The Only Living Witness: The True Story Of Ted Bundy
The Story Page 16
He gave up on Chinese altogether after having wasted a year in its study. For no better reason than Marjorie having once said that she admired the architect's role played by Albert Finney in the movie "Two for the Road," Ted applied to the University of Washington's architectural program. The school was filled. So, on the advice of a university counselor, he turned to urban planning and failed at that, too. That fall, it was all that he could do to go to class; to concentrate on the material was out of the question. The professors' words meant nothing. His class notes were indecipherable. The university environment had turned hostile, frightening. He developed a phobic dread of encountering Marjorie on campus. By Christmas, he withdrew from school.
He saved a little money, borrowed more, then took off on a flying trip around the country. Ted went to California, to Aspen, Colorado, and back to Philadelphia to visit his grandparents. Dogged by his feelings of worthlessness and failure, he came home to Seattle in the spring of 1968, still unable to face a return to school. He took a small apartment and went to work as a busboy in a hotel dining room as well as a night stocker in a Safeway store.
"I absorbed all this uncertainty," Ted told me, "and all this confusion about why I was doing what I was doing, wondering where I was going, all by myself. Because I'm not the kind of person who socialized a lot, there was no way to let off steam."
Following his return to Seattle, he made a friend named Richard, a sometime thief and drug user whose life at the fringe of society fascinated Ted. At age twenty-one, Ted hadn't been exposed to an outlaw element more sinister than the circle of ski-lift ticket counterfeiters he knew in high school. Now he would encounter the possibility of illicit excitement on a higher plane.
Stealing, especially shoplifting, came naturally to Ted. The unsocialized child within him wanted things expensive, shiny things such as rich people owned and Ted had no adult compunctions about acquiring them illegally. Moreover, theft was an adventure, a game, a kind of advanced variation on hide-and-seek, not unlike tapping people on the shoulder and then disappearing.
One night, Ted and Richard sneaked down to a beach near Seattle where landslides had pulled down a cliff-side house. They were after anything they could find. "We went down there in the dead of night," Ted told me. "The house was full of shit! I still have some luggage from there. It was really thrilling."
Ted was not a thief in any ordinary sense; he didn't take money and he wouldn't take merchandise for the purpose of selling it. The need was much closer to kleptomania, and it was overpowering. Yet he was never once caught for shoplifting anything, a remarkable fact in light of the number of thefts he made and the way he went about them. Even professional shoplifters, people schooled in the most refined techniques of their trade, customarily have long arrest records.
His first principle was anonymity. Once he decided what he wanted, he would put on his good suit and comb his hair he wanted to look presentable and forgettable then he'd down two or three quick beers. "I'd drink just to pump myself up," he told me. "I felt I wouldn't have any inhibitions. I didn't want to be looking over my shoulder and appear nervous. That's important."
He stole a television, a stereo, home furnishings, cookware, clothing, and artwork things that he wanted to own. Typical of his expeditions was the day he decided he wanted a tree for his apartment. "I walked into the side entrance of this place and went into their greenhouse," he said. "I saw this Benjaminus tree and picked it up. This fucker was eight feet tall, heavy, and a little bulky. But I just walked out the side gate, lifted the thing up and down through the sunroof of the car. There was a good five feet of Benjaminus sticking out of the top as I drove away."
Around the time he was burgling the house on the beach, Ted bumped into an old acquaintance from high school. They talked for a bit on the street corner, then the friend casually mentioned that if Ted was interested he might latch on in some capacity working for Art Fletcher, a black small-town city councilman who then was contending to become the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. Several mutual acquaintances were already working for Fletcher.
Ted Bundy jumped at the chance. "I just pitched right in," he told me. "Oh, boy! Here we go again! I hadn't had a social life for some time. It just felt good to belong again, to instantly be part of something."
If Ted Bundy the thief inhabited one corner of his personality, then elsewhere there resided Ted Bundy the committed Republican. Ever since high school, when he had delivered a Rockefeller nomination speech at a mock GOP convention, Ted had been drawn to politics. In his senior year, he had joined the re-election effort of a local Republican congressman and had loved the experience.
"The reason I loved politics was because here was something that allowed me to use my talents and assertiveness," he said. "You know, the guy who'd raise his hand in class and speak up. And the social life came with it. You were accepted. You went out to dinner with people. They invited you to dinner. I didn't have the money or the tennis-club membership or whatever it takes to really have the inside track. So politics was perfect. You can move among the various strata of society. You can talk to people to whom otherwise you'd have no access."
He immediately quit his jobs and went to work as a full-time Fletcher volunteer. Ted's finances were strained, but it was well worth it to him. It was a time when the bulk of committed, politically conscious young people were part of the peace movement. Ted Bundy, however, was foursquare for the Establishment. He had no intention of aligning himself with the outsiders, the dispossessed, or the poor.