The mercy of the dead.
"...all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true story-teller who would keep that from you."-Hemingway
After my son was murdered, after the Coroner, after the Requiem Mass, after the burial, after the detectives I was provided with the contact information for a victim's advocate. This person, I was assured, would be not only my point of contact to the police and courts but would assist my family through the maze and false god that is the human justice system.
Too long had I served our government bureaucracy to believe any of this. After a week I telephoned the provided contact number. "Sorry Sir, this is the county victim's advocate your son's case has been transfered to the State. I'm sure they'll get hold of you soon." Four days later I contacted the state victim's advocate. "I'm very sorry Sir we do not have this case, perhaps you might try the city victim's advocate." Then the city. "No Sir we do not have this case."
Ignoring that my son was now a "case." I did so persist. Finally it was agreed that the city (in name only in rural Mississippi) prosecutor's office did indeed have the responsibility to prosecute my son's killer. It was the city victim's advocate I went to visit.
In one and one half years she has only telephoned me once. I have called her every Monday of every week. Such is grief. Such is mourning. Such is nonpareil guilt.
Her telephone call, at 0300hrs local in Hawaii, was a shock more so when after banal salutations she asked me to hold for the prosecutor. The prosecutor it seems had some bad news, after a "complete" police investigation another "thorough" investigation by the DA's Investigator and indictment of Murder by a Grand Jury the case was so weak that a plea offer was made to the killer. An offer of no jail time for a felony plea of manslaughter.
To step back for a moment: I was the only voice immediately following this catastrophy in my family that did not clamor for swift, harsh vengance. In part because after years of carrying a gun and working in the criminal justice system I knew of what was to come; "justice" is nothing anyone would recognize in the criminal justice system and in part because my confessor and Priest for the last eleven years had only ever preached one dual message at Mass: Love and Forgiveness. Love one another and forgive one another. (of course no family beyond Sarah, our girls and Brother Thomas will speak to me anymore)
This attorney, this lawyer (I might spit here-I apologise to all attorneys out there just too many divorces under my belt) was telling me after the fact, that the killer had refused this deal and wanted a trial. A murder trial that is now scheduled for 23 May 2011. A trial that this "prosecutor" is now telling me we shall lose. A trial to which she was already acknowledging defeat.
Comes now the hard night of the soul. Now I'm mad, angry at everything. I had no plans to live. I so want to end this pain. I want to go. I just want to die. Yes that is an enormous amount of "I want", so much selfishness. Another sin to throw on the pile. So much shame. It's the shame that kills.
Next May 23rd (2 years and 17 days after my son died) Sarah shall be fighting our war in Afghanistan, one daughter will be in her 2nd year of Med school, another will be working at her college in CA. They have lives. I do not. I will be there each day. The DA recommends that I not attend.
For some reason, so I've been oft told, I scare people. I had always ignored this until several years ago, a woman whom I still love and miss, my Deputy Director whom I had asked why our employees wouldn't talk openly with me told me, "Hell Scylla they're all scared! Really physically frightened of you. You've no idea of how you appear." But I do, I am not handsome not anything near even nice looking, I do not have the lithe, long muscles of a swimmer or runner. Even before the brain tumor I was festooned with scars, 30 years of wrestling, Judo and heavy iron has left me with hard ugly knots of muscle and I, even now, wear suits as does any soldier; noticeably ill-fitting and uncomfortably. Fast forward from 2000 to 2009. At the arraignment of Alec's killer...the DA calls me out of court and tells/asks me; "The judge has two items we need to discusss. One, the judge is going to grant bail. How much do you want him to set?", and, "Under protest from the accused, the judge has ordered that either you or the accused can be in court but not both. Apparently the defense has some fear of you being near the defendant..." I would not move from that courtroom.
I'm grey, I gimp along with a cane, I no longer can stand straight, I have never, ever so much as muttered a threat towards this boy. Along with my son, I have held this youth in my arms as he has cried after Iraq. I am the quintessential, "Lion in Winter". So a life of violence, really unknown to anyone yet blown beyond all proportion by the rumors of others shall haunt me and serve this killer?
I did try so very hard as a father to protect my 3 children. One night I was not there for my son and he died. I will be at this trial. This boy that went to war with my son, who lived with my son and I for months, this boy whom with whatever poor power my soul doth possess has forgiven, this boy that shot my son to death, this boy shall look at me and see my son. He will see Scylla the Rock.
To prepare I must turn my thoughts from death. I've given up the cheap whiskey. I walk and walk and walk. I spend hours now with the heavy iron. I will be off all this morphine in 100 days. It will take my all, it will take my life to travel these thousands of miles, sit day upon day, listen as my son is defamed, sit and control the evil and the anger. Use up the last of my life to give this ending, waning strength for my son. My son, my son. A pain without end. I will be strong. I will be stoic, I will be a rock. I will show the strength of my son. I will be prepared. I will discharge this last duty. I am a soldier with a mission. Though this be my last absolute act. My son needs his father one more time.
I will not fail him ever again.
"We're at the mercy of the dead here." -Cormac McCarthy