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[YOST IN THE MACHINE]

by Scott Yost

Basement hostages: A How-to guide

In recent weeks, I’ve been very moved while watching the coverage of the release of the three missing women that Ariel Castro held hostage in his Cleveland residence for 10 years. Watching the women being reunited with their families and seeing all the love and joy that resulted has warmed my heart and it makes me feel like I should release the women that I have chained up in my own basement.

But, you know, on the other hand, as soon as I let them go, I guarantee you that they would head straight to the authorities and start blabbing up a storm.

So, no matter how much I might like the idea of letting the prisoners in my basement go, deep down I know it’s not really an option.

Now, while I’ve been fascinated by the story of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and all the hoopla surrounding the case, it has also generated a bunch of questions in my mind.

Like, for instance, isn’t it amazing that Castro had three women chained up in his house for 10 years and the neighbors didn’t suspect a thing? I mean, he even entertained people in his house and had cookouts.

So, as a much needed public service, I’ve put together a list of the Top 10 Ways You Can Tell That Your Neighbor is Keeping Women Chained Up In His Basement.

Here you go… 10. He only weighs 150 pounds dripping wet, but every time you run into him at McDonald’s he’s ordering six super-sized Big Mac meals to go.

9. When the US census worker knocks on his door and asks how many people there are in the residence, he responds: “Chained up or running free?” 8. Every time he throws a party, he makes all the guests put on blindfolds the moment they arrive, giving the excuse that, “You never know when a game of pin the tail on the donkey might break out.”

7. When Christmas carolers show up unexpectedly at his front door each year, he never invites them in for hot cider and fruitcake.

6. Oay, I don’t really have 10 of these, but, I’m just saying, for goodness sakes people, stay alert.

Now, when they first caught Ariel Castro, authorities thought his two brothers may have been in on it; and, while it apparently wasn’t a group job, I’ve read in the news plenty of times about cases where two — or even three — people have gotten together to commit some horrific crimes not unlike this one.

But here’s my question: Let’s say you wanted to get your brother or your friend to help you murder or kidnap someone. How do you bring something like that up in conversation?

Personally, I get uneasy when I have to ask a friend to loan me a few bucks because I forgot my wallet that morning. So I have no idea how you would bring up in casual conversation a request for him to help you commit some heinous crime.

I can only guess that it might go something like this:

You: So, Bob, you and I have gotten pretty close over these last few weeks. You know what would be fun — if we went bowling sometime.

Bob: Hey, yeah, we should do that Saturday afternoon. I really like to bowl.

You: And who knows, maybe after that, we can go grab a couple beers somewhere and then, we could, oh, I don’t know, say… kidnap and kill some prostitutes.

Bob: I’m sorry — what did you just say?

You: Oh, nothing.

Bob: Yes you did. You said, something about kidnapping and killing prostitutes. It didn’t even sound like a joke. Are you joking?

You: Yes, yes, of course. Why? Do you hope that I’m joking, or does a part of you deep inside you kind of hope that I’m not?

Bob: Well, now that you mention it, maybe I do find the thought intriguing. But, if you’re joking, I’m totally joking too.

You know, I guess those conversations start something like that. I just think it would be an awkward conversation to have.

Anyway, in the Cleveland case, Castro acted alone, so there was less chance of getting caught, but here’s the best way — in fact, the sure-fire way — to tell if someone has women chained up in the basement, or has severed body parts in the refrigerator, or a pile of dead drifters in the crawlspace. It is the one fail-safe clue.

What is everyone saying about Castro that is also the exact same thing people always say about everyone ever found to have committed a crime of this type?

Uh, hello? The surefire clue is that he is quiet and keeps to himself.

In fact, I think we’ve come to the time as a society where we just need to round up everyone who is quiet and keeps to themselves and lock them away because they are clearly a huge danger to society.

That dead giveaway clue, by the way, is why I always make a conscientious effort to act like an extrovert. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to prepare dinner for some, uh, guests who are currently staying with me.

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