Friday, September 29, 2006
The Tube Sock Killer
I was sitting in the back row at the county courthouse scribbling notes for tomorrow’s edition of the Cheshire Catterwall. This would be my first front page story in months; a welcome reprieve after stock reports and obituaries. Pork futures be damned. Reebok Wilson, aka the Tube Sock Killer, was walking.
After only two hours of deliberation, the jury had made a decision. Judge Hanes’ face showed no emotion when the foreman read the verdict: Not guilty. The courtroom erupted into chaos as the families of the victims screamed in outrage and Wilson’s supporters wept with relief.
The Tube Sock Killer started making headlines four years earlier when a college girl was found dead in a field on the outskirts of town. She had been strangled with a tube sock, which was still wrapped around her neck when the cops showed up.
Two weeks later, another tube sock victim was discovered floating in Loom River; white male, mid-thirties. Months passed and the Tube Sock Killer snuffed out twelve more people of varying age, race, gender and whatnot. There were no similarities among the victims except that they were from Cheshire County and murdered by strangulation with a tube sock.
Reebok Wilson was arrested and charged with the killings. It happened just like in the movies. A highway patrolman pulled him over for speeding and noticed several packages of tube socks in the back seat. Let’s just say Wilson’s excuses didn’t hold water, and after a few hours under the lights there was enough evidence to win Wilson a hot date with Old Sparky.
Wilson’s attorney, Kalvin N. Clyne, was once a sleazy, ambulance-chaser; the guy you called when you spilled hot coffee on your lap at Wendy’s or slipped on the ice in front of Wal-Mart. He negotiated settlements quick and easy and never saw the inside of a courtroom. But a few years back he got fed up with civil suits and switched to criminal law, fancying himself the next Perry Mason. Defending the Tube Sock Killer was his first important case and his ego was as big as a Mickey Mouse balloon in a Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The morning after the acquittal, I was at Victoria’s Café for a late breakfast when Clyne sauntered up to the counter and took the stool next to mine.
“Saw your story in the Catterwall today, Harry. Whatever happened to objective reporting?” Clyne’s beady eyes focused on the laminated menu.
“I reported the facts of the case, Clyne. Sorry if the truth hurts.” But I wasn’t. And he knew it.
“You cut me to the quick, Harry. To the absolute quick!”
“I do my best.”
“You left out a few facts, my friend.”
“Indeed.” I sipped my joe and peered at Clyne over the rim. I hoped the look I gave him would send him crawling back under his rock. But no luck. He was more brazen than ever.
“As you know, Dr. Gerald Jawkey swore under oath that Reebok Wilson suffers from chronic acid reflux, which manifests itself randomly and renders him virtually catatonic. We also know that the killer is right-handed. Wilson is left-handed. And, of course, Wilson’s airtight alibis held up under intense scrutiny by the prosecution.”
“You don’t say.”
“I’m surprised at you, Harry. Very surprised. Why didn’t you mention those facts in your story?”
“Maybe because the acid reflux defense was proven irrelevant. And Wilson isn’t right-handed. He’s ambidextrous.”
“And you know as well as I do those ‘airtight’ alibis leak like a flat tire.”
“That’s not how the jury saw it, did they, my friend?” Clyne smiled, his thick gray mustache danced above a chorus line of straight, white teeth. Teeth I wanted to smash into a million pieces all over Victoria’s shiny linoleum.
I tossed a few bucks on the counter and walked toward the door. “See ya in the funny pages.”
About two a.m. I got a call from my source at the sheriff’s office. It was the scoop of the century, served up sweet with whipped cream and a cherry on top. My exclusive story appeared that morning on the front page of the Catterwall:
Tube Sock Killer Strikes Again! Just after midnight on October 13, Kalvin N. Clyne, Attorney at Law, was found dead in his apartment having been strangled with a tube sock. Red-striped Hanes, extra-large with reinforced toe.