The third-to-last time I saw the murderer, we committed a few crimes together.
It all started innocently: I hopped on a bus from Seattle’s University District to Seattle Center, where my newly-beloved Death Cab for Cutie was playing the mainstage of the annual Bumbershoot festival. On the packed #74, Amy, my co-worker from the Daily, the University of Washington’s student newspaper, spotted me and said hi. She was on her way to the mainstage as well, to meet up with our other co-workers, Raven and Dinh. So I tagged along.
Aside from Amy, I’d say we were all misfits in our own ways: Raven, the arts editor and designer, who despite her name and proclivity for wearing all black, was not a goth; Dinh, the photographer, who was less than a year older the rest of us, but on the verge of finishing a graduate degree while the rest of us were still undergrads; and I, a former arts editor myself, days away from moving across the country to fulfill my twin dreams of living in New York and working—okay, interning—at a major music magazine despite my tendency towards non-debauchery.
After the show, we hopped in Dinh’s BMW and set off. Amy had to get home, but Raven, Dinh, and I had nothing else on the agenda, and it was decided we would swing by the Safeway on NE 75th Street, buy some tiramisu and wine, and head to Raven’s place to keep the night going. As Dinh was the only one of us of legal drinking age at the time, he bought the wine. (The first crime.)
We drove to Raven’s place, in the Ravenna neighborhood, and after showing us around and introducing us to her dominatrix roommate, she suggested we head to the roof for our food and drink. There was a catch, though: It wasn’t her roof, it was the roof of the building next door. Getting there required stepping in her kitchen sink and climbing out the window above it. (Trespassing, the second crime.)
So we climbed out the window, and we ate and drank together. (Underage drinking, the third crime.) It was one of the few moments in my life that felt like a moment, even as it was happening. Hours passed, and we sat on the roof as the temperature dropped, wondering what would come next for each of us. Raven was about to spend a quarter abroad, in Germany. Dinh expressed uncertainty about his degree and what to do next. And I knew that three nights later, I would hop on a plane to New York, and start the next phase of my life. I had finished my last class of college, only delaying graduation for the sake of the internship. While I didn’t know what would come after the internship, I was keenly aware that night on the roof could, very possibly, be one of the last nights I spent as a resident of a place I’d come to love.
At nearly 3 A.M., I departed, saying I had to catch the last bus that would get me back to the apartment where I was staying before daybreak. The next day of Bumbershoot was coming on fast. And, as I said my farewells to Raven and Dinh, I had a feeling I might never see them again.
The second-to-last time I saw the murderer, I welcomed him into my home.
Five months later, New York hadn’t gone as planned. I’d had a time, perhaps even a good one, but as the months went by, it became increasingly clear that my future didn’t lie there, and lacking any better ideas, I returned to Seattle, where all of my friends were. I found an apartment in the Fremont neighborhood, and once I’d settled in, picked a date for a housewarming party and sent the invites out on a new site everyone was using called Facebook to all the usual people: Former roommates, people from the student newspaper, other random friends, and even a former classmate I’d reconnected with at a bar a few weeks earlier who, tragically, always seemed to have plans on the nights I asked her out.
Turnout was lower than expected, and of the people who did, almost all left when I kicked out a friend who had decided to take a 45-minute mid-party bath in my only bathroom, which caused a leak in the apartment below. (Said friend had driven five others, who left with him. As did one of their girlfriends, who was the ride for several others.) Dinh arrived just as the others were leaving, and shortly after him, Raven appeared with a roommate in tow. We adjourned from my place to a bar down the street, and swapped stories of the intervening months.
It was all an innocent gathering.
The last time I saw the murderer, we watched the Killers.
This isn’t a joke. There’s no punchline here, though I suppose it’s at least a little funny.
At that party, I mentioned having bought a pair of tickets to see the Killers, with Tegan and Sara opening, at the Moore Theatre a couple months later. I’d seen the Killers at the aforementioned Bumbershoot, and tried to see them in New York, but even my coworker who was buddies with the band couldn’t get me in. (She was, however, very handy months later, when I had to transcribe an interview with the band, and kept losing track of who was talking.) I’d seen Tegan and Sara in New York, though—my boss had even gone bowling with one of them—and I was looking forward to the show enough to buy a pair of tickets before finding someone to come along with me.
Dinh stepped up, though, and we met up outside the Moore on the night of the show, walked inside, and climbed the stairs to the balcony. Upon emerging inside the theatre, I remember being mildly terrified by the height and steepness of the balcony. But we climbed the steps to our seats, and once we sat down, I stopped worrying. Years later, I all I really remember was that it was a good show.
I don’t remember saying goodbye to Dinh. But that was the last time I saw the murderer.
As an avid reader of the Capitol Hill Seattle blog, and a long-time resident of the neighborhood, I’d been following the Yancy Noll murder story from the start, even though I never met the man—his QFC wasn’t the one at which I shop. When the name Dinh Bowman first surfaced, I didn’t immediately connect the dots. It tickled and itched in the back of my mind, a name that I knew meant something, but couldn’t remember what. I’d already quit Facebook, so it took me a little while to remember that I’d worked with him at The Daily, where my words were accompanied by photos he shot.
Once I did, though, it all came flooding back. Riding that night in his BMW, perhaps even the same one where he committed the crime. Buying wine at the Safeway blocks from where, on Bumbershoot weekend, eight years later, he would take a man’s life. His appearance at my party, right as all my other friends were leaving. Sitting in the Moore’s balcony beside him, my fear of death slowly subsiding.
Supposedly, Dinh killed Yancy Noll simply for the thrill of it all. I can’t say. I haven’t seen Dinh, or heard from him at all, in nearly ten years.
Today, he was sentenced for his crime. He’ll spend the next 29 years in jail.
And I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering.