Here’s a review of “Burning Bed” by Faith McNulty. It’s an old story, a movie was made of it with Farrah Fawcett famously playing abused Francine Hughes.
I’d never, under normal circumstances, agree that setting a sleeping man on fire is the right thing to do, much less that the perpetrator should go free for such a heinous act.
In this case, we must make an exception. Because Mickey Hughes really needed to die.
Pic of the Day
It's taking awhile to get used to it, but I think I'm almost there. Well, I did until yesterday afternoon. Ah, I see you've not a clue
what I'm talking about, so let me begin at (where else?) the beginning.
You know we alarmed the house, correct? Good. We'll start there.
I was getting used to the sixty seconds we have to disarm the house when we return home, was (and still am) sleeping better, and was continuing to feel more secure in my little alaFortKnoxHouse. Even when not set, the ding, ding, ding of a door or window opening is a reassuring thing for me.
Not so reassuring are my misguided reflexes.
About a month ago, Harry needed to go drop off something at an ungodly hour of the morning. So up he was, around 1am, and out the door not
too long afterward. He was traveling up into the foothills and would be back sometime before noon (and likely a lot earlier than that). I listened to him set the house alarm, leave through the front door, and set the deadbolt. Then I snuggled back into the warm bed covers and drifted off into comfortable - and safe - sleep.
Just as the sun began to come up, I was abruptly awakened by the sound the alarm makes when it's on sixty-second delay. That noise, which isn't really all that loud, pounded into my head and I heard "disarm me, disarm me, disarm me, disarm me now, or you'll be so very sorry."
So I scrambled out of bed, blurry-eyed, to the panel on the wall of the master bedroom. Slightly panicky, I punched buttons, but the alarm didn't stop making its noise. Puzzled, I stared at the panel, and *then* it stopped yelling.
Boom! The realization hit me. (A bit late.) Someone had triggered the alarm by COMING INTO THE HOUSE. "Oh, pardon me, mister burglar, while I unset the alarm for you." Then Harry spoke and I knew it had been him coming home. Whew . . . but how stupid is that, to unset the alarm from a deep sleep? Jeesh. That was one reflex I had to eliminate rapidly. What would I have done if it'd been a bad guy? Asked him to wait while I reset the alarm?
The delay in obeying my command was apparently the alarm trying to figure out what to do since two panels were being keyed at the same time.
So, one reflex to work on.
Fast forward a little less than a month. The Bash was the day before, our house phone hasn't been working since that morning, and Harry and I (and Chas) are in another city, viewing Guia for the first time, and trying to decide if we want her. Harry's phone rings, which isn't uncommon.
It's the alarm company. Which is uncommon. Our house alarm has gone off at station 2, what do we want them to do? Oh, yes, and what's the password, so they know they're really talking to a Hakala and not a robber?
Um, uh, yeah. What *do* we want them to do? And what the heck is station 2? We stammered the password to them, and told them thank you very much goodbye. Hmm. We hadn't really thought about what we'd do if the alarm went off when we weren't in town. Dennis was supposed to still be at the house, but he could be out shopping or something. If we had the cops show up, they'd charge us for a false alarm (if it was). If it wasn't, the screaming house should have sent the bad guys for cover. So maybe we'd wait until we got home to figure out what happened (I had visions of repairing the broken-in back door). In the meantime, we looked for Dennis's phone number.
When we found it and called him, we discovered he had set it off. He entered the house without his glasses, and couldn't find the right buttons to disarm it. While he hunted for his glasses, the alarm went
The best thing about it was we knew the system *worked* especially without requiring the house phone to be operational. Good news! And … another reflex to work on.
Fast forward again, to yesterday. I came home from work and opened the front door, like I do every day. Usually, I hear the "disarm me now" tone. This time, the house exploded into sound. Someone had set the alarm in "instant" mode, which I think shouldn't even exist. There is no delay in instant mode. The alarm goes off the instant (ahem) a
monitored opening is triggered. In this case, the front door.
The noise was incredible. Wow! I had wondered how loud the alarm really was, and now I know. It's hard to think when trying to disarm the thing while it yells at you. I had sympathy then for Dennis, who had had to do the same thing that day he'd set it off. Trembling fingers look for the right buttons and when the sequence is done, there's a heart-stopping pause while the alarm brain checks to see what you've told it to do and whether you have the authority to tell it anything at all. Every time it pauses I wonder if this will be the time it ignores me. This time, it obeyed, and the sound stopped. The panel told me station 2 was the problem. Aha! Station 2 is the front door. (Why isn't it station 1?)
So, the last reflex to work on, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to calmly walk through the shrieking clamor and casually enter the disarm code. That particular task might take more nerve than I've got. At least, if the alarm company calls (which they didn't; must have been because I had it off quickly) I know I'm supposed to be here and can answer all their questions, including knowing the password that says …
Yes, I'm a Hakala.
The Desk Drawer writer's exercise list
”Burning Bed” by Faith McNulty-Some Folks Need Killing
Amazon Link for this book HERE
Mickey Hughes really did deserve to die. I’m not sure his wife, Francine, did it the right way, of course, because pouring accelerant around a sleeping man as he snored in bed then lighting it afire seems rather, eh, premeditated.
Francine Hughes could have, on any occasion, simply taken a gun, if she had one, and shot Mickey dead on the thousands of times he decided to beat her silly, often choking her to near death as one more lucky time, she managed to get away.
Had Francine killed Mickey in this fashion she wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble with the law cause that bed thing really isn’t good PR. Although, like I said, Mickey needed killing real bad. Francine did the world a favor. The world is a way better place without Mickey Hughes in it.
Let’s get a few factoids out of the way here. First, Francine DIVORCED Mickey Hughes as she was told to do by the various welfare, law enforcement and legal folk who advised her as she beseeched any and all for help to escape this crazed man.
Second, Francine owned the house in which Mickey lived. She couldn’t get him to move out even though she went to every gubmint agency available desperately seeking help, none of which came from those paid to give it.
Not in a million years would I ever condone what Francine did to Mickey Hughes and yon readers, if not getting the chance to actually read the book of this review, surely saw the movie made famous by Farrah Fawcett who played Francine on screen.
Francine was not a tough soldier, let us not pretend here. She was a very nice lady, uneducated, very passive. She had four kids. She was a good mother and a good wife.
Mickey Hughes, he knew just who to abuse. He never abused his kids cause you can go to jail for abusing children. He only abused his poor dog and his wife cause they were there just for Mickey to abuse and eventually murder.
Mickey Hughes left his dog outside in the freezing weather as she was giving birth. The pups were being born frozen solid. One puppy got caught in the adult dog’s birth canal but oh no, Mickey would not let the dog inside of the warm house. Francine pulled the puppy out of the dog, she and the children filled her dog house with warm clothes and hay. Still the dog froze solid overnight because…well Mickey Hughes liked to abuse females of all kind.
The only reason the dog was pregnant to begin with was that when she went into heat and Francine tried to bring her inside, well Mickey was having none of this. He chained the female dog, in heat, outside and all of the male dogs had at her, as is their wont. The female dog howled and screamed at the horror from which she could not escape but Mickey Hughes would not allow her inside the house because…well who knows why? This guy needed to die.
In due course he would have killed Francine, there was no doubt. God knows what was wrong with Mickey Hughes but again, he was smart enough to know who he could mistreat and who he couldn’t. He regularly treated Francine like crap, spilling meals he didn’t like on the floor, making her get on hands and knees and clean it up, throwing it back down again once she cleaned it, laughing, hitting her, mocking her.
Like I said, he needed to die.
Normally I’d be on a high horse shouting that this woman should have gotten help, she should have gotten out, that surely there was someone who would help her. She was divorced from this guy, it was HER house.
Except Francine spent days, endless, endless days, going from gubmint bureaucracy to gubmint bureaucracy, begging for help. She just wanted Mickey Hughes to go away. Francine and her four children had nowhere to go. Mickey’s parents, who must be so proud of this fine boy they raised, lived next door and this was, or course, very unfortunate, the result of an early marriage decision that could not be undone when it was realized the horror of that mistake.
Francine Hughes was a weak woman, yes. But she wasn’t a bad person. She didn’t deserve what fate befell her. She tried, she really did. The law enforcement people came, they shushed Mickey up or took him away to jail if need be. They knew about him. The welfare people knew about him. The legal people knew about him. Mickey’s parents knew about him.
So when Francine took that keg of gasoline and poured it around Mickey’s bed when he burned all of her school books that she was using to get a GED diploma…well yeah, it wasn’t the right way to go about doing what needed to be done.
Mickey Hughes needed killing. Francine could have killed Mickey plenty, hundreds, thousands of times, with full justification and no prosecutorial danger. There were many times that Mickey almost killed her.
The prosecutor, well hey, prosecutors have jobs too. We can’t have women pouring gasoline around husbands’ beds and setting the sleeping men afire. I understand this.
The prosecutor could have maybe thrown a manslaughter charge, maybe a second degree murder charge out there. The prosecutor here decided Francine needed the death penalty.
Four kids the woman had, four kids who would not have a mother for the rest of their lives. The world was a better place without Mickey Hughes. It wasn’t a wise course to seek first degree murder charges on Francine Hughes.
The jury saw it as an unwise choice as well.
Juries are composed of folks like us, ordinary types, filled to the brim with common sense. We can spot a system that failed and the system failed Francine Hughes.
The author does a wonderful job of documenting how the system failed Francine time and time again. Mickey’s descent to increasing sadism is also documented, Francine’s story as told by her, simple and straightforward. I didn’t see the movie but I ponder that this is the sort of thing that isn’t normally handled well by the movie.
Francine finally got some help from the system. Her attorney, Aryon Greydanus, put up a temporary insanity defense. Said defense usually results in a lifetime behind bars somewhere. Greydanus found a way to give Francine a chance at life anew via a good presentation of defense experts, a wonderful challenge to the prosecutor, who really had a client to prosecute who had the sympathy of the world, and a jury that decided that the best justice here was to let Francine go home and raise her kids in the peace she should have had while alive.
The jury did that and it was the right thing to do. Cause Mickey Hughes needed to die.
A Brain Infection? A Medical Journey Surpassed by Few
A Medical Odyssey to a Quadruple Heart Bypass
My Twitter Page, I post all Blog posts there with the link
My Face Book Page