Stories often begin with an ending. That’s how it started, with the funeral of Stephen Jacob Murphy on August 12, 1993. The obituary had given a quick overview of a life; born in 1973, son of Martha and Benjamin, twice selected state all-star in track and field, working toward a degree in communications at Boise State University. Dog-lover. Member of the church choir. Will be missed by all.
What was missing from the truncated report were the journalistic details. Those had been displayed on page 2 of the Statesman the week before. 20 year-old man found dead in a car in the Taste-e-Freeze drive-thru. Rumored to have been stalking one of the cashiers, several previous police reports. The bullet that passed through his head from the gun found in his hand had embedded itself in the house on the other side of the fence. Reason to believe that the individual was also involved in a July break-in at the cashier’s home where two small animals were killed and their innards strung across the front yard. The suicide brings an end to a troubled relationship.
Crystal didn’t read the story or the obituary. She’d pulled the curtains in the room she had grown up in, on the second floor of her parent’s house, and didn’t come out for three days. All she wanted to do was forget that Stephen ever lived, or that she had ever loved him.
She’d known him since high school, the smart, handsome athlete that had asked her to a movie one night that felt like a million years ago. She’d said yes without telling her parents, and had gone on the first of many dates that had seen her experience her first real kiss, and the loss of her virginity. But Stephen had an angry side, one that her friends had told her to be careful about. She didn’t think much of it, just a guy’s way of blowing off steam, until he’d first struck her.
She’d auditioned for the school play, and had been selected for a quite controversial role for a high school in a religious town. She was a burlesque dancer, whose lone scene had her draping her arm around an old-time cowboy and sitting on his lap. Stephen had come to watch a rehearsal and that had been that. She’d lied and said she’d fallen, when all she’d wanted was to hide the fact that she’d dropped out of the play because makeup didn’t hide the purple bruise on her cheek.
Stephen had said he’d loved her, that his feelings for her had driven him to do it to her. He didn’t want to feel that way, but he loved her so much that the idea of anyone else touching her drove him crazy. A part of her was flattered. Crystal had tried to explain that to her mother, as they both tried to blend away the mark from the “softball” accident so that people wouldn’t stare at her and get any wrong ideas. And there had been the flowers delivered to home room that let the world know Stephen was a man who took care of his girl.
Crystal tried to forgive, less because she felt he was her prince, more because of how important she felt being his princess. She stayed with him. That was the first step she took toward killing Franklin.