Scarlett started flipping through the album when she took a long pause. She looked up at her mother and pointed to a picture of a man. “Is that him?” she asked.
Her mother’s face turned from calm to an immediate nervousness. She almost didn’t want to acknowledge the picture.
“That’s him.” She finally responded with a haunted tone.
Her mother couldn’t tolerate to be in the same room while that picture was present, so she scurried off into the kitchen. “I have to start getting dinner ready.”
Scarlett did not look up, she was too fixated on the picture of the man who had contributed to her existence. He had green eyes just like Scarlett and although the picture was faded and distorted, she could tell by the freckles on his face that he was the reason for her ginger-colored hair.
This was the man whom she could’ve someday called father. This was also the man whose name was not allowed to be spoken in her household, not that she could ever break such a rule considering that her mother seemed to be the only one who knew his name. Her mother spent Scarlett’s entire life dedicated to ensuring she never learned his name.
He looked like a Fred, but he easily could’ve been a David or a Mathew.
Scarlett picked Mathew because it sounded gentle and welcoming. She wanted to imagine her father had some type of humanistic trait in him because according to her mother, he was far from it.
In the photo, he had a crooked smile as he was looking down at Scarlett only a year old sitting in her highchair. She had little swirls of red hair on her head coming in, and her big green eyes mirrored Mathew’s. She was smiling with spaghetti sauce as red as her hair all over her mouth and naked chest. The bowl was on the floor from where she had tipped it over the tray on her highchair and Mathew was laughing at Scarlett with the spoon still in his hand. He looked human to her. They looked happy together. She even thought that her mother who was capturing the moment at the time was also happy.
Part of Scarlett had wished she could remember the memory, but she knew that it was for the best that she didn’t. She flipped the photo over to find it dated October 5th 1975, with her mother’s handwriting: Scarlett and Christopher at lunch time.
It was December 22nd, 1976 when Scarlett’s mother received the most unimaginable news. There was a man dressed in black slacks and a long black peacoat over his grey collared shirt. He knocked and then spoke through the door. “Mrs. Callaway? This is detective Miles, I’d like to speak with you.”
Detective? Her heartbeat began to quicken its pace. A series of questions filtered through her mind. What on earth was a detective doing requesting to speak with her in the middle of the day? Did that pesky old Mrs. Collins call social services on her and her husband again? She had no idea what to expect.
She opened the door looking at the detective and the street behind him then focused her eyes back at him.
“Mrs. Callaway?” the detective repeated.
She nodded. “This is Josephine Callaway. How can I help you detective?”
“Mrs. Callaway, I have something I need to share with you. May I come in?”
“My baby is asleep-”
“It’s crucial you hear what I have to say.” He interrupted.
Without a further exchange of words, she moved to one side and let him in.
She led him into the common area so that she could keep an ear out for Scarlett who was in the living room napping inside her playpen.
They sat down across from each other on a set of brown leather couches. “Can I get you something to drink detective?”
“I’m alright.” He responded. He sounded rugged and kept gripping at his chin.
“Mrs. Callaway,” he started “are you up to date with the news?”
The news? Josephine looked at detective Miles puzzled.
“I suppose,” she replied, still unsure of why that was relevant to her.
“Then I am sure you are well aware of the several young women that have been missing for the last year.”
Josephine was now really confused. She had heard of the women he was talking about. In fact, one of them, Jane Carmichael lived a few blocks down. Poor girl had been missing all summer. Josephine remembered sending her family a dish of green bean casserole a few weeks after she was declared missing.
“I’m aware detective. What does that have to do with why you’re here?”
“We found them Mrs. Callaway.”
“That’s wonderful!” she said sounding relieved.
Detective Miles was not celebrating with her. “We found their bodies, Mrs. Callaway. Including the one of your neighbor, Jane.”
Josephine’s smile dropped. “Their bodies? Meaning?”
“Yes, Mrs. Callaway. All four women were found dead. We were able to identify them this morning.”
Josephine’s stomach churned in knots. She lived in a small town, so to picture those poor girls found lifeless somewhere made her fear for Scarlett. She couldn’t understand what would drive someone to hurt others, especially in her quiet little town.
Josephine couldn’t help but still wonder how any of this led to a detective seeking to speak with her. Perhaps there was a target against young women on the rise and he would soon discuss the option of a witness protection program so that Scarlett could grow up in a safe community. She was willing to be open to anything that would keep her daughter safe.
“The bodies were found in an abandoned house underneath the basement along with some tools that to belong to your husband.” He paused. “Evidence shows he used them to dismember the bodies.”
The seconds appeared to have gone by in slow motion. Her husband? How? This had to have been some sort of mistake.
Before she could get a word in, detective Miles continued with his story.
“Josephine,” his voiced echoed “the DNA samples that we found matched with your husbands. We have placed him under arrest.”
Josephine’s breathing became difficult and there was a somber sound in her ears like bells ringing.
Scarlett began to cry in the next room making Josephine feel even more overwhelmed. She stood up quickly to tend to the baby but knocked over a small porcelain elephant siting on the coffee table. It was a Christmas present from Christopher the night he had proposed to her.
Detective Miles stood up attempting to help her, but she swatted his arms out of the way. Her life was under attack and she could not grasp on to the reality that her husband was a murderer-a monster.
Josephine kneeled next to the playpen starting at Scarlett crying through the netted wall and like an infant, she began to cry with her.
Scarlett was twenty-five years old sitting on a plastic hard black chair staring into a glass that had a telephone line on each side of it. She was moments away from meeting Christopher Callaway, the infamous cold-blooded killer of Jacksonville, Oregon.
She sat there, holding the picture she had found in her mother’s photo album when she was eight years old. She stared at it wondering what her father now looked like. She was aware of his crimes and wanted to meet him before his final moment alive. He was scheduled to be electrocuted at noon and was granted one last conversation with his daughter.
She was nervous and excited to finally meet him. She wasn’t proud of what he had done, but she had to do this.
Then, from across the glass, a tall and slender man in an orange jumpsuit and reddish grey hair, sat down in front of her with his hands resting in handcuffs. No tattoos, no large muscles, just an older man with terrible life choices sitting in front of her.
For a moment, neither of them spoke. Instead, they glanced at each other as if they were attempting to read the other’s mind. It was like looking in a time capsule, their green eyes were like magnets locking them into deep thought.
After several minutes, Christopher finally spoke.
“You have your mother’s nose”. He smiled the same crooked smile.
Scarlett had so many thoughts in her head with limited time. She didn’t know what to say, so she asked him the first thing that came out of her mouth.
“Why’d you do it?”
Their eyes never looked away from each other. His crooked smile was gone. She wished she could’ve taken it back, but it was already too late.
In one breath, Christopher responded in the most truthful way.
“Because I wanted to, babe.”
A single strand of tears escaped Scarlett’s eyes. She slid the photo through a small opening and stood up. “Goodbye dad.”
It was eleven forty-five and Christopher was walking down a dark and cold hallway accompanied by two prison guards and a priest. He was taken into a room with a bright light and unwelcoming walls, his electric throne awaiting him.
He sat in his chair like a king being coronated. He sat there with his infamous crooked smile and the photo of him and Scarlett in his hand. He looked up and glanced through the glass wall in front of him to find a row of chairs, all but one, empty. Scarlett stood before him, once again locking eyes with her father.
They stared at each other for the last two minutes transferring each other’s pain, memories, and perhaps even apologies. Christopher held on to the photo tightly in his right hand, never looking away from Scarlett.
At last, it was noon and the king wore his crown with pride until the very end, the last piece of evidence of him and Scarlett, burned in his hands. She did not take her eyes off him until they took him away.
After a few moments had gone by, Scarlett stood up and was escorted out of the building by a guard and that time she made sure not to ever look back.