New York City, 1968
Without a contract, the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association went on a strike in February. It lasted nine days, but the five boroughs looked like a war zone afterward.
The citywide work stoppage meant no one picked up the city’s tons of garbage. Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx, and Staten Island were all awash in trash for over a week.
The stench was indescribable. People were forced to walk in the debris and filth. There was probably only one person in the entire city who was happy about the stinky chaos; Luke Johnson.
Luke lived wherever he felt like. In an alley, or on a park bench. If the weather was really bad, in a pay-per day motel. But Luke wasn’t poor. He actually had a fair amount of money building up in his mother’s checking account.
Between his Social Security disability check and VA disability check, he made $4,038 a month. Tax free. His mother was his payee and his checks were automatically deposited in her account.
When he wanted money he’d go to her house in Staten Island. She lived alone since his father died five years ago. Not quite alone, she had two pugs and a very large cat.
Luke’s favorite pastime was murdering people.
Despite his mental challenges and numerous paranoid fantasies, he was clever as an animal in the wild. He set things up – like someone accidentally falling down steep stairs – where it looked like their death was an accident.
He killed for the thrill of it. The adrenaline surge was addicting. He was also creative.
When the garbage strike started he saw new possibilities. People were desperate to get rid of their trash after day one. Luke took his 1959 Ford pickup, which he usually kept in storage, and went around offering to haul people’s trash.
He wasn’t thinking about the money, however, he was thinking about the opportunities this little game offered. By the third day he had people hailing him down and begging him to take their trash.
One woman invited him inside her apartment to gather up some large trash bags. He made short work of her. The look of terror in her eyes when he pulled out his K-bar knife gave him the thrill he was seeking.
She wasn’t a very big woman. He wrapped her up in a sleeping bag and carried her like a rug out to his truck. No one paid attention as he threw more bags of trash on the sleeping bag until the bed was full.
He went to the landfill and had to wait for two hours before he got to dump his load. On his way back to the garage where he stored the truck a tune kept going through his head…
He made three kills the fourth day, disposing of each body in the same way. Two women and one man in a wheelchair. The fifth day he picked off three more victims. He was starting to have headaches from the adrenaline overload and took a break for three days.
When the ninth day arrived he heard the rumors. The union was getting what it wanted, livable wages and benefits. The sanitation workers were going back to work. But the access he had to people’s homes had inspired him.
He knew he couldn’t hold down a job, but it wouldn’t be hard to get a pair of sanitation work overalls.
Maybe have Supervisor in red letters written on the top pocket. The possibilities were endless.
“The Trashman cometh…” he crooned, as he looked for a park bench to sleep on.
As It Stands, never underestimate someone you don’t know. We are all capable of pure evil.