Two days. It seemed bizarre to have taken two days for a police officer to appear in my hospital room, seeking an official statement. There had been a half-dozen doctors and countless nurses - most of whom just wanted to know where my pain was, on a scale from one to ten. It had yet to fall below nine. There was even a reporter, but she had been pulled from the room by hospital security before she had managed a single question.
The policeman identified himself as Detective Jeremy Singer, and he confirmed what the doctors had already told me about Colleen and the kids, then asked matter-of-factly whether I could remember what happened, and if so, could I tell him in my own words. My own words? Who else's words might I have the option of using?
I started to answer, but promptly choked on my own words. I wished I had someone else's. I know what happened.
Colleen stood glaring at me from the porch of her over-sized new house in the hills near Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. "You're late."
I held up my phone to show her. "Three o'clock, on the dot." To Colleen, anything later than ten minutes early was "late." Since three o'clock was "on-time" to the lawyers, and to the judge who approved our shared custody arrangement, I always ignored her admonitions and just kept making damn sure I was there at precisely the appointed time.
She knelt on the porch and hugged and kissed the real victims of our divorce, Caleb and Morgan. Caleb was a shy and somewhat undersized five years old, and tow-headed, fearless Morgan had recently turned three. The kids took their own little backpacks inside, and I carried their suitcases, putting them on the floor of the foyer, as was the routine. "Okay, well. Great talking to you, Coll. See you in a week..."
"Wait, Stan. Kids - new toys! On your beds. Go get 'em! Your father and I have to have grownup talk in the kitchen for a minute, thanks to that phone call from your teacher, Caleb."
"What teacher?" Caleb asked, alarmed. "I didn't get in trouble."
"Upstairs, guys. Go," she ordered.
I remember sitting at the kitchen table, drinking some of Colleen's godawful mixture of instant iced tea and frozen lemonade concentrate. I think she was telling me that Caleb was acting up in school again, but it's all fuzzy. I woke up in a basement, duct taped to a metal chair that was chained to a steel pole. I was naked, with a towel over my lap. My head was spinning, and my senses were slowly turning back on. There was one bare light bulb burning coldly near the rafters, a concrete floor, some old toys, Christmas decorations, and want sounded like a furnace behind me. I wasn't even sure it was Colleen's basement, until I heard the kids, playing upstairs.
I tried to call to them, but there was duct tape over my mouth, too. My legs were taped high enough on the chair legs that I couldn't touch the floor, so I shook the chair as much as I could and grunted into the tape. Morgan came scampering down the steps from the family room, smiled at me, said "Hi Daddy - why are you naked?" and scampered back up the stairs yelling, "Daddy's up! Daddy's up!"
A minute later she bounded back into the basement, followed closely by Caleb and then Colleen, who was carrying a duffel bag and wearing a bizarre grin. She looked like Bozo The Clown, only more manic and somewhat prettier. I was stupid enough to be relieved that she was okay, that we weren't all the victims of some home invasion robbery, but my relief was short-lived.
She removed a large hunting knife from her bag and handed it to Caleb. "Here's your magic collapsing knife, sweetie. Now pretend Morgan is the bad guy, and she's about to hurt Daddy."
Morgan let out a playful roar and took a couple of steps toward me.
Caleb looked at the knife, then at Colleen. "This isn't my fake knife. This is real."
I could feel my eyes straining to launch themselves from their sockets, mostly in disbelief, but also in a strangely petty-feeling rage that Colleen was letting him play with knives, when she was always adamant that I was never to let the kids so much as point gun-like fingers at each other.
"It's even better than your knife, honey. See? It's more realistic. Come on - just like we practiced. Get her!"
He lunged at his sister and jammed the knife into her stomach. She gasped, fell backwards and yelled "Ow!" Then she looked down. Only the knife's handle was visible outside her favorite Minnie Mouse t-shirt, and blood was already soaking the fabric. She screamed and looked plaintively at her mother, then at me. I tried to scream, and struggled against the chair, but I couldn't move.
"That's not how we practiced it, Caleb. Here - like this. Watch Mommy." She gripped his wrist tightly with her left hand, and with her right she pulled the knife out of her daughter and stabbed her again. And again.
I screamed so hard, the duct tape pulled free of my bottom lip, taking some skin with it. "Stop! No! Colleen! What the fuck are you doing to my daughter - OUR daughter! Stop! You're killing her! What the fuck! Look what you've done!"
Morgan screamed and cried, coughing up blood and grunting with every blow. Her stomach, her side, her cheek, her neck. She vomited and convulsed and blood went everywhere. Caleb sobbed and struggled and yelled at Colleen to stop, and at me to help. I couldn't budge. I tried. I never stopped trying.
"Colleen! Please! Kill me, if you want to kill someone! What is the matter with you!! Oh, God. Look at her..."
After at least a minute of slashing and stabbing, I could tell my four-year old daughter - my joy, the light of my heart - was dying. She had stopped crying, and was sputtering and moaning. Colleen's insane grin faded for a moment. She put the knife up on a shelf, then pulled a gun from her bag. She glared at me and said, "You made me do this, you know," then stepped over to Morgan and shot her through the head. The sound was deafening, and my ears were ringing, but I'm pretty sure she said she couldn't stand to watch her little girl suffer any longer.
I fought the duct tape around my wrists and ankles, and I heard a pop, but the lightning bolt of pain told me that all I had managed to do was break a bone in my lower leg. "Let Caleb go. Kill me if you have to, but leave the boy alone. What is wrong with you?"
Colleen had been the one caught cheating. Colleen had been the one to ask for a trial separation in lieu of counseling. The divorce was her idea. My lawyer hated my guts for how much I left on the table, settlement-wise, and the custody process had been almost cordial, with every point seemingly negotiated with only the children in mind. If I had been able to think in those moments of hell on earth, I absolutely would not have been able to come up with a reason - even a crazy person reason - that my ex-wife had turned into the blood-spattered monster before me.
The wretched clown-like rictus returned to her face. "Your fault," was the second-to-last thing she said to me, followed by, "And I will not kill you. You get to remember this forever. Your fault, babe." She pulled Caleb to her, pressing his back against her pelvis. She leaned over, kissed the back of his head, put the gun to the same spot and pulled the trigger as I screamed and closed my eyes. When I opened them, she still had her left arm wrapped around his limp body, and most of his head was gone.
I tried to scream again, but puked instead, and then passed out. I don't know how long I was unconscious, but I awoke to a dull tugging sensation, and something cold around my penis. The room came reluctantly back into focus just in time for me to see her slam the handles of a heavy-duty bolt-cutter together, severing the head off my dick. Another flash of pain, this one nuclear, and I passed out again. I woke to the sensation of being punched hard in the face, the searing pain between my legs, and the fuzzy image of my once beautiful former love, grinning that hideous circus grin at me.
"I'll bleed out and be dead before you, you bitch from hell," I spat.
She held up a steaming hot clothes iron. It had a small, round, sticky black mass on it, smoking and smelling as I thought maybe damnation might smell. I looked down. She had cauterized the wound.
She carefully placed the iron on the floor, calmly picked up her blood-covered gun, put it into her still-smiling mouth, and pulled the trigger, showering me and half of the basement with blood and bits of her head. Her body dropped to its knees and fell onto Caleb's, blood dripping rapidly from a gaping hole in the top of her head. I puked again, in an indescribable mixture of horror, pain, disgust, hurt, and rage. Lots of rage. I passed out again, as the sound of a siren made its way into the basement from outside.
When I woke up, I was high on painkillers, though still in pain. The doctors said for the first eight hours, all I could say was, "Why?" There was apparently no note, nor a clue of any kind as to why. Maybe I'll find out when I see her in hell.
The minute I'm out of this hospital, I am going to kill myself.
[This wretched post was written - hastily, so I wouldn't know what it's about - in response to a truly wicked writing challenge posed by my bloggy friend Cheney at FRIDAY FRIGHT WRITE.]