Who Is Anthony Stephens?

The Life and Death of a College Grad

107-110

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Excerpt from Anthony Stephens’ Mood Journal

March 24 2007,

Don’t know where the time went. Been so long since I wrote in here, I don’t even really remember why it used to help so much.

I was just lying in my bedroom right now and wishing I had something to organize my thoughts on and I remembered how good it always felt to write in here, set things down visually so I could look back over what I wrote.

See the larger picture, maybe that was the appeal. Sometimes it’s hard to figure it all out in your head.

So, it’s my last semester already. Graduating in two months, med school in fall. Things have changed so much. It seems like it all happened so fast.

I’m just getting used to living here and now I might be leaving soon and, really, where the hell did the time go?

I talked to Dr. Silver a few weeks ago and it was so weird, hearing his voice and remembering our sessions and…I just had to thank him for everything, for all his help. He sounded pleased, genuinely pleased, and overall exactly the same. Like I could still imagine him sitting in that chair and me sitting on “The Couch,” both of us going back and forth. Which makes it seem like it was just yesterday I was there, even though it’s been a year and a half.

Funny how time works. In one sense, a couple of years seem like a lifetime. In another context though, it’s like a drop in a bucket.

I mean, I just flip-flopped on my feelings like three times in as many sentences. Back to that bipolar psychobabble bullshit. I’ve been taking way too many cognitive theory courses.

What I’m trying to say is that one minute it seems like it was twenty years ago that I moved here and got all suicidal again—things have changed so much that I can’t remember what it was like to be that far gone. And yet, at the same time, when I think about it—really think about it—it feels like it was just last week I was lying on my shrink’s couch listening to him tell me why I’m so fucked up.

Basically, all of this has made me realize what the most unstable element in the universe is: time.

It’s the reason we’re all fucked up in the head. We try to slow down, take things in, figure out what just happened, what is happening, what’s going to happen, try so hard to make sense of it all. And while we’re doing all of that, time just keeps moving forward, shifting and changing and not really giving a shit about us or our analyses, knowing we have no choice but to stick around. Unless we’re willing to do something drastic.

In a way, time’s kind of like…a high maintenance chick or something. A really hot high maintenance chick, sitting at a bar with a couple of her other hot friends, if you can picture that.

They’re all sitting around laughing and you know they know that everybody’s looking at them. And they’re all there, Destiny, Trust, Faith, Love and, of course, Time, who’s sitting at the head of the table just basking in everybody’s attention.

On the surface, Time, she looks confident as shit, beautiful and secure and like nobody can fuck with her. But then you get close to her and get to know her and start realizing her entire demeanor can flip on you from one minute to the next.

Time’s a tricky bitch, that’s for real. The worst type of acid trip if you let her in your head. Spend the rest of your life not knowing what the fuck is real or not.

________________________________________________________________________

Interview with William Fletcher: Part 1

who is anthony stephens?

Detective William Fletcher headed the very brief investigation into Anthony Stephens a.k.a. Les Palmer’s death. He has since left Boca Raton’s police department and returned to his hometown of Clemson, South Carolina. Detective Fletcher sits in his office at the Clemson police department with a cup of coffee in one hand, a donut in the other. Sporting a handlebar mustache and a belly that is just beginning to hang over his belt, Detective Fletcher sighs a lot and looks overall aggravated with revisiting this time in his life.

30 August 2011

– You know, I’d already been trying to get out of that city for a while by then, so I won’t put all the blame on Palmer. It’s hard though, to leave a situation like that unless you’ve got some motivation. Once you’ve got settled somewhere, to just uproot everything, it’s hard.

– I’m not as young as I used to be, and my kids were about to start high school when all this was going on. We had to really want to leave to do it, understand? That’s how me and my wife were thinking.

– Yeah, the Palmer case, though. Last case I worked on down there. [Detective Fletcher sips his coffee and shuffles in his seat] You see, I was born and raised here, Clemson.

– Things like Palmer didn’t happen when I was young, back in the eighties. Back then, you were his age, you did something with yourself. Went to college, joined the army, started a career in something, anything. It was either that or become a crack addict, but any which way you went you were fitting into a set category, understand?

– My parents wanted more than anything for me to go to college but they couldn’t afford it, and neither could I. As a kid, I used to envy the people walking around with their Clemson t-shirts on, the university just sitting pretty right there [Detective Fletcher points out the window at Clemson University in the distance] big and beautiful. Then around ‘89, when I began my career as an officer, my feelings turned from envy to pride. I was proud to live in a country with such a well-established tradition of educating its citizens. I was proud to live in a city with such a strong sense of educational value. And I thought things would be the same when I moved down to South Florida.

– At the time I was trying to get away from the cold winters, I was sick of them. Still am. And with FAU so close by in Boca, I figured I might be able to give my kids the same experiences I had coming up near Clemson, only with the beach nearby.

– But it’s nothing like that down there. Not like that anywhere anymore, not with this generation.

– Maybe it’s too easy to go to college now, maybe that’s what it is. Or maybe these kids’ve just got shit for brains. Whatever it is, they aren’t walking around representing their schools like they used to, fraternizing and sitting out on university lawns studying and getting to know each other the way people did when I was coming up.

– I mean, some of them do, but the majority are out there drunk and half naked, raping each other and doing drugs. They’re not walking around smiling and happy, conversing with each other. They’re sitting in their apartments depressed, plotting murder and suicide.

– It’s sad out there, man. I’ve watched it, seen things deteriorate since the early nineties. Sometime over the past twenty years or so, being a student in this country became more a detriment than an advantage. All of a sudden now, public education doesn’t spark that same sense of community, of prosperity. All of a sudden, you’ve got kids out there murdering other kids like it’s a warzone or something.

– Look at the stats [Detective Fletcher begins counting off on his fingers] 1992, Lindhurst High. Four dead. ‘93, East Carter High. Two dead. ‘95, Richland High. Two more. ‘96. Frontier Junior High. Three. ‘97, Bethel Regional High, Pearl High, Heath High. Seven total. Westside, Parker, and Thurston High Schools combined for eight in ‘98. And then there was Columbine, fifteen dead including teachers, students, and the gunmen themselves. And, you know, I saw where it was progressing, too.

– These were  nineties middle schoolers and high schoolers doing this stuff, their generation adopting this mentality. Young teens in the nineties, young adults in the 2000’s. Obviously the kids have to grow up, and obviously some of them are going to go to college.

– Wait a little while, I told my wife, and you’ll see. There’s gonna be the same crap happening on college campuses before long. And sure enough, I wake up one morning, turn on the news, and there’s this angry kid holding a gun and cursing up a storm. Bottom of the screen, thirty-three dead at Virginia Tech.

– I almost cried when I saw that. These kids’ve taken the world straight to the bottom of hell.

________________________________________________________________________

Interview with Catherine D’Amico: Part 17

28 June 2011; 14:32:

– I feel like I must have known what had happened, felt it somehow.

– I mean, on some level at least. I don’t know, it’s just weird how things happened.

– Well, after I stormed out of Tony’s show I went straight home and curled up in bed, turned off my phone and fell asleep almost immediately.

– I was drained, emotionally, physically, still feeling the effects of morning sickness and Tony’s appearance and—just overall pretty miserable.

– So I slept, but I kept waking up the whole night, for no reason. And seeing things, weird objects in the semi-darkness of my apartment with the street light shining in through my window casting shadows across everything.

– One of the times I woke up, I could have sworn there was blood on my sheets, like a big puddle of it near my lap. But when I jumped up it was nothing but another shadow and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Besides the obvious, but that didn’t explain why I was so jittery, like I was scared somebody was going to attack me or something.

– I lay in bed like that most of the night, drifting off for a little then waking up abruptly, sweating through the t-shirt I was wearing—one of Tony’s actually,  I remember—and I just couldn’t stop thinking about losing the baby. The thought terrified me, which is why I say I must have known what happened to him.

– Because I knew Francisco—the baby, I mean, he wasn’t Francisco yet—was the only part of Tony I had left.

– Yeah. Another thing. When I finally gave up and got out of bed at six, I walked straight to the TV.

– I never watch TV in the morning though, ever. I usually eat breakfast and read a little, shower, blow dry my hair, call one of my friends or just leave, go to work, go somewhere. I don’t like staying around the house during the day.

– But, for some reason, that morning I wanted to just sit on the couch and watch the news. And also, I wasn’t surprised. When I turned on the TV and heard them talking about him, I wasn’t surprised.

– It was a short report, ten, maybe fifteen seconds, and all I heard was something about a gun and a fire and then they flashed Tony’s face with the name Les Palmer under it across the screen twice, a pretty bad picture someone had taken of him screaming into a microphone.

– The only thing that surprised me that morning was when I heard the words “apparent suicide,” and I immediately thought of Earl.

________________________________________________________________________

Interview with Francine Bella

who is anthony stephens?

Francine Bella is the manager at Palm Trails Motel, where Anthony Stephens lived during the year preceding his death. Ms. Bella is a portly, aged woman transplanted from Montgomery, Alabama, in possession of an extremely commanding aura which she uses to control the conversation for pretty much the entirety of the interview conducted in the main office of Palm Trails.

21 August 2011

– Hard to forget a boy like Palmer. Come up in here one day looking like somebody done dragged him through hell.

– No driver’s license, no car from what I could tell. Just walked on in to town on his own two feet in the dead a night, sweating and tired. Thought he was just another bum looking for some change ‘til he showed me some money and asked me, real polite, if he could set for a while, right where you setting. Asked if he could set a little ‘fore I gave him a room to stay. Depressing, watching that boy Palmer. Young man like that, obvious that things was troubling him bad.

– Don’t rightly know. Probably got hisself into drugs or legal problems or what have you. But he weren’t all put out, just needed a little support.

– You gotta help ‘em out in them situations. If you see they’s trying to help theyselves, you got a obligation to help ‘em.

– Cut him a little deal on the weekly for that room he had out back. If I’da known he was goin’ mess it up the way he did, I’da maybe thought twice about it. Maybe not. Can’t be too mad at him noways; barely heard a peep outta the boy otherwise. He was here for a long while before he kilt hisself. Wouldn’t a known it though; saw him all but once or twice throughout.

– Used to open up Saturday mornings and there’d be his envelope slipped through the mail slot, lying on that mat right over there [Mrs. Bella indicates the welcome mat near the front door] with a couple greasy twenties tucked in. Boy was punctual, I give him that. Never missed a weekly the whole time he was here. [Mrs. Bella shakes her head] Still don’t account for what he done to that room back there.

– Lawd, if Corey coulda seen it, his heart woulda kilt him all over again.[1] Can’t even much talk ‘bout it now. People ask me why’s the building out back look newer’n all the others and I tell ‘em there was a accident, and leave it at that. Don’t wanna harp on people’s good will when they’s just trying to live happily.

– But you still liable to go back there and get a whiff a cooked skin, catch sight a patch a grass that ain’t never growed back from getting burnt up.

– Reckon I found him that night. Had just finished clearing out the office—gots to check in ‘fore eleven you want a room ‘round here, I can’t be out  all hours a the night—and I was heading out to where I stay at in that building up front. I’m locking up the front door right there and I smelt the smoke right ‘fore I heard the shot loud as you’s hearing me right now. Came from the back a the complex, so’s I step over and people’s creeping out they rooms and I reach Palmer’s door and try to open it, but the knob’s hotter‘n July, smoke coming out from underneath. So I had to call over this fella from the room ‘cross the way and he come round and kicked the door in, but was too late by then. Could see through the flames, but he was already gone.

– Palmer right there, on the bed, burnt up with half his senses covering the wall behind him, fire eating him up like he done sacrificed hisself to Satan.

– Murder? Uh uh, no sir. I don’t believe that. Wasn’t no way nobody coulda got in and out that room time enough to set that mess up, less they went out the back window.

– Somebody woulda seen them run into the woods out there. No, I reckon Palmer aimed to kill hisself, and he made a mighty show outta it.

– You ever smelt cooked human meat? Worst thing I ever smelt or seen to this day. And I was there day Corey’s heart cut out, watched his face turn gray as dirty snow while he holding his chest. Thought I’d never see nothin’ that disturbin’ again. [Ms. Bella chuckles] Reckon Les Palmer proved me wrong.


[1] Mrs. Bella reveals later that Corey Bella, her late-husband, was the original owner of Palm Trails Motel. Mr. Bella died of a heart attack in September of 2005.

Parts 111-113 Available July 9th

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Written by patrickandersonjr

July 6, 2012 at 9:00 am

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