Just for fun: The Parole Board
Manhattan, wintertime, 1989
I was dressed somewhat warmly with gloves that allowed my fingertips to poke through and stood on a roof—high above Lexington Avenue and faced the downtown of Manhattan. I looked at the far off lights on the bridges that connected the city to Brooklyn and their reflection that glimmered across the East River. I inhaled the cold air to find a moment of easiness. It was amazing to me how peaceful these sight could be—even amongst the chaos, this view was beautiful
Below me was the constant hustle of Midtown. People moved and cars drove from one stoplight to the next. The city is a simple maze of streets and avenues that intersect and run from the Eastside to the West. They run from Uptown to downtown. There is so much life down there
I was high above the world with a small metal bucket to hold a little fire that burned pretty hot. Inside the bucket were burning wood and a metal rod with a grip at the end to stir the timber when I needed the flames to burn hotter.
I was more than 400 feet above the ground and looking outward for something specific. I was trying to find something specific yet, at the same time, I was looking outward for something unknown. Perhaps I was looking for an answer. One could argue that I was listening for something in the cold wind; something that would lead me to change my mind or change my ways.
Most days, I would come to this rooftop when I need to find inspiration or to settle an argument that rambled in my head. When I needed a minute, I would climb up high on the rooftop of this midtown office building to take in the sights of tall skyscrapers. I would come here when the basic noise of everyday life intervened with the minutes I needed to collect myself.
This is not a bad thing.
Sometimes, we all need to silence the madness which is exactly what I planned to do.
James stood behind me. His nose was broken and his face was beaten to be nearly unrecognizable. His arms were fixed upwards and spread apart as if to mimic the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. His head nodded downward. His black hair was clumped with blood; his eyes were beaten nearly shut; a deep gash spread open above his left eyebrow. There was a driblet of blood dangling from James’s lower lip, which was also broken and cut after a severe beating. The drizzle of blood appeared like a fine thread with a small bubble of blood, which moved and swayed in the heavy wind, before breaking the thin drool and flying away.
A single hook pierced through James’s hands—there was one through each hand, and each steel hook was tied outward on pieces of the building’s steel to carry the full pressure of James’s weight. I did not lift James from the ground. He was not elevated in any way. His feet were able to touch the floor; however, the ropes that spread him apart were too tight to allow James to move forward or back. He could not lift himself in any way, nor could he fall to alleviate the horrible tension of a steel hook that pushed through his palms and out through the bones in the center of his hands.
In addition to the pain, James was forced to endure the frigid temperatures without any clothing. The winter wind was sharp enough to cut through naked flesh. I saw this as a just punishment.
The entire city was unaware of James. As he dangled naked, the city continued. The lights from Times Square still glittered from the Westside. Broadway did not close and the taxis did not stop. We were too high up for anyone to hear the screams. We were too far from the crowds. We were too far away from the police. We were too far from the girl who pleaded for James to stop. And in spite of her screams, James pressed on without thinking about the consequences of his actions.
He never thought there was a reason why he was not chosen by his victim in the lineup. James never found it strange that he, in fact, was able to get away with the rape of a young, underage girl. He never considered the idea of revenge seemed better to me, a father of a young girl who he brutalized. James never thought this would happen.
He was wrong . . .
Before James could pass out from the pain, I waved smelling salts beneath his nose to ensure that James would remain awake. Overhead, the moon was full and brightly shining down across the black tar roof. The glow gave an electric blue glare to James and glistened on the puddles of blood that spread beneath him.
All of the city sounds were muted by our distance from the ground. My breath smoked as I listened to the sound of James suffering. I listened the way I assumed James listened to my child beg for him to stop.
“I could kill him,” I thought to myself.
“I could watch him die but that may take hours.”
I approached James.
“Look at me,” I told him.
“I want you to look at my face.”
James tried to plea for his life. However, his jaw was submitted to a terrible beating that began with a steal pipe. He lacked the ability to speak because of the beating or breathe properly because his arms were suspended outward. His skin was pale from the loss of blood and the freezing air. The hours of him being pulverized took away the James’s ability to speak.
“Look at me,” I commanded.
This time, I shook the ropes that were tied to the hooks that pushed through his hands.
Panting and suffering, James lifted his face so that he could see mine. I assumed to him, the lights beaming down from the building behind me were too bright for him to focus. I assumed that to him, the lights behind me illuminated around me, brightening over my shoulder like an avenging angel.
“Do you recognize me?”
James could not answer.
He could only shake his head, “No.”
Then I held up a picture of my little girl. The picture was not recent. It was aged two years back. It was aged back to the last time James saw her. It was a picture of my little girl before James lured her from a city playground and forced my little girl to do things that a little girl should never be forced to do.
“What about her?” I asked
I lifted James’s face with all of my might. “Do you recognize her?”
It was then that James realized who I was. We never met in the precinct on the night of the lineup. We never met in person. The only time James saw my face was when I was on the news screaming for justice or pictured in the newspaper.
“Please,” whimpered James
“Please,” he cried.
“Please what? Please don’t kill you,” I asked.
James began to cry.
“I’m not gonna kill you, James.”
I leaned in closely. “I’m just gonna scar you.”
“And do you know why I’m gonna scar you,” I asked.
“I’ll tell you why. Sometimes you need a scar to remind you to never do something again.”
Turning to the bucket, I grabbed onto the grip handle and retrieved the rod, which had been inside the burning fire with a tip that glowed orange from the heat..
“I’m not gonna kill you James. I’m just gonna leave you with a scar.”
As I spoke, I began to prod James’s flesh below his dark patch of pubic hair.
While poking James with the red hot poker in his genitals, I stabbed at him in the rhythm of my speech.
“I’m just . . . gonna . . . leave you . . . with a scar.”
His skin sizzled and singed each time I placed the heated rod onto his flesh. Each poke resulted in another blood curdling scream.
“This way . . . you will never . . . do it again.”
Suddenly, I began to feel emotion. I was not sorry for my action. I was only sad for my child. I began to weep over the idea that no matter how long my child would live, she would always remember James’s face.
“You know my kid still has nightmares,” I told him.
“She said she always sees your face.”
“She can’t forget it,” I told James.
The rage was ready. All that remained was for me to carry out my plan.
“Now you’ll never forget mine because mine is the last face you’ll ever see!” I screamed. Then I poked the heated rod into each of his eyeballs.
James screamed his loudest scream after that.
That’s when five men from the New York City Police department rushed out from the door on the roof and screamed at me with their guns drawn.
“Get on your knees,” they said.
“Put your hands behind your head,” the screamed.
I said, “I gotta go now James. “
“See you around,” is what I told him.
“Mr. Charles Harrington,” asked one of the members from the parole board.
“If you were granted parole,” would you do something like that again?”
“That depends on what, Mr. Harrington?”
“It depends if James is alive or not.”