AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL
Carley Eason Evans
Copyright 2014 by Carley Eason Evans
All Rights Reserved
15 – Catching David
Sandy Whitehead wanted to come with me to the mental hospital in Jamestown. She’d heard me talk about David Stone, aka Richard Mock at my desk. Sometimes when I type, I speak out loud to myself, ask myself questions, even argue with my own thoughts. Sandy caught me doing this. She stood behind me one afternoon and said, “What are you writing, Mr. Peterson?”
I startled and she laughed. I turned to look at her. I sighed, said, “I’m writing a story about David Stone.”
“The serial killer?” she asked.
I was surprised she knew who I was talking about and said so.
“I watch t.v.,” she said.
“David Stone hasn’t been in the news for years. How old are you anyway?”
“I’m thirty,” she said, “almost.”
“You saw a story about David on t.v.?” I asked.
“No,” she said, smiling, “Joyce at the front desk told me you were going out to the mental hospital every weekend to talk to some nut. I did a little research and figured it out — well, I figured it out just now when you told me.”
I chuckled. “You’re smart,” I said.
And so, Sandy talked me into adding at least several photographs of the hospital and the serial killer to my magazine article. “Pictures are —.”
“Oh god, don’t say it,” I groaned.
‘I won’t if I don’t have to,” she said, laughing.
I agreed, and she came along the Saturday that David described cutting off the feet of a victim. The man was killed deep in the national forest near Jewel Cave, found without his feet, naked from the waist down. Not violated in any other way — other than losing both his life and his feet from the ankles down. I knew David’s blunt, unfeeling description disturbed my young photographer. I could see it in the way the camera shook as she raised it late in the day. Up until David told the tale of killing the hiker, Sandy was calm. But after hearing David’s gruesome details, she had a hard time being in the same room with him. Finally, I tried to excuse her. I asked the guard at the door — Felix, I believe his name was — to take Sandy out to the front lobby and get her a glass of water or something. Felix said, “I’m sorry Mr. Peterson, I can’t leave my post. But I’ll radio up to the front office to have someone bring Ms. Whitehead a glass of water.” Felix missed my point completely — my attempt to get Sandy out of the room was lost on the guard. I was pretty certain David knew what I was attempting to accomplish.
Sandy protested, “No that’s okay; I’m fine. I don’t need a glass of water.”
I could almost hear her say in her mind, “I need a stiff drink, not water.” I know I wanted a stiff one about then. Although David denied remembering, I knew that he’d taken those feet and hung them in a tree near the end of a well-marked, frequently hiked trail. When I say ‘end’ of the trail, I mean a point at which the wide trail converges with another more treacherous path, one that takes a steep and narrow turn downhill. At this junction, David strung the feet together with fishing line and hung them in a tree just high enough that they might be missed by a distracted hiker, but low enough that eventually someone would spot them and scream, most likely. Obviously they were eventually discovered and — after several weeks of searching — the body of the thirty-three year old father of two was found as well. His name was Peter Pincher; a man who loved the woods, was an avid bird-watcher and photographer like Sandy. His wife, Alice was devastated when she heard of his death and mortified that someone had cut off her husband’s feet.
Alice Pincher stood up in the court room during David’s first trial and cried out, “What kind of animal are you to do such a thing?” The judge rapped his gavel on his broad oak desk and commanded the young woman to sit down and remain calm or be “taken from my court room.” The young widow sat down and stayed remarkably quiet throughout the remainder of the long trial.
Sandy Whitehead was the same — she appeared to want to scream at David Stone; but instead she remained incredibly quiet and focused her camera’s eye — rather than her own — on him. Her photographs of the killer turned out to be splendid and it was difficult — near impossible — for me not to use all of them. But in the long run, the magazine printed four of her pictures within the body of the article and one at its beginning — a photoshop of David looking slightly to his left and a near duplicate of him looking slightly to his right. Twins within the same human being; this still seemed true to me. But I had to trust the psychiatrists who knew so much more than I could ever know about split personality and about disordered personality. Surely David Stone could be said to have a disordered personality. If not, then why was he incarcerated in a maximum security insane asylum?
David Stone talked about Peter and Alice Pincher for fifteen or so minutes, telling us that soon after the end of the trial, Alice committed suicide, leaving her young children motherless. He smiled at Sandy, said to me, “She wasn’t a good mother. Any mother who would leave her children like that — children still in their early years, still in great need of her — well, that’s a bad mother.” David told us that the Pincher children wound up in foster care because their grandparents were dead and none of their other family were able to care for them. “Awful situation,” he remarked, as if he genuinely cared.
At the end of the evening with the serial killer, Sandy and I walked out of the visitors’ room into the lobby. Here — before we reached the front entrance to the hospital — Sandy collapsed on a couch and dissolved into tears. “Oh my god,” she whispered harshly, “what the fuck.”
I sat down beside her, hesitated then put my left arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “You okay?”
“No,” she stammered, “I feel so fucking dirty.”
“Contaminated,” she explained. “I feel like that animal contaminated my thoughts, my feelings. I feel awful.”
“I’m sorry I brought you along then,” I said.
“I’m sorry I came,” she admitted. Then she looked into my eyes and said, “But Max, I got some great pics. Wait till you see what I got. They’re amazing, I’m certain.” She became excited, added, “I caught something in the eyes — something I’ve never seen before in any other person.” She pulled out her Nikon, turned it back on, began to scroll through the digital images. “Here,” she said, “look at this one here.” She showed me the camera viewing plane, and I stared at the photograph of David Stone. It was David Stone for I saw that something in his eyes that I only spotted now and then — actually quite rarely.
I said, “You caught it.” And I hugged her, patting her on the top of her head like she was a child. “That’s fantastic, Sandy! You caught him.”
When Sandy Whitehead showed up with Max Peterson, I was disappointed and angry. I wasn’t going to be alone with the reporter — well, I was never totally alone with anyone due to the guard at the door, whether Felix or Tom or one of the other men of the hospital security team. But this particular Saturday, I had been looking forward to telling Max about my collection of knives, about my time in Arkansas and about the power I had over my brother and others. When Miss Whitehead entered the room slightly behind Mr. Peterson, I was shocked and then angry.
The camera bothered me, but I tolerated the young woman taking photographs from every angle imaginable. If she’d been able to crawl across the ceiling to hang above me, Miss Whitehead would have taken a photograph of me from that perspective. Goddamn, she was persistent.
When I told them about the hiker, about what was done to his feet and how his wife abandoned her children and killed herself, I knew that I had gained the upper hand over Miss Whitehead. I felt the same power I always felt when I frightened or horrified another person. I loved that feeling and clung to it as Felix escorted me back to my cell. He said, “You went beyond yourself today, David.” He tapped my left wrist, added, “If I may say so.”
I looked at the security guard I’d known for years, and nodded. I said, “Of course, Felix; you can say anything to me. You know that.”
“Well,” he said, “I think you were particularly cruel today.”
“Yes, you were cruel to be so graphic, especially after you sensed that young woman wasn’t used to that sort of thing.”
“Are you telling me, Felix, that I used her?”
“Yes, I am, in fact, telling you just that.”
“Of course I used her,” I said, indignant. “She was using me to get some great photographs. So why couldn’t I use her to get my power back?”
“Your power is worthless, David,” said Felix, boldly.
If I’d had a knife with me, I would have killed Felix — I believe — at that moment but I didn’t have a knife, of course and so I turned to him and said, “Yes, you’re likely correct, Felix.” Then I bit my lip so hard, it bled.