The Evil Inside
“And not because he was caught?” Sam asked.
“No.” She hesitated. “Though, even if he had committed the murders, the realization of his family’s deaths would be wrenchingly painful.”
Sam nodded, and seemed to accept her reply, especially with the caveat. She knew that he wasn’t convinced yet—no matter Jamie’s passion. To press forward as if she were positive as well might alienate him, and she wanted them all playing on the same side. She wasn’t Jamie. She hadn’t treated Malachi, and she didn’t know him.
But she did step forward and put a hand on Malachi’s trembling shoulder. “My uncle is right, Malachi. We’re here to help you. But we need you to try very hard and tell us exactly what happened.”
The boy’s thin frame still clung to her uncle.
“Malachi, we need you to help us,” Jenna persisted.
Finally he nodded against Jamie’s shoulder and turned to look at her. He seemed like such a little kid. She tried a gentle smile and eased his hair from his forehead. He smelled of antiseptic soap and was dressed in an orange-beige pajamalike suit that resembled scrubs.
Jail attire, of course. This was a hospital division, but it was jail, nonetheless.
“Can it help?” Malachi asked quietly. “You know that, in the eyes of others, I am already condemned.”
“Please, come, sit down on the bed, and we’ll go through it all,” Sam said. “You know that I’m going to defend you. And, remember, I’m your lawyer, so anything you say to me is confidential. If there is something that you want to say to me that should be kept confidential, I must speak with you alone. Now, Jamie doesn’t believe that you killed your family, Malachi. And if that’s true, and you want to tell us what happened, you can feel free to speak with us all here. Just remember, and this is important—I can’t repeat anything. Since Jamie isn’t officially your doctor right now, he could be compelled to repeat what you’ve said, and Jenna is Jamie’s niece, and an…investigator. So if you don’t wish to speak in front of them—”
“I didn’t do it,” Malachi blurted, drawing away from Jamie at last. His face was still tearstained, but he continued to speak earnestly and passionately. “I would never hurt them, never! I would never hurt anyone. I believe in God, and his only son, Jesus Christ—and He taught that all men should be peaceful, and seek to help their brothers. So help me, before God! I didn’t do it.”
As he spoke, his words so desperate and earnest, it seemed that a ray of sun burst through the barred windows.
The room was cast into an almost unearthly glow.
Then the glow faded, and Jenna wondered if it had just been the sun passing in front of an autumn cloud.
Malachi hung his head and repeated, “I didn’t do it.” He looked up, straight into Jenna’s eyes, and said, “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not kill.”
“Malachi, do you remember me as the man who found you in the road?” Sam asked.
The boy reddened and shook his head.
“Let’s sit down now and relax,” Jamie said, leading Malachi to the bed. He sat the youth and smiled, then took the first chair, leaving the second and closest chair, for Sam. Jenna sat on the third.
“First, are you doing all right in here?” Sam asked pleasantly.
Malachi nodded and shrugged. “I know how to be alone,” he said softly.
Compassion filled Jenna at these words. She saw a child who lived such a strict and unusual life that he saw visions of Dante’s hell at home and was shunned by other children wherever he went.
“Good, good, I think this is the best place for you right now,” Sam told him. “Now, Malachi, what I need you to do is really try to relax—and I know how ridiculous that sounds. But I need you to go back and try very hard to remember everything that happened the evening when I found you on the road.”
“I found them,” he said. “I found them.” He started to tremble again; tears welled into his eyes. “My mother…”
Jenna didn’t remember getting up but she found herself crouching next to him and placing an arm around his shoulders. “It’s all right,” she said. “Malachi, it’s all right to cry. You loved them. You loved your mother very much, and she’s gone. It’s natural that you’d cry.”
He nodded and leaned against her shoulder.
Sam waited patiently for a few minutes, and then pressed on.
“Malachi, it’s important that we know where you were when it all happened. You weren’t home—or were you? Were you hiding somewhere in the house?”
Malachi stared across the room, his slender face crinkling into a frown of concentration. He shook his head thoughtfully, and was silent so long that Jenna thought he wouldn’t answer.
“I went to the cliff—the little cliff at the end of the road. It isn’t a real park, but the kids go there all the time. It’s like a park. Some of the kids just run around with Frisbees or soccer balls, and some of them go there to…” He broke off, embarrassed, and glanced at Jenna awkwardly. “You know. They go there to fool around.”
She smiled at him and patted his hand. “Why do you go there, Malachi?”
“I like the sea,” he said. “It’s up from the wharf, and you can be alone with the wind and sea and the waves crash against the rocks there. Right at the peak, you can always feel the breeze, and it feels so good. It’s like it whips through you, and it makes you all clean. Sometimes, I just sit and look out on the water. And I try to imagine what it would have been like, years ago, when the great sailing ships went to sea, and the whalers and the fishermen went out.”
Every kid needed a place to dream.
She smiled at him. “Do you go there a lot?”
He nodded. He lifted his shoulders, and they fell again. “I have no friends,” he said. “It’s okay. I know that my family was different.” His family was different. In a city that made half its tourist dollars through the rather unorthodox belief in the Wiccan religion. Did people believe? Or did tourists just enjoy the edge of it all—tarot cards were fun, just as it was fun and spooky to head to Gallows Hill and wonder if the spirits of the dead rose in tearful reproach or if they indeed rose to dance with the devil. But the Smiths believed in something. Not that, but something. And with belief being so cheap, in a way, that could mark them as outcasts right off.
“Am I right to say that your family had very strict religious beliefs, Malachi? Almost like the Puritan fathers?” Sam said.
Jenna looked at him, surprised that his thoughts were running vaguely similar to her own.
Again, his face reddened. He nodded, looking down. “Father said that all the Wiccans were the same, that it was all hogwash, that there is no devil in the Wiccan belief. I don’t think he really hated anyone, though. But there really was a devil—he was the horned God. People just wouldn’t say that he was the devil. My father didn’t want to hurt anyone—it isn’t our place to judge on earth. He just said that they were all going to hell.”
“Tell me what you believe, Malachi,” Sam said.
“I believe in what Jesus said. That we should love our fellow man—never hurt him.” Malachi paused a minute. “Actually, I kind of like what the witches say. You know, that they would never hurt anyone, because whatever harm is done to another comes back on us threefold. I mean, I don’t believe that there’s a count—that doing a bad thing to another human being means that three bad things will happen. But I do believe in a great power, and that we answer to that power—to God, through Christ His son—when we depart this world. And I think He will ask me if I was good to those around me, and I will say, ‘Father, I tried my hardest. I’m sure that I’ve sinned, but I have tried to be a good person.’”
There was something so earnest about his words. They weren’t like the rhetoric of many a televangelist. They were heartfelt and sincere.
He could be a fanatic, she told herself. And fanatics, no matter what their religion or calling, could be dangerous. Yes, kill in the name of God!
But it just didn’t seem that he saw killing as one of his God’s commandments.
“I do see it all a bit differently than my father did,” Malachi added, and then tears welled in his eyes again. “He believed—he may have been mistaken sometimes, but he believed. He must be in Heaven now.”
“Of course he is,” Jenna murmured. Sam stared at her. She stared back at him. It had been the right thing to say, and she knew it. It didn’t matter if the man’s beliefs had warped his ability to be a decent father.
“Tell me what happened after you were on the cliff,” Sam said.
“I—I came home,” Malachi said. Jenna, sitting next to him, could feel him. He was trembling again, reliving the horror.
“And exactly what did you do?” Sam asked. His voice was smooth, easy. He wasn’t attacking; he was asking.
“I walked into the parlor,” he said, his voice so soft they could barely hear him. “My—my mother… She was by the hearth…. She—she was on the floor. I ran to her… I fell down on my knees. I saw…the blood, but I couldn’t believe that she was dead. I held her—and the blood was all over me. And I couldn’t bear the feel of it… I tried to get it off of me. I stood up and—and then I saw my father, over by the sofa… I started screaming. I raced up the stairs and found my uncle in one bedroom, and my grandmother…my grandmother, oh, God!” He cried out the last and buried his face in his hands, sobbing and wailing.
Jenna pulled him closer, murmuring soothing words. She stared at Sam as she felt Malachi’s body shudder against her own.
“Do you remember anything after?” Sam asked him. “Do you remember me?”
It took a long time for Malachi to answer.
“I remember Detective Alden telling me that I was under arrest, that I had killed my parents,” Malachi said dully. “I didn’t kill them. I’m not crazy, and I didn’t kill them. I loved them. My parents, my grandmother…my uncle. I loved them. I didn’t always agree with them. But they loved me, and I loved them.”