::Literate Blather::
Friday, February 06, 2009
The Case of the Strangled Sister

Completely True, But Utterly
Exaggerated Crime Stories

(Call me Carter. Everyone does, even m
y ex-wife’s lawyer who keeps calling to complain about my tardiness on alimony payments. Hey, I’m an old bastard now and I’ve got the gray hairs and faulty memory to prove it. I was a crime reporter back in the wild 1980s when cocaine flowed and the crime rate burst off the charts. My newspaper stories about drugs, murder, suicide, rape, and robbery chronicled these crazy times in the old, decaying mill cities of Central Massachusetts – the state’s forgotten and generally disliked middle. This is the place where I empty the pain and agony locked inside my old reporter’s notebooks.)*

They found the murdered girl under a thin covering of leaves in the A____ State Park. Her skin was a pallid shade of yellow, like a maple leaf bleached by the waning autumn sunshine. In fact, when I stared down at her dead eyes, the sunlight glittered off a sliver button on her corduroy jacket.

“Damn shame,” the cop next to me said.

Who was I to argue? I turned my back and lit a smoke. Made me feel vaguely human.

Someone had strangled her with a bike chain, so violently that they nearly decapitated her. She had been a pretty sort, but the type to wear too much eye shadow. She was 16.

Clearly, the murderer hadn’t expended much effort trying to hide her corpse. Either he was arrogant or stupid. Turns out he was both.

Meanwhile, I had a job to do. When kids get killed, my readers wanted to know why, and it was my job to tell them.

So I went to find her mother.

She answered the door to her ranch house in a bathrobe. She was plump, but you could tell she had been a beauty in her youth before hard living and too many cigarettes wrecked her. She plopped down on a couch covered in cat hair without much modesty. She cried, but spilled her guts.

Her murdered daughter lived in a rented house on the other side of town with her big sister and a group of older teenagers. That was my next stop. There was a broken toilet in the front yard. The grass, patches of it amongst the dirt, hadn’t been mowed since May.

The killer answered the door, but I didn’t know it at the time. Deep acne scars on his cheeks and chin. Long, unwashed hair. The dull, vacant eyes of someone who smokes marijuana everyday. His breath was sour through the screen door.

When I asked about the girl, his pupils widened. He shut the door without a word. I knew he was hiding something and told the cops about it.

Eventually I found some friends and wrote the story for the next day’s edition. Front page, of course. Everyone loves a story about murdered children.

It didn’t take the cops long to arrest the boy – and to squeeze the real story out of him. He was the sister’s boyfriend and had been caught having sex with the victim. So the lovely, deranged sister ordered him to kill her. For love, of course. A twisted version of “Romeo & Juliet.”

They plotted together. He lured the victim into his room and had sex with her again while the sister watched from the closet. Then out came the bike chain. The sister helped strangle her. They stuffed her in a plastic garbage can and lugged her out to his pick-up truck.

The victim stirred, made a gurgling noise. So they strangled her again. Loaded her into the back of the truck and drove out to the state park, where they unceremoniously dumped her.

It all came out in the trial – which I sat through on the stiff wooden benches. The sadness and desperation left me exhausted and after filing my stories, I’d drink alone in whatever bar was closest. They both went to prison for a long time – as adults.

The mother called me a few times. Wanted me to visit. I never did. The story tired me out. And then I forgot all about it. That’s what happens with these sordid dramas. The publicity fades and all that’s left is a dead girl and the damaged people she left behind.

But at least there’s always the next one.

*Names, dates, and locations have been changed to protect the innocence and the guilty.

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