Just in time for CHRISTMAS, enter discount code: PCVM7Z6M at check-out for 20% off AFTER JEWEL at my e-Store on Createspace.
AFTER JEWEL by Carley Eason Evans
Just in time for CHRISTMAS, enter discount code: PCVM7Z6M at check-out for 20% off AFTER JEWEL at my e-Store on Createspace.
AFTER JEWEL by Carley Eason Evans
AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL
by Carley Eason Evans
2014 Copyright ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
28 – Simple Discipline
David — in one of my last interviews with him — told me that when his mother, Hazel Mock punished him — it was a simple and direct punishment. She made him stand with his face close to a tree trunk in the front yard no matter the weather, no matter how many neighbors or automobiles went by, no matter if other children made fun of him or even threw things at him. Hazel Mock insisted he stand for at least an hour with his face as near to the bark of the tree trunk as possible. “She didn’t want a mark on me,” explained David. “If I pressed my face up against the tree, she’d yell at me to step back a bit. She’d scream, ‘Don’t you do that, Rich. Don’t you dare.’ My mother had a strict but simple policy.”
“So you’d just stand there?”
David nodded, “Yep in the rain, in the snow, in wind — you name it, my mother had me standing in it.” And he laughed.
Michael verified this. “Yes,” he agreed, “our mother did make Richard stand with his face toward this big tree we had in our front yard — actually I think you’ve seen that tree. You know the one —.”
With Sandy Whitehead, I later looked through photographs of the Mock residence and indeed, the oak tree was rather large but was off to the side of the front yard so I’d not noticed it when I visited. Earlier, I had asked Sandy to take a few photographs of the house surreptitiously, which she’d done, of course.
In the interview, David told me, “Once a kid threw a rock at me. He hit me here —.” David pointed to his left temple. “I stood bleeding as the kid laughed at first then got scared and ran away. My mother was on our porch, knitting I think. She saw the kid throw the rock. She knew it hit me. She just sat there with her knitting needles — I think she was knitting — and when I turned toward her, believing she’d want to see how hurt I was, she screamed at me, ‘Rich, don’t you dare.’ And I had to stand there for another thirty minutes with blood streaming down my face onto my shirt. I don’t remember if I cried. I bet I didn’t. But I do remember I was angry.”
“At your mother —.”
“At the kid mostly,” said David. “But yes, at my mother, too.”
When I spoke with Michael, he denied that Hazel Mock disciplined him in the same manner. “Oh no,” he said, “my mother never made me stand outside in the rain and snow. That was Rich’s punishment, not mine.”
I asked him, “So how did Mrs. Mock punish you?”
“She didn’t,” he explained. “My mother left disciplining me to our father.”
“And how did Mr. Mock punish you?”
Michael looked at me blankly as he’d done other times. He shook his head and commented that I was getting awfully personal, as he’d done at least one other time.
“I think it’s pertinent how your father disciplined you,” I said.
“Well,” said Michael, “it wasn’t much of a punishment. My father didn’t particularly enjoy disciplining — and that included disciplining Richard. Our father was — well, still is — a gentle man. He doesn’t raise his voice; he doesn’t care to hit. He did on occasion wield a belt but always with a measured calmness, never in anger and certainly never in rage.”
“So why did he hit your mother?” I asked.
Michael blushed. He had a large bite of buffalo burger in his mouth and he just spat it out onto the plate. “My father never hit my mother,” he stated.
“She said he did,” I offered, cautious.
“My mother told you that my father hit her?”
“That’s ridiculous,” said Michael. “Richard told you that.”
“No, David — I mean, Richard — reacted like you just did. Well, he laughed actually.”
“My mother must be getting senile,” said Michael flatly.
I ventured, “Do you think perhaps it was your mother who hit your father?”
Michael knocked his cola over — the dark liquid moved across the table and over its edge. I scooted my chair back, stood up to avoid getting wet. He said, “Oh, I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay,” I said. I took several napkins from the black holder in the center of the table and wiped up most of the cola. A waitress came with a dry cloth to clean the rest. I thanked her.
Michael sat perfectly still. He had stopped eating. He looked at me. “I don’t understand,” he said.
“I don’t understand why my mother would say that about my father.”
“So you don’t believe it?”
“I don’t,” he said.
That weekend I drove back to the skilled nursing facility to visit with George Mock on the Alzheimer’s unit. I wanted to know if Hazel Mock had ever hit him.
George was running a low-grade fever, but the nursing staff allowed me to visit him in his room. When I came in, the old man was in his bed with its head cranked up to around forty-five degrees. He was pale but his eyes were open. He grinned at me, said, “Oh there you are.”
“Hi, Mr. Mock.”
“Call me George,” he said. “And you are?”
“I’m Max, George. Do you remember me?”
“No, I’m afraid not.” He smiled, said, “For a moment there, I thought you were Michael — that’s my firstborn son.”
“Yes, I just saw Michael the other day,” I told him.
“You did? Where? At the school?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “I saw him at a cafe in Hot Springs.”
“Hot Springs?” he asked, obviously bewildered. He said, “I didn’t know Michael had moved back to Arkansas.”
I shook my head, sat in a wooden chair which I’d pulled up to the side of the bed. “Mr. Mock,” I said, “did Hazel ever hit you?”
“Is she here?”
“No,” I said.
“Where is she?”
“I imagine she’s at your house,” I answered then asked my question again. “Mr. Mock, did your wife ever hit you?”
“What?” I asked, almost involuntarily.
“Nothing,” said the old man, then smiled again.
“Mr. Mock, did Hazel hit you?”
“Once,” he said.
“Yes, she hit me with her damn Impala one Sunday morning. She was backing it up too fast and clipped me — knocked me right down on my ass.” And the old man laughed. Tears welled up in his eyes. He said, “Oh how I miss her — my Hazel.”
“But,” I said, faltering, “she never hit you with her fist or an object?”
“Oh, good Lord, no.” He frowned. He sighed and repeated, “No, good Lord, no.” Then he grew still, added, “I hit her.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Every time I was angry at Richard, I took it out on my sweet Hazel.”
“That was often?”
He nodded, tears flowing freely now.
“Thank you, George.”
The old man looked at me, confused. He leaned forward so that his head came off the pillows, asked, “Who are you anyway?”
AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL
by Carley Eason Evans
2014 Copyright All Rights Reserved
20 – Over Distances
(David’s Journal Entry)
The pharmacy job was boring and I didn’t stay there long. I quit after six months, did an internet search and found the job I had for the remainder of the time I was ‘on the loose’ so to speak. I found employment in the large distribution center. Although I realize that sounds just as boring as stocking medications in the pharmacy, the distribution center job involved travel in a van to all parts of Rapid City and to some of the outlying areas. This travel afforded me opportunities to identify more victims — and if you haven’t figured it out yet — that was what I was searching. At all times, I searched for people over which to wield power — the power to terrify hearts, the power to take lives. Being inside a van, I was able to spot potentials — people who appeared vulnerable or deserving or better yet — both.
I tried to explain this to Max Peterson at our next interview but he was distracted by Felix, or so it seemed to me. I thought perhaps Max wanted to spend his precious time with the guard more than he wanted to spend his time with me. He kept glancing at Felix while I talked about the red-haired woman I killed soon after graduating from college. Max acted as if he didn’t know I’d gone to the University of Iowa or that I graduated with a degree in Chemistry. But, he also didn’t appear particularly interested in these facts, ignoring me when I told him I graduated with honors. While I talked, Max looked at Felix who gave him a knowing look at least once. I smiled at the two men who were attempting to communicate something to one another.
Then Max stared at me, said, “Excuse me, did you say you’d graduated from the University of Iowa with honors?”
I grinned, said, “I did.”
“My, my,” said Max; then he mocked me, “You must be so proud.”
“Well, where’d you go to school?” I paused. I’d never asked Max for any personal information so I wasn’t entirely surprised by the look he gave me or the silence that fell in the small room. Of course, Max just shook his head and told me he had no intention of sharing any of his life with “someone like you, David.”
“Someone like me?” I asked rhetorically.
Max ignored my comment, asked, “Well I guess you should tell me about the red-head.”
“I just did,” I protested. “You weren’t listening.”
“No, I guess I wasn’t.”
Felix shifted. I looked at him, said, “What’s with you?” The guard didn’t answer.
“Something’s come up, David,” I said.
“My article — well my rough draft of it — has stirred some questions about you,” I said. “At the magazine, my editor asked me the same question I’ve asked myself — why there’s no forensic evidence against you after all these years?”
“Cause I’m too good,” suggested David. Then he laughed, “Or because I didn’t kill anyone.”
Max pointed to the guard, said, “The latter is what Felix thinks. I’m thinking your brother also believes you didn’t kill anyone you claimed to kill.”
“Felix,” I said, “you old dog.”
The guard involuntarily smiled at me, then moved into the room toward Max. Felix said, “You knew that, didn’t you, Mr. Mock — that I haven’t thought of you as a killer for years now.”
“No,” I said honestly, “I didn’t know that. You always seem so paranoid when Michael is here. You act terrified that you’ll let me out instead of him at the end of our visits.”
“Well, that would cost me my position, Mr. Mock.”
“Why do you call me that, Felix?” The guard usually called me David. I wondered why he was using my given name today.
“Because you are not David Stone,” said Felix. “As Dr. Wiggins always tells you — there is no David Stone; there’s only Richard Mock.”
“But,” I said, “Dr. Smack — I mean, Dr. Wiggins thinks I’m a killer, doesn’t he?”
“Yes,” said Max Peterson, “I think Dr. Wiggins believes you are the serial killer you pretend to be.”
“Am I that good of an actor, Mr. Peterson?”
“I guess so,” said Max. But I spotted the doubt — that nagging uncertainty — in his expression. He didn’t know for sure. He was afraid of being made a fool. He was distressed that Dr. Smack might — in fact — be correct. Max was worried that I was indeed a hideous monster. And in Max’s doubt I had my power over him. Then, I looked at Felix. The guard was looking at me with the same pity and understanding I loathed. Now I knew why I did not have power over him. Felix didn’t believe. Without belief in my monstrosity, there could be no fear and without fear, there was no power.
“Well,” I said to Max, “what are you going to do about it?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well,” I continued, “if I didn’t kill all those people — any of those people — then I am being held for nothing.”
Felix nodded his head, whispered, “That’s exactly right.”
“I’m not sure,” said Max. “Why don’t you do something?” he asked me.
“Not sure what I can do,” I lied.
Felix offered, “You could tell the superintendent that you lied when you confessed.”
I glared at the guard, then whispered, “I guess I could do that.”
“Sure,” said Max in a manner that sounded half-hearted, “you could do that.”
D.S. March 15, 2011
The idea of denying my confessions bothered me for the entire weekend. During the week, most inmates had assignments — essentially job tasks around the hospital. I worked in the laundry on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and in the gardens on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Not surprisingly I preferred the gardens. Being outside was good. But on the weekends we each had too much time on our hands — time to worry, time to get bored, time to grow anxious and crazy.
On top of having more time with myself and with no one else, I also had another dead person calling across time and space, reminding me that I was not an innocent victim. This person I killed in Wyoming. I’d driven across the state border on a weekend excursion — I’d decided to go camping, try my hand at fishing. I had nothing better to do.
Just across the border, my old heap failed me. I stood peering under the faded blue hood pretending I might discover what was wrong when a bright red pick-up truck pulled over in front of my car. A forty-something gentleman hopped out of the cab, called out, “You need some help there, buddy?”
I put on my best smile and said, “I surely do.”
The man wore coveralls and a red and black plaid shirt making him look like a lumberjack — except that he was small in frame and wasn’t carrying an axe. He leaned in next to me to stare at the engine. He wiggled a couple of cables and grinned at me. He said, “I really don’t know much about engines.”
“Neither do I.” I smiled at the man.
“Well,” he said, “I tell you what. I’m driving into Gillette, why don’t you come along? Just lock up your car and I’ll take you to a garage I know where you can get a towing service —.”
I interrupted him. “Yes, that’d be great.”
The man hesitated, added, “It’s a ways from here, but I’m pretty sure your car will be here when you come back for it.”
“Oh,” I said, “don’t worry about my old heap. She’s seen better days, but I think she’ll survive without me.”
“Okay then,” said the man.
I excused myself from him, reached into my car to get my short blade knife which I placed in the concealed holster in the crook of my back. From the back seat, I grabbed my camping kit — a small tent, a sleeping bag and some food and water. Then I slammed the driver’s door, locked the car and followed the gentleman to his pick-up truck. I tossed my camping gear in the truck bed, and climbed into the passenger side.
The day was overcast and the light from the afternoon was fading rapidly. As we drove along, the man grew silent. He turned on the radio and we listened to country-western songs for miles. Then he turned it down, asked me, “So you live around these parts?”
“Rapid City,” I said.
“Nice town,” he said.
“It’s okay,” I agreed.
Silence fell again. The man turned up the radio so that we listened to more country-western songs. About twenty-five miles later, he turned the radio down again, introduced himself, “My name’s Bob Miller.”
“I’m David Stone,” I said.
“Nice to meet you, Dave.”
“David,” I said.
Bob Miller nodded, cocked his head, said, “Okay.”
Silence fell once more. For a few minutes, Bob didn’t turn the radio volume back up, then he reached for the knob and turned it up louder than before. The music swelled and I shut my eyes.
“You going to sleep?” Bob shouted over the music.
“I doubt it,” I said.
After another thirty minutes of driving, darkness fell on the roadway. I said over a song, “I need to piss.”
“Oh, right,” said Bob.
“Pull over right here, anywhere, I mean.”
“Okay, sure.” He drove on a few miles looking for a turn-in. The road was wide and the shoulder relatively even. He pulled in and turned off the engine. As soon as he did, I reached back to the knife in the holster, pulled it, turned slightly toward Bob and stuck the blade under his right arm into his chest. He flinched as I’m certain it was a shock. He grabbed at me, but I’d taken the knife from his ribcage and made one clean slice across his jugular — the blood was already spurting against the inside of the truck’s windshield. He gurgled one word or semblance of a word before he died. As he tried to speak one more time, I pulled up his right shirt sleeve and meticulously carved a small diamond on the inside of his wrist. Then, I got out of the truck, stood, unzipped my fly and took my piss. After relieving myself, I leaned back into the cab, took my shirt corner and wiped down the passenger door, the dashboard, and the seat while avoiding the blood that was still gushing from Bob Miller. Then I gathered my belongings from the truck bed, turned away, and headed into the woods.
Flashlight on, I walked well into the night, using my compass to make sure I was heading away from the highway and not accidentally circling back which is so easy to do. I found a stream, set up the tent, rolled out the sleeping bag, ate a dry meal bar and drank a bottle of water, then slept. In the morning, I surveyed my map of Wyoming. I’d noted the mile markers as Bob clipped along on the highway and so I had a good idea where I was — Gillette would be a four mile hike west of my location.
When I arrived, I told the garage attendant my car was parked by the side of the road immediately beyond the border between South Dakota and Wyoming.
“You walked all that way?” he asked, incredulous.
“No, no,” I chuckled. “I hitched — got a few rides. But yes — I did hike a bit.”
“Why didn’t you hike back to Rapid City?”
I stared at the garage attendant as I didn’t have a ready, reasonable answer to this question. I shrugged my shoulders, laughed, “I guess because I’m not very bright.”
The attendant — who was probably twenty-five or so — laughed. I glared at him but he missed it because he was looking at his dirty fingernails. He said, “Well, it’s likely to cost you a small fortune to have your car towed from there to here. I’ll call my sister shop in Rapid City and have them pick it up. How’s that sound?”
“Sounds like a great idea,” I said, smiling.
“Now all you have to do is get home,” he added.
Getting home didn’t prove to be as difficult as I expected. I found the bus station in downtown Gillette — the garage attendant was kind enough to drop me off so that I caught a red-eye special back into Rapid City. Then I took a taxi to my house.
The next morning, the sister garage called me to tell me my old blue Ford Taurus had died.
“There’s no fixing that Ford, sir.”
“Okay,” I said, then asked what the garage would do with the Taurus.
“The junk yard will pick it up this afternoon, crush it most likely, sell off the metal.”
“What about the engine?” I asked.
“Worthless,” said the attendant. “You might come pick up the tires — they’ve got some tread left on ‘em.”
“No,” I said, “that’s okay. You can have them if you want them.”
“Well, thanks for thinking of us, sir. Have a good day.”
I surprised myself as I responded, “You, too.”
D.S. March 22, 2011
AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL
Carley Eason Evans
2014 Copyright All Rights Reserved
17 – Hazel Mock
My interview with Mrs. Mock was one of the strangest I’ve done in my career — a career that spans twenty or so years now. She didn’t want to meet with me at first; didn’t want me in her home. Once I convinced her to let me inside, she showed me what I came to see. My interview developed over time — after she showed me the way into her basement, pointing, “The collection’s down there, but it’s boxed up. I always hated those things. Wish I could have talked George into keeping them in the attic instead of the basement. You know, Mr. Peterson, I had to move my washer and dryer into the kitchen ‘cause I couldn’t stand to be down there with those dead things.”
“I can certainly understand that, Mrs. Mock.”
“Oh, call me Hazel, Mr. Peterson.”
“Well then Hazel, you must call me Max.”
“Oh no,” she said, blushing, “I can’t do that.”
“‘Cause you’re a professional,” she explained. “You deserve your title of respect.”
I remember I raised my eyebrows. I actually felt them lift. Then the now elderly woman pointed again to the dark wooden staircase leading into the basement. She pulled a string to turn on the overhead bare-bulbed light, and said, “Right down there. You can’t miss ‘em.”
When I came back up, she must have noticed my dismay. Hazel Mock offered me a cup of black tea and I took her gesture of kindness to mean she might allow me an interview. I nodded, said, “Please ma’am.”
“Well, I guess you’d better sit down then,” she said, pointing to the lumpy couch near the front window. “I got some cookies, if you’d like.”
“Yes ma’am,” I said. As she stepped from the living room into the kitchen, I added, “That’s quite a collection down there.”
She turned, looked at me, “I don’t want to talk about those dead things.”
“Okay,” I said. “Perhaps we can talk a little about your twins.”
“Maybe,” she said and disappeared behind the wall separating the two areas of the house. I stood up, followed her into the kitchen. She turned, looked at me, said, “I thought I put you on the couch.”
I blushed. “Yes, ma’am, you did. I —.”
“Call me Hazel,” she said.
“Yes, Hazel you did. I thought we could talk while you make the tea.”
She put a silver kettle on the stovetop and turned on the gas — the pilot failed to catch. She took a wooden match, struck it and lit the eye — blue flames shot around the black circle as if to wink at us. “There,” she said, then looked at me. “Damn house is falling apart.”
I glanced around her kitchen. The windows were dirty; a few dishes were piled in the sink. Clean clothes were stacked neatly atop the washer with dirty ones heaped on the floor in front of the dryer. A broom lay across the floor at a back door as if it had fallen and she hadn’t bothered to pick it up. I ventured, “You’re not like Richard.”
“What?” she asked, then said, “Oh, you mean I’m not a neat-freak like my second-born?”
“No, I’m not. I’m more like Michael — or should I say, Michael’s more like me. Rich and I are like strangers. I never connected to my son. I wanted to, believe me. But Rich was not — how do I say it? He was not accessible.”
The kettle slowly began to whistle. She ignored it.
“Rich was always sure I was going to be mean to him; he anticipated it. Even if my intentions were kind, Rich would see them as mean. If I asked him to take out the trash, I was accusing him of not taking out the trash. If I asked him to feed the dog, then Rich took that to mean I thought he was trying to starve the dog. If I told Rich he ought to do his homework before watching a t.v. program he liked, he would take that to mean he shouldn’t enjoy that t.v. program. Oh god, I could go on and on.”
The kettle was now fully whistling and she turned off the gas. She took a ragged dishcloth and picked up the hot kettle from the eye. Hazel Mock poured the boiling water over the tea bag in a clean white mug.
“Aren’t you having a cup?” I asked.
“Oh no,” she said. “I don’t drink tea.”
“Why not?” I don’t know why I asked her this, but I remember I did.
Hazel Mock looked at me, said, “It makes me mean.” Then she smiled and goosebumps leaped across my forearms. She asked, “Do you take sugar? Cream?”
“Yes ma’am,” I said, “cream.”
“You a Brit?”
“No ma’am,” I responded. “I just like cream in black tea.”
She put half ’n half in my tea, just enough, and handed me the hot mug. Then she gestured for me to sit at the small kitchen table which was pushed up close to a window. On one side was a narrow bench while on the other side were two small chairs. I sat on the bench as she sat in the first chair across from me. I sipped the hot tea. Then I asked, “So Richard tells me Mr. Mock beat him.”
“Yes, Rich always tells everyone that.”
“Is it true?”
“Is it true?” And Hazel laughed, tears forming in her eyes. “George beat me. That’s true, but oddly enough he never laid a hand on either of our children, Mr. Peterson.”
“Your husband beat you?” I asked.
“Whenever George was angry at someone else or something else, he got angry at me.” She sighed, added, “And if the anger he felt was because of Rich, then the beating was particularly severe, shall we say.”
“So, he did hate his son?”
Hazel stared at me. “Mr. Peterson, we both hated our son.”
AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL
by Carley Eason Evans
2014 Copyright All Rights Reserved
19 – Salutatorian
Michael and I had our worst brotherly fight when we turned twelve. Michael got the perfect gift from our father — a bb-gun while I got a book on butterflies. I was so angry. I couldn’t take it out on our father, so I took it out on Michael later when we were alone in our bedroom. I didn’t understand why our parents made us share a room; it wasn’t like one of us couldn’t have stayed in the attic or — oh god — the basement with my father’s collection of dead insects and rodents!
I crawled on top of Michael just as he was falling to sleep and pressed my left hand into his throat. He gasped and his eyes flew open. He stared at me in the darkness. I let my hand up slightly so he could breathe. He gasped again, whispered hoarsely, “What? What are you doing?”
“I want to trade,” I said.
“What?” he asked and his eyes widened as he must have realized what I was doing. He whispered, “You want the gun?”
“Yes,” I said, “and you want the book, don’t you?”
He shook his head to indicate he did not want my book, but I pressed my hand into his throat again and saw that my brother couldn’t breathe. I smiled at him, nodded my head several times, said, “You want the book, don’t you?” I let up my hand again, and this time Michael said, “Yes, I want the butterfly book — please.”
I let go of him, stepped off the bed, stood up straight and said, casual-like, “Oh okay. You can have the book. I tell you what — I’ll take that bb-gun for it. Okay?”
Michael sat up in his bed, rubbed his throat, said softly, “Okay.”
“Great,” I said, feeling cheery, “it’s a deal.”
Then I crawled into the top bunk and went to sleep. I knew Michael wouldn’t tell our parents of my attack. I knew this because Michael knew I’d kill him — not metaphorically mind you, but actually kill him.
The next day, I took my bb-gun into the woods behind our property thinking I’d shoot some crows. But when I aimed at one of the birds, my arms began to shake. Within a few seconds of having the bird in my gun sight, I realized I couldn’t shoot a dumb animal. I couldn’t be like my father — I couldn’t kill a living animal. I admit that this inability to kill a dumb thing surprised me. Standing in the woods with the gun, I also realized that a gun was too impersonal. I didn’t want to kill anything with a gun. I would use a weapon that required up close and personal attention. I would use knives.
And that’s when I remembered my grandfather’s knife on the cutting table — so beautiful and balanced. That’s when I decided to purchase my first knife through mail-order. I sold my bb-gun back to Michael and not for the book on butterflies. I made him pay me his whole allowance — five dollars. With those five dollar bills and money I’d earned mowing lawns and raking leaves, I ordered the Colts High Plains dagger.
When the dagger arrived, I showed it to Michael. I said, “With this, I can do anything I want. You know that, don’t you?”
“I won’t need my hand on your throat anymore,” I said, smiling. “I need only put this sharp edge against your throat and slice. And you’ll bleed out like a stuck pig —.”
Michael started to cry, said, “Shut up.”
“Make me,” I said, and walked out of our room, the dagger in my left hand. I stopped in the hallway, came back into our room and put the Colts High Plains dagger in my locker. I put the small key in my pocket, and left my brother behind.
In seventh grade, I showed Michael what it meant to be smarter than most other students. I did very well, especially in our math and science classes. Unfortunately for him, we were in the same classrooms for these two subjects and his grades were consistently and considerably worse than mine. But then again, most of the students in those classes didn’t do as well as I did. I had competition from one boy — I’ve been trying to remember his name — I think he was called Lon or Larry. I’m not sure. At any rate, he was smart, did well on tests. He had no trouble with homework whereas I hated homework and sometimes turned it in late which counted against me. Therefore, Lon or Larry was first in our class and I was second. Being second didn’t bother me until graduation; then I was Salutatorian whereas Lon or Larry was our Valedictorian. As he delivered his speech to our high school graduating class, I dreamed of ways to kill him. However, I didn’t kill him. Instead, I killed Steven Miles who I didn’t know except that he was vulnerable on the day I decided to kill someone — even if that someone was not Lon or Larry.
Michael graduated in the middle of our class, having average grades. But our parents were proud of him, of what he accomplished despite not having the mental prowess I had. As for what they thought of me, my mother said something about my Salutatorian address to the class — she said it was “interesting.”
“Thanks, Mom,” I said.
“But that Valedictorian, he was something else,” said my father. “What a fantastic speech.”
“Yes,” beamed my mother, “he was amazing, wasn’t he?”
“He was,” I admitted even though by now I hated Lon or Larry. I remember his name — he was Lon Lancaster and he went on to own a computer software development company in Sioux Falls and become wealthy and powerful in his own right. I never went down to Sioux Falls for fear I’d run into him and naturally murder him. If I murdered Lon Lancaster, everyone would turn to look at me and I’d be caught — caught long before I was ready to confess.
Michael shook my hand after we both received our diplomas. Because the first letter of his first name comes before mine in the alphabet, he was in front of me in line. I stood behind him as he reached for his high school diploma and saw him turn back to watch me receive mine. He was proud. I saw this in his face and I admit I teared up briefly when I realized Michael still loved me despite every threat he’d endured from me over the years. I was embarrassed as I took my piece of paper from our district superintendent for I’d not felt anything when Michael graduated.
After that day, my relationship with Michael changed. I didn’t threaten him again. To some extent, this was due to the fact that Michael and I parted ways — he went to the local two-year community college while I left the state to attend a much better school — the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The four years that I attended university, studying chemistry, I didn’t think about killing. This hiatus went unnoticed by me until much later — it was as if I became a different person the day I graduated from high school.
Unfortunately, the day I graduated from college, something changed again. Standing in the crowd of graduating seniors, I — almost inexplicably — missed my collection of knives which I’d left in my metal locker under my bed at my parents’ home in Rapid City.
The next day, I bought an old heap at a local used car dealer and drove it from Iowa City to Rapid City. I parked on the street, walked up to and unlocked our front door, startling my mother who was watching television in the living room.
“Oh, Rich,” she cried out. “Why didn’t you call?”
“I don’t know,” I said. Then without speaking to her further, I marched upstairs, opened my bedroom door, reached under the bed, pulled out my metal locker, trotted downstairs with it, peered into the living room. “Got what I came for,” I said to my mother who was just turning off her program. “I’ll be heading out now.”
“What?” she asked.
“I got what I came for,” I repeated. “I’m leaving now.”
“No, Rich,” she said. “Come in. Come in. Have a cup of tea with me.”
“No,” I said, “I don’t have time. Besides, I don’t want to.”
“You don’t want to,” said my father who came into the living room from the kitchen.
“No, I’ve got to go,” I repeated.
“What’s that?” asked my father, pointing to the metal locker in my hands.
“It’s mine,” I said.
“That’s not an answer, Richard.”
“It’s mine,” I repeated, “and it’s none of your business what it is.” My father moved toward me, and I threatened him with the metal locker, raising it up as if it were a weapon. “Don’t,” I warned the man who hated me. “I’m going now. Okay?”
My father stepped back and nodded.
Before I left, I said to my mother, “By the way, I graduated yesterday.”
“Yesterday?” asked my father.
“Oh Rich, that’s wonderful,” said my mother and for a moment she sounded excited, proud.
“I didn’t know you went to a college, Richard,” said my father.
“I know, sir,” I said. “I went to the University of Iowa. I got a Bachelor of Science degree yesterday in engineering.”
My mother started to cry, said, “Rich, we thought you were in Montana fighting fires or logging or something like that.”
“I know,” I said, “but I wasn’t. I was in Iowa City.”
“Did Michael know?”
I nodded, said, “Yes, Michael attended the ceremony yesterday.” I turned, opened the front door after resting my metal locker on my thigh so my hand would be free to twist the door knob. I turned again, said to my parents, “Don’t blame Michael. I asked him not to tell you. Good-bye.” Then I pushed the door open and walked out as I heard my mother howl like a hurt dog.
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.
AS FROM A TALENTED ANIMAL
Carley Eason Evans
copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved
14 – Marked Tree Arkansas
We started out in Rapid City, South Dakota but when my brother and I were six years old, our father moved us back to his hometown, Marked Tree, Arkansas. His parents owned a small town restaurant on Marked Tree’s main drag. Money problems drove their son back to them. We stayed in a back building off the main house, and my mother hated it and probably her husband for landing us there. At least we had some privacy which my mother apparently failed to notice and appreciate. On the other hand, my brother and I loved the cotton fields behind our grandparents’ house — and the three huge pecan trees in their back yard. Our grandmother grew watermelons, green beans and corn right behind her house in a tiny garden. She also kept chickens and squirrels. I don’t remember if we ate squirrel; I know we had chicken on Sundays after church.
My church-going began and ended in Marked Tree. My grandmother would rouse us from bed early Sunday mornings, make us gussy-up and go off to the Baptist church with her. We had to attend Sunday school and then the big people service as well. She wouldn’t put up with fidgeting or fighting or whispering in the pew. She insisted — with her iron grip — that we listen to the preacher and stand up to sing the hymns and close our eyes and move our lips during the prayers. “Just look like you are listening, Richard,” she told me and then she’d pat Michael on top of the head because Michael was listening. I hated church. I hated the perfumed women all around me in their idiotic hats and clutch purses and high-heeled shoes. The men smelled — well, not much better — with after shave lotion and colognes of their own. The preacher droned on and on, sometimes for a half-hour! The hymns were impossible to follow and the prayers — to me at six years of age — the prayers were mumbled petitions to a man in the sky who never seemed to hear.
But after church my grandmother would lay out a spread on her large dining room table that included fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, corn, biscuits, turnips and apple pie! My mouth would water so much I had to suck my spit back into my mouth before I sat down next to Michael.
Michael always volunteered to say grace, every Sunday noon. He waved his arm when our grandfather asked, “Who wants to say grace?”
“Oh, me, grandpa! Me.”
“Do us the honor, Michael,” said our grandfather.
And Michael obliged with “now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take” and looked at me with a wry smile.
Our grandmother protested, “That’s not grace, Michael.”
Michael laughed, winked at her, and said the correct blessing of our meal. Then we all dug in, cleaning our plates, asking for seconds, even thirds. Only then did our grandmother dish out the apple pie served with a dollop of ice cream. After dessert, Michael and I cleaned off the table and I washed the dishes while he swept the dining room and kitchen floors with a broom too long for him. I remember laughter in that kitchen.
On Mondays we attended first grade at the Marked Tree public elementary school. After school, our grandparents expected us to help at the restaurant. Although we were young, I washed dishes for them while Michael swept the floors, again with a broom too long and too heavy for him. I stood on a small metal stool to reach into the deep porcelain sink to wash the pots and pans, glasses and plates, and silverware. The only items my grandfather kept from me were the knives —the butter knives, the sharp steak knives and the carving knives. He washed them separately.
The first time I saw one of the long carving knives, I remember wanting to touch it but my grandfather said, “No, Richard, it’s too dangerous. Never touch these knives. These are my knives. You are to leave them alone. Do you understand?”
I understood. But I wanted to touch that one knife — the longest, sharpest looking knife that grandfather owned. His insistence that I stay away from his knives made me want to see and touch them even more. I watched for opportunities to see them in action. Grandmother baked a big turkey — Grandfather carved it. Grandmother grilled rib-eye steaks — customers sliced into them with sharp serrated steak knives.
One afternoon at the restaurant, I saw grandfather take out a big cleaver and chop the head off a dead chicken. I almost screamed with excitement. He saw me watching, and I went back to washing a plate, pretending I hadn’t seen the cleaver. My grandmother called out for her husband; she needed him. He put the cleaver down on the large cutting board next to the head of the chicken. He wiped his hands on his butcher’s apron and walked out of the prep-area. I took my own hands out of the sudsy hot water in the deep sink, dried them on my little apron, climbed off the stool, dragged it over to the high cutting table. I climbed up, reached out to touch the bloody edge of the cleaver. I touched the black wooden handle, then laid my head down next to the blade. I looked along the edge and sighed. The knife had to be the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my whole — albeit young — life.
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.”
The story pretty much picks up where the first one ended, and to be truthful, I had to go back and peruse the last few pages of Gani and Sean to remind myself exactly what happened. Marian Watts has headed toward Mexico with a few kilos of Kristoff Koczella’s pure “product.” Sean LePen heads back to Chicago to pick up a “package” and then heads toward Mexico, herself.
We are introduced to a couple new characters as the story shifts to Mexico. Grandmama Maria owns a little shop in Oaxaca de Juarez, called “The Laughing Bowl.” Her grandson, Alberto, helps her run the shop. There is also a man named Paulo, who runs a nearby restaurant called “The Fighting Chicken.” All of the businesses in that town are terrorized by local thugs who work for the Los Zetas drug cartel. They come around periodically to collect “protection money.” But Grandmama Maria refuses to pay. They break her shop windows, along with some of the merchandise, and then they break Alberto’s arm. Maria heads to Mexico City to hire an assassin.
Sean happens to be in Mexico City and observes Maria attempting to hire an assassin, but the man will not take the job. He doesn’t want anything to do with the cartel. Sean introduces herself to Maria, and our new plot begins to take shape. Sean and Maria eventually meet up, and team up against the cartel, along with Maria, Alberto, and Paulo.
It’s an entertaining story and plot with interesting characters. Along the way, we get a little back story about the relationship between Gani and Marian, which we don’t know about in the first book. The ending is satisfying. Will there be more? Only Ms. Evans knows.
From the back of my car, I sold a copy of THE EIGHT-FOOT BOY to a person I met at a Low Country Boil. I’d sat with her mother and we talked of how we both went to college in Ohio, about our lives in this beautiful region of the world and then I mentioned that I am a novelist.
When her daughter arrived, we spoke of character development in novels, about where ideas come from and I gave her a little information about my writing process.
She expressed an interest in AFTER JEWEL. I told her I probably had a copy in my car. Later, as I was leaving, she initiated that she’d like to buy one of my novels. I said, “Well let’s see what I’ve got with me.”
In a box in my car, I showed her METAL MAN WALKING, THE ONLY THING ( which is a sequel to GANI & SEAN but I had no copy of GANI & SEAN and she’d need to read it first, so…), AFTER JEWEL ( an earlier edition ) and THE EIGHT-FOOT BOY. She expressed an interest in reading the re-write of AFTER JEWEL ( which makes sense ) and so she purchased THE EIGHT-FOOT BOY.
One of the easiest sales I’ve made.