A Talented Animal
Carley Eason Evans
copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved
1 – The Reporter
I heard about Richard Mock, aka David Stone like the rest of the world — a man who appeared at the doorway of a tiny police jurisdiction in South Dakota to announce he’d just killed “number thirty”. The first description of Mr. Mock noted his pride — that he held his shoulders back and stood tall as he made this announcement to the police officer at the desk in the one-room station.
He said something akin to this, “Number thirty.”
And the police officer looked up to see this bearded, average-sized, handsome man staring at him — and said, “Excuse me?”
And Mr. Mock said, “Clean out the wax, officer —.” And reading his badge, added the man’s name. “I said that I’ve just killed number thirty.”
The officer — seeing “something odd in the man’s eyes” — stood up then, walked around the desk, asked the suspect to follow him to the cell behind them. Being a one-room station, the cell consisted of a barred-off corner lining half the wall. The officer unlocked the cell and asked the man to step inside. Apparently, Mr. Mock nodded, smiled, and walked inside the cell. Except for brief periods in police cars and other areas of containment and longer times in the court room, Richard Mock never left a cell — of some sort — after that day.
Now I didn’t meet Richard Mock until much later. When I heard about him, I was a fledgling reporter for a small newspaper in the midwest. I wanted to interview him, but my editor didn’t want to spend the money for the trip and our general manager agreed. So, I sat on the story for years and years and years.
When Mr. Mock announced — some twenty-three years later — that he never killed anyone in his entire life, that’s when I had the pull to get the interview. And that’s when I met David Stone.
My first impression of him was that he was soft. His voice was low, rich. I imagined if singing he’d sound like a bass or a baritone despite his skinniness. I’m prejudiced I suppose. I always imagine men whose voices are bass or baritone as large men. David was tall and skinny, wore a neatly trimmed mustache and beard and was only slightly balding. His eyes were crystal clear, blue as a Carolina sky. He wore reading glasses that he rested at the end of his nose so that he looked over them at me. He was aware that I noticed his glasses. He removed them, turned them over in his hand and said, “I only wear them for reading.” Then he put them in the breast pocket of his prison uniform shirt, and smiled at me. His teeth were perfect. His eyes warmed. He continued, “What do you want to know?”
“Everything,” I said.
2 – Loony Bin
Here in the loony-bin, I wonder why my life turned out this way. Was it something in the stars? Was it something my mother did? Or my father? Was it my twin brother’s fault? I have many ideas, but none of them sane — that’s a laugh, you know. I am perfectly sane, yet here I am locked away from society in this hospital for the criminally insane. Do I seem insane to you? Oh that’s right, you just now met me, didn’t you? Too early to tell, isn’t it?
I can see the sun travel across my cell — they don’t call it that here, you know; but that’s what it is; it’s a cell. The sun dances across the floor in a steady rhythm that reminds me life goes on out there. I’m not sure what to call what goes on in here. The days are a dull existence. The television drones in the common area. Certain people cry all day and into the wee hours of night; others act like zombies, drooling and staring and moaning now and then. I don’t do any of that. I don’t cry, I don’t scream, I don’t moan. I don’t watch television. I read books whenever I can. All sorts of books.
And lately I talk to one man, a reporter. He seems to be interested, leans toward me like he’s actually listening. The things I am telling him! You might be shocked. Then again, probably not.
I was born — oh god — how many years ago? I’ve lost track of time. I think I’m fifty-eight and I’ve spent more than twenty years in here, I think. Time seems to stand still. I’ve little sense of its passing. When the clock hands move, they seem to jump forward like they are playing leap-frog with one another. I started out years ago counting the number of sunny days with a mark on the wall like I used to see in movies when I was a little kid, but I stopped. For one thing, they told me to stop marring the wall. For another, I lost interest in time passing. What was there to look forward to, anyway? Time is like molasses — slow and dark.
These are some aspects of my early life I believe you need to know. For one thing, my mother was an unfeeling sort. She didn’t love me, not like she loved Michael, my twin. He emerged from her first. She swears he was smiling even under the bright light of the hospital. As a consequence of his preeminence and his glorious countenance Michael was her all; as a result of coming from her second and having a frown between my shut eyes, I was her nothing. As for my father — he demanded perfection. Ever met a perfect child? Yes, that’s right. There are no perfect children. There are no perfect adults. There are no perfect parents. My parents were so much less than perfect.
My mother denied that my father beat me, but he did. As far as I remember, he never touched Michael — not once. I hated Michael for that. I don’t hate him now, but I did when we were growing up. I tried so hard to get him into trouble with our father, but my efforts always backfired. I was the one who got into trouble. The trouble was what my father laughingly termed “a spanking”, but honestly was what I would call “a thrashing.” My father left black and blue marks on my bare back with an electric cord — what a sorry asshole. But in my mind, my mother was worse because she was supposed to defend me; she was supposed to be in my corner, on my side. But she wasn’t. She was always on my father’s side — on her husband’s side. Oh I know what you’re thinking — I do. Parents must keep a united front so that children don’t gain the upper hand. I never gained the upper hand. I was always on the lower receiving end.
Michael was a golden child. He grew up into a golden adulthood. He got to be a CPA — that’s a certified public accountant and I got to be a serial killer.
You’re thinking about leaving now, aren’t you? You don’t want to hear my story, I imagine. Thing is — I’m not actually a serial killer. I’m an actor. I play a serial killer in the longest running script in the history of the theatre. I came by this acting gig in the usual way — I kind of fell into it. Such a great part — what actor wouldn’t want to take the role and run with it? Oh, and did I run with it.
The first person I supposedly killed was a little girl. Assuming I recall correctly, I was about seventeen years old. I’d decided to drive around our neighborhood just for fun. I was so bored, like fucking- out-of-my mind bored. I took my mother’s keys from the hook by the back door — the door to the garage. I got in her Chevy Impala and drove off without her even noticing. She was so self-involved. I spotted the girl at the park. She was on a swing kicking off, trying to get the momentum so that she would soon be flying. I love to swing — even now I would love to swing. But the hospital doesn’t have a swing set so I don’t get to swing. Anyway, the little girl — she had blonde hair, long about her shoulders and she wore black shoes. I remember her shoes. I parked and got out of the Impala. I had a cherry sucker in my pocket. She looked so young. I figured she’d want the sucker, and she did. She stopped trying to get the swing to pump and fly. Instead she stepped off the curved leather seat and reached out for my offer. When her arm came near, I took her wrist and pulled her closer. Her eyes — I think they were green — got huge, but she didn’t scream. Instead when I smiled at her, she smiled back at me. I pulled her along toward the Impala and she followed me. I think she was about four years old. I think that’s what the cops said later — that the child was only four. I nodded then, said, “Yes I thought she was very young when I took her.” I didn’t rape her. I want you to know that. She was too small anyway. I did kill her though. That part is true — as I recall. I smothered her in the back seat of the Chevy. I put my hand — I have big hands — over her nose and mouth and she finally stopped struggling and went to sleep. I was surprised how long it took for her spirit to break and her body to give in. I was shocked how long it took this little girl to give up. I was sweating by the time she died. Died? Such a strange word; such a disturbing concept — death.
The newspapers described her distraught parents — how they wailed and howled and tore at their hair, especially the sad mother. I couldn’t even imagine how distraught they were — a foreign idea to me, given my parents. How could I possibly understand their loss? I didn’t. Even after seeing her parents speak on CNN, I did’t understand. To this very day, I don’t, not really. I don’t understand like you probably understand. I certainly don’t understand the little girl’s mother.
Let me tell you this — at the hospital, every morning I walk in a tight figure eight pattern for hours, keeping my head down, watching my large shoes, kicking loose stones now and then. I don’t remember what I think about — my mind goes blank, like the proverbial clean slate. These are nice hours when the world outside and the world inside are completely empty, free of pain, free of joy, free of everything. I love these walks, grateful I am allowed this time to myself. I’m such great company — yes, that’s a joke. I suppose you don’t believe I have a sense of humor. Why should you?
I guess I should tell you my name. I have two names — one my parents gave me, and one I gave myself — to my alter ego. My mother wanted to name me Ivan, but my father insisted that I be Richard. Mom relented, called me Rich. Rich. Funny to be called Rich. I’m hardly a rich person — I’m poor in so many ways. Dirt poor. No, I didn’t name myself Poor Richard. Hah. No, I decided to call myself David. I wanted an ordinary name, just not the ordinary name Rich. And no, I’m not Dave. I can’t even imagine being called Dave. I’m David Stone. I’m known worldwide now as David Stone, serial killer.
The hospital has bars on all the windows, even the ones in the front lobby where the public comes on occasion. Surprises even me that the superintendent doesn’t mind people thinking the residents of her hospital are dangerous to society at large. I suppose we are. I know I am dangerous. After all, I was convicted of killing thirty different people.
I’m not certain how many residents this hospital has living in it — actually they are incarcerated in it. I’ve tried to count the number of inmates, but I lose track. My mind doesn’t function in that sort of calculator manner. I’m more a forest-for-the-trees sort of guy. I see the whole and miss the obvious parts — I guess. That’s one thing the psychiatrist told me — “you, dear Rich, miss the trees for the forest.” I can’t abide that he calls me Rich, but can’t convince him to call me otherwise. “It’s not the reality of the situation, Rich. Your name is not David Stone, after all.” The first time he protested my chosen designator, I only nodded at him, smiled weakly and shook my head several times. I did tell him my given name “is Richard, not Rich.” But, I didn’t show him how very angry I was that he refused to call me David. He should call me David.
The worst part is that I am required to meet with him three times a week and these meetings have been going on for years now. I think Dr. Smack — that’s what I call him — has been here almost as long as I have. I think he’s as sick as most of us. No, I really think Dr. Smack is ill. He certainly appears terminal. He’s got super dark circles under both eyes and his already yellowing skin is downright sallow. Most of his hair has fallen out and what remains is shaggy and brittle. Dr. Smack has huge jowls and some of his teeth are black — yes, black. No wonder I think he’s sick. Of course, he would argue with you that I am the one who’s sick. About his condition, he would probably say, “I don’t get enough sleep and I don’t always eat right. That’s why I look a tad ill. Just a tad.”
And you’d smile at him, I’m sure and say, “Oh I agree. You need sleep and decent food. Yes, yes.”
And I’d just sit there and look at both of you with my killer eyes. My eyes are blue, crystal clear and set forward so that I look like I am very interested in what you are thinking. And I have almost perfect teeth. I’m quite attractive; that’s probably why I never frightened anyone I approached on the outside. It was extraordinarily easy to pick up my victims — they never ran away, not ever. Odd, isn’t it? You’d think people would have more sense — more of a sense of foreboding — when approached by a total stranger in the dark or in a narrow alley with no means of egress — no way of escape. I just don’t understand trust. I don’t trust anyone. What is there to trust in a stranger? Nothing. Take my advice — if someone you don’t know offers you money, a ride — shit, a fucking cigarette — run. Don’t even hesitate, just run away. Run as fast as you possibly can. And never look back. Why not? You look back and one look from me can freeze you in your tracks like a deer standing frozen in the high beams of an automobile rushing headlong at it, ready and capable of killing it in one fell swoop. Smack and that deer is dead.
Dr. Smack doesn’t trust me. I can tell. He always places me away from the door so that his back is to the entrance of his office and my back is to the large double window against the far wall. He’s smart not to trust me. If given the opportunity, I’d kill my psychiatrist. You imagine I’d cut him up into tiny chunks, burying each body piece in the deep woods behind the main hospital building. But I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t cook and eat him either. Those are the actions of a crazy person. I’m not crazy.
3 – My Twin
My twin brother, Michael and I used to dig holes in our parents’ back yard and bury our toy soldiers and plastic dinosaurs. We never talked about why we were doing this, but when we went back some years later to try to find our treasures, we couldn’t locate the little graves. Our soldiers and dinosaurs were gone — poof! Maybe that’s why I never buried my victims. Maybe I figured they’d disappear — poof! — just like my toys. Yet, I didn’t keep tokens either. I didn’t take clothing or jewelry or pieces of hair or anything from anyone I killed. I didn’t want anything. That’s true — I didn’t need anything anyone of them might have had to give. I wasn’t interested in things. I’m still not. Michael is interested in things — in treasures. I guess that’s why he’s a certified public accountant. He likes to take things into account. Somewhat surprising to me that he’s not the serial killer.
I recall a teenager I killed. You should know I didn’t rape him any more than I raped the little girl or any of my other victims, for that matter. Rather, I cut the teen from sternum to pubic bone and took everything out. Then I stitched him back up with fishing line and put him in the back of an abandoned car in a junk yard. I sat him up, leaning his head against the rolled-up back window on the passenger side of the big car. From a distance, it looked as if he was waiting for a girlfriend or a drug dealer. I remember I chuckled. But I didn’t take anything from him. I left all his guts — his internal organs and stuff — in the backseat of the car. I took nothing with me. I just walked away with only his blood on my hands and clothes. I want you to realize I shudder now to think of that young man sitting — dead — in that junk yard. I shudder. But when I killed him, I smiled. I was especially proud of my sewing, having never learned to sew. I know — what sort of a guy learns to sew?
My twin Michael didn’t learn to sew either. He went to a good community college and “made something of himself”, according to our father. Our father threw this in my face repeatedly. “While your brother is studying, what are you planning to do, Richard? I wish to fuck you’d tell me what you are going to do with your sorry life.” My life has been a “sorry one” from the beginning if my father had had anything to say about it. And, of course, he did have much to say about my “sorry life.” Yes, that’s another joke — perhaps too lame for you.
At any rate, the hospital grounds are huge — the place is like a college campus but the asylum is just this — an asylum for the criminally insane. Michael visits me which is rather odd given our early relationship. We get along now. He seems to understand why I went one way while he managed to go another — a “better way” he says. He outright denies that our parents were abusive to me. He claims our mother “loved us equally, Rich.” Then Michael smiles, corrects himself, “I mean, she loved us the same, David.”
I disagree, shake my head. “No, she didn’t.”
He used to debate this adamantly but now he just tears up a little. I see the glistening along the edges of his eyes and he sniffles slightly. He says, “I don’t know why you believe that of her. She was so kind to you.”
“No, she wasn’t.”
Michael looks through the bars at the large window of the visitor room, likely at the huge oaks lining the entranceway to the “campus”. He smiles, says, “Let’s change the subject.”
“Sure,” I say. But I have nothing to talk about so I wait. An awkward silence hangs there between us. I look at Michael as he stares out at the world. I wait. He looks back at me, smiles sheepishly — it seems sheep-like to me — and asks if I’ve read any good books lately. “No,” I say. He waits for me to ask him if he’s read any good books lately but I don’t oblige. I just stare at my identical twin.
Michael pushes his chair back and stands up. He paces over to the window, actually leans his forehead against the bars. I imagine getting up, walking up behind him, pushing a knife between his shoulder blades. But — of course — I have no knife and even if I did I wouldn’t kill my only brother. I decide to be generous. “The superintendent showed a pretty good movie last weekend.”
Michael turns from the window, an outline of the iron bar across his face. “Oh,” he says. “What movie was that?”
“Silence of the Lambs,” I say.
Michael groans, knows I’m lying.
So often, looking at Michael is like looking at a mirror image of myself except something different is there — in his eyes particularly. Although they are as blue as mine, the reflections they produce are softer than the ones I see in mine — in a real mirror, that is. He doesn’t have that killer look, I suppose.
Dr. Smack met with my twin for several hours early in my stay — in my incarceration. I don’t know all they talked about but Michael did tell me that some of the discussion focused on our similarities — the most obvious one being the exact duplication of our physical traits. Why that mattered to Dr. Smack I’ve no idea. He’s an odd cookie. Michael also said this focus on our identicalness made him uncomfortable. “I wanted to run out of his office,” he admitted to me.
“He gave you the willies, hey?”
I remember we laughed and then Michael cried because his brother — me — was a convicted serial killer.
Michael has never asked me why I did it — he’s never asked why I killed little boys and girls, teenagers, middle-agers, elderly sots. He’s not asked me how I tricked my victims or why I chose those particular persons.
“So, did you enjoy Silence of the Lambs?” he asks now after he groans to let me know that he knows I am lying to him.
“Sure,” I say.
“You admired Hannibal Lector?”
“Oh sure,” I say.
“I liked Agent Starling,” says Michael.
“Of course,” I say. “You would, wouldn’t you?”
My twin smiles at me, sits back at the table. At the door to the small room is an armed guard. I look at the man. He’s perhaps forty-seven, weighs maybe two hundred and sixty-five pounds, is around five foot-ten inches in his stocking feet. His hair is thinning and already fully grey. He pretends to ignore our conversation but he’s listening. I wonder what he thinks of me — of Michael. If Michael and I were dressed in the same prison uniform (the superintendent denies that we inmates are garbed in prison uniforms but we are) I wonder if the guard would be able to tell us apart. I bet he’d confuse me for Michael and Michael for me. I bet. Then perhaps I might walk out of here, into the world again and find another victim.
No, that’s not true. I wouldn’t kill again. I am almost one hundred percent certain I’m no longer interested in taking lives. Taking a life used to be — dare I say it? — fun. Fun? Exciting. Yes, exciting is a more accurate description of how I felt taking someone’s only life. And this brings up a point I want to make. There’s only this life, you know. There’s no afterlife. There’s no hell waiting for the bad people, and no heaven waiting for the good people. People are people. Life is life. Death is death. And death is just the end of living. Along that line of thinking, I want to add that perhaps life is only the absence of dying. Now there’s some circular reasoning, if ever there was such a thing.
So, Michael’s visit comes to an end and he leaves me here in the mental hospital. I can’t switch places with him because of the prison uniform. He would never be willing to take my place for a day or two so I could get out among other people — normal people. Michael wouldn’t last one day — much less two — in here.
The next morning when I wake up, I decide the time has come to set the record straight. I’m tired of the lie; time for some truth.
4 – A Version of Truth
The courtroom was crowded every day throughout my trial. People jammed the long pews in the back and in the mezzanine above. Families of victims cried — most of the time softly, occasionally loud and obnoxious-like. I hated those families on those days. Other days I ignored them. They were houseflies buzzing far in the background on the days they wept quietly. But on the days they moaned and even screamed openly, they were horse flies biting and then I hated them.
The first time I told the court the reason I killed the little girl, the audible gasps from the room stirred my stomach so that I howled like a tormented animal. That’s what one reporter wrote, “In the court this morning, Richard Mock, otherwise known as David Stone, howled for the judge and jury like a tormented animal…” and blah, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure I howled because the people in the room frightened me. The reporter wrote, “Mr. Mock appeared to howl in some desperate attempt to sway the court’s feelings of sympathy as if any could be sympathetic to this animal, tormented or not.” I told the courtroom I’d killed the four year old blonde girl because I was was “bored out of my mind.” I’m not entirely certain but I may have killed all my victims out of a profound sense of boredom and of the dullness of the march of time. But on the day I first confessed this motive, fear was my reaction to the gasps among the spectators and families. I was afraid. I’d not been afraid — except of my father — before that day.
Fear was — is — an intriguing sensation; in the court, it made me sweat all over my body. My palms became clammy and sticky with it. My tongue dried out, swelled up like a frog in my mouth. I had a hard time answering the questions being thrown at me by the prosecutor and even more difficulty answering my attorney’s questions, leading though they were. The lawyer practically spoke for me.
Nevertheless I answered every question with a steady tone of voice, and only once did the judge ask me to speak louder. My voice failed me when I spoke of my mother, growing so soft even the prosecutor leaned in to perhaps hear better. Here, even as I dealt with my own trepidation, I spotted his fear — the well dressed man was terrified of me, despite standing up in a setting of armed guards and a conglomeration of human beings. From my seated position, I smiled at him. I didn’t mean to do it, but I even showed him my perfect teeth. He stepped back, almost falling over his feet.
Then, I turned to look at the judge. My lawyer had told me to do that now and then — to look at the judge and open my eyes wide and to “try to appear innocent.”
I said to him, “Innocent? But, I’m not innocent. I did kill them.”
“Well yes, I know; but you have to appear not guilty to avoid the death penalty.”
Avoiding the death penalty didn’t concern me. So what if I got electrocuted or gassed? I did admit to myself and to my team of attorneys that I didn’t want to hang.
“I don’t want a rope around my neck; I don’t want to swing.”
I remembered loving to swing on the set in our local park. Every day after school in my elementary years, I went to the park to swing. But a rope around my neck didn’t conjure feelings of joy but only ones of dread.
At the park, the most noticeable absence was the absence of playmates. I didn’t have any — except my twin brother, Michael. Michael and I didn’t swing together — the swing set made Michael throw up. But we did play together. We were in most of the same classes in elementary school; by middle school, the principal began to split us up. I may be smarter than Michael but I’ve no tangible proof of this higher intelligence. I was in seemingly more difficult classrooms with more exacting, demanding, fuckingly-wicked teachers — teachers who expected tons of homework and more tests than Michael needed to do or take. I resented this. I resented him, but I also loved him. I love him to this very day. He looks just like me; since I love myself — surprising, isn’t it? — it follows I love him as much, perhaps more.
In the court, Michael sat with my parents behind the table where I sat and where my lawyers congregated like wolves. I thought of them as a wolf pack because I swear the hairs on the napes of their necks stood straight up whenever the judge ruled, “Sustained” on one of our opponents’ objections. The judge appeared to favor the prosecution, but my lawyers told me, “That’s natural. You confessed.”
Yes, I confessed to thirty different killings over a period of several decades. Having started my career at seventeen and not getting “caught” until I was in my late thirties, I had plenty of opportunities to murder people.
A year and half after the teenager — the one I sat up so carefully in the junk yard automobile — I selected a housewife who was shopping late in the evening. I cut her throat behind a grocery store, then simply walked away after removing a large blue gown and the bloodied pair of nylon gloves — both used in hospital care as personal protective gear. I explained during the first police interrogation in a little town in South Dakota, “Hospital gowns and gloves are easy to acquire. I bought them at a pharmacy in another town.” The investigating officer asked if I had a receipt. I laughed and said that I did not keep receipts of equipment used during my killings. “Don’t you think that’d be a little dumb?” I asked him.
He raised his eyebrows and nodded. “I suppose so,” he said.
“Yeah,” I added, “I’m not known for being dumb, sir.”
The man shook his head, smiled at me, said, “Well I don’t know. I think it’s rather dumb to confess.”
I felt my face go hot. I wondered why I confessed to a crime I didn’t commit. What was it about this process that was so fucking exciting? I know access to the crime scene was one aspect I found addictive. With the little girl, the crime scene was — well, amazing. She was found inside the trunk of a small car parked very close to her home. Her arms were tied behind her back and her eyes were blindfolded. She’d obviously been smothered. I got a few details wrong the first time through the interrogation but I fixed those mistakes in the second interview. It’s not difficult to frame yourself, I’ve discovered. The police are unwitting accomplices to the self-frame. If you get a detail wrong, they’ll actually tell you. They don’t seem to notice — or if they do notice — they don’t seem to mind that the next time through your story, you’ve changed some details that were incorrect the first time through. They don’t do much more than look up at you when you change a detail unless the detail conflicts with the facts. Then the officer will stare at you for a longer stretch of time, maybe put the end of his pen in his mouth, hold it between his teeth, and squint. He might even tell you what you got wrong or he might take you out to the crime scene and show you what you got wrong. The first time this happened to me was when I said I’d tied the little girl’s hands in front of her. The officer looked up, said softly, “Don’t you mean behind her back?” I blinked, said quick as a jackrabbit, “Yes, sir, behind her back.” Only then did he note what I said on the piece of paper before him. I remember the satisfaction that I felt when I saw that he believed me. He wanted to believe me. And I wanted to believe me, too. And — of course — that’s what acting is — believing. I’m a talented actor. Unfortunately, my acting career bought me a one-way ticket to crazy-land.
Because I confessed and because I learned to look at the judge with wide open eyes that — I suppose — appeared to belong to an innocent man, I didn’t get the death penalty. The disappointment of the families was palpable. The spectator gallery erupted into angry shouts. One father threw something at the back of my head and was immediately taken to the floor by several armed guards. He was hand-cuffed and dragged yelling from the court room. He yelled obscenities at me — nasty things I’d never heard before. I couldn’t help myself — I began to bawl like a little kid. My lawyer placed his soft hand on my shoulder and smiled at me as if to say how glad he was for me — a convicted killer of thirty people.
My lawyer said, “Just ignore them. They’re angry; they’re sad and angry.”
I looked at the families close by and I saw how they were indeed sad and angry.
The judge sentenced me to life imprisonment but not in a regular maximum security facility but in a special mental hospital in the upstate. I’d heard of the place but didn’t have any idea how isolated it would turn out to be. When I first arrive, it was quiet as a graveyard. No living people anywhere close.
These days the hospital grounds are not as far from populated areas as they were twenty years ago. Still there are mostly farmsteads and small communities nearby. An interstate runs north to south approximately ten miles to the west of the complex. Sometimes, I hear semi-trucks as they downshift to take the steep grade along the edge of the mountain range. The grounds are close to a national park forest. If I could get to the forest, I’d be home free. Hell, I’d probably get lost and die of exposure in the national park. No one would find my corpse. I’d just disappear like a few of my victims. Or — better yet — I might catch the attention of one of the big rig drivers cruising down the mountain ridge. I might hitch a ride with one of these drivers and get off the mountain. I might even kill the driver, take his truck and disappear into the greater world. Once there, who knows what I’d do.
5 – The Interviews
In the visitor area of an upstate mental institution which I will leave unnamed for the present, David Stone smiled at me when I told him I wanted to know “everything.” He said, “I don’t think that’s possible but I will try to tell you what I know, what I remember, how I felt, how I feel now. Perhaps that will satisfy your readers, Mr. Peterson.”
“I’m sure,” I said politely, debating briefly whether to ask David Stone to call me by my first name, Max. Before I decided, the prisoner prepared to speak.
He cleared his throat, said to himself, “Where to begin?”
“At the beginning,” I suggested.
Instead, David told me about his day to day routine. He gave me a picture of life on the inside of an insane asylum. My primary thought about his days was “how incredibly boring they must be.”
He nodded and said, “Incredibly boring.”
I ventured to ask about his childhood.
Richard Mock appeared. I swear I saw the man before me change. Something in the eyes melted away like the last wax in a burning tea-candle. Richard said, “My childhood was a terrible time.” Then I saw David Stone return — the eyes of the killer came back full force and I involuntarily shuddered. He laughed at me.
David said in a crisp whisper, “I can’t hurt you in here, you know. They —.” Here he pointed to the door where the guard stood, arms crossed, looking bored. “—are always watching, you know.”
I sighed, smiled. I shrugged my shoulders, and continued, “So why was your childhood so terrible?”
“My mother hated me. My father abused me,” he said with a bluntness of a man used to both hatred and abuse.
“I understand you have a brother —.”
Richard appeared, said, “Yes, my twin, Michael.” Richard as quietly and quickly disappeared as he had appeared.
“Ah,” I said, “could you tell me about him?”
“No,” said David. And then in a silent argument with himself, I saw Richard Mock re-emerge. I wanted to say “hello” to this person, but feared it would anger David Stone to a point he might end the interview.
Richard said, “Yes, I can tell you about Michael. Michael and I are identical twins. Did you know that?”
I had read about his twin in early accounts of David Stone. I nodded.
Richard continued, “We look exactly alike, except for something in the eyes —.”
I shuddered again. David Stone laughed.
Richard continued, “I don’t know what it is, but people say we look exactly alike except for something in the eyes. I love my brother, Mr. Peterson.”
Richard Mock seemed to be looking for confirmation that he loved his brother so I gave it to him. I said, “I’m sure you do —.” And then I didn’t know what to call him.
He smiled, said, “It’s David. Or Mr. Stone, if you prefer.”
“David,” I responded, “if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind,” said David Stone.
“So,” I said, “are you in touch with Michael?”
Richard smiled, said, “Oh yes. He comes every other weekend to visit.”
“Every other weekend?”
The guard nodded almost imperceptibly.
Richard grinned. “Michael loves me. He believes me.”
“That I’ve never killed anyone in my whole life,” said Richard proudly, with assurance.
“Why did you confess, then?”
The question was obvious, but David Stone reappeared and stared at me. He got up, walked toward the guard. He stopped, looked back at me, said, “The interview is over, Mr. Peterson.”
Before I could protest, the guard had opened the door and allowed David Stone to escape, so to speak.
I did get a second chance the following week when I received a telephone call from the superintendent. She said that Mr. Mock was willing to meet with me again.
“Mr. Mock or Mr. Stone?” I asked.
“We don’t make a distinction,” she said.
“Okay,” I said, then agreed — of course — to a second interview with the convicted madman.
The second time we met, David Stone was less present than Richard Mock. Richard was at ease, smiling often, even clapping me on the shoulder when I first arrived. I would have flinched except that something in the eyes was missing and I relaxed. Richard asked the guard if we might have coffee.
The guard shook his head, then leaned against the doorframe.
I told Richard, “I don’t need anything; thanks.”
“Well,” he said, “I thought it’d be nice. Something different, for once.”
“That was thoughtful of you,” I said. “Thanks.” Then I asked the same question that ended the first interview, “Why did you confess?”
Richard looked at me, studied me a moment, then said, “I’ve asked myself that same question so many times since I was locked up in here.”
“And,” he continued, “I don’t know the answer.”
“But surely you have some idea.”
He shook his head, and tears formed in his blue eyes.
I said, “I’m sorry.”
He glanced at me. He looked away, out the barred window. He whispered, “It’s a lovely day. Be nice to take a walk.”
“Yes,” I said. “I suppose that’s out of the question.”
“Maybe not,” he said. He stood, walked to the guard, whispered something to him. I saw the guard shake his head, point to the chair and ask Richard Mock to sit back down. Richard obeyed and sat across from me at the long table. He said, “I’ve no idea why I confessed. I didn’t kill anyone.”
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely,” he said, and for a moment that something in the eyes returned, a flash of David Stone and my skin crawled. Just as quickly, David was gone. Richard smiled.
I changed tactics, asked, “So when did Michael first believe you?”
“Michael believed me early on,” said Richard. “We fought a lot — like most brothers — when we were growing up. I was so jealous of how well he got along with Mom and Dad and he was jealous, I think, of how smart I am. We just naturally grew apart as we got older, too. Then — somehow — I got interested in all the unsolved murders — the missing people — and I confessed to the first one —.” He stopped, looked at me.
“The four year old?” I asked, trying to help him tell me.
“Yes, the little blonde haired girl who I supposedly smothered in my mother’s car.”
“Alison Lister,” I said.
“Alison,” I said. “Her parents called her Allie.”
“Oh,” he said.
“Did the police find any physical evidence in your mother’s car?”
“No,” he said, and smiled again. “But, you know, I had confessed so evidence wasn’t that big a deal, I learned. Besides, by the time I confessed, it’d been years since that killing took place. I mean, it’d been over twenty-three years or so. I think. Isn’t that about right?”
I nodded after glancing at my research notes.
Richard started to laugh.
“What is it?”
“I just remembered,” he said, “my mother didn’t even own the Chevy Impala I used when I killed Alison Lister. Alison Lister? Is that her name?”
“Yes, that was her name.”
“Yeah, my mother’s car — the one the police examined — was a Ford Taurus.” And he chuckled once more. “What a crock!”
“That’s pretty incompetent,” I said.
“You bet,” he said.
We both sat in silence for a few moments. The guard shifted his weight. Both Richard and I looked at him. He unfolded his arms and walked along the wall to the window, looked out. I looked back at Richard, smiled.
Richard said, “I’m tired.”
“You want to stop now?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I just mean I’m tired — you know, bone-tired.”
“Oh,” I said. Then, I changed directions on him again. I asked, “Why do you think you killed thirty and then confessed?”
Richard shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, Mr. Peterson.”
I looked at my notes, asked, “Well, why did you attack your work colleague back in —.”
“That’s a lie,” he said, his voice sharp for the first time that day. “I never attacked Bill.”
“He said you did.”
“He committed perjury.”
“Bill Putts said you came at him with a meat cleaver.”
“That’s exactly what he said. Fucking liar.”
I looked up from my notes but I didn’t see David Stone as I expected. The man at the table was still Richard Mock. I looked back to my notes, asked, “Well why do you think he lied?”
“Who the fuck knows!”
“Well,” I said, “you were written up for it. Says so in your personnel file, I believe.”
Richard Mock glared at me, then he smiled. He said, “You’ve never seen my personnel file, have you?”
I confessed that I hadn’t.
“Mr. Peterson,” he said, “if I am to tell you the truth, then you have to tell me the truth, too.”
“Of course,” I said. Then I apologized to the serial killer.
Richard smiled again. Once more, I noticed his perfect teeth and his neatly trimmed mustache. I examined his face — here was a truly handsome man. I imagined Michael Mock. Of course, he’d be as handsome. I wondered how it felt to look in the mirror each morning to see David Stone staring back at you. Did Michael Mock even notice?
“Your brother is an accountant, right?”
“That’s right,” said Richard.
“And he looks just like you,” I continued.
“Well, of course. We’re identical twins, Mr. Peterson. I told you that.”
“Yes, yes,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay,” he said. “What’s your point?”
“Do you ever think —.” I stopped. “Never mind.”
I cleared my throat. “So, tell me about the little girl.”
“No,” said Richard. “I didn’t kill her.”
“What about the teen, Steven Miles?”
“I didn’t kill him either.”
“The woman behind the grocery store —.”
“I didn’t kill Edith Watson either.”
“You know her name,” I said.
“Yes,” he admitted. “I do remember some of their names.”
“Why do you suppose you remember her name?”
“I have no idea,” he said.
“Do you recall what she was wearing?”
“Black sweater over a white button-down blouse and jeans — tight to the body and brown cowboy boots. The jeans were tucked into the boot tops. And she wore a wool — real wool — grey scarf with a matching wool cap.” He looked at me.
I examined my notes. I looked at Richard Mock and admitted I didn’t know what Edith Watson was wearing when she was killed behind the Kroger grocery store.
“Then I may be lying,” he said.
“But you aren’t, are you?”
“No, I’m not lying. That’s exactly what she was wearing.” He hesitated then added, excitement in his voice, “And she was wearing make-up — bright red lipstick, hideous blue eye shadow and eye liner, and black mascara as well as a pancake powder too dark for her complexion.”
“What about Steven Miles? What was he wearing?”
“The teenager you killed.”
“Oh,” he said. “I don’t remember the teen very well.”
“Okay,” I said and I jotted down a few words, holding my notebook in my lap where Richard Mock could not see.
“What are you writing?” he asked.
“Only some notes for later,” I said.
“May I see?”
“They’re just some thoughts, Richard. I’d rather keep them to myself for now.”
“But you’ll share your article with me before you publish,” he said.
“Yes, of course.”
“Don’t lie,” he commanded.
“I’m not lying,” I said. “I’ll share it with you. I’m not promising to change anything in it, but I’ll certainly share it with you before it goes to print.”
Richard Mock said, “I don’t know why I am doing this.”
“Doing what?” I asked.
“Talking to you.”
I ventured, “You want to tell your side of the story.”
6 – The Magazine Article
Max Peterson was certainly a diversion from the slow passage of time. The first time we met, he made me so angry I just got up and left him in the visitor gallery. The second time, I told him I didn’t kill any of the people I confessed to killing. I don’t know if he believed me or not. The superintendent didn’t let me read the article before it was published and Dr. Smack insisted I not read it after it was published so I don’t actually know what Max Peterson wrote about me. Strange, to say the least. I tell him my tale and then I don’t even know what he thought of my story. I did find out that it wasn’t a newspaper article but an article published in a fancy magazine. I don’t know which magazine but I did hear it was one with a large circulation. That was awesome to hear — kind of made my day.
Michael tried to smuggle in a copy for me to read but it was apprehended by the superintendent. She’s a real stickler for rule following. She suspended our visitations for a month because of that failed caper.
“Be careful,” I told Michael. I couldn’t stand it if he couldn’t come to see me.
“I’m sorry,” he told me over the phone. “I guess you won’t get to read it.”
“You could read it over the phone,” I suggested.
“I guess so,” he said.
“No, that’d take forever,” I said. Even though I wanted to hear Michael read it, I was also worried I’d hate the article. And if I hated the article, then I would hate Max Peterson — and worse than that, I’d hate myself for talking to Max Peterson in the first place. So I told Michael to forget about it. Of course, my brother agreed. I wanted to ask him how Mr. Peterson portrayed me but again, I was worried I’d wind up hating myself for agreeing to the interviews. Turned out to be quite a few sessions that lasted over a little more than six months.
That half-year was the first that was different from the other twenty-three years in asylum-ville. When the interviews were finally over, I missed Max Peterson more than I cared to admit at the time. I still miss him on occasion but that’s to be expected. I invested a great deal of time and energy while telling that man the truth.
Max called me a few days before the article was published to ask what I thought of it.
“I haven’t read it yet,” I said.
“Oh, I thought for sure you’d have read it before it went to press,” he said.
“I haven’t had access to it,” I told him.
“You’re kidding,” he said.
Max Peterson promised he’d do something about that. The superintendent verified later that Mr. Peterson “did call. Yes, he called me,” said the superintendent. “But I told him I’d intercepted the copy he mailed to you. I told him not to send another.”
There was no changing her mind, so I let it go. Like I said, I was worried I’d just wind up hating myself. I don’t hate myself and I don’t want to start hating myself now.
Michael did tell me the article was “classy with a really nice photograph of you on the cover page —.”
“Of the magazine?”
“No, not the magazine cover,” he explained. “Just the opening page of the article had a two really nice photographs of you — one image has you looking to the right; the other has you looking to the left. It looks like you and me sitting next to each other actually.”
I laughed into the phone. I didn’t remember anyone taking my photograph.
Michael continued, “Actually David there’s that something in the eyes that everyone mentions that I hadn’t noticed before —.”
“Yes, in both photographs of you — something different in your eyes.”
“You still believe me, don’t you?”
“Of course,” he said.
His voice was strained a bit, and I wondered if my brother was lying to me. I reiterated, “I didn’t kill anyone, Michael.”
“I know,” he said. “I know you didn’t.”
“But Max thinks I did, doesn’t he?”
“I’m not sure,” said Michael. “It’s hard to tell from the article.”