Impact, page 1
James C. Dekker
Copyright © 2009 James C. Dekker
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording or by any information storage
and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without
permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Dekker, James C
Impact / written by James C. Dekker.
ISBN 978-1-55143-995-2 (pbk.).--ISBN 978-1-55143-997-6 (bound)
I. Title. II. Series: Orca soundings
PS8607.E4825I46 2009 jC813'.6 C2009-900015-6
Summary: After the brutal murder of their son and brother, family
members read their victim impact statements in court.
First published in the United States, 2009
Library of Congress Control Number: 2008943718
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing
programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada
through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada
Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC
Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design by Teresa Bubela
Cover photography by Getty Images
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VICTORIA, BC CANADA CUSTER, WA USA
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Printed on 100% PCW recycled paper.
12 11 10 09 • 4 3 2 1
“When I was sixteen,” my father says, his voice trembling, “my younger brother died. He was eleven years old. It was an accident. He ran out into the road—he was chasing a ball. He got hit by a car. My parents were devastated. And I remember my mother saying to me that the worst pain in the world is the pain of a parent who has just lost a child.”
My father is a big man. I don’t mean he’s fat. He isn’t. I mean he’s taller than most people, except maybe professional basketball players. He’s strong. He’s tough. At least, that’s what I always thought. But there he is, his head down, looking at the papers in his hand. The papers are filled with words he has written. His voice almost breaks as he reads what is on those papers. He is big, but he looks small and tired and beaten down.
“Now I know what my mother meant,” he says. “I have been living with this knowledge for two years.”
Two years ago, when I was sixteen, my father lost a child. Two years ago, my brother Mark died. He was seventeen—exactly one year, one month and one day older than me.
It happened the first week in October. Mark had a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant. He worked every weekend, but he also had to work until midnight once during the week, every week, even though his manager knew he had school the next day. It happened on one of those nights.
Mark called home before he left the restaurant. I was in my room. I was supposed to be asleep, but I was watching a movie on my computer. I heard the phone. I knew it was Mark. He hated making those calls, but my mother insisted. He called and said he was just leaving, that he was making one stop on the way to pick up a sandwich, and that he would be home in forty-five minutes at the latest. I heard my mother say he didn’t have to buy a sandwich. She would make one for him. For some reason, my mother thought it was a waste of money to buy stuff like sandwiches and burgers, things she could make at home.
An hour later, when my movie was over, I heard my mother go downstairs. I knew right away why. Mark wasn’t home yet. I went down too. I said, “You worry too much, Mom.”
She told me to go back to bed. “It’s a school day tomorrow,” she said. Then she went to the front door, looked out through the little window in it and said, “He should have been home by now.”
“Maybe he missed the bus,” I said. “Maybe he had to wait for the next one.”
The buses don’t run as often late at night as they do during the day.
“If he had to wait for the next bus, then he should be home in fifteen minutes,” my mother said. “Go to bed, Jordan.”
I went upstairs, but I didn’t fall asleep. I lay in bed and waited to hear the front door open.
Fifteen minutes passed.
Half an hour.
I heard my mother come up the stairs and go into her room, which is next to mine. I heard her say to my father, “I’m worried. Mark is late. He’s not answering his phone.”
I heard my father say, “I’m sure he’s fine. Maybe he missed his bus.”
“He should have been home forty-five minutes ago,” my mother said. “He hasn’t called, and I can’t get hold of him.”
A few minutes later I heard my parents go downstairs. I got out of bed and followed them. My father was dressed. He had his car keys in his hand. He looked worried, but when I asked him if everything was okay, he said, “I’m sure it is. But you know your mother. I’m going to go and see if I can find Mark.”
My mother stood at the door and looked out the window the whole time he was gone.
The next part I know only because I heard it told so many times.
My father got in the car and drove along the bus route to the fast-food place where Mark worked. He drove almost all the way to the restaurant.
Three blocks from the restaurant and two blocks from the bus stop, right in front of a nearly empty parking lot, he saw flashing lights. They turned out to be from an ambulance and a couple of police cars. There were a few other cars there too, which turned out to belong to some detectives.
My father said it never occurred to him that all those flashing lights could have anything to do with him. He drove two more blocks to the restaurant, which by then was closed. There was no sign of Mark. So he turned the car around and started to go back the way he had come. This time, he said, he turned his head when he passed all those police cars. He saw now that there was a body in the parking lot. It was covered up, and there was something lying nearby. He couldn’t see who it was or even if it was a man or a woman. He just saw it was a body. He drove right by and kept driving.
He said he was maybe ten blocks away before he suddenly realized what it was that he had seen lying near the body. It was a paper bag from a sandwich place. He said he recognized it because it was the sandwich place that Mark always liked to go to. He said everything moved in slow motion after that, like when you’re having a nightmare and you’re running as fast as you can, but it seems like you’re hardly moving at all and whatever is after you is gaining on you until you know it’s going to catch you. That’s when you scream. That’s when you wake up.
But my father didn’t wake up. He couldn’t. He wasn’t asleep. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t having a nightmare.
He drove back to where he had seen the flashing lights.
He parked the car.
He went up to a uniformed police officer who was guarding the area where the body was, in a body bag now.
He said that as he approached that cop, he thought Mark would have a good laugh if he knew what his old man was about to do. But he did it anyway. He said to the cop, “Excuse me, I’m sorry to bother you. My name is Drew Spencer. My son is late coming home. He works right over there.” He pointed across the street to the fast-food restaurant. “He’s seventeen years old, brown hair, brown eyes. His name is Mark Sp
He said he saw something in the cop’s eyes as soon as he said Mark’s name.
He said the cop told him, “Wait here, please, sir.” The cop went over to a man in a suit and an overcoat. He said something to the man, and the man came over to where my father was waiting.
The man said, “Mr. Spencer? I’m Detective Carlin.” Detective Carlin paused for a second before he added, “Homicide.”
“Mark was my firstborn son,” my father says, reading the words he has written. “He was a good boy and a hard worker. His mother and I were so proud of him.”
But that didn’t stop someone from killing him.
The police said Mark had been beaten to death. My parents saw him afterward, after they took his body away. They saw what had been done to him. I only heard about it.
The way the police pieced it together, it happened something like this:
Mark called my mother almost exactly at midnight to tell her that he was just leaving the fast-food place where he worked. Mark had been on shift with two other people that night—an eighteen-year-old guy who handled all the cooking, and a nineteen-year-old girl who was the shift manager for the night.
The way it was supposed to work, at least two people had to be in the restaurant until the place was locked for the night. The cook left first, at a quarter to twelve, after the last of everything had been cooked and the kitchen cleaned. There were no customers in the place when he left, just Mark and the shift manager.
The shift manager’s boyfriend was waiting for her, so she asked Mark if he would mind locking up, even though it was against company policy for her to leave him there alone. Mark said, “No problem.”
The shift manager said she left at ten minutes to twelve. The police assume—but don’t know for sure—that Mark stayed until midnight. He called my mother, he locked up the place and he walked two blocks to the sandwich shop, where the lone employee remembered him coming in and ordering a sandwich to go. The sandwich shop employee said he thinks Mark came into the place at six or seven minutes past midnight and left four or five minutes later. He said he didn’t remember seeing anyone else on the street outside the sandwich shop. He remembered a couple of taxis going by, but that’s it.
At twelve twenty or thereabouts, a taxi drove past the parking lot where Mark was found. The driver said he saw people in the parking lot. He thought there were maybe four or five of them and they were all guys, but he wasn’t sure. He said it looked like one of the people was acting “in a menacing fashion.” But he said he couldn’t stop because he was on his way to pick up a fare.
Around twelve thirty, a pizza delivery guy stopped across the street from the parking lot and rang the buzzer of an apartment that was located above a video store opposite the parking lot. He was buzzed in, went up, delivered the pizza, collected what he was owed, plus a tip, and went back down to the street again. He said he was just getting into his car when he heard what sounded like a groan. He said it was coming from the parking lot across the street. He went to investigate. He said he saw people in the parking lot, but he couldn’t make them out clearly at first. He heard the groan again, and he called out, “Is everything okay over there?”
Right away, he said, the people ran. He said he was sure there were four of them. He said three of them ran right under a streetlight and he got a pretty good look at them. He said that seeing them run like that made him think that something was wrong, so he went into the parking lot to take a look. That’s when he found out where the groaning was coming from—from a young man who was bleeding and who looked like he had been badly beaten.
The pizza delivery guy used his cell phone to call 9-1-1. He said he tried to help the young man, but he didn’t know what to do. He said the young man said one word to him: Tony. He said by the time anyone showed up, it looked to him like the young man had stopped breathing.
The young man was Mark.
The police asked my parents if they knew anyone named Tony. They didn’t.
They asked me the same question. I went cold all over. I said they should talk to Shannon.
“Who’s Shannon?” the cops said.
“She’s a girl Mark was seeing. I heard someone say she used to go with a guy named Tony.”
The police talked to Shannon next. Shannon went to the same school as Mark and me, which is how I know what happened when the police talked to her. All the girls at school were talking about it after it happened.
The police asked Shannon if she knew anyone named Tony. One of the girls at my school said that Shannon’s face went white when they asked her that. She told the police that her ex-boyfriend’s name was Tony. Tony Lofredo. He didn’t go to our school. In fact, Shannon said, she had transferred to our school after she broke up with Tony. She told the police that Tony was the jealous type and that he wouldn’t leave her alone. That’s why she had changed schools. She described Tony to the police, and her description matched the description of one of the people that the pizza delivery guy had seen running out of the parking lot.
When my father heard that, I think he thought it would all go pretty fast. He thought the police would arrest Tony, and Tony would tell them who else had been with him. Then they’d go to court and that would be that.
Of course, it didn’t happen that way. And it sure didn’t happen fast.
“People thought highly of Mark,” my father says, standing up there in front of everyone, his hands trembling now as he continues to read without looking up. “His teachers liked him. His boss where he worked and his coworkers all liked him. The church was full for his funeral.”
The church was full for Mark’s funeral. All my relatives were there. Our neighbors were there, even the Mercers and their son Kyle, who lived two doors up from us. Kyle looked down at the ground most of the time.
All Mark’s friends were there. So were his coworkers. Shannon was there, even though she had only gone out with Mark a couple of times. There were a whole bunch of girls with her, pressing in close to her, like if they didn’t, she would fall over from grief. She cried a lot for someone who didn’t know Mark all that well.
My mother cried through the whole service too. My father sat beside her, holding her hand and looking straight ahead. He didn’t cry, but I bet he wanted to. I know I did.
After the funeral, everything was a blur for a while. My parents were a mess. My mother could hardly get up off the couch, but the house was filled with food. People kept bringing over casseroles and salads and pies. The house was full of crying too. Some days I’d get home from school and there would be my mother, crying in the kitchen, one of her friends with her, handing her tissue after tissue and listening to her weep.
My father talked to the police a lot. One time I heard him yelling into the phone that they knew it was this boy Tony, why didn’t they just go ahead and arrest him? I guess he didn’t like whatever the answer was because he slammed down the receiver and stormed out of the house. I don’t know when he came back, but it was long after I’d gone to bed. I found him sprawled on the couch the next morning. My mother called the plant and told them that my father wouldn’t be in to work that day.
My mother cried all day, but my father mostly went to work, and I went to school. It was the last place I wanted to be, but I went anyway. I thought at first that it would be better than being at home and listening to my mother cry all the time. But it wasn’t. I have some good friends. They tried to do the right thing. They showed up to the funeral. They said they were sorry about what had happened to Mark. They said I must really miss him. But after the first couple of days, well, it wasn’t their brother. If they thought about it, they could kind of imagine what I fellike. But they didn’t think about it, not every minute of every day like I did. Why should they? They for sure didn’t find themselves slamming their fist into a wall like I did a couple of times. They didn’t all of a sudden start to cry in the middle of a basketball game like I did. Mark was
One day when I got home after school, my father was getting out of the car in the driveway. Right away I knew something was up. My father was on the day shift that week. He didn’t usually get home until at least a half hour after I did. But here he was, thirty minutes ahead of schedule, getting out of the car.
“Did you get off early?” I said.
“Something like that,” he said. But I could tell by the look on his face that it wasn’t anything like that at all.
I followed him into the house. He went straight through to the kitchen without taking off his work boots. That was another clue that something was going on. My father always took his boots off at the door. My mother insisted on it.
My mother was in the kitchen. I think she’d gone in there to start supper, but she wasn’t cooking. She was standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window into the backyard. She didn’t seem to notice when my father and I came into the kitchen. She didn’t turn around until my father went to her and put his hands on her shoulders and turned her around. Neither of us was surprised when we saw how red her eyes were and how wet her cheeks were.
My mother stared blankly at him. It was hard to tell if she understood what he was saying.
“I talked to that police detective today,” my father said quietly. “They’ve made some arrests, Sara. They’ve arrested four boys for what happened to Mark.”
I felt my whole body tense up.
“Was one of them Tony Lofredo?” I asked.
My father nodded. “Tony Lofredo and two of his friends.”