Can you keep a secret? If you cannot, then move on. Pick something else to read while the earth spins on its axis. If you can keep a secret than move closer to the words I write. No, closer.
I know where Baggars Smith is hiding.
Baggars Smith was not a nice person. Some would look at his criminal record, which started at the age of eight, and say, ‘He was a product of a criminal upbringing.’ Yet, the truth is more simplistic than that. Plainly stated, Baggars Smith was born to be bad.
I have heard people say of a child rapist, that he was probably molested as a child too, thus the cycle of violence and pain continues from one generation to the next. In Baggars’s case that was true , he had been abused in every way imaginable as a child. Yet, for Baggars, the act of rape was not always an act of revenge for a childhood episode. It was done because he enjoyed lording his power, inflicting the pain, and knowing that whoever his victim (he always prided himself on being able to disguise his face) she or he would never forget him. There was an immortal feeling attached to his acts of violence.
I stated earlier that he was a pedophile, but his appetite was much broader, he did what he did to children because they were the easiest to overpower. He knew that his looming image would haunt their unconscious thoughts. He also knew, from observations he made on his own, that many would remain victims…and that my dear readers, was his main motivation. His unfortunate life circumstances may have made him a bigger monster, but make no mistake – he was born a monster.
It was as if he had a hunger to cause pain. His thirst could only be fed by the overpowering of someone physically, mentally, and emotionally. Which, as fate would have it, was his undoing. Now in the age of DNA and the ‘CSI’ franchises, Baggars took precautions, yet, as he learned, sometimes what you do to avoid detection is not enough.
It was that nineteen-year-old college student, whose murder was the one that finally brought his criminal career to an end. Like some of the others, she was studied from afar for a week. He watched her as she limped to class and explained to whoever asked how she twisted her ankle while on a hike. He liked how she laughed and yearned for their encounter where he could silence her joyful spirit forever.
He had not meant to kill, just rape, maybe cut her – scar her both inside and out, but he wielded his knife too carelessly and she fought back harder than he had imaged she would. The first cut was an accident, but the next? When all was done, he had stabbed her over a hundred times and there was too much blood to clean up so he left her there on the wooden floor in the house she shared with a roommate who was gone for the weekend. He hoped for the best, but his luck had run out.
I hope you do not think I am suggesting that killing was something new to Baggars (for most of his life he deliberately ran over animals in his pickup truck). He had killed people before, but he always was able to justify such actions by saying they deserved it, as if his victims didn’t get that they were dealing with something supernatural.
There was that prostitute in Tampa, the one with the mouth. She kept talking and talking and gave barely a nod to Baggars most prized procession. Well, he taught her manners soon enough. If she didn’t like to do what he paid her twenty bucks to do then slitting her throat and burying her off the Interstate is what she got.
There was the old man who ran the RV Park where Baggars camped for a summer in Salem. That bastard just could not let it go that Baggars’s rent was a month behind. He deserved being pushed off that bridge located four counties away. Baggars even laughed when his death was ruled a suicide. Yes, he continued to live in his rented RV after he murdered his landlord. That was how confident he was about his crime.
Baggars was born in Rocheport, Missouri but because his Ma didn’t like his Pa, Baggars soon found himself living in Chicago. Later his mother moved to Tulsa, but she left Baggars in that dingy apartment she shared with three other individuals who enjoyed their drugs a lot more than tending to a child. Baggars became part of the foster care system of Chicago, which meant that it was pretty easy to place him in juvenile detention for a year after he committed grand theft an auto at the age of twelve.
When he turned eighteen he was released from juvenile hall (other offenses followed the grand theft auto) and left Illinois never to return. He told himself he was a rambling man, a man that enjoyed the road – only the more astute could possibly notice how pale he would get whenever the Windy City was mentioned in causal conversation. Perhaps, because that was the last place he ever felt fear. My goodness, he wasn’t even afraid when the police knocked down his door to arrest him for murdering the college student.
To say that Baggars didn’t have good traits is to deny that he was ever human, which would be a lie that I would never tell. He was very human, although others would like to paint him as a complete monster with no other capacity but to do monstrous things. I find these are the sort of people that do not like to confront the devil that lurks inside their own hearts. It is much easier to blame evil on something from the outside – the Devil tempted someone’s soul or God didn’t listen to an earnest prayer. Yet, the truth is that we who are born human do have free will and although God and the Devil may exist, only we as individuals in the end can answer for our deeds in life.
One trait that I found appealing about Baggars is how he enjoyed reading. He read with little skill, almost as if he was still a child enrolled in primary school, but seldom did I see him ever spend a day without cracking open at least one book if not two. I would catch him sometimes deep in a plot, reading with his mouth open as he tried to sound out a word.
My first introduction to Baggars was movie night and all the inmates were watching ‘The Legend of Baggar Vance,’ which lead one particular wisecracker to question why Baggars was called ‘Baggars’ instead of ‘Baggar.’ It was all a ploy. Something prisoners do to establish which one of them is the alpha wolf of which prison tribe. If it wasn’t for Baggars unusual name, it would have been something else.
By instinct, this wasn’t Baggars first time at the incarcerated rodeo, Baggars didn’t reply but simply picked up a chair and aimed for the head of the guy who asked it. The result was blood everywhere, guards yelling and trying to seize command, and inmates being escorted back to their cells.
Baggars wasn’t allowed to sit in on movie night for a year as a result, but it mattered little. He would be imprisoned for a long time. He was satisfied that he proved to those who might care that he wasn’t someone that they could mess with. He was fine being a leader or remaining a lone wolf, what he would never be is just another member of the pack.
In case you are wondering why his name is ‘Baggars’ and not ‘Baggar,’ it is because his father’s name was Baggar and to denote that Baggars was his son he added an s. I suppose some people just don’t understand the concept of calling their issue junior or Baggar Smith II. When I realized the truth of the matter it caused me to laugh aloud, which was the precise moment I noticed Baggars could hear me.
It was then that I took an interest in Baggars. Although little he did throughout his life could ever be described as sweet, I thought it was sweet how he read storybooks stuck in the prison library from the time when the prison itself was an insane asylum.
This would probably be a good time to introduce myself. My name is Rachel Marie Timmons. I was born in the year 1870 and died in the year 1927. If you try to look up my name in any records, I doubt you will find much. You might find me listed in some county tax record under my father’s name as one of his twelve children (I was born to his second wife) but you won’t find me listed as a wife or mother…of this I am sure.
I was married young you see. Too young in fact. I was sixteen when I wed a handsome lad of German descent whose father gave him two hundred acres to farm. I was barely a woman since I had only started my monthlies a few weeks before taking my vows. I supposed I loved my husband at first and didn’t mind how often he wanted to do his business with me in our bed, but after two children the end result was that I was tired and wanted no more children hanging from my skirts.
When the voice came, I thought I was chosen by God. Although born Baptist my husband’s faith was Roman Catholic so I was forced to convert. I hated the Priest who was old and cranky, but I loved the stories of the saints, all bloody and heroic. I knew that Saint Joan had heard voices too. I laugh about it now, but I thought I might be destined to lead an army against some sort of oppressor.
At first, the voice was my secret. It was what kept me from wanting to scream every time my husband touched me. I knew what would happen if he kept doing what he did to me in our bed. I knew I would be forced to have another baby and I started to hate the idea with every fiber of my being. I tried to explain this to him and but he laughed as if I was making some sort of joke. Later when I started resisting, he scolded me for not doing my wifely duty. By the time he started to hit me the voice had become my central focus. I do not think it even bothered him, as he sweated and grunted on top of me, that I carried on whole conversations with someone neither he nor I could see.
Of course, I knew I was with child again when my monthly did not come. I found a book my aunt had given my mother that gave tea recipes, which were supposed to make the baby go away, but the baby didn’t go away. It was as if there was a power struggle between itself and me, I did everything in my power to rid it and it did everything it could to remain clinging to my insides. I think it was determined to have the last laugh.
I was distraught until the voice told me to go out by the creek and take a large rock and hit my lower stomach. I did it repeatedly and although it hurt like the Dickens, I stayed conscious until I felt the blood seep from between my legs. My husband found me passed out, my lower half in the stream with the remains of the child by my side. I suppose it would have been nothing for me to pass out with my head in the water thus drowning as a result.
I was sent away at first for six months before returning to my husband and children, both of which were scared of me while my husband seemed more resentful than anything. It did not take long for the voice to return, it took even less time for my husband to return me to my father and inform him that I was now his problem. I never saw my children again.
Although my father still had seven mouths to feed, he was on his third wife by then (my mother having died in childbirth a few years before) he did all in his power to keep me sane. He knew I loved reading and quilting and I was seldom in need of a new book or scraps of material to sew. He did not even mind my habit of singing whenever the mood struck me. Sometimes while sewing, sometimes during mealtime, and sometimes even in the middle of the night.
His new wife despised me of course. She thought herself very above life as a farmer’s wife, she being Boston born and all. Her father was the type who thought he would make a lot of money opening a general store on the outskirts of St. Andrew, but he wasn’t very good managing money. All of it ended up with him marrying his oldest daughter to my father after my father agreed to take her. My father gave her father fifty dollars and no one heard from him again.
To be honest, I think my father regretted remarrying so quickly because his third wife was just plain mean and never enjoyed singing and took it upon herself to call me a murderess whenever she knew my father was out of earshot. I suppose if I hadn’t lost my temper and my inner voice did not command me to cut off her hair with my sewing scissors, I may never have been forced to return to the ‘funny farm’ as my younger brother called it.
Until my father’s death in the spring of 1894, he always visited me on the first Sunday of the month, assuming the weather permitted. Depending when he would get to the hospital, we might start with Sunday service and then end up having a nice picnic by the fishing pond. At the time, the grounds of the hospital were quite large and we patients were self-sufficient because we farmed the land, fished in the pond, or created something that the hospital could sell.
I think that my father, despite how I may have shamed him with my insanity, liked his forays into my world. He always said that there was a peacefulness he shared with me that he didn’t get at home. Then one Sunday he didn’t show. When he didn’t show up for the second scheduled Sunday of good spring weather, I asked one of my doctors if he could send out letters of inquiry. He did and the result was that my step-mother had moved back to Boston with her two children leaving several of my younger siblings (the ones she hadn’t birthed) to fend for themselves alone out on the farm.
My father had died of fever and she didn’t even bother to make arrangements for him to be buried, instead she just gathered all of her things, took all of the money he saved up his entire life that he kept under his mattress and just left. The task of giving my father a Christian burial fell on the shoulders of my then fifteen-year-old brother.
For years afterwards he and I would write to each other but he never visited me. As the years wore on fewer and fewer letters arrived for me. Then it came to a time (1911 to be exact) when Christmas came and went without one written word from anyone who was blood family. It was as if my siblings were scattered like invisible seeds.
Despite what you may think, the majority of my life here at the hospital was pleasant. In many ways, those us of without family were luckier than those with relatives because some of them were placed in our community for purposes that were less than honorable, at least if you ask me. Wives husbands no longer wanted. Older relatives who did not have the decency to die in a timely manner - thus leaving the younger generation waiting too long for their inheritance. I saw it all. Yet, because I was a good patient and made many beautiful quilts (some I was even allowed to keep) I, and my voice inside, were allowed to live in relative peace. This even after the model of mental health changed and we, the committed, were viewed as people who could have controlled our mental state if we didn’t have weak morals (untreated syphilis was discovered to lead to eventual insanity). Before that time we were viewed as just people who, though crazy, could not control our minds, and thus could not live with the general population, but should be treated with humanity. Some even described our hospital as a country club nestled in a pleasant park.
So, what can I tell you about the intervening years between my death and now? I suppose I could interest you in the lives of patients who came and went while under my watch. I could tell you about the doctors and therapists. I could even enthrall you with comparisons of mental health treatment through the decades, but all I could tell you would pale in comparison to the changes that happened when this old ‘nut hut’ home of mine was transformed into a prison.
Sure, there was protest within the community of the living, but not enough of it to challenge the rising tide of punishment versus treatment, which has resulted in more prisons and less schools and programs that help people who are like me when I was living. While I watched prisoners shuffle across the yard that was once a flower garden, I couldn’t help but reminisce about how my hospital was lovely back in the day. I remember in 1975 when it was celebrating its centennial and was made into a historic landmark, which meant the older buildings could be altered. I spend the day watching the staff eat their cake and then watched what was left of the celebratory cake being eaten by the children in their own private ward.
Despite death, it was a hard day indeed when I watched the grand porch of the white building demolished. A lot of the living were sad too despite a new modern hospital that was built across the way, but there was little they could do once the state proclaimed they needed the grounds for a prison, which was now located in the middle of St. Andrew. Apparently, state government can override historic landmarks if they can justify the need.
I seldom spent any of my energy in the prison, instead preferring to watch the college students tromp across their campus where the hospital once grew corn and had an apple orchard. These fields were a few miles away from where we were housed. If we were to work in the fields we would all pile into the back of a wagon (which later became a truck) and ride out. Most of the time we would sing as we worked, thus overall it was fun.
A few of the apple trees have managed to survive and it is amusing in the fall to help the students pick apples. Funny how times change, back in my life it would have been nothing to go up to an apple tree and pick fruit, but now you can see it in the students’ eyes that they think that they are doing the most exotic thing imaginable as they pluck the fruit and then take a bite. More often than not, they will then look at the place they have eaten half expecting, I suppose, something alarming to arise on their taste buds as if they have bitten into a worm.
The only time I really spent at the prison was on movie night, ironically the one tradition that has remained the same despite this place being either a mental hospital or prison – which was started after my death. It was there when I saw Baggars pick up the chair in preparation to braining his nemesis. If it wasn’t for me pulling his victim slightly to the left I am sure that Baggars would have killed the man and thus would have been in much more trouble than he was.
Shortly thereafter, I noticed that Baggars could hear me. This was something that hadn’t happened in the last twenty years. Granted, there were a lot of mentally unstable individuals in the prison, but few of them, and yes, I suppose Baggars should have fallen into this category as well, of whom I really cared about knowing personally.
I have to confess that the only person I would have ever referred to as a ‘best friend’ was a girl who was committed to the hospital for four years after experimenting with LSD too many times in the late sixties. We used to talk all the time and I taught her how to quilt. By the time, she left in 1972 her doctor convinced her that I didn’t exist and my voice was only her mind playing tricks on her. She believed him over me and then moved to Dallas where she had three children, and now is a grandmother of six. Sometimes I still visit her, but I keep my distance.
Most of the prisoners are a different breed than we patients were. Most of them are violent and rude and have no business interacting with a lady…alive or dead. I suppose Baggars would not have interested me at all, but because he was so earnest in his studies, I decided to make myself known to him after I researched some books that I felt he should request from the library. Being a spirit, I felt it was best to leave him a note by his bed with a list of books I believed he needed to request. He thought it odd to receive such a note but went ahead and asked for the books. I could tell that I spooked him good when I left the second list. The look on his face was priceless and it made me giggle. He heard my mirth and sucked all the air out of his tiny cell. “Who’s here? Where are you?”
By the time the third list was written I decided it was best to let him know my game. I pinched him awake. He sat up straight ready to attack, “What? Show yourself motherfucker!”
“My goodness what language!”
He looked around as my voice penetrated all three walls of his cell, “Who are you? How did you get in here?”
“My name is Rachel Marie Timmons, but everyone called me Mary and you may call me Mary too.”
“I can’t see you! IF YOU THINK THIS IF FUNNY BITCH, I’LL TEACH YOU!”
“You can’t touch me, B-a-G-G-a-r-s! You can’t touch me because I don’t exist on you energy plane, but if you come to where the window is casting the morning light you might be able to see my shadow.”
He did as instructed and saw my shadow. At first he stepped back, but then he realized that although he could do nothing to harm me, I probably could not harm him in return. Baggars was a man who had spent only a few years of his life (the early part) being afraid, the rest of it he had made himself the bogie man of others’ nightmares. He knew too well that he could make people fear him at a glance. Now that he had met me, he no longer feared me.
“How old are you?”
“That is a tricky question.”
“You look young.”
“Only because I wish to appear young. I look as I did when I first came here. I am the ghost of a patient. Where you stand now was once the women’s wing. My first room was a floor above, the room that was mine when I became a permanent resident is down the hall on the left. I am buried in a cemetery located just outside your prison yard.”
He studied me for a few minutes. I could see his mind working. Thinking of different questions and then dismissing them. Finally he asked, “So, are you still crazy?”
“What do you think?”
Our friendship, if you could call it such, grew from there. I taught him how to read better and told him things about the guards in order for him to mystify them and gain leverage over their weak minds. At first I was amused by the turn of events, but sooner than I anticipated, I grew weary of being a guardian angel of sorts to a man of Baggars’s ilk. I would have been fine with the status quo except Baggars started to demand more of my time, which oddly I found myself obeying.
I should have taken it as a bad sign when he forced some young guy into pleasuring him in the shower as he called out my name. He started to ask me questions about my ability to take physical form and just so I could give him erotic sensations. It was tiresome because he didn’t understand that I just wasn’t…how do the living express it now?…oh yes, I just wasn’t ‘in’ to him.
I think Baggars’ mistake was that he didn’t ever grasp how things work in my reality. He thought I was some sort of ghost like ‘Casper,’ friendly and willing to satisfy his needs. I tried to explain to him, but alas, he would not listen. Did he really think I was so lonely that I would resort to despair if he stopped communicating with me? I’m dead after all…and there are other fish in the sea.
Finally, after doing some research, and soul searching, I decided to grant him the favor he had been asking for. I would assume physical form, but Baggars would have to leave his cell in order to consummate our union. I, of course, could set his freedom in motion by unlocking doors and confusing guards, but could not transform into matter unless I was within a few feet where my physical body was buried.
So the night came when Baggars escaped from his cell, the same one he was now sharing with a man who embezzled money from his uncle’s business who snored through the all of Baggars’s escape, not realizing until the morning that he too could have escaped. I know that as Baggars crawled through the hole in the fence he realized that he had a chance of freedom. Not far from where I am buried is now a busy street. Someone like him could easily carjack someone driving home from a late evening dinner. He could probably go very far before anyone knew he was gone. Think about it, he would be free to rape and murder and this time he would be more careful in choosing his victims. He would realize that just because a girl has a sprang ankle it doesn’t mean that she can’t kick and claw and fight for her life. He would have been given the death sentence if it were not for his clever attorney. All he had to do was walk ten feet further and there would have been little I could have done about it.
“B-a-G-G-a-r-s,” I called hoping that the wind would carry my plea to his ear. “B-a-G-G-a-r-s, come here my love, I am waiting.”
My prayer was answered, as he tilted his head, catching the glimpse of my youthful body in my thin burial shroud. He was as quick as an animal on the hunt as he grabbed me and tore off my rotting gown. The violence of his kiss caught me off guard and I was aware of all the dead eyes watching our embrace. I suppose many of my brethren had not seen such antics since our graves had tiny markers denoting our final resting places.
We patients who had lived our lives at St. Andrew’s hospital were buried on the grounds for several decades. As such things happened, during WWII the management of the state hospital felt that their policy needed to be changed. They felt it was best if a patient died it was up to their family of origin to do with the body as they deemed fitting. There was a war going on and the hospital staff had other things to do than to tend to a graveyard. Thus, the hospital surrendered our remains to the same families who often wished that we had fallen off the face of the planet.
By the early 50’s, when St. Andrew’s was modernizing the superintendent at the time was embarrassed that there was a cemetery on site. Since he was bound for a bigger job within the mental health bureaucracy, plus being a major slime ball, he decided to remove our grave markers and pretend that we patients should be as forgotten in our deaths as we were to the majority of our families when we were living.
For a time in the mid-80’s our little cemetery had a renaissance of sorts when a social worker pushed the issue to recognize our graves. He had, during some rare down time, discovered in some old records that a cemetery was located where the children played kickball. Because of his efforts, a ceremony was conducted and our little graveyard was commissioned as a cemetery once again. A tiny border fence was built with a large stone denoting that this as hallow ground. Unfortunately, the records of who was buried here was lost in a 1948 fire.
We patients were satisfied with the small recognition. Most of us got used to being forgotten in life, so many argued why would death be different, but just the same, it was nice to notice people thinking of us as they ate their lunches in the secluded picnic table that overlooked our graveyard. You can imagine how disappointed we were when the prison moved in and our little fence was taken down. Only the granite stone remained suggesting a cemetery was underfoot and no one now ever looked at it.
Thus, I could hear gasps and some clapping as Baggars shoved his tongue down my throat. You would have thought he had would have had some sense that all of this was wrong, but he didn’t, so when I bit his tongue and started to pull it out of his throat it took him a moment to realize that I was not Casper…or his guardian angel…or a sex doll willing to do his bidding. He must have been in extreme pain as I pushed him away holding his tongue between my teeth. He was trying to yell but couldn’t. It is hard to do without a tongue and most likely blood was rushing down his throat. He stared at me and I knew he wanted to call me several names as he witnessed me as a youthful harpy covered in his blood.
I was unsure if he noticed all of those whom he had murdered watching his demise. The college student took it upon herself to throw him on the ground, but she hasn’t been dead long enough to manipulate her power. He lunged at me, thinking, perhaps, he could kill me twice? I laughed and then disappeared as if my form had always been smoke and mirrors.
He was bewildered, but didn’t have a chance to get his bearing. I think if I hadn’t grabbed him he would have tried to save his life by going back to the prison. Instead, he felt my skeletal hands wrap themselves around his ankles and then pull him down into the soil where my earthly remains reside. Slowly he sank as if he was trapped in quick sand, lower, and lower; struggling the entire way down. All of the pain he caused in his life he felt ten-fold and the victims of his viciousness were all present (even the fractured souls of those still breathing) as he met his destiny.
Now that I have told you everything, I must extract this promise. Do not tell anyone what I have told you. Do not call the TIPS hotline or contact the sheriff’s department. If I see digging around my grave, I’ll know someone told. If I find out YOU were the one who spilled the beans as to where Baggars Smith is hiding, the voice in my head told me that I will have to come after you.
Now that my voice has thought about it, it tells me I might come after you regardless.
© 2007 Westerfield