By Steven Specht No comments

Let’s be clear form the beginning.

Martin Theroux was in no way responsible in the disappearance of Maryam Fadel.

While his exoneration has been well documented in the news, it doesn’t change the fact that for six months he was harassed without end. The death threats rising to the point that he was pulled from school by his parents who moved away in the middle of the night.

It’s not a crime to be the “cutest boy in school.”

In completing this investigation, I simply want to set the record straight in the beginning.

Martin Theroux is innocent.

No, the fault in the disappearance cannot be pinned to any one thing; it was all an unpreventable tragedy of the human condition.

At least that’s my take on it as an expert in paranormal forensics with forty years in the field.

I spent more than 100 hours in interviews. I spoke at length with Martin Theroux. I interviewed Maryam’s family members, friends, and acquaintances.  I interviewed Martin’s friends. I read Maryam’s diary and perused hundreds of girlish text messages, emails, and social media posts.

While my findings can never be truly proven, I can say with relative certainty that I have pieced together the events leading up to that fateful evening of May 5, 2022.

Maryam’s diary is predominantly the stereotype of a teenage girl concerned with boys, mean girls, and horses.

She never actually wrote about horses anywhere in the diary, despite a clear fascination with them. The margins of each page held interesting doodles of pinto mustangs and periodically she would dedicate an entire page to a pencil drawing that looked so lifelike it might jump right out of the page.

She was a very talented girl.

A mean girl named [redacted] bullied Maryam off the cheerleading squad. For a while, I thought perhaps [redacted] might be involved with the disappearance but this is not the case. The alibi for [redacted] is without doubt. [Redacted] was at a cheer competition 300 miles away, the documentation of her presence is confirmed. Based on a review of Maryam’s diary entries, I think she would take some satisfaction in the video of [redacted] falling tumultuously from the top of a human pyramid. I will never think of traffic cones in the same way having watched it.

Maryam’s fascination with boys is nothing but the hormonal musings of adolescence. It’s clear she had crushes on several “cute boys” as she referred to them. Martin Theroux was only one of these several, though it appears that all of her other crushes were unrequited, each of them having no known association with her prior to the appearance. That is what made Martin Theroux such a prime subject.

Her employment gave the first positive step in the investigation. She was a clerk at CVS and her manager recalled a nervous conversation about the various types of gas reducers.

“I just remember the day before her disappearance she kept asking me about Gas-X versus Beano. I work at a pharmacy, but I’m not a doctor. I told her that if she was really concerned, she should get her parents to set up a doctor’s appointment.”

However, I watched several hours of footage from the CVS close-circuit system and do note that Maryam purchased several gas reducers on the day before her date with Martin.

Maryam’s parents, Laila and Hamid were not forthcoming in any explanation for the disappearance. They said they had met Martin only once but they thought he was a nice boy and did not mind their daughter dating him.

“I trust my daughter. We are not religious. We teach her how to make decisions and the rest is up to her.”

I found out all the basic stuff you might find out about a child from parents. She had good grades, liked to dance. Played the trombone in marching band. She was lactose intolerant but it was only a minor issue most of the time. She wanted to go to Dartmouth but she didn’t know what she wanted to study and thought taking a year off after senior year was a good idea.

None of this seemed all that interesting until later.

It was the conversation with Maryam’s grandmother that put me on the right path.

The grandmother, a Farida Fadel is a first-generation US Citizen who fled Morocco in the early 1960s after a crackdown on democratic activists.

She still spits the name of King Hassan II who made her flee. She speaks mostly English but slips back into her Darija Arabic dialect when excited.

“My friends. Some of them were killed! Some of them were jailed! And for what? We only asked the King to uphold the constitution and have fair elections. Sir, allah yenael el qouad li weled el qouad li weled el qouad dyal mok!”

Though the Darjija does not always exactly translate to English, here, it implies that King Hassan II’s mother was a whore born to several generations of pimps.

                “Allah yeerek taboun mok!”

This also pertains to the mother of King Hassan.  Maryam’s grandmother is feisty.

While I enjoyed her considered opinion on the Moroccan domestic policy, I was more interested in her views of secular Islam and the relationship with her granddaughter.

“Oh, Maryam was such a good girl. So smart. She asked me advice on boys. Of course. my advice is a few years out of date. I knew my way around the dormitory 60 years ago, but things move so much faster these days.”

When asked what Farida told her granddaughter.

“Oh, I just told her the usual things. Let him speak first. Ask many questions. Don’t be objectionable. And no matter what, never pass gas in front of a boy!”

I queried further on this and was surprised to find out that flatulence is particularly derided in Moroccan culture, even more so than in the United States.

“We call it teez. I went to masjid as a girl and they told us that if you teez, Allah knows. And if you teez in the masjid, the smell will kill all the angels living in the masjid!”

I verified that this oddly specific admonishment is in fact used colloquially in Morocco.

And despite the fact that the family is secular, they have a tendency to retain quasi-religious proverbial warnings in conversation. It is comparable to the way an atheist may cry out for God amid particularly penetrative intercourse. As they say, there are no atheists in the love trench.

Combined with what the CVS manager told me, I felt like I might have a connection between the two events.

So, I interviewed Martin. He had been interviewed by detective several times but there was absolutely no evidence of wrong-doing and they could not hold him indefinitely.

How does a person just vanish? That’s what I hoped to find out from him.

As I noted, Martin is described as “the cutest boy in school” by Maryam’s diary. However, he was a shy and vapid kid with little to add to the conversation.

He trembled a little when I walked in.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Engels. I’m a paranormal forensic expert and I want to the bottom of Maryam’s disappearance. I think you can help me.”

“Look, I can only tell you what I told the cops. I didn’t do ANYTHING.”

“I know.”

“So, what do you want from me?”

“I just want you to walk me through the evening.”


“What time did you pick her up?”

“Actually, she picked me up. I still have a learner’s permit.”

“Oh, well then what time did she pick you up?”

“4 PM”

“Early night, wasn’t it?”

“Well, it was a school night and we had a big exam that Friday. She’s in my chemistry class.”

“Why didn’t you go out on the weekend?”

“I dunno. First date. I just wanted something simple.”

“I see. And where did you go?”

“Well. Like I told the cops, we went to a Middle Eastern place. She said they had good falafel. I’ve never had falafel and well she thought it would be cool to show me some of her culture.”

“How was the falafel?”

“It was okay.”

“Did you drink anything?”

“I had a soda and she had a big milkshake.”


“Why does that matter?”

“Just considering all the facts.”


“Did she mention that she was lactose intolerant when she had the shake?”


“Did she mention anything about the shake?”

“No. It was no big deal. So, lactose intolerant, she like, can’t drink milk?”


“I didn’t know.”

“It’s okay. Did either of you use the bathroom while you were at the restaurant?”


“Why not?”

“It was out-of-order.”


“And what next?”

“Well, we took a walk in the park.”



“Were you separated at any time?”


“Not even to use the bathroom?”

“Well, they only had the portable toilets there. She said it was gross to use those and said she could hold it till we got to her place.”

“And how far was that?”

“In the car it was like maybe 10 minutes?

“And what next.”

“We went back to her place.”

“Why her place?”


He looked like he wanted to hold something back. I just waited.

                “Look, I. Like Maryam was a good girl. I don’t want people thinking bad of her because of me.”

                “We just need to know what happened.”

                “Look, she said she had never kissed anyone and well I…”


                “You gotta keep this stuff to yourself.”


“Look, people think that I’m like this big shot on campus and I get with all the girls.”


“The fact is, I’ve never been with a girl. I haven’t even kissed a girl.”


“We just wanted to go back to her place and try it out.”

“And you went back to her place.”


“And you kissed.”

“Well, yeah.”

“How did you like it?”

“Well, it was nice.”

“Did she like it?”

“Yeah, she was moaning and everything.”

“Moaning from a kiss?”

“Yeah. Well, like squirming I guess.”

“Like she was sick.”

“Kind of.”

“And what happened next?”

“She said I had to leave.”

“Did she say why?”


“And did you leave?”

“Well, I started too.”

“She was just pushing me out of the living room, promising to call me tomorrow.”

“And what next.”

“Well, it was weird. I was at the front door and I was leaving and I heard something.”

“What did you hear?”

“Well, I felt it more than I heard it.”

“You felt it?”

“Yeah, you know how like when you are listening to loud music, you can almost feel it as much as hear it?”

“Yes. I do actually. It has a name. Infrasound I think.”

“Infrasound. Okay, I did not know that.”

“So, you felt a sound?”


“And what next.”

“Well, I went to check on her.”


“Well, she was gone.”

“What do you mean she was gone?”

There was nothing. Well, just her cell phone. She was gone.”

“Was she hiding?”

“I thought so at first but I looked around the house and didn’t find her. I was mad and then I was worried.”

“And you called the police?”


“What did you tell them?”

“Well, I told them my friend was gone.”

“And they came?”

“Yes. They looked for prints. They questioned me but let me go.”

The rest of the conversation with Martin led me to the findings that I submit today. Maryam took the words of her grandmother to heart and was terrified to pass gas in front of Martin.

The combination of the milkshake, the falafel, and her lactose intolerance set her up for severe gastrointestinal distress. She was unable to use the bathroom at the restaurant because it was out-of-order. She didn’t want to use the bathroom at the park because it was a portable toilet. She didn’t want to disappoint Martin and was afraid of using the bathroom at home, lest Martin hear or smell it. She continued to hold out through the date, hoping for an end and finally, realizing what was about to happen, she held it in just a little while longer, trying to get Martin out of the house.

She held it for a moment too long. Her gas, without the typical release valve of flatulence, inverted.

Flatulent inversion also known as gaseous infarction is an extremely rare but documented phenomenon for those who hold in a fart beyond a certain threshold and create a localized black hole that typically takes the individual beyond the event horizon. the fart, inversed itself, condensing into something akin to localized and temporary black hole and taking Maryam with it.

As Martin noted, the infarction is soundless beyond the subaudible roar of departure that leaves beyond nothing but a few random items like pocket change and cell phones and a faint odor of ozone mixed with freshly grown grass.

Maryam is no more, and there is no one who can really take the blame for it.

These are my findings.

The above story will be in a collection of short stories out sometime in late 2022. If you enjoyed it, please consider buying my other collections available in the embedded links below.