Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Only Living Witness: The True Story Of Ted Bundy

The Story Page 20

Unbeknownst to Liz, Marjorie, his family, and his friends, Ted was an immediate and thorough failure in law school. Eight years after he had first been enrolled as a freshman at the University of Puget Sound, Ted expected to return as a graduate student and to find clear-­eyed and fastidious young men like himself. What he encountered on orientation day was a motley assortment of aspiring legal scholars who ranged in appearance from the well groomed to the scruffy. And instead of his vision of an ivied citadel —Ted Bundy's idea of what a proper law school should look like — he found a small night school housed temporarily in an anonymous office building in downtown Tacoma. He was appalled.

Ted was unbothered that he had to subsist that autumn on unem­ployment checks, but the perceived taint of attending a "second rate" law school was every bit as demeaning to him in his mid-twenties as Johnnie and Louise's boxy Ramblers were to him as a child. Rigidly fixed on image and emotionally incapable of having much perspec­tive on his circumstances, Ted could not make the best of the situa­tion. In no time, he was hopelessly behind the rest of the class, unable to grasp what his professors were trying to teach him; it was a repeat of his 1967 burnout in Chinese studies. The rest of the fall and winter of 1973 would be a period of unrelieved dolor for him.

By December of 1973, Ted had secretly reapplied to the University of Utah College of Law. He told no one of the decision until the following spring, and the new application to Utah made no mention of his current enrollment at the UPS night law school. Utah accepted Ted once again, but he would not be leaving for Salt Lake City until September of 1974.

In the middle of his year at UPS — when the young girls began to disappear around the region — Ted kept up a convincing show of eager involvement with his studies. He attended classes faithfully until near the end of the spring term, and he applied himself to the material every few weeks when it was his turn to lead his study-group discussion. He wasn't lying to Liz or his mom when he said that he spent much of his time in the law library. What he didn't tell them was that he spent most of his time there daydreaming. Fanta­sizing.

He was driven ever deeper into himself, into his cyclical and secret depressions. In his solitude, Ted devised complex rationales for the gaps between his wish to succeed and the reality of his failure, all the while guarding the secret of his inner turmoil from the people who thought they were close to him. He was very good at the deception, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when the occasion demanded. But his tissue of deceits began to dou­ble back on him at Christmastime. Liz had flown to Utah to be with her family, while Marjorie, ignorant of Liz and almost everything else to do with Ted, came north for the holidays.

For a week, she stayed with Ted in the Vortmans' apartment while Marlin and Sheila were away on vacation in Hawaii. While the pre­vious summer Ted had even convinced himself that his life was back on course, now he had to re-create the role of Changed Man from memory. He succeeded too well; Marjorie liked what she saw and she wanted to talk marriage. They discussed it for days — Marjorie in earnest and Ted, under mounting pressure, with the appearance of sincerity. He conned Marjorie again, just as he had repeatedly conned Liz. She flew home to California thinking that she was engaged to be married.

Ted's well-practiced faculty for compartmentalization was at work again. He took Marjorie to the airport and kissed her good-bye. Then he sped in his Volkswagen over to see the other woman he insisted he loved. Ted found Liz in her kitchen with an apron on. The tableau was warm, domestic. He remembers that dinner aromas filled the air that night. Liz smiled up at him and soon they were making love, the most passionate love they had ever made.

A month later, as the futile search for Joyce and Jim Healy's daugh­ter Lynda was being given periodic mention in the Seattle papers, Ted had his one final confrontation with Marjorie. She had occupied a segregated section of his mind for seven years, an ideal woman whose heart he'd won, lost, recaptured, and now would break. Just as Ted could never fully explain to us his feelings for Liz, he also never understood his relationship with Marjorie. He hadn't exchanged a word with her since their Christmas be­trothal; he had hoped by ignoring the situation to make it go away. But she telephoned him at his apartment on a Saturday evening. He had just returned from taking the Law School Aptitude Test for yet another time and was tucking into a six-pack of beer when the phone rang.

"Why the hell haven't you written or called!" he remembered Mar­jorie yelling. "What kind of way is this for you to treat me?"

Partially anesthetized by the beer, Ted listened serenely to her tirade. He didn't apologize. He didn't explain. He just acted cool. "Don't ever bother to get in touch with me again," she told him.

"Well," Ted recalls replying, "far out, you know."

She hung up and he cracked open another beer. "I felt like the gods had spoken," he told me. "I felt doubly relieved. This meant it was all off my back."


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