My wife thought I was joking when I told her I had killed someone once.
“You’re such a shit. You did not!” she said with a smile, taking another sip of her wine.
“I did.” I said, no smile on my face.
We went back and forth like this a few times, her laughter growing more apprehensive each round.
“Alright,” she began. “If you did kill a guy, then how’d you do it?”
“You really want to know?”
“Well,” I said. “I stabbed him. Here… Here… And here.” I pointed to my stomach, heart and throat. “Are you sure you want to hear this?”
“Yes, I really, really do,” she said. Her smile had long since disappeared, her face flooded with concern. Should she fear me, or should she love me? Couldn’t she do both? These were questions her mind couldn’t answer. Or maybe it could but was too afraid to do so.
“Okay…” I said, drawing in a deep breath. “First I stabbed him in the heart, then the stomach.” I paused to take a sip of my whiskey. “Then I cut open his throat.” I felt I had said too much at this point, but that’s what happens when you have almost four glasses of Knob Creek coursing through your veins.
She still wasn’t convinced I had actually killed somebody. But at the same time, she wasn’t convinced I hadn’t killed someone either. She gulped the rest of her wine, eager to refill her glass. I followed her lead and downed the rest of my whiskey.
As the alcohol made our minds heavy and dull, I continued telling my wife about the man I’d killed. I was twenty-three at the time, fresh out of college and living on my own along a small highway north of Lawrenceville. The man had knocked on the door of the house I was renting.
“I’m sorry to bother you,” he said. “But would you be able to give me a lift to the gas station? I ran out about a mile back.”
I couldn’t place my finger on it, but there was something about him that made me feel uneasy. His words weren’t genuine, and when he spoke, he filled the space between us with ill intention as thick and sticky as the air on a hot, humid day.
“Sure,” I said. “Let me just grab my keys.”
I came back to the door. The man wedged his boot into the doorframe and had a gun drawn. “Give me your keys,” he said. Up until that point, I had never been in a fight in my life, but at that moment, something inside me took over like a set of instructions my body had to obey. The next thing I remembered was looking down and seeing the man’s lifeless body lying in a pool of his own blood. His name, as the cops told me, was Robert Sanderson, a local meth head.
“I know this was self defense,” the police officer said. “Ain’t no doubt about that, but the way you killed this man… Looks like you really knew what you were doing here.”
After that night, my wife was cold and distant. She only said the bare minimum and came up with excuses that kept her away from the house as long as possible. I didn’t know if she was afraid of me or angry.
“What’s going on?” I asked over dinner one night. “Are you mad at me for what I said the other night?”
She didn’t answer, just stared down at her plate, nuzzling her food with her fork.
“Well?” I said, my voice swelling with anger.
Finally she said, “I want you to get the test.”
The killing gene test was developed five years ago by a scientist named Dr. Alex Sherman. One small drop of blood could easily identify if someone carried what Dr. Sherman called the killing gene. If you had it, it meant you were hardwired to become a killer, and the evidence supporting his research was overwhelming. And by overwhelming, I mean one hundred percent accurate. At first Dr. Sherman’s discovery was controversial, but pretty soon politicians began using it as part of their political platforms. This lead to the passing of Law 203B, or as it was more popularly referred to: the Killing Gene Law. The law required the pre-emptive arrest of anyone testing positive, even newborns. Once arrested, carriers were sent to specially designed prisons the press had dubbed Killer Camp. There are lots of theories surrounding what goes on at these camps, but no one knows for sure. Despite all this, the public still embraced the law.
“You can’t be serious!” I said. “I killed that man out of self-defense, and you know it.”
“I have to know,” my wife said. “I’m scared.”
As she finished her words, the world around me became fuzzy. My thoughts were suddenly mangled and confused. My body felt heavy and clumsy. And then everything went dark. I woke up a few hours later, tied to a dining room chair. My father-in-law was there. I assumed she was the one who tied me up.
“Candice told me everything,” he said. “We just have to make sure you’re not one of them. You understand, right?”
I didn’t say anything. I was too angry.
“The cops will be here in a few minutes,” he continued.
“Where is Candice?” I asked.
“She’s with her mother. Said she can’t come back until she knows she’s safe.”
During my third day at the Lawrence County Jail, an older doctor visited my cell late in the afternoon. With him were two police officers and a man wearing a suit, a lawyer I assumed.
Without any greeting, he jumped right into it, “I’m afraid you have the killing gene.”
“You’ll be transferred to killer camp in the morning,” one of the officers told me as he walked off, grinning sadistically.
Written by: Michael Williams
Photograph by: Whitney Ott