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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

January 8, 2013_Short Story Challenge

January 8, 2013 Writing Prompt:

"It's always the quiet ones, you know?"

Prompt from:

My immediate reaction was to remember Nathan Callahan, the adolescent in Kingsport, TN, who waited till his father was away on a business trip and then shot-gunned his sister and mother in the garage. [] (Mid-1990’s) Nathan was then fifteen; his sister had been thirteen.

At the time I lived in a city about 23 miles away, so I was well aware of this. I don’t know for certain, of course, if he was one of the “quiet ones,” but I have read that phrase so many times, in true crime and in novels, to describe the one that breaks out of the mold and kills.  Often—very often—it’s utilized in regard to minors who kill, although I remember it in regard to adult killers, married men who murder wives and families. I’ve long had an interest in “children who kill,” and in March 2010 wrote about 23 chapters on the topic as part of my ongoing series, “The Testament Logging Corporation Chronicles.” Now, in writing today’s story, I watched it unfold, and I know this is a novel-in-the-making, a story that apparently has been hatching inside my subconscious for maybe four decades.

“The Quiet Side”

     A dozen neighbors stood on the leaf-strewn front lawn and in the driveway to the side. The home’s actual driveway led to the garage on the far side of the house, but none could stand on it because of the crime scene tape strung along both sides of the cement, all around the garage, and across the house from front door around the side and over the back door.  The overgrown path on the opposite side formerly, decades ago, ran to the carriage house in the rear, but it had been allowed to deteriorate to pavement broken by grass swatches and tree roots, once the original residence had been razed in favour of a single-story, loping, oddly-angled “ranch” brick. Still, it did for the neighbors, the curiosity-seekers who had wandered in, magnetized, from nearby residential blocks. The street itself was good enough for the media professionals, those voyeurs of tragedy and terror who ate events like this for breakfast, lunch, and supper, whose nighttime dreams revolved, not around sheep, but around blood and gore and graphic description.

     While camerapersons filmed the garage, the front door, all of the crime scene yellowness, and especially focused on the blood-drenched concrete apron fronting the garage and the blood trail leading to the front door, the neighbors—those who lived close enough to have known the family at all, the dozen on the broken path—mumbled steadily but in low voices among themselves. None of these would give a sound bite, nor a quote. None would announce to the camera, “It’s always the quiet ones, you know.” Maybe some thought it, but only among themselves. All twelve had kept the secrets of the Campbell Family, and all twelve would continue to do so. It might have been remarked that among these, no youngsters nor adolescents stood. The youngest of these were 28 and 30, a couple who had moved to Library Lane about two years earlier. The Lillians were a career couple, and planned to have children only much later—if at all. Right now, the child-bearing issue appeared to have been put on hold for eternity, in the shock and sheer fright of the morning’s discovery.
     Fourteen-year-old Nolan Campbell had missed the school bus this morning, and so had eleven-year-old sister Maggie. Father Jason had not left for work, nor had Mother Allison driven to her Symphony Orchestra Committee meeting downtown in the Symphony’s business offices at the Allard Building. None of them, except for young Nolan, left the house (or the garage) this morning, alive. Three left via gurneys, white spotted sheets wrapped across their forms. But that was earlier, of course, much earlier. The family (minus Nolan) had gone, and the forensics technicians continued to mill about home and garage. The driveway and path to the house had been checked earlier, first thing, before the media vultures appeared. So now all the technical effort occurred indoors, behind closed drapes in the house, on the other side of the closed garage door. CSI vans stagger-parked in the wide lawn to the east of the garage, where yet another overgrown path had once angled in and circled around the Victorian three-story which once proudly stood on this acreage. The ME’s wagon was gone, and down at the morgue the family was already being prepped for autopsy. Detectives, forensics folk, and ME alike knew that time was essential. Every nano-second that passed meant fewer clues to be found, and more opportunity for the killer—excuse me, alleged killer—to escape scrutiny and apprehension.
     For young Nolan Campbell, once a star student and a champion sprinter on the track team, more recently a C-student and a team drop-out, had allegedly, with malice and forethought (nobody packs a loaded shotgun on a whim, people), brutally slaughtered his entire family (as the media would report it). Of course, not the “entire” family: he wasn’t dead (that the police knew of), his Aunt Jean and Uncle Daniel still lived in Springfield (Mother Allison’s sister and brother-in-law), and his dad’s father, Grandpa Justin, still maintained his farm out on the Allandale Road, about fifteen miles from the Campbell residence on Library Lane. Surely the county detectives would already have reached out to Justin, and with a warrant to search his farmhouse and land, because who knew? Crafty ol’ Nolan could be hiding out there.
     Yes, audience: Nolan Campbell was found neither in the garage (with his dad, Jason) nor in the downstairs half-bath (with his mother Allison, who might have been touching up her makeup), nor upstairs in the Master suite where his sister Maggie lay half-in the bedroom, half-in the master bath. Nolan was found nowhere in the house, on the property, in the garage; but the police didn’t know about, the dozen neighbors didn’t say (the young couple—the Lillians-- didn’t even know), and no one searched, the abandoned, run-down, collapsing-roof, overgrown by trees and ivy and moss, former carriage-house, at the end of the overgrown former drive where stood the dozen closest secret-protecting neighbors, the enclave of Library Lane and its intersecting Clover Lane and Verna Avenue. Almost nobody knew the carriage-house had not been razed in 1962 when the Victorian was, and the ranch-style built. Those who did said not a word, and not one pair of eyes glanced toward the rear of the property, past the shrubs and the hedge and the copse. Not a single eye looked—but a pair of eyes, at the tall narrow door on the second story of the carriage-house, looked back. On Library Lane (and Clover Lane, and Verna Avenue), neighbors were like family: and family never tells.

     “People don’t get murdered because they’re crazy. People MURDER because they’re crazy.”

1 comment:

  1. Yes. I see a novel coming out of this one. :) I've been wanting to write a "ripped from the headlines" type of book, but just haven't sparked on the idea yet.

    Great writing!