Late one February evening in 2015, a young woman walked through the quiet streets of Geneva, Illinois.
“As I was schlepping my bag all the way to the train station, I thought this might be more difficult than originally planned,” recalled Lindsay Souvannarath in the most recent edition of the Nighttime Podcast.
“I slept all the way on the plane because I was so exhausted from carrying my bag three miles.”
There were a lot of holes in the plan Souvannarath and Timberlea resident James Gamble had hatched for killing as many innocents as they could manage in the food court of the Halifax Shopping Centre on Valentine's Day, 2015.
Like what she would say to customs officers when she arrived at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on a one-way ticket, with little money and a bag packed with dark reading material and unseasonable clothing that a hat with a swastika on it.
But even if they hadn’t sorted out how they’d get to the mall carrying rifles and shotguns and masks, they knew what they would wear.
For Gamble, 19, it was a shirt bearing the logo of German industrial band KMFDM, camouflage pants and camo boots.
For Souvannarath, it was a white T-shirt with an eagle on it. The shirt was long though, so it would necessitate her wearing black skinny jeans, black boots and a skeleton mask.
“Their plans largely surrounded the aesthetics – what are we going to wear, what music will we listen to, what can we leave on the internet,” said Jordan Bonaparte, host of the Nighttime Podcast.
“I heard they planned to take a bus to the mall with guns and Molatov cocktails.”
It was the same mall that Bonaparte was taking his then two-year-old every day to walk around a heated space and get out of the house.
Suicide was the motivation: Souvannarath
Whatever shortcomings their plans had, their intent was deadly and only foiled by an anonymous tip that led to quick action by the police.
For the new father and hobby podcaster on unsolved mysteries and true crime, the question was why?
In the second episode of his interview with Souvannarath – conducted over the phone as she is currently serving a life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder – we see more into her mind.
“His motivation was that he just really wanted to end his life and I just wanted to end my life with him,” said Souvannarath.
“We would save our last bullets for ourselves.”
Gamble fulfilled that dark wish as police surrounded his parents’ Fall River home on the morning of Feb. 13 – shooting himself.
In an unfinished blog post, Souvannarath extols the virtues of the hate that drives her.
“In all of my twenty-three years of life, I have never learned to love another person,” declared the creative writing graduate.
"(Souvannarath and Gamble took) Columbine, vague statements about war and kind of meshed it together... Into this horrible tornado of hatred and darkness."
- Jordan Bonaparte, host of the Nightime Podcast
“I receive love, but it passes through me like water through a sieve, having neither the substance nor density of the hate that crystallizes in my heart. Love softens the spirit and makes it malleable to the society around it. Hate sharpens the mind to where it becomes a weapon against all others.”
But there are holes in this too, because she talks freely with Bonaparte about how she fell in love with Gamble during the six weeks of correspondence that filled the space between his commenting approval on a meme she’d created around the Columbine shooting and Valentines Day 2015.
Through the interviews her voice is steady, calm and unrepentant as she talks about the ideal victims they’d target – for Gamble it was middle aged women, for her people she didn’t like the look of.
“They took all these horrible things from the internet, Columbine, vague statements about war and kind of meshed it together,” said Bonaparte.
“Into this horrible tornado of hatred and darkness that managed to spin itself together and that almost touched down in Halifax.”
So his quest to understand how two kids from middle-class, caring families could end up so possessed by hate hasn’t led to firm answers, other than the medium that allowed it.
They were angry young people who found a community on the internet of people who shared their ideas, gave them audience and a sounding board – even heroes to look up to.
Yes, there is a community of people on the internet who call themselves Columbiners and who celebrate the 1999 Columbine school shooting that saw two students kill 12 of their classmates.
“It was very much a product of online hatred,” said Bonaparte.
“The internet turns our small little communities into a huge metropolis where there are hundreds of millions of people. And you can connect with anyone who shares your one in a million dark fantasy.”
Beyond sharing fantasies, it allows for the creation of communities around them that can result in horror for the rest of us.
Bonaparte has received a lot of criticism for his interviews with Souvannarath. Mostly based on the argument that he is giving her a platform.
He says that he edited the interviews to deny her the opportunity to spread her hate speech or justify her beliefs.
She already had one anyway — her blog.
And she had people that supported her.
It’s best for us, he argues, to know this hate is out there finding itself in others as the rest of us check the weather or look up the lives of loved ones.