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The Secret Life of Brandon
Six years ago
It was killing him. The secret was eating away at nine-year-old Brandon Murphy’s conscience like a middle-aged, single, overweight woman at an all-you-can-eat buffet. He knew he couldn’t tell anyone, even though he felt that he needed to in order to keep his brain unstressed. Being a kid he wasn’t the best at making decisions, and this would come to be the worst of his life.
Brandon was not very intimidating, especially in school. Kids would pick and beat on him because he was short and lanky. Other than these problems, Brandon did fantastic in school. He got good grades and was always paying attention as much as he could.
Brandon’s home life was tragic. His mother died when he was just a toddler, around the age of three, in a plane crash on her way to a business meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. Brandon still had fond memories of his mother singing to him in his bed, but he knew that “alea jacta est”. On a Wednesday evening, Brandon’s father had also died from three fatal gunshot wounds to the chest, but no one knew of that yet.
Brandon’s teacher, Mrs. Denstien, noticed that on Thursday Brandon was acting more apathetic than usual. The bell rings and Mrs. Denstien speaks.
“Class you are excused, except for Brandon, please see me after class.”
About 6 minutes after the bell Brandon came back to the classroom and glared at his teacher with apathy.
“You wanted to see me?” Brandon asked with a rude attitude.
“Yes, is everything alright, Brandon?”
“Uh, yeah I’m fine. Why?”
“You just seem to be acting different than usual.”
Brandon could tell that Mrs. Denstien really did care about him. She saw that Brandon was beginning to open up.
“Well, it’s just that…” Brandon couldn’t find the strength to reveal his secret.
“Never mind, nothing’s wrong.” He quickly ended.
“Alright Brandon, but I just want you to know that you can tell me anything, do you understand?”
“Sure.” Brandon replied, now acting apathetic again.
“Now you better call your father to come pick you up.”
“No I don’t need to, I’m walking home.”
She noticed that Brandon was gone before she could finish.
Walking home Brandon remembered the song his mother used to sing to him. “Caterpillar in the tree, how you wonder who you’ll be. Can’t go far but you can always dream. Wish you may and wish you might. Don’t you worry, hold on tight. I promise you there will come a day. Butterfly fly away.” That was his favorite song when he was one and two years of age. Brandon heard this song play over and over in his head. But soon he the song faded away and a faint sound of sirens permeated his ear drums. He didn’t pay much attention to it at first, but then he saw that there were at least six police cars surrounding his house. He knew what was going on.
Brandon panicked. They would find out. He pretended that that wasn’t his house and walked casually meandered through the scene. The moment was surreal. It seemed as if it was in slow motion, but Brandon wanted to fast forward to the part where he was gone and away from the chaos. But all of a sudden he hears yelling.
“There he is! That’s the son. He lives here.”
Brandon quickly turned around and looked at the man who pointed him out. His neighbor Jack was staring straight at him with the most devastating eyes Brandon had ever seen. There was no escaping now. Brandon had to pretend he didn’t know what happened, but he did. Some police officers gathered around Brandon and started to talk to him like an old buddy you hadn’t seen in 10 years might.
“Hey pal! How’s it goin’ with you?”
“What happened? Why are you here?” Brandon asked in a real-sounding scared voice.
“Don’t worry about that bud, everything’s gonna be just fine.”
“No! Where’s my daddy?” that remark hit him like a car going 100 mph on the freeway. He wanted to see his dad, but knew he couldn’t.
“He’s here, but you can’t see him. The police are gonna take him, ‘kay?”
Brandon noticed a gurney behind the police officer at a distance being pulled into an ambulance by a paramedic. As soon as the police officer saw Brandon’s gawking face he took Brandon to a different area.
“I’m not a little boy anymore, I’m nine! Please tell me what happened and who that was in the body bag.”
“Brandon, you are still are a lil’ boy,” Added another officer who joined the conversation.
“If you’re trying to tell me that my daddy’s dead and I have to live with a foster family, I understand,” Brandon began to feel his own voice weaken. “I already knew he was dead.”
The police officers gazed at Brandon with an odd, unexplainable face.
“Why didn’t ya’ call us?” asked the first police officer.
Brandon didn’t answer the question.
“I don’t wanna answer any questions.”
The police officers escorted Brandon to a tall man who looked about in his fifties or sixties, who then took him into a police car.
“So what’s your name son?” he asked politely, as if nothing had happened.
“Brandon. What’s yours?” Brandon replied shyly.
“So you are how old, twenty? Oh, my name is Mr. Richard Starkey.”
“No! I’m nine.”
“So, are you from here in Texas or somewhere else?” the man asked with a strange inquiring sense.
“I was born at the Alpine Hospital, right down the road.”
“So, I’m from Michigan. So it gets pretty hot down here for me!” the old man laughed at his own joke. Brandon wondered if he noticed that he was starting every sentence with the word “so”.
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Brandon added, he didn’t hear his tone becoming lethargic.
“So where’s your momma?
“Oh, um…” Brandon’s voice was getting sadder and sadder by the second.
“She died. Six years ago in a plane crash. It plummeted straight into the ocean and no one was found, so they assumed that they had all died.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he replied to the sad comment with an upset tone to his voice.
“So now you’re completely alone, now that your daddy’s gone. But don’t worry, you’ll be fine. We’re gonna’ catch that convict who did this to him.”
Brandon didn’t feel very reassured by his “comforting” words, but at least he was trying. Brandon felt very safe with this old man. He thought that Mr. Starkey would come to be his best and only friend.
“So what are the names of some of your little friends?” Mr. Starrky ironically brought up.
“Oh, I don’t really have many friends.” Brandon replied with a sense of shame.
“That’s okay. I can already tell that you and I are going to be great friends.”
Brandon smiled in the backseat behind the protective bars of the police car. It was as if Mr. Starrky had read Brandon’s mind.
“So let me get this straight, you knew your father was dead inside your house, but you didn’t do anything about it?” asked a far less kind man as Mr. Starkey, who brought him here, inside a cramped dark room with a mirror on one wall, a table in the middle, two chairs, and a single light bulb inside a light fixture hanging low from the ceiling.
“Um, yes that’s right.”
Brandon jumped back in his seat as the man got in his face. This made Brandon think of something kids would say if he followed them. “Why are you all up in my Kool-Aid? It ain’t your flava’!” They would all laugh at this.
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t know who to call or tell and what they might do to him.”
“Moving on, did you find him like this inside the house?”
“Yeah, I did.” Brandon replied with a tension in his voice.
“When? Where? We have a lot of questions like this for you. Are you going to answer them?”
Brandon was getting anxious. He was doing his nervous gesture, kicking his diminutive feet under the table.
“I found him on Wednesday after school in his bedroom with blood all over the floor. I saw that he had three holes in his chest. I’m going to answer your questions, but first I have one for you.”
The man leaned closer to Brandon and went under the light. Brandon could clearly see every droop of skin in his face. He was a young man Brandon knew, but looked like he was forty-six-years old. Brandon thought that he was just stressed from people refusing to tell him the truth.
“Do you think it was me, you know, that killed my father?” Brandon was actually frightened this time.
“What? No, no, no! We never suspected you Brandon. You’re a young boy who would be left alone if anything happened to his father; we know you wouldn’t want that. Should we change our minds?”
“No, you shouldn’t I was just wondering,” Brandon said with relief.
“Can I go now?” he asked.
“Yes, you’re free to go.”
Brandon got up to leave but he heard the man say something.
“Hey, look. I’m sorry about what happened kid.”
Brandon smiled with a hint of sadness and turned back around to leave the room.
Brandon couldn’t sleep in the pitch-black cold room they made him sleep in at the police station. The room looked as if it hadn’t been redone in 30 years. A hard bed lied on the side next to the wall. A damaged oak bedside table sits alongside it with water stains on it. The wall has graffiti of names of the men and women that stayed in here prior to me. I wished I was back inside my cozy home with my parents alive and well. A door with bars slowly moaned open and a silhouette of a man stepped inside.
“Why aren’t you sleeping?” a deep voice with a Texan accent asked.
Scared, Brandon hesitated to answer. He could only see the outline of a man against the harsh light casting in from the hallway of the police station.
“It’s too cold in here.” Brandon replied softly.
“Use that dam- I mean darn blanket we gave ya’! That’s the point of it!”
“What blanket? I didn’t get any blankets.”
“Ughhhhhh. Hold on a bit. I’ll getcha’ one.”
Hearing this man made Brandon wonder why he didn’t have a Texan accent like his. He had lived here all his life. He thought maybe he just didn’t pick one up. Then Brandon recalled the freezing conditions of the room, but was glad he finally got his mind off of it.
The man entered again and threw a small, rough blanket at him. The fabric hit his face. He pulled it off and messed up his spiked hair. Coming out of his rude ways, the man granted a good night’s sleep to Brandon. The door gently screeched shut, an opposing sound to the one it made when it opened, and it once again grew dark.
Brandon lay in his bed and thought about his daddy. He wished he was still here. He knew what had happened, but he couldn’t tell anyone. He also thought about Mr. Starkey. Brandon wanted him to be his new daddy; he probably wouldn’t want to be though. The cold began to creep inside Brandon’s rough blanket and he felt himself shaking.
Around 8:30 A.M. a nice man knocked on the thick steel door.
“Are ya’ decent?” he yelled at Brandon so he could hear.
“Yes, you can come in.” Brandon replied.
The man let the light inside the vault-like room and blinded Brandon for a minute or two. This man was small and skinny, like Brandon, but much taller. His voice didn’t have any accents really and it was soft and soothing.
“What are you doing this morning so far?” he asked once he was fully inside.
“Oh, I woke up a while ago and I’ve just been sitting here ignorant.”
“Yeah, there’s no clock or nothin’ in here. Pertty frustrating, huh? Maybe I can get you one soon.” he sounded like he was trying to make a Texas accent in his voice.
“Yes, it is, and that’d be great. When can I leave?”
“Umm… Let’s make a deal. I’ll tell you the answer when someone tells me the answer.”
“You don’t know?” Brandon asked sounding surprised.
“No one does yet. But we will. We’re going to find you a foster momma and daddy.”
He looked at me with sympathy and did a 180 twist to the door.
Brandon wanted to bang on the door after him and ask if he could call someone. So he did.
“Hey! Hey! Open the door!” he bellowed as loud as his young lungs could.
After about three minutes of hitting doors and screaming, someone opened the door. The nice man had disappeared. This time it was a young, buff man who had many badges on his police vest.
“What’s all the commotion?”
“I want to know if I can call someone.” Brandon replied with a frightened tone.
“Who do you want to call? One of your little friends?” he asked rudely.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that.”
“Okay, come on out.”
He escorted Brandon to an old phone in-between two thin, long pieces of wood hanging on the wall for a little privacy. A phone book was sitting under it resting on another piece of wood connected with a strong wire rope.
“Dial a four before the number.”
“Okay, thank you.”
Brandon picked up the phone book and went to the “R” section. He couldn’t find Richard’s name. Then he went to the “S” section and found it after a tough search. He dialed the number with a four at the beginning.
“Y’ello?” beckoned a familiar friendly voice.
“Mr. Starkey! I missed you.” Brandon said desperately.
“Who is this?”
“Brandon, from the crime scene yesterday.”
“Oh, hello Brandon. How ya’ bean?” his Michigan accent was showing.
“I’m good, but I can’t leave the police station until they find me a foster momma and daddy.”
“You’ll be outta there in no time! Someone will get you quicker than you can say tyrannosaurus rex!”
All of a sudden someone tapped on his shoulder. This is it. Oh my gosh! Someone is actually here to get me! Mr. Starkey was right!
Brandon turned around with the phone still at his ear and mouth.
“Your time is up. Get off the phone.” said the man who let him use the phone.
Brandon was let down. He thought someone would like him for once besides Mr. Starkey, but no one did so far. Maybe he would just be ostracized for the rest of his life.
“Okay Mr. Starkey, I have to get off the phone now.”
“Wait boy! I’ll come to pick you up tomorrow at 10:00 A.M. to go meet people to adopt you.”
“Okay. I’ll tell them that. What if they don’t let me go?”
“If you tell them who this is they’ll let ya’.”
“Okay, I will. Bye Mr. Starkey.”
What he had said made Brandon shake with joy. I’m his son. I have my new daddy! He thought to himself.
The second night was just as uncomfortable as the first. Cold and never-ending might describe it perfectly. Brandon was so excited to go see Mr. Starkey today. He was awake almost all night.
“Excuse me! Is anyone there?” Brandon banged on the door again.
“What do ya’ want this time?” the same man from the day before asked, irritated.
“I am leaving today!”
“No you’re not! You can’t leave until we find you foster parents.”
“Mr. Richard Starkey is taking me to find some today.”
“Really? Richard Starkey? Wow. He’s real important, ya’ know.”
“I know. So am I allowed to go?”
“Why a’ course you are! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to introduce myself before you leave. Maybe I can get that promotion after all.”
Brandon was annoyed that the officer was using him in a way to progress in his job, but thrilled he was able to go with him.
The new clock that the nice officer got Brandon struck ten o’clock. Someone knocked hard on the steel door. Brandon hoped He had looked nice enough to go meet a bunch of new people. They had given him a new jacket to cover up the shirt he had been wearing the entire time he was there. Someone knocked again; it was the rude guy. Brandon ran up to the door and it shrieked open. There he was. Mr. Starkey was sitting in the waiting room and smiled when he saw Brandon step out of the dim room.
“You look very nice Brandon.” He said politely as Brandon neared him.
“So, are you ready to go find some new parental figures?” he asked, repeating the word “so”.
“I sure am, sir!” Brandon replied, hoping he didn’t sound too eager.
They exited the police station and got into Mr. Starkey’s car. This time, Brandon got to sit in the front. It was exhilarating. Brandon’s father had never let him sit in the front before.
“So what have you bean up to?” Mr. Starkey asked.
“Just sitting inside a sinister room all alone.”
“Aw, poor little guy. You’ll be outta’ there in no time at all!”
“You said that last time. It’s been three days!” Brandon said pathetically.
No one spoke after that. Brandon stared out the window at beautiful Alpine, Texas. Never before had he noticed how small it was. A little convenient store sat next to a motel with a tiny, closed Movie Theater a mile ahead. That was Main Street. About ten miles out was a small neighborhood, the only one in town, where Brandon lived. The police and fire station was near the neighborhood, so was the school where Brandon attended. There were only three schools in town, a preschool, elementary school, and a high school. About twenty minutes later, Brandon broke the silence.
“Where are we going?”
“What? That’s like 85 miles away!”
“Well I hope you brought a book then.”
Brandon wasn’t high spirited about going with Mr. Starkey anymore. He thought they would go to a few people’s houses in Alpine and then go get some ice cream at the convenient store afterwards. But instead they were taking a drive for an hour and a half to Sanderson. That wasn’t Brandon’s idea of a good day.
An hour later Brandon had fallen asleep and Mr. Starkey was still driving. A pothole awoke Brandon, and he was exactly a ray of sunshine when he woke up. Richard Starkey didn’t know about Brandon’s bad temper, almost no one did except for his dad.
“Hey what was that for? I’m trying to sleep here!” Brandon yelled at Mr. Starkey.
“I’m sorry, there was a pothole. You don’t need to overreact!”
“I’m not the one overreacting! You are! Take me home, now!”
Mr. Starkey looked with curiosity at Brandon. What happened to him? He thought. He wasn’t like this at first.
“Are you just going to stare at me or take me home?”
Brandon’s snide comment hurt Mr. Starkey.
“You know what Brandon? I thought you were a nice little boy who needed a friend, but I was wrong. You’re just a stubborn child. I’m not turning back now; we only have ten minutes until we get there. Just sit and be patient.” Mr. Starkey was satisfied with himself for laying down the law.
Brandon crossed his arms and faced back towards the window. Am I overreacting? Should I tell him the truth? These questions flowed through Brandon’s head.
After meeting all the couples Brandon was exhausted and even crabbier now than he was during the interviews.
“Why were you so rude to all those innocent people?” Mr. Starkey asked.
“Have they started looking for the person who killed my daddy, yet?”
“Don’t change the subject.”
“I can if I want to! Now did they find anyone who might have killed him?”
“If you must know now, yes they did. His name is Jorge Harrison.”
Mr. Starkey could see the surprising and devastated look in Brandon’s eyes.
“Do you know him, Brandon?” Richard Starkey asked.
“Yeah, that’s my daddy’s best friend. He wouldn’t do this to him. I love Jorge!”
“You don’t know that, son. He was already arrested for murder.”
“No! It wasn’t him, I know!”
“How could you possibly know that?” Mr. Starkey asked Brandon.
“Because I know exactly who did it.”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone? You could be arrested for aiding and imbedding in a crime, did you know that?”
“I have a feeling I’m gonna’ be arrested for a whole lot more, Mr. Starkey.” Brandon mumbled under his breath.
“What was that?”
“Oh, nothing Mr. Starkey.”
“Who was it, Brandon? You can tell me. If you do, you’ll be safer and you’ll be able to get from the police station.”
Mr. Starkey sighed from frustration with Brandon.
“I’ll tell you if we can get ice cream right now.”
“Fine. Which ice cream place? There are plenty here in Sanderson.” Mr. Starkey replied.
“I don’t know, surprise me.”
The little bell rang as Brandon and Mr. Starkey opened the door to exit the ice cream shop. Brandon thought about telling Mr. Starkey who it was that murdered his father, but knew he could milk it much longer than this, so he didn’t bring it up.
The drive back to Alpine was long and boring. Mr. Starkey was afraid to bring up the case to Brandon. Mr. Starkey knew that Brandon would trick him into getting him anything he wanted, so he hesitated.
Once they were in Alpine again and parked in an abandoned parking lot, Brandon hopped out of the car and walked around the car to the driver’s side.
“What is it now Brandon?” Mr. Starkey asked with a sigh.
“I think I need a new outfit.”
“No, you don’t. They already gave you a new jacket from the convenient store. There isn’t much there ya’ know.”
“Oh, I know. That’s why you’re going to order an outfit for me off of the internet on one of those fancy websites.” Brandon rudely said as he walked away from the car.
“Oh yeah, and make sure it’s here by tomorrow or you’re not going to ever know who killed my daddy.” He finished.
Mr. Starkey called the police station and told them to send some officers to Brandon’s house and to leave their cars parked somewhere else so he wouldn’t see them before he entered and leave.
Once they arrived and got inside they called Mr. Starkey back.
“Yeah, we’re here, but he’s not yet. We parked our cars around the block, but he won’t be coming that way.”
“Thanks guys. He’s got a bad temper.”
“Alrighty Richard, see you soon.”
“Bye officer.” Mr. Starkey said before snapping his cell phone shut.
The police officers sat on the couch and watched television with the volume down very low as they waited for Brandon to arrive. After about ten minutes they heard the front door open and slam, along with some fast running footsteps through a hallway. Another door slammed and the officers slowly followed Brandon’s footsteps. As they got close to the door they heard Brandon crying.
“This was the biggest regret of my life! I hate myself!”
“Open the door! This is the police.”
Brandon scurried around his room looking for a place to escape, but he didn’t have a window in his room. I can’t escape it any longer. I won’t tell them, but I will have to tell Mr. Starkey, he thought.
Brandon walked to the door and opened it. Three officers jumped inside with guns and escorted him back to the police station. Once there, Brandon was put back into the same room he was in before, with the low-hanging light and all. A different man stepped in and took a seat.
“I’m telling you anything.” Brandon firmly stated.
“You must.” The man replied in a deep voice.
“No, I’ll tell Mr. Richard Starkey, and that’s it.”
The man left the room and I could hear him yelling a Mr. Starkey. Finally Mr. Starkey stepped in.
“Okay Brandon. You can’t get anything else. But you have to tell me who killed your father.”
“And what if I don’t?” he asked brusquely.
“You and I both very well know what the answer to that is.”
“Okay fine I’ll tell you that it wasn’t Jorge.”
“Yes it was Brandon, and you know it! You can’t lie to me forever.”
“No it wasn’t!”
“Yes it was!”
“No! It was me!”
A man nearly knocked down the door as he came inside.
“He’s lying. It couldn’t be a nine-year-old boy!” he said, practically screaming.
“I agree.” said Mr. Starkey, staring at me. “He’s trying to cover up for someone. Maybe someone you love, Brandon?”
“Take him back to the room.” the other man ordered the officer in there to do.
Why doesn’t anybody believe me? I know I did it and I now wish I hadn’t. I really need to get rid of this temper. Brandon loved writing in his journal like this. I could even tell them everything that happened. I would say it just like this:
“I can prove I did it.”
“How?” they would ask doubtingly.
“On Tuesday night we got home from dinner and I went to my room to write in my journal. I heard my daddy laughing outside in the living room, but there was a woman’s laugh, too. I walked into the living room and found him with a woman. I was so angry. ‘How could you be with another lady that’s not momma?’ I asked him. He told the woman to leave and that he’d call her the next day. ‘Well?’ I asked again. ‘Your mother has been dead for six years, son. I’m getting lonely.’ ‘Buy yourself a puppy then!’ I told him. Then the next day he said he was leaving to the grocery store. But, when he got back I could smell that lady’s perfume on his shirt. I ran into my daddy’s room and got his gun out of his drawer and shot him when he got out of the bathroom. That’s how I can prove it.”
Then maybe they would take me away and let me live with Jorge. I better get to bed before they come in and check on me.
The next morning Brandon reviewed his entry from the night before in his journal.
“Let me outta’ here! I have to tell you something!” he yelled again.
Just like before, about three minutes later a man appeared and let him out. Brandon was brought back to the room with the mirror, low light, and table. He pulled out his journal.
“What do you want now kid?” the man with the deep voice asked him.
“I can prove I did it.” Brandon felt weird saying this, like he was playing a role in a play, reading what he had wrote. The man remembered his line, too.
He read his proof to the man.
“That’s how.” He concluded.
The man snatched the journal out of Brandon’s hands and read it to himself. He made a gesture to the officer standing in the corner. The officer grabbed Brandon’s arm and he sighed, thinking he had to go back to the dark room again, but this time he took Brandon to a police car. He put Brandon in handcuffs and locked the door.
They later arrived at the Alpine County Jail for Juveniles. This doesn’t look like Jorge’s house, he thought.
“Why am I here?”
“You killed your daddy, right?”
“Yes.” Brandon shamefully said.
He took Brandon inside and he was later locked inside a cell, he even had to go to bathroom in front of the other boys there. It was lonely and cold every night, but was even worse than the room Brandon was in before. His sleepless night was gently fading away with utter coldness. He lay in his bed crying, crying about his completely ruined life. He would never get it back, ever.