Table of Contents - Vol. VI, No. 1
Gregory G. Allen
I’ve often wondered what it would look like to witness a person who spontaneously combusted -- leaving no shadow of themselves. People must think that about me when I come and go so quickly into their lives.
But I do leave a trace.
Pieces of me are strewn across my thoroughfare, like a tornado that has made its way down the main street of a Kansas town. I’ve been living this life now for seven years and it’s a great way to survive in this country; especially during hard economic times when one can’t find a regular job.
Sgt. Peters was typing to me on my computer, much as Eric, David and Ron had previously. I had to be certain to remember who I was talking with each time I went online.
I can’t believe you get any time to go on the computer, I typed.
We are up so early each day with long hours -- it’s great to get some time to ourselves.
I’ve enjoyed being able to talk with you on here. What you do for our country is so important, I wrote to him -- using a line I’ve used many times before.
I understood the moment would come when he would want to see a photo of me, of my kids, my life in Nevada. And I had a great photo-shopped picture of us three blondes that I could attach to an email at a moment’s notice.
I hear we may be deployed soon, he typed.
I was familiar with this drill. He couldn’t tell me when or where.
My phone rang.
“Hi, honey,” he said.
I knew I needed to end the online chat with the Sergeant.
“I’d say good morning in German, but I still don’t know that language yet,” I said.
I looked down at my computer screen where Sgt Peters was typing.
Are you still there?
“I’ll teach you plenty of words when I get back from here,” my husband said on the phone.
I need to get the kids to bed, I typed -- knowing that the time zone in Nevada was earlier than where I actually was in Florida.
“I show the kids your photo all the time,” I said into the phone. “So they will recognize you when you return.”
I had only married this man five months earlier in a quick ceremony when he was on leave from being stationed in Germany.
Good night, sexy glowed on my screen and I shut it down.
“My mother says she loves having you and the kids there,” he said.
“Your father acts like a human jungle gym,” I told him. “You should see the way he tosses them around.”
“I told you they would come around to loving you,” he said.
“I’m the crazy woman you met online,” I said, “who just happens to have two adorable kids.”
‘I can’t wait to get home and spend time with them myself,” he said.
“Soon,” I said.
Soon, I thought. And then I’d need to make sure I was ready to move on.
“Mama -- I can’t find Bennie,” my daughter cried from the next room.
I said goodbye to my husband in a loving, caring voice and headed down the hall to look for a stuffed animal and tuck my daughter into her bed.
How the hell did they track me down? I stared uncomfortably at the man in the bomber jacket, loose tie and greasy hair. Questions were coming at me like rapid fire on the frontlines of a war. But I tried to keep my cool. Only I was sinking and it was happening fast.
“We know you’ve had bank accounts in four different states the past two years,” he said to me in an all-knowing tone.
“You get that training on the internet or by watching Dog Bounty Hunter?” I asked.
“You can’t talk about the internet,” he said as he threw a handful of files down on the table. “You’re a real pro there when it comes to chatting up service men with your ‘widow whose husband died in the line of duty’ story. Or should I stay stalking service men?”
“I don’t stalk,” I said as I looked at my life scattered out in front of me by way of photos, notes, and printed bank account invoices. “I run a business.”
“Call it whatever you want, but it’s finished.”
“Do I need an attorney?” I asked.
“You tell me,” he said.
We were both quiet for a while.
“The truth is -- you never had this husband in the army.” He said. “You were knocked up by two different men who left you high and dry in the back hills where you come from.”
I didn’t like my past being thrown at me like that.
“Is my husband pressing charges of some sort?” I asked.
“I didn’t say anything about your current husband,” he said. “What makes you think this is about him?”
I hadn’t intended to marry Corporal Wainscott -- that wasn’t part of the plan. But it just sort of happened and it actually worked out well. I was able to get insurance for me and my kids through the army and in turn, his paycheck increased because he had a family.
“I just assumed he -- or his parents...”
“What if I told you his family doesn’t know?” he asked.
So it’s not the Wainscotts behind this. Then who?
“Who do you work for?”
“Think into your past, Angela,” he said. “There has to be someone you pissed off along the way.”
Sure there was. There are several men that I have left in my dust and never looked back.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Today a pink pelican adorns your lawn here in Florida; tomorrow it could be a cactus in Arizona. Am I right?”
“I don’t think you need to worry about how I’m making my living. And if you are not a cop, I have no reason to stay here.”
I grabbed my coach bag and stood to leave from the pitiful small hotel room I had been lured to. The Dog wanna-be started reading from a piece of paper.
“I don’t love Florida. It’s hot as hell here, but that’s where he is from and I came here for the “shotgun wedding” and have assimilated myself into his family. My husband’s parents have taken to the kids and are lovely people. They did not agree with their son marrying someone he had only met online before being deployed, but once here -- I was able to sway them.”
“Where did you get that?” I asked.
“Facebook.” He said. “I think you emailed this to an old high school friend in Kentucky.”
That bitch. I knew I never liked her and now she was sharing things about me with this private dick.
The guy walked slowly around the room like he was Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. His intimidating procedures were starting to lose their affect on me.
“The way I see it, you have this gift, for lack of a better word, of getting people to fall for your feminine wiles.”
The P.I. looked down at my legs as he said the word ‘feminine’ which caused me to look him straight in the eyes with my response.
“Men in the armed forces need something back home to hang on to; to live for. I provide that for them.”
“You become the woman that pines away with a ready-made family and who just happens to also assist them in spending the money they send home every two weeks.”
“Is that a crime?”
“You find men that are ripe for the picking, don’t you?” he said. “Only once they come back, you are gone. Some lame excuse about needing to be with your family in some far off state -- only this time you messed up when you got married.”
This guy had really done his homework on me.
“I didn’t mean to get married. It just sort of happened.”
“So while your husband is in Germany, you search for your next bank account?”
“Just tell me what you want,” I finally said. “Does your client want money, is that it?”
“Nah...you’ll just take it from your current victim and give it to him,” he said. “He wants to hit you in your money source.”
The man lit a cigarette and I suddenly wished I hadn’t given up the habit myself.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“The children. He doesn’t think you are a fit mother, nor does any of the paperwork I’ve found suggest you are. He loved them and wants to make sure they have a decent home -- away from you.”
This couldn’t be happening. I love my kids. Sure, I’ve left them with family at long stretches of time, but I care for them. I make sure they are fed.
“A life of running from state to state is no life for two children,” he said.
I had been juggling for so long and now I could see the balls falling as if in slow motion. I had always thought the hardest part was making sure I was gone before the service man returned to the states -- to start over with someone else. But now I could see this was going to be harder.
“What if I agree to stay here in Florida as Mrs. Wainscott?” I offered.
“I’m not sure that is good enough for my client.”
“But if I’ve changed my ways...”
“You haven’t. You don’t want a husband. You just want a meal ticket for you and your kids.”
“You couldn’t trust a man if you had lived through what I’ve lived through,” I said to him as I sat down into a chair in the corner of the small hotel room.
“I don’t need to hear any sob story you may have,” he said. “This is about the kids.”
“Yes. My kids,” I said.
“So, Angela -- I think we’re at a crossing in the road. Which way do you want to go?” he said as he blew a ring of smoke into the air above my head.
I tried to breath in the smoke to use as something to calm myself down.
I could leave these people behind. Leave my husband; but not my children. I needed them. They needed me. Either way, I would be outed for the lies I had told. This dick was going to screw me one way or another. If I say no, he tells my story. If I say ok, he uses that same story to take the children from me.
“I need to think about the consequences,” I said as I stood to head towards the door. “Is there somewhere I can call you?” I asked.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be right on you,” he said.
I left the room and walked out to my car into the Florida heat. Once inside, I sat thinking about who could be trying to ruin my life. But it didn’t matter. The damage was done and now it was time for me to make my next move. The Wainscotts would miss having the kids around, but I would call them after I was gone and let them know of a death in my family. Perhaps a grandmother whose bedside I had to rush to be with. And then I’d tell my husband we needed an annulment -- I just needed to think of a reason for that.
And while the detective may think I’d be rushing home to pack up, he had no idea who he was dealing with. I was used to leaving everything behind and I could do it again now. I had cash hidden and once the sun went down, I’d head North on 95 -- across Georgia until I could find a place to stop. Only this time, I realized I’d constantly be looking in my rearview mirror for those I’ve left in my wake.
© Gregory G. Allen