William, Marcus, and Eve

This is a story about William and Marcus and the night they met Eve.  William and Marcus are from Durham, North Carolina — two kids literally out of thousands of teenagers in the county.

William is 17 years old and tired of working menial jobs.  His friend Marcus is 19 and in a similar situation.

They have been in trouble with the law all of their lives and are on probation for a number of offensives, including breaking and entering and terrorizing a family with a baseball bat.

Unfortunately, the North Carolina’s probation system is overworked, and probation officers have too many cases. 

In fact, no one has checked in on these two boys in months.  Not that they are hiding, they simply are sitting on the couch at William’s home egging each other on as to how they can make some easy money.

The younger boy, William, has moved up in the world since the bat incident.  He now has a 22 caliber pistol that he bought from a friend several months back, and it is the one possession in which he is most proud.

He constantly reminds Marcus about something he did two months earlier after getting hold of the gun. 

William broke into an apartment of a Muslim student going to Duke.  After pistol-whipping the boy and taking all the money he had in his wallet, about $50, William put a pillow to the student’s head along with the barrel of the pistol and, while the student pleaded for his life, shot him several times through the pillow killing him instantly.

No one heard the gun, and it wasn’t until several days later that anyone found the body.  The incident barely made the papers and certainly no one knew it was William who had committed the crime.  

The word in the press was the Muslim student had been a drug dealer.

So William and Marcus agree that this is something they could do together this time.  However Marcus is concerned that he doesn’t own a gun.  He suggests he can steal his stepfather’s shotgun and that this would be the additional firepower they might need.

So they agree to try it a second time, only this time they will go over to Chapel Hill and find one of those rich Carolina kids.

One early spring night, they drive to the university town about ten miles away and begin the hunt to find the right person, the right place, trying to work up the nerve.

All night they drive the streets of Chapel Hill and get more and more agitated.  Finally, they spot a small house on a quiet lane, and one of the boys thinks it might be a sorority.  They see girls come in and out of the house and decide that, if they are going to do it, this is the place.

After things settle down, at around 5 AM in the morning, they go to the door and simply walk in.  The house is unlocked.  It turns out no one is home except for one person.  She is awake and has pulled an all-nighter working on a paper to be handed in that morning.

She thinks she hears something, turns from her computer, and there they are, William and Marcus, with pistol and shotgun in hand, demanding money.  She has no money; she is exhausted and can’t believe that this is happening to her.

This girl, Eve, is an incredible person.  With blonde hair and good looks, she easily could have been a cheerleader – a Carolina girl through and through.  In fact, she is in her element.  She grew up in Athens, Georgia, the home of the University of Georgia, and is quite used to campuses and life alongside a major university.

She is at Chapel Hill because she received a Morehead – Cain Scholarship, which is one of those incredibly unique scholarships in which anyone in the world can apply but only a select handful receive.  The Morehead-Cain pays for everything, every year, every summer, every trip abroad, every meal, everything.

She, in fact, has used her scholarship already to go to an extremely remote area of Ecuador to work with an elderly doctor in a one-room clinic treating the indigenous people of that region.

Eve, however, was no innocent abroad, and it is clear she understood that she was alone in a remote, rugged part of Ecuador in which horrible things could happen.  She did it though because she truly believed she could make a difference – a trait for which she is famous and that has earned her the scholarship.

She comes back to Carolina that much stronger and that much more confident in her beliefs and abilities and decides to run for student government president.

Amazingly, she convinces enough kids, whites, blacks, Hispanics, everyone, that even though she’s a blonde-haired beauty who easily could be mistaken for a fashion model in New York, she could represent the students at UNC better than anyone else.

She wins the election and takes the leadership position on the student government as well as the seat that comes with it as the student representative on the University of North Carolina’s Board of Trustees.

Well, at 5 AM one night in early spring, all of Eve’s dreams and hopes and accomplishments are reduced to a single moment standing by a computer, staring in shock at William and Marcus screaming demands at her.  

Finally, Eve gets them to stop shouting and suggests even, when they are prepared to listen, that she can drive to an ATM machine and give them what they want – only, however – if they will let her go.

They agree and get into Eve’s Pathfinder; she drives around Chapel Hill, visiting first one ATM machine and then countless others until she has withdrawn more than $1,500 from her checking account.

Finally she has no more money.  They are parked on a side street several blocks from Eve’s house.

Eve reminds them they said they would let her go free, but William knows they will be free only if she is dead.   Marcus wasn’t involved in the Muslim student slaying and now is not so sure, especially with her in the car, calmly asking for her life.

Finally, Eve, with all the power of persuasion that she has accumulated from her life experiences, from all of the committee meetings, from running for student president, from countless interviews for the Morehead – Cain, convinces them to take her car and let her go.

She deliberately opens the driver’s door and gets out of the car.  William watches her walk down the street, but knows clearly what must be done.  He opens the front passenger door, aims his pistol, and shoots her in the back.

He gets out of the car and follows her down the street.  At point blank range he shoots her four more times.  Only Eve’s not dead….

Marcus gets out of the backseat and runs up to William.  Eve is lying on the street in front of them, begging for her life.

William has no more bullets and yells at Marcus to do something.  Lights are coming on in houses nearby. 

Marcus lifts his stepfather’s shotgun, and with William screaming at him to do it, shoots her, straight on, right there, killing her finally.

The boys run back to Eve’s Pathfinder and drive to their car and back to Durham and the safety of William’s mother’s couch.

Only, now the community is awake to the horror of what has happened. 

A student body president, a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina, a Morehead – Cain Scholar a year returned from saving indigenous lives in remote Ecuador is now dead, riddled with bullets on a sleepy side street where professors and lawyers and good people bring up their children to be like her – in fact, just like Eve was brought up in Athens.

She is one of their own, one of their best – and she is dead.

After a couple of days of intense news coverage, William thinks he has gotten away with it, once again, but then, with the morning papers, he realizes this one wasn’t as clean as the other one. 

The papers show front page, semi-blurred pictures of the three of them taken from an ATM camera: Eve at the wheel of the Pathfinder, William beside her, and Marcus in the back.

The heat is on for anyone who knows the boys.

Marcus also sees the papers and, in a state of panic, tells his girlfriend what they’ve done and asks her to get him and William out of town.

However, it’s too late, too many people in Durham recognize the two of them and within hours they are arrested.  

Shortly thereafter, Marcus’ girlfriend tells the police everything.

Finally, the hunt is over.

The combined forces of Chapel Hill and Durham have them squarely.  Even the FBI is involved and charge them with aggravated kidnapping.

For William and Marcus, it is over.

Finally, the weight of the courts is upon them.

William, a minor, gets life without parole. 

Because Eve was adamantly opposed to the death penalty, Marcus, an adult, plea bargains and also gets life without parole.

Finally — 

With this parting gift from an incredible person who easily could have been mistaken for anyone — 

It is over.


Categories: Essays

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