Honor Thy Mother

Can Ciaran Redmond ever rob enough banks to avenge his mother's death?

It's a cool, sharp spring morning, early April, 11:45, a time when most people are swallowing the last gulp of their second cup of coffee or feeling the pangs of lunch hunger. Ciaran Redmond has just finished robbing his third bank of the day, and he isn't finished yet--can't be, because the Mission isn't over.

The first two went smoothly--surprisingly easily, if you must know. It's not a sophisticated plan, but then, robbing a bank isn't organic chemistry, so here's how it goes: You walk in with a cardboard box you find in a nearby dumpster and hand the manager a note you've written a few minutes earlier. The note says you're a member of "the militia"--who knows what that means, but it's been in the news recently, so maybe it'll throw the cops off the scent. The note says you're dead serious--the box contains a bomb, so don't try anything funny, and hand over the money.

And they do. You walk out, get back in the car, drive away. It's quick.
Naturally, the first one's the hardest, like jumping into a cold pool, but now at last you're swimming, the plan finally put into play. In fact, the thing has taken on a momentum of its own, and you're focused only on the Mission that has been churning in you for five years. Even now, looking back, you realize that you probably couldn't have stopped even if it had occurred to you, which it didn't, and so instead, everything moves forward to the next task, one small thing at a time, step by step, just like walking.

So from the first bank, you simply advance, thinking to yourself, "Okay, let's go on to the next one," not even looking at how much money you have, not even caring. Because the Mission is the thing.

The second one goes smoothly, too, although a teller later remarks to the police on your shaky hands. (She says you look unshaven and unkempt, too, not your style, but there's nothing to be done: You were released from jail only eighteen hours ago; those clothes weren't even yours.) She remembers the note, printed--not written--in black felt-tip markings on the steno pad with the red lines: "Relax be calm. We're from the militia. There's somebody standing outside and the bomb can be activated from outside. No tricks for 3 minutes or the bomb will go off. Fill the bag." In and out. Cake.

The third bank presents a problem, though. It's only a small glitch, a slight miscalculation that, truth be told, you don't give a second thought to at the time. But events build from the past, and there are moments in space when the future forks. If you go right, maybe you get away with the bank robberies and the Mission moves ahead; if you go left, things swerve off course and you get caught. But who recognizes these instants when they are flowing by so urgently?

The hitch is this: You hit the wrong bank. It sounds major, but really, you think at the time, is it? A bank is a bank--they all have money, and so what if you walk into a Commercial Federal instead of a Colorado National? Anyway, by now you're on a rail, and so you adapt, you do the drill all over again, only at a different bank than you planned.

Besides, you've made other changes along the way. By now the notes have gotten shorter. The militia thing really isn't adding anything, so you drop it and simply demand the money-or-else-you'll-blow-the-place-sky-high-don't-try-anything-funny. You still find a box for "the bomb," but now you've become less picky, and the result is, you later realize, kind of funny. This time the box is the size of a large television, and so a woman has to hold the door open for you and you are forced to turn sideways to get into the bank. But still you are on autopilot, the details of the Mission being subsumed by the whole of it.

Later, in retrospect, when you relive it, going over every single detail again and again, you realize that the whole thing seems surreal and slow. But do you want to know the strangest part? The whole time you're doing it--moving from one bank to the next, going through the bomb-in-the-box routine, stuffing the hundreds of thousands of dollars into the black duffel, stacking more and more years on to your next prison term (and whatever you are, you're not stupid--you know you'll be caught eventually, although the idea is for the Mission to be complete when that happens), heading now for the fourth bank in just two hours...Throughout it all, the only thing you can think about is your mother.

You think: She would have done the same for me, God rest her soul.

Have you ever stared at something so long and hard that the parts around it dissolve from view and all you can see is the thing, alone, separate from life and reason themselves? Have you ever inched up to the edge, considered...but then backed away, thankful that when the moment of no return arrived, you were in control?

And what if you weren't?
"People might sit there and think that I'm nuts or something," Ciaran Redmond says. "But I'm not. To me, it made perfect sense. It literally became a simple equation.

"I had thought about it so many times and gone over it so many times in my head that, to me, there was an exact reason why I was doing this, and I had no problem with what I was doing. But I didn't want to hurt anybody, either, so I wanted to stay as calm as possible. And the weird thing about it was, when I actually started, I was a hell of a lot more calm than all the nights I stayed awake thinking about doing it, you know?"

"Now people in prison see me and say, 'There he is--the guy who robbed the banks.' Then they'll call out, 'Hey! Why didn't you stop at three?' Because I wanted to stop at five. Because I didn't want to have to do this again two weeks later.

"I just wanted to be the good guy for once. I wanted to be the good guy for my kids, I wanted to be the good guy for my girl, and I wanted to be the good guy for my mom."

"Ciaran's always wanted to romanticize his life," says his ex-wife. "He spins stories--glamorous, tragic tales. But then he believes them. He romanticizes things; he's always wanted to be the hero. The big, misunderstood hero."

When Ciaran Redmond thinks back about his family, this is what he remembers: his father, a big Irishman, a quiet, patient man with an inclination toward whiskey, an aircraft mechanic who died before anyone was ready for it. Ciaran says he died under mysterious and brutal circumstances--perhaps the Irish Republican Army was a factor? His sister and ex-wife wonder where he got that idea and say it was cancer. Patrick Redmond was 48 when he passed away; Ciaran, his favorite child, was eight years old.

That left his mother to raise the family--three boys and three girls (Ciaran is the youngest, the only one not born in Ireland). Elsie Redmond was a tall, prematurely gray, sharp-tongued woman around whom the entire family revolved, sucked in close in one moment, shot out reeling the next. She was big on generosity and guilt and love and, at the sound of an ill-chosen word or a simple miscommunication--or at times without even any warning--had a temper that could send a pot whizzing at someone's head.

"My mom was a really strong woman," says Ciaran. "She never let anything back her up. She would make things happen, make sure the family stuck together--she was really big on the family sticking together. All the family members being there at Christmas, all the family members at birthdays. We had our good Irish rows, where sometimes we'd exchange some fists and the next day we'd call each other up and say, 'I'm coming over to do laundry.' And we'd forget about it. It was just the way things were."

"The family always lived close to each other and often got together for holidays and dinners," recalls Ciaran's ex-wife (she asked that her name not be used). "They were a very volatile, stereotypical Irish family. You were always walking on eggshells, and the gatherings often turned into big Irish brawls."

For entertainment and at times for inspiration, the Redmonds, like many Irish immigrants, turned to the biggest and loudest American Irishman of them all. "My mom and dad considered John Wayne to symbolize all the things you believe in in America," Ciaran says. "He was their symbolic America, and he just became more and more of a legend in our family. My mom even met him once, at the Balboa Bay Club, where she went to a party once. She danced with him. 'I danced with the Duke,' she'd say."

After moving from Ireland through Canada to Detroit--where Ciaran was born in November 1968--the Redmonds returned to Ireland for a time before settling in California after Patrick's death. While he was alive, the family lived comfortably, even well. Ciaran remembers a house with a swimming pool, a camper--"all the things an American family should have." Afterward Elsie was forced to go to work as a home health-care worker, and life changed.

"After he died, it was really a struggle," Ciaran recalls. "But still she put me and my sister through private school." At age twelve, though, Ciaran began getting into trouble at school and committing his first crimes, mostly stealing. The following year he agreed to enter a Catholic boarding school that prepared students for the priesthood. He didn't last long there, however, and by eleventh grade he was finished with school for good.

Ciaran bounced from family member to family member, hitting the occasional drug and alcohol rehab program in between. By the time he was fifteen, he was already spending more time away from home than he was there; at sixteen, while living in a juvenile detention facility, he tried to kill himself, slashing his wrists. Just before his eighteenth birthday, he moved to Denver to be with a girl who, in a short ceremony in Las Vegas in early 1987, became his wife. Five months later his first son was born.

The marriage was rocky and, in retrospect, doomed from the start, due almost entirely to Ciaran's conduct. He drank heavily, and when he drank, he was transformed from funny and kind and charming to loud and mean and occasionally violent. Police records show that he committed his first crime in Colorado on July 27, 1987 (assault and disturbing the peace), and from there his record of misdemeanor crimes expanded at an astonishing rate: three more convictions that year; four in 1988; six in 1990; fifteen in 1991; two in 1992; five in 1993; eleven in 1994; seven in 1995; two in 1996; six in 1997; five in 1998. Sixty-six in all. In fact, the only time he seemed able to stay out of trouble was when he was in jail for his previous crimes.

(Later, when a federal judge stared hard at Ciaran, preparing to punish him for the bank robberies, the judge seemed flabbergasted, awestruck almost: "I've never seen such an extensive criminal history without a felony," he said, then added as he conferred the eight-year sentence: "Mr. Redmond, you have gone from the frying pan directly into the fire.")

Once, several years into the marriage, Ciaran promised to stop all the nonsense, go straight, live up to his responsibilities--no drinking, a steady job hanging garage doors, bringing the checks home instead of to the liquor store, a real father to his family, now two sons. "It was nice," his ex-wife recalls. "We ate dinner together, went to concerts, Little League games, camping--all the things that families do. But then the holidays came around and he started drinking again."

Ciaran started leaving home for longer and longer periods, sleeping in parks, on the streets, in shelters. The calm had lasted all of nine months. The Redmonds were divorced soon after. Later, others would come into his life--girlfriends and their families, counselors, probation officers--falling for his charm, recognizing his intelligence and promise. They all tried to help, giving him advice, a place to stay, money.

All of them failed, and looking back on the debris he left as he passed, it's difficult to imagine that Ciaran Redmond could ever have ended up anyplace other than a prison or a cemetery. (In 1991 he attempted suicide for the second time, this time by hanging.) Yet throughout the mistakes, the misjudgments and the apologies--first familiar, then constant, finally endless--the single thing that was to alter Ciaran's life, the one moment from which the strand unspooled to that April morning as he moved from bank to bank to bank to bank, occurred on a single night: July 23, 1993.

"My mom was 64 years old when she was killed," he says.

We're not sure who did it, or even whether it was intended to be a murder or an interrupted burglary," concedes Lieutenant Ron Smith of the Costa Mesa Police Department. "There's certainly no motive; there's nothing that would make Elsie Redmond a high-risk or even a moderate-risk target. For the life of us, we can't figure that out. We have hit a dead-end."

A sprawling concrete complex of 384 duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes, the Harbor Green Apartments are bordered on one side by Orange Coast Community College, one of California's largest, and busy Harbor Boulevard on the other. Elsie and her eldest son, Neal, had moved into their two-bedroom apartment in February 1993. "To call it middle-class would be generous," Smith says.

Five months later, on a Friday evening in July, Neal had gone out for a few hours, returning at about 10:30 and going directly to bed. Elsie had popped in a video (Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows, a Catholic comedy) and was watching it on the couch. When Neal woke up the following morning and walked into the living room, he discovered his mother there still, a pillow over her face and dead of a stab wound to the heart.

The police investigation naturally began with Neal Redmond, 42 at the time, who was in the apartment when his mother was murdered. But Neal, who'd had polio as a child and still bore deep physical and mental scars from the disease, was judged to be lacking sufficient motivation to kill his own mother. Police soon discarded him as a suspect. Later, caught up in grief, uncertain of his own memory, he was of only marginal help as a witness.

"We could never establish what was normal in the apartment," Smith explains. "We'd ask Neal, 'Was there anything missing?' But he was always very vague or unclear."

Police found out this much: There was no forced entry to the apartment, which Elsie and Neal were obsessive about keeping locked. A kitchen butcher knife was missing. Some cash appeared to have been taken from Elsie--about $80 was missing--but not much else in the vicinity had been disturbed. Although four single women had been murdered in Costa Mesa in a five-year period and their killers never found, police say they were soon able to rule out a serial killer in Elsie Redmond's case, which differed from the others in the victim's age and location.

"I took the Greyhound out from Denver the night I heard," recalls Ciaran. "They had sealed the place off real good; it was, like, two days after that they finally opened up the house and I was able to go in. I had this sense of death and terror."

Elsie's murder received some media attention in Orange County, and it soon came out that the Irish woman had harbored a fascination with John Wayne, especially the Duke's classic portrayal of a brawling Irish prizefighter who returns to Ireland to claim the family farm in The Quiet Man, her favorite film. That caught the attention of Michael Ross.

"There was no way this family was going to be able to afford a burial plot in Memorial Park in Newport Beach," says Ross, manager of the cemetery where Wayne is buried. "The paper said she'd been a lifelong fan, and our cemetery is where John Wayne is interred, so we had a little roundtable discussion with our management group."

Moved by the Redmonds' story, Ross donated a plot and headstone for Elsie in the exclusive manicured park outside Los Angeles. It wouldn't be the last plot he would end up donating to the Redmond family.

Following his mother's death, Neal, who was unable to work because of his disabilities, had gone to live with a sister in Fountain Valley. As the weeks passed, though, he became increasingly distraught over Elsie's murder and, especially when his Social Security benefits were cut off, began thinking of himself as a drain on the family.

Early on the morning of January 23, 1994, exactly five months after Elsie's death, Neal penned a suicide note and left it outside his room. His sister found it as she was preparing to go to bed. She burst into Neal's room and tried to restrain her brother. But according to police reports, Neal overpowered her and pushed a utility knife into his neck. The sharp blade caught his jugular vein; he bled to death minutes later.

An overcome Sean Redmond, then 34, spoke with The Orange County Register two days after his brother's suicide. "It hasn't stopped since July," he said. "Most of our family is wondering what's next. Our nerves, our emotions, are just teetering on the edge of insanity." Neal was buried next to his mother in another donated plot at Memorial Park.

Even though it's been five and a half years since Elsie Redmond's unexplained murder, Smith says the Costa Mesa police have not given up hopes of solving it. "We don't see many murders," he says. "Maybe a half-dozen a year in a city of 100,000," and none in 1998, a clean year.

In the city's history, there are 24 unsolved murders, and each year a six-member team of investigators goes over each of them, chewing over old evidence, scouring the aging file for any missed clues, hoping to expose the unasked question that could pick up a trail that has disappeared into vapor. The work is slow, but occasionally it pays off. Last year the team solved four "dead" cases, one of them eighteen years old.

"So Elsie's is relatively fresh," says an optimistic Smith. "It's an unsolved homicide, but not a forgotten homicide."

For Ciaran Redmond, of course, it never was. In fact, in the time since Elsie Redmond's murder, the specter of his mother's death has expanded and hardened in his mind like a black tumor, crowding it more and more until, finally, there was room for little else. "It's hard to get out of my mind that the last thing my mom had seen was a murderer," he says. "And that that murderer is going unpunished.

"But," he adds, "the family needs to know. I need to know."

Mr. Ciaran Redmond presents as a 29-year-old male with a goatee style beard and a neat and generally clean appearance. His speech is generally appropriate, coherent and directed towards the questions asked. There is no overt evidence of psychosis or disorganization. There is no evidence of loosening of associations, hallucinations or delusional ideation. He does not appear clinically depressed.

While there is no evidence of psychotic thought processes, Mr. Redmond presents with significant characterologic features of an obsessive compulsive type. He appears to have fixated on several issues including his mother's death and has been unable to move on. He, apparently, ruminates over these unresolved issues and has felt himself responsible for their solution...

There is also some significant family loyalty and duty which led Mr. Redmond to feel that "the ends justify the means...there was a bigger purpose to it."

--Psychiatric evaluation of Ciaran Redmond, July 1998, Federal Detention Center, Englewood, Colorado

Ciaran: "I was determined not to be hindered by the lines. By the lines that everybody has to not cross over. I knew that for any answer to come out of my mother's murder, somebody was going to have to do something drastic. Once I put my mind to something like that, it's like a program. You just slip it into your computer and the program runs through."

In August 1997, Ciaran Redmond was picked up again to answer for another string of misdemeanor offenses--trespassing at his ex-wife's house, harassment, assault. The crimes were nothing new; in fact, for those who knew and cared about him, they were depressingly old. Yet this time the crimes compounded each other, and he found himself in jail for some real time. By April he'd been locked up for eight months.

It had never been easy for him, but this time seemed worse. By now his family and friends seemed to have finally put Ciaran behind them, a lost cause, too much trouble. "So when I was locked up, I didn't have very much contact with my family," he says. "And at that time, when I lost all contact, I started thinking about my mom's murder and why anything hadn't been done. And a commercial for a new movie, I Know What You Did Last Summer, came on. And that theory started floating around in my head.

"In the movie, these guys accidentally kill some dude, and he comes back and tells them, 'I know what you did last summer.' That started going around in my head. I started thinking, if this was Nicole Brown Simpson, or Cosby--if it was one of these people, would the police have looked into my mom's case further? So then I started thinking: The police have laws they have to abide by, and maybe because of the law, they might have five suspects, and one of them might be real good, but because of the law, they might not have the evidence and they might have to hold what they have back and hope this guy or this lady makes a mistake.

"But what if I could get that name?
"Well, then it literally became a simple equation of banks equals money equals lawyers and investigators I could hire equals the name in that file, you know what I mean? And that would equal an I Know What You Did Last Summer technique, you see what I'm saying? I thought to myself, I'm going to be breaking the law if I get this name anyway, by harassing this person, or sticking something in their mailbox, like a picture of my mom, letting them know, 'I know what you did, and you can either turn yourself in or blow yourself away. Do whatever you have to do, but one way or another, you're going to get caught, and I'm coming for you,' you know?"

It certainly wasn't the first time that a private investigation followed by a bloody and satisfying revenge had occurred to Ciaran. In fact, the Mission had begun building in him almost from the beginning, although early on it had no form or shape, just a simmering anger and frustration that percolated to the surface, particularly when he was drunk.

"Cops would come to my home in the middle of the night," his ex-wife recalls, "saying that Ciaran had been saying in a bar that he was going to hunt down his mother's killer and kill him. So the people who heard him would call the police, and they'd come by and try to find him."

Later the Mission's details sharpened into a vivid picture. "I knew that to get a name, I was going to need lawyers, I was going to need Pinkerton's--that's who I wanted to hire, Pinkerton's," he recalls. That would require money, a lot of it. Ciaran began buying lottery tickets, $20 worth at a time, hoping for a hit that could spark the plan into motion.

As time passed and the anger of others seemed to flicker out, it began to feel as though he was the only one who cared; the rest of his family seemed so complacent, so...passive. "So I was going to go to California, and I was going to take charge, get into everybody's ass and into everybody's face," he says. "I thought, if I was the one who had been murdered, my mother would stop at nothing, you know? And I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I hadn't been able to do anything about catching the person who killed my mom."

In jail, the feelings of isolation and frustration got worse. He began having dreams. He dreamed about his kids, all in a park together playing catch--only now there was another man with his boys, and when Ciaran asked them to throw the Frisbee, they turned and looked at him like he was a stranger and said, "No, we don't throw to you anymore, Dad."

Other times he dreamed he was walking through his mother's apartment in the silent time directly following the murder, seeing things as the killer did. "I was walking in the back door and then standing over my mother, knowing this is what he saw when he did it," he says. By springtime the details of the Mission were complete, the plan fully formed. He was finally ready to do something. It was almost a relief.

He was released from the Denver County Jail on the evening of April 2. Because the weather was chilly, and because he'd been arrested in the summer when all he'd been wearing was a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, the jail had given him someone else's clothes: a pair of long off-white pants and a thick black B.U.M. sweatshirt.

The jail had provided him with other helpful things, too. On the inside he'd made some friends, people who sympathized with him and offered advice. One told him he knew where a guy could find a vehicle to use for, say, a personal Mission--he could think of it as a small contribution toward his revenge--and so after his release, he immediately headed for the Arvada wastewater treatment plant near Sloan Lake.

It was even easier than he'd hoped. He hopped the fence, simple; smashed a window (there was no alarm on it then, although there is now--"These things always happen after the horse has left the barn," sighs Jerry McClain, the department's superintendent); and in a closet found the keys to the old three-quarter-ton Chevy pickup. Nearby, he found $67 in petty cash and pocketed it.

He opened the truck and got in, twisted the key, put it into gear and pointed it at the locked entrance to the facility. The padlocked chain-link gate burst like a window, springing open, pulling some of the fence down along with it. He aimed the truck south, toward LoDo, parking near Nallen's, an Irish pub on Market Street, where he swallowed four pints of Guinness, a soothing combination of fortification and silent congratulation. "Okay," he thought. "Stage One has been met."

Sometime after midnight he left the bar and headed south again, driving slowly by his girlfriend's house and then west, toward the foothills. "I wanted to see the city lights and think about things, so I went up toward Green Mountain," he says. "But by the time I got there, the sky was already turning light blue."

He started the truck and headed slowly down the hill.

The Mission fails, of course. Who would have known that the fourth bank, the Diakonia Credit Union on South Federal Boulevard, had been robbed earlier in the day? When you arrive, a little after noon, it has just reopened; if you had hit the bank you'd originally planned to hit, Number Three, the timing would have been all different and you might be on your way to the Greyhound station (the police would be at the airport looking for you--you've already thought of that), then Seattle, then Los Angeles and Costa Mesa.

At first it even seems as if the coincidence will turn out to be extremely good luck. Because the bank had been robbed, it was low on money, and the Wells Fargo truck has just come by with a fresh supply; by the time you arrive, money is just so...available.

But the situation is a little stickier than at the other banks; the tellers balk at first, but you become agitated and jump up on the counter, and that seems to snap them out of it. They throw brick after brick of crisp $100 and $50 bills into your bag until it is so heavy that it lands with a loud whomp on the floor when you pull it from the counter and jump off. (Later you find out why: $182,000 from Diakonia alone!)

But then, almost imperceptibly at first, things begin to deteriorate, as if suddenly you've become this big joke, not a deadly robber at all. ("We've had twelve robberies at this bank, and this one was the worst," the bank president says later. "He was harassing everyone in the bank and threatening to kill people. It was tacky. I didn't really think there was a bomb in the box, but I thought he would hurt someone. I'm not scarred by this or anything. I've kept my sense of humor.") You're becoming unnerved now, and so you order everyone--EVERYONE!--out of the bank, but they're not moving fast enough, and...what's with her?

"I'm sitting there robbing this bank, right? And there's this little old lady--she must have been ninety if she's a day--she's got one of those canes with the four prongs down on the end of it, you know? She's standing there, and I tell everyone to get out, and she turns around and puts her elbow on the counter and gets this grin on her face like, 'I'm not leaving for nothing.' Like, 'This is cool!' She's sitting there smiling at me, and it stopped me for a second, because this old lady wasn't going nowhere for nothing."

Then, for the first time in four banks, some guy--some hero--follows you as you bolt out the door--"a moron with his girlfriend who was walking into the bank and now he wants to act tough"--and you think, briefly, now would be a nice time to have a gun, but you don't, so your instincts kick in and you just want to get out of here, and so you run.

(A few miles away, your ex-wife leaves work on her lunch break a couple of minutes later than she would have preferred and arrives at her credit union to deposit her paycheck only to discover she can't, because the Diakonia Credit Union has been shut down, surrounded by cops. She's furious, and despite your plan to finally be the good guy, you have instead screwed up her life one more time.)

You sprint to the alley where you parked the truck and jump in and gas it, heading north, then bang a right, trying to become invisible in the side streets east of Federal, when you suddenly remember how heavy that bag was when you were bolting out of the bank. So you look down and pull it open and breathe to yourself, "Je-sus Christ."

You pull out a brick of money this big, two deep like this--your hands are six inches apart, measuring money in inches now--"DAMN!" You put a cigarette in your mouth and pull out the lighter to light it, but a cop drives by, so you push the lighter back in and look in the rear-view mirror to see what he's doing, and when you look back down, you're suddenly halfway through a stop sign. You try to stop, but when you look back up again, the cop is flipping a U-ee, so all you can do is haul ass, but now there's another cop in front of you, and so you jerk the wheel and leave the road, bouncing into the ditch, clipping the fence and, finally, veering into a tree and jolting to a stop, the end of the ride.

The bag of money is between you and the passenger door. When the truck slams the fence, you jerk up and forward and go halfway through the window. And then, even then, you consider that it is kind of interesting that the only thing stopping you from flying completely out of the window is that black bag, stuffed to the zipper with maybe a quarter of a million dollars.

"I had enough money," says Ciaran. "I could've done what I wanted to do."
But instead the Mission is over, crumpled with the truck, the cops on him in seconds, dragging him out of the open window, cuffing him on the cold grass. From there it's off to the hospital (the crash left him with cuts in his head), jail, the federal holding cell, endless court appearances and legal appointments.

In December he accepts a plea, agreeing to admit to one robbery, the Diakonia job. The acknowledgment earns him 96 months in prison, drug counseling, psychiatric help--a battery of experts and counselors lined up, ready to assist, figure him out. Ciaran says he'll stay busy, mostly with mental work, reading books--mysteries, thrillers, spy stories--taking courses, learning a trade.

Still, a plan is emerging, its blurry edges already starting to coalesce into an outline. "I'm not saying I'd do things that same way," he says.

"But I will catch my mother's killer. It may take some years, and I may be old and in a wheelchair when I do it. But I will.

"It's something I have to do.

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