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DUNGEONS, DRAGONS, MURDER
by EPONYMOUS ROX
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Killing is just child’s play. A game. In fact, it’s so easy, you can plan it out on a computer, if you’re smart enough. And he is smart. A real genius, they all say: honor student, salutatorian, class vice president. So…what is that magic number then? How many times can he get away with murder?
On the outside, the quiet and withdrawn 17-year-old seemed just a harmless high school nerd, preoccupied with technology, money, computer games, and college. But on the inside he was a seething psychopath, conspiring with classmates to massacre his family so he could have a six-digit inheritance all to himself.
Meet the wily Wyley Gates, twisted mastermind of an assassin-style program called Infierno, which he used in 1986 to execute a bloodbath so heartless and gruesome it was dubbed “the crime of the century” in upstate New York.
DUNGEONS DRAGONS MURDER methodically pieces together physical evidence, autopsy findings, police accounts, trial testimonies, and even the confessions of the killer and his accomplices, to reconstruct the Gates family shootings and the other carefully orchestrated criminal acts designed to lead up to it.
Third in the Killing Killers true crime series by Eponymous Rox, this special report reveals a chilling portrait of a remorseless and deeply disturbed mass-murderer set free on a technicality to slay again. And shows why it’s possible that he has killed at least once before the massacre—and since.
true crime catalog @ https://www.amazon.com/author/eponymous
true crime catalog @ http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/eponymous-rox
P R E F A C E
P R E F A C E
Walther PPK .380 semiautomatic 'police' pistol
Chapter 1: Dead Of Winter
Maple Drive, Canaan New York
7:00 P.M. - December 13, 1986
Chapter 1: Dead Of Winter
Maple Drive, Canaan New York
7:00 P.M. - December 13, 1986
He isn’t aware of this as he’s driving away from the scene, but there’s a fresh spot of blood on the front of his down parka, a small smear of it on the inside of the coat’s breast pocket, and a few tiny droplets as well on the left pant leg of his blue jeans.
In the dim glow of the car’s dashboard, everything, including his tired trigger finger, looks clean to him though, and to celebrate finally pulling it off, more or less without a hitch, he’s wearing a new tie this evening, too. A brand new tie signifying a brand new start for him. One without a family, without hindrances.
His mood is uncharacteristically elevated, bordering on exhilaration he’d have to say, but on the exterior he’s as calm and collected as always, and, just in case, maintaining a state of hyper-vigilance. Still, despite this intense concentration on all the large and small details now, he has not spied those telltale stains on his clothing yet, because, even though he’s young, even though he’s only 17 years of age, he really doesn’t see very well. In fact, his vision is that of an old man’s and, much to his annoyance, he’s as good as blind without eyeglasses.
Glasses are a necessity but they can be a pain in the ass, he’s learned, especially in winter. When you go outside they fog up in the cold, they get moist and blurry from melting snowflakes, they refract weirdly whenever another’s headlights shine into them causing dangerously distracting halos and glare.
So he’s focusing every ounce of his attention on the winding dirt road leading away from his father’s rustic-styled home, crawling carefully down the slope to claim his hard-won freedom. Someplace in these woodlands that surround him, he’ll discreetly make a pit stop next and dump the bagful of bloody items he’s got stashed in the trunk back there. Then, for the most part, he’ll have cleared the first hurdle.
He’s eager to toss that incriminating sack as soon as possible, but he’s making sure he doesn’t drive too fast or too slow and thereby give rise to undue suspicion. He mustn’t hit anything along the way and total the borrowed automobile before he’s done using it tonight. He mustn’t slip on an invisible patch of ice, go careening off the treacherous shoulder and have to call from a neighbor’s house for an emergency tow.
Any and all of these unexpected mishaps would act like a wrench in the works, he understands. Send it all toppling around him with a terrific crash.
As expected, and to his relief, it’s not snowing tonight, and at about 12 degrees Fahrenheit the ground is solidly frozen, which is also convenient. But he’s lived in this northern region long enough to know that any time of year and in any kind of weather one has to drive cautiously on Maple Drive. As with the entire network of dirt roads in this one-horse town, it’s a classic backwoods affair, unpaved and rocky, and all manner of wildlife own it.
In spring, it’s the jittery does and their wide-eyed fawns to be constantly on guard for, as, without warning, they leap back and forth, devouring the new greens sprouting around the ditches. In the summertime, it’s bumbling wild turkey and their oblivious broods crisscrossing haphazardly in order to pluck at the brambles and flowering sumac shooting up along the roadsides in dense groves.
And in autumn or in winter, one could encounter just about anything running around in the darkness, usually quite large. Deer, packs of coyote, big cats, even prowling bears are relatively common.
Common. This is what it boils down to in his mind, what life in this banal environment really represents for him. It’s a joke, is what it is. A cruel, sick joke that someone of his caliber should be, or should have been, so hopelessly stranded here in redneck land. Born to common truckers and hunters and lumberjacks and mechanics.
Car coming up around the bend—idiot neighbors—take a left then—left onto Goetz Road—how he hates this stupid place and every stupid creature in it. How he hates the worthless scum he’s always meeting up with.
But at last he has competently addressed these injustices he’s been so burdened with, finally had the best day of his whole goddamned life. He squints hard again, holding off that sense of accomplishment welling up from deep inside, postponing a creeping joy which is so completely foreign to him, and peers instead as far as the car’s high-beams will allow into the illuminated abyss. This is the final stretch, he reminds himself, which must now be flawlessly navigated.
Just a stone’s throw from the Massachusetts border, both Maple Drive and Goetz Road come out onto Frisbee Street, and this junction runs parallel to and almost kisses Interstate-90, at the place where it becomes the Massachusetts Turnpike. If this young man was truly a smart lad, as smart as everybody claims he is, as smart as he believes himself to be, he’d probably scratch his next course of action, take that superhighway right this very minute and get the hell out of town.
Before anybody finds the bodies.
He’s got a great big, multipronged scheme, however, and to him it makes a lot of sense, so he’s sticking to it. He’s not going anywhere but the movies tonight. There’s a new Clint Eastwood film playing at the old Crandell Theatre in the neighboring village of Chatham, some seven miles away, and he and his number one cohort are going to go see it.
Or, better put, be seen seeing it, together.
He’s worked out any possible snafus to everything well in advance via a computer game program he specially designed called “Infierno”, and so far, albeit he is running much later than anticipated, everything’s basically going to plan. He’s braking gently for the traffic sign looming up ahead, and preparing to take a left onto Frisbee Street. Then, once on Frisbee, he has only to travel three more miles and hang another left to climb up Schillings Crossing Road to complete phase one of the operation.
Up there, at the very crest of its hill, is where he’ll pull off, park, and unload his extra baggage.
By December, gravelly Schillings Crossing is rarely ever used save for the hardy few who live there year round, particularly on this less-peopled side of it, because the snows can quickly make the steep route impassable. But his luck is going strong this month and there has been no precipitation for days in a row. Moreover, his scouts have double checked the terrain for him already and they’ve reported unfettered access from beginning to end.
It was the least they could do to assist today, he thinks with a sudden sneer. Cowards and blowhards they each proved to be in the eleventh hour.
Like any conscientious, law abiding citizen would do, he has brought the car to a full stop at Goetz and Frisbee and, looking east and then west, is cautiously preparing to make a left turn, hitting the blinker switch sharply with his thumb and only then realizing he’s got a cut on it.
Shit, he mutters low, his breath suddenly billowing into the car’s icy cold compartment like a dragon’s.
He cruises into the middle of the intersection, hastily feeling of the torn flesh on his thumb, and licks at the tender spot as if to make it disappear.
“Shit,” he says again, much louder this time, but, nevertheless, still properly maneuvers the vehicle into the right lane and accelerates to forty miles per hour.
Recoil from the handgun.
He knows without a doubt that this is what caused the minor injury because the same thing happened to him last week out at Bailey’s old farm, when he and his crew were secretly target practicing with it.
He should’ve been more mindful of that incident this evening, he scolds himself. Worn a thicker pair of gloves for protection.
But it’s just a superficial nick in the flesh. A small, angry-looking gouge and nothing major. Certainly not like getting your face blown off! He’ll have to thoroughly wash the spot, that’s all, and then disguise it with a bandage. Before they head for the cinema.
Getting a bruising was not part of the bargain, of course, but Infierno is nonetheless a masterpiece, in his humble opinion, and computers themselves an amazing new technology he can’t, and never will, get enough of. He is completely addicted to computers, he acknowledges. Spends nearly every waking moment on one it seems. Sometimes becoming so absorbed with the images and text on his screen that he forgets to eat or sleep.
There are actually three brilliant facets to this next particular stage of Infierno, he congratulates himself, rolling over the details once more in his mind with a lopsided smirk forming on his lips:
One, he’s establishing an airtight alibi tonight. Two, he’s dropping off the murder weapon. Three, he’s setting up the fall guys, even if those two morons had both backed out at the very last minute. Then, after all hell breaks loose, he can just sit back and relax for awhile, as he waits for a nice fat check to arrive and begins living a real life.
As to the hillbilly cops, his grandmother down the road, his schoolmates, his teachers…none of that is going to be a problem either, he’s already long ago decided. After all, his record is spotless, absolutely impeccable. He’s never gotten caught for anything and he’s at the head of his class, just one slot short of being the top ranked student at Chatham High.
Besides, when it really comes down to it, when compared with his own intellectual powers and prowess, they’re just a bunch of imbeciles anyway, every last one of them, those second-rate instructors included.
On the opposite end of Schillings Crossing the road widens considerably in order to accommodate a creek bed and the railroad tracks which both cleanly slice through it. Here, just past the bridge that spans these two landmarks, the road meets up with highway 295. A sharp right turn and another few yards from this exit, on the left, is the entrance to yet another dirt road called Colane. There, in a tree-sheltered house located further up, he knows an excited co-conspirator is presently pacing, awaiting his arrival with bated breath.
He pulls into the driveway and shuts the headlights off, walks toward to the house with his head down.
“You’re late,” the boy informs him, locking the front door behind them once he steps inside. “It’s past seven already. My aunt called a little while ago. Should be here any minute, I think. Where’s Miles—what the hell happened?”
“A slight snag,” he replies to his shaky host, unmoved by the boy’s anxieties. “Miles backed out of it. Said his mother wouldn’t loan him the car tonight. Here’s your ‘little toy’ again. It jammed on me, by the way. Do you have a band-aid?”
His friend takes the holster he’s just been handed, draws the small pistol out of it. But, despite that he’s held the Walther .380 semiautomatic on a number of other occasions, this time he balks at the feel of it. It’s warm to the touch, and there’s a splash of blood on the barrel, some on the grip as well. “What?” he says, seeming perplexed.
“It jammed and I cut my thumb on it again. I need a band-aid.”
“You did it then…?”
“I did it, Damian. They’re dead.”
“Ah…you did…well…I had a feeling Miles was going to reneg on you. Try the bathroom cabinet. I think I saw a new box in there.”
Alone in the bathroom, he gently scrubs the gun wound clean and dries it with a towel, pasting a band-aid gingerly across it and, one by one, inspecting his nails. He is spotless, he ascertains, examining his stone face in the mirror and seeing nothing out of the ordinary with it, either. No blood spatters, no scratches, the same eyes as always placidly staring back at him. In fact, if anything, it’s that cream white tie, devoid of any patterns, and the pastel striped, button-down shirt he’s wearing beneath his parka, that strike him as odd-looking. The outfit seeming a bit mismatched and maybe too prim, for some reason.
He folds the hand towel and returns it, perfect, on its rack.
Entering Damian’s room with a perfunctory, “OK, all set,” he finds the gun has already been secreted into its hiding place once more, and Damian has produced what little remains of the bottle of liquor they stole nine days ago from the log cabin. He’s offering a quick swig of it before they depart, in a slightly shaky voice suggesting they should both share a toast.
“I can’t believe you did it,” the boy croons, his eyes burning brightly with a mixture of lurid curiosity and awe. “Come on, have a sip, Wyley. We must commemorate this auspicious occasion. We have to.”
At the sound of his own name, admittedly strange even to him, and the first he’s heard it spoken perhaps in hours, he eyes his pale pal, coolly contemplating the almost empty bottle in his outstretched hand and the boy’s palpable nervousness.
It’s his father’s booze, which he feels is unnecessary to point out, and “no” he doesn’t want any of it, not now or ever. “Can’t risk that tonight,” he answers matter-of-factly, thinking of the trooper who typically lurks in the shadows on 295 near East Chatham, setting a speed trap for the unsuspecting. “We better just leave. Miles says he’ll get a friend to drive him there so he can vouch for us, if it ever comes to that. We can’t be each other’s only alibi, remember?”
No, indeed, they cannot. Damian shrugs and takes one quick gulp for the road, grinning incorrigibly as he whisks the liquor bottle into its secret spot too, and grabs a heavy coat from the closet. “Are you all right?” he asks, hurriedly buttoning up and glancing at his wristwatch. “You’re going to tell me all about it on the way, right Mr. Gates?”
“Of course,” Wyley Gates answers without hesitation, softening his voice a notch at the show of respect he’s just been given, and trying to mask his impatience and a feeling of superiority he can’t help but to have tonight, knowing he’s at last won their diehard competition and can never, ever be outdone.
Yes, yes, he’ll happily tell his friend all about it, exercise his bragging rights. Except he isn’t going to mention the woman because, frankly, she’d never been preapproved as one of the targets. That part has to be omitted then, and the part about the bitch not dying automatically, about the fierce struggle she put up to remain among the living. And, of course, he’ll also have to omit any reference to a whimpering young cousin. That one too had not been discussed.
“Of course, Mr. Rossney. It will be my pleasure to brief you.”
And, with that, Damian appears to be his swaggering self once more, locking eyes and horns with him as he usually does. “And now I’m three-thousand dollars richer too, aren’t I?” he spars, meaningfully rubbing his fingers together.
“Yeah. Three-thousand dollars richer when I am. You’ll be wanting me to sign that check in blood, I presume?”
Damian pauses to pretend he is reflecting on the unseemly image this brings to mind. “That would be cool,” he replies, feigning to shudder in horror at the thought of it. “But you know me, Wyley. I only accept cash.”
In fact, Wyley knows he is only half kidding about this, the two of them sharing no greater love nor ambition than for money. Real money, that you can hold in your hand and sniff, fill every one of your pockets with. In this unbridled pursuit they are Gemini; he is inclined to think, and he doesn’t know how he’d ever survived so many years without his twin. He understands as well, that he couldn’t have gotten this far without him. Damian was his connection to everything he needed to get the job done this evening. Damian was the middleman.
This conniving youth, with a hidden trove of firearms and stolen loot and survivalist guides and torture books, is a transplant to the bucolic hills and vales of Columbia County. One year his junior, Damian is originally from downstate New York, exiled to the boring countryside by parents at their wits end, desperately trying to keep their son out of trouble and hoping that mingling with the hicks would cure the juvenile delinquent, prevent him from straying too much farther than he had and ending up a hardened criminal someday, incarcerated.
It’s all pretty much lost on their wayward son, though, because, unfortunately, he isn’t that intuitive or intellectual. Discounting his exceptionally high IQ and a genuine knack for being underhanded and devious, insipid is probably the word that might describe him best, as demonstrated by that phony, vacuous smile always plastered to his face.
And his uncle, a trained clinical psychologist, he’s got to be a delusional nitwit too, if he truly believes he’s playing a role in the boy’s rehabilitation. Damian is intrinsically and incurably criminal; that’s what makes him so likable.
This modest house on Colane Road belongs to Damian’s aunt and uncle, and, from their ideal location, if you hike across Route 295 and head in a southwesterly direction, you can actually walk unnoticed through the woods to the Gates’ secluded home on Maple Drive, if you wanted to. For the fleet of foot and familiar, it probably wouldn’t take much more than fifteen or twenty minutes.
In light of that convenience and the teen’s rather mercenary nature, he’d previously offered the kid a contract to do the killing for him. But the greedy ingrate required a small fortune for performing the service, he’d glibly announced: 25% of the six-digit inheritance Wyley could expect to receive once his father and brother had met their demise.
Alternately, Damian was more than willing to “only” charge a “mere” fee of three-thousand dollars for the use of the prized semiautomatic, now permanently part of his collection, should Wyley decide he wanted to do the shootings himself. An obscenely high figure when taking into account who the gun originally belonged to.
Three-thousand dollars or 25% was annoying beyond words—you could hire a professional hit man for a fraction of that. Still, there isn’t much point in quibbling about it at this moment when the deed itself, in its entire scope, hasn’t been completely realized yet, and while the clock, for Wyley anyway, is still ticking.
They can always chat about the money tomorrow.
“I left the car running, Damian. Let’s get out of here.”
"If assassination is being attempted by or on behalf of a player-character, a complete plan of how the deed is to be done should be prepared by the player involved, and the precautions, if any, of the target character should be compared against the plan." 1986 play rules for ‘Dungeons & Dragons’
"It was a consensus of the kids from school that if plans were made, they were made on computers," Columbia County investigators in 1986, addressing rumors that the Gates family massacre had been preplanned in a ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ game-style computer program designed by Gates and some classmates
''Wyley is an extremely quiet individual. He spent most of his time working with computers…he spent a great deal of time with the computer." Howard Hatch, Wyley Gates’ uncle
"He was playing the game like a CIA agent. Money was part of the game, but the real payoff was just playing the game, the thrill of it. Wyley was into thrills and taking risks." Anonymous school source, commenting on the massacre and related crime spree that led up to it
Chapter 2: Begin 'Infierno' [excerpt]
‘It’ speaks to him sometimes, and sometimes he has to tell ‘It’ to be quiet.
On December 13th 1986, ‘It’ had, in fact, been incessantly nagging Wyley, beginning with the moment the appointed driver of the designated getaway car called him at his father’s repair shop, where he worked on the weekends, and said he needed to cancel. A wary parent would not lend the vehicle in question, Miles had regretfully explained. So he was begging out of Infierno.
“Abort mission,” the voice had advised Wyley after he hung up the phone on his skittish collaborator. But, instead, because he was so high on the prospect, his unprecedented happiness mounting with every passing hour, he wouldn’t hear of it. He’d simply have to switch to the much lesser rehearsed option, he reasoned: borrowing his father’s car for the night, or that of his father’s live-in girlfriend of nine years, Cheryl Brahm.
Cheryl had had some difficulties with her car in the morning. Actually, as she was running her errands, it had stalled out on her in the center of town and wouldn’t restart again. But the Gates men, Robert Sr. and Robert Jr., had promptly towed it to the shop and tinkered with it on and off all day. By afternoon, Wyley had even test-driven it for Cheryl before she picked it up, so he knew for certain the car was operating smoothly.
A dependable mode of transportation to and from the potential crime scene was an absolute must have, and between the two of them, Cheryl or his father, she was usually the most sympathetic to Wyley’s needs and wants. Indeed, it had been Cheryl herself who’d taught him how to drive in the first place, who’d done whatever she could to help him get his driver’s license—so, just as he was hoping, and just as he’d expected, she didn’t have an issue with loaning him her car, she said. No problem at all, Cheryl assured him, driving away with it that day from the garage. Just as long as he was careful and came home before midnight.
“Okay,” he answered, a quick, crooked smile coming to his lips. “I promise I’ll drive carefully.”
Later in the evening, after he’d eaten the spaghetti dinner she prepared for the family, after he’d washed the work grime off and put on a clean set of clothes to go see a movie, after he’d left the log cabin to park the borrowed car up the road and stealthily backtracked to the house again on foot, Wyley would thank Cheryl Brahm for her generosity, and for the woman’s many other acts of kindness as well, by slapping her in the face with his father’s stolen gun, and killing her last...