Talk with a Killer

Talk with a Killer

This story originally appeared in serial form on my Regular Life blog, but here you can read it easily in one sitting.

——-

There was nothing groundbreaking about Jeff Stivins. People had killed with knives before.

“Blades came along far before gunpowder,” Jeff Stivins told me. “Guns and bombs get all the attention in the news lately, and in the movies.”

“Why do you think that is?” I asked. I made sure my recorder was working. It was a new one that used a memory chip, and I still was uncomfortable with the inability to see the tape wheels turning.

“Because they’re louder, I suppose.”

One “recent and glorious exception,” said Stivins, was Kill Bill by Quentin Tarantino.

“What I wouldn’t give to have access to all those blades and training,” Stivins said. “Killers who use guns are cowards.”

We sat in a common area on a bench attached to a long, folding table. The cells lining each side of the room were small and had no TV’s or radios. A few of the inmates sat reading paperback books, paying us little attention.

The jail was run by Lawson County Sheriff Bruce Hatcher, a man known for keeping things simple. Inmates got three meals a day — cereal in the morning, cold-cut sandwiches for lunch, and baked chicken or meatloaf for dinner. They were not allowed to have anything that could be fashioned into a shiv. No combs or handled toothbrushes. No deodorant. To clean their teeth, they had to use a small latex thimble covered with rubbery nubs.

That made me feel a little more at ease as I sat across the table from a convicted murderer whose modus operandus was stabbing. Stivins made no effort to say he was innocent, as many killers do when speaking to a reporter. His stay there was temporary until he could be moved to the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, and he certainly knew that any pleas would fall on deaf ears in his victim’s hometown.

Stivins said the inmates tended to stay away from him. Far from being murderers, most of them had bounced one too many checks or shoplifted. Their stays would not last long, and for them a killer was more frightening than intriguing.

“There’s an intimacy to killing a man while standing within his private space,” Stivins said. “The older the method of killing, the more personal.”

“That’s why most people won’t use a knife,” he explained. “They wouldn’t be able to go through with it if they had to get that close. I enjoyed hearing a man’s last gasp. Those final muscle twitches were a nice touch, but it was in that final breath, when he exhaled his soul, that I first felt true power.”

Five years prior to our meeting, Jeff Stivins had held a modest position of power in the small Lawson County town of Curtiston. During his first and only mayoral term, police had pulled him over three times for allegedly driving drunk, and he always was at odds with the city council, comprised mostly of members of a family historically entrenched in local government. They once changed the locks on city hall to prevent him from entering. Stivins claimed that the drunk driving charges were a frame job by corrupt police hired by the council.

Part of my job had been to cover the council’s meetings. Not once did Stivins make an appearance, and nobody made much of his absence.

The mayoral position was only part time, which gave Stivins time to run his portable barbecue stand. He parked it in the same place for days and occasionally weeks at a time, depending how business was doing. His smoked ribs and shredded pork and beef sandwiches won rave reviews from The Lawson County Register. The flavor often was compared to The Rendezvous, a rib joint below 2nd Street in Memphis.

With a chill, I recalled watching Stivins use a large butcher knife to carve his slow-cooked ribs after taking them off the grill. I now wondered if it was the same knife he would later use on his victim.

He was suspected of killing Kevin Collins, plant manager of George’s Chicken, a Tyson competitor. Husband of Curtiston city attorney Megan Collins, who had helped build cases against the controversial mayor right under his nose, he had been seen in a public yelling match with Stivins. Despite his culinary prowess, none of Stivins’ customers came to his aid when he was arrested for murder.

“What about bludgeoning and strangling?” I asked. “Nothing older or more personal than that.”

“I’m not very strong, so I would never try to choke somebody. And beating is just so… brutal.”

“Didn’t you have to overpower Collins before stabbing him?”

“Not really. He practically froze in place. Couldn’t believe it, I think. Took his mind a moment to register what was happening.”

My recorder beeped, indicating I was nearing its capacity. I knew I should have sprung for that extra memory card.

“Well, that’s convenient, because what I am about to say is off the record,” Stivins said.

My eyes widened, still locked onto the recorder. I hoped he had not noticed. I had heard many things “off the record” in the past, and never printed anything uttered in such confidence. It was an honor code for journalists, on the same level as investigative reporters’ policy of never revealing certain sources.

I would not have needed my recorder for what he told me next. It forever will be etched into my mind.

“I have killed before,” he said.

I looked up from the recorder. Surely I had heard that wrong. A slight, tight-lipped smile was on his face, and as I looked at him his eyebrows raised for a second before settling back down above his wide eyes. The flourescent overhead lighting reflected as highlights in his glistening black pupils.

“They’re hazel,” Stivins said.

“What?” I asked as I broke my stare.

“My eyes. Not green. Not brown. Hazel.”

“Did you just say you’ve killed before?” I asked.

“Yes, I did. What do you think makes my barbecue taste so good?”

I shot from my seat, but the bench hit the back of my legs and bounced me forward. My hands slapped the table as I caught myself. Grimacing in a combination of horror and pain, I would have run away had the bench not trapped me temporarily. I wondered why I had convinced Sheriff Hatcher to let me see this man without security glass between us.

I heard fast footsteps approaching. The guard obviously had heard or seen what happened. “Stivins, don’t move,” he said. Then, to me, “Sir? Are you okay?”

Stivins laughed so loud that his voice echoed back from each cell, surrounding me. “Oh, you reporters are so much fun. Do you really believe I am that disturbed?”

“Sir?” the guard asked me again.

I leaned on my hands, trying to let the pain in my knees and my hands subside before moving. “Yes, I’m fine,” I said. “Just give me a little space.”

How much of what Stivins had told me was a joke? I slowly sat, determined to stay long enough to find out.

“We’re fine. Just a friendly chat among friends,” Stivins told the guard.

The guard looked at me. I nodded and he walked back to stand at the door. Fine? No, we certainly are not fine.

“I came here because you said you wanted to tell your story. Keep doing that to me, and I will leave. There’s bound to be a house fire or a hole-in-one story somewhere.” That was true enough. A large chunk of our paper’s daily deliveries went to a nearby retirement community featuring eight golf courses serving 20,000 residents spread out over 62 square miles. The fire department’s 15-minute response time to outlying neighborhoods provided dramatic blazes, and no amazing golf shot went unreported. We even had a special form for the golfer to complete at our front desk.

That was why I was not leaving. It was my chance to report something substantial and, in Stivins’ case, exclusive. He had agreed to talk only to me. Many reporters like to act like that does not affect them, but in today’s world of news available any time, anywhere, an exclusive is a rarity.

“Now, now, don’t get upset. Your precious police scanner and octogenarian athletes can wait,” Stivins said.

“So, you don’t put people in your barbecue. That’s good. But you said you’ve killed before?”

“Life is funny. Some people believe that nothing comes after it, that it goes away like the glow of a bulb’s filaments. I do not believe that, because I have made people die. And they stay with me. Nobody else, just the people I’ve killed.”

“So, you see dead people?” I asked. I didn’t like where this was going after the barbecue prank.

“No, it isn’t like that. I can just sense them. It is almost as if, after I drain their life from them, I breathe in their last breath and hold their souls inside me. I experience things in ways I never would have otherwise.”

“Are we still off the record here?” I asked.

“Most certainly,” he said.

“Okay,” I said as I grabbed my recorder. “I’ll just turn this off and put it away.” I had read enough of the user’s manual to learn how to delete recordings, and to disable the light that glows when it’s running. I quickly got rid of an interview with a new business owner, then turned off the record light and put the unit in my shirt pocket. I had conducted interviews this way when I needed to use my camera at the same time, but was not sure how well the new recorder’s mic would do.

I needed him to start over.

“How many people have you killed?” I asked.

“Four,” he said.

“All with knives?”

“Of course. As I’ve said before, it’s the most elegant way to kill.”

“Yes, you’re quite the gentleman in that respect,” I said.

“The first was a transient in an abandoned hotel. I was 15 at the time. My brother, visiting from out of town, had driven us to meet some of my friends for a party. These were the same friends who liked to party in cemeteries. There was chain-link fence surrounding it. About to be torn down, you know. We squeezed between the chained gate and the fence and went inside. My brother was a bit hesitant, because he had never met these people. ‘They’re fine,’ I told him. ‘Besides, I brought my knife.’ I always carried my pocket knife back then, before schools had metal detectors. My brother just laughed. I had never so much as gutted a deer, and was not a fighter.

“Once we were inside, I admired the high lobby ceiling and the beautiful, wide spiral staircase. Everything was covered in thick layers of dust, but I did not see the cobwebs I expected. The old horror films had it wrong. Oddly, there was nothing frightening about it. I could not stop running Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor through my head. Do you listen to Bach?” he asked.

“A little. I’m familiar with that tune.” In fact, my wife and I had used it for background music on our outgoing Halloween answering machine message. Sorry, the occupants cannot come to the phone. They’re tied up at the moment. Muwahahahahahah.

“Good enough. Even with that music in my head, I was not scared. It was all rather campy, really. My brother had gone into the coat closet without me. I heard him talking to someone. I thought maybe my friends were there already. ‘Hey, take it easy,’ he said. I pulled my knife from my pocket and opened the blade. It was a large lock-blade knife given me by a babysitter’s boyfriend. It was the first knife I truly treasured.

“I walked quickly to the coat closet, stepping over boards with nails sticking out. I only remembered to check because my brother had stepped on a nail as a child. Nasty bit of business, but I was fascinated by the way it pierced his foot.

“‘What’s going on?’ I called. I held the knife behind my back. When I reached the small room, my brother stood looking at a man slumped on the floor, his back against the wall. He looked half dead to me. His clothes and skin were filthy. Just a disgusting site. Obviously homeless.

“I said, ‘What’s going on?’ My brother said it was nothing, and that we should just leave. When we turned to go, I heard the man rustling around. Right as we walked out the door into the lobby, he jumped on my brother’s back and bit his shoulder. He could not shake him off. The man was screaming through his teeth like some crazed ventriloquist, ‘This is ny tlace, this is ny tlace.’ It is rather comical when I think back on it.'”

Stivins stopped and stared at a point behind me somewhere. I waved my hand in front of his face. As he looked back at me I raised my eyebrows as if to say, “And?”

“‘Oh yes. Sorry. I raised my arm and brought the knife down into the man’s back. He fell to the floor, and I collapsed onto my knees to stab him in the chest.” Stivins sat there in silence again, this time scanning his eyes over my hair and face.

“That’s the whole story?” I asked. I did not like his staring at me like that.

“I suppose you might expect me to say that I was shocked by what I had done. On the contrary, not at all. My heart was beating fast and I was trying to think what to do next, but before any feelings could set in, I felt the man’s soul enter my body. His blood pooled out around him, soaking into the dust and the bits of debris.

“My brother was pulling at my shirt to get me to leave. Just as we got back through the gate, a policeman pulled up in his cruiser and asked us what we were doing. I told him we had come to meet some friends, but they had not shown up. He said he thought he had seen us earlier that day at the shopping mall. He pointed to my brother and said, ‘Yeah, you’re the one who was driving around looking pissed off.’ We just chuckled and hoped he did not notice our nerves. ‘Well, you don’t need to be hanging around these abandoned buildings. You could run into a transient in there who would cut open your belly.’

“Apparently the policeman had made note of my brother’s license plate. After some demolition experts discovered the body, by then badly decomposed and gnawed by rats, my brother got a visit and was pulled out of one of his classes. He was two years older, so he was still in high school, too. We lived in different towns, however. Did I mention that? Well, we never admitted to even seeing anyone in there, and there was no evidence working against us. Since the dead man had no champion to hound the authorities, nobody pushed the issue. Of course by then I had soaked my knife in bleachy water and scrubbed it with a toothbrush. One can never be too safe, you know.”

“So that was your first time to kill somebody. How long before you killed again?”

“I’m not sure, exactly. You would think a person would remember such things,” Stivins said.

“You’d think,” I said. “Let me ask you this. Do you want to kill me right now?”

“Oh, no, young cub reporter. Why would I do that? I want you to carry this story around in your head until you die naturally.”

You are one sick bastard, I thought, and there’s no way I’m taking this to the grave.

“What can you remember about the others?” I asked.

“I prefer not to talk about all of them. There is another who sticks out in my mind, however.”

“It was about seven years after the hotel incident,” Stivins said.

“That’s quite a long dry spell,” I said.

“Well, I am not some serial killer on a random rampage. To suggest such would be to cheapen me. Besides, a teenager living under his parents’ watchful eye, as I was, has much more difficulty hiding murderous actions.”

“I think you’d be surprised, Mr. Stivins.”

“However it is, I know my situation. There were times I was tempted, but held back.”

Stivins again looked me over without meeting my eyes. I squirmed in my seat.

“So, you were about to tell me about the next time,” I prompted.

“Yes. Right. The freedom of college. I was living in a University town here in Arkansas. I will keep you guessing as to which. There is not much fun in telling everything, now is there?

“I was dog-sitting for a friend who lived in a small duplex with a tiny, fenced back yard. All the fences around and behind were chain link. It was one of those towns where landlords knew they did not have to do much to keep their units occupied. College students could not resist cheap rent.

“I know this sounds cliché, but it was a rainy evening. Rain so thick I could barely see the duplex behind. I went out to take my friend’s god-forsaken mutt out for a pee. Had to walk it around the yard with a short leash, holding an umbrella. That dog hated rain, but I would be damned before I would let it piss the carpet on my watch.

“I saw something bright moving around the back yard caddy-corner to me. As we neared the back of the fence, I made it out. It was a girl, a rather plump young lady, running about and dancing. Stark naked, soaked, with muddy feet. What’s wrong, my friend?” Stivins asked.

“Nothing.” I quickly composed myself. Just let it go. Let him finish. It’s probably nothing.

“I watched after letting the dog back inside, to make sure I was seeing it right. I was intrigued. I had to know what kind of soul would allow her to be so free. The back yards were divided by a utility easement about 10 feet wide, which got very muddy in wet weather. I went back in to dig some rain boots from my friend’s closet. I patted my front pocket to confirm my knife was ready if needed. It had been so long.”

“The same knife you used when you were a kid?” I asked.

“The very same. I told you, it was a gift I would never forget. I always kept it sharp on my whetstone. Slide it down,” he moved his hand out and downward, sliding it along the table, “then flip it and slide it back up. It’s a delicate art, making a blade sharp enough to pierce human skin with almost imperceptible precision. I always used Smith’s MP4L, four-inch Arkansas stone. Portable and effective, and I must support my home state, right?”

“Your allegiance won’t go unnoticed, I’m sure,” I said. I remembered when my father taught me how to sharpen a knife. He used what I always thought was a piece of marble, with just a few drops of honing oil. It had been a sweet, innocent memory for me until Stivins described it with such evil in his voice.

“I wondered how many killers’ knives the Smith’s had sharpened. I researched the company. Founded in 1886 and still operated out of Hot Springs National Park. How many fragments of dead men have ended up on their whetstones as the killer returned to hone his instrument?”

“This is all fascinating speculation,” I said. “What about the girl in the rain?”

“You do like to stay on task, cub reporter. When I came back outside, the most peculiar thing had happened. The rain had let up quite a bit, and someone else was in the back yard with her, holding an umbrella. The gate to her yard was open, as was the gate directly opposite mine. I could not hear everything they were saying, but I could tell it was a young man trying to stop her. Then, they got louder. The young man said, ‘You’re drunk.’ The girl stopped for a moment and said, ‘I feel so free!’ The man grabbed her arm. ‘That’s because you’re drunk.’ The young man held fast to her arm and pulled her across the yard to the back door. She wrenched her arm free, quite slippery from the rain, I suppose. The young man gave up and stomped back through both gates to what I presume was his own back yard. Before going back in, he turned and called out, ‘Denise, please go inside before you –‘”

“Hurt yourself or do something else you’ll regret,” I finished. I trembled as I said it.

“Pardon me?” Stivins asked.

“That’s what the guy said, right?” I asked in turn.

“Precisely. How on earth would you know that?”

“Because it was me,” I said.

Stivins’ mouth again turned up into that tight-lipped grin. His eyebrows raised above his widening eyes.

“Well, Mr. Sindle. Our paths have crossed. What a small world it truly is.”

“Small state, you mean.” I was trying hard not to breathe fast. Rivers of sweat ran down my sides. This is not happening.

“So, you knew that girl?” he asked.

“No, I didn’t.” That was true, but I did not want to tell Stivins anything else. Still, I could not help going over the events in my mind.

My wife and I both were in college. I had just arrived home from my job waiting tables in a Mexican restaurant; as usual, it was her night to close a local grocer’s seafood department. Each of us had a distinct smell when we got home from our jobs. Mine was the more palatable of the two.

When I got out of my car that night, the guys who lived next door asked me to join them and some young ladies for a party. I took off my server’s apron and walked over to say “hello.” There were two guys and three girls. It was obvious fairly early on that the girl named Denise was available and they were trying to fix me up. Being happily married, I did not bark up that tree. I also was not into smoking weed, so when it started raining and they moved the party into their half of the duplex, I entered mine.

Showering was my first order of business. The smell of chimichangas, fajitas, enchiladas, and salsa emanated from my pores. I just wanted to clean up and then maybe read some of the works in my English Literature II course syllabus.

In that particular residence, I was a killer of sorts, as was my wife. Although we kept the place spotless and never left food out, we had a severe mouse problem. After showering, I checked the cabinet under the kitchen sink for our latest kills. We had one. I hated to kill anything, but other solutions just had not worked for us, and the old-fashioned neck-snapper traps seemed like the most humane method. We never found one moving. To help keep from thinking about it, we made it a contest to see whose traps caught the most. I bagged up my latest catch in a Ziploc and walked to the back door to put him in our outside trash can.

I heard giggling coming from the stoners’ yard next door and tried to see who it was through the rain. It was Denise, and she was not wearing a thing. With reckless abandon she pranced around the back yard, her ample body parts bouncing. I had jokingly used the word “frolic” in the past; that was the first time I had seen it defined in such a visceral way. She fell once and got back up to keep dancing. Denise had seemed like a nice girl, and I knew she would never live to forgive herself if anyone else saw her out there.

I grabbed my umbrella and walked out my back gate, then into the yard where Denise was putting on her show. I tried to convince her to go back in, but she said she never had felt so free. That was when I tried to give her a little nudge. The rest had happened just as Stivins said, but only in the back yard.

After going back inside, I walked out the front and pounded on the stoners’ door. For a full minute, nobody answered. Finally, a girl wrapped in a bedspread opened the door. “Look, Denise is out back, naked in the rain.”

“What?” the hazy-eyed girl answered.

“I said, Denise is out there, naked. She’s dancing and making a fool of herself.”

The girl laughed. “Go Denise. All right!” She turned her head. “Did you guys hear that? Denise must have liked that wine and those two long drags.”

About 20 minutes after that, I went back to the yard to see if they had brought Denise in. She was not there, so I figured she was safely inside. I guessed that the man across the table from me now was going to tell me why it turned out otherwise. That was the last night Denise was seen alive.

I had to hear it from Stivins.

“So, what does the naked girl have to do with your next murder?”

“You must listen to learn,” Stivins said.

“I’m listening.”

“Very good. After your failed effort to escort the young girl to the door… knowing that was you makes me tingle a bit. It is quite thrilling. What do you think it means? You, making a career change later in life and bumping into me shortly after?”

“It means coincidences happen,” I said.

“No, I cannot believe that. Just like I do not believe life burns out like a wick. Our souls were close, Mr. Sindle.”

I just sat there trying not to fidget.

“Oh, all right. On with my story.”

“The moment you left the back yard, I dashed out the back gate and across the easement. It was swampy back there, and the borrowed boots were quite tight, but I reached her. I told her I saw her from across the way and that she was driving me crazy. I removed my shirt to show her I was in the spirit. ‘I love it!’ she said. I led her, in a sort of a dance, to my friend’s back yard.”

“Stop,” I said.

“But I am not finished,” Stivins said.

“I prefer not to hear it in detail.” I already thought I was going to be sick, in fact. Hearing him recount a killing that could have been sold as self-defense was one thing, but professional or not, sitting there while he described an abhorable act was not something I could stomach. I had not known Denise, but I had met her. I had tried to get her back inside. Why didn’t I try harder?

“Weak stomach?” Stivins asked.

“Something like that. So you killed her?”

“Yes. And her soul, so innocent and free, became a part of me. I’ve enjoyed a few reckless dances in the rain since then, Mr. Sindle.”

I turned my head. “Guard,” I called. Then to Stivins, “I’ll be going now. I might come back, if you’re still around.” I hope there’s a hell and you fry in it, you son of a bitch.

“I would speak to you again. It has brought back some fond memories,” Stivins said. “And shed light on an interesting twist of fate.”

The guard came over and we headed back toward the door.

“Would it make you feel better if I told you I did not take advantage of her?”

I stopped, but I didn’t turn to face him.

“I was quite aroused, as was she. I am fairly certain I could have had my way with her. But that was not why I brought her into my life. Come back. I will make it worth your while.”

I cursed him under my breath. I was the last person besides Stivins to see Denise alive. Because her body had not been found, Denise had stayed on the missing persons list. If I could just hold out a little longer, Stivins might divulge what he did with Denise’s body.

When a local ice cream shop manager notified the police that Denise had not shown up for several shifts and was not answering her home phone, an investigation started. Her parents told police they had not heard from her. She had ridden to the stoners’ place with one of the girls, so her car still sat in her apartment complex parking lot. Denise lived alone in a one-bedroom and mostly kept to herself. She had no boyfriend.

By the time investigators found out she had friends next door to me, any sign of Stivins’ footprints must have been gone. I do not know whether they questioned Stivins’ friend.

One of the stoner girls named me as the last person who saw Denise. The police had many questions for me, and had no trouble getting a warrant to search our place. They came up with nothing, but my lack of a solid alibi kept me at the top of their list. Lack of motive and plenty of character witnesses helped me, as did my father’s sailing-buddy attorney. Had her body turned up, I’m sure I would have been a murder suspect.

The media outlets caught wind of the story and broadcast it to the entire state.

My wife and I had been married only six months at that time, but she assured me that she trusted me and supported me. Her friends did not see it that way, and many urged her to get as far away from me as possible. She lost a few friends over it. Some of my more recent acquaintances stopped talking to me.

After failing to get a teaching job in public schools, probably because of the negative press I got, I began to question what I wanted to do for a living. For more than 10 years, I bounced from job to job trying to find a career where I could settle, and went back and forth from computers to journalism more than once.

Now, in the same room with me, was Jeff Stivins, the man I had to thank for all of the above. For his victims and for myself, I wanted to bury him. I hadn’t stopped my recorder yet. I walked back to the table and threw one leg over the bench.

“That is the correct choice, Mr. Sindle,” Stivins said.

“I’m here,” I said as I pulled my other leg over and sat.

“That was when it became real for me. The homeless man’s soul had been beaten down and, although it offered me a certain amount of wisdom, there was no awakening. The girl — Denise, I should say, now that we both are on the same page — had a soul that knew no limits. It was a deep well of inspiration. It kept me going for years without feeling a need to gather another.”

“But what did you do with her?” I asked.

“I thought you did not want to hear such things.”

“Not what you did to her.”

“So, you mean to ask where I stashed the body?”

“I figure at least somebody should know, after all you put her through, and after all you said she gave you,” I said. I had no idea what I was doing.

“It was a very respectful placement, Mr. Sindle. May I call you Scott?”

“No,” I said.

“But we have become fast friends here today, yes?”

“No.”

“I did not do anything like what you might be recalling from books or movies. No hacksaw or sulfuric acid. No wood chipper. She lies whole. A bit thinner now, I suspect, but whole,” Stivins said.

“So, you buried her?” I asked.

“Yes, but only I know where.”

I felt that he wanted to tell me, but not unless I asked. Dammit. I had to play to his ego.

“Was it a place that meant something to you?” I asked.

“It was not of particular import to me, no. It was a beautiful place, however. Thousands of visitors each year. It was the off season, of course. It would not do to tote a body around with families about.”

“A tourist attraction, then. A mountain peak?”

“No, nothing that grand,” he said. “Do you know where they grow the daffodils?”

I knew exactly the place. Only about 20 miles from where he had killed Denise was Wye Mountain. On it, a church group had planted daffodils in a huge, terraced field that sloped down from a winding highway to deep woods. They bloomed every spring, before anything else.

“I’m familiar with it,” I said. “Why there?”

“It is beautiful and innocent, like her soul.”

Stivins said that he had buried her in the woods, not far from the field, so that he could cover his work with leaves.

Does he really believe I’m going to sit on this story? I didn’t see how he could.

“I need to leave. I have a deadline for the stories I’m writing,” I said.

“There is another whose story I have not shared.”

“I know, but I have to go.” I did not want to hear more. I felt sorry for his other victim, but he was just using me at that point. He was showing off, and I had been a captive audience.

That was three years ago. I turned my recording over to the Bursville Police. After some legal wrangling, it was deemed inadmissible, but they kept the recording. Of course, I had copied the files to my computer before turning it over. That was my last journalism job before switching back to computers for what I hope was the last time.

I never saw Stivins again, but last I heard he spends his days and nights on death row. My wife and I have been back to Wye Mountain a few times during visits to central Arkansas. We spend a few quiet moments gazing over the rolling hills of yellow flowers, to the woods where Denise may or may not have been put to rest.

I just accepted a job teaching computer courses at a community college, so in a way I’ve come full circle. I’m doing what I originally intended, and I finally have Jeff Stivins out of my life for good.

The End, but not the only.

One Reply to “Talk with a Killer”

  1. Hmm…I was totally into this, until the ending. I was expecting a twist of some sort, but it just sort of…ends.

    Don’t get me wrong, the writing is very good and it’s got a consistent level of creep to it, which I know is hard to maintain. I really like Stivin’s character and the set-up was wonderful. So over all, I actually very impressed. I’m just left feeling like it was all fabulous set-up with no pay-off.

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