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The Devil



First published in Toronto Life Magazine, September, 1979
By Stephen Williams

Word count: 9,500

Synposis: The infamous Shoeshine Boy Murder Case and the case history of Saul David Betesh: A psychopath is locked away, but his life still defies solution.

Excerpts: “I ask him if he is nuts. He looks at me steadily for a minute, then he replies: ‘No, but there's something wrong with me, wouldn't you say?”

“It is like interviewing a dead one. Although Betesh is slightly nervous, I sense a profound indifference, an inhuman apathy beneath the veneer of curiosity and nervousness. I ask him if he knows why I am here with more questions. He says no, so I tell him, in a voice becoming increasingly falsetto with my faltering equilibrium, that it seems to me there's been a change in the object of punishment from the body to the soul; that a whole army of wardens, doctors, chaplains, psychiatrists, psychologists and educationalists have taken over from the executioner and torturer; that I've just come back from the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Abbotsford, British Columbia, the first prison/hospital in Canada (and possibly the world) set up outside the walls of a prison specifically for the care of criminals who may also be crazy; and that the soul is no longer a "metaphysical conceit" or a religios concept but some kind of tangible secular reality within the therapeutic community.
     "Would you like a Coke or something?" I say. "Am I making sense? I'm nervous as hell."
     He replies, in a kindly, distant voice, "So am I, but don't worry, I only kill on Thursdays," and begins to chuckle like a sane man. I get up and go out to get him a Coke from the machine in the hall. What can you do with a guy like Betesh except get up and buy him a Coke?”

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