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The Dead Spirits of Innocence

During my childhood I had always been terrorized by night terrors. With mother dead and the sunlight gone from my world, there came upon me in the night a malevolent female creature of an ancient nature. Asleep, she pressed down upon me and I tried to force my way up out of the darkness of slumber but she pressed down. It was like being drowned by evil. Somehow, I could
always force my way up and I could feel the spirit recede into the corners of the room. It waited. For as soon as I fell back to sleep, it came upon me again with the same force and a smothered me in her dark nature. Many sleepless nights I spent as child when that force I knew as something beyond came upon me.

Many years later after years of struggling against my own demons, my life turned around at thirty-three and now as a fit member of our own twisted society, I became a probation officer at the notorious 26th and California Courthouse in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Being somewhat attuned to what is in the realm we cannot see , both the good and the bad, one gets a
sense of a place. Some say since they built the newer building that holds the prosecutor, public defender and probation departments next to the older, more historical courtrooms that go back way before the Capone days in the era when they still hung the old Irish gangsters from the turn of the century, the architect left a space between the two buildings. This architectural blunder given to some firm by some well greased political hack caused a wind tunnel between the two buildings that serves as one of the windiest places in all Chicago. On icy days they have to lay out ropes for the workers who spin the wheels of justice and their human oil that grinds
through their wheels just so they are not blown down the thirty icy stairs before they reach the warmth of the building.

Yet the wind that blows inside of those hallowed halls of justice are far more imperceptible but far darker and colder than those thirty steps on a freezing Chicago morn. Even on my first day there I got an unsettling feeling but just thought it my be new job jitters. As a hallmark as a
former bad boy, I knew just as many people visiting their probation officers as I knew officers themselves. Yet after a while, just growing accustomed to the other side of the law. It seems this old and ancient infamous courthouse and the prison behind it, somehow held onto the spirits of all the thieves, killers, arsonists, and corrupt judges and political hacks who had walked its halls for nearly a century. I’d feel them jostle me as I walked in. As I sat duty bound in one of the old brass railed and mahogany courtrooms, I could feel eyes staring into the back of my head.

If the marble walls of this ancient courthouse could talk and I believe it could, one could hear the strains of mothers weeping for their poor laddies sent to the gallows, or hear the thoughts of many a gangster who saw and knew the exact evil that had been done. Then their were the purely evil ones, beyond redemption, whose crimes were so heinous, they ate their last meal
smiling, refused any form of religious contrition and walked to the electric chair without a word but glower in their eyes said it all. They knew where they came from and knew where they were heading.

The paperwork of a probation caseload is tedious and I knew I had to find a way out of the job. I began attending film school at night and since my judge something of a dilettante whose father was an old Irishmen who headed the Chicago bomb squad found things for me to do that would keep me from playing hooky from my politically appointed job.

One of the jobs of a probation officer is to do pre-trial or pre-sentence investigations , which are brief social summaries of a defendant’s life. They too were tedious unless you ran into a some big news case like the dreadlocks rapist or drug king pin Flukey Stokes, whose son, Willie the Wimp, who was immortalized by singer Stevie Ray Vaughn and the Wimp was actually buried in prompt up in Cadillac coffin with diamonds on his fingers hundred dollar bills between them.

Yet it was at the end of my days as an officer of the court that caused me to wonder about the nature of evil. Our courtroom was given a headline murder case involving a young seven year old daughter. He gave me the case because he knew I liked writing and I did enjoy talking to criminals of a hirer level than you average crack head.

The trial started out like any other trial. The Keystone Kops of the Illinois State police for lack of any better evidence charge the mother and step-father of the crimes. This exploded across the greasy headlines of the news like french fries in a fat woman’s stomach. I sat through the dreary facts dredged up as evidence by prosecutor, defending attorneys, witnesses and coroners. The latter would go on endlessly about the time of death due to the rate that the larvae of maggots grow on a dead body. To everyone on our court staff, they were guilty the minute the trial started.

Yet as the skimpy evidence rolled in, I was not so sure they could find either of them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The state kept handing around a photo ofthe little girl until it was worn and creased around the edges. As the trial rolled to its conclusion and closing arguments were made. It was like a railroad train than one hears vibrating softy if you put your ear to the
tracks but by the time it passes, it is like all fire and brimstone.

Just prior to the jury going out, I began to have odd bothersome things happen. As a couch sleeper who prefers nodding out with a book than the routine of going to bed, I would be awakened by this little dead girl walking up to my bed saying, “ Why did you kill me?”

There are dreams and there are dreams. Some you hardly remember, some you can recall and there are those that when you open your eyes you can still see the last image of the frame. This happened enough to remind me of my childhood night terrors. I wasn’t afraid, just it brought them to mind. It kept happening. This was more disturbing.

I knew I was going to interview these people if they were found guilty of killing their daughter as the judge had asked me to. As it is if someone is found guilty, it is the probation officer who is allowed back to see them first to write up a preliminary schedule. I had not thought about that but when the jury went out and came back almost within 36 hours at 3:00pm the next day, there was a mad rush of reporters, trial voyeurs, and courtroom personnel to pack every seat in the house.

The procedure goes something like this. The judge says to the head of the jury, “Has the Jury reached a verdict/“ and to this the man responds, “Yes we have your honor.” The jury hands the sealed verdict to the judge. With each sort segment of this ritual, the energy level rose in the
courtroom as if thunder clouds were gathering above our heads. The judge read the verdict and with an inscrutable look handed it back to the clerk who read out in loud tones, “On the charge of murder in the first degree we find the defendant guilty, on the charge of….guilty.”

The wife had been cut lose as there was absolutely no evidence on her so it was this sad sack of a step father who toiled away as a sometimes carpenter in a lower middle class western suburb of Chicago who was dragged back in hand cuffs to where I was to speak with him. He was holding his wife, a raven haired with just enough flaws to make her half pretty.

Now wanting to get this short piece of paperwork done, I said, “Excuse me, I just need to get this done and I be done.” They did not hear me. Repeating, the wife turned
on me with a vicious face that scared the living daylights out of me. “What you want?”

I have seen this type of rage in people, even in myself. It does not come out often but when it does, it seems to come from a different place then the person themselves. I finished the my brief job and left them alone.

Going outside, glad to be away from them, I asked a little gnome of a women who
served as a sheriff if she thought something strange happened during the reading of the verdict and she said, “ Yes, it was like lighting bolts were going across the ceiling. Those would have been my exact words.

When I went down to the Cook County Jail, Division One, where they kept the most dangerous offenders, they brought I David, the little shlemiel of an alleged killer, as I was the only one who felt he was guilty. The states attorneys have tradition where after every murder conviction for one of them they retire to the local tavern owned by some Chicago judge, they march
around the tavern inside and out singing, “ Odin, Odin.”

When I asked David if he did it, he said he was innocent but I asked him what his father was like, he replied,” He ruled the house with an iron fist.” When I pressed him further he clammed up. The next day I drove all the way to Midlothian to visits his mother and when I said, “David said, your husband ruled the house with an iron fist. Was that true?” She said yes
and when I asked her for an example, she told me there were many.

“Like what for example?”

"Well, one time when we are vacation david did something and my husband began hitting over the head with a metal coffee pot, he did so many times, blood was dripping down his face.”

From the forced seminars about Satanic cults and child abuse, I did learn that abusers marry abusers and sometimes the abused married abusers. I put this in the PSI and the defending attorney’s acme storming in after a small article in the metro section of the Chicago Sun-Times mentioning my name exploded with the news the killer was abused as a child. The fat little attorney claimed it was inadmissible as I wasn’t an expert. The judge seemed pleased.

That night I went to school and after 8 hours of work and 4 hours of class, I got in my little Honda. It was chilly and the cars coughed and sputtered to life. I was tired. Yet the moment I got in the car, I felt I was not alone.

The more I drove the more I felt the presence of something in my back seat. I looked around and there was nothing but the intensity grew. There was someone or something in the car with me.

When I finally parked in front of my apartment, I was terrified. I crept in to my own house like a burglar. Inside I was too afraid to turn on the lights for what I might see. The answering machine blinked one call and it was a hang up.

However as I rose, I saw David’s wife who had remained mute throughout the trial approaching me as if on a circle of air lit by candles. She beckoned seductively and hairs stood up on my arms and neck and when I rose from the machine in total darkness, I thought why am I seeing this now.

As soon as I said that the doors to my sunroom porch enclosed by sealed winter panes blew open with such forced that the knobs dents holes in the plaster walls.The timing of it all was beyond coincidence.

I called a fiend and asked him if I could pen the night and he thought I was crazy. Yet I saw it, maybe just imagined it.

Later I asked the head of the Illinois State Police if he had any strange occurrences like that. He told me a story that somehow was also beyond coincidence. To a man, everyone who worked the case was having strange dreams except the judge.

David's case was overturned on appeal, which pissed the judge off no end. Yet I do now know that when an innocent child is murder, it leaves a gap that protect us of all things that go bump in the night.