An Affair of the Mind
Part 1: The Murderous Affair
Based Off the Personal Diaries of Sarah Markham-Hall
“How Far Would You Go to Call Someone Your Best Friend”
Important Notice: This series includes content unsuitable for individuals under the age of 16. The material encompasses, but is not limited to, strong language, drug use, sexually explicit content, suicidal attempts, and violent themes. Reader discretion is strongly advised.
Legal Disclaimer: The events and particulars depicted herein are drawn from the recollection, imagination, and personal diaries of Sarah Markham-Hall spanning the years 2001 to 2010. Certain scenes are fictionalized and dramatized for content and may not accurately reflect the true sequence or occurrence of events. Names and locations have been modified to safeguard the privacy of individuals involved. No harm or injury was inflicted upon anyone during the writing of this novel.
I strolled up the circular driveway encircling the Lenox family’s residence. The turquoise-trimmed house had grown all too familiar to me during the past few months, and as I gazed at it at 2 a.m., an eerie darkness engulfed the surroundings. As I neared the front entrance, I began to discern blood-stained handprints, and my heart raced with thoughts of, “Has he finally taken his own life?” The mere idea of opening the door to discover the man I passionately loved lifeless within sent my heart plummeting into my chest.
“Justin!” I cried out in panic while approaching the door, only to realize it was already slightly ajar. I drew a deep breath as I pushed the door open fully. “Justin!” I repeated, and as I stepped inside, I noticed his lifeless form and his deeply bloodshot brown eyes fixed upon me. Before me unfolded a scene I had never envisioned facing: a man I had once deemed a heartless demon was now seated in front of me, tears streaming down his cheeks, trembling on the unforgiving tile floor of the hallway. His clothing was torn, and his Abercrombie & Fitch shirt was soaked in blood. Quivering, he clutched a blood-soaked knife tightly in his right hand.
“What the hell happened?” I asked almost breathlessly as I realized that this time the blood stains were not coming from his own self-inflicted wounds.
“I killed him,” he whispered underneath his breaths in between sobs.
“You killed who?” I asked sitting down next to him.
“I fucking killed him, Ann,” he said softly, lifting his head up as his red blood shot eyes stared back at me.
“Justin, what are you talking about? Where did all this blood come from?” I asked as the fear of what he was about saying suddenly settled in.
“I killed Michael,” he whispered still clenching the knife in his hand as the tears fell down his face.
“What do you mean you killed Michael?” I asked repeatedly as I gazed over his limp body.
“I fucking killed him, Ann!” he shouted as he started breathing heavier. “I sliced this knife right through his throat! Maybe next time he’ll learn not to fuck with my emotions!”
“What?” I still questioned trying to put the pieces of what he was saying together in my head. “You killed Michael,” I repeated more for my clarification than his.
“That’s right. I killed him. I just killed him,” he said as he went from shouting to a calmer tone within seconds. He continued to clinch the blood stained knife in his hand.
“Okay,” I said repeatedly. “Um, okay. Should we call the police?” I asked not sure how I was supposed to act or respond.
“The police?” he questioned with a laugh as his eyes opened to stare at me. “Yes Ann Mathews, let’s go to the police and tell them I committed murder. I’ll just go sit in a jail cell for the rest of my life. How about that?” he laughed sarcastically.
“You didn’t mean to kill him did you? I mean it was an accident right? Or maybe it was self-defense? He did threaten you earlier,” I said standing up in fear of him as I tried to convince myself more than him that the death of Michael Heart was not done in cold blood.
“No, it was cold hearted murder,” he said in a stern tone as he pulled himself up off the cold hard tile floor of the hallway as well and stood inches from my face.
“Murder,” I whispered. “Okay, um, okay so where’s the body?”
“The body was taken care of,” he said nonchalantly as the tears stopped flowing and his cold demeanor returned to his voice.
“Okay, so we just clean you up and no one will ever know. Yeah, that’s what we’ll do,” I said nervously as I stepped a few inches away from him. “Give me the knife. I’ll take care of it,” I said reaching for the knife.
“No!” he yelled pulling away from me. “I don’t trust you!”
“Your secret is safe with me, Justin. I won’t tell anybody about what happened,” I said as my hands suddenly began to shake.
“And how can I be certain of that, Ms. Mathews? I mean after all you did tell Tom Lenal my deepest darkest secret,” he said moving closer towards me as he pushed me into the wall of the hallway with the knife still clinched in his right wrist.
“This is totally different,” I said.
“How is this different, Ann? How do you expect me to trust you with a secret of this magnitude if you couldn’t even keep it under wraps that I gave Danny Henderson that disease,” he said putting his face closer to mine.
“Justin, I promise I won’t tell anybody about this! I won’t tell anybody!” I repeated. “Just give me the knife, and we’ll clean this mess up,” I said putting my hand out in front of me in hopes he would snap out of it and put the knife into it.
“I don’t trust you!” he repeated as he moved his body so close to mine, I could feel his heart beating.
“What are you going to do Justin?” I asked nervously.
“I’m going to do what needs to be done,” he said. “There is far too much at stake now. Too many lives could be ruined. I really am sorry, Ann, this is the only way,” he said putting his left hand on my neck line as he pushed my body further against the wall with the weight of his.
“Please, Justin, Stop!” I screamed in between breaths. “Please!”
“I’m sorry, Ann,” he said holding the knife up against my throat. “And I really thought we were getting close too,” he sighed as he started pushing the knife into my esophagus.
I woke up in my frigid bunk, drenched in a clammy sweat, the same uncomfortable cot I’d been sleeping on for the past week. “It was merely a nightmare,” I murmured softly to myself, grappling with the haunting choice between two chilling scenarios: succumbing to Justin Lenox’s murderous grasp or enduring incarceration in Kingston Juvenile Detention Center for a crime I felt I didn’t commit. I wiped away the remnants of sleep from my eyes and glanced at my bunkmate, Britney, who slumbered peacefully, while I struggled to dispel the lingering fear that gripped me. “It was just a dream,” I repeated as a mantra.
If only finding myself confined in an eight by eight-foot jail cell was also a mere figment of my imagination. The cell I presently occupied boasted two cots and a window situated approximately six feet above the ground, its view obstructed by sturdy black bars intersecting over it. A faint glimmer of light filtered through those bars, serving as my only reference point for time. All my personal belongings had been confiscated upon my arrival at Kingston Juvenile Facility, including my watch and phone. I had been divested of all possessions, coerced into putting on their dull gray sweatpants and a matching grey T-shirt emblazoned with “Kingston Juvenile Hall.” In this place, time ceased to exist.
I had never experienced such profound isolation in my life, and perhaps this solitude was precisely what I needed. I might require this solitude to painstakingly revisit the circumstances that had landed me here. My life replayed in my mind like a slow-motion movie. How did a once-innocent, straight-A student find themselves incarcerated in Juvenile Hall? How could I have made such a colossal error in judgment? How had it come to this point? The question that weighed most heavily on my mind was, “What should I do now?”
I guess I had all the time in the world to think of the consequences of my actions. In all out honestly, it wasn’t Tom, Sean, James, Timothy or even really Justin who got me here. I had a choice, and maybe I had chosen the wrong one.
“Ann!” James screamed. “Go home!”
Images of that night raced through my thoughts, that balmy spring evening in late March when the course of my entire existence took a sharp turn. The occurrences of that night and the subsequent months that followed were the very reasons I found myself in this juvenile detention center. Perhaps, had I made different choices, I might have avoided the confinement of this cramped eight-by-eight cell.
“Just go home, Ann! Timothy and I will take care of this. You don’t need to be an accessory to murder!” James instructed.
“No,” I repeated standing there watching my best friend break down as the blood still stained the inside of his hands. “I want to help.”
“Ann, are you sure? Because if we get caught, you will go to jail for murder! You do comprehend what that means right?”
Although it was a decision made in the blink of an eye, I fully grasped its significance. Without any hesitation, I found myself instructing James and Timothy to depart. “Just go, James! Remove any trace. I’ll handle this,” I declared, rushing over to Justin and enfolding him in my embrace. I had never witnessed Justin in such a vulnerable state during the entire five months of our acquaintance. The once formidable, unfeeling, and resolute friend I had known had, at last, reached his breaking point.
“I didn’t mean to do it,” he kept repeating as he sat there shaking in my arms.
“It’s okay, Justin. I promise you, it’s going to be okay.”
Would everything ever be all right, I wondered? I couldn’t decide if it was the three of them that I resented the most or if my self-loathing ran deeper. Should I direct my anger towards the three individuals who had dragged me into this predicament, or should I finally acknowledge my own culpability in this entire situation? I wasn’t sure whether I despised myself more for getting entangled in this mess or for breaking that promise to Justin, because, in the end, it was my fault that things would never be the same again.
As my thoughts drifted back to the night of March 23, 2003, the 6 am wakeup call blared from the speaker box, just like it had for the past week. My next court hearing was still a week away, so whether I liked it or not, I was stuck in this prison for at least another seven days.
The day began like every other, with the six o’clock alarm from the speaker box. Usually, I was already awake, thanks to the deafening train crossing the tracks at three in the morning. After the speaker box announcement, the guards appeared outside the cells, dividing the inmates into two groups. One group would head to the showers, while the other would make their way to the cafeteria for breakfast. If you were lucky, you’d be among the first to shower because if you got stuck eating, it meant more time holding in your bladder.
Following breakfast and our morning showers, we’re ushered into what they call “school” within these walls, a routine that continues until approximately lunchtime. The food here is abysmal, and I’d caution anyone not to touch the pancakes they serve for breakfast – they neither resemble nor taste like pancakes. Lunch is consistently a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I doubt I’ll ever have another PB&J sandwich again. Dinner is left to chance, and for a brief moment, there’s some anticipation until you discover it’s meatloaf, which makes you yearn for bedtime.
In the mid-afternoon, when school time concludes, they grant us some time outdoors in a fenced-off area for exercise. The girls often play basketball, and I believe I’m getting fairly good at it, to be honest. After dinner, it’s all about writing, coloring, talking, and resting in the break room outside our cells. The lights generally go out around 9, unless you’ve earned TV privileges for being on your best behavior, in which case you can stay up until 10.
My typical routine on this particular day was disrupted during “school time” when Peggy, one of the detention officers, informed me that I had a visitor. “It’s a visitor from the state,” she said, leading me into the cafeteria, where most inmates meet with their court-appointed attorneys.
As I entered the room, I realized at that moment I should have anticipated this. “Ah, a visitor from the state,” I chuckled, rolling my eyes, and taking a seat at the picnic table-like bench, locking eyes with him. “So, which guard did you fuck to get in here?” I inquired. “You’re not my lawyer, and this isn’t visiting day,” I remarked, studying Justin as he sat across from me.
“Money is power sweetie,” he replied cockily.
“You know you have some nerve showing your face here. I never recalled jail being a part of our agreement!” I exclaimed.
“I don’t recall you trying to forge my name on letters being a part of our agreement either,” he replied. “You got yourself in this mess, Ann. I’m just here to try and get you out of it.”
“Excuse me?” I laughed in disbelief. “Fine, I shouldn’t have done it. I underestimated Tom and James, but we both know I am not the one who should be behind bars right now.”
“Well, forging someone’s name to a letter and delivering it using the United States postal service is a crime, Ms. Mathews,” he replied nonchalantly.
“You know I don’t have to sit here and listen to your condescending remarks,” I said as I started to get up.
“Sit down!” he exclaimed grabbing my arm and forcing me down. “I did not come here to argue. I came here to help you.”
“Help me?” I laughed. “And why would you want to help me? You and James got what you wanted. You got me locked up and out of the picture. Why should I ever trust you again?”
“You are right. Things have gotten a little out of hand.”
“A little out of hand?” I chuckled. “I am sitting in juvenile hall, Lenox! Things have gotten way out of hand!” I exclaimed with anger in my voice.
“Ann …,” Justin started to say.
“No, Justin! I am tired of it! I have been nothing but loyal to you guys. I turned my back on people I considered friends to play some stupid cat and mouse game. I gave up everything for you and this is how you thank me?” I asked.
“You didn’t have to write the letters, Ann! We gave you the role to play! We handed it to you on a silver platter. All you had to do was follow the script and we all would have been okay, but instead you decided to play some hero. Again, Ann, I am not here to argue! I am here to try and help you. Can we just focus on getting you out of here!” Justin yelled back.
“I don’t trust you,” I said calmly. “Look, everyone may think I am some crazy chick right now but trust me if I am going down for this I sure as hell am taking you and James with me!”
“No one is going down for anything!” Justin said motioning for me to keep my voice down. “That’s why I came here today. If you do exactly as I say, you will walk away from all of this scott-free as well as the rest of us,” he stated.
“I am so done following your orders, Lenox!” I exclaimed.
“Following my orders is your only option right now, Ann! You wrote those letters, and I could easily turn this whole thing around on you to make you seem truly crazy, but I am here trying to offer you an olive branch against James’s wishes. So, you either follow my orders, or you will end up behind bars for a long time,” Justin said.
I knew he was right. The tables could easily be turned against me. The fact remained that I had no alternative but to place my trust in him. I lacked any evidence to substantiate my allegations. It was indeed a case of my word against theirs, and I had led myself into this predicament. Perhaps, I should cease attempting to be a hero, accept his offer, secure my release, and simply act as if none of this had ever occurred.
“Fine, what do I need to do,” I sighed in defeat.