Longform

Death Sentences

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Lund declined to speak with Westword about either the lawsuit or his company's publications. But he has conceded in the past--without apology--that Paladin peddles "forbidden fruit."

"Many of the books dealt with--but did not advocate using--potentially illegal activities or devices," reads the Twentieth Anniversary catalogue. "These generated a lot of controversy--and sales. Even die-hard advocates of free speech found themselves second-guessing their opposition to censorship when it applied to books like the How to Kill series by John Minnery or the bomb books by various authors." (At least two Paladin titles, Kill Without Joy and How to Kill, have been banned in Canada.)

Paladin first published Hit Man in 1983 and has since sold about 15,000 copies, says Tom Kelley, a Denver First Amendment lawyer who is representing Paladin in the Horn suit. The book was written under the pseudonym Rex Feral, which, loosely translated, means "king of the animals" or "king of the wild."

According to the author's biography on the book jacket, "Feral is a hit man. Some consider him a criminal. Others think him a hero. In truth, he is a lethal weapon aimed at the enemy of the one who pays him. He is the last resource in these times when laws are so twisted that justice goes unserved. He is a man who controls his destiny through his private code of ethics, who feels no twinge of guilt at doing his job. He is a professional killer."

In truth, all of that is hogwash.
Rex Feral is actually a woman, contends Kelley. And she's not a contract killer. Nor, says Kelley, whose other clients include the Denver Post, is the book intended to be taken seriously. "Most people might call this an outlaw fantasy," he says.

But the book doesn't exactly go out of its way to drive home that distinction. "A woman recently asked how I could, in good conscience, write an instruction book on murder," "Feral" muses in the preface. "'How can you live with yourself if someone uses what you write to go out and take a human life?' she whined.

"I am afraid she was quite offended by my answer," the author continues. "It is my opinion that the professional hit man fills a need in society and is, at times, the only alternative for 'personal' justice. Moreover, if my advice and the proven methods in this book are followed, certainly no one will ever know."

In the 130 pages that follow, Feral provides a step-by-step guide to setting up a murder-for-hire business, covering everything from mental and physical preparation to laundering the illegally gotten gains.

A basic equipment checklist, Feral writes, should include an AR-7 rifle, hollow-point bullets, a double-edged knife, lock picks (for which Feral provides templates) and a disposable silencer (the manufacture of which is detailed in seven pages of photographs).

Feral explains how to drill out the serial number on the AR-7, making it all but impossible to trace ownership of the weapon. Hollow-point bullets are recommended "because they deform on impact, making them nontraceable. As an added precaution," Feral writes, "you can fill the hollows with liquid poison to insure success of your operation."

In this line of work, neatness counts. So when using a small-caliber weapon such as a .22, Feral advises, "it is best to shoot from a distance of three to six feet. You will not want to be at point-blank range to avoid having the victim's blood splatter you or your clothing. At least three shots should be fired to ensure quick and sure death."

If, however, a hit-man must shoot from a distance, "aim for the head--preferably the eye sockets."

Feral also carefully explains what to do once the hit has been completed. Gather up all the empty cartridges that were ejected when firing the gun, Feral writes. And, while still at the scene, take the time to run a rat-tail file down the rifle bore to alter the trademark impression the gun barrel leaves on bullets, thus making it more difficult for criminologists to ascertain whether or not the gun was the murder weapon.

When leaving the scene, Feral advises, "Toss your gun parts out at intervals or in various locations about town. Drop them into lakes or waterways. Bury or sink the gun barrel or silencer in different spots."

With the disposal of each piece of evidence, the fear of being caught eases, Feral writes. "Your biggest problem now is learning to deal with your ego."

Feral's biggest problem, however, will be remaining anonymous. As of last week, plaintiffs' attorneys had not yet identified the author, but Marshall says one of the first pieces of information he plans to seek from Lund in a deposition is Feral's real name. If and when the plaintiffs learn Feral's true identity, he says, she will be named as a defendant.

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Karen Bowers