by Rachel Chalmers
ANCHOR: You’re listening to Swan Song, and we’re crossing over live to Fox San Quentin for the last ever interview with California’s worst infanticide. A content warning for our sensitive listeners: This inmate is unrepentant and the details of her crimes are grotesque. Male authority figure guidance is strongly recommended.
WHITE: We’re here talking to Clare MacKillop. I guess the thing I’d like to ask, first off, is how did a nice girl like you end up in a place like this? I mean, you were a Catholic.
MACKILLOP: Still am. Freelance, post-Pope.
WHITE: Do you think moving to San Francisco corrupted you?
MACKILLOP: Oh, sure. Came for Burning Man, stayed for the queers. After we lost L.A. and Seattle, I thought about leaving. Everyone did. But I realized I’d rather not live in a world without San Francisco.
WHITE: Can you pinpoint the moment when you lost your faith?
MACKILLOP: In Jesus? Never. In America? In 2016 or ’17.
WHITE: Say more about that.
MACKILLOP: Look, as far as I’m concerned, Jesus and John were doing it and Mary was the founding member of PFLAG.
WHITE: No, I meant, say more about those years.
MACKILLOP: What I remember is, there were a bunch of fires. We lost Popeyes and the Mission Market, and then the Cole Hardware near 29th. Lotta families displaced. We passed the hat around, then sort of braced ourselves for new condo developments.
MACKILLOP: And nothing happened. The gaps just stayed there like missing teeth. I remember passing the Popeyes crater on a bus, and it was filling up with wildflowers. California poppies and lupines and a whole bunch of, like, yellow stuff. Mustard. I don’t know. I remember thinking how it would look if it all kept growing out of the crater and up and down Mission and Valencia.
WHITE: Which it did.
MACKILLOP: Which it did. But Cole Hardware was different. The basement filled up with water and sat there. It was this black and green, stagnant swimming pool. And then, it must’ve been the summer of ’17, we started noticing the mosquitoes.
MACKILLOP: You’re probably too young to remember this, but there used to be a government agency, the Centers for Disease Control. Got dismantled with all the others, but Zika was already a thing, and the CDC was tracking its spread. I think it was in Florida and Texas before the shit went down.
WHITE: Your attorneys tried to build your defense around Zika.
MACKILLOP: That wasn’t my idea. Zika was one thing, but no way was it the only thing.
WHITE: What were some of the other things?
MACKILLOP: There were so many! Hormones, for one. Almost overnight, they cost, like, a college education. If you were already transitioning, you transitioned back. If you hadn’t started, you didn’t start.
WHITE: And this was another factor in your first killing.
MACKILLOP: If you want to call it that.
WHITE: Talk us through what happened.
MACKILLOP: I’m only going to tell you the names of my friends who are already dead.
MACKILLOP: Okay, so Pete and Drewe and I met at a pop punk show. We started dancing together, then we started talking, and we never stopped.
WHITE: Drewe being Andrea Cruz.
MACKILLOP: His name was Drewe. They were so amazing. Full of ideas, never not making something. Pete was a slam poet from Liverpool in England. Drewe made comics and played guitar. They bounced jokes off each other constantly; they were like a comedy particle accelerator. God, they made me laugh. Anyway, they knew I was working at St. Luke’s, and they asked me if I could hook Drewe up with T.
MACKILLOP: I hated to say no, but it was already a controlled substance. Would’ve been more than my job was worth. Later, of course, things were different, but it still mattered then. Drewe didn’t hold it against me, and then when he got pregnant, they were over the moon. They hadn’t planned it—I don’t think it had even occurred to either of them—but pretty much as soon as Drewe realized, they were all in. They even picked out a name. Delany, after the writer. I was so happy for them. We all were.
WHITE: So this—Delany—was the first baby you murdered.
MACKILLOP: Drewe had Zika. Fever, rash, headache, joint pain, the works. They had to find out if the baby was okay, but obviously they couldn’t go through official channels. I smuggled them into ob-gyn at 3 a.m. and gave him an ultrasound.
WHITE: What did you see?
MACKILLOP: A tiny, misshapen head. Delany had microcephaly. And she was a girl.
WHITE: So you got rid of her.
MACKILLOP: Yeah, it wasn’t like that. Drewe cried for days. Pete could hardly talk. What you have to understand is, they already loved Delany. What we ended up talking about was what her life would be like. How she would perceive things. Whether she would suffer.
WHITE: You told them that she would.
MACKILLOP: I gave them my best medical opinion.
WHITE: What else did you tell them?
MACKILLOP: That if she were my daughter, I would give her the gift of a painless death.
WHITE: And you call yourself a Catholic.
MACKILLOP: I do.
WHITE: Listeners, if you’re just joining us, I’m Ronald Reagan White here at Fox San Quentin Penitentiary with notorious baby-killer Clare MacKillop, and this is her Swan Song. Clare, how did you procure the drugs for Andrea Cruz’s medical abortion?
MACKILLOP: His name was Drewe. We broke into a pharmacy. My friend Jen Larson had a van.
WHITE: The death van.
MACKILLOP: Sure. We went to Berkeley. We didn’t know what the fuck we were doing. We were all nice kids. We dressed in black and parked blocks away from the pharmacy. I was shitting my pants. Wendy Smithers hacked the CCTV and alarms and locks. When we found the drugs we were looking for, we were shocked. There were, like, four shelves just stuffed with misoprostol and mifepristone. I guess the faculty wives got a lot of stomach ulcers.
WHITE: Are you saying there were other illegal abortions taking place?
MACKILLOP: Look, it was a rich neighborhood. Things like this are a lot easier when you’re middle-class. I’m just telling you what I saw.
WHITE: You didn’t just steal the poisons though.
MACKILLOP: That was Wendy’s brain wave. Pete and I would’ve just taken enough for Drewe. Wendy said, “All of it.” I looked at the shelves and said, “All of this?” And she said, “No, everything.” So we got storage tubs and swept all the drugs off the shelves. Psych meds, metformin, warfarin, everything. In hindsight, that’s when we went from a one-off to a movement.
WHITE: A death cult.
MACKILLOP: Your words. But right then it was all about Drewe. We were living in Wendy and Jen’s place overlooking the freeway. On a dead-end street, defensible. We were starting to have to think about that stuff. And we were already growing food in the backyard: potatoes and tomatoes and squash and corn. Converting the van to biodiesel. Anyway, we holed up there for a couple of days to take care of Drewe. It was a pretty easy delivery, as they go. I was glad we had pain meds for him though. Apart from her head, Delany was perfect. Tiny fingers and toes. Rosebud lips. She looked like Pete.
WHITE: Do you regret killing her?
MACKILLOP: I regret that she died.
WHITE: Tell me how you and your accomplices started a so-called band.
MACKILLOP: We buried Delany in the garden, under the lemon tree. When Drewe was feeling up to it, we held a wake for her. It turned into a dance party in the garage. All our friends came. Milton tapped a keg, Ellen made tiki drinks, Erik and Noirin brought a drum kit. We played covers of Panic! and Twenty One Pilots and Fall Out Boy and MCR. Drewe was really good! Pete came up with the name.
WHITE: Organgrinder. Not exactly subtle.
MACKILLOP: We were hiding in plain sight. We wanted the people who needed us to be able to find us.
WHITE: So you turned the van into a mobile abortion clinic. The band was just a front.
MACKILLOP: We were good! I stand by our creative work as well as our activism. And we played the city first. All the little venues that had survived. There weren’t many. But people would come from, like, Sacramento and Reno. Some of them came on horses! We couldn’t exactly say, “Sorry, nah.”
WHITE: You assumed no one would report you.
MACKILLOP: Ronald, we toured for ten years. It was a pretty sound assumption.
WHITE: Do you know exactly how many babies you killed?
MACKILLOP: Of course not. We didn’t keep records.
WHITE: And you were betrayed in the end.
MACKILLOP: By then, there was a massive bounty on all our heads. I’m genuinely surprised it took so long.
WHITE: What would you say to the patriot who turned you in?
MACKILLOP: That I understand we live under late capitalism, and our choices are constrained. That’s what Organgrinder means. We’re just dancing monkeys, unless we choose otherwise.
WHITE: How do you reconcile your so-called faith with the fact that you and your friends are serial killers?
MACKILLOP: Effortlessly. Have you ever seen Michelangelo’s Pietà?
WHITE: Obviously not.
MACKILLOP: A picture of it, I mean. Mary cradling the body of Christ, after his death. To me, it’s what we’re called to do. The great work.
WHITE: I don’t follow.
MACKILLOP: When Gabriel appeared to Mary, to tell her she was pregnant with the son of God, do you think he told her all of it? That Jesus would be tortured to death?
WHITE: The Bible doesn’t say.
MACKILLOP: I think he did. I think she’s every mother, and every child is a child of God. The choice we all have to make is whether to love every child of God, knowing that they’re going to suffer and die. The great work is loving them anyway.
WHITE: You must know this is nonsense. Abortion is a sin precisely because it’s against God’s will.
MACKILLOP: Agree to disagree. Delany was a child of God and I loved her, but don’t forget: so was Drewe. So were all the people who came to us for help. Mary knew she didn’t own Jesus. She just loved him, in life and in death.
WHITE: Does this ridiculous heresy give you any comfort as you face execution and hell?
MACKILLOP: Honey, I’m already in hell. So are you. We all are. That’s the point. This dying world is hell.
WHITE: And you don’t believe in heaven.
MACKILLOP: What? Of course I do.
WHITE: What is heaven to you?
MACKILLOP: I already told you. It’s the wildflowers growing out of the crater. Delany’s rosebud lips. That moment me and my friends all got up and started dancing together in the garage. In the long run, we are all dead. There’s only now, this present moment. There’re only the choices we make.
WHITE: And after everything that’s happened, would you still make the same choices?
MACKILLOP: Yes. Yes. How could I not? Whenever I could, I chose love.
WHITE: The warden is calling time. I’m Ronald Reagan White, live from Fox San Quentin, and this has been Clare MacKillop’s Swan Song.
Category: Fiction, Screenplays, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing