Sunday, July 20, 2008

Reality bites

Northwest of Chicago is a bucolic community with half-million dollar homes on outsize lots. Ninety-five percent of the residents are white, 82 percent are college educated. And one of them is alleged to have tried to kill his wife in a manner reminiscent of Agatha Christie. Edward Bachner ordered 64 vials of puffer fish toxin, allegedly with the idea of killing his wife.

Bachner allegedly is a devotee of Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing internet games. One might allege he was simply acting out an Internet game fantasy.

Turns out he also had bought a $5 million life insurance policy on his wife, with himself as the beneficiary. Three years ago, Bachner allegedly used the Net to find a hitman to kill "an unnamed woman" in the Chicago area, "intended as a simple termination."

The FBI questioned Bachner about the his e-mails, in which he was searching for a hitman, but they never pressed charges, and --they never told his wife, Rebecca. She lived with him for three more years, until someone got suspicious of all the pufferfish toxin orders and reported him. This time, the feds took him into custoy.

Please, guys, I know you have a lot on your plate, what with terrorists and all, but if someone (allegedly) tries to take out his wife, don't you think she has the right to know?

I would love to see the dialogue that went on in the FBI office when they decided not to charge Bachner and not to tell his wife about the 2005 alleged attempt to hire a hitman. I can guarantee that if any of us wrote it, our editors would reject it as bogus.

Sara Paretsky


the Bag Lady said...

"Gosh, Frank, ya think we should let the little woman in on this?"

"Well, I dunno, Pete, I like to stay out of the domestic side of things. I'd hate to screw up his relationship with his wife."

"Yeah, you've got a point. Might piss her off and fuck up his sex life.... Not only that, those damned domestic situations are dangerous - somebody could get hurt."


Yup, you're right - writing the dialogue for that scene would be impossible!!

Michael Dymmoch said...

You said it!

Scott Hess said...

I gotta believe it was all about legalities and potential exposure to a lawsuit. If they had to let him go, it means they simply didn't have enough proof not only to charge him but to win a conviction (as you all know). I would guess that notifying his wife would expose them to a (likely threatened) lawsuit.

But that's no fun. Maybe there's something more insidious at work:

"We gonna tell her?"

"Remember that Chris Rock bit. The one where he says he's not saying O.J. had a right to do it, but he unnerstands?"

"Jesus, Frank."

"I'm just sayin'. She's fat. She's abusive. She cheats on him and spends his money to do it."

"We're cops, Frank."

"I'm just sayin', what if she was your old lady?"

"Speakin' of old ladies, Justice sure can be a bitch sometimes, eh?"

"Now you're talking. She's like Tommy, but she can't play pinball."

"Awww, fuck it then. But if this jagoff tries to pull some Agatha Christie invisible poison bullshit in three years, I swear to God I'm gonna bust his ass all the way to Cleveland."

"Agreed, Frankie. Agreed."

Barbra said...

Amen!!! It just was not to be believed that the FBI did not inform Ed's spouse that not only was he a louse, that he had the intent to kill her. As always, I am led to think that if this happened in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago or in Lawndale that there would have been different action taken. As the economy unravels, why are we still making class distinctions based on address?

Barbara D'Amato said...

Great post, Sara. This is SO irresponsible!

Sara Paretsky said...

I had thought of running a contest on best dialogue, and then worried it might seem tasteless--but I love both Scott and the Bag Lady's take on it.

A Chicago cop tells me the FBI would have been sued by the husband if they told the wife when they didn't have enough evidence to actually make an arrest. Barbara--anyone else with legal expertise--can this be true???

the Bag Lady said...

Perhaps now the wife can sue them for NOT warning her....?
(and after reading Scott's dialogue, I can see my writing skills need a wee bit more work...sigh.)

Barbara D'Amato said...

My crack legal team [Tony] says this:

If it were a person telling his psychiatrist that he intended to kill his wife, the psychiatrist would have to warn about it, despite the usual rules against breaking confidentiality. But a police officer could be sued for defamation if he did.

So--I wonder whether the police should chance it anyhow. It seems like the right thing to do.

Picks By Pat said...

"Actually, I'm just doing research...for a novel. Yeah! That's it. I'm writing a novel about a guy who hires a hitman to kill his wife."

"Oh, is that all? Well, then, no problem. Good luck!"

This, by the way, is what I tell my wife when she finds me on the internet.

Barbara D'Amato said...

Tony seems to agree with picks by pat, and contrbutes this:

I agree with my wife’s assessment of Sara’s post (what else?). However, give the dark comic turn that the comments have taken, I thought I’d contribute a piece of dialogue that should drive the whole thing off the nearest cliff:

“Actually, I’m just doing research . . . for a blog. Yeah! I’m writing a blog about someone else’s novel that hasn’t been written yet. The novel’s about a guy who wanted to kill his wife so as to inherit $5 million from a casualty insurance policy he had just taken out. That he picked the wrong kind of insurance has no bearing on the plot, so no further reference will be made to it. He went out and bought 64 gallons of puffer fish toxin. The druggist assured him that his intended victim would die by the time she had ingested at least 60 gallons.

“Then our hero began infiltrating the toxin into his wife’s drinks. He was able to average three teaspoonfuls a day. His wife’s health improved markedly. She also began taking an abnormally large number of baths.

“He discussed this briefly with his friend on the FBI. His friend told him that the toxin is indeed a deadly poison, but in the short run it can act like a vitamin supplement.

“In the tenth year of his ministrations, while he was out walking the sidewalk, he was shot by a drive-by gunman who was aiming at the person directly behind him.

“After the funeral, the deceased’s friend, the FBI agent, discovered that he had only used up 28 gallons of the toxin when he was killed.

“The author intends to end this novel on a high note of suspense. Should the FBI have informed the man that it would take unconscionably long to kill his wife at a daily dosage of just three teaspoonfuls?’

Anonymous said...

A couple of clarifications ... Bachner confessed that the target of the hit was his wife when he was arrested on June 30th. Before that, the FBI had no idea even if there was an intended target from their investigation in 2005. Another item, they didn't tell his wife because they were legally bound not to tell her, not to tell anyone. An FBI investigation that does not lead to them filing charges is secret. It falls under the same guidelines as the proceedings of a Grand Jury - that are bound to secrecy.

Finally, don't slam Bachner's wife. She is a nice person. I think her fault lies in the fact that she's a trusting and tolerant person. Possibly, even to her own detriment.

Anonymous said...

>Bachner confessed that >the target of the hit >was his wife when he >was arrested on June >30th.

Bachner has a list of people he wants to nullify. That's why he bought enough poison to kill a small army. Pray you are not on his list!