Posted on: December 10, 2013
It was all too familiar. After awhile, all crime scenes started to feel the same. Especially the smell. The tinny smell of blood always saturated whatever shithole apartment the victim died in. And they were all shithole apartments in this part of town.
“Give me the rundown, Peterson,” Detective Thorne said as he snapped on a pair of rubber gloves, squatting to get a better look at the body.
“The victim’s name is Esther Walker. Sixty-three years old. Cause of death appears to be multiple stab wounds to her chest. Lives here in this apartment with her husband, Charles Walker.”
“Do we know where he is?” Thorne asked.
There were gelatinous mounds of blood surrounding Esther’s body, which told Thorne that the stab wounds he saw had penetrated her lungs. The blood had coagulated inside her body before seeping out onto the dated beige carpet.
“He’s supposed to be at work. South Bronx Auto Body over off of White Street. Our boys already checked it out, he’s not there. We got an APB out on him. Get this though, Charles is six months out of the pen. He was released last year after serving thirty years on a life sentence for the murder of a seventeen-year-old girl back in '79. The medical examiner’s report indicates that the girl was sexually assaulted and then stabbed to death.” Officer Peterson eyed Esther’s body and the similar wounds on her body. He was giddy, “You think he did this?”
Thorne glared at him. Peterson’s smirk quickly faded.
“Any eyes on a potential murder weapon?” Thorne asked as he scanned the one-bedroom apartment, hoping to gather enough clues to reconstruct the events leading up to Esther’s death.
“No, nothing yet.”
There was religious imagery everywhere. Esther was a woman of faith, after all. She had held on to hope all those years that her husband was innocent. For three long decades, she had filed petition after petition to have her husband freed, paying attorneys inordinate amounts of money, and begging non-profits to take on her husband’s case.
“My Charlie is innocent,” she had told reporters. “Charlie always told me that we would save up and move out to the country together. He wanted to get away from the big city. Charlie never did like it here. He said it corrupted people. After this experience, I believe it. The prosecutors, they didn’t have any leads, so they pinned it on him. Well, I have faith that Charlie and I will be reunited again one day and that we’ll make his dream of leaving this place a reality.”
Esther’s resolve ultimately paid off. She had finally brought her husband home and they would start saving up to move upstate, out of the city.
Charles had been nursing a glass of Jameson for a few hours now. The Blarney Stone was a few blocks away from his apartment, but Esther would never know to look for him there. He had lost his taste for alcohol in prison, but didn’t know where else to go.
“Charlie,” Gary started from behind the bar.
“Don’t call me that, only Esther calls me that,” Charles replied, still looking into his glass of brown liquor.
“Charles,” Gary continued, “what’s going on? You’ve been coming here every morning for the past week, ordering a glass of whiskey that you don’t touch, not saying a word to anyone.” Gary had known Charles from before the conviction, he hesitated before adding, “Look, I can’t even imagine what you’re going through, but you gotta start living again. Get back into a normal routine – go to work and at the end of the day, go home to your loving wife.”
“I killed her Gary,” Charles said suddenly.
“What?” Gary was taken aback.
“I’ve never told anyone, but I guess it doesn’t matter anymore. I was drunk, that’s not an excuse, just a fact, and I killed her. I killed that girl.”
“Alright Charles, I think you should stop talking about all that now.” Gary wasn’t sure what to do with the information he was now privy to, wasn’t sure if he was supposed to do anything with it.
“I wanted to confess to the police, I really did, to get it off my chest. But Esther…I couldn’t break her heart. She was fighting so hard for me, you know? I never actually thought she’d be able to get me out. But she did it and they let me go...they let me go on a fucking technicality.”
“Charles, look buddy…” Gary was desperately trying to plug the leak he had inadvertently caused.
“I accepted it Gary,” Charles was looking straight at him now. “I was guilty and I accepted that I was supposed to be in there. I thought it was all over. How are you supposed to go on living after you’ve already accepted death?”
Nothing in the apartment appeared to have been disturbed, Thorne realized, at least not in any obvious way.
“What happened here?” Thorne wondered to himself.
The only thing that caught Thorne’s eyes was two framed paintings that were hanging at an angle. One was a reproduction of the Last Supper and the other was of a farmhouse. Thorne couldn’t be sure if the paintings had been jarred by a struggle or if they’d been crooked all along.
“Prison was supposed to be my punishment,” Charles continued, “It was supposed to be how I suffered. But now I’m a free man, living on good fortune that I didn’t earn. Human experiences are always paid back in turn,” Charles said as he threw back his glass of Jameson.
“You’ve been given a second chance Charles,” Gary mustered, not really knowing what to say at all.
“I’m an old man Gary. Even if I had all the time in the world, you can’t make up for taking away someone else’s.”
“You can at least try to lead a good life with what you have left.”
“Maybe, Gary, maybe. At least I have Esther.”
Written by: Sam Chow
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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