Mallory Benson interview
Monday, May 25, 2020 – 3:30 p.m.
Mallory Benson was a friend and associate of Zoe Chase.
In response to a request from Sheriff's Detectives, Ms. Benson came into the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department to talk with Detective Murphy.
- Detective S. Murphy
- Mallory Benson
Detective Murphy: For the record, could you please state your name and address?
Mallory Benson: Mallory Benson, I live at 721 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Oxford.
Detective Murphy: Ms. Benson, thank you for coming in. We appreciate your cooperation.
Mallory Benson: Naturally, I want to help in any way I can. I still can't believe it. I've been reeling since I heard.
Detective Murphy: I understand. It's not uncommon for the family and friends of victims to go through a period of shock and disbelief.
Mallory Benson: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to sound selfish. I suppose her family is probably just grief-stricken.
Detective Murphy: Have you met the Neidelmens?
Mallory Benson: No, I never had the pleasure.
Detective Murphy: But I understand that you and Zoe were close friends.
Mallory Benson: Well, I think we are… were. But her parents live in Florida and didn't visit often, from what Zoe said.
Detective Murphy: Did Zoe tell you about her relationship with her parents?
Mallory Benson: She said she loved them, in her own way. I guess they weren't real close. Maybe they didn't particularly approve of her lifestyle.
Detective Murphy: What about her lifestyle didn't they approve of?
Mallory Benson: I think they thought Jack was a little young for her. And she drank more than they thought she ought to. Things like that.
Detective Murphy: Is there something else?
Mallory Benson: Well, I don't know if I should say because I don't know if it's true.
Detective Murphy: Don't worry. We'll keep that in mind, but it might turn out to be important.
Mallory Benson: There might have been some tension there over Zoe being adopted. I guess she didn't find out until she was an adult, and, well, you can imagine.
Detective Murphy: How long had Zoe known she was adopted?
Mallory Benson: I don't know. Zoe didn't like to talk about it much. I guess it was a bit of a shock for when her birth mother just showed up the way she did.
Detective Murphy: Zoe's birth mother was in Oxford?
Mallory Benson: I guess so. That's what Zoe said.
Detective Murphy: How did Zoe feel about that.
Mallory Benson: Like I said, she was shocked at first, I think. Then it seemed like she was trying to adjust to the idea.
Detective Murphy: Idea of what?
Mallory Benson: Well, that her birth mother was here… in Oxford. It was… well, in fiction, it'd be called a "complication." You know, a challenge the heroine has to overcome to get to her goal?
Detective Murphy: But this wasn't fiction.
Mallory Benson: No, it wasn't. Sorry, there just isn't anything more I know about it.
Detective Murphy: You came to know Zoe through the Oxford Writers Group?
Mallory Benson: Well, actually, we met at James Foods. We kind of both bumped each other's cars in the parking lot. She was new in town. I guess I thought she might need a friend.
Detective Murphy: Why did you think that?
Mallory Benson: Well, I know everybody talks about how vivacious Zoe is and how she has a lot of friends, and that's true enough. But, there is a side to Zoe many people don't know or see. She just seemed kind of lost, lonely even. She was in a new city, wanted to make something of her life, and except for Dani, didn't know a soul in town.
Detective Murphy: So, you became friends?
Mallory Benson: Yes, we got to talking and discovered we were both writers, and I invited her to join the group.
Detective Murphy: So she could make some friends?
Mallory Benson: Well, of course, but also, I felt she could bring something to the group that it lacked.
Detective Murphy: Such as?
Mallory Benson: Some liveliness, I guess.
Detective Murphy: Wasn't too lively before then?
Mallory Benson: Well, that's the thing about us writers. Most of us can turn a phrase and dazzle you with words on paper, but in person, we're kind of shy, even introverted. Maybe that's why we're forced to commit our thoughts to paper since we can't seem to spit them out without prompting in real life.
Detective Murphy: But Zoe was different?
Mallory Benson: She was that rare writer who was eloquent both on the page and in person. She had charisma.
Detective Murphy: How did the other writers respond to her?
Mallory Benson: I think it was mixed. Some liked her, others didn't so much, though they all found her witty and very funny.
Detective Murphy: Anyone in particular who didn't like her more than, say, the average person who didn't like her?
Mallory Benson: No one comes to mind in particular.
Detective Murphy: Tell me about the last time you saw her.
Mallory Benson: It was at the monthly meeting on Saturday.
Detective Murphy: Anything unusual happen that night?
Mallory Benson: Not really. Well… she did read a few pages of her book, the one that was to be published, but she didn't get much into it.
Detective Murphy: Why not?
Mallory Benson: Well, things were a little tense. She and Steven had argued over the agent thing, and I think she was ticked at Peggy because she forgot to turn in her column to the magazine.
Detective Murphy: Steven?
Mallory Benson: Steven Atwater. And Peggy LeClaire. They're both in the writers' circle too.
Detective Murphy: And did Zoe tell you these things about them, or did you learn about them another way?
Mallory Benson: Well, I talked to Steven a couple of hours before the meeting, and he was pretty worked up. I spent a bit of time trying to get him to calm down. Another passionate soul, just like Zoe.
Detective Murphy: What do you mean?
Mallory Benson: Nothing, really. Just that I always thought they were so much alike, same intensity, same passion. I wondered why they never got together. It seemed like they would be a natural fit for each other. God knows they argued like they were married sometimes, but I guess you never know.
Detective Murphy: Did Steven tell you he had more than platonic feelings for Zoe?
Mallory Benson: I used to tease him about it, and he never denied it. Then there was that cookout at Dani's.
Detective Murphy: Which cookout?
Mallory Benson: The one on the weekend before St. Patrick's Day. Seems Zoe and Dani conspired to fix him up with Kathy, Zoe's agent, and he just didn't appreciate it at all. And I have to say, he really acted like an ass. Personally, I think it made him feel bad because Zoe couldn't see what was under her nose.
Detective Murphy: That Steven wanted to be fixed up with her?
Mallory Benson: Yes. But again, that's just my take on it. I could have been wrong. Guess it doesn't matter now since they'll never have the chance to find out.
Detective Murphy: Okay, so back to the meeting. Things were tense with Steven. How about with Peggy and Zoe?
Mallory Benson: Well, they didn't speak. I noticed that right away. And Peggy left early, saying she had a headache.
Detective Murphy: Anyone else leave early?
Mallory Benson: Not that I noticed. Everyone pretty much left after the meeting.
Detective Murphy: Did you leave before or after Zoe?
Mallory Benson: I believe I may have been out the door first.
Detective Murphy: Any particular reason?
Mallory Benson: I had some work I had to get to and finish by today, so I was anxious to get at it.
Detective Murphy: A novel?
Mallory Benson: No, it was some technical writing for a client.
Detective Murphy: Are you currently working on any fictional writing?
Mallory Benson: I'm always working on something, but to answer your question, yes and no. Currently, I'm doing some research for an idea I have.
Detective Murphy: Anything you can tell me about?
Mallory Benson: Well, we writers are pretty close to the vest about our ideas… but it's a coming of age story.
Detective Murphy: No murder mysteries?
Mallory Benson: Not my style.
Detective Murphy: Do you know of anyone who may have had a grudge against Zoe?
Mallory Benson: No, not really.
Detective Murphy: How about her boyfriend, Jack Swanson?
Mallory Benson: Hold a grudge? Jack? I don't think so. He's so crazy in love with her, I doubt he could ever stay mad at her.
Detective Murphy: Do you know anyone who was upset with her, other than Steven?
Mallory Benson: I guess she and Peggy had a tiff over the article thing, but I'd hardly qualify that as a grudge.
Detective Murphy: Do you know if Zoe was planning to fire her? Peggy?
Mallory Benson: Well, Zoe threatened all the time, but Peggy's work is impeccable, even if she is disorganized sometimes. She has done work for me too, so I know what I'm talking about. Zoe never would have fired her. It would have been like cutting off her nose to spite her face.
Detective Murphy: Did Zoe ever mention to you that she worried she was being followed or stalked?
Mallory Benson: Goodness, no. Who would have done that?
Detective Murphy: Do you happen to know if Zoe had a gun, registered or otherwise?
Mallory Benson: I doubt it. She was terrified of guns and didn't like to be around them. She believed hunting was barbaric, and she felt there was simply no reason for anyone to carry a gun. No offense.
Detective Murphy: None taken. Is there anything else you can tell me that you think might have some bearing on this crime?
Mallory Benson: No, I'm sorry I can't think of anything that would have caused someone to do this.
Detective Murphy: Okay. Well, thanks for coming in. If we have more questions, we'll contact you.
Mallory Benson: Any time.
Detective Murphy: Afternoon, ma'am.
Mallory Benson: Goodbye.
Interview ended – 3:52 p.m.