Category Archives: David Rachels

Entry 1 – I Was Pen Pals With A Serial Killer

Letter #1

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Hobart Duffmann Prisoner #561213
Elderwood Farm Penitentiary
October 9, 1962

Dear Mr. Duffmann,
+++++My name is Carol Simmons and I am 10 years old. For school our teacher told us to get the name of a pen pal who lives in a foreign country and learn about how kids live in other places, but I thought it would be nicer to be pen pals with someone who might be lonely and need someone to write them letters because kids in other countries have friends, so I got your name from a different place than what we were told.
+++++I am in fifth grade. I like music and reading. When I grow up, I want to be a nurse.
+++++How old are you? How long have you been in prison? What do you plan to do when you get out?

Sincerely yours,

Carol Simmons

 

Letter #3

November 19, 1962

Dear Mr. Duffmann,

Yes, you do have the worst luck I ever heard about. It would be bad to be in jail for one thing you did not do, but to be in jail for killing seven people when you didn’t kill anybody must be terrible. Do you know how long it will take them to figure out you are innocent? I hope they can do it fast, and I bet you do too.
+++++We are going to my Aunt Mary’s for Thanksgiving this year. Do they have turkey in prison?

Your friend,

Carol Simmons

 

Letter #27

July 4, 1963

Dear Mr. Duffmann,

Thank you for explaining to me what a shiv is. It was very interesting. I am very sorry you have to make your own weapons in order to defend yourself from all the criminals, and I understand it was not your fault you could not write me for a month.
+++++My mother puts me in solitary sometimes too. I hate it. Sometimes when I want to be in solitary, I am very happy, but it’s different when someone else puts me there. When you aren’t where you want to be, it seems like everything you want to do is somewhere else. Do you know what I mean? I bet you do.
+++++What do you like to do when you are in solitary? My favorite things are drawing and reading.

Your friend,

Carol

 

Letter #209

January 2, 1968

Dear Daddy,

Get it?

You know I already have a daddy, so it was really weird to pretend someone else was my daddy, but it was worth it to get to see you in person!
+++++Daddy!
+++++I know you said I would be surprised to see how old you look in person, but I don’t think you look old at all. I think you look young and handsome! And I noticed all your muscles too, so I see what you mean about how much time you must have to exercise.
+++++To answer the question you asked right before we ran out of time, I think it would be very good for me to learn some exercises too. I agree that physical fitness is very important.
+++++Your daughter (wink wink!),

Carol

 

Letter #243

February 4, 1968

Hobart,

They know, but I’m not sure what they know. When I told my mother I needed her to take me to Elderwood again to work at the college library, she said, “I know what you’re doing,” and she walked out of the room. When I tried to find out what she was talking about, she said she was too upset to talk to me.
+++++That’s all I know,

Carol

 

Letter #271

February 14, 1968

Dear Hobart,

As much as I’ve tried, I still don’t understand what’s going on. My mother keeps saying “How could you?,” and my father says I’m not his daughter anymore. I just sit in my room and cry.
+++++I’m beginning to think you might be right. There’s nothing for me here. I don’t mean anything to my family (obviously!), and school is just a way to pass the time. I think every day about what you told me: People quit school when they’re finally ready to learn something! Well, I’m starting to think I might be ready.
+++++I was very sorry to hear about your last appeal. As you’ve said, one man can endure only so much injustice, but at least now you know where you stand.
+++++And I know that you know where you stand with me too.

Yours,

Carol

 

Letter #303

February 29, 1968

Hobart,

I thought it was bad before, but I was wrong.
+++++I’ve been writing so many letters lately that I got lazy and started leaving them in the mailbox by the street. My mother found one and opened it, and I have no idea which one it was. Actually, it might have been more than one.
+++++I just don’t know.
+++++They’re talking about sending me away, maybe to boarding school, maybe to live with my grandparents in Montana.
+++++Remember how you used to say that nothing is worse than solitary? Well, you were wrong, weren’t you?

Carol

 

Letter #306

March 14, 1968

Dear Hobart,

Thank you for telling me about the censorship of prison mail. Yes, I have received letters from you with parts blacked out, but I always thought you were the one who did that. Everyone makes mistakes, right?
+++++I am trying to imagine what parts of my letters might have gotten censored. I always worry that I will say too much, and apparently I’ve done it, haven’t I? But what was it I shouldn’t have said? I wish that I knew so I could say it again, but then I would get censored again, wouldn’t I?
+++++So you were right again, Hobart. We can’t let them keep us apart. When we’re together, no one can censor us. This is the part that I will cover in black, a dirty trick since it doesn’t actually say anything.
+++++
I will fuck you soon,
Carol

The Body

We were in shop class fucking around with a piece of sheet metal when Justin told me he had seen a dead body only yesterday so it might still be there. I wasn’t too surprised about the body—of all the guys at school, Justin was the one who would have been voted Most Likely to See a Dead Body. What did surprise me, though, was that Justin would tell me. A guy like Justin was usually either ignoring a guy like me or he was beating me up. I knew the only reason he was talking to me at all was that we were partners in class, and the only reason we were partners was that Cody, his regular partner, was absent.
+++++“You want to see it?” Justin asked me. “You want to see the body?” It sounded like a taunt.
+++++Usually my shop partner was the teacher, Mr. Bishop. On the first day of class, Mr. Bishop assigned everyone a partner, but there was an odd number of students in the class, so I got him, which turned out to suck even more than you might imagine. I thought that working with the teacher would at least make things easier, but Mr. Bishop didn’t think it was fair for him to do too much, so he did exactly nothing and I basically didn’t have a partner at all. Sucks to be me.
+++++“Absolutely,” I said. “I want to see it.”
+++++Every day I hoped someone would be absent so I could get a real partner, and this was shop class, so people were always absent. But it had to be an odd number of guys who were absent so the total number got evened out, and that day only one guy was absent: Cody Mitchell, the most pathetic guy in the school and the partner of Justin Wilson, the scariest guy in the school.
+++++“Really?” Justin said. “You really want to see it?”
+++++I almost wanted to stay with Mr. Bishop, but I figured Justin would at least treat me better than he treated Cody because he couldn’t treat me any worse. Cody was the human shield for all us other guys who might go to school and come home bullied to a pulp. As long as Cody was around, the rest of us were more or less safe. With Cody absent, I had to worry about becoming Cody for the day.
+++++“Yeah, I really want to see it,” I said.
+++++Shop class met during the last period of the day, so I wondered if Justin had invited anybody else. He would have had all his other classes to tell people about the body, and if he had invited me, then he had to have invited other people. Right?
+++++“Okay,” Justin said. “Meet me after school outside the gym.”
+++++For the rest of class, Justin talked about only our work, but I felt like he kept looking at me when he should have been looking at the sheet metal. Was I imagining things? When the bell rang, I started walking fast to my locker to get my books for homework, but my locker was on the other side of the school from the gym. If I took too long, would Justin think I had skipped out on him? I turned around and headed for the gym. Justin was waiting outside.
+++++“I thought you might have skipped,” he said.
+++++“Not me,” I said, and I looked around. “Anybody else coming?”
+++++“Just you and me,” Justin said.
+++++I was trying to play it cool, but my nerves were building. Justin turned toward the woods behind the school and started walking. He was moving fast, and I almost had to run to keep up. The pine needles were thick on the ground, and our feet weren’t making any noise.
+++++“Why isn’t anybody else coming?” I asked. Was I Cody for the day? I wanted him to deny it.
+++++“I told some other people, and maybe they didn’t believe me, or maybe they were too scared. You’re the only one who wanted to go.”
+++++I started seeing beer bottles poking up through the pine needles, which meant we were getting close to the water tower.
+++++I couldn’t stand the silence, so I started babbling: “I don’t mind dead things. Sophomore year, in biology class, when we dissected fetal pigs, some people were totally grossed out, didn’t even want to touch them, but I didn’t mind, I thought it was cool. I even got the best grade in the class.”
+++++“No surprise there,” Justin said.
+++++We came to the clearing around the water tower. Justin slowed down. Beer bottles and cigarette butts were everywhere. I saw the torn foil packaging from a rubber. This was Justin’s domain. A lot of this garbage was his.
+++++Justin walked around the water tower to the left. He stopped at the edge of the clearing where weeds were heavy. I stopped next to him.
+++++“There you go,” he said, pointing, though he didn’t have to point. The body was face down in the weeds right in front of us. It looked like a boy, maybe a teenager.
+++++“Who is it?” I said.
+++++Justin looked at me. “Who do you think?” He made it sound like the answer was obvious.
+++++I looked at the tangled blond hair on the back of the head.
+++++“I think it’s Cody,” I said.
+++++I stepped into the weeds and leaned down to look. I grabbed the hair and pulled back, and Cody’s dead face came out of the weeds. His throat had been cut so deep that his head almost came off in my hand.
+++++I let go of Cody’s hair and stepped back.
+++++“You’re not going to believe it,” I said.
+++++I moved behind Justin, out of the way between him and Cody.
+++++“Go ahead,” I said. “Go look at the body.” But Justin stood motionless in front of me, just like Cody did before I left him there.
+++++I grabbed Justin’s hair, pulled back, and cut his throat.