Why I Don’t Read True-Crime Stories
It was the summer I was twenty.
I almost wrote that I was home from college for the summer, but that year, I actually commuted to college so I was home all year anyway. So let’s just say that I was on summer break from school. And dreaming of the Fall when I would actually move out of my bright green and pink frilly bedroom and into a college dorm with an Indian batik bedspread and a Mao poster.
My sister Claudia had her first apartment, which she shared with two other young teachers. It was a very cool apartment – mostly because they were “older women” and also because they were known to have men drop by. I loved men dropping by. I visited all the time and planned my exit in the evening to coincide with the departure of one (any) of the men – hoping they will take me to an all-night diner for coffee. And sometimes they did.
One day mid-week my sister called. She had the flu. Her roommates were gone for the day, and she was all alone. She was quite sick. She hated being alone and sick. Would I come by and stay with her for a few hours?
So I went all the way over there – the apartment was five whole blocks from my parent’s home.
Claudia let me in and immediately went back to bed. I played around a little bit with the TV, but a summer afternoon in 1971 was not exactly peak viewing time. I had a soap opera on for some background noise, and leafed through some magazines.
I checked on my sister. She was sound asleep. Bored, I switched off the TV and browsed through the books in the living room bookshelf. And I pulled one out.
“The Boston Strangler.”
I was fascinated. Mesmerized.
Of course, I already knew quite a lot about The Boston Strangler. Living in Connecticut, you couldn’t help but follow the case. Especially after we learned that the Strangler was most likely also the “Green Man” – notorious in Connecticut for rape and assault of housewives by pretending he was a repairman.
As the Boston Strangler and the Green Man, the perpetrator (who was most probably Albert DeSalvo, although there are some who do not believe his confession) wore the dark green work clothes that usually signified an appliance or utility repairman back in the early 60s.
As a little kid, the Green Man had put a scare into the people of Connecticut. I had been warned not to open the door for a repairman without my mother’s permission – and yes, people actually came to your house to fix things in those days. You did not throw out the miscreant TV or toaster and get a new one – you had the broken one fixed. Really.
(BTW, did you know that we used to have our shoes re-soled, and we’d wear them for years? Really. I’m that old.)
Anyway, I was engrossed in this book. I read for hours. I remember it as well-written as well as creepy. The way this guy would so convincingly gain the trust of so many women that they just opened the door and let him in. And wham.
The doorbell rang.
I jumped about four feet.
And I looked through the peephole.
And it was a guy in a green uniform.
I opened the door a crack with the chain still on and my heart pounding with a beat that reminded me of “My Sweet Lord.”
“Hi,” the green man said. “I’m here to fix your door.”
“Ummm, I’m the babysitter,” I said, not coming up with a better word for keeping watch over my sick, sleeping, older sister. “What’s wrong with the door?”
“It’s not flush to the floor. See how much space there is at the bottom? Someone here complained that it wasn’t safe.”
Well, that couldn’t have been my sister. My sister would never ever notice that a door was not flush to the floor. But both of her roommates could easily want that fixed.
But – “not safe?”
How dangerous is a slight crack at the bottom of your door? Who did they think would break in? Mr. Fantastic? Flat Stanley?
And with my finger still holding my place in “The Boston Strangler” – I unhooked the chain and let him in.
I backed up even with the bathroom door. I planned on jumping in there and locking myself in if I had to.
The guy had a long thin piece of board. He glued it to the bottom of the door and left.
And I never read another true crime book.
Oh yeah. I know what you are thinking.
With regards to my poor sister asleep in the bedroom:
You have never seen Claudia sick. I figured he’d take one look at her and run away.