Overpopulation in Ohio – A Murder Mystery

Karen headshot

By Karen Cole

Word Count: 3,700

 

Fiction Based on Fact Murder Mystery:

 

There was a murder I didn’t exactly participate in around Gahanna, Ohio in the 1970s. I simply told my father to ask “the guy at work” to pick me up, implying something. I think that man, who’s dead by now, murdered his wife and buried her somewhere. Up until now, I’m not sure if I caused those murders, or was only an innocent victim. Did it matter that I asked my Dad an open-ended question, more like a command, one which meant I was giving up on life in order to become a murder victim?

I ran alongside the road with my track team members, two girls, in front of me, running oh about a quarter mile ahead. I didn’t think they could hear me if I screamed. We were way out in the fields and farmlands of Ohio, and we were the long distance girls’ track team of Gahanna Lincoln High School. I had been expecting the guy to show up, the man from Dad’s work. I’d seen him in a photograph, and he looked like he was being picked on by the guy looming behind him in the photo, probably on a daily basis. Dad’s work could be odd sometimes.

He was a mentally disabled WWII veteran of the US Navy, retired, working at North American Rockwell in Ohio. He was prone to violent temper tantrums and liked to tease me into crying. He’d then get extremely angry, running me down and screaming like a male banshee in my streaming yellow face. I thought he was going to kill me, several times, but Mom always stopped him from falling over the edge. She was psychically well, had the patience and mannerisms of a saint, and held us all together like glue. I miss them both royally. I was their youngest, the princess, why we lived in Ohio.

I had to choose whether or not to stop, let the guy come out of his white sedan car, and maybe then I could fight him, but I didn’t know enough yet on how to fight with someone. That takes karate, judo, kung fu, martial arts training. I wouldn’t attain any of that until years later, when I went to college. I only vaguely knew how to side kick from watching David Carradine on “Kung Fu,” the television show in the 1970s. I was running with the girls’ track team during the early summer of 1977, when this terrible event transpired. I would later win my high school letter, but for now the man had come to me, and was swerving in front of me, constantly cutting me off.

So I wouldn’t stop running, even though I felt like some sort of female Jerry Lewis, and I was constantly running, more so than he ever did in his entire jaded celebrity life. I ran and ran and ran, achingly slowly, as the guy from Dad’s work constantly cut alongside me, at perfect 45 degree angles about two feet ahead of me each time. I had to pace myself so that I was not run over by the nose of his car. It was white and unfamiliar, like the Lincoln used by James Earl Ray when he shot Dr. King in 1968. Anyway, the driver kept cutting a perfect angle in front of me; I kept thinking it was a sign of certain death, the perfection of how he angled the car each time. It surely meant he had a gun ready, armed with an expensive silencer.

Did that tell me something about the driver being too innocuous to truly be innocent in an overcrowded Ohio? There was plenty of wide open spaces and fields dedicated to spreading, major commercial farmlands, with smaller farms being sold out to the government on a regular basis back then, so it was overcrowded maximally in Ohio’s major cities. People rode bicycles on the sidewalks, and the major arterials were clogged with cars and other vehicles. The papers claimed statistics showed looming overpopulation, and my Dad believed Ohio was getting crowded with people, coming in like we did from elsewhere, to the beauty of a nearly East Coast State that was loaded down mainly with farmlands. I read recently on the Internet that Ohio is now more overcrowded than ever, but I don’t know who is keeping such statistics, or what they are used for, really.

I read in Mad Magazine in the 1970s that people across the entire planet “have nowhere else to go.” I learned at school from one of my male teachers that we had reached the ends of the Earth in the early Twentieth Century, and that is why the Holocaust, the Purges and the Gulag etc. happened, as historically the right wing elements of male history have decided the planet was overpopulated. This also led to mass homicides through knifings in Mexico several centuries ago, due to a crying need for more protein – albeit human food – and the huge, million member genocide by gore-covered machetes of Rwanda, Africa in 1994. So this came to me right there in Ohio – I would become a murder victim to stop from ever getting pregnant, along with other girls, and would not add to the problem. Murder was surely better in some way than concentration death camps. It meant dying on your feet and not living on your knees, hopefully!

Anyway, the guy in the white car looked like someone hideous mentioned by Jewish psychiatrist Victor Frankl in his Holocaust book, cutting perfect, deathly still and grave-like marker corners right in front of me, to let me know I was a lifelong faggot going straight to Hell – simply because I’d joined the girl’s track team, a recent event under Title 9 for women’s sports back in the 1970s; or because I had accidentally arranged the murder of his daughter. The truth is that I walked up to my father while he was reading the papers, after having gotten sick and tired of waiting around for something like that guy from Dad’s work to show up in my life…his daughter was blond and blue eyed, gorgeous but a little odd looking…tall, not doing her homework. Unless the girl I thought was his daughter was the class valedictorian, and was never killed by anyone.

Something like God was screaming at me that the girl I saw in the cafeteria, not doing her homework, was the one, though. But I was lonely, tired of waiting for a nonexistent Prince Charming. She looked like she had one of those prearranged, down a road of Soccer Motherhood and bliss. But she also looked phony, off and all-pervading…gone evil. Ghostly, outlined in glowing white as if barely in human existence. It may have been my autism, where I sometimes see people appear in a moon aura of grey, black or white, as if they’re ethereal or otherwise not particularly here.

Perhaps her Dad kept her worried into place. Was that blonde girl his daughter? I practically zoomed sideways, falling into the seat in front of her. I tried complimenting her, telling her that if she wore two different earrings, they might offset her beauty and make her look much more appealing. I didn’t like judging her, so I tried to talk, make her smile, something. I was afraid to tell her stuff, for fear of being labeled a lesbian. I didn’t want to care about anyone, considering the overall situation – especially some all-white girl much taller than me. She could be a model, someone who didn’t need to put forth any relative effort in order to attain an almost perfect life, sitting in the cafeteria and smiling completely without any fear for her personal safety. She didn’t have to worry about being bullied by the other girls and the miserable, misbegotten boys, like I did. It was an everyday event with me. She didn’t run track way out in the countryside, alone, without the other runners keeping alongside her, like I did.

The two girls far ahead of me on my team, a straight quarter mile away and shimmering off in the distance like twin fairies, couldn’t possibly hear me. I waited while the guy in the white car kept cutting me off, at least half a dozen or more times, maybe a dozen, maybe two dozen. It was a long moment of forcing me to realize that he had a lovely “naked gun” as well as his gun in the car; maybe he also had a nice, sharp Jack the Ripper knife. Maybe the perfect death reference was subterfuge, hiding what he was really planning to do to me. Take half an hour, two hours or more to rape, cut up and kill me, inserting the knife into my vagina slowly, or whatever.

It was a long time of worshipful respect for the Ripper, and the lessons that had taught me. According to the Victorian Era book I had read, girls like me think it means sex. Hope lasts until the very end, does it not? Screaming with my mouth taped over, nobody to hear until it was too late. My body dumped along the road, in a secluded woody area, similar to the Green River in Washington State. Excruciatingly alive, waiting for the ants and other bugs to slowly finish me off, my mind gone coldly to die of eventual thirst. It takes a week to leave from no water, they taught me at school. Since I was athletic, maybe two weeks, biting my lips to produce blood to suck on.

And yet angrily, fearfully, I longed solely to oppose that guy, if he ever stopped the car and pulled over to uh, greet me. Or grab me and stuff me in. I waited for centuries, millennia of sloppy, Jerry Lewis style running around the place, stumbling over myself, arms and legs crossing and crisscrossing and flailing around in a spastic, terrorized manner, as if I was signaling for help from a nonexistent male, jealous God hating girls like me and who wanted to teach me a horrible lesson. Something like my Dad, who hated me more, who had arranged for this while laying the blame at my own doorstep?

It must be a huge fat man. I was right; I saw his form as I glanced through the window, so terrified I was barely able to turn my head to the left. I picked him out years later in the two photos Dad had of his work. I guess my father did, maybe innocently, mention me to the guy at his work, pent up and frustrated after years of not getting promoted, being picked “up” in a funny way by another guy at work, a dark man obviously making fun of him. The dude at work was innocent in a hideous way; but how innocent is a man who’s willing to kill someone because they think they are the “wrong” sexual preference, just because they are newly in a women’s sport? Or are too willing to give up trying?

He must have killed his wife, he surely killed his daughter. What he did, I don’t know. Daddy, he dropped bombs on the Japanese during WWII, so he didn’t particularly care because he was trained to kill during boot camp in WWII. Totally necessary for the country. He was a decorated WWII veteran, and to him his daughter seemed to be a latter day hippie, gay, odd somehow. To him and my Mom. I wasn’t really one, I just liked to dress up differently for various reasons. And maybe the whole thing was sexism, where those two men had no real respect for women at all.

Anyway, I didn’t ask Daddy to kill me. I just stated, “Dad, have the guy from work come pick me up.” Not a question – a command. Did he mistake it for an order from his Navy days? Mom told him to do a lot of things, such as stop drinking beer; did Dad listen to me on this, when I asked him to let me give up trying? Inescapable fate, like Mad Magazine said. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Nothing. Where was I going to go in life? I did my homework faithfully, and I was getting ready to go to college. But my low thyroid made me tired all the time, shoving me to push myself to the outer limits. Work for Dad and that guy must’ve been simple, easy and incredibly difficult all at the same time. However, my Dad had a Trick Knee and that made work, much, much more difficult for him. So he went to work and three days later, the guy from work showed up to become Jack the Ripper at me.

You know, serial murder and cannibalism in crowded apartment buildings. The gifts that keep on giving, that people just know all about, and can tag everyone in some simian way about. Repeating ourselves over and over, without ever doing anything real about the problem. Such labor has to be through the authorities, paid work. And 99% of the time, it involves coming in after the crime has been committed, after the deed is done, after the bodies are found. The murderer may finally be stopped, but only after he’s ruined dozens to hundreds of lives in an overcrowded, fitful world.

The guy from Dad’s work, after he tried to get me into the car, failing miserably to do so because he wouldn’t stop the car and I wouldn’t stop running…well, after I shouted the single word “HELP!” at the tops of my lungs, with it coming out like a “peep” – I thought for sure no way could it be heard by anyone – my two fellow female track runners, Nancy and Jeanie, turned around and raced back toward the car. As dark-outlined, screaming, claw-extending shadowy little Valkyries. My autism made them both look unreal, like shadows without any form or substance. They dove in the car’s direction, and you should have seen that white man jerk the car into a perfect U-turn, right around, heading back the way he’d come with screeching tires. I saw through the window that he was now far more terrified, horrified and scared than I was, having witnessed the Valkyries. He zoomed away like a vanilla bat out of interminable Hell, beaten and found guilty out of his mind – ecstatic, I jumped into the air, laughing!

The car was gone; I didn’t have paper or pen in my pocket to write down that horrible man’s license plate. Maybe I should have memorized the number, but we were way out in the country and I would’ve needed to chant it silently for the next half hour. I was far too tired and too happy to do so. It was only two seconds before the man in the white car took off. I wonder what happened to his wife and daughter. Did he bury his wife out in the backyard, with no one caring about it or maybe he did it at night; Dad told me the girl’s body was found two blocks away from our house. He said she was drenched in semen, her arms and legs were broken, she was cut everywhere and that her eyes were gouged out of her unsmiling face, with blood caked all over her body.

“Do you want to go see?” Daddy gloated. I was in the bathroom, waiting too long in my shocked response. “No,” I sighed. “That’s okay.” Daddy smiled, the worst knowing smirk I’d seen in my short life. “By now, the ambulance has picked her up. Too bad; they don’t know if she is dead or alive.” I didn’t need to find out more; nor did I like the way Daddy looked. I wondered if he was proud of me for having escaped, fighting a battle of wits where someone other than me, normally luckier in our privileged society, had lost. Should I have tried harder to rescue her? She was all-white and tall, I was off-white and short, and maybe she usually did her homework at home and not at school; but if that had indeed been her Dad, apparently she had nowhere else to go.

Actually, I think that “dead or alive” comment indicated there was no dead body. Dad had laughingly sent the guy from work to “teach me a lesson,” being worried about my tendency to range around the Ohio countryside, running down country roads and touring for miles and miles on my ten-speed bicycle. It was merely a stern warning that the sort of thing he was describing could happen – he gave a damn about me. I loved my Dad; he provided quite well for us, moving us to Ohio so I could grow up in an innocent, untrammeled place, one without too many people. We were disappointed soon after we moved there, with a giant freeway thrusting into our neighborhood. The city put up a concrete sound deflection wall, but you could hear the roaring noises wherever you went. “They opened the gates,” Dad sighed one time while driving, indicating lines, lines and more lines of stacked up cars going by while he tried vainly to pull out into traffic. He clearly meant the Gates of Hell. I believe Hell is in this life, not the next, but I try to deal with it the best I possibly can.

Dad is dead, and so is my Mom as of last year. I can say this now, and get it off my chest: I don’t really know if walking up to my father and giving up my life and everything counts. Was my idea based on the Holocaust; was I an idiotic little mini-Hitler? Planning was involved; I thought I might be the first in a string of serial murders, and I also thought I might not be the first victim after all. I reasoned that if I weaseled out, there might be other such female victims, as I had gotten the guy at work started on murdering girls and maybe women. I was willing to take a chance, yet had a feeling I might get away, while having to realize what I had done. However, what I really believe to this day is that the guy from Dad’s work had already murdered somebody, probably his wife…and that somehow I came along, with my usual hideous luck, seemingly someone he could blame his vile actions on.

After all, wouldn’t they have had to make one more child, eventually? Maybe he had slowed it down to one kid, through intemperate habits like overeating, smoking, drinking, seeing hookers, etc. That would be sad, if they only had that one girl and no others, and he still felt like Ohio was overcrowded enough or he needed vengeance enough to murder people. On the day after the car had cut me off, I decided that when I grew up, I would only have one baby, and no more after that. I would battle overpopulation that way, even if it never did anyone any good – I was sick of murder and its aftermath.

Recently, I looked up the local papers in both Gahanna and Columbus, finding no evidence of any such murders or bodies left two blocks down from where we lived. Maybe my Dad and the guy from work had pulled a joke on me. Surely the murder would have been reported. One week after the incident, I read in the Columbus Dispatch that a man had gone around in a white car, shooting 100 men, women and children before he turned himself in as the 101rst victim. He explained that his crime was due to overpopulation in Ohio. I don’t know if he was the same guy or not, and what I meant by I am not exactly white is that I’m “racially impure” or otherwise have more than just freckles under very pale skin. 101 in number is a reference to a children’s movie by Walt Disney, “A 101 Dalmatians.” Those are the dogs that are…covered in spots. Black spots, making them look like me. I was the only kid in my whole high school with freckles, so far as I knew, and it was like that nearly everywhere I went in life.

But the other white, etc. people in an overcrowded Ohio? The type that don’t talk, don’t dance, don’t do anything but drugs, or smoke and drink? That stand around idly chatting, chain smoking, swilling cheap beer and wine, lonely, bored and disinterested in life? The type that believes in Jesus above all else, snorting cocaine in the bathroom and shooting up heroin in the bedroom? In an afterlife, something to do with the theory of relativity, all orchestrated by men somehow? By people locked into power struggles, making up organized religion, causing an overpopulated, overbuilt, overcrowded grey-shaded world without any foresight, mercy or lasting useful memories?

What happened to the three of us, my Dad, me and the guy from work? I left for college and didn’t find out, except Dad died a few years back. I tried to turn in the murderer one day after my father said it had happened. All I could tell the authorities concerned a fat man in a white sedan car; the cop I called over to our house was righteously disgusted because I couldn’t give him any further details. For my Mom’s sake, and because Dad was psychologically “off,” I didn’t mention the guy from work; there was no report in the papers either. Maybe none of it so much as took place. Maybe I dreamed up the whole thing; but I remember too much, especially running down the road.

I grabbed Jerry Lewis tight in my limping, heat-stricken mind as I forever continued to ploddingly run, after the white car had fled, after the two girls has run far away from me once more, and I had to continue along a narrow, dirt-lined straight path, forcing my body universally forward. Eventually, I grew up, married, bore that girl child of my dreams, not a killer at heart in any way. She’s a runner herself, grown up now too, and she learned her basic karate skills from me.

That old guy from Dad’s work is certainly dead by now, as he was outright obese and otherwise patently ignoble. We were all German Americans, really, prone to the most disastrous of habits. I hope he’s not reading this. I don’t even remember his name.

 

THE END

 

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