Haha, remember how I said I was going to do this MONTHS ago? Look at what a liar I am. SUCH an unreliable author. Guard your hearts, readers – I will only break them.
Unfortunately, life and school and finals got in the way and I oddly decided to prioritize the correct things, for once in my life. However, I loved you all the while, readers. I never forgot you. I would often lie in bed late at night and think, "Crap! I need to do that end-notes thing!"
Things that I vaguely remember I wanted to make a note of:
Between the time that I started this story and finished it, I
took an introductory criminal law course,
interned in a prosecuting attorney's office,
toured a county jail,
toured the county medical examiner's office,
toured the state crime lab,
rode along on a DUI patrol with a very nice police officer,
read a book on the Green River Killer written by the sheriff who tracked him down over two decades,
took a class on evidence, and
took a class on criminal investigatory procedure law.
So, suffice to say, the things that happen earlier in the story are the least accurate to life, and none of it is perfect. I'm still just a student, so do not under any circumstances believe I know what I'm talking about. When I was touring the crime lab I found out 1) just how long it takes to get DNA analysis, which is months; the actual process only takes a few hours, but they're so backed up that it takes forever to get through the queue, and 2) you can't actually get DNA from hair! It's the skin cells on the follicle that give you DNA. If a hair is plucked out, versus just falling out, there's a better chance of yanking some skin cells with it. (This is the same reason you can get DNA from saliva; your cheek cells shed and float around in there.) You can match hairs by microscope/spectrograph inspection, but that's not quite as solid as chromosomal evidence. It's the same deal with fingernails. So while it's totally feasible that the hair and fingernails in my story could produce DNA samples, I did not know that going into this.
I got a review from some smart chap informing me that you can only be sentenced to the death penalty by jury, not a judge. I was like, "I don't even know if that true or not in Washington State? IS IT?" So I looked it up, and apparently it is the default rule but you can waive a jury sentencing if the defense, prosecution, and court all agree to waive it.
I don't actually know whether Candy would be able/willing to waive a jury sentencing. A jury might be more sympathetic to her story, but juries would also feel extremely sympathetic to the children.
Speaking of death penalties, I nearly smacked my forehead when I re-read the beginning of my story. I have Cas sentenced to life in prison, when he DEFINITELY CERTAINLY would have gotten sentenced to death row. I think that at that point in the story, I wasn't sure if we even still had the death penalty in Washington. (We do.) That was when I was baby first-year and I knew nothing except Law and Order.
As for Candy's sentence – oh, yeah, she's toooootally gonna get the death penalty. That's sort of what the death penalty is reserved for; horrific serial murders, mutilation and dismemberment, facts that horrify and shock. The only way she could have gotten out of it would be to make a plea deal. The Green River killer struck a bargain because they knew he was responsible for dozens of deaths, but could only definitively link him to six or seven. He confessed to forty-eight counts of murder and told authorities where they could find more bodies; in exchange, they gave him life in prison.
The families were very angry, even the ones who were only able to get closure on their missing loved ones because he confessed. They felt betrayed by the prosecution for letting him live.
The FBI/county investigative arrangement I depicted is pretty much not at all accurate. I knew that it wouldn't be going into it, and I didn't care. I did zero research writing the first chapter – everything in it was gleaned from my pop culture knowledge and first month of law school. I wanted Dean to be a sheriff because I knew a little more about county law enforcement than city. So imagine my surprise when I'm at the library and I see this book, "Chasing the Devil," by former Sheriff Dave Reichert, all about how he led the investigation to catch the Green River Killer (Gary Ridgeway) in my very own county. I checked out the book, devoured it, and discovered that I was actually halfway right about some things! Granted, Reichert's journey starts in the 1980s, so things are probably different now, but… Halfway right!
In Reichert's situation, he was just a deputy when he discovered the remains of what would be the first known victim of the nation's most prolific killer. He got assigned to head up the murder investigation, and when the bodies started piling up, he got put in charge of them too. Soon the county put together an extensive task force and the state patrol and FBI got involved. The key word I will have you note is "task force." In my story, the lack of organized manpower is probably the most glaring deficiency.
The second most glaring difference is the speed at which things happen. In the beginning, this was just because of my lack of knowledge; I indicate in the first chapter that Cas's trial takes place over a few months, when any complex multiple-murder trial would take years. Cas would probably still be in jail all that time, as his bail would probably be set at several million dollars. Later in the story, I sped things up for the sake of my own pacing. The investigation into the new murders and Candy's arrest takes place in the space of one week, which would be a miracle. I gave Candy's trial only 2 years because I wanted Krissy to be 13 in the last chapter, the same age her mother was when she met Lucas. I wanted this to be Krissy's parallel fork in the road, where she takes a different path than Candy did.
A few of you recognized Krissy, by the way. She's from the episode "Adventures in Babysitting" where a hunter gets kidnapped, and his daughter gets Dean's help. I loved her character and the banter she had with Dean.
Also, just to confirm, I have a prolonged epilogue headcanon about Dean and Cas taking in Krissy eventually. Is… is it headcanon if I'm the author, or just canon that I haven't written down? Anyway, I'm not going to write it (no matter how much you beg) because I don't have the skill or experience to honestly write a character like Krissy at length. She's been through waaaay more than I can comprehend and I would need to do a lot more research to do justice to her character in a full story.
Buuuut in my head, while she's living with Diana she and Cas develop a really great relationship. She knows she can talk to him about anything and even though she has a therapist, she likes having Cas to talk to because he gets it. She's more honest and open with him than anyone else. So she spends a lot of time with him, and whenever she sees Dean she's pretty much just endlessly sarcastic and snarky at him. She gives Dean hell. She lies to him and calls him Mrs. Goodwin and flips him off and makes comments about hotwiring the Impala. Dean naively believes this means that she hates him, but he's cool with it. It's not until about a year or so later that Cas asks Dean what he thinks about adopting Krissy, and Dean… is reticent. The idea of inviting a fully-grown mini-adult who hates you to come live with you for the rest of the foreseeable future does not appeal to him. But then Cas says, "We're her family. She belongs with us," and that's all it takes.
Of course, then Cas has to actually ask Krissy. And Krissy is… reticent. Because it's awesome having a cool uncle to go talk to when you need to blow off steam, but Dean will definitely try to boss her around and make her do chores, and maybe she doesn't really want Cas to be a parent because she likes him too much as a mentor. But eventually she admits to herself that it's with Cas that she really feels at home. She moves in, and they all live happily ever after more or less, with only a few major breakdowns and a very big fight that ends up getting resolved through the liberal application of groveling and money bribes. None of them are perfect, but they keep trying. Cas is a better father than Krissy ever hoped for; Dean is a better friend than she ever expected. Dean worries about her more than Cas, and Krissy secretly worries more about herself than both of them combined, but together – together they make it through.
That's how it goes in my head, anyway.
On a different note, I want to take this opportunity to explain that I don't expect you to feel sorry for Candy. At least, not to the point of excusing her for her actions. I just wanted to use her as an opportunity to help reflect the complexity of reality. Lucas is an easy villain; he's a psychopath, completely amoral, and though it's hinted that he may have been abused, you pretty much don't care because he takes such delight in being evil. He lacks all humanity.
Candy is a different breed of killer, one that we see very often in real life. She had a horrible life and now she does horrible things, and she's aware of the things she does (and may even feel some remorse) but she does them anyway. It's not easy to forgive her, but it's also not easy to write her off as inhuman. She's very human. That's the problem. Humans are not inherently good or bad, and we all have the capacity to be very, very terrible to each other. Most of us consider ourselves good people, but then most of us have been trained to be good, and few of us have been truly tested. I wanted the reader to look at Candy's situation and wonder if they could have been stronger than her, if they would have acted any differently. We all want to say that we would. I want to say that I would. I don't know if that's an honest answer. I'll never truly know.
In the same vein, I wanted Candy to be a foil not only to Lucas, but to Cas. She and Cas have more in common than meets the eye; they've both suffered immensely at the hands of others. However, Cas is stronger than Candy and tries to rise above his suffering. That's really what defines his character in this story: his express desire to be better, to be more than his history, to be good. On the other hand, this is harder than it sounds. He suppresses rather than expresses his pain, on conscious and subconscious levels. This isn't entirely healthy, and he's got a long road ahead of him of battling with the hand he's been dealt.
Speaking of Cas, I deliberately tried to keep his symptoms of mental illness vague. I didn't want to give him any specific, named disorder because there's no way I could portray it accurately without a lot more work. However, it was important to me to portray him as suffering from a psychological disorder because I desperately wanted to illustrate how incredibly vulnerable mentally ill populations are to false convictions (and false confessions). If you can't remember or piece together what you were doing on a given night, how can you possibly refute the accusation that you committed a crime then? Worse still – if you have a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy, police may tell you what happened, and you may honestly believe you did it. If you fight your way to a jury, you then have to stand trial against the common prejudice that people with mental disorders are violent and dangerous. In fact, people with mental disorders are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than other folk. I think it's interesting that as soon as the story revealed that Cas actually had episodes of amnesia and catatonia, many of you jumped to the conclusion that he was therefore the killer. (Well, okay, that's not exactly fair because I led you to that conclusion, but I never introduced any evidence that his episodes resulted in violent behavior or even an alter ego.)
I wanted a lot of questions in this story to remain unanswered. Like in real life, some things will never be satisfactorily explained. Some truths will never be settled. Some secrets will be kept.
Like, for example – do we seriously all believe that Manti Te'o had no idea that his girlfriend didn't exist? Come ON. He HAD to be in on it. Why is no one pursuing this?*
* For those who are not American or not hooked in to pop culture, Manti Te'o is a college football player who soared to fame on a heartbreaking triumph story about how his longtime girlfriend died of leukemia right before he went on to win a ton of games in her memory. Except afterward, it turned out that said gf didn't die of leukemia – in fact, she'd never been born. She was no more than a collection of social media accounts being run by a dude. The story Te'o went with was that he had been cruelly deceived and "catfished" by the dude running an online scam. Here's the weird part: Te'o had been "dating" her for years and never once met her, and he knew the guy who was pretending to be the gf. And yet all the news outlets accepted his story wholesale, stirring up pity for poor, criminally stupid Te'o who believed his girlfriend was dying of leukemia but somehow couldn't pencil in the time to visit her in the hospital. UGH.
Anyway. That has nothing to do with anything. Sorry!
My original plan with this story was that Meg was going to be the killer, bada bing bada boom, very obvious and very quickly put to rest. Then we could spend several more chapters with Dean and Cas being domestic and snuggling puppies, petting bunnies, etc. I ran it by a friend and she said, "Oh, well that's predictable." And I was like, "Well I'm not like a GENIUS okay I don't know how to write STUFF because it's HARD and I wasn't even TRYING for suspenseful!" But the more I thought about it, the more I was bothered by the predictability. I realized how powerful it would be if the reader themselves doubted Cas's innocence. So I went to the drawing board and rewrote the plot, and it somehow ended up being two-thirds of the story. I'm glad that you guys liked it because man was it fun to watch you speculate. "Is it Meg? Is it the hooker? Is it Cas? Is it SamOHMYGOD it's Amelia isn't it!"
Actually, nobody guessed Amelia. Okay, so that would have been a plot twist worth writing home about.
You all – every one of you who has taken the time to write something in response to this story – you have had a huge impact on this story, and on me. Even if I didn't respond to your comment, I saw it. If I forgot to reply to a message, I'm sorry. I appreciate every one of you, and without you, this story could not have been half of what it became.