Envelope with canceled stamp and a photo paperclipped to it

Letter Excerpts – Norris


Investigating Officer(s): Det. T. Armstrong, Det. S. Murphy
Incident No.: 001019-28B-2022
Case Description: Andrea Stover death investigation

The Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department collected as evidence from Andrea Stover's residence five hundred forty-eight (548) letters addressed to Andrea Stover at the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.

Included in that number were eleven (11) letters from Ethan Lewiston (Evidence #s 001019-21-330 through 001019-21-340).

YCSD investigators have examined those letters and selected the following Norris letters as potentially relevant to the Andrea Stover death investigation and typical of the content of all letters from Owen Norris.

Jun 2, 2020

Letter Date: June 2, 2020
Postmark: Oxford, MS

My dear Stover,

It's a damn shame. Damn them all, all the corrupt lot of them. The judge may as well have been wearing one of those damn COP pins for all the consideration he gave you and your cause.

But make no mistake: Your cause is just and true. Remember Thoreau, remember Gandhi, remember MLK. You must let them roll their tanks over you and strike you down so you can rise again.

You must not give them reason to keep you locked up any longer than necessary—no trouble, no acting out, my dear. Speak softly, carry a big stick or whatever they have in jail. Was that Thoreau or Roosevelt? Anyway, my dear, you must watch your step. Keep your head down. It's not your nature, but you must do it.

Why must you do it? Because until then, I must put up with Mr. Dale King's so-called vision for the company. So we are all imprisoned. Not as brutally as you, of course, but in a prison of dullness and safety. No risks, no debauchery, no joie de vivre.

So you must escape as soon as you can and rescue us all. Rescue us, dark angel! Black savior!

Yours, etc., etc.,

Owen Norris

––End letter––

Jun 11, 2020

Letter Date: June 11, 2020
Postmark: New Orleans, LA

Dear Stover,

Are you wearing an orange jumpsuit? How fetching you must look!

I was wandering the Quarter, as I am wont to do, and was dismayed, as I always am, by the faux Mardi Gras scene—hordes of frat boys and their big-haired girlfriend/accessories, whooping it up and lifting their shirts for beads with one hand while clutching their bottles of Bud with another.

The bars along Bourbon Street realize this is their ticket to success, the swine jockey to entice patrons with gimmicks such as shinier beads and "authentic Cajun music." It is Mardi Gras as commodity, mischief packaged like a shirt neatly folded on a shelf at the Gap. Where is the tradition? Where is the meaning behind it all?

And for a brief moment of disgust, I could understand why someone might form a group, say, New Orleans Against Drunken Sluts (or NADS for short) and try to scour these people away. Claim that Bourbon Street was a crime haven, was violating the noise ordinance, was a dangerous influence on today's youth.

I truly felt affronted by these people, their simian cries of delight and their primitive snuffling and rutting around—their mistaking vulgarity for daring, crudeness for erotica. For a moment, I wanted to banish them off the face of the earth. For a moment, I was Claire whatever her name is from COP!

But then I came to my senses. How could I blame these poor people? Is it their fault that they know no better than to mistake this gaudiness for real life? Let them take their crude pleasures where they may, their pathetic joy—as long as they don't interfere with my own ways. (This is COP's problem — Why meddle? Why interfere? Are we really hurting you in any way, really?)

As an antidote, I decided to go to Gomorrah. It's a new place, but one I'm sure you'd like. The décor is lavish Persian, as though you were inside a Bedouin tent. The ceilings are low, and like the walls, draped with lush silks, and the square, low tables have pillows strewn come-hither about. There are all kinds of nooks and crannies and private corners. The whole place is lit with candles only except for the stage, so your fellow guests are shadows around you, strangers in the desert night.

The serving boys and girls—not waiters and waitresses, for they're so much more—are swathed in gilt-edged blue silk, but not too much of it. Just a loose suggestion of a covering around the waist and hips. Their nipples are painted gold, and around their wrists, they wear gold cuffs, latched on with little padlocks to keep them in place.

They serve drinks with downcast eyes, kneeling, and when they ask what else you want, you can think of two or three things, but you can't do it. Oh no, they are for decoration only. They touch each other for your pleasure but must not be touched. This is a place to bring a special friend, to enjoy the private shadows of the tent with, to enjoy the show with, not some vulgar whorehouse.

The show, ah yes, the show. Most intriguing. You would take away so many ideas, I know! First, imagine the music, a low humming using some of those desert instruments. There is an oud, and I don't know what else, with an occasional trill of guitar or zither or what have you.

There is a low scarlet couch, upon which two people are seated as the lights come up. She is young in every way—perhaps 14 or 15, although I can't imagine they would allow such a thing, and women's ages are so hard to discern—but you are left wondering. That is the point: to wonder.

And she is wearing a diaphanous sarong of some sort, completely translucent, and a veil of the same material. Next to her, he is massive. His skin is dark (again, you are wondering), and he is wearing a tunic of the same material as the serving boys, only red. They are sitting side by side. And this is the beauty of it: they hardly do anything at all, no grunting, no thrusting. Instead, it is a series of tableaux intended to be viewed like a still life.

First, they turn to face one another. Five minutes later, they kiss and freeze in that kiss for another five minutes. Like those garish street performers pretending to be motionless dolls or what have you, only different. When they do move, it is so slow and imperceptible, you hardly notice … especially if you're here with a friend, enjoying a conversation.

First, you glance at the stage, and they are kissing and holding hands. The next time you look at the stage, he is [text omitted for adult content], always motionless. It's like a tableau, and it gives you time to wonder. He is so massive; she is so tiny. They aren't going to… ??? Isn't she too young to…?? Will he be able to…??

It's not so much about what they're doing—because really they're doing nothing but being still. It's all about what you imagine them to do next, what you wonder if they'll do next. Throughout, their faces are placid and enigmatic, the only evidence of their passion [text omitted for adult content], which stays that way throughout, by the way. They must practice the Kama Sutra or what have you to build up that kind of endurance.

One minute you look up at the stage and see them side by side. Then you are distracted by a serving boy, and the next time you look up, he has [text omitted for adult content], completely motionless, and her back is arched but completely motionless, and she is looking out at you. You are not to see—only to wonder and imagine what it looked like, what they are really feeling.

Was it real? Do you care? Have I entertained you? Have you escaped, even for a moment, your dismal world? I will leave you to wonder and imagine.

Yours, etc., etc.,

Owen Norris

––End letter––

Dec 21, 2020

Letter Date: December 21, 2020
Postmark: New Orleans, LA

My dear Stover,

I am just writing a quick note—not too depressingly festive, I hope, although I realize now the ink is red—to say that even though it may seem like it, you are never really alone.

There is a whole network of freaks and artists—in Oxford, in the state, in the South, in this vast country of ours, in Paris, Rome, Hong Kong—who understand you and love you. They may not know you personally, of course, but they breathe the same passion you breathe, live for the same ideals, would recognize you as a sister-in-arms at first sight.

Stand tall!

Owen Norris

––End letter––

Jan 10, 2021

Letter Date: January 10, 2021
Postmark: New Orleans, LA

Dear Stover,

Truly awful things are afoot if you haven't heard. (Do you have a TV there in a wretched rec room?)

The entire country is being taken over by COP and their ilk. Voices of hate that have been disdained and disregarded for decades are now being treated as though they deserve not just respect but equal respect to that long given to the intellectuals, to those who are thoughtful and empathetic, to those who embrace art and innovation, to those who would embrace the full spectrum of their fellow humans rather than shunt off those who frighten them so they may feel powerful when they are, in fact, impotent.

These people frighten me, my dear. They have big plans for us, "family values"-type plans. The NEA will be dissolved, converted into a breeding institute that funds fertility research. Uppity women such as you will be flogged in the streets as these men preach Christian charity. Pregnant rape victims will be drawn and quartered while the fetuses are saved. Embryos will have health insurance. Walt Disney will take over The New York Times, and the news will be as squeaky clean as Main Street U.S.A. at opening time.

Labor laws will be gutted. The government will let "market forces" set the standard, and poor wretches will work 80-hour weeks at Walmart to make ends meet, barely. No insurance, no rights, no unions, subsisting on spray cheese and store brand saltines. Tycoons will sodomize street urchins and slit their throats in broad daylight, walk away and leave it to their servants to clean up the mess, protected by the armor of social Darwinism.

Accents and eccentricities will be punishable by law. There will be no green cards, no student visas, no open borders. We will all have tattoos and report to the thought police. The illiterate masses will be taught Bible parables by preachers with harems of teenage sex slaves, manipulated, primed. Ignorant, short tempers will be forgiven. Intellectual argument will be oppressed.

These people are dangerous. They want to get rid of people like us, my dear—and I'm afraid I must oblige them, for now, for now. I am packing my bags and leaving the country. The pretense is business—a botanical gathering in Paris, a tour of new facilities in Kenya—but make no mistake. I intend to stay well beyond the final meeting. A month? Two months? I can't say. I must recover from this awful rape the nation is enduring.

Do not fret, my dear. Staid Dale will keep the troupe afloat. He is safe. If nothing else, he will protect the group until your return. No stormtroopers will break down the doors under his tenure.

For now, adieu.

Owen Norris

––End letter––

July 14, 2021

Letter Date: July 14, 2021
Postmark: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I am writing this at a bar on the grand canal, drinking a Witbier and smoking a cigarette. The breeze is chill and damp. I am free and happy, thinking of you on this glorious day of your birth. Andreastovermas 2021!

Is it any coincidence that you were born the day they stormed the Bastille? Perhaps the French will make you the next Marianne. They can appreciate a woman of your temperament. Wouldn't that steam Claire Windham to no end?

Do you remember, my dear, your birthday celebration three years ago? You know how many parties I've been to in my life. You know how much it means when I say it was one of the finest ever. Do you remember that merlot, the brie, and crusty French bread? Discussing Borges and Marcel Marceau? How long has it been since you've had a nice, pungent brie? Or a nice, pungent discussion?

I apologize. I'm lording it over you, aren't I? I will distract you with chit-chat of other things.

Did you know, for example, that Van Gogh as a young man painted a series of Japanese-style landscapes? They are as serene as any Japanese print you've ever seen, that God's eye view of the world that says, "This mountain, this river will be here for all eternity after humans are extinct." But the colors are vivid, almost vibrating, and you can see the beginnings of his style, the brush thickly dipped in pigment. There is a subversion there, a contrast I love. Vivid, temporal life and the enormity of geographic time.

Remember that. These 18 months are nothing compared with the Grand Canyon. More importantly, they are nothing compared with your whole long, strong life, which has just begun. You will emerge even stronger, more fiery, more full of life. And when you are a grey-haired harridan still full of fight, these 18 months will seem like the crucible that made you more pure, and you will tell your daughters about this adventure with a smile.

How I envy your youth, the life you have still to enjoy! Me, I am feeling old these days. There are so many beautiful youths here, going to clubs in their razzmatazz fashions, whereas I am staid. I go to the theatre and the opera and enjoy expensive fine dining. Perhaps I am ready to become my Puritanical father's son, to become a dull businessman with a good work ethic. Oh, horrors!

Cherish even these brutal, difficult days, my dear.

Yours, etc., etc.,

Owen Norris

––End letter––

Jan 4, 2022

Letter Date: January 4, 2022
Postmark: Oxford, MS

Dear Stover,

This letter will be All Business, I'm afraid—no meditations, no mischief, just beige khaki and sensible shoes. For you must know what you face when you emerge, what has been transpiring in your absence, so you can gird your loins as it were and prepare for the battle.

I had a meeting with Mr. King just yesterday. As you no doubt know, his production won a prize, and he has been on something of a high horse about it. He has a vision, no doubt, and he is engorged with the recognition and ready to crusade.

I reminded him in no uncertain terms that I had no interest in following under his banner, as it were, and that I expected him to return to his former duties when you returned. Needless to say, he was less than pleased, perhaps disgruntled, and I would not be surprised if you returned to find his resignation letter on your desk.

I cannot understand his ire, his unwillingness to cooperate, and you who have worked so well with him in the past will doubtless be disappointed and perhaps be thrown off balance with his absence. But you must console yourself with this thought: the group seems eager for your return, eager for your zest.

I do hope you've been scheming, my dear. I expect something new and fresh right away, I want the cobwebs cleared, and the bracing air let in.

After the meeting, I decided that I will preside over your first week back at work, and so there will be time—so much time—to catch up. I will stay in Oxford for the week and will fly in the day after your release. How soon will I see you? You must let me know through the usual channels.

Yours, etc., etc.,

Owen Norris

––End letter––



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