Authors: Wyborn Senna
Bury Me With Barbie
By Wyborn Senna
This book is dedicated to Danna Dykstra-Coy, the best next-desk mate I could wish for as well as a kick-ass crime reporter back when
in San Luis Obispo and Jeff Fairbanks was still with us.
It is also dedicated to those who know how many birds are embroidered on the Skipper on Wheels top, what color glitter adorns Barbie’s 1966 Sears Exclusive Pink Formal, what plastic accessory came with Ken’s #1416 College Student and what color shoes belong to Francie’s Check This.
Bent are our minds and all our thoughts on fire
Still striving in the pangs of hot desire
At once like misers wallowing in their store
Of full possession, yet desiring more
Poems on Affairs of State
Most Barbie collectors have been known to say, “I would kill to have that,” but P.J. Croesus meant it literally.
They say it’s important to look at the first kill in serial slayings because it typically hits close to home for the murderer—literally or psychologically.
P.J.’s target had been driving her crazy on a message board populated by those as manic as she to score the best vintage Barbies from the ’60s.
Every time P.J. won something vintage on eBay and shared pictures with the group, Gayle Grace would point out that what P.J. had won was far from perfect and that she herself had something better under protective glass in her very own temperature-controlled doll room. This happened for the thirtieth time (by P.J.’s careful count) on the first Saturday in January with regard to a flawless Debutante Ball gown she had won, which Gayle claimed had a replacement rosebud because the shade was slightly off.
What kind of idiot did Gayle think P.J. was? Yes, P.J. had auto-corrected the coloring in Photoshop, but only because a shadow cast across the room had ruined what would have been a perfect digital picture. For Gayle to assume the rosebud on the dress wasn’t the exact shade it should be was absolutely and definitively the moment P.J. decided to kill her, no matter what.
Getting Gayle’s address was no biggie. On the message board, they all swapped home addresses for Christmas cards. Gayle lived in Oswego, New York, and P.J. lived in Southern California. Even that was not off-putting. P.J. knew how to get on a bus, train, or plane. She knew how to rent a car. She knew how to book a hotel room. She was worldly, not to mention thin, rich, blonde, and beautiful. She even had a half-brother who spent six years in jail who could tell her ways to kill a person that hadn’t even come up on the Internet. She had money. She had time. She had opportunity.
She had picked her first victim.
P.J. made it to SUNY Oswego and located Sheldon Hall at the corner of Washington and Sheldon. She’d gotten a Christmas card from Gayle two years earlier which displayed the Grace home, bedecked in lights and garlands. On the front of the photo card, Gayle and her husband Mike stood outside in the cold. They rested alongside the family car, which had its license plate in full view. Their arms were raised and waving. To P.J., they could have been any two thickly bundled strangers whose faces were inscrutable in the deep recesses of their parka hoods.
The Graces drove an older white Saturn. After driving around the parking lots flanking Sheldon Hall for a good two minutes, P.J. found it parked at the far right end of the back lot, facing outward toward Takamine Road and Rich Hall. Snow was swirling up and around the Saturn and the cars near it. P.J. parked the burgundy Altima she had rented from the East Avenue branch of Enterprise and stepped into the cold, seven spaces away from her target vehicle. The snowfall was so thick and wet she couldn’t see more than twenty feet in front of her. But she trusted in the fact that since she could see no one, no one could see her. The coat she wore contained what she needed to get her first job done. Her half-brother, Darby, had walked her through what she needed to do three times.
P.J. went over to the Saturn and kicked away the snow from underneath the front bumper and tires. Then she lay down on the ground in front of the vehicle. She had never felt this cold in her entire life. She had no idea if she was going to be able to feel her fingers, which tingled and felt prickly despite lined leather gloves, if the job took longer than expected. Looking up, she saw the red spark plug wire she needed to locate inside the engine. She pulled the spark plug wire off the spark plug and fumbled inside her coat for her needle-nosed pliers. Next, she spit on the tips of two gloved fingers and rubbed the saliva into the wire above the boot of the spark plug wire. The needle-nosed pliers went inside the boot. She grabbed hold of the spark plug connector and pushed the boot back over the wire. In her front left-hand pocket, she found the long piece of speaker wire she needed. Wrapping one end of the speaker wire around the spark plug metal, she struggled a bit to toss the other end of the speaker wire toward the rear tires.
Gently easing herself out from under the front bumper, she brushed herself off. She straightened her coat and looked around, refocusing her sights across the street. The façade of Rich Hall rose from the snow and shadows. Packs of padded bodies braced themselves against the wind as they struggled toward dining halls, meetings, and classes.
P.J. picked her way through the deep snowfall and made her way to the back of the car. Once the gas tank was open, she retrieved the end of the wire she had thrown underneath the car and reeled in the length of it. Darby had told her to push at least a couple feet into the tank, but she had more than that to spare. She fed the wire in slowly until it fell in a straight line from the tank to the ground before disappearing beneath the car. She resolved to put her legs in motion and head back to the Altima. She wasn’t sure she had done everything correctly but wouldn’t know how to fix things even if she suspected something wasn’t right. Briefly, she looked heavenward and gave a slight nod. God willing, she would have her way.
Luck was with her as she navigated the streets bordering the state university. She easily found Gayle’s ranch-style house, its long, low profile and large windows enveloped in snow banks in a neighborhood bound within a triangle of roads pointing like a planchette at Lake Ontario beyond the Campus Center.
The home, as predicted, was empty. Both Gayle and her husband Mike had no children and only one pet—an old gray tabby named Frank. Through notes on the message board, P.J. had learned that, in addition to working Monday through Friday, Gayle and Mike liked to stroll around the university’s 700-acre campus and they occasionally picnicked at Glimmer Glass Lagoon. Every July, Gayle raved about Harborfest. Every October, it was all about the pumpkins, since Oswego was one of twenty international weigh-in sites for pumpkin growers competing in the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. But nothing Gayle had mentioned on the boards about Oswego being “cold” prepared her for the gusty winds and frigid temperatures residents endured each winter.
P.J. fought against the wind to get out of the four-door rental. She had parked on the street, where snowplows were making the rounds. Her tire marks would be indiscernible by late afternoon. The snow was still falling without respite, offering a veil of privacy.
The alcove on the Grace porch was well hidden from onlookers as she worked a piece of plastic into the doorframe. Blocked by sheared Arborvitae standing sentry near the road, P.J. felt as though she had all the time in the world, but she knew she should hurry lest she encounter the unexpected postal worker or UPS man. Gayle bought a lot on eBay, and that stuff had to get to her front door somehow.
The wooden door creaked inward on hinges in need of oil. Warm air rushed out at P.J., who sighed with relief. Her feet were clad in white vinyl go-go boots she’d only worn once before, on Halloween. Stomping her heels, she left a clump or two of snow on the doormat placed directly inside the doorway.
Frank the cat, a friendly soul, approached and sniffed her legs. P.J. smiled despite herself. The canvas duffel bag she had brought along was slack at her side. Now to find the doll room. The entry hall led to a living room on the right and a kitchen and bathroom straight ahead. Decorated in Laura Ashley English cabbage roses and ribbons, the place had a traditional, staid appeal. Maple furniture passed down from G.I. Generation parents filled the home, and the carpeting throughout was plush olive.
Skipping the living room and kitchen, P.J. opted to head left. She walked down a hallway that led to two very different rooms, one quite obviously a bedroom and the other undeniably a doll haven.
The doll sanctuary was dark, but there were lamps in all four corners of the room. Still wearing gloves, P.J. flipped the wall switch and surveyed the windowless room. Light-controlled, check. Temperature controlled—if Gayle had meant slightly warmer than freezing—check. Dolls in abundance lining the walls in glass-fronted maple curios—oh, holy check of all checks, what a place! Gayle owned every 1600-series outfit shown in Eames. They were not “never-removed-from-box,” also known as NRFB, but this room was awesome in its own right.
Before the big dolls known as American Girls were introduced to the doll world, there were American Girl Barbies, also known as AGs. Gayle’s outfits were modeled by the most exquisite array of American Girl Barbies P.J. had ever seen. Her gaze settled first on a high-color, longhaired silver blond with stunning, full ruby lips, dressed in Midnight Blue. The outfit was complete, with long white gloves, deep blue open-toed shoes, and a silver dimple purse. A blond American Girl came next, dressed in the fabulous white and gold lamé Holiday Dance. Beside her, a longhaired titian beauty wore the original AG swimsuit. The puffy top featured vertical stripes in a riot of colors, offsetting the suit’s solid turquoise jersey trunk. Classic open-toe matching heels completed the look.