“I stare into a thin, web-like crack above the urinal’s handle and think to myself that if I were to disappear into that crack, say somehow miniaturize and slip into it, the odds are good that no one would notice I was gone. No… one… would… care. In fact some, if they noticed my absence, might feel an odd, indefinable sense of relief. This is true: the world is better off with some people gone. Our lives are not all interconnected. That theory is crock. Some people truly do not need to be here.”
― Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
Greta woke up alone in her bed for once. She decided it was time to reach out to the press in an attempt to get more information. There was always a risk in doing this. There were times before when the press had gotten information out to the public that had helped the police solve their case. There were other times where they overstepped and ruined the chances of an arrest. In all it was a wild card. Because the body had been decomposing for so long, there was not much forensic evidence, Greta was willing to roll the dice. Greta called the paper and was told that she was to meet a new reporter, Sandra. Greta was not familiar with the name, but agreed to meet her anyway.
It was raining lightly outside on the day they had decided to meet at the aptly named coffee shop, Case Study Roasters. Every few minutes the sun would break through the clouds and the city would bask in it’s brilliant light. Then it would start pouring again. Greta was trying to work through a migraine, she was having little success, every time the sun came out, the bright light made her want to throw up. Life just grinds on she thought to herself (no pun intended) she added and laughed out loud as she waited. A woman walked in from the cold spring rain and looked around, she shook out her green umbrella. She had the air of a reporter about her and Greta knew instantly who she was. Greta waved her over and introduced herself, the woman stared blankly at her. Greta asked if she was with the paper, the woman simply answered, “no” and walked away. So much for my detective skills, she thought…
The real Sandra showed about about 10 minutes late, she had taken a wrong turn and gotten lost on a one way street, she too was carrying an umbrella, a sure sign of a California transplant. She was salivating at the thought of getting to interview one of the most senior detectives in the Portland Police Department. Not only that, Sandra remembered the police officer interviewing the florist the Sunday before and wondered if this was connected to that case. This time, Greta waited for Sandra to come to her. They bought coffee and sat down to talk.
Greta knew how this worked, she needed to get information to the public, but would not release a few key details of an ongoing investigation.
Greta asked Sandra, “How long have you lived in Portland?”
Sandra answered, “This is my second week.”
“Oh, Well, welcome to Portland then!” Greta said enthusiastically she then asked, “Have you ever covered a murder before?”
“I have, it was a long time ago though.” Sandra replied, her voice slightly shaking.
The conversation lagged, Greta thought it was odd Sandra was not asking more questions. She was about to call the interview when Sandra suddenly seemed to come alive.
Sandra looked intensely at Greta, and began to fire off questions:
Sandra: “When and where was the body found?”
Greta: “Saturday morning, at a house up on Mt. Tabor”
Sandra: “Who is the dead woman and what do we know about her?”
Greta: “We cannot release the name as the family has not been notified yet. But she is a 23 year old woman from Los Angeles, California. She was in her final year of school at California State University. She was an engineering major who went missing on a run in Griffith park.”
Sandra: “What do you hope to achieve by putting this story into the news paper?”
Greta thought about that question the longest, she reluctantly replied, “I am hoping that someone, anyone, who knows anything will come forward and give us the information we need to catch this monster whoever he is.”
Sandra smiled kindly and told Greta, “I will do everything in my power to help you with this.”
They sat and chatted a bit more about procedure, topics began to slowly slide into more personal terms. They talked about work, being women in male dominated careers, and lastly about trying to date in big cities. They really hit it off, Greta even went so far as to hug Sandra before she left. Greta watched Sandra disappear down the street and turn the corner around Central Library. Greta felt hope, a feeling she had not had in quite a long time.
After the story was released, each day seemed to bring fewer answers and Greta closer to the edge. She had hoped against hope that the story in the paper would bring a lead. It had not. It had brought a lot of crazy fuckers out of the woodwork, but no lead. She had been burning the candle at both ends and was feeling it acutely. Her lonely apartment was becoming a prison, she dreaded going home to the solitude that it brought about for her. The sadness. The loneliness. The complete feeling of failure washed over her each night as she drove into her driveway. Pulling into what felt like a cavern of despair. Greta didn’t know what she wanted, she didn’t even know where to begin to make changes. She had no direction, she had no leads in her own life. It was starting to strangely feel like the case.
A few weeks passed and the initial excitement and flood of information turned into a trickle and then slowly dried up. People were starting to wonder, starting to ask questions. Greta could feel their gaze on her as she walked through the incident room. She heard the whispers. She knew. There seemed to be no relief these days. The darker Greta felt, the harder it was for her to think.
JUST think!!! She would shout to herself, she knew that there was some piece of evidence, something that she had missed. Greta decided she needed to go back to where the body was found. As she drove out she started to think about the facts of the case.
There had been other bodies found like this before. The first had only trees growing out of it, but it was not left nearly as long. That body was fresh, the blood still seeping into the black soil when she had arrived on scene. It was a young woman studying to be a marine biologist. The body had been found in the fall, next to the Springwater Trail near Sellwood days after the seasons had begun to change. Though the victim had been identified, the trail had run cold.
The next body was not found until a year later, in the middle of the summer. The smell had alerted the park rangers that there was something amiss. And tucked neatly beside Wildwood trail, was victim number two. Anna Fells, a lovely young college student covered in tattoos and striving to become a financial analyst. Her body had been turned into a planter for wild botanicals. Bleeding hearts poured out of the eye sockets and the entire torso had been turned into a wood sorrel trough.
Each of the women found before had been young college students, one from Portland State and one from the University of Portland. Both universities found in different parts of the city. Both bodies found near trails but within city limits. Genevieve’s body had all of the standard markers, but some of the details were wildly off, she was found at a private residence, not in a park. There was no continuity in the plant choice. She had been in college in California, not in Portland.
Greta went for a walk, the sun was out and she headed down to the waterfront, the cherry blossoms were out in full force and Greta thought that she just needed a break from her mind and her body and her relentless sadness. She was thinking through her interview with Sandra, it is always a game to release enough information to lead possible witnesses in your direction, but not so much that the crazy ones can be weeded out. As Greta rounded the corner, she realized that it had begun to rain, again, and that she had mindlessly (or not) walked to the Bottle + Kitchen next to the Waterfront. It was fancy and not what she was used to, but it was close and she had needs. She went in for a drink.
She remembered Alex from tinder and decided to send him a message anyway. When asked how her week went, she simply said, “Great! How was yours?” Keep it simple she thought to herself. She did not want to scare him off before she got to see him in the flesh. Alex answered back right away, and with a ding! she had a date. Come to find out, he was not busy, and was in the neighborhood.
Greta knew enough to know better, and enough to be tantalized by the possible danger that she was putting herself in. She waited at the bar for Alex, she rebelled against her finer nature and got another drink before he showed up. She was wearing jeans and a light sweater. She checked herself in the bathroom mirror quickly to see how she looked. Greta knew that she was attractive but not in the traditional sense. She was short and curvy. Her body was a legacy, passed down through the generations. Instead of continuing to hate it, she had learned to accept and sometimes love it. Her hair was long, dirty blonde and she had strange eyes. They were so green that sometimes they creeped her out when she caught sight of them in the mirror. She put on some lipstick (uncharacteristically) and headed out to her spot at the bar to wait.
Alex walked in and seemed very happy to see her. She had gotten him a beer as she waited. He introduced himself, Greta thought he looked so happy and polite, so innocent. Alex was a very tall, very big man. He was attractive in a way that other men were not to her, the epitome of tall, dark and handsome. He was wearing a snug, white button up shirt that made his dark skin look even more handsome, and his muscular body even more sensual. He had on blue slacks and a pair of brown leather shoes. She smiled. He smiled. She flushed when he brought his chair around the side of the table to sit closer to her. She got chills when his leg brushed up against hers, and he did not move it away.
So they sat there, talking about work (she pretended to be a teacher). And the whole time, his leg touched hers. When she explained what she loved about Oscar Wilde, he touched her hand. She knew that he wanted her. She knew because his foot touched hers, because he did not break her gaze, and his eyes were a beautiful brown behind his old fashioned, horn rimmed glasses. Because by the end of his second beer, his hand rested on hers.
Her house was a mess, but she did not care, neither did he. Their conversation had been so satisfying, so normal. She knew as they kissed on the couch and touched in the bedroom that this was as intimate as she was going to ever be with this man. His large body seemed to consume her tiny one. He was confident, incredibly soft and forceful at the same time. She saved it in her heart, because it was special to her.
She thought about what it would have been like to have met him when they were younger. To get to be lucky enough to have these comfortable, normal conversations everyday and most of all get to wake up to that gorgeous face every morning. This was someone who she could see herself with long term and decided to break it off as soon as the night was over. Like every other tragedy in her life, she accepted defeat before it was even handed down to her. Her life was too messy for “normal”. Sometimes she thought, “It is better not to try than it is to try and fail.” The sentiment comforted her even when Janet made fun of her for saying it.