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Witness Interview: Alice Zerousnik, Typist of Zoe Chase's Book

Saturday, December 2, 2000 - 4:00 p.m.

This witness, identified as the typist who transcribed the deceased's manuscript, was located through information discovered in Zoe Chase's personal phone book. Ms. Zerousnik agreed to come into the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department for an interview with Det. Sam Murphy.

SM = Detective S. Murphy
AZ = Alice Zerousnik

SM: For the record, could you please state your name and address?

AZ: Alice May Zerousnik, my address is 1838 Myrna Lane, Memphis, Tennessee.

SM: Ms. Zerousnik, thanks for coming in. We appreciate your cooperation.

AZ: I was happy to. It's a shame about Ms. Chase. If I'd known I had information that would have helped you, I would have called you myself.

SM: I understand. Frequently, witnesses don't realize just how much pertinent information they do have. Shall we begin?

AZ: Certainly, how can I help you?

SM: I wanted to know about the manuscript that you prepared for Ms. Chase. When did you begin working on the manuscript entitled "Desperate Stranger"?

AZ: Early this year, I believe it was at the beginning of February.

SM: Had you ever done work for Ms. Chase before?

AZ: No, I hadn't.

SM: How did she come to know about you then? Did someone refer her?

AZ: I believe she saw my ad in the Yellow Pages. I get a lot of work from that ad.

SM: What did she say to you when she called? Was she in a hurry to have the manuscript prepared?

AZ: Yes. She said she was in a bind because her usual typist was not able to do it right away and she was desperate to get it done.

SM: She said she was desperate to get it done?

AZ: Well, I guess she never actually said desperate. But she was very anxious. So anxious in fact, that she offered to pay me double the rate if I could get it done in four days.

SM: And what was your response?

AZ: Well, I was pretty busy myself at that time... but the offer she made was hard to turn down, so I said I would do it. I worked sixteen hours a day to get it done, but managed to get it to her within the time she requested.

SM: Did you maintain a copy of the manuscript?

AZ: No, I didn't. I did provide her with a hard copy and a disk of the manuscript. I would imagine she would have had it at her home. Perhaps you found it?

SM: We found several disks. Was it labeled in any way that we could identify it?

AZ: Yes, I labeled it "Desperate Stranger."

SM: Was it encrypted or password protected?

AZ: Not by me. I suppose Ms. Chase could have done that once she received it. Writers often do encrypt or password protect their works. Copyright issues and all that. However, that's not a service I provide.

SM: Did she ask for any advice on encryption or password protection?

AZ: No. Again, it's not my area of expertise. And there are so many computer stores and consultants that it wouldn't be hard for her to get information about it anyway.

SM: Do you remember what the novel was about?

AZ: Yes, I do. It was a very intense story. A good read too, which made it easier to put in all those hours.

SM: Do you feel you remember it well enough that you could write it down for us?

AZ: You mean, do a synopsis?

SM: Sure.

AZ: I think I could. Bear in mind, of course, that I'm not a writer so it wouldn't be a professional synopsis. Though I think I could write down the basic plot and characters for you. Would that be helpful?

SM: Yes, ma'am, that would be very helpful.

AZ: All right. I can do that tonight and fax it to you.

SM: Appreciate that ma'am. Just a couple more questions, if you don't mind?

AZ: Not at all. What can I tell you?

SM: Did Ms. Chase tell you why she needed it so quickly? Was there someone waiting for it?

AZ: I think she mentioned that there was someone anxious to read it. She may have said it was an agent or a publisher, though I'm not sure.

SM: Were there any special instructions regarding the manuscript itself?

AZ: Just the usual instructions for a manuscript of that sort. Had to be done to industry standards, double-spaced, 1-inch margins, fixed-width font, paginated with her name on each page, things like that.

SM: How did you receive the manuscript?

AZ: She sent it to me by Federal Express.

SM: What form did it arrive in? Was it on disk or hard copy?

AZ: It was a printed manuscript with notes and the usual editorial markings written in with a red pen.

SM: So, it appeared she had already had it typed and she marked in changes by hand?

AZ: Yes, that's correct.

SM: Did that strike you as odd? That she would send it to you that way, rather than, say on a disk?

AZ: Not really. Though a disk is easier to work with and edit, some writers prefer to look at the manuscript on the page to do their editing. Also, I believe she mentioned she had a scare with a virus or she was worried about viruses - I can't remember which. The upshot of it being that she didn't want to run any risks that way. I thought it was considerate of her, especially since I've had some near disasters in that regard with other clients' disks in the past.

SM: Didn't you wonder why she had a typist do it in the first place, since she could obviously type it herself?

AZ: No, not at all. Writers often like to do the typing on the original draft since that's the creative part. However, when it comes to doing the final draft and the input, they see it as laborious and tedious. The industry standards for how a manuscript must be formatted are pretty rigid and a lot of writers don't like to deal with that. Lucky for me, or I would be out of business.

SM: I see. How did you get the finished product back to Ms. Chase?

AZ: By Federal Express.

SM: How did she pay you?

AZ: She sent a check for half with the manuscript and she paid the remainder by check a couple days after I sent it to her. If only all my clients were so timely with payment.

SM: So, you never actually met Ms. Chase in person?

AZ: No, I didn't. In fact, I didn't even know what she looked like until they ran her picture in the paper. She was a pretty young woman. What a shame!

SM: Yes, ma'am. Anything else you think we should know about this?

AZ: Not that I can think of. Really, there was nothing unusual about the job at all. Just type it, send it back, end of story.

SM: Well thank you for coming in and helping us out. When do you think you can have that summary for us?

AZ: Soon. I believe I can get it typed up and fax it to you tonight.

SM: Thank you, ma'am, that would be very helpful.

AZ: Not at all. Goodbye, Detective.

SM: Afternoon, ma'am.

End interview 4:34 p.m.

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