<editorsnote> This is part two of the story. Click here to read part one. </editorsnote>
I’m now on the other side (pun not intended) of what was the most difficult five weeks of my life. This life experience brought up oddly a lot of shame. I admitted this to my best friend over the weekend and he laughed:
I said, “I feel shame over everything that has happened. The only experience I can remotely compare this to is when I was 16 and was stalked by my former best friends, had five family members drop like flies, and I pulled a knife on would be robbers in our condo(which I had gone to to escape the drama of being stalked). In that life experience I kept asking myself ‘what’s my role in this?’
“Are you blaming yourself for their deaths?” he asked.
“No,” I said, “I’m just really proud of myself that 35 year old Jen is laughing at the concept of feeling any shame toward this situation. 16 year old Jen wouldn’t have known to recognize that but 35 year old Jen does!!”
Onto the post …
I woke up the next morning with one holy hell of a hangover. Grief takes away my appetite and I didn’t realize it until the next day but I only had three bites of food (which my gf Anneka made me eat) the entire day before.
My best friend slept on the couch, as I stumbled to the kitchen for some water or a hammer.
I opened up my gameboy refrigerator (which is actually a thing and I LOVE it) …
… as I felt a hug from behind.
“I can’t thank you enough for everything you did yesterday. One, I have no idea how we even got here, but also how you handled the understaffing of her event. She would have been devastated to see people waiting in that long of a line – and you took care of that for her when not a lot of people would. You really are one of the best people ever and now you’re my only female best friend so you’re welcome and congratulations on stepping up your game.”
I laughed as we hugged. There was nothing more to do except try and figure out whatever this new life looks like.
We then went to get some desperately needed food in the form ramen and after came back to build a fort.
Not like an imaginative fort, like an actual fort inside the apartment.
We set it up and watch movies regularly inside of it. For some reason if I’m just sitting on the couch on a weekend not doing anything I feel lazy – but if I’m in a fort, it feels like an adventure!
The next day, my best friend woke up and went for a hike. “I need to be in nature,” he said. Not wanting to go or do anything, I said great “you do you!” and walked back to the bedroom and turned on the TV. I knew my workload would be intense for the week so I had to rest up as much as possible (and my back hurt from spending an entire day in the fort).
Sometime after drifting in and out of consciousness, I heard a knock at the door – and not just any knock the intentional, specific, and deliberate knock of a police officer.
It must be a noise complaint or something stupid, I thought not answering the door. I have too much on my plate, I thought, let someone else handle it. I had barely been at this place I called home in weeks – so there was no value in anything I had to say.
Fifteen minutes or so went by before I heard a helicopter. I then looked outside and saw the police officer’s car, and some sort of a news crew. Combined with the helicopter I knew that I could potentially be in danger – so I reluctantly opened the door as I grabbed my phone preparing to leave in a moment’s notice if necessary.
Hi, I said sticking my head out of the door and stepping into the hallway.
Two officers were standing there setting up yellow crime scene tape. They put the tape down as one of the two officers approached.
“What’s happening?” I shouted now FULLY FREAKED OUT and basically preparing to FLY THE FUCK OUT OF HERE USING MY RECENTLY ACQUIRED ANGEL WINGS IF NECESSARY.
“There has been a shooting,” said the officer.
“Erica?” I asked, referencing my neighbor upstairs.
He then said no, as my brain flipped to my friend … let’s call him Batz – since that’s what he called himself.
“Did something happen to Batz,” I asked scared to know what his next word would be.
Expecting a yes or no answer, I was surprised when he asked, “what makes you think it was Batz?”
“He owns guns, I know he had them in his apartment and I’ve been worried about him lately.”
“You were friends with him?”
“Yes,” I said, good friends. “I was supposed to see him, and I kept avoiding his calls and texts. He just called me after he was released from jail.”
“Did you know what he was in jail for?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “I didn’t need to ask him that.”
<tangent> Let me give you a bit of back story on my friend. Not a lot of people knew this, but he was one of my first friends in the building. Batz was the biggest, scariest looking dude and instead of being afraid of him (like 99.9999% of people would) I saw the value in being friends with someone that big and scary and as a single female living alone – I took advantage of that.
Hours into our friendship he offered me his phone number and said “if you need anything … and I mean anything … at any hour … at any whatever … I want you to call and text me until I answer. Knowing how many whackadoodle noodles there are in LA, he made me feel safe and protected. Plus my dog LOVED him – they were super duper homies, and Buster was a great judge of character so while people found it strange I would befriend someone like him, I would just say “you don’t see what I see.”
Batz often had to change his phone number, but whenever he did, he made sure to call or text it to me. Hence why in the last post he starts of by saying “hey it’s Batz.” He took protecting me very seriously so he made sure I had his number at all times.
Whatever Batz did with his life outside of our friendship was his fate. As long as someone isn’t a child molester, or abuser of someone smaller than them (physically or emotionally and whether you are an animal, child, woman, male, elderly or someone with a disability) – you have my respect. Your fate is your fate and you have to live with that, not me. Hence, Amor Fati. </tangent>
“Where were you on Friday night,” the detective asked.
“I was at a celebration of life. My friend just died. Is Batz okay,” I pressed harder?
“I can’t tell you that,” the officer said cold.
Now FULLY FREAKED OUT and PISSED OFF that the officer wasn’t telling me what happened, I took action in my own hands and excused myself from the interview.
I walked past the officer and sat down on the stairwell texting this to the building manager …
I read the text and immediately dropped to my knees sobbing.
The neighbors started to all come out of their units as well, and one of them put her arm around me.
“I had no idea you were friends,” she said.
“He was my protector but I knew something was wrong – I kept avoiding him. I didn’t know why, I just didn’t think he would kill himself.”
“He didn’t,” she said.
My tear filled eyes looked up as she said the next part, “he was murdered in his sleep inside his apartment.”
Now, the word murder up until this point, hadn’t really had a lot of meaning in my life. I’m an avid Unsolved Mysteries and CSI fan – but I’ve never known someone (to the best of my knowledge) that has been murdered.
You never think something like this will happen to you, until it does – and even then it’s still just as confusing.
Another neighbor piped up, and said “well, he deserved it with the way he lived his life.”
I took a half breath before immediately standing ground and defending my friend.
“Listen,” I said in an I’m a REALLY ANGRY white girl right now and this is REALLY not the time to FUCK WITH ME voice … “I KNOW you two had your differences (I’ll tell you that story in a minute) but now is NOT the time to be speaking ill of the dead.”
“He was a piece of shit,” he said clearly not registering the anger.
I stood up on the stair and looked him in the eye (which was great positioning since he was so much bigger than me and in this moment I could actually look him directly in his eye).
Wanting to say more than this, I censored myself and simply said, “ENOUGH.”
The ENOUGH was good ENOUGH for him to finally understand as I then went downstairs to find the building manager and begin to make an attempt at what was happening.
<tangent> In terms of the other neighbor and Batz, when I had first moved in, one night there was a homeless guy that was chasing women into the building. Someone had texted Batz that this was going on and he went downstairs to politely guide the man off the property.
Emphasis on “politely.”
Now, I’ve only had to ask Batz for help once with a guy who was masturbating to Buster and I walking down the street. He had a blank vacancy in his eye so he might have thought his penis was a balloon he was trying to inflate for all I know. Either way, it spooked me enough to call him but I was smart enough to know not to see what he did – I was just happy feeling safe that it was done.
The other neighbor wasn’t smart and watched what he did. Instead of being appreciative that our building was safer, he filmed the guy and called the cops on Batz for assaulting the guy. The charges ended up being dropped, and it was funny any time I would see this neighbor while I was chatting with Batz he would roll his eyes and go “that guy.” It made me laugh – he really really hated that guy and I can’t say I blame him. </tangent>
I then found the building manager who was talking to police. Over eight cop cars had shown up at that point quarantining and questioning as many places and people that they could.
After however long, the building manager was finally free and I asked, “what the fuck happened?”
“Batz was murdered,” she said in a loving but still fearful way. “Someone or multiple people came into the building during the night and shot him five times. They put two pillows over his body as they did it. Did you hear anything?”
She then gave me the specific time as my heart sank. I have a visual memory of numbers, and I know I woke up at that time. I was in the beginning stages of my hangover, so I got up to use the bathroom. I had Unsolved Mysteries on the TV at the time (since Robert Stack’s voice puts me to sleep in .25 seconds). With where I was in the building, there’s no way I wouldn’t have heard it, I just more likely than not assumed it was from the TV.
I don’t know what’s worse in this moment, I thought, knowing that I heard the gunshots that killed my friend, or not realizing that it was actual gunshots that I heard.
I sat in the lobby for what felt like a year. I didn’t feel safe enough to go back into the apartment alone. I had called my best friend frantically after I had spoken to the police, but realized he was also grieving his best friend. It felt selfish to ask him to come back, but I didn’t know what else to do. Without a dog or Batz’s protection, I didn’t feel safe. I sure as shit couldn’t drive anywhere and I also wasn’t sure if we were technically allowed to leave since this was considered an active crime scene.
“Why wouldn’t they tell me he died,” I asked the manager.
“Because you’re a suspect,” she said. “You’re a suspect, I’m a suspect, everyone in this building is a suspect until they find out what happened.”
I’ve been called a lot of things in life, but “murder suspect” was DEFINITELY a first.
THIS ISN’T ME?!! I THOUGHT!! THIS DOESN’T BELONG TO ME … YET THIS IS HAPPENING … AND I HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT.
I didn’t know anything could be more traumatic than testifying in court. I’ve had to do it three times in my life. Once was for stalking on the criminal side, the second time was for the civil case and the third was when I got hit in the head with a brick. I thought that experience was the most traumatic because you not only have to publicly share what occurred, you are then cross examined on your experiences. In the criminal case for the brick, I was asked by the public defender “how I knew I got hit in the head with a brick.” I cried as I said, “because I have four staples in my head.”
Being interviewed in a murder investigation was FAR worse than testifying in court. In the TV version of my life story, the character jumps up excited to finally live out the “I MAY BE ABLE TO HELP SOLVE A MYSTERY!!!”
In the real life version of my life, I was ABSOLUTELY terrified, angry, sad, and wanted nothing to do with ANY sort of an investigation. If I had a choice to be interviewed, I would have said no. The fact of the matter is, I didn’t have a choice and I wanted to help my friend. It was the final act of kindness I could show to someone who spent so many years protecting me and I wish I could say the shoe was on the other foot and this act would protect him. The reality is though, he couldn’t even protect himself.
FUCK this is hard to write out … next part is where I actually got interviewed. I do not do not do not want to write this, but obviously holding it in isn’t helpful either. Thanks for reading, nerds!! <3