Sweet and cloying through the air/Falls the stifling scent of despair.
~T.S. Eliot Murder in the Cathedral
PART ONE – MURDER
Chapter 1 – Fall 1992
Jacob the Favored. Jacob the Adored. Many family members and friends assumed that it was Jacob, rather than his older brother, Charles, who was Kermode and Pamela Jordan’s favorite. In a way that was true. Stepfather Kermode Jordan had been obsessed with Jacob from the moment he first saw him. But Jacob had turned 15 on September 26, 1992. He was no longer the precocious four-year-old that Kermode had fallen in love with.
Now when Kermode studied his youngest stepson he saw only traces of the beautiful child Jacob had been. The once blond hair had gone dark and his cheeks had thinned, especially over the past few months. That sturdy boy’s body had shot up to six feet and filled out until Jacob was one of the largest players on Woodland Park High School’s freshman football team. Still those remarkable black eyes hadn’t changed, nor had that radiant smile.
But how seldom Jacob smiled these days. What was he thinking? What rebellions was he plotting? Jacob didn’t talk back, not like his eighteen-year-old brother. The occasional defiant look and flare of temper were there, but there didn’t seem to be much need to worry about him yet. From infancy onward, Jacob had been a remarkably obedient child, wanting only to please. He had been easy to control.
And Kermode Jordan was a master at control. An engineer at Digital Equipment Corporation in Colorado Springs, Kermode was also a student of human nature. In his extensive private library he stocked hundreds of books on dominance, brainwashing and mind control. Although Kermode’s great love was the philosophy and philosophers of Ancient Greece, he was also an aficionado of World War II. He especially admired two of that era’s most famous dictators, Stalin and Hitler. Throughout the eleven years of his marriage to Pamela Ind, Kermode had ruled his household like a dictatorship. And it had worked. Hadn’t it?
In many ways Kermode had indeed achieved success. He enjoyed a good paying, prestigious job. He lived in one of the nicest homes in Sunnywood Manor, an affluent subdivision outside the picturesque Colorado mountain town of Woodland Park. He was blessed with a trophy family consisting of two handsome stepsons and an attractive wife sixteen years his junior.
Pamela Jean Jordan, whom he referred to as his “magnificent star,” was the “finest woman he’d ever known.” Or so he liked to tell Jacob. Kermode and Pam complemented each other in many ways. She was dark where he was light. Small and quick where he was a tall man with a deliberate manner. Pam was moderately political whereas he styled himself a “revolutionary.”
Still, Kermode and Pamela were alike in the important things. Both were bright and ambitious. Both were control freaks. Both had similar philosophies on raising children. That philosophy had served them well. Their sons were good students, polite to their elders and obedient to their parents. To the outside world, the Kermode Howard Jordans appeared to be the perfect family…
But all was not well inside the Jordan household. By the fall of 1992, Kermode and Pamela were drowning in a sea of debt and despair. Digital had begun laying off hundreds of its employees. Pam worked as an assistant at Care & Share, a non-profit organization that distributed food to the needy. Care & Share might be a politically correct job for someone of the Jordans’ liberal persuasion, but Pam had gone from a high paying position at California’s Pacific Bell to barely cracking twenty grand a year. The Jordans’ combined salaries still neared ninety thousand, but that was a forty thousand dollar annual drop in the five years they’d lived in Colorado. Pamela had been forced to cash in her stocks. Every credit card was maxed out. Most frustrating of all, the family was attempting to sell their residence at 120 Ridge Drive during one of the worst real estate markets in twenty years.
Far worse than the debt, however, was the despair. The Jordans guarded their privacy so fiercely that few people knew what was really happening behind closed doors. Kermode and Pamela had spun their web of lies so skillfully that they had fooled just about everyone. For a long time, they’d even fooled themselves. But a gaping hole had been torn in their web. That hole filled them with despair. The despair of forever having to pretend to the outside world and to oneself that life was perfect and the Jordan family was perfect and they themselves, unlike the rest of society’s parents, were perfect. Kermode and Pamela knew better. Masters at denial, they could no longer deny the hole in their web. It even had a name. Charles Ind.
Husky and good looking, the All American kid with All American grades, Charles had reached “a certain age.” He was rebellious. No, he was worse than rebellious. He was impossible. He also had a mouth on him. Who was Charles talking to? Was he confiding the family secrets? That was Kermode and Pamela’s biggest fear. What would he tell? And who would he tell it to? The Jordans had spent a lifetime training their sons never to speak to anyone about anything that happened inside their domain. Largely, they’d succeeded. Maybe the boys had mentioned an occasional “incident” to their friends, but nobody believed children.
So far, Jacob, in particular, had adhered to the Jordan code. While Kermode and Pamela had always castigated their youngest son for his “bad attitude,” it was one thing to bring home an S- on a report card and quite another to blurt family secrets to a concerned teacher or a friend’s sympathetic mother. That possibility increased with each year. But Jacob was still young enough to be malleable. They had time with their baby. But with Charles time had run out…
Kermode the Philosopher, Expert at Mind Control, understood that a definite shift in power had occurred within the Jordan household that last summer. For eleven years Kermode had enjoyed total dominance. Every time Kermode did those terrible things to Charles, he said, “I’ll break your neck if you tell,” and Charles had always bowed to his stepfather’s threat.
But now it was Charles who could have snapped Kermode’s neck. Charles was nearly as tall as his stepfather, with the powerful legs and arms of a football player, whereas Kermode possessed the stringy muscles of an alcoholic. Although Kermode had once been a Golden Glove boxer, at fifty-seven he wore dentures, his hands were covered with liver spots and his face turned lipstick red when he drank. Every time Kermode looked at Charles he must have wondered whether Charles would tell the secret. Those past months, even as the family structure crumbled and the physical and emotional violence escalated, Kermode had largely refrained from taunting Charles. Toward the end he did not so openly profess his contempt of “queers” and “fags” around his oldest stepson. Toward the end the word “blackmail” hovered unspoken between them. Toward the end Charles did not silently take the beatings, but fought back. Toward the end it was Kermode who cowered like a frightened rabbit.
The Jordan household completely exploded in September of 1992. That was when Charles Ind moved out.
One day Charles was there; the next he was gone. His departure was as quiet as a sigh. He scribbled a note to his mother which he left on the kitchen counter. “Moved out early. Will call when I get a phone.”
Jacob had known for a while that Charles was leaving. He even ratted his brother off. He enjoyed seeing his parents bash Charles instead of him. Jacob joined in the criticism. In “a weird, twisted way” he felt he was being a “son” by doing this.
The day Charles left, Jacob was at Jan’s Cafe, where he held down a summer dishwashing job. His parents arrived at the restaurant, located off Woodland Park’s main street, and pulled him aside. Basically, all they said was, “Your brother moved out. You can have his room.”
Jacob guessed they gave him the bigger room as a reward for tattling.
For a few short days or even a week, Jacob’s life was actually better. Rather than focus on his real or imagined shortcomings, Pamela concentrated her anger on Charles’s betrayal.
“He’s going to be sorry,” she railed. “He’s nothing but an ungrateful bastard and when he comes crawling back I might not even let him return.”
Charles’s perfidy made Jacob happy. With his older brother out of the way, nothing could interfere with Jacob being a son. Except he wasn’t exactly sure what “being a son” meant. Especially regarding his mother. While she had a phony-sweet public face, in private she was relentlessly critical. To Jacob, it seemed she hated him for his very existence. Always she had compared him unfavorably with his older brother.
“Why can’t you be like Charles?” she’d say, in that hate-filled voice she reserved only for him.
But now she turned that question around and used it as an insult. “You’re acting just like Charles!”
What did that mean? What did his parents expect from him? Jacob wanted to please both Kermode and Pam, but how could he? Even if he did something right, they made him feel as if it were somehow wrong and as if HE were somehow defective.
Still, maybe things would change for the better. It seemed that way, since Charles had turned into the hated one.
When Pam said, “Charles will never make it on his own,” Jacob concurred.
Pam continued, “All he has is his loser job at Wendy’s and that piddly allowance your dad sends him. How’s he gonna pay for rent and food and school? I sure won’t help him.”
Jacob agreed. Agreeing with his mother felt good, as if they finally had something in common. He wanted to be her ally. In addition, he was truly infuriated at Charles for hurting her. Pam actually cried over her first-born’s departure, something she seldom did.
When Jacob saw the pain in his mother’s eyes, he longed to comfort her, but he didn’t know how. In addition, he had to wrestle with his own private pain. Outsiders might think that Pamela favored Jacob, but Jacob knew the truth. If HE had moved out, Pam would have said, “Good riddance.” She would never even have asked him to return. The reason was simple enough. His mother hated him.
Jacob was perceptive enough to realize that his parents were upset by Charles’s leaving for a second reason. For the first time Kermode and Pamela had totally lost control of one of their children, and, according to Jacob, “That scared the hell out of them.” Pam in particular hated having to relinquish dominance. “She raised us for her to win.” One of her’s and Kermode’s favorite stories involved the donkey, the carrot and the stick. Only with the boys there were never any carrots. After Charles turned seventeen and he was finally allowed to get a driver’s license, Pam had used his battered VW bug as a weapon. If he displeased her, she took his car keys. Plain and simple. Charles got mad and argued, but she always won. Family and friends regarded Charles as the stronger brother, but Jacob considered his rebellions “stupid.” He knew it was a no-win situation. “Mom always won. Always.”
Until the day Charles walked.
As the 1992-93 school year began, Jacob was enthusiastic about the future. Hoping to contrast favorably with the fallen favorite, he launched into “Being-a-Son mode.” He developed all sorts of optimistic plans for making his parents proud. He would do all the household chores, study ever harder, be even more cooperative. He would “prove” he was better than Charles, that they didn’t need their oldest child. By being the “good son” who stayed, maybe his parents would love him.
All too soon that particular fantasy got “shot to hell.”
All too soon Jacob realized that, rather than things changing for the better, he was completely at his parents’ mercy.
Now it was just Jacob and his tormentors.
Now they three were alone in the house where he would soon kill them.
Jacob never liked 120 Ridge Drive. He had no idea that the structure he called “home” had always been an unhappy place. The imposing three story had a troubled history. It was built in the early 1980′s by a couple who erected it as their “dream home.” After they moved in, misfortune quickly followed. A neighbor molested one of their children. Their previously harmonious marriage collapsed, ending in an acrimonious divorce. Following that family’s departure, the property remained vacant save for an occasional tenant until the Jordans purchased it in 1987.
Jacob didn’t care much about material things, so Ridge Drive didn’t impress him. It sure enough impressed his parents, though. His stepfather acted as though it was his own private fiefdom. And Kermode ruled over his subjects, particularly Jacob and his brother, not like a mere lord, but like a king. Outsiders generally considered the Jordans to be polite but aloof. Jacob understood why. His parents hoarded their privacy the way a miser hoards gold. They had to. Because of the secrets.
In many ways, 120 Ridge Drive reminded Jacob of his family. Perched high on a hill, the house was close enough to the road so that passersby could see the decks and cedar siding, but far enough away so that one could only glimpse the wall of windows facing Pikes Peak’s jagged north profile. Like its inhabitants, the residence revealed just enough of itself to impress onlookers. Yet its steep driveway, which Jacob shoveled after every snowstorm, warned, “Come near, but do not enter.”
A motor home was parked in a prominent spot. That motor home was an unsubtle reminder that the Kermode Howard Jordans were a family that in an affluent neighborhood numbered among the most comfortable.
Jacob’s parents were big on appearances. Inside their 4,000 square foot house a gallery of pictures lined the upper bedroom hallway. Smiling faces of Jacob and his brother—opening Christmas presents, skiing, running along a California beach, posing for a group portrait with their parents. So many smiling faces. The minute Kermode pointed his camera at them, the boys knew they’d better smile. The Chinese tapestry in the dining room, an antique, was worth a million dollars—at least according to his mother.
Recently, to ready the house for sale, Jacob’s parents had redecorated every room. They enjoyed showing off the patio furniture in the solarium, the family area with its gleaming, newly refinished wood floor, and the dining room, which was dominated by a magnificent berlywood table that Jacob loved to polish. Generally, Jacob didn’t think much about the furniture or the expensive Southwestern art or the ceramic figurines beyond the fact that he had to clean everything. What he noticed most about the house was the atmosphere, which was cold and that, when he and his parents inhabited the same room, it was filled with hatred toward him. The only time the house seemed warm and welcoming was when his pets were there.
In fact, if Jacob were being truthful, his feelings about his residence went beyond dislike. Ridge Drive terrified him. When he was alone he sensed someone following him. Often, even when his parents were at work, Jacob carried a gun to feel powerful, as if a weapon could provide him with some measure of control over his fate. He also carried the gun “for protection.”
Protection from what? Jacob has no idea. Could this have had something to do with his dabbling into the occult? In his quest for power Jacob had used the incantations from The Black Arts, one of Kermode’s well-worn books, to call forth demons. After perceiving a presence behind him, the frightened teen had stopped.
But the panic had preceded Jacob’s brush with Satanism. For as long as he could remember, he’d felt the eyes. As he lay in bed pretending to sleep, he sensed someone in the room or watching him from the doorway. Yet upon opening his eyes he was alone. When Jacob showered, especially early in the morning, he locked both bathroom doors, but once they were unlocked and he faced the thought of going up the dark staircase, panic seized him until he could hardly breathe. Heart hammering, he’d race back to the safety of his bedroom.
Sometimes Jacob could grasp, at the edge of his consciousness, the identity of his demons. In the fall of 1992, after his brother moved out, he began to realize that his demons came in human form.
Jacob’s demons were his parents.
In the real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’ clock in the morning, day after day.
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald “The Crack Up”/The Crack Up
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