I’ve been writing The Vitruvian Man on and off for six years, mostly in private. (The Vitruvian Woman, the sequel, I’ve posted twice as a serial.) The Vitruvian Man’s second to last rewrite, which I expected to consist mostly of proofreading, something unique developed between the two main characters. Perhaps subconsciously, I was always writing toward a relationship that enlightened them equally, despite their differences in age and privilege. But I was unaware of it until “proofreading.” Suddenly, their natural, delicate rapport struck me as an ephemeral ideal. I ended the story there, leaving the consequences of their relationship for the sequel. But in the year since, I’ve decided it doesn’t make sense to omit the price Walter will pay. So I’ve written a new scene to open the novel. I’m posting it here because even if nobody reads it, his punishment can exist in prose.
On the plane, I tried to tell Amanda what I had already said as well as what we had agreed not to say. But before I spoke a syllable, she draped an arm around my neck and reached over with her other hand to press her index finger against my lips. Later, driving north on I-95, I said, “You’re worth—” and she slapped my leg while putting a finger to her own lips. We had agreed not to talk. She had told me it was perfect. Making any comment now would only detract from that. Also, she refused to listen to or participate in any way with “Goodbye.” Because it wouldn’t change anything.
Too soon, we were there. I stopped the car in front of the village library. Amanda opened her door and I rested my hand momentarily on her shoulder. She scarcely nodded, straightened her spine, and slid out of the car. As the Accord idled downhill on the steep street, she gently closed the passenger door. And without a word, without glancing back, Amanda skipped up the library’s concrete steps. The huge, heavy wooden door opened to a narrow strip of darkness into which she disappeared.
Resolute then, I drove a few feet farther, coming even with the police station’s Main Street entrance. Turning right onto Ferris Court, I parked on the street dappled by leafy shadows and checked the flight printouts and hotel receipts in my backpack. Quickly, I stepped onto the sidewalk and opened the police station’s side door.
Chief Carl Peterson was standing, arms crossed over his chest, just outside his small office. “Go home, Walter. Me and your wife, the middle-school’s social worker, and the principal agree. We’re in complete agreement.”
“I’ve committed a serious crime.”
“As far as I and everyone who lives in this village are concerned, you have not.”
“In New York, second degree kidnapping is a class B felony. I knew that when I abducted thirteen-year-old Amanda Jonette for thirty-one hours.”
“I have no doubt,” the chief of police said, “she was delighted to be wherever you went.”
“May I sit down?”
“Go home, Walter.”
“Not before I write a full confession.”
“You know, part of my job is preventing suicide.”
I shook my head. It was important to own up to my guilt. We exchanged our polar points of view until Carl lost patience and went home.
Alone in the police station, I sat at his desk and carefully described my crime in a notebook I had bought at the Orlando airport. The chief’s stapler was in his top drawer and I used it to attach the printed evidence to the cover. While I was perusing my semi-legible handwriting, Detective Jim Buckley came in. He knocked on the doorframe, the office door being open. “Hey, Walter. Where’s the Chief?”
“Not here.” I stood up and handed him the notebook. Buckley refused it. He didn’t even open it, but perhaps noticed the stapled receipts. If he refused to respond, I told him he must put me in a squad car and drive me to the county facility. Buckley protested, but seeing that I was determined, did it anyway.
At the jail in Valhalla, the sheriff and guards treated me like any thirty-two-year-old man who had kidnapped a thirteen-year-old girl. Wearing an orange jumpsuit, I spent the night hand-cuffed to a bar running across the ceiling. But I’m tall enough so that my feet in regulation white socks remained flat on the ground.
The next morning, my wife, Sterling, arrived screaming at me and at the authorities, who mostly ignored her. When she stopped yelling and wept, I asked her to ring my former boss at the Bank of America, because I was supposed to meet him for lunch tomorrow.
Hearing this, she began keening.
“Sterling, please. You’ve helped a lot but I’m counting on you to see me through this.”
Furious, she managed far better than I expected. She met with Glen Engle twice and convinced him to get involved.
Following a cursory investigation by the FBI, the magistrate broke with standard procedure and allowed character testimonies. These took nearly three months, but saved me from going on trial. And not being tried by a jury, my attorney said, was critical. “Because the more you tell them there was no sexual misconduct, the worse it can get. Like if you say, don’t even think about it, the more they’re gonna think about it. Basic human nature.”
Lucky me, getting away with thought crimes. Nevertheless, a class B felony in New York means five years mandatory. So last week, I began my incarceration at the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville.