Sunday, May 31, 2020 – 2:00 p.m.
Alice Zerousnik was identified as the typist who transcribed Zoe Chase's manuscript after her information was found in Ms. Chase's phone contacts.
Detective Murphy traveled to Memphis to interview her.
- Detective S. Murphy
- Alice Zerousnik
Detective Murphy: For the record, could you please state your name and address?
Alice Zerousnik: Alice May Zerousnik, my address is 1838 Myrna Lane, Memphis, Tennessee.
Detective Murphy: Ms. Zerousnik, thanks for coming in. We appreciate your cooperation.
Alice Zerousnik: 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.
Detective Murphy: I understand. Frequently, witnesses don't realize just how much pertinent information they do have. Shall we begin?
Alice Zerousnik: Certainly, how can I help you?
Detective Murphy: I wanted to know about the manuscript that you prepared for Ms. Chase. When did you begin working on the "Desperate Stranger" manuscript
Alice Zerousnik: Late last year, I believe it was September.
Detective Murphy: Had you ever done work for Ms. Chase before?
Alice Zerousnik: No, I hadn't.
Detective Murphy: How did she come to know about you then? Did someone refer her?
Alice Zerousnik: I believe she saw my ad online. I get a lot of work from that ad.
Detective Murphy: What did she say to you when she called? Was she in a hurry to have the manuscript prepared?
Alice Zerousnik: Yes. She said she was in a bind because her usual typist wasn't able to do it right away, and she was desperate to get it done.
Detective Murphy: She said she was desperate to get it done?
Alice Zerousnik: 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.
Detective Murphy: And what was your response?
Alice Zerousnik: 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 I managed to get it to her within the time she requested.
Detective Murphy: Did you maintain a copy of the manuscript?
Alice Zerousnik: No, I didn't. I did provide her with a hard copy and a thumb drive of the manuscript. I imagine she would have had it at her home. Perhaps you found it?
Detective Murphy: Was it labeled in any way that we could identify it?
Alice Zerousnik: Yes, I labeled it "Desperate Stranger."
Detective Murphy: Was it encrypted or password protected?
Alice Zerousnik: 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.
Detective Murphy: Did she ask for any advice on encryption or password protection?
Alice Zerousnik: 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.
Detective Murphy: Do you remember what the novel was about?
Alice Zerousnik: Yes, I do. It was a very intense story—a good read too, which made it easier to put in all those hours.
Detective Murphy: Do you feel you remember it well enough that you could write it down for us?
Alice Zerousnik: You mean, do a synopsis?
Detective Murphy: Sure.
Alice Zerousnik: 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?
Detective Murphy: Yes, ma'am, that would be very helpful.
Alice Zerousnik: All right. I can do that tonight and email it to you.
Detective Murphy: Appreciate that, ma'am. Just a couple more questions, if you don't mind?
Alice Zerousnik: Not at all. What can I tell you?
Detective Murphy: Did Ms. Chase tell you why she needed it so quickly? Was there someone waiting for it?
Alice Zerousnik: 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.
Detective Murphy: Were there any special instructions regarding the manuscript itself?
Alice Zerousnik: 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.
Detective Murphy: How did you receive the manuscript?
Alice Zerousnik: She sent it to me by Federal Express.
Detective Murphy: What form did it arrive in? Was it on a thumb drive or hard copy?
Alice Zerousnik: It was a printed manuscript with notes and the usual editorial markings written in with a red pen.
Detective Murphy: So, it appeared she'd already had it typed, and she marked in changes by hand?
Alice Zerousnik: Yes, that's correct.
Detective Murphy: Did that strike you as odd? That she would send it to you that way rather than, say, by email?
Alice Zerousnik: Not really. Though a digital file is easier for me 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 computer virus or she was worried about viruses? I can't remember which. The upshot of it was 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' files in the past.
Detective Murphy: Didn't you wonder why she had a typist do it in the first place since she could obviously type it herself?
Alice Zerousnik: 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 edits on later drafts, 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.
Detective Murphy: I see. How did you get the finished product back to Ms. Chase?
Alice Zerousnik: By Federal Express.
Detective Murphy: How did she pay you?
Alice Zerousnik: She used an online payment service. She paid the first half when she sent the manuscript, and she paid the remainder a couple days after I sent it to her. If only all my clients were so timely with payment.
Detective Murphy: So, you never actually met Ms. Chase in person?
Alice Zerousnik: 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!
Detective Murphy: Yes, ma'am. Anything else you think we should know about this?
Alice Zerousnik: 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.
Detective Murphy: Well, thank you for taking time out of your day to talk with me. When do you think you can have that summary for us?
Alice Zerousnik: Soon. I believe I can get it typed up and email it to you tonight.
Detective Murphy: Thank you, ma'am, that would be very helpful.
Alice Zerousnik: Not at all. Goodbye, Detective.
Detective Murphy: Afternoon, ma'am.
Interview ended – 2:34 p.m.