(DISCLAIMER: This is the final draft 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. Requirements for this assignment were no more than three characters, no more than 2,000 words, and protagonist had to be different from myself in two major ways, also the story had to be written in first person, with dialogue. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did writing it! Please leave feedback.)
I can see it now printed in major newspapers across the nation, “Sarah Wesley inside the head of psychopath killer 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. Butler is a town full of evangelicals, and Christian tradition. I am one of the few in town who openly lives gay in our small community.
This was a story of a lifetime for a reporter like me. Being bisexual my editor assigned me to cover those stories because he thought being gay made me an expert on the matter. My editor could be a total ass. He 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 Butler, Ohio. From the outside an onlooker could mistake this prison for a castle. On the inside, this prison is hell for inmates. 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 houses murderers serving life sentences or waiting on death row. It’s the Alcatraz of Ohio.
The stench of disinfectant, urine mixed with sweat was almost too much to bear as I followed the guard 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 never 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.
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 pay for college and the flexibility with the schedule while 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. The crime scene images rushed 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 appeared to represent a woman crawling along the wall trying to get to the exit.
Fredrick Peters, 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 a five o’clock shadow. He lived in his mother’s basement and his mother was a widow. He never had luck with women or maintaining friendships according to all the information I gathered from my research, interviews, and news articles. Looking at him through the barred door chained to the seat he doesn’t seem threatening. Until you look into his eyes.
His eyes were crazed and his demeanor after making eye contact with me made my skin crawl. Goosebumps cover my body and the hair on the back of my neck stood 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’ll be right outside if you need anything. I want to advise you that this session is being recorded and will be archived with the prison.” He stepped to the side and I entered. The loud clank of the door closing startled me and I drop my briefcase. Some pictures fall out. I scurry to pick them up. 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 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. Charlene was a blonde but you couldn’t tell from the crime scene photo. Her hair was saturated with blood. It was dark, and most of it dried on her arms, legs, hair and face. Some of her wounds according to the coroner show she was tortured for days before a final blow to her head 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 haunted me because she looked like she was begging for the torture to stop. I wanted to ask Fredrick about this particular photo. I wanted to know if she was begging for him to stop. 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 in details as to what was going through his mind at this moment in this photograph.
Charlene was missing for a week before her body was found. The authorities were called to a home that sat vacant and was on the market for months. An anonymous caller told 9-1-1 dispatcher that a woman was lying dead inside the house. The police report claims that Charlene was held captive in this empty home for a week tortured before being brutally murdered by Fredrick Peters.
“I’m Sarah Wesley, with the Butler Gazette.” He was chained wearing a dark gray jumper with numbers 74666 printed on the right breast area in black print. The concrete floor had iron loops that came out of the floor where the thick chain was connected. The iron wrist cuffs connected to that thick chain that held him to a chair that also was bolted to the cement floor. His ankles were locked in shackles that were bolted to the chair and left his legs immobile. The smoke bellowed from his mouth. Every time he reached up to his face to take a drag the chains clatter echoed the room we sat in.
“Look at you…such a pretty thang.” His head was tilted and his eyes were sizing me up. I tried not to let my anxiety show.
“I was expecting a blond.” He took a drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke in my direction.
“Sorry to disappoint you Fredrick. You favor blonds huh?” The voice recorder was going but I held my pen above the tablet of paper ready to write down his every word as back up.
He licked his lips and his voice became deeper. “Yes…blonds are entertaining.”
“Charlene was blonde but you couldn’t tell from this picture.” I slid the crime scene photo across the table and placed it in front of him.
He placed one finger on the photo and just sat there for a moment looking at it. His demeanor changed yet again. He seemed happy to have a chance to see her again. He took a long drag from his cigarette and as he exhaled, “She was a piece of art. I worked molding this one.”
His hands were aged and scarred. He sat there with his finger on her image of the picture.
“So tell me why you killed her Fredrick.” I leaned forward placing the tablet and pen on the table. I placed my arms in front of me on the table and stared him down.
“I didn’t kill this beauty…I saved her…I set her free…she is with my master now…” He shoved the picture towards me. He threw his cigarette butt on the floor and leaned back in his chair.
“I set her free! She is where she belongs now.”
I glanced over at the cigarette butt he threw on the floor and looked back at Fredrick.
“She’s dead Fredrick. What do you mean you set her free?” I picked up the pen with my left hand while staring at him waiting for an answer.
“She was an abomination! She was called by my master. I do what I’m told.” He raised his chin slowly and looked up at the ceiling.
“He’s here now…my master. He wants me to save you too. You’re an abomination aren’t you Sarah?” His eyes fell on me and a chill came across my entire body. I tried to not allow my trembling show.
“So your master wants you to kill women?” My voice trembled slightly.
“Not just any women…women who live sinful lives…like you do.” A smirk crossed his face.
“You mean gay? Right” I said with contempt.
“YES.” He answered with an emphasis.
“You are being put to death in four hours Fredrick, how about you tell me how you tortured and killed Charlene…since we know now why you chose her.” I pulled out some news articles from my briefcase. My anxiety now anger.
Fredrick lunged forward toward me. I could see violence in his eyes. I could tell he wanted to cut me from naval to neck.
“These news articles…” I slammed them down on the table in front of him not taking my eyes off of him. “…clearly state you were a devoted religious man. They also tell a story of an awkward man who couldn’t make friends because you were too much of a loser!” This angered him even more. His breathing became heavy and more rapid. His voice seemed to morph into a very deep scratchy one.
“My master goes by the name Lucifer. Sinners…he is preparing for war….” He retrieved a cigarette from his pack of Camel blacks and placed it in his lips.
“I went to church looking for a sinner…that is where the best ones are….sinners…all of them…” He lit his cigarette and took a long drag. “I knew Charlene from driving bus…but I knew she had to be next when I saw her at church that Sunday.”
“So you’re a Satanist Fredrick?” I took a cigarette out of my purse and lit it. I continued to jot down all he said.
He started laughing like a madman. His laughter then turned into mumbling. He began to rock back and forth slowly. His eyes rolled to the back of his head as what seemed to be a smile crossed his face.
“It is time for me to go now…my master wants me.” I heard a crackling and wasn’t sure where it came from but it echoed out into the room before he started to convulse. Foam began falling from his mouth. I yelled for the guard with a screech, “GUARD!”
The story I wrote about the experience was a hit nationwide. News anchors from CNN and NBC picked it up. I was interviewed by many. I was right; the story was my big break.
The sun began rising above the Chicago city skyline as Sarah’s interview came to an end. “You have been watching In Depth with Anthony Hayes. Sarah Wesley has a new book titled, Madman’s Malice”, the anchor held up the hardback book, “We’ll be back after these messages.”
If it’s life you want to take away
Then I won’t live another day
I’ll give you want is dammed and cursed
And all this hell, you’ll be immersed
Feel the flames that burn my soul
Listen to the voice that never goes
Take it, I don’t want it, you love it, I hate it
If it’s tears you want to taste in vain
Then I won’t hide you from all the pain
Come drown in sorrows of the deepest well
Feel all the hate and loss in hell
Oh how sweet the agony of others
Oh so tragic that I can’t love another
I try to believe that what you said wasn’t true
I try every day to forget some part of you
But whenever I see my face in the mirror
I see your eyes so dark and clear
So here I give the key to my soul
All the pain and sorrow you could know
I’ll try to forgive my foolish heart
When the life in me I give you to tear apart
Take it, I don’t want it, you love it, I hate it
(This is my second draft of a memoir essay I am turning into my Freshman Composition class. The names have been changed, some things have been changed to protect identities and locations…some of this is from real life events. The essay assignment has to be a minimum of 1,000 words and I chose to use a memory of a day from my past to write about. The day I decided to leave my hometown to get clean.)
It was hot, the kind of hot that made it difficult to breathe. As I walked the street alone, the sweat ran down my face and neck, leaving a huge wet spot on my turquoise t-shirt. It appeared as if I just left a wet t-shirt contest I was drenched in so much sweat. Where was I going? I had no idea. I just knew I had to go somewhere and clear my head, figure things out, so I walked. It was just the road, my muddled thoughts and I. The freshly tarred black pavement absorbed so much heat from the blistering sun it felt as though my shoes were nonexistent. The pungent smell of the tar below my feet made this walk more like a chore than an escape to clear my head. The sound of little critters echoed from the woods to my right and the popping tar bubbles below my feet filled the area around me as dehydration surely began to set in slowly. The side streets to the neighborhood were to my left as I trudged my way up Hahn Rd. I grew up on those streets and now I faced the choice of dying on them as a drug addict or leaving them behind for good.
Those woods to my right I spent majority of my childhood exploring them, pretending I was some extraordinary scientist on another planet looking for some other form of life. I climbed those trees. I fell out of those trees. I rode my bike on the trails there. Many of the scars I have today were received from the branches from those huge oak trees, or from the huge boulders sticking out from the hilltops, or from the uneven trail tracks I raced down. I built forts in those woods. I sat in the shade and wrote some of my best poetry and short stories there under the huge oaks. I became lost in thought. How did I become this pill popping, opium using, drop out, walking to God knows where, and in search of who the hell knows what? Who am I? WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING? HOW AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF THIS ONE!? How did I end up here? I better figure something out…
The top of Hahn road on the right sat a quaint little convenience store named Phans Grocery. Really just a hole in the wall that consisted of three isles of groceries, a deli that gave the neighborhood four options of bologna, ham, salami, and what looked like bologna with pickles in it and a corner cold section with milk, soda, and beer. The store stood there for generations. Mr. Phan watched my four brothers and I grow up in the neighborhood. He knew us by name.
“R, hi there, what can I do for you kiddo…”
No matter how old I got, he still insisted on calling me kiddo. Mr. Phan was always a kind man, who looked aged. His wrinkles told stories of worries and stress and his gray hair told stories of loss. I stood in the entrance propped against the rusted metal door framing.
“Mr. Phan can I use your phone? I have to make a call to my brother in Indiana? I will pay you for the long distance I promise?”
His brows furrowed in concern as he nodded his head yes. I approached slowly being overwhelmed with exhaustion from the walk. The blazing sun for the last half hour probably dehydrated me and depleted me of any energy. I inched closer and closer to the deadline of becoming sick if I didn’t get some drugs into my body soon too.
“Your brother in Indiana…didn’t J move over there? How is he doing anyway? I haven’t seen him around here since your dad’s passing…again I’m so sorry for your loss…your dad was a good man R…neighborhood isn’t the same without Dan around.”
Mr. Phan stretched the phone across the counter to me. I breathed heavily trying to catch my breath.
“J is doing well. He hasn’t been there long actually. He moved there a few months ago from ….. I’m having him come and get me out of here actually. Thanks for letting me use your phone.”
I didn’t want to focus on thoughts of my dad. It hurt too much. Hell, my dad dying got me into the life I was living. It was the last thing I wanted to think about it, talk about, or especially comfort anyone else about. I couldn’t even comfort myself, let alone a man who watched me grow up in the neighborhood.
The phone started to ring. Sweat still ran down my face and neck profusely. I kept switching the phone receiver from my left hand to my right hand, left ear to my right ear, the sweat made it impossible to hold onto. Come on, answer the phone. Answer the phone J. I need you to answer the phone, I thought to myself, as the anxiety built in my stomach. My stomach began to churn and I began praying that my drug dealing husband, at that time, didn’t figure out where I was come and get me.
My husband then, Dick, roamed the streets looking for me. We will name him Dick here for purposes that fill me with joy. Dick was obese, malodorous, drug dealing; abusive man. I would have not given him any chance to be with me if it had not been for my dad being diagnosed with lung cancer. Dick had the drugs. I wanted to run away from all the pain and reality that my dad was going to die, and he was going to die soon. I ran off and decided to marry him in a Kentucky courthouse on this spectacular high I was on the day my dad died. Yes, that is what I said, on the day my dad died. If that wasn’t a sign this guy was bad news there were plenty more I ignored along the way simply because Dick was my door to the drugs. I got what I wanted, when I wanted them, for free. I came close to giving up on my brother J answering his phone when suddenly his deep southern accent was in my ear.
I was temporarily comforted to hear J’s voice on the other end of the telephone.
“J! You are there, thank God!”
“R…what’s going on? Is everything OK?”
“I’m in trouble J…the worst kind…I need your help man…you gotta get me outta here…”
I started to whimper.
“Hey…what do you mean you’re in trouble? Where are you?”
“I’m at Phans store. He let me use his phone. I walked here from moms. J you have to come get me man or I am going to die…please…I know it’s a lot to ask but you’re the only brother who can help me….”
“R…what have you gotten yourself into? What about R?”
“I need to get out of here…you are the only one who can help me with that…R can’t help me with this…you’re the only one…and I can help you too…I want to leave everything here J…I got mixed up with drugs…the worst one…I want to get clean…”
I expected him to yell but his reaction was the opposite. He had a stillness I never knew existed in him.
“You’re doing smack!!? …what the fuck..”
You could hear the trepidation in his voice as he released a quivered sigh and a moment of silence brought pause to our conversation.
“J…I’m not on the needle…I do smoke opium…pop pills…snort them sometimes…smoke weed…I gotta get outta here man…they are everywhere and I’m hooked bad man…I can get clean if I leave here and I can help take care of your kids after I do while you and J work…I can’t get clean in Mansfield, I need to completely change my life J…”
Terror gripped me as I worried his answered was going to be no. I asked him to drop everything in his life to not only drive over to Ohio and pick me up, but bring me home with him to live and deal with me detoxing all the while living with blind faith that I would actually keep my word that I would get clean and stay clean, which most addicts have a hard time with.
“Where are you staying? You staying at moms?”
“I am at moms yes…but I know Dick will be there trying to get me to go back to him…I have to get outta here J…please help me…”
“I have two days off work…I will be there in three hours…be ready.”
We hung up. I was overcome with happiness that the thought of becoming sick from not having drugs was the farthest thought from my mind in that moment. I wiped the phone receiver off from the sweat deposits I had left and turned to thank Mr. Phan.
“Mr. Phan thank you so much for letting me use your phone, you might not understand this now but you just saved my life. My brother is coming to pick me up and taking me to Indiana. I will stop by before we head out to pay you for the phone call.”
I gave him a hug.
“You don’t worry about that phone call R and I know I saved your life with that call. That is why I let you make it. You go and get well. Be the girl I thought you would grow up to be and the girl your dad thought you would grow up to be.”
I started to walk down Hahn Rd. back the way I came. I headed back towards my mom’s house and Mr. Phan yelled from his store entrance before I reached the freshly paved road.
“R when you are tempted to look in the rear view mirror at life, keep going, it isn’t a sign to turn around and come back…you remember that!”
It is a new year! I can hardly believe it is 2015 already. I will be 37 in one month. I never imagined I would be where I am today. I drive a school bus part time and I enrolled into community college. I started my first semester January 12th. I have a week in so far. It is challenging with being sick and disabled but I am one determined woman. It must be that thing called ambition driving me. I am going for my teaching degree.
I have come far in my life. I was reflecting back on my life and all I have been through and it really does amaze me. From a chaotic, traumatic childhood, a lost teenager, a drug abusing young woman, a disabled grown woman to a sober, wife, mother and a college student. It has been one long road to this point in my life. A road full of missteps, loss, sadness, trauma, delays, joy, corrections and triumphs. I think that makes me remarkable. Yes I am remarkable.
There are so many people I have lost through the years. I wish I could reach out to them and show them that I am finally on the road to healing completely. If only there was a staircase to heaven. I am working hard to achieve a dream I’ve had for quite sometime that before I let fear, and missteps prevent me from going for that dream. Not anymore. I am taking power back over my life and over my happiness.
I will always be a working disabled woman. I think I am finally reaching the point in my life of true acceptance. My disability and health problems were an excuse for a long time. I do not use that as an excuse anymore. Self pity is what I suffered from. It took me a long time not to be so angry about having a disability so young. I still get frustrated over it being more challenging for me to do things compared to a well person. Riding a bike, dancing to music, cleaning my house, getting out of bed, getting dressed, and doing things with my family. I am finally learning to pace myself with those things and if I can’t do it on my own to ask for help or try again later.
Some mornings I do not think I can make it through the day. Somehow I do it. Somehow I get dressed, go to work and go to class. At the end of each day I am amazed sometimes that I made it though. I like to think I get that from my dad, may he be resting in peace.
My dad. It was very emotional for me after my first day of classes. I cried briefly as I was leaving the campus. My dad would have been so happy for me and so proud of me. I often wonder can he be happy and proud where he is? Where ever that is…
There are a few things I have learned by becoming disabled and I honestly do not think I would have learned them otherwise.
One, people matter, the people you have in your circle matter a great deal. They can lift you up, or bring you down. They can make your shoulders heavy with weight or help you carry burdens you have. They can make you cry, or they can make you smile. They can make you angry, or they can make you happier. Everyone knows this of course but to practice having the positive ones around you is a lot harder to practice. I have learned how to do just that, surround myself with positive and discard the negative. You have to believe in your worth in order to be sure you discard the negative people and hold on to the right people.
Two, no one can survive alone and isolated away from human connections. It feels great to make someone smile. It feels great to know others might face the problems you face. It feels great to say I have some great friends in my life.
Lastly, love abundantly. Life ends for everyone but memories can last forever. You impact the world daily with every action and even when we are gone we can impact the world. It is best to leave a lasting, loving, positive impression in stories shared with those who loved you.
Going to college will hopefully leave a lasting impression on my daughters. I want them to be strong, independent women who will not allow anyone or anything hold them back from what they want to do or become. I also hope that I leave a lasting impression that you should never give up and quit without a hard fight.
I hope I live to see the day my two girls go off to college, or get married and have a family of their own but I have come to the realization that I might not. My dad died when my youngest brother was 13 years old. My dad was only fifty when he passed on. We never know when our time is coming but we know tomorrow is never promised. I try to make the most of today everyday. Even in all my pain, struggles and monkeys on my back I make the best of it because that is how I want to be remembered.
I want my children, family and friends to share stories about how strong I was, how loving and determined I was in my life.
This life of mine has not turned out like I dreamed as a very young child but this life I am living has nothing in it I would trade away. My life up to this point has made me who I am today. I am pretty impressed with who I am today and I believe many around me are too.
I have a long road ahead of me to get my teaching degree, I know. The difference between Rachel five years ago and the Rachel today is I am ready and excited for the challenge and the adventure. May God stay with me every step of the way and lead me where it is I am meant to be like he has my whole life thus far.
It is almost hard to believe…
This is me…
There are things I want to say to you
But I know it isn’t smart to speak
Flooding my mind with thoughts
With pleasures I want to leak
Like a CIA agent gone rogue
Nothing around to ground me home
Mind constantly roams
I don’t know how to halt
Who can take fault?
You’re like a dream
I never want to leave
It is almost hard to believe
This is me…
I pray for things to break down
To breathe the air you breathe
I pray for just a glimpse
Of that sparkling smile you hold
and I know it is all wrong…
and I feel it is wrong…
It is almost hard to believe…
This is me…