It Sounded Good

From A Body: In Three Parts, a reading I did on May 2, 2009 with Doug Nufer, Mortimur K, and Eric Greenwalt. Each writer's piece had to mention a corpse, rain, a dinner party, and NPR. One point I'd like to make is that I decided to rewrite the entire story starting at 2 am on May 2, 2009. A side note, I'd also been drinking on an empty stomach. With that said…

It Sounded Good

First of all, I’d just like to throw out a general apology to everybody involved in this terrible incident, just a universal “my bad.” Mistakes were certainly made, terrible, horrible, unforgivable decisions, and I definitely deserve my portion of the blame. Having had the time over the last couple months to think about it, I believe my part of the blame comes out to about 4 percent. But now is not the time to discuss how little at fault I am, because in the end, I shouldn’t have done what I did, I shouldn’t have listened. It’s just that she made it all sound so good.

I thought that every word that came out of Marisol Blithington-Ort’s mouth was a little, delightful present. She was the voice of KUOW and made Terri Gross, Sylvia Pajoli, and other public radio people sound like butter knives shoved into paper shredders. When Marisol spoke, nobody doubted that what she was saying was reasonable and knowledgeable and true. It didn’t have to be reasonable, knowledgeable, or true, and it rarely was any of the three, but nobody cared. That was Marisol’s magic.

As a coworker of hers at KUOW, I can attest to her amazing ability to make even the worst ideas sound great. That’s how she talked the station into letting her host the only public radio show dedicated to murder and local dining, the terribly conceived Homicide Dish.

This special talent of Marisol’s was also how we came to be there the night in question, broadcasting live from the home of the last victim of the Tote Bag Killer.

Let me just read from Marisol’s introduction to that night’s show.

"Doris Kimmelwick had the life choked out of her in this very house, in the very chair I’m sitting in. Or at least within 20 feet radius of where I’m sitting. Probably. Why was she killed? Because she was arranging a séance that was going to reveal the identity of the Tote Bag Killer. On tonight’s Homicide Dish we’ll discuss the bloody trail of sickly death that’s been cut through the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle by the Killer. We’ll also take time to dig up information on some of the victims with the people who knew them best. All that and we’ve got a great recipe for flan. Support for KUOW comes from the Jazz-nasium, where you can shed pounds and inhibitions to the intermittent sounds of improvisational jazz. We’ll be right back.”

To me, that night, it all sounded reasonable. I remember how pleased Marisol looked at that moment, as she leaned back from the microphone, rain falling against the French doors behind her. Then, she punctuated her words with a lightning bolt sound effect, just to make everything sound a little bit cooler. Typically on a Friday night, Marisol and her guests would sit in the studio and discuss the worst details of horrific area slayings and swap brocollini recipes. Ratings showed that the show was extraordinarily popular with the slightly deranged, the inappropriately snacky, and the housebound or those in home detention. The plan for the Capitol Hill show was not supposed to be any different, it was just being broadcast live from a house covered in police tape. Marisol, using her gift, had convinced the police that by ducking under the police tape, or in her case, busting through it like an Olympic runner, she could “enlarge the discussion” and “help focus the spotlight of truth” on the Tote Bag Killer case. Don’t get me wrong, I might sound a little doubtful now but when she brought up the idea of a location show, I was all for it, especially the truth spotlight, which sounded awesome.

Station management agreed with Marisol that it was important to reach out to the Capitol Hill neighborhood, especially since, as everybody knows, every one of the victims of the Tote Bag Killer was from the neighborhood and had been strangled with a KUOW tote bag. The other connection among all the victims, besides the tote bags over their heads, was the fact that they were all previous donors who had not given to the station this year. Of course when this information was made public, people were falling over themselves to donate as life had suddenly become a public radio premium, at least at KUOW. 150 bucks for a handy travel mug and your continued survival seemed like a small price to pay. Of course, people needed the Tote Bag Killer to know they gave, so shows that had been sponsored by the Creskie-Bortwood Foundation and the Center for Continued Research were now brought to listeners by, "James Hillman, his slightly paunchier life partner, Eric, and their miniature schnauzer-collie, Nuggy, who currently reside at 1806 Prospect Street, the little blue house with the cream-colored shutters."

As a employee of the station, I’ve got to tell you that with the exception of the brutal deaths of long-time listeners, KUOW had never been in better shape.

But I’m getting off track. Let me just read another part of the transcript of that night.

"Doris Kimmelwick was strangled with a tote bag commemorating the 47th anniversary of the Benny Hill radio show. One can only imagine that the last thing that poor woman saw before the onset of complete darkness or God, if you’re one of those nuts, was the reverse image of Benny Hill frantically patting a small bald policeman's head. And that is not funny. If you’re laughing at home, I’m going to have to ask you to stop. Moving on, I’m sitting here with some people who were close to the four victims to discuss their terrible losses and enjoy a delicious submarine sandwich donated by our friends at Hazel’s No-Hate Sandwich Center located on the eastside of Green Lake."

I think these words prove that Marisol’s relationship to reality was never really a strong one. In fact, that’s why I was at the house with Marisol and Stevie the Sound Engineer, to help write an apology, if needed, at the end of the show. In this case, the victim's name was actually Cybil Kerning, she was found in her garage during a sunny day, and the life had been choked out of her by a Golden Age of the Three Stooges bag. I guessed that the last thing she ever saw in life was Larry Fine losing a little bit more self-respect as another hunk of hair was ripped from his scalp. Also, police reports said that Ms. Kerning was preparing for a dinner party, not a séance, in fact the table we were sitting at was still set for dinner.

As far as Marisol’s guests, who were eating a six-foot sub on a dead woman’s finest china, they were not exactly close to the victims. Sensibly, families and friends of the deceased had refused to come on. So, Marisol had gotten the people who weren’t so close, like one victim’s Pottery Coach, another’s Dog Walker, and a man whose business card said that he was an Organic Composting Czar. Of course, what bothered me most was Marisol saying Cybil Kerning was the fourth victim. As you now know, Ms. Kerning was the third victim of the Tote Bag Killer, the fourth was, at that point, wedged in the hall closet of the Kerning house, behind the vacuum cleaner.

Why would we hide a body in the hall closet? I really wish I had a better answer for you, but when we found that poor man on the porch earlier that afternoon, strangled by an “Alan Alda Reads The Dead Sea Scrolls” tote bag, Marisol said that the closet was the logical place to put him, because he would “keep better.” I’m just trying to get you to understand the power of Marisol’s words and exceedingly poor decision-making skills coupled with my inability to say no. So when I insisted that we call the police and she told me that we couldn’t because the police would ruin her plan, it seemed like a reasonable request. And when Marisol told me that tonight was the night she was going to enact an elaborate plan to catch the Tote Bag Killer it seemed completely plausible to me. If a normal person had said the same kind of things, in their broken clown horn of a voice, there would have been no question these were bad ideas, very, very bad ideas.

In my defense, I originally refused to help move the body, but then Marisol, blaming a bad back and wet stairs and a slight breeze created by a passing UPS truck, dropped the body down the stairs. Only then did I help Stevie the Sound Engineer pick him up, and as Marisol convinced me, the closet was only a few steps further.

Let me tell you, I now know that was the wrong thing to do. Moving a dead body is unacceptable, except if it’s about to be run over by a train or lying on top of you. Also, I go forward with the knowledge that damaging a corpse is a felony. Lesson learned. Believe me, the sound of that body’s head bouncing down the stairs will haunt me every time I hear a melon or pumpkin fall.

I’m sure that you’re thinking that I’m crazy to let all of this happen. But I was powerless against her words. I’ve already told you how great she sounded on the radio, but in person her voice was all good things. It was the verbal equivalent of pizza parties, unicorn posters, hand jobs, and Sweet Tart-flavored alcohol, all at the same time. Her words were like velvet dipped in ether. Once I'd made the mistake of listening to the show while driving home late. According to accident reports, my Honda left the interstate and plowed through seven acres of corn before, ironically, running out of ethanol. I was awakened the next day by migrant workers screaming and making stabbing motions at me with ears of corn. Their anger can be explained by the fact that I passed their sub-standard poorly-insulated mobile housing unit the night before going 110 miles per hour.

But I digress. You are probably wondering if I had a sexual attraction to Marisol. Certainly, every time she spoke I felt a yearning to put my Mr. Happy in her baby window, but again it all comes back to her voice. It certainly wasn’t her hair that appeared to be styled by one of her pet ferrets or that dress that looked like it had been wrestled off a thrift store mannequin or her misshapen men's plaid jacket that was last worn without irony in the 1960s. It definitely wasn’t her personality. I should have listened when a deaf coworker told me that she was an Amazonian dipped in hate and roofing nails.

It’s only when Marisol decided to take a bathroom break and silence ensued, that I realized the entire situation was not ideal.

For example, the closet corpse being covered in blood, even though it had been strangled. I can explain that. Namely, Stevie the Sound Engineer and I had different interpretations of the “On 3!” count. I pre-lifting without his assistance, accidentally fell over the body, driving my knee heavily into the corpse’s tote-covered head breaking the nose of a dead man.
Stevie can tell you how remorseful I was, even before blood started to leak out of the tote bag. I just want you to know that it was Marisol’s decision to stuff cocktail onions up the corpse’s nose to stop the bleeding. Let me throw in an extra apology for that now, too. There is no dignity is death, and even less with onions up your nose.

But back to that moment of Marisol’s absence and the fog of her words had momentarily cleared. And that the Tote Bag Killer was close. Why did I not use this moment to call the police? Well, I decided that the corpse was already in the past tense person-wise and I felt my best chance at survival was to call the pledge line instead of the police.

I understand there is a recording of my call to the pledge line, which only makes sense. You’ve got to understand that when I pledged one million dollars and demanded that they mention my name on the air, it was a donation fueled by fear and confusion. No, I didn’t have the money, but I really, really didn’t want to die. And when the Operator told me that the station did not accept checks, it was my mortality I was considering when I started yelling. That woman did not deserve to be called a “douche waffle” or a “fuck tractor.” In my defense, I will say that while these are cruel words, I really don’t know what they meant, so I think that discounts a bit of the venom with which I said them.

As far as the crying and the bargaining, I don’t think anybody sounds good haggling. I offered 20 dollars, the Operator offered to mention my name in the next 36 hours. I moved up to 30 bucks, she said she could fit me in 35 hours. I called her an awful, awful whore and she said she was going to hang up. As you can hear, we finally agreed to the 75 dollar level, they would mention my first initial and full last name will be mentioned during the next pledge break. Plus, I would receive a CD of the Comprehensive Audio History of Belgium program along with a handsome matching tote bag. I asked her to keep the tote bag, but she told me that it was not an option before hanging up.

As I’m sure you’ve listened a tape of the rest of the show, you know that the first hour or so of the program was for the most part typical Homicide Dish fare. Marisol discussed the people who had died, relating that the first victim, a Mr. Mung was found face down on 14th and Prospect, being dragged by his leashed herd of little, white, fluffy dogs, his head covered with a tote bag advertising Ken Burn's radio documentary on the history of bread. She spent a great amount of time talking about how Diane Vlasic was strangled with a Chairobics: Sit Your Way to Fitness tote bag and left lounging in her Lazy-Boy. Sure, none of this was true, but, as I keep telling you, when Marisol said it, it certainly sounded like the truth. Then she spent ten minutes describing the correct consistency of flan.

Was there a point during the flan discussion where I began to lose confidence in Marisol’s plan? Psychologically, no. Physiologically, I had started suffering the symptoms of what I thought might be a heart attack.

That’s the moment she pounded her fist on the table, startling her guests and shaking me out of my coronary incident fog. "By the way," she announced. "This is a trap. One of the people sitting at this table is the Tote Bag Killer.”

It’s also the instant that we all discovered that Marisol had brought a gun. Actually it seemed like she had brought a selection of guns, because she rifled around in her bag before pulling it out. She began shaking it back and forth, like a drunk with a cigarette, demanding that one of her guests confess to being the Killer. The gun, apparently, was the “elaborate plan” of which she had spoken of earlier.

Should I have said something as she pointed the gun at her guests? Certainly, getting “involved” in the situation is one school of thought. However, in this case, I thought my best course of action was to pretend that nothing was happening. Plus, I just thought that her 1970s detective show reasoning that the killer always returns to the scene of the crime sounded logical.

Marisol seemed unconcerned that it was revealed within 45 seconds that none of her suspects could have done it. The Dog Walker had just been released from the hospital after a traumatic surprise Irish Setter humping, the Composting Czar had spent the last two weeks at a Horrors of Composting conference, and the Pottery Coach’s clay-addled carpal-tunneled hands could barely make a shallow ashtray, much less strangle the life out a person. That’s the moment when things started going downhill a little faster.

As you know, the Dog Walker decided to make a run for it. Unfortunately, she picked the wrong door and ran into the hall closet. Even though I knew at the moment she turned that doorknob that a bruised pants-less corpse with onions up its nose was going to somersault out of the closet and knock her to the floor, I still shrieked.

Marisol, of course, pretended that this was the first time she had seen the corpse. Shoving everybody back, she picked up the arm of a person she knew was dead and looking at the space on her own arm where a watch would typically be, pretended to take his pulse. Then she asked which one of them had killed him.

It was the Composting Czar who suggested that since there was no tote bag on the deceased’s head, so it couldn’t have been the work of the Tote Bag Killer.

The Dog Walker, probably still flashing back to her traumatic dog humping and even more recent corpse entanglement, claimed it must have been some sort of bizarre sex crime since the corpse was wearing a shirt, but no pants. “Donald Ducking-it,” I think is the term she used.

Again, let’s take a step back and I’ll explain why we decided to wash the tote bag and my pants, as well as why I was currently wearing the deceased’s pants. Because Marisol told me to. That's all I needed.

Just a quick side note, it’s when we were moving the corpse over to the dining table that I pulled off his finger. I can only say that I assume corpse fingers are like bananas, the longer the body ripens the more likely they are to pop right off. I definitely did not “pull” or “yank violently” as some have suggested since.

Anyway, that’s when Marisol went back on the air.

"If we reach the $3,000 level before we the end of this hour, I will reveal the true identity of the Tote Bag Killer. If not, well, that’s a whole different story. You are listening to the Homicide Dish on KUOW. The time is 7:46."

Did I know she was going to do this? No. Did it sound like a bad idea to me? How many times can I tell you people no? I was on the Marisol train and that’s also why I did not question her decision to waterboard her three suspects in the kitchen sink. I think I understood as I dragged the Composting Czar towards the kitchen sink that none of them was the Tote Bag Killer. It’s simply that we reached a point where we needed one of them to be the Tote Bag Killer.

And that’s when Stevie the Sound Engineer announced that the Tote Bag Killer was on the line. I can still hear that distorted voice come over the speakers demanding to know where the body was and claiming that it was about to kill again. I find no shame in starting to weep inconsolably. I just wish it wasn’t so loud on the recording. You’ve got to realize that I thought my life was going to end shortly. Additionally, I had just pulled a man’s finger off.

Despite the Tote Bag Killer being on the phone, Marisol was not convinced. She, using her reasoning skills that had been so evident that night, decided that one or more of her guests/suspects/hostages was a ventriloquist.

Finally, the French doors behind Marisol wrenched open to reveal a small woman, water dripping from her dark bangs on to the carpet and a Comprehensive Audio History of Belgium tote bag that she clutched in her right fist.

“It's me,” she said exasperated, in a familiar voice.
That’s when I screamed “The Operator!”

I wouldn’t say that Marisol was angry, so much as she refused that somebody outside her suspect pool could have done it. In fact, she ignored the fact that I was being chased around the dining table by an Asian woman wielding a tote bag like a butterfly net. You can hear the Operator screaming “Your credit card was declined! Put on your premium!” and that’s me yelling “I don’t want it. I don’t want it” over and over again, as I tried to put an uncooperative Stevie the Sound Engineer between the Operator and me.

I would assume it takes a lot to shock a psychopath and when I saw The Operator turn and get a glimpse of the pantless, bruised, dry blood-encrusted corpse, I think that was enough. I don’t know if she noticed the missing finger, but her face fell. That’s her on the tape asking, “Dear lord, what did you do to Kenny’s body?”
“Well, at least we have a name for a corpse” and “I hope she doesn’t realize that I’m wearing his pants” were the two things I was thinking when Marisol shot her.

Thinking back on it, did I think that Marisol would shoot somebody? In retrospect, looking back at the night, I find it hard to imagine her not shooting somebody.

Of course, the Operator could not just die. No, she had to lay dramatically dying on the carpet as rain poured in the French doors, demanding to tell us and the radio audience why she did what she did. I really had no interest, but Marisol held up the microphone to her mouth.

As it turns out, the Operator had volunteered for the pledge drive for years. Her love for public programming was similar to my devotion to Marisol’s voice. Apparently, all you needed to do was look at the back of her Volvo or every gardening t-shirt she owned to know how much KUOW meant to her. So when neighbors didn’t contribute, it hurt her deeply. And when they kept listening for free, it killed something inside. So when her neighbor, Diane Vlasic told her that she didn’t need any more tote bags, she brought one more over. My declined credit card could not have helped.

“I loved public programming so much,” the Operator said, coughing up blood. “I couldn't stop myself. Have you ever listened to Car Talk?”

I’m not proud that the next voice you hear, which is me saying, “Shoot her again!” That’s really not the type of person I am.

Anyway, that’s about it, I think the rest is public record. The police arrived and were a little angry at first, especially a certain bicycle cop who kept telling me to “shut my hole” as he fished rubber gloves out of his crime-fighting fanny pack. But then they talked to Marisol talk about she’d caught the Tote Bag Killer using the techniques of the Scooby-Doo gang mixed in with a little Bronson Deathwish. They even gave her a Junior Detective Badge normally reserved for easily-impressed children, which I thought was a little tacky considering that the Operator was getting her heart massaged at the time.

Since then, I’ve gotten out of jail and have been asked by my state to testify against Marisol in her case. And I thought about it, because as I’ve said, there were terrible mistakes made that night. It’s just that Marisol left a message on my voice mail explaining why that was a bad idea. I listened to her message about 20 times, masturbated to it three amazingly pleasurable times, and I’ve come to the realization that what she says makes a whole lot of sense.


Popular Posts