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Peter Mehlman

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A Brief History of Contract Murder

Posted: 06/27/11 04:34 PM ET

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the 19 murders allegedly committed by James "Whitey" Bulger is that he performed the killings himself. For many Americans and a handful of Swedes, this self-reliant brand of homicide harkens back to a simpler, more disgusting time.

Now, according to someone in government, 12 percent of all murders in the United States are committed by board-certified professional killers. Excluding unredeemed gift cards, murder-for-hire accounts for annual revenues roughly equivalent to that of the cufflinks industry and is the fastest growing of all service sector industries that cater to killing people.


 Criminology professor and world renown diabetic Dr. Heathrow Brinks concludes, "As long as people meet other people, they will eventually want them dead." With that perspective in mind, a brief look into the history of contract murder could prove useful.

The first documented case occurred when God hired Abraham to kill Isaac. Abraham worked up a reasonable estimate for the job but after Isaac published a memoire entitled, Biblical Parenting Tips, Abraham became wracked with guilt and bumped his price 15 percent. Sensing he was being rooked, God left the negotiation in a huff and invented the chest cold.


In ancient Rome, Cassius and Brutus collaborated on the prestigious job of murdering Julius Caesar. At first, the collaboration suffered a clash of styles as Cassius favored poisoning his victims while Brutus preferred boring them to death. Finally, Casca and Mercutio were brought in as consultants. Casca offered the brilliant compromise of using knives while Mercutio contributed nothing and was promptly transferred to another play.

[This is slightly off the subject but, Cassius cleared only 33 drachmas and had to lay off his entire art department.]

The Renaissance was a low point for the contract killing industry. With so much emphasis on art, funding for contract murder dried up and several colleges dropped it as a major. Even killers with strong connections inside the Medici family couldn't find work and were often forced to live off residuals from prior assassinations. 


[This is slightly off the subject but contract killer Floyd Medici, on his death bed, couldn't think of anything to say, so he moved to his regular bed and said, "I feel a draft," an expression still in use to this day. Three years later, he died from a chest cold.]

After the Renaissance, contract murder enjoyed a renaissance under Peter The Great who became Tsar of Russia at the age of 10. Upon occupying the throne, Peter offered some serfs three rubles apiece to murder Charles XII of Sweden after a disappointing play date. The job was carried out so flawlessly, Peter declared it "the feel good homicide of the year," an expression still in use today although no one says it anymore.

[This is slightly off the subject but Peter The Great grew to be nearly seven feet tall and ordered construction of St. Petersburg, a city with mandatory high ceilings in all buildings. Through a mix-up, St. Petersburg was built in Florida and by the time Peter retired, there were no units left. Ultimately, he settled in Tampa where he died of a chest cold.]



 Many feel that contract killing came of age in America with Murder Incorporated. While this claim has merit, weak revenues during its first 10 years forced Murder Inc. to spin off its Blunt Instrument Division. Then the company suffered a wave of negative publicity when its marketing chief, Gianni Zenker, strangled an elderly schoolteacher for insisting that the word "off" was not a verb. To avert financial disaster, Zenker coined the term "whacked," a fun word that restored consumer confidence. Intent on being more family-friendly, Zenker then instituted a policy of using silencers when shooting someone after 10 PM. 


The strategy was a masterstroke and Zenker went on to win the Nobel Prize for garroting. In time, rival companies introduced such innovations as discount matricide and Louis Vuitton body bags, but it is the Murder Inc. business model that still resonates in classrooms to this day.

[This is a little off the subject but there are way too many varieties of Milano cookies nowadays. Mint, orange, raspberry, double-stuffed, ... you can't even find the originals anymore.]