The Red Bullet Point Death Threat
I received an email this morning [at time of posting: May 27, 2008] that I’ve reproduced – in all its un-spellchecked glory – below:
from Red Bullet Point
date Tue, May 27, 2008 at 4:09 AM
subject SOMEONE YOU CALL YOUR FRIEND, WANTS YOU DEAD.SOMEONE YOU CALL YOUR FRIEND, WANTS YOU DEAD.
I felt very sorry and bad for you, that your life is going to end like this if you don’t comply, i was paid to eliminate you and I have to do it within 10 days. Someone you call your friend wants you dead by all means, and the person have spent a lot of money on this, the person also came to us and told us that he wants you dead and he provided us your names, photograph and other necessary information we needed about you.
If you are in doubt with this I will send you your name and where you are residing in my next mail. Meanwhile, I have sent my boys to track you down and they have carried out the necessary investigation needed for the operation, but I ordered them to stop for a while and not to strike immediately because I just felt something good and sympathetic about you. I decided to contact you first and know why somebody will want you dead by all means. Right now my men are monitoring you, their eyes are on you, and even the place you think is safer for you to hide might not be. Now do you want to LIVE OR DIE? It is up to you. Get back to me now if you are ready to enter deal with me, I mean life trade, who knows, and I might just spear your life, $12,000 is all you need to spend.
You will first of all pay $4,000 then I will send the tape of the person that want you dead to you and when the tape gets to you, you will pay the remaining $8,000. If you are not ready for my help, then I will have no choice but to carry on the assignment after all I have already being paid before now. Warning: Do not think of contacting the police or even tell anyone because I will extend it to any member of your family since you are aware that somebody want you dead, and the person knows some members of your family as well. For your own good I will advise you not to go out once is 7pm until I make out time to see you and give you the tape of my discussion with the person who wantyou dead then you can use it to take any legal action.
Good luck as I await your reply to this e-mail contact: [email protected]
Dear Mr. Benito –
While I am naturally excited to receive my first official death threat, along with its implicit validation of my influence on others, and am loath to begin a correspondence with anyone as concerned about my well-being as you on a negative note, I am compelled to observe that your missive is suboptimal in several respects. I do hope you will accept this criticism in the constructive spirit in which it is offered, especially since it can lead us to a mutually beneficial outcome.
Although I am not well-versed in the assassination-shakedown biz, I do take pride in my use of the written word to communicate effectively. I think you’ll find that careful spelling, adherence to grammatical standards, and skillful use of rhetorical devices will result in an altogether more intimidating message. After all, if the intended victim believes you cannot execute a properly composed email, how is that marked man to believe you can properly execute him?
As a matter of style, the use of all caps (e.g., “LIVE OR DIE” and “SOMEONE YOU CALL YOUR FRIEND, WANTS YOU DEAD”) is considered, at best, the kind of affectation only a novice emailer would employ. Some may even consider this tactic rude. In any case, your communique’s dramatic tension lies not in its typography but in its content (i.e., life and death); shouting them, as it were, only undercuts the impact.
By the way, perhaps I’ve been too influenced by TV and movies, but $12,000 seems an embarrassingly small payoff. My thriftiness notwithstanding, I confess to feeling a tad disappointed that my life is worth less than the price of a used Mazda.
If you are asking $12,000 from me to prevent my death, it seems likely that the payment being offered by my persecutor is in the same range. As a businessman, I’m amazed you can pay for your own time, let alone hire employees (I assume “my boys” are employees, although I suppose they could be subcontractors), if your potential gross is only $12,000.
The other aspect of the money issue derives from your salutation beginning “SOMEONE YOU CALL YOUR FRIEND.” I call precious few individuals “friend,” and none of them is likely to have an extra $12,000 to throw away just to see me dead. Duke of Derm, for example, is paying off his daughter’s wedding, and Lord of Leisure is a retired teacher, for goodness sake. My other friends are in similar straits.
Perhaps you have been misled about the “FRIEND” thing. If, perchance, your contract is with one or both of my children, it is my sad duty as their father to warn you that both are notoriously poor money managers. You should certainly get your cash up front. In any case, don’t fall for the “I’ll pay you once I collect the inheritance” ploy. For one thing, the dispersal of any portion of the $111.73 each stands to collect at my demise requires the approval of 18 trustees. For another, both of my sons have repeatedly reneged on similar arrangements (e.g., “I’ll pay you back tomorrow after I get my check from work”) with me.
And if it’s one of my exes who has hired you, well, you might be in over your head.
I would also advise against disclosing the explicit terms of the threat in your extortion notes. Rather than set up the 10 day countdown, for example, you might do well to keep it ambiguous, as in “You won’t know when, you won’t know where, but I will find you and kill you. It might be tomorrow in your own home, it might be a year from now when you’re relaxing on vacation, … but I’m going to get you – because that’s my job and I’m good at my job.” See, isn’t that recognizably more coldblooded as well as more frightening and worrisome? And, it offers the extra benefit of flexibility if you and your boys are handling more than one assignment at a time.
In addition, I must point out that your insouciantly equivocal offer of “who knows, [for $12,000] I might just spear your life,” even without the confusing, tragicomic misspelling, is likely to be counterproductive. If you know anything about me at all, you’ll know that I’m not putting out $12,000 (incidentally, can you take a credit card? I get a rebate on my Chase card and that would cut my expenses on this deal) on the chance that you “might just spear [my] life.” I’ll need more affirmative language in that clause and some kind of warranty. (My accountant suggests that, rather than a lump sum payoff, payments be spread over a three year period which would give me some guarantee that the no-death contract would be honored as well as define an amortization schedule for tax purposes.)
It’s a tiny point, and it might again be the influence of too much TV on my part, but your language and cadences makes the email I received sound like something – and I apologize for the implicit insult – a spammer would send. I would assume that your genuine hit man employs a discernibly criminal argot. Instead of “$12,000,” one might, for example, use the notation, “12 large.” And using a vocabulary that conjures up violent imagery (rather than variations of the passive “your life is going to end” as your note does) could be effective in some cases. Even your “Red Bullet Point” corporate name calls to mind PowerPoint slides rather than guns, and, while one could argue that the former can indeed be deadly, in this context, one would best eschew the metaphorical sphere, opting instead for clear, concrete terminology. In this regard, I recommend reading or watching a couple of David Mamet dramas, paying special attention to the dialog.
Finally, it may be a strategic error to pose to your subjects the existential query of choosing to live or die. That is a decision many of us already approach daily with considerable ambivalence. Tapping into that angst with your message will, at best, delay the response and may even lead to awkward situations in which the so-called victim demands you carry out the threat, relieving him or her of the responsibility, rendering you, in effect, a less sophisticated stand-in for Dr Kevorkian.
I do go on, don’t I? There are many more improvements of this sort I would suggest, but since I only have 10 days to live, I know you will understand if I don’t go into detail. On the other hand, if you are interested, I could put together a comprehensive tutorial for a reasonable fee, which would include the $12,000 payoff you are requesting. In fact, if you can refer a few colleagues in your trade who are interested in such lessons, I am willing to discount my price.
I know this is a lot for you to digest so I’ll end here and give you a chance to respond. We can take up the discussion at this point after you’ve had a chance to ponder all this.
Let me know what you think.
PS As I noted, I’m new to the threat-by-email game, but I’m guessing that your name is a pseudonym. If that is the case, I believe you’ll find that the Russian Mob has superseded the Italian Mafia as the most intimidating demographic. Next time, rather than “Anthonio Benito” you might want to try something along the lines of “Ivan Keripaska” or “Oleg Belkov.” This is not a make or break issue, but in negotiations one needs every edge possible.
Update: Coming Soon – The Feds contact me about Anthonio’s letter (no kidding) and I send Mr Benito a second message.
Note: Originally posted May 27, 2008 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of AllanShowalter.com