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Floor 6: Till the Walls Bleed

2020.03.26 06:42 DrunkenTree Floor 6: Till the Walls Bleed

Final Report to Mr. Eggs, Thursday, March 26th, 2020.
Better read it all. It's the last report I'll have a chance to make. The job ended early, and badly. But when I'm hired, I see the job through. I can't get all the salmon, but I'll by God write a report saying why.
Here's your damn code phrase: Early Bird Prosthetic Femur Salesman. Google yourself silly.
There's still salmon on the way to your cutout, Molly and Dale's last shipments. We got a lot, a load of bones, maybe 800-900 steaks, but it cost way too much.
Like you told me, I'm posting anonymously to the internet, and inserting my first reports in this one. Good thing, since it looks like my first two reports got deleted; Google only shows the third. Since this is the last report, I'm not hiding names of the Hotel Non Dormiunt or the towns. It doesn't matter who sees these reports any more.
First Report to Mr. Eggs, Friday, March 6, 2020.
Wed, Mar 4, 2020. Driving through Mount Ida, Arkansas, I found a rock shop selling big chunks of raw glass. I loaded a forty-pound pink lump into my trunk. I also did a little scouting around Lake Ouachita, looking for quiet access points.
At a hardware store in Hot Springs, I bought fifteen feet of 1/16" steel cable. Cash for everything, of course.
Thu, Mar 5, 2020. In Hot Springs, I contacted the amateur historian you named. Frankly, at this point I believed you were getting scammed, this historian was running some weird con. Seriously, a hi-rise hotel that appears and disappears? Complete crock.
The gangster part of it didn't bug me, from you or from him. I'd heard of Yankee gangsters like Capone and Dillinger vacationing in Arkansas. My own grandfather claimed to have seen John Dillinger on Bath House Row when he was a kid.
Sounds crazy today, but in 1931 Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas was still sixteen years away. Hot Springs was wide-open, gambling and drinking, classy natural-spring bath houses, whores high-toned enough for a Boston cathouse.
I told the guy I'd buy him lunch, a place out near Lake Ouachita. I let him chatter as I drove, about Al Capone's favorite Suite 443 at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs. One time it was unavailable, so Capone stayed at another hotel, "newly built" (though nobody'd noticed construction) a block away. "Where the wax museum is now," he said.
The guy tried to describe his research, rambling about how he'd traced the granddaughter of a Depression-era whore. "She remembered all her granny's stories about Capone." Did he bend your ear with all this crap?
Capone had taken two suites and several regular rooms on the sixth floor, the same numbers you told me. After two weeks he went back north. "Last time Capone came to Hot Springs," the guy said. "A month later he was on trial for tax evasion." He shrugged. "Unlucky hotel to visit, at least for him."
He thought I wanted every detail. "The Hotel was only here a few weeks. The granddaughter helped me track it down to San Antonio in 2014, two blocks from the Alamo." I half-listened as he bragged about bribing maids and wheedling the concierge. "I finally saw the registry from 1931. Capone was in Suite 638, registered as Al Gabriel. His brother Ralph had Suite 639 across the hall, and the 'Gabriel party' had 634 to 645."
I didn't tell him you'd already told me the numbers. I also didn't mention the videos you made of the rooms in Seattle. By now we were through Mount Ida, on a back road. He asked where the cafe was, so I smacked the back of his head to shut him up.
I drove to where I'd found a high bluff overlooking Lake Ouachita, tied the glass chunk to him with 1/16" cable, and dropped him into forty feet of water. Like you wanted, nobody else will hear his story. I hope to hell you know what you're doing.
End First Report to Mr. Eggs, Friday, March 6, 2020. Signed and Submitted.
Second Report to Mr. Eggs, Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
Fri, Mar 13, 2020. On the principle that even if your elevator skips floors, you're paying me a metric assload of money, I drove to Eureka Springs to wait for the Hotel Non Dormiunt.
You said it should appear between the 15th and the 25th, so I checked into the Basin Park, a hotel on such a steep hillside that all seven floors have ground-level exits. They say Al Capone's sister stayed here. I paid for a week. Rates not bad, hardly any guests, COVID-19 cutting into people's travel.
For four days I walked downtown, looking for a hotel that appeared overnight. Sometimes I hired a mountain bike to hit the trails. Best paid vacation I've ever had, in spite of rain and now the restaurants shutting down. Thanks, Mr. Eggs.
Wed, Mar 18, 2020. Turning off Main onto Spring Street for the hundredth time, I glanced ahead at my hotel. On the left just before it was Basin Spring Park, empty this chilly afternoon. Behind the park was a steep wooded hillside.
Except today a huge shadow loomed behind the park. Set back from the street, a building way taller than the Basin Park Hotel. Brick and masonry, it rose above the trees. A narrow driveway had appeared beside the park.
I'd been watching for it for days, but I still stopped dead and gaped. Low clouds hid the top, but it stood at least twelve stories, here where a seven-story building was a landmark.
I'm a hard man, Mr. Eggs. But I've got to admit I was pretty damn shaken up.
A rusty little sign by the driveway pointed to "The Hotel Non Dormiunt", just what you claimed. I walked right by. But my knees felt loose.
So it's here. So I'm posting my second report. I wish you'd given me a damn email address. I hope you're searching for "Early Bird Prosthetic Femur Salesman" often enough to see this.
I've told Molly and Dale to get ready. Time for you to make the room reservations. If you can't get the suites, we're dead in the water.
End Second Report to Mr. Eggs, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Signed and Submitted.
Third Report to Mr. Eggs, Monday, March 23, 2020.
Fri, Mar 20, 2020. The news said the governors of New York and Illinois have ordered all "non-essential" businesses in those states closed. California's already done it. If Governor Hutchinson issues an order for Arkansas, your party ends early.
Sat, Mar 21, 2020. Molly called. We're both using burner phones. They'd checked into 639, the Ralph suite across from Capone's, as newlyweds named Rick and Nadine. So far so good—you actually found my report online, you actually made the reservations. They'd spend two days in the room, newlywed-style, then come out and start sightseeing.
Molly gave me web addresses. They fed video to my phone and laptop from the spy cameras she'd stuck up at either end of the hall.
Mon, Mar 23, 2020. I checked into 626, a double room, reserved in the name of Seward Blake. A sign at the front desk said the dining rooms and lounge were closed until further notice. The clerk assured me that room service would be quick and excellent.
You warned there'd been a fire recently on the sixth floor, but I saw no trace of any repairs. The hall carpet was worn, the flocked wallpaper faded, the blue-painted doors scuffed. Old-fashioned transoms, all closed, topped the doors.
The furnishings in 626 looked like the Hotel hadn't redecorated since Capone's last visit. Brass bedframes you could slide trunks under. Wall lamps converted from gaslight to electricity. Standing wardrobes instead of closets. Wingback armchairs by a heavy blond-oak table.
The bathroom, at least, had a modern tub and shower. A large TV stood on a cheap bureau. But the porcelain sink still had separate hot and cold faucets.
None of the doors had peepholes, so I checked the feeds from Molly's cameras. The hall was empty. No sense waiting: I pulled out the key you gave me and stepped into the hall.
The rooms on this floor all had old-fashioned metal keys on tags instead of electronic locks. Most hotels this size have someone in maintenance or security who can change the locks if necessary.
Question was, if a key went missing, did the Hotel rekey or take its chances? Would the key you stole in Seattle in 2011 still work?
I strode briskly down to 638, slid the key in the lock. For a moment it hung, then turned with a clack. I was in.
As you know, this suite, a parlor and two bedrooms, was even more antiquated than mine. The same converted gaslamps, the same ancient sink fittings, but also tongue-and-groove wainscoting, pressed-tin ceiling panels, cut-glass vases, and crocheted doilies and antimacassars. A sterling-silver ice bucket, several pressed-glass tumblers, and two cut-glass decanters (both empty, sadly) sat on a sideboard. All just like your videos.
I ignored the furniture, except for the doilies and the bedcovers. If it wouldn't fit in a bag, I wasn't interested. I also ignored the digital clocks, the microwave, and the various TVs. You hired me because Al Capone slept in this suite, and Capone never saw a TV in his life.
Molly called. We checked the cameras, then I opened the door and let her dart across from 639.
"So what's the deal?" she asked. "Somebody bringing jewels, or a bag of money? Or is it straight kidnapping?"
They'd worked with me six times before, but never in my peculiar specialty: antiques. "It's a nut job," I said. "Al Capone stayed here in 1931. Mr. Eggs"—I'd told them your alias—"is some kind of nostalgia nut, anything about Capone. He wants to recreate Al Capone's hotel room in his house."
I waved at the parlor. "Everything here that might date back to 1931 is fair game. Anything you can carry. If we can, we're stripping this room till the walls bleed."
Molly was startled. But she's like me, does what she's hired for. "I'll do the demo work," I said. "Strip the ceiling tins, pull the fixtures. You and Dale are transport. 'Rick and Nadine' got two days in bed; now you want to sightsee. You'll run in and out all day, and you'll carry a load from here every time."
"That's why you wanted the big tote bags."
"Yeah. Once a day or so you'll drive over to Springdale and ship boxes from the UPS store." I texted her the cutout address you gave me.
"What if somebody rents this room?"
"Mr. Eggs reserved this room until April. And the rooms to either side of it, so nobody hears me tear stuff out. And the maids have been ordered to leave all these rooms alone."
I didn't admit to Molly that you never explained how you'd get three different reservations, all specially on the sixth floor, without the Hotel thinking they were connected. If Hotel security decided Molly and Dale and I were all related to the mystery guest reserving a block of rooms, this job would end soon. And badly.
It looks like we're the only guests on six. For that matter, I haven't seen any other guests in the whole Hotel. Not many tourists, right now.
I don't like feeling this conspicuous.
End Third Report to Mr. Eggs, Monday, March 23, 2020. Signed and Submitted.
Final Report to Mr. Eggs, Thursday, March 26, 2020.
Continuing Mon, Mar 23, 2020. I started the demo work that evening. First I took the faucets and valves from the sink. I stole the faucet and feet from the ancient clawfoot tub, brass claws clenching real glass balls.
Each bedroom had one real painting above the bed, not just a print. One was a lighthouse at sunset. The other showed three fat old sailing ships in a stormy sea. Neither painting was in your videos, but both looked old. I'd grab them if I had time, if they'd fit in Molly's big carryall.
Floor and table lamps gave enough light that I started tearing out the wall lamps as well. These were definitely antique, converted from gaslight. Wiring snaked right through the gas pipes, gas burner replaced with an electric socket. The valves to control the gas flame were still in place, wide open to pass the wires. The shades looked original, milky-white molded glass.
I puzzled over the tongue-and-groove wainscot. Even Molly's carryall wasn't big enough for four-foot boards, but I wanted to get some.
I ignored the portable stuff, decanters and doilies and such. In ninety years, most of them had likely been replaced. I'd look them over after I took what was nailed down.
Before bed I sent Molly a text that I had a load of "bones" ready. Even on prepaid phones, we used code, same as my reports. "Cannery" for the Hotel. "Salmon" for the merchandise in general. "Bones" for rigid fittings, "steaks" for ceiling tins, and so on.
I told her to pick them up in the morning. Nothing would stay in their room more than a few minutes. My room down the hall would stay absolutely sterile, no salmon at all in it.
Molly asked me to come to their room. They had an announcement, a confession, in fact: She was three months pregnant. I was annoyed as hell.
"When you first called I didn't know," she said. "I didn't tell you after—I was scared you'd cancel the job."
"I would have," I said. They were normally good for this sort of work, young, ordinary-looking, forgettable. Both a little pudgy, a little dim-looking. Good actors, steady and unexcitable. Trustworthy, usually, if they felt well paid.
Ordinarily, I'd have staked my life on Molly keeping her head. In fact, I'd staked my liberty several times already, on her as receiver or distraction. Dale really was a little dim, but Molly thought on her feet, and the whole FBI couldn't rattle her.
But pregnant? She was far from starting to show, only three months along, and round-bellied anyway. And really, is it that unusual for a new bride to be pregnant?
But I wouldn't trust a pregnant Molly to keep her head on the job. For that matter, I wouldn't trust Dale, either. Parenthood screws up your priorities. And this was their first kid.
Too late to replace them. I crossed my fingers and hoped things stayed quiet.
Tue, Mar 24, 2020. I spent the day standing on furniture, gently prying loose the pressed-tin ceiling panels. The ones in the bathroom were corroded from decades of damp, but in the main rooms they were in excellent shape. I'd seen tins this good on eBay for fifty dollars and up. Between the parlor and bedrooms, there had to be around a thousand salvageable tins, all under a foot square.
Molly and Dale ferried out the "bones", then several small loads of "steaks". In the afternoon, they drove to Springdale to box up our first shipment. Molly was cool as anything, carrying thousands of dollars of stolen tin in her big flowery canvas tote. Dale carried more in his day pack. They mixed up their trips, sometimes going together, sometimes not, so the clerks wouldn't expect a pattern.
Each time they left I watched the camera feeds, in case something went wrong and I needed to bail out. Around four, Dale went out to get gas in their truck and stash another load. Molly collected another stack of tins from me and, after a glance at the feeds, headed for the elevators.
Which chose that moment to open. Someone stepped out, an older woman in dark clothes. Molly should have walked right up, stepped on the elevator, and been gone. She'd done that once earlier, meeting one of the strange shaven-headed maids.
But this time she hesitated, then suddenly charged past the older woman, right past the elevators. She walked to the hall's end, and disappeared into a side corridor.
What the hell?
The woman stared after her, then walked down the hall and knocked on a door. I thought she was knocking on 626, my room. Standing on a bed in Capone's suite, I couldn't answer. She knocked again, waited a while, then returned to the elevator.
My phone beeped: Molly. She spoke softly when I answered. "Gonna need some help, here," she said. "I'm kinda stuck."
"How so?"
"I tried to hide in a linen closet. I was pushing back into a corner behind a maid cart, and a shitload of towels and sheets fell on me. Now I'm kinda wedged in this corner; you gotta come dig me out."
"Why the hell did you hide?"
"I panicked. That woman on the elevator, she scared the shit out of me. I don't know why."
"Is anyone there?"
"I don't think so."
"You still got a bag full of steaks?"
Crap. If she was clean, she could have called the desk to ask for a maid. They had a plan for turning up in odd places: We were playing hide-and-seek, and got carried away. But that wouldn't work if she had a tote full of tin. "Okay, Rick's out somewhere, so I'll come get you."
But I couldn't find her. "Come on," Molly said. "These towels are getting heavy."
I'd seen on camera where she went. Down that side hall there was one linen closet, and she wasn't in it.
Maybe I'd mixed up the camera views. I took every side hall on the sixth floor. There were more than I expected. I opened three linen closets and a maintenance cupboard full of breakers and valves, but I didn't find Molly. All I found was a big black cat, that disappeared into a wall crevice.
"Shit!" Molly exclaimed. "There's a rat or something in here! I can feel it moving!"
One eye on my phone, I went back to 638 and started over. "The towels're settling, or something," she said. "I can't move my arms. They're pinned."
Sweating, I surveyed the entire floor, counting off every door I passed. Guest rooms; linen closets with nothing but crates of cleaning supplies on the floor, towels and sheets all neatly on shelves; two staircases; the service elevator; the maintenance cupboard; the main elevators.
I was back at 638. "Oh, God," Molly moaned. "The sheets are moving. They're wrapping me up."
"Don't panic," I said. "You're just scared." So was I.
"I see them!" she cried. "They're winding round and round me! Getting tighter!"
Where the hell was Molly? "Are you sure you're on the sixth floor?"
On the phone, she was starting to pant. "Please," she wheezed. "I can't breathe."
Breathing hard myself, I pulled up the camera history. Again, I watched her leave 639, walk past the stranger at the elevators, then turn into a side corridor.
I ran to the side hall. It ran straight for only a short distance. Twelve rooms, a stairway, and a linen closet opened off it—nothing else.
I opened the closet a third time. Molly's voice was growing faint. "He'p," she breathed. "Dale…he'p…me…" I shoved the two maid's carts into the hall, but there was nobody behind them, just crates of bathroom cleaner and little soaps and toilet tissue.
Molly's voice stopped. The call stayed open, but I didn't hear her.
I shoved the carts back in and shut the closet. Returning to the central hall, I nearly ran into someone at the corner. A gray-haired woman, nearly as tall as me, in dark clothes. Her eyes were dark and uncomfortably sharp. Heart pounding, I struggled for something to say.
She glanced toward my door beyond the elevators. She knew which room I was in. "D'ja get lost?" she asked dryly.
"Not lost, just confused," I said frankly. "This floor layout doesn't make sense. It seems like there ought to be at least one more hall back here somewhere."
She nodded. "I getcha. All the years I work here, I never have figgered out where all the halls go. S'like they pick up and move sometimes." She walked past me toward the stairs. "If ya figger it out, lemme know."
After she was gone, I stood shaking for a minute or two. Whoever she was, she made me feel guilty. I could almost understand Molly's panic. Almost.
I called to Molly over and over, but only silence answered. I retraced my steps again, starting from 639. Down the hall, past the elevators, around the corner. To the end of the side hall.
Where a large unlabeled door opened into a hall I hadn't seen before. A hall that wasn't there before. Down that hall, room numbers now past 660, to a fourth linen closet beside a third stair door.
I found a pile of towels and sheets, just as Molly'd said. I pulled out the maid's cart and started shifting towels. Molly's face was blue, her eyes half-closed, dry and staring. She had no pulse.
Even if I'd known CPR, it wasn't possible in her position. She'd crouched behind the cart, and the weight of fallen linens had pushed her into a twisted fetal position. I started pulling her out, glancing now and again at the camera feeds.
Then I saw. Her legs were buried loosely, but her upper body was wrapped. Two or three sheets wound around her chest and belly like a shroud. Her right arm was pinned at her hip. Her left was crushed into her ribs, her phone still at her ear.
I tugged at the sheets. They were as taut as guitar strings. They'd wrapped her like the coils of a snake, squeezing until she couldn't draw breath. The sheets had killed her. And the Hotel had hidden this closet, this whole corridor, until it was too late for me to help.
What the hell kind of place did you hire me to rob?
Three months pregnant. I hadn't cried since my mother's funeral in 1992, but I was damn close right then.
My phone showed a maid getting off the service elevator. Hastily, I tugged Molly's carryall loose from the heap of towels. I covered her body and shoved the cart to hide it. Closing the closet, I slipped onto the stairs.
I couldn't be seen carrying Molly's bag out of the Hotel, flowery and bright, not the sort a single man my age would have. I waited on the stairs until the hall was clear, then returned the carryall to 638.
Dale didn't come back to 639 for half an hour. I crossed the hall to tell him. Besides being as pleasant as that much time spent being punched in the gut, telling him was a tactical mistake. I wanted him to play dumb and report her missing. But he fell completely apart on me.
"We have to go get her," he kept saying. "She wouldn't want me to leave her there."
"Would she want you to go to prison?" I grabbed his shoulder and dug in my fingers. "Your truck's full of stolen stuff. She's dead. It was worth the risk when I thought I could maybe save her. But I'm not going to prison for a corpse."
He tried to punch me, so I pinched a nerve in his shoulder. I was getting frustrated, but he and Molly didn't become thieves because they were geniuses. They were greedy, selfish, lazy dropouts. They'd only made two really good choices in life: stay off drugs, and hook up with someone smarter and more experienced.
Now that choice was biting them in the ass. I felt guilty, but sticking with me was still Dale's best option.
I bullied him until he came around. "Besides that," I said, pointing at Molly's bag, "we've still got a pile of steak to move."
"And all the fillets," he said, meaning soft goods.
"And I don't have a big tote bag to carry around, just my suitcases. So getting the fish out is still all on you, except for the very last trip."
I handed him her carryall. "Take another load out. Stop at the desk and ask if anybody's seen Nadine." Normally I wouldn't have reminded him of his wife's alias, but normally he wasn't in shock and normally she wasn't dead.
Back in 638, I made a swift survey. Now that Molly's corpse was about to turn up, we were out of time. All of the wall lights were gone, and nearly all of the pressed tin. The plumbing fittings had already shipped. The wainscot and dado rails were a lost cause. So were the paintings.
Like I said, I'd ignored the portable items as unlikely to be authentic. The table and floor lamps, though Victorian in style, looked fairly new. The bed covers couldn't possibly be ninety years old. The glasses and decanters were probably replacements, even reproductions.
I checked one of the glasses. High-quality pressed glass—Heisey, in fact. Maybe Capone never actually touched them, but they weren't from Walmart, either. I figured we'd take them, as well as the doilies and antimacassars, which looked hand-crocheted.
Back in 626, I ordered a roast-beef sandwich and coffee from room service. Fifteen minutes later, when someone knocked, I answered the door without checking the cameras.
The gray-haired lady stood there. I recoiled before I could stop myself. I'd completely forgotten she'd come here earlier. "Can I come in?" she asked, mildly enough, amused at my reaction.
I waved her into the room and closed the door. Once again I had trouble with words. She unnerved me. "You said you're with the Hotel, right?" I finally said.
"Kinda. I'm Stern. Chief a' security." She wore a dark gray polo over black slacks. She looked lean, even athletic. Despite her iron-gray hair, I couldn't judge her age. If I had to, could I beat her in a fight? I wasn't sure.
She gestured up the hall toward 639. She was left-handed, I noticed. "Ya know the young couple?"
"I've seen them. They go in and out a lot."
"Didn't the first coupla days. Newlyweds. Ya seen the girl today?"
I paused as if to think. "I might have seen her this morning."
Someone else knocked. Stern answered before I could move. A waitress stood there with my sandwich and coffee. Stern took the tray and passed it to me one-handed. I saw an engagement ring on her finger, silver with a red stone.
"She's missin'," Stern went on. "Husband hadn't seen her f'r hours. If ya see her, give the desk a call, wouldja?"
Her cold eyes said something much scarier. "You 'kinda' work here?"
She smiled tightly. "Semi-retired. I fix things now and then, that's all. Like a hobby." Her eyes weren't smiling. "Keeps me chipper." Chipper.
"Well," Stern said, "she'll turn up, I figger. Lots of newlyweds get cold feet. Suddenly you're stuck wit' one guy, forever." She glanced at her ring. "Some gals can't han'le it."
After she left, I sat on the bed and shuddered. Her eyes, her age, her "hobby"—what sort of man was her fiancé? The sandwich tasted like mud. The coffee was too hot; I gulped it down anyway.
I was too scared go back to 638 that night, picturing Stern roaming with a passkey. Hell, I was scared of my own room, after how Molly died.
I brought my report up to date and went to bed early. I slept badly, fully dressed, on top of the covers because I couldn't bear a sheet. Molly's last breathless words haunted me.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020. In the morning, though, I got up early and ordered breakfast. Fueled by strong coffee, I was soon back at it.
I made Dale carry out several loads, pretending to look for his wife around town. He told the Hotel staff he and Nadine had argued, and he was too embarrassed to involve the police. I told him how to act, how often to pester the staff for news, and so on. He could play a role well, but lacked imagination; he needed good directions.
Molly's body hadn't been found—or it had, and Stern wasn't talking. But with only two occupied rooms on the sixth floor, the maid had no reason to enter that distant linen closet. I kept my hopes up.
Before lunch, I sent Dale to make another shipment. The bedroom ceilings were stripped, the tins wired in bundles to keep them from rattling. I had two rows of tins left in the parlor when Dale came back around two.
"We're leaving tonight," I told him, standing on the table. "Whatever we can't carry out stays behind."
"Including Molly," he said bitterly.
"If you know how to carry a body out of a twenty-story hotel, you've got my blessing." I shrugged. "In the meantime, gather up the doilies and antimacassars to wrap up all that glassware." I had to tell him what an antimacassar was. I'm too damn old.
He got a canvas bag from his room. He wrapped the drinking glasses first, packed them into the silver bucket, and slid it into the bag. Then he reached for one of the big decanters. "Ahh!" he hissed.
He was holding his hand up, staring at the palm. "Cut myself," he said.
The edges on cut glass are crisp, but not usually sharp enough to cut. "Probably chipped somewhere," I said. "Don't slide your hand on it."
He picked up an oversized doily and reached for the decanter's neck. I snapped, "Don't get that crochet work bloody!"
You can believe what happened next or not, but I'm telling what I saw. He wrapped the doily around the neck, and picked up the decanter. He started to flip the doily around the decanter's base. Suddenly the decanter was rolling up his forearms. "Ahh!"
He wore short sleeves. Everywhere the glass touched bare skin it left cuts. The decanter passed his elbows and started up toward his neck. He jerked his arms apart, and it thudded to the heavy carpet.
Blood cascaded from his arms. He stood gaping stupidly at the dozens of gashes. Then he began to moan, rising in pitch; the glass must have cut him too fast for real pain to register. He turned toward me, his arms still spread wide. Behind him, the decanter rocked on the carpet, then rolled toward him.
It struck his left shoe and climbed the heel, shredding cloth, then skin. Then the decanter cut his Achilles tendon, and his leg folded. He collapsed hard into the sideboard, tumbling the other decanter. It rolled, falling onto his upturned face.
He screamed in pain and terror. Both decanters attacked—there's no other word. They sliced his clothes and shredded his flesh. When one finally struck his throat, blood only pulsed weakly. He already bled too many other places.
I stood on the table, paralyzed, wondering if anyone could hear his screams. For a mercy, they ended soon. He was an unrecognizable pile of chopped meat by then. The decanters rolled off and lay still. Gore covered them.
Then they moved again. One, then the other, rolled toward the table I stood on. They bumped against one wooden leg. I saw splinters fly off.
On one level I was disbelieving, but I wasn't going to stand here until they chewed a leg off the table. At first I reached for my pry bar. But what if I smashed a decanter, and all the pieces kept moving? Better to keep the enemy numbers small.
My coil of wire lay nearby. I snipped off a length, bent it into a loop. Lying on my belly, reaching down, I slipped the loop around a decanter's neck and yanked it tight like a garrote.
The decanter stopped moving. I wrapped the wire twice more, picked it up. The other decanter continued to chip at the table leg, with little crunching sounds. I hung my captive from the handle of a wardrobe.
The stopper had come out of the other decanter. After several tries and one sliced knuckle, I slid a long screwdriver into the decanter's neck. I picked it up; it spun briefly one way, then the other, then stopped. I stood it upright on the table. It stayed still.
Taking no chances, I clipped more wire and hung it by the other one. Then I stepped down off the table to look at Dale.
I saw a flash of light, and my shoe fell on something small and round. My foot went out from under me. I'd forgotten about the loose stopper.
It rolled toward me, and I kicked it across the room. Bits of rubber scattered from my shoe. Bouncing off an armchair, the stopper raced back. It was faster, more maneuverable than the decanters. I kicked it again, and grabbed the silver ice tongs. It skinned my ankle before I scrambled back onto the table. Reaching down, I grabbed it with the tongs.
Hand shaking, I dropped it into the decanter. Then I ran to the bathroom and threw up, my vomit acid and tasting of coffee.
My shoes and socks were covered with blood, but the rest of me was still fairly clean. I pulled off shoes and socks and rinsed them in the toilet bowl, then blotted them over and over on fresh towels. Then I threw up again.
I bandaged my knuckle and my ankle—my tool kit includes bandages. I sat on the tub to pull my socks and shoes back on. With its feet gone, the tub teetered and grated on the tiles. When I stood my foot slipped where I'd dripped water. I fell hard to one knee, then fell backward.
I came to on the tile, aching behind my right ear, my brain sort of fuzzy. I limped out, my knee stiff. Avoiding the blood drying in the carpet, I left the suite. I staggered down to 626, where I collapsed on the bed. I'm sure I had a concussion, but I was too fuddled to worry.
I don't know what time I woke. But my head was clearer, and it said I should beat it out of the Hotel Non Dormiunt now, before it killed me. Even if it didn't, with two dead bodies, things would get ugly fast. I started packing.
I'd swing by 638 for the bag with the ice bucket and Heisey glasses. The last ceiling tins were a loss, and I wasn't touching those decanters for a truckload of surgical masks. The spy cameras, purchased anonymously, had always been expendable.
Nothing on this floor could identify me. Hand sanitizer, among its other virtues, is great for blurring fingerprints.
A knock at my door. My phone showed a tall, gray-haired woman. I swore. If I hadn't hit my head, I'd have been gone by now.
No choice but to open up. Stern, face bland, glanced inside and saw my bags piled on the bed. "Now, Mr. Blake," she said, "ya wouldn't be after stealin' our toilet paper, would'ja?" Her tone was carefully friendly. Too friendly.
This time I was braced for her. "No, but I boosted a case of bleach from your laundry." I turned back to my packing. "What can I do for you?"
Her random-sounding reply confused me. "Right at the turn of the century, they had a bad fire, here on six. Really bad. Gutted a whole wing, ever'thing from 660 to 695. Killed one poor lady, 'bout crippled her husband. Woulda shut down a lotta houses."
Then she reached her terrifying point. "But a coupla weeks later, s'like it never happent. The sixth floor just sorta fixes itself. So when you mugs moved in to clean out the Capone suite, I figgered the Hotel c'd watch out f'r itself."
I couldn't make a sound.
"I figgered no harm done, rooms'll fix 'emselves back up. They tried redecoratin' in the fifties, ya know, again in the seventies, but the suite still looks pretty much like I saw it when Capone was here." I missed a bit, trying to make sense of that. "—get whatever ya c'n hump out. Then a pregnant lady gets herself killed."
"Pregnant!" I gasped, too stunned to pretend. "Who told you? The cops?" Good Lord, they'd found Molly! How long ago?
"Cops stay outta my Hotel. I did an autopsy, that's all." She pulled a clasp knife from her back pocket, flicked it open and closed, and put it away. "Not t'first."
She had to be screwing with me. "You can't do things like that."
"Can't I just?" Her dark eyes lit with a black fire. "I don't like innocent kids gettin' killed in my Hotel."
For a moment fury overcame fear. "It was your Hotel that killed her! I could've saved her!"
"Yeah," she said. "The Hotel and I don't always see things t'same." She raised her hand, the engagement ring glinting on her finger. "But you brought her. You got her in trouble. You're gonna tell me all about it." She snapped her finger. Pain exploded in the knot behind my ear, and I dropped to my knees.
I don't remember a single question. But she burned through my memories. Her eyes, her glare were physical agony, drilling into my skull.
It lasted forever. Telling her how you hired me, how you made the reservations, how I killed the historian, how I found Molly too late. I relived Dale's gruesome death, my terror when the decanters came for me. I told her your search phrase. I gave her the cutout address where we'd shipped all the salmon.
I said I hadn't known Molly was pregnant. I said the Hotel was evil and murderous, and if she was so damn righteous she should kill it. She replied, "One'a these days I might figger out just how."
Of course I couldn't tell her who you are. That didn't bug her.
When she finally let me go, I lay on the blood-soaked carpet of Suite 638, sobbing like a little boy scared of the circus clowns. I don't remember how I got there. Shreds of Dale's clothes and flesh stuck to me. I'd pissed my pants.
"I'm sorry," I said over and over. I was apologizing that everything I'd stolen was already gone. For not being able to tell Stern who you were. For Molly, and Dale, and Molly's little one. For being a wicked man.
She just said, "C'mon." She led me into the hall, in urine-soaked pants and bloody shirt, snotty nose and flesh-befouled hair. Humiliated at the thought of meeting anyone, but too terrified to disobey.
She led me to the elevator, up to the twentieth floor. We had the ride to ourselves. For all I know, I was the only guest in the Hotel. She unlocked Room 2031 with a key card and led me inside.
It was more modern than anything on the sixth floor. A sliding-glass door led onto a balcony. We stood out in the chill evening breeze, facing a glorious sunset over the hill behind the Hotel. Red light turned her gray hair to smoky flame. Her ruby ring flared like a fiery eye.
"Look down," she said. I looked. There was a tiny patio behind the Hotel, dark in the hill's shadow. "Climb up," she said. I put one foot on the rail, started to cry again. "G'awn up," she said. Her voice was cool, unforgiving.
Standing on the rail, I clung desperately to a protruding bit of trim. I was going to jump, and die. I couldn't see the patio for my tears.
"Look at me." I looked. Her dark eyes, black flames, charred my soul. "You're mine, now," she said. "You unnerstand?"
I couldn't answer. She tilted her head a millimeter. I felt my feet slipping. "Un-der-stand?"
I nodded frantically. "Yeah!" I cried. "Yeah, I understand!"
So now I work for Stern. At least, I will once I finish this report, the last thing you paid me for. Stern wants me to send it, wants you to read it. She let me clean up and change clothes, then set me to writing.
She was amused that you'd told me when the Hotel would appear. "I try to keep track when people follah the Hotel," she said. "They're always on the make."
She didn't explain how she'd find you, any more than you explained how you predicted the Hotel's arrival. But I believe her.
Early Bird Prosthetic Femur Salesman—she likes that code phrase. She says she'll find anyone who reads it. Too bad for you I started with it.
She's already "figgered out" quite a bit. The historian's mention of a prostitute's granddaughter who could track the Hotel? Stern thinks there's something in that, thinks you might be the granddaughter. "Bess was a nice gal, f'r a whore," she said. "But her kids were just pure-D mean. Hate to think what her grandkids're like."
Molly was greedy and lazy and selfish. Dale was all of that, and a bit dense besides. I'm garbage with a knack for planning, an eye for antiques, and a ruthless streak. But Molly's baby was just in the wrong place.
I'm going to pay for that. Stern will make sure.
But Mister Eggs, you're going to pay first.
End Final Report to Mr. Eggs Thursday, March 26, 2020. Signed and submitted.
Floor Directory
submitted by DrunkenTree to nosleep [link] [comments]

2018.09.17 02:46 albuterolfollies On the morning of July 1, 1990, nursing home resident Nancy Lagerquist was taken from her bed, carried outside, raped, and stabbed to death. A month later, police discovered that another resident, Bertha Scott, who had died on May 2 from apparent natural causes, had been raped and strangled.

Note: This case is obscure. This write-up is based entirely on articles published in the Missoulian and other Montana newspapers. From what I can tell, there are no other sources available online. As such, gaps in knowledge and details abound. Therefore, I have made some educated guesses from the limited information available.

A River Runs Through It
Around 3:30 am on Sunday, July 1, 1990, a staff member of the Riverside Health Care Center, an assisted living facility located in Missoula, Montana, stopped by the room of 87-year-old Nancy Lagerquist for an hourly bed check. Finding her sleeping in bed with no signs of distress, she continued onto to the next room.
In keeping with its name, Riverside sits alongside the Clark Fork River. The I-90/US12 highway runs along the other side of Riverside. The river and the highway form the outer edges of a pass between two hills, Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel, which separate East Missoula from Missoula proper. The Riverside building itself has one story and comprises a central hub with four spokes, or wings, spun off in a semicircle east of the hub. Lagerquist’s bedroom was located in the wing closest to the Clark Fork. That night, five employees were working the graveyard shift and each entrance to the building had an alarm. The alarms, which would not activate that night, were later found to be fully functioning.
At 4:30 am, another staff member stopped by Lagerquist’s room only to find her missing from her bed, a particularly startling situation given that Lagerquist could not walk. Riverside staff immediately conducted a full sweep of the building. After failing to locate Lagerquist within the facility, they called authorities at 4:41 am. Police and search and rescue teams soon arrived and expanded the search. At around 6:30 am, a police officer operating a patrol boat along the Clark Fork discovered her body in the water near the banks of the river about 100 feet (30m) downstream from Riverside in the vicinity of the University of Montana’s famed Hellgate Osprey Nest.
Lagerquist had been murdered viciously in manner police would later describe as ritualistic. Her assailant had raped her with an object which had pierced her uterus and entered her abdominal and thoracic cavities, killing her from blunt force trauma. As one detective later put it, “there were things [done to her] that weren't necessary to cause her death.” The perpetrator had then dumped her body into the Clark Fork River, where police discovered it just hours later.
Police found few clues. The river had wiped away any potential forensic evidence on Lagerquist’s body. Despite dredging the river and combing the banks, police could not locate either the murder weapon or the diaper Lagerquist had been wearing. Police believed that the perp had entered through the window in Lagerquist’s bedroom, given that it had been cut. However, he had left hardly any evidence behind. Police collected and tested the bedding and other objects in Lagerquist’s bedroom, but did not have any “earthshaking” evidence, as Captain Pete Lawrenson put it. Given the number of Riverside employees, residents and visitors, dusting for fingerprints would have been difficult and arduous. In that respect, it is not known if police identified any fingerprints which could not be matched to staff or residents.
Police had one lead. A Riverside employee had seen a man walking through the parking lot of the neighboring Missoula Athletic Club away from the Clark Fork and towards East Broadway Street at around 4:00 am. He was described as white, aged 30 to 40 years old and weighing between 180 and 200 pounds. He had light brown, collar length hair, cut above the ears. He sported a mustache and wore brown rimmed glasses. He wore an untucked, white and brown striped t-shirt, which had a tail longer than the front of the shirt. He had tan, button-fly shorts and white, low-type tennis shoes with white socks. If police did create a composite of this individual, they seemingly did not release it publicly. Police did not necessarily view this individual as a suspect; they simply wanted to question him about what he may have seen that night.
Despite the police’s early focus on this individual as described in the initial articles on the case, this person of interest quickly dropped off from the reporting. Whether that was due to him being identified and ruled out or identified and suspected without charge or remaining unknown altogether is unknown. Reportedly, the police were flooded with possible leads based on this description and perhaps they wanted to limit the number of calls and potential false leads.
In trying to find suspects, Police ruled out a personal or familial connection early on. Lagerquist had lived at Riverside since December of 1988. She was born in Hamilton, Montana in 1902 and graduated from Hamilton High School in 1921. She had worked as an executive secretary for the Missoula Mercantile Company and had also participated in the Professional Women’s Club. She had never married and had no relatives living nearby. Nothing in Lagerquist’s background suggested that she was personally targeted.
Not surprisingly, police instead focused on people with connections to Riverside, especially employees. After all, who else would be more familiar with the layout, security measures and residents of Riverside? Detectives zeroed in on one staff member who had been working on the night of the murder but eventually cleared him of involvement. Nevertheless, his employment at Riverside ended within a month for reasons not publicly revealed.
Police then turned their attention towards the possibility of a drifteoutsider committing the crime. That Lagerquist had been taken from her private bedroom which faced the Clark suggested that her assailant had chosen her opportunistically. While risky, prowling near the building and figuring out staff activities based on observation would not have been too terribly difficult since Riverside security was designed to keep residents in, not trespassers out. Most security measures involved use of the doors leaving windows unprotected. On this basis, detectives interviewed one individual, James Bailey, first in Missoula, then in Southern California, where he was in custody after fleeing Montana to escape a warrant for a probation violation. After three interviews, however, police did not think he was a particularly strong suspect and dropped further investigation.

The Wrong Case
Having exhausted the list of new potential suspects and leads, police turned back to the evidence they had collected thus far and what they found took the case in a completely different direction. They looked through witness statements which they had taken in the first days of the investigation. At that time, detectives had asked employees if any other recent resident deaths had looked suspicious.
A nurse had stated she had noticed a large bruise on the neck of resident Bertha Scott, whom she had found dead on the morning of May 2, 1990. Scott, 86, suffered from Alzheimer’s and therefore slept in restraints to prevent her from wandering away or injuring herself. Since Scott also suffered from heart disease and showed no signs of distress, Riverside staff had not found the death to be suspicious and her family had buried her without an autopsy. Still, the nurse had thought the bruise was notable enough to mention to police in the early days of Laqerquist murder investigation. Furthermore, staff had discovered signs of tampering with the window in the physical therapy room around the time of Scott’s death.
In contrast to Lagerquist, Bertha Scott had married young and had over fifty grandchildren and great grandchildren at the time of her death. She was born in Naticoke, Pennsylvania in 1904; grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania; and married in Newport, New Jersey in 1924. Tragedy marred her family life, however, as four of her six children predeceased her. She had moved to Missoula only two years prior to her death to be near one of her surviving children.
With few options left, police decided to exhume Scott’s body to confirm that she had actually died of natural causes. They stressed to the public that this action was merely a precaution, more of a way to clear a death rather than find a potential lead.
The autopsy proved otherwise when the medical examiner soon discovered Scott had been raped and strangled. Based on the nurse’s description of the bruise on Scott’s neck and her presumably face up position in bed, manual strangulation seems most likely. Whether there were any indications the perpetrator had intended to kill Scott at that moment or had unintentionally killed her in trying to control and silence her was not disclosed. In any case, it would seem unlikely that the perp could have intended or anticipated her death to be misidentified as one from natural causes.
Crucially, Scott’s murder provided biological evidence, traces of semen recovered by the medical examiner. With this sample, Police could use DNA identification, a technology so novel that articles from the time describe in detail DNA identification as being a new type of “fingerprint” for police to identify the perp. Until this time, DNA evidence had never been used in a prosecution in Missoula County. As such, the local state crime lab lacked the equipment and staff to extract the DNA and develop a fingerprint for it. Therefore, Missoula police sent out the samples collected to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia for testing with hopes of receiving results within three months.
Unfortunately, this lead would also fizzle out. The semen was recovered after having been in a corpse for three months. Needless to say, its preservation had not been optimal, so it had significantly degraded. Furthermore, the semen had diffused within the victim’s body fluids and the techniques used at the time were ill suited for testing mixed samples. The FBI lab produced a DNA fingerprint which matched none of the suspects tested, but the lab could not even be sure if the DNA fingerprint belonged to the perpetrator. Later, a private lab in North Carolina confirmed that the DNA fingerprint the FBI pulled was in fact Scott’s and were unable to identify the perp’s DNA fingerprint.
With this last lead exhausted, the case went cold.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
In a retrospective article published in 2002, Missoulian reporter Michael Moore revealed a crucial new detail: “During several months in 1991 [sic], nightfall saw a man slip quietly though the center’s darkened halls. Occasionally, elderly residents of the center mentioned an unknown figure, but not one from the staff ever encountered him or even know for sure he existed. ‘The problem is the staff was dealing with folks who, because of their conditions, might not be the most reliable witnesses,’ [Missoula Police Department Captain Bob] Reid said recently.”
This one detail potentially changes the fundamental nature of the case. The initial reporting omitted this fact. Instead, you get the impression the assailant had only burglarized Riverside for these two murders. This revelation, however, raises the unsettling possibility that the perpetrator may have committed numerous burglaries and sexual assaults and perhaps even more misidentified murders at Riverside before ending with an abduction and an unmistakable murder. He may have even impersonated a Riverside employee.
Still, police had good reason to withhold this information. As stated above, nursing home residents are not particularly strong witnesses and individuals with dementia often “see” mysterious people either through misremembering or misidentification, especially since staff walked the halls at night. With only this evidence for possible additional burglaries, police may have been wary of releasing such information to a public already terrified of the two known crimes committed.
Riverside residents reporting seeing an intruder could also have been particularly problematic to Riverside itself. The families of Scott and Lagerquist filed a lawsuit against Riverside in 1993. The suit alleged that Riverside was negligent and failed to provide a “safe environment from would-be assailants” and that Riverside officials “knew or should have known that (the women) might be killed or injured by a prowler…” These accounts could have provided proof of negligence. The resolution of the lawsuit does not appear to have been reported.
However, the 2002 retrospective article also offered hope for potential identification from more advanced DNA identification techniques. In that same article, Detective Reid stated “Given the science of the time, they couldn’t isolate any other DNA pattern. It’s just possible that at some time we’ll be able to get separate prints from a mixed sample. We could use some luck.” First, this statement all but confirms that there are samples left to test. Second, the DNA extraction and identification has indeed advanced considerably since 1991. Such techniques for testing mixed DNA samples were used to convict Lian Bin "Robert" Xie for the Lin family murders committed in Australia in 2009.
Yet, since 2002, there does not appear to have been any public updates about the status of this case.

Perhaps pointless to speculate since a potential DNA match will probably be the only thing that would solve these murders, but researching this case did give me a few ideas about who might have been responsible.
Individual Connected to Riverside: Naturally, this is where police looked first. Given the brazenness of the attack, someone with inside knowledge about the workings of Riverside would make a lot of sense. Despite questioning one staff member at length, police moved away from this theory pretty early on, though the staff member in question ended his employment with Riverside shortly thereafter. Fitting with this theory, in 1992 a staff member at another Missoula nursing home was arrested for sexually assaulting one of the residents. Police briefly investigated him as a suspect in the Riverside Murders but cleared him after records showed that he had been incarcerated at the time.
If not directly involved, a Riverside staff member could have enabled the perpetrator. Instances of parents allowing a romantic partner or acquaintance to molest their children in exchange for companionship or money and drugs are an unfortunate known occurrence. A variant of that enablement could apply to a staff member informing the perpetrator about the security measures, the employee schedules, and the patients making for the easiest targets and making sure the perp is not interrupted.

UM Student: The University of Montana, located diagonally across the Clark River from Riverside, has had its own recent problems with sexual assault as detailed in John Krakauer’s bestseller Missoula. While the book deals primarily with how colleges and law enforcement deals with sexual assault accusations, the book also looks into the statistics for college student offenders and how they might operate. Accordingly, Missoula includes a 2002 study authored by David Lisak and Paul Miller entitled "Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists." The study found that from a random sample of 1,882 men who attend UMASS Boston between 1991 and 1998, 6.4% were rapists with about 63% of those individuals being serial offenders with each offender averaging 6 victims. Applying these statistics in the study to the UM very conservatively would produce at least two dozen such individuals in the student body.
The study includes an interview one these serial offenders who coordinated these assaults with his fraternity as he graphically recounts a typical assault. This offender, "Frank," stated: “we'd be scouting for targets during the week...I had this girl picked out...We started drinking together...It was some kind of punch we'd made...She started to get plastered in just a few I started making my moves on her...She was really woozy by this time...and pretty soon I just made my move...I started working her blouse off...At some point started saying things like...'I don't want to do this right away' or something like that...She tried to push me off, so I pushed her back down...[then] I fucked her... I had my arm across her chest like this, you know, that's how I did it." The interviewer then noted, "As he spoke, Frank demonstrated how he placed his forearm against the victim's sternum, near the base of the neck, and leaned on it to hold her down." Frank’s method for controlling his victim appears comparable to the method that Scott’s assailant used on her, albeit with manual pressure on the neck rather than the sternum.
A college date rapist like Frank fits several aspects of the assailant’s MO. They both offend serially and lack either a moral or sexual aversion to raping an incapacitated person. Frank noted that in the instance described above the victim had been semi-conscious, whereas two other women he had raped under similar circumstances had been completely unconscious. Furthermore, he described how his fraternity targeted and groomed women over the course of a week with the intention to rape them after plying them with alcohol. He mentioned how they even reserved special rooms in the frat house for these assaults. The amount of planning and patience which went into Frank’s assault would be comparable to the amount of thought which went into the Riverside Murders.
If the perp was a UM student, he would operate similar to other college predators like Frank but might have additional inclinations or attractions towards sexual violence, incapacitation, or voyeurism to the point where they would take the considerable risk of burglarizing a nursing home to rape and murder the residents. The individual may have wanted to commit murder while committing a sexual assault but felt that such an act against another college student would be too risky as the police would certainly focus on other students when looking for suspects and there would have been likely more media attention and pressure to find a suspect in a college town like Missoula.
In fact, shortly before the Lagerquist murder, police arrested UM student Tarrow Duane “Bubba” Jones, 20, for several rapes he committed on campus. Jones would roam dorms and enter the rooms of sleeping women, many of whom had been drinking, and then forced himself on them, usually while they were still asleep. As he stated: “Sometimes I’d go through the dorms and check 20 a night. I had the idea I’d find somebody along and then convince her to have sex with me.” Although, he was charged for two counts of rape and one count of attempted rape, he admitted that he had actually committed anywhere between 15 to 20 rapes.
Jones, however, is not a viable suspect for the Riverside murder. He was arrested a month before Lagerquist’s death and remained in custody before pleading guilty. Furthermore, His MO was much sloppier and more direct than the Riverside Murderer. Regardless, his crimes provide an example of how student serial rapists can operate on a college campus and how underreported these crimes are, especially 30 years ago.
Riverside is easily accessible to UM students. It is located diagonally across the Clark Fork from the main campus as indicated in the 1995 map. Walking from the main campus to Riverside takes twenty minutes. UM students frequented the then neighboring Missoula Athletic Club.
Were police to reopen this case, one avenue of investigation would be to cross check UM enrollment records for the 1989-1990 and 1990-1991 academic years against the national sex offender registry.

Trucker: Truck drivers may be the most common occupation among serial killers in the United States, as evidenced by the FBI’s Highway Serial Killings Initiative which tracks over 500 murders where the victims were found in the vicinity of highways. The job provides the means, the opportunity, and the anonymity needed to get away with murder. Trucker serial killers tend to target sex workers, drifters, or hitchhikers and murder them at truck stops, rest stops or within the cab itself, but there are instances of truck drivers of targeting people in their homes such as Adam Leroy Lane, the Highway Killer.
Missoula is a major trucking hub. Known as the “Hub of Five Valleys,” Missoula is the last major city on Highway I-90 before Spokane, Washington and connects Montana State Highway 200, U.S. Route 12 and U.S. Route 93. It is home to several truck stops (mostly centered in the suburb of Wye) and numerous trucking companies. At any given time, many long-haul truckers will be passing through the area.
In 1992, Missoula Police investigated Lloyd Chase Allen, a long-haul trucker, as a possible suspect. Allen was in jail in Florida awaiting trial for the November 1991 murder of Dortha Gibbs, who had been stabbed in her home during a robbery. Allen traveled all over the country including Missoula. Police cleared him, however, after records indicated that he had been incarcerated during the Riverside murders. In fact, he was already a fugitive when he murdered Gibbs since he had escaped from a work release program in Kansas. While Allen was cleared, police’s investigation of him indicates that truck drivers and other transient individuals were considered as possible suspects.

Ray Dean Johnston: Born in Kansas in 1951, Ray Dean Johnston started committing sex crimes there in the early 1970s. A Hutchinson court sentenced Johnston for three rapes and assaults to one to twenty years on each count, but he apparently admitted to authorities that he had committed about eight rapes or attempted rapes along with eleven burglaries. The Kansas DOC, however, paroled him after he had served only eleven months. He moved to Missoula in 1977 and within four months was arrested for aggravated assault and aggravated burglary. In that attack, he had targeted a woman in her home and demanded money. If not for the intervention of the woman’s brother, Johnston likely would have committed rape as well. He was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison but was paroled sometime before September of 1990.
On November 14, 1990, Johnston committed yet another burglary and sexual assault. Shortly after 9 pm, Johnston, wearing a ski-mask and welding a knife, knocked on the front door of a trailer home of a woman and her seven-year old son, who was fast asleep in the living room. When the woman answered the door, Johnston forced a gloved hand against her mouth and shoved her into her bedroom where he raped her under threat of harm to her son, who remained asleep through the entire ordeal.
Although Johnston had previously met this woman, police did not identify him as a suspect until four months later, after they obtained blood samples from him under warrant and matched the DNA to semen samples collected form the rape kit. Interestingly, this match would be the first DNA evidence presented in court in Missoula County history. Johnston plead not guilty and tried to argue that the sex had been consensual, but a jury found him guilty after only two hours of deliberations with one juror calling Johnston’s story “preposterous.” A judge sentenced him to 70 years in prison, where he died in 2016.
Johnston is one of the better fits for the suspect profile from the limited information available, though it is not strong by any means. Johnston’s crimes are probably the closest match in the region to the Riverside murderer’s MO. Furthermore, he fits the description of the POI scene near the Lagerquist murder at 4 am. The location and victim profile differ significantly from Johnston’s known crimes, but Johnston, recently paroled, may have sought a non-resistant, non-communicative target. As stated previously, the burglary at Riverside was brazen, but not especially complicated.
Police, however, have never publicly identified Johnston as a suspect in the Riverside murders. Even a Missoulian article describing both the DNA match for Johnston and the ongoing DNA testing for the Riverside murders did not speculate about a link between the two. Johnston was still on parole at the time of the of November attack. He could very well have been imprisoned when the Riverside murders occurred. If he was out at the time, police likely approached him early on and either cleared him or lacked enough evidence to charge him. If police suspected him for the Riverside murders, they might have unofficially closed the case after his 1992 conviction which resulted in a defacto life sentence.

Golden State Killer: Yep, I’m going there. To be clear, I believe each theory or suspect I have presented above is far more likely than DeAngelo. Still, these murders bear some similarities to DeAngelo’s alleged crimes and the differences in the victim profiles, type of dwelling targeted, and method of murder can be explained by adjustments forced by practical necessity. DeAngelo committing these crimes would be a grim irony; a serial killer who, due to advancing age and declining physical ability, starts committing his crimes in a nursing home.
Like DeAngelo, this perpetrator’s chief characteristic involved committing sexually motivated hot prowl burglaries which resulted in rape and murder. These crimes required patience and voyeurism, two traits well known to DeAngelo. Scott had been sleeping in restraints, which was DeAngelo’s go-to method for subduing his victims. The Lagerquist murder, involving a short distance abduction, fits with several of DeAngelo’s crimes where he abducted or attempted to abduct victims from their homes. It is uncertain what exactly DeAngelo planned to do with the abducted that he would not have done in the home. Even when DeAngelo did succeed in abducting someone, as in the case of EAR attack # 9 (“Do you go to American River College?"), he acted confused and seemingly did not do what he had wanted to do. Murder is not out of the question since these abductions occurred before the ONS series and DeAngelo may have been hesitant to leave a murder crime scene in a home. If that were the case, this crime could end up being his first “successful” abduction.
DeAngelo could have been visiting the area for recreation. Montana is famed for its recreational outdoor tourism. Thanks to the recent Oxygen special, we now know that DeAngelo had a boat during the EAR series. While not proof that he owned a boat in 1990, we do know that he at least had an interest in boating and fishing before then. Missoula is about an hour’s drive south of Flathead Lake, famed for its fishing, and a few hours away from several national and state parks including Glacier National Park. The Clark Fork itself is a favorite among anglers. If he or his family had owned or regularly rented a cabin in the area, it may have turned into his retreat, a place where he let off steam with fishing, biking, and murder.
DeAngelo could have been living in the area for work, especially as a truck mechanic. During his ONS phase, DeAngelo lived in Southern California for at least some time separately from his wife and children for work. DeAngelo worked as a truck mechanic at Savemart from 1990 and there are some indications that he had done this work in the 1980’s as well. As noted above, there were and are numerous trucking companies in Missoula. Considering the portability of auto mechanic skills, he probably could have found such a job in Missoula with few questions asked (unless there were certification or licensure requirements at the time).
Marital problems could have brought DeAngelo to the area. DeAngelo would formally separate from his wife in 1991, just a year after the murders. For serial killers who can stop murdering for lengthy periods of time and then resume murders, changes in relationship status or relationship problems are among the most common triggers for stopping and starting their crimes. If things had taken a turn for the worse in 1990, he may have moved to a more isolated, less urban area to find himself (and victims). There, he could easily find work as a truck mechanic to support himself while still getting away from it all.
Advancing age can explain the changes in the MO. DeAngelo would have been forty-four at this time, well past the age of jumping over fences and running along canals through vast suburban tracts. Riverside was fairly isolated at the time and offered quick access to I-90. The Clark Fork provided perhaps the best means of body disposal relative to the time, effort, and risk needed. DeAngelo may have also ended up raping Lagerquist with a foreign object because he was unable to achieve or maintain an erection, a problem noted in several EAR attacks and one that becomes only more common with age.
Problems with victim control could have forced him to look for older victims. During his penultimate attack in Goleta in 1981, Greg Sanchez may have confronted DeAngelo before he was able to subdue him. In his final known attack, there appears to have been a struggle and DeAngelo seems to have dispensed with his usual attempts at prior restraint with ligatures and instead struck Janelle Cruz with a blunt object repeatedly. In contrast, victim control posed no problem to the Riverside Murderer. Bertha Scott was already restrained. Nancy Lagerquist could not even walk. Sure, DeAngelo would have had to have carried her, but an 87-year-old woman with atrophied lower body muscles could have easily weighed less than one hundred pounds.
Access to an easily restrained victim would outweigh the risks of burglarizing a nursing home. While Riverside is a multiunit dwelling which is always staffed, it is single story and the security measures in place at the time were of little consequence to the Riverside Murderer, whoever he was. A man of DeAngelo’s patience and skill could figure out fairly quickly when staff had regularly scheduled bed checks. He also could have dedicated his time to this one target, “quality over quantity,” since a quick perusal (but by no means an exhaustive search) of the Missoulian from this time does not turn up any other reported hot prowl and/or sexually motivated burglaries in the area.
Finally, DeAngelo’s publicly known timeline is still sketchy but there are some indications that the timing of the murders fits within it. There is the aforementioned formal separation in 1991. One time given for his start at Savemart is August of 1990, just one month after Lagerquist’s murder. Furthermore, DeAngelo is believed to have made three phone calls to EAR victims after the series had ended. They occurred in 1982, the early 1990s, and 2001. The first and third have easy explanations. The first call (or set of calls) likely resulted from a chance encounter DeAngelo had with his victim at a Denny’s, where she worked as a waitress. The third call occurred only two days after the EAR series and ONS series were first publicly linked to each other. The second call, however, does not have any particularly strong explanation. If DeAngelo committed the Riverside Murders, he may have felt a renewed desire to relive other aspects of his past crimes including making phone calls to victims.


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