Authors: Wyborn Senna
“She’s definitely the biggest,” P.J. said, as she showed Darby the card and the avatar and then moved on to Time’s Flikr photo albums. “She weighs what? 320? 340?”
He clicked through photos that showed the inside and outside of her home, her poodles, the Burger King where she worked, and some fellow tubbies in over-sized shirts and baggy jeans. “Yikes.”
“Not passing judgment,” P.J. said sarcastically.
She leaned over Darby’s shoulder as he sat there, so close he could smell her Oscar de la Renta perfume. It was sweet and heady.
“Why do women smell so much better than men?” he asked. He turned to look at her and caught a glimpse of her arching an eyebrow, batting her eyelashes, gently mocking.
“Pheromones? Hormones? Who knows? Just pay attention. I want to get into her home, but she’s having construction done. They’re adding an enclosed porch, so the back is blocked off. She’s been complaining online that the only way into her home until March is going to be via the front door, and she hates having to lug her groceries all the way up the front walk when she’s used to pulling into the driveway, pulling around back, and being right at her rear door.”
“I see,” Darby said.
“So the problem is, the front door has one of those locked screens, and it’s impossible to slide a card into one because there’s a metal lip where you would slide it.”
“So pick it,” he said. “I’ve shown you how.”
She sighed. “I’m not comfortable with that. Sometimes I can get it, sometimes I can’t, and it takes me too long.”
Darby clicked through Flickr until he found an album dedicated solely to exterior shots of Time’s home.
P.J. was snide. “She’s a parentless pothead, for Christ’s sake. Her alcoholic mother and deranged father were both gone for different reasons six months after her eighteenth birthday three years ago, but Daddy did one thing right. After Mom died of liver cancer, he wrote a will giving his only daughter the house her mother had loved, as well as piles of dirty money stashed in every room, left over from two decades of drug deals. Daddy went to prison, got in a fight, and ended up dead. She got the house, complete with cubby-holed cash. Now she spends all her time eating and complaining about her life to e-quaintances online.”
“What does she have to complain about?”
“Most days she consciously tries to forget about her preposterously abusive childhood—ignored, neglected, and battered by her mother and virtually abandoned by her daddy, who liked the weather in South America so much better than rainy Washington State.”
“She shared this on a public message board?” Darby, always the private soul who wouldn’t even keep a journal for fear someone would find it and read it, was appalled.
“Some women use the board for therapy. Some are so lonely, their only friends are chat board people they’ll never meet.”
“Why is she named Time, anyway?” he asked.
P.J. rolled her eyes. “Oh, it’s the stupidest story. I guess when her mom and dad were discussing names, her mom’s water broke, and her mom said, ‘It’s time,’ and her dad said, ‘Time? Time Taylor? I love that for a name!’ So it stuck.”
“Should have been Time-To-Get-Some-Exercise Taylor,” Darby said maliciously.
“Ooh. You can be as mean as I am.”
“And why’d she piss you off?”
“That fat old sow,” P.J. muttered so low Darby almost didn’t hear her.
It was hard for her to remember the chat board exchange and not punch a wall.
TT: P.J., thanks for sharing pictures of your new number three ponytail, but she isn’t worth $1,175. For one thing, she doesn’t have her gold hoops, and for another thing, her eyeliner is brown
PJ-RULEZ: Thanks for your opinion, Time, but I prefer brown eyeliner to blue, even if the blue is more rare
TT: You still got ripped off. I wouldn’t have paid more than $300 for that piece of shit
PJ-RULEZ: You’re kidding, right?
TT: God, look at her! It’s so obvious she has new bands and a new bottom hard curl. Why would you pay for something that needed to be restored?
PJ-RULEZ: You know, I shouldn’t have bothered telling you all what I paid for her, but you all saw the auction on eBay so you would have known what I paid anyway. But even without your input, I would buy her all over again for every penny I spent because I love her
TT: Hmm. Maybe you’d like some things from my collection for three times what I paid for them too?
P.J. grimaced and struggled to control herself.
“Did you say something, P.J.?”
“No,” she said. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“It’s a doll thing?” He turned to look at her and saw her eyes were wet. He wanted to show concern and make her feel better.
He got up from his desk chair and went over and held her. She was trembling.
“It’s a doll thing?” he repeated softly.
P.J. pushed her half-brother away. “Yes.”
Darby studied her and realized she’d only be okay once she was on her way to Washington. He sat back down at the computer and went through Time’s Flickr albums until he located a photo of the front step area.
“Perfect,” he said. “You see how she’s got about an eight by eight raised concrete entrance outside her front doorway that’s kind of arched over?”
P.J. didn’t answer. When he turned around, she stood up from the couch where she had gone to lay down. “What?”
“I think I solved your problem. Her front archway looks like stucco to me, which is just what we want. I’ll explain what you’ll need to do and we can even practice here if you want before you leave. But I promise, you’re gonna love it.”
“But what about getting inside if the screen door is locked?”
“You’re gonna have to go over there in the middle of the night your first night in town and fill the keyhole in the screen doorknob with Loctite. The next day, when she leaves for work, she won’t be able to get her key in the knob to flip the inside lock behind her. She’ll opt to leave the screen door open and lock the inner door instead, which you can card open.”
At that moment, the sun broke through the cloudy sky outside the apartment and shafts of sunlight poured through the vertical blinds facing Chevy Chase Drive.
Mother Nature herself sanctioned the solution.
The headache that might have ruined Caresse’s evening departed as she threw herself fully into the interview. Better than two Tylenol, Barbie talk was once again cheering her up.
She continued to bear down on small black suction cup fitted to the top of the phone receiver, afraid to lessen the pressure lest she lose the call and ruin the rapport that was building. “So Ward is supportive?”
“Not only that. He takes pictures of my pieces, and if I’m not happy with them, he retakes them until I
happy. We want to do an identification guide of all my vinyl cases, trunks, and other vintage Barbie vinyl pieces, so good pics are essential.”
“Sounds great. Whom do you buy from?”
“Debbye Bascom always has lots of lovely things for sale. She’s the only dealer who’s ever had a nice vinyl collection and advertises it in her subscription. Every time her list comes out, about ten to twenty items are choice.”
“Did you have Barbies when you were younger?”
Nancy grew quiet. “No. My mom didn’t encourage it. She’s not a doll person. I wanted them, but I kind of dropped the issue. I got other toys instead.”
Caresse leaned back into the couch. Nancy was just about ready to fully open up. In a way, asking leading questions was akin to therapy.
Nancy explained that she had more than made up for her mother’s unwillingness to give her dolls. In 1992, she was stricken with Barbie fever. Her friend Margaret, in San Francisco, started collecting Barbies first. Nancy was visiting her in the Bay Area when they went to a flea market, where Margaret spotted some Barbies.
“And then I realized,” she said, “all these things are still around! After my first blond bubble cut, I began stockpiling dolls and clothes as fast as I could get my hands on them. I bought a case and I thought, ‘you know, I really like the graphics, the artwork.’ Then I started going to shows and began realizing there was such a variety. Every time I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve gotten all the cases,’ I’d go, ‘No, I haven’t. There’s another one, and another one!’ Trunks, cases, hat boxes, and travel pals—what can I say? They’re intriguing and fun.”
Caresse smiled, thinking Nancy should leave the legal world for a job in PR or advertising.
“I can store my dolls and clothes in them,” she enthused. “And I view them as a real sampling of our culture at the time, what with the way the dolls are dressed and the artwork is done.”
“Tell me about some of your favorite cases,” she prompted.
Nancy first described a case she called “The Equestrienne.” It was a beige case featuring artwork of Barbie and Skipper wearing riding outfits. Then she described a case that was dubbed “The Picnic.” It showed artwork of Barbie, Ken, and Skipper.
“They’re sitting down, having a picnic, and they have a watermelon. There’s a butterfly in the scene and a blue jay in the trees,” she explained.
In addition to Nancy’s fondness for the lavish artwork, she was fascinated with different color combinations. “There’s a case which shows Barbie dressed in Red Flare,” she said. “This case is intriguing because on some cases they used Red Flare in red, like it really is, and they put it on a blue, black, or white background. Then, for some reason, they made the case again and used a yellow version of Red Flare, putting the Barbie graphics in yellow on a blue, black, or red background. Six cases with two variations of Red Flare! Who decided to sit down and say, ‘Let’s just put this in yellow here, on red’? Did they leave it up to the artists? Was it because one day they didn’t have enough dye?”
Caresse laughed. Nancy was running at full steam now. “You have vinyl friends?”
“I have many friends who are equally into vinyl collecting,” she stressed, pausing to blow her nose again. “We have a great system so we’re not competitive. We like to know what we’re each specifically looking for. At shows, we’ll say, ‘I’ve got my heart set on finding this,’ and then we work it out. We don’t just run in and snatch it. Whoever wants something that day gets it.”
“And what would you like to add to your collection that you’re missing?”
Nancy sounded a bit vague as her mind wandered to her wish list. “There’s a Skipper Purse Pal I want. It’s done in the shape of a purse you’d carry in the ’60s. I also want the case that features the head of a side-part American Girl. The case was originally sold together with a brunette Swirl. There’s a window in the case, and you can see the doll.”
“Got kids to pass your collection on to?”
“No,” she said, “but my three-year-old niece is a budding Barbie collector. On her third birthday, she had a Barbie party. I’m training her to follow in my footsteps.”
“Sounds good,” Caresse said, glancing at the wall clock near the computer monitor. She had half an hour to get to 726 Higuera Street for her work-related date. It occurred to her to ask Nancy if she’d heard about Barbie collector Gayle Grace being murdered in upstate New York or Midge fanatic Hailey Raphael being bludgeoned to death in Tucson, but she was out of time. She released the pressure from the receiver cup, disconnected the recorder, wished Nancy a speedy recovery from her cold, and said good-bye.
After Hailey’s parents were had been led away from the crime scene on East Ocotillo Drive, forensic technicians in Tucson staked out the Raphael property, forming a perimeter along the road, down the side of the garage, across the backyard, and back to the front curb.
Bagging anything found on or near the lawn, driveway, and sidewalk, the force worked tirelessly, tweezing anything that might be important. Cigarette butts, strands of hair, bits of paper—all of it was collected in an attempt to determine who had killed the young schoolteacher who loved nothing more than eating popcorn while watching Westerns and volunteering her time on weekends to Meals on Wheels.
Everything outside the house that could be considered potential evidence was photographed and marked on a sketch. Collected, initialed, sealed, and dated bags went into the van. Two cotton-gloved investigators focused their attention on the left-side garage entrance, where the body-width walkway created cramped working quarters. Alek Bryce headed down the narrow path first. He stopped near the garage door and squatted down in the pale gravel. Scanning the area, he stopped and used his forceps to collect a long, vibrant strand of hair lying in pebbles.
“Get Sketch and Viper,” he said to his partner Eitan. “Got a blond beauty here.”
The first team of investigators combed the workbench inside the garage. An empty spot on the pegboard filled with hanging tools was photographed and sketched.
The entire garage was scanned visually with a laser for latent prints. Since the bench was dark, white powder was applied to the surface for contrast. Transparent tape was used to lift latent prints, which were then placed on dark backing cards for contrast. The garage floor was dusty, and examination yielded several footprints. Photos were taken using a manual-focus camera and a tripod to capture each impression directly from above.
Inside the home, a second photographer was shooting prints on the hallway carpeting, positioning the camera flash at a ten to fifteen degree angle to enhance the detail of the impressions. He added a few additional angles, moving the light and adjusting the sunscreen in a progressive path toward the laundry room.
Iden “Sketch” Wayne stood in the entrance to the laundry room and graphed out the small area. Clothes remained neatly folded atop the dryer, which had long since gone quiet. Through the cracks between the door hinges, Wayne noticed the lidded hamper, marred by smudges and blood spray.
The murder victim, Hailey Raphael, lay in a semi-fetal position on her right side, facing him. He glanced quickly, then sketched roughly, capturing her as best he could. He had an embarrassing habit others knew nothing about to prevent himself from getting sick. By squinting so he only saw through a watery, blurred field of vision, he could accomplish the necessary strokes on his pad without becoming overwhelmed by the blood.