In the Name of Justice

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In the Name of Justice

by Kalin Ringkvist

a dream from 2006

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I dreamed I was 12 again, in seventh grade. My father worked at an insurance agency, which is not the case in real life.

I had decided I wanted to give drugs a try, so I snorted some meth and drank a little vodka. My DARE teacher had told us that drugs make you happy, if only temporarily, but somehow that didn’t seem to be the case with me. I thought it could make my school day and classes more bearable, but it wound up doing the opposite. I found myself wandering in a terrified and frustrated daze, wishing I could be anywhere but there.

My only solution was to sneak into the boiler room through a secret entrance that only a few students knew about.

I seemed to awaken there, away from teachers or any students who may care that I was high on meth.

However, I was not alone.

There were three other students in the boiler room; some of the few who knew about the secret entrance. There was a notorious bully–one who had tormented me on many occasions–and The Bully’s girlfriend. His girlfriend was standing in the corner, seemingly oblivious to her boyfriend, as though she was high too.

The Bully, however, was his normal self, and as usual, he was picking on the innocent, kicking and tormenting a younger, geeky kid who was well known at the school for having no friends. The kid was crying, and lying on the ground as The Bully kicked and laughed.

“Stop!” I said, “Leave him alone.”

The Bully ignored me.

The Geek began dragging his body across the floor into a conglomeration of pipes. “Please… I’ve never done anything to you…. please.”

I couldn’t tell if this was really happening. This must be a dream, I told myself.

I continued to watch, occasionally asking The Bully to stop, and getting no response. Suddenly The Geek made a rapid movement and The Bully jumped back several paces. The Geek stood up slowly and far more cofidently.

In a shaky hand, he held a small revolver pointed at The Bully.

“Where did you get that?” asked The Bully.

“I just found it,” said The Geek. “It was behind that pipe.” He pointed.

“Look, I’m sorry,” said The Bully.

“Step back!”

The Bully obeyed, taking several slow steps backward.

The Geek opened his mouth and turned the barrel away from The Bully and inserted it, pointing it straight toward his brain. “I’m gonna kill myself, now,” he said. “I hope you’re happy.”

The Bully’s eyes went wide. “No! Please, no! I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Please don’t do that, please!” He waved his hands in front of him. “Please, I’m begging you, please don’t. I”m sorry. I’ll never mess with you again, I promise. I swear to you, I never meant it to go this far… I was just having fun and I’m sorry. I’m really, really sorry.”

And The Geek, eyes filled with rage, and through teeth clenched around the barrel of the gun, said, “It’s not just you. It’s everyone.” And I saw the tears forming and quickly begin to drip from his eyes. “I hate my life. My parents don’t give a fuck about me… everybody hates me… I have nothing to do… my life sucks… I hate you, but it’s not you that’s making me do this.”

“No!” shouted The Bully. “Look, if you put the gun down, we can all leave the way we came in and then I’ll go and tell the principle that I was down here by myself and that I found that gun, and he will come down here and get rid of it. I won’t mention that you were down here, I won’t say a word about what’s going on right now. Nothing. You won’t get in any trouble at all. I’ll be the only one here who gets in any trouble, I promise.”

“No,” said The Geek. “This gun is a sign from God. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”

“No, please don’t say that kind of shit,” said The Bully. “God would never ask you to do that… certainly not here… not like this.”

“I have to…”

“No…” The Bully took a deep breath. “Ok… look… I’m gonna step forward and take the gun away from you very gently, and then we’re going to put it back where we found it, and I’m going to go to the office and tell them about it. You won’t get in trouble. No one will ever know this happened… you have my word… and you have my word that I will never pick on you again.”

The Bully stepped forward.

“No!” screamed The Geek. “I’m gonna do it! I’ll kill my self right here. Stay back!”

“Stop!” said the girl in the corner. “Both of you stop it!”

“Stop!” I echoed, suddenly realizing I had an obligation to do something more than stare in a terrified haze.

“No, you won’t,” said The Bully. “Your life isn’t that bad… I’ve got it bad too you know. My parents hate me… your parents might neglect you, but at least they don’t hate you like mine.”

He stepped forward again, and cornered The Geek against the wall. He slowly reached out and wrenched the gun out of The Geek’s mouth, but just as The Bully was gaining control over the weapon, The Geek fought back, screaming, “No! Asshole! I want this!”

They struggled. The Geek began hitting The Bully with his free hand and frantically pulling at the gun with the other.

“Stop it!” shouted The Girlfriend. “Please! Just fucking stop it, both of you!”

“You’re gonna hurt someone,” I slurred.

They continued struggling until the gun went off.

Even then, they only paused for a moment.

“You fucking idiot!” yelled The Bully. “You’re gonna kill someone!”

The two pulled even harder.

The gun fired a second time. They fought for another moment before noticing The Bully’s girlfriend falling to her knees, holding her chest, terror in her eyes. The boys stared at the girl for a long moment. She opened her mouth, and blood began to pour. She slumped to the floor and her hand fell to the ground to reveal the blood from her chest.

The Geek and The Bully simultaneously screamed “NO!!!!”

They screamed, their voices echoing through the boiler room as The Bully hugged The Geek in a frantic embrace. After a moment, they calmed down, though both broke into terrified and confused babbling.

“Please,” said The Bully… “Please give me the gun.”

And The Geek screamed “No!!” once again, and immediately kneed The Bully in the groin, then lunged forward, grabbing The Bully’s ear in his teeth.

A stream of blood poured from The Bully’s ear, and he stepped back, clutching his hand to the side of his head.

The Geek immediately raised the gun to his forehead, and fired.

Everything went black.

The Bully was screaming and kneeling beside the kid. “I didn’t know,” he said. “I didn’t know this was gonna happen.”

He turned to me with tears in his eyes. “I didn’t know this was gonna happen. I didn’t know this was gonna happen… Oh God… Oh God… this can’t be happening… Oh God… no no no no no.”

And I just stared in shock, unable to move, unable to think… all I could do was pray that this was either a dream or a meth-induced hallucination.

“Please believe me,” The Bully sobbed. “I didn’t know this was gonna happen… I never wanted this… I never wanted anything like this…”

“I know,” I said.

“Please don’t tell anyone” said The Bully.

And at this point, I blacked out completely.

______      ______      ______

I woke up two weeks later in the hospital. For the first day I had no recollection of the incident in the boiler room.

“Mornin, son” said the doctor as he entered the room. “I’m glad to see you survived. That was one mighty concussion and a whole lot of methamphetamine. You had enough meth in you to kill a horse, son.”

“What?” I asked.

“You got high on meth at school,” said the doctor, “You fell in the parking lot and hit your head on the curb and got a concussion. You’ve been in a coma for the last two weeks. You’re lucky to be alive, kid.”

“What’s going to happen to me?” I asked.

“You’ll probably be sent to drug treatment. The school agreed not to press charges since your parents agreed to check you into a professional treatment center… if you survived, of course, which it looks like you probably will, though you may have some minor brain damage.”

“Press charges for what?” I asked.

“Posession of narcotics”, the doctor replied. “Duh. You were aware that meth is not only illegal, but extremely dangerous, right?”

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Then why did you do it?” he asked.

“Because I’m an idiot,” I replied.

“Yeah,” replied the doctor. “Well, hopefully you’re gonna think next time.”

______       ______        ______

I spent two months in rehab, and was released early, as I was not a true meth addict. The experience had been my first and only time with meth, and I wanted nothing to do with it ever again.

I finally went back to school, fully expecting to see The Bully and his girlfriend, and The Geek roaming around the playground. When I did not see them for several days, I started to worry that perhaps my horrifying hallucination in the boiler room was not a hallucination at all. After a few days on the bus ride home from school, I heard someone talking about the three of them. Apparently all three of them had run away together. The Bully had written a note to his parents, saying that he was sick of his life here and that the three of them were running away together.

So I convinced myself that the three kids had run away the day before my meth trip and I had hallucinated the experience in the boiler room because their names were fresh on my mind.

Several months went by, and I hardly heard about the three missing kids. My brain seemed to be clearing up, and I was having an easier time concentrating at school…. as though the brain damage was slowly healing itself and bringing me a new perspective. And of course, I was never tempted by meth.

One day I noticced a middle aged woman wandering around the school, talking to certain kids. A couple days later she entered my class and called my name. She asked me if I knew each of the three kids that were missing. I said yes, of course, everyone had been talking about them, even after I had gotten back from treatment.

Then the woman asked, “Have you ever heard of Pedro Zamora?”

Now, Pedro Zamora was a well known kid in school, merely because of his name, and the movie Napoleon Dynamite, as Pedro not only had the same name as the character in the movie, but also looked and talked very much like him.

It hit me… I flashed back to immediately after the incident in the boiler room.

Pedro Zamora had seen me crawling out from behind the bushes and the secret boiler room entrance.

“No,” I said, almost instinctively. “I don’t know him.”

The woman looked surprised. “I thought everyone knew him… he always wore the ‘Vote for Pedro’ t-shirt–like from the movie, Napoleon dynamite… have you seen that movie?”

“Yeah, I’ve seen it… I might know who you’re talking about… I didn’t know his name was Pedro Zamora though…” I laughed, desperately hiding my nervousness. “That’s funny.”

“Were you near the east wall of the main building on that day–the day the three kids ran away? I was hoping maybe you had seen something, or maybe they had talked to you about where they were going.”

I paused. “No,” I said. “I didn’t talk to them at all. I never really hung out with any of them.”

“Okay,” said the lady. “That’s fine. It’s just that Pedro said that he saw you near there, right after seeing the other three nearby. Okay, you can go back to class now. Thank you for answering my questions.”

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“Well,” she said… “You should ask your parents when you get home. We sent a flier out to all the parents about this… it would probably be better if they told you about it. Don’t worry, you’re not in any trouble.”

“Okay,” I replied, and got up and left.

______       ______       ______


That night I went straight home and turned on the local news. Within ten minutes I found what I was looking for.

Two bodies had been found buried near a riverbed, just a couple miles out of town. They belonged to The Geek and The Girlfriend. The Bully was still missing.

Visions came rushing back to me.

The Bully and I had worked together. I had barely known what was going on, but had agreed to help him, in terror of all the horrible things the police might do to me. We had borrowed the grounds keeper’s wheelbarrow and The Bully’s parent’s car… but that was all I could remember.

I felt sick. My world was collapsing.

All I could do was lie down and try to sleep… but of course, I couldn’t sleep, and instead lied on my bed in tortured shock, feeling the butterflies in my stomach, slowly, slowly building into a roaring pain.

______      ______      ______

I kept quiet.

The days crept by. The investigator came back to the school every day to interview more students.

I began to wish I had just told the story at the beginning, when i first woke up in the hospital, I should have told them everything I had hallucinated… if I had told them back then, they wouldn’t have suspected me of anything… but now… now… after all this time… why did I not say anything? How could I have been so stupid as to just jump to the conclusion that it had been a hallucination, but still not be able to tell anyone about it? Why would I have been scared to talk about a hallucination if I really believed it was an hallucination?

I lived with the pain for nearly two weeks, a constant, overwhelming ache in my belly… but then, the investigator stopped coming to the school. A day went by… then another… and finally, the pain in my stomach began to subside.

Still, I stayed at home nearly every night, fearing to venture outside in case someone noticed my anxiety.

Then, on a calm, warm, Thursday evening, my mom came to my room, and said, “I forgot that your father asked us to come to the country club and eat an early dinner with him when they’re taking a break from their golf tournament.”

“He’s playing in a golf tournament?” I asked.

“Well of course,” replied Mom. “He’s been talking about it for weeks. He thinks it’s gonna help land him a promotion somehow–don’t ask me how–but apparently the big-wigs from his company are gonna be there and he really wants us to make an appearance.”

“I don’t feel like going out,” I said.

“What?” said my mom. “You love the food at that country club…”

“I know… I’m just not very hungry.”

“Are you depressed?” she asked.

“No,” I said, and paused. “Well, yes,” I replied, realizing I couldn’t hide my feelings completely. “I’m just bored with my life,” I said.

My mom paused. “Well, I’m sorry honey… but maybe if you got out, had some good food at the country club, maybe watch your dad play a couple holes… you know, root him on… then maybe, if you want, we can come back and talk about what’s wrong, and see if there’s something your father and I can do to help.”

I grunted. “I’m just in a funk,” I said. “That’s all.”

“Okay… well, this is really important to your father…”

“Okay, okay,” I said. “You’re right. I should get up and do something. No sense wallowing here.”

“Good attitude,” she said.

______      ______       ______

The golf game, however, did not break until nearly an hour after the scheduled time. My dad called my mom on her cell and apologized for not being able to meet us, and told us to go ahead and eat and he’d meet up with us when he was done with the first nine, so that we could meet some of his co-workers.

“He sounds like he’s having fun” said my mom as she hung up the phone.

Suddenly I started to feeling okay. I ate a full meal for the first time since the investigator had come to my school.

But as my mom payed the check, the news came on a television screen in the bar room nearby. It showed the scene at the river, the police digging and searching, and they showed the faces of The Geek and The Girlfriend, and an ominous female voice asked, “Who murdered these two innocent children?” And a huge black question mark filled the screen.

My heart sank. The butterflies and guilt came roaring back. And suddenly I was overwhelmed with emotion, and all I wanted was to put my head on the table and cry.

I stood up and left the building. In the back lay an area of tall grass, interspersed with small trees and bushes. Beyond that, a small stream, and beyond that, the green fields of the golf course. I began wandering in the grass, blanking my mind, thinking of almost nothing, but still feeling that ache in my stomach.

It felt like only a short time before my mom came out and found me standing against a tree. “What’re you doing?” she asked. “I thought you went to the bathroom so I sat and waited for you. What are you doing out here?”

“I just needed some fresh air… to be near nature…”

“You really are depressed…” she said, and she looked at me sadly, making me feel like crying even more… and all I could do was wish that I could tell her the truth.

I saw my dad at the front entrance to the restaurant. He noticed us and began a full run in our direction. “Haha!” he yelled when he reached us. “You two will not believe this,” he exclaimed. “I’m having the greatest game of my life… literally the greatest game of my life. I’m three points under my all-time best. It’s only halfway through the game, but I just can’t seem to miss. This is incredible.” He kissed my mom.

“The president of the company is in the group right behind me, and he’s asking me for advice. There’s no way he’s gonna forget me now.”

I don’t think I had ever seen my dad jumping and giggling in such a way, and for a moment, it helped me forget about the fear. My dad talked about a couple of his miraculous, long-distance birdies for a couple minutes, then looked over his shoulder and cringed momentarily. “That’s the president,” he said.

He stood by the door with a couple other men I did not recognize, then turned to walk toward us. “Is this your sandbagging husband?” he asked my mom with a laugh. He shook her hand. “When are you leaving the company to go pro?”

“Seriously I’m just having an amazing game. If you want to play a round with me some other time I can show you how lousy I normally play.”

“I might take you up on that. I could use some more pointers. I don’t think I’m gonna be behind you for the second round.” The president shook my hand.

“This is my son.”

He introduced himself, and I said a polite hello, but I wasn’t really listening to his name, as I noticed a police officer pull into the parking lot. I watched the cop absentmindedly after my initial panic had subsided, and finally turned back to watch my dad trying to build a career opportunity by alternately giving pointers on how to improve his golf game, and making jokes about how poor his really was.

He had that rare gleam in his eyes, where I knew he was bubbling with excitement and struggling to contain it. For a moment it seemed like I forgot about my problems altogether…

…until the other police arrived. Two cars poured in from each of the three parking lot entrances. The first police car pulled out of it’s space and approached us as the others pulled up to stop in various positions near our group. Everyone stopped talking to look at the officers.

They exited their cars in unison, eight of them in total, and immediately drew their guns and held them toward the ground just in front of their feet, and began marching toward us.

“Step away from the boy,” said the leading officer, motioning at me.

My parents and the corporate big-wigs did as they were told almost immediately. I watched my mom and dad in slow motion as they stepped out of the way.

My parents loved me… but all the love in the world wouldn’t stop them from abandoning me at the first order of a police officer.

The first three officers raised their guns and pointed them directly at me.

“Let me see your hands!”

I knew if I did what they asked, they would merely shoot me. I had to run if I wanted to survive, to fight back.

But I didn’t care if I survived. It was over now. I raised my hands to show my open palms

“Lie on the ground, face down,” they shouted. “Put your hands on your head.”

I remember vividly the guns pointed at me, but even so, I looked over at my dad and the president, standing silently and motionless, mouths agape and eyes wide with confusion. Their faces are what I remember most about that day.

So I lied on the ground as they had demanded. The officers surrounded me. “You are under arrest for the murder of The Geek and The Girlfriend.”

And the whole time that they were searching me and putting me into the back seat of the squad car, my father remained motionless, staring, in cold confusion.

______     ______     ______

They sat me down almost immediately in a square room with one of those big mirrors so you know a bunch of people are watching you. Their presence is even more intimidating when you can’t see them. I was handcuffed to a sturdy wood chair.

“Where’d you hide The Bully’s body?” the first officer asked.

“I didn’t kill them,” I replied.

“Look, kid.” The officer passed a photo across the table. I looked and it took me a second to focus and see the bloody t-shirt in the photograph, immediately recognizing it as my own.

“Remember this? This was the shirt you were wearing on that fateful night. You didn’t think we’d save it did you?”

“What is this?” I asked.

“The doctor assumed the blood on the shirt was your blood from when you hit your head, but considering the disappearance of your three classmates, we decided to test it anyway. It has some of your blood, but it also has a large quantity of The Geeks blood, The Girlfriends blood as well as The Bully’s blood. We know you were wearing that shirt that day.”

“Furthermore,” continued the second officer, “a couple of your school-mates recall hearing three booms coming from the basement–like muffled gunshots, and Pedro Zamora says that he saw you climb out of the secret boiler-room entrance that you so cleverly hid from the teachers, then you had a conversation with him, and you had the audacity to tell him that the red stains were from a paint fight you had in art class.”

“But I didn’t do it,” I replied with tears in my eyes.

“We’ve got a confession statement here,” the first officer said, passing a sheet across the table.

“We went into the boiler room and found traces of blood from all three of your victims… You’ve been a suspect for a long time now, son, and now that we have the bodies, we are confident that we have enough evidence to put you away. More than likely you will be tried as an adult. You might never see the light of day.”

“The Girlfriend was an accident,” I sobbed.

“You accidentally killed her?” he asked. “So the other two were on purpose? Now, that sounds more plausible…”

“No!”, I cried, “The Geek killed her by accident when he picked up the gun. He was gonna kill himself and The Bully tried to stop him and they accidentally shot the girl.”

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” said the officer. “They accidentally shot a bullet directly into her heart?”

“Yes!” I shouted.

“Okay, then what happened?”

“The Geek got the gun away from The Bully and shot himself in the forehead.”

“Okay, then what?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, “I blacked out because I had taken a lot of meth that day. That’s why I was down there, because I was so high I didn’t know what was going on.”

“And you murdered three innocent children because of that meth.”

“So what happened to The Bully, then?”

“I don’t know, he must have run away somewhere.”

“It’s been six months and he hasn’t turned up anywhere,” replied the officer. “A thirteen year-old can’t hide that effectively–and besides, why would he need to hide if he didn’t do the killing? You said yourself he was trying to stop The Geek from killing himself?”

“I don’t know, he must have panicked just like I did. Maybe he was afraid of this!”

“You know perfectly well that innocent people have nothing to worry about from the law.”

“Yes we do,” I replied. “I’m innocent and I’m terrified.”

“Yeah, you and O.J.” Both officers chuckled.

“Look kid, I know you think you’re pretty damn clever for coming up with this story, and we must admit you are pretty damn clever for getting those bodies out of the school and down to the river without anyone seeing, but this just isn’t going to fly. You’re a twelve year old little kid who got too high on crank and made a horrible, horrible mistake that cost three innocent children their lives. We can see through your stories like crystal. We’re offering you a deal here, kid. You did a terrible thing, and this is going to weigh on your soul for the rest of your life, but you don’t need to be a terrible person if you don’t want to… we’re offering you a deal here… admit what you did, and you’ll be tried as a juvenile.”

“But I didn’t do it!” I cried, as I shivered and strained against the handcuffs.

I managed to keep up the argument for another half hour, until finally the officer became fed up and screamed in my face. “Do you know that we are going to prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law here? You will be tried as an adult. Do you know what that means? At least two counts, if not three counts, of murder in the first degree. You’ll be facing twenty-five to life. Think about that, kid. Your life is over right now. You’ll never get to run around in the trees, never get to kiss a woman, never get to go to Disneyland, or the water slides, never get to have a normal life, never get to fall in love. Never.”

He paused.

“But if you admit what you did and sign the confession and help us find The Bully’s body, then you will probably be tried as a juvenile and you will probably be out on your eighteenth birthday.”

“You’re not even going to consider what I have to say?” I sobbed.

The officer shook his head. “No,” he replied. “We’re not going to consider your bullshit story. Neither will the newspapers, neither will the judge nor the jury, nor the parents and families of those three innocent children whose lives you stole, and neither will the community.” He motioned at the pen and paper. “You know what’s best, here, son. Give yourself some relief. Give the grieving families some relief. Just sign the paper and don’t throw your life away.”

So I leaned forward, with tears staining the page, and signed the confession.

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