I did my last three years of high school in a district that was cramped for space. Because there was only an elementary school and a high school, and the district had decided to create a “junior high” category but didn’t have the building done yet, the high school building was used for both groups of students. The high school students started at 6:00 a.m. and were done by 1:30 p.m., allowing us half an hour for lunch. Then, at 2:00, the junior high students came to school. They had to stay late in the evening, and the parents didn’t like it very much, but until the new Junior High building was completed, it would have to do. That’s how I was able to work two jobs in high school. We lived near a mall, so I could be at work by 2:00 every day and work any time on weekends.
In one of the stores, I worked in the credit department, calling customers to remind them their payments were due, stuffing envelopes, and eventually, becoming a supervisor and approving borderline credit purchases when the stores called in to our central location. My other job was in a prominent retail store’s catalogue department, which was located next to Sporting Goods.
That’s where I first saw the display of baseball bats. As soon as I saw them, I knew I had to have one. I let the Sporting Goods manager help me narrow down the selection. I don’t recall whether aluminum bats were available then, but I was convinced that a wooden one would suit my purposes better.
I got permission from my one of my teachers (and the principal) to take Spanish class, which was my last class period of the day, during my lunch period. (They knew I had two jobs so that I could save money to go to college, which my parents and the rest of my family violently opposed, and I think they were trying to help me out.) That released me from school half an hour early, since, technically, my lunch period was at the end of the day. I couldn’t leave the school grounds, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t spend my lunch period outside, at the edge of the parking lot, with my baseball bat. So that’s what I did.
I practiced every day with that bat, slamming it as hard as I could against the trunk of the stoutest oak tree on the school’s property. At first, my arms, shoulders, and neck hurt so bad from batting practice, I thought it would kill me. But when I remembered my plan, I got back to work.
I attracted a lot of attention from some of my fellow students, most of them guys, virtually all of them “dead-heads,” as we called the students who used illicit drugs back then, because they were the ones who skipped their classes but, for some strange reason, didn’t leave school grounds, though they all had access to cars. At first, they just watched me. Then Leo, whom I knew from my Political Science class, sent his girlfriend, Nessa, over to inquire what, exactly, I was attempting to do “by beating that tree to death with a baseball bat.” After she returned with the answer, Leo and several of the boys came over.
They all had girlfriends. They all knew I was a “brain,” a “teacher’s pet,” a “brown-nose,” a “suck-up,” and everything else that the College Prep students got called by everyone in the school because we made good grades. They all knew I didn’t wear make-up, dress in all-black clothes, dye my hair purple or blue with Kool-Aid, or skip classes to roam the hallways or smoke marijuana in the bathrooms. They knew I’d never had a boyfriend and that I didn’t drink, do drugs, or party. In short, I was the complete opposite of all of them.
None of that stopped them from teaching me to correctly use the bat, however.
I slept every night with the bat under the edge of my bed. I’d cleared a wide space in my room so the bat wouldn’t connect with anything except what I wanted to hit. I kept the curtains open, though I found it difficult to sleep with the streetlight shining in, because I needed to be able to see my target. I even practiced reaching under the bed, grabbing the bat, jumping out of bed, and swinging it in that virtually empty room.
When my stepfather Fred finally came for the last time, I heard him sneaking down the stairs to my bedroom, which was now on the lower level of the house, so I was already standing in the dark with the bat. It was the middle of the night, in the middle of winter, in the midst of my most extreme discontent.
He came into my room, dropped his pants, felt around the empty bed, stood up, turned his back to me, and cursed under his breath.
That’s when Mr. Louisville Slugger and I struck.
His bellows brought my mother Maida, who didn’t come near me. Instead, she ran out of the bedroom to call the number Fred gave her. About an hour later, one of his employees came from work. The employee said nothing when he was taken to Fred, writhing, without control of his limbs, on the floor of his stepdaughter’s bedroom. The employee said nothing when he saw me, teeth clenched and eyes narrowed, standing in the corner with a raised baseball bat. He said nothing when he put his hands under Fred’s arms and dragged him, screaming through dishtowels stuffed into his mouth, out of my bedroom, across the laundry room, through the dark garage, down the driveway, and to the bed of the employee’s pick-up truck.
As instructed, the employee drove to work and dutifully deposited my stepfather on an icy bridge over a ravine in the parking lot. Taking Fred’s keys, the employee retrieved Fred’s walkie-talkie from his office. The employee returned to the building in which he himself worked. He dialed our home phone number. Maida answered. She screamed. She ran out of the house, jumped into Fred’s car, and sped off to his workplace, a government installation that required high security clearance.
Here’s how their story went:
The employee, who worked third-shift, had phoned Fred, who was the Manager of Physical Plants and who was always on call in case something went wrong with any of the facilities, to inform Fred that something had happened to one of the generators and that no one could get it started. Later, after Fred had arrived at work, he radioed said employee, informing him that Fred had fallen on the bridge which led from the parking lot to the main building, and hurt himself bad. The employee called Security, who, after finding Fred, immediately contacted the hospital. An ambulance raced Fred — and the stalwart employee, who refused to leave my injured stepfather — from the ice-covered bridge at work to the emergency room. My mother, who was not legally permitted to even be in the parking lot, accompanied them.
One week later, the stalwart, taciturn third-shift employee, now promoted to day-shift supervisor, came to the house to inform my mother that the company had installed a hospital bed, along with all the equipment necessary to care for Fred, hired several shifts of nurses, and was transferring Fred to the “hospital room” at work. It seems the company was not about to lose its hundred-trillion-hour accident-free safety record simply because my stepfather had slipped on an icy bridge. By keeping Fred hospitalized on its premises, Fred would technically be at work every day. Thus, despite the eight months that Fred would be unable to actually work due to his numerous and complex injuries, the company would not have to re-set its neon Safety Hours sign at the entrance to zero.
Fred’s injuries were reported as having occurred after his falling on ice on the very same metal bridge that Fred himself had apparently reported as “extremely dangerous during inclement weather” several weeks previously, when Fred’s newly promoted stalwart employee had slipped but, fortunately, not been seriously injured. Paperwork detailing Fred’s report concerning this very dangerous bridge as well as the stalwart employee’s minor accident was discovered in Fred’s office files by his equally trustworthy and ambitious personal assistant three weeks after my stepfather’s unfortunate mishap.
My mother bitterly and angrily related all this to me during the period Fred was not allowed to come home because of his grievous injuries, during the many long months she was not permitted to visit him since she did not have the security clearance to see him in the hospital room constructed for him at work.
A hospital room which absolutely no one was supposed to discover, not even his family members, as it was not only illegal, but unethical as well.
Medical Summary of Fred’s Injuries:
Fractured hips, pelvis, upper and lower left leg, upper and lower left arm, left shoulder, left collarbone, both hands, wrists, thumbs, multiple fingers
Words cannot begin to express my severe disappointment.
I’d been aiming for my stepfather’s spine.
read another excerpt (chapters 1-6) from my memoir
and related chapters that are not in the final, published version
• This chapter, slightly modified, is an excerpt from my true crime memoir,
M is for Munchers: The Serial Killers Next Door
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