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A Daughter’s Revenge

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She and her father agreed to meet on the morning of July 28. He would come to her place, where they could talk.

He seemed even weaker than he did a month earlier. She didn’t know it, but he’d spent much of July in and out of the hospital, passing the kidney stone. They traveled back to her apartment together, and on the train, she saw him eyeing some young girls, each no older than 10. She held her tongue.

Home in Queens, she gave him a tour and offered him some water. She waited for him to say what was on his mind. But he said nothing.

“Well,” she said. “Do you know why we are here?”

“No,” he said. “Why?’”

“We’re not going to start that. You said you wanted to talk.”

He waved her on. “So?” he said. “Talk.”

She was nervous. She started from the beginning, talking about the first time he forced himself on her—the phone ringing, him trying to rape her, her crying and telling him to stop.

“How do you even remember that?” he said. “Weren’t you 3 years old?”

This was his response—not shock, not denial, just a casual dismissal. She went on. She talked about what she remembered from when she was 4—the oral sex. He denied it. She talked about what happened later, with the porn. He dissembled, using some of the same excuses he’d used in the past. “I was only teaching you to clean yourself—teaching you how to become a woman.” Finally, he parsed the matter to its finest point. “I never penetrated you, so it wasn’t wrong.”

He wasn’t denying it anymore. She felt right. She felt emboldened. She started talking about their last time together, when he tried to rape her and she wouldn’t let him. That’s when he interrupted her. “Well,” he said, “the reason why I wanted to talk to you is because of something that happened in Africa with Lovette.”

Harris fell silent as her father said what he must have been planning to say all along. He told her that her half-sister, back in Liberia and now about 18 years old, had been gang-raped as a child—during the years that Brigitte lived there with her. He was saying it was Brigitte’s fault that no one had been told about it earlier.

Her first thought was that this was a lie—one that played on her guilt and served as an alibi if Lovette ever claimed to be abused by him (she guessed Lovette already had been). The story managed to make Harris a victim all over again. It tapped into all the emotions that she had been harboring for weeks—self-loathing, guilt, rage.

Things moved quickly now. She was yelling, calling him a liar—“You knew what you did was wrong!” He stood up and took a step toward her. She reached for the pepper spray she kept clipped to her belt. She sprayed him. They fought and fell to the floor. The coffee table broke. She overpowered him—her security-guard training coming to some use.

He passed out. She looked for a way to restrain him. She found some handcuffs—a novelty she’d bought, she says, after her friends teased her about her job as a rent-a-cop. She put them on him, then noticed he was having trouble breathing.

She was in a full panic now—scrambling for a way to revive him. She splashed him with water and started calling his name. He awoke and started screaming. She decided she had to gag him. She tried a towel. She stuffed it in his mouth and wrapped duct tape around his head to secure it, leaving large holes so he could breathe.

She pulled down his pants. She used scissors first. When they didn’t work well, she went looking for the scalpels. To keep him still, she pressed her knee onto his windpipe as she crouched over him. One cut was enough. There wasn’t a lot of blood.

She thought, I am going to take it off and he’s not going to hurt anyone else.

She brought her father’s penis to the stove and turned on the flame. Only the smell of flesh made what she’d done seem real to her. Her stomach lurched. She shut it off, put the burnt organ in a paper towel, and bolted from the house. Later she would throw it under the boardwalk.

She talked to 911 several times, to report what happened and see if he was alive. But by the time the police arrived, there was nothing to be done. The cause of death was asphyxiation. Good­ridge had choked on the towel before he’d had a chance to bleed to death from his wounds.


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