Thomas Wictor



Today I read of two things that underscore my estrangement from what I guess would be called the mainstream world. But they also show how far I’ve come in my drive to banish the rage that shackled me.

First, I saw a piece about a writer whose story is being covered by most of the people who didn’t even respond when I told them what had happened to me. Rob Wells is a science-fiction writer who now has anxiety attacks, depression, and OCD. His writer friends have decided to create a charity anthology for him to help pay his bills.

Larry Corella says the following.

One time Rob and I were on a panel at [science-fiction and fantasy symposium Life, the Universe, and Everything], talking to a very full room. Every seat was taken, and people were standing along the walls, and blocking the exit door. This started to damage Rob’s calm, so he asked the people in front of the door to please clear the way. They didn’t do so fast enough, so I took up the microphone and explained in my typical gentle fashion that if they didn’t get their asses out of the way, I was going to scoop Rob up in my arms and carry him from the room like he was Whitney Houston and I was Kevin Costner. Rob asked if I’d really do that for him. Yes. But only if he sings the song.

This is why you can never compare your circumstances to those of others. It would be easy for me to be extremely bitter that the people who didn’t even bother to answer me are now rallying to help a man whose situation isn’t as dire as mine. Rob Wells can still make it to conventions and signings. If I tried to do that, here’s the sight to which the conventioneers or readers would be treated.

The reason it would be easy for me to be bitter is that I’ve learned an unpleasant truth: There’s a hierarchy of victimhood. Some victims are more valuable than others. I thought those who have the power to right wrongs would be eager to help me get redress from three utterly merciless con artists who exploited my own mental illness, my physical illness, and the suicides of my parents, destroying my writing career for the third time in my life.

But only one small radio station in Washington, D.C., gave me four minutes of air time. That’s all. A literary agent who contacted me and swore up and down that he’d help me expose Mike Albee, Lura Dold, and Becca Pilkington has done virtually nothing. Officer Steve Moore of the Healdsburg Police Department—the person I was told would handle my case—never responded. Neither has the FBI, the Better Business Bureau, the Internet Crime Complaint Center, or the California Department of Justice.

And while Rob Wells’s friends have rallied to him, I’ve lost all mine. Everything about me is just too much of a bummer. I’ve made a few new friends, and the departed obviously never really cared about me in the first place, but I still feel…unmoored. That’s what this experience has done to me. It’s set me adrift. I’m disoriented.

Tim and I talk a lot about our lifelong fear that nothing was real. People were not who they said they were, and what we thought was normal turned out to be deranged. I can’t fully explain why I spent seven months with the fake agency Sandpiper Publicity. To do so I’d have to lay myself bare. During the past four months, I broke my self-imposed vow to never discuss my past after I was approached by people who insisted they wanted to help. I told them, and they reacted the way everybody else does: with revulsion.

On Facebook a person lorded her victimhood all over me and accused me of returning her to “a place of hurt and helplessness” when I rejected the proposition that the default setting for men is Violence And Sexual Predation. By refusing to condemn an entire gender, I was—in effect—raping her again.

There is no recourse for me. My brother Tim is the only person on the face of the earth with whom I can speak freely. Even mental-health and clerical professionals are problematic. Everybody’s got buttons that you push without knowing it, and suddenly they want to do you harm. Why? Because what you’ve said about yourself has exposed the lies they tell themselves about their own sad lives.

So I could be bitter. Easily. But here’s why I’m not.

Byron Smith of Little Falls, Minnesota, is on trial for murdering two teenagers who broke into his house on November 22, 2012. Thanksgiving Day. Smith is sixty-five, a retired security engineer for the US State Department. He’d been burglarized several times, twice by seventeen-year-old Nick Brady, one of the intruders he killed.

The other burglar was eighteen-year-old Haile Kifer, Brady’s cousin.

Both were unarmed. They’re described as well-liked, athletic “role models,” whatever that means. From the photos you can see that they were narcissistic young airheads, and Kifer had a pot pipe with her. In her purse. She took her purse when burglarizing houses.

The photos of Smith clearly show that he’s not all there.


I’m well-acquainted with that look. It’s a kind of senility that comes from decades of rigid, utterly unreachable conviction. Smith’s confession says all you need to know about the case. He turned off the lights upstairs and sat in his basement with a book, a bottle of water, energy bars, a Ruger Mini-14 rifle, and a .22 caliber pistol. The Ruger fires a .223-caliber or 5.56 mm bullet. It’s the same ammunition used in military assault rifles.

In addition to equipping himself with provisions and weapons, Smith set up studio-quality recording devices. He also parked his truck away from his house. Whether it was his intention or not, he made the house appear unoccupied.

Brady broke into Smith’s house by smashing a window. When he came downstairs into the basement, Smith shot him once in the chest and once in the back as Brady tumbled head over heels. Lying on the floor, the teenager groaned. Smith’s confession takes up the narrative from there.

He’s looking, facing up at me, and I shoot him in the face. I want him dead.

Brady had a bullet hole through his hand, which means he tried to ward off the shot. Smith said to Brady, “You’re dead,” put the body on a tarp so that it wouldn’t bleed on his carpet, then dragged it into his workshop. Eleven minutes later, Smith reloaded his rifle. Soon afterward, Haile Kifer crept down the stairs with her purse and her pot pipe, calling softly for Brady. Smith shot her with the rifle. She fell down the stairs, screaming, to which Smith replied, “Oh, sorry about that.”

“Oh my God, I’m sorry,” Kifer said. At that point the rifle jammed.

“You’re dying, bitch,” Smith announced. I interpret that as, “Now you’re going to die at my hands” instead of an observation on the state of her health.

He then used his .22 pistol to shoot her several times in the head, including once in the left eye. After he dragged her over to Brady’s body—calling her a bitch twice—he heard her gasping, so he shot her under the chin because a .22 “doesn’t go through bone very well… I did a good, clean, finishing shot, and she gave out the death twitch.”

This was a very angry man. He’d been victimized multiple times, twice by an arrogant twerp who cared only about sensual pleasures. They found stolen prescription drugs and sex toys in the car Brady shared with his cousin Kifer. What happened was the two young idiots picked on the wrong guy, and now they’re dead. And obviously Smith deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. He didn’t even call the police but had a neighbor do it the next day.

“Just because my Thanksgiving is screwed up, I don’t need to screw up yours,” he told the cops.

Nick Brady and Haile Kifer are symptomatic of our societal decay, but so is Byron Smith. He shot to death two people and behaved as though it were no big thing. None of it was real to him. He acted out scenes he’d seen on TV and in the movies, as did Brady and Kifer.

No matter how hard my life is, no matter how unfair it is that people assault me over and over, abandon me, and show utter indifference to the crimes committed against me, I’m not going to become Byron Smith, Nick Brady, or Haile Kifer. All those people made their choices, and now they get to live—or die—with them.

I don’t feel sorry for myself, and I’ll never use my grim circumstances as a rationale to commit evil. After much research, I discovered where Mike Albee, Lura Dold, and Becca Pilkington live. They’re safe from me, but if I someday learn that a Byron Smith set a trap for them, I’ll just play this in their memory.

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