(Warning: Dark and not for the faint-hearted…)
I can remember the exact moment I decided to get out of reporting.
It wasn’t the night a McLennan County sheriff’s deputy asked me to help carry a dead body out of the ditch. That was fair enough. It was way out in the sticks, and there was nobody around except for him, me and, well, the body. It wasn’t too bad, until the dead man’s limp arm fell across mine.
It wasn’t that 110-degree Texas day, in the thick woods, when they found that Baylor University professor’s son with the mental illness, three days after he went missing. He was inside his car, along with about 10,000 flies. With the windows all rolled up, except for the hose running to the exhaust pipe.
It wasn’t when I spoke to Kenneth Franks’ dad on the phone, 48 sleepless hours after his 18-year-old son had gone missing, along with friends Raylene Rice and Jill Montgomery, both 17. Nor was it when their tortured and mutilated bodies were found.
It wasn’t when that man was arrested in the library parking lot while performing fellatio on a terrified 6-year-old boy in the front seat of his car.
It wasn’t when the body of Joseph Garaghan was found in his bed with 61 stab wounds to his face, chest and groin, in a ‘particular’ kind of mutilation murder by a former lover.
It wasn’t when Darren Keezey, 12, a smart but shy black kid, was found stuffed inside an abandoned refrigerator by the railroad tracks, many days after police FINALLY started looking for him … because why go looking for just another missing black kid in Waco?
It wasn’t when police at the scenes of these crimes offered me a Kool cigarette so I could lessen the stench of death by exhaling the menthol smoke through my nose. Or, if the stench was hideously unbearable, when they loaned me their bottle of Vicks VapoRub, so I could put some inside each nostril.
And it wasn’t even when I was writing a story about the hand that was found in a urinal at Baylor University. The hand belonged to a body, in a crypt that was broken into for the purposes of necrophilia.
I was affected by all of these crimes, physically sick at one. But they didn’t get me to hand in my press pass. What did was the fatality accident that didn’t much bother me.
I made the decision to get out off police reporting while standing on a dark highway about midnight, smoking a Kool, and blowing the smoke out my nostrils. The DPS officer was explaining why the highway pavement was scorched. Seems a three-wheeler had run smack into the back of a broken down semi-trailer truck parked on the shoulder.
Big fire. Not a lot left. That smoldering glob of stuff that I was poking with my toe? That was what was left of the guy’s brain.
By then, I’d seen so much death, that it just didn’t bother me. It was time to get out.
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