Authors: Jackie Barrett
*Â *Â *
As Joanne and I continued digging through the Internet for information on Eddie, we came across some appalling information. Eddie had been arrested before, and he could have been stopped sooner. The fingerprints left on the 1990 Parham letter and the 1994 newspaper letter had been recorded in the state law-enforcement database, ready to be compared with those of anybody arrested anywhere in New York. Unless the person was released too quickly after his arrest. Like Eddie had been.
In March 1994, five months after he'd shot and paralyzed Diane Ballard, Eddie had been arrested for carrying a gun. The cops sent it to the crime lab to see if it workedâstandard procedureâand they took Eddie's prints. Back then, such things weren't transmitted immediately by computer. They'd faxed a copy of his prints to the state database, but faxed prints weren't clear enough to compare with partial fingerprints or palm prints on file. So an original set had to be sent, which usually happened within eight days of the arrest. But not with Eddie.
It turned out that his handmade gun didn't work, and the cops couldn't charge him with weapons possession. So Eddie was released, and because no charges had been filed, his original prints were destroyed before they could be sent to the state, where they could very well have triggered a match with the Parham letter. The Zodiac Killer walked out of jail with no one but him having any idea how close he'd come to being unmasked.
*Â *Â *
Eddie's first trial started in 1998, two years after his arrest. It took six weeks and involved the crimes he had committed in Queensâthe murders of Joseph Proce, Patricia Fonti, and John Diacone, and the attempted murder of James Weber. Eddie sat in court and clutched a Bible most of the time. The prosecution introduced 150 pieces of evidence and called more than forty witnesses. The defense called none, instead trying to persuade jurors that their client's confession to policeâwhich was dictated, not personally handwrittenâhad been coerced. They did not pursue an insanity defense, partially because they could not find any psychological expert who would testify that Eddie was insane.
The jury deliberated less than five hours before finding Eddie guilty of all three murders and the attempted murder. He was sentenced to serve at least eighty-three years and four months before becoming eligible for parole. Eddie had no reaction as the verdict was read.
One year later, he was also convicted by a Brooklyn jury of trying to kill Mario Orozco, Jermaine Montenesdro, Diane Ballard, and his own half sister, as well as for trying to shoot four police officers on the day that he was captured. For those eight convictions, Eddie was sentenced to an additional 152 years and six months in prison.
During Eddie's sentencing on the murder convictions, the prosecutor told the judge that Eddie deserved to spend the rest of his life in prison because he had purposefully created a frenzy with his letters, and because he'd intentionally targeted “lost, vulnerable souls.”
Eddie became a resident of the New York State penal system in 1998. I did some quick math. That meant he wouldn't be eligible for parole until 2232, when he would be 265 years old.
He'll never be a threat again.
Or so I thought.
I thought I had solved the mystery of who Patricia Fonti was, so I gratefully went back to my regular work. I still didn't know exactly what this Patricia lady wanted from me, but she quieted down a little, and I was able to get back to business. And what a business it is.
The problems that people come to see me about are as varied as the people themselves. Grieving parents and children, cops, lawyers, psychologists, petty criminals, streetwalkers, and murderers, just to name a few. And I've heard it allâpersonality disorders, eating disorders, sexual confusion, panic and anxiety, depression, threats of suicide, possession, reincarnation, hauntings, exorcisms.
I do my best to provide solace and relief, and sometimes I help them find their own solutions. Once clients come to see me, they become part of what I call our Universal Circle. Joanne and I keep track of their progressâthe two of us meet afterward to discuss their needs and the resolution we are aiming for; then we check in with them to see how they're doing.
Some clients take more work than others. But they oftentimes turn out to be a lot of fun, too. I had one client, a successful businessman in his thirties, who could spin copper into gold but couldn't find love if it fell in his lap. He was so shy around women that the fear of speaking to one triggered bouts of irritable bowel syndrome. The thought of having a conversation with a woman he was romantically interested in would send him running for the nearest toilet, God love him. But he knew that his life was incomplete without a partner. So he came to me.
He walked into my office looking all fancy in his three-piece suit. I made him take off his shoes before we started. It teaches two thingsâfirst, never wear socks with holes, and second, that we are on even ground, with neither one of us better than the other.
His whole demeanor screamed wealth and superiority, so the first thing I did was inject a dose of reality. “Rule one, hot stuff,” I said. “Ladies can make their own money, roll it out, and feed a family, too.” We talked about him needing to loosen up, lose the suit and tie, and stop worrying about what others think of him.
Eventually, he admitted that he had his eye on a cute dark-haired lady in his office. I worked with him endlessly to get up the courage to ask her for a date. He thought of every scenario that could go wrong. “Right there, you are squashing your own dream,” I told him. I definitely had my work cut out for me. It took two weeks of rehearsing conversations and working on his walk (to project a calm confidence), but he finally had the nerve and the skills to ask her out. She said yes. Then he went back to worrying again.
So I did my thing and made him a voodoo doll. I make my dolls from an old Louisiana-style recipe in which I stuff them with Spanish moss, herbs, roots, and some cotton to hold hand-blended oils in just the right places. I put in a piece of the owner-to-be's hair and attach a picture of the desired person to the outside. Then the doll sits on my altar for several days until the awakening happens. The doll, to a certain extent, comes to life. It becomes a part of the owner, a companion and helper. It becomes the owner's wants and needs, his best friend.
My businessman friend came for his a few days before his date. He took the tiny treasure in his hands, and as he sat down on the couch, he told me that a wave went through him and he felt light-headed. I just smiled. And then I went through the rulesâhe needed to visualize what he wanted in the relationship. And he could
use the doll for wrongdoing.
He agreed, of course, and I stepped back to have a look at him. He had the vibe. He was confident. I had a very positive vision of him in a particular Manhattan restaurant for dinner. But good grief, those clothes! We had to get him some new ones. And I knew just the guy to help us.
Gino had been my client for years. And he also happened to sell the hottest threads around out of his parents' basement in an outer borough of the city. He's a good ole Italian boy who looks like an extra in a 1970s Mob movie, living at home with his mama, and still looking for the right woman. I love going to visitâshe feeds me like it was my last supper.
My client couldn't understand why we had to go all the way out there just to get a suit. He didn't want to meet anybody's family. Too nervous. I just shoved him in the car. He would be dressed to the nines in the finest sharkskin suitâthat was one reason I was taking him. The other reason was because I thought it would be good for Mr. Big City Businessman to see how the other half lived.
We stopped at a bakery first, to load up on Italian cookies and bread. Being half Sicilian, I know what to do. You take food as a sign of respect. And boy, did I respect Gino's parents. The second we pulled into the driveway, they threw open the front door and greeted us with open arms. We had a huge, genuine Italian meal. His mama asked me as she served if I had a nice girl for her son. I just smiled.
After dinner, Gino and I took my client to the basement. We felt our way down the stairs and then Gino hit the lights. He has the whole place tricked out. A long oak bar with leather sides lines one wall. The middle of the room is a tiled dance floor with a big disco ball hanging over it. And on the other wall is the clothes shop, with a blue velvet curtain and full-length mirrors.
Gino put some music on, and I took a seat at the bar, coaxing my client to loosen up. Have some fun! Try stuff on! After a few hours of every color shirt and slacks, we decided on smoked silver sharkskin pants that fit like a glove and a sky-blue shirt, open at the neck. Which meant my client needed a lot less chest hair. So Gino and I broke out the wax stripsÂ .Â .Â . in hindsight, maybe not the best idea. My poor client howled in pain, and we didn't have enough to do it properly. But we ended with enough done to make the look work.
We put him in front of the mirror, and his eyes glowed. Then Gino put more music on. “Let's see what you got!” he said. We sat back and watched him dance around the floor. “Work it!” I yelled. But, oh dear. The boy had no moves at all. We decided it would be best if he kept the date to dinner and no dancing.
I told my client that no matter what he did, he had to keep his doll in his possession at all times. As he was putting it into his pocket, Gino saw it and started looking like a starved kid in a candy store.
“Oooh, you got a doll!” he said. “Let me see. Can I hold it?”
I yelled at him. No wayâonly the owner holds it! Gino got his pout on, turned the music off, and stomped out. My client headed to the car in silence, but I could hear what he was thinking, loud and clearâ
What the hell did I get myself into?
He quickly got into the car, leaving me outside with a sulking Gino. I made peace and thanked him for making my client shine. Then I thought,
Why doesn't he help me finish it?
Come to dinner with me tomorrow, I said to Gino. I had to go to monitor my client's date. If Gino came, then he could see the results of our hard work, too.
Which was how we ended up at a table near my client and his pretty office colleague, watching them like hawks while trying to appear like we weren't looking at them at all. But I started getting frustrated. He wasn't doing what I had told him to. He wasn't even reaching for her hand. We had gone over and over this! I had to do something.
I was plotting my move when the waitress came over. “What can I get you?” she asked. “Your number,” said Gino. She rolled her eyes and walked away quickly after taking our order. I kicked Gino under the table. “That's why you're alone,” I hissed through my teeth. “You act like a Neanderthal!”
My client got up to use the restroom, and I immediately followed him. This was my chance to shake some sense into him. I trailed him right into the men's room and waited for him to come out of the stall.
I told him to get it together and then straightened his shirt. But the doll wouldn't fit back into his pocket because his irritable bowel syndrome had made him bloated and his pants were too tight. I told him to just stick it down his pants and go back to the table. His date was waiting for him.
I left first and sat down with Gino. So I had a great view when my client came out of the restroom with his zipper down and the voodoo doll halfway out of his pants. Heck, the whole restaurant had a great view. People's jaws dropped. Our waitress tried not to laugh.
But his date didn't see anything funny about it. My client tried to explain why he had a doll with her picture on it protruding from his crotch, but really, what can you say at that point? As the maÃ®tre d' escorted him out, I shook my head in confusion. My vision of him in this restaurant had been so clear. I didn't understand it.
But then the waitress walked out with him, consoling him. She obviously thought he was adorable. That gave me something to think about. And later I found out that in all the doll-in-the-pants chaos, Gino had taken the opportunity to slip the pretty office colleague his phone number. Some may call him a weasel, but I call him slick. The last I heard, they were dating and having a fantastic time.
And my client? He and the waitress got engaged a year after that night. That restaurant
been calling me. All of us were supposed to be there at that particular time, all for love.
Finding out who was invading my body and soul was one thing. Figuring out how to keep ahold of myself was completely different. And this was where I was in uncharted territory.
Ever since I was a child, the dead have come to me. They have showed me their last hours, or the years of abuse, or the people responsible for their deaths. They have told me, in their individual ways, that they are not ready to go. One prankster named Tod would hang around just to make me laugh. He'd worked as a clown before he died of a heart attack in his fifties. He would stop by, eat from the fridge, tell me knock-knock jokes. Finally, I took him with me on one of my trips to New Orleans. I thought Bourbon Street would be a great place for him. I was right. He stayed, and now I see him when I go back to visit the city, mingling in his clown costume alongside the palm readers and dancers in Jackson Square.
Another of my visitors stayed with me for eight years. He appeared a few days after 9/11 and just took up residence. He would shave and get ready for the day and then go down to my office and get to work. I knew it was a residual haunting and that he wasn't ready to face his own death in the Twin Towers. He just kept working, every day like the last. Until one day, a womanâwhole and aliveâcame to see me. She had finally broken from the grief of losing her husband in the terrorist attacks and was close to killing herself. She came to me to find reasons not to. And I, without realizing it at first, had one for her. My friend, who watched many of my work sessions, stared at her in shock. For the first time, he asked me if he had died in the first tower. He knelt before his wife and told her that she was not ready to join him. She did not hear him with her ears, but she did hear him with her heart. He had been working all that time, even in death, to give his family a better life.
But these hauntings and others always left room for me when they visited. They always respected me as a person and gave me my own space. Until Patricia. She really was trying to take over. And it was now to the point where it was really pissing me off. I've always been empathetic toward the deadâobviouslyâand before this, that had always been an easy and natural way for me to act. I had started my “relationship” with Patricia that way, wanting to help her and solve whatever her problem was. But she wasn't like the others, and she wasn't letting me be my own person. She wasn't helping me figure out what she wantedâshe didn't even seem all that interested in my help. She just seemed to want me for my body, literally. She would come at any time, day or night, and I could not stop her. I was losing my ability to control myself.
I knew what was happening, and that made it all the more difficult. She was forcing me aside, taking over. I kept fighting. I liked being meâeven with all my baggage. I liked myself, and I wanted to stay. But she kept shoving me away, diminishing my own characteristics and asserting her own chaotic, schizophrenic mind. I thought I might soon go crazy, too. I am completely aware of the signs of possession, and the psychic attacks were becoming too much. Soon, I would be unable to fight back.
I now knew better than to answer a knock on the door, but she found other ways to pull me back to the mental hospital, to the place she had experienced such terror and abandonment. I kept catching glimpses, and then one night, I was suddenly back there again, looking through a small window in a steel door. I saw doctors and nurses passing by outside, not even looking my way. I started yelling that my name was Jackieâinsisting that I was still myself. No one listened.
As I paused for breath, I heard the shuffling of many feet and turned around to find ten people behind me. They were all wearing blue-and-white hospital gowns and whispering to themselves. They moved toward me and started pulling and pawing at my hair and scratching at my arms. As I fought them off, I realized I was wearing the same kind of hospital gown. I shoved them away and turned back to the tiny window, screaming for help. I pounded on the steel door, and with every bang, the overhead lights flickered.
I wiped my tears away and saw unfamiliar blue-and-black makeup come off on my hands. I stared at my hands. I didn't see my tattoos. Who was I? I yelled until I was hoarse, and then a sharp spark stopped me. The overhead lights began to sway in different directions. I looked from them back through the little window. The corridor was empty.
I should not have turned around, because now I had to turn back. I slowly spun around and found myself in an empty classroom. The desks were lined up in neat rows, and the ABCs stretched across a dusty blackboard. I heard someone coming behind me and turned back to the little window, which was still there in the steel door. I swallowed hard and thought to myself,
Okay, I'm getting out. Or waking up. Whatever comes first. Just let me go!
I glanced back at the classroom, which remained empty, and then back to the window. And there he was. The dark figure, with his shy smile and his black, sinister eyes, just inches from me. I jerked back in terror and stumbled into a row of desks, knocking them over. I tensed and stared at the steel door, waiting for it to blow open.
There was a laugh behind me. Again, I had to turn. The tall man in black was writing rapidly on the blackboard, although this time, he had on a white T-shirt. I stayed very still, hoping I would just wake up. He continued writing and then underlined something at the bottom of the board and moved to the side. I saw the words appear slowly.
I am the Zodiac and you are the Fifth Element.
I closed my eyes, praying for escape, but the only thing I got was his breath on my face as he moved right in front of me. He started talking about the Bible, and I tried to block him out with my own words. “This isn't real. This isn't real. My name is Jackie. My name is Jackie.” My eyes stayed shut.
“Did you hear me?” a voice roared in my ears. “Were you listening to me?”
I opened my eyes. I sat in my bedroom, slumped on the floor beside my bed. My ears still rang from his shouting. I had heard, loud and clear.
*Â *Â *
Most folks hear the word
and run. They think one could only be possessed by an evil spirit or entity. Not so. Sometimes it is wearing the skin of another, not necessarily one who was evil. But it buries your own self just the same.
Imagine going into a vintage clothing store and picking up a hat. The color is worn and faded, the fabric is thin, the pattern doesn't quite blend like it used to. It is well worn, and well loved. Try it on. It fits perfectly. Does it bring its past with it?
If an artist had owned it, one might feel the creativity and passion. If it had been owned by a man of the cloth, one might feel closer to God, protected and blessed. But if it had belonged to the victim of a gruesome crime, what would be hidden in its fabric? A lifetime cut short, a horrible end? No one would ever want such a sensation snug against the head. Such hard luck and torment might follow you. Or what if the residue of the perpetrator remained in the hat, like a worm in the material, until you place it on your head, and it slowly slips into your ear, all warm and comfortable? It begins so slowly. You look around. There's no one in sight, but you are so sure you heard a voice. So don't touch that hat! Just in case your skeptical nature is proven wrong. What would become of you?
I'll tell you if you're willing to listen.
*Â *Â *
I left the house, quietly, just before dawn. The city was still asleep, and the peacefulness of the streets calmed me as I walked. I wandered, letting my feet take me where they wanted, until they stopped in front of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church, a few blocks from my house. I stood there, looking at the entrance to the huge brick front of the Catholic church. I did not want to go in. Maybe it was because I felt like I did not belong. Or maybe it was the fear of agitating the demon I was sure resided within me. Just like my mother.
The door clicked and swung open as I stared at it from the sidewalk. The devil's voice came from within. “Jackie, why bother? It's not like you don't know me. It's just a house. That's all it is. I, too, can walk right in. I'm not the sucker that jumped on the cross. I told him. I warned him. Did he listen?
“Walk away, Jackie. Come to me. Look, don't take it so personal. Long before the existence of this world as you know it, we sort of had this meeting. It went like thisâif you take Park Place, I get the Boardwalk. Oh, yeahÂ .Â .Â . That boardwalkÂ .Â .Â . Do you remember the ocean waves?” He was taunting me with my mother's death at the Surf Hotel. He had met me in the water outside. It had been such a long time ago. I would not take his bait.
I looked away from the door and toward the massive stone angel in front of the church. It began to rain. I took my hood off and let the water hit my face as I stood in peace. I felt centered, and I felt that I could do this. I have always believed in God, and I pray often. I pushed open the heavy iron gate and started up the steps. A sharp stabbing pain went through my back, forcing me to grab the railing as my knees buckled.
“God isn't home today! But I'm always ready to extend my hand. Go on, Jackie. They'll only deem you nuts. Schizophrenic. And then no one will have use for you. What will you say?” the devil asked mockingly. “âThe devil made me do it'? It's the insane asylum for you, Jackie, my own private playground. And then we can be the best of friends. Who knows? Maybe your mom will come out and playÂ .Â .Â .”
The steps went on forever. I hung on to the railing with both hands as a pain that felt like a thousand bee stings went across my back. My feet stuck in foul-smelling mud and felt heavy as I struggled to lift them.
“Oh, Jackie, I know how to hurt you! It begins with an
. Come on, guess.
Your time is up. The word is
. Mother. Mother. She didn't love you, Jackie.”
I reached the top of the stairs and straightened my tortured back. A huge wall of fire blocked the door. I still felt the peace of the angel statue. I could do this. I smirked back at the voice and then walked through the fire. It was nothing, just an illusion, gone in an instant. I stood in the church. Light shone through the stained glass and fell on a large crucifix. It was beautiful and godly, and it did not stop him.
“I'm a man with many talentsÂ .Â .Â . I go by different names. That you already know. I have workersâsoldiers of destruction that don't even realize I exist. A simple gesture from me or a flicker of a thought put into their simple minds. That's all it takes and the job is doneâand I go onÂ .Â .Â . Now, let's cut to the chase. One of my best and, yes, favorite soldiers is missing something. Oh, I was so proud of him. Bringing New York City to its knees, causing my favorite elementsâmayhem and chaos.”
He switched from boasting about his minion to targeting his quarry.
“She has been hiding, waiting. Getting the prized medium's attention!” He was pleased with that. Pleased that he saw a way into me. “The girl with the gift carries a high priceÂ .Â .Â . like a bounty. What a trophy you would be. The magic you can spin excites me.”
His voice continued to echo through the church. “What do you say we have a meeting of mindsÂ .Â .Â . You'll get your sanity back, and my masked man stays happyâmy soul eater. A fascinating young man, striking. He carried the Bible all day, stalked the streets by night.”
He asked if I liked astrology. I braced myself as the ceiling of the church peeled away and stars appeared with lines connecting the signs of the zodiac.
I stumbled to the front of the church, where a golden chalice sat upon a marble altar, and I prayed for God to please be with me. The altar melted away, and in its place stood a table, set for tea. A little girl was serving a cookie to a large man in a mask. As she placed the cookie on his plate, she knocked over the chalice. Blood spilled down the white tablecloth and dripped loudly onto the floor. The masked man pulled her onto his lap.
“How does it feel to have something that doesn't belong to you?”
I screamed so loudly my lungs hurt. “Let her go! Let
His taunts continued over my screams. “No one will believe you,” he yelled as I turned to flee. “They'll think you're insane. A schizophrenic.” It was my deepest fearâthe torment of a fractured mind, the affliction of schizophrenia. I ran.
A gentle tug stopped me. An old man had grasped the sleeve of my sweatshirt and now chided me for running in church. As I turned to tell him that I meant no disrespect, I saw that the tea party was gone. Only the quiet altar and the gleaming chalice remained. I felt like my mind was fracturing right then and there.
The man said he was the church's caretaker and guided me to a pew. He sat next to me, but I stared straight ahead. I didn't know what to say anymore. No one would believe me. Somehow, I had known this day would come.
“I think I'm losing my mind,” I whispered to this caretaker. “I'm seeing things and hearing things. They appear, then disappear. I'm becoming something elseÂ .Â .Â . someone else.”