Halfway through the morning, news of the snowfall was interrupted by an even bigger development. Something wrong had happened inGreenwich. Something terribly wrong. That was what the newscaster had announced. “I know,” I said to the screen. “It’s snowing and I’m going to celebrate New Year’s in an igloo.” But that wasn’t it. There was more. I had walked into to the bedroom to get a pair of socks and picked up the news out of the corner of my eye and it made me sit down on the corner of the bed to glue my eyes to the screen.
News reporters were swarming in. A helicopter was hovering over a large white house, which I took for a condominium complex at first. It was that big. At the bottom there read something about a body being found on a Greenwich estate. The incoming information was confusing and unconfirmed, all so very confusing and unconfirmed. From what the reporters could tell, the death may have been a result of murder. A common result of most murders, come to think of it.
Murder. Jesus. Now, that was wholly unexpected for the nation’s safest city, or was it a town? The subject is touchy. You see, amongst Greenwich’s numerous identity crises, between trying to be an everyday town and yet striving to set itself apart from the rest somehow through discretion and indiscreet wealth, there was the issue of just how to denote this municipality. Both led down different roads and each would make all the difference.
By many standards, the figure of over 50,000 should elevate it to the rank of a city, and there are states like Nebraska which require only 800 inhabitants to gain that status. But the mere use of the “C-word” sends shivers up and down the backs of most residents. Cities mean ghettos and ethnic groups, drugs and alternate side of the street parking. Towns mean residential areas, homogeneity, soft drugs and alcohol, and no parking whatsoever on the streets. You get the feeling that just that tiny change of wording would depreciate the value of the local real estate by twenty percent. Call me exaggerated, but little things like that can affect a market. After all, a market is an object run by a state of mind.
The town itself, that is the Town, won’t go for it either. The official name is “The Town of Greenwich”, and it will probably stay that way until the sun finally expands so big it swallows up the Earth and renders owning a French Norman Chateau home on Lake Avenuea waste of time.
Cities, at least in America, also suggest an increased likelihood of homicide. And you just didn’t get too many of them in lowerFairfieldCounty. Just how few? In the first ten years of the century, there were only seven murders inGreenwich. For a city, sorry, town of over 60,000 people in theUnited States, this was a staggeringly low number. It makesGreenwichessentially one of the safest cities, sorry, towns in the entire country. Yet another reason why the rich like living here. Not only can they enjoy the good life, they can do so free of the fear of getting a knife stuck in their heart or having their face blown off; and that is always a relief.
If all suspicion proved true, however, this unfortunate outcome would make it eight, coming in on the final day of the year. Eight seems to be a nicer number.
Violent deaths were even rarer when I was growing up. So uncommon that when they occurred no one knew really what to do. Especially the police. When 15-year-old Martha Moxley’s bludgeoned body was found under a tree back in 1975, but a few yards from her doorstep, it sparked the first murder mystery in the town since 1949. Homicide simply did not happen here in a land sheltered from the horrors of the rest of the world. But when it did, it certainly got its share of news.
In the modern era of this town, probably no event has gathered as much national and international attention here as that notorious killing of Moxley on October 30, 1975. Where were you on 9-11? People of my generation and older will all be able to tell you exactly what they were doing when the pretty blonde girl, a recent arrival fromCalifornia, was brutally attacked and slain in the middle of one ofGreenwich’s most exclusive neighborhoods known as Belle Haven. This neighborhood is one the water and is often referred to as the crème de la crème of the town, which is hogwash. Sure it’s fancy and sure it’s got its own guard at the gate, but that isn’t saying much inGreenwich. It doesn’t impress. It generally impresses those who have never lived in the town.
By the way, I don’t know what it is like today, but back then, the infamous guardhouse turning back all unwanted outsiders is pretty much a myth. Unless you looked like Charles Manson with a shotgun in the front seat, you could get through quite easily. All you needed was a name to give. I mention this because this detail has often been cited as jaw-dropping proof of the town’s selective nature (as if this kind of thing didn’t happen in other parts of the world) and I’m here to say it was quite that way. At all.
But let’s not wander off. The fact was, there was a dead teen lying caked in blood, pine needles and dirt, underneath a tree and no one could figure out who had done it. The body was in terrible shape. The killer didn’t just wop her once or twice, he beat the living daylights out of her, and the results were horrifying.