My Family – Patterson Clachan

I loved my family. I loved my wife. And yet, I have neither, even my life and home were torn from me. The only person to blame is myself.

But my children know the truth and that is all that really matters. Or so, I’ve told myself for a long time. As I get older, I’m not sure that’s true anymore. Do I want to go to the grave having been branded a wife murderer? That’s complicated. I am a killer. I’ve murdered more than a hundred people during the last sixty years. Why should it matter if I get blamed for one more murder, especially since it was my fault? Donnelly used to tell me it mattered and I used to tell him it didn’t. Maybe you need more of my story to fully comprehend what I have to say about the death of my wife.

I was raised in a family that had long been churning out psychopaths and they knew it. The toughest male of each branch and in each generation was expected to marry a strong and fearless woman and produce children that could be trained as soldiers to protect the homeland from invaders be they Vikings, Romans, Normans, or Brits. Unfortunately, unification of Scotland and Britain didn’t stop the practice. My father did that. Both John Clachan and Agnes Muirkirk were both psychopaths. John was found to be unworthy of his name and was exiled from the family, hence the move to the US. Now, what could John have done to earn him exile from a family of warriors that intentionally bred psychopaths? He had a predilection for little girls and he was fine giving into his baser desires at the cost of his nieces’ innocence. This price would eventually be paid by his daughters. Eventually, I grew enough to kill John. It should be noted here, that my father detested me. My father was a big strapping man; tall, broad shouldered, bearded, and hairy. I was none of those things and it was obvious the moment I hit puberty that I would never be those things. John accused my father of cuckolding him with me. He ignored the fact that I had most of his features except his height, build, and excessive body hair. When I was 15, my mother figured out that my brothers were kind of wimpy. I don’t say that to disparage my brothers. They were big men like my father, but they feared him. I didn’t fear him. I feared my mother. I’d seen her give as good as she got. Despite being tiny compared to my father, I watched my mom knock John Clachan out one night when she was half drunk. She was definitely the one to be feared.

My mother began to appeal to my rage. She sent my sisters to plead to it too. They told me the stories of what our father did to them when they were young and well, it didn’t take long to stoke my rage to uncontrollable levels. And so, when I was fifteen, I killed my own father. I don’t know how my mother had envisioned the next few hours of her life, but I think the reality of it shocked her. Not enough to stop me, but enough to scare her. He came home bellowing about me and my lazy no good brothers and yanked off his belt for our normal whippings and I decided we were all done living under John Clachan’s tyranny. My mother had sent my siblings to see our oldest sibling earlier that day. I grabbed my mother’s favorite butcher knife. I didn’t have a plan beyond killing John. I began to stab him. The first time, it hurt my hand. I didn’t cut myself, but I didn’t get the knife back either. My father grunted and roared at me, so I grabbed a different knife. I was more prepared for the impact of stabbing someone like my father the second time and I managed to jerk the blade from his belly. As I did, blood spilled over my hand and for the first time in ages, I felt better. And with each stab wound, I felt better and better.

I stabbed him to death in the little kitchen in our house. We lived in a rural area and one of my sisters had already married and moved out. After John was dead, my mother covered up his murder. Then she set him and the little house on fire while I cleaned up. Then we went to visit my sister too. It was 1943, there wasn’t a fire brigade and the fire had to burn out. It was ruled an accident. Everyone decided my father, known to be a hard drinker and heavy smoker, probably got drunk and passed out in the kitchen while smoking a cigarette. A few weeks later, my mom signed the paperwork for me to join the army. I was shipped to Europe in 1944 as a private. I stayed in the army through the Korean War. I met my wife for the first time in Europe in 1945. She had been a nurse with the French Resistance. After I came home, we continued writing to each other. I fell in love with her through her letters. In 1953, when I was shipped home from the Korean War, I asked to go to France first. The request was granted and when I got to France, I found she was in love with me too. I was twenty-five and she was twenty-three and she was ready for adventure and life away from a devastated France. We married while I was on leave in France and then we returned to Missouri.

Our first child was born in under a year, the twins the following year, another child, and then Donnelly. You could tell it just looking at her, but my wife was a psychopath too. Without realizing it, I had done what the Clachans had done for generations. My sister Gertrude immediately hated my wife. I didn’t see it, although my wife told me she thought Gertrude was plotting against her.

Donnelly asked me if his mother knew I was a killer. I told him the truth. She did, but she also knew when I was with her, I wasn’t that man. And I wasn’t. For the thirteen years, we were married, I killed no one. Our children found her body, because I wasn’t home when it happened. I should have been though. For about two weeks before her death, my wife expressed concerns about living so close to my sister and her husband. I brushed them off and I shouldn’t have. But I didn’t understand her concerns or what was going on. She thought Gertrude coveted our children and was going to steal them. Gertrude had her own infant son and she convinced me, my wife was just paranoid. Our oldest sister, Matilda, had been in a car accident and needed care. I was at her house all night and into the next day, leaving my wife and children on their own.

When the police showed up to arrest me, I believed my children had told them I had killed my wife. It would be a long time before I would learn that they never interviewed my children and if they had, they would have learned that Gertrude was having coffee with my wife when they left for school. My wife was stabbed to death. And someone had set out some trophies from WWII around her body. It could have easily been one of my kills. Donnelly was twenty before I found out that he and his siblings had always suspected Gertrude of the murder of their mother. But that their mother had told them I had killed people in the past. And it’s hard to defend oneself when the police have leathered ears next to a freshly murdered woman.

It’s even harder to explain they are the ears of Nazi soldiers that you’ve kept in a box for twenty or more years. Or that they belonged to the woman who was murdered. I never kept trophies. But my wife was proud of her role in the Resistance and that she had killed the men that had tortured her family. I only began my life as a serial killer after I escaped jail for the murder of my wife. Yes, I had killed, but it was limited to my father and the kills of a soldier.

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