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September 1998
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Nameless Crimes

Stibbins was a fellow student at the University. We weren't class mates. The only course we ever took together was an elective on dysfunctional family structures. We fell together, though, because neither of us fit into the conventional student categories.

There are many student stereotypes - the jock, the nerd, the ditz, the serious English student. They are stereotypes - people don't fit neatly into little boxes - but the stereotypes exist because they are good summary descriptions of most people. People aren't as original and unique as they like to think they are.

As I say, Stibbins and I fell together because we didn't fit any of the stereotypes - we were misfits. I suppose there are stereotypes about misfits, too, but they aren't very accurate. There are more ways to be different from other people than there are ways to be the same.

Stibbins was an enthusiast about great crimes and great criminals. He had an extensive library of books about crime. I didn't share his enthusiasm but I acquired an extensive knowledge about crime by virtue of our endless conversations. Crime and criminals wasn't our only topic of conversation - we engaged in those sophomoric philosophy discussions that are the province of the college student.

One day we were discussing perfect crimes and the idea of a perfect crime. Stibbins went through his favorite candidates. I objected that none of them were perfect crimes. A perfect crime, by its very nature, is never detected or even recognized as having happened.

This quickly lead to a discussion of the attributes of THE perfect crime. It would, of course, never be detected. It would be of the greatest consequence (no trivial spouse murders for us) but would never be recognized as a crime. Moreover it would be out in the open, a public action, the crime concealed only by the fact that nobody would, nobody could recognize it as being a crime. In short, it would be a nameless crime. Until an action has been named as being a crime it is not known to be a crime.

At this point I objected that there can be no nameless crimes. It is part of the nature of crime that the criminal knows that he has committed a crime. An action taken in good faith is no crime in the eyes of he who commits the action. Others may point to his actions as being criminal but in so doing they name his crime. Stibbins replied that the criminal need never say anything or write anything about the deed; as long as he never spoke of what he had done the knowledge would only be in his head. A criminal need not name his crime to himself, Stibbins said.

The conversation quickly drifted off into other channels. Stibbins wasn't giving it his full attention; I could see that he had had an idea that he was thinking about and that he wasn't ready to tell me what it was.

We lost touch after that. We saw each other now and then but we no longer had those long conversations. I heard secondhand that he had written a paper on Crime And Punishment for a philosophy class and that the professor had given Stibbins an A on the paper on the condition that Stibbins burn the paper and never take another course from him. I suppose he was testing out his ideas.

I dropped out of college shortly afterwards to become a carnival roustabout. I forgot all about Stibbins until, one day, I met him again.

He was working as a geek in the freak show. He had no hands; he couldn't write. He had no tongue; he couldn't speak. But he smiled a lot. God, what an evil smile he had.


This page was last updated September 26, 1998.
Copyright © 1998 by Richard Harter

Richard Harter's World
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September 1998
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