“A Thousand Words”

Last night’s episode of Criminal Minds struck a very scary chord for me.  Back in 2009, I reviewed a book called Tattoo Machine: Tall Tales, True Stories and My Life in Ink by Jeff Johnson.  It was a fun read, about — you guessed it — a tattoo artist.  Lots of stories about their unique lingo, what it’s like working on people’s skin and the various crazy clients he encountered.  One of those was a man he called “The Collector”.   I vividly recall the story, but there is a line in my review that I had forgotten about entirely:

Definitely check out the story of The Collector — that’s an episode of “Criminal Minds” in the making.

And it turns out that I was at least partially correct.

The Collector came in asking for a tattoo of a banner.  His whole manner gave off a very creepy vibe, scaring Johnson enough that he quoted an outrageous price for the tattoo.  In the banner, he wanted a woman’s name and a date, from about a week before the tattoo, and a nine-digit number.  Like a social security number.

His entire back was covered in similar banners, some more than a decade old…Every single one of them was filled with a woman’s name, a date, and a social security number.

Johnson was convinced the guy was a serial killer; when The Collector left the shop, he left his money behind, but took the signed release form and the pen he had signed with.  When Johnson told the story to a couple of cops years later, they told him he was very, very lucky.  According to the book, he still checks web sites focused on serial killers, looking to see if The Collector has ever been caught.

Last night’s episode of Criminal Minds, “A Thousand Words” references a slightly different book, The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury.  The unsub in this episode is a serial killer, tattooed with a bizarre family tree that includes the names, faces and death dates of his victims.  Any wonder that it rang a bell?  A bell that sounded a lot like the theme from The Twilight Zone?

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