A Killer's Grace
Perfect bound, 246 pages , 5.5" x 8.5"
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About the Book
From the high desert of New Mexico comes a tale of mystery, murder, and redemption. A disturbing letter sent to journalist Kevin Pitcairn by a serial killer who has been condemned to die draws him into a compelling journey with profound psychological and spiritual implications, not just for the murderer but also for Pitcairn himself and society as a whole.
As he tries to investigate and then tell the story, Pitcairn finds himself battling his own inner demons and sordid history. Trying to understand the forces that give rise to evil and horrifying events, he immerses himself in the lives of the killer’s victims, and learns truths that go far beyond into the everyday world of his own life and that of the woman he loves. Events conspire to propel an isolated matter to a national stage and audiences that are increasingly hostile as Pitcairn forces them to question their deepest convictions.
For Pitcairn, the rugged terrain and ancient culture of New Mexico take on a powerful force that he relies on time and again as he is drawn into one of humanity’s oldest, most painful questions: How can we forgive the monsters among us? A host of unique and memorable characters emerge to surround him. Some present great challenges while others ally themselves with him as he is swept toward a destiny he can neither foresee nor control.
Forced to explore the roots of human psychology and sanity, Pitcairn must navigate through seemingly impenetrable moral and philosophical realms: What is the nature of evil? What powers of choice do humans actually possess? How may we be redeemed? And in the end, by what means can we achieve the hardest reconciliation of all—with ourselves?
The book is the culmination of the many paths of spiritual and religious study that author Ronald Chapman has followed over the past thirty years as a workshop leader and motivational speaker, enabling him to carve out his own unique literary niche with this masterpiece of transcendental crime fiction.
From Chapter 25
Pitcairn drove west through scattered thunderstorms and then into an incredibly beautiful sunset that lit up the clouds with a heavenly glow. As night took hold, lightning flashed in the distance in many directions. The air, already cooled by rain, became increasingly comfortable as he gained elevation from Oklahoma into Texas. The high plains of eastern New Mexico would be chilly.
He filled the time listening to the first few hours of material by Dr. Stephen Pfalzer, a second-generation immigrant Brit renowned for his neurological studies. The background was rich with genetics, anatomy, biology, and evolution that the professor said laid the foundation for key points which would follow. Pitcairn’s innate desire to learn was captivated by the steady but engaging flow of information.
Around eleven, he pulled onto an exit ramp in Amarillo for fuel and food. The roadway was wet, and there had been a collision that made for quite a logjam. A number of cars were negotiating the crash scene carefully. The police had not yet arrived.
As Pitcairn waited, a pickup pulled behind him and flashed its lights. With the glare, and the disorientation of the traffic, it was confusing. He continued to wait for an opportunity to move forward. The truck behind him honked a few times.
His annoyance increased. When the driver flashed his brights again, Pitcairn put the Jeep in neutral, set the parking brake, stepped out to face the truck, and gestured with open arms. He couldn’t tell for sure with the lights, but it looked like three men in a Ford King Cab.
The driver honked again. Pitcairn shook his head, shrugged, dropped his arms with a sense of finality, and climbed into the Jeep. He glanced in his side mirror and saw that the driver had opened his door and was stepping down. He seemed to wobble a bit as he swung his second foot to the ground. Pitcairn instantly knew that the guy had been drinking.
The man reached into the truck to get his hat and pulled it down firmly on his head, then hitched up his pants. Pitcairn had been in enough rough places during his drinking days that he could see the signs of a fight before it began. He steeled himself, an old response he knew well. His fists were clenched, one on the steering wheel and the other on the gear shift.
Pitcairn sized the man up in the mirror. The fellow was smaller than he was, though wiry and undoubtedly tough. Pitcairn rolled down his window and placed a hand on the door latch so he could roll the cowboy with the door if need be.
“What’s up?” he asked as the man positioned himself just far enough away to avoid the door.
The man spat on the pavement, then squinted at him through reddened eyes. “What’s your problem, buddy?”
“Yeah, that New Mexican attitude shit.”
“Man, you flashed me and honked. I didn’t start this. Seems to me you’re the one with the attitude.”
The man reached up and ran his hand across his chin. Pitcairn could sense the move coming and got ready to jerk the door open. But in a surprising instant, the still voice he’d heard but not acknowledged in the hotel room whispered to him again: “Violence begets only violence. Go now.”
With unlikely obedience and certainty, he popped the clutch and whipped swiftly to the left as the man swung his fist, banging it off the doorframe. Cutting onto the shoulder and then with tires on grass, Pitcairn accelerated forward as cars began to honk at him. Just as he got to the end of the ramp, the first police car arrived on the scene. “Timing,” he muttered to himself as the cruiser blocked his way. The officer came out of the car like a bull and stormed toward him, his face a mask of fury.
“What the hell’s the matter with you?” the policeman screamed as he moved toward him.
Pitcairn raised his hands and announced through the still-open window, “I can explain everything. Just give me a minute.” Pitcairn saw the officer glance behind the Jeep to see the Ford truck careening across the grass in the opposite direction toward the service road. Seeing it in his rear view mirror, Pitcairn spoke firmly: “Those drunks were trying to start a fight with me.”
The policeman’s eyes darted back and forth. “Don’t move!” he barked, then ran to his car to make a quick radio call. A few seconds later another cruiser raced down the service road in pursuit of the truck, lights flashing and siren howling.
The officer returned and stood closely, peering into the Jeep. “You been drinkin’?”
“No, sir, not in many years.”
“Recovering?” the officer asked.
A quick nod followed. “Me too . . . fifteen years. Swing the Jeep around the wreck. You’re good to go.”
“Thank you!’ Pitcairn responded, appreciation surging inside him.
After navigating carefully with the officer’s help, he drove into a gas station and convenience store. As fuel flowed into his tank, he stretched his hands over his head and yawned. Arms extended, he realized they were quaking faintly. His system was flooded with adrenaline. Regardless, he was very curious about that small voice he’d heard. It was a new experience.
After visiting the restroom and splashing water on his face, he grabbed a Mountain Dew and some chips. He paid for his purchase and threaded his way back onto the highway.
In less than hour, he had to pull off the road to nap. Weariness and carbohydrates had defeated the caffeine. At a lonely exit, he parked and dropped his seat. It took longer to fall asleep than he expected. Thoughts flew in his mind, though they too were slowly overcome by the weariness.
A monstrous thunderclap startled him awake about an hour later. Pitcairn shook his head a few times to clear the fog, then watched the splashes of light across the sky before he climbed out to take a leak.
It was very dark and deeply quiet except for the sound of the wind preceding the storm. Then he heard the approaching hiss of pea-sized hail that began pelting him along with the rain as he zipped up his pants.
Leaping into the Jeep, invigorated by the nap and the cold rain, he roared away into the night. As he drove, Pfalzer’s lectures combined with his accumulated weariness to produce a focused reverie, a strange flow of consciousness and thought as he hurtled homeward.
Pfalzer taught that there is nothing remotely resembling normal where human behavior is concerned. The fringes of behavior are inevitable as part of the continuum. What marked these outliers was their unpredictability, both in their forms of behavior and, more important, the extremes they could represent. We should not be surprised by aberrant behavior; it was built into the design of life.
From Chapter 27
Just before seven, he woke Maria Elena, ignoring her groan. “We agreed we’d walk to the farmers’ market. Up and at ’em, Sunshine!” She didn’t move or respond. “Okay, this calls for the dog patrol.” He whistled, and the boxers piled onto the bed. Lucy began to lick her ear.
Maria Elena squealed her reluctance, then rose upright. “You are just plain mean.”
“Come on, we’ll get Barela’s tamales for later. If we’re lucky, Flying Star will be there with their fiesta sandwiches and kickass coffee.”
After she’d assembled herself, they wandered with Lincoln and Lucy down Gold Street toward Robinson Park on the western fringe of downtown. She reluctantly admitted it was a glorious morning, and the walk was a great idea.
Cutting across Park Avenue, they steered toward the Hotel Blue. Coming around the corner, it was immediately apparent that something was happening at the west end of the park. People, though still sparse because of the early hour, were staring across the park, a few pointing.
Two more paces and they could almost see past the trees that lined the park. Pitcairn dropped into a crouch to get a better look. “Jesus Christ! Look at that, Emmy. There are upside-down crucifixes with people standing on them.”
A hush came over them, as it had to the others who were there. They crossed the street and moved toward what now could be seen to be three crosses, each with a person standing on a small platform positioned at the crosspiece. Several police cars were on the street just beyond the crosses, but it was apparent the officers had no cause to act, or perhaps no idea how to act.
Nearing, they saw that the two men and a woman on the crosses were each garbed in a simple, rough-spun garment. Their hands were cupped together at the waist, and their eyes cast down. They were quiet and composed, silence seeming to ripple around them. People approached but were respectfully quiet. There was no mistaking the power in the image of the upside down cross, a clear statement of Christianity in distress. Beside the crosses, a sign read: “Judge not—the real message of Jesus.”
A simple wooden sign hung beneath each crucifix as well. Pitcairn read them: “Forgive seventy times seven”; “Neither do I condemn thee”; “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Pitcairn knew it had to be a response to the previous week’s evangelical Christian rioting. And it was incredibly powerful.
Maria Elena leaned over to whisper to him. “It’s got to be that liberal Catholic group from the South Valley, the Center for Enlightened Spirituality. You know . . . the Catholic heretics?”
He nodded as he too spoke softly. “That makes sense. But man, what a statement!” He walked over to a woman next to the crosses who was silently holding pamphlets, took one, and glanced at it.
Several statements on the back seized his attention: “The loudest voices are not the truest”; “When angry voices lie, our actions must speak louder”; “The truth shall set you free.”
Even when the news vans pulled up a few minutes later, the hush held. With unusual respect, not one of the reporters attempted to speak to those on the crosses. Instead, they trickled around and interviewed those who were watching.
Pitcairn found it curious that they had consciously avoided greater exposure for their views. He and Maria Elena walked home wordlessly. Breakfast, tamales, and the farmers’ market had been forgotten.
About the Author
Ron Chapman believes there are no self-made men or women. “All I have and all I am came from people and circumstances for which I cannot claim credit,” he says. “That includes being drawn by something I can’t even name, though one expert calls it magnetic center. While I don’t define myself much anymore as the product of any specific hardship, I have been drawn in ways I could not resist. Had I not been drawn, I could never have succeeded in the face of some daunting life challenges.”
Ron considers his greatest success to be learning to parent his two step-daughters, Natalie and Brianne. He’s delighted that somehow he and these young women were able to choose to stay in father-daughter relationships when he divorced their mother. “That was the hardest practice ever . . . to let love be more important than all those grievances that emerge when a marriage ends.”
Seeing True™ is his signature practice. In short, it is characterized by a moment of epiphany that is so pronounced that ensuing changes or behavior are dramatically altered for the better. He says, “You might call it a profound change of heart.” The purpose of Seeing True™ as a practice in consulting, facilitation, speaking, workshops, and coaching is to produce dramatic improvements. “I’ll use any tool, process, approach, motivation, or information necessary to respond to a need or circumstance.”
Ron has been called motivational and inspirational as well as being labeled a master translator. He shrugs off all identifiers. “Clients and audiences feel an assertiveness and an urgency. I do push. But the best way to assist others is love, kindness, and gentleness with a good mix of stories, examples, and metaphors to help them understand. Attraction is always highly effective.”
These attitudes lay a foundation for a wide range of expertise and successes for Ron, including three enterprises that focus on consulting, facilitation, speaking, workshops, coaching, and other activities to develop people and organizations. His client list speaks of his effectiveness and includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Habitat for Humanity, and Chevron Corporation.
In developing those enterprises, Ron has acquired International Speaking Accreditation through Toastmasters International, a distinction shared by only sixty-seven individuals worldwide in thirty years. He was awarded a Master’s in Social Welfare in 1990 to add to his degree in Business and Finance.
In describing himself, Ron says, “I am a full-time, all-time student of life. And any way I can learn or share the learning is very exciting.” This explains everything from his radio commentary to his multiple content websites as shown below. In September 2016, Ron is experiencing the dream of a lifetime with the release of his new allegorical novel, My Name Is Wonder: A Tale of Adventure, and a second edition of his first novel, A Killer’s Grace, both published by Terra Nova Books.
Simultaneously, his non-fiction publisher, Ozark Mountain Publishing, is offering the first commercial release of his audio set, Seeing True: The Way of Spirit, which adds to his 2015 audio set, Breathing, Releasing, and Breaking Through: Practices for Seeing True.
While Ron is a native Oklahoman and was a long-time resident of New Mexico (where he had his own award-winning radio show), he currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and travels across the U.S. for speaking engagements, workshops, and book events.
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