XXVI: Eyvind Rangstad

Words: 7,202

Rating: R.  Rough language that some may consider unsuitable for children.  Some situations may be deemed inappropriate for those under 17.

{Disclaimer: The name Eyvind Rangstad is arbitrary. I do not know a person named Eyvind Rangstad, and any similarities to anyone named Eyvind Rangstad are coincidental. The name of the person involved in this non-fiction piece has been changed to protect his privacy.}

Eyvind Rangstad

“Eyvind was a nice guy,” Eyvind’s co-worker and neighbor, Blaine Benefield, told the officer. “I don’t care what any of these people tell you,” Blaine said waving a hand outwards. “When he would ask you ‘how are the wife and kids’, he wasn’t doing it in that polite, phony manner so many other people do. He had a warm smile on his face that suggested he was genuinely interested in their welfare. That’s the right word there right? Welfare? Yeah. Ok. He was always courteous to me, always pleasant, and respectful. I’m sure you’re going to hear some awful things about him today, but I want you to know that he wasn’t any of those things. Those were the things he was driven to, in my humble opinion. The Eyvind I knew didn’t even give dirty looks. He didn’t say bad things about people, and he never gave you that fatigue sigh when you asked for a favor. He was,” and here Blaine paused trying to find the right word, “Selfless. The man was selfless in a world of selfish, self-involved people. In some ways, I’m beginning to think that Eyvind is a dying breed in our society.”

I thought the same thing when I read that piece in the paper about the relatively normal guy who poisoned his fellow employee over the course of months. I saw the initial photos of the man on the news and in the paper, and I had to see him for myself. I had to watch the perp walk. I had to read everything about the man. I watched every interview conducted with every friend, family member and witness. I was obsessed with this guy. I had to know everything about him. I had to know the how’s and the why’s of this incredibly frightening case that occurred right here in our humble town in New Mexico. As many of you faithful readers know, I’ve now done thousands of articles on everything from the mundane activities in our town to the occasional salacious article, but nothing captivated me the way this man with the weird name has.

We’ve all seen these portrayals, I know. I’ve seen it hundreds of times now on my beat in the city and in our town. I’ve seen the most brutal killers, those that their neighbors called a nice guy, to the bookish, nerdy types that plot and plan their little ventures into the headlines. We’ve all heard a man’s neighbors and friends say that these people seemed like such nice fellers. Quiet is how they always describe them. Kept to themselves they say. He just snapped, they say. It’s the oddest thing. We viewers are captivated. Could that happen to me? Stresses at the job, we say, the guy who cuts us off on the interstate, screaming kids, a mortgage to pay, inflation, political strife, and world affairs. How far away from snapping am I, we ask ourselves as we watch the telecast.

Thank God this guy with the odd name Eyvind Rangstad, was a foreigner we say to ourselves. At least I can achieve some kind of distance. I have to tell you a little secret: Eyvind was as American as you and I. He hadn’t spoken his native tongue in so long that he claimed that he probably wasn’t fluent in it anymore. He never could get rid of his accent though, and that accent afforded us distance from him when we heard him speak. He’s foreigner. The guy who snapped is a tired tale to be sure, but Eyvind Rangstad seemed different from the usual guy who snaps out of boredom or stress. He was a foreigner though, and a foreigner doesn’t usually get headlines. Headlines are achieved by those with whom we can relate. It’s the blue eyed, blonde haired killers that we fear. How could they do it? Why would someone with so much to lose act in such a manner? When they’re foreigners, we don’t have the same attachments. We news writers know that well. We know that the horror of a headline is achieved when a suspect resembles us so much that we wonder how far we are away from being the perpetrator.

When Eyvind was on his perp walk, he walked right by me. When you’re witnessing a perp walk, you’re usually either the center of attention or ignored. Reading through a perp’s profile, one can usually tell which way they’re going to go in their walk. Eyvind’s profile suggested he would be an ignorer. It suggested he would probably have a coat over his head, or he would have an opaque look on his face that suggested he was shocked by the whole chain of events that led him here. Eyvind wasn’t anything I suspected, which led me to write this piece. I wanted people to know he was an enigma. He didn’t hide his head, and he didn’t smile out of malevolence. He said excuse me to the people who got too close to take a picture of him, he gave them embarrassed smiles when they backed away a couple steps, and he then turned with embarrassment to look out on the throng of all of us who stood on the courthouse steps. You could see it in his face that he never thought he would be this guy. Perhaps, I read what I wanted into the shot of him on the courthouse steps, but I thought I saw a man who has seen this spectacle so many times, and never imagined that it would ever be happening to him.

I was so captivated by this Eyvind Rangstad person that I interviewed those that were closest to him to see if I could understand what leads a man to slowly poisoning a co-worker one week when he was the most normal man in the world a week before.

“I remember one time we were all watching our kids play micro-soccer, and he didn’t even get mad.” Val Russeri said, “He could’ve. I would’ve. His son was running all over the place. If my kid did that, he would probably be crying all the way home. That boy was a mess, a complete mess, compared with Eyvind’s other two boys. Oh, the kid was staying with the pack, but he wasn’t doing anything. There were a couple times when the ball passed right in front of him, and it was like the kid didn’t know what to do with the ball. Eyvind put everything he had into those kids. He tried to make them everything he wasn’t, but their Mom tried to spoil them. The other two boys didn’t fall under the Mom’s spell, at least not to the extent that youngest boy had. The elder two had a hunger to them. They wanted the ball. They knew how to make friends, and they always got good grades. The youngest had to be a bitter disappointment to Eyvind, even if he never said anything. He never did anything either. Usually when you’re disappointed in your kid, and you don’t want to be vocal, you look at other people with an embarrassed face when the ball squirts between your kid’s legs, or whatever. He didn’t even do that. The only thing I saw, and it came after repeated efforts to find something, was in the man’s shoulders. You could see disappointment there, if you knew how to look for it. They would lift when the ball came to his boy, and they would drop when his boy showed no interest. I mention the shoulders only because there was no other place to see the man’s disappointment.

“The disappointment came from Eyvind, and his ability to wrestle the youngest boy’s soul from the boy’s mother. The other two boys wanted their father’s approval, and that need overrode anything their mother whispered into their ear. The youngest boy just didn’t seem to need Eyvind as much. He just wanted to be with his mother. Eyvind was bitter about that, but you couldn’t see that, until you saw those shoulders slump.”

“His wife was always telling him to order pork or chicken,” Chris Connelly told me. “We all knew Eyvind wanted steak, or some kind of red meat, but he didn’t say a word. He just ordered the pork or the chicken. She controlled him in a way that embarrassed him greatly in front of us.

“I asked him one time what was happening to his cherry red S-10,” Chris furthered. “I saw a ‘for sale’ sign on it, and I was just shattered by that. He didn’t say anything. I pestered him about it over a period of weeks. Politely, you know. Finally he says: ‘the ol’ lady is making me get an SUV. Said she’s going to have a mess a more kids, and a mess more kids can’t ride in a two-seater truck.’  He loved that damn truck. Always wiping it down, buffing the chrome. He took little sticks to the nook and crannies that no one pays attention to. He says those little nooks is where rust starts. Then one day, poof, gone. He sold it for a song too. That thing was in mint condition, and it was twelve years old, and some kid bought it off him for a song. I’ll bet that kid got that thing beat to shit inside a year. I almost cried the day that kid and his pa rolled up to buy it. I don’t know how many people knew how much that old truck meant to Eyvind. I did. I asked him about it. He said, “Chris, a man’s gotta grow up sometime.”  I don’t know if he said that with as much bitterness as I heard, but I kept thinking about all those years he spent so much time tending to the smallest aspects of that truck to make it beautiful. Make no mistake, guys tend their cars to show them off, but they’re always thinking about resale value. I saw him smile in that way that tells you you gotta do what you gotta do even if you don’t like it. I never heard another word about it.”

“His old lady told him he smoked his last cigarette the day their first was born,” Craig Tomkins said in another interview. “Just like that, she tells him, his three pack a day habit that he had had for ten years is done. She don’t pay no mind to the fact that a man needs something for God’s sake. She just says it’s done. She tells him it’s time to grow up. No more partying with the fellas. No late night partying. I could see some of it, I mean your life has to change when you have kids, but she just stripped him of everything, until the old Eyvind I knew was gone. His personality, and his love of life was gone, and he allowed it all to be taken without so much as a course word or an angry expression.”

“He got to the point where he spent just about every waking hour on that lawn,” said a Shawn Dostal. “We were proud of him too. When they first moved in, we had to really…press them about their lawn. I was in charge of the neighborhood association board. I rode his ass hard in the beginning. I was constantly putting notes on his door, telling him he needed to mow his lawn more often, he had to weed it, and he had to seed the north facing side of it. I also had to tell him what he could and couldn’t build, and how he had to maintain the structure of his house. He wasn’t even shoveling his walk when he first moved in.

“After the first month or so, Eyvind was always working on the lawn. We never had a problem with again. He was a good man for all I know. He never so much as raised his voice to me.”

“I was in a good spot to see the downward spiral,” Eyvind’s coworker and neighbor, Blaine Bennefield added. “We worked together, and he lived three houses down from me. He and I were always talking. Guy stuff, you know. Cars and shit. You get to really know a guy through the cracks in those conversations though. I really got to know how to get him talking. He had things he was interested in. He was a quiet guy, but once you got him talking, he was like a chatty Cathy doll. I got him talking, and then I throw in:

“That Mary Rice is something ain’t she? I said to him one day when the two of us were sipping on imported beers. That’s all I drink, and I’m very generous with them. Eyvind loved them too, it was about all he had left at that point, and he even had to sneak them. We had to stand on a backside of my lawn to drink them, and we usually did this on weekends, after all the lawn work was done.

He tried to walk away from me when I mentioned Mary’s name. He flinched when I said it, and he tried to walk away with a bemused smile on his face. ‘Where you going Eyvind,’ I said, ‘what did I say?’  He turned and that little smile got bigger, until it was a big old Eyvind smile that told you everything was all right in the world: ‘you didn’t say anything wrong Blaine. You are a good man,’ he said.

“Here’s my psychoanalysis, for what it’s worth,” Blaine continued, “I don’t think Eyvind hated anyone before Mary Rice. I don’t think he knew how to hate someone. I think that whole line of thought was so foreign him, and to his character, that he didn’t know what to do when it happened to him. Eyvind was a math and science guy. Everything had to make sense. All equations had to have linear thought and rational answers. Mary Rice was the exact opposite of rational. She was emotional, hysterical, and irrational in almost all of her actions, and Eyvind had to work side by side with her. The quality of his performance was dependent on her, and he loathed that so much he couldn’t find words to say when I brought her name up.

“I really thought I was onto something here, until I started thinking about how difficult it would be to live forty some odd years without hating someone, so I adjusted my line of thought. It’s impossible, even to a nice man like Eyvind, I realized. People just drive you nuts though. It happens. Whether it’s a nosy neighbor, a guy on a TV show that won’t shut up, or a co-worker that gets in your business, everybody hates someone at some point in their life. It’s sort of a self-training exercise in restraint to hate someone and do nothing about it. It teaches you how to get along with others. So I adjusted my line of thinking. I thought Eyvind has to have hated someone before, but he has always been able to avoid those people, avoid that type of…revelation. Mary Rice was the first person he hated that he couldn’t avoid. You can’t walk away from someone you hate, when they’re standing right next to you eight hours a day, five days a week, and you can’t change the channel.

“I was thinking about all that so much that I asked him about it on another day on the backside of my lawn, sipping on beer,” Blaine continued. “I said, ‘you hated your dad right?’  He says ‘yeah.’  So I say, ‘how did you deal with that?’  He says, ‘a boy can avoid his dad if he knows how to do it.’  He said that so quickly, it was like he knew where I was headed.

“He was trapped with her, behind the counter. He was trapped with her in meetings, and he was trapped by the fact that his wife liked Mary. The wife and Mary talked all the time. I’m convinced that that kind of hate that fuels one wasn’t part of Eyvind’s vocabulary before he met Mary. He was a man who faithfully ascribed to the notion of live and let live. If someone he knew had a peculiarity about them, Eyvind considered it his duty as a fellow human to work around it, to avoid it.

“As I said I was obsessed by it. I never saw that part of Eyvind before, and I found it intriguing. So, I pressed it. I probably badgered him about it on that day on the backside of my lawn. I may have pushed him beyond his normal restraint, but that day on the lawn Eyvind finally broke:

“There is no working around that fat fuck Mary Rice,” he said   I blanched. He blanched. Neither of us could believe he said what he just said. I laughed long and hard at the time. You’ve seen him. Little guy, a little mousy. Keeps to himself. Doesn’t say a bad word about anyone. I should’ve seen something, in hindsight, but all I saw was the humor in it. Fat and fuck were two words that Mary Rice introduced to the otherwise placid Eyvind Rangstad. It was a shock. That’s why I laughed. I never thought he would harm her.

“‘I would like it known that when we check this or that,’ Mary said in all our meetings, ‘it’s important that we continue to check this and that and something or other with greater intensity.’”

I asked Blaine Benefield for specifics on this issue, but he could not remember them. He stated that there were so many complaints that he couldn’t remember just one. He said that Mary’s complaints were not specifically directed at Eyvind, but all of her suggestions impacted his daily tasks.

“She was the very definition of a busy body though, I can tell you that much,” Blaine said. “I don’t think her intentions were bad though. I don’t think she wanted to make our job more difficult. It’s a funny thing about people like Mary Rice they never see what they are doing when they are doing it. If I were to describe Mary Rice to Mary Rice, say as another co-worker, I’m quite sure Mary would laugh her butt off and call that person a kiss ass, no good busy body type. She didn’t see herself in the way we all did. I think that she thought that her suggestions were making our lives better, and I think she thought that she was making us all more effective in our every day. She may have even thought that she thought she was speaking for the rest of the group, and that we were all afraid to say the things she was saying. She was also kissing Tony’s tail, no doubt about that, but she did it so often that that couldn’t have been the only reason she was doing it. It was just who Mary was.

“The thing of it was that her effect on our every day was every day. In a way, a Mary Rice is a boss’s dream, and his nightmare. You know how a boss asks for suggestions at the tail end of every meeting? Well, 99% of the people I’ve worked with in my life have said nothing. We just want the meeting over, so we get on with our work, and go home. Every day, after every meeting, there was an audible plop of the top of Mary Rice’s notepad hitting the counter. After a while, she began numbering them off. ‘Number one,’ would say. ‘Number two.’  If her suggestions ever fell under ‘number five’ I do not remember that that day.

“We all cut her some slack in the beginning. She was a new person who was trying to make her mark. We had all been there. We all did everything we could to impress Tim, our boss, but she just continued on and on. When her stuff…her suggestions were implemented, people were irate. There was all this unnecessary work that we had to do. It was a tough job all of a sudden, and it wasn’t a tough job in a good way. It was a tough job in an unnecessary way. So people fought back in the next couple meetings, but she wasn’t the least bit intimidated by all of us gathering against her. She just kept going, until she wore us down.”

Tim, the boss, agreed to go on the record with me by issuing the following statement for the article: “Mary Rice did not have pharmaceutical training. She learned everything she knew on the internet and on the job. I never saw anyone pick up anything that quickly, but she wasn’t hired for the pharmaceutical aspect of our business. As with every pharmacy these days, we tried to be a one-stop shopping store that offered a little of this and a little of that. That was what Mary was hired for, she had retail management experience. Her former manager called her a real dynamo. She came in, reorganized our shelves for greater visibility in items that would sell, she made two suggestions on our ad campaign that worked, and our non-pharmaceutical sales jumped 17% in her third quarter on the job. She saved my job. So when she asked to learn the pharmaceutical side, I applauded her ambition. I thought she wanted to know every angle of the business. I implored Eyvind to take her under his wing. He did. She was eager. Eyvind would even admit he was impressed with her in the beginning. She shared that underdog, immigrant mentality with him. Neither of them were immigrants, of course. Eyvind’s dad was, and he passed this mentality onto Eyvind. I don’t know where Mary attained this trait, but she had it. The sort of underdog “I don’t belong here, and that’s why I’m going to outdo you all” mentality is what she brought to her everyday.

“Eyvind described the immigrant’s mentality to me once,” clarified Tim, “saying that nothing would be given to you in this country, but there was more to take in this country than any other country in the world for those who are willing to go out and work their tails off to get it.

“Even with Eyvind’s training, Mary Rice was limited in her capacity. She couldn’t fill prescriptions due to her lack of education. We were hurting for employees when we hired Mary though, and she ended up with quite a few tasks. It was probably more than she should’ve had, but we were desperate. The field of pharmacology wasn’t attracting the kind of talent it once had in our city. We did try though. We tried to advertise on a grander stage. We tried Monster.com, Careerbuilder.org, and all of the other outlets afforded to us on the internet. The usual reply was: I don’t want to move to New Mexico.

“So, I’m the bad guy, and I accept that, but in many ways we were stuck with Mary Rice. Mary’s work ethic won out over all of the other candidates, and she was someone that that I was enthusiastic about in the beginning. I remember cornering Eyvind one day behind the counter, and I said: ‘Her attention to detail is contagious.’  Eyvind responded with enthusiasm. He continued to do so for the next couple months. She was a marvel to us all. Their enthusiasm began to wane after those first couple of months though. I’m not sure if I got caught up in that ground swell, or if I started to lose the enthusiasm myself, but she was a marvel on paper. She had boundless energy, and she was a model employee. I wish I had scaled her back a little especially in lieu of what happened, but I don’t think she knew how to. Plus, I owed her for saving my job.

“Her enthusiasm might light a spark under all the other employees at Hello Sunshine, I commented a couple months later. Eyvind’s response was a little more tepid this time, but he still agreed. I think he tempered his response, because he thought she was the best thing for the company, even if she was someone he didn’t care for personally. Eyvind was like that. He often shelved his own feelings for what was better for others, but I could tell the only reason he agreed with me on my second comment was because he saw how much I liked her.”

“She broke Eyvind down, even in training,” Blaine Benefield said. “I could hear them bickering. I was involved in my thing, but their bickering was something that couldn’t be avoided. I asked them to keep it down a couple times, but they kept going at it after the brief spells of silence that I requested. ‘This is the way we’ve always done things,’ Eyvind told her. ‘That doesn’t mean it’s the right way to do things,’ she returned with the response he knew was coming. ‘No one’s ever complained before.’ He returned. She recalled that comment in a meeting, but she kept his name out of it. She did this a lot. She went over Eyvind’s head on a number of issues.

“‘All the little fat fuck ever talks about is food,’ Eyvind said one day when we were outside on a smoke break. I was smoking, and he was trying to inhale my second hand smoke as a joke. It was only the second time, in the…six years I knew him that I ever heard him swear. I told you the first time, on the backside of my lawn. This was the second time. It was more volatile this time. He brought it up this time. Things were escalating. A person who didn’t know Eyvind may have seen it as nothing more than a casual rant. I should’ve known better. I should’ve taken him aside and asked what was going on. I just laughed though. I thought it was hilarious. I prodded him on.

“‘Have you ever had the pork sticks from Chimi something or other,’ Eyvind said imitating her with a nasal tone. ‘Put a packet of soy sauce on her rump and sprinkle it generously. Oh, it’s to die for Marla.’  He said that she talked about food to her ‘fat fuck’ friends that would come to visit her. He said that she talked that way on the phone and to all the females on the floor. The fat fuck eats too much food, and she watches too much TV. Every sentence that comes out of her oversized mouth sounds like a cooking show.

“Then she said the name Oso over the phone. Oso is Eyvind’s wife’s name. When she said that, we should’ve all jumped in and told Tim that something severe was going to happen there. We should’ve warned him, or had Eyvind go to counseling, anger management or something. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but we probably should’ve told him to just quit or something. We should’ve known that this whole thing was going to bubble over the top.

“We got excited though,” Blaine confessed. “I feel horrible about it now, but it was like a Jerry Springer moment to us. We all thought things were finally going to get juicy at the boring, old Hello Sunshine Pharmacy. I looked at a couple people behind the counter, and they all had ‘O’s on their face. They had all stopped what they were doing to look at Mary then Eyvind. Katie Osborne looked pensively at me, and she kind of smiled a half smile at me, as if to ask ‘what do you think of this development?’  Mary was talking about the ultimate hot sauce and she says something along the lines of ‘Oh, it’s just the best in the city Oso, you really have to try it.’  Eyvind had a customer’s prescription in his hand that he was getting ready to shelve. He remained paused in that stance for about ten seconds, watching Mary, listening to her talk. When she mentioned his wife’s name a third time, He shrieked.

“‘NO!’ he said. ‘Hell no!’  He ripped that phone right out of her hand. He looked ready to pound on her. He held that phone in his hand and visually ripped a hole in her. He looked like he wanted to go on a ten minute tirade, but all he said was another “no”. Mary got an audible sound out. We all thought it might’ve been a ‘but’ that she was trying to say, but she didn’t make it to the letter ‘T’ of that word. Eyvind was just staring at her saying “no,” cutting her off saying, “no” until she is quieted. As I said, it was all controlled rage. On the outside, Eyvind appeared to be in control of his facilities, but I’m sure if we say his cat scan at that exact moment, I’m sure the rage color would’ve been overwhelming.

“We never saw Eyvind move like that,” the young Katie Osborne said. “When he was moving to the phone to capture it, I think he did it in three moves. It was startling to see him move like that. I thought sure he was going to hit her. She did too, and that was obvious. She nearly dropped the phone, as she tried to brace herself. She made one of those scrunched up faces that people make when they’re preparing to get hit. ‘When I get phone calls, give me the phone!’  He said this in front of customers. He was yelling it at the top of his lungs. There were a lot of customers too. If it had been anyone else, I would’ve told them to take it to the back. But Eyvind? Well, it caught me off guard to say the least. Mr. hypocrite had been yelling at me for years for personal conversations in front of customers. His favorite phrase was ‘if you ever want to get anywhere in this country, you have to act the part.’  He said that so many times to me over the years that I dreamt it once, and here he is mr. hypocrite yelling at the top of his lungs at the busiest part of our day. I’ll bet we were five people deep in people waiting for their prescriptions, and that’s not even counting the customers shopping in the aisles. He didn’t even look at them.

“‘Guys,’ Katie Osborne says she said finally after the confrontation escalated. They both ignored me. They were both looking at each other. ‘You must give me respect,’ Eyvind said. ‘You must give respect to my privacy.’  These words all came out in a jumbled flurry. He slowed them down and said them again and again. He’s pointing at her. He wants no doubt here. It was as if he was trying to tell her off, but he didn’t know exactly how to make it sound final and without argument. He didn’t know how to tone an ultimatum to make it scary, but he tried. It was as if he was trying to be more powerful than he was, and he knew that he didn’t have it about halfway through. His insecurity probably also had something to do with the fact that this wasn’t something he did on a regular occasion, but it had to be done on this one. He was trying to put his foot down with some emphasis, but he wasn’t used to being commanding in that way. When he put that phone to his ear and began speaking to his wife Oso, you could see him working into another frenzy. He asked all kinds of ‘who’s and why’s and a when did you meet her?’  His head dropped after that, and he walked away from the phone. Mary picked the phone up and continued the conversation with Oso in a manner that suggested that she hadn’t been interrupted at all.

“On the next smoke break,” Blaine Benefield said. “I asked Eyvind what his wife said on the phone, and Eyvind said: ‘she told me that she called to talk to Mary.’  His head was down when he repeated that line. He searched the ground for a second. I’ll never forget that brief search. Just as I’ll never forget him looking up and turning to me with his hands out like this,” Blaine Benefield said mimicking a Jesus Christ pose, “physically asking me what to do.

“I didn’t find the situation humorous from that point forward,” Blaine continued. “I felt bad for my friend. He was not in control of his life now, that’s what that brief search of the ground said to me. He didn’t know how he would get control of his life back. Everything was spinning out of control for him, and he turned to his only friend, me, to help him out. That sucks man, is all I said. It’s all I could think to say.

“Of course we had a chance to stop it all,” Blaine said in answer to my question. “Who thinks things like these are going to progress in such a manner? We all talked about it. We called it the daily drama, or wait the daily scoop. That’s what we called it: The daily scoop. Mary said this, Eyvind said that. We all approached the argument from our individual perspectives. That day we all heard Mary say Oso’s name on the phone, we thought this would be the moment that Eyvind said screw it!  I’m getting my truck back, I’m smoking again, and I don’t give a shit what some neighborhood association fuck says, I’m putting an American flag on my lawn. That’s what I was cheering on. Everyone was cheering something on in this daily drama. I’m sure there will be some who are scared to talk to you and tell you they knew nothing about this. They’re lying. Everyone knew. Everyone saw what was going on. No one tried to stop it. It’s on us.”

“We were scared to death of our Dad,” Eyvind’s brother Torvald informed me. “He was a big guy, and he was ripped. He took off his shirt one time at a carnival to pound one of those sledgehammers against the block to try to ring the bell. The one at our carnival was called a Hi Striker. I don’t think I misbehaved from that point forward in my life, or if I did our Mom’s ‘wait till your Dad gets home’ threat was so much more substantial to me than it ever was before. He was the toughest man I ever knew, and we all feared him.

“Eyvind was the studious type. When he wasn’t doing his homework, he was reading a book. He read books for fun. Studious books. Books by Russian authors that no one reads. I say this, because I think that there’s a part of Eyvind that never got over the fact that Dad favored me. I was more in line with what my Father considered successful rearing. Dad used to say some pretty cruel things to Eyvind to light a fire under him. He did have a fire under him though. He achieved in ways I never did, but these were ways Dad didn’t see as valid accomplishments.

“I scored four goals in one game once, and I’ve had women chasing after me since junior high. Dad and I used to sit and talk about that all the time. Right in front of Eyvind. I don’t know if Dad was trying to humiliate him or inspire him. Dad was so disappointed that Eyvind never accomplished anything athletic in his life. Dad wanted all his boys to be able to accomplish with our hands. Dad had projects for us. He schooled us in mechanics, engineering, and everything he knew about the principles of math in everyday life. He was a great dad in some respects. If you did what he enjoyed, he could treat you like you walked on water. If your instincts were towards more scholastic venues, he could belittle you like a dog. I don’t think Eyvind ever scored beneath an ‘A’ in school. If he did, I can’t remember it. He’s written books—the scholastic types that no one will ever read, or if they do they won’t understand. I think Oso is the only woman he ever had sex with, and I can’t remember him even watching a sporting event all the way through much less playing one. So, he didn’t get much respect from our Dad, or me I’m ashamed to say. So when this fat, little woman, this Mary Rice lady, showed him no respect in his place of employment I think he just snapped. It had been building up for a long time I’m quite sure.”

What stood on the steps of that courthouse in that moment was not built in a day, and his descent was just as methodical. His father wore a t-shirt every day except Sunday when for about two hours a day he wore his best suit to sing praises to the lord. His mother wore house dresses and tended to a plentiful garden that produced just enough fruit to give them a treat at dinner when the season was right. When she tucked them into bed and read them a story on a nightly basis, Mozart was playing in their background. She preferred the Mozart pieces that had a flute and a clarinet. Their mother wanted them to accomplish with their minds. Eyvind was the only son who appears to have listened to his mother’s wishes. Eyvind didn’t appear to need his father’s approval as much as the other two boys. He just wanted to be with his mother.

Eyvind’s sister was a brat, and Eyvind hated her for much of his life, but it was the good natured hatred that can only exist between a loving brother and sister. He would never raise a hand to harm her after they passed the age of five.

Eyvind reacted to all people with the honesty, judgment and fairness that his father taught him on those days long since passed. He reacted to people in the manner his teachers had taught him, and in the manner his preachers had taught him: “treat your brother in the same manner that you yourself would want to be treated.”  They never taught him how to treat a Mary Rice.

Eyvind Rangstad was an assistant supervisor of the Hello Sunshine Pharmacy. He was a good family man, and by all accounts an excellent worker, a good friend, and a pretty decent husband. When Mary Rice dropped dead through what coroners called a long, slow poisoning everyone who knew everyone at the Hello Sunshine Pharmacy knew what had happened. It took a while for everyone to come to grips with it. People were, reportedly, shrieking and crying and hugging one another. People told Tim they couldn’t work at the Hello Sunshine Pharmacy anymore, and they all went about trying to put Eyvind’s “She’s dead now” comment behind them. They tried to move on and avoid implicating themselves in the murder in any way possible, but in ways large and small they knew that they were all a little to blame for not stepping in.

“She’s dead now!” is on the recording of the 911 call Eyvind Rangstad made on the morning Mary Rice demised. The officers that arrived at the scene said that Eyvind was helpful, but they said that they had to keep calling him back to the scene of the crime. Eyvind was filling and registering prescriptions in the system, then putting them in their alphabetical slot. He came back, looked at the body before them, and went back behind the counter when he believed that their questions had been answered.

“It was so innocuous that it was suspicious,” Officer Bennett said. “But we didn’t think there was anything to be suspicious about.”  Most officers, most people wouldn’t admit such a thing, so I prodded. “We had a dead body before us, and that in and of itself warranted some kind of investigation, but the investigation would’ve been a routine investigation if Eyvind hadn’t admitted culpability.

“You could’ve knocked me over with a feather,” Blaine Benefield, the only other person in the pharmacy that day, said. “I said, Eyvind, they think you’re serious. That’s when he looked at me, when they were cuffing him, and he smiled and said, ‘You’re a good man Blaine, a good man, and a good friend.’  That little, half-smile he gave me will haunt me until the day some orderly has to push me down a hall.”

“The thing of it is,” Officer Bennett admitted to me, “if he hadn’t told us exactly what he did, he may have gotten away with it. The coroner told me he probably wouldn’t have tested for the pharmaceutical concoction. He said, ‘Why would I?’ when I asked him.

“I told Eyvind that,” Officer Bennett continued. “He said, ‘it would’ve embarrassed me to have all you guys waste so many man hours on me. When you could be saving people and settling disputes, and solving other crimes with bad people.’  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that we wouldn’t have wasted a ton of man hours on this. That we would’ve labeled the death as a result of natural causes, and it would’ve been thrown on top of all the other unfortunate, natural causes deaths for the coroner to approve. He had to have done research on this, in other words, to complete such a perfect crime, but I don’t think he could’ve lived with himself if he got away with it.”

I never knew Eyvind Rangstad, and I never met Mary Rice. I have hated people before though. Those annoying people who drive you over the top that you say you hate as in ‘that person is so annoying that I hate them’. Is it inexperience with such a person that drives a person to do such a thing, or is it the fact that someone violates our natural order of things to such a degree that the only way we can right the wrongs of this order is to remove them from it by force? Everyone who worked with Eyvind talked about his structure, his routine, and his personal hierarchy. They also talk about how Mary Rice violated all of that.

When asked why he did it, Eyvind sheepishly said, “I don’t know. She wouldn’t shut up. She spent every minute of every day talking. Talking such nonsense. I asked her to be quiet many times, and she just kept talking. I said shhh, when she told me not to tell her to shut up. I asked her for silence, and she just wouldn’t listen. The woman never listened to me.”

 

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