Gloria Epstem (2019 Miss Nebraska Pageant Coordinator, July 3, 2019, taken from her announcement speech):
It is my pleasure to announce the contestants of this year’s Miss Nebraska Pageant. For the next month, our girls will participate in daily exercises, talent training, interviews, and community events that will all lead to the historic Meusely Theater on August 24th. All the girls are as excited as I am about this historic event.
Excerpt from the diary of Opal Brown (July 4, 2019):
I have a journal for counting the calories in everything I eat. I have a training regimen to get my bikini body in shape. I cannot have a damn chocolate bar. I am the Miss Nebraska Pageant favorite. And every day I wish I wasn’t.
Records found in the office of Doctor Fields pertaining to Opal Brown (investigated August 26, 2019):
Date: July 4, 2019
Valid Until: August 31, 2019
Patient: Opal Brown
Prescription: Xanax (alprazolam)
Signature: Kathryn Brown
Kathryn Brown (Opal Brown’s mother, August 25, 2019):
I honestly don’t know what all the fuss is about. She’s been gone for one day and everyone’s off their rocker. I know I’m her mother and I am worried, but this comes as no surprise to me. She’s done this before; going off to some place without me knowing. Of course I’m disappointed, but I never followed the pageants much anyway. Yes, I know I encouraged her to do those first competitions, but it was a mother’s instinct to let my Opal follow her dreams. You can’t blame me for that.
Bobby Brown (Opal Brown’s father, August 25, 2019):
Our Opal is a free spirit. Took after her mother in that way, I imagine. Got my good looks though! [laughs]. I was skeptical about Opal wanting to do that first pageant all those years ago; just about eight years old. Had the skinniest little arms and those blonde curls never seemed to settle themselves. But she had a competitive fire and, can you believe it? She won the damn thing. Kathryn was practically biting her nails off with nerves all through it. She’s the biggest fan, keeping tabs on the other girls, encouraging Opal, sticking by her side through all that pageant drama. Boys fight dirty, but girls? There’s bound to be bloodshed [laughs].
Sandra Coin (Opal Brown’s best friend and winner of the 2019 Miss Nebraska Pageant on August 24, 2019. August 25, 2019):
Dear God, if anything happens to Opal . . . I just don’t know what I’d do with myself! We started at the pageants together, and though we were rivals from the very beginning and that witch of a mother always controlling Opal, we became best friends. Pageanting is a pretty small world; us girls have to stick together, especially coming from some podunk town like McKearny. We always stood up for one another, you know? Especially against that bitch, Elena Beauregard. She had it out for Opal, I’m certain of it.
Brad Alvison (Opal Brown’s personal trainer. August 25, 2019):
Opal is a hard worker; she’s got talent by the boatloads. She’s the queen of the room, charismatic in interviews, and has a killer body. I still thank my lucky stars that I swept her up the day she won her third local pageant. I don’t regret being her trainer for a second.
Excerpt from the diary of Opal Brown (August 20, 2019):
I know I can’t fail. Mom and Brad and all my fans back in McKearny don’t support me just to see me flop in the pageant. That’s why I take these pills by the handful; I’d better do it before someone else does it for me. I must win, so everyone else doesn’t lose.
Elena Beauregard (2019 Miss Nebraska Pageant Contestant, August 25, 2019):
Why are you interviewing me? I wasn’t even close to her! Did Coin say something? She’s always had it out for me. I wouldn’t be surprised if she or Opal tampered with my makeup before the pageant. I had to borrow someone’s cheap mascara! But I have no idea why Opal just stormed out of the pageant like that. I don’t like her much, but even I can concede that she had a better chance than any of us at winning. Just about gave her trainer a heart-attack when she didn’t show up for rehearsals the day before. But he got a text right after and seemed more chill. Well, as chill as Brad Alvison can get; that man is wound tight as Opal’s curls. I wish my trainer was half as obsessed with me.
Brad Alvison (Opal Brown’s personal trainer. August 25, 2019)
Anything between us? No. She only had a smile for the cameras and the judges; certainly never lit my way.
Kathryn Brown (August 26, 2019):
It’s that boy, I tell you. [sniff] I chalked them up to a summer fling, but I’ll bet anything she left with him. I told her to break it off right away; My Opal was a shoe-in for Miss Nebraska. [sighs] Now, her bright, starry future is all spoiled for the sake of some boy. Between you and me, there was always something funny about him. [whispers] I heard he smokes dubies in his free time! Only drugs could make her stay with a boy like that and only a boy could make a girl do something as stupid as leave. Yes, she was taking anti-anxiety pills, but that has nothing to do with anything. She loved the pageants. [sniff]
Sandra Coin (August 27, 2019):
Oh, she was all over Aiden Grey. Even during training, she’d disappear for hours at a time and I’d cover for her. [frowns] She . . . did ask me to cover for her the day before the pageant. We shared the same hotel room, and she slipped out just before ten. When she came home ‘round four in the morning, high as a kite and scared as hell, I got scared too. You’re not supposed to smoke before a competition; it’s bad for your smile.
Text from Opal Brown to Brad Alvison (August 23, 2019):
have 2 miss rehearsals today! Family emergency. Mother sick.
Kathryn Brown (Opal Brown’s mother, August 25, 2019):
I haven’t been sick since my senior year of college. Vomiting before pageant competitions doesn’t count.
Brad Alvison (August 27, 2019):
Yeah, I got a text from Opal on the day of the rehearsal. She’d never missed a single training session, so of course I was worried. But Opal had been looking awfully stressed lately and I decided to cut her some slack. Look, I need to take this call; it’s about one of my new pageant girls. Is this interview over?
Elena Beauregard (August 29, 2019):
Is she still missing? We need to get these interviews done; I have another pageant in a few months and a new trainer to get to know. Yes, I heard the rumor about her smoking the night before the big day; Sandra may be loyal, but her mouth isn’t a steel trap. I did see Opal the day of the competition though. I was searching her makeup counter for my mascara. She dashed by the back entrance of the theater, looking like hell. A second later, I spotted Aiden Grey. He looked about as angry as she was scared. Probably a bad break-up.
Aiden Grey (August 30, 2019):
Yeah, I was her boyfriend, but I sure as hell don’t know where she is. Jesus, I’m more worried about Opal than her own mother! Look, she broke up with me the day of the pageant. I was upset, who wouldn’t be? All I did was follow her outside the theater. I saw just a glimpse of her curly hair before it disappeared into this red car. A Toyota, I think. I called the cops right away, but I’m regretting that now. [glares] I told you I don’t own an ounce of weed!
Carl Vanderwaal (Gas station owner, Utah, September 4, 2019):
Yeah, I saw that red car. I saw that girl too; pretty as hell, though her hair was brown. She bought gas and a pair of cheap sunglasses. The way she strutted outta here, [sighs] the only person captive that day was me.
Excerpt from the diary of Opal Brown (diary dated August 23, 2019):
Sometimes oxygen is so heavy it’s suffocating. Pressure sands me down. If I don’t do something about it, there won’t be much of me left.
I have to leave.
Forensic Results processed by Spencer Montgomery, Los Angeles Police Department, September 9, 2019):
Vehicle: Toyota Corolla, 2010 model
Registration: Pete Malloy, Uber driver
Receipt from Alto Supply (September 10, 2019):
Receipt #: 425336
Receipt Date: 10/9/19
Product: Alto Root Touch Up Spray–Dark Brown
Product: Hershey Milk Choc Bar
Note on the case by Officer Holden (September 12, 2019):
I can’t seem to shake that Opal Brown, the beauty queen from McKearny Nebraska, knew exactly what she was doing behind the Meusely Theater on August 24th, 2019. Reading her diary pages, I get the feeling that I hold her life in the palm of my hand. Do I find her, and watch her bend once more under the pressure of the pageants? Or do I let her ride off into the LA sunset with those cheap sunglasses, free for the first time?
Gloria Epstem (October 21, 2019, taken from her address to the pageant community) It is with a heavy heart that I address the death of Opal Brown, our Miss Nebraska favorite. Though no body has been recovered, it’s been two months since her disappearance, and Officer Holden admits that there is little hope of Opal being found. Opal, dear, wherever you are, we wish you only the best that the afterlife can offer.
A Colorado native and avid hockey player, reader, writer, and language learner, Gracie is 19 years old and studies Creative Writing and French at Aberystwyth University in Wales.