October 8, 2006.

Just Another Day

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A Montage of Scenes based on the contents of CNN U.S. news on October 8, 2006. (Written in 2006 by a much younger version of me- Cakey!)

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Rever’nd and Mrs. Lawson have three children still. Even after today.

The whole fuss kicked up after lunch. Leastwise, that’s when I heard the shouting. Well, I can hardly help it if  I did. See, I live just next door to the Reverend and his Missus, we’re acquainted; neighborly. I even call ‘em Rob and Kristen sometimes. Now today caught me by surprise. Usually its just the Rever’nd I hear through my walls, practicing his sermons. Always practicing, practicing. He’s the preacher down at that St. Somebody’s Lutheran church. He wasn’t home today. He didn’t hear the ruckus, but I did. I heard it clear as day.

The cops showed up not too long after I heard that yelling. I saw them arrive with my own two eyes. They rolled up in a police car and the ambulance wasn’t far behind. They left the door open and all I could hear was Mrs. Lawson just caterwauling that her baby wasn’t breathin’. I figured she just was nervous…you know, some mothers are. But nervous nuthin’! Not five minutes later, they came rushin’ out of the house holdin’ little Isaac (I think he’s six now) and that tiny new baby. Gosh, she can’t even be 5 months yet, can she? They were rushin’ to the ambulance and that’s when I knew somethin’ was really wrong. There was a whole flurry of those EMT people, and then the ambulance took off.

And Mrs. Lawson just sat there on the front stoop. She had a little pair of wet baby washcloths in her hand. They were dripping down onto the sidewalk in front of her. She just sat there on that step and she looked at her hands and at that tiny little cloth. Strangest thing, through my screen door, I heard her let out some kind o’ teary chuckle. I didn’t know what to make of it. Then she just sat, watching the water droplets dry on the pavement.

Two hours later the police cruiser was back, and a young man  knocked on my door. He had so many questions;  wanted to know if I had any news on what happened that mornin’. Wanted to know if I heard somethin’. I told them what I knew, made him some tea while we talked, even though there wasn’t too terrible much to say. I heard yellin’ and saw the commotion is all. But that deputy, he just crossed his arms and kept askin’ me all sortsa questions, wanted to know all about Kristen Lawson. Did she have comp’ny today? Was she friendly? Did we talk? What was she like with her kids? I told him what I knew about the Rever’nd and his wife.

Finally, he stood up, uncrossed his arms and shook my hand. “Thank you, ma’am for the tea and for being so cooperative. I’m sorry to have taken so much of your time.” Well he sure wasn’t getting’ out of there without tellin’ me why he’d just taken an hour out of my day. I am a busy woman, I told the officer,  I don’t have heaps of time to just throw away talkin’ about my neighbor’s business. I answered every question, and I’d be darned if I was usin’ up my time for this interview without gettin’ the slightest teensy little inklin’ of what might be goin’ on.

Then the officer  just looked at me grim-like and said, “Well, ma’am, I hate to be the bearer of such information, but it seems that those two children were forcibly held under water in their bathtub. Somebody tried to drown those babies, and the only suspect is Kristin Lawson.”

I didn’t register him leaving. I couldn’t. I just sat for a while. And I thought about little baby wash-cloths, dripping down onto the pavement.

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We loaded the Meth into Rena’s Camry. I mean, what the hell, why not make it easier on ourselves, right?  I’m no spring tulip . In fact,  I’m 83, as of last month. And if you can’t take a risk when your eighty-three, when the hell can you? That’s all I’m saying.

So, we’re not stupid. We knew  just loading straight into the Camry was a little too obvious. I mean, those bastards at customs aren’t exactly the best and the brightest, but not completely brain-dead. So we got into the car first and then strapped the shit to our waists and lower backs. I got a good chuckle at how goddamn big my ass looked with 12 pounds of methamphetamine strapped around it. Baby’s always got back, but damn.

What a rush. I had an easy two-hundred and fifty thou. strapped right back there. Probably more. Rena put on the rest and got right in the car. She’s a lot more nimble, but hell, she should be, she’s forty years younger than I am. Not that I care. Young is well and good, but  I’m the one who was gonna make this believable. Rena could flash her well-exposed, toned, middle-aged rack at whoever she wanted to, but nobody ever fucks with old Americans in the customs office. It just doesn’t happen. Unless you have a cane, which gets everyone all suspicious. But I don’t have a cane.

We pulled the Camry into its place in line. Piece of shit car. But who cares? The street-value of this Meth was worth driving the junker to look inconspicuous. Rena said we could get an easy (EASY!) six-hundred grand for it. All 21 pounds of it. And that’s without driving a hard bargain. And trust me, when you’re eighty-three, hard bargains don’t need to be driven, they’ll just walk right the hell up to you and try and shake your hand. Nobody messes with crotchety old women. It works well for us crotchety old women.

We sat there for a while. Finally some peon came to ask us some questions. That was when I figured out that the Camry wasn’t Rena’s. And it didn’t belong to anybody Rena knew. And then FUCK, we were done. We shed 21 pounds faster than Jenny Craig on Weight Watchers in that customs office. And then I stood on the side of the roadway and started to wonder  if they were really gonna put an eighty-three year old woman in jail.

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My baby has a drug problem. Like I really needed that to add to my list of “Why life Sucks” and then file away in the “What The Hell?!” drawer.

I mean, Nicodemus has always been very sick little boy. Yes, he is only nine months old, but from day one, it’s been a struggle. He’s actually been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. But that’s neither here nor there. No, that’s not even the problem right now. No. It was all about an antibiotic. All we needed was something to get rid of this nasty bug that  poor Niccy caught We got through one horrible trip to the doctor’s office and then we were set with our prescription.

I dropped it off at Walgreen’s and prayed it would be ready soon. Niccy is not very easy to calm down on a good day, much less when he so sick. People think I’m killing him or something, the way he’s screaming all the time.

One nifty bottle of meds and a 15 minute drive later, we were back home. Except something seemed wrong. I swear I heard the doctor say Niccy needed Omnicefuras; a nice, common antibiotic. But this bottle didn’t say that. No. This bottle said “Orapred”. So, I’m thinking “Seriously? WHY me?” and I call Walgreens, hoping I’m wrong.

“Hi, Walgreen’s Pharmacy? Oh, Hi Cassie, this is Rhiannon Garza, I was just in getting an antibiotic for my baby? Yes, yes, the one who was screaming. Yes. But, anyways, this bottle says Omnicefuras. Are we sure that’s what was prescribed? You think so? Could you check please? Yeah, I can hold.”

Okay.

Apparently, it’s the right stuff.

But six days later, I knew this ouldn’t possibly be the right stuff. No way. Niccy had stopped sleeping completely and his eyes looked all glassy. It freaked me out, so we buckled into the car and went full-speed to the ER.

I was right. It wasn’t the right stuff. The damn pharmacy gave my nine month old son steroids. That’s right, my nine month old baby is now addicted to steroids.

And you know what? They didn’t even call and apologize. Unbelievable.

That’s the last time I go to Walgreen’s.

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Something was wrong with our schnauzer. Al is such a good dog. I mean, he’s not even old. So I did the only thing I could think of. I called Poison Control.

“AnimalPoisonControlCenter, this is Maggie, how can I help you?”

“Hi, Maggie, my name is Lucy. I have a schnauzer here that is extremely sick. Um, his name is Al and he hasn’t been able to eat for just days. He’s lying down all the time. He can’t even go poo lately. He’s just a mess, really. I’m actually noticing that a lot of friends’ dogs are more lethargic to. What can I say, I’m a dog person? But I’m just wondering what I can do?”

“Well ma’am, does your dog have any strange dietary needs or has he ingested anything that you know to be poisonous.”

“Oh no, Al is a very picky doggy. He’s actually on a diet. He has a cup of decaf. tea and wheat toast three times a day. And a chicken breast at dinner. Very straight-forward.”

“Hmmm. The dog is on a … diet, you said?”

“OH yes.”

“Well that might just be your problem ma’am. It seems that a lot of diet sugar substitutes are extremely toxic to dogs. I imagine . . . Al . . .  drinks he tea with a little sweetener?”

“Well, yes . . . ”

“Unfortunately, ma’am, the xylitol found in artificial sweetener can apparently be lethal to dogs. 114 already this year! If I were you, I’d make sure he gets lots of water. Time will tell. Good luck, ma’am and thank you for calling theAnimalPoisonControlCenter.”

Then she hung up.

She just . . .  hung up.

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He was making the strangest phone call. Just sitting there at his desk. But there was no way that was work related. No way in hell. He had only worked on the force since August. But he did an all-right job. I mean, it’s a small town. We’re basically all the donut-munching stereotype here. He’s just another one of us. You can tell. Middle-aged, too. We just had a cake for his forty-first. He’s a very general sort of deputy. But it’s a very general sort of town. This isHoltCounty. Hell, we don’t even have a jail. And he was just another guy on the force. I mean, I thought so.

But then I heard that phone call. I mean, it was just beyond weird. I didn’t even connect the dots until later. He made his call on lunch break. It was pure fluke that I was still in my cubicle. I mean, usually I go out with the rest of them, but that night was my anniversary and I was thinking to head home early. Easier said than done, so I stayed over lunch to get ahead a little. Honestly, though, I mean, I probably should’ve clued in right away. But I thought I misheard. I thought it was a joke or something. I mean, hey, I don’t know the guy. Maybe he has a twisted sense of humor, right?

But then I get home, early like I wanted, and it was only four o’clock but our kids were home from what was supposed to be an all-day/all-evening school-wide conference. At first I’m mad. You know, maybe they had the bright idea to skip the conference. And then Cherry just looks at me and her eyes are all wide and she says, “Dad, we had another one of those bomb threats. It was really scary!”

And just like that, I knew. I was on the phone with the Sheriff in a heartbeat. One of our own damn deputies. He was arrested before he left for work. And I just couldn’t stop thinking how run-of-the-mill I’d thought he was. I mean, he was normal. And now he’s in the Rock County Jail for threatening a bunch of innocent kids.

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James definitely did not handle the situation. Not even an iota. I mean, he’d been dating Barb for almost a year, right? He knew she had a drinking problem. He knew about it when they got together. But he didn’t handle it. Or maybe he was trying to handle it, maybe it was actually a mishandling;  a manhandling.

Maybe he went a little crazy. Or so far past crazy that that he didn’t know who or what he really was anymore. Maybe she was that straw that broke the camel’s back. Maybe she was a piano that just obliterated the camel. Or at least James’ sanity.

I guess nobody really knows what possessed him. I mean, even for a pretty bad alcoholic, death is not a better option. You’d think he’d have left her alive. Isn’t that why he was so upset? But James was a strong-tempered man. He must’ve just got his fingers around her neck and then rage took over. Imagine that. Strangling the woman you love because she loves her liquor more. Almost poetic, but completely idiotic. He let his temper get the better of him.

But that’s not even the tip of the iceburg. People as angry as James don’t ever go halfway. Oh no.

Barbara Campell had always been a cat person. Her cats ate better than she did. They were spoilt rotten. She even let them sleep in her bed. Probably more regularly than James. Maybe that’s why he did it. I guess I’ll never know. But Buttons, Chloe, Mungo Jerry, Tiny and Fatty all got to visit the vet the next day.

He euthanized her cats. As if killing her, then violating her body hadn’t been enough. He euthanized all five of them.

That’s six dead, if you count Barb.

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It was a beautiful day for the funeral. We all kind of stood around the grave. What do you say? What can you say? Here lies Charles Carl Roberts IV. A killer. And yet we were all here. And then the buggies started coming. The Amish were here. And not just one or two kind souls. Almost forty solemn Amish Folk arrived to offer sympathy to his family. It made me wonder if his family went to their funerals. But I’m not a psychic. Hell, I’m a journalist; I wouldn’t even be here if he hadn’t been a killer. But then, if he hadn’t, I guess none of them would be here.

It was unexpected when it happened. He was just a normal man; a milkman. He was only 32. I looked over at his wife, Marie, and their three kids, all sort of huddled together in a ball of grief. That poor lady. Those were some little kids. She was going to have to explain when they got big enough to understand. God knows I didn’t envy her. How do you explain that? What can you say?

Who knows what made Charles Carl Roberts the Fourth storm a one-room schoolhouse. And why did he let all the adults go? Why did he let all the boys go? Why did he tie up those ten little girls? What possessed him to shoot each one of them?

Who can explain that?

His suicide note said he was tormented. He’d done some messed up stuff to his relatives when he was a teen-ager and the guilt was weighing on him. He had written that the combination of guilt and the lingering sadness of his firstborn’s death were too much. He craved death.

I looked over at the headstone that had been put up nine years ago. That funeral had been so much quieter. I hadn’t been there. A little pink rose covered the bible verse on the marble, but I could read most of the inscription. Elise Victoria Roberts, Died November 14, 1997. Our twenty-minute angel.

Why would he kill little girls first? Why not just kill himself? Five little girls were forever scarred because of him. And five were dead. Somewhere there were five families who would have to put up similar headstones. I could almost see them. Marian, a thirteen-year-old angel. Anna Mae, a twelve-year-old angel. Naomi Rose, a seven-year-old angel. And Mary Liz and Lena Miller, seven and eight year old sister angels.

But even with this sad thought lingering in the air amongst the mourners, those Amish families found the strength to express condolences to Marie Charles. They bolstered up their bleeding hearts and found the strength to solemnly shake hands with Mrs. Charles. They shook hands, knowing the depth of waste that this man had caused. They shook hands, broken in the knowledge of their babies’ deaths. They shook hands, knowing that their little girls who lived would be scarred forever. They shook hands and publicly mourned a murderer.

And each one left the service crying.

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