i am cain

[I Am Cain]

[Garrett County Press]

Excerpt from
I Am Cain
by Kolarik/Klatt


April 8, 1990

A LIGHT BREEZE rolled in from Lake Michigan in picture-perfect Winnetka. Police activity in the Chicago suburb on this overcast Palm Sunday consisted of three speeding tickets, one petty theft, and a man from out of town caught driving with an expired vehicle registration. That was typical. In this upscale village trouble usually involved teens or people just passing through.

Mahlon Lee Bishop, a successful civil attorney, drove from his home in the secluded southern part of town to the eastern end, where his daughter Nancy and son-in-law Richard were living. Lee, who owned their townhouse, intended to put up some shelves in a bedroom closet. That would give him something to do while his wife attended a rehearsal for an amateur production at the community center. Besides, Lee and his wife wanted to make sure their youngest daughter was all right. The family had celebrated Lee's sixtieth birthday the night before, but Nancy was ill from her pregnancy and couldn't enjoy the festivities. And now, no one was answering the phone.

As Lee pulled up in the driveway, he saw the couple's two cars parked in front of their townhouse. Climbing out, he playfully tugged at the leash of the beagle Nancy and Richard had given him. The small dog eagerly walked ahead of its master to the front door of the one-and-a-half-story brick house.

Lee had a key, but as a courtesy he pressed the buzzer. When no one came to the door he opened it himself and called out from the threshold. No answer.

Perhaps they were at a neighbor's. He crossed the room and slid back one of the two large glass patio doors to let his dog run outside on the narrow patch of grass between the house and the six-foot wooden fence. Nancy and Richard were planning to move into a home of their own by the end of the month, so their belongings were packed in old boxes. A card table and folding chairs substituted for furniture.

Almost as soon as Lee closed the patio door, the beagle was beside him again with the excited look of a dog that had discovered something. Only then did Lee notice that some glass had been removed from the second patio door and the sections stacked on the ground. Richard wouldn't do anything like that without asking him, Lee was sure.

The faint sunshine kept the house dim, but a light still burned in the basement. His uneasiness mounting, Lee saw Nancy's purse on the floor, with several fifty-and hundred-dollar bills sticking out of a pay envelope. Her credit cards were scattered about.

The house had a terrible stillness. When a faint sound came from upstairs, Lee's throat went dry. He reattached the leash to his dog and went up the stairs, calling Nancy's name and knocking on the bedroom door. When he opened it, the Langerts' cocker spaniel ran out. That explained the sound Lee had heard, but not everything else. He grabbed both dogs and put them in the bedroom to keep them from distracting him as he continued his search.

He returned to the ground floor and started down the basement steps. That's when he saw Nancy. He could see her arm outstretched on the concrete floor near the bottom stair, her eyes open in death. She was dressed in the same clothes she had worn at the party the previous night.

With a feeling that what he was seeing couldn't be real, Lee took a few more steps and stopped when he saw a pool of blood and the body of his tall, muscular son-in-law. Richard Langert's hands were behind his back, his head to one side, his face caked in blood. Midway between the two bodies lay an axe.

Lee ran up the steps to call the police. Not wanting to disturb any evidence, he put a handkerchief around the receiver before touching it. He dialed 911. "I saw my daughter, my daughter and son-in-law are here and they're dead," he said, almost in hysterics.

"Okay," the dispatcher began. "I want you to stay on the phone with me. I'm going to put you on hold and then I'm going to come back and talk to you."

"Oh, God," Lee said. "How could this happen?" [back]

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