This episode is part of a series. If you have not yet listened to the first two episodes of the Rise and Fall of the Houseboat Mafia, this episode will make very little sense to you.
In today's minisode, we take a look at the life of Ava Clarkson, daughter of the Houseboat Mafia leaders, Ben and Mary. How did she respond to her parents' flight from debt and the law? How did the rise of the Houseboat Mafia change her life? Find out here, only on Liminal Criminals.
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CONTENT WARNING: Liminal Criminals is a fictional crime/comedy podcast, and contains elements which may not be suitable for all audiences. Listener discretion is advised.
Hi folks! Sam here. As you might have noticed, we’ve stopped doing weekly updates. The good news is that I’ve decided to move to a biweekly release schedule.
I’ve decided that it would be good to release shorter mini-episodes in between the longer releases. These won’t be the full 20-minute episodes for now.
That’s it, enjoy the episode!
[end “oh hey”]
In the late 1980s, Ben and Mary Clarkson fled their home in Missouri on a journey that would see their rise to the heights of the criminal underworld along the Gulf of Mexico. But what of those they left behind? In today’s minisode we learn about the forgotten daughter of the Houseboat Mafia, Ava Clarkson.
Ava was partway through an engineering degree at Washington University in Saint Louis when her parents made their fateful journey to the Gulf. In the weeks following Ben and Mary Clarkson’s disappearance, the exact details of their whereabouts, as well as the circumstances surrounding their vanishing, were murky.
“I didn’t know what had happened to them,” said Ava in a 1994 interview with the media, “It wasn’t until I heard about the manhunt in Tennessee that I knew that they were even alive. Hearing that my dad beat a man to death with a singing pike was the best news I had heard in years.”
Despite the emotional stress of her missing family, Ava was able to finish her degree, graduating cum laude in 1989. During this time, however, the creditors that had once hounded Ben and Mary Clarkson began to come after their daughter. From late-night calls, to in-person harassment, to sending hordes of angry dogs to her residence, DigiFish’s debt collectors stopped at nothing to wring every penny they could from the Clarkson’s daughter.
Ava, however, inherited her parents’ obstinacy, and refused to let herself be browbeaten into paying another person’s debt. Unshaken by her circumstances, she pursued her Master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and, in 1992, she entered the job market.
While Ava was a competent engineer, she had difficulty holding down a job. The prior years of parental abandonment, harassment from debt collectors, and the general stresses of being alive and in her twenties, had stripped away Ava’s willingness to follow orders, take criticism, or suffer fools gladly. Within a year of her being hired by DemeCo, an agricultural company, she was fired for insubordination. Three months after working for Superior Logistics, she was fired for nearly striking her boss. A year and a half after being hired by Logos Enterprises, she was nearly arrested when a colleague of hers found blueprints for an “Executive Exsanguination Device” in her desk.
By 1995, Ava Clarkson was considered persona non grata by prospective employers. In a bout of irony, the only place willing to hire her was DigiFish Incorporated, the very same company that had bankrupted her parents.
For the next three years, Clarkson endured humiliation after humiliation. She was paid at a considerably slashed rate. Her background had become common knowledge in company culture, and she was viewed with a combination of pity and derision by her colleagues and superiors alike. Time and time again, she was passed over for promotions and raises, subject to jokes about her quote-unquote “betrayal” of her family, and prodded for her opinion about the crumbling empire her parents created.
Despite the poor treatment, the typically-aggressive Clarkson kept her head down and did her level best to not make waves. Perhaps her prior experience at other companies had been humbling. Perhaps she was aware of the precariousness of her employment. Perhaps she didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that she was working for the company which, arguably, had ruined her life. Regardless of the reason, Ava Clarkson was, by all accounts, a model employee while at DigiFish,
In lieu of a genuine reward for efforts, Clarkson was relegated to a senior-in-practice-but-not-in-pay position in Project Pygmalion, Digifish’s initiative to compete in the growing marketplace of animatronic fish. Company records indicate that the executives heading the project had conflicting viewpoints of what the new model of robotic fish should entail. Chief of Marketing Chet Bubbins suggested that smaller, cheaper fish would make for a more readily-marketable project., Director of Fish Engineering Harold Thompson argued that future models should have better sound quality and allow for customizability. CEO Trevor Dixon demanded that the product include supercharged servos, strobe lights, and, quote, “flamethrowers or chain guns or something.” While these demands grew vaguer and more outlandish by the day, Clarkson, ever the diligent employee, did her best to build the prototype to her superior’s specifications.
On March 1st, 1997, over a year after her parents had been arrested, Clarkson revealed her new product in a private meeting at the Digifish headquarters in Springfield Illinois. Without flair or aplomb, she turned on the souped-up robo-fish and took cover.
Her caution was justified. After the myriad modifications that Ava was forced to make to the device, Project Pygmalion was less of a novelty consumer electronic, and more of an extremely inefficient war crime. The fish ripped itself loose from the wall where it was secured, cracking into Chet Bubbins’ skull and shattering his orbital bone. As it continued to mime singing to a distorted MP3 of REM’s “Shiny Happy People,” it hurled itself at Harold Thompson, its animatronic mandibles digging into the senior engineer’s neck and crushing his carotid artery like a cheap plastic straw.
Nobody’s quite sure what happened to Trevor Dixon, as the only thing that remained of him was a brown smear on the floor that had the consistency of petroleum jelly and the vague aroma of melting plastic. Throughout the resulting trial surrounding the incident, Clarkson refused to speak on what happened to the DigiFish CEO, claiming that she was hiding behind the door to the meeting room. The last journalist who attempted to prod Clarksom into telling an alternative story, Bemfred Tumbler, died in a car crash a week after his interview with her.
It should be noted that, as Clarkson sent a memo to her superiors mentioning Project Pygmalion’s destructive capacity in a footnote, she was found not guilty of animatronic manslaughter. All claims that she made this project and goaded her bosses into heightening its potential for murder as an elaborate revenge plot are baseless and without merit. We are not suggesting otherwise. Please don’t hurt me.
This has been a Liminal Criminals minisode. I’m Sam Putnam. I’ll see you next time, and remember: when they heard the song, they sang in harmony.
Liminal Criminals is a fictional podcast by SCWR productions. It is written and edited by Sam Putnam. It is cowritten by Krysta Golden. Our theme song is Chthonic Riviera by Cornu Ammonis.
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