Gus was a weathered, old character who worked on cars when he wasn’t toiling away at the nearby shipping warehouse. Suzy had often seen him tinkering under the hood of his latest vintage vehicle or revving up the engine.
She studied the discarded shoe in her hand. It was just like her. It had no direction, no purpose, no friends. Suzy felt alone even though she lived with 350,000 other people in New Orleans.
Suzy was trespassing that day. She knew Gus always left the pedestrian door of his garage unlocked, and she knew where he kept the key to his old Chevy. It was in a drawer under his workbench. She maneuvered past piles of junk: thrashed clothes, empty food containers, and automotive tools. She even noticed the mate to the flip-flop; it was in the corner.
Suzy had no mate. She attributed her bad luck in the “love department” to being middle-aged and 195 pounds; and to having rough and wrinkled skin due to smoking. She was divorced with no children, and had moved to Louisiana from Michigan with plans to start a new life.
Suzy remembered the night that changed her life—the night she was drugged.
She and her platonic friend, Roger, had been watching television, just as they did regularly. Maybe Roger was angry because she made him watch Dance Moms. Maybe he didn’t like the stew she made for dinner. Maybe he needed fast cash. But, for whatever reason, he decided to pull a “Bill Cosby.” He slipped something into her Coca-Cola. At least, this was her theory. While she was unconscious on the bed, Roger disrobed her and photographed her nude in hard-core poses. Suzy woke the next day with her clothes disheveled, and Roger was gone. She did not know what had happened. She phoned Roger; he did not answer. She left message after message.
He never returned the calls, and days later, his phone was disconnected. She went to his apartment, but it had been vacated. The landlord had no forwarding address.
Suzy was confused about Roger’s disappearance, but did not think much of it until strangers began harassing her online. They emailed links to websites with obscene content, featuring her. There were dozens of crude, naked photos of her unconscious on the bed, legs apart, from every conceivable angle. She was a victim of ultimate betrayal. Suzy panicked, hyperventilating and running recklessly from room to room. She felt like an out-of-control vehicle veering over a cliff.
There was more bad news. The photos were labeled with Suzy’s particulars: her full name, city, email address, and ex-husband’s name. Plus, the images seemed to be circulating around the world; trolls were posting and reposting the shots. Some of the hosting websites originated in the United Arab Emirates, Africa, and the Netherlands—far away and impossible to control.
Commenters on these sites abused Suzy further. One called her “blubber butt,” while another referred to her as “the thing.” She was threatened with “Send me more nudes or I will load these onto more sites.” She received an email: “Why don’t you just go kill yourself, Honey.” Suzy’s self-esteem, which was already in the gutter, fell further; and she felt there was only one solution. The final one.
This is why she was in Gus’ garage. She thought carbon monoxide poisoning was her best bet because it would kill swiftly and painlessly, and it would take no more than fifteen minutes to kick in. Suzy prayed she would die because she knew an unsuccessful attempt might lead to paralysis, blindness, or dementia.