A young woman with dirty-blonde hair was passed out along the left wall, teetering on a tall chair with her head buried in her hands. I thought nothing of it as I glided by. This wasn't anything new, you see. It wouldn't have been a Friday night without at least one zonked-out babe hanging out in Zanzibar just after closing time looking for her friends or a one night stand.
IN THE '90S, Zanzibar was hopping with Euro kids and yuppies -- until 20-year-old Karina Holder was murdered, changing the scene forever.
This was the '90s, after all — a time when Zima was king, the cocaine was crap, and gazillionaire princes from God-knows-where guzzled Cristal amid the sweaty Euro crowd scene. And on the weekends, they all packed into Zanzibar, the Theater District club where I worked, the sweaty beating heart of a bar-lined alley known as "the Alley."
From the balcony above, one of the bartenders called down to me. "Fayner!" he yelled. "Can you walk that chick to a cab or something?"
I pointed to the woman I had just passed. "This chick?"
He replied yes.
"No problem, just let me grab something from the back first," I said, as I made my way to the cooler to rifle beer.
But when I came back, she was gone.
So I guess you could say that I was one of the last people to see Karina Holmer alive.
THE COLD CASE
It's been 15 years since the top half of Holmer's body was discovered in a Fenway dumpster. The crime fascinated Boston, paralyzed its nightlife, and spurred an investigation that sputtered along for years. But the police never caught her killer.
They never even found the rest of her body.
I didn't know Holmer by name, but I knew her face. I had said hello to her time after time when she'd come in to Zanzibar on weekend nights to drink; she got served, even though she was only 20. She was known as "Swedish Nanny." They all were. There were a bunch of them, European au pairs, and they liked to party. They'd dance, they'd drink, and if they were lucky they'd end up getting fingerbanged in the back stairwell during one of DJ Tad Bonvie's cheese-heavy medleys.
We really should have seen this coming.
Monday morning rolled around, and I headed in for my day shift at the Zanzibar offices. The first thing I saw was the news crews blocking up the street. Big microphones bounced off my face as I made my way through the pack.
When I got up to Zanzibar, the tiny office was bursting with cops, both uniformed officers and detectives in plain clothes. Sit down, I was told, they'll get to you soon enough.
Finally, the cops crowded me into one of the manager's offices. Did you see anyone suspicious on Friday night, or any other night? they demanded, as I slouched behind the big desk in the poorly lit room. Where were you at the time of the murder?
I was a grubby-looking guy those days, I won't lie. Plus, a friend at Allston Beat used to give me bottles of Hard Candy nail polish, and I had each fingernail painted a different color. I must have looked suspicious. When they finished asking questions, they started over again.
They questioned my Alley coworkers, too. Cheryl Hanson, who ran Bishop's Pub across the alley, told them she'd talked to Holmer the night she died. "It's kind of freaky to think I was just complimenting her on her clothes," she remembers, "and now I'm giving a description of them so they can help identify her murdered body."
My buddy Thomas was questioned after the cops found out he'd been shot one night outside Zanzibar months before. "I had to get all my credit-card receipts from that weekend and put them in chronological order to give to them," he told me years later. "After that, I never heard another word from them."
The cops called me in for questioning again and again. It got ridiculous. I think I finally told them that I was a cokehead and too weak to even lift up a chainsaw.