Chapter 1: The Disappearance
People disappear all the time. Whether by nefarious means, or by their own volition, everyday there are people that just vanish. We know it happens, but we tend not to think about it. Until it happens to us.
On November 4th, 2017, Katya kissed her girlfriend of six years and hurried out the door. She went to the gym where she worked part time, and she met her friend Matt who was there to try Yoga for the first time. She teased him about his poor form and after the class was over, she hugged him goodbye, promised to text him the next day and left. She stopped at a local coffee shop, ordered a black coffee and a donut. Outside the coffee shop, she waited for an Uber as she sipped her coffee; a man also loitering outside the shop sidled up to her and began hitting on her: delighted when she smiled at his flirting, but disheartened when she said she didn’t think that her girlfriend would be very happy if she went and grabbed dinner with him as he suggested.
When her Uber arrived, she said goodbye to the man and got into the car. She directed the driver to take her to the club she worked at 4 nights a week as a dancer. This was her sixth shift that week; she was trying to earn some extra money. It was early evening and the sun was just beginning to sink behind the clouds,the city beginning to become awash with lights. She probably looked out the window, watched the city go by. Katya was a dreamer, she embraced the weird, the wacky, the far-fetched. Her mother often said she had her head in the clouds.
When she arrived at the club she greeted the bartender, a long time friend and confidant, Ginger. She was given a glass of water and a sandwich and made her way to the dressing room, where she went through her usual makeup and hair routine. She received a text at 7pm, from her girlfriend. She returned the text, included a red heart and a red lips emoji. They were going to a friends birthday brunch the next day and her girlfriend wanted to make sure she had RSVP'd.
Katya performed twice that night; she took a short break at 10pm. She went outside and had a cigarette and then she sat in the dressing room with two other women, scrolled through Instagram and liked some recent posts. She took a quick silly selfie and posted it.
At 12am she stopped at the bar and waved to Ginger, who yelled at her to go home and that she didn’t want to see her in the club for the next three days. She waited outside for an Uber, but it never showed up. Possibly weighing how long it would take her to get home, Katya began to walk.
On November 5th, 2017, at approximately 10 pm, a frantic phone call was placed to 911.
“911, what is your emergency?”
“I need to report a missing person. My girlfriend didn’t come home last night; she isn’t answering any of my calls or texts. I’ve checked with her friends and with her work and no one has seen her since this morning.”
“‘Ok, ma'am. Could she just have turned her phone off? Did you get in a fight at all?”
“No. You don’t understand, she wouldn’t...she’s missing. I know she’s missing. Please.”
“Alright, stay calm. When was she last seen?”
“The bartender at her work said she left at 12am. I don’t think she came home after; I was asleep. She wasn’t here when I woke up this morning and no one has seen or heard from her. Please send someone.”
On November 6th 2017, Yekaterina Zamolodchikova was declared a missing person. The investigation is ongoing.
To many, she is just another face on a missing poster. A name, flashed across the 24 hour news cycle. Did someone take her? Did she leave on her own? And if so, why?
People disappear all the time. It's not often we get answers, but it doesn’t mean that we don't exhaust every avenue.Turn over every rock and ask the hard questions.
Even if asking them causes more pain.
“She was beautiful. But also one of those real kooky types? She would do things like just break out in the most outrageous dances, right in the middle of a conversation. She called it ‘moving her body in a compelling way’. She'd put these little doll hands in her hair; wear them like they were a regular hair clip.You wouldn't expect that from someone who looked like that. Naturally gorgeous, petite, blonde.But she was a real nut.
We met when we were in college, on the first day. She was outside the library, smoking in a no smoking zone; I'm a chronic smoker, we had that in common. I’d left my cigarettes in my room and she offered me one. She was my best friend, and I know a lot of people are going to say that. Everyone loved her, she got along with everyone. But, I feel like...I knew her better than anyone else. Besides her girlfriend.”
November 4th, 2018, Ginger is interviewed for this podcast. When she received the call she was hesitant. It had been almost a year since anyone had seen or heard from Katya, the investigation was ongoing, open with no indication from police that they were any closer to solving it. She didn't want to do anything to impede the investigation, but she was also fed up with the lack of action. Ultimately, she decided to participate.Her voice is full of emotion and thick with a southern accent that gives everything she says an uptick.
“I listened to that one podcast, Up and Vanished? That guy managed to help get information that lead to an arrest. I figure, Gal if you can at least get people talking about Katya and what happened to her, it will be worth it.”
The interview takes place at the club, the last place anyone saw Katya and the place where Ginger still works.
“I keep expecting her to walk through those doors. Big smile, big personality. I got her the job here; Katya was a bit of a lost soul. She was super smart, but didn't really see that about herself? She doubted everything she did. She studied art, used to drag me to all these live performance pieces she would do. But that doesn't really translate to the real world. And she had demons, anxiety and addiction that she fought everyday. She had a hard time keeping a job, until she started here.”
The club is quiet during the late afternoon, but it's not hard to imagine the stage lit up. Beautiful girls performing burlesque and cabaret numbers. Maybe a Drag Queen or two making an appearance once or twice a week.
“I wish I knew why she decided to walk that night. Why didn't she just come back inside if she couldn't get an Uber or a Taxi? Why didn't she call her girlfriend? I ask myself that all the time. Why didn't she call someone? Every time I think of my last words to her, I wish that I had asked her how she was getting home. She was tired, she’d been working more nights than usual. The boss loved it, cause Katya brought in guys who spent money. If it was a night where she was going to be performing than it was a guarantee that the bar would be more than flush. Men and Women loved her.
Katya and her girlfriend were planning on moving, so she was getting to get as much as she could. Saturday was her normal day to work, cause it's a big night for bar hopping, but maybe If she hadn't been working so much she would have been more aware. And someone wouldn't have taken her.
Oh yeah, I know someone took her. I can feel it in my gut. I know Katya. She ain't’ the type to never get in contact. I tell ya Gal, that’s something that keeps me up nights. Cause if she hasn't said anything in the past year, then I don't think she ever will. And that breaks my heart. I would give anything just to hear her laugh one more time.”
When Katya first disappeared, the police refused to declare her missing until two days later. They say the first 48 hours are crucial, but in this case the first 48 weren't even a factor.
Her girlfriend discovered she hadn't come home, when she woke on the morning of November 5th. She got up around 8 am and at first thought Katya might have fallen asleep on the couch; sometimes she had trouble sleeping and rather than disturb her significant other, she would move to the living room where she would meditate, watch TV or read until exhaustion pulled her under.
But Katya was not in the living room and on further inspection she wasn't in the apartment at all. This wasn't unusual. Katya usually did morning Yoga, greeting the sun, perhaps willing the new day to absolve the trials of the last. When Katya didn't appear by 10am, the time they were supposed to meet their friends for brunch, worry began to set in.
Text messages were sent.
Hey babe, where are you? We've gotta go soon.
Kat, I’m going to go to the restaurant. Meet me there.
Babe, I’m starting to get worried. No one has heard from you. Please call me. I’m heading home.
“Katya, I’m at home now. Did you even come home last night? Call me.”
“Baby, Ginger says you left work on time last night. Did you go out after? Did you go to the park...Katya, please just call me. Text me. Tell me you aren't doing anything stupid.”
When no reply came, full on fear took hold. For four hours the streets were searched, friends and acquaintances were called. When no trace was found, 911 was called.
“My name is Kasha Davis, I've been a Detective for 10 years, a beat cop before that for five. The Zamo case, as we call it, was given to me about a year ago.This is an active investigation, there is little I can say. What I can confirm is that Miss Zamolodchikova left her place of work in the early hours of November 5th 2017. She was seen standing outside by patrons of the club where she worked. She was also seen walking away from the club at approximately 12:20 am.
We have her on camera for about two blocks. She was not being followed. She entered an area where the traffic cameras were being given maintenance. In that small span of time, she disappeared.
We were alerted to her disappearance by her girlfriend. She called 911 on the night of November 5th and reported her missing. Because Miss Zamolodchikova is not a minor and was known to go off on her own, the officer who ended up taking the report held off on submitting it until the next night, after repeated calls from the girlfriend. Miss Zamo was officially declared missing and the case ended up on my desk.
Katya was last seen wearing a black hoodie, black pants and Doc Martin boots. She is in her mid twenties,has blue eyes and at the time of her disappearance had long blonde hair. Distinguishing marks are a tattoo of a bee on her clavicle and a tattoo of a cat on her wrist. She was carrying a red backpack.
We ask that anyone who is listening to this, who may know something, come forward. If you saw Katya on that night, if you think you may have seen her, if you've heard anything about her or from her, please contact my office and ask for Detective Davis.
What happened to Katya Zamolodchikova? Was she taken, as her friend Ginger suggests? Did she simply decide that she didn’t want to live her life anymore and took off to parts unknown? Katya’s friends and family maintain that whatever shortcomings she may have had, she would never have just cut all ties with them all. But if a person is pushed to their very edge, their final breaking point, who knows what they are capable of.
People disappear all the time and a lot of times it's because they want to stay gone. Is Katya one of those people?
There are so many questions and we’ve only scratched the surface so far.
Chapter 2: Mamochka
Episode 2: Katya's mother talks about when she learned of her daughter's disappearance. We learn more about her girlfriend.
The sun is just setting,painting everything in hues of gold and burnt orange. Its November, but here in L.A. it feels like it could be spring time. It rained most of the morning, making the pavement slick and shiny, but casting the city in a sepia tone. The kind a film maker or photographer dreams of.
Days like this were Katya’s favourite. Her mother tells stories of a little girl who refused to stay inside on rainy days. A little girl who used to jump in every puddle that lined the sidewalk of her Boston neighbourhood, singing her own made up, and often highly off key ,songs as she did. Of a teenager who would wander the streets into the early hours of the morning, write poetry about the feeling that comes over you when you miss someone you haven't even met. Of a young Woman, freshly back from her first year of college, who spent a whole summer taking Polaroids of every rainy day and red cast sunset to use for an art installation the next year.
She also tells stories of a Woman, riddled with insecurities, chronically affected by her anxiety that drove her to seek solace in a culture of drugs and partying.
“We brought Yekaterina to this country to give her a good life. She was my miracle baby; I could not get pregnant for a long time, but when I did I knew it would be a girl. I could feel it. She was our treasure. When Yekaterina was three, I said to my husband- we must go to United States or Canada. Katinka is not meant for Russia; she is going to do something interesting. On the plane leaving Russia, she pressed her little face against the window and I asked her, what are you doing Katya? And she said, Mama we have to say goodbye. I have to look til it's gone. And I said, well maybe we’ll come visit sometime, and she shook her head and said no Mama. This is goodbye.”
Irena Zamolodchikova called from Boston around 6pm L.A. time. Her husband, Vitaly, declined to participate. Katya was the apple of her father’s eye and so her shortfalls and misfortunes always affected him greatly. His love for his daughter never waivered.
“When she was a little girl, we put her in gymnastics. Her father thought it was a good outlet for her energy and it would teach her discipline. We never expected that she would go far with it, we weren’t the type of parents to push our child to something that they didn’t take joy in. But Katya was good, she flourished. It was the only place where she seemed to come out of her shell. She had a lot of problems, our Yekaterina. Her social anxiety was so much that for years I would have to hold her hand in public. I’m ashamed to say that I lost my temper with her a few times over it all. I would say things like, why can you go out on a mat and perform a floor routine for over 100 people, but you can’t answer the waitress when she asks you if want fries with your burger? My husband though, he was always patient. He tried so hard to show her that she had nothing to worry about. It broke his heart when she turned to the drugs. She would come home, high on Meth or LSD or drunk, and the girl who walked through those doors was not our Katya. Not our miracle. She was a stranger.
He told her, Yekaterina, I will always love you but you do not love yourself and until you can, I cannot help you. When she was 17,they fought, he made her leave. She lived on the street for almost a year- It makes me heart sick to even think about it. It makes me think we failed her. She did things in that year...met people that...she was so beautiful, in spirit and in looks. I know she was taken advantage of. I never asked her and she never said, but I know. A mother knows. She came home eventually, asked us to help her get into a program and she got clean, she started talking to someone about her insecurities and anxiety. But I do not think she loved herself. Not yet.”
Katya went away to college, a year behind her classmates with all the missed school due to her addictions. Her parents were hesitant to let her go, they worried that she might relapse or fall in with people who would pressure her. She called them every week and Irena could tell when she was having a hard time, away from her network of support.
“We would talk on the phone for hours. She would tell me about her classes, her friends, the man she met at the public library who sold her jewelry he had made himself that looked like eyeballs. She would never say outright that she was having a hard time, but it was in her tone and how fast she spoke. It was in the pauses she would take, to just breath and listen to me breath. Her first two years were like this and I know there were some slips here and there. I know she struggled everyday. And then, one day in her third year, she called us and said she had something to tell us.
Good lord, I can laugh about this now, but at the time it all seemed so serious. She asked me to get her father on the phone too, her voice was so grave, none of her usual effervescence. I put the phone on speaker so Vitaly and I could both talk to her and she said, ‘Mama, Papa, I have something important I need to say and I would really appreciate it if you just let me speak.’ And of course, the first thing that popped into my mind was, she’s pregnant. And I said, ‘Katinka, tell me that you are not pregnant. Now is not the time! And before she could speak Vitaly was cursing the name of the man who would dare touch his daughter in such a way and not be responsible. And Katya is yelling, ‘no, no Papa, I am not pregnant! But I am in love. I’m in love and it’s with a Woman. I wanted to tell you that I’m gay. Or at least bisexual. I met someone and she’s lovely and beautiful and funny and for whatever reason she seems to think I’m worth spending time with!’ And I said, ‘Katya, your just figuring out now that you like women? I knew this from the time you were a little girl.’ And she laughed, she had such a big laugh-so infectious.”
Katya introduced her parents to her girlfriend three months later; it was a meeting full of nervousness on both sides. But as soon as they met the girl, Irena and Vitaly knew their daughter was in good hands.
“They were so in love. You could see it, feel it in the air. My Yekaterina was glowing with happiness. She came in, with this tall blonde confection of a Woman- it's the only way I can describe her! And she said, Mama, Papa this is my girlfriend Trixie. And she smiled so big when Trixie shook our hands and thanked us for having her. That girl was an angel, sent to our Katya. I know it. She encouraged her, she fought her to see that she was worth something. That she was special in her own way. She showed her that she could be happy despite her demons. They broke up twice- they are both strong spirited people- but never for very long and they never stopped loving each other. They were always texting each other, if they weren’t in the same place, and when they were they were laughing together, poking and prodding at each other to get a rise. Trixie was meant for my Katya and Katya was meant for her.”
On the evening of November 5th 2017, Irena received a call that to this day sends chills down her spine.
“She said,’Mamushka, its Trixie. Have you heard from Katya at all today?’ And I said no, she hadn’t called us, that I hadn’t spoken to her since she called me two days before to say that they had been looking at an apartment and were pretty set on it if they could get the money together.
Well, poor Trixie, she kind of just gasped, like she couldn't catch her breath and she said...she said I can't find her. I haven't seen her since yesterday afternoon and she won't answer the phone. No one knows where she is.
And my heart started pounding, and I must have made some kind of noise, because Vitaly came in and he took the phone from me and started questioning Trixie and then I made him put her on speaker phone, and I asked if she had checked the park, Katya liked to go there sometimes to gather her thoughts. And did she check with all her friends and with anyone who she met when they were broken up? And with both her work places? And Trixie was saying yes, yes Mamushka. I checked everywhere...I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
And I knew. I knew someone, some animal, had taken our Yekaterina. A mother knows, she can feel it.
And Vitaly said, Betrix, you call the police.We will be there tomorrow. And we flew out to L.A. the next morning.”
Katya’s parents and her girlfriend, Trixie, met with the police in the afternoon of November 7th, 2017. The L.A. PD had already spoken with Ginger and confirmed that Katya had left work at around 12am. The local media had picked up on the story and an appeal was put out for anyone who had seen Katya to call in.
They had traced her phone to an area of West Hollywood, as its last ping before it went offline. When they searched the area, police did not find any sign of Katya. Traffic cameras in the area had been down for maintenance, an oversight that in the weeks to come would have many questioning what exactly the city of Los Angeles was doing with taxpayers money if they couldn’t afford to have a backup for situations like this.
Police questioned Katya’s loved ones extensively. Was Katya known to disappear for long stretches of time? Did she often walk home from work? Was Trixie aware of any behaviour on Katya’s part these last few days or weeks that was suspect? Were Trixie and Katya having any relationship issues? Did any of them know of anyone who might have wished Katya harm?
The answers they were given didn’t shed any light on what might have happened on the morning of November 5th. Trixie and Katya were happy; they were in a good place in their relationship. Physically and mentally, Katya seemed to be in the best health she’d been in, in recent years, her parents told police.
Everyone loved Katya. This was emphasized. Katya was not the type of person who made enemies. She was the kind of person who made everyone who met her feel like they had a connection. She tried to live her life without drama, and tended to avoid most social situations unless it was for her work or something involving her friends. In her down time, yes, she would sometimes go off on her own. She needed moments alone to recharge. But she always texted Trixie to let her know where she would be if they hadn’t been together that day. And if Trixie texted her, she always answered. Always.
In the year that’s followed Katya’s disappearance, there seems to be little to no forward momentum in the case. All anyone can agree on is that they feel positive that something stopped her from reaching home that night. That someone knows what happened to her. Even worse, that someone took her.
The question remains, who?
Chapter 3: Lovings In The Patience
Episode 3: Trixie describes her relationship with Katya.
It's been said that to love someone, you must be willing to be patient. That adage was never more true than for Betrix Mattel. It took patience and understanding to build her relationship with Katya; it took conviction and the knowledge that sometimes people need to take the path less traveled to get where they are meant to be.
It's been over a year since Katya disappeared and during that time period, Trixie has never given up hope that her love will be found. She has the patience and the fortitude to keep looking for her; to not give up until the truth is revealed.Her dedication and tenacity is inspiring, the kind we would all hope another would have if something mysterious happened to us. Her love for her partner is obvious from the moment you meet her, palpable in a visceral way.
“I wasn't sure I could talk to you. When you asked, I really thought of saying no. But I have to dedicate everything to finding Katya and if this can help, then I don't really know what I’ve got to lose. So here we go, I guess.”
Betrix and Yekaterina met at a small coffee shop; the kind that starving artists like to call home. Trixie, an aspiring folk singer-songwriter, was performing there. Katya was there on a date.
“I had just graduated from beauty school and was trying to figure out what came next. I had this certificate, but I didn't even know what the hell I was going to do with it. Music was my real passion, it was something that always seemed to pull me back in. So I thought, ok, I'll work at Macy's during the day, chat up the old ladies and do the same five looks for the debutantes that come to the makeup counter, and by night I'll try this music thing. A friend told me about a talent night at a coffee shop and it was free to participate, so I signed up.
Katya was in the front row. She was with some guy, I don't remember his name.I never saw him again after that night. And I’m up on the little platform they had set up as a stage, sweating my foundation off, as I get my guitar ready and I look up and there is this woman with the whitest, most perfect teeth staring back at me in amusement as I fumble with the strap on my guitar. When she realized that she'd caught my eye, she smiled at me,and that probably would have been that. Except I winked back at her in like this exaggerated way? She told me later it was hard to tell if I was hitting on her or trying to fix one of my fake eyelashes. So she laughed, and the guy with her was really confused, and I thought to myself, now that's a woman I want to talk to.”
Trixie approached Katya after her performance. She knew as soon as they started talking that there was some kind of connection.
“I’m not a warm person, I’m not really the type to be very open. But I am the type that if I find someone I feel connected to, I don't hesitate to just go for it. And I knew after like five minutes of talking to her that there was something there. So I convinced her to ditch her date and come out with me.We ended up just walking around until we found a bar and then we just sat and talked for hours. And Katya walked me home and when we got to my place, I told her that I didn't usually take people home on the first date and she said,’well I don’t usually follow strange lesbians home, so we both were breaking our own rules.’
I don't like the term love at first sight, but it was pretty instantaneous. I wasn't looking for THE ONE, but um...yeah. She's the love of my life…
Oh, wow... Can we stop for a moment? This is a lot.
Trixie agreed to meet at the apartment she and Katya shared; she still lives there.Says that she can’t move, she needs to be where Katya last knew her to be. It's a small one bedroom, situated in a predominantly Hispanic neighbourhood. Outside, someone is playing a pop mix, the Spanish lyrics carrying up and through the open window. There is a multi photo frame on the wall, above where an old acoustic guitar sits, with five photos of various people. In the middle is a picture of Katya and Trixie a few years younger. Katya is giving the camera a dazed look as Trixie kisses her cheek. It's a cute photo, but a bittersweet reminder that this woman who disappeared is someone's person. That someone is waiting for her to come home.
“We moved out here after Katya finished college.She said that if I was ever going to do something with music, we needed to be somewhere where I would meet the right people. She was right, of course. But she found it hard being in L.A. at first. She never said, but I could tell. For the first year we were pretty miserable. We fought a lot. We were both hustling our asses off , just to make rent. She met some people who were more than happy to tempt her into old behaviours like heavy drinking. I knew that Katya was an addict, she was really upfront about it when we started our relationship. She laid it all out to me and I told her that while I couldn't understand, that I didn't know what it was like to be an addict, I could try and always be supportive. And when we broke up for the last time, because of the drinking, I told her that she could take her time and that I loved her and I would be waiting for her when she was ready.
She was gone for about a month, she stayed with a friend she had made when we first moved out here, but she texted me a couple times a week. And when she came back home, that was it. She went to AA meetings, started doing yoga again.And we talked things out, whatever we were both feeling. Open and honest. It was hard, but worth it to stay together.
In the past couple years, I've noticed a real change in her. She seemed more settled? Like she believed that she was actually the person that we all told her she was. We both changed a lot, grew together I guess. She was happy, for the first time in a long time.
Katya liked working at the Club, performing.She created this fantasy; it was mesmerizing. People loved watching her, feeling like they could get close, but never touch. She used to say it was good for a Friday night, but not for life.
My songwriting really began to take off in the months before Katya disappeared. We realized that we were at the point that we could probably afford a better place. So, we started saving for first and last and Katya took more shifts at both the Gym and the Club.
She was so exhausted some days and I remember, the day before it happened...I told her that I thought she should step back a bit. We were OK, it wasn't worth running herself down. And she said, ‘don't worry Barbie. Just a couple more shifts and we are golden’. I wish I had pushed more, convinced her to take a break. Maybe she would have stayed home that night.
Trixie details the events of November 5th like a police procedural. She woke up, realized that Katya wasn't home, she texted her and waited for her to respond. She went to the pre-arranged brunch and asked their friends if they had heard from Katya. She went home, hoping she might have made it to the apartment.She called Katya and left two messages for her. When she didn't hear back she began calling Katya’s colleagues and friends. She went to the park that Katya sometimes retreated to and searched the whole area. She asked their neighbours and the boys who hung out outside the Bodega if they had seen her girlfriend. She called Irena and Vitaly and and then she finally called 911.
“When I realized that she really was missing, that she probably wasn't coming through our door any time soon, it was like...I couldn't breath. Sometimes it still feels like that. All the air is sucked out of the room and I'm struggling to take something, anything in.
It became pretty obvious right away that the police didn't really think someone took her. At least not then. They were operating on the theory that Katya got fed up with life, took off somewhere or killed herself. But I know, fully and completely, that's not what happened. Two years ago? Maybe. But not then. Not when everything was finally starting to turn out.
After I spoke with the officers, and then the detectives, I told Irena and Vitaly that we couldn't wait for the police to do something.
Katya doesn't fit the profile of the type of missing woman that gets plastered all over the news more than once. She's white, yes, and beautiful, but she's also an addict and gay and not well off and made her living pussy popping for trust fund kids four times a week. I knew, after the first two days, that I would need to be her advocate and push for every avenue to be explored. Or there would be no chance I would ever get her back.”
Katya’s parents and Trixie enlisted a private detective to investigate and go to the places that the police couldn't or worse, wouldn’t, go. Their hope is that he’ll be able to unearth something the police missed.
“I don’t kid myself into thinking there is going to be a happy ending here. I don't think she's dead, but I know it's a real possibility. I can be pragmatic. But what I can't do is just sit and wait for the police to sift through the same old evidence, only to come back a year from now and tell us all that they still have nothing.
It's not in me to give up.I’ll look for her for as long as it takes, because I know she would turn this whole city over if our positions were reversed.”
What are the police missing in this case? Every person that knew and loved Katya is convinced that she disappeared via nefarious means. Is there evidence out there that will point in the direction of what happened that morning?
As it stands now, all we have to go on are Katya’s movements throughout the day and night before she disappeared. Is there some small detail that no ones caught on to?
Chapter 4: The Private Dicks
Episode 4: Meet the Private Detective who has made Katya's case his number one priority.
The office is crammed; small and bursting at the seams. Stacks of file folders litter the ground and the only area clear of debris is the desk. The man who sits behind it is innocuous enough, the kind of guy who could blend into a crowd. When your a PI, that's to your advantage.
“My husband, who is also my partner in our PI business, convinced me to take the case. I was interested, but he became obsessed. He’d met Trixie before; they’re both from Wisconsin and he’d met her at one of her gigs here in L.A. So he knew who she was and as soon as he heard what was going on, he started hounding me, saying that we had to do it. And honestly, after meeting Trixie I couldn't say no.”
Dimitri and his Husband Brian are not your typical PI duo. They specialize in crimes that occur in the LGBT Plus community. It doesn't make them a ton of money, but they get by comfortably and they love their work. Dimitri, or Mitya as he likes to be called, is the primary PI on Katya’s case. In the past year he’s investigated every lead that has arisen, even if they have been far fetched.
“Someone said they saw her in Chinatown, working for a fishmonger. I hoofed it down there, but it was just another Slavic-looking blonde girl. She’s also been rumored to have joined the traveling cirque, and that one I could almost believe. But I went undercover there for a couple days and she's absolutely not there. Every lead has to be followed though. There was some supposition that she went back to Russia and I mean, if that's the case then I’m not going to hold my breath. I've got some feelers out there though, just in case.
But I tend to agree with Trixie, and so does my Husband. Every indication, to me, is that this was a woman who had every intention of living her life. Would I say she was abducted? I don’t know if I would use that particular verbiage, but yes I think someone interfered with her on her way home that night.”
Mitya says the police didn't do a broad enough search when Katya was first reported missing.
“So Katya left the Club around 12 am right? We all know that. Girl done walked right into the dark L.A. night and didn't look back. The Police traced her to an area where the traffic cameras weren't working, and that's the last they could find of her. But what if she didn't go that way? See, when Trixie checked with all Katya’s friends and co-workers and casual acquaintances, there was one person she didn't check with and she wouldn't have been able to. Because this person was out of the country. So why would she think to check with them? She knew that they wouldn't have seen Katya. And the police never checked either. For probably the same reason.”
A week before Katya disappeared she exchanged a series of WhatsApp messages with someone labelled One-Of- A- Kind Collectible. The messages weren't anything to be concerned about, Police certainly never thought anything of them. But as soon as Mitya and Brian saw them, they both scented a lead.
“We went through Katya’s Instagram, and her Twitter and Facebook and pretty much any medium she used for anything. We even checked her Pinterest. And when we were able to get transcripts of her Messaging Apps, we came across this series of messages. And when I read them, I found myself thinking well what if...you know? It was such a tiny detail. So we called Trixie and read the messages to her to see if she agreed.”
Katya: Hey mawma, how’s tricks?
One-Of-A-Kind Collectible: Hey girl. You would die at some of the models here. Think Linda Evangelista in her glory days. How’s the hustle? Are you and the life sized Barbie any closer to getting out of the ghetto?
Katya: I’m going to tell Trixie you called her that. She'll love it. It's not a ghetto, you whore. My neighbours are fine upstanding citizens who society has marginalized. Things are good. Just two working women, trying to get a leg up. We've got a good chance of getting into that building I showed you. Just gotta make that first and last.
One-Of-A- Kind-Collectible: I still think you would make a killing if you did some Cam work. JK. I know Trixie isn't good with that.
Katya: I've considered it. You don't even know. Some nights I’m so tired I could just pass right out in the Dressing Room.
One-Of-A- Kind Collectible: Well you know my door is open for you.
Katya: Thank you. Gotta go, yoga for beginners starts in 2 minutes.
“When we read Trixie the messages, she got really quiet. And then she kinda gasped, and all she said was ‘oh my god’. And I said, ‘do you think that by this person saying you know my door is open for you, that means Katya was welcome to crash at their place?’ And she said, ‘I don't think, I know. Mitya, that's Violet Chachki. That's fucking Violet Chachki!”
Who is Violet Chachki?
When Katya and Trixie broke up for the last time, it was messy. Katya was at the end of her rope. She couldn't keep a job, her anxiety and depression were at an all time high. And she felt like she was letting Trixie down because she just didn't seem to be taking to L.A. like her girlfriend was. She began drinking and engaging in behaviours that had coloured her teens and early 20s. Things came to a boiling point and as happens when you have two strong personalities in a relationship, harsh words were exchanged. Katya left.
The next day she called Trixie and left her a message saying she was at Violet's. Trixie didn't know Violet, but she had heard of her. She called Ginger, trying to make sure that Katya hadn’t landed on the couch of someone who was going to add wood to the proverbial fire of her addiction.
“Trixie called me, which was unusual. We've never had a problem with each other, but she and I don't exactly chit chat. She said that her and Katya had gotten into a fight and Katya had ended up at Violet’s and that she wanted to know if she needed to worry about anything happening there. Cause Katya had been on the sauce and was spiralling. And I told her, honey, if anyone will literally slap some sense into your woman it's Violet Chachki. That bitch doesn't put up with bullshit. I knew Violet from my other job at the time, which was in a costume shop. Mostly frequented by Drag Queens. Yeah, violet is a Drag Queen. She took a real liking to Katya,and she’s not one that makes friends easily. I could see her offering her somewhere to crash back then and before she disappeared.”
Brian has arrived back to the PI office and after he deposits the camera with telephoto lens that's been slung over his shoulder, Mitya asks him to grab the map that's pinned on the wall. It's a view of the streets of L.A. and when Brian spreads it over the desk, Mitya begins pointing out Katya’s path home.
“So, Katya walked from here, you see? And the cops have already proven that she took this path. She was seen on at least two traffic cams. This right here, where the red dot is? This is where the cameras weren't working. This is where everyone thinks Katya disappeared, because she wasn't seen on any of the cameras that were on what should have been her walk home. This right here, this purple dot? This is Violet Chachki's place. You see? See how this intersects? So what if Katya didn't plan on going home? What if she was tired and knew that she could go sleep at her friend’s house for a few hours? Her friend, who happens to live four blocks over from the Club where Katya works? A four block walk is a better prospect at 12:30 in the morning then the one that was facing her if she hoofed it all the way home. So if she did head that way, that could mean that the area of her disappearance was not this area here as everyone supposed, but this one here. And someone there might have seen something.”
Detective Davis was contacted by Mitya about his theory, but she declined to comment on it for the podcast. She did say that all leads are being considered and that she appreciates the Private Detective’s willingness to share information. She again asked that if anyone knew anything, even small in detail, that they call her office.
So. Now we know that Katya didn't just recklessly decide to walk across the city of Los Angeles in the early hours of the morning. That she quite possibly had somewhere, relatively close to her work, that she could go after her Uber didn't show up. Obviously, she never made it to Violet Chachki's but could someone in that part of the city have seen something that November 5th morning and not even know that what they saw is important to this investigation?
Chapter 5: A One of A Kind Collectible
Episode 5: Violet Chachki comes forward. A call for tips is put out.
Violet Chachki is not an easy person to get ahold of. As part of a traveling burlesque show, as well as a model, Violet is only home for a few months a year. When contact was finally made, she asked if we could meet at the Club where she would be performing that night. As a headliner, Violet is only sharing her dressing room with one other queen, who hasn't arrived yet. We have the room to ourselves.As she carefully contours, she talks.
“Katya knew that she could always stay with me. It wasn't a question. It was an open invitation that applied whether I was actually home or not.”
Violet and Katya met at one of Violet’s shows. Katya had been sitting at the bar, not drinking anything, but she’d stayed through the performances of all four queens that were on that night. Violet noticed her and thought she recognized her from the costume shop where Ginger worked.
“I wasn't really planning on talking to her, but she was wearing this latex dress to die for. And of course she had it paired with these absolutely heinous pair of platform jellies, which totally ruined the fantasy. Just trash. You could say we bonded over fashion.”
Katya would come see Violet perform at least once a month, and usually on her own.As their friendship evolved, she’d wait for Violet to be done performing and then the two of them would go to the corner diner and drink bad coffee, and smoke and eat two dollar pancakes.
“She’s older than me, but she always said she felt like I was the older one? Like I had my shit figured out at 22 and she was still trying to figure out how she was going to afford next month’s rent. A lot of her insecurity came from a fear that she was going to disappoint Trixie. She held that woman on a pedestal; it wasn't healthy. I told her that once and she got really upset, said I didn't know Trixie so I couldn't understand why she felt that way. And I said 'bitch, no, but I do know you. You put everything out there, but you don't take anything back in for yourself'. She started crying and she said, ‘I know. Your right, but I just don't know how to love myself like that’. She was like one of those Matryoshka Dolls? A lot of layers and you never knew when you were going to reach the bottom.
When she and Trixie broke up, she showed up at my apartment totally wrecked. I listened to her rant for an hour and then I told her that I didn't care if she stayed on my couch for a night or a year, but she better figure her shit out and stop lying to herself. She stayed with me for a month, got her head on straight and went back to her Woman. And she seemed good after that.
I used to go watch her dance at the Cabaret when I was in town and not working. Sometimes Trixie would be there. And the way she would watch Katya was just sickeningly sweet. Heart eyes. It was gag worthy. But also really good to see? Their relationship wasn't one sided at all, which I worried about when I first started hanging with Katya. She brought out something protective in me and not many people can do that. She was like my sister, definitely closer to me than my actual sister. So, my door was always open to her, she didn't have to ask, and that's an invitation that will never be rescinded.”
Mitya suggested to Trixie that she offer some kind of reward for information on Katya. He said that in his experience, people were more likely to come forward if they thought they could get something out of it. Yes, he admitted, there would be the crazies who would come forward to say they'd seen her, but he believes that for every 100 hoax reports, there will be one viable tip. He and Brian have been sifting through all the tips, and Mitya has been following up on any that seem worthwhile.
Katya’s parents and Trixie, along with some of her friends like Ginger and Violet and Matt, who was mentioned at the very beginning of this podcast, paid for a full page ad to run in the newspaper for a month. It's a full colour picture of Katya, taken a week before she disappeared. Looking at it, you can feel the energy that must have been going on when the photo was taken. Katya looks like someone who is content, ready to kick into the next part of their life. She glows. Across the top of the photo the words, ‘Have You Seen Me’ are in bold. The bottom of the page features all the pertinent details, including the offer of a reward for viable leads.
“Mitya and Brian have been a godsend. I admit, when Trixie insisted on hiring a Private Investigator right away, I thought it might be too soon. I thought, the police haven't really had a chance to investigate, we probably shouldn't interfere. But Trixie was right. These men have been able to find out more than the Police, in the same amount of time. And they are very good about sharing whatever information they get, even if it doesn't lead anywhere. Brian calls Vitaly and I every week. Even if its just to say that they don't have anything new. I appreciate that. It makes me feel like someone other than her family cares what happened to her. Yes, Mitya and Brian are paid to look for her, but I know they aren't doing it for the money. They have gotten to know Katya this past year and now they are invested; she had that effect on a lot of people.”
Once a month, Trixie will hit the streets and re-plaster missing posters on whatever available surface she can find. And don't try to tell her that she can't put one up. It's quite a sight to see a 5 foot 9 fully coiffed and painted woman in knee high GoGo Boots tell off a macho building owner who's trying to intimidate her into not tapeing a flyer to his front window. She says it's not the first time it's happened and she knows it won't be the last.
“It's usually men. Never once have I been told by a woman that I couldn't put a poster on the wall of their building or on the telephone poll outside their house. Once, I watched a guy fully wait until he thought I couldn't see and rip the poster down. I just went back and put it up again, smiled at him and said honey, I can do this all day. He left it after that.”
Trixie hopes that if people see Katya’s face enough, it will trigger something and someone will come forward. The people at the convenience store where she makes her copies know exactly when she will come in now and are prepared for her 100s of prints.
“I don't know if that's sweet or just depressing. I try to lean towards sweet.”
Just as this episode was being given a final edit, a call came in from Trixie. She said Mitya had called her and asked her to come to his office. There was a lead, someone had come forward and she wanted us to go with her.
Does this person know what happened to Katya? We were about to find out.
Chapter 6: The Little Black Car
Episode 6: Mitya and Brian show Trixie a disturbing piece of evidence.
Mitya has connected his computer to a small flat screen TV that sits on top of a bookshelf, jam packed with various books on the law and PI practices. He has Trixie sit down on an overstuffed and sagging couch.
“This was brought to us by a couple who own a small store. They saw Katya’s picture in the paper and realized that they had seen her before. They keep a camera outside their store, but unless something happens they don't necessarily check it. Here, watch.”
What comes up on the TV is a dark L.A. street. From the angle of the camera, the sidewalk and part of the road is visible.The time stamp in the corner of the video says 11-05-17. 12:45:02.
The seconds tick upwards and then a person appears in the frame. She’s petite, with blonde hair. Dressed in a black hoodie and pants and carrying a red backpack and a pair of high heeled boots. She glances towards the store, momentarily as she walks by, as if noticing something in the window. It's only brief, but it's clearly Katya. In a matter of seconds she’s past the Camera. A few seconds tick by and then a small black Car rolls into view, moving at a crawl. The Car is gone as quickly as it appeared, but the tableau is enough to send a chill down your spine.
“The Car was following her. Oh my god...play it again!” Trixie has left her spot on the couch and moved to stand right in front of the TV. The scene is played out once more. Mitya stops the video, framed on the Black Car.
“The back license is partly obscured. Clearly whoever this individual is, they had this planned out. But now that we have this, we know that at 12:45am Katya was just two blocks away from Violet’s. And that she was being followed. Trixie, I'm going to make a copy of this for Detective Davis.”
Trixie is quiet, staring at the TV. At the Black Car. It's not hard to imagine what might be going through her mind. She's just witnessed what are probably the last moments Katya had before things escalated, however they escalated. This is most likely the person who took her. Thoughts like if Katya knew she was being followed, was she scared, did she have time to fight back, must be spiralling through her head. And the fear that this person caused Katya mortal injury must be forefront.
“Why did it take them so long to come forward with this? If they said they recognized Katya from the video, why the fuck didn't they come forward with it when the police first put it out there that she was a missing person? Clearly they held onto the video for over a year...I don't...were they just holding out for money? Waiting to exploit a fucking tragedy? Excuse me.”
Trixie storms out. Her expression is one of righteous anger. The door slamming behind her is like an exclamation point on everything that has just transpired.
Mitya called Detective Davis and she is going to examine the video. He'll do the same, try and decipher the licence plate.
This investigation is finally going somewhere and the question of what happened to Katya might be close to being answered. When this podcast started, the intention was to tell Katya’s story and get the word out about her disappearance. To get her name out there to a wider audience and make her more than just a missing person on a poster you might glance at once. But could we really help find a resolution to this case?
The area where Katya was last seen is full of small shops with lively window displays. It's on the cusp of being trendy, but not quite there yet. The coin operated Laundromat on the corner of the block seems to see more traffic than the Antique Shop that owns the camera that captured the image of the suspicious black car. The owners of the Shop, an older couple, Chris and Justine, say that most of their business comes from decorators looking for select pieces for high end clients. Their inventory is too valuable to not monitor their building. When we met, Justine was pricing out Vanitys while Chris answered our questions.
“We didn't really realize what we had with the video. We were out of town that weekend and the week after. In Canada, shopping for a couple big pieces and smaller collectibles. When we got back, Justine went through the video files to check if anything had been going on around the building. She called me in and showed me the night when the girl disappeared and asked me if I thought it was suspicious, if I thought the car was following her. I said that we couldn't really know what was going on. It could be a lover’s tiff, a guy thinking the woman he sees walking at that time of night is a Sex Worker. It could have been anything. And we hadn't heard of Katya? That’s her name? Yeah, we hadn't heard of her disappearance.
Last week, I went out and got the paper to use to pad around some items we were going to ship out and when I opened it up there was this big photo saying ‘have you seen me’. And I said, ‘Justine, this girl looks familiar. Has she been In here?’ And Justine looked and said ‘hon, I think that's the woman from the security camera. Let me check!’
I didn't even know she’d saved the file for that night.”
Justine joins Chris to elaborate. “Like I told the Police and that Private Investigator, I kept the video because there was just something about it that was wrong. I have a daughter, not that much younger than Katya and I wouldn't have felt safe with her in a situation like that. The way that car followed her was just so deliberate. But like Chris said, anything could have been going on. So I figured, hold on to it and if anything ever comes up, pass it on to the Police. We called the Private Investigator as soon as we figured out it was Katya.
We’re not interested in the money, but I hope this helps find her. And I'm just sorry that we didn't catch on earlier.”
Brian is canvassing the neighbourhood of the Antique Shop while Mitya is in court testifying on another case. It's not his usual occupation in the partnership.
“I’m not really the face of our business. Mitya is much better at talking to people and convincing them to admit things. I don't really have the patience for it most of the time. Need a tastefully trashy photo of your boyfriend cheating? I can get it and more. Suspect your boss is stealing funds from the not-for-profit you work for? I can get in and track those records quick and dirty. And for some reason Moms seem to like me more than Mitya, probably because I look like a cross between a nerd and a hick? so I usually deal with anything Mom related. I can keep it level while talking to them. I can do reassuring.
But, people don't necessarily react well to sarcasm and that's basically my default setting. So hopefully I don't put anyone off today. This is...more important than anything else we've taken on before. Mitya says I’m obsessed and he’s probably not wrong. I’ve probably read through the case files more than he has. Maybe I’m getting too close to the case, but the way that Trixie talked about Katya when she first came to us, for whatever reason that really hit me. I just want to get her an answer, whatever the outcome is.
Hey, can you turn the recorder off? People will react better if they think we’re just chatting.”
Brian talked to every shop owner on the street, but no one else recalled seeing anything or if their own security feeds captured anything. He says he’ll tackle the residences next, but he doesn't feel hopeful of finding anyone. He thinks the license plate is the best bet in getting another lead.
What must Katya have been feeling that morning as she walked through streets not unfamiliar to her, and realized that she was being followed? This was a walk that she had probably done a number of times in the past without incident. Did she tell herself, only one more block and your safe? Did she consider confronting the person? Calling 911? Or did she simply walk faster and hope the car wasn't really following her?
As we get closer to answers, it’s becoming harder to just be an observer. To just tell the story. Brian talked about wanting an answer for Trixie, but it's more than that. Katya deserves some kind of justice. If the ultimate in tragedy happened to her and she is dead, she deserves to be found and brought back to her loved ones. And if she's out there somewhere, captive and scared, she deserves to be saved.
Chapter 7: This Is Not A Game
Episode 7: We briefly answer some listener comments and questions.
We’re taking it back a bit here, because some questions have arisen that need to be addressed before we move on to tell more of this unfolding story.
First, one of the questions that is coming in the most from listeners is if we could clarify what Katya’s occupation was. We've said she was performer at a club, that she danced. We weren't being vague on purpose, dancing really is what she did. No, Katya was not a stripper. She kept her clothes on, but her performances weren't always PG. She put on a show, created a fantasy. It was a mix between Cabaret and Burlesque. That's probably as close to the truth as there is. Katya’s occupation doesn't seem to have anything to do with why she disappeared, as far as we know. But even if it does and even if what she did wasn't always the most savory in the minds of some people, it doesn't lesson the tragedy of her disappearance or justify it. She didn't go looking for trouble.
The second question that we’ve been getting is if Trixie is the Trixie Mattel of YouTube and Soundcloud. Yes, she is that Trixie and yes, if you Google her she will come up and you can listen to her music. We haven't mentioned it because Trixie asked us not to. When it was brought up, she said this podcast is not about plugging her music career. Trixie has put everything on hold until she gets the answers she is seeking and she currently works doing makeup. Her career is not her priority at the moment.
Third, do we really believe that Katya is alive? It's not that we necessarily believe she is alive, but so far there is no evidence that she is deceased. Yes, that is subjective. This isn't a question that has a satisfying answer. Katya was most likely taken by the person in the Black Car. That person may have killed her or they may have done a number of other things to her. It's a lot to consider and until the Police make an arrest we won't know.
Another question that's come up frequently is why did we decide to make this podcast? Honestly, it came out of an interest in true crime and a fascination with Katya’s story. Earlier this year there was a talk held at UCLA about how the Police treat crimes involving minorities, including those in the LGBT Plus community. The guest speaker cited Katya’s case as a recent one to watch. It didn't seem like a lot of people took notice, but it sparked our curiosity. People disappear all the time, but when you actually take note of it, it stays with you. And this is something we are passionate about. We’d love to continue well beyond Katya’s story.
It seems like people keep coming back to the fact that Katya was an addict, although one who had been sober for a number of years. And again, just as with her job this does not define her. This fact does not devalue her disappearance. Her being an addict was a factor in how the Police initially treated the investigation, yes. But its not relevant to her disappearance as far as anyone knows. Violet said in a previous episode that Katya was like a Matryoshka, one of those Russian Nesting Dolls, and we agree. This was a complex young woman who was trying her best to get by in life. She worked hard and tried to be a good friend and partner. She struggled to come to terms with herself, but by all accounts had a charisma that drew others to her. The addiction was only one part of who she was.
We have also been asked questions about Trixie and Katya’s relationship since the beginning of this podcast. Some people have even gone as far as to say that Trixie might be involved in Katya’s disappearance. That her fervor in searching for Katya could be a mask. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Trixie genuinely is heartbroken over all this. It's hard to capture in this medium, but the look in her eyes when she talks about Katya and the fire that is there when she's working on ways to get the word out about her is really something. You don't look like that unless you've lost someone you've loved and are trying to get them back. These are two women who are deeply in love and are building a future together. They came apart and came back together stronger, and were ready to really commit to a life with each other. Trixie only seems to have wanted Katya to be happy, and healthy and with her. That's not someone who is actively covering up their culpability.
We understand that speculation is going to occur, but remember these are real people with relationships as complex as you or I would have. This is not a game.
Another question, or more of a comment really, that we keep seeing is why didn't Katya just call a Cab or schedule another Uber? We can't really speak to her thought process, but her friend Ginger, who knows her far better than we could hope to, thinks that she was honestly probably really tried and knowing that Violet’s apartment was close by she decided not to spend the money. Remember, Katya was working two jobs and she and Trixie were trying to afford the first and last for a new apartment. If you are trying to save money, you don't go looking to spend more than you need to.
Lastly, what can you do to help the search for Katya? Just keep an eye out and an ear to the ground. If you are in the L.A. area or know someone in the area, spread the word.
Next episode we will return to our normal format. Thanks for listening to People Disappear All The Time and Katya’s story.
Chapter 8: The Russian Dolly
Episode 8: A disturbing call raises more questions.
Midnight is a strange time of night, or early morning depending on how you look at it. If you are in a suburban area, the streets are deserted, painted in shadows of iridescent light from street lamps and the headlights of an occasional passing car. If you are in a major metropolitan area, a hot spot of nightlife, neon casts pictures in rainbow hues accompanied with a soundtrack of Go-Go Pop and thudding base beat.
In both, the midnight hour is accompanied by a feeling of loneliness, a baited breath of anticipation hanging in the darkness. The dark may hide your sins, but it also makes them possible.
Katya wasn't a stranger to the eerie dissonance of the midnight hour. It was familiar to her, an embedded part of her life. And perhaps its familiarity lent a certain feeling of safety; the constant of having to trek home in the dark, when the majority of the city had been tucked away for hours, ready to be woken for their 6am start.
Its when we let ourselves be lulled into thinking the familiar is safe that the boogie men often strike.
We received a call last week after the episode aired; the number we set up for the podcast is readily available, so it's not hard to fathom how this person was able to get it. The voicemail that was left by an unidentified male was...unsettling. We weren't sure if we should share it, but after speaking with Detective Davis and Mitya, we were given the all clear. The call was made from a pay-per-use phone, that was not traceable. Please be advised, what you are about to hear might be upsetting.
“Hello ladies, I must say I am quite enjoying your podcast. So illuminating; the intricacies that you have been able to weave together into a narrative. I only recently discovered its existence, but the knowledge I've gained from it has been so helpful. But I do have to say that I think your portrayal of my beautiful Russian Dolly is quite uninformed. You’ve made Yekaterina seem so docile, and I can assure you that is certainly not the case. She has a fighting spirit that I find quite refreshing, to say the least. Such a spirit was wasted in the drudgery of the life she was living, the degradation she endured whilst forced to sell her body to support that ungrateful painted whore who was lucky enough to share her bed. She is free from that life now, free to be given everything she deserves. I'll see to it. Don't worry about her whereabouts. Just know that she is prized as she should be.
I applaud your efforts ladies. I'll be watching for more from you.”
We played the call for Trixie and received her permission to include it in the podcast as well. Understandably, she was horrified. She asked not to have her reactions included here, and we respect that. It was very visceral and private. She did say that she didn't recognize the voice, but that the person sounded like they were putting on an affectation, disguising their voice.
We also talked with Ginger; the Police played her the recording of the call in the hopes that it might be recognizable to her as someone who frequented the club and she also didn't recall ever hearing the voice. But she agrees with Trixie.
“Gal, I studied acting. I know when someone is putting it on and that's definitely not a natural way of speaking. That's a person who is considering every word they say and creating a façade. He called to taunt us all and he sure as hell doesn't want to reveal who he is!”
None of Katya’s friends recognized the voice. And its questionable whether the call was from the actual person who took Katya or if it's someone messing with us all. Mitya thinks it could be either, but if it is real there are a few things to break down.
“If this is the real deal, then Katya is alive. That's fact number one. She’s alive and being held somewhere. Fact number two is that this is a person who had obviously been watching her for some time. They knew about Trixie, and the way they reference her is more venomous than the rest of what they are saying. And the way they reference Katya’s job, selling her body, means they were aware of what she did for a living. Now yes, they could have gotten all this from your podcast. We might be dealing with a real whackadoo here. But if they didn't...then fact number three is that this is a person that wants attention; they are galvanized by the fact that they haven't been caught yet.”
Could this person have been following Katya long before she disappeared, and if so did she actually know her stalker or was this still a random stranger? And if she did know them, could that explain how she disappeared so quickly? Traffic Cameras near Violet's never picked her up, meaning that she was still in a zone where the cameras were down. And we know how long, theoretically, it would have taken Katya to walk from the area of the Vintage Shop to Violet's.
The way that this person speaks about Katya, to us, seems obsessed. The way they called her their Russian Dolly, as if she were a possession and not a person, was a clear sign they don't value her, but wish to own her. The way they said she is prized, as she should be, also shows that to them she is a thing and not a real human being with flaws and faults. If this is the person who took Katya, then they are seriously deluded and that's unpredictable.
We know it might seem irresponsible to continue with this podcast now that this person has made contact, but our goal remains the same. We will not be dissuaded from telling Katya’s story. This is another piece of the puzzle and we are determined to make these pieces fit together.
Stay safe out there listeners. You can never know what creatures are lurking in the midnight hour waiting to strike.
Chapter 9: What We Know
Episode 9: We run down what we know so far, and just maybe finally get a viable tip.
Its quiet. The city sleeps, restful on their pillows in the embrace of dreams or lovers arms. It's one of those nights where you should want to be asleep; where the dark should embrace you and welcome you into REM. Instead, wakefulness pervades-restless thoughts won't quit.
Maybe if everything is laid out, something will click and tomorrow can start fresh. So here is what we know:
Katya disappeared around 12:45 am on November 5th 2017. She was walking to her friend Violet's apartment and was followed by an unidentified black car, driven by as a yet to be identified person. This person, or persons, most likely are responsible for her disappearance.
When she first disappeared, the Police did not take her for a missing person. They thought that she had taken off on her own and that she had chosen to disappear.This delayed the investigation by two days and by then it was likely too late.
An unidentified male, who may have been disguising his voice, contacted us. He spoke of Katya as if he knew her intimately and believed that she was better off away from her girlfriend Trixie and the life they had built together. Neither the Police or the Private Detectives working the case were able to track the call. The caller was careful, and made sure not to leave any information that would identify him.
This case… there is something that everyone is missing. There has to be. The Police, and Mitya and Brian questioned everyone who Katya spoke to on the day of her disappearance- Trixie, her friends Matt and Ginger, her co-workers, the Uber driver who took her to work at the Club and the man who flirted with her outside the Coffee Shop… every person who can remember seeing her waiting outside the Club was also spoken to. Violet, Katya’s friend, had not heard from her that day but doesn't doubt that Katya was headed for her place.
Katya was happy. She was finally becoming healthy mentally, and by all accounts she was looking forward to her future. She would not have given up on her life, not after she had clawed her way out of the coils of depression and vice. And she was not the type of person to just go with someone unless she knew them. She would have fought, she would have screamed and done everything in her power to get away from them or to alert someone in the area to what was happening. It was early morning, but this is L.A. on a Saturday- someone had to have heard her. So, why hasn't anyone come forward? In this whole past year, why hasn't anyone said anything?
There is something out there, some key to all of this. What are we all missing?
We retraced Katya’s steps, took the path she would have taken as she walked to Violet's. We’d mapped it, theoretically, have traced her movements and timed them out, but we’d never walked it. We started at the Club and headed towards Violet’s. All the streets were busy, lined with stores, bars and coffee shops. It’s a straight line until you reach the original area where the Traffic Cameras were down; to get to Violet’s from there you need to cut through a side alley and come out on to another street lined with shops. This is where the Antique Shop is located and where we know the Car was definitely following Katya.
From there you walk straight for a block, and then turn onto another block that turns into condos and higher priced apartments. Its residential, slightly cozy, but still sleek. The kind of area where you would notice something. Altogether, the walk took us 35 minutes, which is in line with what we have estimated it would have taken Katya based on the video time stamp.
By 1 am in the morning, if she had made it,Katya would have been inside Violet’s apartment, safe and sound. She probably would have texted Trixie and told her where she was and then she would have gotten some sleep before walking or taking an Uber home in the light of day.
We wanted to stop and question residents, but it being a week day there were few people around. And we know that Brian and Mitya have already talked to them all. Violet's neighbours don't admit to seeing or hearing anything.
It's become increasingly apparent that we are all stuck, at a standstill. Back to waiting on something, anything to happen.
We were going to end this episode by saying that we are taking a break to regroup, but something curious happened yesterday after we recorded our original ending. We received a call...not from our mysterious stalker, but from a Barista at the Coffee Shop by the Gym where Katya worked. We met with her today. She asked us not to include her name, just in case it might expose her to danger from the aforementioned mysterious caller, if he is indeed connected to Katya and her disappearance.
We asked Trixie to accompany us, met the Barista on her break, and sat at a corner table, away from the business men, young mothers and gym rats who patron the shop.
“I binged your podcast, it's really interesting. Cause you know, I knew her? Like she was in here all the time. Always ordered a coffee with two cream and no sugar. Every once in a while she would get like a donut or something. Always super nice and god, that red lipstick always on point, like she must have reapplied it after working...she was a babe and I say that in a totally heterosexual way.
Anyway, in your first episode you mentioned the guy who flirted with her? Like how he said that she seemed to be into his flirting? Or that's how it sounded anyway. And I was like, wait...that's totally not what happened! I was outside, I bummed a smoke off her. I knew she smoked, cause, like I would see her every time without fail stop outside and light up. So she gave me a Cig and then she lit one and we were both just kind of leaning against the building. And this guy, the one you mentioned, he sidles up to her all casual and is like 'you are too beautiful for such a vulgar habit'. And Katya kind of just like looked at him, rolled her eyes and said something like 'oh so if I was ugly it would be ok?' And I laughed, so she smiled at ME and the dude got all frowny and said, 'I didn't mean to offend'. And she said 'it's ok, no offence. This isn't my real face, underneath all this makeup I'm actually a 50 year old trash heap named Trish.'
And then she laughed at herself and her phone went off, so she started to head towards the curb and the guy got all rushed and followed her and I heard him say, 'I was wondering if you wanted to get dinner, I know a lovely place'...And Katya didn't even turn around, she kind of just shouted back to him, 'sorry,my lesbian life partner has a mean right hook and she's not into sharing this pussy.' And she got into the Uber.
And the dude was not happy, fully not feeling what she was laying down. Like he practically started crying and then kind of shook himself and walked in the opposite direction the car went. And that was it; I used to see him in here before, but he’s only been by a few times since then. So yeah, it just bugged me that he told the Police, or the PIs, or whoever like only a fraction of the story. I mean, no one likes to be embarrassed, but that's life you know?”
So why would this man lie? It could just be a guy, making himself sound better while relaying what he saw to the Police. Like our source said, no one likes to be embarrassed. But could there be more to it?
We called Mitya and had our source speak to him. She told him the same rendition of the story you just heard; he said he would consider what she had said, at the very least it's a piece of the larger puzzle.
Trixie thinks that the Barista's story is more believable than what the supposed witness related to the Police.
“I mean, it sounds like Katya. She’s a little left of centre, so if a guy hit on her in a creepy way, she would absolutely respond like that. She was never mean about shooting someone down, but she saw the humour in most situations and took advantage of that.”
So, is this person connected to what happened to Katya? Did he just feel spurned and decide to lash out? Is he our neighbourhood stalker?
It's getting to the point where we have more questions than we do answers. But the truth isn't always easy to get to and it doesn't always come to light right when we want it to.
We won't give up on Katya; we are too invested now. But it may be time to take a step back. Re-evaluate.
Chapter 10: Freedom-Part One
Episode 10: Mitya and Brian scent a blood trail and kick the case into high gear.
It's been two weeks since our last episode and in that time a lot has happened. This case suddenly went from zero to sixty and we cannot believe the outcome. Its...amazing, and horrifying, and gratifying and the emotions we are feeling as we talk about this right now are almost overwhelming.
When we started this, we just wanted to tell a story. The story of a woman who had disappeared and was being overlooked. We wanted to weave a tale that took our listeners down the rabbit hole that was the mystery of what happened to her. What we couldn't contend with was how invested we would become. And how, if this story didn't get the ending we all hoped for, how much that might affect us. Well, we’ve reached the ending.
Katya has been found. And against all odds, she is alive.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
We feel like we've been on a rollercoaster these past weeks, but it's nothing compared to what we know everyone else involved must be feeling. Like we said, a lot has happened. And we are going to relay it as best as we can, just as it was related to us by the players involved. So buckle up and get ready for our last leap into the mystery of what happened to Katya Zamolodchikova.
We couldn't have known what would transpire after our source spoke with Mitya. He wasn't very forthcoming about what was going to happen next, and what we didn't include in the last episode was that he asked us to not pursue the lead any further. He, however, became like a bloodhound on a scent trail.
We can detail all this now, without fear of legal repercussion, because it will not have any bearing on the outcome of Katya’s case, and you'll understand why once you get the full story.
Trixie contacted Detective Davis. It's what we probably should have done, but we figured that she had already talked to the man from the Coffee Shop. It wasn't news that Katya and he had spoken, and the only new information was that the Barista thought it was a less than pleasant exchange. The Detective met with her and then she met with Mitya. She said the man had given a name, but it hadn't come up in their system and that when they tried the contact information he supplied, it didn't go anywhere.
Big Red Flag.
Trixie was irate, completely incensed. She accused Detective Davis of not caring, of never taking the case seriously and said that all the LAPD had done was make excuses and act on information provided by her Private Detectives. They had never really actively investigated. She told her that if Katya was dead, it would be on her head and she hoped that she would be able to live with herself. It was at this point that Brian escorted Trixie to another room, so Mitya and Detective Davis could continue to speak.
Brian was able to calm Trixie down and by the time Mitya joined them, she was able to listen to what he had to say. Mitya told her that while Detective Davis wasn't able to provide any contact information for the mysterious coffee man, she did say that they would put out a call for information from the public about a man fitting his description.
It was something, but not what Trixie wanted. She was despondent and highly frustrated. For every step forward it seemed they took, two steps backwards were taken. After more than a year she was at the end of her rope; she had been doing everything possible to find Katya, but nothing she did seemed to get them closer.
Mitya promised Trixie that he was working on a few things and that he would call her with any update he had. Then he had Brian take her home and got to work.
Mitya had never given up on the partial license plate. The police had also been trying to decipher it, but they only had two characters to work with; that's how bad the obstruction was. And Katya’s case wasn't their priority, people in the city went missing everyday. She had already been gone for over a year and newer cases were taking precedence. For Mitya though, Katya was his only priority.
He and Brian put in two days of solid dedicated investigation into the owner of the license plate. You see, Mitya didn't think that they would find the whole plate number, but what he did think was that the car could have been stolen. It's what he would have done, if he was committing such a crime. So the PI’s contacted an acquaintance with access to reports of stolen vehicles and while they waited for that information, Mitya met with the Barista in person and took her through as detailed a description of the suspect as he could get.
The man the Barista described was tall and thin with angular features. She described him as having a little facial scruff, and light coloured hair and blue eyes. His voice, she said, sounded accented and very proper.
Mitya then asked if any of the Barista's coworkers could recall seeing the man. One other Barista confirmed that he had seen him a few times, but he couldn't recall his name and didn't have anything else to contribute other than the man was tall and hadn't been around in a long time.
Mitya wasn't expecting much; he knew that after so long a time, peoples memories weren't always the best. He took the description back and shared it with his partner: another piece to add to their jigsaw puzzle of a case.
Meanwhile, Trixie wasn't sitting idle back at home. She contacted all of Katya’s coworkers from the Gym and the Club and asked them if they had ever seen this man. If they had ever noticed someone fitting his description watching Katya while at work. She struck out, but didn't give up. She moved on to their friends.
At first, this seemed like a dead end as well. All their friends said that people were always looking at Katya, it was normal and not something that really stuck out. But then Trixie and Katya’s friend Matt, who we've mentioned a few times, recalled one night he had gone to the Club to watch Katya perform.
“Uh, it wasn't weird for guys and girls to like, admire Katya. I’m gay, but even I can see the appeal. She was just magnetic. So, like I told Trixie, this one night I was at the Club watching Kats do her thing and she’s up there close to the edge of the stage, doing the slow splits and this dude reaches out and tries to cop a feel. It wasn't anything she wasn't used to; she just swept her leg away and kept performing. But this other guy, a couple seats over is just glaring at the frat boy who tried it on and I mean intensely. So Kats finishes and goes off stage and the first guy starts yelling, 'hey baby, don't be like that, we wanna see more', or something like that. And this guy’s friends are telling him to chill out or they’re going to get kicked out. So the guy staggers off all annoyed and the second guy, the one who was glaring? He gets up too and seems to follow that guy outside. And at this point the lights are up a little bit, so I saw him as he walked by, and maybe I'm just being hopeful, maybe my mind is just supplying what it wants to, but he looked like the guy that Trixie was asking about.
The next day, Katya tells me that there was a fight outside her work and the guy who tried to grab her got the shit kicked out of him. I didn't think anything of it, until Trixie asked me. It wasn't something that came to mind right away you know? When Kats disappeared I wasn't thinking about a random dude at the Club. But when Trixie described him to me, I was like...well I just wish I had thought of it earlier. And I know Trixie doesn't hold it against me, but man I hold it against myself.”
Trixie now had, at least in her mind, confirmation that this person had been stalking Katya. She instructed Matt to meet her at the PI Office and once there had him relay what he had just told her. Mitya had already started a rough sketch of the man they were looking for-apparently he had worked as a sketch artist before becoming a PI. He added what Matt could recall of the man and then he called Detective Davis and faxed the sketch over to her.
The Detective said she would have someone get in touch with the Media, have the sketch put on the Evening News. Everyone was now waiting with baited breath-would this public appeal bring anything?
Days passed by; no-one came forward. But like we said, Mitya and Brian had become like two bloodhounds on a scent trail- they re-canvassed the area where Katya had disappeared, questioned the people who had seen Katya outside the Club, re-watched the video from the Antique Shop until they had it memorized, ingrained in their inner eye. And they kept at their contact with access to stolen vehicle reports. The two PIs were convinced that they were on the verge of something.
Finally, three days after Matt gave his description of the suspect and Mitya provided his sketch to Detective Davis, a call came in from Brian and Mitya’s source- there was a car, a Black Sedan, that had been reported stolen the day that Katya disappeared. And then, the next day the report had been retracted- the Car had shown back up, it was all a mistake and the caller was sorry to waste the Police's time!
Brian called Detective Davis, or at least tried to. The Detective was away, said the officer who answered her line, there was a conference in Nevada and she would be back in two days. Brian asked for whoever else was dealing with her cases while she was gone- and was told to call the Detective's Cell Phone. He did just that and ended up having to leave a message.
The PI duo were stuck- this was an active police investigation. They had a very viable lead, but they couldn't be sure what they were walking into. But they knew that if they couldn't get Detective Davis, then the chances of any other police taking them seriously were low. Mitya finally made the decision that they would go and talk to the person who filed the report; after all, they were just asking questions. It was something they did all the time.
They drove out of L.A. and to a suburb, to a small ranch style house with the aforementioned black car parked outside. Both men could feel a palpable tension, like the air was taunt and ready to snap. The woman who answered the door was surprised to see them, but with some gentle prodding she answered their questions.
Yes, that was her car.
Yes, she had reported it stolen and yes she had retracted the report the next day.
Why? Because it had shown back up outside her house.
Did she know who had taken it? Well...she suspected who it might have been, but it had never been confirmed.
And this was when Mitya produced his sketch of the man who had spoken to Katya outside the Coffee Shop, the same man that Matt said beat a patron who was harassing Katya at the Club. He showed the woman and she stared at it dumbfounded. Was this the person, he asked, who she suspected stole her car?
The woman nodded, still dumbfounded.
They asked her two final questions: Who is he? And do you know where he is?
Brian wasn't just tooting his own horn when he said he could get information on someone quick and dirty. The woman, who we are choosing not to name here for her own privacy, gave the two PIs a name, but refused to give an address. Yes, the Police could have been called and informed that this woman was withholding information and obstructing justice. But Mitya and Brian were not prepared to wait for Detective Davis;not if they could get the information on their own.
Back at their office, Brian had the information they needed within an hour. And then the two men were faced with the decision of what to do. Did they call Detective Davis? Did they call 911 and report what they suspected? How far did they go before they were ruining their own case and making it so no Prosecutor would want to touch it?
And was this their decision to make?
Trixie was at work when she received a call to her Cell Phone, which against all rules she kept on her person at all times. Mitya gave her a quick run down and then asked what would prove to be a fateful question: what do you want me to do?
Trixie didn't hesitate, she probably didn't even consider any other course of action, and she absolutely was not weighing the implications of what could come next. She told her PI, 'you go there and you do whatever you have to'.
His name was Max Malanaphy and Brian had found two addresses for him. The first was for an apartment in downtown. Absolutely not the type of place that you could take someone you've abducted without it being noticed. The second address was for a house, in Watts, and was listed under his deceased father's name.
Mitya and Brian tried the apartment first, just to scope it out before getting the Police involved. Mitya employed some...questionable practices and gained entrance to the apartment when no one answered their knocks on the door. The apartment looked abandoned, like someone had been packing it up and then stopped half way. Milk in the Fridge had soured, as had a package of Chicken, giving the whole place a rancid odour. And all personal identification had been removed from the bachelor style apartment. The PIs knew what they needed to do next; all their instincts were screaming at them that they were on the blood trail they had been scenting for the last week.
Brian drove, while Mitya called 911 and explained the situation, and asked for assistance to be sent to the house in Watts. The dispatcher kept him on the line, getting him to repeat what his call was about multiple times. Finally, she agreed to have an Officer dispatched. Mitya then called Detective Davis, who said she was on her way back from Nevada, after getting Brian's message, and that she would have someone from her office meet the PIs at the Watts house.
The house in Watts looked cared for; the grass was mowed and the house looked as if it had been painted in the last year or so. Mitya and Brian parked down the block and waited...and waited…
Finally, Mitya instructed Brian to circle round the block while he got out and casually walked towards the house. It was early evening by this point and people were getting home from work.
No one seemingly noticed the moderately tall blonde man who slipped into the backyard of number 641.
Mitya quickly scoped out the back of the house, noting that the basement window was blacked out and that the back door of the house was padlocked. The PI then made his way around the side of the house, noting that every window he passed was shuttered with dark curtains.
By the time he had made it to the front of the house and casually begun walking down the street, Brian had circled back around and parked behind a car three houses down. The two PI’s debated on what to do-the appearance of the house was suspicious, coupled with what they already knew about Max. Brian wanted to go knock on the door and try and see what they could of the inside of the house. Mitya advocated for waiting for the Officer that was coming. The two men waited for about an hour, until a lone L.A. County Sheriff's car pulled up. The Deputy who arrived was new to the force- this was only his second week. But in the end, his greenness would actually be beneficial.
Once Mitya and Brian explained what was going on and what they suspected, the Deputy didn't waste time asking more questions or suggesting they wait for whomever Detective Davis was sending, as someone with more experience might have. He radioed in asking for backup and then he and the two PIs approached the house.
Brian and Mitya were both armed; they are both certified to carry a concealed weapon, but they let the Deputy go first and hung back as he first knocked on the door and then rang the doorbell. The Deputy had to knock three times before the door was opened by a tall, youngish man. He was just as the Barista and Matt had described. He asked what he could do for them.
The Deputy asked if they could talk, in regards to a statement that he had made to the L.A. Police; if they could come in. This was when things began to take a turn. The young man, Max, looked to Brian and Mitya, and instead of answering the Deputy, asked who they were and why they were there with the Deputy. Before they could answer, what could only be described as a piercing scream echoed through the house.
Max whipped the door closed and the sound of a deadbolt springing into place could be heard, like an exclamation to round off an already fraught situation. The Deputy radioed in again and told dispatch he was going into the house; there was potential that a person inside was in fear of their life. He instructed Mitya and Brian to stay outside and then he kicked the door in and proceeded, cautiously, into the house.
Mitya and Brian listened to the deputy...for about a minute, until they heard shouting from inside the house. And then Brian told Mitya that he was going after the deputy and that he didn’t think they could wait for backup and that Mitya should watch for the Police that were supposed to be coming.
Mitya didn’t argue with his husband, didn’t try and stop him. He knew that Brian would be careful, and he knew that he couldn’t ask him to not put himself in danger. They were both dedicated to seeing this whole thing through to the end.
Brian went after the Deputy, followed the sounds of shouting down to a basement. He told us...when he walked into the room it was like something out of a movie. The deputy was standing in the doorway of what looked to be a soundproof room. The room had a king sized bed, was set up to look like the bedroom of an adult woman, complete with flowers on the dresser and a plush chair in the corner. What caught his eye through, was the length of chain that stretched from the bed across the room.
Across from the Deputy, backed up into a corner was Max, and clutched to his chest with a large knife pressed against her throat and a thick chain around her ankle...was Katya.
There is so much more to tell you; so much that has transpired. We can’t just tell it in one sitting. Stay tuned for part two and the end of the saga of what happened to Katya Zamolodchikova.
Chapter 11: Freedom-Part two
Episode 11: Brian has walked into a precarious situation. We hear the rest of the story of what transpired at the house in Watts.
When we last left you, Katya had just been found but was being held at knife point by a man named Max Malanaphy. The man who we can now say definitively was responsible for her disappearance over a year ago.
Brian didn’t know what to do; the Deputy was blocking the door and Max had Katya held against him as a human shield. There was what looked to be a bathroom, just beyond where Max and Katya were stood, but he could see that it had no windows. The four of them were trapped in a standoff and it was clear that no action could be taken without Katya being injured or killed.
Max was ranting, his voice intense as he went on a diatribe about how they had no right to come barging in and that Katya was his wife and she didn't want to go with them; that if they tried to take her they would force his hand and he would make it so no one else could have her. Katya herself looked frozen. Like she wasn't even breathing.
The deputy tried to reason with Max and get him to let Katya go. That they could all just relax and talk about it. He had his gun out, but would holster it if Max would just put down the knife.
Brian, meanwhile, had his eyes glued to Katya. He could sense that she was waiting for something, preparing herself. She wasn't just frozen in fear. They had eye contact and while they had never met, he could see that she was trying to convey something to him. Almost as if she was trying to tell him to be ready.
Up above them were footsteps, more voices. The requested backup had arrived.
Katya acted then, as Max adjusted his arm with the knife, she picked up one foot and brought it back with all of her might, connecting the heel of her foot with Max’s knee. It startled him enough that his grip loosened and she was able to fall forwards and away from him. She was still chained by one ankle though, couldn't go very far except towards the bed and this had not been lost on Brian, who quickly ducked forward and threw himself over her as Max recovered and brought the knife down towards them.
Brian says he didn't feel anything, but what he heard was a gunshot and yelling and a body hitting the floor. It wasn't until he was pulling himself off of Katya, and she gasped and began pressing her hands into his side, that he realized he had been stabbed.
It wasn't too bad, the knife hadn't sunk too deep, but as the two of them sat there together and the stunned Deputy checked on Max, whom he had just shot, Katya began to cry. And she apologized over and over, saying 'please don't die. I’m sorry, I really hope you don't die.'
Brian tried to reassure her, tried to talk her into calming down, but she was inconsolable. So he sat there with her holding her hands on his wound until the paramedics came.
Max Malanaphy died on the way to the hospital. The Deputy had shot him once in the chest and it proved to be fatal. Katya and Brian were both taken to hospital as well; Katya refused to let go of Brian until Mitya, who had barged in with the Paramedics, continually reassured her that Brian would be fine and that they would come see her later so she could see for herself.
Brian was taken by ambulance, but Mitya drove and on his way to the hospital he called Trixie. When she answered the phone, she asked him one thing: is it over? He told her that it was. That Katya was alive and on her way to the hospital. That he would come and get her and bring her there if she wanted.
Trixie agreed, most probably not fully processing what was happening yet, and then she called Katya’s Parents and told them the news. By the time Mitya had arrived at the apartment, she had texted all their friends and was pacing up and down outside of the building.
Once at the hospital, Trixie was told she had to wait to see Katya. She was being examined and they would let her know when she could visit. This was of course not what Trixie wanted to hear- she had just spent over a year away from her love, not knowing when or if she would ever see her again. But she went with Mitya to see Brian, who assured her that Katya looked physically fine, and two hours after arriving at the hospital Trixie was finally told that she could go into the private room they had moved Katya to and see her.
We cannot imagine what this moment must have been like; even considering the enormity of all the things she must have been feeling is overwhelming. But when Trixie finally walked into that hospital room and locked eyes with her girlfriend, we hope that the suffocating grip that had been on her for the past year was released. We don’t know what transpired in that room, before Detective Davis arrived to start asking questions; that’s between Trixie and Katya and if they are ever willing to share their thoughts on the outcome of this case, we would love to speak about it.
What we do know and can say is that Katya was able to go home with Trixie the next morning and that Brian is OK and will have a nice scar to remind him of this case. Not that he’ll ever be able to forget- we certainly won’t.
The questions that remain to be answered are why did Max Manpholy take Katya and why did he keep her alive? Seemingly, he was obsessed with her. He stalked her for some time before taking her- but to what end? Any information we can find on the man is sparse to say the least. We do know that he was raised in foster care, that he went to school for acting, that he often spoke of the type of family he would have one day when he found that perfect someone who fit his ideal. Was Katya that someone?
If we can ever answer these questions for you, we will. Max is dead, he will never have to face up to the consequences of what he did, will never have to explain himself in a court of law. Its human nature to want to know the why of things and in this case we may never truly get that answer.
Thank you so much for listening to people disappear all the time. The end is here and what an end it turned out to be. What we hope for now, is that Katya can start to live her life and have happiness. That she can get back to a sense of normalcy after these tragic and terrifying events. It won’t be an easy road, but from everything we have learned of her, we think its a road she’s capable of fighting to walk down.
Until next time.
Chapter 12: Katya's Story
Episode 12: Katya tells us the story of her abduction and captivity.
It’s May, the height of spring. L.A. is much as it always is, that veneer of expectation that seems to hang over the city never really fades.The sun is shining, bright and hopeful, but it's not as bright as the smiles that greeted us when we met up with Trixie and Katya to record what you are about to hear. They met us at Mitya and Brian's office, a place very familiar to Trixie and a place that Katya feels safe.
This was our first time actually meeting Katya. Seeing her in person, listening to her speak, we could see what all her friends and family were trying to convey: she is stunningly magnetic.
We sat in Brian and Mitya’s living room; until then we hadn't known that the PIs actually lived in their office. Mitya told us it saves on rent, something of which he is a big supporter.
Katya and Trixie sat close together; a study in contrasts in their pinks and blacks and reds and blonde. Every now and then Katya would touch Trixie, on her knee or arm, as if assuring herself that her girlfriend was really there with her. Similarly, Trixie kept her leg pressed against Katya’s and her body turned towards her, keeping her in her eye line.
Katya’s gaze was intense, a nervous energy pervading. We’d suggested waiting to talk until she’d had more time, acclimated back into her life. But she insisted. She told us that it was better to get it out now, so she could move on. She believed in living in the present, not the past or future, and presently she had a lot of things she needed to get out.
Her voice was soft as she spoke; accented with that rasp that only accompanies someone raised in Boston.
“I wanted to thank you, for putting what happened to me out there. I haven't listened to the Podcast, but my friends that have, have told me how thorough you tried to be. Trixie thinks that you helped spur things on and I mean...I don't think I can ever adequately express in words what that means to me. You didn't know me, but you gave a damn anyway.”
We could tell that Katya wasn't sure where to start, but after we reassured her that she could go off on as many tangents as she needed to until the story was out, she seemed to steel herself, gripped Trixie’s hand and started. And here, in her own words, is the story of what happened to Katya that pivotal night and afterwards.
“I was exhausted, that's what I remember the most. That's what I kept coming back to? I hate what ifs, but this past year I kept thinking what if I hadn't been so tired? What if I had waited for another Uber or called a Taxi or been that bitch that wakes her friends up at early morning hours demanding a ride. So many what ifs...anyway. I was tired and I knew that Vi was kosher with me staying at her condo. She was always telling me, 'girl you don't even need to ask'. I had a key and everything. So I figured, I'll just walk there, it's not that far and I've done this walk before. It's well lit and I'll just be super aware of my surroundings. It felt like nothing you know? I lived on the mean streets of Boston for over a year and fuck, the things I saw there, the things that happened to me there...a late night walk down a well lit street in Los Angeles was not something that crossed my radar as alarming.
So I was walking and I was maybe about half way there when I noticed this car behind me. It was kind of coasting along, never moving up enough to pass me. At that point I knew I couldn't stop, because where was I going to go? Everything was closed and I had already passed all the bars, so my only choices were to either keep walking towards Violet's or turn around. And I thought, well maybe he thinks I’m trying to turn a trick and if I don't acknowledge the car then eventually he'll get the idea and move on. So I kept walking, but I crossed the street because I knew that the shops on that side had cameras? And if anything happened to me, it might end up on camera? Like I said I was exhausted and clearly my rationality had gone out the window. I had my phone out, ready to call 911, but I didn't think to call them yet.
I was around the corner from Violet's, and if you've seen the area, you know it's like this blind bend? And you have to cross the road. And that's when the car pulled ahead of me and stopped, and this guy got out and he stood there for a moment just staring at me. And I should have run at that moment, I know I should have. I was that blonde bimbo you yell at in the horror movies. And I didn't run. I stood there staring at him and then I said, 'if you're looking for a good time I don't do that anymore sweety'. And he reacted like I had slapped him and next thing I know this man is barreling down on me, really quickly. I fought back, of course I did...he grabbed me, was trying to pin me down and I went limp like your supposed to, and kicked him and punched him in the eye. I ran then and he tackled me from behind. I remember just reaching for any pieces of skin I could, digging my nails in and trying to push with my knees. I got him off of me by elbowing him in the chest and I remember I started screaming.
I tried to run for it again, and I think I'd lost my phone? Yeah, I’d already lost the phone. And he came after me, grabbed me again and all I could think was- and it's so stupid. But our brains react in such dynamic ways under shock or stress. All I could think was that I never texted Trixie, and she wasn't going to know where I was if he killed me and made my body disappear.
He managed to get me to the ground again and I recall biting him, really hard, when he tried to put a hand over my mouth. He had a scar there later that matched my teeth perfectly. And he kept saying, 'why are you making me hurt you Yekaterina? Why couldn't you just be my good girl...I’m going to help you'. He stuck me in the leg with something, some kind of hypodermic, and that was it...when I woke up next I was in a room with no windows.
Katya said that at first she didn't recognize the man who had taken her. For the first few days she was kept in a constant drugged state and afterwards was going through withdrawals pretty hard.
“I didn't know what was happening. He left me by myself for a day and then he came in and forced me to swallow some pills. It got pretty violent...he grabbed me by the throat and squeezed and. Yeah. All the lovely things that men do to women when they are trying to show they have all the power.
He kept me drugged for what I figure must have been about 3 to 5 days? Didn't give me any food or anything, just kept forcing me to take whatever Doctor Feel Good mix he’ d concocted. And then he took them away and I didn't know what was up and what was down. After that he would sit with me for hours...just talking at me and I don't remember much, but he said things like, now my body and mind would be pure, now I was almost ready. And he was sorry, so sorry because he never wanted to hurt me? In lucid moments I recall him holding me. Touching my hair and caressing my arms and legs while I lay there shivering. I- umm can I just go smoke for a minute? I can't talk about this part any more.
Katya went and found Mitya, and the two of them went outside to smoke while Trixie stayed with us.
“She told me that she hasn't smoked in over a year, but it comforts her now. It's something familiar; she only does it now when she's feeling stressed. She'll probably step out a few times today. I hate that she smokes, I always have, but god I missed the smell of her cigarettes when she was gone. Is that weird? It's probably one of those sense memory things...hey babe. Are you good to go?”
It took Katya a couple minutes to settle back in but once she did she told us that when she recognized Max she began to question if she could have ever avoided the whole situation.
“Like I said, I hate what ifs. I believe that whatever is true in the moment is what you need to focus on. But once I was coherent enough to realize that the person who took me was someone I had encountered a few times before? I started wondering if maybe I lead him on, or said something to him that made him snap? But I figured out pretty quickly that it was all him and it probably wouldn't have mattered if we had never spoken. He was obsessed with Me...he would tell me my life's story, but it was through rose coloured glasses. Like anything that had happened in my life, anything I had done to myself with my addictions, my choice of occupation, even my choice of partner, was all something I had to endure before he saved me.
His favourite thing was to rip into Trixie; he would say that she was using me. That she manipulated me. That she was a painted whore, who had already forgotten about me. And that I should forget about her. It made him angry when I wouldn't agree with him...he would storm off and wouldn't bring me any food or water for days. So I had to start agreeing with him, because I knew that if I was going to survive and get home to Trixie I would need anything I could get on my side. But the things he would make me say, I'm really ashamed of them...uh. Ok. Moving on.”
Katya then went on to detail how she ended up chained to the bed, as Brian and the Deputy found her on the day of her rescue.
“About maybe two or three months after he had taken me he brought me dinner one evening and he sat down to eat with me. He always did, he said that he always enjoyed eating dinner as a family. And this particular night he had brought a pitcher of wine with him; it was one of those old crystal ones. The real heavy kind, like your great aunt would have for Sunday dinner? And for whatever reason something in me said, bitch, if you don't pick that pitcher up and smack him one and make a run for it then you are just giving up. So I picked it up before he could, and I threw the thing at him and just booked it for the door. He always left the door to the room slightly open when he came to see me. I ran out of that room and up the stairs and to the first door that I saw ...which was of course locked down and needed a key to open. So I went for the front door, and I had it open, and that's when he caught up to me. And he slammed my head into the wall, and then scooped me up and carried me back downstairs, and he was ranting the whole time. About how I was ungrateful, and couldn't I see that I belonged with him? Hadn't he treated me better than anyone else ever had in my life? The next day I woke up to him fitting a chain around my ankle. And he said, 'this is for your own good Yekaterina. Everything I do is for your own good and I promise one day you'll see that my Russian Dolly'.
Katya spent most of her days alone and this gave her a lot of time to think. To keep herself from getting too lost in the bleakness of her situation,she would try to remember in detail an event from her life: the time she fell out of a tree when she was seven and broke her arm, or the first time she had met Trixie or the first night she performed at the Club. Sometimes she focused on remembering things like the words to all of the songs Trixie had written in their years together, or the plots of books she had been forced to read in middle school, or the entire sequence of every Michelle Pfeiffer movie to date. She mediated and she did yoga...as best as she could with a chain around her ankle. She says she mapped the whole room out, knew every square inch of it from the door to the bathroom. She knew how many tiles lined the shower stall and that none of them could be pried loose to use as a weapon. She knew how many steps she had to take to go from the bed to bathroom or from the bed to the dresser or chair.
She tried to remind herself that life was waiting for her outside the walls of her prison. She never lost hope that Trixie would do everything in her power to find her.
“At night, I would lay in that bed and I would pray. I’m not religious, but I believe in sending your intentions out into the world. And I would lay there and think, please let me have the strength to get through this until I’m found or get away. Please give Trixie the strength she’ll need to fight to find me. Please let my Mama and Papa know that I will do whatever I have to, to get back to them. I never doubted that I had people that would look for me. But the more time passed, the harder it was to believe that they would be looking for a living person and not a body.
On the nights when he would stay with me in the room, I would stare at the wall and tell myself that this was not the end of me. That whatever was happening to me on a daily basis would not be something that I couldn't get past. That I just had to stay alive.
There were a lot of times I thought he might kill me.Times when I wouldn't comply with what he wanted. I never knew what was going to happen when he walked in that room. Some nights he wanted to talk, he would tell me about his past, about growing up as a foster child after his parents died. And some nights he wanted other things, and if I didn't let him, if I didn't give in and give my consent he would...I’m sorry, can we take another break?”
Katya and Trixie both left the room and were gone for a long time. It was clear that speaking about her time as a captive, and the assaults that took place during,was starting to get to be too much for them both and we were going to suggest that we regroup another day, but after about an hour they came back in. It was obvious that they both had been crying and the smell of cigarettes hung over them like a cheap perfume. But they assured us that Katya was OK to finish her story.
“Eventually he started to refer to me as his wife. I don't remember the first time he said it, but he did start saying it all the time. He would say how happy we were going to be and he hoped that our children had my eyes. It was all highly delusional, full-on psychosis. But it was terrifying. He would tell me how he wanted to move us out of California, that he thought I might like it better in the Midwest. I don't know how he planned on transporting me, but I know that it was coming soon and if I hadn't been found when I was, that he would have enacted whatever plan he’d come up with.
That last evening he had only been in the room with me for a couple minutes and he was asking me what I wanted for dinner, like I had a choice, when there was a knock on the door upstairs. At first he ignored it, but it just kept coming, so he finally went to see what the person wanted. And he left the door to the room open. I couldn't hear what was going on upstairs, but I knew that this was probably my last chance and I hoped that whoever was at that door could hear me. So I started screaming.”
Katya said that everything seemed to happen so quickly after that. Max came hurtling back downstairs, a large kitchen knife in his hand, and began yelling at her, calling her an ungrateful slut and saying that he had no choice now. He couldn't let her go. He grabbed her and pressed the knife to her throat, using her smaller body as a shield. The Deputy then appeared through the door, gun out, and was shortly followed by Brian.
“It was all so surreal. He was yelling, the Deputy was trying to get him to let me go, but I knew there would be no reasoning with him. I was either going to live and be free or die that night. I remember looking at Brian and thinking, this one looks like he can stay calm and act fast. And I brought my foot up and kicked back as hard as I could. I didn't expect Brian to throw himself over me or for him to stab Brian...I don't know what I expected to happen but it wasn't that. And sitting there, holding my hand to Brian's side while he bled, because of me? And then he's the one reassuring me that everything is going to be fine? It was too much. I didn't know what to feel or think. Brian started telling me about who he was and how Trixie had hired him and his husband to find me and he said…'I'm honored to finally meet you Katya'. And I'm pretty sure I blacked out after that. I don't remember talking to Mitya or being taken to the hospital. It didn't even hit me until much later that he...that Max was dead.”
The doctors and nurses at the hospital performed various tests on Katya, and took photos of all her bruises and scars. They told her she was in surprisingly good health for someone who hadn't seen the sun in over a year. A nurse helped her wash her hair and found her some sweatpants and a t-shirt so she wouldn't have to see Trixie while wearing a crappy hospital gown. And then they let her girlfriend in.
“It was a lot. I thought about what it would be like to be reunited with her everyday. Everyday- I thought about her everyday. I think that's what I said when you walked in the hospital room, right baby?”
“You did, and then you started crying and I started sobbing. And you asked me if I hated you, which was...like never. I never could. I said, 'I looked for you everyday babe'. And I got right in that bed with you and I don't think we moved until they released you from the hospital.”
Katya finally met Brian and Mitya properly a week later and heard the story of how they searched for her for the last year. She is full of nothing but admiration for the two men.
“I would marry Brian if we were both so inclined. Seriously, I have never met a more genuine man. And Mitya...I mean his mind is like a labyrinth, but he's so sharp. They have been so good to me these past weeks and their job was done. They did what they were hired for and did it well. They don't have to let me bug them at all hours of the day, but they do and I appreciate that. It really means alot, more than I can say."
She told us that she knows though, that if hadn't been for Trixie she probably wouldn't be sitting in front of us that day.
"This wonderful, beautiful, human next to me never gave up- and I didn't think she would! I never once considered that she wouldn't look for me! But I know that some people would leave it just to the Police, they would trust that they were doing their jobs and maybe years later they might employ a Private Eye. The fact that she didn't wait-that she knew right away that she would have to do something and that she did it? I've always been astounded by Trixie's perseverance, her dedication, but on this level…"
"Well I've always been a little extra. It's more of a virtue really. Babe. Do you need a break again?"
"Katya? We can stop if you want."
"Sorry. I can't-fuck. Sorry! I know I shouldn't say that, you can edit it out. Sorry! Gah, you've got me crying now. Next question."
Katya knows that it's going to be a journey for her to get back to where she was before everything happened. And even with therapy she's not positive that it will happen.
"I don't think I'm the same person. When Max took me I was just starting to feel at home in my own skin, for the first time in as long as I can remember and I don't want to have let him take that away from me, but I guess I need to figure out what my life looks like now. Who Katya is. I have a lot of support, and I'm lucky. I won't have to go through that alone."
We asked Katya, finally, if she could shed some light onto what Max was thinking. Why did he want her, specifically, and why did he keep her alive? She couldn't really answer, although she did try, and Trixie jumped in.
"I don't think that's something that any of us know right now. And we can't ask him-he's dead. Maybe someday, Katya will be able to talk about the specifics of what happened during her captivity, but I think what she's shared is enough for now. In the end it doesn't matter what his motivation was. He was clearly psychotically obsessed with Katya and that delusion and psychosis caused him to think he had the right to her. And I think that's really what it boils down to."
We left Katya and Trixie with hugs, promises that if they needed anything they could reach out. We feel hopeful for them, jubilant that they were able to be reunited and expectant that their future will be good to them.
Brian and Mitya had left the office, out on a case. But we have a feeling we haven't heard the last from them. They have some stories to tell.
The day ends on what we think is a high note. As we leave the office we can hear Trixie and Katya, voices low as they speak, and then-laughter. Abrupt and unexpected. And it's beautiful.
Thank you for listening to People Disappear All The Time. This podcast has been a winding road and it's one we are not ready to get off of. There are plenty of people who need their stories to be told and we are eager to tell them.
Until next time listeners. Stay safe out there.