this guy for real? A woman I made-up in my mind is not only real, but dead?
“No.” I heard one of the goons growl at my answer.
“Did you tell Mr. Murphy that you harmed Terry Scott?”
“Did you place your hands to your throat to describe to Mr. Murphy how you killed a women known to
you as Terry Scott?”
How can I kill someone that doesn‘t exist? “No.”
“One more time Mr. Troy. Did you act out in front of Mr. Murphy a procedure with your hands showing
how you brought harm to the woman who ruined your credit?”
I took several deep breaths hoping to clear my mind and become calm. I succeeded only in ingesting
more of ‘Pinhead’s’ stench. “It was a joke . . . a lie . . . I didn’t kill anyone. I don’t even know a Terry Scott.
I made it all up! Why don’t you believe me?” I argued clinching both fist.
“Again I remind you, your answers are either ‘Yes.’ or ‘No’.”
“Yeah. I know. Let’s get on with this.” Trying to show I was still in control of this event I shouted, “You‘re
REALLY pissing me off here ‘Pinhead’!”
Unimpressed, ‘Pinhead’ continued. “Was this woman you described to Mr. Murphy a brunette.”
“I don’t remember. . . No!” Relax Connie-boy. You’ve passed these things enough times before under
worse conditions and better examiners.
“Was this woman you described to Mr. Murphy five foot-two in height?”
These guys are trying to con a con. What amateurs. Just stay focused. “No.” Good. You’re in control
now. Screw these idiots. I’ll let them finish their party then leave.
“Did you tell Mr. Murphy that a women who was just over five feet in height with dark hair and weighed less
than one-hundred and twenty pounds ruined your credit?”
“No.” I had now reached the relaxed state of mind.
“Did you kill Terry Scott?”
“No. Sir.” My new state of mind rankled ‘Pinhead’. I saw his facial expression. He knew I was not being deceptive in my answer. He was puzzled. ‘Pinhead’ gave a furtive glance at the goons, then at me. I was already staring at him. He was playing my game now and looking worried.
“One more time Mr. Troy. Did you kill a women known to you as Terry Scott?”
Was I being set-up? Did Pinhead want me to believe I was? Every jailed con always thought that they couldn’t be conned themselves. For his answer, I had to re-live my short time in Mercyville starting with
the Silver Inn.
THE SILVER INN
Downtown Mercyville. A dusty, pot-holed Main Street that smelled of storefronts rotting away, or was it its citizens? I had yet to make up my mind. I was walking towards the town’s diner, The Silver Inn, when behind
me I see this patrol car just slinking around, you know, going nowhere in particular. Just purposely staying behind me; discrete-like.
The diner was one of those long silver trailers -hence the diner’s name: Silver Inn. Ingenious huh? The smell
of freshly fried bacon and peppered hash browns was escaping from the roof vent. Both were seriously
teasing my empty stomach well before I opened the door.
I purposely kept my head down so as to not draw any attention. The floor was worn brown linoleum which gave way to bare, grease-stained plywood. Brown packing paper was strewn over each tabletop. Tarnished silverware hurriedly wrapped in a single cheap white paper towel waited to be freed. Circa 1950’s red plastic covered the booth’s benches and counter stools while Duct tape covered years of wear and tears. Small black jukeboxes were as abundant as freckles on a redhead. A quarter allowed you to play country songs from before I was born while you search for your food on a fold-out menu. Each page was covered both in thick plastic and months of customers greasy fingerprints. MMMM.
I ordered eggs over easy with the hash browns, bacon and a coffee. My waitress’s name was PollyAnna-a chunky high school drop-out with big green eyes, cute red pig tails and more crooked teeth than a worn
“You a narc ?” she asked suspiciously. I smirked. If she only knew!
“No.” I replied. “Just hungry.” In my ‘profession’, success depends upon winning the trust of ALL people.
“Hey,” she shot back. “I’m wearing somebody’s Thanksgiving’s Day tablecloth and serving greasy food and coffee to fossils. That’s more fun than any girl my age should be allowed to legally enjoy!”
PollyAnna pours me more coffee and asks me if I had any weed to sell her.
“Are you a narc?” I asked.
“Yeah. See my badge?” pointing to a recent, but yet unidentified food stain on her collar which made us
“Me and my friends can buy kick ass weed. “Weed is big around. But . . .” she leans in- choking off my
coffee buzz with her cheap drug-store lilac perfume- and whispers into my ear. “Lots of college kids come
here to do their drug buying.” I told her thanks, but no-thanks to which I received a pubescent pout and was instantly dismissed.
To me PollyAnna was in search of a way out of this, as she said, “Hick-stick, backasswards town.” and
thought I was both her ticket and driver. I pegged PollyAnna as being too dumb to realize she was too
smart for her own good; if that makes any sense. I guess you would probably have to talk to her to understand what I mean.
I enjoyed my breakfast and took in the locals. Over fifty. Retirees. Despite the warm April morning, the men
are wearing flannel shirts and worn canvas coveralls with muddy barn boots. The females have donned denim jeans and brown corduroy farm jackets with less muddied off-brand tennis shoes. Their faces are wrinkled
and weathered, but their attitudes are happy and friendly . . . until, that is, they get a look at me.
PollyAnna returns. I’ am quickly informed that several of the ‘regulars’ want to know who I am. I tell her that
I’m just a guy coming through town looking for a decent meal and doing some car shopping. No more. No
With child-like excitement she asks, “What kind of car?” I sip my coffee. “Don’t know. Depends on what I
can do as far as gett’en me a loan.” PollyAnna pouts again. When I ask why, she tells me that her friends
have been turned down for car loans. She says that “he” does it because he can and that gives him the
power in the town.
Who’s ‘he’ I started to ask. Then she lets out with: “Murphy is a sonofabitch. It’s not like there’s anywhere
else to go around here.” PollyAnna, with hands on hips. leans towards me and confesses: “In case you
hadn’t noticed Mr., Mercyville does not have its finger on the pulse of America. We’re like this distant
galaxy still waiting for light to reach us. And that’s just the way Murphy likes it. He’s the bank manager.
The only bank for fifty miles! And if you are lucky enough to go to the other bank, they call Murphy before
making their decision which usually a ‘No’!
See, lots of us didn’t graduate from high school. Those who don’t join the military stay here to work on the
farms. Those whose family’s don’t own farms finds dead-end jobs like this one. See, Murphy was the school principal here years ago. If you didn’t graduate, then Murphy thinks you shouldn’t have the privilege to drive.
So some of us are trying to get our GED’s just so we can get wheels and get the ‘f’ out of here.” As I begin
to toss the weirdness of this situation around in my head I hear, “But that’s where Max comes in.”
‘Max?’ I feel my spirits lifting. PollyAnna tells me that this Max character is kind of the “new breed” in the
town. “His parents are from money. And they own the bank that Murphy manages. And if Max likes you,”
she giggles. “you’re in.” She gives me the long ‘once-over’ look.“ Yeah. You and Max would hit it off real
good. You’d be a Q-1 client.”
“Where do I find Max?”
“Hi. Are you Mr. Murphy?” I asked of a seated man, his head buried in the morning paper. Murphy wore a
bad toupee; like it had been made by a taxidermist. It was better looking than his yellow coffee-stained tie, wrinkled checkered shirt half-squeezed into blue seersucker golf pants.
Extending my hand and using my most respectful of voices. “Hello Sir. I’m Conny Troy.”
Ignoring my outstretched arm. “Mr. T-R-O-Y huh?” exaggerating my name with a healthy dose of skepticism
“Max sent me over.”
Murphy slowly turned the page of his paper. “Max sent you over? A flint of interest registered in his voice.
“Yes. Yes he did. He said that you were the man to see about situations like mine.”
“Well now, that’s a different story Mr. Troy.” as the newspaper fell out of his pudgy hands and onto his
cluttered desk. “Shame about this family.” Murphy said pointing to the headlines.
“You did graduate?” ‘Yes.’ “Can you read? ‘Yes.’” Countering Murphy’s shouts with my trusting smile.
“Didn’t you read the paper this morning son?” Murphy voice sounded like an immense pain that had yet
to find an outlet.
“No. No I didn’t. I . . .”
“Well then. Let me tell you what you’ve missed ‘er Mr. Troy. Seems the po-lice found themselves a dead
body ’round these parts last night.”
A cold sweat raced over my body. “That’s terrible. Do they know who it is?” I stammered.
His bloodshot eyes shot a beam of intense hatred wrapped in age-old suspicion directly into my brain.
Feeling my knees beginning to buckle I asked. “May I sit down?”
“Help yourself.” Sneered Murphy pointing to a blue plastic chair by his desk.
As I slid my slim six-foot frame into the “guest” chair, Murphy’s eyes studied me: uncombed red hair falling
into my sunburned face, faded blue jeans, worn work boots, and faded wife-beater shirt. I could read his
mind: either a drifter or a slacker. Most likely both! Odds are he’s got a record longer than Main Street.
And if Max sent him to me, he’s big trouble. Or soon will be.
“So,” Murphy asks, “How’s Max doing these days?”
Feeling better, I sat up, squared my shoulders and stated: “Max is fine. I’m to tell you that I am a ‘Q-1’ client.”
“A ‘Q-1’ huh? he chuckles as though his pain had finally found an outlet. “Well then, let’s begin shall we”
BAIT OR DECOY?
Under a white sheet on the cold slab lay a torso. What remained was identified as a woman. Its head, feet
and hands had been savagely removed. The coroner had completed his post-mortem exam. Jane Doe
was sealed and placed in cold storage until she could be identified and released for a burial more proper
than had been her death.
* * *
“To be honest with you Mr. Troy, I don’t think I can help you.” Murphy stated matter-of-factly.
“ . . . but Max said?” I interrupted.
“Yes. Max.” Murphy spewed forth in a disappointing tone. “I really don’t know Mr. Troy. Your credit report
deems you not a worthy risk for a car loan over the asking price of ten dollars.”
Hearing that, I began pounding my fist on Murphy‘s desk. “Ah!” I moaned. “It’s all because of that woman.”
“What are you talking about?” Queried Murphy right on queue.
“It’s . . . ” Running my hands through my hair I sat back in my chair. “it’s so embarrassing. I met up with this woman about a year ago. She was really into me; so I thought. I fell for her hard luck story: an abusive relationship. Drug addicted boyfriend. So I took her in. Got her cleaned up and helped her with a loan to
get back on her feet. We talked about all kinds of stuff,” I sink my head into my chest for effect. “. . . even marriage. I come home from work one day and . . . and all her stuff is gone. Months later, collection agencies start calling telling me I’m behind in my payments. Seems she had opened accounts in my name with no intention of ever paying them.”
Murphy, now clearly drawn into my story, inquires. “Couldn’t you go to the police?”
“Did. Police said I had to find her first. Then take her to court.”
Murphy begins writing notes to himself. “Did you find her?”
Leaning close into Murphy I began to cry. “Yeah. I did.”
“What did you do?”
“I confronted her,” Grabbing Murphy’s shirt sleeve for emotional support. “Terry, why did you do this to me?
It was as if we were strangers and I was giving her directions.” Having delivered the desired emotional
impact, I released my grip.
“Did you tell the cops where to find her?” I gave Murphy the ‘thumbs down’ sign.
“Well, why not?” Murphy argued. “Didn’t you want your money back?”
“Ms. Terry Scott has learned her lesson.” I bragged.
Murphy leaned into me. “And, ah ‘how’ did she learn this lesson?”
I sat back. Perfectly relaxed. I placed my hands on my throat. Squeezed. Then closed my eyes letting my
head fall limp.
Murphy smiled at me for the first time.
I sat back in my chair and smiled too.
“’Where ya head’in son?’ is what I asked him. Tells me that he’s just “traveling” though. So I ask him if he’s
got any ID. Tells me he does and I have no right to see it. Then walks away. That’s when I tell him he’s under arrest.
During the car ride over, he tells me that he’s been talking with Mr. Murphy ‘bout a car loan. It checks out. Murphy tells me this story about our friend here. Seems Mr. Troy got one hell-of-a temper on him. Stalked
a women down that dumped him and choked her to death. Some lady named Terry Scott. Seems Ms. Scott was about five feet in height, one-hundred and fifteen pounds and had dark hair. Sounds like this Terry Scott lady may be the Jane Doe we found all chopped up this morning. And if she is, like I believe, then we’ve got
her killer sitting right here.”
“Good work Garfield.” stated Chief of Police Janus finally realizing that this reject of a farmhand may be onto something, instead of on something. “I’ll bring Wilbur on over to wire him up. Then we’ll get the “true” story
about our friend, Mr. Troy here. If he’s the murderer, we’ll throw ‘em in prison and let the ‘boys’ take turns with him.”chuckles Janus at the perverse visual playing in his mind.
So, here I sit. Waiting to die. Can’t say that I got a fair trial. For that matter, can’t say I got any type of trial.
It took all of one day. My public defender, if you can call him that, busied himself throughout my trial filling
out his FBI application. He was no match for the State’s D.A., Beau Pickens. This guy owned the jury- same people I saw that morning at the Silver Inn- the minute he walked into the courthouse. Turns out, I caught my lawyer asking Pickens to be a reference for him: if that just doesn’t stink to high heaven!
In his opening statement Pickens stated my motive: “In an attempt to correct a relationship with the victim
that had gone sour, Mr. Troy arrived in Mercyville with revenge on his mind.” What was not mentioned: my lie detector results showed no deception. The Police did not find any murder weapon, nor could they connect
me to one!
“Based upon the State’s Forensic Detective, these are the last minutes of Jan Doe’s life.” began Pickens.
“On the night she was murdered, Mr. Troy, under the guise of a romantic interlude, walked with the victim through the town’s park. They veered of the walking path and into the wooded area where, after a heated argument over money, drugs, and other men, a violent struggle ensued. The victim was quickly strangled
by Mr. Troy who then stripped of her clothing and killed her.
Removing a pair of latex gloves and three lawn bags from his front left pocket, Mr. Troy inserts his hands
into the gloves, removes a knife that he had taped to his lower leg, then decapitates the victim and hacks
off her limbs. Mr. Troy places the victim’s torso into bag number 1. Her body parts, clothing, and murder
weapon into bag number 2. After struggling up a small incline with bag number 1, Mr. Troy walks towards
the food pavilion several yards away, discards the torso in the Park’s dumpster to be trucked away long
before anyone notices that the victim is missing.
Mr. Troy then picks up the bag number 2. He walks to a nearby residential neighborhood stopping behind
a storage shed at a home posted ‘FOR SALE’. At the storage shed he retrieves a pre-planted bag. Inside
this bag are a pair of jogging shoes, tee-shirt, and sweat pants. He removes his bloody clothing and places them inside the last garbage bag, re-dresses himself, places all bags on the curb to be picked up by local sanitation before sunrise and simply walks away.”
MY FIRST UNSUCCESSFUL CON?
One month into my sentence I get a message, I have a visitor. Maybe it’s my new lawyer I tell myself.
I contain my excitement as I am escorted down into the “VISITORS” room. It turns out to be Max!
The first and only time I had seen Max was at my ‘trial’. The bottoms of his worn leather sandals scuffed
along the cement floor as the stoned Max wobbled his short, bulbous body towards the witness stand. His unkempt black suit matched a thick bushy black mustache which dominated his pasty, acne-scared face.
Long black cornrows complete with beads hid the slits he had for eyes.
Under oath Max testified we had talked several times. Our talks ranged from my selling him drugs and trying
to convince him to become a partner in my “drug-selling enterprise” to how I was in quick need of a car to
get out of town because I had done something terrible to a woman who had “wronged” me. Now Max was
sitting across from the table from me.
“Why? . . . ” His face reddens as he releases his rage. “Why did you kill my wife?”
What Max is talking about is this: After my trial, some kid was fishing down at the park’s fishing hole and catches what he believes to be a fish. What it is, is a human hand. Police theorize that bag number 2 was resting on a sewage grate and gotten snagged. After de-snagging it, I caused a tear large enough for one
of the severed hands to come out and fall into the sewer. The Police make a DNA match. The hand, as
does the rest of the headless Jane Doe I’m rotting in here accused of having killed, belongs to Max’s wife
who was reported “missing“ days before I entered Mercyville.
Max’s leaps out of his chair. He begins pounding the plywood table we share so violently that one of the
beads from his hair falls out and rolls towards me. I pick the bead up to return it. But somehow I can’t bring myself to do it right yet. Instead, I hold it in my open palm and just stare at it trying to remember why this little colored bead is so important in my life right now.
During my trial, the D.A. asked the coroner if he found any other means of death other than the obvious.
The coroner mentioned there was an anomaly. A small stone of unusual origin was found in the victim’s stomach. The bead I was holding from Max’s hair was the same kind of “anomaly” found in the Jane Doe’s stomach. And how did it get there I asked myself? The bead answers me.
I can only imagine how quickly Murphy took my Terry Scott story and told it to Max, who by then had already killed his wife. Max, whose wife eerily matched my imaginary girlfriend, called the police who then followed
me as I walk to the Silver Inn. Based upon perjured testimony and a hump for a lawyer, here I sit. Meanwhile Max, Mercyville’s “secret” drug dealer -who cut his own wife’s body into parts and pieces- sits across from
me ranting like a lunatic and blaming me for his own handy work.
Standing up I yell back at him. “Max. It’s not my fault that your wife was skimming from the dope money you
two were making off the kids in town. Sounds like she wanted to expand the business and you said ‘No.’ because if that happened word would get out to your parents. They would close down your little shop of drugs and you would be out of their will. So the misses gets antsy. Starts making it on the side with your contacts.
You find out, convince her that the two of you can make it work. Then, stoned out of your mind, you off her in
the woods. I come by, tell Murphy my hard luck story and you have the perfect patsy. That’s how it went down Max isn’t it?” Then I held up the bead from his hair. It was the incriminating proof of which he could not deny. “And how did this get into her stomach Max? I don’t have cornrows. But the real killer does.
Slinking back in his chair, Max’s trembling hands begin rubbing his sweating face. He is silent. His anger deflated. He has been caught.
“Don’t fool yourself Max. Your future, like this bead, is in the palm of my hand. You know I didn’t kill your wife.
I held the newest bead in my hand. It was my opportunity to seize not just another daily scrap, but my freedom. All I needed was my day in court and a competent lawyer. After I call the police, they’ll know too then come looking for you. You Max. You will spend the rest of your life in here. Are you ready to deal?”
“Nobody is going to believe a pissant the likes of you! And you know why?” Max opines. “Because God put
you on this earth for people like me. Your type pay for our mistakes. We’ve been pissing on your parade your whole retched life. There are two types of people: the first are those like me who make things happen. They seize opportunities. Take chances, and reap their rewards. And then there’s the rest of humanity. Those, like you, who wait for scraps to come their way. And like the rodents you are, you fight for a measly daily existence among the scraps. You make believe you are happy when in fact you pray each night to die in your sleep and end the on-going misery you call a LIFE! As for your ‘evidence’ you’ll never get the chance to prove it. I’ll see
to that!” Max walked away. Free. Never to spend a day behind bars to answer for his crime.
Days later Max’s overdoses. He leaves behind a note confessing to his wife’s murder.
Max was exactly right. There are two types of people and we were of the same type. That’s why I followed
his wife back to Mercyville and confronted her: she had pissed on my parade. After saying she was sorry
for walking out on me, Terry suggested we meet for a walk in the woods that night to, as she said, set things right between us. She tells me that Max’s parents had found out they were selling drugs and threatened to
turn them both in and how Max was a control-freak and beating her. I’ am told to go to see Murphy tomorrow. Tell him I had met with Max. Terry then promised she would get Max to co-sign a large loan for me. A loan,
she stated, that would allow us to be together again.
Terry then gave me a bead from Max’s cornrows. She said that if anything were to happen to her, just give
the police the bead because it was so unique it would automatically make Max the prime suspect. We
smoked some weed then I dozed off. I awoke hearing Terry snickering into a cell phone: “Hello Police? I’d
like to report a gruesome murder.” She dropped the phone and pulled a knife from her back pocket
readying it to carve open my chest. The phone, like the bead, belonged to Max. She was setting him up to
take the fall for killing me. She told me she hated me because I was her first unsuccessful con. I forced her
to swallow the bead before I cut her head and limbs off.
I am free. Con complete. Max was right, “Your type pay for our mistakes.”