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March 13, 2009

Anna Himalaya Murder Solved

By Don Stewart

Anna Himalaya was only in part the sad victim of radiation poisoning, which in fact was iatrogenic in nature. That is not what killed her, however.

Since Anna she was reputed to have suffered from colon cancer prior to her death (no doubt brought on by an overwhelming preponderance of meat in her diet), and was too vain to seek medical attention before it was too late, the disease, according to her private physician, Dr. Mallard (emphasis on the terminal syllable) had metastasized to her liver and brain, stopping along the way to set up shop in her cervical lymph nodes (hence the bruising on her neck - not from strangulation, as it happens, but from an over-enthusiastic massage by Mallard, who had an unhealthy fetish for stroking the throats of celebrities under the guise of routine physical exams).

The mental problems attributed to mad cow disease were not prionic in nature, but rather were the result of too many radiation treatments for what turned out to be nonexistent cancerous brain lesions, which had caused Anna to hallucinate and act out even more than usual in the weeks leading up to her death. Ironically, Anna's additional diagnosis of MCD came about through a clerical error, a sequential misfiling of charts that led to a sequential series of such misdiagnoses including, but not limited to mad cow, end stage rabies, and neurosyphilis. Coincidentally, the chart pages misfiled in Anna's folder included the medical records of a number of individuals known to Anna, and who appeared on the list of suspects responsible for her demise.

Among these was Vivien, who, living alone in her mountain shack, and taking only occasional trips to visit Dr. Mallard for inadequate doses of Haldol and methadone, kept an uncommonly affectionate pet rat, which for purely petty and vindictive reasons she had named Anna. Once during their daily romp-and-tickle, Vivien lost herself to the effervescence of the moment, and inadvertently bit off Anna's (the rat's) head. The act ended Anna's life forthwith, simultaneously rendering Viv alone again (naturally), and inoculated with a fatal dose of rabies. Vivien never forgave herself for this terminal lapse of self-control, and mourned the passing of her furry companion to her final breath, muttering, "kill, Anna, kill Anna," over and over again. Vivien had nothing to do with Anna's (the starlet's) death.

Norma Jean (whose real name was actually Norman John ; she changed the second name to the French spelling early - both to support her gender preference, and to avoid the obvious set-up for "John" jokes by fellow prosties, and the resulting damage to her street cred), suffered from tertiary syphilis, an occupational burden that he/she had carried for decades. Among her many loyal customers, Norma Jean frequently played doctor with Anna's doctor Mallard. When she began complaining of mental symptoms, he told her it was all in her head.

Audrey, for her part, actually did have Mad Cow Disease. While Anna was addicted to betting on the ponies, Audrey had her own pony jones: she was inclined to dine on them. Counter to her public persona as an animal activist, she was in fact a high-functioning sufferer of Asperger Syndrome, which compelled her to compulsively interrupt others during the course of a conversation, and caused her to develop a peculiar fixation on horsemeat. Audrey had a deal with Buster to "fix" the ponies alright - he made sure one was fixed for her on a weekly basis at Chez Rongeur , complete with mushroom sauce, the ubiquitous side dish of lentils, and a nice Chianti. Unbenownst to her, however, now and again chef Jack would slip Audrey a slab of bootleg beef instead of horse: a bit underdone, as usual, according to Audrey's preference. It was on one such occasion that she contracted the dreaded bovine neurological disorder, which would eventually lead to her going quite mad - mad as a cow, at least, if not madder - and dying alone in a cabin in the mountains next to the mummified remains of a headless rat.

Knowing that if Audrey's carnivorous compulsions were ever found out, her public persona would be forever ruined, and her lifetime membership in PETA would be cancelled, Buster threatened to bust her if she didn't do everything possible to help him discover the whereabouts of, and abscond with Anna Himalaya's cache of gold bullion - enough money, it was rumored, to cover her gambling debts and then some.

For his part, chef Jack had already located the bullion in a secret panel behind Anna's vintage collection of Three Stooges videos, cleverly replacing it with gold foil-wrapped bars of chicken bouillon from the pantry at Chez Rongeur. After all, he wasn't doing anything with it, since chicken bouillon is not part of the recipe for liver and headcheese sandwiches, with or without mayonnaise.

On the evening of her death, Anna Himalaya was preparing to go out for the evening, as usual. The following was revealed by the hidden video cameras that chronicled every moment of the starlet's life for posterity.  

Anna sat before the mirror and dusted her cheeks with white arsenic powder, a beauty secret passed down from her grandmother, who in Victorian social circles was known to have the palest, most alluring complexion in all of Birmingham. "Purest porcelain," they would say. "If she were any paler, why, she'd be dead !"

Anna smiled as she slipped into a new evening gown of her own design, delivered that afternoon from Muse's Boutique, in the lobby of the Hotel Tutwiler. This was the latest in her signature Himalaya Collection, available only at Muse's.

On impulse, Anna took a length of gilded curtain rope, fashioned it into a loose noose, slipped it in a fashionable manner over her perfectly coiffed head, and fitted it neatly about her neck to cover the unsightly bruises received at the hand of Dr. Mallard earlier in the day.

"Trendsetting," she murmured to herself, stepping out between the sparkling French doors that led from her boudoir to the patio, and thence to the edge of her private swimming pool.

"Lovely, as always, " Anna said aloud, admiring her shimmering reflection at length in the still blue water, in a creditable impersonation of Narcissus himself. Already fashionably late for a big barbecue dinner at Dreamland, she paused to enjoy a nibble of sliced Camembert, artfully arranged with crackers on the silver salver that rested on the low table next to her favorite chaise longue. Clever how the little cheese knife was decorated to resemble an antique stiletto, she thought.

Turning to go, her own stiletto heel caught the edge of a poolside paving stone, causing her to momentarily lose her balance, if not, at first, her composure.

"Oh, my!" Anna said, gracefully striking the perfect arabesque as she shifted her weight from one foot to the other in an attempt to right herself.

And she might have righted herself right there, alright, had the other heel not caught just then most awkwardly and inextricably in the webbing at the foot of the of the chaise. This forced her to step down rather ungracefully, which launched the head of the long recliner high in the air, and with it the plate of cheese, and its artfully designed couteau de fromage .

Suddenly finding herself pitched headlong in grand jete´, Anna fumbled for balance , grasping at whatever was immediately available to her, which at that moment were limited to the small nibble of Camembert in her right hand, and, and a hand-sized clutch in her left, a brocade affair which perfectly matched her evening gown. The accessory was just large enough to hold Anna's credit cards, a dozen hundred-dollar bills, a small make-up kit, and the tiny, two-shot Derringer she carried everywhere, just in case. Reflexively as she fell, both hands came together in an artful rendition of Albrecht Durer's Praying Hands, clutching the clutch as though her life depended on it.  

The last thing that passed through Anna's mind (other than the bullet, of course) was the realization that her lovely bag was utterly ruined . She was dead before she hit the water, which saved her the pain and embarrassment of knowing that her gown was about to be ruined, too.

As Anna Himalaya's lithe form belly-flopped into the pool, the little cheese knife had completed its arc, yielded to the will of gravity, and buried itself to its tiny hilt, neatly in the middle of her back.

At that moment an odd, birdlike shadow passed silently overhead, briefly obscuring the bright moonbeams that sparkled on Anna's sequined gown, and the widening circles sequentially disturbing the surface of the water. From a distance, the tattered strains of a distraught male voice drifted on the wind. Were Anna still alive, she would have recognized snippets of a familiar lyric: It's Raining Men , filtering down from high above. The music faded with the passing shadow, while a small plastic spoon fluttered slowly to earth, helicopter-like, landing gently onto the manicured lawn next to the pool.

In the aftermath of these discoveries, the sad, accidental end to Anna Himalaya's illustrious life, was ultimately ruled a suicide.