I’d worked late last night…into the wee hours of this morning. Rolling over in hopes of catching a few more zzz’s, I pulled my pillow, tight, over my head to escape the husband’s morning routine. Television blaring the morning news. Shower, all too merrily, spraying away sleeps lingering shadow. Coffee maker rumbling to a finish. Dogs bouncing around, slapping tails on the floor and whining to go out.
“Hey, honey! Isn’t that Babette’s real name?,” he shouts over the blow dryer.
“What the hell is he rambling on about?,” I think. Lifting my bed head out of hiding, I hear the newscaster continue:
“Early this morning, the body of Elizabeth Leann Evans, 54, of Redding was found by firefighters inside the wreckage of her burning double wide mobile.”
“For crissake, it is her!” I growl back as my stomach tightens with fear and anxiety. She’d been my best friend through high school. We’d been tighter than pegged jeans at one point in our lives but had slowly drifted apart. She’d headed down a haphazard and random path. And I? Well…let’s just say mine was orderly and calculated.
Our friends always seemed to think of us as the polar opposites of each other. The good and the bad. The light and the dark. The beautiful and the cute. The skinny and the fat. The sure thing and the not a chance in hell. Despite our differences, we were fast friends.
Babette had a thing for drugs. Hell, for a long time, we both did. After all, it was the 60s. Nearly everyone was trying everything they could get their hands on. In my case, it was always about having fun, experimentation and the thrill of getting away with anything I tried. In Babette’s case, obsession, compulsion, fascination and a deep, undying love of getting high motivated her every move.
Drugs shaped her entire existence. She followed the stem and seed laden trail of excess from pre-pubescent sex to alcohol to pot to psychedelics to snorting coke to freebasing to meth and beyond. Babette slung dope and rolled lids into joints for spending money. She gained notoriety as the best female grower in the area.
She went into nursing to be close to the drugs. It was no mistake that she was the best in her class at giving injections. She and the needle had become friends long ago. Not so much for herself, but she was good at hitting veins so her friends always asked her to tie them off and fire them up.
Over the years, she got thinner and thinner. She always had some lame excuse when asked about it. She was too poor to buy food. She was so busy and working hard at her new job. She was selling these fantastic new vitamins that just melted the fat away. And did I want to buy some because I could stand to shed 20 or 30 pounds. Why do people with addictions always think everyone falls for their transparent excuses?
Eventually, she became the lover of one largest pot growers in the area. Chief belonged to one of the Indian tribes that grew in the canyons between here and Humboldt. He was a good and handsome man and I truly believe that he loved Babette. But in the end, she went deeper into the murky forest of dealing than he wanted to go. And that is saying a lot.
After they split up, she kept company with some really scary and unsavory people. The few times I tried to visit her at her home, I was met by armed men and had to have her, personally, come to the gate to grant me access to her property.
A string of arrests followed. Babette pleaded no contest, in November 1996, to transportation or selling of a controlled substance. She also pleaded no contest, in February 1997, to possession of a controlled substance and illegal possession of ammunition. Deputies were called to her home, at Bear Mountain, numerous times on drug related issues. Her neighbors kept reporting her for running a meth lab and drug operations.
But, as of this morning, all that was left of Babette for the corner to identify her charred body by, was her fingertips.
Snapping out of my reminisce, I hear the newscaster continuing:
“A fast moving blaze gutted Ms. Evans mobile home, parts of an outbuilding, seared branches on overhanging trees and blackened two pickups parked in the driveway.
The investigators won’t say how she was murdered, but they say it’s obvious she died prior to the fire. About 35 crime scene investigators spent the morning sifting through the ashes and searching for evidence at the rural home, the surrounding 60 acres of property and the nearby road.
Furthermore, they say her case is eerily similar to two other cases in the area where people were murdered and then burned in their homes. But they don't believe there's a serial murderer -- one with a penchant for burning bodies -- on the loose.”
SUCKERS! I think to myself as I hop out of bed and head to the bathroom to tend my burned and blistered fingers.