Redemption at Mansfield Reformatory- fiction writing assignment for creative writing
(DISCLAIMER: This is the start of a creative writing lesson I am doing for my college course. This is a fiction story and though some of the details can be found in real life, this story is in NO WAY true. The description of Butler and the Mansfield Reformatory strictly come from my imagination though they do exist in real life. The characters in this story are not real though the details of their lives could be found in real life.)
I finally have a chance to cover a story that may get me out of this hick town of Butler, Ohio. I can see it now printed in major newspapers across the nation, “Sarah Wesley inside the head of psychopath Fredrick Peters!” Chicago Tribune may pick me up after this story. Maybe that is what my editor wants; hell the whole town most likely wants me to leave their sacred town of tradition. I am one of the few in town who openly lives gay in our small community. To have the opportunity to cover the only murder in our towns’ history is something I have been waiting on for so long, it will be my breakout story.
This is a story of a lifetime for a reporter like me. Living in a small town with a population of 921 doesn’t exactly help a person become the next big thing like Lisa Ling. For years I was assigned government stories surrounding the LGBT community. Being bisexual my editor assigned me to cover those stories because he thought being gay made me an expert on the matter. My editor is a die hard evangelical and can be a total ass. He has actually told me several times over the years that I should find the Lord or be damned to hell for my sin. Maybe hell is where he is sending me today.
Mansfield Reformatory is a maximum security prison built in Romanesque architectural style about thirty minutes north of my hometown Butler. From the outside an onlooker could mistake this prison for a castle owned by royalty. On the inside, this prison is hell for inmates. It opened in 1886 and has served as a maximum security prison since its opening. Mansfield reformatory houses some of the most violent criminals in our country on one hundred and forty acres. It is one of the toughest prisons that house murderers serving life sentences or waiting on death row. It is known statewide for its rough tactics, disciplinary action, and sometimes violent control over inmates. It’s the Alcatraz of Ohio.
The stench of disinfectant, urine mixed with sweat was almost too much to bear as I walked down the dark corridor towards the area set up for the interview. Anticipation and angst gripped me as I tried to focus on questions I was going to ask instead of the stench and spine-chilling appearance of the run down prison. The guard escorting me was of enormous physique. His muscles protruded his short sleeve shirt and he was over six feet tall. He had the typical military cut where his hair did not pass the nape of his neck. He barely spoke as he led me towards the prisons center west wing where things were set up for my interview with the notorious Butler man Fredrick Peters, the local bus driver who kidnapped and murdered Charlene Lewis, a female coworker. The visitor’s area was located in the center west wing on the third floor next to the court rooms. Climbing three flights of stairs was difficult to say the least especially when you’re lugging around a heavy laptop, and a briefcase stuffed with news articles, pictures, notes, research, and writing utensils.
Charlene, the victim, was in her early twenties fresh out of college. The bus driving job was a temporary one while she waited to get into her field of expertise. She had resumes all over the country. She wanted to be a meteorologist in a big city like New York. She could have had a job at the local station where she did her internship but she never wanted to be a small town girl. The bus depot gave her the job that helped her pay for college and the flexibility of the job was the main reason she kept it waiting for the big break.
The sound of the keys clanking together echoed through the corridor as the guard took them from his belt to unlock the barred door to the visitor’s room. My anxiety became bigger as images of the crime scene flashed through my mind. The crime scene was inundated with blood. It was evident that Charlene struggled for her life ferociously. The streak of blood that ran across the wall leading to the door showed a woman crawling along the wall trying to get to the exit.
Fredrick Peters is a man in his mid-thirties, a bus driver for ten years, accused and found guilty of first degree murder. Fredrick stood 5’6, light brown hair with a receding hairline and was socially awkward. He lived in his mother’s basement who was a widow. He never had much luck with women or maintaining friendships according to all the information I gathered from my research, interviews, and news articles. There is something about his eyes. His eyes were crazed and his demeanor made my skin crawl. Goosebumps break out on my body and the hair on the back of my neck stands up. The door echoed with a loud creaking as the guard opens it.
“Here you go ma’am. You have one hour with the prisoner. I will be right outside this door if you need anything. I also want to advise you that this session is being recorded and will be archived with the prison.” He stepped to the side and allowed me to enter. The loud clank of the door closing startled me so much I drop my briefcase and some pictures fall out. I scurry to pick them up and put them back into my briefcase. I pause at the final photograph needing put back into the briefcase. This photo always catches my eye to review. I stand and look over it for a moment.
Charlene’s body is sprawled out on her back. She is soaked in blood, which turned out to be her own blood according the DNA tests done by the crime lab. It was dark, and most of it dried on her arms, legs and face. The dried blood suggests that she fought her attacker for a while. Some of her wounds according to the coroner show she was tortured for days before a final blow from a blunt object killed her.
The most memorable thing that sticks out about this photo is the way Charlene has her arm resting across her forehead with her palm turned out. It seems as though this last position of her body was begging for the torture to stop. I wanted to ask Fredrick about this particular photo. I want to know if she was begging for him to stop and if this is what this photograph represents to the living. I want to know why her begging didn’t trigger remorse inside him and I didn’t want the usual answer that he is a sociopath and that prevents him from feeling anything. I wanted to hear him tell me details as to what was going through his mind at this moment in the photograph.
“Hello Fredrick, I’m Sarah Wesley, with the Butler Gazette. I am here to tell your story, so tell me where you want to begin.” He was chained to a chair that was bolted to the concrete floor. He was smoking a cigarette and every time he reached up to his face to take a drag the chains clatter echoed the empty room we sat in.
…to be continued…
(Please feel free to give me feedback about this start…I have another 700 words to write.)