“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche
I love this quote by Nietzsche. I know he was talking about ruthless dictators and madmen and those that stand against them, but it is perfect for psychopaths, especially serial killers. I became a monster. I stared into the abyss so long that the abyss consumed me. I worry about it happening to my baby sister, but she’s always been more monster than me, so maybe that will work like armor for her.
Let me explain my metamorphosis. People will tell you my father was a good man. They will tell you he was a damn fine cop. They will tell you how much he loved his family. They may even tell you he was a hero. All those things are true. What they can’t tell you is how or why my father became all of those things. And how I was trained to become them as well. Perhaps if you understand that, you’ll understand why I live in an eight by ten cell with seven inch thick plexiglas on the front of it, surrounded by killers.
When the rage welled up in my father, as it does in all psychopaths from time to time, he would force himself to work it off. He’d go mow all the yards of his neighbors with a push mower. Or he’d go volunteer to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. He battled the rage by doing good deeds, until eventually when the rage was there, it could only be sated with acts of kindness and not pain. If he was home or out with friends and the calm nothingness descended, he’d hug someone until it went away. Because that loving physical contact forced him to feel, even if it was just feeling awkward or uncomfortable.
Donnelly Clachan had demons, like all psychopaths, but he was stronger than them and won most of the battles. Quietly one night, he told Malachi, Caleb, and I the secret to defeating his blood lust and his rage. All three of us thought he was crazy, well crazier. That was impossible, you could fight the desire to hurt someone by building a house or mowing a yard or mowing twelve yards. But I tried it and it did help the rage pass. I owned one of the old antique lawn mowers that isn’t driven by an engine specifically for the purpose of battling my rage. It did help. Going to the gym also helped, but my dad was right, doing good deeds helped the most.
Until he and Isabelle were murdered. For months, no amount of good deeds would quell my rage. No amount of working out quieted the screaming inside me. How dare the police department be so incompetent that my father and sister’s murderer should get to go free for the crimes he perpetrated against my family. Elle tried to help me, but not even her love could stem the flow of rage.
And then Peter West, Malachi’s nerdy cousin came to me. He was a lowly grunt at the NSA at that time. He had a tale to tell. He didn’t think the police department was incompetent, he’d been using NSA resources inappropriately and he thought there was a monster inside the police department. A monster that for whatever reason had screwed up the case against the man who had murdered my father. He had one name, just one, the name of the evidence clerk, but for some reason, he couldn’t get a fix on who was on the other end of those phone calls. He was hiding his phone number, location, and identity incredibly well. Peter suspected he must be a hot shot with computers for the NSA to not be able to track him down. But if we could get the evidence clerk to talk, we might get a name.
My uncle Jacob, better known to the world as Apex, and I went to talk to the evidence clerk. He admitted to tampering with evidence, but refused to give up the person he did it for and it turned out, he was a victim, not a monster. Someone had called him and told him if he didn’t misplace a few items, his teen daughter would become a target for the killer of the teen girls, just as Aislinn had become a victim for Callow. The clerk said he was going to take the threat to the chief of police, but the chief was in a meeting and when he got back to the property room, there was an envelope with a lock of his daughter’s hair and a pair of her underwear in it along with another threat. If he told anyone in the station, his entire family would be killed. A little later, he received a text with a picture of his family, they were out shopping for Christmas presents. And so he didn’t tell anyone, he just did what he was told.
Jacob and I agreed, whoever was doing this, was connected and inside the station. I thought about coming forward with the information, but then I thought about Donnelly. Donnelly wouldn’t want me to expose this guy’s family to a serial killer for him and Isabelle. He was about preserving life, not taking it. Jacob told me he’d take care of it. He was willing to use CIA resources and his contacts to find out who was really behind things and he’d kill him, because Jacob agreed whoever had murdered Donnelly needed to be punished. Jacob told me then that he had always admired my father and wished he had even a fraction of the control that Donnelly had. He had loved my father like a brother and just as he’d gotten his sister and her husband back in his life, someone had jerked them away again. Perhaps that was the first time I’d realized Jacob’s grief was real. I had met him at one of the secret meetings with Nathan Green and hadn’t really thought my uncle was close to my family. I was wrong. Jacob was willing to go to prison to get justice for my father. You can’t really thank someone for that. The words sound hollow and meaningless. And are beyond inadequate.
Elle and I discussed it that night. She told me to let Jacob handle it. I had lied to her and told her I would, but I knew I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I wasn’t sure if Elle would understand that though. And so I made a decision, Jacob could handle the man at the top of the pyramid, but if he hadn’t found him by the time my father’s murderer was released from jail, then I would take care of that myself. Jacob must have known that I couldn’t just stand down and let him handle things. Because over the next two weeks, he called more often and showed up every day to talk to me.
He kept telling me about how beautiful my children were and how I needed to be there to watch them grow up. I’d listen and nod, as expected, but his words were hollow and meaningless. I think he knew it, too. Because the week before the killer was released, Jacob showed up with a list. If I was going to do this and he knew I was, then it needed to have a bigger impact than just avenging my father. Donnelly wanted the system to change, but he would never have sacrificed me to do it. Jacob told me more than once. I asked what the list was and he told me, it was a list of every inmate in the jail that had killed either a cop or a cop’s family member. The FGNs weren’t yet a thing, but maybe if we played our cards correctly, they could be and maybe, we could change some other things too. And if I was going to go to prison for murder, it might as well be The Fortress and I might as well make a big impact when I did. His words echoed my own thoughts on the matter and so we began to plan.
I know you’re thinking if I had gone to prison for just one murder, I could have been paroled early and gone back to my family. It is a pretty thought, but it isn’t reality. I was going to jail for murder in the state of Missouri. The Missouri State Penitentiary had already been closed down and replaced, but the replacement prison wasn’t much better. The MSP had been known as the most violent prison in the US. It was worse than Sing-Sing or San Quentin. When the Missouri State Penitentiary flooded in 1993, they built a new one and split up the inmates. When they refilled the replacement, they tried to keep the more violent criminals separated throughout the Department of Corrections facilities in Missouri. Unfortunately, the guy they needed to keep out of the system didn’t qualify to go to The Fortress yet. His name was Guy Vincent and he was the leader of the prison gang the White Knights and if you immediately thought of white supremacist gangs, you’re half right. Before going to prison in Missouri for rape, Guy Vincent ran a group of Sovereign Citizens who just also happened to also be white supremacists. And there was little doubt, that I’d have a run in with him or one of his many underlings, because my father had arrested Guy Vincent and several of his cohorts.
Which meant unless I was kept in solitary confinement for the duration of my prison sentence, I would be targeted by the White Knights. And unless I killed Guy Vincent, they would just keep coming, no matter how many foot soldiers I dropped. One murder would turn into two quickly, unless I ended up in a Federal Prison.
And so, we planned a mass murder. Just so you know, I did kill two White Knights in my spree. They fit the criteria. They had been pulled over by an African-American Highway Patrol Officer and had shot him seventeen times, then led police on a high speed pursuit that killed two others in related car accidents. I dropped them third and fifth in that prison yard.
Killing those guys, sated my rage finally. After more than two years of not being able to control my brain, I finally had peace. But I had also become the monster my father had tried so hard to save me from.