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I have a confession to make to Arleen Williams. I’ll get to that in a moment. This morning I started to read, again, her memoir, The Thirty-Ninth Victim. I say again because when I first met Arleen a few years ago I (of course) purchased her book and settled in to read. But, I couldn’t do it. I don’t know why or what it is that stops me, because I’ve read and do read some gruesome stuff from time to time. Maybe it’s because I know her that it disturbs me to read how she can’t walk through a park ‘without imaging bones in the undergrowth’, or maybe it’s because when I first was relocated to Seattle I worked with a woman who was the younger sister of a girlfriend of Ted Bundy’s, and who had been in his Volkswagen several times as he gave her a ride – years of therapy had not helped her to forget she sat in a car, right on the very spot where murder victims had been. She couldn’t get past the constant wonder; why not her or her sister? Why did he let them live? She talked to me about it all time. I was starting to have her nightmares and as a single mother of a young teen girl, became irrationally over-protective of my daughter who was/is the sort to help a guy with a broken arm carry his groceries to his car, that Volkswagen.
Or maybe it’s because I had the honor of having lunch with Ann Rule (a few years ago) and she talked about both Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgeway while we dined. I didn’t eat much that day. And again I had night time visions about how Ann described seeing Gary Ridgeway standing behind the crowd in the back of a bookstore where she would be doing a book signing for her books about Bundy. He stalked her, wanting (she learned later) for her to write his story. So predatory…so creepy…. Maybe these close-enough encounters with serial killers disturbs me to the core – maybe I just have an over active imagination but my confession to Arleen Williams is that The Thirty Ninth Victim upsets me too much to read. When I read it I am reminded of a man who tried to snatch me, and how I was saved by a well-meaning, brave co-worker, and how we later read that that man had raped and beaten several women between Oregon and California – I still can see his soulless eyes and feel his breath as he leaned into me, grabbed my arm and shoved me toward the door. Then I hear my friend’s voice call out to me. Then, that’s where I always wake. But it could have ended so differently. And when I read Arleen’s memoir I also think of my own sister who died; how I took care of her while the cancer ate her from the inside out, how her beautiful eyes changed from blue to almost a metallic green, then foggy, then gone – how I held her hand as her soul left her body – how I felt it leave. I know Arleen would have cherished the kind of last moments I had with my sister – as I cherish them – had she had them with hers. But when I read Arleen’s book, I see my sister, and I grow overwhelmed with emotion, again and again. Maybe someday I’ll be able to read it entirely, but for now, it’s only been bits and pieces at a time, then I fall apart, more bits and pieces. Maybe someday…. But, if you want to read it you can check it out at Watpad for free. Needless to say, I won’t be there.
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