It was the first murder that I had ever heard of in my hometown. And I was a suspect. Let me start with introductions. My name is Harold. I come from a very poor family. I don't mean "making it by" poor - I mean, "dirt" poor. I have eight brothers and two sisters. Along with mom and dad, we had thirteen people living in a two-bedroom dirt floor house. We didn't even have an indoor bathroom. We had an outhouse. Dad worked two jobs: foundry during the day and janitor during the night. Mom cleaned houses for the wealthy. My two older brothers mowed the lawns, delivered papers and any other odd jobs that they could find. Me? I had to stay with the younger ones.
I would feed them, change their diapers, get them to help me clean the house: washing dishes, sweeping, mending socks, coats, shirts, pants, and bathing them. I hated it, especially when dad would get home. If he was angry, he would take it out on me. He was usually angry.
The younger ones eventually grew up enough to fend for themselves and we got indoor plumbing. I got a job working at a Dairy Crème drive thru. I was able to save enough money to buy myself a beat up old Duster. Her name was Becky. Such a beautiful girl, she looked older than her fourteen years. She was from a poor family too. Her dad wasn't in the picture. She was the middle daughter: older one was Vicki - very promiscuous; the younger one was Peggy - very sweet and quiet. Becky worked at a pizza joint right across the street from the high school. Every high school jock wanted to date her. But, she loved me. I loved her. She was my very first love. The silly way she would look at me and lean into me was very uncomfortable - especially for a sixteen year old boy. She would always talk about me to her co-workers and make me embarrassed. She would wait tables and brush up against me as she walked by. The way the older boys would look at her and whisper about her amongst themselves, I asked her a few times if she was ok. If they were bothering her, I would take care of it. She would just smile and give me a wink, "I can take care of myself, hun. But, I feel so safe knowing you're right here to protect me." She would say.
One night, I stayed until the pizza place closed and waited for her to get off work. I had my car and wanted to drive her to the river to make out. When she was free to go, she asked her manager to use the phone to call her mom. Her mom was working at grandpa's bar.
"Mom. Can I go down to the river with Harold? We'll be home before the bar closes."
"No, sweetie. Vicki is on a date and I have to take your little sister home to you. I was just waiting for you to call me and tell me when you'd be home. " her mom said.
"Awe. Okay. Well, Harold is gonna walk me home so, I won't be home for about thirty minutes." She told her mom. She hung up the phone and looked at me with big, soft eyes and dropped bottom lip.
"Honey. Will you walk me home? That way we can spend some more time together and make plans for this weekend. Okay?" She pouted.
All I could do was smile and walk her home.
We talked about everything that night: her school classes, the boys flirting with her, the girls teasing her, and her schedule at the pizza place. I got to tell her about my class trip to Branson, our soccer team and the goal I scored and my car running better than it ever had! I wanted to take her to the city to shop the following weekend but, she couldn't leave town just in case she was needed. But, I could spend some money on her IN town!
We finally got to her house and all the lights were off. I asked her if she wanted me to come inside and wait for her mom to bring Peggy home and she said no. "I'll be fine. I'm gonna take a bath before the little brat gets home and have some peace to myself." She said. "Now. Give me a good night kiss." She demanded.
I kissed her gently. I closed my eyes and held her softly against my chest. I held her for a moment. Not wanting to let go. She giggled and broke the spell. I had to laugh. "Ok, ok." I said. "I'll go."
I walked a few feet and turned around as she was sticking the key in the door. "Don't forget to call me tomorrow!" I said. "It's Saturday. You'll have to wake me up if you want to go do something before you go to work!"
"I will. I love you!" she yelled at me.
"I love you, too." I yelled back.
Is this an earthquake? I feel the whole ground shaking! Am I still asleep? What's going on?
"Son! Wake up! Harold!" It was my dad. He was shaking my bed from the frame!
I open my eyes in a squint and can make out three figures. One is my over-bearing dad and I can't make out the other two. "Harold!" Dad shouts! "You have exactly three seconds to open your eyes and sit up. Three!" He screams.
"What? I'm sorry, dad. What's going on? I spit out.
"Did you see Becky last night? Where is Becky?" He asks.
"Son. I'm detective Ballinger. Were you with Becky Malvoy last night?"
"If you did something to her, you little son of a bitch, I'll kill you!" dad interrupts.
"Yes. I was with her last night." I answer this detective, wiping the sleep out of my eyes.
"Why? What's going on?" I ask.
"We'll ask the questions, kid. What time did you see her? Where did you go?" asks the third round figure.
"I dunno. "
"I guess it was around 8:30 or 9! I…"
"You guess?" Dad blurts out! "You'd better be damned sure, you piece of shit!"
"Son." Says detective Ballinger. "Where did you go? Do you recall that?"
"Yea. I walked her home. She works at Pizza Dog's and they closed at 8. She had to clean up so, we didn't get out of there until about 8:20 or 8:30. We walked to her house so, I guess it was about 9 when I left her at her front door." I was awake now. I kept trying to focus on these guys. One was dressed in shirt and tie and the rounder of the three was in full uniform from Burlington's Finest! What is going on? I kept asking and they kept ignoring my question.
Finally, one of them let it slip out that the time of death was approximately 11pm and they wanted to see my clothes and shoes I had on last night when I was with Becky.
"Time of death?" I pleaded in a panic. "What do you mean 'time of death'?" "Who's dead?" "Dad!", I ask. "Who's?"
"Where's your clothes?"
A fter they went through my clothes and shoes and pockets, two of them were convinced I knew nothing about Becky. Dad was the only one that wasn't convinced. But, that bastard would sooner eat a turd right out of a goats' ass than to say his own son was innocent of any wrongdoing.
I asked the detective and his fat friend what was going on and what happened to Becky.
"Do you know anyone that would want to hurt her?"
"No. All the people that knew her thought she was cool and a bunch of the juniors and seniors wanted to take her out." I said, "but, I don't know of anyone that would want to hurt her."
"Cecil. Let's go." Detective Ballinger said to the cop.
"Wait!" I shouted. "Where's Becky? Is she alright?"
"You're girlfriend is dead! The cop shouts back.
"Cecil. You are an insensitive shit." Ballinger shook his head as he walked out. My Dad gave me a smack to the back of the head and walked out behind the two criminalists.
She's dead? I thought to myself. Dead? What does that mean? Is she okay? How can she be okay? She's dead!
My mind is scattered again. My heart is beating a hundred miles an hour and I don't know what I'm feeling. I am pissed and sad and I'm sitting on the edge of my bed and I'm running towards the window and back again. I'm sweating and I'm cold. I'm crying and I'm yelling. I hear a sound of a car outside and rush to the window. Smash! The window glass breaks and the shrapnel falls to the yard outside! The officers immediately pull their service revolvers and point in my direction. My head accidently went through the glass. They look at each other and holster their weapons and continue to walk towards their vehicles.
"You asshole!" Dad shouts at me.
"Fuck you." I whisper to myself.
The warm trickle of blood down my forehead brought me back to reality. The blood was falling quickly and staining the curtains, the carpet and my t-shirt. I was too angry and too tired to start crying. But, that didn't stop me. I cried. Uncontrollably, I cried. I cried for her short life. I cried for her mother who had only the three girls in her happy little family to make her miserable life bearable. I cried for her older sister who will blame herself for not taking better care of her sisters and losing her dad and her little sister. I cried for the littlest one, Peggy, the quiet one. I cried for me. So much in my life has been a disappointment and the one solace I found was Becky. She loved me for who I was with her. Not for anything others said about me. I cried for me. I tried to gather myself and take a shower. But, there was no hot water. I woke up late and all the hot water was already used up by one or all of the brothers /or sisters. Shit!
Bam! Bam! "Hey, Harry. You ok?" It was my older brother, Billy. "Dad's downstairs screaming about the cops in the neighborhood at this hour and everyone watching." Billy was one year older than me and my best friend.
Billy got held back a year in Second Grade but, he said he didn't mind. He could keep a better eye on me. He was always taking care of me. He was bigger and all the girls had crushes on him. He liked to work on cars and work out on weights so, everyone thought he was real cool. He wore his hair long and had those cute dimples on his cheeks that chicks loved. I was the total opposite: wore glasses; hair was always messed up; I wore hand-me-downs; my teeth were crooked and I was always very shy.
I got picked on all the time and it was around the third grade that Billy started to fight others to protect me. Now, the only one he's fighting is Dad. After Dad quit drinking, he's been a real asshole. We all think he should start again.
"Dad said Becky died. Did the cops say what happened?" he asked me through the door.
I slowly opened the door wiping my face from the blood and hiding my tears. "Yea. She's dead. They didn't say anything about how or what. Only that she's dead. But, they woke my ass up asking me about the time I was with her and checked my clothes. I don't know what the hell they were looking for but, apparently, they didn't find shit because they threw them back on the floor." I answered.
"Get dressed. I'll tell Lori that I'm gonna be busy today and she can go hang out with her friends. We'll go find out what happened to Becky." I could always count on Billy. No matter what, Billy was always there for me. When I was taken to Riverview for my drinking and pot smoking, Billy was the only one that came to see me on a regular basis. When I ran away from home when Dad kept beating the shit out of me and Mom, Billy drove me as far as 35 South and gave me everything he had in his pocket. He tried talking me out of it but, he wasn't the kind to bully me into deciding things his way.
I washed up best I could and jumped from the broken window to the roof and then to the shed and onto the ground. We always snuck out like this when we were younger and wanted to go get high. Today, I didn't want to hear that son-of-a-bitch give me any more shit!
Billy started his Ranchero up and pulled out of the yard.
"Hey, assholes!" Dad came out of the house yelling at us both. "Where the hell do you think you're going? Harry! Get your ass back in the house and fix that broken window!" He barked at me.
"Get in, Harry." Billy calmly spoke. I looked at him and he gave me a reassuring nod. I jumped in. We lived on a corner lot, so, Billy just made a driveway from the other section of the yard to the other street hugging our home.
I heard Dad cussing and screaming. We were gone.