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The Iceman (Excerpt)
By Philip Carlo
January, 2007, 16:10

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ichard Kuklinski was first drawn to the sprawling woods of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, because of their peace and tranquillity, solitude and fresh air. The woods reminded Richard of church, one of the few places in his life where he found solace and comfort and could think without distraction. Like a church, the woods were peaceful, quiet, and serene.

The woods of Bucks County were also a good place to get rid of bodies. By profession Richard was a contract killer, and the disposal of bodies was always a concern. Sometimes it was okay to leave the victims where they dropped, in alleys, parking lots, and garages. Other times they had to disappear. That was specifically requested. One time Richard left a victim in an ice-cold well for nearly two years—preserving the corpse—purposely seeking to confuse the authorities as to the accurate time of death, thus earning his eventual moniker: "Ice Man."

Richard was careful never to leave two bodies close to each other here in the woods, lest the authorities become suspicious and stake out a given area. His business was the business of murder and he was particularly adept at it. He had honed killing to a kind of fine art form. No job was too difficult. He successfully carried out every contract he'd ever been given. He prided himself on that. In the netherworld of murder, Richard Kuklinski was a much sought after specialist—a homicide superstar.

Richard was unique in that he filled murder contracts for all five New York crime families, as well as the two New Jersey mob families, the Pontis and the notorious De Cavalcantes.

It was now mid-August of 1972 and the woods were thick with lush green vegetation. As Richard moved in the quiet shade of elm, maple, pine, and tall, elegant poplar trees, he carried a double-barrel Browning shotgun with fancy engraving on the stock. The weapon, in Richard's enormous hands, seemed like a child's toy.

Richard very much enjoyed this kind of cat-and-mouse game he had invented, sneaking up on unsuspecting animals and shooting them before they knew he was there. Richard was a very large man, six foot five in his stocking feet and 290 pounds of solid muscle, yet he had an uncanny ability to move silently and with great stealth, suddenly just being there, and like this Richard managed to shoot unsuspecting squirrels, woodchucks, skunks, and deer, which was all practice for the thing that Richard excelled at, his one true passion in life: stalking, hunting, and killing human beings.

I don't particularly enjoy the killing, you know; I enjoy the stalk, the planning, and the hunt much more, Richard explained.

On one of these "practice outings" in Bucks County, Richard spotted it: a large rodentlike animal standing next to a thick oak tree. Thinking it was a woodchuck, he snuck up on the creature. All was quiet and still except for the rustling of leaves in a gentle breeze. Moving on just the balls of his size fourteen feet, using trees and shrubbery to get close enough for a clean shot—it was important to Richard that he kill with the first round—he managed to outflank the animal by staying upwind. When in good position, he took aim and fired.

He hit the animal but it was still alive, its rear legs futilely kicking the warm August air. As Richard drew closer, he realized it was actually a huge brown rat— Rattus norvegicus—and it was snarling at him, baring its two large incisor teeth. Tough guy, Richard thought.

Richard did not particularly want to cause the creature to suffer, and, admiring its moxie, he quickly killed it. As Richard began to walk away, he noticed a cave behind a thick mulberry bush at the foot of a steep granite slope dotted with kelly green moss.

Always curious, Richard made his way to the cave and went inside. He immediately smelled them—rats—and saw their droppings, but could see no rats. The cave went deep into the rise of granite and became too dark to see. Richard had a small penlight and used it. No rats anywhere, but he sensed them; he could smell them. Beside being endowed with nearly superhuman strength, Richard had amazingly strong senses of smell and hearing. His senses were like those of a predatory animal—a creature that regularly hunts for meat to survive.

He left the cave and slowly made his way back to his car, thinking about the huge brown rat, a diabolical idea coming to him. He slid his shotgun into its fleece-lined leather case and put it into the trunk of his car. He didn't want his wife or children to see it. Richard was always scrupulously careful about not letting his family know what he really did, seeing any of his extended collection of killing tools, which included razor-sharp knives; all sorts of pistols, some equipped with silencers; garrotes; different poisons (his favorite was cyanide); spiked clubs; hand grenades; a crossbow; ice picks; rope; wire; explosives; and plastic bags, to name but a few.

He was particularly fond of .22 pistols because, he knew, when the bullet entered the skull it had a tendency to bounce about, causing massive damage to the brain. He also very much liked .38 derringers; they were small, could easily be hidden, and at close range, loaded with dumdums, they were quite lethal...could knock down a horse. Richard usually carried two .38 derringers, a knife, and a large-caliber automatic when going to work.

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