Officer McGowan cut the lights and siren as he rounded the corner of Borrego Springs Drive, and saw the lights from the open door as he pulled his unit to the curb.
The back-up unit was already on the way and McGowan advised the other officer over the radio that he was going to approach the house and would advise him further, once he was inside.
The call came over the radio three minutes earlier, when a neighbor heard screaming from the house at 1862 Borrego Springs Dr.
McGowan drew his service revolver as he exited the cruiser and cautiously walked towards the front door. The door was open and he yelled “Palm Springs Police Department,” as he entered the living room
The hair stood up on the back of his neck when he saw the bloody hand print on the wall, near the large painting of two nude women embracing.
He followed the trail of blood on the white carpet to a bedroom. A woman that appeared to be in her late thirties, with a short men’s style haircut was lying on the bed and appeared to be unconscious as he asked, “Can you hear me ma’am.”
There was no response from her and McGowan felt for a pulse on her carotid artery. There was a pulse and he called dispatch and advised them to send an ambulance. His back-up partner arrived as he was talking to dispatch. McGowan directed him to search the area for the assailant.
The woman was breathing on her own and McGowan looked at the wounds on her body. The victim had several cuts and the back-up officer told McGowan that a large butcher knife was found on the kitchen floor, with blood on it.
McGowan was a veteran officer and he knew that the cuts he was looking at were odd, compared to knife wounds he had seen before. There did not appear to be any stab wounds, just cuts or slices.
He saw a purse on the dresser near the bed and found the victim’s driver’s license. McGowan placed the license in his shirt pocket while his partner held a towel on the most serious wound on the victim’s thigh, applying pressure to it.
The ambulance crew arrived and McGowan’s back-up partner agreed to stay at the house until the detectives came to process the crime scene.
McGowan locked his patrol car and rode with the ambulance crew to the hospital. On the short ride to the hospital, he asked the victim, “Can you hear me Vivian?"
The woman now identified as Vivian Mortensen nodded her head slightly indicating that she could hear the officer.
“Try not to move your head Vivian,” the paramedic told her. “You have a cut to your throat.”
“Can you speak Vivian?” McGowan wanted to know.
She was able to answer a weak 'yes' to his question.
“Can you tell me who attacked you?"
“It was Elizabeth, the bitch hates me,” she mumbled before passing out.
The paramedics took her directly to the emergency room and one of the nurses on duty recognized McGowan and said, “Why don’t you get a cup of coffee and I’ll come to the cafeteria to get you Clell, when the Doctors say it’s okay for her to speak to you.”
“Thanks Tina, I’ll be in the cafeteria when you get ready,” he said as she walked away.
Thirty minutes later, Tina sat down at the table with McGowan and said, “This is one strange case,” as she stirred her coffee.
“What do you make of it?” he wanted to know.
“Don’t say I told you anything, I don’t want the Doctors scolding me, but this looks like one of those Chinese deaths by a thousand cuts cases.”
“How’s that Tina”?
“There’s seventeen cuts that required either stitching or gluing, and several tiny cuts that will heal on their own, but they all appear to be superficial.”
“You think someone was able to hold her down and slice her up? Not intending to kill her?” McGowan needed to know.
“I’d better not say anything else. Let me finish my coffee and you can speak to the Doctor in charge.”
After he talked to the Doctor, and the Doctor told him basically the same thing the nurse had, McGowan asked if the patient was able to talk.
“She’s talking to her psychiatrist right now. I’m sure he can explain what’s going on with her,” the Doctor told him.
McGowan walked into the room and introduced himself to Dr. Rosenberg. Dr. Rosenberg explained that he had been Vivian Mortensen’s psychiatrist for the last two years, and he happened to be in the hospital when she was brought into the emergency room.
“Did she tell you who this Elizabeth is and why she sliced her up without killing her. Is this some type of love triangle or lesbian crime of passion,” McGowan wanted to know.
“No, nothing like that at all. Elizabeth is Vivian’s other personality. To put it in laymen’s terms, Vivian has a split personality.”
“That would explain the superficial cuts.” McGowan told Dr. Rosenberg as the Doctor excused himself, saying he had another patient to visit in the critical care unit.
Tina agreed to photograph all of Vivian’s cuts, for McGowan’s report and then she stated, “Meet me at two thirty at Denny’s.”
“You got it,” he told her as he picked up the house phone and called the dispatcher to ask her to patch him through to the detectives at Vivian’s house.
He explained the situation to the lead detective, so they wouldn’t have to waste the evening working a crime scene that was going nowhere.