Tuesday, May 1, 2012

True Crime

I didn’t know him. Or at least, I don’t think I did. My college was a small one, a few thousand students in a small town, so it’s near certainty that our paths crossed at some point. Especially considering that I worked at the library’s front desk. But if we did, I don’t remember it.

What I do remember is when he died. I came on campus for lunch, and the whole feeling of the place was wrong. I don’t know that I’ve ever really subscribed to the notion of a place having atmosphere, but you could feel it. I’m not sure how, exactly, something in the way people moved, the way they talked. Something was wrong.

What was wrong was that a popular student had been found in a nearby park, shot to death, his body burned. It hit people hard. I’m not sure that if it was the only murder the school had in its century plus history, although my recollection is that it was.

We had enough of the sort of crimes you get in a college town, but not murder. Especially not one as cold blooded as this turned out to be. The murder turned out to be drug related. He was sold marijuana, and one of his regulars and two other men abducted him to get his money.

They got a thousand bucks to split between them. And after they did, one of them placed a shotgun in the dead man’s mouth and pulled the trigger. They had brought a can of gas to burn the body.

It was the first and thank fuck so far only time I’ve been even vaguely near to that sort of crime. It’s not that I didn’t know of people getting killed, growing up. But they were all cases where people got caught up by their emotions and did something stupid. Evil, maybe, but not cold.

This, though, this was different. It was three guys who decided to plan out and kill another person. They might argue that the plan was simply to rob him, but the facts show another story.

And I’ve never really been able to get my head around that. There’s a gap, there, between thinking a terrible thing and doing it. I can certainly think of terrible things; indeed, it’s in my job description, but because I am a relatively normal person, the process of jumping that gap to the real is fascinating, horrible and inexplicable.

I could just about wrap my head around getting so pissed off you grab a gun and shoot someone. But these guys, these guys might as well be aliens. Whether they fit the textbook definition of a sociopath, I couldn’t say. But they’re a different sort of human than most of the rest of us.

I won’t say that the whole thing affected me in any dramatic way. It didn’t. I didn’t know the guy. But I think about it. I remember a girl that I was acquainted with that knew him breaking down in class. And I remember it’s the first time I really thought about the gap, the invisible but infinite distance, that separates us from monsters