'I came to you because I want to tell my story,' the man on Dr Harper's couch was saying. The man was Lester Billings from Waterbury, Connecticut.
According to the history taken from Nurse Vickers, he was twenty-‐‑eight, employed by an industrial firm in New York, divorced, and the father of three children. All deceased.
'I can't go to a priest because I'm not a Catholic. I can't go to a lawyer because I haven't done anything to consult a lawyer about. All I did was kill my kids. One at a time. Killed them all.'
Dr Harper turned on the tape recorder.
Billings lay straight as a yardstick on the couch, not giving it an inch of himself.
His feet protruded stiffly over the end. Picture of a man enduring necessary humiliation. His hands were folded corpselike on his chest.
His face was carefully set.. He looked at the plain white composition ceiling as if seeing scenes and pictures played out there.
'Do you mean you actually killed them, or -‐‑'
'No.' Impatient flick of the hand. 'But I was responsible. Denny in 1967. Shirl in 1971. And Andy this year. I want to tell you about it.'
Dr Harper said nothing. He thought that Billings looked haggard and old. His hair was thinning, his complexion sallow. His eyes held all the miserable secrets of whisky.
'It doesn't matter, though. I loved him anyway.' He said it almost vengefully, as if he had loved the child to spite his wife.
'Who killed the children?' Harper asked.
'The boogeyman,' Lester Billings answered immediately. 'The boogeyman killed them all. Just came out of the closet and killed them.'
He twisted around and grinned. 'You think I'm crazy, all right. It's written all over you. But I don't care. All I want to do is tell you and then get lost.'
'I'm listening,' Harper said.
'It started when Denny was almost two and Shirl was just an infant. He started crying when Rita put him to bed. We had a two-‐‑bedroom place, see.
Shirl slept in a crib in our room. At first I thought he was crying because he didn't have a bottle to take to bed any more.
Rita said don't make an issue of it, let it go, let him have it and he'll drop it on his own. But that's the way kids start off bad. You get permissive with them, spoil them. Then they break your heart.
Get some girl knocked up, you know, or start shooting dope. Or they get to be sissies. Can you imagine waking up some morning and finding your kid -‐‑ your son -‐‑ is a sissy?
'After a while, though, when he didn't stop, I started putting him to bed myself. And if he didn't stop crying I'd give him a whack.
Then Rita said he was saying "light" over and over again. Well, I didn't know. Kids that little, how can you tell what they're saying. Only a mother can tell.
'Rita wanted to put in a nightlight. One of those wall-‐‑plug things with Mickey Mouse or Huckleberry Hound or something on it. I wouldn't let her. If a kid doesn't get over being afraid of the dark when he's little, he never gets over it.
'Anyway, he died the summer after Shirl was born. I put him to bed that night and he started to cry right off. I heard what he said that time. He pointed right at the closet when he said it.
"Boogeyman," the kid says. "Boogeyman, Daddy." 'I turned off the light and went into our room and asked Rita why she wanted to teach the kid a word like that.
I was tempted to slap her around a little, but I didn't. She said she never taught him to say that. I called her a goddamn liar.
'That was a bad summer for me, see. The only job I could get was loading Pepsi-‐‑Cola trucks in a warehouse, and I was tired all the time. Shirl would wake up and cry every night and Rita would pick her up and sniffle.
I tell you, sometimes I felt like throwing them both out a window. Christ, kids drive you crazy sometimes. You could kill them.
'Well, the kid woke me at three in the morning, right on schedule. I went to the bathroom, only a quarter awake, you know
and Rita asked me if I'd check on Denny. I told her to do it herself and went back to bed. I was almost asleep when she started to scream.