Who saw him die I, said the Fly With my little eye I saw him die.
A child’s a plaything for an hour.
~Mary Lamb – Parental Recollections
“I remember it was at Woodmont, shortly after Mom and Kermode got married,” Charles said. “I remember coming home one day, right after school. I remember Jacob crying, yelling, ‘Don’t! Stop!’ and Kermode saying, ‘Shut up! Just relax.’ I knew it was coming from the bathroom and I knew what was going on. So I shut the door really loud, hoping he’d stop it. I went into the family room, and one of the rules was when you get home you don’t watch t.v. I went in the family room and turned on the TV and put the cartoons on really loud.
And then Kermode came out and he zipped up his pants. And he was… he looked really pissed off. His whole face was red and his bottom teeth were showing the way they did when he was really pissed.
What the hell are you doing watching cartoons? You know better than that.’
And I just looked at him like, ‘I know what you’re doing,’ and I did it on purpose. He shut off the TV, came over, grabbed me by the shirt, pulled me up and let me go, and hit me.
‘You know better than that shit.’
Because he knew I’d caught him in the act. And I said, ‘Fine. I’ll just go to my room.’
‘Yeah, you’d better.’
Then I was walking to my room and Jacob was coming out of the bathroom. He looked really sick, really pale, and really tired. His eyes were swollen from crying. I just closed my eyes and I went to my bedroom. Jacob got to his bedroom and Jacob started crying some more. And what could I say? I couldn’t have said anything. And not to Kermode. And not to Jacob either. Because I knew what was going on… and he did it to me. We knew what was going on and I knew what was happening to Jacob but we didn’t talk about it. Because we were embarrassed as it was. It was kind of like conversation through looks, through the eyes.
Before I went into my room I just put my hand on his shoulder. And I looked at him, and I just directed him to his bedroom and I heard him crying. There was nothing I could have done.
According to Charles, he and Jacob initially fought Kermode.  They fought him so hard that, after Kermode stripped them naked, he tied their hands and feet to the commode before attempting to enter them. He did many things to the boys. He made them masturbate him and occasionally ejaculated in their faces. Sometimes he made Jacob watch him and Charles. Sometimes he tied the both of them and violated them, one after the other. Afterward, he slapped them and ordered them to take showers.
You’re so fucking dirty, he said.
He kept the rope in the bottom of the sink cupboard. Pamela had to see it when she cleaned but she never mentioned it. Charles couldn’t believe that his mother knew or she would have protected him, wouldn’t she? He was her little man, wasn’t he? Charlie was super responsible and helped around the house and cooked and baked, knowing that such girl things pleased Pam. On the other hand, Jacob fought her all the way. He wasn’t going to do sissy things, not when he was four and not when he was fourteen. So Charles could understand Pamela’s antipathy toward her youngest, but HE had done everything right. He had been the dutiful son. Surely, she wouldn’t have allowed Kermode to violate HIM, would she?
Charles wanted to tell Pamela about the bathroom sessions. Not daring to blurt out the truth, he hinted, but she ignored him. Did Pamela know about the molestations? Of course she did. Sometimes at night, when the bathroom sessions were in full swing, she heard Charlie and Jacob screaming. She knew each time Kermode left her side for the boys. Often, he would assault her sons when they were sleeping. He would wake them up by hitting them with their pillow just before he fucked us.
Throughout, Pam stayed in her bedroom and pretended to be asleep. She bought an enema kit in order to clean Jacob up after Kermode was through with him. When Lupe noticed the contraption and questioned her, Pamela explained, Jacob has trouble with constipation.
But the real trouble was what might happen if Kermode tore Jacob’s anus beyond repair. Pam didn’t dare risk a visit to a doctor so she took care of the matter herself. Jacob scoffs at the notion that his mother didn’t know. She didn’t have to. She was doing the same things herself.
Charles denies that, clinging to the fantasy that she wasn’t a child molester. That despite things he heard between her and Jacob, sworn testimony that she fondled a young male, and an eyewitness account that she did the same thing with both her sons under the guise of cleaning their penises. Charles continues to maintain that he only tried to tell her once about the molestations.
It was when Kermode was supposedly laid off, but he was fired. Kermode was really drunk. It was when he started working on our screen room on our house at Arabian, and Mom came home. Kermode had gone somewhere. I think it was to the liquor store. Jacob and I were both upset because Kermode told us that we basically were leeches, we were spenders, we didn’t pull our weight, we didn’t do anything.
Mom said, ‘If anybody’s a leech around here it’s Kermode.’
When she said that, I was tempted. I said, ‘He touched us.’
She said, ‘What do you mean? Did he hit you?’
One of the things Kermode did before he did anything sexual with us, he would hit us to break us, to let us know, ‘Don’t try to stop me.’
She said, ‘Did he do anything else?’
I remember the expression on Mom’s face. She grew really pale. She was pale as it was, and she got even more pale. ‘Oh, he just hit you with the belt.’ I knew I couldn’t tell Mom that, what he was doing. Because I knew it would devastate her. So I knew in the back of my head, ‘Don’t tell her because it will just make the situation worse.’
Kermode did generally confine his sexual escapades to weekdays. According to Charles, they watched for the danger signs. If he’d had a bad day at work, the next afternoon Jacob and Charlie would get it. Charles also remembers that Kermode often wore hats. When he donned a black one, they knew what was going to happen. A white one and they were safe. They could also gauge his desire by the amount of booze he was drinking, and what kind. Wine meant one thing, scotch something else. If he came into their rooms to help them undress or to watch them, they understood that the nightmare was imminent.
Jacob was probably the cleanest kid in California. All boy, he was forever getting dirty. He liked to dig holes in the back yard, play in the mud, wrestle with his dog, and go exploring. Any man thing, any boy thing and Jacob was for it. Which meant Jacob’s face and hands got soiled and his clothes stained and his shoes caked. Ever fastidious, Pam hosed the boys outside before allowing them in her house. Kermode sprayed Charlie, but if Jacob had so much as a smudge on his cheek, it was bath time. Jacob spent more time in the water than a fish. The procedure was always identical, the running water, the bubbles, the locked door, the washcloth, the hour long sessions, the noises and sobbing. According to Charles, Jacob always cried when Kermode bathed him. As he always cried when Kermode took him into his bedroom. Charlie could count almost to the second from the time that Kermode locked the door to when he would hear Jacob’s sobs.
Charlie wanted to protect his little brother, but he didn’t know how. He hated himself for not being able to help Jacob. He tried to make things easier on Jacob by secretly doing some of his chores and allowing him to be a kid. Sometimes Charles even deflected Kermode or his mother’s anger away from his younger brother.
But, no matter whether only one was being picked on, the other was affected. Charles remembers one particular incident in the sixth grade.
I think I got caught lying, and Mom said…she made me drop my pants. I was really embarrassed because my voice was cracking everywhere and I was starting to develop.
I said, ‘No, I’m not.’
So she slapped me. And she took the belt and hit me with the belt five times. One time after the other. Kermode was there, standing between the living room and the dining room. It was an open area with a guard rail. He was laughing. And then he came up and then he hit me for five more minutes. Pam was just watching. For sassing or lying. I never told many lies, just small little white lies that wouldn’t make any difference anyway. ‘Yeah, I ate a cookie.’
Jacob was in the kitchen. After I was done I was crying because it hurt so much. Jacob’s entire face was pale, and he was really scared.
I said, “They’re not after you. They’re after me. Just go to your room and stay there”
Jacob remembers that, or perhaps it was a similar incident,a bit differently.
“Actually, I don’t remember Kermode hitting him that time. Mom hit him a bunch while Kermode and I peeked around a corner and snickered. Charles had a string of bruises BECAUSE of Kermode.”
Charles would rather take a beating sometimes than watch his brother face the monsters. There was just something so bewildered, lost and vulnerable in Jacob’s expression. Jacob simply didn’t understand that you had to be tough and wary and guard your heart. Each day when he awoke it was almost as if he had wiped out his previous four-five-six years, that he really believed the world was a wonderful place and his parents were terrific people. Crushing Jacob’s innocence would prove a daunting task. But Charlie hoped it would happen soon. Jacob needed to learn that grownups could not be trusted, that life was rotten. Jacob was always retreating into a fantasy world, and he told the most charming stories, but for the sake of Jacob’s own survival he needed to realize the truth. And the truth was he and his brother were no different than prisoners of war. Charlie was old enough to understand about the hostage situation in Iran, where Americans had been held by terrorists. He identified with those hostages, because that’s what he and Jacob were. Only Kermode and Pamela were their captors.
Jacob turned five and started kindergarten. After school Godmother Lupe often watched him and Charlie. She still laid down with Jacob and loved listening to his chatter. He told such funny, imaginative stories that she couldn’t help but laugh. But after Kermode came into Jacob=s life, his tales took a violent turn. He talked about men in black hats and white hats who were trying to kill him. He spun tales of people hiding in the bushes that he’d kill with a gun, or shoot with an arrow into their legs. Jacob recounted dreams about bad witches and how only the good witch could save him. He told fantastic stories about his former teachers at Action Day Care. He swore they were witches who tied him up, put tape on his mouth and made him sit in a corner.
When Lupe expressed doubts, Jacob said in his soft little voice, “It’s true, Tia.”
He spoke with such urgency that Lupe was worried. This wasn’t the Jacob she knew. She expressed her concern to Pam.
“There’s something wrong. Jacob’s never talked like this before. You need to check it out.”
Pam shrugged. “He’s just not getting enough stimulation at school.
Jacob began stuttering. He’d never previously had a speech problem, but suddenly he could hardly talkCat least around the house. When he was at school, Lupe, who worked as a school aide, noticed that the stuttering disappeared. What did that mean? Was something going on in the Jordan household? The boys were so guarded and Kermode was still a touchy subject between her and Pam so Lupe could only surmise. Lupe didn’t spend much time with Pam anymore, but at her friend’s request she sometimes checked out various bars to see whether Kermode was drinking. Once Pamela even left Kermode for a month, but she went back, much to Lupe’s dismay.
Lupe just couldn’t understand the attraction. Kermode cleaned up nicely. When he wasn’t drinking, you could take him out in public without being ashamed of him, but he was such an obnoxious drunk. Several times he stripped to his underwear and collapsed on the front lawn, shouting, AI am God. And he was always talking about the Greeks, as if anybody cared. Lupe knew enough about ancient history to understand that, democracy to the contrary, the Greeks were a barbaric society with a low opinion of women and a lot of pretty bizarre sexual practices. What was all this talk about the aristocratic males taking young boys as lovers? When the older man mentored the younger, the mentoring always included initiating the boy into sex. Kermode hated homosexuals. Explain how diddling children was any better?
Still, though Lupe saw the Aunnatural way Kermode kissed and stroked Jacob, she dismissed her suspicions. Pamela loved her boys. Despite Pam’s harsh discipline, Lupe had to believe that her friend was a good mother. Nobody told Pam what to do with Jacob and Charlie and nobody better say anything bad about them. They were HERS. Someone so fiercely protective wouldn’t allow any harm to come to her children.
Kermode’s real son, Cameron, visited every other weekend. Pam detested Cameron. He would not mind. He would not respond to her standards of discipline and Kermode allowed him entirely too much freedom. Pam was jealous of his mother, Shannon, who had married the wealthy owner of a day care franchise and had a fur coat and a San Francisco mansion on the waterfront. Pamela never lost an opportunity to denigrate Shannon and her child. Cameron returned Pam’s hate, calling her, not surprisingly, The Bitch. Pamela dared not say too much in front of Kermode, so she saved her vitriol for his absence.
I personally believe that Kermode (and possibly Pamela) molested Cameron, but he was never interviewed by the defense so I am surmising from very limited evidence. (Somehow the prosecution and probate attorneys had no trouble contacting Cameron, but Jacob’s attorneys could never track him down.) I saw photos of Jacob’s stepbrother, taken at the age of seven or eight, in which Kermode had scrawled such phrases as Cameron trying to hide from me, and My (underlining the my) Son. Cameron was a possession, a belonging to do with as Kermode pleased. Neither he nor Pam ever looked on their progeny as people. With such a dangerous attitude, it would be easy to cross the line with Cameron, just as they crossed the line with so many others.
Cameron has long had severe psychiatric problems. He never did well academically, got into drugs early, and finally dropped out of high school. In one of the psychologist’s reports I read at Ridge Drive, the therapist commented that Jacob and Cameron were very similar, Aalmost two sides of the same coin. Both boys look alike too, with dark hair and dark eyes. Knowing Kermode and Pam’s history and the black hatred Cameron expressed toward both of them, I cannot help but wonder.
In some ways Kermode was a good absentee father. He did a lot of things with Cameron. They went camping, fishing and skiing (Cameron was an excellent skier}, but by the time of the murders, the two were almost completely estranged. On a trip to Nebraska Kermode got so drunk that Cameron later told Jacob, he was swerving. I called him a drunk, so Kermode pulled over.
Cameron was so angry that he started hitting his father. The fight escalated until Kermode ended up with cracked ribs.
That was only one of several brawls. While going through the family room following the murders, I found a napkin where Kermode had written in huge, slashing letters, Cameron and Tough Love. Beneath it he had drawn a pistol, complete with the trajectory from an imaginary bullet. At the funeral, Cameron, who appeared to be high on drugs, wept copiously and proclaimed his love for his dad. Later he collected a substantial amount of insurance money, as well as most of Kermode’s possessions. Charles swears that, if interviewed, Cameron would have lied on the stand, but it’s puzzling why such an important witness was never interviewed by the defense.
When I asked Jacob whether he thought Kermode might have sexually abused his biological son, Jacob responded, Why wouldn’t he molest him? Look at how screwed up Cameron is. Kermode used to talk about bandaging Cameron’s penis after he was circumcised and when I showed Jacob a picture of Kermode in bed with Cameron as an infant both of them were naked, at least from the chest up Jacob said, Look at him. Doesn’t he look like a pervert?
On the other hand, Charles doesn’t believe that Kermode would have violated his own flesh and blood. Cameron’s severe emotional problems stem as much from his flaky mother, who treated Cameron like a street kid. Charles doesn’t believe that Kermode was a pedophile who preyed on a host of boys. Jacob and he were the only ones and he abused them more to taint them and keep them docile than for his sexual pleasure. It was about power, not sex, according to Charles.
For me, says Jacob, Ait was to make me like him. For Charles because he hated him. I can’t say what he might have done to anyone else. I just don’t know.
When Jacob was seven the Jordans moved to a white stuccoed house on Arabian Street. After Jacob became a full time student, Kermode had abandoned his consulting business and found employment with various engineering firms, which meant a jump in salary. Arabian Street was quiet and the two story house was spacious, with a swimming pool in the back yard. Pamela had long defended Kermode on the basis of his potential, and it finally seemed that, thanks to the love of a good woman, Kermode was turning potential into money. When Kermode went on drinking binges he wouldn’t show up at work for weeks so he bounced around from job to job, but California’s economy was good and he always managed to find another.
The Jordans lived well. For recreation, they went fishing, rafting, to the beach and on camping trips. On Jacob’s seventh birthday, Kermode bought him a seven hundred dollar bike. Another time he and Pamela presented Jacob with a five hundred dollar cat to replace a five dollar hamster.
Such extravagances seem suspiciously like bribes. The sexual abuse at Arabian was particularly bad–more frequent and brutal than before. Perhaps working for a living had made Kermode more tense. He and Pam weren’t getting along well either, so marriage number five might soon be history. Whatever the reason, when Kermode was at his most abominable, he sometimes tried to make amends. Pamela never showed remorse but Charlie remembers one time when Kermode returned from a business trip with a mound of presents for him. The sexual abuse had been unusually horrific and Charles understood the unspoken message, I’m sorry.
Jacob began carrying around a .22 rifle with a missing bolt. He even slept with the weapon.
When Kermode was drunk he gave me permission. One of the neighbors saw it and sent me home where Kermode took it back. Then the cops came.
Unfortunately, the .22 couldn’t protect Jacob from panic attacks, which began around this time. Jacob vividly recalls one, in particular. He had his own room, with venetian blinds on the window and an ancient radio on the chest of drawers beside his double bed. Jacob awakened early one morning, when dawn had begun to creep through the slats. The house was quiet. It was summertime and Jacob felt as if he were smothering. He explained it as a smoggy feeling. It was really hard to breathe, like in Des Moines, Iowa, when it’s 100 degrees and you can’t breathe. An oppressive feeling. Jacob’s heart raced and he was terrified. He ran down the hall into the bathroom, flung open the window and gulped in huge amounts of air.
I kept thinking, Fresh air. Get fresh air.
His stomach hurt and later in the day he vomited. (At Action Day Care, soon after the Jordan marriage, Jacob vomited a lot. The aides would take his temperature but they could never find anything wrong, no matter how often he complained.)
Jacob had much to feel panicked about. The abuse was almost non-stop. He was still Kermode’s prodigy, but Kermode’s love was mixed with a hefty dose of sadism. One time when Reagan and the contras were in the news, Kermode came home from a bar ranting against the president and his policies.
I’m going to go down to Nicaragua and fight for Daniel Ortega and to hell with being a member of the establishment.
Jacob and Charles had set the table, but Pamela hadn’t yet arrived. A pound of hamburger meat had been left to thaw on the counter. Because Kermode was angry at Ronald Reagan he took it out on Charlie and Jacob. As they tried to tiptoe out of the kitchen he suddenly swept all the tableware onto the floor.
You wanna be a real man? he yelled at the frightened boys. I’ll show you what a real man is.
He scooped up a handful of raw hamburger meat and crammed it into his mouth.
All right. Now you two eat the rest.
After Jacob and Charles did as ordered, Kermode made them clean up his mess.
Meal times were generally unpleasant. Lots of lectures and fighting. Sometimes, especially when the boys were older, Kermode would read to them from Greek philosophers or about the ancient Greeks and quiz them afterwards. If Jacob or Charles didn’t display the proper manners, either parent would spear their hand with a fork. If they failed to eat everything on their plates, the leftovers would be served until the boys finished them.
Charles remembers another incident when Pamela was preparing dinner. Kermode was at the kitchen table teaching his stepson math via flash cards. Charles’s learning disability made memorization difficult, and Kermode’s ridicule didn’t help his concentration. The more nervous Charles got, the more mistakes he made. Charles could tell Kermode was upset, but only the right answers would defuse the situation and Charles’s mind was blank.
Pam entered from the kitchen, carrying a steaming casserole. Charles made the mistake of glancing up from the flash cards as she placed the dish on a hot pad amidst the plates and silverware.
Kermode yelled at Pamela, Do you mind? I’m trying to teach your son his fucking flash cards.
He yanked the tablecloth off the table, sending food and utensils crashing to the vinyl.
Pamela didn’t say a word.
The beatings continued. Generally, Kermode and Pamela picked on one boy at a time. Divide and conquer, was their motto. Whoever was the anointed scapegoat would strip naked from the waist down, bend over the couch and the ritual began. Charles remembers his mother laughing when Kermode took his turn. Once Charles made the mistake of putting his hand behind him to ward off a blow. Pam accused Charles of trying to hit her. She tied his hands with the cord of her bathrobe and beat him. Jacob also remembers her tying him.
While Jacob tried to fade into the background or retreat into a fantasy world to escape the abuse, Charles turned to food. He began putting on weight. Kermode and Pamela hated fat people and they weren’t about to have an obese son. They initiated a diet of Carnation Instant Breakfast for breakfast and lunch, and a baked potato or salad sans dressing for dinner. They also chased Charles around the house and up and down the street with a belt to run the fat off of him. Both parents bragged about doing this. They kept a chart of his progress on a calendar. Sometimes Charles dropped two pounds in a day.
When I asked Jacob about his worst childhood memory, he said, Charles bought some candy from the ice cream man. He was in the middle of his diet and when my mom found out she beat him until he was black and blue.
The neighbors’ most vivid recollection is of Charlie mowing the lawn in the middle of summer, wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt. Why would he do that? They wondered. The boys say to help Charles sweat off the fat.
Despite Kermode’s improving work record, Pamela appears to have decided that her second marriage was a bust. One evening she called the boys into the living room.
Kermode and I might separate. She mentioned something about Kermode’s drinking. What do you think about him moving out?
Jacob, who even at seven had a rough mouth, said, I hope you divorce the motherfucker.
Kermode also talked to them. I really love your mother. I hope we can work things out.
Perhaps Pamela was only bluffing. Kermode landed a steady job at Digital and their money situation improved dramatically. Talk of divorce died. Instead, they began contemplating leaving San Jose. Recently, Lupe and her family had moved to Minnesota, and California no longer seemed all that desirable. Too many fags, Pam and Kermode lamented. Pam also hated the smog and the rat race, and crime was a constant worry.
I want to move some place safe, she said. Somewhere up in the mountains.
Around this time, Charlie called his real father and told Frank he might want to come and live with him. Charlie had never been close to Frank, but he didn’t know how much more he could take of Arabian Street.
All right, Frank said. If it’s okay with your mother.
The next time his son called, Frank thought Charlie would say, I’m moving in with you.
Instead, Pamela came on the line.
We’re moving to Colorado, she said.
Jacob says no. Maybe we fought him a little, but subduing a kid is easy. And I don’t remember any tying up.
 Jacob also remembers that incident. But he interprets his mother’s impression differently. It was the one that said, ‘Oh, shit! We’re going to get caught!‘
 Jacob still insists it’s true. After I pulled the tape off, they tied my hands. I was being disruptive at a magic show.
And when she ceased, we sighing saw The floor lay paved with broken hearts.
~Richard Lovelace – “Gratiana Dancing and Singing”
Chapter 20 (Click to entire chapter.)