14 | Setups

Setups are planted to have one meaning at first, but with a rush of insight take on a new and deeper meaning later. Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting

ambush/1: a trap in which concealed persons lie in wait to attack by surprise. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition

The Frye house had a utility room with a walk-through door to the garage. Betty was found on the garage floor just past that door. She’d been attacked from behind, and there were no defensive wounds or signs of a struggle. In 1973, Duane told the cops they’d been getting ready for summer that Saturday morning, including cleaning out the garage. He cleaned windows and mirrors in the upstairs bathroom and went to the store for window cleaner because the plastic bottle was broken. I came home and finished up the job, he said.

The garage was small and cluttered. Near Betty’s body were a couple of TVs and two garbage cans filled with cheap appliances, electric clocks and a half-empty bottle of shampoo. Duane’s gun cabinet was untouched, but the rest of the house was in disarray. Drawers were pulled part-way out of the master bedroom bureau, and Greg’s nightstand was tipped over. Sheets were bunched and stripped from beds, as if Betty had been doing the weekend wash. Blood spatter in a crime scene photograph shows the killer struck the right side of her head from high up and kept swinging once she was down. But another photo adds a more chilling detail.

Betty lies face down on the dirt-covered cement floor. She wears shorts and a sleeveless mock-turtleneck blouse. She is barefoot. Three feet behind her the walk-through door is half open. A four-step ladder stands to the door’s right, the side that opens into the garage and is directly behind where Betty lies. The ladder is open. Instead of surprising a burglar, in 1973 lead cop Sendle thought Betty was hit by someone standing on the ladder when she stepped through the door. Cold case DA Tomsic took it a step further. She believed the killer didn’t just lie in wait, he summoned Betty to the garage.

Something else in that photograph. Betty took pride in her home and her appearance. What woman goes barefoot into a garage with a dirt-covered floor in the middle of cleaning house? Unless she’s called there by someone determined to finish his job.

Have you ever been set up?

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