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Undercover Hit Man

Date: 07-12-09
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Jack Ballentine, David B. Williams

Ian Punnett welcomed veteran police officer Jack Ballentine (book link), who discussed his life as the country's most successful undercover hit man for hire. He shared how he convincingly infiltrated the worlds of organized crime, jealous spouses, and the criminally insane. "It's like a war zone going into that world and most people that get into it are completely unprepared for what they're about to experience," Ballentine said of the dangers faced by undercover agents.

Some of the people who attempted to enlist him included a mother and father who wanted to eliminate their son, and a man who tried to hire Ballentine to blow up a building full of 75 people. One case, which he called "the most upsetting one I'd dealt with," saw a woman ask Ballentine to kill a man and to "make sure he knows, right before he dies, that this was from her." Amongst the potential clients, he saw no patterns as far as socio-economic status, gender, or religion. Instead, he observed, "the one thread that went through everybody was greed ... they wanted something so bad it didn't matter to them how they were going to get it."

Ballentine detailed how, prior to meeting a client, he would extensively investigate them to determine "what they believed was going to be the persona of a hit man." Based on that, he formulated a character and refined it over the course of his conversations with them until the eventual first meeting. At that point, they fully believed his persona because "their mind already saw it." The three main personas he used were a former convict, a biker gang warlord, and a mobster from upstate New York. The hardest part of such a process, he mused, was trying not to "lose yourself in that world" while also maintaining character.

Stories in Stone

In the first hour, author David B. Williams talked about his research into building stones and the remarkable stories behind them. "We have stone that basically spans most of the age of the Earth and you can see on buildings in any city you go to," he observed. One intriguing aspect of these building stones, Williams said, was that some of them contained fossils. He noted that the most commonly used type of building stone in America, Salem limestone, "is made completely of broken up and sometimes whole shells."

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Ian Punnett's Blog

Check out Ian's latest musings and insights at his blog site.

Protector of the Lost Wallet

A Scottish study in human nature recently set out to see what might overcome the old adage of "finders keepers" and produced some surprising results. Distributing over 200 "lost" wallets throughout Edinburgh, they included a variety of different pictures inside, designed to tug at the heart strings of the discoverer. While a little less than half of all the wallets were returned, a stunning 88% of them were the ones which contained a photo of a baby. More on the story here.

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