Freeing Joshua

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Chapter 8: Joshua

The hardest thing of all, is writing this part of the story. The part of the story that cannot be written by whom it should be written by. In that case, I shall do my best to tell the story as Joshua would’ve told it. The information used to write this portion of the story is taken from both Joshua’s diary entries and the interviews I did with him when I would visit the prison. With that said, it would all go a little something like this:

The night in question, I did have quite a lot of alcohol in my system, I admit it. I should not have been driving in the first place, but I made a bad decision and went ahead and drove myself home. It was reckless I know, and I regret it. On the way to my house I noticed my tank was getting pretty low and I didn’t want to risk running out of gas so I made another foolish decision to stop at a gas station not too far from home. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have or at least I shouldn’t have stopped at that particular one. I filled her up, trying to rush because I couldn’t help but notice this man staring at me from the pump across from me and it was giving me the creeps. There was another person there too, the eventual victim, but I paid no attention to him since I was concerned for my own safety at the time as the creepy man was now just sitting in his car. When I got back into my car and drove away, I remember passing by some man getting out of his car that he parked alongside of the road, which I’m guessing now was the actual person that committed the crime, but back then I didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until the next day that the police were banging on my door that I even gave anything that happened that night any thought.

“Open up, it’s the police!” An officer shouted.

I went to open the door still half asleep. “Is there a problem officer?” I asked the cop closest to the door.

“Are you Joshua Norte?”

“Yes sir, I am.”

“You’re under arrest for an impending manslaughter case.”

“Manslaughter?!” I repeated in both shock and horror. “Nah, this has got to be a mistake. Are you pulling a prank on me? Who set this up?”

He flashed his badge. “Does it look like I’m joking?”

“It’s just, how could I be-”

“Put your hands behind your back.” He cut me off and barged into my home to put me in handcuffs. I remember my parents were still asleep or maybe they just didn’t bother coming out of their separate rooms.

“Sir there has been a mistake!” I shouted, but he was not listening to me. He just hauled me off like I was some sort of criminal, reading me my Miranda Rights as we approached his vehicle. I remember how it seemed like the whole world’s eyes were on me at that very moment. I knew my life was over. In an instant, my life was over. I glanced back towards my house only to see my little brother looking out the window, hands pressed against the glass with fear and sorrow in his eyes. I was sat in the back of the police car, but I couldn’t take my eyes off my little brother. I knew I had hurt him. I knew I had failed him. Tears started to roll down my face and I hung my head in shame. I looked up one last time before we drove off only to see my brother’s tear streaked face still staring back at me. It broke my heart.

When we got down to the police station, they put me in a room to question me. A different cop than the one that had arrested me, sat down across the table to give me the run down.

“I assume you know why you’re here.” He started.

“Some bullshit manslaughter charge.” I responded trying to sound tough and self-assured. “I have no fucking idea what you all are even referring to though.”

“Last night, at the gas station you went to at exactly 2:23am and departed around 2:28am, there was an incident that occurred at approximately 2:30am that left one man dead.” He said as he flipped through his notes.

“So? What does that have to do with me? You said it yourself, I left at 2:28am.”

“Yes, but the incident happened 2 minutes after you left, we have you on camera at that gas station. Only a few minutes after your car goes out of frame, a man matching your build, your description, comes back into frame and attacks this man.” He holds up a photo of the victim.

“Look, I don’t even know who that guy is or anything about that incident.” I said as I swiped the picture out of my view. “It’s unfortunate of course, but when I left that gas station, I left. I went home to rescue my little brother from our drunk of a father. I don’t know what else to tell you besides the fact that you’ve got the wrong guy.”

“Tell me that you did it.”

“Excuse you? I’m not going to lie and tell you that I did it just so you have someone to pin this on. No way.”

“What if I told you we have witness accounts?”

“I’m calling your bluff on that one buddy, there’s no way anyone is going to tell you that I did this when I know that I didn’t.”

“We’ll see about that.”

He got up and left and then yet another cop came in and hauled me out to be a part of a line up. According to the cops, a couple of people came forward to say they saw what happened that night and they would be able to pick out the culprit from a lineup. Lo and behold, the bastards all said it was me they saw that night. A few days later I was standing before the judge and the jury found me guilty of manslaughter and I was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The hardest part of it all was seeing my best friend and future wife, Katie burst into tears. I hated to see her cry. When I lost my case, they put me in handcuffs right away and lugged me off to San Angeles prison. Before they took me away, however, I was able to shout out a few last words.

“Katie I’m sorry, I love you!” I yelled before they pushed me out of the door, I think I heard her shout back that she loved me too.

She visited me all the time and if she couldn’t come see me, we’d talk on the phone. I was so lucky to have her in my life, but at the same time I felt guilty that she was wasting her time on me. The very first time she visited me, she came in with an idea she was so proud of. It broke my heart to know that she had to see me like this.

“I came up with the perfect idea!” She piped.

“Yeah? What is it?”

“I’m going to write a book about you. I’m not only going to get this appeal going and get you the heck out of here, but I’m going to get a book published to tell your side of the story. I’ll be a real author. This could be a best seller.”

“Really? You would do that for me?”

“Of course! We’re in this together remember?”

“I like that idea, I really do! Finally, people will hear what I have to say. What really happened.”

“Yes, exactly!”

“No one even bothered to listen to my side of the story. They all just see me as some kind of murderer, can you believe that?” I said to her.

“No, I really can’t. That’s why I’m here.” She assured me.

We talked about it all for a little while longer until a guard told all of the visitors it was time to go. I asked her if she would come back to visit and she promised me that she would and I told her that I loved her and she said it back. She still said it back and she still believed in me even though the justice system had failed me and it had seemed that the whole world had given up on me. Through it all, I still had her. She was the reason why I even bothered sticking it out in that hell hole in the first place.

The roughest part about prison besides actually being in there, was the nagging thoughts I began to have while I was in there. I got painfully depressed and I contemplated ending my misery more often than not. The thoughts of death were especially persistent when I would read letters that Katie and my little brother, Justin would send me. I kept them all. I could even recite the very first letter I received from Katie, that’s how many times I read it. It kept me strong, but it also broke my heart. She wrote:

July 6, 2000

Dear Joshua,

My beloved, I miss you so much it hurts. I have been following every lead I get and constantly trying to dig up any kind of evidence, but I keep running into dead ends. I swear to you I will get this all sorted out and get you freed. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t work on your case because all I keep thinking about is having you back home. It’s hard to sleep without you, it’s hard to live without you. Especially because all I can think or dream about is our wedding day and our life together. Watching my belly grow as we await our first bundle of joy. I want all of that, I want it soon, and only with you, not anyone else. I miss you and I need you here at home so I’m working tirelessly on this case so we can appeal and set you free. I know you didn’t do this, I know it in my heart and I want you to refrain from giving up on yourself as well because you know you didn’t do this. I’ve even recruited little Justin to help me with your case, we’re going to get you out of there just hang on. I love you Joshua, please stay strong, and keep believing in me. I can do this; we can win this appeal. I’ll see or write or talk to you soon my love!

-Your Katie

She was already dreaming up our future and I had failed her. I had failed her by getting myself locked up in the first place. She deserved better and I didn’t want her to waste her life on me, she had so much potential and I was just holding her back. The truth was though, we were perfect for each other before all of that happened and I knew she knew that and that’s why she couldn’t just let this go. I wished she could’ve though, but I knew I would never have been able to bear seeing her happy with someone else. At least not after I knew she loved me. The last time she visited me was on August 29th of 2010. She didn’t know it would be the last time she would get to see me or she would’ve probably visited me every day after. There was no indication, no warning, she wasn’t prepared, but how could I prepare her for something like this? I mean, that day she came in so ecstatic because she had cracked the case wide open and was almost done writing up the appeal. I couldn’t crush her like that. And even if she hadn’t come in so excitedly, I would have never had the heart to tell her. It’s not something you tell anybody, it’s something you just do.

“So, I have such good news!” She exclaimed that last time I saw her.

“Let me hear it.” I replied.

“I got another witness to come forward, to testify on your behalf. Baby he saw what happened first hand, his statement will count way more than those other witnesses!”

“Are you for real? How’d you manage to pull this one off?”

“You see, I met him in a bar one night and he was very sinister at first. He acted like he was on the cops’ side initially and when I ran into him the second time, he acted just the same. It wasn’t until one night that he showed up at my door that he decided to be of any help. I was reluctant when he first suggested to help since the first two times he only taunted me. But he felt bad for me and he knew the cops were looking for him since he was on tape at the gas station during this whole thing, but he simply didn’t want to get involved. Plus, he’s kind of dying anyway so you know how that goes.”

“Wait. Are you talking about that creepy man in the brown fedora that spooked me?”

“Yeah, the man in the brown hat, that’s the one.”

“Katie, look I trust you on everything, but how do you know he’s not going to pull something? How do you know for sure you can trust this guy to be the piece that pulls this all together?”

“I just have a good feeling about this. I thought you would be excited.”

“I am, I am!” I grabbed for her hand across the table and held it. “I’m so proud of you and I’m so grateful to have you in my life! You did it, you really did, just like you said you would and I couldn’t be happier that I’m getting out of this place. I just want you to be careful with this man okay?”

She smiled and I smiled back at her and my heart broke some more because I knew I’d never see that smile again.

“Time’s up! All visitors depart!” A guard announced.

“Our time together feels shorter and shorter.” Oh, the irony of those words. “But I’ll be back tomorrow.” She promised me.

“No baby don’t worry I’ll be fine.” I lied. I tried never to lie to her, but in this case, it was the right thing to do. I didn’t want to hurt her. “You take some time off from this place, you don’t need to come back until you submit the appeal.”

“But I won’t be able to talk to you then.”

“I know, but you’ll see me at home.” I smiled at her mainly to keep myself from crying. I wasn’t coming home. The next time she would see me it would be in a casket. It hurt to think of how hard she would take the news. There was no way around breaking her heart.

She smiled at me again and I engraved it into my brain; the way her eyes lit up, the little lines that formed at the corners of her eyes, the way she would squeeze them shut and then open them, her one dimple, and the way her hair fell that day…perfect. That would be the last thing that I would see when it was time. The most beautiful sight of all.

We said our goodbyes, said we loved one another, and went our separate ways. That night I cried myself to sleep.

It was kind of funny, the day I decided it was time to go through with it, I was actually in a good mood. I was jubilant; I guess that’s what they would call being at peace. Prior to that day, I had been saving up the aspirin we were given if we had a headache. I saved them for months so I had quite a large stash, more than enough to do the trick. I just wanted to make sure it would be quick and painless. I sat down in my cot and wrote out letters to Justin and Katie just so I wouldn’t leave them hanging. I knew that I had to say goodbye in some way, they were the most important people to me. I folded up the letters and put them on my pillow then I wrote out my last diary entry.

I hope nobody reads this. I really hope nobody reads this, but I know Katie’s going to be the one to pick up my belongings and she wouldn’t throw this away. When she feels like she can handle reading this, she will. I’ve known for a while that today would be my last day simply because of the fact that if I counted right, today would be the day that they reveal whether I’ve lost or won my appeal. I don’t want to know. I honestly don’t, because either way I’m screwed. I just feel so bad because of Katie. My love. She tried so hard, she has dedicated her whole life to do this for me, to freeing me, but I decided to throw it all away in the end. Of course, I’ll regret doing this because she did all of this so I’d come home to her and now she has nothing to show for all her hard work. I want to marry her. I really do. I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life, but I’m so sure of her. I’m sure of us. Her & I plus a few kids, I want that. She is my future. I already bought the ring and I’ve already thought up my vows. I’ve imagined the reception, the location, and even how my tux would look. But the thing is I wanted to be able to care for her and support her fully not the other way around. It would be next to impossible to build back up my life and do all the great things I once was destined for. But she has so much promise and so much potential. I love her. I love her. I love her! She’ll become someone great and I’ll be rooting for her from the other side. Katie if you’re reading this, I love you and I’m sorry. Please, for me though, get married to someone great and have those babies that you have always wanted. Become the wonderful mother I know you will be, don’t stop your life; continue on with it. God, she’s the love of my life. The last thing I’ll see before I go.

I closed my diary and stashed it underneath my bed like I’ve always done. It was time. I took a deep breath and filled a cup up with water. It was time. One more deep breath. I swallowed pill after pill after pill after pill until there was only a few left and I started to feel the effects almost immediately. I laid down in the fetal position in my bed and drifted off to a place unknown.

I’ve always read that when you’re dying, your life flashes before your eyes. There’s about seven seconds of brain activity that you experience before you succumb to your infinite slumber. And now I know it’s true. In my seven seconds, I saw Katie and I saw Justin. My mom, my dad. Aunts, uncles, and cousins I hadn’t seen in who knows how long. I saw myself as a little boy and me today. I literally stood outside my body and saw my lifeless self and I think that’s the moment all regret really set in, but I was gone. Darkness consumed me and I was gone.

At the end of that fateful day while my wife and brother were crying because they got word of the news and the guards were cleaning out my cell and readying it for the next inmate and the world was still spinning and my body laid cold, still, and motionless awaiting to be buried; the judge made a decision on my appeal. Unaware of the events that had just unfolded, he still announced the outcome of my impending release. The jury had reached a verdict after hours of deliberation and handed their answer to the judge. The judge nodded and let the verdict be known.

My appeal is approved.

I am a free man.

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