5 comments

Submitted on 04/12/2020

Categories: Mystery

Iris Hardwell (Mother of Alex Hardwell) 

“You know, you’re not the first person to ask that question. Everyone wants to know. Everyone wants to know if I knew my son was a killer. Well, I’ll tell you just like I told all of them - fuck you. Fuck you for ever thinking that. My son was an angel. Ask anyone. They’ll tell you the same. Did I see this coming? What mother looks at her son and imagines he could ever be capable of something like this?” 


Denise Radley (Alex’s Homeroom Teacher)

“I knew something was… off about Alex. He didn’t play well with others, you know? He was kind of creepy. The other kids were standoffish towards him. I tried. I mean, as hard as a teacher can. We can only do so much.”


Greg McKinney (Alex’s classmate)

“I picked on him a lot. We all did it. He kind-of asked for it sometimes. He was just weird. I think he liked the attention. He tried to be weird, so we would have a reason. I faked sick the day it happened. I wasn’t there.” 


Brent Hardwell (Father of Alex Hardwell)

“He was my son. I loved him, sure. Everyone loves their kid. But don’t think I didn’t notice. He was different. Nothing wrong with that. But, I tried to get Iris to have him checked out. Make sure he was all there. She wouldn’t do it. Said I was just as bad as those kids at school. Said I was picking on him.” 


Martha Garrett (Attended church with the Hardwells)

“I was his Sunday School teacher until they stopped coming. Alex was a sweet boy. He had those big, blue eyes that just melted your heart. But, there was something behind them. I don’t think he was ever really happy. You can see it when you look at someone, no matter how old they are. I looked at him and I thought, ‘This boy will never be happy.’ He was born with a dark cloud, that one.” 


Diana Hardwell (Aunt of Alex Hardwell)

“I told Brent all the time. I said, ‘Your kid isn’t right.’ I blame Iris. Brent wanted to get the boy help. He tried to socialize him, made him join teams and stuff. But Iris always stepped in for her ‘baby boy.’ She thought that kid hung the moon. I knew something like this was going to happen.” 


Iris 

“Brent’s sister, Diana, never liked him. We would ask her to babysit when he was younger, and she would always have an excuse. She didn’t like him. Who acts that way towards a child? That’s what he was - a goddamn child. And she acted like he had something contagious.” 


Greg

“One time, probably a month or so before it happened, Alex was in the bathroom. I don’t know why we did it, but we ganged up on him. I think it was Lee’s idea. Anyway, we jumped him. Got him pretty good, too. We just kept throwing punches. He didn’t even fight back, that’s the thing. It was like he wanted us to do it.” 


Emily Barnett (Alex’s classmate)

“He used to write me these notes and leave them in my locker. They weren’t creepy or anything. They were kind of nice. But, still. He wouldn’t talk to me. I would wave at him in the hallway, and he’d just turn his head in the other direction. I never understood that. When it happened that morning, I saw him and I tried to get his attention. He looked right at me and smiled.” 


Brent

“Do I feel guilty? Of course not. I didn’t do it. If you have to point the finger somewhere, point it at Iris. When we got divorced, Alex was barely three. She did her damndest to keep him away from me. If I had been there... this wouldn’t have happened. I would have made sure of it.” 


Denise 

“Alex’s mom, Iris - I went to school with her. She didn’t have a good reputation. Most of the girls couldn’t stand her, honestly. When she and Brent got together, we were all surprised. He was a nice boy with a good family. None of us could understand how he got mixed up with her. I think he only married her because she got pregnant. Right after graduation, too. I don’t know. It all just seemed planned.” 


Iris 

“All the girls in school were so jealous when I got with Brent. They thought he was God’s gift to women. I thought he was, too. They’re always sweet at first, you know? But, then I got to know him. I saw what was under that handsome face. When I found out about the pregnancy, I didn’t know what to do. I begged my mom to let me get an abortion. I was seventeen. She refused. So, when he proposed, I didn’t have a choice. I had to say yes.” 


Martha 

“After the divorce, Iris kept coming to church, and she brought Alex with her. We all saw it coming. Getting married young like that - it rarely ever works out. Brent was a handsome man. He had his pick. Iris clung to Alex after that. He was the only piece of Brent she could have.” 


Leslie Johnston (School counselor at Riverbend High School)

“Oh yeah, Alex was referred to me loads of times. He got into fights a lot. His classmates couldn’t stand him. I felt bad for him. High school is hard, but it’s harder for kids like him - the outsiders. When we talked, he didn’t seem bothered by it, though. He seemed comfortable with himself. Way more so than most sophomores. He liked his music, he liked Art class, and he liked the way he dressed. Most kids his age second-guess everything.”


Diana

“You know, now that you mention it, they had a dog. Not for long. It ‘disappeared’ if you know what I mean. Brent thought Alex got ahold of it.” 


Iris 

“I’ve read all about this stuff since it happened. I even found an online support group for mothers like myself… you know, the ones whose kid did something bad. Alex didn’t show any of those signs. He might’ve been different, but he wasn’t ever cruel or anything.”


Brent

“Oh, I guess he was about five or six, just right after he started school. And the puppy had been around for a bit. It was a stray that wandered up, and Iris wouldn’t stop feeding it. Anyway, I volunteered to take him that morning, and I didn’t see the puppy. So I asked Alex. He didn’t admit to doing anything, but there was just something about him, some kind of feeling I got when he was talking, that didn’t sit right. I went back and found the dog behind the shed. Throat slit. I buried it while he was at school. I didn’t tell Iris.” 


Denise 

“Now, don’t quote me on this. But there was a rumor back when Alex was young that Iris breastfed him until he was four. Can you imagine? Four-years-old?”


Emily 

“Greg and his friends were pretty hard on Alex. Greg and I dated. Just really casual. But he would talk about it sometimes. I didn’t tell him about the notes, of course. I mean, they were innocent. I don’t even think it was a crush. I just think Alex needed to be kind to someone.” 


Ruth Maybury (Town Local)

“Oh yeah. Alex was a weird kid alright. But you can’t blame him. Little boys look up to their mothers. And Iris was a real piece of work. She more than loved him. I heard she started hittin’ the bottle pretty hard after Brent left. She was never going to find another man like him. He did the right thing by her, but you can only do the right thing for so long.” 


Martha 

“There was one Sunday, I caught Alex in the back. He had one of those dirty magazines. He must’ve been about ten or eleven. I jerked it away from him and showed his mom after church. Iris wasn’t even upset. ‘Boys will be boys,’ she said. I told her I would appreciate it if she didn’t let him bring smut to church. They stopped coming after that.” 


Greg 

“I told my mom I had a stomach ache that day, so she let me stay home. I was flipping through channels when I saw it on the news. The school was on lockdown. They said three kids were dead because someone had brought in a gun. I knew it was Alex.” 


Leslie

“No, I never saw any kind of a ‘hit-list.’ I know that’s what everyone was saying, but nothing like that was ever brought to my attention. If it had, I would have stepped in.” 


Iris

“I’ve heard it all. No, I didn’t breastfeed my son until he was four. I’m not an alcoholic. People will say anything. They just want it all to make sense. But it doesn’t.” 


Brent 

“Drinking problem? That’s putting it mildly. Iris drank like a fish after the divorce. I’d show up to get Alex, and she’d be passed out on the couch with a bottle in her hand. I wanted to fight her for custody, but they never side with the father. So, I just tried to be around as much as possible. She made it difficult. That’s for sure.” 


Ruth 

“Spite changes a woman, and Iris was spiteful as they come. When Brent left, she did everything she could to keep that boy away from him. She lied. Told everyone Brent was hitting Alex. She wanted sympathy, but there’s not a lot of sympathy to give to people like her.” 


Denise 

“We all knew Brent was having an affair. He didn’t do much to hide it. Iris was pretty, but there were far prettier women in town. I personally don’t even believe he was Alex’s real father. I think he just wanted to do the right thing.” 


Emily 

“I wasn’t in his homeroom. But we all heard the shots. Our teacher, Mr. Bradley, told us all to take cover. It was scary. Gunshots sound different in person. You hear them in movies, but in real life they’re just different. Almost fake.” 


Diana 

“Brent never cheated on Iris. He’s a stand-up guy. The day he came home and told us she was pregnant, I thought our mom was going to faint. Our dad decided right then and there that they were going to get married.” 


Martha 

“Well, I tried to check-in on them. Just because they stopped coming to church doesn’t mean I stopped caring. I showed up one day to bring them some bread I had made, and Alex was in the backyard. I waved to him, but he didn’t turn around. So I walked over to see what he was doing. He had something all over his hands. It was shit. I don’t know if it was his shit or dog shit, but it was all over his hands. He was using it to draw with. I put the bread on the front porch and left.” 


Iris 

“Brent was mean. He had everyone fooled. He could’ve charmed the spikes off a cactus. But I lived with him. I knew him inside and out, and that man was hateful. He resented me for getting pregnant. Like it was my choice. Like I wanted it.” 


Greg

“Two of the kids he killed were in our group. They were with me when we beat him up.” 


Leslie 

“I saw Iris in town a lot. Alex didn’t talk about her much, but I knew her by reputation. We were at the grocery store one night, and I decided to strike up a conversation. She was a strange woman. Alex hid behind her, like little kids do. She was his shield.” 


Ruth 

“Brent and I struck up a really good friendship after the divorce. He just needed someone. After all those years with Iris, who wouldn’t? I tried to be there as much as I could after it happened, but seeing your son do something like that… it changes you.” 


Denise

“Alex had to turn in a project for our creativity-week assignment. All the students were supposed to make something ‘creative.’ Most of them drew something or wrote a little poem or made something simple. It was supposed to be fun. Alex turned in a picture of a house on fire. I made him redo the assignment.”


Emily 

“Alex liked to draw. Greg and his friends took his sketchbook one day. The pictures were a little dark. I couldn’t look at them.” 


Iris 

“I never tried to keep Brent away from Alex. But, I wasn’t going to let him bully him either. That was his son. Alex always came back from his house complaining about how mean his dad was. He was practically in tears. I saw a few bruises. I knew what was going on. I couldn’t let his own father treat him that way.” 


Diana 

“Iris was always the victim. No one in our family liked her. She would show up for holidays, and we all dreaded it. When Alex was a baby, he was cute. But as he got older, we dreaded having him around too. I don’t think our parents ever kept him. When they found out what happened, they weren’t surprised.” 


Greg

“Do I think I would’ve been shot? Probably.” 


Brent

“Yeah. It was my gun. I don’t know how he got it. I keep ‘em locked up. He must’ve found the key. The real question is - why didn’t Iris notice he had it?” 


Ruth 

“No, it was never sexual. We were just friends.”


Denise 

“Ruth and Brent were definitely an item. Like I said, he didn’t hide his affair. Ruth pounced on him at the first sign of trouble. It didn’t last though. Not after this.” 


Martha 

“No, I haven’t tried to reach out since all this happened. Iris doesn’t want friends. She doesn’t know how to receive kindness.”


Iris

“Everyone just wants information. Some reporter offered to pay me to have a peek inside his room. No one is just being friendly anymore. They just want the inside scoop. Well here it is - what my son did was just a mistake caused by people like them, and the children they made in their image. The truth is right there - they just can’t handle it.”


Emily

“I didn’t see it coming. I know everyone says they did. But Alex was always nice to me. When I found out it was him, I got a little sick. All those people who bullied him. He had a hard life.” 


Leslie

“In situations like this, I don’t think speculation solves anything. Were there interventions that could have been made? I’m sure. But it doesn’t matter now. Three kids lost their lives. I think we should focus on that.” 


Greg

“A lot of people think I faked being sick that day because I knew what was going to happen. It’s not true. But people keep saying it. I’ve lost friends over it. I didn’t. I had no idea. He was just the weird kid we messed with. Stuff like this… you hear about it, but you don’t think anyone you know could really do it.”


Brent

“Just between us - off the record - I’m glad the police shot him. I don’t know if I could face him after all this. There’s nothing he could’ve said that would have made this right. Now, I can mourn him, but I don’t have to forgive him.” 


Ruth

“Brent was shattered. The worst part is - he never got the chance to talk to him afterwards. I know that’s all he really wanted. Just a little clarity.” 


Diana 

“I say good riddance. He got what he deserved. He stopped being a child the moment he grabbed that gun. He knew what he was doing. He killed those kids.” 


Iris

“Can you believe they shot him? He had his hands up. He was surrendering. And they just… I can’t… He was just a little boy. How do you shoot a little boy?” 


Denise

“If the police hadn’t done it, someone would have.” 


Greg

“I regret it. I don’t know if we pushed him over the edge, but we didn’t help.” 


Emily

“Yeah, I kept all the notes. I still read through them. I think everyone wants to be remembered as their best self. What he did was awful, but there was a reason. People aren’t born like that. I just want to remember the good he had in him.” 


Iris

“You do your best. Every parent tries to do their best. If they don’t, then they’re shitty parents. I loved him. I still do. Alex was my rock. I would’ve done anything to protect him from the evil in the world. Did I smother him? Maybe. But, only because I know what’s out there - the people. The bad. The ugly. I just wanted to keep him away from all of that. I know people look at me. I hear what they say. But, I know I did my best. That’s all the comfort I need.” 


Brent

“He was my son. A real man looks at the mistakes of his children as his own. I failed. Three kids are dead, and that’s something I have to live with. He doesn’t, but I do. And that’s parenthood. Your kids get to wipe their mistakes off their hands, and you’re the towel they use.”










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5 comments

16:18 Aug 09, 2020

😁😁😁

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Ashley Strain
01:38 Jul 19, 2020

This is incredibly well done. I love the characters you chose to get every angle of the situation. It was also easy to follow.

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Abby Morris
00:04 Apr 23, 2020

Wow! Interesting perspective!

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Khadija S.
07:47 Apr 21, 2020

Very sad, but nicely written.

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Joey Carroll
21:42 Apr 19, 2020

Tragic, somber story that is all too real in many communities. Well versed and presented.

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