“Holy crap, did you find something?” Shh…came a voice from beyond the stacks. “Sorry.” “This is crazy stuff, is it real?”
I pushed myself over to see the screen of the bulky microfiche machine. Andrea was scrolling. “I think I found it.” ‘What does it say?” I gasped.
Together we read an unbelievable story involving our mutual best friend. We were trying to control our excitement, our shock. We researched this on a hunch, and to see it in print, was overwhelming. The most astonishing piece of our discovery was that an insignificant passing comment uncovered a truth that could only be found in suspense novels.
Patty, Andrea’s sister was visiting from Bermuda. She led a very bohemian jet setting life with travels all over the world. Sophisticated in a way that we were not, she would never marry, nor bare a child, or settle into one place for too long. Multiple partners and a non-conformist, she truly represented a lifestyle of freedom. I envied her ability to lack fear of the unknown and her openness to experience anything that might lay in her path.
Andrea, Nan, and I met when our babies were under a year old. We had playgroups together and took our children to the same nursery schools. While the children were in school; we would spend hours talking and sharing and developing a relationship that brought a genuine closeness and caring between us and our children.
It was 3 years into our friendship when this tale would unfold. Spending time together daily, we thought we knew everything there was to know about each other. What we did not know was the biggest secret of Nan’s life. It was startling to think that we could be so close to one another, while one of us harbored such a momentous secret.
Patty was visiting and staying at Andrea’s house. This free-spirited girl did not work, so she would sleep in till about 2:00 in the afternoon. Once she was awake it would take another 3-4 hours before showering and dressing. She was always in her bathrobe prancing about, naked underneath. Self-possessed and lacking any type of inhibition, that bathrobe would sway open as she walked, or fall open to one side as she laid on the couch, all the while her breasts periodically falling out. This situation was getting on Andrea’s nerves especially when her husband was home. Inappropriate for the kids to see as well, Andrea discussed her discomfort.
“I don’t know what to do with her. She will not dress and remains in her robe all day and into the evening. Sometimes she never dresses at all. Her exhibitionism on display for all to see, especially when men are around. I’m not loving my husband staring at her naked body.” And of course, Patty in good figure, encouraged this behavior which enticed others to look.
Nan said,” Why not have Patty stay at my house. I’m alone and my daughter and I would love her company.” Patty was fun and off-beat just enough to keep it interesting. Nan was lonely as her husband left her for another woman, a coworker, in the early years of their marriage which inspired nightly glasses of wine. Many glasses of wine. Patty loved to drink, especially wine. Together, they could drink and talk and have the companionship that each really needed.
Andrea replied, “If that’s okay with you, it’s fine with me.” “Please feel free to ask her, this may be a perfect solution.”
Nan’s father was a widower. His wife passed on her birthday, years ago. He was a retired Anesthesiologist and lived in the area. A frequent visitor to his daughter’s home, he got to know Patty and they developed a friendship. Together, they would regularly enjoy going out to bars.
Nan and her siblings were between the ages of 12-19 at the time of their mother’s death. Her father remarried not too long after her passing as he wanted a mother for his younger children. There was never conversation about their stepmother other than the fact that she was deceased as well, and had coincidentally died on her birthday, just as her real mom did. Ironically, they shared the same birthday. Different years but same date.
One evening, while Patty and the doctor, were relaxing and talking, he made a comment after multiple glasses of wine, indicating his second wife’s death was not of natural causes. Caught off guard but still present enough, Patty pressed for more, but the doctor was not willing to expound on the subject.
The very next day, Patty brimming with curiosity said to her sister, “Do you know anything about Nan’s stepmother? Andrea replied, not really, only that she passed away on the same day as Nan’s biological mother. “Well,” said Patty, “I believe there’s something more to it,” as she proceeded to fill Andrea in on the remark the doctor made.
This notion flooded Andrea’s thoughts coaxing her to ask me if I had any knowledge of Nan’s stepmom’s passing. I did not.
“Why are you asking?” I said in startled curiosity. “Patty and the doctor went out last night and after a few too many, he revealed an odd tidbit of information. He said that his second wife’s death was not of natural causes.” “Hmmm. Strange. I never really thought too much about her stepmom and their relationship since Nan only talks about her mother. She never speaks of her stepmom. I suppose that’s unusual, but I never noticed before.” “What are you thinking? “I asked. Andrea replied, “Do you want to take a ride over to the library tonight after the kids are asleep?” She went on to say that Patty said he made a negative comment about the New York Journal. Now that made us both take notice. Nan had an unusual dislike for the New York Journal. Not just a passing dislike, a real disdain. When she would get drunk, she would go off on how inaccurate and biased the Journal was, never talk to them as they do not publish the truth, she would implore. Her venom for the paper was palpable and not understood; we just accepted that she felt passionate about her opinion.
Gasping, we both realized there was something to learn. In full agreement, we decided this mission was to be inviolate.
Busting out the door once Judy pulled up to my house, we drove to the library barely containing our eagerness. We could not get there fast enough. Crashing through the doors we ran to the card catalogues to find the New York Journal’s archived articles. Of course, this was pre-computer days so googling it was not on anyone’s radar. We both grabbed the old wooden catalog boxes filled with handwritten index cards referencing the decimals that brought us to the correct bay. The scent and quiet of a library subliminally inspired our curiosity even more, as we frantically reviewed each card. Not really knowing what we were hunting for, we read everything, every detail. Poking each other as we went through the cards. “Look at this.” We were examining every notation we could find within a specific period, but we were just guessing.
Andrea and I were sweating, panting, and having difficulty disguising our excitement. We were unknowingly causing people to look our way even though we thought we were presenting ourselves as composed. Pursing our lips tightly, hoping to lower our volume, deep breathing, eyes closed every few minutes to steady ourselves, we were doing our best to stay calm, but we knew there was something big lurking somewhere in these bays and we just had to find it, without haste.
We wrote down the stacks we needed to look through up on the second floor. We sat down on the floor between the aisles and grabbed every New York Journal reference folder we could find for those years. Without a specific date, our search was quite daunting. The library closed at 9:00 pm, our time limited. We needed to work fast, quietly, and efficiently. We were in such an emotional state that it was almost impossible to function.
After an hour of rummaging, we came across a mention of the family. “Here it is!” “Oh my god. I can’t believe it, look!” I pushed Andrea out of the way and grabbed the article from her. I looked and could not believe my eyes. There really was something to our suspicions. We each took turns grabbing back and forth from each other as we were in complete disbelief. Making all sorts of noises, as we pulled it into our own hands. “Holy Crap. I’m amazed that we were right.” Uncontrollable laughing from hysteria and panic. We sleuthed something real.
The article had a brief mention of a suspicious death in the family but referenced microfiche for complete articles.
At this point, our emotions were wild. Stunned, Andrea said, “Wait, stop a minute.” “Why?” I, exploded. “I’m feeling guilty,” shared Andrea “If she wanted us to know about this, she would have told us.” “What! Are you insane? Oh no, I am not stopping now. We are in way too deep to pull back. I must know!” Andrea pleaded, “Okay, but it’s imperative that we both promise to take whatever we uncover to our graves. We can never tell anyone about this.” I agreed. Frankly, I would have agreed to anything in that moment. My interest and curiosity were too heightened to stop.
Once we agreed to keep this inviolate, Andrea seemed to get back onboard. Her discomfort relaxed. We ran downstairs to the microfiche machines and now armed with the information needed, fluidly sought out the post.
1976. Mae Township Anesthesiologist Accused of Murder
A young boy discovered his stepmom lying in a pool of blood deceased in the family home. It appears that while in bed, she was shot through the head with a .22 caliber gun, but after the coroner’s report was revealed, it showed that she was given a lethal injection of pentobarbital in the back of the neck, before being shot. Pentobarbital is used regularly by veterinarians’, to euthanize dogs. The drug being the probable cause of death.
Initially, due to her husbands, medical background, it was supposed that he administered the deadly injection. Additionally, his hands evaluated positive for residue from a fired gun. It was soon learned that the eldest daughter, Nan, was attending nursing school at that time and therefore had the ability to administer the injection as well. The question remain why then was she shot first? Perhaps two different people planning this murder unaware of the others intent?
The father arrested and put on trial for first degree murder. The trial lasted for 6 weeks. The jury was out for an hour and a half before acquitting him, due to lack of evidence, but strong suspicions remain regarding the daughter. Police did not charge the daughter. There was no sign of forced entry or robbery.
Another twist in this case was the information learned that the biological mother of the three children and the Dr.’s first wife, also passed away on her birthday, one year earlier. She was ill and diagnosed with breast cancer. There was talk of exhuming her body to see if an injection was the cause of her death. Her death pronounced as natural causes due to her illness and no autopsy performed.
No one ever charged with the stepmother’s murder and the question remains as to the actual cause of death for the mother. The gun never found.
Dropping to the floor, stunned, overwhelmed, speechless, Andrea and I decided never to talk of this again.