Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What the Detective Said

Message from C. two days ago, coming through hotmail. She and the boys took the ferry to Nantucket at the end of last week. They’re staying with a friend she used to nanny for ten years earlier, an extremely nice woman who now probably rightly thinks that I’m a total monster.

The syntax of C’s message was brief, without salutation, and absolutely void of any emotion, a simple factual report of where they were staying and who with. Of course I emailed back to apologize—I don’t think either one of us is ready to talk on the phone. Plus I have no idea what I’d say, how I’d even begin. Just thinking about it makes my mouth feel like a kitchen sponge. Nothing like what happened last week has ever happened to me before. It’s taken me this long just to write these words, and it’s all I can do not to delete them again.

Meanwhile, I’m here in Ashford.

My editor at U of C actually sprang for a rental car when I told her what I’ve uncovered…more on that below…

Unlike some of the other towns along the route, Ashford is actually a town. They’ve got local businesses, a civic center and a police station. I went in there yesterday and ended up in conversation with a local detective, a man who’s lived here most of his adult life. He’s asked me not to use his name here, so I won’t. It’s the very least I can do considering what he’s told me since then.

I asked him about Isaac Hamilton, and he asked me why I wanted to know. I explained about the book I was writing -- or trying to write. I showed him some of the pictures I’d found of Hamilton and his supposed victims, and the house Jay and Amy checked out with me. After what felt like a very long time, the detective asked if I’ve ever heard of someone called The Engineer.

Apparently, one summer back in the early 1980s, children began disappearing around here again—throughout these same seven towns. It began June 12, 1983, the detective said, in White’s Cove, and ended with the disappearance of the last child on August 22nd, in Gray Haven. All the victims were twelve years old and younger. When the story went national, the press started calling the perpetrator The Engineer, based on an eyewitness description of a man in bib overalls, a handkerchief and an Engineer’s cap.

It was only a matter of time until the nature of the man’s crimes, and his choice of killing grounds, lead to an inevitable comparison to the ur-boogeyman himself, Isaac Hamilton. Copycat killings with that kind of historical pedigree are like ripping off Jack the Ripper, or H.H. Holmes, who murdered an untold number of young women at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

Except the Engineer was never caught.

The conversation with my detective ended somewhat abruptly—he had to go back to work, he said—but he told me he’d try to find time to continue our conversation. Meanwhile, I’ve been pounding the crap out of my search engine digging up everything I could about the Engineer killings of 1983. When I got on the phone with my U of C editor, she made a noise like a kettle about ready to blow. This was, apparently, exactly the sort of “modern-day” corollary to the Hamilton murders that might put the project back on track, even in the mainstream press. That seems a little overly optimistic to me, but she felt strongly enough about it to rent me a car and extend my expense account to check it out in greater detail.

Something about the detective makes me feel like there’s more to it. I’m sure it’s a dark piece of fairly recent history that nobody’s proud of, but with this detective, it feels…I don’t know, personal somehow. He claims he worked on the case, and even that doesn’t seem like quite sufficient an explanation.

I’ll post again when I get more info on the Engineer. Love to find the connection between him and you-know-who.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I’m fucking drunk. Not happy drunk, either, Mel fuckign Gibson drunk. C. left about two hours ago and took the kids with her, eveyrbody crying and screaming. She took the car and left me here in the motel room with the laptop and three bottles of cabernet that we picked up in Worcester last week. I’m most of the way through the htird bottle now. It’s expnesive stuff and can’t taste it anymore but it doesn’t matter. Ipunched the wall with my bare fist and now it hurts like hell.

Last night we finally drove through Stoneview. Nothing there to see. It was a husk of a town, empty buildings with no glass in the windows, a dead gas station, vacant houses. There’s a statue of Isaac Hamilton in the middle of what’s left of the townsquare, both his arms are chopped off. Soembody painted something across the bottom of the satiue, it says your too late

Okay. Wait.

I just got up and splashed cold water on my face. That’s better. At least the water’s cold. The air conditioning is turned all the way up too. I’m still hot. My hand hurts like crazy. It’s starting to throb. Every few minutes I’m dropping it in the ice bucket until it starts to get numb. It actually helps.

It’s been almost a week since my editor emailed and said she’s having second thoughts about this project, all kinds of them.. I managed to finally delete the last two entries but she said already her boss is thinking this isn’t where she wants to go. They want some kind of explanation for the stuff I’m posting on this site, especially the photos that showed up last week. I said well it seems obvius to me it seems like is somebody’s hacking this site. All you have to do is log in under my name and password I said and that’s nos o hard, is it, you can put those pitchers anywaher you want, litle pitchers have big ears I said. ha

God drunk I’m damn. Wow. Probably too far gone to finish this. Maybe in the mroning but I’ll be too hungover. I just wanted to ptype this part up before I got to bed. It wasn’t the wall I punched. C. left when she took the kids she sayd this isn’t what we talked about. The kdis are having nightmares now every single ngith she siad. Yougot those fucking pitchers everywhere and they have them in there dreems of those dead childen. I said jesus christ, you have to undermine me on everythign, I got mad. Called her a lier. She said fuck you, Jeff, It’s not just the kids anymore I’m acared too. It wasn’t the wall. Since we got here last week I’m scared all the time she said. I said your’ exaaggerating again she said no I’m not I’m fucking terrified she said I’m scared of you