I dragged Wenger’s body out of the living room to the foot of the stairs and then up to the top. Once there, I toppled him so that he tumbled back to the bottom of the steps and lay there in a heap.
I followed him down, went back into the living room and retrieved one of the coffee cups, taking it to the kitchen where I rinsed it clean and dried it, making sure to wipe it clean of fingerprints, and placed it in the cabinet with his other cups and turned off the coffee maker with the dish towel.
I then went back into the living room, examining everything that might give a clue of someone else having been there, but I had been careful not to touch things so there was little cleanup required — and our scuffle had not disarranged anything.
As I reached the front door, I took my cap from the hallway hook and carefully opened the door with a handkerchief so that my fingerprints would not be mingled with his. I didn’t attempt to wipe the door knob clean since some fingerprints on it would be normal. I made sure the lock was turned so that the door would automatically lock when I pulled it shut behind me with the handkerchief in my hand.
I wiped the doorbell clean and heard the inside chime as the button was depressed under the pressure of being cleaned.
Scanning the street before heading down the sidewalk and, finding it clear, I walked back to my car without encountering anyone. Obviously, the nasty day was keeping people off the street.
It was not quite noon as I drove back to the motel. Stopping in the lobby, I informed the desk clerk that I would be checking out shortly, as soon as I could get my gear together. She said that she would get my bill ready and have it for me when I came back.
It didn’t take long to get my few things packed and I was back in the lobby and checking out within about forty-five minutes. Since I had to check in with my license plate number, I had no hesitation about paying the bill with a credit card. I was pretty confident that the death of Wenger was not going to be viewed as a deliberate act, which might start investigations by a competent police department.
Leaving the motel parking lot, I headed east on U.S. 24 to connect with I‑65 headed south. It was going to take about five hours to get home if I decided to drive straight through. Once I‑65 had taken me to Louisville, I made the connection to I‑64 and headed east again for the final leg home. Except for one stop for gas, the trip was uninterrupted and I arrived back at the farm about six-thirty in the evening. It was already beginning to get dark when I pulled into the driveway, but the day in Kentucky was mostly clear and decidedly warmer than what I had been experiencing in Illinois. As usual, it was comforting to be home again.
Turning on the lights as I entered the house seemed to create a warmth far beyond the glow of the lamps, though the house was somewhat cool as I had turned down the thermostat before leaving. I cranked it back up to a comfortable level, threw my bag on the bed, dropped the case containing my guns in the storage room, and put some water on to boil for a cup of tea. Coffee is good for preparing one for the day, but hot tea is a pleasant way to complete that day.
With the tea fully steeped, I took a mug full and eased myself into the easy chair by the window, my regrets and thoughts catching up to me. I truly wished that the trip had ended differently. I had no desire to kill Wenger and would have been satisfied with a recusal on his part. My greatest concern was for Wenger’s wife and kid. Creating a widow and orphan is not something for which any sane person wants to be deliberately responsible.
For the next few days, I went online to review the news in the Daily Journal, hoping to find some mention of the death of Wenger. It would have been settling to see something that would confirm a natural death or an accident and erase any thoughts of homicide. Nothing.
About six days later I received a letter with no return address on the envelope. Inside was the following, neatly typed:
Mitchell Wenger was found dead yesterday at his home on Hays Street. Mrs. Wenger, who had been estranged from her husband had returned home to collect some personal items and found Mr. Wenger lying at the bottom of the stairs. Apparently, he had been dead for some days. Early reports from the Watseka coroner indicate that Mr. Wenger apparently suffered a stroke at the top of the stairs and had then fallen down those stairs. He had sustained some post-death bruises from the fall. Mrs. Wenger told police that she has been staying with her mother and a protective order was in place against Mr. Wenger preventing him from contacting Mrs. Wenger or their son. Both Mrs. Wenger and her son had, over the years, received medical attention as a result of physical abuse from her husband. On one occasion, the son had been hospitalized with a broken arm and numerous bruises which had been attributed to a fall. Mrs. Wenger admitted that the injuries were the result of her husband's abuse of the boy. More recently, Mrs. Wenger had suffered a broken cheek bone and facial bruises and she was recovering from these injuries while living with her mother. Mr. Wenger had been briefly jailed twice in the past year for spousal abuse, and a divorce was pending. Mrs. Wenger's whereabouts have been thoroughly verified and no further action is anticipated. Funeral arrangements are pending.
I had been feeling pretty bad about leaving a widow and orphan despite the certainty that I had little choice if I wanted to keep Wenger off my back and, potentially, away from people that I care about.
Now I felt somewhat vindicated. It seemed obvious that Mitchell Wenger was not only a vengeful man (he had refused to acquiesce to my proposition even when being restrained) and now there was evidence that he was a wife-beater and a child-beater, a character with no redeeming values.
While I still harbored regrets, I felt that Mrs. Wenger and her son were probably better off.
It’s something I’ll have to learn to live with.