Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I am no monster

These six things doth the Lord hate;
Yea seven are an abomination unto him;
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands
that shed innocent blood,
Proverbs 6:16,17

It was shortly before two in the morning when a company pickup drove through the gate of the plant where I was on duty. It was Leonard, checking the post. He parked the truck and strode to the guard shack. He was a former deputy sheriff, lean and tall, tan from working in hislarge vegetable garden. He had short gray hair, but a young face, with a striking resemblance to the actor Jeff Chandler.

"How are things with you" he asked fixing me with his penetrating eyes. Leonard was cautious with people, it took time to become his friend, but I hoped I had earned his trust.

"Things are fine, with me Leonard, you can see it is slow around here. Everyone has gone home except the maintenance men." He looked at two books on the counter top, my Bible ,and Cohen's Chronology of Revelation.

"That's the way you like it, isn't it", he smiled."Yes, a friend told me I've beaten the system. I read and study what I love the most and all on company time."

A truck pulled in the gate and I walked out to punch his ticket. "I notice you're limping a little" , Leonard said, he was always observing, though not in an obtrusive way.

"I did a stupid thing, the other night, "I ran out of gas and had to walk about four miles to get to a phone. I finally found one by Reed's tavern and called triple A. That's why I'm a little sore, not used to it, you know."

"I know where you mean", he said. "If you were on the way home from work, you walked right past the place where we found the body of that girl."

The girl he was referring to was a young lady who had been found with her throat cut. The mystery of who killed her had been solved, but I did not realize at the time that Leonard was the one who had broken the case, his last police work. Shortly after that he had a severe stroke and had retired.

He had a way of watching your reaction as he spoke, wary of the shock and disgust so often on the faces of people he dared to talk to about his work.

I asked him about the details of the case, what possible motive there could have been for such a savage murder and how the murderers had been caught. I could see he was grateful for my interest and that he needed to talk about it.

He leaned against the door frame of the guard shack and began to relate the circumstances of the murder. Two young women, of good reputation, had visited a tavern, apparently out of curiosity, and naivete. Everyone knew it was a hangout of some really rough people, among them the members of a motorcycle gang. But they thought it would be exciting and they would be alright if they stayed together, took a look around and then went home.

When the victim's friend decided she had seen enough she looked around for her friend. She was horrified to see her surrounded by a group of bikers who were showering her with attention. She motioned for her friend to come over and told her she wanted to leave. Her friend said to go on without her, she would be leaving soon and "These guys said they would take me home, I'll be alright, they will take care of me". She could not be dissuaded, so reluctantly, her friend left without her.

Several days passed without anyone hearing from her. Then, someone cutting grass at a nearby cemetery, found her body.

Leonard said the girl's throat had been cut and one of her breasts removed. She was fully clothed and the examiner said she was a virgin. There was no evidence at the scene to indicate who the murderer or murderers were. Then someone talked, in a bragging way, of "getting another badge". The hearer was a hardened criminal, but what he heard was too much even for him. He made an anonymous call implicating the
gang as perpetrators. Leonard was called in as a veteran in such cases and because of his knowledge of the gang in question.

"What about ‘the badges’, what does that mean?" He stood up straight and walked his fingers across his chest as he explained. "This particular group has a series of badges that you earn as you progress in the gang. They are like little eagles that they sew on their jackets, all different colors. One is for having sex with all the members of the club, men and women. One is for having sex with an animal, another for sex with a corpse." He paused, watching my reaction, not wanting to go too far.

I gave no hint of how I felt as he went on. "This badge, the one the anonymous caller was talking about, was for eating human flesh." Leonard waited before he went on with his narrative. "That is why they took her breast. I was there when one of the braggers, kicked back and told us all about it. By that time he knew we had the goods on him, so was enjoying telling me the gory details, seeing the look of horror on my

"We cooked it in a pot of beans", he smiled, "And everybody ate some." That's how you get your badge."

When I said I didn't understand how he proved they had done it, Leonard became very intense. He never boasted or promoted himself. If he had any pride it was in his dedication to gathering evidence, putting the pieces together.

"We knew where some of the members lived, so I kept dropping in on them until I saw a van parked in a garage at one of their homes. We had a witness who had seen the victim leave in a van, but no description. I asked this fellow if I could look at his van. We had no search warrants yet. He was just as relaxed as he could be, 'Sure, sure, ' he told me, 'Look all you want."

When I looked at the van, I could see it had been all cleaned up, the floor and mats and everything. Too clean, you know what I mean."

“Later they told me as soon as they were out in the country a ways, they cut her throat, really deep. Then one of them held her arms while another one pushed her head down so her blood drained into a bucket. We never found why they wanted to save the blood. Oh, and another thing, she was Jewish, a Jewish virgin, though they couldn't known that at the time."

All he did know is that this gang killed her, he was sure of that. But he had no evidence. He continued to look around. "The guy had no objections", Leonard told me, "He was real haughty, sure of himself. Then I saw a mop on the back porch. I looked at it up close and spread the strings. It looked pink to me. Could that be from blood where they used it to clean the van?"

"I bagged the mop as evidence and put a tag on it. The lab got enough blood out of it to type it. It was her blood type. Piece by piece we put it all together, until one of them caved and implicated the others. It was a planned thing, the bucket and all. The girl was just available. She volunteered, in a way, horrible as that is to think of."

He finished his story and neither of us said anything. I made my call in, to say all was well on my post. Then a tiny car pulled in and stopped abruptly. It was one of the plant bosses, dropping in to see if he could catch anyone misbehaving. Leonard went how to chat with him, respectfully listening to what the boss was talking about. He leaned down with his arm on the roof of the little car so he could hear over the engine, which was still running. The car had racing stripes and, though pitifully underpowered, was supposed to look sporty I guess. It still had dealer tags on it and the driver was bragging about it. Leonard bent down to look the driver right in the face."Tell me", he said with mock seriousness, "Does this come with a non scalping mower attachment?"

The driver revved the engine and drove out from under Leonard's arm. He made a tight turn and sped out of the gate.

Leonard looked at me, smiling, "They can't stand it when you don't take them seriously". Then he walked over to the truck and picked up a little styrofoam box. He lifted the lid and took out two baked potatoes wrapped in foil.

"Potassium!" he said , "Want one?" He explained he was on a strict diet since the stroke. I gladly accepted the big potato and we peeled the foil back and ate in silence.

"You're the only one I can talk to about these things. The others, when I try to tell them, pull away from me. They think I am some kind of monster because of what I have seen and what I talk about. But it's real. It's not that I enjoy it. It had to be handled and that's what I did. At first I thought you would hate me too, you being a Bible person and all."

"You are in the Bible, Leonard, you and the work you do. Romans 13 praises you and your profession. When you help to restrain evil, your sword is God's sword. I respect that."

By now, he had finished his potato. He wadded up the foil and dropped it into the waste can. Then he reached over and put his hand on my Bible. "I believe in God", he told me "and I read my Bible. I'm no monster."

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