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Clement's Corner: Pro And Con

A man murders his identical twin brother. But who is the victim, and wich one is the criminal? Is it Pro, or is it Con? Owen Clement tells an intriguing tale.

I first met Peter Erickson at Primary School. Unlike the other boys who mindlessly raced around kicking a ball or playing childish games of “Five stones” and “Kick the can” during their lunch break, he sat perched high on a sturdy branch, his back against the tree trunk, reading.

Being a polio victim I too spent much of my time reading, or more often, watching. From an early age I began observing animals, birds, insects and especially, people.

Seeing me below, watching him, he invited me to climb up. And then noticing that my crutches made this impossible, he clambered down and we sat together against the tree trunk and began discussing, “Swiss Family Robinson” by Johann David Wyss, the book he was reading, which I had read previously. We agreed that it was a good adventure yarn, but the author’s choice of animals on the island was ludicrous. I said that I found this aspect so annoying that I stopped reading the book halfway through.

We later discovered that we enjoyed other interests.. Apart from our love of reading, we were both collectors. I collected butterfly specimens and he was a keen philatelist. Being appalled at my hobby of killing nature’s beautiful creatures, he soon convinced me to take up philately instead, which I did, and still do. A profitable hobby it has proved too. We became close friends.

Peter was one of identical twins. He and his brother Conrad were so physically alike that it was virtually impossible to tell them apart. I learned to identify them only by looking into their eyes. Unlike Peter, Conrad appeared completely devoid of compassion or humour. Conrad’s great pleasure appeared to be ridiculing and bullying others. The teachers, between themselves, aptly nicknamed the boys, Pro and Con.

Con frequently pretended to be his brother, especially when he misbehaved. Peter rarely showed any sign of impatience or annoyance at being blamed for Con’s actions. I found his protective attitude towards his twin quite puzzling.

Peter and I continued our friendship into our High School years visiting each other mainly on weekends, listening to music and swapping stamps or books. I rarely saw Con, as he spent much of his time away from home racing around on his bicycle or participating in other outdoor activities.

Eventually, when Peter and his family left town. We went to different universities and lost contact with each other.

I was horrified to read a few years later of Con’s death and that Peter was charged with his murder.

Firstly, I imagined that Con had steadily driven his brother to the end of his endurance besmirching his name by his own criminal activities. Then, I imagined that Peter, noticing his twin’s slide into insanity, had decided to take matters into his own hands. Neither of these wild speculations made sense, as I could not believe that it was in Peter’s nature to commit such a horrendous act.

Finally, I decided that it must have been Con who murdered Peter making others believe once again that he was Peter. That made sense.

I immediately contacted the reporter, Laurie Lane who had written the newspaper article. I mentioned my connection with the brothers and my concerns as to whom I believed perpetrated the crime and who was the victim. Intrigued, he invited me to travel to the city where he invited me to stay with him and his family while we jointly conducted our research. I gladly accepted.

We began searching the newspaper’s archives with the intention of advising the homicide division of our findings, should there be any.

Although the newspaper library staff were most helpful, neither Laurie nor I could find any evidence of serious crimes committed by either of the men.

My lameness worked in my favour when the trial began as a seat was found for me at every session.

I was shocked at how much Peter had aged, if in fact it was him and not Con. I purposely fidgeted and moved around in order to attract his attention. At first he took no notice, eventually however, he did turn and look directly at me; showing no sign of recognition, he turned away.

The more I studied him, the more I believed that the man in the dock was Con and not Peter.

I remembered back to the lack of sympathy I had felt for the disturbed boy whose behaviour his brother had tolerated and excused. Now, I firmly believed that it was Con sitting there in the dock, pretending to be his twin and that he had become a psychopath capable of murdering his own brother without showing the least sign of guilt or compassion. I also sensed that I too could be in mortal danger should he convince the jury of his innocence.

Fascinated and intrigued by the trial, I attended every session. I decided to take the precaution of being as inconspicuous as possible. Laurie and I conferred after each session.

Eventually the trial ended without a conviction. There was not enough evidence to satisfy the jury.

Putting aside my fears, whatever the cost, I simply had to know if the man in the dock was Peter or Con,

I persuaded Laurie to take me along the press interview outside the court.

Peter, or Con, arrived with the defence lawyers. Using my canes I moved closer causing him to look at me. Once again, he showed no sign of recognition. I glanced over to Laurie and shook my head.

I was never certain which of the twins was the victim and which the murderer.

If it was Peter, he would grieve and suffer guilt for the rest of his life, and if it was Con, without the protection of his brother, he would soon meet a violent end.

There would be no winners.

© Clement 2006


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