Terry Hunter tapped his foot in time to the Phil Collins classic In the Air Tonight booming through his headphones while he sat in front of the three large computer monitors fanned out across the oversized desk in his spacious home-office.
On most days at least two of the monitors actively displayed statistics and live updates from his lucrative online businesses. Recently however his monitors had been utilised for other more pressing priorities — extensive research, none of which benefited his highly profitable online enterprises.
When the popular 1980 song he listened to hit its signature drum crash crescendo, Terry was unable to resist. He channeled his inner rock band drummer and belted out the popular drum break on his air drums, before singing along in a flat, monotone singing voice,
‘I can feel it com-ing in the air tonight…Oh Lord…’
Feeling invigorated by his brief air drumming interlude Terry checked his watch. It was 4pm. He slowly shook his head. Where had the day gone?
As he returned to his in-depth research, the voice of his wife, Carla broke his concentration. ‘Come on Mr Workaholic…’
Terry’s head lifted to Carla entering his office carrying two glasses of red wine. He plucked out his ear phones.
‘I thought you could do with a drink, Tez.’
Terry sat back in his chair and raised his arms above his head in a reflex stretch, interlocking his hands behind his head. He smiled as he watched Carla approach.
‘Oh, and I brought you the mail…’ she said with deliberate indifference towards the mail wedged under her arm.
After handing Terry his beverage she placed the small stack of envelopes to the side of his desk.
Terry raised his wine glass to Carla. ‘Cheers…Thanks Hon,’ he said. He lifted his glass to his eager lips. His eyes closed while he savored the flavor explosion from that first sip. ‘Oh, that’s good…’ He briefly examined the contents of his glass with complete appreciation. ‘I needed that. How did you know?’
Carla smiled. ‘Don’t you think after twenty-two years of marriage I would know you by now…’ she grinned. ‘Anyway…you’ve been at it now for about, what… seven hours or so without a break.’ She flicked a finger at the partially consumed sandwich on a plate to his left. ‘You haven’t even finished your lunch, Terry...’ she said with a disappointed tone. ‘I know you’re busy…but you have to eat, Hon.’
‘I know, I know.’ Terry nodded his guilt. ‘I get caught up concentrating and the time just seems to evaporate.’
Carla returned a conceding smile. 'How is your research coming along, anyway?’
Terry pushed himself away from his desk and moved to the crimson leather Chesterfield sofa located off to the side of his office. Carla followed.
‘Not too bad I suppose,’ he began. ‘I’m still trying to learn about what motivates a serial killer though. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be,’ Terry said as he lowered himself onto the soft leather sofa. Carla moved in and sat beside him.
‘I think it’s wonderful that you can take some time out from your busy work schedule to write your novel,’ Carla said.
‘Well, I haven’t actually started writing it yet, Hon,’ Terry said. ‘I’m still just doing my research into the mind of a mass killer.…you know… What motivates these sociopaths to commit such heinous crimes against another human being? Do they make a conscious decision to kill, or do they act on compulsion…an irresistible uncontrollable urge? Why they are so damaged?’ He said.
‘I understand...’ Carla began. ‘But it’s something that you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the time, so I’m just so happy for you that you are finally getting to write your book,’ Carla said then took a sip. ‘I must say though…writing a story about a narcissistic serial killer who terrorises women in California…?’ Carla shuddered. ‘Couldn’t you write a fiction story about something a little less scary?’
‘I chose a story about a Serial Killer because they are a subject that not only shocks, but also fascinates many within the general public. You know how I am with the online businesses at the moment…’ Terry said. ‘They are pretty much running themselves now.’ Carla nodded her understanding as Terry continued. 'They are doing so well, it’s actually becoming quite boring, so I need something to challenge me. Writing the book is the perfect panacea to that problem. I think anyway. And what could be more interesting than researching convicted killers…?’
Carla smiled. ‘I could think of plenty things more interesting, Hon?’ Carla said with a grin. ‘But…I know it has been a long time passion of yours to write a novel so…good for you,’ she said.
As their glasses neared empty Carla motioned with her head towards his desk.
‘Are you going to check the mail now that I have broken your concentration…?’ She asked.
Terry glanced in the direction of his desk and shrugged. ‘It’s not going anywhere.’
For several weeks Terry anxiously waited to receive a letter, one which he now considered long overdue. When Carla collected the day’s mail there was an envelope in the pile that could possibly be the letter he waited for, and she knew it.
’Are you sure…?’ Carla asked. 'Are you sure you don’t want to check the mail…?’
Terry noticed her obvious insistence. Carla grinned then motioned towards the desk with her head.
Picking up on her not-so-subtle hints, Terry made his way to the short stack of envelopes on his desk. He placed his near empty glass on the desk and picked up the mail.
He neatly arranged the envelopes in his hand, like an over-sized deck of cards. One-by-one he read the top envelope, then passed it to the bottom. He repeated this action until he reached the fourth letter in the pile. Terry’s eyes locked onto this fourth envelope.
After separating it from the pile he read the front, then flipped it over to examine the back. The envelope branding and post markings suggested this could be the long overdue letter he had been waiting for.
Terry discarded the remaining letters onto his desk, lifted his letter opener and sliced through the top of the envelope with one quick swipe. He hurriedly removed and unfolded the contents and commenced to read. A smile filled his face as he read the covering letter. He paused from reading and separated the additional pages behind the letter and examined these other documents.
‘Good news I take it…?’ Carla asked.
‘Yes…yes it is…This is what I have been waiting for…’ Terry said. His face illuminated with a beaming smile.
‘Is that from one of the San Quentin inmates...?’ Carla asked.
Terry nodded, but didn’t respond. He was too busy reading his letter.
A little over eight weeks ago, as part of his manuscript research, Terry trawled the Internet and located the names of ten serial killers currently on Death Row in San Quentin prison, each one sentenced to death for their violent murders of women.
He sent a carefully worded letter to each inmate explaining that he was an aspiring author conducting research for a crime fiction novel. He sought their interest in being interviewed by him in relation to their crimes, as part of his research.
For the first two weeks Terry eagerly checked the mail daily, hoping to receive a reply from at least one of the ten inmates. But nothing came. Over time his enthusiasm waned along with his expectation and he only checked the mail every other day.
After about five weeks he resigned himself to the fact that the inmates must have rejected his offer, so he stopped checking the mail. He had essentially given up on that aspect of his research.
That was until today. Included in today’s mail was a letter from one of the prison inmates Terry wrote to. The inmate agreed to meet with Terry for an interview.
The envelope he’d received also contained a background questionnaire, which Terry was required to complete and return to the prison for processing.
‘So tell me then…’ Carla began. ‘Which one ended up replying?’
Terry re-checked the letter. ‘Um…Malcolm Carter,’ he said reading the inmate’s name from the letter.
Terry dragged a manila file containing his work notes over to himself and flipped it open. ‘Malcolm Carter…’ he mumbled to himself as he walked his fingers through the various pages in the file. ‘There he is,’ he said, lifting a single page from his file.
He read from his notes. ‘Malcolm Carter, born October 7 1961 from El Monte California. Says here he was twenty-six when he was convicted in 1987. He’s been on death row ever since. So that’s…’ Terry’s eyes lifted up to the ceiling, ‘Twenty-five years he’s been waiting to die. Unbelievable,’ he said with a shake of his head. ‘That’s a long time.’
'What was he convicted of…?' Carla asked.
‘Um…’ Terry returned to his notes. ‘It says here he was convicted of murdering five women over a six month period,’ he said. Carla's eyes widened and her shoulders hunched. He continued to read. ‘A psychiatrist described him to the court as being a misogynistic narcissist with a deep seated hatred of women.’ Terry frowned in disapproval before continuing to read. 'The court appointed psychiatrist found that as a child, Carter probably developed an extreme hatred towards a woman, most probably his mother figure, rather than a female sibling, who would have been relentless in her psychological and physical abuse of him.
'And this guy wants to meet with you…?’ Carla’s said with questioning concern.
Terry lifted the page to Carla. ‘He hates women, Hon…I don’t think I really fit that category,’ he said with a grin. ‘Anyway, I don’t think any of them up there will be model citizens.’
‘So what now…?’ Carla asked. 'When can you meet with him? She said before taking a sip of her wine.
'It says here that once I fill in this questionnaire and send it back, approval to visit can take anywhere between four to eight weeks from the time the application is received by the prison visiting staff. It also says here that Carter himself has to give his approval, then he has to contact me with the approval to visit. So…I suppose I’ll fill this in and look forward to hearing from Mr Carter.’
About eight weeks passed since Terry submitted his CDCR visitor questionnaire and returned it to the prison. With child-like excitement at the anticipation of receiving the approval-to-visit from Malcolm Carter, Terry returned to eagerly checking the incoming mail daily. But with each day that passed brought the same disappointing outcome. No letter from Carter. Terry’s frustrations grew exponentially. He started to question if his application had been rejected for some reason.
Not to be deterred, while waiting for his approval, Terry utilized his time productively to focus his Internet research on what further information he could find out about this Death Row inmate, Malcolm Carter and his series of murders from over twenty-five years ago.
However look as he may, there was very little Terry could find in relation to the specifics of Carter’s crimes. In fact, most website hits Terry located were media sites reporting on the capital punishment sentence Carter received, and the mixed opinions his sentence generated from media commentators and public alike, due to executions remaining a controversial issue in California.
Much to his growing disappointment, Terry was unable to locate any useable information on Carter’s crimes, or his unfortunate victims. It was clear to Terry that if he was to learn anything about Carter and his crimes, it had to be from the man himself.
A further two weeks passed before Terry finally received his much anticipated approval to visit, via a letter from inmate Malcolm Carter.
In the letter Carter made a number of conditional requests of Terry that included the condition that there was to be no reference to Carter in any proposed novel.
Carter also took the opportunity to place an order with Terry for some food and snacks that he wanted Terry to bring with him for their meeting. Carter wrote that the food and snacks could be purchased from vending machines inside the visit rooms.
Terry noted from his research into the incredibly strict and rigorous visitor regulations that appointments could only be made via telephone between 8am and 11am. With it being late afternoon, this call will now have to wait until first thing tomorrow morning.
After filing Carter’s letter in the manila folder labelled “manuscript research”, he joined Carla on their rear patio for an afternoon drink and some quality-time catch up.