Posts Tagged ‘Washington’

Thursday, March 22, 10:12 a.m.

In my limited experience, all daily newspaper journalists want to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Local TV reporters want to get hired by Fox News, CNN, 60 Minutes or Dateline NBC—whichever calls first.

Writers at the too-cool alternative weeklies want to be latter day incarnations of Dorothy Parker and get hired by The New Yorker, or become the next David Sedaris and craft false memoirs for NPR.

Bloggers want to be real (i.e. print) journalists.

Monthly newspaper reporters turned fully fledged editors want to write a book.

But what do crime reporters want?

Jack O’Lies is one.

I find it hard to believe that such a job still exists. Nonetheless, I’m about to meet him in his natural habitat: a crime scene. A murder scene. A possible serial killer murder scene, if the tweets are to be believed.

The crime scene is on the western shore of Lake Washington, where the sand meets rain-churned mud. I park between a King County Sheriff’s car and a City of Seattle Police car. Washington State Patrol is on scene too, sandwiched in between a pair of TV news vans. I’ve never understood the division of labor among the various cop agencies. I’m not that kind of journalist.

I don’t get out of the car. Chaos reigns as cops and marauding ducks fight to defend their strongholds between the mucky bank, the gently lapping gray water, and the yellow Police Line Do Not Cross tape that separates them. Through my windshield, I can see a major media convergence zone just outside the yellow tape. I’ve been here once before, under far more mundane yet equally duck- and reporter-ridden circumstances.  I ought to feel right at home. Except for that whole dead body found floating on the water thing.

Stumbling over the waddling wildlife, the perpetually jeans ‘n’ T-shirt-clad TV cameramen

Camera man in Seattle

(they are always men)

Camera man in Seattle filming The X-Facto

poke their lenses into the cops’ faces while the on-air talent—no one I recognize—fiddle with their handheld mics. Also jeans-clad, but sporting dry cleaned sports jackets, a half-dozen newspaper reporters are standing together gossiping. Their photojournalist counterparts, decked out in full-body khaki like war correspondents, are picking their way through the muck to shove their telephoto lenses over the yellow tape. Several radio reporters stand well apart from the mob and record their reportage with their iPhones: a feat that impressed me excessively the first time I saw it —ironically at the equally over-policed Shop With a Cop Christmas charity event.

Keeping a safe distance from the edge of Lake Washington where the corpse recently washed ashore, and looking hungover, overwhelmed, or both, are a couple kids from one of the alternative print weeklies. Given their smeared eyeliner and excess of sequins, I’m willing to bet that they got pulled directly off late night music club duty to cover this murder scene. Appearing uncomfortable and sporting homemade press passes, a few lonely souls drift through the crowd. As soon as I see their expensive digital cameras, I peg them as bloggers. My digital camera is small, cheap, and freelances during off hours as the family snapshot taker.

If this is indeed the crime scene of a serial killer, the FBI ought to be in attendance, dressed in their iconic trench coats. I’m wearing a trench coat that I bought a few years ago because I thought it looked reporterish, courtesy of my vague memories of 1940s movies. It was on sale at the Value Village and once got me erroneously pegged as a private investigator whilst I waited for an interviewee outside his tattoo parlor. Maybe the intimidating cops and the clique-ish reporters will think I’m FBI.

The thought cheers me considerably. I wanted to join the FBI in college. I sent in an application. “The X-Files” was popular at the time.

The X-Files

I’m with a monthly newspaper. And I’m way, way outside my newspaper’s coverage area. In more ways than one.

I get out of the car. I need to find Jack O’Lies. He’s a real, live crime reporter. He’ll be able to steer me through this murderous morass without landing me on the 5 o’clock news, immortalized as the crazy lady who blundered across the Police Line Do Not Cross tape and tripped over the corpse.

I pause next to the KING 5 TV news van. I have no idea what Jack O’Lies looks like. There are plenty of images of his wife’s killer, Robert “Bobby” Dean Clasky, the Westgate Serial Killer. They range from wild-eyed courtroom sketches to dead eyed mug shots going back fourteen years to a single school photo, aged eight or so, that ruins all wrath with his blond, abused, tentative yet hopeful smile.

Layne Stayle as a child

I know that Jack is 45. Because I’m white, I whitely assume he’s white. He lives in Seattle’s Scandinavian ghetto, Ballard, so he’s pretty much got to be white.

The air is crisp and reeks of fish, waterfowl excrement and cheap aftershave. I wend my way over the slippery ground toward the water’s edge. Up to their thighs in Lake Washington, the police crime scene investigators are slowly trudging, their eyes on the rippling water. Red and white lights atop three useless ambulances circle silently. Cop radios jabber while, incongruously, the cops attached to them burst out laughing. I see a TV cameraman aim his all-seeing lens at a kid in a Seattle PD uniform who can’t be a day over 19. “Why so much police interest in a semi-eviscerated and mutilated body? Can you confirm this is the work of a serial killer, and is all of Seattle in danger?” the heavily made-up TV reporter inquires.

I spy an idle print journalist, identifiable by her jeans, sensible shoes, and out of style but carefully pressed suit jacket. She’s leaning against an ambulance, smoking and poking at her iPhone with a short-nailed thumb.

“Excuse me? You don’t happen to know if Jack O’Lies from the Washingtonian is around here somewhere?” I say.

She points her cigarette at an open space beyond the yellow police tape. “Over there with the coroner. Can’t believe Muhammad actually came to the mountain for once,” she says.

The cigarette indicates a black guy in his fifties who is talking with a white guy. The white guy looks to be in his forties, with graying hair hacked into a super-short crew cut. He sports a couple days’ worth of beard growth that looks sexy on movie stars in their twenties but doesn’t work for professional men over the age of thirty. The black guy is wearing a dark blue windbreaker loudly emblazoned “King County Coroner’s Office.”

I take a deep breath and contemplate the forbidding yellow tape that separates us.

I’ve only seen such a thing in real life once before. Granted, it was labeled Fire Line Do Not Cross, but close enough. It cordoned off a crucial cross street in the wilds of Ballard (Jack O’Lies country, before I had heard of him) when I was working on a Halloween article about bugs as a culinary option.

Plate of bugs in Ballard, Seattle

Yes, I ate bugs in Ballard. For journalism. But I didn’t violate the official yellow tape.

I glance around. There’s a gawky kid in a trench coat wandering around beyond the yellow tape. His trench coat screams “I’m a reporter!” more blatantly than mine. He’s got a fantastically expensive camera. He’s clearly a blogger. I duck under the tape barricade and approach the coroner just as the blogger turns and makes a sudden beeline for the same.

Blast these tenacious amateurs! I pick up my pace as best I can, but I’m slow and unsure on the slick mud. The blogger reaches the coroner and starts waving the camera in his face.

What happens next confuses me. I’m out of earshot. The blogger and the white guy—Jack O’Lies, I presume—appear to exchange words. Angry words. Because the blogger is attempting to horn in on Jack’s interview, perhaps? In my peripheral vision, I see a couple TV cameramen hustle toward them.

My view is abruptly blocked by a radio reporter, then a print journalist, half a dozen photojournalists, uncountable bloggers, and all the cameramen and audio techs from the TV crews. Everything suddenly becomes a noisy, jostling, desperate sort of scene that I’m not used to but have seen on the rare occasion when I’ve covered a popular news story.

Gates Foundation opens in Seattle

Someone is shouting, then the white guy with the graying crew cut and last week’s 5 o’clock shadow shoves his way through the crowd of reporters. All lenses, boom mikes, SLR digital cameras and iPhones swivel to point at him.

I have no idea what just happened. But according to the cigarette, that is Jack O’Lies.

The lenses and the reporters attached to them turn back to the coroner, the lake, and the blogger, who is being hauled to his feet after he apparently slipped in the mud. I hesitate, then follow my presumed interviewee. I have a very fast car this week. I have no doubt that even with his head start, I can catch him.

As I navigate the slippery ground to my press car, I figure there’s a 50/50 chance he’s heading to the Washingtonian headquarters. I don’t know exactly where the Washingtonian building is located, beyond the mythology of the so-called Paper Triangle formed by the Interstate 5-bordering Seattle Times, the waterfront home of the comatose unto death Seattle P.I. and the northern apex between the two, the Washingtonian, which points toward Ballard.

Lucky for me, I have GPS in the car. This awesome ride, the Infiniti G convertible is the best car I’ve ever driven in my life. And it’s mine for a whole week, courtesy of the automobile PR firm that arranges such things, so that my newspaper can review the latest cars, generating revenue by selling ad space surrounding the car reviews. It is a total midlife crisis car. When I have my midlife crisis 10 or 15 years from now, I plan to ruin the family budget to buy one for myself.

Even with GPS, I manage to get lost. Forty-five minutes later, I pull into the Washingtonian’s “staff only” parking lot and hide the press car between a couple Fords. If it’s towed, I’ll be stranded but not liable for the impound costs, since it’s not my car. I hope.

I’ve walked past the corpse of the Seattle P.I. once. I’ve entered the Seattle Times building twice. The Washingtonian, never. I pull open the frosted glass front door and enter an echoing, marble expanse of soulless 1960s architecture. Like at the Times, there’s a front desk manned by a security guard. Unlike at the Times, there’s a two story waterfall behind the front desk that would be quite impressive if it wasn’t bone dry. Also unlike at the Times, I’m treated with little caution or interest. I tell the guard that I have an interview scheduled with Jack O’Lies.

“Know where he is? Third floor,” he replies. The Times has a formidable security gate. There’s no security gate here. Nor am I issued a plastic I.D. badge with a mugshot of me on it, which the Times security guard insisted I wear. I drift uncertainly to the bank of elevators, press the up button, and wait.

The building feels bereft. It appears to have been designed for a bustling community of thousands that has been decimated during the past decade. It’s creepy.

On the third floor, I wander through a cubicle farm dominated by row upon row of empty desks. I run into Deputy Assistant Editor John Whiteclay exactly where I least desire to: coming out of the men’s room.

I’m certain that it’s him. He’s hard to forget. The last time I saw him, he had a waist-length black braid and was wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt

Che-Guevara-T-Shirt

(red, of course) under a second-hand brown corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches. He also sported tight jeans with a hole in one knee, a turquoise and silver bracelet, and a pair of beat up cowboy boots. He was such a twenty-seven-year-old tribal cliché punk when he strutted up to collect his trophies at the Society of Professional Journalists awards ceremony.

Today, his hair is shorn to corporate shortness. He’s wearing a pair of unattractive pleated front Dockers, a department store golf shirt, and unobtrusive lace-up leather shoes. Pushing thirty, his face is about a decade older than it was two years ago.

“Oh, hi,” I say. “You’re John Whiteclay, right?”

Looking surprised, cornered, and yet so very professional as the bathroom door swings closed behind him, he replies, “Yes. I’m sorry, you are…?”

“Katherine Luck from the Journal. We set up an interview with your staffer, Jack O’Lies, remember?”

Not surprisingly, he looks very surprised that I’m here after he gave me the big brush off over the phone this morning. However, he hides it with managerially speed.

“Right, right,” he says. “Coffee? I was going to grab a cup.”

“Sure, I never say no to coffee,” I say, trailing him to the break room. “So, I went on down to Lake Washington, but I didn’t manage to hook up with Jack.”

Mr. Whiteclay grabs the Mr. Coffee carafe and a probably clean mug from the counter. His face again registers surprise before he hides it ever so professionally.

“I thought you two were going to schedule things over the phone. Were you covering the murder for your paper or something?”

“Oh no, we don’t do hard news. Nothing controversial,” I say.

He does not offer me a cup of coffee. He leans against the counter and sips.

“Okay,” he says.

“I just figured it would be easier to get in touch with him in person, maybe,” I say.

John Whiteclay says nothing. He crosses one Dockers-encased leg over the other, leaning against the counter in a way that announces that this is where we’re going to wrap things up. I’ve been long-form blown off before. I know the body language all too well.

I, however, become stubborn when professionally thwarted. I can stay here all day if that’s what it takes. I’m saved from making myself obnoxious by a staff writer who pokes his head into the break room.

“Oh man, Chief, you gotta see this! O’Lies punched the hell out of that idiot Seattle Crimeologist blogger.”

Chief Whiteclay’s face registers alarm. Still clutching his coffee mug, he follows the writer. Not uninvited, I trail them to a low-walled cubicle in the middle of the newsroom. Half a dozen reporters are crammed in it, their eyes glued to a computer screen. Their Chief, John Whiteclay, shoulders his way through to stand next to the cubicle owner, who is seated in front of the computer.

“Did you see this, Chief? It’s all over his blog,” she says, hitting play on the uploaded video.

Lake Washington of about an hour ago comes into focus: reporters, camera crews, cops, ducks and all. Behind the camera, a whiny, juvenile sort of voice is saying, “It is a measure of the depravity—nay, the sheer brutality—of modern American culture that a police force immobilized by—”

Off screen, someone says, “Jack? That really you? What’re you doing here today?”

The camera swings from the rippling blue lake filled with wading cops to focus on a black guy in his fifties standing with a white guy who looks to be in his forties. The black guy is wearing a dark blue windbreaker loudly emblazoned “King County Coroner’s Office.” The white guy has graying hair hacked into a super-short crew cut and a couple days of beard growth that looks sexy on movie stars in their twenties but doesn’t work for professional men over the age of thirty.

“Tell me about it. I feel about a hundred and forty today,” the white guy says.

The black guy leans closer to the white guy. In the cubicle, we all lean closer to the computer speakers. The coroner says something that sounds like, “Jack. What’re you doing here, really? You know what today is.”

Behind the camera, there’s a gleeful chortle and the shot begins to wobble as the cameraman walks toward the pair.

“Jack O’Lies, Washingtonian crime reporter,” says the unseen cameraman. Both the coroner and Washingtonian crime reporter Jack O’Lies turn and stare into the camera. “What, indeed, are you doing at a serial killer crime scene today, of all days? Are you trying to finally win that Pulitzer? Today’s the perfect day to give it another shot!”

The white guy, Jack O’Lies, goes whiter. Then whiter still. His eyes are fixed on the camera. He steps toward it.

“Jack,” says the coroner. Then he exclaims, “Jack!” as the camera makes a rapid arc up to the blue sky.

“You don’t ever speak to me, you ignorant little bastard,” a voice beyond the blue sky shouts. There’s a commotion, then some scuffling sounds as the camera swings wildly around. We viewers are treated to scraps of cop uniforms, blurry reporters, a few fancy TV cameras and boom mikes—look, that’s me! Then a shot of the back of Jack O’Lies’ head and jacket as he pushes his way through the crowd.

“And it’s on the KING 5 website, too,” says the cubicle owner, tapping at the keyboard as her fearless leader, the stricken Chief, stares at the monitor. There’s a snippet of happy talk from the KING 5 in-studio talent, then their faces and voices abruptly go serious.

“A body was found on Lake Washington today,” says the blond (female).

“The nature of the as-yet unidentified man’s injuries have officials from the Seattle Police Department speculating that it may have been the work of a serial killer,” chimes in the blond (male).

They cut to one of the heavily made-up TV reporters I noted earlier. He begins to speak earnestly into the camera, clutching a large microphone that I suspect is purely a prop, given all the boom mikes I saw.

“Thanks, Shannon and Greg. I’m here on the shore of Lake Washington, where police have discovered another body that officials suspect may be one in a string of—”

Off screen, there’s a commotion, then some scuffling sounds. The TV camera swings smoothly to take in Jack O’Lies shoving a gawky kid wearing a trench coat that screams “I’m a reporter!” more blatantly than mine. The kid slips in the mud and lands on his back.

“There appears to be some sort of incident here—hold on,” says the unseen yet unflappable TV reporter as his cameraman zooms in on Jack O’Lies’s enraged face.

“Ever speak to me, you ignorant little bas—BEEP!” he says.

Is “bastard” really on the FCC’s profanity list? Or is KING 5 hypervigilent?

Just then, a man with a graying, super-short crew cut shoves his way through the crowd into the cubicle. He slams a galley sheet covered with text in 12-point Times New Roman font onto the keyboard. Like meerkats sensing danger on that meerkat nature show I watched once, dozens of reporters around the newsroom poke their heads up from their cubicles.

“Here,” he says to Deputy Assistant Editor John Whiteclay. “And you don’t ever, ever send me out into the field again.”

I glance at the graying crew cut, then at the copy, which is bylined “Jack O’Lies.”

 

NEXT >>

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Monday, March 27, 2:51 p.m.

Washington is popular with serial killers.

Robert Lee Yates killed 13 women in Spokane in the 1990s.

Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer, killed 48 women around Seattle and Tacoma. He was arrested in 2001 in the very city I had moved to just a few months earlier.

The FBI’s John Douglas, who profiled the Green River Killer, called our neck of the woods “America’s killing fields,” according to Mark Fuhrman, of O.J. Simpson fame.

Mark Fuhrman, of O.J. Simpson fame, grew up in Tacoma.

So did Ted Bundy. He killed 23 women, some of them in Washington.

Another Tacoma resident, John Allen Muhammad, went on a sniper spree in the other Washington in 2002.

Charles Manson spent time in a Washington penitentiary.

My husband has the same name as a serial killer who did time with Son of Sam. Good thing I never Googled him when we were dating.

 

NEXT >>

Friday, March 30, 1:01 p.m.

Jack’s mother is a vegetable. A very Catholic vegetable. The walls of her nursing home room are paneled with framed photos of Pope Benedict,

pope benedict

Pope John Paul II,

Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul I,

Pope John Paul I

and Pope Paul.

Pope Paul

There’s the classic long-haired Jesus

Jesus

and a nice shot of Mother Teresa with some cute Indian kids reminiscent of late night appeals to sponsor a child for pennies a day: less than the cost of your weekly caffeine infusion from Starbucks.

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was originally named Agnes. She ought to be Mother Agnes. Or maybe Saint Agnes. Is that why Lucy was drawn to the image of the ancient Saint Agnes in her copy of Lives of the Saints and pasted her murdered mother’s face on her body?

Lucy is jabbering at her unresponsive grandmother, her hands clasping the limp, arthritic paw she plucked from the bedcover. A catheter bag hangs from the side of the hospital bed. The room smells of urine and bleach. Monitors beat rhythmically. I glance uneasily at the five crucifixes on the wall, ranging from genuine Jesus mounted models to clumsily painted, glitter-ridden Popsicle stick creations clearly made by Lucy in her younger years.

“This is Katherine, she’s Dad’s friend. I think they really like each other and you’ll like her, too, Grandma,” Lucy is saying. “Can I show her your rosaries?”

She jumps up abruptly.

“Look, wanna see?” she says to me. “They’re amazing. Some of them are over fifty years old.”

I glance at comatose Mrs. O’Lies, then gingerly approach her jewelry box, which Lucy is digging through. She holds up three rosaries, her eyes alight with religious fire and something more. Love? Yes, familial love. I’ve seen pale sparks directed at her dad, as well as a few incongruous embers shot at me. But here, with her empty sock puppet of a grandmother, she’s aflame with the radiance of being at home and accepted and cared for.

Poor Lucy. Poor Jack. If the murder hadn’t ruined their family, would they be gloriously average and happy, like the households on the 1980s TV sitcoms I was weaned on? Or would Jack be divorced, his daughter just as screwed up, and his mother still a Do Not Resuscitate Alzheimer’s case?

And most important of all, to me at least: would I be exactly where I am now, reaching out to take a particularly attractive onyx rosary of luxurious luster?

“That was Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy’s,” Lucy says reverently. “Presented to her by the Pope in 1963 when she and the president went to the Vatican.”

JFK with Pope

“Seriously?” I say.

Lucy nods.

“Grandma’s friend gave it to her,” she says.

I run the rosary skeptically between my fingers. On second inspection, there’s a plastic sheen to the onyx. The weight seems to come solely from the cross, which looks more like chrome than silver. I think Grandma O’Lies’ friend included a toaster oven if she was one of the first hundred callers.

“It’s very nice,” I say, as I hand it back to Lucy.

I glance at my watch. It’s nearly 1:30. If I don’t get the press car back to work by two, the PR firm that loans the cars out will probably report me to the cops for stealing it. I enjoy my zero arrest criminal record. I’d rather not join Jack among the ranks of those who have been booked for a vehicular offense.

Lucy barely acknowledges me as I wave myself out of her grandmother’s room. She is reading aloud from a Bible with a cracked white cover, her face as lively and animated as a preschool teacher reading Dr. Seuss.

The nurse at the duty station confirms that the facility does indeed have guest rooms for family members to stay in. Lucy is more than welcome. The bill will be sent to her father. I silently question the wisdom of allowing an unaccompanied minor to stay overnight in a nursing home filled with Alzheimer’s patients, then I leave my cell phone number as well as Jack’s with the nurse.

As I walk myself out of the nursing home, breathing shallowly to keep the urine smell out of my nostrils, I pull my cell phone from the depths of my trench coat pocket. No calls. No texts. I call Jack. It goes straight to voicemail.

“Jack? It’s Katherine. I got Lucy from school. She’s staying at your mom’s place. They said it’s okay. Where are you? Call me. Please call me. I’m getting scared.”

 

NEXT >>

Friday, March 30, 6:13 p.m.

The rainfall grows steady as I sit with Jack in his car, both of us staring through the water-streaked windshield at the gaudy neon lights in the windows of the Irish pub. We don’t talk for several minutes. This must have been what the Sunday car picnics with his wife were like, back when they were having problems.

“Yesterday,” he says at last. “After the autopsy, I went back to work. I put my notes in my desk drawer and went to the bar. I got pretty drunk. I left my car in the lot and took the bus home.”

“That was smart,” I say. “Taking the bus, I mean. You shouldn’t keep getting drunk after work.”

I know about his two DUIs. From the way his pale blue eyes slip over mine with the speed of a snake’s flicking tongue, I know that he knows I know.

“I called you when I got home,” he says.

“And told me you hadn’t been drinking,” I say.

“I don’t remember,” he says. “I had some vodka while we talked. A couple shots. It felt so good to talk to you. That’s all I remember. Then suddenly I wasn’t on the phone anymore and the bottle was empty. It was pretty late, I think. I remember I took out my cell phone to call you again, but then it was morning and I lying on the couch. I was still holding my cell phone.”

“Nice,” I say. “Did your daughter see you passed out on the couch like that?”

Jack shrugs, his shoulders lifting asymmetrically exactly like Lucy’s.

“I got Lucy onto her school bus. I took a shower, shaved, caught the bus to work. I sat in one of the handicapped seats. You know, the ones that’re turned sideways instead of facing front?”

“You’re not supposed to do that,” I say.

“I sent you a text,” he says. “When I looked up, there was this nurse sitting across from me. Old style. White dress, white tights.”

Nurse

“White hat?” I say.

“You’ve seen her,” Jack says. His eyes burn into mine. “You have, haven’t you?”

“Maybe,” I say. “I’m not sure.”

“On the bus?”

“Yes. I think. But maybe not,” I say.

“She stared at me like she knew me,” he says. “I sent you another text.”

“Telling me to stay home,” I say. “Why?”

“Because I knew,” he says.

“You knew what?”

“That she was looking for you,” he says.

“Oh Jack, that’s…”

I want to say “crazy.” Or “ridiculous.” Or “stupid.” Instead, I say the thing that he most needs to hear.

“Thank you for trying to protect me.”

He lets out a shaky sigh and closes his eyes. His right hand reaches for my shoulder and it’s my turn to instinctively shy away before he can touch me. He opens his eyes and puts his hand back on the steering wheel.

“Her eyes are dead. There’s something about her…can we get a drink? Please? Just a beer?” he pleads.

I shake my head vigorously.

“That pub is nasty,” I say. “I won’t set foot in there after what I found in the fries last time. Just talk to me, Jack. What happened after you sent me the second text?”

“The nurse stared at me. She never blinked. Not once. Then she smiled at me. And this name came into my head: Spine.”

The drafty Saab feels much colder all of a sudden. Leo wrote something in his blog today about a nurse, a man named Spine and a murder.

“When we got to my stop, I jumped off the bus and ran flat out until I got inside the Washingtonian lobby,” Jack says. “I sent you another text. Then I went up to my office, grabbed my notebook, wrote a note to The Chief, and left the obit folder on his desk.”

“Yeah, with your obituary in it. And mine,” I say. “What the hell, Jack?”

He looks at me. Like the nurse, he doesn’t blink. Not once.

 

NEXT >>

Friday, March 30, 6:41 p.m.

“I left our obituaries with my editor because I had to go up to Everett,” Jack says, as if that explains everything.

Actually, it kind of does.

Everett Washington

Everett is the largest city in the county north of Seattle.
Everett is home to one of the last daily newspapers in the state.
Everett is known for a rape rate that’s twice the national average, as well as frequent car thefts.

“Okay,” I say. “But why did you have to go to Everett, exactly?”

Jack grips the steering wheel and shakes his head. I muse silently.

My own car got stolen from Everett back when my husband and I were dating.
Everett is less than half an hour from John “The Chief” Whiteclay’s Indian reservation stomping grounds.
Everett is a stone’s throw from my house.

 

NEXT >>

Friday, March 30, 6:46 p.m.

“You’re not telling me everything,” I say. “What really happened?”

“I fell asleep on the couch last night,” Jack says.

“You passed out,” I say. “And…?”

“I had my cell phone in my hand. I was going to call you,” he says. He hesitates, then continues slowly, “It woke me up this morning. It was going off.”

“It was ringing?” I say.

“No. I got a text,” he says.

Jack reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out his cell phone. He pushes a couple buttons, then he hands it to me.

Remember me? I sent you a new picture, it reads.

“That’s all?” I say.

“Look,” he says.

He reaches across me and taps the cell phone screen.

I see a photo of Jack standing outside the Ballard bar. It’s similar to the one he showed me last week: low-resolution, grainy, badly lit. But in this shot, Jack is standing over a man who lies supine on the sidewalk. The old mnemonic rhyme from anatomy class runs through my head…

Supine: on the spine.

The man is wearing a dark green suit. Evergreen, I’d call it. And a mint green tie. His face is obscured either by shadows or blood.

“I didn’t tell you,” Jack says, “But as soon as I got to work, there was another text. It said, ‘Everett. 12th Street and Hope Avenue. Or we’ll get her.’”

“Who?” I say.

Jack won’t look at me.

“Does anyone know you’re with me? Your husband?” he says.

“No,” I say.

“Good.”

“So…you went up to Everett? Where, exactly? 12th Street is north of the Naval base, right?” I say.

“I think so. I could see Puget Sound,” Jack says. “It was cold out. Real rundown neighborhood. Broken glass, graffiti. Everything smelled like the ocean. No one was around. There was a closed down bar. I peeked in the windows, but it looked like it had been shut for years. Dust everywhere. No chairs or tables. Broken stuff scattered around.”

“So what did you do?” I say.

“I sat down on the sidewalk and waited,” he says.

“You just waited?” I say. “I called you over and over. I was scared to death something awful happened to you. Why didn’t you answer?”

I scroll through his cell phone’s call record.

“And your editor called you eight times. We both texted you dozens of times. What were you really doing?” I say.

Jack looks confused.

“I don’t remember the phone ringing,” he says.

“Don’t give me that, Jack.”

“Maybe I sort of nodded off. I was kind of hungover,” he says.

Just hungover. Sure.

“Any hair of the dog this morning, Jack?” I say.

“No,” he says.

“So you just nodded off, sitting on the sidewalk, leaned up against some derelict bar? Is that what you’re telling me?” I say.

“Yes,” he says.

Leo, The Crimeologist, is right: Jack is within shouting distance of being a homeless wino.

“You’ve got to dry out,” I say. “Can’t you get into that Schick Whatsitsname detox place they’re always advertising on TV?”

Jack yanks his cell phone out of my hand. I think he’s going to stuff it back in his jacket pocket and order me out of his car into the pouring rain. Instead, he beings scrolling through the menu.

“Can’t work this damned thing,” he mutters. “There! Look.”

He thrusts the phone back into my hand.

I look.

It’s a pixilated photo taken in downtown Everett. The view of Puget Sound is unmistakable. There’s a woman in the foreground. She’s getting off of a bus. She’s dressed in a classic nurse’s uniform: white dress, white tights, white cap. Something green blocks half of the image. Evergreen

“He came around the corner,” Jack says. “The man in the green suit. He was at the bar in Ballard that night. I remember him now. He just stood there and looked at me. And then the bus pulled up behind him and the nurse got off. I snapped the picture and then ran like hell.”

I stare at the photo. Numerous responses float through my mind. Among them:

“What does all this mean, Jack?”

“Who are they?”

“Well, at least you know for sure you didn’t kill anyone.”

“Are you sure you took this photo today?”

“Where exactly is Hope Avenue? I’ve never seen any such street in Everett.”

“Are they going to kill you? Is that why you left your obituary with your editor?”

“Are they going to kill me? Is that why you left my obituary with your editor?”

“How did you manage to find out enough about me to write my obituary, anyway?”

“Would it be okay if I got out of your car and forgot I ever met you?”

 

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The Washingtonian

Girl, age 15, found dead in Ballard

March 31, 2011

By Washingtonian Staff

The body of a teenage girl was found in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle late last night. Police have ruled the death a homicide and are currently canvassing the area for suspects. Sources close to the investigation confirmed that the unidentified girl may be victim of the Lake Washington Killer.

 

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