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Brushes with Evil
By Suzanne Tilden-Mortimer

I grew up in a house of screamers, and as an adult worked with advertising people who ranted. I couldn't keep a job, and the men I dated were after one thing, which they got. I was twenty-two and had become the loser my dad predicted.

Trying to find my identity, I studied Astrology, had my handwriting analyzed, and visited psychics. I was told I'm a Pisces swimming downstream. My handwriting was that of a dreamer, and lines on my palm translated overly sensitive. My Tarot cards were all about death and I had become the epitome of bad timing.

Once after parking at a meter on Wilshire, I stepped out and a double bus hooked my Pinto's door. My skirt blew over my head and the door spun down the street after the bus. I drove for months with the crumpled mess tied onto the car, having to climb across the passenger seat to reach the steering wheel.

At the end of the sixties I was renting an apartment in the Hollywood Hills and my life was still in chaos. I drank too much, jumped into bed with the worst choices of men and had again gotten fired from my job in advertising.

Grisly stories in the newspapers were about the Sharon Tate/LaBianca killings and one of the murder scenes was only blocks from my apartment. I'd gone to bed early that following weekend and sometime during the night my dog Mickey stood growling at the edge of the bed. I almost turned on a light, but stopped when I heard whispering. The hair twitched on the back of my neck. I slid my hand from under the sheet, grabbed Mickey's hind leg and the dog wiggled in beside me. My heart raced. I listened to the toilet flush, water splashing in the kitchen sink and what sounded like more than one person scooting around on the floor. I pulled the sheet over my face and pressed into the mattress. I lay barely inhaling until there was silence. Even then I didn't move and my heart continued to pound.

When sunrays filtered through the window, Mickey jumped off the bed and I stepped cautiously onto the floor. I entered the bathroom. The sink faucet was running. I hurried into the living room. The front door was standing open. I reached for the phone, but changed my mind. What could I tell police? Maybe I'd left the faucet on and had forgotten to close the front door. Maybe I'd dreamed the rest, or the place was haunted. Maybe my chanting had brought in the demons.

Years later I read Helter Skelter, the story of the Tate/LaBianca killings told by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor who put Charles Manson behind bars. There's a chapter about the Manson family "creepy crawling" a house. Manson told his followers to go into homes in the Hollywood Hills and crawl around on the floor while turning on water faucets and flushing toilets. Chilled to my very core, I put down the book and paced the room. I knew during a scary night in the sixties, I had been "creepy crawled."

I was still swimming downstream in the late seventies. The man I'd been living with had gone back to his wife, and I was sleeping on a mattress in the living room of my mother's apartment on Cedar Street in Glendale. All my stuff was in storage and I'd recently dropped out of California State Northridge after accumulating student loans and running up my credit cards.

The news media was about a serial killer called the Hillside Strangler. Women disappeared after going out for a walk, or to the grocery store. Their partially buried bodies would be found days later on the hillsides of Glendale. They had been tortured, raped and strangled.

At the time, I was freelancing in advertising, picking up men in bars and nursing hangovers. One evening I stopped at the supermarket a few blocks from the apartment. It was dark by the time I dropped a bag of groceries on the back seat of my mother's Honda. As I drove out of the parking lot, a black and white followed. When the car came up on my right, I saw a dark smallish man at the wheel. He pulled behind when I turned left and after one block, followed close as I turned onto Cedar. When I parallel parked, the black and white stopped, leaving an area for me to get out where I would stand in the beams of the car's headlights.

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