Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Black Dahlia

Doomed Romance

Elizabeth Short mugshots
Elizabeth Short mugshots

Over the next couple of years, Short drifted back and forth across the country, taking trains from Medford to Chicago, to Florida, to California and back to Massachusetts again. Waitressing gigs paid her way wherever she went and fed her compulsion to experience new places and people. Her lust for life was overwhelming.

She frequented night clubs where she swayed across the dance floor to swing jazz and bebop. She loved the music, the men, the atmosphere. She was never alone unless she wanted to be. But on the last day of December 1944, her playgirl lifestyle changed when she met a young man who stood out from the testosterone horde, a major with the Flying Tigers. She sent her mother a gushing letter, Pacios writes:

"I met someone New Year's Eve, a major, Matt Gordon. I'm so much in love, I'm sure it shows. He is so wonderful, not like other men. And he asked me to marry him."

After Short returned to Medford that summer, Pacios says she wore Matt's pilots wings pinned to her blouses and started a hope chest, filling it with hand-embroidered linens he sent her from the Philippines.

Elizabeth Short
Elizabeth Short

When a Western Union bicycle messenger pedaled toward the Short residence in the late August heat, it was a fate to cruel to contemplate. The Japanese had surrendered on August 14, and Short had finally stopped worrying that Matt would be killed in combat. Instead she fantasized about her upcoming nuptials, about the silk wedding gown, the floral arrangements, what canapés to serve at the reception, how to wear her hair.

But the bicycle messenger did stop in front of the Short residence, delivering a terse missive from her fiancé's mother: "Matt killed in plane crash on way home from India. My sympathy is with you. Pray it isn't so."

Short spent the next days in a funk, reading and re-reading Matt's letters. When the Yankee air turned frosty, she returned to Miami, a copy of his obituary tucked into her suitcase.


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