The Devil Took Her

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This is real journalism, this dirty dark dusty danger, so I'm not leaving this parking lot til I spot somebody getting attacked. I've spent three weeks reading up on the patterns of these inland Cali killings, muttering to myself on buses and in libraries and in the bathtub, reading old Mercury newspapers, psyching myself up to go out and confront the killer.

I swear this here and now: I am going to break out of reporting city council news and become a novelist/gonzo journalist. I'm going to go hungry for half of each week. I'm going to starve the spoiled fat off my hips. I'm gonna be Nellie Bly crossed with Joan Didion and Nancy Fucking Drew, and I don't need your approval, Patrick. I work for the missing people whose names were forgotten until they tumbled out of the police reports.

Innocent names like Ruby and Maria and Sarah that belonged safely in nursery rhymes. Pictures of people dolled up for their school photographs. People whose eyes now reach out across time, wide and hopeful. Begging to be brought back. Recipients of the ugliest degradation, desperate to be treated right again.

Here are the attacks that I want police to admit are linked:

Aug. 29, 1996 - Rancho Cordova - Teenage girl found murdered 30 metres from McDonald's Restaurant. Trauma to the vagina indicating rape. Sharp torch-length implement inserted into the victim causing damage to the cervix, uterus and bowel. Two litres of blood lost. Some numbing anaesthetic applied to the victim by attacker, analysis inconclusive.

Sept. 4, 1997- Carmichael – Nanny of prominent local banker raped behind McDonalds. Choked unconscious then anaesthetised and violently probed. Bleeding resulted. She described a pale man swathed in black and white cloth, like a chessboard. Insisted offender was not Caucasian. The colour of the night, she said, with a skin of glass.

Oct. 5, 1998 Citrus Heights – 18 year old student taken as she returned to her car opposite Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, 7098 Auburn Boulevard. Hood placed over head. Suffocated. Survived. had her head bopped against the ground. Said afterwards that she felt the attacker "put something up me." Almost like she'd been stuck up on a coat hook, or had a giant needle inject something cold and dizzying all the way through her loins and into her stomach. Actually, not a needle, the woman corrected herself in her statement, shivering under a blanket, nursing a coffee. More like a bee sting, because it was agony at first, then a numb joy.

'You're sure you want me to write that?' the officer noted. 'Numb, sure, but joy?'

We're part of his collection now, the victim responded. She looked at the officer with eyes swimming with pink fizz. We're safe among the swarm, she said. The legion.

FACT: These attacks occurred around all-night fast food restaurants spanning 100 miles of Central Valley in all seasons of the late 90s and early 2000s. The attacks were ugly stains on inland Cali towns known for orchards and fruit and warmth.

FACT: They hit the news, some of them. Carmichael police are reporting a woman was attacked as she sat in her car feeding fries to her three year old daughter outside a Taco Bell on Manzanita Avenue last night. The victim is reported as unidentifiable, having failed to attend the police station to complete her witness statement.

Each horror gravely articulated by a po-faced newsreader for fifteen seconds before a quick video of a guide dog visiting a school for the blind.

He (and it has to be a he, surely) is sticking some long, repulsive, sharp implement up these women. It could be his disgusting monstrous penis, okay, sure, but the damage to the insides of these poor girls – it's more like he hoisted them up onto a meat hook by their nether regions and squirted formaldehyde in 'em. Put something in them that made them groggy and half-comatose and uninterested in complaining. Turned them into drones, slaves, sleepwalkers. Zombies.

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