Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Keep Calm and Follow Directions

I went to the dollar store as instructed then proceeded to drive around.  After what seemed like hours but was really only about one, I called him.  He answered, “Just come home.”

“Is everything alright? Is he still there? Are the kids ok?” I rapid fired the questions at him as if he would actually answer me. 

“Just come home.” He repeated.

I turned off the back road I was on and headed for the house.  When I pulled up the long driveway from the road, I saw an unfamiliar pickup in front of the house and I tasted pennies.  The adrenaline surge told me all I needed to know but I pulled up and got out of the car.  I walked in and there, in my house, stood a Texas Ranger.

He called be my name and greeted me and I felt ill.  I ignored him and asked Tucker, “Where are the kids?”
“Freddy is out feeding the horses and Harlow is in her room.” I turned from them standing in the kitchen and went down to check on Harlow.  She jumped up from her bed and ran to me and wrapped her arms around me.  “Momma! Is everything alright?”

“Of course it is baby.  It’ll be fine. Just stay in here awhile and then I’ll start supper.”

I unwrapped her arms from around me and she smiled up at me like I had come to rescue her.  You could see the relief in her face as if the cavalry had arrived.  I wished I felt like the cavalry. I felt like a pawn in a fucked up game of chess.

I left Harlow watching the Disney Channel and went back to see what was going on in my home.  Tucker was sitting at his desk with the laptop fired up and the Ranger said, “Show me how you make a bogus check.”

I physically fell back against the wall as I watched Tucker churn out a check on the printer.  Tucker turned around to me and said, “I’m tired of running on this wheel.  I can’t catch up and it’s over.  I’m done.”  I was scared and disconcerted but I thought, You’re a dumbass and you should never have let this man in here without a warrant.  I was slightly relieved because I thought whatever he was busy admitting to, it would be over and maybe he would be arrested and dragged out of there.  It’s strange how fast scenarios form and race through your mind in situations like that.  I already had my kids and myself moved to town and a divorce in the works. I had the horses sold and was doing well.  In my head. 

Tucker told me to go out to my car and get his briefcase and I complied.  I thought giving him all the rope I could to hang himself was the best I could do for me and mine.  Freddy was walking back up from the barn as I pulled the briefcase from my trunk.  

“Mom! What’s going on?” He was speaking in hushed tones and looked so flushed and worried.  I told him it was fine and he needed to either stay outside with his dog or go into his sister’s room.  He began to protest and I just held up my hand and begged, “Please, Freddy.”  He snapped his mouth shut and ran back towards the barn with his dog in tow. 

I went inside and set the briefcase on the island in the kitchen.  Tucker snapped it open and started spilling his guts.  I couldn’t listen.  It was pathetic watching this tyrant, this …master manipulator acting like a whipped dog in the face of authority.  It made me cringe. It made me disgusted.  I went in Harlow’s room and sat on the bed with her and watched Disney Channel with her.  After about 30 minutes, Tucker came and knocked on my door.  “The Ranger would like to speak to you now.”

I looked up incredulous. “Why?”

“I guess he wants to see what you know.”

He looked the same, whipped and sickeningly apologetic.  I got up and told Harlow we’d be having supper within the hour.  Tucker went outside and left me at my kitchen table with this man.

He didn’t have a recorder and he had papers spread out in front of him all over the table. 
“Do you know what your husband’s been doing?”

I told myself I’d be as noncommittal as possible and just stay as far out of everything as I could.  I looked him straight in the eye and said, “About what?”

“Look, he’s already told me everything that’s been going on and I’m only corroborating with you.”
“Truthfully, I’m not sure what all he’s been doing.  He and some of his acquaintances have been trying to make money buying cattle.”

“What about all these checks?” he indicated the pile of papers on the table.  “What about all the bogus checks he’s been passing?”

“I thought he had accounts for those, they can't be fake checks if they belong to accounts, right?” I knew I was being a smartass but I was trying to play dumb.

He slammed his fist on the table and shouted at me, “THERE’S NOTHING IN THOSE ACCOUNTS AND YOU KNOW IT!”

I jumped when he slammed his fist down but I kept my composure.  “I don’t know what he’s been doing except buying cattle. I knew that they were using the check writing software because it was supposed to be cheaper and faster than ordering packs from the bank, but that’s all I know.”

He looked smugly at me and threw a paper on the table in front of me.  On it was a picture of me, in line, at a store, cashing a check.  It was a convenience store in the next town and it was one of the checks I’d made for myself.  I knew the check had gotten paid by the bank but it was hot when I wrote it.  I had needed food for the kids and gas in my car and I wrote the check and asked Tucker for the money afterward.  I couldn’t imagine that was in any way connected with any of this. 

“This is you isn’t it?”

“Well obviously it is.” I looked up at him and felt my composure slipping and it was letting my contempt for this man show.

He threw another piece of paper down in front of me and it was rows upon rows of photocopies of checks that Tucker had signed my name to and they were all made out to that same convenience store.  It wasn’t contempt on my face anymore; it was tears running down my face.  He had taken my information, duplicated the checks and written what looked like about 10 checks. I hadn’t checked my account at all lately because he had said he had it under control.  I knew my denial and refusal to take control was coming back to haunt me in that moment. 

The Ranger looked at me and said, “Being upset is natural, I mean you’re caught and you know it.”  He looked oh so pleased with himself.

I looked up at him and didn’t know what to say.  I thought staying quiet was what a lawyer would tell me to do.  I shook my head in disbelief.  I’m not sure what made him say what he said next but he said, “Did you write those checks?” He looked concerned as if he were second guessing the situation maybe.

I still didn’t speak.  I couldn’t.  I have read hundreds of books where the heroine or hero stays quiet to their own detriment and felt myself yelling at them…TALK, SPEAK, TELL IT, YOU’RE SO STUPID!!!! And there I sat.  Silent.  He asked me again and I just looked at him and kept my mouth shut. 

“I have nothing more to say to you.  I haven’t done anything and whatever my husband’s been doing is between you and him.”

“Have it your way.” He began gathering his papers and commanded me to go and get Tucker.  I opened the front door and motioned Tucker inside. 

The Ranger then told us he was going to confiscate our laptop, printer and all the blank checks in the filing cabinet.  He went and got a camera out of his truck and began taking pictures of everything in the house.  I wanted to scream for him to leave.  I was close to falling completely apart. 

I began to cook supper instead, with the Texas Ranger roaming around my house taking my belongings. I was going to feed my kids and pretend this shit was not happening.  Denial. My specialty. 

He interrupted my domesticity to sign papers saying it was okay for them to “examine” our laptop for evidence.  It wasn’t okay to me but I didn’t know what else to do and I wanted this all away from me and my kids as fast as possible.  I signed everything and listened blankly to him promise to return the items. He gathered everything together and I made my kids come in off the porch to get ready for supper.  I had them wash up and made their plates and let them eat in the  living room in front of the TV while I pulled Tucker outside. 

I felt paranoid in my own home and I didn’t want my children to hear me yelling at Tucker.  Only I didn’t yell. I just sobbed and asked him, “How could you? How could you sign all those checks and apparently they all bounced.  What does my checking account look like? What the fuck is going to happen and why does he think that I have anything to do with this shit?”

“Baby,” Tucker moved towards me and went to stroke my arm and I yanked away and backed up. “Baby, I paid all those checks from that store off. I have the receipts inside. I swear.  You’re not in any trouble whatsoever. This will all work itself out, it won’t be anything.”

I just looked at him dumbfounded.  “There was a peace officer in my house questioning me.  Our belongings were confiscated.  I was demoralized and treated like some idiot on fucking Law & Order or something. This is not NOTHING!!!! This kind of shit does not happen to me. I have spent my life not pissing people off and doing my best to make other people happy and coloring inside the lines.  THIS IS NOT NOTHING!!!”

I remember the sun setting and the wind was whipping across the round pen where we stood.  I sagged against the pipe fence and sobbed.  He tried to hold me but I wouldn't let him.  I gathered myself after a few minutes and looked up at him, “If I get arrested or get into any trouble, you’re going to wish you never met me.”

I stalked toward the house to check on my kids and worry myself sick.  I got everyone to bed. I got myself to bed.  That was a Tuesday.

I sat at my desk in my office that Friday, a state run institution, steps from the police academy that was operated there and heard the front door open and someone ask for me, by name.  I shuddered and dread settled over me.  A young man sat in the chair beside my desk and quietly said, “There are two Texas Rangers outside with a warrant for your arrest.  Please shut everything down and walk out of here calmly with me and they won’t cuff you on the premises.”

You know, I've watched at least 50 Lifetime movies and watched people react in many ways to incredulous situations but you just never know how you’ll feel or what you’ll do when something absolutely surreal and catastrophic happens to you.  Turns out, I just follow instructions.  

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