Kacie sat there, alone, in front of the computer. She was excited. She was nervous and not just a little horny. Thirteen year olds could own these feelings. She knew that was true.
Just two months ago, her life had been adrift in the tides of irrational horror. Her dad was trying hard to help her make sense of it all, but he was a cop and that meant that he was seldom there when she got home from school. By the time he got home each night, she had already done all her homework and taken care of her chores. Her 19 year-old brother was working during the day and going to trade school at night. So it was just her, most evenings.
She'd come home from school and have lots of time to be alone. Alone to think about how the horse had killed her mom and how her dad and her brother hadn't been the same since. She thought of herself as the strong one. She'd accepted the anomaly and continued to do well in school and not get all moody at the most awkward times. She wanted to think of the two men left in her family as strong, too; but their willingness to give in to the grief at the worst possible moment just seemed pathetic to Kacie. Life gave you a sour deal and you dealt with it. It seemed clear enough to her.
The horse? Her dad and mom had been driving home from a Policeman's Ball last year. They lived out in the middle of nowhere, several miles outside of the small southern town where he worked. It was dark and he didn't see the horse as it ran in front of their Chrysler, out of absolutely nowhere. When he hit the ignorant animal, which had just stopped in the middle of the road and turned to look right at him, as if to ask directions, the four legs flew straight out ahead of the car and the body hit the windshield. Apparently the horse's rear was more heavily weighted, because the windshield broke on the passenger side and his wife and Kacie's mom was struck violently with the rear end of the horse. She had been killed instantly. She was 38 years old when she died.
They had moved out here in the country so that they could have horses for the kids. This irony was not lost on Kacie.
Her dad had gotten a computer and had gotten involved with a website for single parents like himself. His story was posted there and he often received correspondence from other men and women who had lost a spouse long before their time. It was not uncommon for her dad to come home around 7:00 or 8:00 in the evenings and kick her off the computer to see if he had any new e-mail from other grieving widowers.
Getting kicked off the internet might not have bothered Kacie not all that long ago, but now it was crucial that she get on-line. That's why she'd been neglecting her chores and her homework lately. There was a boy on the internet she needed to talk to in the worst way. He'd first contacted her in an AOL chatroom. How he knew just what she was going through was more than uncanny; it was spiritual. His name was David and he'd sent her a picture of himself. He was dreamy. Every night now, she went to sleep with a printed copy of that grainy picture. No one in her class was nearly as cute as David.
Sure enough, as soon as she got on every afternoon, there he was; ready to chat. The warm empathy of those messages made her glow. She had told him everything about herself and he had told her everything about himself and this was the first time she'd been in love and it made the pain go away. He lived in California and it was going to be hard for them to meet anytime soon, but Kacie understood patience. She knew in her heart that these conversations would continue until they were old enough to drive cars and then her dream was to meet him halfway, like in Texas or New Mexico or somewhere exotic like that, so that their first time together could be as special as special could be with a huge full moon over a cactus-filled desert and the sound of coyotes howling might just match her own howling over becoming a woman.
David understood her so well when she would go off on tangents like this. He was a great listener. The more she talked, the more willing he was to listen. How come the boys at her school couldn't be like this? Why were they always just listening long enough to think of the next thing they were going to say? No one understood her any more. Her mom had been the only one in whom she could really confide, and her mom was not coming home.
Bobby got home around 8:00 PM that Tuesday. His communications class was so freaking boring, and it always seemed to drone on forever. "How many ways can you say, 'I'm a pitiful fucked-up mess?'" he wondered. When he unlocked the front door, the first thing he noticed was that the chair in front of the computer was overturned. Kacie was a neat girl and she would never have walked away from her precious computer and left the chair overturned.
Then he looked around the rest of the room. It was a mess. Fear sparkled up and down his spine like an electrical current. His dad would have wanted him to back slowly out of the room and get to a phone somewhere else. He could hear his dad saying this in the back of his head. "Back slowly out of the house, Bobby!" But his concern for Kacie made him do the stupid thing. He ran through the entire house looking for her.
None of the rest of the house was torn up. Just the living room. A coffee table was overturned and Kacie's Birkenstocks were lying between the coffee table and the glass door out to the back yard. Bobby called his dad on the cell phone.
Sgt. Franklin was on his way home when he heard the police report come over the radio. "Young Caucasian girl abducted by middle aged man. Units respond to Storage Facility on Union West." He turned on the lights and the siren. He was halfway home, out in the middle of nowhere, so it was going to be at least fifteen minutes before he could reach this destination. He thought of Kacie and how much time he'd not been able to spend with her since her mom had died. He felt guilty for making her get off the computer when he got home each night. She enjoyed her time on there so much. Why did he have to be so overbearing? Why couldn't he talk to her like his wife used to?
Two phones rang at once. One was his mobile police phone and the other was the cell phone for the kids. He answered the cell phone first. Bobby was hysterical, "Daddy! Kacie's not here and I think someone's been in here! Can you find her?" His stomach sank as he thought of all the folks in his computer group who had said, "This is the worst thing that will ever happen to you. Just be a good father to your kids now."
He told Bobby to hold on and answered the police phone. Captain Tolliver told him that he wanted to call because he knew that it would be broadcast over the police radio any minute and he didn't want his friend to hear it like that.
Kacie Franklin had been shot once in the head, tied down naked in the back of a van outside a storage unit, and a 47 year-old California man had shot himself inside the small building.
Both were dead.
I don't know why I feel compelled to do things like this.
When the Interstate bridge fell this year, I felt as if I had to
personalize somehow the folks who had died.
This story happened this week in a town just north of where I live.
The names have been changed but the details are true.
As I read the details of the family today,
it seemed horrible to me that these details were just a news story.
The news story never tells the real story.
I don't know if this is the whole story or not,
but it's a story.