Niko Rizzone and Graham Tennant were known to the group as Philip and Bartholomew or Phil and Barty for short, and were attached to each other as much as psychopaths could be to other human beings. That is not to say they had any great affection for each other, or rather, any at all, but if one lost the other somehow, it would make them very angry.
Barty and Phil ended up in a juvenile detention facility at the same time. Barty got there a month earlier than Phil. Just past his fourteenth birthday, Barty had a laundry list of actual crimes but had only been nabbed for one. An exceptional liar, Barty had gotten careless after getting away with everything as long as he had. When lies failed to impress, they tended to get bigger.
He had been dealing drugs at the middle school he attended. His supplier was a high school senior. The middle school administration, because of a drug awareness week program, caught sight of Barty’s activities. The wad of cash itself wasn’t enough to continue to suspect him of anything, and he could have easily explained it away as having come from sales of unwanted video games to Gamestop or his friends, but Barty wanted to push the envelope to see what he could get the idiots around him to believe.
The bigger the lie, however, the more you have to be a government or a news channel to expect people to believe it, and the situation was turned over to the police. After a search of his locker turned up reason to continue looking in his bedroom at home, a stash large enough to arrest him was discovered in his closet in a box sitting in the middle of the floor.
Boredom turned out to be his enemy again when he ended up in front of a judge who was trained in recognizing psychopaths. The judge let him ramble with his story, pretending to buy all of it, until Barty had backed himself into such a tight spot that everyone in the room but him could see what was going on. The judge decided putting Barty into a detention facility for at least three years would keep society a touch safer for that time.
Phil came into the system at the same age but with a bit more of a bang. He was more impulsive than Barty and had a harder time being patient while his charm worked its magic. The next, obvious step to Phil was to beat them into submission. That you’ll get in more trouble for hitting one person than another was demonstrated to him after he gave a judge’s daughter a bloody nose and black eye when she wouldn’t go down on him.
Three separate beatings, one by guards and two by fellow inmates who had been given a green light to target him, led Phil to take stock in his approach to life. He was either going to have to start targeting better or get someone to back him up. Juvenile detention seemed a good place to look.
Something that’s not true is that crazy people can recognize each other as if they were wearing badges. There was no moment where Phil and Barty glanced at each other across a crowded cafeteria, locking eyes, and dropping their lunch trays simultaneously. There are no soul mates in psychopathology.
Barty had come to lead the inmates through a series of strategic moves and alliances. It wasn’t difficult. The previous power structure had disintegrated when a broods-worth of the inmates had been transferred to an adult facility. They had aged out and created a power vacuum. Charming a group of the biggest, meanest, and stupidest sixteen year olds he could find, Barty had seized the crown with surprisingly little violence.
Phil’s look around after the second beating had brought Barty to his attention. When in doubt, he thought, look for the most powerful person and attach yourself. A few orchestrated meetings later, and he was in Barty’s larger circle. The inner circle was harder to crack, because he didn’t have much to offer in an institutional setting.
His opportunity came during visiting hours one Saturday. Phil and Barty were both in the common room visiting with their parents, putting on the show they both did every visit. Oh, poor me, my cell is so awful; the other inmates are so mean to me. Give me all your sympathy, so I can get whatever I want from you. Phil noticed one of Barty’s henchteens couldn’t keep firmly planted in his seat. His nervous glances and fidgeting suggested that the man across the table may not have been his real older brother.
Phil turned his head toward Barty, who’s deepening frown confirmed something was going on and going wrong. The kid’s behavior had drawn the attention of two of the four guards monitoring the room, and Phil knew the time was right. He stood up, startling his parents, and turned to Barty.
“Hey, whaddya say we swap parents for today? Break up the monotony?”
Barty may not have seen exactly what Phil’s goal was, but he did see the opportunity to distract the guards, so he went with it, standing up. He stayed by his table to make his raised voice seem unforced.
“Well, that all depends. What did they bring you?”
“The kind that make you feel all funny?”
“I don’t know. I can only eat a few of them before I start giggling and pass out.”
“Mother’s always bake with love.”
Barty and Phil’s parents’ jaws dropped to the cheap, puke-green, plastic tables. Then their eyes started darting around to the increasing number of guards staring their direction. Consciously looking innocent is difficult even when you know you are.
“On the other hand,” Phil continued, putting one foot up on his chair. “Maybe we could just switch moms.”
“That would make the conjugal visits far less awkward.”
“I know, right? I may be a criminal, but I’m not sick.”
Phil was just about to stand on his chair when the buzzer that signified the end of the visiting hour went off. He slapped his pops on the shoulder, gave his mother a tight salute, and turned to the door back to the holding area for those that had just seen visitors. Barty fell in line next to him and put his arm around his shoulders.
In the holding area, Barty’s associate was still looking nervous. That was a red flag for the guards to do a strip search, which given the institution, wasn’t done very often. Phil and Barty both realized they needed to continue distracting the guards. A half hour later the two had their keepers in such stitches they didn’t have the time to do search even if they had wanted to.
Just as Phil had hoped, Barty realized how useful it was to have him around. The duo found they worked well together, each one’s charisma magnified by the other’s, getting their targets to willingly acquiesce. Guards with smiles on their faces overlooked transgressions of the rules. Review boards assumed the young men making them laugh couldn’t be bad guys after all.
A few years after being released, they moved in with each other to get the real work started. They shared cars, women, drugs, and every other experience, because they shared the fraud, theft, and drug dealing that enabled them. Getting it together got it for them fast. Too fast. They became bored, craving even more, and on a cold December night in a bar, surrounded by hot women and bottles of booze, a psychologist walked in and gave them an opportunity to experience something new.