Back at home a heavy drink was poured and near its bottom I found the nerve to call the number connected to the address. It went unanswered and there was no personal voicemail greeting which would’ve revealed important details about the number’s owner, like whether they were male or female. Subsequent calls went unanswered as well, so I poured a few more drinks to quench the thirst of my frustration and eventually drifted off to sleep.
Pornographic reels starring the missing girl had been subconsciously loaded onto the projector inside my mind and they played incessantly until six a.m., when the alarm went off and I woke with an erection hoisting the blanket like a mainmast. My state of arousal persisted throughout my morning shower. Finally, I decided to masturbate. Resisting the X-rated imagery that’d spilled over into my conscious mind was difficult, but I managed to do so by visualizing Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, specifically the scene where Winona Ryder descends the staircase into the hedge maze wearing a thin white nightgown, her unbound breasts jostling wildly with each of her footfalls. The ensuing orgasm was quick and my tightly strung nerves sang with relief as I towelled off while ruminating on the awkward dreams I had had. How would Freud have interpreted them? Were they proof of my own depravity? Were they evidence of my deep-seated sexual deviance? Did I have pedophilic tendencies without knowing it? The missing girl was barely adolescent despite being physically mature and that combination can be very troublesome when it comes to the sensory stimulation driving libidinous urges.
Shadows grow long at the end of the day, obscuring the difference between bad men and good men, yet the difference does not go away. Through dark nights good men fight inner battles and the victories of these battles bear invisible fruit in the form of actions not taken. In my estimation, there’s an unwritten side to history similar in size to the submerged heft of an iceberg. This hidden history consists of good deeds done by omission. Strictly speaking, it’s made entirely of bad deeds that never saw the light of day because the ideas for those deeds died as their owners laid awake at four a.m., warring with themselves on the front-lines of their hearts. These heroic acts of self-restraint were never seen and therefore remained uncelebrated; however, their pivotal importance could rival that of Gettysburg, Dunkirk, Stalingrad, Normandy. Who knows, maybe great battles against evil were won singlehandedly by those who found the inner strength to resist the lures of desire. These individual triumphs of kindness would’ve occurred without fanfare in the stormy interiors of men who had the eyes to see the world from perspectives not their own and thus said unto themselves, if I do this, they’ll feel that, and if I do that, they’ll feel this. Indeed, shadows grow long at the end of the day, obscuring the difference between bad men and good men, yet the difference does not go away, for if a good man stumbles and falls, the path he treads upon getting up, is made with steps that are lighter.
I can say from personal experience the vast majority of those in jail are essentially good guys who’ve done bad things for reasons compelling to them at the time, so where are all the really bad guys, the so-called unrepentant, irredeemable, unrehabilitatable dangers to society? Do they simply not get caught, or do they make up an exceedingly small cohort? A better question to ask might be: Have I ever met a distinctly bad person who’s done some good things? Yes and no. I mean, the guy I murdered was sick in the head yet he wasn’t as bad as I thought because he had nothing to do with the missing girl’s disappearance despite my presumptions to the contrary. Moreover, he regularly donated large sums of money to local charities. Unfortunately for him, he hired her services shortly before she went missing and this conspicuous timing led me to all kinds of unsubstantiated conclusions, one of which involved blackmail and a contract killer. I became convinced his wealthy status inspired her and her trafficker to hatch an extortion plot that ended with a professional hitman. Delusions are tricky things.
Pseudoneurotic schizophrenia is a mental illness that occupies the middle ground between benign neurosis and malign psychosis. The judge ordered a psychological assessment in the wake of my unhinged arraignment and that’s when I first got diagnosed. Thankfully, some cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) combined with the right medication restored me to sanity and my trial/sentencing went much better. I’ll be discussing my legal tribulations in the final chapters of this memoir, at which time the reader will better understand my mental health challenges. For now it’ll suffice to say I’m not a full-blown schizophrenic, however, delusional disorders are chronic and I must remain vigilant. Lapses in medication and/or therapy could send me tumbling back down the rabbit hole and I don’t want to go there ever again. I don’t like that rabbit. He can’t be trusted. Daily medication and weekly therapy have taught me how to put my thoughts on ice, like Nietzsche famously prescribed, and the ice keeps the rabbit at bay. In fact, I’m now able to rein in my thoughts, specifically those pertaining to people like Jeff Epstein, my father, and the man in the white jacket who’ll soon be introduced into this narrative. Those three individuals made the world a better place just by dying and/or being killed, yet I’ve come a long way in accepting their inalienable right to exist, largely because I know Newton’s third law of action and reaction will serve them a cold plate of comeuppance, sooner or later. In other words, basic science says they’ll get what’s coming to them regardless of my involvement, therefore I don’t need to be the rough face of justice.
I no longer have the desire to play god by taking the law into my own hands. CBT has opened my eyes to cognitive distortions like black and white thinking and as a result, I’ve embraced the coolheaded greyscale perspective, as my therapist calls it. Moreover, I’ve done a lot of soul searching regarding the man in the white jacket, who I killed along with four of his friends. Yes, he was a pedophile, and his friends likely were too, but he had some redeeming aspects. As previously mentioned, he regularly made large donations to charitable causes, sometimes to the tune of millions of dollars, so there’s a chance he may have actually had a net positive effect on the world, albeit a tainted one.
Net positives and negatives are confounding things when it comes to distinguishing between bad and good men. Oftentimes the goodness or badness of a man does not become clear until long after his death, when the numbers are all in and the knock-on effects of his actions while alive have been accounted for. And then there’s the overriding question of intent. Karl Marx had the best interests of the oppressed classes in mind while writing his socialist tomes yet tens of millions of peasants died at the hands of tyrants who later interpreted and then implemented the content of those same tomes. Does that make Marx guilty by association? I don’t think any rational person would hold him responsible for Stalin, Mao, and a slew of others, because that would mean condemning the scribes of Muhammad for the creation of ISIL, along with the authors of the gospels for the atrocities committed by the Catholic church, and so on and so forth. In terms of slippery slopes, it’s very greasy and extremely steep.
Are mere mortals even capable of separating the wheat from the chaff, or is it a fool’s errand? Sussing out the bad men from the good men by prospecting their hearts for the ratio of gold to brimstone is hardly a job for randomly selected jurors who by dint of being human are muddied with all manner of unconscious bias. Godlike powers of perception are surely needed for such immaculate measurements of men, right? Or will we just continue to live in denial by using the black and white letter of the law to prop up our crude sense of justice? I mean, is it not absurd to expect sound verdicts from people who are legally compelled to upend what they’re doing in their own lives so that they can pore over evidence compiled against a perfect stranger for weeks, sometimes months on end?
In the interest of illustrating the immense difficulty in achieving sound verdicts, please allow me to conduct a thought experiment by way of two American soldiers on Omaha Beach in June of 1944, both of whom are Aryan looking and very much non-Jewish. Each would be treated well under a Nazi occupation, yet they’re putting themselves in the line of fire in order to neutralize their targets. Now, let’s say one is acting selflessly by forgetting (in the John Rawls sense) who he is i.e., he’s acting like a Gypsy or a Jew, fighting for his brethren while the other is merely satisfying bloodlust. In fact, the other man joined the army for the sole purpose of killing with impunity. These soldiers are advancing across the beach, shoulder to shoulder, carrying out the exact same orders, however, one is motivated by sadistic personal pleasure and the other by an altruistic desire to ensure the greater good, and although their motivations are profoundly different the outward sign of this difference is, in fact, imperceptible.
To continue with the former paragraph’s thought experiment: The good man returns home after the war and becomes a police officer in order to serve and protect but struggles with his conscience whenever the face of someone he cut down in battle flashes in his mind. The bad man, on the other hand, returns home, unencumbered by conscience, and becomes a police officer in hopes it will afford him more of the murderous impunity relished on Omaha Beach. If we now say the men are put on trial for separate incidences of killing a civilian in the line of duty and the evidence against each happens to stack up equally as measured by the black and white letter of the law, then how will the juries effectively deliberate? On cross-examination both men shed tears and talk in remorseful tones but one has been under the tutelage of an acting coach and the other under the tutelage of his heart. Would this difference be too nuanced for the bleary-eyed juries to savvy in the time allotted? And how are those juries to be blamed for their confusion when both men benefit from attorneys who artfully portray them as war heroes and selfless peace officers during the closing remarks? Only one of the men was deserving of those commendations, yet this truth is lost in translation and tragically, the good man stands convicted of murder in the third degree while the bad man gets lucky and walks scot-free.
Courtroom nuance might be achieved when the pharisaic letter of the law finally allows itself to turn a supple grey, in keeping with its spirit, because grey is the colour of black and white coming together in the service of justice/grey is the colour of feeling and reason mixing in the crucible of fairness/grey is the colour of objectivity and subjectivity combining in the search for equity/grey is the colour of race, class, and less visible identities like gender and good-heartedness being considered in the godlike sentencing process, or something like that. Our justice system needs to be overhauled and when it is, convicts like me will not serve one hundred- and forty-one-year jail terms. We’ll benefit from the benefit of the doubt, as it were, because future judges will have the eyes to see deep into the battlefield of the human heart.
Recently, a lot of my time has been spent in the philosophy section of the prison library reading about normative ethics, a branch of philosophical study encompassing consequentialism, utilitarianism, egoism, situationalism, intellectualism, and welfarism. In short, it’s the study of what makes actions right and wrong, or perhaps in the service of nuance, a better way of putting it would be to say, less right and less wrong, or more right and more wrong. At any rate, I hope my attempt at clarifying myself (mostly to my own self) was not at the expense of the reader’s interest, and on that note, I’ll now pick up where I left off regarding the missing girl and my stake out.