THREATS & PROMISES
It was a calm spring morning when my world came to an end. An early morning rain made the marigolds brighter, the forget-me-nots bluer, and the multicolored pansies gave the garden a rainbow of color. I was sitting in the sunroom enjoying a cup of coffee when the sound of sirens destroyed the serenity and announced a day of reckoning.
“Please, Mrs. Strong,” the strain and impatience graveled FBI Agent Ronald Gray’s voice. “Just tell me about your husband,” he pleaded. His tone was much less threatening than when we’d first been introduced. After being escorted to the Boulder police department by two surly police officers who refused to answer my questions, I was unceremoniously shoved into an interview room with the brusque Agent. His scrutiny made me feel as inadequate as a rat in a line-up of cats. A surlier man, I’d never met. He refused to answer my questions but kept demanding that I answer his.
“I don’t understand what you want from me. I haven’t seen John in two years. What can I possibly tell you?”
“Why. The world wants to know why Mrs. Strong. Why does a man kill innocent people? We deserve to know, why!”He slammed his fist on the table, and I felt the blow in my heart.
“John left this for you.” The Agent slammed a letter down on the table. I read it, and that was the moment. There would be no more false bravado.
You’ve always admired my penmanship. How do you like my blood red ink? Actually, my blood and written with a quill, can you believe it? Nothing but the best for you, my dear sweet wife.
Well, you did it. You got away. Left the kids and me to follow your lustful heart. I hope he was worth it! No, that’s not true, I hope he beats you daily! Maybe took all your hard earned and hoarded money and left you high and dry. God, knows that’s a fantasy, a dream I have regularly. That and finding you.
The finding you fantasy would’ve taken a book, but I’m sure you can imagine!
But who knows? Maybe I’d have forgiven you. Now we’ll never know.
Enjoy the notoriety.
You’ve earned it sweetheart!
“Because of me?” I whispered. Tears streamed down my cheeks. “He did it because of me.” I bowed my head over my arms and cried like a woman condemned. Hell would bring no more agonizing a punishment than the guilt that consumed me. The world went black.
At the hospital, I was all but catatonic. The doctors and my attorney refused to let the agent question me again. I slowly gathered my strength and agreed to talk to Agent Gray, but only on my terms. I wanted to go home, but no longer had one. Once the press learned of my location, no place was safe. I insisted on protection, and a new identity. The FBI saw to the changes, and I agreed to talk.
“You were married for over twenty years. What happened? What drove John to do this?”
“I can’t answer that question. I lived with the man for twenty years, and I can’t tell you who he was. I just know I could no longer live in the comfortable prison I’d allowed him to create for me. The children were adults. It was time. I found the courage.”
“But why did you leave, why did it take you so long? We checked, there was no abuse. We talked to family and friends, they said you two were the couple everyone envied.”
“We were, in public. For years I carried off the biggest fake out in history. I played the game. It made John happy, and when he was happy, I thought less and less of ending my life. It’s called survival.”
“From what?” the agent asked in desperation.
“A man obsessed, controlling, angry. I’d left him before. But he always found me. We had children, they loved their father, even as they feared him. It was clear I’d never escape. If I did, it meant giving up my children too. Once they were adults, I could let go. I disappeared, changed my name, and prayed he’d never find me.”
Agent Gray shook his head. “John left us a message too. He wrote, ‘Ask Deidre. She knows the answers you seek. This is all on her.'” The Agent sighed deeply and asked the one question he’d been dying to ask for days. “Did you know?”
“Did I know?” I thought about his question. I stood, walked to the window and stared at the sky. “I knew it was a possibility. Ten years ago, John hears on the news that a gunman has killed twenty-five people from an elevated position and says, ‘I could see myself doing that, especially if you ever left me. I’d have nothing to live for.’ It was a threat, but one I knew in my soul he could accomplish.” I shivered. I couldn’t look at Agent Gray.
“I remember his grin. His self-satisfied nod, and his declaration, ‘I could do it, and I would just to show you, you’ll never escape, and if you do. You’ll regret it until your dying day.'”
I wiped at the tears that seemed never-ending and caught the Agents eyes. “You tell me, did I know? Could I have stopped what happened based on that conversation ten years ago?”
Gray bowed his head. He couldn’t or wouldn’t look at me.
“If I’d reported him? Would you have listened?”
930 words / FCA
Yolanda Renée © 2018
I wrote this a few months ago. I hate that it’s a reality.
Please, Lord, Bless the children . . .
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