The killer’s name was Charles and he sat across from me as casually as if we were out for a drink.
Right leg crossed over the left, hands resting comfortably on the arms of his chair. His face was marked with a fine mist of blood, remnants of the moment his knife sliced through his wife’s jugular vein. But it wasn’t the blood that put me uptight or that the crime was so recent his victim was still warm. It wasn’t even the eerie calm of his face. What I found truly unnerving were his eyes.
Charles had piercing, probing eyes that seared your skin. The kind of eyes that stare right through you. The kind of eyes, perhaps, that wouldn’t blink as he brutally murdered you. And they were a terrifying blue, a striking feature in whites, absolutely mesmerizing in a light-skinned black man like Charles.
As I took a seat across from him he smiled and said, “All the angels have been killed.”
I was brought there, left alone with Charles less than three hours after he stabbed his wife, by a detail you simply can’t invent. I have come to believe the reason truth is stranger than fiction is the details. Little things our sane and rational minds are unable to dream up.
Like, for instance, that stabbing someone is hard work. That no matter how strong you are or how enraged, even deranged, you are, it takes a lot of force to stick a knife into someone’s body. Sure there’s the not so insignificant detail of poking a sharp object into a moving target, but even once the knife makes entry there are things to contend with. Like bones. Bones are hard. And they’re everywhere. Even a sharp knife tends to stop when it hits something solid. A rib, for instance. Or a collar bone.
In Charles’ fury he stabbed his wife more than forty times. After two or three slices, the blood, now splattered across his face and soaking through his clothes, really began to flow. That made the knife slick enough that when he struck bone, the knife slipped. I’ll spare the squeamish the remaining details, but suffice it to say his fingers were deeply lacerated.
Which is why I was there. Atlanta homicide needed someone to stop the bleeding long enough for them to finish processing Charles. And so here I was. Sitting alone in an interview room with a man who had just slaughtered his wife.
I cleared my throat. “You want me to bandage those fingers for you?”
Charles barely glanced at them. “And the angels? They've all had blue eyes.”
Let me tell you, at that moment, just how uninterested I was in his fingers. “Oh?”
He nodded. “Yup. John Kennedy, November 22, 1963. Robert Kennedy, June 5, 1968. William McKinley, September 6, 1901. Abraham Lincoln, April 15, 1865. John Lennon, December 8, 1980.” He looked down at his hands. “Jesus Christ.”
“I don’t think Christ had blue eyes.”
He smiled at me. Then his face turned serious. “She used to look at me, stare at me. At my eyes.”
“The victim,” he said, a strange expression washing over him. Clearly this was the first time he had referred to his wife as The Victim and it affected him. The look wasn’t remorse or even hate, but surprise. As though he’d been waiting years for her to assume that title and now, finally, she’d achieved it.
“You can wrap my hands,” he said.
If you’ve never shared a ten-by-ten room with a killer, let me tell you now it’s a strange experience. But to have him ease his chair back from the table so you can stand over him and bandage the wounds he received while disemboweling his screaming wife, well...
I grabbed some gauze and walked around the table. He looked into my face and I tried with all my strength not to stare at his eyes. But it’s impossible. It’s like having a conversation with a girl whose enormous boobs are hanging out of her shirt. No matter how hard you try, now matter what you tell yourself, your eyes always wander back. As I bandaged his hands, still covered in his blood, her blood, the smell filling the room, all I could think was, “I’m next. He’s gonna catch me looking, assume I’m here to make him the next dead blue-eyed angel and he’s gonna strangle me.”
I wondered how long it would take a cop to hear my gurgled cries. I wondered how long it would take Charles to kill me. I wondered why the cops had left me in here alone for so long. I mean, this man had just murdered his wife and he was telling me, a paramedic, his reasoning was a strange and very real re-interpretation of the Telltale Heart.
When I finished I sat back down and smiled at Charles. Creepy as he was, this was the most interesting thing I’d done all week. He had started talking again, more paranoid lunatic rambling, when a new cop walked in. Without missing a beat, Charles said, “I know you.”
“You’re Michael Winters.”
The cop stood motionless in the door as Charles played with the bandages.
“That’s my father,” the cop said. “How did you…” The cop, dumbfounded, looked at me, then back to Charles.
As it turns out, Detective Michael Winters had been the APD spokesman back in the early 80s when the infamous Atlanta murder spree involving Wayne Williams had been national news. He’d long-since retired and his son, then only a teenager, had since moved up in the ranks and was now the homicide detective standing before us. That Charles had recognized this man from news footage of his father that hadn’t aired in over twenty years sent chills down my spine.
Would Charles remember me? Would my child someday bump into this man, when Charles is old and infirmed and paroled because he’s no longer considered a threat? Would my child, not knowing his very real and dangerous connection with this man, stare unknowingly into those hypnotic blue eyes and rekindle Charles’ long-dormant homicidal delusions?
As my mind raced with endless and horrible possibilities, the detective took Charles by the arm and led him away. As he left, Charles turned around and smiled at me, his blue eyes burning their way through my skull.
“Thanks for the bandages,” he said. “I’ll see you later.”