My first attempt at explaining my life with Aislinn Cain, didn’t go as planned. I realized you needed background to get context. Especially, since there are times, I love her and other times when I hate her. Even now, I’m not sure you’ll understand.
I have always known she was different, even as a child I knew she wasn’t as connected as other kids her age. I believed her to be on the spectrum. Except, she made eye contact, sometimes intensely. But I wrote it off. I don’t have a ton of experience with autistic children and if Ace was autistic, she was what we would have called an idiot savant in the 1980s. Autistic and on the spectrum really hadn’t become mainstream yet.
She was talking before she was walking. Not just words, but sentences. It was a little unnerving at times, you’d be talking to her and suddenly you’d realize she was only two or three years old and yet, she was conversing like an adult or at least like a child a decade older than she really was.
By the age of four, she was in love with history. Not medieval history at the time, but ancient history. Egypt to be exact. I think most kids go through a phase where they love ancient Egypt, but for Ace, it was an obsession. She was already a decent speller in English and now, before Kindergarten, she was trying to teach herself to read and write hieroglyphics.
She started Kindergarten at 5, which is totally normal. By halfway through Kindergarten, the teacher said she wasn’t sure what to teach her. She could read and write well beyond her peers. And she often asked questions the teacher couldn’t answer or if she could, that the other kids in class wouldn’t be interested in. She detested art unless she was allowed to use a spirograph. She had no friends. And she proclaimed more than once that she didn’t understand why they had to go to recess, they were only there a half day anyway, that time could be spent learning something.
First grade wasn’t better. She just “got” things quickly. She hated contractions, a lot and failed a spelling test because of it. Then she argued with the teacher that she was technically correct, even if she hadn’t used contractions, she had used the full words that meant what the contraction stood for and they were all spelled correctly. She lost her recess privilege for that, but the teacher figured out that might have been her goal. She would argue over things like that, lose her recess privilege and spend her recess in the classroom reading a book. And good lord, the books she was reading were definitely not first grader books. She’d finished The Boxcar Children and Sideways Stories from Wayside School before the school year started. As her peers struggled to get through Where the Wild Things Are, she was reading chapter books. After many conferences with teachers and the parents, she was moved to an advanced reading class. She finished the book 1984 in under a week and wrote a report about it to prove she’d read it. Yes, she wrote a paper for fun, just to prove she’d read the book. And I think the paper was better than my own high school literature essay on the same book.
It was second grade, when I finally put together all the pieces. She was a psychopathic genius like her brother. I remembered less of Eric’s grade school troubles, because I’d been younger, but I knew there’d been some. And one day, while sitting with Isabelle and prepping for a final exam in college Myrna offhandedly said, “she is so much like her brother, even the same difficulties.”
Perhaps, I had already begun to suspect she was a psychopathic, maybe I hadn’t. I’m not sure anymore. It would be third grade before the ideal solidified in my brain. That’s the year she was kidnapped. This background is leading somewhere, I promise; it just takes a little more explanation to get there. I was in college in another city. I’d taken the ACT and SAT two years before and I’d applied to several colleges. And believe it or not, it was Ace that helped me study and make my final choice. Isabelle wasn’t interested in college. She was ready for kids and marriage and happy to go to college part time. Eric was a junior and played baseball. He didn’t have time to help me prep for exams and write essays. But eight-year-old Aislinn could. She sat down one evening with my chemistry book and read it cover to cover. When she finished, she understood chemistry better than I did and I’m not an idiot by any means. But next to her, I felt that way. Everything except advanced math came so easily for her. She could out logic most adults but couldn’t figure slope to save her soul. But when she looked at algebra in chemistry, it just clicked, whereas just plain algebra didn’t make sense to her. It was weird. It’s still weird.
With her as my study buddy, I got a 32 on the ACT and a 1300 on the SAT. Then she just vanished. I was in shock. I remember it like it was yesterday; that horrible phone call from Isabelle. I was 20 and I was nearly a thousand miles away. It was surreal. I mean, she’d helped me study for chem exams and then watched Disney movies with me to take a break. We’d grown quite close as a result and I often forgot she was only 8. How could she be gone? Had a blackhole opened up and swallowed her? I could find no other explanation. The following day, Myrna showed up at my college with a plane ticket home. She went to all my professors with me and explained the situation and that I was needed home for a few days. She didn’t tell them Aislinn was my cousin, she told them Aislinn was my sister. I had thought the lie was just to make it easier for me to get away, now I realize she was simply telling the truth.
I was excused with condolences from my professors. Email wasn’t a thing yet, not really. I was grateful for Myrna being there. I had considered rushing home, but I didn’t know how to tell my professors my cousin had disappeared, and I needed to be home with my family. I bounced between horrified and hysterical as I explained it again and again. She was gone four very long, miserable days. And every time I tried to open a textbook, I started bawling, because I knew Ace would have loved to read the book. I’d had three semesters of college and before selling any of my textbooks back, Ace had read every one of them. She told me she loved them. She loved them so much that I’d buy extra books and bring back for her, mostly history, anthropology, and archaeology textbooks, but she was just as happy with a chemistry textbook. The only ones she didn’t like were the math books.
And then on the evening of the fourth day, we were all in the living room. Donnelly was at work, where he was spending the majority of his time. Myrna was taking and making secretive phone calls. Isabelle was staying at the house. Eric was a senior and most nights, we fell asleep in the living room. On the evening of the fourth night, we heard the screaming. It shattered the tedium of the evening. It was almost nine that night. And suddenly, there was a girl screaming bloody murder down the road from our house. We all ran outside. There she stood on the doorstep of a house ten doors down from her own. She was covered in blood and screaming “Help me” while beating on the front door of that house.
It was as if the blackhole had spit her back out at almost the exact spot where she’d been taken. We all went running together, without thought towards her. After the door opened and the person called the police, she sat down on the porch step and just sat. She didn’t fidget, she didn’t move. She just sat there and waited. We beat the police and paramedics to her. Myrna stopped all of us from touching her. Was the blood hers? Where had it come from if it was? How much evidence was on her? If we touched her, we’d destroy evidence and she needed a doctor obviously. And so, we stood a few feet away and asked her questions, which she calmly answered.
“Where have you been?” I remember Eric asked.
“Mr. Callow next door, he’s the one that’s been killing the little kids. I think he is dead.”
“Callow?” Eric had asked, eyeing Ace with suspicion. “Why do you think he’s dead?”
“I stabbed him in the eye, and he did not come after me. So, I had to have killed him.” Was her very logical, very calm answer. “But I was not sure, and Daddy’s car is not home, so I stopped here to have Mrs. Alderson to call the police. I thought it would be safer than if I ran all the way home and he was not dead. He might run faster than me and capture me again.”
Callow was indeed dead. Aislinn had read my anatomy books. She stabbed him at an angle pushing the handle of the spoon around the eyeball from the side and managing to puncture the membrane that surrounds the brain. It was almost an instantaneous death. After being checked out by doctors and giving a statement to an FBI agent named McMichaels and his partner Reece. She’d come home. It was two or two thirty in the morning. She wanted food, said she was starving and had a migraine from a lack of food.
We hadn’t realized yet she had hyperosmia, we just thought she was a picky eater. She wouldn’t eat meat if she could see it cooking or at least, we thought it was if she could see it cooking, we would later learn it was the smell of cooking meat, especially frying it, except bacon.
Myrna and Donnelly asked what she wanted, and she said she wanted waffles. Donnelly ran to the grocery store with Eric, there was only one in town open overnight at the time. They went to get berries because they were out, and she wanted berries for her waffles. Even then, she wouldn’t eat maple syrup. Although, in a pinch, she’d use Karo syrup on her waffles. She was a weird child.
And so, at 3 am, we had waffles, bacon, eggs, and fresh fruit. Well, Aislinn had waffles and a nibble of bacon. She liked the smell of bacon, but she didn’t eat it often because it could trigger migraines. And she wanted it nearly burnt. If there were any soft spots on the bacon once it cooled, she’d pick it off and get rid of it instead of eating it and she had very serious thoughts on eating eggs, none of which I can’t repeat here. She still doesn’t eat them to this day.
I didn’t return to college for another week. During that time, Aislinn read all my textbooks and watched me do my homework for classes every time I did it. She even made suggestions a few times on how to word things differently.
Myrna contacted the Dean of the University and convinced him to get all my professors to fax the assignments to the police station where Donnelly worked, so I could keep up, because even though I’d been found, they wanted to keep the family together for a week. She worked magic, because my professors did it. After I returned, I learned she’d told the Dean that she wanted to keep me home to make sure I and my other siblings didn’t need trauma counseling after their baby sister had been kidnapped by a pedophiliac serial killer that Aislinn killed to escape. And Donnelly faxed him some confidential information from the FBI on the case as well. I was even offered to drop the semester if I needed extra counseling, but I didn’t. Six weeks later, Aislinn and Myrna showed up at my college at the request of the Dean of Students. He wanted to meet her. He even took her to meet all my professors.
I worked my ass off and graduated with a bachelor’s in just 5 semesters and got accepted to law school at Columbia University.
By the time I graduated, Aislinn was still friendless except Malachi who she’d meet a few months after her encounter with Callow. And she’d been moved ahead to seventh grade, because by reading my college textbooks for five semesters, she was way beyond her classmates.
And once I got to law school, she continued to want to read my textbooks and damn, if she wasn’t good at that too. She scored a 30 on the ACT and a 1300 on the SAT when she was twelve. Because everything but math, came so easy to her.
Is it any wonder that I’ve had moments where I loved her, hated her, envied her, been angry with her, and wanted to be as far away from her as possible? Aislinn Clachan; child genius, psychopath, and the girl that killed a serial killer at just 8 years old. And Clachan is such an unusual last name, every law professor I had asked if I was related to her. Our local newspaper did a big write up on her escape from the clutches of the pedophile Callow. It was picked up by several national papers as well. And after the newspapers picked up the story, national TV news picked it up. I don’t remember what news anchor called her the child that killed to survive, but it stuck.
And even at 8, she hated it. After she heard it, she said “I don’t want that to be my legacy to this world.”
Unfortunately, that will forever be her legacy. She can change her name a hundred times and she will still be the 8-year-old that outsmarted an adult serial killer and killed him to escape. In some ways, that is the legacy of the Clachans in general; serial killers or crime fighters. I picked a law book, Aislinn picked what she was best with, a gun, but like her father, she got a badge, so it was justified.