Cuando un automóvil corrió hacia un campo de béisbol en Sanford, Maine durante un juego de Babe Ruth en 2018, desencadenó un rompecabezas de 50 años. Mira «El héroe del parque Goodall» a las 7pm. ET el martes en ESPN.
«El diablo estaba en camino a recoger almas»
1. 2018 ENCENDIDO En un día de primavera que parecía verano, un hombre murió jugando un juego de béisbol en Sanford, Maine. Él era delicado atropellado por un automóvil en un juego de béisbol en un campo de pelota histórico llamado Goodall Park. La persona que lo mató nunca describió la muerte como algo más que un accidente, pero nadie que lo vio pensó que era un accidente. No pudo haber sido. Había demasiadas personas disponibles, demasiadas personas que podrían haber sido asesinadas, demasiados objetivos potenciales.
Unas 200 personas habían aparecido para el doble encabezado de la Liga Babe Ruth ese día. El clima la había sacado después de meses de lluvia fría. Vieron el auto, un cívico granate, en el campo de juego. Vieron a los jugadores dispersarse y huir mientras el auto rodeaba las bases. Vieron el automóvil dirigirse hacia la gente para alejarse en el último momento. Y lo vieron correr por lugares donde la gente solía reunirse, en los mostradores de boletos y en el puesto de comida. Luego vieron cómo golpeó a un hombre parado en la puerta de entrada del parque, cuyo objetivo era tan preciso como una bala con su nombre, y vieron su cuerpo explotar y aterrizar a unos 40 pies de distancia, arrugado y sangrando .
En esta historia mueren dos personas, una vieja y otra muy joven. También en esta historia, dos personas son asesinadas, y uno de los asesinos también es una de las víctimas. Estás conectado. Todo en esta historia está conectado. Se guarda un terrible secreto y se paga una factura. Un crimen ha sido resuelto. Hay una carga que se transmite de generación en generación y una carga que finalmente se levanta. Todos los que escuchan la historia tienen la necesidad de interpretarla. Así también aquellos que tienen la mala suerte de haberlo experimentado. Todos se convierten en filósofos y teólogos; Hablan sobre el destino y el karma, hablan sobre la rotación de la rueda cósmica y el milagro de la paz, y hablan sobre todo lo que sucede por una razón porque es muy difícil imaginar que suceda sin una razón.
2. DOUGLAS PARKHURST CONOCIDO Murió el día que murió. Glen Emmons también. Eran vecinos que se habían hecho amigos, y casi todas las mañanas Parkhurst cruzó un camino arenoso con árboles atrofiados a 10 millas al oeste de Sanford y fue a la casa de Emmon a tomar un café. Parkhurst tenía 68 años y tenía un dolor constante por una lesión en la espalda que había sufrido como pintor industrial años antes. Caminaba despacio los días buenos cuando Emmons lo miraba por la ventana. Era fornido y fornido, con una cara enojada y angulosa con un peine de cabello blanco y su considerable fuerza física en sus cortas piernas. Pero hubo pocos días buenos esta primavera, y Emmons a veces lo vio gateando sobre sus manos y rodillas hacia su casa.
Parkhurst era un veterano de Vietnam y Emmons a menudo lo llevaba a ver a sus médicos en el hospital de VA en Augusta. Parkhurst le dijo recientemente que tenía cáncer nuevamente. Lo había golpeado dos veces antes, pero esta vez, dijo, el tumor era donde los médicos no podían llegar. Esta vez estaba sigilosamente detrás de su corazón.
Una mañana a fines de mayo, Parkhurst estaba pasando un mal momento particular, y cuando finalmente llegó a la casa de Emmon, se dejó caer en el sofá y le dijo a su amigo que no pidiera ayuda si alguna vez lo encontraba inconsciente en el césped. «Estoy listo», dijo. «Estoy listo para irme a casa». Pero había algunas cosas más que tenía que hacer primero.
Parkhurst había estado conduciendo automóviles rápidos toda su vida, y recientemente le dio a su nieta Taylor un Mustang GT al estilo de Georgia que era muy similar al suyo. Para equilibrar la balanza, quería darles a sus nietos Austin y Cameron., 19 y 14, su orgullo y alegría de 500 caballos de fuerza, un Mustang negro con una pegatina que anuncia su servicio en Vietnam y alberga la ventana trasera. «Este no es un auto novato», advirtió Emmons. «¿Qué pasa si lo envuelve alrededor de un poste de teléfono? Nunca te lo perdonarás». A la mañana siguiente, Parkhurst había pensado en ello mientras tomaba un café. «Quizás tengas razón», dijo. «Tal vez necesita otro auto».
El 1 de junio, se subió al Mustang negro y condujo a Sanford para comprarle otro auto a Austin. Era tanto un hombre de campo como un tipo de automóvil, y odiaba el tráfico que incluso un pueblo pequeño como Sanford genera. Pero quería hacer algo por sus nietos, y sabía que no tenía mucho tiempo. Fue al concesionario de Nissan y pagó en efectivo por un Altima usado para Austin. Luego fue a Goodall Park para ver a Cameron jugar la segunda base.
ESCUCHE: En el podcast diario de ESPN, Tom Junod de ESPN revela cómo un golpe y fuga en un campo de béisbol en 2018 ayudó a resolver un misterioso asesinato que había perseguido a una familia y una ciudad durante 50 años.
3. CAROL SHARROW TENÍA Un largo viaje delante de ella. Ella vivía en Sanford, pero el 1 de junio, debía ir a Colebrook, New Hampshire, un centro turístico cerca de la frontera canadiense, para encontrarse con su hija Jenna. No era una tarea que Carol pudiera darse el lujo de tomar a la ligera. Inicialmente, estaría viajando durante al menos tres horas. En segundo lugar, no podía permitirse el lujo de tomarlo. alguna cosa fácil desde el colapso que tuvo cuando tenía 18 años.
La mujer de 51 años, que fue diagnosticada con Bipolar 1 y ha tenido varios episodios similares, vivió todos los días de su vida e intentó mantener incluso las cosas más pequeñas bajo control. Era una estudiante diligente de su propia enfermedad: tomó su litio, se registró a menudo con su médico e intentó mantener un horario de trabajo, sueño y ejercicio.
Durante el día trabajó como cajera en Lowe’s en el extremo sur de la ciudad, por lo que era su negocio conocer y saludar a sus clientes, demostrando su afirmación de que seguía siendo «una persona del pueblo» frente a la enfermedad. Por la noche le gustaba cantar karaoke con una gran voz que combinaba bien con su canción favorita «Me and Bobby McGee».
Sin embargo, lo más importante para ella era ser la madre de Jenna. Había renunciado a la custodia de Jenna cuando tuvo un colapso que terminó con su matrimonio con el padre de Jenna. Pero había tenido buenas relaciones con Kirk Sharrow y nunca había abandonado la vida de Jenna. Cuando Jenna estaba comprometida, quería involucrar a su madre en los planes y la búsqueda del lugar. Se reunirían en Colebrook el 1 de junio porque lo que celebraron no fue solo una boda, sino su tenacidad como familia.
Jenna era una estudiante que provocó a su madre. La vida la había obligado a hacerlo, porque lo que provocó a su madre fue a menudo lo que hizo felices a otras personas. El comienzo del verano, la humedad, fue un detonante. Los hitos familiares fueron un disparador. Uno de los episodios más devastadores del pasado de Carol fue provocado por la graduación de Jenna de la escuela secundaria en la belleza de junio en Nueva Inglaterra. Ahora Jenna se casó y la humedad era lo suficientemente alta como para frotar el cabello castaño rojizo de Carol. Jenna condujo hasta Colebrook y se preocupó mientras esperaba.
Fue temprano cuando Carol se subió a su automóvil, un Honda Civic granate 2003 que le fue regalado por un hogar local por violencia doméstica. Pero ella no fue directamente a New Hampshire. Ella vivía a la vuelta de la esquina de Goodall Park, donde veía juegos de béisbol y algunas veces lanzaba canastas en la plaza de enfrente. El lugar tenía una atracción magnética para Carol. Puso el Civic a través de la puerta de acero negro hacia los terrenos del Parque Goodall y lo estacionó en el asfalto cerca de la cerca del campo.
Eran justo antes de las ocho de la mañana y no había multitudes. Las únicas personas presentes fueron los jardineros que poblaron el campo con una mezcla de centeno y bluegrass de Kentucky. Dos eran jóvenes y uno, Kenny Mills, había trabajado en Goodall Park durante 30 años. Vieron al Civic detenerse abruptamente y el conductor habló enfadado consigo mismo. Oyeron que el auto giraba hasta que gritó y los dos niños comenzaron a conducir a su colega canoso. «Hola Kenny», dijeron. «Parece que tu novia está aquí buscándote. Y ella está borracho. «
4. THOMAS GOODALL WAR un inglés que tuvo la idea de suministrar al ejército de la Unión alfombras de caballos durante la guerra civil. Buscó un lugar con espacios abiertos, una población dispuesta y un río, y encontró a los tres en Sanford, Maine. Era una ciudad agrícola a orillas del Mousam, y en poco tiempo la transformó en una productiva ciudad de molinos. Construyó un total de un millón y medio de metros cuadrados de área de molino al norte del centro de la ciudad e introdujo el apellido en una biblioteca, un teatro, un hospital y un estadio de béisbol, que se inauguró en 1915 con 1.300 espectadores en sus bancas de madera. Creó un equipo de Goodall Mills que ocasionalmente hospedaba a un grupo de egresados principales de Barnstorming en su campo. El 1 de octubre de 1919, el equipo jugó contra los estadounidenses de Boston, que estaban compuestos principalmente por jugadores de los Red Sox, incluido Babe Ruth, que acababa de establecer un importante récord de la liga con 29 jonrones.
Esa tarde Goodall lideró por octavo. Una semana después, el lanzador del equipo, Harry Donovan, escribió en una carta al periódico de su casa describiendo lo que sucedió a continuación: «Me escapé sin perder algunas extremidades, pero me las arreglé para llevar al chico grande que llevaba mi pelota conmigo». para arrugar uno «. Tuve dos golpes y una pelota en Ruth. Había dos hombres en los senderos y el puntaje era 3: 1 a mi favor. Luego ‘Along Came Ruth’ y te golpeó una milla arriba … ¡Caramba, cómo golpea la pelota! «
Unos meses más tarde, el propietario de los Medias Rojas Harry Frazee vendió el contrato de Babe Ruth a los Yankees de Nueva York. Treinta y cinco años más tarde, Goodall Industries se mudó al sur y dejó Sanford para defenderse. Una estatua de Thomas Goodall se encontraba frente al ayuntamiento y miraba con confianza los molinos vacíos.
Desde entonces, Sanford ha intentado reinventarse solicitando «la ciudad que se negó a morir» cuando realmente murió, y recientemente reorganizó su estatuto, eligió a su primer alcalde, invirtió en banda ancha y » Maine se llama la ciudad más nueva. «Pero los molinos no se reinventaron y, a diferencia de los goodalls, no podían caminar. Sus enormes granadas ocupaban la entrada norte del centro de la ciudad como fortalezas derrotadas y abastecían al resto de la ciudad con combustible para chinches, espacio para ocupantes ilegales y recuerdos de eso. lo que solía ser nunca volvería a ser. Hoy en día no hay nadie que realmente llame a Sanford «la ciudad más nueva de Maine», pero muchos le dirán que Homerun de Babe Ruth estaba a 700 pies del Home Plate de Goodall Park. la antigua tienda de dulces tapiada – «Babe’s Store» – donde aterrizó y llamó a Sanford, Maine, «el lugar donde comenzó la maldición».
5. DESPUÉS DE CAROL emitido El día que apareció en Sanford en varios estados de emoción y calma inquietante, regresó a Goodall Park con un grito. La multitud estaba acostumbrada a escuchar a los niños quemar goma en la calle Roberts, especialmente en las noches en que se prometía el verano. Pero eso fue de alguna manera diferente. Fue como una alarma. Todos lo recordarían más tarde: el gerente, el padre jugando con su hijo, los jugadores en el campo, el árbitro, la gente en las gradas. El chirrido fue un ruido de ira.
Era el final de la quinta, sin outs. Tim Curley, gerente de un equipo de la Liga Babe Ruth patrocinado por su agencia de seguros Curley & Associates, acababa de hacer un cambio de lanzamiento. El juego, dijo, era un «antiguo granero». Su equipo se había quedado muy atrás y había arañado el camino de regreso. Pero, por supuesto, el puntaje no era muy importante para él. Estaba justo donde quería estar, en Goodall Pahka quien él y tantos otros llamaron la «Joya de la Corona de Sanford». Había tenido su primer jonrón aquí cuando era niño cuando Goodall Park todavía tenía puestos de madera, un marcador en el medio de la cerca y un campo en pendiente que te hacía correr cuesta arriba cuando encontrabas balones voladores. Tim ahora tenía un hijo, TJ, y le encantaba verlo de pie bajo las luces de Goodall Park de la misma manera que lo hizo antes.
Eran alrededor de las 7 p.m. y TJ jugó en primera base. Lanzó la pelota con Cameron Parkhurst y los otros jugadores de cuadro. Esperaron a que el nuevo lanzador terminara de calentarse. El nuevo lanzador tenía la pelota en la mano y planeaba comenzar una curva. Entonces llegaron los chillidos.
En Goodall Park hay un callejón que corre a lo largo del refugio en la tercera base. Es un lugar que nunca ve el sol, pero curvo y estrecho y apenas lo suficientemente ancho como para acomodar un vehículo, es conocido como el «lugar más seguro en Sanford». Los niños juegan allí sin supervisión durante los juegos de pelota. Bebés jugar allí mientras sus padres miran los juegos. En la noche del 1 de junio, un niño de 4 años llamado Ethan Young jugó allí mientras su padre Shawn estaba de pie junto a la puerta de malla de alambre al campo de juego y habló con su amigo Tim Curley.
En el medio de la quinta entrada, Ethan tiró de la mano de su padre y le pidió que jugara a atrapar. Shawn se puso el guante. Luego vio un Honda Civic marrón corriendo por el callejón, el chirrido que había escuchado en la calle Roberts ahora estaba rugiendo. Nunca antes había visto un auto en el callejón. Pensó que lo golpearía directamente, pero se detuvo y el conductor arrancó el motor. Levantó a Ethan y lo colocó en un pilar bajo en un muro de piedra cercano. El conductor hablaba enfadado consigo misma, su cabello castaño se había en llamas. «¡Abre la puerta!» Usted ordeno. «De ninguna manera», respondió Shawn, de pie frente a su hijo. Hizo temblar y gritar el auto. Ella embistió las puertas y cuando cedieron ante la fuerza de su acusación, golpeó el campo con la energía acumulada de una piedra que había sido liberada de un tirachinas.
Los jugadores no entendieron. Eran niños de 13 y 14 años. Había un auto en el campo de pelota. ¿Estaba ebrio el conductor? ¿Era ella una terrorista? ¿La mataría ella? Ellos comenzaron a correr. Salieron corriendo al campo o saltaron a los refugios y treparon a las gradas donde algunos de ellos comenzaron a llorar. «¡Vete del campo! ¡Vete del campo!» El locutor llamó a través del sistema de megafonía de Goodall Park. Los árbitros se quedaron en el campo y ella condujo directamente hacia ella antes de girar en el último momento, yendo a casa de tercero a segundo a primero, y luego conduciendo de regreso sobre la colina del lanzador.
Tim Curley pensó en correr hacia su camioneta y obtener su arma. Pero cuando ella pasó corriendo junto a él, la reconoció. Ella era la mujer que había cuidado a su abuela cuando murió hace 12 años. Encontró su teléfono celular y llamó al 911. Shawn Young corrió por el callejón del automóvil, pero sacó los cuádriceps y cayó donde las paredes daban paso a la calle Roberts. Un hombre arrojó un bate de béisbol al auto al pasar, pero rebotó sin desacelerar el auto. Los jugadores que habían subido a las gradas continuaron subiendo donde podían ver lo que estaba sucediendo en la franja de asfalto entre el campo y la carretera. El automóvil se acercó a la puerta de servicio enrejada más alejada de las gradas, se detuvo frente a él, giró y luego lo golpeó tan fuerte que las ruedas del Civic dejaron el piso y el patrón de barras en la parte delantera del automóvil. impreso como dientes. Luego fue hacia atrás y cargó la puerta principal. Tenía suficiente espacio para acelerar y nunca disminuyó la velocidad. La gente comenzó a gritar. Un hombre de cabello blanco había bajado de las gradas e intentó cerrar la puerta. Era pequeño, fornido, llevaba pantalones cortos rojos sobre sus gordas piernas y había aparecido de la nada. Hubo llamadas para evitarlo, pero parecía decidido a defenderse. Una mujer gritó: «Dios mío gawd! «El Civic golpeó al hombre de cabello blanco de frente a gran velocidad. Sus zapatillas volaron por el aire hasta la cima de la tribuna, y él también. Aterrizó en la doble línea amarilla en la calle Roberts. Y Carol Sharrow tomó el Civic con él. un chillido y un chirrido hacia Main Street. Golpeó y corrió mientras la sangre se juntaba alrededor de la cabeza del hombre que trató de detenerla. Resultó que Tim Curley sabía quién él era para. Era el abuelo Douglas Parkhurst de Cameron Parkhurst.
Se terminó. Tim sintió pena por el señor Parkhurst y Cameron. Pero también se sintió aliviado. Estaban aquí para un juego de béisbol y algo terrible había sucedido justo frente a ellos. Pero si alguien tenía que morir, al menos no era un niño.
6. DOUGLAS PARKHURST TENÍA Un lugar donde solía sentarse en los juegos de Cameron, cerca de las gradas, donde no tenía que caminar demasiado. Estaba sentado al lado de la madre de Cameron, Donna Poole, cuando Carol Sharrow condujo su Civic al campo. Estaba enfermo y dolorido, pero más tarde Donna le dijo a Tim Curley que el abuelo de Cameron dijo «Tengo que proteger a los niños» cuando se dirigió al campo. La mayoría de las otras personas en el estadio huyeron del campo; caminó hacia él y luego hacia la puerta abierta. No está claro qué quería lograr al cerrarlo; La mayoría de la gente piensa que estaba tratando de evitar que los ciudadanos llegaran a los campos de las Pequeñas Ligas al otro lado de la calle, que estaban llenos de niños pequeños. Sin embargo, lo que es seguro es que trató de hacer algo.
Cuando las estaciones de televisión de Portland informaron de su muerte, dijeron: «La gente lo llama héroe», y a la mañana siguiente aparecieron unos ramos de flores en los barrotes de la puerta, que intentó cerrar antes de morir.
El otro héroe fue el árbitro de primera base, Clint Howard, un hombre alto que no solo se afirmó a sí mismo, sino que también agitó los brazos para atraer la atención del conductor hacia él en lugar de los adolescentes que huyeron. Cuando el auto se giró para mirarlo, pensó: «Qué extraña forma de morir». Pero Carol Sharrow se apartó de él cuando ella se apartó de todos los demás, excepto Douglas Parkhurst. Clint luego se preguntó: ¿Por qué me salvé y mataron a Parkhurst? «Que hizo él ¿que hacer? «, preguntó él.
Douglas Parkhurst murió, esperando un helicóptero de emergencia en un hospital que una vez recibió el nombre de la nuera de Thomas Goodall. Cuando Clint Howard pensó él moriría, pensó en su propio hijo. Después de escuchar la noticia de lo que había sucedido en Goodall Park, su hijo llamó. «Papá», dijo. «El diablo estaba fuera esta noche para recoger almas».
Echa un vistazo a este extracto del próximo E: 60 «The Hero of Goodall Park», que muestra un incidente de 2018 en un campo de béisbol de las Pequeñas Ligas en Maine.
7. DOUGLAS PARKHURST TENÍA Estuvo muerto unas tres horas cuando la policía llamó a la puerta de su hijo. Doug Parkhurst Jr. vivía con su hijo Doug Parkhurst III en viviendas sociales en el extremo sur de Sanford. No había visto ni hablado con su padre en mucho tiempo, al menos durante unos años. Tenía 45 años de edad. Escuchó las noticias sobre lo que le había sucedido a su padre en Goodall Park y no dijo mucho. No fue a buscar a su hijo. Era inherentemente reservado, especialmente cuando se trataba de negocios familiares, al igual que su padre. Dejó que el policía hablara y cuando le hizo una pregunta sobre el incidente que terminó con la vida de su padre: «¿Tenía algo que ver con lo que había sucedido en Nueva York en ese entonces?» – De inmediato se arrepintió. Lo que acaba de suceder en Maine ya era bastante malo. No debería haber mencionado lo que sucedió en Nueva York.
Cuando la policía se fue, Doug Jr. llamó a la puerta de Doug III y entró en su habitación. El niño vio videos de YouTube. Tenía 17 años, un estudiante. Fue construido como su padre, quien fue construido como su abuelo. Había vivido con su abuelo por un tiempo después de que su abuelo se fue o huyó de las afueras de Fulton, Nueva York y se mudó a Maine. Todos vivían juntos, su padre, abuelo, hermano de su padre Brian, todos en la misma casa. Pero luego su abuelo se involucró en el negocio de techos de Brian y comenzaron a pelear y Brian se alejó.
Una noche, Doug III regresó a la casa con su padre y un ayudante del sheriff se negó a dejarlos entrar. Su abuelo los echó. Tuvieron que vivir en su automóvil por un tiempo. En ese punto, Doug III aprendió. Por primera vez, del secreto de su abuelo y de Nueva York. Ahora su padre le dijo que su abuelo estaba muerto.
Doug III amaba a su abuelo. Le encantó cuando su abuelo lo llevó a él y a sus primos en el Mustang por caminos rurales y condujo tan rápido que sus cabezas retrocedieron con el torque. Pero eso parecía hace mucho tiempo; eso parecía en el pasado. Nunca supo por qué su abuelo amaba a Austin, Cameron y su primo Taylor, la niña de los ojos de Parkhurst, y no a él, y ahora nunca lo haría. Hubo días en que quería llamar a su abuelo de la nada solo para saludarlo, y ahora nunca lo haría. Su abuelo y su padre tenían una historia de lucha, pero había pensado que se reconciliarían, y ahora nunca lo harían. Todo parecía un desperdicio. Todo parecía tan … sin importancia. La importancia de lo que los mantuvo separados se desvaneció cuando murió su abuelo y estaba empezando a pensar en cómo podría reunirlos de alguna manera. Observó historias en su teléfono celular sobre lo que había sucedido en Goodall Park y comenzó a pensar en cómo podría hacer algo importante con su vida. Las cosas sin importancia se cayeron y dejó de mirar videos. Él solo estaba llorando.
8. LA MADRE DE JENNA SHARROW Nunca llegué a Colebrook. Jenna estaba con su prometido y la familia de su padre y prometido en el lugar donde se suponía que debía casarse y quería que su madre fuera aceptada. Pero su madre nunca llegó. Y ahora llegó la vieja preocupación que había estado con ella toda su vida. Su madre parecía muy feliz. Pero la felicidad misma era algo fugaz.
Era medianoche cuando sonó el teléfono de su cabaña. Su tía, la hermana de su madre, estaba en la línea. Había llamado al teléfono celular de Jenna, pero no podía comunicarse con ella. Había tenido que llamar al hotel y el hotel la llamó. Ella tenía algo que decirle. Su madre había sufrido otro episodio. Pero esta vez fue diferente. La noticia fue final. Su madre estaba en las noticias. Hubo un accidente. Un hombre estaba muerto, su madre lo había matado.
Más de Tom Junod
9. CUANDO ESCUCHA En las noticias del 1 de junio, Darlene Ashby McCann estaba en un lugar en el que nunca había estado: desaparecida. Ella estaba en Houston y recogió una camioneta a medida para su hija Sherrie. Darlene vivía en las afueras de Fulton, Nueva York, y rara vez salía de su casa porque Sherrie estaba discapacitada después de un accidente automovilístico en 1998. Sherrie vivía con Darlene y su esposo Larry. Darlene la cuidó a ella y a todos los demás. Larry se encargó de Darlene. O siempre lo hizo.
Larry murió de cáncer 12 días antes de la noche en que sonó el teléfono y 20 años después del accidente que causó la discapacidad de Sherrie. Había habido tantos accidentes en la vida de Darlene, todos envueltos en misterio, todos ansiosos por lo que le habían quitado. La muerte de Larry no fue un accidente. Pero era la pérdida que no sabía que podía manejar porque Larry la había ayudado a lidiar con todos los demás.
«¿Tenía algo que ver con lo que sucedió en Nueva York en ese entonces?»
Douglas Parkhurst Jr., un detective después del ataque y huida en Goodall Park en el que su padre fue asesinado.
Darlene tenía 65 años y los accidentes, las pérdidas, habían moldeado su vida en los últimos 50 años. Y más que las pérdidas, fueron los secretos los que los sacudieron hasta sus cimientos. Era como si Dios siempre estuviera tratando de enseñarle algo, pero ella nunca podría descubrir qué era. Las respuestas yacían detrás de ella, por lo que seguía siendo lo que siempre se llamaba a sí misma: «El problema de Dios, hijo». Hace veinte años, Sherrie arrojó su automóvil en los campos de una granja de caballos local camino a la escuela. Nadie supo lo que había sucedido, nadie explicó por qué. Y hace 50 años, cuando trajo a su hermana Carolee al otro lado de la calle por un cono de helado, un automóvil salió de la noche …
Ahora sonó el teléfono en Houston. Llamó el hijo de Darlene. «¿Escuchaste lo que pasó?» preguntó.
Darlene escuchó mientras contaba la historia de un ciudadano en el campo de pelota en Goodall Park. Cuando terminó, ella colgó el auricular. Ella sabía que Dios estaba tratando de enseñarle algo ahora mismo. Pero ella era la hija problema de Dios. Y el hombre que murió en un accidente fue Douglas Parkhurst. Douglas Parkhurst.
Esperaba que Dios la perdonara por sentir paz.
«Nunca se detuvo»
10. FULTON, NUEVA YORK, ACOSTADO a unas 400 millas al oeste de Sanford, Maine. Pero es el mismo tipo de ciudad en casi la misma latitud, Fulton entre Syracuse y Rochester como Sanford entre Portland y Portsmouth, ambas intactas por las principales autopistas y divididas por ríos que son responsables de su existencia. Todos una vez midieron su riqueza en cubos de almuerzo; Cada uno de ellos fue un monumento a la fugacidad de la buena voluntad corporativa, con una población medida barométricamente en las decenas de miles. Pero las fábricas en Fulton duraron más que los molinos en Sanford, y en 1968, la noche en que Darlene Ashby celebró su 15 cumpleaños, el aire en Fulton todavía olía a chocolate con leche de la fábrica Nestlé.
Los Ashby vivían en una pequeña casa en First Street, un espolón que corría a lo largo de la carretera principal, State Route 57, detrás de la cual fluía el río, y una pequeña calle, Nestles Avenue, que se bifurcaba y daba a las fábricas una vía pública. . George Ashby Sr. trabajó en la antigua planta de Sealright y fue a trabajar todos los días. Sus hijos, demasiado pequeños para conducir pero libres para vagar, iban a todas partes, especialmente cuando su hijo más joven, Carolee, de 4 años, quería ir a algún lado.
Carolee no era la cumpleañera esa noche, Darlene lo era, pero 11 años más joven que Darlene y nueve años más joven que George Jr. y llena de energía infecciosa premadurez, era un regalo para la familia Ashby todos los días, por lo que recibió muchos regalos. Compensación. La gente le dio cosas. Los amigos de la familia le trajeron dulces cuando visitaron la casa; El panadero le estaba dando donas cuando fue al centro con la mano de Darlene.
Darlene nunca se molestó con la atención que recibió su hermana; Das Licht, das auf Carolee schien, schien auf alle von ihnen, und sie und ihr Bruder stritten sich um dessen Zimmer, in dem Carolee nachts schlafen würde. Sie war ihre Komplizin, oder vielleicht waren sie ihre; Sie gingen selten ohne sie irgendwohin, und selbst wenn sie Weintrauben aus den Lauben ihrer italienischen Nachbarn stahlen, brachten sie Carolee als Ausguck mit. Sie brachten sie auch zum Strand, wo sie Steine in einer kleinen Tasche sammelte und ihren Hund im Oswego River paddeln ließ, obwohl sie nicht erlaubt war. Sie war die Art von Kind, die mit allem davonkommen konnte und gleichzeitig die Art von Kind, die es nicht brauchte. Es gab keine Probleme, solange Carolee mit ihren lockigen braunen Haaren und neugierigen braunen Augen kam. Ihr Vater, George Sr., nannte sie aus Gründen, die für alle außer ihm unklar waren, seine kleine «Tonk».
Carolee wollte Geburtstagskerzen bekommen. In Fulton war es bereits dunkel, und sie wollte, dass Darlenes Kuchen hell war. «Sie kümmerte sich mehr um die Kerzen als um den Kuchen», sagt Darlene. Ihre 13-jährige Cousine Cheryl war zum Abendessen gekommen, und so gingen die drei über 57 auf den Victory-Markt, Händchen halten und über ihre Pläne für später am Abend sprechen, wenn die Dunkelheit vollständig sein würde und sie sich alle anziehen und Masken tragen könnten. Es war der 31. Oktober 1968.
Es war Halloween.
11. DAS KLEINE MÄDCHEN trägt kein Kostüm. Sie sieht einfach so aus wie sie ist. Sie trägt, was sie immer trägt, worauf sie bei jedem Wetter besteht – schwarze Gummistiefel und einen roten Kapuzenpullover. Sie ist jeden Tag der Woche Rotkäppchen.
Ende Oktober kommt die Nacht früh nach Fulton. Die Sonne geht kurz vor 6 Uhr unter und lässt die Schatten kalt werden. Das Licht des Victory-Marktes brennt wie ein Leuchtfeuer und ruft von der anderen Seite von 57 an. Es handelt sich um eine natürliche Geschwindigkeitsfalle, eine sogenannte Ausfallstraße, bei der die Fahrer langsamer fahren müssen, wenn sie auf ihrem Weg nördlich von Syrakus nach Fulton einfahren.
Darlene und Cheryl haben es viele Male überquert, Tag und Nacht, hell und dunkel. Jetzt überqueren sie die einzelne weiße Linie auf dem Asphalt, während Darlene Carolees Hand hält, und nachdem sie Kerzen für ihren Kuchen gekauft haben, beschließt Darlene, etwas für ihre kleine Schwester zu kaufen, eine frühe Belohnung für Halloween. Carolee mag Eis viel mehr als Süßigkeiten, deshalb halten sie am Carvel-Stand an und kaufen ihr einen Vanillekegel. Der weiße Pudding wirbelte hoch und brachte ihn auf den Punkt. Es ist ein wenig unsicher, und als sie es auf dem Heimweg leckt, achtet sie darauf, es nicht zu stürzen, folgt Darlene auf Armeslänge und klammert sich an ihre Hand.
Sie gehen den Weg zurück, den sie gekommen sind. Es gibt keine Ampeln auf ihrer Seite von 57, keine Stoppschilder oder Zebrastreifen. Cousin Cheryl sprintet über beide Fahrspuren und wartet auf der anderen Seite auf sie. Darlene bewegt sich langsam und hält Carolees Hand, während Carolee ihre Eistüte hält. Sie schafft es bis zur weißen Linie in der Mitte der Straße, muss aber anhalten und darauf warten, dass ein Auto aus dem Norden vorbeifährt. Sie ist vorsichtig und vorsichtig und sich ihrer Verantwortung als ältere Schwester sehr bewusst. Aber während sie wartet, fühlt sie etwas, etwas, das sie später als «Schlepper» bezeichnen wird, und dann hält sie Carolees Hand nicht mehr.
Darlenes Handfläche wurde geleert, die Hand ihrer Schwester plötzlich abwesend, eine umklammerte Münze, die ein Zauberer verschwinden ließ. Sie ist immer noch in Richtung Zuhause gedreht. Sie steht Cheryl immer noch auf dem Bürgersteig gegenüber und sieht, wie sich Cheryls Gesicht verändert und in einem wortlosen Schrei ausbricht. Wo einst Carolee stand, steht nur die Eistüte auf dem Kopf neben einem schwarzen Gummistiefel. Darlene looks north and sees, at an impossible distance, Carolee lying in the road in her red hooded sweater, and then, at a distance that keeps extending itself, a car picking up speed as it heads north and disappears into the night, its red taillights blurred by the tears in her eyes.
The tug at her hand. Her cousin’s screaming face. The ice-cream cone, upended. The single black boot. Carolee motionless, head facing north, nearly half a football field away. The lights of the car, blurred as if on a rainy night.
The tug. Her cousin’s face. The ice-cream cone. The boot. Carolee. The car.
Tug. Face. Cone. Boot. Carolee. Car.
These become the irreducible elements of Darlene Ashby’s life. The pieces that don’t add up. Time passes; life bestows its blessings and inflicts its wounds; mortality encroaches and memories fade. But these live forever.
12. WHEN DOUGLAS PARKHURST came home from the service in 1971, people said he had changed. As a teen, he had always been such a nice boy, quiet and shy but personable — the kind of boy parents liked, the kind of boy people remembered smiling behind the wheel of his ’62 Buick Special as he and his brother Lenny drove through town. At 19, he entered the Air Force and shipped out to Vietnam.
At 21, he came back to Fulton sullen and withdrawn, and he was drinking a lot. His father had just died. The Buick Special was gone. And word was he suffered from nightmares. There were some people who said «he couldn’t take it» over there, who said what he saw in Vietnam accounted for what he saw in the middle of the night.
Soon after he returned home, at an annual fair in Hannibal, New York, he met Antoinette Terramiggi, with her thick dark hair and her close-knit Sicilian family. They married and were devoted to each other. She was the only one he could really talk to, and years later, his sons, Doug Jr., Joe and Brian, came to believe she was the only person Douglas Parkhurst ever truly loved.
The sons did not have it easy. Their father was known as a family man and a patriot. Their father was known as a man who would do anything for anyone, when asked, and yet the father they saw out in the world was not the father who inhabited their home. Indeed, to meet Brian Parkhurst, now 44, is to know that he has endured something. It’s in his eyes. They are, like his features, small and sharp, but they are the eyes of a witness who can’t stop witnessing, eyes of such fixed and unblinking intensity that they appear lidless. Short in stature, like all the Parkhursts, but wiry as a wrestler, he carries about him the concentrated essence of survivorship. He speaks patiently and precisely, with forgiveness and forbearance, but he has questions, and they never seem to leave him, even though he knows most of the answers.
Why did his father treat others better than his own kids? Why wasn’t he loving? Why was he so isolated? Why was he so angry? Why was their mother the one who went to their ballgames? Why was he always somewhere else? Why didn’t he tell them about his life? Why was he so mean to Doug Jr., calling him things no father should ever call a son? Why was he so physically brutal to Joseph almost from the time he was born? Why did he seem sometimes to hate them?
He sometimes asked his mother. It was what happened in Vietnam. But whenever he tried to go further, she stopped him.
Never ask your father about Vietnam.
13. «HE NEVER EVEN stopped!» Darlene screamed, as the car that killed her sister made a clean getaway. «He never even slowed down!» For the rest of her life, she would have to contend with that fact. It wasn’t just that she had to experience grief and the irrevocable loss of Carolee; it was that she had to experience suspicion and the irrevocable loss of trust. As her mother said over and over, somebody had left Carolee in the road «like a piece of garbage.» And somebody else knew who it was, she was sure of it. Somewhere out there in the world someone had to know. Through the years, Darlene couldn’t meet people without wondering if they knew. She couldn’t hang out with friends without wondering if they’d heard. She couldn’t even pray without wondering why God, in his goodness, didn’t see fit to tell her.
The rest of the family suffered in the same way. Her brother Fred, born after Carolee’s death, was haunted by the stories. Her brother George didn’t trust people to care about him, when they only spoke about Carolee and asked about Darlene. Her father, George Sr., didn’t trust people not to steal the gifts he bestowed on her small gravestone and would sometimes spend all night in the cemetery guarding them, explaining, «I just miss my Tonk.» And her mother, Marlene, didn’t trust the son of a powerful local politician and never stopped trying to prove his complicity, figuring that only power could explain the world’s lack of concern.
The car that hit Carolee destroyed their little angel; the driver that ran off into the night destroyed the rest of them.
14. IN 1999, A FEW nights before Halloween and 31 years after the hit-and-run on state Route 57, two men who regularly jogged in the streets of Fulton passed each other. It was not the first time. They saw each other frequently, the one recognizable for an odd hat he wore while running, the other recognizable as Mark Spawn, the chief of the Fulton Police Department. But they had never spoken until that night, when the man in the hat asked the chief for a few moments of his time. He wanted to tell him what had happened three decades before, when a car ran down a little girl named Carolee Ashby and never stopped. The case was never solved, he said. The driver is still out there in the dark.
The next morning, Mark Spawn reopened the case and assigned it to a detective named Russ Johnson, who went through an old file and conducted interviews with those he regarded as the leading suspects. He never cracked the case. But Johnson befriended the Ashbys, and when he retired, his inability to bring them peace haunted him.
In 2012, he posted a message on a private Facebook page dedicated to «Good Memories of Growing Up in Fulton, NY.» «Does anyone remember the Caroleigh [sic] Ashby tragedy from 1968?» Johnson asked. «If anyone has any information please message me privately!…If I have reached the driver with this post, please know that you cannot be arrested after all these years, but can finally clear your conscience and help the remaining members of Caroleigh’s good family. I’ve always believed the person who did this is still among us. Thank you!»
Ruby Maxam was living in Florida when she read the post, but she’d grown up in Fulton down the block from the Ashbys on First Street. She was Ruby Dann then, and friends with Darlene Ashby. They were nearly the same age. She had taken her own 4-year-old brother out trick-or-treating on Halloween night in 1968, and later heard that Carolee had been killed.
Ruby was also friends with Douglas Parkhurst and his older brother Lenny in those days. They were little guys with hearts of gold. They would do anything for you. They were the nicest boys.
«He never even stopped! He never even slowed down!»
15-year-old Darlene Ashby, after the car that killed her sister sped away
Soon after Halloween, 1968, Ruby’s aunt Betty took Ruby to meet a friend of hers — Douglas Parkhurst’s sister, Pat. «If the police ever ask, would you be willing to say Doug and Lenny were with you on Halloween?» Ruby remembers Pat asking. Doug had been in an accident on Halloween night, and the police were asking about a dent in his car. He was crying and having nightmares, Pat explained. Ruby asked to be taken home. She was scared, and so she told her mother what had happened — what Pat Parkhurst had asked her to do. Her mother called Aunt Betty. «Don’t you get Ruby involved in this mess,» Ruby remembers her mother saying.
Ruby never told anyone outside her family about her meeting with Pat Parkhurst, and Pat Parkhurst later denied it. But Fulton was a small town, and over the years Ruby would see Doug and Lenny — they liked her mother, who always had a pot of coffee for them. When Ruby became friends with Lenny’s wife, years later, she heard about his drinking and his nightmares. Lenny’s wife divorced him in the Nineties, and around that time, she asked Ruby if she would call to check in on him.
They talked for a long time, and finally Ruby said, «Lenny, I want to ask you what happened that night.» Halloween. 1968. «He came right out and told me,» she remembers. «It was like, ‘Oh my god.’ He said they didn’t mean to. They were tired from being up all night and they were drinking. He said they still had the car buried up north in a place no one would ever find it. He said, ‘I’ll take you up there.’ I told him no, because I thought that if I went, I would never come back.»
Ruby and Darlene worked together at the machine shop, Black Clawson, at the time. Ruby saw Darlene and her husband, Larry McCann, every day. She thought of saying something to her, but she remembered her conversation with Lenny and grew afraid. Then Darlene’s daughter had her terrible accident and Ruby thought, «I don’t want to bring any more problems to this family, so I’m going to keep my mouth shut.»
Ruby wound up moving to Florida with her husband and putting Fulton behind her. But here she was in 2012, staring at a request for information from a retired Fulton police detective on Facebook. For more than four decades, she had kept her mouth shut, wracked with fear and shame and guilt. Now Ruby Dann Maxam wrote a message to Darlene Ashby McCann.
They had fallen out of touch and they weren’t even Facebook friends. To tell the truth, Darlene didn’t go on Facebook very much and was not familiar with its intricacies. But one day, she discovered a mailbox she knew nothing about, a mailbox for strangers. She opened it, and staring at her was a message from the person whose existence she’d dreaded — and prayed for — for 44 years:
The friend who knew.
«I Would’ve Told Them the Truth»
15. ONCE THERE WAS a boy who lived on the outskirts of Fulton in 1968. He was 18 years old. He’d been in an accident and he was scared. He couldn’t sleep at night. He woke up crying. His mother worried about him. She told somebody about him and somebody then told the police. The police were investigating an accident that happened on Halloween night. It was a hit-and-run. A little girl was killed. They were calling everyone who had been in an accident that night. They called the boy. There was a dent in his car, which he’d just bought in February. It was a ’62 Buick Special. He loved that car. He told a policeman he’d hit a white angel — one of the white concrete markers that lined the main roads. The policeman, Donald Zellar, asked to see it. The boy met him with one of his older brothers, Larry. Zellar measured the height of the white angel and compared it to the damage on the car. He said there’s no way that marker caused that dent. He wrote that in his report and sent the report to the chief. But time passed and no one from the Fulton Police Department called the boy again for 45 years.
The boy surfaced one more time a few years later, now a troubled young man. He was drinking at a party. Everybody in Fulton had heard about what had happened on Halloween six years earlier — the infamous hit-and-run, the little girl dead and the driver disappearing forever. That was him, he said. Afterward, another guest at the party called the police with what he’d heard. A report went to the chief, who had investigated Parkhurst when he was on the beat six years earlier and still took a proprietary interest in the case. This time, however, Chief Zellar was the one who made the decision not to pursue the lead any further. It is difficult to say why. But Marlene Ashby had always suspected that the Fulton PD was not telling her everything about the case, and the note affixed to the report when it was sent to Chief Zellar speaks even now to her suspicions: «I have not passed this information on to any other members of [the Fulton PD], so as not to start any rumors or cause any member of this dept. any problems, if there is nothing to this.»
Forty-five years later, when Darlene Ashby McCann forwarded Ruby Dann Maxam’s tip to two investigators at the Fulton PD, they didn’t know what they’d find. Mike Batstone and Steve Lunn had grown up in and around Fulton, so they’d heard about the death of Carolee Ashby. In March of 2013, they opened the case file and found themselves peering into a different world. The police in 1968 had not even taken their own crime-scene photos, relying on the camera of a passerby, and in the succeeding years they’d lost crucial evidence. But still, if you looked, Douglas Parkhurst, the frightened young man Ruby Maxam told them about, had been in the case file all along, unable to explain the discrepancy between his story and the evidence. It was as though they’d exhumed a grave and opened a casket and found a man with his heart still beating. «The hair stood up on the back of my neck,» Mike Batstone says.
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They went to see Lenny Parkhurst first. He lived with his daughter in a farming community west of Fulton. They took him to a McDonald’s and bought him coffee. The man who had frightened Ruby Maxam 20 years before was now in his mid-60s, diminished by his devotion to his habits but possessed of a barstool conviviality. He was a solitary man who liked to talk, and in this he found a match in Mike Batstone, whose chosen method for interrogation was extended conversation. They talked about bear hunting for 45 minutes before Batstone posed a question about Halloween, 1968.
«It was like I slapped him in the face,» Batstone says. And then Lenny surprised him. «I’ve always wondered about that,» he said. He’d been in the back seat of his brother’s Buick Special. He’d been drinking. So had Doug. But Doug was driving. Lenny was passed out. Then he heard the thump. It jolted him awake. He asked Doug what had happened. Doug told him he’d hit a guardrail. But Lenny didn’t think the thump sounded like something caused by a guardrail. He thought his brother had hit a small animal, a dog or perhaps a deer. They were on their way to a hunting camp they kept up north, and they kept going. But Lenny told Batstone and Lunn that he had never believed his brother’s story. Then he told them something else. He knew where the car was.
It was in the back of the property owned by his sister Midge, somewhere northeast of Fulton.
Batstone felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck a second time.
16. DOUGLAS PARKHURST WAS a law-and-order man. He answered the knock on the door of his trailer outside Oswego, and when the two detectives introduced themselves, he invited them in. «All he had to do was tell us to get the hell off his property and we would have had nothing. It would have been all over,» Lunn marvels. They talked about Parkhurst’s cancer, they talked about his back injury, and they talked about hunting and his decision to quit drinking. After a while, Batstone said, «I didn’t come out here just to pay you a call.»
«Do you need a donation or something?» Parkhurst asked.
«No, no donations,» Batstone said. «I’m looking for some help. I have a complaint, an old complaint that I’m looking for some information on. It has to do with a car accident.»
Parkhurst coughed like a kid in church as Batstone began a homily about the universality of human imperfection and the demands of human conscience. We’ve all made mistakes, Batstone said. We’ve all done things we shouldn’t have and not done things we should. But then we reach the point where we want to fix whatever problems we’ve caused before we leave this earth, and so lately, over the past few months and even the past few weeks, the people who know something about this car accident have started coming forward. They’ve started talking to the police. They’ve started telling the truth.
«Is one of my sons in trouble?» Parkhurst asked.
«No, sir,» Batstone answered. The accident they were investigating happened a long time ago. And no one was in trouble. That’s not why they had knocked on his door. They weren’t trying to bring charges against anyone — indeed, they couldn’t bring charges against anyone because the statute of limitations had expired.
They were just trying to help an old woman before she died. For years and years, a woman in Fulton had lived in an agony of uncertainty and suspicion about the accident that killed her daughter, and now Marlene Ashby was sick and dying, with the torment of unknowing intensified by the prospect of her end. She didn’t deserve to die in such pain, Batstone said. She deserved to know what happened to her daughter, Carolee Ashby.
He opened his notebook and produced a photograph of Carolee, a formal portrait of a curly-haired girl with an abashed smile.
«If I killed somebody, I think I would remember that.»
Douglas Parkhurst, to Fulton investigators
«Pretty girl,» Parkhurst said.
«Back in 1968, there was a car accident,» Batstone said. «Do you know which accident I’m talking about?»
«Nooooo,» Parkhurst answered, but with a rising cadence, the sound of a door creaking open rather than slamming shut.
«Police talked to you about this accident back in 1968. In 1968, on Halloween, you owned a tan Buick Special. We can get you the plate number if you want it.»
Parkhurst made a sound that started as a sigh and ended as a moan, an exhaled breath that turned into a vocalized «Ooooh.» It was a creatural sound, as if Douglas Parkhurst had been harpooned. He began belching, making faces because his stomach was causing him such obvious distress, and even as Lunn and Batstone listened to him denying any memory of the accident, they also heard the testimony of his body. «I believe that your vehicle was involved in that accident at that point in time,» Batstone said, an hour and 10 minutes after the interview began. Then two phones rang nearly simultaneously. The detectives dispatched to the home of Parkhurst’s sister Midge were calling Batstone to say they had found an old car, flipped upside down; Midge was calling Doug to ask why two cops were interested in the car on her property. «I can’t remember — I can’t remember what car that is,» he told her.
17. THE OLD BUICK Special was on its back, like the fossil of an ancient beast that had come to a violent end. It had been there so long its presence had become part of the landscape. It wasn’t buried, not exactly; it had just settled into the earth, and the earth had grown up around it with its devouring indifference.
Over the decades, members of the Parkhurst family had been in the habit of placing sticks and twigs on it when they cleared the yard, so that by now it resembled a pagan altar. Their children, including the children of Doug and Lenny, made a fort of it, climbing in and out of the tunnels created by its open windows, standing on top of the exposed chassis.
Lunn and Batstone had been around for a while, but they’d never seen anything like this. Forty-five years earlier, a car had come out of the darkness, taken a fledgling life and kept going into the darkness. And here it was, in the full light of day. A literal ton of evidence. Lunn wiggled through the half-sunken window. He retrieved a license plate frame from the dealership where Doug Parkhurst had bought his Buick Special in February 1968. He found the vehicle identification number that would eventually tie the car to a paint chip found on Carolee Ashby’s red hooded sweater. Batstone, a bigger man, examined what remained of the body. He came upon a piece of sheet metal sticking out of the ground. It was the front fender from the driver’s side, and it bore a dent the size of a human head.
In the case file, the two detectives had read about a young Douglas Parkhurst unable to explain the dent. From Ruby Maxam’s tip and Lenny Parkhurst’s admission, they knew where to look. Now, as though they had been led by the beat of a telltale heart, they not only could touch the car; they could touch what touched Carolee, struck her, in the last instant of her life.
In this excerpt from the upcoming E:60 ‘The Hero of Goodall Park,’ investigators make an intriguing discovery in a 1968 police report.
18. THEY INTERVIEWED PARKHURST three times, and he never uttered the words that would have ended their questions — I didn’t do it. He said, «I’m 99.9% certain I didn’t do it.» He said, «It doesn’t seem possible, hitting a little girl like that.» He said, «If I killed somebody, I think I would remember that.» He said, «If I killed somebody, I’d say, ‘Hey, I’ve done something wrong.’ I would tell you.» He said, «If I was involved, I’d like to know myself.» He said, «I don’t remember — I don’t think it’s possible that I hit a girl, or a man, or a woman like that.» He said, «I don’t remember — after Vietnam, so much of my life went.» He said, «If I can’t remember something back then, maybe there’s something I don’t really know.» He said, «There’s something there — there’s gotta be.» And he said, at last, «I don’t want to go to jail.»
And so, on April 9, 2013, Batstone and Lunn drove him to the office of Gregory Oakes, the district attorney for Oswego County. Oakes signed a letter informing Douglas Parkhurst that in the motor vehicle accident that killed Carolee Ashby, the statute of limitations had expired on the charge of manslaughter and on the charge of hit-and-run. Oakes would not and could not prosecute him.
«I pulled up a chair and sat knee to knee to him, not so much as a prosecutor but as a therapist, working on a human level,» Oakes says. He started crying. His head dropped down. I thought we were there. But then he stiffened up. He lifted his head and wiped a tear and said, ‘I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t remember.'»
19. THEY FIGURED THEY’D never see him again. Eight days later, the phone rang on Steve Lunn’s desk. Douglas Parkhurst wanted to talk.
They met him in Interview Room No. 3, in the basement of the Fulton Police Department’s headquarters. It looks like what it sounds like. It is small and offers nothing for a drowning man to hold on to. The walls are painted cinder block, and there are no windows except the window to the hallway. There is a desk and there are four chairs.
Parkhurst sat in the chair pushed against the wall, his hair gray, his eyebrows jet-black, his features sharp, his profile as unforgiving as the blade of a hatchet. He wore a gray polo shirt, jeans and sneakers, with black sunglasses pushed up onto his head. He kept his thick legs extended and his hands either laced behind his head or folded on his paunch. He did not look like a man unburdening himself so much as a man buying a car and waiting to sign papers drawn up by the finance department.
Batstone and Lunn were salesmen looking to close. Could they obtain a full confession, or just push Parkhurst, in Lunn’s words, to go «as far as he can go»?
Batstone wrote down words Parkhurst used when he first came to headquarters and told them the story. But they are not quite Parkhurst’s words. Batstone read the sentences out loud as he wrote them. Parkhurst leaned back in his chair and said, «Mmmmm-hmmmmm.»
The statement, belonging as much to Batstone as to Parkhurst, read as follows:
«Back in October 1968, on the 31st I was at my brother Lawrence Parkhurst’s house. He lived south of Fulton on [state Route] 57. … I remember that night my other brother Lenny Parkhurst and I had been drinking beer. We left my brother’s house and traveled north on 57 into the city of Fulton. My brother Lenny was passed out in the backseat, I think I had around three beers. …
«While I drove through the city of Fulton I heard a thud. It sounded like I hit a dog. I don’t know where I hit that thing but I know I drove past the old Sealright building. I don’t remember when I hit that thing but I know I told the police I had got into an accident at about 6:45 PM that night. I did not see what I hit. I did not stop. I don’t remember hitting the brakes. I left Fulton. I don’t remember seeing any kids but I believe in my heart I hit the little Ashby girl with my car. I did not see her or any other kids. … That night I told the police I hit the guard post. That did not happen, but I don’t know why the police never challenged me on this. I wish they did. I would’ve told them the truth.
«After my time in Vietnam I forgot all about the information. I did not start thinking about it until Sgt. Lunn and Batstone started to talk to me. I know in my heart and I am 99.9% sure that I hit that little girl with my 1962 tan Buick Special. I am oh so sorry. I can’t change anything but I hope this apology will be accepted and I beg for forgiveness.
«I don’t know how my car got behind my sister’s house but that was my car and it was the car that hit the little Ashby girl. Before this night I did not have any dents in my car. Again I am terribly sorry for what happened. I did not see the little Ashby girl. Please forgive me. I did not intentionally hit that little girl. I’m sorry.»
The story should have ended there, with a confession and plea for forgiveness. But while Parkhurst agreed to the statement, he did not compose its sentences. And when Batstone asked if he would apologize to the Ashbys face-to-face, Parkhurst declined. He wasn’t ready, he said. He had to talk to the doctor at the VA who was helping him with his Vietnam flashbacks. He signed the statement and stood up. Batstone, still at the desk, said: «Look at me. Are you going to be OK?»
Parkhurst looked at him and softly said, «Yeah.»
Parkhurst cried, raising his hand to wipe his eyes, and Batstone walked him out to the parking lot. When they reached Parkhurst’s car, he said something Batstone will never forget:
«I hope that one day I can do something to make up for what I’ve done.»
20. HE WENT TO see Lenny. He hadn’t in a long time. They were once so close. But over the years, the accident had divided them — Lenny in the back seat, Doug behind the wheel. They’d gone years without speaking. Now Doug told Lenny about his confession. «You should have done that a long time ago, Doug,» Lenny said.
«I know,» Doug said. «But I was scared.»
«Well, it’s not going to get any better now,» Lenny said. «Nothing’s going to change.»
They never spoke again.
Parkhurst called Doug Jr. «I made a terrible mistake,» he said. He didn’t mean the accident, or the secret. He meant the confession.
«He was scared to death of the Ashbys,» Batstone says. He felt he could no longer show his face in Fulton and asked if he could come live with Doug Jr. and Brian in Maine. When Brian first heard from Doug Jr. about the secret their father had guarded for so many years, he was «disappointed, obviously — it was hard to believe that he could do that, take a life and just bury the secret.» Yet at the same time Brian hoped that the revelation would allow him to understand his father at last.
«I think the secret had a lot to do with why he couldn’t be close to us or show us any kind of affection,» Brian says. But his father never talked to him about it. He never talked about what happened either on state Route 57 on Oct. 31, 1968, or in Interview Room 3 on April 17, 2013. «Whenever anyone would bring it up, he would get quiet or leave the room,» Brian says.
Nothing had changed and nothing had gotten better. The fate that pursued Douglas Parkhurst in Fulton, New York, awaited him in Sanford, Maine.
«Someone Has to Be Responsible»
21. CAROL SHARROW MADE it home from Goodall Park. After smashing through the gates that nearly trapped her, she roared up Roberts Street, turned onto Main and returned to her apartment close to the ballpark. She was inside when police officers knocked on her door. She came outside in a white V-neck Red Sox T-shirt, black jeans and boots. Her hair, which seemed aflame during her ride around the diamond, was tied back. She sat down on the step outside her apartment, lit a cigarette and drank a Red Bull, empty cans of which had piled up in the bushes outside her door. Then she began to talk as if she had all the time in the world.
Matt Jones, the detective in charge of the Sanford Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division, wore plain clothes and engaged her like an old friend. He asked if he could bum a cigarette. He’d quit smoking long ago, but he had to get his bearings. He knew Carol. He had helped find her when she disappeared a few years earlier, and she said a cheerful hello every time he saw her at Lowe’s. Now she was clearly having a psychotic episode but also conversational, her manner as constrained as her message was untethered.
«Do you remember Babe Ruth?» she asked him.
«Yep,» he said.
«Did you play ball with him?» she asked.
«No,» Jones said. «Did you?»
«Mmhmm,» Carol said.
«You did? I thought he died a long time ago,» Jones said.
«Do you know how he died?» she asked.
«No. Do you?»
About 20 minutes after Jones began talking with Carol, his cellphone rang. He stepped away from her and took the call. One of his detectives at Goodall Park told him the news: Douglas Parkhurst had died on the helipad. He returned to Carol Sharrow with the knowledge that he had a job to do: He had to figure out whether Parkhurst had died as a result of manslaughter or murder. And yet the dreamy quality of the conversation did not change. He spoke with her for hours, the remains of the day turning to night. He had to find out if she was sober. Sie war. He had to find out if she had known Douglas Parkhurst before hitting him with her car. She hadn’t. At one point, she told him she had to speak to her lawyer — and then, in the absence of a phone, carried on a dialogue with her open, empty palm. He grew protective of her, even when he told her he had to arrest her. «For what?» she asked. «I’m cool.» But she offered no resistance, and was cuffed and led away in the dark.
Three months later, Carol’s daughter Jenna was married in Colebrook, New Hampshire, at the resort she selected the day Douglas Parkhurst died. Carol, by now hospitalized, could not attend. Jenna set an empty place for her, with a framed photo of the mother who always tried to be there for her, even when she couldn’t.
22. ON THE DAY of the hearing, reporters crowded the courtroom, most of them from local news outlets in Maine and a few from as far as Boston. After all, the death of Douglas Parkhurst at a historic ballpark had been a national and then an international story, and this is where it would end, in a chamber where the questions that the story posed — questions of guilt and innocence, villainy and heroism — were supposed to be decided. The reporters stood in a picket on the prosecutor’s side of the courtroom, their long microphones poised and ready.
I did not stand with them. I went to the other side of the aisle and sat down next to someone I’d met on my first trip to Sanford, a month after Douglas Parkhurst died and Carol Sharrow was arrested. I’d gone to an apartment complex on the south end of Sanford and had found two people sitting at a picnic table who bore a marked Parkhurst family resemblance, both of them thick-legged, with thick black hair under matching Yankees caps. They were father and son, united not just by blood but also by the father’s determination not to raise his son the way he had been raised, in the vise grip of silence.
Douglas Parkhurst III, D3, was quiet and watchful, with a mild and almost winsome countenance. Douglas Parkhurst Jr. was in torment, fearful that he had ruined his father’s name by telling the police about what happened in Fulton and at the same time relieved that his father had died instead of a child. These were emotions that could not reside comfortably in the same man, and they wracked him to such an extent that when I left that afternoon I could only hope that time would bring him peace.
It had not. On April 2, 2019, in the York County Courthouse, Doug Jr. seemed still at once highly agitated and immobilized by his agony, rocking in place in his long shorts, his hands shaking, his head shaved like a penitent. He was the only member of the Parkhurst family at Carol Sharrow’s competency hearing, and he said he had come to honor not his father but rather his mother, who, before she died of cancer at the age of 43, loved both of them. She was up there watching, he told me, and his presence on this day was what she would have wanted. He raised his eyes heavenward as if to check in with her, and when Carol Sharrow entered the courtroom, he released a small bleating moan.
«There were a hundred children on that field that day in the park I love in a community I love, and they’re going to remember that day forever.»
Carol was dressed for the occasion, in black slacks and a black jacket over a black-and-white blouse, her hair snapped in place by a black barrette. She walked with a slight limp, and also with an air of strict discipline. She had warned her friends and family members that she would not turn around and acknowledge them for fear of what the gathered cameras would do with the shot. She did not speak unless the judge addressed her directly. She left the talking to the doctors, who spoke in theoretical opposition — one for the prosecution, the other for the defense — but practical agreement. Carol Sharrow had bipolar 1. She had not stopped taking her lithium at the time she drove onto the ballfield at Goodall Park, but her addiction to caffeine, and the consequent diuresis, had reduced the lithium in her bloodstream to «negligible levels.» The pile of Red Bulls had proved to be another of her triggers. She’d suffered a «classic manic episode,» with a pronounced component of delusion. She believed she was friends with Tom Brady. She said she played baseball with Babe Ruth, the first hero of Goodall Park.
«While I appreciate the victims will not feel justice has been done here,» the judge said, «the evidence establishes [Carol Sharrow] is not criminally responsible as a result of insanity.» Then he placed Carol in the care of Maine’s commissioner of health. She left through his quarters, without a backward glance.
Doug Jr. stayed behind as the courtroom emptied out, his face in his hands, tears leaving pink streaks on his skin. «Someone has to be responsible,» he cried. «Someone has to be responsible.»
23. NO ONE HAD ever apologized to the Ashbys. After Parkhurst confessed in 2013, investigators Batstone and Lunn brought Carolee’s mother Marlene and sister Darlene to Interview Room 3. Though they had grown up in the same town, Darlene had never heard Parkhurst’s name. When she read his confession, she knew something was missing. She read again and again the language of indifference in the statement. It sounded like I hit a dog. I don’t know where I hit that thing. And she knew they needed to hear that the man who did this — this Doug Parkhurst who’d signed his name to the statement — cared about what had happened to Carolee, to all the Ashbys.
Marlene Ashby died in 2016, heartbroken to the end. Darlene grieved, first with Larry and then for him too. And then the phone rang telling her about the car on the ballfield in Sanford.
It’s hard for her to explain, she says. She knows how it sounds. She knows it makes her sound unstable or out for blood, when she is neither. But Larry died on May 20 and Douglas Parkhurst died on June 1. And as soon as she heard about what had happened in Maine, she was certain Larry had a part in it. She won’t speculate on what kind of role he played. But somehow he let God know that Darlene needed help and deserved peace. Somehow he made sure neither she nor Carolee would be forgotten. It wasn’t a matter of revenge. It was a matter of some circle finally being completed. She knew, in a way she never had, that Douglas Parkhurst had killed Carolee — no more of the «99.9%» certainty he allowed in his confession. And she knew God cared about her and her sister, and so did Larry.
It couldn’t have happened any other way.
24. THE BUILDING ONCE called the Maine Insane Hospital is 180 years old, and despite being abandoned, it still possesses a terrible authority. It’s made of quarried gray stones veined with mortar, with a steeply pitched slate roof topped by tarnished copper pagodas and with an extensive network of underground tunnels. It’s next to the river, which long ago allowed the afflicted to be taken there by boats, under the cover of night.
Today, Carol Sharrow lives next to that old fortress of ancient despairs, at the Riverview Psychiatric Institute, mint-colored and as diligently anodyne as a center for continuing adult education. She is one of 24 residents who came to Riverview by way of the criminal justice system, but she is now a patient and not a prisoner. She has one job, and that’s to get healthy and stay well so that she can leave. She takes her meds, goes to therapy, goes to group, goes to yoga, goes for walks on the grounds, makes sure she eats well and gets enough sleep. She has rights, as a patient, with access to the phone and a computer. She also earns privileges, and on the first day I visited her at Riverview, in a conference room with a view of the Maine Insane Hospital out the window, she picked up a phone and ordered sandwiches for us from a local sub shop in Augusta. She had ordered from the shop before, and spoke, when she hung up, of that «old Carol charm.»
I had come to Riverview at Carol’s behest. She knew I was calling her friends and family members to learn about her, and she wanted me to get to know the «real Carol Sharrow.» She is like that, sometimes — a person who is painfully aware of how others might view her. As befits someone who has been in and out of the mental health care system for the better part of the past 35 years, she tries considering herself objectively, both as a person and as a «case,» and also staying consistent with what she’s learned and what she’s come to acknowledge. She is frank and forthright, sometimes to her detriment. She’s also «chemically sensitive» — sensitive to vitamins, sensitive to steroids, sensitive to Red Bull, and if you take a look at her history, her episodes are often linked to a change in habit, a change in diet, a change in what she puts in her body.
She has not lost heart. She never does. Her optimism is what has allowed her to stay alive, what has allowed her to collect herself after each devastating episode and keep going. She is healthy now, she says, and she has been healthy since she arrived at Riverview and doctors put her on the right medication and monitored her lithium levels. She’s doing well — so well that she doesn’t belong at Riverview anymore, and everyone knows it. She has a lot of life left in her, a lot of good left in her, and all she wants now is the chance to do good, to make a contribution, to write and teach and show people like her how to go on living when the very worst has happened.
And of course that’s why I had come to see her — to find out how a person who has struggled most of her life not to be defined by illness survives illness having such a conclusive say. She had done something of permanent consequence at Goodall Park, something all her optimism and hope and resilience couldn’t undo. She had taken a life. How could she now salvage the life she worked so hard to make for herself?
It was an accident, she said. She has a vague memory of wanting to test her brakes and heading to Goodall Park. She remembers hitting the fence. But she says she has no memory of hitting him. And so she lives with her knowledge of what she did by reminding herself that it wasn’t what she intended to do — in the same way people involved in other kinds of accidents learn to live with themselves. People have fatal accidents drinking and driving. They have fatal accidents texting and driving. They have fatal accidents running red lights and going through stop signs. The accidents that change your life forever happen in the blink of an eye, and as Carol told me then and many times since, «what happened to me can happen to anyone.»
I did not mean to upset her when I told her about Darlene Ashby. I was, in fact, trying to give her peace, by telling her that what happened at Goodall Park had given Darlene the peace that had eluded her ever since Carolee was killed. But it didn’t work out that way. Carol had been so composed our entire conversation, so cheerfully disciplined in her affect. Now she broke. She began to cry, wiping her eyes with hands balled into fists, singing an aria of utter desolation: «Wait a second — I loved Goodall Park. I loved Sanford and I loved my life. I was having a good year. And someone’s going to say that this was supposed to happen? What the f—? What the f— …»
Carol had killed a man and was trying to find peace by telling herself that it was an accident. Now came Darlene Ashby, trying to find peace by telling herself that there sind no accidents, that what happened had to happen … the implication being that Carol was just an instrument of some kind, a pawn in a cosmic drama beyond her understanding … the implication being that the accident that could have happened to anyone could only have happened to her.
A few months later, I went to see her again, in the conference room at Riverview. I was still haunted by her horror at the thought that the accident at Goodall Park was somehow foreordained, and the question I had to ask her was the same question I would have asked Douglas Parkhurst if he had been sitting in front of me:
«Are you sorry?»
«Sorry?» she asked, flabbergasted. «I’m going to live with this for the rest of my life. I mean, taking another life — that’s horrible. I have to live with that and I will for the rest of my life. And I don’t know that person. I don’t know that man. I’ve never seen him before and I have to live with the fact that I took the life of another human being. That’s the reality. And it’s hard. There were a hundred children on that field that day in the park I love in a community I love, and they’re going to remember that day forever. Because they saw a man get hit. They saw a man die.
«That’s how I feel.»
25. I WAVED TO him as I drove past — the bearded oldster with the shovel. The man I was looking for was in his early 70s, with a reputation formidable enough to have cowed Ruby Maxam into nearly 50 years of silence. The man bent over his shovel looked to be well into his 80s, tending to his yard in the gathering shadows of a late fall day in Sterling, New York. I passed him by and kept driving until the houses ended. Then I turned around and stopped.
«Are you Lenny Parkhurst?» I asked.
«I am,» he said.
«I’ve come to talk with you about your brother Doug.»
«Doug died,» he said. «He died in Maine.»
It was November, five and a half months after the death of his brother. We were way out in the country, and he was using the blue shovel to pick up apples from the lawn of his daughter’s house where he lived, piling them into cairns at the base of the trees that shed them. The trees were bent like crones, the wine-red apples small and withered. Lenny Parkhurst was not just short and slight; he was recessive, the sly occupant of his own diminution, a husk of a man who rattled in the wind. He had no teeth and skin slightly jaundiced by a lifetime of questionable habits. He wore a denim Carhartt jacket with a camo shirt underneath, black work boots cartoonishly large, and a checkered hunting cap with earflaps that made him look like a superannuated Holden Caulfield. His voice was not simply of another place but of another time — fuddy-duddy, old-fashioned, like the voice of a desert prospector in the movies, with a laugh that resolved into a wheezy cough.
He was 70 years old, but he told me he’d suffered an electrocution at a job site 31 years before and died three times before being revived. Now it was just him and the ghosts, and at first, when he started talking about «the accident,» I thought he was talking about the electrocution. But no, he was talking about what I was talking about. He was talking about his brother Doug, and about the little girl, and when I asked him what I came all the way out to Sterling to ask — when I asked him if Doug knew all along that he’d killed Carolee Ashby — he planted his shovel in the ground, put his weight against it and became very still. He looked me straight in the eye and said without blinking, «He knew.»
And so did Lenny. The story he always told was the story from the back seat of the Buick Special, where he lay passed out after a long day of drinking until he heard a thump. He told that story again to me, even remembering the place where he bought most of his drinks, the Airport Inn. But he also told me he could still see her — «her sister couldn’t control her, and she ran right in front of the car. She had a costume on and I never knew what she looked like. I see her as a little clown.» He told me that he tried to go to her funeral, before he was stopped, and that he has never been allowed to grieve.
«My lawyer told me not to think so much about it. He said there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s done and over with. But something’s not right. I don’t like it. I think about it.» And so he sees her in his dreams, sees her lying there on the road, the white angel.
«How could I not?» er hat gefragt. «She was just a little girl.»
The next day, I saw the tan Buick Special, pieces of it anyway, tagged and cataloged in the evidence room of the Fulton PD. I picked up the piece of the car stamped with the telltale dent the «size of a person’s head,» as the old police report had it. I put it back down. I didn’t want to touch it, because of how it was supposed to have once touched Carolee Ashby, and because so many hands had already touched it and left their uneasy luster. But then I studied it, this stubbornly animate fossil, as it lay on the table, and very softly it answered one of my questions.
Carolee Ashby had been found 133 feet down the road from where Doug Parkhurst had hit her. But the body was intact, unmarred, and appeared almost untouched. And Lenny had said that he had seen her, that she looked like a little clown. How could this be? The strip of sheet metal offered an explanation. It was not from the front of the car and not from the side of the car. It was from the top of the car — from the quarter panel between the hood and the wheel well. If her head had left the inexplicable dent, the Parkhurst brothers had seen her, and possibly had carried her before she fell off 44 yards away. He knew, Lenny had said. They both did.
I had recently obtained the records of Doug Parkhurst’s service in Vietnam, the source of his flashbacks, the explanation for the gaps in his memory. He was a cook, for the entirety of a tour that lasted a year. I can’t claim to know how much action he saw, or what horrors he witnessed. But I suspected, with the hair standing up on my neck, that Carolee Ashby had been Doug Parkhurst’s Vietnam all along.
«It Might as Well Be Me»
26. «I HOPE THAT one day I can do something to make up for this,» he said after he confessed and then declined to apologize. «I need to protect the children,» he said five years later, right before he died.
Douglas Parkhurst was involved in an accident that he spent the rest of his life compounding and caused pain that he spent the rest of his life deepening. He tried to get away with something; he did until he didn’t, and the cost of his temporary success was higher than the cost of his eternal failure. And yet this whole story hinges on the connection between his stated desire to «make up for this» and his stated decision to «do something» for the children.
Did the first statement lead inevitably to the second? Did he make up for what he had done? Did he do something for the children? Was he a hero? Was he a victim of fate? Did he, a sick man, want to die? Was he redeemed by the courage he displayed before he died? Can a life be redeemed in an instant? Was his death an accident, as Carol Sharrow insisted, or the completion of a circle, as Darlene Ashby McCann believed? Did he choose to go down to the gate, or did he have to?
Listen to Clint Howard, the first-base umpire in the first game of the Goodall Park doubleheader on June 1, 2018, who waved his arms to attract the attention of the car rampaging around the diamond and saw it coming right at him, and then saw it turn and kill Douglas Parkhurst instead. «For 50 years, this guy carries a terrible burden,» he says. «Then he gets hit by a car and dies, and the burden doesn’t go away. It just goes to someone else.»
27. TWO OF THE players didn’t want to come back to Goodall Park when baseball resumed after the accident. It wasn’t simply that they were scared; it was that they no longer felt safe. They talked to their coach, Tim Curley, who reminded them that Goodall Park belonged to them. On Friday, when Curley & Associates came to Goodall Park to play the team that was on the ballfield when Carol Sharrow drove through the gate, the two boys showed up in uniform. The whole team did, except for Cameron Parkhurst.
Cameron came to the game dressed in street clothes, because he didn’t know what else to do — he didn’t know whether playing or sitting out would better honor his grandfather. So he listened. With his teammates, he listened to Coach Curley tell them that this was their moment, this was their youth, this was their dream, this was Goodall Park. And he listened to Coach Curley assure them that what happened on the field last Friday would never happen again. Cameron, of all people, had to know that this wasn’t really true — that even if what had happened last Friday didn’t happen again, it had already happened before, in another time and in another place. But Cameron was a Parkhurst through and through, to a degree that sometimes worried his father, Brian. He didn’t like to talk about his feelings, and so when at last he suited up and his coach told him he was batting leadoff — well, he could do that, all right. «He could run like a jackrabbit,» is what Tim Curley says, and he got a hit in his first at-bat, and then again in his second, and then again in his fourth. Cameron was aging out of Babe Ruth, and he had decided not to keep on going, not to move up into another league and play another season. This was it for him, the beginning of the end of baseball. But he was always one heck of a ballplayer, and on this night, he had the game of his life.
28. DOUGLAS PARKHURST CHANGED his will before he died and disinherited his sons. Douglas Parkhurst III, D3, who looked so much like his father, Doug Jr., was left with nothing but sadness. On one of my visits to Sanford, D3 surprised me with a text asking to meet with me. There was something he needed to say. I hadn’t seen him since I sat with him at the picnic table outside the apartment he shared with his father, and I hadn’t seen his father since Carol Sharrow’s competency hearing. We wound up meeting at an adult education center in Sanford, where he was getting his GED. He had dropped out of high school after his grandfather died, and now, at 19, he was a big kid in shorts, his hair shorn like his father’s, with very little in the way of possessions or accomplishments. But he exuded a subdued brightness and a preternatural sense of poise, not to mention a willingness to reach out to strangers. We began talking, and what he had to tell me was this: «I forgive him.»
«This all needs to be closed and put away. It can’t just be an open wound.»
Douglas Parkhurst III
I was stunned. How could he forgive his grandfather, who had caused so much pain to so many, including him and his father? But D3 didn’t want simply to forgive the old man. He also wanted to ask for forgiveness on the old man’s behalf. «The story needs to have an ending somewhere,» he said. «Not a terrible ending — not what happened to my grandfather. But there needs to be a close somewhere. This all needs to be closed and put away. It can’t just be an open wound. Maybe there could be a happy ending to this, and that’s what I want. I don’t want them to feel like our family hates them and they hate us. We have to close it.»
It was the conviction that had given him purpose when he was bereft, the cause that came to him when he saw how the world responded to the news of his grandfather’s death. So much was broken. So much needed to be fixed. Now this 19-year-old grandson whom Douglas Parkhurst rejected told me he wanted to give Darlene Ashby McCann what she’d always needed and what the first Douglas Parkhurst could never give:
A simple apology.
29. SHE IS WAITING by the lake, under a gray Fulton sky, on a windy Fulton day. She wears a heavy coat over a turtleneck and keeps her hands in her pockets. She is sitting in a wooden gazebo, facing the water where Carolee once swam. There are signs posted by the shore declaring that no one can swim there anymore. God only knows what happened to the water.
We pull up in a car. We had driven, the day before, the 400 miles between Sanford, Maine, where D3 lived, and Fulton, New York, where Darlene Ashby McCann had grown up. D3 had neither car nor license, and so if he was ever to apologize to Darlene, he needed help. I decided to give it to him, because, well, I was part of it now, and I agreed with my passenger — we have to close it.
D3 had gotten a job, working the midnight shift at the Burger King on the thruway service plaza. He was still trying to find his way. But he had a sense of mission and the courage to match, and when I asked him why he had decided to take on a task that had eluded generations of his family, he said: «Someone has to do it. It might as well be me.»
It might as well. He opens up the passenger door and comes around to my window. «Are you sure?» he asks.
«I’m sure,» I say. I’ve decided not to go with him. I’ve decided that he needs to be alone with her.
«You can, you know.»
«I know. But it’s your thing. Good luck.»
«I’m gonna need it,» D3 says, pink in his cherubic cheeks. Then he puts his hands in the pockets of his hoodie and walks in his long shorts on the path that ends with a woman who has waited 50 years for his arrival. She was four years younger than he is now when his grandfather took her sister away. D3 is a boy as once she was a girl. But this isn’t a boy’s choice, to take on two burdens like this, one belonging to her and the other belonging to his namesake. She feels something rising in her as he approaches, not just peace but hope. But it’s cold. When he sits down next to her in the bristling late-October breeze, he tilts toward her with his hands still in his pockets, and she puts her arm around his shoulder. Together, they look at the lake where a little girl once learned to swim, long before the water was tainted.