Oh, Xavier, you know not what you ask of me. Aislinn Cain has been my best friend for decades. I have loved her, hated her, envied her, distrusted her, missed her, longed to be far away from her, and thought of her as my sister.
Isabelle was a great sister to Aislinn. I envied their relationship, I didn’t have a sister to bond with. And really, I didn’t have many cousins either. With a serial killing grandfather, one can see why my aunts and uncles were reluctant to breed, well except Donnelly and Myrna. My Uncle Donnelly and Aunt Myrna were amazing to me though. I was a few years older than Isabelle, but it didn’t matter. Donnelly and Myrna were always inviting me over to hang out with her. When a new Disney movie came out, they took both of us to see it as soon as Uncle Donnelly’s schedule allowed.
Here’s something strange for your files. No one ever called Donnelly Donnie or Don. I nicknamed him Donel at some point as a child, possibly because Donnelly is a mouthful for a kid, but that was the only nickname he ever had and I remember calling him that until I was about ten. Then it felt strange because I was the only one who used it. Donnelly would complain if his friends or a sibling called him Don or Donnie. But he never once complained about Donel and after I stopped using it, he told me he didn’t mind.
This is supposed to be about Aislinn, but to understand my relationship with Ace, you have to understand my relationship with Eric, Isabelle, Donnelly, and Myrna. Needless to say, Uncle Donnelly and Aunt Myrna were my favorite aunt and uncle and when I was young and just couldn’t stand my own parents for whatever reason, I was always welcome to come to their house whether it was for a night or a weekend or once for three weeks when I was a teen.
Isabelle and I were roughly 20 months apart in age, with me being the oldest. I understand now, why Donnelly and Myrna gave me to Donnelly’s brother. But I was angry about when I first found out that I was biologically their child. Like seeing red angry. After the attack, I decided to go to Australia. Trevor and Myrna were going to go hide in Hawaii. But the day before we all left, Myrna changed her mind and decided to come with me. I hated her for that. I didn’t want to look at her, let alone be held in a safe house with the woman who had betrayed me at birth.
Now, I’m glad she came. My own mother died when I was young. They hadn’t caught her cancer as early as they thought and it metastasized to her brain when I was just 6 years old. She died within three years. I learned Donnelly and Myrna tried to convince my father to let me come live with them afterwards, permanently. I also learned Donnelly had trouble thinking of me as his niece, he continued to think of me as his daughter until he died. For that matter, so did Myrna. I also know Myrna believes that since no one knows I’m biologically Donnelly’s child, it saved my life more than once. After all, I was a teenager when Ace was kidnapped. Isabelle was 18 and married with a baby, but I was on my way to college.
If I had been in town and people had known Donnelly was my father, Myrna fears it wouldn’t have been Ace that went missing, it would have been me and since I’m not the natural born killer that Ace is, she doesn’t think I would have survived it. I hate to admit it, but I agree with her.
Oddly, I spent so much time with Eric, Isabelle, and even Ace, that I felt like they were my siblings not my cousins. I loved Isabelle like a sister. We shared tons of secrets with each other. She was my best friend and we called each other cousin sisters. Which sounds weird, but we were kids. Myrna suspected Isabelle knew we really were sisters. And she knew Eric knew. He just figured it out one day. He was looking at Isabelle and I on their couch, Aislinn was just a couple years old and was sitting between us while we did something to her hair. And Eric told Myrna they needed to talk and took her into the kitchen. He said with us three girls sitting together on the couch, it was impossible for him to believe we were cousins and not sisters. It wasn’t just our appearances, it was our mannerisms, yes, Isabelle and I had grown up together being so close in age, but some mannerisms were too close to be accidents. Especially with our strangely colored eyes. I have grey eyes. So did Isabelle. Aislinn has hazel. Eric’s are blue. Myrna’s are blue. Donnelly’s were brown. Grey blue is an unusual eye color, far rarer than green or blue or even violet. So to have two women with grey blue eyes sitting on a couch together was nearly impossible.
Myrna says she told Eric the truth that day and swore him to secrecy, there was no need to uproot my life. Later, her and Donnelly explained it to Eric. She says he nodded in understanding and he never spoke to me about it. No one keeps a secret like Eric. I know because he keeps a few of mine to this day.
When Uncle Donnelly and Isabelle both died, I clung to Aislinn. I was close to Eric, but Eric was a guy and Aislinn was, well, Aislinn. The night we buried them was the first night either of them cried. I was curled up in Aislinn’s bed with her and Eric came into the room to check on his baby sister. He curled up with us in the bed and I started crying first. It took almost no time for Aislinn and Eric to begin to cry as well. I wish I could understand what they were feeling at that moment. I’m not sure it was grief in the same way I felt it, but it was something akin to it.
Fourteen year old Aislinn, curled up in the fetal position, my arms around her, tears streaming down her face, snot running out her nose, sandwiched between a crying adult Eric and me, is still one of my strongest memories from my twenties. Donnelly and Myrna had been told just three days earlier that Elle, the girl Eric met in Germany was pregnant and they were getting married. Donnelly was thrilled to know he was going to be a grandfather again. Now, he was gone and all any of us had left were our memories of him.
I think I was more upset about Donnelly’s murder than Isabelle’s. Isabelle and I’s life had diverged. She had gone to night school, I had gone to college and was getting a master’s degree and starting law school. She had already given birth to four or five children, despite being just twenty-four. And she had married a man of God, something I couldn’t understand since she herself was not a believer in a supernatural father figure who ruled from Heaven. But as Myrna said later “opposites often attract”.
In that moment, I felt Aislinn was the only thing I had left in the world. We fell asleep that way, in Aislinn’s queen sized bed, curled up together and when we woke up the following morning, Malachi had sneaked into bed with us. He had also cried himself to sleep, the dirt streaks were obvious, and his eyes were bloodshot after sleep. None of us made a joke about the fact that Malachi had been spooning Eric when we woke up. Something that under normal conditions would have resulted in some gentle teasing.
When the trial began, the prosecutor asked Myrna to bring Aislinn to court everyday and sit in the gallery, as a constant reminder to the jury of the girl who had lost her father and her sister in a murderous rampage. Their killer had been caught red-handed, there was little defense to be mounted other than the influence of drugs. This is when we learned that the evidence was missing.
The trial lasted two years. A lot of evidence went missing during that time. And without the ability to retest some of it, the defense changed tactics. Was he really the killer or the had the police scapegoated him because it had been one of their own. He had been denied bail for the duration of the trial. He was returned to prison to await the verdict. The Missouri State Penitentiary, the deadliest prison in the US. Eric had discussed towards the end of the trial finding a convict we could pay to kill him. Myrna had put her foot down on that idea. But we all knew, how the trial was going to end.
And it did. He was found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm and a few other minor charges, but acquitted of the murders. He was sentenced to six years in prison, two of which he’d already served. Eric was now 28. He had a secretive job. I didn’t know it was because he was working for the CIA until after he was arrested. But I didn’t need to know that. Kyle was nearly three years old. Cassie was close to six. Myrna, Aislinn, and Eric were notified by the prosecutor that Donnelly and Isabelle’s killer was being released from prison on a certain day, time served plus good behavior.
What came next, I expected, but not from Eric. I expected Aislinn or Malachi to kill him. Malachi had just become an FBI agent. Aislinn was getting ready to go off to college. Eric had two young kids at home and a wife he loved. I expected Aislinn to follow him from the prison to whatever shit hole he had lined up to live in and kill him there. And I was determined that if she did, I would mount the best defense possible for her. Extreme emotional duress made her temporarily insane. If he could get away with double murder, I could get Ace off from a single murder charge. I had just graduated law school.
I knew if it was Malachi, it would be harder, but I was damn sure going to try. But it was neither. It was Eric. And there was no way to save Eric. He hadn’t just killed his father’s murderer, he had used skills learned in the service of the CIA to kill multiple people and while everyone secretly seemed to agree that all the murders were justified, it was hard to mount a defense against it. Especially since he’d be tried under the Serial Killer and Mass Murderer laws as a mass murderer.
Damn, I’ll have to try this entry again, later. It is less about Aislinn than I intended. But I realize it is information that is needed to understand how Donnelly’s death impacted all of our lives. He wasn’t just a psychopath, he was the best psychopath any of us had ever known. Is it any wonder his children, and I’m including Malachi and myself, among his children, all became a little unhinged after he was murdered?
I still miss Isabelle, but as I said our lives had diverged so much we were no longer as close as we’d once been and I was able to move on from her death faster than from Uncle Donnelly’s.