My Way Ch. 01byDG Hear©
Note from Jake Rivers,
This is my eighth semi-annual "invitational." The current effort consists of stories based on songs by Frank Sinatra, Ol' Blues Eyes. Please read the stories and give feedback to the participating authors. Unless I'm convinced otherwise, I'll probably stop after the tenth invitational.
To the readers:
I chose 'My Way' as my invitational song. The character in the story has lived his life his way. Being a vigilante with a no excuses attitude. He tells about his victims and also about his sexual encounters. If this isn't your type of story, you may want to pass on it. For the rest of you I hope you enjoy the read. There are five chapters, I hope to submit one each day. A special 'Thank You' to a friend who took of her time to edit this very difficult story.
And now, the end is here
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain
I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
My name is Joe Ritter and I've been a journalist for many years now. I started out in a small newspaper office and eventually landed a job at a much larger paper. There I did numerous articles on major news stories that came off the wire. But a little over two years ago my editor laid me off.
His reason was I refused to write negative articles about an old friend of mine. When he gave me an ultimatum of doing the articles or finding another place to work, I chose to become a freelance journalist. At first my wife was really pissed at me for quitting.
But I was tired of having someone tell me what I could and couldn't write. And the editor was a real bastard to work for, so I couldn't let him have his way. I went ahead and explained to Julie why I didn't want to write about Jeff. I needed her to understand.
Jeff was an old friend of mine from school and I couldn't see writing about him killing his ex-wife's lover and then going after her. He was a big guy, tall and husky, even back in high school. So we gave him the nickname Moose.
He was quiet but friendly and easy going. All the girls were crazy about him but he was smitten with Marsha. They were a couple ever since they were sixteen.
Toward the end of our senior year, Marsha discovered she was pregnant. When she told Jeff, he agreed they would get married. Several months later they had twin girls. Jeff seemed very happy till he got his draft notice. He called the draft board and told them he had gotten married and had twin daughters. The board told him they felt sorry for his situation but he would be leaving for a tour of duty the following month and would be serving two years, including a tour of Vietnam.
It really hurt him having to leave his family but he told Marsha it would only be two years and hopefully the time would fly by. His dad tried to pull some strings but no one was able to help. Jeff would have to serve his time.
While he was away his wife sent him a 'Dear John' letter and divorced him. I just couldn't bring it upon myself to just write things about him unless I had talked to him first. But there was no way they would let me see him.
Jeff's trial took place a little over two years ago. He was found guilty of killing John Baker, who was his ex-wife's lover. The jury also found him guilty of attempted murder of his ex-wife, Marsha.
The way the story aired was that Moose broke into her house and found them in bed together. According to news articles he pulled John off Marsha, grabbed him around his head, and broke his neck. Then he went after Marsha, but she was somehow able to get into the nightstand where she kept a gun, shooting him three times point blank in the midsection. That's when she called the police.
John was dead but Moose underwent hours of surgery and lived to stand trial. What was so odd, and one of the reasons I couldn't write the article, was that Moose and Marsha had been divorced for eighteen years. Also, Moose said nothing in his defense, pleading guilty and letting the jury decide if he would get life in prison or the death penalty.
The trial was over in a few days and Moose received the death penalty. He has been in the death row wing of the prison for two years, refusing all appeals on his behalf.
I was sitting at my desk writing an article when the phone rang. Julie usually answers it so I can keep working. When she came into the room she looked a bit concerned. When I asked her why, she said it was the Attorney General's office.
To be honest I didn't believe her. What would the Attorney General of Ohio want with me?
I picked up the phone and said, "Hello, Joe Ritter here."
"Mr. Ritter, this is Mike Keffer, Attorney General Mel Park's assistant."
I knew the Attorney General was Mel Park so the call was either a good hoax or it really was the Attorney General's office.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Keffer?"
"Mr. Park's would like to meet with you tomorrow in Columbus. It concerns Jeff Daniels."
"I don't understand. I haven't seen Jeff in years and besides, he's on death row."
"It is of the utmost importance he speaks with you. But it is not something he can discuss over the phone. We will gladly pay you for your time."
I agreed to meet with the man, listening as Mike Keffer gave me directions, then hung up.
"What was that all about?" Julie asked.
"Honey, I honestly don't know. I haven't the slightest clue but it has something to do with Moose. I'm going to Columbus tomorrow and hopefully will know more then."
When I arrived at the state house I went to the information desk. The gentleman working there told me Mr. Keffer would be down shortly. As soon as he arrived, he took me to the Attorney General's office.
"Joe Ritter, I'm Mel Park. Thank you so much for taking the time to see me. Please sit down. Mike, would you mind getting us a cup of coffee?"
I told Mike how I took my coffee and he left the room. I knew from previous meetings with political people that it was all right to use their last name in private conversations. So I started the conversation.
"Mr. Park, why exactly am I here? I know it has something to do with Jeff Daniels but all I really know is that he's on death row waiting for his time to come."
"Please just call me Joe."
"Mr. Daniels contacted the prosecutor who in turn contacted me. It seems he might have some information on a goodly number of missing persons and a few murders."
"But what does that have to do with me?" Our coffee arrived and I began drinking it.
"I'm not quite sure how to say this, but it would be of great importance if we were able to close many of these unsolved cases before the demise of Jeff Daniels."
I knew what he was saying. I had read where he had eyes on running for governor and if he could solve a number of these crimes, he would be in the driver's seat.
"With all due respect, I repeat, what does this have to do with me?"
"A number of people have talked to Mr. Daniels and he has given many clues that he knows something. He has said you are the only one he is willing to give his story to. We would like for you to meet with him and see if he is just pulling our chain or if he really does have any valuable information."
"I don't get it. Why me? It's been years since I've even seen Jeff."
"We don't know why. We do know all the information he has will die with him if we can't get him to talk. So we need you to talk with him, and the sooner the better. You will be dealing with Mike. Any information you receive will be passed on to him."
"Not to be disrespectful, but I have a family to support."
"We're willing to pay you three hundred dollars a day. You can only talk with Mr. Daniels for three hours a day and only during the week. If at any time we feel he is no longer helpful, the interviews stop. You will have the sole rights to the information he gives you for a story, book, or whatever. But any information on murders or missing persons can't be released until we give you the okay."
I agreed and said my goodbyes. Mike walked me to the door and gave me all the personal information I needed to get into the prison to see Moose. I still for the life of me couldn't figure out what Moose would know about missing people or why he chose me to write his story.
When I returned home, Julie was excited; she wanted to know what all went on at the Attorney General's office. I explained everything to her and told her I would be going to the penitentiary the next day to see Moose. She seemed as baffled as I was as to what Moose might have to say.
"Aren't you a little scared going to a prison?" asked Julie.
"No, but I have to say I'm really puzzled by the whole situation. Hopefully I'll get some answers right away."
I headed to the prison the following morning, going through checkpoint after checkpoint just getting in. Guards searched me and all I was able to take into the cell hallway was my tablet, one pen and my recorder.
The death row cell hallway was different than others as there was a block wall on one side of the hallway which had cameras aimed toward the cells on the opposite side. There was only one inmate per cell. At the end of the hall were two meeting rooms which had a Plexiglas wall and some sort of shoot in which to pass papers through.
There was no way anyone could touch a prisoner. There was a tray to set my stuff on and a chair facing the Plexiglas wall. A guard would be at the other end of the hall. I was not to pass anything through the shoot without permission and had to remain seated.
I felt very uncomfortable my first time going in. I sat in the chair and waited for them to escort Moose into the cell through a back entrance. It was a shock when I first saw him. He had shaved his head as well as his beard which he had since returning from the service and even during his trial. I hardly recognized him.
I couldn't help standing as he walked into the cell but the guard told me to sit back down. The guard then left Moose in the cell with a small table and chair.
I was lost for words as I looked at my old friend in the orange jumpsuit.
"Hey Joe, good to see you. Hell, good to see anyone," said Moose.
"I'm sorry, Moose. It just caught me by surprise seeing you hairless and dressed that way."
"Moose! It's been a long, long time since anyone called me that. Probably the best times of my life."
I watched a small smile cross his face and then I turned on the tape recorder. Since I only had a two hour tape in it, I'd had to remember to turn it over when the time came.
"Moose, why am I here?"
"Joe, a lot of shit has crossed my path since the old days when we were friends. I noticed during my murder trial you didn't write about me. And my lawyer informed me you ended up being fired for not tearing me apart.
"I'm not the shy, friendly guy you knew from our school days. I've done a lot of killing in my life, some justified, some not. I've decided to tell my story and I figured I would give it to you. Besides, I owe you that much."
"You don't owe me anything Moose. I just couldn't get myself to write about you without really knowing the truth."
"I respect that, but what I'm going to tell you now is the total truth and I want you to write my story when it's all over. I'll have my attorney draw up the papers to give you the total rights to my story. Hell Joe, I might even make you a rich man." Another smile and a little laugh crossed Moose's face.
"I hate to tell you this but according to the Attorney General I might only be here a few days. They say you have information on some missing people and unsolved murders. Without that information, I might be history sooner rather than later."
"They'll get there fucking story the fucking bastards. Believe me, when they hear what I have to say they will be more than willing to let you come here. The prick will be a shoo-in for governor and probably run for president. I'm going to tell you my story. If at any time they stop you from coming in, I'll stop talking."
"Moose, I'm recording everything we say. I think you should know that."
"Hell, Joe, the fucking bastards are recording it too. Hell, look above you, they're watching us the whole time. I don't give a shit what they think or what they do. I'll give them the information on my terms. I have nothing to lose."
This sure wasn't the Moose of old that I remembered. He really had me interested in what happened to him. The first day time flew by. It was more getting reacquainted than digging for information. Moose told me he spent all his time exercising in his cell because it was the only way he could keep his mind sharp. Other than talking to me, he was allowed an hour a day out in the courtyard. He had no interaction with the other inmates.
I asked if he ever had any outside visitors, but other than his attorney, only his daughters stopped by. I was interested in his relationship with them but didn't have the time to delve into that part of his life.
Mike wasn't happy with the results but knew better than to pull the plug on our meeting. But he did say he would need something firm to take back to his boss within a few days.
The following day Moose said he would start from when he first got married. I know my job was to get more recent information into the missing persons but I decided to follow Moose's lead. It wouldn't do much good to push the issues and besides, I was interested in his life and why he ended up on death row.
"I was happy being married. I wasn't worried about money since I knew dad wouldn't leave me high and dry. Besides, he gave me a good job as a mechanic on cycles. I had all I could want: Marsha, my two little baby girls, and a good job. Everything seemed fine till I received that damn draft notice.
"Dad tried his best to get me a reprieve and even wrote to our State Representative at the time, Mark Wells. He wrote back and said how sorry he was about my draft number but there was nothing he could do about it and I would have to serve my time."
"Wasn't Mark Wells killed a few years back in a parking garage?" I asked. "If I'm not mistaken it was considered a murder/robbery and the culprit was never caught. I remember following that story. Do you know anything about his demise, Moose?"
"Yes, I do. That ought to give your AG something to think about. I know who did it and will be telling you when the time comes."
Looking at Moose, I had to wonder if he killed the man himself.
"Anyway, back to my story. I went to Vietnam, and what got me through the first year and a half was thinking about coming home to my wife and kids. It was a hell zone where it was hard to tell who was your ally or your enemy. Because of my mechanical background I worked in the motor pool and didn't see a lot of action.
"Then one day I got a letter from Marsha. It was a Dear John letter along with no-fault divorce papers. To say I was in total shock would be an understatement. I think I literally lost my mind at first. I couldn't put a handle on what Marsha was doing. She was my life and then just like that, she was gone.
"After all the smoke cleared all I wanted to do was die. I signed the papers and told her she could just have it all. I still had to pay child support and my girls were covered for health insurance but no alimony since she started the divorce proceedings."
I could see that part of the story really hurt him but I just kept quiet and waited for him to go on.
"When I had two months left to serve, I reenlisted for ten additional years. The only agreement I made was I wanted to have some type of Special Forces training. Secretly I wanted to just put my life on the line until my number came up. I got my wish when I became a trained killer.
"My small group of brothers and I received secret orders and we went out and killed the enemy. I didn't have to think twice about shooting someone, cutting a throat, or snapping a neck. But we were on our own if anyone caught us. The government would disavow any knowledge of our actions.
"We took no prisoners. For example, we would break into an enemy prison camp, kill all the guards, and leave. The prisoners were not even to know who we were."
"Moose, if I were to print this, what would the military say?"
He laughed. "They would say I just made it up, but I can assure you it's all true. I was on that team for eight years. I couldn't begin to tell you how many people I killed. It just became a second nature. Killing a person was as easy as saying hi to them.
"As I mentioned, we traveled in pairs. We always used our code names for each other so no one knew who we were. My brothers called me Snap because I could break a neck in a couple of seconds. My partner we called Snipe.
"I swear he was the best damn shot with a rifle I ever saw. He could shoot a fly off a cow's ass from a hundred yards out without even disturbing the animal. I never saw anyone who was better."
"So what stopped you from making it a career in the service? You already had twelve years in and could have retired with twenty," I asked.
"Two things made me give it up. First, our team disbanded when they didn't need us anymore. I ended up in the motor pool. You have to understand I was a trained killer; my mind thought differently. The second reason was my mom died and I went home for the funeral. I had one year left to serve when I returned after the funeral. I spent it in the States."
"I remember your mom's funeral. I'm so sorry, she was a wonderful lady."
"Thanks for coming to the services Joe. Even though we didn't talk much it meant a lot to me."
"Do you want to talk a little about the funeral?" I asked.
"When I heard my mom had died I felt bad that I didn't get a chance to tell her I loved her. At the funeral I wore my uniform. Many people were angry at the military and some even told me so. Ex-servicemen shook my hands; they knew the truth. We followed orders.
"I was sitting next to my dad and brother when two beautiful young girls came to see my dad. They were my daughters, Christy and Cheryl, eleven at the time. They looked as if they were a bit scared of me, even though I could hardly blame them. I was never there for them and hadn't seen them since birth, other than pictures my parents sent me. Their mother didn't say too many good things about me, I didn't figure.
"My dad introduced me and they held out their little hands to shake mine. Dad took them up to the casket to see my mom. It was sad seeing my two little girls crying. Marsha came in later but never said a word to me. She walked up to the casket, paid her respects and left. I later found out her sister had brought the girls.
"There was a small wake or dinner after the service. Marsha didn't attend but my girls did. They came and sat next to me and talked to me for a while. I admit that felt different. I did my best to answer their questions. Then they wanted to know why I hated them.
"I told them that I never hated them or even their mother only disliked what their mother did to our family. I was just never able to face the situation and chose to stay out of their lives.
"Before I left the wake my girls gave me a hug. I told them I would be out of the service in another year and I would like to see them once in a while. They both agreed it would be nice. I didn't say I wanted to be part of their life because I didn't feel I would make a good father."
Look for Chapter 2 and more from Moose.
Comments are welcome and appreciated.