I recognize that after 30+ years my memory isn’t what it used to be. This story is a recollection of an event that happened to me. The event happened somewhere between 1985-1987. It was the 80’s and if you lived through the 80s then you understand: all bets are off. Some names have been changed but not the victims. To my knowledge this is a cold case that has never been solved. If I am wrong please leave a comment about the outcome.
Shot in the back of the head execution style
Executed, face down, with a small caliber handgun. Sounds like a mob hit you read about in the news, watch in a mafia movie, or stumble upon in an episode of Drugs Inc.
I picked up my mail and opened the manila envelope sent to me by way of California from my friend “Johnny.” It was 1992 and I was living in Washington D.C. the murder capital of the nation. The previous year in 1991 Washington had 482 murders with a population of 600,000: a murder rate of 80.6 per 10,000 residents. The first year I was in D.C., on one of the most violent weekends I lived through in my 7 years there, the crack turf wars in Southeast section of the city accounted for 24 people shot with 5 dead. The local newscast that night lead with the Redskins victory that Sunday.
I rummaged through the envelope and out drifted a newspaper clipping wrapped in a note. The note simply said – “Remember her?” When I unfolded the articles, the headline was screaming at me:
“2 Women Slain in Kentfield: Bodies found in apartment behind College of Marin.“
I was stunned. It took me a few minutes to read the article and realize what had happened. A flood of memories came back. One of the women who was murdered, Susan, I had met somewhere between 1985-1987, at the apartment she was killed in.
Looking back on the night I met Susan, things began innocently. Johnny asked me if I wanted to meet a friend of his. Johnny’s friend Susan lived in an apartment behind College of Marin and it was on the way to the Black Oak Saloon our eventual drinking spot.
When he called her to say we were on the way and ask her if we could bring a 6 pack or some wine, Susan’s only request was that we would stay awhile and not just rush out.
I thought that was cool – she was probably lonely and needed some company – wrong.
When we knocked on the door this beautiful woman appeared ushering us inside quickly.
I was immediately struck by her presence – she was older, seemed far more sophisticated, and was somewhat preoccupied with something. My first impression was that feeling you get when talking with someone who is not listening to you but instead thinking of something else.
Snapping out of my daydream, I began reading the article.
Susan was shot in the back of the head, with a small caliber handgun, execution style. She was found face down in a bedroom by her girlfriend’s boyfriend. Sue’s girlfriend was also executed and left in the living room of the small two-bedroom apartment.
What the hell happened? Why in a small, very upscale town nestled in the shadows of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, one of the most affluent counties in the country, were two women executed in a small, cramped apartment with nothing of real value in the place?
According to the articles Johnny sent, after the discovery of the bodies and a full search of the apartment, police found cocaine residue, cut, and drug paraphernalia in the apartment. Then it hit me – I must have been mesmerized by Susan. Things began to add up.
I first began to wonder what was up when we arrived that night by the way Susan answered her door. She opened the door and quickly rushed us inside like a nervous cat owner who was worried her feline would bolt out the front door never to be seen again.
As we turned around, we noticed two guys sitting on the couch. At first glance, they looked nondescript nothing stood out except they reminded me of accountants at a networking event. What was strange is that nobody was talking. There was another person in one of the bedrooms and that person was the only one talking – softly and very fast. The two guys on the couch sat in silence. It was a small place yet there was virtually no noise, no chatter, no music.
Thankfully, Sue offered us a beer, which we gladly accepted, yet oddly nobody else was drinking. Johnny and I looked around for a seat, abruptly the accountants got up without a word and walked back to the bedroom following Sue who excused herself.
Now I’m beginning to worry – what the hell did I get myself into here? Nobody is speaking, no music, we were rushed in and then immediately offered a drink. Why no introductions to the two John Does on the couch and the mysterious person in the bedroom?
I looked at my buddy – he looked calm and content. But something wasn’t right. I leaned in and whispered: “Something ain’t right. We’ve gotta get the hell out of here.” His reply “relax there’s a fridge full of beer!”
We both began downing our beers. The whole scene was beginning to feel like we were sitting next to a very nervous Dirk Diggler in the scene at the dealer’s house in Boogie Nights. The difference – we just dropped in to see a friend.
After about five awkward minutes, the accountants bounced out of the bedroom, and rushed by us toward the door. As they were about to leave, a soft knock at the door. Sue sprang into action bounding past the accountants stopping them short and asking them to stick around for a few more minutes.
She then ushers them back to the bedroom before returning to answer the door. Every fiber in my body is screaming “Who is this now?” I remain frozen nestled into the couch as Sue answers the knock like she’s guarding Fort Knox.
After a brief moment vetting the people at the door, in walk two 20-something women dressed to the nines, a bit buzzed and very talkative. The girls introduce themselves to us which was a welcome relief – somebody normal! Then suddenly, Sue comes streaming back into the living room with the accountants in tow – they stride by her and out the front door of the “party” without uttering a single word.
Finally, Sue sits down on the couch between Johnny and me. She seems happy to see him and to meet me. Meanwhile, the rapid fire whispering in the bedroom has not stopped and the new guests are rummaging through Sue’s fridge like they own the place.
I begin to decompress and calm down but the little voice in the back of my head persists “Something aint right here.” As I was thinking about the next possible knock at the door and the mysterious whispering in the bedroom, Sue makes a curious comment that matches the curious night we were having: “It’s so nice seeing you Johnny, you guys can go whenever you want or just hang around for a while.”
What the hell – we need permission to leave?
We stay for a few more minutes, the beer is free, we relax and talk up the new visitors and Sue. Besides, I’m not going anywhere. Johnny is driving and there was no cab service in the 1980s in Marin. When you went out you were on your own at the mercy of your driver. Fuck it, I thought, let’s have another beer or three.
And that’s what we did, we stayed a half hour enjoyed our conversation with the girls and a number of beers later we were out the door.
That was the first and last time I ever saw Susan. By 1988, I accepted a job on the East coast– something I did for the opportunity it presented, a change of scenery, and a way to remove myself from what was feeling like a stagnant environment.
Then in 1992, I receive the manila envelope delivering such sad news. Although I can’t say with any certainty why somebody would murder Susan, the world she might have been playing in was, and to this day is, an unforgiving one where mistakes, slights, missed payments, or simply meeting the wrong people at the wrong time can get you killed.