Envelope with canceled stamp and a photo paperclipped to it

Letter Excerpts – Gretchen Doyle


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 two hundred eighty-one (281) letters from Gretchen Doyle (Evidence #s 001019-21-001 through 001019-21-281).

YCSD investigators have examined those letters and assembled the following excerpts from the Doyle letters.

These excerpts were determined to be potentially relevant to the Andrea Stover death investigation and typical of the content of all letters from Gretchen Doyle.

Jun 1, 2020

Letter Date: June 1, 2020
Postmark: Oxford, MS

I can't believe it. I can't believe we're going to be apart like this for an entire year. Who will sit with me drinking G & Ts at the Roadhouse? Who will tell me the latest good jokes? Who will be the antidote to my antisocial existence?

The only way to get through it is not to be apart. Meaning let's just keep talking as though we're in the same room, and maybe we won't notice it's only a piece of paper with some ink on it.

I expect to hear everything from you—everything you do and see, everyone you meet, what you're feeling. When you're blue, tell me, and I'll try to cheer you up. I'll play our lucky lottery numbers every week as always and tell you whatever amusing tales I can drum up from my beige, mousy existence.

Right now, though, I'm not blue or beige. I'm black, beyond black, in a world without color and form because you're gone.

––End letter––

Jun 2, 2020

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

I was thinking now would be as good a time as any to start planning our cross-country trip. That way, when you get out, we can just jump in the car and be rid of Oxford for a while before you get wrapped up in a play or I get wrapped up in beating a project deadline. What do you say?

I'm looking through the atlas now and remembering all the places we wanted to go. I can't even remember why some of them were contenders. Cheyenne, Wyoming? Ferndale, California? I don't know. But I see we highlighted Ferndale at some point, actually highlighted it with a lime green pen. We were probably drinking coffee at this table and browsing through, imagining adventures and scenery and what we would eat. I was going to collect a cookbook from every state we passed through, remember?

I don't want us to become sentimental and nostalgic, remembering the good times as though the present were nothing or the future held no promise. And yet I see it's hard to avoid. Without you here, now, I can only relive what's happened and wonder what's to come. Strange.

––End letter––

Jun 5, 2020

Letter Date: June 5, 2020
Postmark: Oxford, MS

If you're uncomfortable, why not say so? Surely the guards can't be as insensitive as all that. You deserve a little privacy.

Or is life really like one of those B-grade movies, where the guards are surly matrons with big nightsticks? It seems that if Lourdes is crowding you, surely you must be able to tell someone. But maybe this is the prissy response—run to the teacher and tattle. Trust me to come up with the wrong advice!

Maybe the thing to do is talk with Lourdes about it. I know you. This shouldn't be a problem for you. It's probably all a misunderstanding. I can't imagine that in real life, anyone would want more trouble if they're already in jail. But who am I to be telling you what life in jail is like?

I agree about Grand Portage—too far for the effort. I do want to get up north, but Duluth is probably enough.

––End letter––

Jun 21, 2020

Letter Date: June 21, 2020
Postmark: Jackson, MS

I'm drinking a quick cup of coffee before heading into a presentation with a Big Client. I just endured the ride from hell up here with Steve. He drove the speed limit and talked on his cell phone the entire time. Awful! I wanted to find a country station and turn it up full blast just to get him back. I'm very glad you didn't hit it off with him, in retrospect.

Next time I see you, could I give you a disposable camera so you could take a picture and that way I could see the curtain? I always knew I'd make a visual artist out of you. I'm going to keep my eyes out for fabrics and ribbons for it and mementos you can pin to it (or do you have to use tape?).

What about Lourdes? Does she have enough materials for her side? Maybe I could get together a donation from everyone at Blaze for her.

I am glad they're letting you do this. To be honest, I was getting worried about you. Sure, you were writing me, but you sounded a little defeated and battered spirit-wise. But now you're back to your old self, it seems.

I wish I could lend you that raspberry-colored blouse you like to wear when you're festive and going to parties and spilling things on it. What I wouldn't give for the chance to be peeved with you over such a thing!

––End letter––

Jul 4, 2020

Letter Date: July 4, 2020
Postmark: Oxford, MS

Today I helped with the Arts Council float in the parade. You would have liked it. I was thinking of you the whole time. The idea was to have the scene from "Sunday on La Grande Jatte" with everyone posed just like in the painting.

We wanted it to look pointillist, so we had everyone dab several variations of fleshy colors wherever their skin was exposed, in tiny little daubs and dabs and freckles. At first, I thought the effect would be too Frankenstein, but it worked OK.

And then, of course, the float itself was exactly like in the painting, with the trees and everything done entirely using pointillism. Bernie Carpenter's kids have been doing nothing but painting dots for the float for the past month. We let them keep the second prize ribbon.

Anyway, there I was riding along on the float (I was the woman with the red umbrella), thinking what a glorious day it was. But then I realized how wrong I was. On this day, when we're supposed to celebrate freedom and American ideals, you are not free, and you've been censored.

I went away feeling hypocritical and that the town was hypocritical too. They've swept you under the rug and gone on as though nothing was wrong.

I wanted to shout your name from the float. "Andrea Stover is America!" But I didn't, and I wondered why. I always hang back and never dare to try outrageous things. Sometimes I feel like I'm as bland as they come. I was actually sort of upset about it—almost crying, right there on the float!

I don't know what's wrong with me. I guess maybe I think I could have helped you more if only I had more backbone. Maybe I could have prevented the whole thing? It's stupid to think that way, of course. Hindsight is useless, but it just goes to show how desperate I am with you not around. If you ever wonder if you matter, this is your proof.

––End letter––

Jul 14, 2020

Letter Date: July 14, 2020
Postmark: Oxford, MS

I'm sure this card is in horrible taste, but I couldn't resist. "Wayward Girls" indeed. I've actually seen it. It was on late one night when I had to finish a project, and the TV was on in the background.

It was awful and, I'm sure, entirely realistic what with glamorous dames lounging all over the prison and sweet-talking their johns. My favorite part is the lingerie. Although I'm sure you'd be more comfortable in that than those sweats.

Happy birthday—just think of how hard we'll laugh about this one day.

––End letter––

Nov 21, 2020

Letter Date: November 21, 2020
Postmark: Oxford, MS

As I was saying before we were so rudely interrupted by the end of visiting hours, I wouldn't worry about it. I don't know Dale at all, of course, but it just doesn't seem like he would fly off the handle and do anything rash.

Why would he invest in a light board if Frank doesn't think it's necessary? From everything you've told me, Dale is more apt to brood than to act. Why would he act out of character?

It must be hard for you, knowing that life is going on and decisions are being made that you'll have to contend with, but you have no power over how they're made.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall anywhere and everywhere you want to be, and then I could buzz my way over to you and sit on your earlobe and tell you everything.

See, I would even become a Kafka character for you, so you have to keep telling me how I can help, even if it seems silly or demanding.

On Thursday, I will stuff myself silly and be thankful for you. Share your gingerbread with Lourdes.

––End letter––

Dec 21, 2020

Letter Date: December 21, 2020
Postmark: Colleyville, TX

It's only been a week since I've seen you, but it feels like time is all out of joint. I will never escape Texas. I will have to stay here forever, and eventually, I will start voting for the pro-business candidates and renounce my evil sinning ways and marry someone named Hank.

Oh, it's awful. I'm awful to be complaining like this. My family loves me, and they mean well. But my mother sighs and frowns when she thinks I'm not looking, and Dad simply doesn't know what to say to me. Wade thinks I'm a freak. Maybe I am! I forget that our Oxford isn't "normal," isn't "middle America."

By all means, let's skip Texas.

––End letter––

Jan 23, 2021

Letter Date: January 23, 2021
Postmark: Oxford, MS

I got this bumper sticker at a fundraiser in Jackson last night. Maybe you can stick it to your curtain?

Sometimes I wonder what this world is coming to. The event was meant to be a "Fight the hate" sort of rally, but it turned out depressing and everyone pretending to be cheery when really they were grim. Superficial. It was just the sort of thing that makes me want to head back into my nest and stay there.

I've always admired you for putting up with that—the unpleasant side of socializing. Me, I just clam up, and I can't hide that I'm bored or disappointed.

The only good thing about it was that I met someone interesting. Ursula is her name. Can you believe that? Like Ursula Andress in "Dr. No," she said. Apparently, her dad chose the name. We had a good laugh about that.

Can you imagine being named after a Bond girl? Who would you choose—Pussy Galore, Domino, Solitaire, Christmas Jones?

I like Solitaire, myself. Or so I told Ursula. But she didn't seem to believe me. Her eyes had such intensity like she wanted to grab me and never let me go. I've never seen such naked emotion, and I wanted to dive into it and, at the same time, run away. We exchanged cards, so we'll see.

I see I'm rambling on. Not a good sign! I'll stop now and spare you more boredom.

––End letter––

Feb 13, 2021

Letter Date: February 13, 2021
Postmark: New Orleans, LA

We decided to go after all. You were right—to hell with saving money!

And it's so beautiful here, as always. You know I try to avoid being nostalgic, but I was thinking of the time we had a craving for beignets and drove here on a whim after finals. We got here at dawn, and the light was positively lilac.

It looks like that now, although the sun is setting rather than rising. Everything is sinking into purple in that way I love.

If I sent you a Valentine, it would be this color. But for now, this silly hotel stationery will have to do.

––End letter––

Jun 1, 2021

Letter Date: June 1, 2021
Postmark: Oxford, MS

It's been a whole year. To you, it must seem like a century. But just think, you're on the downhill slope now. Six months, and it will be over. You'll be free.

And here's where we'll go so far:

New Orleans, Lafayette, Hope, Hot Springs, Muskogee, Dodge City, Red Oak, Duluth, Apostle Islands, Cando, Faith, Laramie, Red Lodge, Jackson Hole, Pocatello, Salt Lake City, Escalante, Roswell, Nogales, Las Vegas, Battle Mountain, Ashland, Ferndale, San Francisco, Merced, San Luis Obispo, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, National City.

And then, who knows?

––End letter––

Jul 14, 2021

Letter Date: July 14, 2021
Postmark: Oxford, MS

No silly cards this time around. I'm a little sad today, despite seeing you and the sugar in the cake.

I'm just not sure I cheered up your parents very much, although I tried. We had a festive little supper, gazpacho and a big salad, pink streamers and party hats, and we talked about how next year, for your 30th birthday, we'd have the biggest party imaginable.

But I think they're worried about you—about what will happen between now and then. I told them you'd be back to your old tricks. I'm not sure that was the right answer. Trust me to stick my foot in my mouth! Why are you friends with such a clod?

––End letter––

Dec 27, 2021

Letter Date: December 27, 2021
Postmark: Oxford, MS

I know what you've been thinking about since we saw each other earlier. Don't worry about it. You can't spend another second worrying about it. Of course, I understand.

After you fall off a horse, you need to get right back on, they say. (I knew those expensive childhood lessons were good for something!)

You should—no, you must—do the play immediately when you get back. You're so inspired, I can tell, and I know you're happiest when you're working.

The road will always be waiting for us. And you've made Ursula such a happy woman! Truth be told, she wasn't looking forward to me deserting her for three weeks. She tried not to let me know it, but I could see the clouds shadow her face whenever I talked about it.

I just went to the door to give some candy to a ghost, a stormtrooper, and an adult wearing a Trump mask. Or it could've been a pumpkin head with a hay bale on top. I'm not sure.

The world is truly a frightening place this Halloween. So much destruction and loss, a seemingly endless cycle of hate. It makes me want to cower under the covers in bed, with the closet door locked against monsters.

P.S. Ursula says to tell you not to worry because she'll protect me.

––End letter––

Jan 8, 2022

Letter Date: January 8, 2022
Postmark: Oxford, MS

Every time I take up this pen, I think: Just a few more days! Just a few more letters, and it will be over.

How you must be chafing to take down the curtain for good. Let's burn it when you get out. I'm sure it's beautiful, but it would be an act of creative destruction, a gesture of farewell.

Soon, so soon, you'll be able to talk with everyone in person and get the genuine facts, instead of gleaning between the lines of this or that letter, this or that offhand remark during a visit. But until you do, I hope you won't worry too much.

I hardly know Dale, but I really think Owen was just being grandiose as always. I can't imagine Dale would quit. Maybe you could talk with him somehow? Shall I track him down and ask him to come see you? By now, after all these long months, you must know I'll do whatever you want if it will ease your mind.

You can tell winter is upon us. The light is weak, like a too-watery watercolor. In this weather, I should be dour, but I'm not. I'm thinking soon you'll be here, maybe even by the time I finish this book I'm reading.

What do you want to do first? What do you want to eat?

––End letter––

Jan 24, 2021

Letter Date: January 21, 2021
Postmark: Oxford, MS

Time is so strange. It telescopes, freezes, crawls, flies, all according to our perspective. A minute can be so many things. I am thinking of this, watching the clock's hand tick tick tick around, and every tick is that much closer to you getting out.

I've made so much food just for you. I can't wait to see you sitting here at my table eating it with a spoon like you always do.

––End letter––


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