Little Cori 4,600. From molested to killer. Adult.
Seeing her mother raped and killed, and herself molested, turns gentle Cori into a killing machine as she searches for Uncle Jim.
She could see her mother on the porch, calling and looking around for her. Four-year-old Cori sat on squishy ground behind a bush, playing in mud left by that morning’s rain. She was trying to make a mud giraffe but its neck just wouldn’t stay on. The youngster decided to try a turtle instead, when she heard her mother.
“Cori, come back inside. It’s time for lunch.”
“Just a minute, Ma,” she yelled, patting the unlucky giraffe back into the puddle and smoothing the mud. “C”, “O”, “R”, “I” she printed in the smooth surface, so no one else would claim the space while she was gone.
Getting up with the back of her jeans covered with mud and grass, she trotted over to the porch, up the steps — skipping every other one — and into the front door. Mud dripping behind her, she headed for the bathroom to clean up, a task she accomplished very well, except for not noticing what she dragged behind her.
“Sit right down, young lady. We have to wait for your Uncle Jim before we eat.” Her mother instructed.
Uncle Jim, her father’s brother, was new to Cori. He lived way out in California and had recently moved to Chicago to look for a better job. The house was large enough for the four of them.
Uncle Jim seemed nice and friendly, but was gone most of the day hunting for work. He’d been there three days so far and spent time in the evenings playing with Cori. He even got down on the floor with her, not acting like a grownup at all; more like a big kid.
“Sorry we’re late, honey,” her father and uncle entered the kitchen and sat down at the table. It always seemed funny to Cori. When she sat alone, the table felt different than when a lot of people were there with her. Not as lonely.
At school, the other kids played together, but didn’t seem to like her much. They’d choose sides for a game, but always pick her last. First chosen were the boys and then the bigger girls. Tiny Cori would always be last. She’d rather take a book from the classroom, sit on a swing, and read. It was more fun than waiting to be picked for some old ball game.
She was friendly with a few other kids that did the same thing. Instead of sitting alone, she sat together with other book readers. They’d form a clump in a corner of the playground, reading their books.
“Get your head out of those clouds, Sweetie.”
Forced back to reality, she looked at her uncle and smiled. He understood. Her uncle always seemed to understand.
They had meatloaf for lunch, and smashed potatoes and gravy. Cori didn’t like the broccoli though, it was funny green stuff as far as she was concerned. Let the poor people in Bingledish’ eat it, she thought, finishing her meal.
It being Sunday, she stood to go to the living room where her favorite cartoons would soon be on television.
“Oh, my God, would you look at that?” Her mother exclaimed, for the first time noticing the muddy behind. Cori looked around and didn’t see anything wrong.
“You get right upstairs and change clothes, young lady.” Her mother was angry — for no reason the girl could see.
Obediently she climbed the stairs — leaving a trail of half-dried clots behind her.
Cori went to her room and peeled the muddy clothes off, dropping them in a pile. As she stood in pink panties and socks, she saw Uncle Jim in the doorway, smiling with a strange look in his eyes.
“It’s not your fault, Cori. All pretty little girls get dirty. It’s just their nature. Let me help you with those pants.”
He got down on his knees behind her. As she lifted each leg, he slipped clean jeans over it. His hand felt soothing and slightly ticklish on her leg as he helped. Just like her mother did when she was little. Tickling her butt and making her laugh, he pulled the clean jeans up and snapped the snap.
“There. Good as new, honey. I’ll throw them in the hamper for you.”
She noticed him inspecting the old pants up close as he left. He held them up to his face. She went back downstairs to the television.
Late that afternoon after Uncle Jim left for a late interview, Cori wanted to go out and play again. This time she stopped near the back door to put her boots on. She could hear her parents talking in the kitchen.
“Now, baby,” her mother said, “your brother seems nice enough but we do have to keep an eye on him. Remember, he just got out of jail and he might do it again.”
“Don’t let it bother you, Mary. The doctor said he was okay. I’ve known him all my life. I think he was railroaded like he said. Our little girl’s perfectly safe.”
“Still, I’m going to watch him. I don’t want him here alone with her if we can avoid it.”
“No problem. He’s gone most of the time, anyway. Once he finds a job, he’ll move out.”
“It would take a load off my mind if he did.”
“By the way, you want’a go up and fool around a little? I think she went outside.”
Which Cori promptly did.
The next day, in school, Cori found the teachers running around whispering to each other. Later she noticed the student who sat two seats in front of her in art class wasn’t there. She thought nothing of it since the girl, named Janice, was often late or skipped school.
Before classes finished for the day, the teachers held a meeting, giving Cori and the other kids an extra-long recess. Right afterward, they even got out early, with the teachers looking sad and some crying. Cori thought that was funny. Not funny “Ha Ha” but funny strange. It was nice to get home early and watch television programs that she rarely saw before.
Later that night, Cori wanted to play Monopoly. She thought Uncle Jim would play with her, so she went to his room. She walked in to see him doing something — she didn’t know what it was — on the bed.
He had a pair of small panties in his hand. She was sure they weren’t hers, though. She didn’t have any that color. He looked busy, so she left without him seeing her. The next morning, while he was job hunting, she snuck in and found the name on them was “Janice.” Now that was funny. She knew a Janice. There’s a lot of strange adult stuff going on in this house, she thought.
That night, her parents wouldn’t let her watch the news on television.
“Why not? My teacher wants me to? We’re studying that stuff about Eraqi’.”
“Wait till tomorrow. Your daddy wants to watch the Simpsons tonight,” her mother told her.
The girl was kind’a disappointed, cause she wanted to do her homework. Besides, she liked to look at all those pictures of other countries and stuff on the television. She simpered, slamming herself into a corner of the couch.
“Your teacher won’t mind if you don’t watch every night, Cori. The Simpsons are going to be real good tonight,” Her mother told her.
Another funny thing, Cori thought later. The Simpsons turned out to be just another rerun. She had seen it a million times already.
Since she couldn’t do her homework that night, Cori and Uncle Jim played with a toy train he brought home. They needed a lot of room, so she helped him set tracks up in the long hallway and even the kitchen. It went in a circle, but a large complex circle. The track looped around and around, ran up to the seat of a kitchen chair her uncle brought into the hallway, and then down and around a big loop.
He had all kinds of toys that went with it. Like a little station with a man in a funny hat standing in front. As the train went by, the toy man would wave. At first, Uncle Jim played with the controls himself. She was anxious and wanted to move the lever and change speed, making the engine go “Toot Toot”, herself.
Finally, Uncle Jim let her.
“Now, you do it. Come around here and I’ll show you how.”
She went over and lay down flat. The train looked much bigger and realistic that way, and seemed to be even faster as it turned the nearest curve toward her. Her uncle looked at the empty doorway and then lay down next to her.
“You’re right. It looks more real from down here.”
“Let me see. Oh, yes, you’re right.” He put his arm around her, slipping a hand under her chest. “You got the good spot,” he said and tickled her through her blouse.
He showed her how to use the control box. Cori could smell cigarette smoke on his breath as he moved his face right up beside hers, watching as she made the little train go faster and faster. When she heard her parents talking about a television show, Uncle Jim jumped up and adjusted the track, putting in another loop.
Everything was normal for a while. Uncle Jim was still looking for work. School was okay. Janice never did come back, but she wasn’t really a friend, anyway. It was normal until one Saturday morning.
Cori was playing in her uncle’s room. He had a telescope in there, aimed at the house next door. Cori played with the knobs, swinging the focus from one window to another. Her father’s work was piled up and he had to go in to work that day. Uncle Jim was out job hunting again.
“Cori, I have to go to the store for flour. Will you be all right alone for awhile?” her mother called up the stairs. “I’ll be back in about a half hour.”
“Okay, Ma. I’m okay.” She could see the neighbor’s cat through a window. It looked life-size in the telescope. “Hello, Spider,” she murmured.
A little later, she heard someone coming up the stairs.
“Hi Cori, where’s Mary?” It was Uncle Jim. He saw what she was doing and came over. “Anything interesting, honey?”
“She went to the store or something.”
Across the street, the cat got up and stretched, looking toward the telescope.
Her uncle picked her up around the waist and swung her into the air.
“See better this way? Wheee, you’re flying.”
He swept her up and down and around the room. Cori laughed as the motion made her dizzy.
The excitement turned to shock as Uncle Jim threw her onto the bed and started to tickle her all over.
As he slid her purple jeans off, her eyes were crying from the tickles. Cori wiped tears away and noticed that he had his own pants off, or at least down to his ankles.
When he grabbed her where nobody was supposed to, they both stopped laughing. He became real rough then, making tears come back — that time from pain.
“What the hell you doing?” her mother screamed from the doorway. She came in like a hurricane, pulling the much-larger man off the little girl.
Uncle Jim swung and hit her mother, hard. The woman screamed and tried to defend herself, but Uncle Jim swatted her like a fly. She soon lay quietly on the floor in front of a dresser, asleep? Shocked by the violence, Cori screamed.
“Don’t you hit my Mama.” Cori rose and jumped at him, only to be thrown into a corner of the room, her head barely missing the edge of a dresser. She lay in a daze as nice Uncle Jim did real bad things to her mother, the sight indelibly inked into her young mind.
When he was finished, he tied the girl with a pajama belt and threw her next to where her mother lay, red blood seeping out of Mama’s mouth. Then, Uncle Jim went downstairs, leaving them alone. Cori was glad he did. She hurt all over.
“Mama, wake up. Please. I hurt. Please,” Cori pleaded, but her mother didn’t wake up or answer — she never would.
An eternity later, as she lay in pain, young mind going in circles, unable to comprehend what was happening, Cori heard noises downstairs, finishing with three loud “Bang”s like a gun going off on television, but much louder and scarier.
After that, Cori was found by a policeman. The neighbors had heard the noise and called them. Since Uncle Jim killed both her parents, she was sent to an orphanage and later adopted by a nice couple. But she could never, ever, forget. The nightmares wouldn’t let her. They never did catch Uncle Jim.
“I can’t fully understand your feelings, Cori. Nobody can.” A hospital psychiatrist swept sad eyes over Cori. “It was too horrible for such a young girl to understand. By the by, does telling me bother you too much? If it does, we can wait till later.”
“No, ma’am. If anything, finally telling someone makes me feel better.”
Ms. Thompson stood, stretching slim arms overhead while trying to get wrinkles out of her spine. They had been talking for hours. Now twenty-two-years old, Cori had adapted well with her new parents. They were a couple in West Virginia — a quite untypical family.
The psychiatrist had heard many such stories in her time working with the Illinois Department of Corrections.
“Why don’t we take a lunch break? They’re serving swiss steak in the cafeteria? Come on, sit with me. We’ll talk of ships and sharks and sealing wax, with cabbages and kings,” the doctor joked.
“You mean of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings.” Cori had to smile. They went down to the hospital cafeteria for lunch. Afterward, returning to Ms. Thompson’s office. Both feeling more relaxed, the young woman resumed her story.
“Well, Mr. McCleary, my new father, was from the old school. He ran his household firmly, very firmly, but wasn’t unfair or mean. Although owning quite a bit of land in West Virginia, he was a dirt-rich farmer with most of his land on a steep slant. Virtually worthless. He didn’t believe in welfare. A man took care of himself and his family, was his creed.
“The farming was pretty bad. He raised as much corn as he could, sometimes by simply throwing it at the slope and hoping some would grow. That corn was used in a still — which was his main source of income. I’d spend endless hours holding on to cornstalks and trying not to slip down the hill while I grabbed ears off them to make whiskey.” Cori smiled at the memory.
“My rages started early on. Ezra, that’s Mr. McCleary, would slap me down when I became violent. It didn’t take me long to get out of the habit, sometimes going behind the barn to take unreasoning anger out on small critters or just run and run until I collapsed. He didn’t believe in psychological bullshit, excuse me. A woman acted up, he slapped her down. That went double for kids.
“We lived in a tumbledown log house with clapboard extensions. My bedroom had a hole a mile wide in one wall, closed by a blue tarp in the winter and open for fresh air in the spring. Speaking of walls, they were papered with layers of old newspapers. A melange of dates, the earliest I could find, at least on top, was April 1921. And, believe me, I looked. It was fun to read old comic strips pasted to the walls.
“He was a gun nut, with quite a collection. He owned everything from muzzle-loaders to a modern Uzi machine pistol. To protect his livelihood, he said. When I was old enough, he took me with his other kids — there were six of us — out hunting. Maybe because of my past childhood, I took a big interest in shooting. In fact I could soon out-shoot him, a fact which annoyed Ezra to no end. A little girl shooting better than a grown man? He made excuses that his eyesight was going bad, but we all knew different.” Now relaxed, she laughed at the memory.
Ms. Thompson listened as she made tea on an office hotplate. The doctor was important enough at the hospital to rate such simple pleasures, as well as a bathroom to herself and two windows in her office.
“Anyways,” Cori continued while watching the brewing process, “he didn’t care for the government, saying they never done nothing for him but collect his money. As he got up in years, he stopped paying taxes — even on his land. That went on for quite a while. We were so isolated and deep in the woods that no one seemed to notice.
“The day came, I was about eighteen, when the government found out about the taxes. They told him he had to go to court and get a lawyer, but he simply ignored the edict. When he was picked up by policemen and taken to court, he was told he owed thousands of dollars in back taxes. Either he paid them in sixty days or the government would sell his land.
“After going on a three-day drunk, during which all of us were afraid to speak to him, he sold the land himself. He then took the money and joined a militia group up in the hills. Thanks.” Cori raised the teacup, sipped to clear her throat, and continued.
“From the time I was eighteen till twenty, I lived with them there. They considered themselves as patriots but were against the way the government worked. No, not plotting to overthrow it. Everybody seems to think that. The good part was I enjoyed all the military training, even learned hand-to-hand stuff. The bad part was that without Ezra’s constant attention my rages came back.
“At first, they tried to punish me but eventually learned to live with it. The entire bunch of them were afraid to set me off. Ezra could still control me but no one else could. The whole thing came to a head one night.
“We were in the dayroom watching television when the story of my parents’ murder came on the tube. They didn’t know my background and that the show was about me. I didn’t either, at first. While I was sitting in a kind of shock — I’d never seen it before but recognized my real name — one of the men put his hand on my shoulder for some reason.
“I flew into a rage and almost killed him. It took four grown men to pull me off. After that, the leader ordered me to leave. Mr. McCleary, Ezra, gave me what money he could — a few thousand dollars — and I left. Nobody but Ezra’s family waved goodbye. I guess the rest of them were glad to get rid of me.”
Ms. Thompson took time to really study the girl. Cori appeared to be a small light woman, five feet three inches tall. The thought of her having a rage that took four grown men to handle caused the prison ward psychiatrist to shudder.
“You certainly had a strange upbringing, Cori. How did you feel about leaving your foster family?”
“I dunno, really. In one way I wanted to stay, in another I was tired of all the religious crap they spouted.”
“Well then, what happened next? How did you find the real world?”
“With money, I also had a good time. Least for awhile. The way Ezra trained me, I had enough sense to look for work before all of it was gone. The problem was that I couldn’t keep a job. I didn’t have much education. Ezra didn’t believe much in schooling — especially for girls — keeping us home to work more often than not.
“All I could get was manual labor with no benefits, which was all right except that the bosses wanted to lord it over me. That would soon get me angry and I would be out of work again.” Cori leaned back and stretched her legs out, tired from sitting.
“You want to take a break, Cori? We don’t have to finish today?”
“That’s all right, Ms. Thompson. I’d rather get it over with if you don’t mind?”
“No. No. Go ahead. You’re telling the story.” Anticipating a dry throat, she took away the empty tea cups and brought glasses of ice-water over.
“Thanks, I needed that.” Cori took a long drink of water and continued. “Back to ‘This is Your Life, Cori.’ Well I survived. I even tried a little prostitution on the side. I wasn’t rich but I earned enough money for a five-year-old Ford and a one-room apartment. My bank account hovered around three-hundred dollars.
“Everything was going fairly well … until … until the fateful day I saw Uncle Jim.
“He was standing in line, waiting for a bus. I knew it was him, no way I could forget his face. I was in a fix. I could turn him in to the police but, like Ezra, I didn’t trust the government much. Oh, I didn’t hate them like some of the militia did, but still preferred to go my own way. Guess I learned that from old Ezra.
“To my later surprise, I didn’t go into a rage. In fact, it felt like I was standing outside my body while looking at the scene. I felt no emotion at all. Not fear, not anger. Nothing! Not a fucking thing.
“I followed him home. After all, I had only been four-years-old at the time. There was no way for him to recognize me. He lived in a transient hotel in the Loop — this was here in Chicago. No doorman or anything. An old man was at the desk, nodding off, as I followed Uncle Jim into an elevator.
“’You’re new here, aren’t you?’ he asked while we were riding up. ‘I just love small women, especially as pretty as you.’ “
“The bastard grinned at me during the whole tired line.
“‘Why, thank you, sir,’ I answered, smiling back. Still no emotion. ‘I can see you’re a real gentleman.’ Jeez, I couldn’t believe it as I stood outside of myself, watching the conversation.
“‘Uh, you’re not in the business, are you?’ he asked, hopefully. After all it was that kind of hotel.
“‘Well actually … yeah.”
“‘How much you charge for a half-and-half?’
“‘Well, I can’t do it for less than twenty,’ I heard myself say. A very weird feeling — being outside yourself. ‘Union rules, you know?’ My other self smiled.
“‘I got it. Come on. I have room 414.’
“We left the elevator on the fourth floor and walked down a dreary ill-lighted hallway. Naked forty-watt bulbs hung from each end of the corridor, shining onto a carpetless wooden floor. Slowing and stopping at a door which had the numerals,‘41’ with a lonely nail-hole instead of the last number, we entered.
“Uncle Jim didn’t waste any time. He was almost naked by the time he reached an unmade bed. Sitting down to take off his shoes, he seemed surprised to see me still fully dressed.
“’Well come on, sweetie. Lets get that old juice flowing,’ he suggested, an attempt at humor.”
Dr. Thompson noticed Cori’s eyes shining with an unnatural light, lean muscles rippling under the skin of her forearms as she spoke, fingers white as she gripped the edge of the coffee table. Frankly, the doctor found herself frightened as Cori continued in an emotionless voice.
“It was the last thing he uttered, except for one fraction of a scream, as a rage hit me. At first, I saw as through a red curtain before my mind became a jumble of evil — flowing down, through my arms, to my wrist as I almost tore him apart. Looking back at it, as much as I can remember, which isn’t much, he had absolutely no chance. It was like a lion attacking a mouse.
“I woke on the floor, a pool of blood approaching me from where it was still dripping off the edge of the bed. The bed itself was already covered with red. The son-of-a-bitch lay on his back, head at an odd angle. He had a look of pure horror on his face that would have sold a million Halloween masks.
“I got up and sat on an overturned stuffed chair, staring at him for a long while as the rage left me. Now that the cause was dead, I felt like I could fly. To say I was thrilled at the sight would be a gross understatement.”
As she spoke, Cori grinned from ear to ear. Her eyes took on a look of abject ecstasy as she recalled the sight of a dead Uncle Jim.
Ms. Thompson looked at Cori. Careful not to interrupt her mood — or even make any sudden movements herself. She recalled seeing that look before … in the eyes of John Wayne Gacy.
“Well, after I pulled myself together, I washed up and changed bloody clothing for some of his. I guess I looked kinda butch as I left the hotel and headed for a bar. I felt a strong urge to get drunk.
“There was a cheap saloon around the block, probably there to serve the hotel denizens or vice versa. I walked in, still high on Adrenalin, and ordered a seven-seven. While waiting, I looked down the bar and straightened up with a shock. I was looking at Uncle Jim. He was standing at the other end of the bar. I was certain it was him. I couldn’t get his face out of my head.
“The bartender came over with my drink and held out a hand for money. In that part of town they never let you run a tab. With my hand shaking almost uncontrollably, I put bills in his hand and looked up. He was also Uncle Jim. Heart beating wildly, I swung around with my back pressing against the bar, holding on for dear life as I felt like falling over. I saw that every male patron in the bar was … UNCLE JIM!
“That’s when I passed out. The police found me there, hands, face, and hair still bloody.” She managed a sickly grin. “And here I am.” Cori sat back, gazing innocently at her sweating companion. “Doctor. I think somethings wrong with me?”