The Murder by Howard Smith
Look, I tell you what happened. I got an email from her... Now I’m going out of my head because I murdered this woman over 20 years ago. She found my Facebook page – go look at it, go there – http://twitter.com/MYSTERY_WRITE . I tell you the truth, maxkeanu isn’t my real name. My real name is Howard, Howard Smith.
So the email from her said,
It’s been a long time Howie! I see you did well for yourself in Hawaii, married now with two sons. I found you on Facebook through your old friend and fellow musician, Art Pepper. I was married to Chris for 23 years, now divorced (long story, but he was a real bastard, as you know). I’m thinking of a vacation with my kids to Hawaii. Howard, please contact me, as I would like to talk to you about old times. I know how rough it was for you back then... hope you’ll forgive me. Love - Carla van Overbeak. P.S. Changed my name back because as much as I hated my given name, I detested Chris Simpson and his last name even more.
I‘m going out of my mind because I know I murdered this woman one evening twenty-two years ago. I abducted her, took her into the countryside, stabbed her multiple times, dumped her body in a quarry and I have nightmares about this one atrocious crime many times each week.
I murdered her in cold blood murder and never looked back... Christ, now what do I do? I guess this is a confession to you readers of The Fringe. Might as well confess on this web site as anywhere else since I know someone on this site will eventually call the police... be curious enough to query the editor or go to a blog. Go ahead, let (editor's name here)... any of the editors here know, check with him for my true name. I’m ready to pay the price for this crime.
I deserve the punishment, not that the guilt hasn’t torn me apart all these years. The nightmares have subsided somewhat, but I’m still racked by a weighty remorse that’s made me look old before my time. Really, a day doesn’t pass that I am not in some way reminded of her murder. Why do you think I write about crime and murder? It’s always in the back of my mind… murder, murder, murder… always the memory of her murder-- YES! I confess to it!
Thank Christ my two sons have grown, left home, married and my wife has her pension. I just realized if I’d just turned myself in long ago, I’d probably just be getting out of prison now. Yeah, I figure I’d have gotten 20-25 years for her murder... but, if she’s alive, then who did I murder?
People of this web site... I don’t know why I am revealing this crime to you here. Maybe it’s a manifestation of the guilt I feel, maybe you won’t believe me, but I must pay for what I did to her… or to some woman I don’t even know! And it just hit me again--I murdered an innocent woman! My God, how her loved ones must have suffered? Was her body even found?
But, I know I killed Carla Van Overbeak, I must have… and now a ghost of her comes back to haunt me through Facebook! Again, whom did I murder if I didn’t murder Carla... no, it had to be her! Someone found me out, someone is playing a vicious gag ... Blackmail....?
I’ll tell you what happened… I moved permanently to Hawaii right after that murder and struggled, worked my fingers numb playing music in dives and lounges and at weddings…. oh, I tell you, the wedding are the worst. Then finally, after years and years, I built a steady music career playing at a Hawaiian resort-hotel gig. That gig lasted over twenty years; same thing almost every night, music for tourist to chew by, then a hula show and then a late night lounge lizard gig. I made recordings, I made money, and I married, bought a house and had two fine boys... And all those years the law never caught on, never even a whisper of Johnny Law coming after me, never that knock at my door with the two detectives holding a warrant for my arrest.
It murder went like this: I flew to California, San Bernardino, California. It was in 1988 when you could fly to the mainland without giving out your identify, without showing a driver’s license or credit card. I gave a fake name.... Howard Smith sounds like a fake name, right... well, doesn’t it to you? I flew as George Bush, I swear to God. I was petrified about what I was going to do, but determined... determined never to be caught.
So, I get to LAX, then take a bus into the main bus station and then onto San Berdo. I know Berdo from when I was a boy and checked into a fleabag a hotel on Highland Avenue. I found her the next night when I recognized her car in the restaurant parking lot. I watched her come and go from a distance, while hiding in the shadows and slinking deep into the seat of my stolen car.
That restaurant.... Jesus, Goodies Restaurant it was called. We ate there all the time when we were married. It was our place for Friday night dates and Sunday breakfasts after church.
Did I mention that I was once a deputy Sheriff? I was a law and order guy back when I married to Carla, real gung-ho type.
Ah, Carla, beautiful Carla, actress to be, fashion model on her way up the ladder in nearby Hollywood and Newport Beach. She had big dreams and the face that made those dreams possible. We were both young then and believed anything could happen in life.
She was also the San Bernardino Sheriff’s only daughter--so what else was I supposed to do with my life but law enforcement. After we married, I needed to pay the bills and support her dreams and leading actress aspirations. Anyway, that time in the department was rough, related to Sheriff as I was, well I tell you, the other deputies never got over my rapid move up in the ranks. I made detective within three years and the old boys in the department detested the sight of me.
Nevertheless, the real story here is Carla Van Overbeak. She was in high school when I first saw her, approached her and made her my sweetheart. She was so happy to change her name to Carla Smith when we married, but her stage name, the name I had to introduce her as was Carla VanLotta--said it made her feel big, powerful, rich and even more beautiful. I guess she was a vain woman, a woman stuck on her unique looks and talents, but I only saw her inward beauty and only heard her sighs of mad love, when our lovemaking was everything to me.
When I murdered her, her name was Carla Simpson and she was pregnant. That was the last straw, the final humiliation that made me do it. She should have had my children, not his.
Carla and I didn’t last long because she fell in love with the undersheriff… Chris Simpson, the name still dredges up unresolved hates and anger in me. As my immediate boss he gave me the assignments that enhanced my reputation, tasks that gave me the respect I deserved, being as I was the son-in-law. He even gave me time-off to get my criminology degree, so Carla would have the lawyer husband she always dreamed of having. I was shuffled of town most of time when the undersheriff said he was too busy to attend conferences and training programs and readiness exercises statewide... all lies so he could do my wife. Boy, did he play me for a sucker!
Yeah, I wondered back then, why all the overtime, why all the over-night travel assignments, why was he honing me for advancement… but all the while, he was screwing her and screwing me behind my back.
As time passed, the other deputies started chalking my rise in the ranks up to nepotism and too her father’s power. Another deputy brought me up on charges of evidence tampering and it went downhill from that point on. The Sheriff had to start an investigation. I was demoted, given a sub-station command thirty miles from home, put out to pasture and out of everyone's buzz-cut hair. Of course, the undersheriff was the one who really pulled all the strings over the years to get me away from her and closer to his new love.
I discovered their affair one night when I was supposed to be in Vegas helping my old partner; Detective Steve Reeves pull a guy in on a warrant for murder. I saw Chris Simpson’s car, snuck to a back window and saw them doing it on the sofa in the TV room. Broken and confused I spied on her, on them both when I was supposed to at work at the sub-station in Apple Valley. Sargent Jack McGinty, my pal, covered for me on those long nights.
For three months I spied on her and endured her bold-faced lies and lame excuses. I built my spurned lover’s case file on Simpson, being the good detective I was and got the goods; the times, dates and the places. I had hours of recordings, all of it on camera and details of all their moves in my private notebooks. I’ve since lost those notebooks and videos or maybe Carla hired some goon to break in and steal them from me.
Undersheriff Chris Simpson, I almost killed him one night. I caught them in my house, in my bed for god sake... by accident or was it? I was working in the garage and wonder where Carla was. I called and called out for from the garage for her to get me a beer, but I got no answer, so after twenty minutes I walked into our house and searched for her.
I walked in on them an found myself standing in front of both them; fornicating like there was no tomorrow, sweaty naked bodies on my bed, just blatantly fucking away in front of me, smiling and groaning and then taunting me and laughing at me… as if I wasn’t even there. I saw Simpson’s service revolver in his hand and he was ready to use it, even while he was still fucking Carla. Oh man, I tell you, I was ready to get my gun and kill the both of them right that instant, but I just ran out madder than hell, seeing red, crying and vowing get revenge someday.
Later, I confronted her with the facts were as clear and as the beautiful nose on her face. She admitted to it without shame and then tortured me, telling me Chris Simpson had been her lover way before we were married. Then she told me that it was over between us, that she never wanted to see me again, that she wanted a fast divorce and all the money she could get out of me. She told me the undersheriff had something on me, something really really bad, she said with an assertive and self-confident smile.
However, I loved her to the end of the earth and cried like a baby as I told her she could love two men and begged and begged her not to leave me. However, later, I got mad, I got tough, I made threats, and I went to the ends of my tether to get her back any way I could.
Divorce ain’t easy-- as many of you know--but it was easy for her. And of course, I had to kiss the Sheriff Department job good by, as big daddy Sheriff was the cock of the walk and the undersheriff his dark shadow and servile yes-man.
I went to a place so damned low… fell to drink, drugs and then just sunk further and further, until I was down and out, and out of a job, and out of money, and out of my mind and out to a place that was not anything that could be called a decent living. Yeah, totally out of it, condemned to that place that desolate men go, that ‘take-a-number’ waiting room next to Satan’s real hell where your number is never called.
Hawaii looked really good to me as I watched a Hawaii-5-0 reruns one drunken afternoon. At the time, I was living in a $40 dollar a week hotel. The next day I gave everything I owned away, withdrew the remaining $435.28 to my name and flew away to the Big Island.
I pitched a tent in on an idyllic black-sand beach and I drank cheap beer for what must have been weeks on end. I was living the derelict life with a gang of scabrous, randy beach bums from a bad Somerset Maugham novel, until I started dealing pot and began to make some big money. Because I knew the police mind and methods, knew what the police did, didn’t do, I just outsmarted them at every turn. Then with my big money--I was the big man again--that is until I was robbed in my big beach-front rental of $40,000 in cash and pounds of primo buds and enough cocaine to keep a small army at war for a few years.
Unfortunately, about the same time, I also got a nasty staph infection that pulled me back down into addictions, dereliction and a camping existence with the derelicts who still called me buddy and pal and Howie Wowie.
Near death, the infection nearly covering me, with pus oozing from 30% of my skin, a public health official committed me to the Kona Hospital for treatment.
Cured after six weeks, I was a new man, but with a bill to Kona Hospital to the tune of ten grand… but I was alive, but only in body, not soul. After my discharged, nearly broke, seething with anger at her and my rotten destiny in this life, I withdrew all the money to my name and it was then I left … left that very weekend … so intent to murder her... and I remember it all as if it was yesterday....
I was outside her workplace, outside Goodies Restaurant and completely zeroed in on her when she exited out the back service door. I came up behind her in the pitch-blackness with my gun nudging the small of her back. Her body was still thin, shapely, beautiful... inside I cried, screamed, as I was still so goddamned heartbroken. I wanted her so bad at that punishing moment, it was an out of control desire for her to love me tenderly and yet at the same time a sexual desire of a ferocious nature, both combined at that very moment to dive me on in that madness... to that murder. I remember thinking at the time that her body was much smaller and somehow shorter than I remembered when we were together... I realize now that I didn’t see her face that night... not once did I look at her beautiful face!
Oh Christ... I’d built her up bigger in my mind and as I pushed her into the back seat of that stolen Ford Falcon, I was crying about my fate in life and death and pain and fortune and failure and then I just forced myself to do what I knew had to be done. I must have been crazy...
I placed a white cloth pillowcase over her head, tied it tight around her neck and then tied her hands and feet. I remember being dumbfounded as too how small, how weak she really was. I was buzzing with frantic inspiration and raging hate, hearing a fevered voice narrating to me through the entirety of the abduction… Her murder was of a hate, and a love, so profound that it ruled every action I made and all memory of it. It was like the crazy dream where I was the unstoppable and insane psychopath... but I tell you now, I am saner than you or as any man alive.
My God, did I, did I murder an innocent woman? I never did see her face that night! I just assumed it was her, because she walked away from the red Porsche. I knew it was her car; hell -- I’d bought it for her! Maybe she loaned it to a girlfriend that night, maybe she sold it to a waitress with a similar figure and blond hair. The waitresses, they all wore the same uniform at Goodies Restaurant, the woman I murdered had her blonde hair up done in a bun exactly like Carla's....
I remember her struggling in the back seat for her life as I was driving away from Goodies. She tried repeatedly to kick the back windows out with her sturdy work shoes. I remember those shoes—tiny, black, heavy, shiny patent leather, with heels worn on the inside. I remember grabbing her, pushing her down in the back seat after I pulled over to the side of road. But, the woman I murdered had big feet… Carla had tiny feet, dancers feet...
Under a mercury vapor streetlight's surreal fake light, with black blood spreading out slowly over the white pillow case bag, I repeatedly struck her...harder and harder ... I didn’t even realize I had that big bloody hunting knife in my hand until it was over.
I remember it all, and it still haunts me to this day... that knife plunging into her head into the white pillowcase over and over.... over and over....That blade slicing skin, abutting bone, tearing across her Scandinavian features... feeling that blade plunge in repeatedly, penetrate into her beautiful face and neck, slowly becoming aware that she’d stopped screaming, that her body had grown limp and lifeless… it had only taken seconds and then her life was just gone....
But those were the seconds, those were the moments in time that turned into weeks, months and then years of my mental agony.
I then drove around San Berdo crying, screaming and banging my hands repeatedly against the steering wheel in torment. My despair weakened me until I could barely hold my spinning-head upright. I could smell her body’s death in the back seat and hear her shift around as I ascended a mountain road at high speeds. It occurred to me to end it all, to drive off a cliff near Running Springs or just drive head on into the biggest vehicles approaching me from the opposite lane.
Hours later, I pulled off the road, on Tippecanoe Road. I remember that road name, as I kept saying to myself, Tippecanoe and Tyler too, repeating it constantly in fear and guilt. I still say that in times of stress and worry…
It was dark that night, a full moon at the zenith and thick clouds rolled in from the coast. The thick clouds above seemed to be taunting me, shadowing me, enclosing me. It started to rain and I saw lightning far away, somewhere, miles away in the vicinity of the badlands past Palm Springs.
I considered driving to the old San Berdo sub-station and turning myself in to Sargent Jack … yeah… McGinty would have understood why I did it. He was the night man, the veteran and he knew how much I loved her. I’d called him a friend, but friends weren’t really possible with the undersheriff ruling over the lives of these men and their futures.
I stuffed her in a sleeping bag; her head still wrapped in that blood soaked laundry bag and then I tied her up tightly with a new white nylon rope. I remember reaching into that sleeping bag and running my hands over her dead naked body, her legs, up to her… the feel of her dead flesh that was like tanned and smoothed leather from some ungodly creature… and yes, I still felt a lust for her, a sick sexual desire that I purged from my mind almost as soon as I thought it. My stomach turned over its contents in a sickening nausea. I wanted her in that way, in physical love, in penetration. I wanted sex, her love again…and as I grew erect, I was tempted to do her just one more time.
I couldn’t look at her face, but wanted too… just one last look at the face of a woman I loved more than life itself. Then I remember thinking, I might have stabbed her in the eye or sliced through her beautiful face, cup off a lip or... no I would not have that as the last memory of her.
I feared that arrogant smile of hers is I was to look at her, that always-superior smirk that had constantly tried to control me. I feared she would still possess that angular models face, those high cheekbones that she tortured me with that night I confronted her with her infidelity... that one look she gave me when she was in his arms, in my bed. Then there was her laugh… I feared it, thinking her dead lifeless lips might laugh at me again, might demean me again and cast her little Howe into a hell on earth… in a renewed madness I started stabbing her face madly until the seat, the entire back area of the Falcon, the windows, my arms, my face was covered with her blood.
I dumped her body in an old lime quarry near Norton Air Force Base, tossed my cloths, along with hers in the deep slate colored water and let the driving rain wash me clean of her blood and hopefully the guilt.
Then, while crying a river of longing to have her alive and with me again, I drove to Redlands, left the car in the Loma Linda Hospital parking lot and then walked in the driving cold rain towards Grand Terrace. I remember walking until the sun rose over the San Gabriel Mountains and then I hitchhiked to the Riverside bus station. I pretended to sleep on buses to LA and Lax. I left the knife on the bus in a Winchell’s Donut bag. I didn’t care if I was caught; I was resigned to any fate might that captured me. The entire experience was like a walking surreal nightmare. I was back in Hawaii in less than three days, and slept in sleeping pill induced delirium for what must have been days.
Then the time just passed.... I never looked for a report of the crime. I stopped communicating with old acquaintances in Southern California. The southwest of America was completely dead to me and I vowed never to return. I took the name max keanu for my music career and now for my writing... this writing life, fostered to compensate for the guilt I’m sure. I write it in lower case... to make myself invisible to the world and yet at the same time, a fixture of evil in it.
All I could do upon my return was to play the guitar. Music was my escape from that horrible memory of her murder. I was known as the quiet guy who played a sounding sweet axe. I never drank, nor did do any kind of drugs after that. I just played my guitar like a pro, night after night, week after week....
And I was good, one of the best, but melancholy was my mode of playing and my physical presence of my being and the look that was usually on my face. I never sang, was shy towards the press and promotion managers. The women who yearned for a musician to rock them in the late night hours never looked to me to make music with them.
Then along came Georgia and she loved me without question, accepted my quiet and reserved nature after one blind date with her. A family of two boys and me... this was her great love in this life and her total fulfillment. Her love pulled me out of the haunting memories of Carla’s murder... except when lost in some solo guitar lead and then I just poured out my evil and wicked soul with notes that left the crowd swaying in wonderment.
I started writing fiction out of guilt and shame--maybe I’ve always wanted to write this story of her murder, to get it all off my chest, to clear my conscious for the last time.
My god, my boys, my sons... all grown up now --soon they’ll find out that their father murdered-- but who did I murder that night?
I’ve searched the web tenaciously since I received her email. I just couldn’t find anything about her murder. It should have been somewhere on the web, since her husband was the undersheriff and then became the sheriff when Hawking Van Overbeak died.
However, nothing was on the web or in the archived news for the San Bernardino area--not that there weren’t murders that week. There were two, one was a brutal murder of a black woman in Rialto and the other was a woman who disappeared from Lytle Creek named Devon Selmer…. Blonde 26, a waitress, body never found.
What do I do?
I hear my wife Georgia diving up into our gravel driveway. I look at many of the familiar names of writers and bloggers on this site and wonder why I have to confess this story to you. I have placed my writing here before and maybe I feel that you readers are my extended family, my friends my....
I just don’t know what to do. You may have read my work before, under a different pen name or in different venues. Many of you may already now that I have strange ideas, unusual perversion and hidden demons that I constantly wrestle with in stories of horror or murder.
Tell me what I must do? Maybe you want to use Twitter to contact me – it’s anonymous, no one will ever know you sent me a tweet. Go ahead; it’ll be a private thing, just between you and me... maxkeanu http://twitter.com/MYSTERY_WRITE or write about this dilemma in your blog or this publications blog.
Tonight, after dinner, I told my wife Georgia everything; the whole story, the dates, the times, every detail, just as I have told you here. But, I’m totally confounded now--she just won’t believe me. She laughed it all off, even reminded me that I was always telling her crime plots for novels and short stories and poems, but this one, she told me laughing, was a real whopper.
She did look at me askance a few times when I broke down crying, but I’ve told her many, many times that new story ideas affect me, that tears come to my eyes in strong emotions in story development or in first drafts.
I stormed out on her, bumbling over furniture and mumbling that I killed a woman, but I just didn’t know who she was. I heard her laugh as I left and say something about living with an artist... how the fun just never stops.
Of course, she ribbed me, I deserved it, preposterous, like she said... murdering a woman in cold blood, not even know who she was... a nice gentle and reserved guy like you Howard—no way!
She’s listening at my office door now. I hear her rummaging for the key under the eaves to unlock my office door. She enters, explains that she didn’t mean to make fun of me and that the murder story sounded like something an editor of mystery and crime stories would certainly publish.
Then she tells me that she went to Carla Van Overbeak’s facebook page--and I could tell she was jealous of Carla’s beauty right away. She informed me, with the old Kona Hospital bills in hand, that I could not have killed anyone on the date I mentioned. I was in Kona hospital, in a life and death struggle, in a medically induced coma with an antibiotics resistant staph-infection. She told me while looking at the bill, pointing out the dates to me. Georgia was a CPA, every bill we’d ever received was stored away neatly and professionally in one of her dozens of metal-file drawers that lined the attic walls.
Great story Howie, sweetheart, honey, she told me, then asked if I thought this old flame, if my ex-wife, Carla, was prettier than she. She told me she was jealous, that she was very mad that I’d never mentioned having been married before. Then she laughed and while leaving my office said again that she was only kidding me, that she loved me more that were fish in the sea.
How could I ever have reveal this to her, since wives never let a man forget a former love, and Carla Van Overbeak was a murdered lover, and the one past lover I had to forget to retain my sanity. On the other hand, had I gone mad, long, long ago and replaced my past twenty years with a delusion?
I knew my wife's love was far beyond sustained anger, petty jealously and hopefully beyond suspicions of murder. Maybe I did dream this in my raging fever, in that coma, long ago in Kona. Could I have imagined a vivid gruesome bloody murder, a second by second scene of a slaughter of such brutality and perversion? Had my mind played tricks on me for so many years?
I stared at the Kona Hospital bill and saw the dates and indeed I was in the coma at the same time as the murder. They corresponded exactly to the time I knew--imagined I had committed this horrible deed.
Now the question now is… did I get the dates wrong? Should I friend Carla on Facebook or pay her a late night visit, some very dark night on a secret trip to the Golden State?
The Murder by Howard Smith
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