There is no old age for a man’s anger. Only death.
~Sophocles - Oedipus at Colunus
Jacob confessed to schoolmates that he was miserable. He didn’t say much about what was literally happening in his household. A lifetime of training held him back. Instead he spoke in code. “I really hate my parents,” he told teachers and fellow students. “I wish they were dead.”
If anybody bothered to probe, Jacob said Kermode and Pam were mean. Beyond that, he largely kept silent.
“Can I come live with you?” He asked his two closest friends, David Mabie and Armando Lee.
But even as the three teenagers discussed the possibility, Jacob understood any respite would be temporary. Kermode and Pamela would just yank him back. What about Department of Social Services? They were supposedly there to help abused kids. Weekly, workers from DSS, the high school and the Woodland Park Police Department met to discuss problem students and situations. Why not go to them?
Jacob knew better. The police department had been to the Jordan household several times over the years. According to them, everything was perfectly okay. And Teller County Department of Social Services was a joke. David Mabie, an abused child, had lots of experience with DSS.
“They don’t help,” David told him. “They only make things worse.” In David’s case, Social Services had actually returned him to his persecutors.
What else? Jacob considered running away, but where could he hide in a small town like Woodland Park? He fantasized living out in the forest, and only returning home when his parents were gone in order to pick up supplies. But it was the middle of the winter and his parents seemed as omniscient and omnipotent as God. They would know—and thwart—any move before he could execute it.
Nor was Charles a viable option. His brother lived in a cabin the size of the Jordan living room and was working full-time in addition to school, while subsisting on food stamps. According to Charles and others, Jacob had always turned to his older brother for help. According to Jacob, he’d NEVER done that. It didn’t do any good. Whatever the truth, Jacob knew he had to figure something out on his own. Even if he decided to move in with Charles that would be the first place Kermode and Pamela looked.
Jacob felt so helpless. Increasingly, for him there seemed to be no way out. Ever.
Thanksgiving was only days away. Then the Christmas season. Jacob dreaded this time of year. The holidays were inevitably marred by Kermode’s drinking. And the contrast between the community’s celebratory mood and his family’s private behavior was more than he could bear.
When Jacob was alone, he began carrying a loaded shotgun, as much out of defiance, since guns were something he wasn’t supposed to touch, as for protection. Plus, knowing that he could instantaneously end anybody’s life, his own included, exhilarated him. Kermode’s shotgun provided him with something he wasn’t used to—a sense of power. As he held it, he fantasized being a soldier or cop, burglar or assassin.
By this time, a part of him had begun to realize a gun would be his instrument of rage.
Only Jacob’s rage was still turned more inward than outward. Sure, he would like to see his parents dead, but that was more a fantasy like, “Someday I’d like to play pro-football,” than a decision to be acted upon.
He remained paralyzed. And afraid. Increasingly, he felt as if he didn’t really know anything until and unless his mother told him. He was never certain whether he might be breaking one of the rules Pamela had just made up or what the consequences might be. But something was starting to stir inside, a flicker of rebellion, the idea that something had to be done.
Occasionally, he even questioned his mother about a “rule” such as, “You can lock the bathroom door,” vs. “Don’t you dare lock the bathroom door.”
“Why can’t I lock the door? I like my privacy.”
“What’re you trying to hide?” She’d say in her “I-utterly-despise-you” voice.
“But you told me last week I could lock it.”
“It’s not like I haven’t seen it all before. Just leave the goddamned door unlocked and quit arguing.”
“This makes no sense,” he cried, in desperation. “There’s no logic to it.”
“It’s totally logical because I say it is.”
Pamela’s eyes burned with hatred whenever Jacob was “disciplined” or during their “discussions.” He dreaded those looks, not because he loved his mother because by this time he swore he didn’t. But he so much wanted her to love him, even when he knew she never had. Never would.
It was sometime around Thanksgiving— Jacob can’t remember an exact date—when a shift in his thinking occurred. Instead of hoping for Divine Providence to intervene on his behalf, or deciding to implement his plan to kill himself, Jacob reached a monumental decision. He listed all the reasons his life was so terrible, why suicide seemed the only solution. When he pondered the list, he discovered everything on it had to do with his parents. Then the revelation came. Instead of killing myself, he thought, why not kill Mom and Kermode?
It wasn’t as if he hadn’t contemplated such a thing before. His friend, David Mabie, had talked about eliminating them for years. Though David was nearly two years older than Jacob, he was also a freshman. Tall, blond, Aryan handsome with blue eyes that seemed to stare right through people, David came from an environment similar to Jacob’s, only without the money. Three years previously David had first suggested that Jacob’s parents should die. Over the years he’d periodically brought up the subject. Jacob didn’t know what to think of David and his B.S. talk. In the beginning Jacob didn’t hate his parents. Well, maybe he did, but not to the extent of killing them. Still, he let David plan the murders and sometimes even contributed ideas. Talking about it made Jacob feel better, as if he really had a way out. But eventually, the subject was dropped and Jacob shoved the conversations in the back of his mind.
That last summer, the summer of 1992, Jacob and David had burgled a house where David had previously seen a .22 caliber pistol. David hid the pistol in the woods near his family’s trailers.
David suggested, “We should use this to kill your parents.”
At that time, Jacob was more obsessed with killing himself. He thought constantly about burying a bullet in his brain. He began playing Russian Roulette with Kermode’s .357, sometimes with two bullets in the chamber. When he pulled the trigger and heard the click he felt an incredible rush. Suicide seemed much easier, more logical than coping with Kermode and Pamela.
Jacob approached David when they were walking back from lunch at Loaf and Jug. Usually he and a couple of friends left WPHS’s campus for one of several nearby fast food places. In addition to lunch they sometimes took a few hits off a pipe, generally provided by David.
Jacob took his friend aside and asked, “Would you kill my parents?”
David got real excited. Days later, he returned the stolen .22, which he had cleaned and polished. He hid the gun inside his brightly striped sweatshirt and presented it to Jacob at school. Jacob put the .22 in the bottom of his backpack. Knowing he carried a gun made him feel good, like “Billy Bad Ass.”
After that, David and Jacob discussed their plan whenever possible over the phone, using code words like “trumpet.” For Jacob, talking reassured him that life would soon get better. But could he ever actually transform all this talk into reality?
The incident with the microwave cart provided the answer.
Jacob can’t remember exactly when the “microwave cart incident” occurred. He knows his parents were watching the 49′ers in the family room. The family room was huge, with a tiled wet bar and hardwood floors that Jacob had cleaned more times than he could count. It opened onto the sunroom with the weight lifting bench where Kermode had once tried to kill Charles and the hot tub that nobody ever used. On this particular Sunday Kermode and Pamela were relaxing in their matching pair of blue recliner rockers.
Jacob had been doing his homework, but decided to take a break.
“Quit stalling,” Pam said when he came downstairs. “Go back to your room and don’t come out until you’re finished.”
Jacob countered with something, he doesn’t remember what. Then he turned his back on his parents and headed for the steps leading to the main level.
He heard Pam say, “Don’t give me dirty looks,” but he didn’t hear Kermode get out of his recliner. Nor did he hear his stepfather come up behind him “like a coward.” Kermode pushed him. Jacob slammed against a nearby microwave cart. His thigh hit a corner, smashing to the bone.
“Don’t you ever talk to your mom like that!” Kermode screamed, spraying spittle on Jacob’s face.
As Jacob walked up the stairs, he whispered through tears, “Okay, Motherfucker. I was going to spare you, but no. Fuck that. You’re dead, Motherfucker.”
Charles returned home for Thanksgiving dinner. Although he’d only been gone three months, the eighteen-year-old noticed a definite change in the atmosphere, “an electric charge in the air.” It was almost as if all the players in the drama were positioning themselves for the tragedy that was to come, maneuvering themselves into their parts, readying for the moment when Death, in the form of Jacob’s hired executioner, would race across the frozen earth to claim them.
Those last weeks Kermode especially must have wondered whether his house was a refuge or a prison. He’d tried so hard to make it his monument, his symbol to the world and to himself that he was a success. How hollow that all seemed, now that he was about to be laid off and his entire future was in jeopardy. And not only because of Digital. Because of Charles. And Jacob? Did Kermode, who had spent so much time trying to mold his youngest stepson, sense the change? Had Kermode begun to realize that, while 120 Ridge Drive might be his castle, the insurrection was in danger of starting from inside the castle walls?
Or did he perceive that the enemy was already within, plotting the overthrow of the king and queen?
All other ways are closed to you. Except the way already chosen
~T.S. Eliot – Murder in the Cathedral
Chapter 4/Mid-December 1992(click to entire chapter.)