Maniacal Max

by Solomon Tate

 

Maximilian J. Botswager, who had been called Max since he was a 3 year old running around the family farm near Shanty Bay, Ontario, sat cuffed and shackled, as the case against him began to unfold. Witness after witness testified, and with each account, a collective gasp rose from the observers eager to see justice served. After 2 days of his trial, Max stopped listening to the testimony. It was all bullshit to him. He had proclaimed his innocence since his arrest, and offered alibis, however erroneous, in an attempt to prove that he was falsely accused, but Max was out of his fucking mind.

In the summer of 1982,  when I was working as a freelance writer for an upstart, left wing socio-political magazine, men and women began disappearing from communities near the sleepy, little town. The Police investigation had few clues, no bodies, and no leads.  Curfews were put in place but even this seemed to have no effect, and by the end of summer 1984, 9 people had gone missing, leaving towns from Barrie to Orillia in disheartening fear. The usually sparsely attended churches were filled to capacity on Sunday mornings, as people reignited their hope that a superior being would keep them safe. And every Sunday, following church, many of the parishioners would attend Baskin Robbins, for a scoop or two of Raspberry Ripple or Tiger Tail ice cream.

Shanty Bay was an innocuous little town, nestled on the shore of Lake Simcoe, where everybody knew everybody else. It had been a haven during the Underground Railroad, and many  fleeing slavery south of the border, settled there. It was quaint, and quiet and peaceful. In August of 1985, all of that changed. A young couple on their way to Gravenhurst to attend a friend’s wedding, passed through the town and after stopping at the Baskin Robbins, disappeared. The couple never arrived at the wedding, and when friends were unable to reach them for several days, the Police were notified. Investigators moved fast, back tracking the couple’s movements using credit card receipts, and witness accounts of their metallic dark blue Ford Thunderbird. Pictures of the couple appeared in newspapers and on local newscasts across South-Central Ontario. The town was overrun by reporters, investigators and curiosity seekers as the hunt for the missing couple continued. The police, who had questioned everyone living or working in Shanty Bay, had brought in the canine unit to search the wooded areas near the town, while the marine unit divers searched the lake.

With all of the people roaming around the area, business was booming for the shop owners. There was  a constant and steady stream of patrons intent on shoving frozen dairy products in their faces in an ultimately futile attempt to obtain some relief from the oppressive summer heat visiting Baskin Robbins. Business was so good, that Max had called in several of his employees to help out. I was in the Baskin Robbins when one of the young girls went to the back of the store to retrieve some Burgundy Cherry ice cream for one of the police officers. Shortly after she disappeared, a blood curdling scream resonated from the back of the store. The officer raced to her side, and shortly after brought the trembling and crying girl back into the store front, with his arms around her. He called for back up, and evacuated the customers from the store, leaving me without my 2 scoop, sugar cone of Rocky Road, and Max at the cash.

Upon opening the storage freezer in the back of the Baskin Robbins, the young girl had inadvertently uncovered body parts. Human body parts. The Police statement to the press indicated that there were numerous bodies that had been cut into pieces and stored in the store’s freezers. The Police suspected that all of the people who had been missing from the area, eleven in total, were more than likely within the freezers that housed my Rocky Road. Max was taken into custody for questioning, and subsequently charged with 11 counts of 1st degree murder, 11 counts of indignity to a human body, and several charges under the health code for storing body parts next to the ice cream.

A psychiatric evaluation was ordered, although it was obvious as fuck that Max was deranged, and while he was found to be a sociopath, displaying Antisocial Personality Disorder, he was quite capable of knowing right from wrong, and by virtue that he had hidden the body parts, he was in fact fully cognizant of what he had done. Max denied any involvement in this, and at his bail hearing, the case was held over pending the arrival of the big city lawyer he had retained. The entire region was shocked. They had known Max for most of their lives, and he had always been polite, kind, and seemingly happy. At the same time, they were relieved at the prospect that the guilty party was incarcerated. The grizzly details of the story filled newspapers and newscasts across the country. People from all over the region would attempt to drive up to the town and catch a glimpse of the store at the centre of it all, only to find the area around the Baskin Robbins was blocked off by police. Just before the trial was set to begin, lab results arrived, indicating that almost all of the ice cream in the store had human elements in them. According to the Crown Attorney, after killing and mutilating the bodies, Max would grind the body parts up in a wood chipper, and mix them in with the ice cream for sale to the general public. His plan, it seems, was to have his customers eat the evidence. Again, Max refuted the theory, and continued to profess his innocence.

The trial lasted just under 3 weeks, with a barrage of evidence, witnesses, and the metallic, dark blue Ford Thunderbird found at the bottom of the lake near Beaverton. The defense contended that all of the evidence was circumstantial, and the witness accounts had been tainted by the incessant media coverage of the investigation, and Max’s arrest. Objections were overruled and sustained, and following instructions from the Judge, the jury was sequestered to deliberate and reach a verdict. The entire community was disgusted, not just by what Max had done, but the odds were pretty high that if you ate ice cream from the Baskin Robbins in Shanty Bay, you had also eaten someone. Unless you ordered Vanilla. It seems, based on lab results, that only the Vanilla Ice Cream was free of human elements.

The jury deliberated for less than 1 hour, and returned a verdict of guilty of all charges. Max was sentenced to life, and was transfered to the Prison for the Criminally Insane in Penetanguishene. He served 12 years of his sentenced, and died while asleep in his cell in 1998 of a brain aneurysm. The Baskin Robbins store he managed for years is no longer in Shanty Bay, having been replaced by a Starbucks. All of the victims, once identified, were buried by their respective families, and immortalized in a small plaque near the site of their demise. Weeks after the trial, Shanty Bay was once again an innocuous little town, nestled on the shore of Lake Simcoe where everybody knew everybody else. To this day, there is no ice cream parlor in town.

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The Man Who Lived Upstairs

There was something weird about the man who lived upstairs. Day and night he was at it. The sound of power tools, from drills to circular saws, axes to hammers, led us to believe he was up to something. Quite likely, something sinister.

We had never seen him, and so we had been forced to speculate just what he might be doing up there in the dead of night. All of the most plausible suggestions were rejected by the expert panel of demented daring do that I live with.

2adc44b206391da1cf4fb13163b94500The silence of the peaceful night was shattered by an electric saw, working tirelessly to cut through something seemingly uncuttable. This was followed by a power drill, and then a hand saw. After a few moments of silence there came the sound of an axe,  crushing through something not meant to be axed, and then hammering. It would go on for hours. We would sit and listen. “You should go up there and see what he’s doing”., my wife said “And tell him to stop.”

“You understand he has weapons of slash destruction.”, I replied.

My daughter was convinced that he was some sort of serial killer, torturing the poor souls he regularly abducted. Another daughter suggested that we simply go up and ask.  It didn’t matter to me. He had, at his disposal saws and axes, and there was no way that I planned to knock on his door and find out what he was doing up there.

My daughter revealed that she has heard weird noises coming from upstairs. Not just the power tools, but moaning and other strange sounds. My wife decided that we must do something, She called building security. “Let them go see what he’s doing up there.”

45 minutes later, the noises were still ringing out. “I don’t know why security hasn’t been up there yet?”, she muttered.

affe2d949928ebaecb1758b52e16ff47-d4we8ks“Perhaps they did go”, I offered

“I’m calling security again”, she replied..

The news from security was not what she expected. A guard did attend the unit. They will dispatch another guard.

There was a silent, but visible “Oh hell” frozen on everyone’s face. “He killed the security guy”, my daughter mumbled. “Probably cut him up in little pieces”.

“I can’t take it anymore.”, my wife said, “it goes on all night”.

We had all agreed that something horrific was going on upstairs. We had to find out. The next day my wife called the property manager and described the situation. As luck would have it, while on the phone with property management, the sawing and drilling began, and was clearly heard by the property manager. He promised to investigate at once.

“If this doesn’t stop”, my wife stated, “we’re moving. I can’t live like this!”

Several days passed, and we heard nothing from property management. “Doesn’t anybody care that there’s a lunatic living up there?”. my wife queried.

download-1“I will go up and see.”, I told her. Putting on my brave face, and grabbing a baseball bat, I bid farewell to my family, and headed out. I stood before the door that might have hidden secrets of the criminally insane. I could hear the whirr of a chain saw as I knocked.  There was no response, so I knocked again. I had my bat on my shoulder, ready to swing. The sawing stopped. From behind the door, a voice called out. It was hard, and gruff, cold, as if devoid of all feeling. “Who is it?” I wasn’t about to tell him. I really had no idea what to say.

I returned home several minutes later. “So”, my wife spoke out, “What did you find out?”

I sat down on the couch, and presented my wife with a hammer. “I found out that I could borrow the hammer for a few days.” I  took a deep breath. “I have no intention of taking it back. We may as well start packing now.”

By the end of the week, the sounds had stopped, No sawing, no drilling, and no chopping. It was eerily quiet. The police had been around a few days after I borrowed the hammer, and the noises stopped.

“They probably arrested him”, a daughter said. “for murder or something.”

“Maybe he just moved.”, I suggested.

“Yeah. To prison.”, she added.

“You know,” another daughter chimed in, “there might be blood or something on that hammer. I wonder if the police will come looking for it, or for you.”

We never did find out what the man who lived upstairs was doing, but I got a pretty nice hammer out of that experience.