Week Twenty-five Flash Fiction Challenge: Charley

Use Evil Man

It was 1969, two years after the Summer of Love, when that crazy s.o.b., Charley, orchestrated killings that set a nation ablaze with revulsion and fear. A year later, he sat in a courtroom, staring vacantly at a judge.

I sat in the jury box, staring at him.

I’ll never forget Charley or the women dressed in black robes who came daily to view the court proceedings. His ‘family,’ he called them. I guess they were; they were nutty like him. Especially the youngest in the group, a girl with flaxen hair and cornflower blues eyes. She kept looking at me, trying to catch my eye, smiling like an angel.

Except there was something creepy about it, and I’d look away. Her blue eyes had the same dead look as Charley’s.

For months, we viewed prosecutorial evidence, listened to testimony of acquaintances, family and investigators. We studied grisly photographs of one night’s carnage, images so graphic that even now, forty-five years later, I have nightmares. I have dreams of what occurred in that house, to that pregnant woman, and I awaken, icy with fear.

I never put much credit in evil until I saw those photographs.

Until I saw Charley.

Until I saw those women show up one day, their heads newly shaven, swastikas carved into their foreheads, mindlessly chanting, ‘Charley is your savior, Charley is your god.’ They were quickly taken into custody and the courtroom cleared, but not before the youngest turned in my direction, giving me that angelic smile that sent chills up my spine.

No, never much believed in evil until then.

As jury foreman, I announced the verdict that put that bastard away for life, and never had a moment’s regret. I just wish we could have given him the chair. Sometimes, the only way to deal with evil is the way you deal with cancer – cut it out.

Charley was a cancer.

He never looked up when I announced the verdict. I had the feeling he was grateful, like he was going home. Maybe he always meant to live out his days in a jail cell. If so, I was happy to oblige him.

Five years later, watching the nightly news, I caught a glimpse of that young girl who used to show up in the courtroom. Her flaxen hair had grown back, but the eyes were as dead as ever. Her angelic smile was at odds with her attempt to gun down a president at a political event. Said she did it for ‘Charley,’ so people wouldn’t forget him.

As if we could. Half a lifetime later, I still can’t forget. Like me, he’s an old man now, still a guest of the state. Miss Angel Face is serving time, too.

Me? You might say I’m also a prisoner. I live with the knowledge that evil is a palpable thing and, like a cancer, spreads. It’s a hearty weed. Nothing is ever going to eradicate it. You can only contain it.

Ask Charley.

Word Count: 500
Author’s Note: This week’s tale is written in response to a challenge to write a 500-words or less story in which the protagonist is a member of a jury about to hear the sentencing of the criminal  just convicted. You can check out these weekly flash fiction challenges hosted by ThainInVain here.

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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20 Responses to Week Twenty-five Flash Fiction Challenge: Charley

  1. Meg says:

    I love your take on the prompt — taking a historical event and putting yourself in the middle. (I want to try that sometime!) Great job describing the Manson girls…they did have crazy dead eyes. Chillingly well done!

  2. Mark Gardner says:

    Love it! I like the idea of getting PTSD from serving on a jury. It really makes you think.

  3. Mark Baron says:

    An awesome use of historical inspiration to write chilling, realistic fiction. Love this, but then, I always love your works. You’re so very good at them!

  4. Nice touch,Kate, to use Charlie Manson. I remember when that whole evil horrible mess was going on and wondering how those women had been so brain-washed. I think a couple of them have been released from prison since then. And yes, their eyes were dead. He killed them as certainly as if he’s puled a trigger. He’s getting married, did you know that? Great job working this into your story with such feeling.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Because I changed a few very minor things, I didn’t use his photo or spell his name the proper way. I don’t know if that sort of thing matters – still feeling my way with this writing stuff. Good grief! What sort of person marries a man like Manson?? I recall the Von Bulow / Sunny Von Bulow case; there were female groupies for him, too. You have to wonder, don’t you?

  5. Kate Loveton says:

    Hi Heather! I’ve written about murderers before; I’ve written about vampires; I’ve written about demons; I’ve written about the end of the world.

    This story, for some reason, creeped me out when nothing else I’ve ever written has. Perhaps because elements of it are based on reality.

    Thanks for the comments! ❤

  6. Chilling stuff, Kate.

    Charley seems to be the kind of person that most of us would have nightmares about. I think Charley’s lack of reaction or remorse makes him all the more frightening and even worse, he’s found ‘groupies’ to carry on his cause for him.

    I love your protagonist’s musing on how you can never truly eradicate evil and can only contain it, for every Charley you put away, another ten will crop up.

    Excellent work, I very much enjoyed it! ❤

  7. Pingback: Flash Fiction Challenge – Week Twenty-Five Submissions (25) | Thain in Vain

  8. An interesting perspective on chilling case. We often forget the other players in these horrific events as they play our in court. You said it best, those people are prisoners in the “knowledge that evil is a palpable thing.” Very well done, Kate! TiV

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thank you. I had a difficult time with this week’s challenge, and changed my mind several times. Last night this popped into my head. Have to say, though, I think it affected me more than I would have thought; I didn’t sleep very well after the writing of it.

  9. You never fail to inject great depth into the shortest of your stories, Kate. As Lucy says, great job.

  10. Lucy says:

    Creepy. Then, the whole thing was creepy. Yes, he should’ve been put down like a Cuban tree frog. Great job, kate. Lucy

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Lucy. Creepy is a good way to describe it! Whenever I read something truly horrific, I think ‘ya can’t make this kind of stuff up!’ And that’s often true. I’m sure a lot of readers will recognize elements of the story. I took some liberty with a few of the facts, but not very many.

      • Lucy says:

        The girl’s name was Squeaky Fromm or something like that. I’m going to post today about growing avocado trees from seed–don’t do it because you might get a tree. It’s going to have pictures, too. It’s just a little article that I hadn’t planned on every one of the seeds growing into trees. Lucy

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