When I read Lisa Reardon's THE MERCY KILLERS some years ago, I felt like I was in the company of a writer whose work matched my general tastes. The writing was spare yet evocative, the story dark as all hell, and the story didn't travel down the usual noir-inflected streets. Several years passed and there wasn't a new book, and I wondered why.
Then, last fall, it emerged that Reardon more or less took a page out of her fictional playbook, as she was arrested and charged with trying to kill her father with a shotgun. Evidently she had had some sort of mental breakdown, and her mental health was examined to see if she was fit to stand trial. She was, but it ended up not mattering: yesterday Reardon pled guilty to counts of attempted murder and felony firearm possession and will serve at least two years in prison for the weapons charge, and possibly another 24 months for attempted murder.
But a plea bargain hardly seems to address what really happened to cause such a violent rupture of a long-troubled relationship. Even the court account from Reardon's father, George Hicks, last November has some ambiguities:
Hicks testified he was watering plants outside about 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21 when Reardon pulled her car into his driveway on Brand Road.
She had talked to him on the phone about visiting because she “wanted to come over and straighten a few things out before a wedding the next day,” he said.
Reardon got out of the car, pointed a gun at him and fired, hitting him in the leg and buttocks as he ran, he testified.
“I was running for the door to get in the house and telling my wife to get in the house because she was outside also,” he said.
Hicks ran into the house through a door to the garage and shut the door behind him and locked it, he testified. He told his wife to call 911.
Reardon fired another shot by the doorknob, he testified.
“She said, ‘Open the door. Open the door,” he said. “It just blew that doorknob all to pieces, but it still held.”
She then fired two more shots through the door about 11 inches higher than the first shot, Hicks testified. He told her she better leave before police arrive.
“You’ve done enough damage,” he recalls saying.
The pair had had little contact for 15 years, and yet when Hicks was on the stand, asked whether he knew what would have caused Reardon to shoot at him, he merely answered "Yes", and did not elaborate.
Clearly there's a great deal more to the story; mental illness would seem to play a part, even a large one. Mostly I feel sad that Reardon's demons ran so deep that fiction couldn't even come close to exorcising them.