I never meant to murder Cale Timmons but I did, and that is the end of that part of the story. I’m dead now too, or you’d never be reading this, but I wanted to set things right after I was gone so here it is. It was on August the 20th, 1992, and I remember it was the day before payday and it was ungodly hot. It had been hot since May and there wasn’t any kind of a break in the heat. It hadn’t rained for a spell either, but that day, just before sundown there came a short hard rain, and I remember that rain because I stood in it hoping the blood would be washed off of me.
Cale owned me some money and he had told near everybody he wasn’t going to pay me because he didn’t have to pay me. I went over there hoping he’d give me some dope or something for the money, and I wouldn’t have stopped but I seen there was nobody at his trailer. That bird dog, Dan, was chained to the Chinaberry tree and I hated to see a dog live his life that way. Rain or shine, heat or cold, Dan was going to live out his days from a puppy to death on a ten foot chain and that was going to be his whole world. He had to hope Cale would remember to feed him, and put some water in that five gallon bucket, but dying slow or dying fast, Dan had seen everything he was going to see. I thought about asking for Dan for the money, but I didn’t have a place to put him either.
Cale let me in and told me right up front he didn’t have no money which I knew was a lie. I tried to get some dope from him and he told me he was out and I knew that wasn’t true either. Cale wasn’t having much time for me, and it was making me mad that he was treating me this way, and he kept calling me boy and cussing like all of this was my fault, and as I sat there I noticed there was a gun on the table so I picked it up. I slid the action back, and it was loaded, and Cale cussed me again and told me to put it down. I knew he didn’t have money enough for a Glock, so I knew it was stole, and he told me if I gave him a hundred dollars and forgot the money I owed him I could keep it. I told him I wanted his money and I kinda pointed the gun at him, you know, so maybe it would scare him a bit. Cale got mad at this, and I knew I ought not to have done it, but he went over the deep end, and really laid a cussin on me then, he took his shirt off and told me to shoot him right there in the chest and laughed at me, and he said that I wouldn’t do it, and that I wouldn’t never seen a dime from him, and he was going to tell everybody how he took the gun from me, and slapped me with it, so I shot him.
I wasn’t ready for how loud it was, and I had never seen a gun fired on the inside of a trailer. The smoke was worse than I thought it might have been, but I had never thought about it, really. The bullet hit Cale what looked like right in the heart and he fell over backwards hard. I couldn’t believe I done it. The whole thing felt weird like a dream and I started panting I was so scared. I threw the gun down but thought that if they came and took fingerprints on it mine would be there so I took Cale’s shirt and started wiping down the gun and it went off again. That made me drop the gun, but I had to get the prints off it so I tried again. That last slug went through the window and I hoped it didn’t hit nobody outside. I wiped down the doorknob and everything else I thought I might have touched and went outside. It started raining and raining hard, and Dan was there looking at me, not moving, not wagging his tail like he did when he saw me most times, but like he knew what I had done. I was scared he’d bite me if I turned him loose and it was hard leaving him there like that but it was even harder to go to the Sheriff and tell them what I done. I didn’t meant to. I could say that. It was a’ accident. The gun just went off and that was that, but I couldn’t.
Jimmy Cox went in for hitting that Bronson kid in the head with a brick while they were fighting and he got three years for that. He wasn’t right when he came out, and his sister told folks he had to get an operation down low to get him right after what happened to him in prison, because of getting raped so much and all. They were going to sue the prison for it but they couldn’t get Jimmy to talk about it at all. Jimmy drowned just three month after he got out and they say that’s why, that he did it on purpose. Jimmy didn’t start that fight, and even if he did kill that kid Jimmy didn’t mean it, and it wasn’t his fault, I didn’t think, but I knew if they put Jimmy in they’d put me in, too, so I got in my truck and started to leave. I don’t know why I went back in after the gun, but suddenly I had to. I was going to throw the gun away somewhere, and I hoped that was a better idea than leaving it. I was scared. I didn’t really know what to do.
Down close to the river, a couple of miles west of it on the four lane, there’s a beaver pond the state men never have been able to get rid of, and I think they quit trying. I throwed the gun hard and stupid me hit the sign there that told folks it was Lagdale Creek. I picked it up but a piece fell off it, and I gather all of it and threw hard. I heard it splash, and got back into the truck and left. Nobody came by. Nobody saw me. No cars or trucks passed me, and it was getting dark and it was raining. I pulled up in the yard and sat there and cried for a while because I had never known anybody to get away with murder. All I had was a single wide on a rented acre of land, but suddenly it was precious to me, and sitting in front of the tv watching a movie was something I knew I’d miss when they came and got me. I didn’t sleep much and my ears were still ringing.
At work I tried to act natural. I told everybody that I had quit smoking the day before and it was making me weird so that was what everybody thought was going on. Not smoking made it worse but I knew I couldn’t hold it down without something to explain what I was acting different. Me and some guys went to the Pine Tree Restaurant for lunch and I got my burger and fries tried to talk about the race Saturday and if Johnson would win again. I wanted a cigarette so bad it hurt but that was all I had to hide why I was on the edge of coming unglued. If I picked up and ran all I had was a couple of hundred dollars and a ten year old truck. When two deputies come in and sat down across from us I knew it was up, but no matter how weird I felt, the world around me kept running normal.
After work I went out and got a twelve pack, just like I always did, but it didn’t help. I made up my mind to stop smoking for a while, just to have an excuse for acting different. Another couple of hours went by and I realized I had gone twenty-four hours and not got caught. Maybe I ought to ride by and check, but I knew better. I thought about what I did every weekend and maybe I ought to do exactly as I always did. I couldn’t go out drinking and I knew it. I turned the tv on and drank beer until I passed out. That night I dreamed of being in a cell and there was a mob of men trying to break into and get me. When I woke up I knew I wasn’t going to go to jail. I couldn’t tell and I wouldn’t let them lock me up. My friend Bob called me and wanted to go fishing so I went. The quit smoking thing was something everybody believed and I wondered why murdering somebody and stopping smoking made somebody act the same. It was hard just to sit in that boat with Bob and fish but I knew I had to. It came upon me this was the same river Jimmy drowned in, and I wondered if we would catch a fish that had ate part of him. Jimmy was a bigger man than me and played football in school. What chance did I have if they did that to him? Did he give in after a while? Did it work that way, that a man was forced to try to bargain or trade off or do something to keep from being gang raped? I was so scared I had trouble keeping my pole still and Bob laughed at me and told me I ought to go back to smoking. It came to me I might never fish again, either, if I got caught. What if I got the chair, even though they didn’t do that anymore that was what most of us called it when somebody did. I thought about those fish down there and if they suspected there was something wrong and I thought about the law was already looking for me, or waiting for me to come home. Maybe somebody was there with Cale and I never knew and right now they were telling the story of what I done.
Bob came over after we got done fishing and I hated him for it, but couldn’t think of a good reason to say no. I bought a case of beer and tried to drink myself drunk. I wanted to tell Bob, wanted to spill my guts, just get it out, maybe he could help, Bob was smart, he could help, and maybe there was a way out I didn’t see, and maybe there was some way out of this. Did Jimmy try to get out? What if somebody on the inside came looking for him after he was out? That thought scared me worse than anything else. Bob’s brother called him on the cell and Bob started saying things like, “Cale Timmons?” “Shot?” “When?” “and they think Cooter Scarbough done it?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Bob hung up and told me Cooter Scarbough had been arrested for killing Cale Timmons.
Seeing Dan in the back of a pickup truck down at the Pine Tree was a weird thing. He had gone from a ten foot chain to riding in the open air but he still gave me that same look. He didn’t growl at me or shy away from me but stood there looking at me. Alicia Scarbough had taken him in after the trial and all, and I tell you, that trial was the hardest thing that ever happened to me. To see a man like Cooter Scarbough put on trial for something I did, knowing what they would do to him, was brutal. But Cooter had threatened to Cale if Cale didn’t stop seeing Alicia, even though it was Alicia who was sneaking off behind her daddy’s’s back to see Cale. They had even spent a weekend at Cooter’s house when he was gone to Florida, and it turns out there was Glock missing from Cooter’s gun cabinet. Alicia nearly did her own daddy in when she found the body cause she told them her daddy had killed Cale. The trial didn’t last very long because Cooter had too many people willing to say where he was. I sat in the courtroom and wondered how many other men like me had sat in that room and knew the truth of it while another man was on the edge. Alicia took Cale’s truck and took Dan in, and it was some years before she went back and spoke to her own daddy, and I hated myself for that. The law thought he done it and quit looking after the trial.
I wondered about the gun. How long did it take one to rust out or at least rust down to where they couldn’t tell where the bullet come from? A year went by and then another one after that, and then there was the day a new Sheriff, guy named Collins, got elected and he said he was going to open up a lot of the old cases and he came to talk to me about what I knew. Collins was from Macon and got busted up in there for beating his wife or such, and came down here to be a big fish in a small pond and folks bought into it. He asked me about if Cale owed me money and I told him that he did, but he had paid me before he got killed. He asked me if I had seen Cooter around that day and I told him I didn’t. Collins looked at me strange like and I felt funny again but I had lived with this thing for a while and I knew unless I said something nothing would ever happen to me. He asked me who did I think killed Jimmy Cox and I asked him why he said that. Didn’t matter, he said, just asking.
I quit drinking after that. I started going to the meetings down at the church for drinkers, not that I thought I had a problem but because I needed some group of people that might be as bad as me. I was surprised to see some of the people there but none of them were surprised to see me. I started over in Valdosta at tech school and they taught me how to write computers up and I landed a job down at the battery factory and then got my own shop. I rented the safe deposit box you found this letter in back in 2001 and never opened it again. I knew when I died someone would open it, and now you know who killed Cale Timmons.