Friday, April 9, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Fifteen

The beginning of Vale Stapleton’s life wasn’t particularly different from anyone else’s. But from a very early age, he showed an interest in observing, in retaining information, and in telling stories. As he got older, this turned into gossiping, and he became known as the neighborhood snoop. His mother said it meant he was destined to be a news anchorman. His father said it meant he was nosey and a disgrace to the family name because of it.

Vale was seven the first time his father David beat him, and it only got worse from there. The abuse became a daily ritual, and in time, his mother took him out of school to avoid questions about the bruises. She tried teaching him herself, but the then nine-year-old was unresponsive to her affections and her teaching. A tutor was hired, and the expense of his schooling was only more fuel for his father’s rage at him. The beatings grew worse.

Maria, Vale’s mother, died one weekend while Vale was eleven and out at the park. There was not a mark on her, but there was a good deal of bleach in her stomach and corrosive internal burns form drinking it. David was suspected of the murder he was not convicted. Maria’s death was deemed a suicide-- only her fingerprints were on the bleach jug.

The abuse only grew worse after Maria’s death. When Vale was fourteen, his father came into his room one night while he was asleep. The abuse went beyond physical beatings. Vale was raped by his own father that night. He took to barring his bedroom door after that-- there was no lock-- and though the physical abuse got even worse, he welcomed it over being sexually attacked.

On Vale’s fifteenth birthday, David Stapleton died in a drunk driving incident. It was two in the afternoon, but David was smashed from multiple whiskies, and he hit an SUV head-on. He died instantly. The man driving the SUV came away with multiple non-fatal injuries. His six-year-old daughter, who had been in the backseat, suffered minor injuries. His wife in the passenger seat was also killed after being rushed to the emergency room.

After his father’s death, Vale did everything he could to block out memories of the man. And he succeeded.

As his mother had guessed, he became a journalist, but not an anchorman. He reported for a local newspaper, everything from charity events to crimes. There was nothing he was too squeamish to cover.

When a young local boy went missing, he was covering the story. He followed the searches and listened to what the police and family said. And even though it was against all ethics and even against his better judgment, he began to think about where to look himself. He acted on his conjectures, and was the first to find the boy.

He was already dead.

Vale knew he should have called the police with his theories of the boy’s whereabouts rather than going and looking himself, but he hadn’t. And his were the first eyes to see the scene. Even untrained in forensics, in analyzing a scene and figuring out what had happened, he could tell what had transpired. The boy had been beaten by his kidnappers-- there had probably been three or even four-- beaten repeatedly, raped repeatedly, and then stabbed to death. Then the kidnappers had simply left him there in the motel room for someone to find.

In the shock at seeing the six-year-old’s battered body, all those repressed memories came flying back to him. When the policemen arrived at the scene, he flew into a frenzy, even attacking one of them, crying out in rage at his father, at anyone who could do this. He was committed by order of a judge.

The thought of such abuse made Becca sick to her stomach. After a few days, when her nerves had settled and her anger at the thought of tat kind of treatment faded, she found archived newspapers of Vale’s reports, as well as the reports of the boy’s disappearance and discovery. It only made her sick again.

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