Monday, July 18, 2011
The next day at the amusement park, we left the dark cloud of the past behind for a few hours. We all smoked a mountain of pot and wondered around the park in a chemical induced haze. Sarah, Heather, and Katie road a boat ride and ended up getting soaking wet. It was almost as if the horrible past had never happened. I almost felt normal. It was kind of chilly when the sun went down and the girls were freezing in their wet clothes. With the day spent and the girls chilled to the bone, every one was ready to leave so we headed back to the car.
In the parking lot, Terry decided he was going to go home. He and Katie were about to move into a new apartment together and he wanted to get started moving stuff in. Sarah wanted us to stay at her house again since her parents were at the cabin for the rest of the weekend. We would have the house to ourselves. Terry left in his car, and the rest of us crammed into Heather's Jeep.
It was around midnight when we finally arrived at Sarah's house. We pulled into the driveway, but her parent's cars were still there. Heather pulled back out to park on the side of the street so the Jeep wouldn’t block Sarah’s parents in. When she did, another car crept away from the curb at the end of the block and slowly crossed the intersection. Heather parked and I noticed another car parked at the opposite curb as will. No one else seemed to notice, but I knew something was horribly wrong. I could feel the tension in the air like it was a physical force. Sarah's dad came outside and told us to come inside. Something didn't feel right and screams of alarm blasted inside my head. Yet, no one else seemed to notice anything.
I didn’t know what was going on, but the car I had seen and Sarah's dad coming out in the middle of the night to greet us was all wrong. Something was defiantly up. When everybody else had climbed out of the car, I stayed in and just sat there trying to figure out what was going on. Sarah and her dad were both telling me to get out of the car and, reluctantly, I did. I walked up the sidewalk toward the house and shook Jim's hand and then walked into the house. Inside the doorway, I saw Greg, Heather, and Katie staring outside, looking pale and shaken. Just as I turned to see what they were looking at, a man walked up and asked, “Which one of you is Ben?”
Nobody said anything. I looked for Sarah but couldn't see her anywhere in the yard. It was as if she had simply disappeared. The man identified himself as a detective with the Muskogee police department. Again he asked who Ben was. Still no one said a word. It was pointless for me to stay silent. Eventually they would figure out who I was, so I stepped forward and told him I was Ben.
He led me outside onto the porch and brought me to an imposing figure wearing a trench coat and obscured by shadows. The second guy pulled out his wallet and showed me his badge. He was an F.B.I. agent. He read me my rights and then asked me the big question, “Have you ever been to Louisiana before?”
I had hoped against hope this would all be related to something else, but from the minute the mysterious car had pulled away from the curb I knew subconsciously it was for the murders. They had finally caught up to us. It was all over. When I told him no, he seemed to have expected this answer and knew it was a lie. I was sure Sarah's parents had already told them we had driven there together. The agent didn't ask me anymore questions after that except my full name and social security number.
After the questions were over and the panic had subsided some, I noticed my surroundings. There were people everywhere when just seconds before it had been empty. The whole yard was filled with officers and the street was overflowing with cars. They had waited for us all day unsure of when we were to return from Tulsa. It registered in my head that when Heather had backed out of the driveway to park in front of the house, the car I had seen pulling into the intersection had tried to block the street off thinking we had spotted them hiding.
I saw Sarah talking to her parents and holding her cat. Then she was handcuffed and led away to one of the unmarked cars. Not long afterwards, I was handcuffed as well and taken to a separate car. They put me in the back seat and four other agents climbed in with me—two in the front and two in the back. The guy in the front passenger seat turned around and screamed not two inches from my face for most of the trip screaming jumbled incoherent cop phrases like, “You’re going down!” and “How do you like being the rabbit, huh?” The other agents seemed embarrassed by what he was doing, and eventually someone told him to cool it. I didn't pay much attention to him anyway, but one thing he said caught my attention. He had said that if the woman who was shot died within a year, we would be charged with first-degree murder and given the death penalty.
The woman didn’t die in the robbery.
I didn't quite know how to feel about it. If the woman didn't die, we would be charged with only attempted murder. On the other hand, since the woman was still alive, she would be able to identify Sarah. My heart sank a little bit with these thoughts.
We pulled up at the federal court house in Muskogee where the F.B.I. had their offices and were taken upstairs. Sarah looked really small and frightened, and I thought I probably looked the same way too. Our world had just been turned upside down. We had just gotten back from a day of fun at an amusement park, but now we found ourselves arrested by the Feds.
Sarah was taken into an office to be questioned, but it wasn't long before she came out. She stared at the floor and wouldn’t look in my direction. I wanted to get her attention so she could give me some indication of what to expect. She looked completely broken and didn’t respond.
Next, they came for me. Inside the office, three officers were sitting around a desk. On the desk was the gun we had used in the shootings and the box of bullets we bought in Memphis. My rights were read to me again, and I signed a paper saying I understood them. They asked me again if I had ever been to Louisiana, and again I told them no. They asked me other questions, quizzing me about things that had happened during the shooting, but I continued to deny everything.
Finally, one of the agents stopped everything and said, “Look, Sarah has already admitted to shooting that woman. We got the gun, a witness, and we already know you were with her in the car. It's pointless to try to deny it. You know what happened. Sarah is trying to save herself, and you should be doing the same thing.”
His words made me pause. By the questions they asked it was obvious someone had talked to them. On the desk were the gun and bullets, and I could see a reward poster with a picture of Sarah on it taken from the security camera in the store. It was fuzzy, but it was not hard to identify it was Sarah. I asked to see it and they handed it to me. It was clearly Sarah. I broke down. I knew there would be no way we would be able to beat the charges in court. Sarah had already admitted doing it, I thought, and I decided I might as well too. Little did I know, it had been Patrick who had turned us in while he was mad at Sarah. One night when he had given her a large dose of crystal-meth, Sarah had told him everything. When she had him arrested, he told the police about what she had said out of spite.
The questions started up again; but I only told them half-truths, trying to put the two of us in the best light as possible. I portrayed it as if the shooting had been an accident. I admitted we had planned to rob the store, but the shooting was never a part of the plan. Before, no mention of the murder in Mississippi had been made, so I was careful to avoid any detail that might lead them there.
After the questions were over, they showed me a warrant allowing them to search my mother's house. They were looking for the poncho Sarah had worn in the store. It was at my mom's house in plain view on my bedroom floor. Instead of the cops showing up in the middle of the night unexpectedly, I asked if I could call my mom and ask her to bring it to them. They let me make the call. After I hung up, I was led to a little holding cell while we waited for her to show up. The shock and fear had worn away, and I was left with a empty deflated feeling. I had no idea what my future held, but I knew prison was on the horizon. I hoped since the woman wasn't dead, we would be able to get out of jail quickly. More than anything, I wanted to be able to go home, but I knew this wasn’t possible.My mom showed up about thirty minutes later. She was furious and fed up with me. I had caused so many problems for her recently, and she was tired of dealing with it all. This was the final straw. She had the poncho with her and gave it to the agents. We were given a few minutes alone to talk. She told me she loved me but was not going to put up with me anymore. She said whatever was to happen I would have to deal with it by myself. With that, she left. It hurt to hear those words, but I knew she was right. All of this was my own fault. I couldn't blame her for what she had said.