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Too Dead Too Soon Part 1
Christopher Michael Fargo was in a real fix. He had always felt that he should have been a millionaire and told everyone as much. But no matter how hard he tried, failure loomed at every turn of his twisted path.
He had a family to look after; his thirty-four year old wife, Mary Jo, along with four year old Zachary, three year old Sadie and little, two-year-old Madison. He went to great lengths to project an image of a well-liked fellow, in fact being well-liked was an obsession of his. But many did not like him.
The world needed to know that there was a reason his name was Christopher like the Christian. He was a good man. He knew this deep down and if the rest of the world didn't, they could all go to hell.
There were many things on his mind as he loaded up his van. People hated him and he absolutely could not figure out why. Everyone knew he had a family to provide for. He had a beautiful wife and three children he cared for very much. Everybody knew that – he made sure of it.
A man has to do what a man has to do and he would do anything to provide for his loved ones. Sure, he had written a few checks and done a few other things to get the money he needed. People were mad at him and wanted to throw him in jail for things he had done. But that didn't matter. They simply didn't understand. Nobody did.
Ypsilanti Michigan had used him up. Now he was forced to load his entire family into his stolen van and leave town. It was not what he wanted to do but he had to. They were after him. It was their fault and it would be their loss once he left.
He had even consented to go see one of those shrinks. The dude thought he was going to tell him all about life. But he didn't know squat. He tried to fill him full of this narcissism crap that didn't make any sense at all. The shrink was dull and boring like Mary Jo had become once she started having babies. It seemed like nobody knew how to have fun any more; except Candice. Candy was a barrel of laughs. She was a lot of fun to party with and great in the sack - for a while anyway. Then she got all moody like they all do. And it wasn't easy trying to bring joy into her life while dealing with a wife and kids, not to mention her husband who just happened to be his business partner. He only had so much to give and it seemed like everyone was always asking for it. All the same, he would have made things work out if Mary Jo hadn't found out. That damned wife of his seemed to be spoiling a lot of things lately. She was nothing but a little kid in a woman's body. He didn't like the job she was doing with the little kids either - but, he would take care of that. He would take care of everything like a man always has to do.
But do you think he could make his shrink understand any of this - or anything else?
No way! He finally had to tell him to go back to his books and learn a little more about life. He would be damned if he was going to waste the rest of his precious life dealing with quacks and other idiots. There were many other, more important people, who would appreciate his company far more.
So he would be moving on.
Twenty-nine year old Fargo loaded his precious family and pulled out of the Midwest. He kept going until he could go no further, ending up in the sleepy little town of Newport on the central Oregon coast. He immediately went to work on "his presentation," utilizing his charm and good looks and leveraging his cute family to con his way into a deluxe, bayside condo on the promise of an impending check. He charmed his way into a job at the local Starbucks, all the while masquerading as some kind of consultant for big corporations.
It didn't matter how the economy was so depressed here or that the unemployment rate
was the highest in the nation. It was just another challenge, something Chris was always up for.
His next challenge was going to be a big one!
Chris took a lot of pride in his abilities to get what he wanted. Many times that required taking advantage of other people. Kiting checks, embezzling and conning people out of their money was nothing more than doing business. Caveat Emptor was what he lived by. He had to do it before they did it to him. He was just a little better at it than them.
But he wasn't good enough. This he knew and he would push himself harder. He had a plan. Any task he put himself to, he could do it. Take the computer for instance: There was a mother load of information on that super highway, right there for the taking. He had already downloaded the E-books, Hitman Online and The Modern Identity Changer.
In no time, he had attained a number of phony IDs. Heck, he was even learning Spanish. Most people couldn't do these things that easily. But it was easy for him because he was a master planner. Everyone else could just continue on with their boring, pathetic lives. He was going to make his million, no matter what he had to do. And he knew just what to do. There were a certain few details he had to take care of first.
By the time it was all said and done, Chris had put in a hard night's work. Murder is a hard thing to do. He had to stuff the bodies of his little children along with their mother into various sacks and suitcases, weighing them down with rocks and other items. Then he had to load and carry the bodies to suitable locations where they could be dumped into the bay. Then there was the matter of disposing of what was left of his family's personal effects, things like the wife's purse and the kids' toys, baby journals and the sort. These all had to be bagged up as well and disposed of in a couple of nearby dumpsters. Why did she have to do this to the children? Why did she have to make him kill her?
Once he had completed these grim tasks he had to get down to Starbucks for a little R&R. Payday was still a couple of shifts away. And he would be needing that money. He had been living on a tight budget as of late. Thoughts of death and killing would just have to wait.
He was pretty tired after working his next shift. He needed to kick back, as he had the annual employee's pizza party coming up before his final shift. He stopped by the video store and rented the movie, "Blow." Then he picked up some more wine and cheese and spent a relaxing evening at the condo.
The pizza party went pretty well the next day. His workmates felt sorry for him going back to an empty home so they had packed him a nice little pizza care package to snack on. It was a real shame that a nice guy like Chris was being cheated on by his wife. But he had done the right thing by sending the family back home on a plane, so the wife could be with her lover. Other, lesser men had done far worse.
Well, Chris was not about to shed any tears over that situation. He had his newly stolen Dodge Durango packed and ready to go by the time he finished his shift and picked up his final paycheck. He headed south and didn't stop until he hit the Mexican Riviera, where his next adventure awaited.
It was time to party. Chris deserved it. Murder is not easy. One needs to blow off a little steam after something like that. It was OK; he had sent them off to a better place. He could not send himself off to the same place, as his "religion" would not allow that. In reality, there was something far stronger than any religion that was driving this man of men. What was driving him now, however, was the need to party. This would help to soothe his sorrowful state. He was feeling very sorry - for himself. He was now left all alone on this earth and would have to make the best of things, the best way he knew how. He would search out solace from someone new, to distract his spinning mind from all his troubles. He knew how to effectively numb his brain to all of that. He could then simply send those troubles right out of his head, like flipping a switch. He was good at this and knew just how to do it. It had worked well for him throughout his life. Chris truly believed that he could send his troubles away forever by doing this.
Chris was thinking that it was too bad that there weren't more people in the world like
him. The world would be a much more fun place and far less confusing. Jehovah had smiled
on him when he was born.
It's all about living in the moment. You must be impulsive and poised to seize that moment at any time. Not everyone can do this.
As he settled comfortably into the plush seats, Chris thought about how easy it had been getting his new set of wheels. He was proud of that. He simply dropped off his stolen van at the Wilsonville auto dealership and drove away a Dodge Durango. He really liked those Durangos. There was something manly about them.
Again he had to leave a lot of his stuff behind in the van, for he had to travel light. He was a little miffed however, about leaving his book, Running from the Law. That reminded him of that other stuff he had left in Sioux Falls, S.D. that could be considered pretty incriminating. No matter, he would stay one step ahead of the law, like he always did.
It was a good thing he had swiped that customer's credit card number before he left Starbucks. That would work well for his tickets to Cancun. He had left the false identities of those four other men back in his Fred Meyer locker. He didn't need them anyhow. He would become Michael Fargo. He would simply use his middle name as his first name.
As the big Boeing lifted off from San Francisco International, he was starting to feel better about things; certainly better than the drive down. The night before, he had that dream again. It was always the same; he was trapped in a damp, dark place. He could hardly move and someone or some "thing" was after him. He could not get away and he was terrified. Then he would awaken thinking of his dad
Chris missed his dad. He was only a small child when his dad left. He could not remember much about him. He had been told that dad had beaten him and his mom when she was pregnant. But Chris didn't believe any of that. He often wondered where his dad had gone off to.
Chris figured there might be a few folks wondering where he had gone, as well. Yes, he was sure people were missing him. But alas, they would not know. He had studied his books well and covered his tracks. His next stop was sunny, warm Cancun where he would ease into a new life. Good times were awaiting and he was due.
And good times were certainly had. Once he hit Cancun he became Mike Finkelstein, New York Times writer. Then he headed on down the beach to find a place to kick back and party. In no time at all, he had found himself a nice little German lassie. She was a magazine photographer. He busied himself writing copy on the mysticism of the Mayan ruins as she worked her camera shutter. They would collaborate on a prize-winning magazine article. They had themselves a rollicking good time with many sun-filled days and danced the night away when the sun went down.
But - as they say, all good things must come to an end. When they finally caught up to him, he was lounging around with a bunch of Brits, smoking pot and drinking beer, with his German lassie back in the Cabana awaiting his services.
Just like that, Chris had gone from the best of times to cooling his heels in a Mexican jail cell. He had already decided he didn't like his current situation when the Feds offered the deal. He jumped on it. In no time, Chris was back in the good ole' USofA. Again, he had landed on his feet. He was back on familiar ground. He would now get down to the business of facing his next challenge. The ensuing days were busy ones for Chris and indeed, challenging. There was the matter of the female guards and inmates. He needed to develop relationships with them. It didn't matter if it was against the rules. The rules didn't apply to him when he was busy doing what he was put on this earth to do.
Take Brandy Fenton, his sweet little, eighteen-year-old, "Senorita Cotton Candy." It didn't matter that they had put her away for ten years for stabbing her cousin to death. She hadn't really done anything wrong and the two of them had made a connection that transcended ordinary life. He wrote her a beautiful, loving poem.
Then there was the matter of the jailhouse conditions. The Lincoln County Jail was not at all up to his standards. He had initiated a campaign to bring about the necessary improvements. This was a mission of mercy for himself and all his brethren locked up in there. The squeaky wheel would get the grease.
Also, things would not be right if he wasn't working on an escape plan, as well. He found himself a confidence man to be his lackey. He would smuggle the necessary items for Chris to carry out a brilliant escape plan. But he turned out to be a worthless stoolie tattling to the authorities about what he called a preposterous escape plan. What did that idiot know about escaping anyhow? They had let him walk but he would be back. He would have been rewarded well too. It was obvious he had no grasp on planning an escape.
Again, Chris had been let down—just as always.
No matter, Chris had more important things to tend to. He had to prepare his case. It would have been better if he had had more time to make his million. Then he could have afforded a high-class team of lawyers befitting of his stature. But as it was, he would have to deal with Public Defenders. He would simply bring them up to speed just like he was doing with that jailhouse shrink and strategize an ironclad defense. He knew deep down that he had done nothing wrong in the eyes of Jehovah. Who were these mere mortals to judge him?
All his life, Chris had prided himself in his ability to mentally block out the bad things. He had learned well how to put up a good front. Deep down he was right. That is what he told himself. But it wasn't always that way. Sometimes when he looked down there he only saw darkness. Those were the bad times. Mary Jo and the kids knew about these times. Sometimes, the only way he could cope was to let it all out. He could get pretty carried away during these times and he certainly would not want anyone else to ever know about that. This was a very private thing. The secret was secure with his family. He could count on that. Certainly, now he could.
Although some secrets were secure, not all would be. Chris was fighting for his life, which meant he would have to bare his soul, sort of. He would reveal that information on a need to know basis. He would bring out the important stuff, just enough to prove his innocence. Little did they know that he was honorably trying to keep Mary Jo’s good name intact by covering for her, that she really was the murderer of the three children. But things were not working out the way he thought they would. That darkness from within was becoming more palpable as the trial progressed. They had laid him out in that courtroom, like a flounder, fresh caught from the bay. They were filleting his soul, cutting into him, trying to get at those deep dark secrets.
His mind would go back to those balmy sunsets in the Mexican Riviera when the warm light of the day transitioned into the darkness of night. The waning rays of sunlight seemed to dance across the crest of each wave presenting a mosaic of golden sparkles stretching out as far as the eye could see. That magic would last for but a few moments in time before the glowing orb would slip beneath the Pacific Rim.
He would remember evenings spent there with Mary Jo on past family vacations. But, during his last trip, as sure as the warm sand cushioned his bare feet, other thoughts had invaded, eating away at the tranquility of those memories; thoughts of the depths. What lies beneath those smooth waves as they come rolling in from that endless ocean? Then he would look into the depths. Beneath this beautiful scene was a maelstrom. Strong currents were there, mucking up the bottom, stirring up things. Perhaps the Mayan Gods were angry. Something from the deep, dark depths or beyond was coming his way.
During those times he had found a way to deal with those things he could not understand. He would
gather up his sweet fraulein Genina and dance the night away at the local disco hotspot, Don
Armandos. All his troubles would then evaporate, whisked away with the tropical sea breeze.
Mary Jo's family were all there. They had been there for the entire proceeding. They had done their detective work and were providing evidence and damning testimony concerning his past. They were relentless.
The coroner and the divers were talking too. The divers were talking about how they had recovered the bodies of dead children, in their underwear, with twine tied around their ankles and pillowcases containing rocks tied to the other end. The coroner was citing how he had believed the children had met a watery death in the dark waters of Lint Slough where their daddy had dumped them off the bridge wrapped in their favorite comforter.
Chris could no longer see the smooth, gentle waves. There would be no more dancing sunlight. The waves were now cold, dark angry breakers crashing across the face of the north jetty as they met the ebbing current of Newport Bay head on, dangerous rip currents and pounding surf loudly crashing into cold, gray rocks seeming to release the maelstrom from beneath in a frothy curtain of spray. What was it that lies beneath? There are dead bodies there. Perhaps the angry ocean was giving up its dead. Maybe King Neptune, God of the Deep, was restless. Or perhaps it was God almighty beckoning.
Perhaps the time was drawing near, that the angry Gods were about to claim another.
Chris was getting scared. All of his talents and abilities that he had been nurturing all his life were now failing him. Chris was becoming aware of a sadness descending all around him. It seemed he could no longer flick it off like a light switch. He felt trapped. Indeed he was.
He would pull himself together, however. He would deal with these strange new feelings and forge ahead just like he'd always done before. His days of testimony was coming to a close and he had plenty more to say. That would be the crucial turning point.
The past few months had been a long go for Fargo. It had been a long trial, along with the months leading up to it. Chris had managed to keep himself plenty busy in the Newport jailhouse but, even so – he also had plenty of time to reflect and to dream about what once was and what could have been. He recalled the first night they brought him into his new abode. He had sat in his cell and whistled Dixie all night long. He had watched all of the seasons of the year change from behind bars since then - that is what little he could see of them. He recalled fashioning a contraption out of common utensils to chip away at the sandblasted glass in his barred cell window just so he could get a peak at the sun drenched ocean waves just beyond. He recalled how he had vowed to feel the cool caress of those waters once again even if he had to go right through his cell window to do it.
There was something else he recalled… his life. For the first time, he found that he now had the time to think about his own past. He was full of self confidence when he had first arrived, truly believing that the powers that be would realize the err of their ways and cut him free or he would make a great escape like Ted Bundy had done. It was some time soon after his first escape attempt that the memories came filtering back. Perhaps the permanence of this new life was finally sinking in or maybe it was the release of all the responsibilities he had carried on his shoulders for so many years. Before, it seemed like he never had the time to reflect back on his life – he was always too busy forging ahead. He lived for the day with little time for reflection on what was done or what lie ahead. But all that had changed. Now he had the time – lots of it. He was discovering that he did have memories when he would concentrate on them. They were not as hazy as before. But his memories came back in chunks – as if he were watching episodes of a movie. He would
find that the movie was not all that easy to understand either. The plot seemed kind of twisted. Other times it seemed unsure whether he was recalling something real or just a dream.
And there was something else. If his memories were like a movie, it was his movie and he was the director and he could craft his movie as he saw fit. He found this easy to do as he had been doing it for a long time. In another life he could have been a movie director. Maybe he still could.
Chris had control over his memories. It was important to have control, unlike his recurring nightmare. He had no control over that. He didn’t know if it was the dark and scary place, the fear of the unknown or simply the absence of control that scared him so. He had begun to wonder if perhaps that might be part of that deep dark fear that had gnawed at his guts for as long as he could remember. Whatever it was – as long as he was in control, he could keep it at bay.
Indeed he was surprised at the vastness of that which was his history. He had lived a full and unusual life, considering. The fact that his life played out like an exciting movie was just that – a fact; for he knew that there indeed was someone out there writing a book about his life. He was an important man, no doubt about it!
Then again he knew that whoever it was would have a hard time capturing what was in his head. His memories were his – not whoever’s. If it was going to be done right, he might have to write his own friggin’ book. For instance how could whoever know about his first fight in grade school. He had handled that with finesse, avoiding extreme violence because he was a peaceful person, even now. How could he know about his road trips with his step dad? Chris would be the navigator. He read the maps and told dad all the places to go. He was in charge even way back then. Not only was he in control but he realized he had been an adventurous kid. Those trips had instilled that sense of adventure in him that would stay with him from then on.
How could he know about the many hours devoted to the Jehovah’s Witness Field Ministry when he was so young, how he strived to be the best. He had worked hard at honing his conversational skills going door to door and proselytizing. Spreading the word of the Kingdom prepared him for the “parts” he would be doing in the theocratic ministry school. Before he was even twelve he was speaking in front of seventeen hundred people in the circuit assembly. That had pretty much confirmed his special power. He had known for sometime, even as a small boy that he had special power over regular people. This was a kind of enlightenment few could ever understand. Chris knew he had a special relationship with the almighty Jehovah himself. No writer on earth could ever understand the kind of feeling that comes with that. This particular “scene” he enjoyed replaying over and over.
Then there was Mary Jo. Not even he could describe his feelings when he first laid eyes on her at the Kingdom Hall. He was only sixteen but he knew even then that he would have her. It would be his destiny. She was the most genuine, the most warm-hearted, the most loving, and the most truly devoted person ever known. These things he knew then. And he knew how he would have her no matter how long it took. It didn’t matter that she was seven years older. It didn’t matter that he was not allowed to date. How could anyone know what it was like to devote two years toward something he already knew was destined to happen, then to make it happen but one day after turning eighteen. Indeed he was out from under his parents’ roof and their hold exactly then. Mary Jo was his first. How could any writer understand what it’s like to be in control of one’s own destiny?
There were so many memories. Indeed, how could anyone at all understand what it is like to hold the power of life over death as ordained by Jehovah? Surely few could even begin to understand the special knowledge and power to which he was entitled or the tremendous responsibility that comes with that. That was the other thing he recalled, the most powerful scene in his collection of memories, the scene that no one else would ever see and the scene that he had the most trouble with.
Act one begins on Saturday, December fifteenth, 2001. It is late afternoon. Chris and Mary Jo are in their condo at “The Landing,” on the shores of Newport Bay. All the kids are there along with good friends Denise and Macon Thompson and their kids. The four are sharing a glass of wine. The kids are enjoying snacks and chips. The Macons have come over to baby-sit so Chris and Mary Jo can go out on their first date in a long time. It is a time of good cheer for all and Christmas is just around the bend. They are making light conversation. Chris is chatting with Macon about their new business venture they are about to embark on. They are about to become partners in a computer company. Chris has friends in high places. He will be able to line up venture capitalists to finance their DSL venture. The small talk is soon concluded and it becomes time for them to head out on their date.
Their first stop was at Starbuck’s. Chris would make his appearance at his place of work then make his wine and cheese selection at Freddie’s. They next stopped off at Safeway’s and J. C. Thriftway’s to pick up a few more things. From there it was off across the bridge to the Rogue Brewery, where they would sit down for a good long talk for the first time in a long, tumultuous year.
Chris sipped on his wine while Mary Jo worked on her Caesar Salad and Diet Coke. Not that she needed diet because she was trim as can be. But she knew that being trim was pleasing to her man and she intended to stay that way.
Staying trim for her man wasn’t exactly at the top of her agenda this night. She was ready for a good long talk with her man. The past two years had been hellish on her. So much had happened, yet so little had been discussed between the two of them. She had grown weary of this feeling of walking on eggshells when ever she tried to touch on the sensitive subjects with him. She felt that now would be the time at long last. She felt that she might finally be seeing the light at the end of the long, long tunnel. She was really beginning to enjoy bay shore life in the luxury condos at The Landing. Chris had just been promoted toa new position at Freddie’s that would bring him more hours. She was no dummy. She was well acquainted with the financial things having put in her time at her secretarial jobs long before meeting Chris.
She knew that there was no way in the world that they could afford that condo on what Chris had been earning and she certainly had questions about that It had not been that long ago that she had been a very competent employee which contributed much toward a comfortable lifestyle for the both of them. She was thinking she might like to get back out into the workforce and make it all happen again. This would be another sensitive subject with Chris. There was so much to talk about.
Candice was a real sore subject. That little tryst had left Mary Jo with more heartache than she had ever known. Many were the night that she had wrestled with just the right way to approach the subject to Chris who had remained unusually nonchalant about the whole thing. How could she get it across to him how much he had hurt her and so many others in their families and their business? She wanted to tell him about the lonely nights when she cried. But she knew the answer. She would be accused of being weak and needy.
Again she brought up the subject of open and honest communications, hoping that he wouldn’t squirm around and evade the issue like he always had before. “Chris, how can I make you understand how uneasy I am with what you did? I feel like we had to leave our home and families behind out of the embarrassment and shame over what you did, yet it has never even phased you, it seems. And you were shunned from the flock. I – I don’t understand.”
“What is there to understand Mary Jo? It’s over; it’s all in the past. Why cry over spilt milk? You are always doing that. I have apologized to everyone. I told you that I never even touched her and there has never been anyone since. Why can’t we just leave it at that, move on in our new life and put it all behind us? As your husband you should trust and believe in me when I say it is so.” Chris gave her a stern look and continued, “You see, here we are out here trying to have a nice, enjoyable evening, for the first time in a long time and you have to go and spoil it. Do you see why we go out so rarely? In fact finish up that salad. I am embarrassed to remain here. It’s time to go someplace else.”
They headed back across the bridge to the Rogue Ale House in town. During the short drive, Chris made small talk as if everything was just fine. This irritated her to no end. She hated how he always brushed off the serious stuff.
When they arrived, Chris ordered up a couple of wines. “We should have just about enough time to relax with these before the movie,” he said, “let’s make the best of it and enjoy our date and did I tell you how beautiful you look tonight? In fact, let’s have a toast…to everlasting love.”
Mary Jo raised her glass to his and they clinked together. Chris took a good hearty sip and swished it around in his mouth to savor the bouquet of the Pinio Brigio Italian white wine. Mary Jo sat there staring at him then slowly took a drink. “I am all for enjoying our date,” she answered, “after all; I can hardly remember the last time we did this. But you know we have plenty more to talk about and this is our time alone. This is our time.”
She was hoping that he would not launch into another round of small talk which more often than not had little to do with what concerned either one of them. She was concerned about what lay ahead and was hoping that Chris could reassure her that things were finally looking up. “You know how uneasy things have been, Chris. I was just hoping that there will be no more surprises and we can raise our family and feel secure that things will be good again.”
“Of course dear,” Chris responded, “you know we have more money coming in. Things are looking up. Things are going to be alright.”
“So you say but will it even be enough?” Mary Jo wondered. She was growing tired of feeding the little ones Top Ramen. “I was really hoping we could throw down roots even long enough to have a pet for the kids.”
“Sweetheart, you know how much I love those kids uh, and you. I would give my life for them. I would never let anything happen to any of you. I would die first. Those kids mean the world to me. I have told you this before, how many times? What does it take for you to believe me?”
“OK, OK hon, I’m not accusing you of not loving the kids. Please don’t get worked up. I just want what’s best for us all.” She took a sip of wine and thought about all the times Chris had shown up after work with a bottle of expensive wine and imported cheese for himself and packages of Top Ramen for the kids.
“And so do I.” he retorted, “You know what I am capable of. And I will make things right. You know that. We have been there before and we will get there again.”
“Where dear,” Mary Jo quickly answered, “this is what I am afraid of. Where we have been has not been so good. Even the good times… all those trips… are tainted. Those bad checks you wrote, they were other company’s money. Those were Final Touch clients, our suppliers who trusted us. Those vacations we took, we did not deserve them. Chris, the boat and those speedwave thingies and all that. We couldn’t afford any of …”
Chris cut her off, “Dear we have to stop this. This is not the place. We have already discussed this. I thought you understood, remember? I explained all of that for the most part. Well, we can cover this later. Right now we have to get. Finish your drink, the movie will be starting soon.” Chris downed his wine and plopped the glass down in the middle of the table. Mary Jo shoved her glass aside with the backs of her fingers. She didn’t like the stuff anyway and she was almost fuming. He had just flimflammed her again. There would be no use in saying any more. It simply wouldn’t work. It was OK though; she would be back on him soon. There were many more questions to be answered, ones that had been festering for some time. She made a pact with herself that she would continue before this night ended – if it killed her.
They drove the few blocks to the theatre in silence. As they were pulling in Chris said, “You know you should have finished your glass.”
Mary Jo opened her mouth then closed it, deciding to answer him with silence. He was out to get the last word as always. No matter what she said she would be blamed for being wasteful, a spoil sport or what ever else by the time they reached the theatre doors. So, this time he would get the last word as well as the only word. She was not in the mood for it. She didn’t think she was going to enjoy the movie they were about to see.
Chris heaved a sigh of relief once they had stepped inside the theatre. Anything was better than being grilled by Mary Jo. He wasn’t used to that. She hadn’t been on him that hard since she found his Emails to Candy. But he had handled her as always. Most anybody was putty in his hands but her especially because she loved him. Funny thing about love Chris had learned through his years; you get them to love you and you get control of them. Love wasn’t so bad.
Chris was looking forward to the movie. He had always been a real movie buff and he had heard that this one was a good one. He would get to leave his reality behind for two hours and indulge his fantasies. If Mary Jo would just sit quietly through it, everything would be OK.
Soon he was thoroughly enjoying the movie. He was George Clooney, masterminding the greatest ever heist of a casino. He and his crew were busting out of there with millions! He knew he could do it, too, if he were just a little more criminally inclined and if he could put together his own crew. Look at all he had accomplished so far. There was nothing he couldn’t do with the right tools and the right fools. Other folks might think it would be awfully hard to pull off a caper like that but Chris knew he could do it for real. And that movie was only fiction. Aw but what a life. Everybody respecting him wherever he went, all that money, all those women, traveling anywhere in the world he wanted to go. Someday he would do something really big. He looked every bit as handsome as George Clooney, too. Maybe he should be an actor; that would be even easier than masterminding a heist and he would probably get richer. All he would have to do is grow a couple days worth of beard, pin his ears back a bit and, uh!
Mary Jo was tugging on his sleeve, “Chris this movie is awful, the whole thing is about stealing from others. There is nothing at all worthy about that. It glorifies sin.”
“Aw c’mon Mary Jo, not again. It’s just a movie; it’s not like its reality. It’s made for entertainment. Can’t you let it entertain you?”
“Not in the least. What ever happened to good movies? You know – the kind that had socially redeeming value?”
“OK, you’ve made your point. I happen to think it’s a good movie like everybody else in here. If you don’t get it, maybe you could pipe down so you don’t disturb anyone else and I will explain it all later.”
“Oh, right Chris, I didn’t say I didn’t understand the darned thing. Go ahead and enjoy your precious movie. I will suffer through it as always.” She had made her point and that was all she intended to do. Most of the time she would say nothing but this night was different. She had always felt he got a little too excited by these kinds of movies, for a man who remained pretty stoic about so many other things she found importance in. She would have rather put up with the wine so she could keep talking than waste good money on this. Oh well, she would indulge him as always. The night was still young. There would be time left. Chris was a night owl and she would be one too.
In the time it took for the movie to finish, Chris had managed to wind himself back into the plot. As they were making their exit, Chris had that look in his eyes again. Mary Jo could tell, it always made her uncomfortable. It always seemed the more larcenous type of movie that brought out that look. It was scary on the one hand but on the other he would remind her of a little kid.
As they returned to the van he was laying out his version of how he would have carried off the heist. “You know with all that trouble they went to with that fire alarm diversion, they could have utilized a smoke bomb with percussion grenade ploy,” Chris rattled on, “and then a low frequency wave diverter would have been imperceptible. It’s so simple. I simply can’t believe these dummies. And then they could have had all their ducks lined up in a row. It would have been like shooting fish in a barrel with a simple articulation of the qua…wha?
Mary Jo had given his arm a frantic tug, “Chris, where is the KIDVAN?” She said in a hushed voice.
“Jumping Jehovah Mary Jo, its right over there. What’s going on with you anyway?”
Mary Jo had taken a chance on a little subterfuge of her own. She was trying a diversion tactic to switch “her dreamer” out of that mode, otherwise he would go on and on from one triviality to the next. She thought if she could shift his focus back on berating her she might steer him back around to what’s important. “Oh of course, there is the van, dear. Good thing I have a gendarme by the arm.”
“Huh, oh yes. I was just saying that these crooks did a lousy job.”
“Oh, I know dear, you could have done better easily. But you know, like you said - it’s only entertainment.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t know what I meant Mary Jo, if I were the movie director, I would have done a much better job.”
“Oh, I know dear, you’re right. You would have done a much better job… Well now, where to now?”
Mary Jo was embarking on a new strategy.
“Uh, well back to The Landing.”
“Uh dear, I was thinking about our spot and I was thinking about that nice bottle of wine we picked up earlier.” She felt she was turning into a regular little, Ms. Manipulator. She had been around him long enough that she was learning how to push some of his buttons to get him to do things she wanted. Of course it didn’t always work but this time it did.
Chris gave her a strange look, “Oh sure, OK I guess.”
She had achieved her desired effect. She had caught him off guard and he actually agreed to something she said. She could tell she had confused him a bit. He wasn’t expecting her to give him a come on like that. It’s not what she would usually do. But she was on a mission and she would succeed in shoving some more wine down him. That should loosen him up so he might cough up more details on what she knew he had been holding back. Chris drove them down to their special spot on Bayfront Dr. stopping by the Circle K to pick up some crackers.
.Once they had arrived at their viewpoint, it was anything but romantic. It was OK by Mary Jo, though as she was not there for an intimate experience. It was just as well anyhow, as intimacy was something less and less being shared between the two of them. She had long ago exhausted herself trying to get at the reasons why Chris seemed to fear that so. She had come to accept that as part of his fractured personality. Tonight she would settle for some simple explanations, a daunting task in itself.
She started things off with small talk to loosen up his tongue. She talked about Zach who would soon be needing to start school and she mentioned it would be nice if the whole family could go on an excursion, perhaps on a boat ride or something. She so enjoyed watching the boats come and go from their veranda. She loved the view. Their place had really grown on her. She was looking forward to the spring season on the waterfront. She talked about how she missed the fellowship of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and probed him again on how they might be able to inconspicuously get involved with the local Kingdom Hall. She felt it would be spiritually cleansing for the whole family. To her it was a natural progression leaving behind a troubled past and leading toward redemption in the eyes of Jehovah.
Mary Jo certainly was no drinker but she was actually enjoying her glass of wine. One advantage of having a van was that they could comfortably enjoy such a pastime. It seemed to be working quite well for Chris. She decided to gently remind him about the biggest reason for their night out together – to talk about things.
“Well then, I better tell you about The Landing.” Chris was beginning to talk. “There is something coming up.”
“Yes.” Mary Jo had to say something to break the long, lull of silence that followed Chris’s statement. All thoughts of comfort and enjoyment proceeded to flow right out of her head because she knew a bombshell was coming. “Oh no Chris, don’t tell me there are troubles with our new home again.”
“I am afraid so, it’s the same thing. Rent is coming due and we won’t have it.”
“Oh no, oh no, don’t let this be happening again. Chris you told me it would be different this time. You said everything would be good and this would be the beginning of the brand new life you had envisioned.
“How much can it be? You are getting more hours at work now – I can work.”
“It’s a lot Mary Jo. I haven’t paid them anything.”
“What?” She screamed out, “Why not Chris? You said you paid them plenty. Where did the money go?”
“Uh, I bought stuffed animals for the kids.”
“Chris, Chris what good will stuffed animals do when we have no place to live?”
“Now calm down dear, no reason to get over excited like you do. There are plenty of other places to live.”
“God damn you Chris!” Mary Jo never said those words but she was saying them now, “I won’t let you turn this back on me this time. Again you have done something terribly wrong, not me. You are condemning our whole family in the eyes of Jehovah. You have conned these people too. What kind of scheme did you pull to get us into this place with no money down? No, no I don’t even want to know. We are still on the run. It’s never going to change. Oh Chris, why – why?”
“Don’t cry Mary Jo, you never cry. I’ll fix it like I always do. We can get through this.” Mary Jo’s tears seemed to trigger something in Chris. This was the watershed moment. He proceeded to fill her in on all the sordid details on how he lied to the management at The Landing. He filled in all the details on how he masqueraded as the big time cable company executive in town on a big project, how he told them about the big check that was in the mail to cover an extended stay, how he had neglected to mention he had a family moving in.
“But what then, Chris? You are always so concerned about appearances but you can’t ever seem to think of tomorrow. What do we do when we get kicked out again? You have a job now, we have friends. We were establishing a place for us in this community. But what do we do when the truth comes out? How are you going to use your presentation to get us out of this one?”
“But I will, I will Mary Jo, just like I’ve done before. Don’t cry, I will take care of everything. You know you can trust me.”
“I can trust you…just like before? That’s just it Chris. I know there is more. There is plenty more to tell. I have been on pins and needles for so long, I can’t remember. I’m so tired Chris. I swear it seems I can’t take any more. Talk to me Chris.”
Chris kept on. Before long, she knew all about the other clients of their cleaning company he had ripped off by counterfeiting their checks and the full story as to why they had to load up and leave their warehouse home in Toledo so quickly. Dark suspicions she had carried for so long were affirmed. They were on borrowed time. Chris was a wanted man. Sooner or later the authorities would catch up with them.
Mary Jo could not stop crying. She knew Chris was finally coming clean at long last. But his words were having such a powerful affect on her, she could hardly stand it. She wanted to keep going but the pressure was too great, like her head was being squeezed in one of those workmen’s vice tools. The glass of wine was not feeling like such a good idea after all. She found herself suddenly missing the comfort of being with her babies. “Chris we must go home now. There is so much going through my head now. I, I guess I just need a little time to digest it all. I know you have more to tell. Chris, look at your eyes. How are mine? We can’t be looking bad to the Thompsons when we get back. Things are going to be bad enough soon enough.”
Mary Jo had never been happier to be back home. As anxious as she had been earlier to spend some serious time with Chris, now she found herself fighting the feeling to run far away from him. But where would she run, how? Once the Thompson’s had been seen off and the kids were tucked in, she plopped down on the bed and tried to sooth her aching head. Chris came walking through to the bathroom. She covered her eyes. He walked back out without a word.
Mary Jo felt horrible as she lay there. Her head was splitting. Her insides were churning. She didn’t think she had ever felt this bad before. She wanted to scream out loud if not for little Madison sound asleep beside her. Instead she rolled over and between sobs, heaved wine and bits of Caesar Salad to the carpet.
Chris re-entered the bedroom. “Oh no Mary Jo, what have you done? That will have to be cleaned up. Yep, well obviously we do need to talk.”
“No Chris, no! I can’t take any more. Get out of here. Just get out of here. Just leave us alone. I don’t care what you do. You have taken away our future, Chris. You have killed us. I feel sick inside. Leave me alone.”
Chris turned on his heel and was out the door. He had had enough too. Wasn’t it always the same? He was ready to talk, get it all out, lay all the cards on the table and she had to go and pull a stunt like that. Plus, she had never before spoken to him like that. He grabbed a fresh bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, some good cheese and crackers and headed for the balcony
It was a cold, blustery night, typical of winter on the Oregon coast, but never too cold for a nice glass of wine, certainly better than that mess inside. As hard as he wanted to keep that family together, he needed these occasional interludes. He gazed across the harbor at all the boats. Christmas was coming and many of the boats were lit up for the occasion. It was quite picturesque.
He imagined himself hopping into one of them and sailing off to the south of Mexico. Being that he was a Master Diver, it would be nothing for him to explore the coral reefs, searching for lost Mayan ruins. It wouldn’t be that hard to just hop into one of them and cast off. But then there was Mary Jo and the kids. It seemed like they were always messing up his plans.
It seemed like everywhere he went, every thing he did, that family of his was always dragging him down – like an anchor. The little bit of food picked up at the Thriftway earlier would not last the family long. He took a long sip of his Sauvignon and swished it around with his tongue to savor the bouquet. He sliced off a perfect square of his New York cheese and placed it on his cracker; a perfect fit. And he pondered the situation of keeping his family fed. It seemed that no matter how hard he tried, not a single one of them could appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifice he personally suffered in doing so.
Well, one thing was for sure, he was not happy about how Mary Jo had spoken to him. Who did she think she was anyway? She had become so boring. Why couldn’t she have stayed like she was when he first met her, fun and sexy; now she was nothing but a blauze’ momma. He could tell that she was definitely up to something. But she was no match for him; no matter what she had going on in that daft head of hers. First she wants to talk to him and then she doesn’t. Either she couldn’t make up her weak mind or she was trying to make him feel bad about things, more than likely the latter. But what did she know? She didn’t know jack squat. She didn’t have a clue about the things he had accomplished in the past year – and it was all done for her and those kids. He had sacrificed everything for them. What ever she was up to she would not get away with it. He gulped down his glass and headed back inside.
Back in the bedroom was a sorry sight. Mary Jo was lying there staring at the wall. Chris had never seen her quite this bad but no problem. He figured this to be one of the times she would me malleable as silly putty. She was weak like everyone else – susceptible to his presentation. Yet his heart went out to her – poor, pathetic thing.
“I’m so sorry you don’t feel well. You are so fragile. Here let me clean this up.” Chris gathered some cleanup materials and cleaned the vomit from the carpet. That would guilt trip her good. “You know I have always wanted the best for us and I have sacrificed so much for us. You have no idea. Good thing I have what it takes or we would be in deep doo doo. Do you know what I mean?”
Mary Jo weakly nodded her head. She had gone quiet. This was good. When she was like this she was easy to manipulate. What a shame he had to deal with her in such a fashion but after all, she was only a woman. One must do what one must do. It was a good thing he could read people as well as he could and he could read her like a book. She would be so miserable and helpless without him. She would be totally lost.
Chris gently sat on the bed next to her and knelt down close, speaking in a hoarse whisper so as not to disturb sleeping Madison, “You poor little lamb. It is good that you have calmed down finally. You get too excited. You could end up getting yourself real sick, then where would the family be?” Chris stroked her hair and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “Let me tell you what it has taken to keep us together. It has been hard on me, you know.”
Chris proceeded to play the sympathy card. It always worked to calm her down and ensure his complete control of a situation. “OK, let me tell you about some things dear. Things are not all that bad. I’ve done what I had to do and I have done it for you and the kids so please try to understand. We are no longer living within the safe, secure confines of the congregation. We live out in the world now and it is a harsh cruel world and we must conduct ourselves as the others do, just as the bible says. When it is dog eat dog, you do what you must and fortunately I have always been up to the task. The teachings say that I must be the provider and I have done just that. And you have followed me just as it is said. You know, getting into that warehouse in Toledo was not an easy task. I devoted a lot of time searching for just the right place for us to fix up. I know I told you I paid a year in advance according to the standard lease but I didn’t. I worked out a special deal but it was just too expensive. We left there owing them.”
“Oh Chris them too? They will be after us too! Why oh why did we have to live in a warehouse? We could have lived somewhere far cheaper. It seemed like it was more for just storing all that stuff of yours. And what about all that stuff? How could we afford that if we couldn’t afford the other.”
“You mean the boat and the wave runners and the utility trailers and the bobcat. Well you know, they were kind of stolen, I think. But I didn’t steal them. It’s not like I am a criminal or anything. I bought all that stuff from Bob, cheap. I never asked him where they came from.”
“I can’t believe this. You could not have kept all of this secret from me. Then everything you told me about all that stuff was lies and on top of that, it is criminal. You were receiving stolen property. Don’t tell me you don’t know that.”
Chris acknowledged that it would technically be criminal and proceeded to move ahead with another one of his rationalizations, explaining all of the reasons why if he hadn’t bought the items someone else would have and how anyone who gets ahead does the same kinds of things and how he had done it for the family so them and the entire extended family could have fun and good times out on the water and be looking good in the process. Then he moved into his scheme he had worked out to register out of state and transfer ownership to make everything nice and legal.
Then he went on to tell her about the Penske rental truck used in their cross country run and how he had absconded with that. “Dear you had to have known how I got a hold of that truck.”
Mary was holding her head and not speaking. A clear sign he was still in control. He would keep going and lay it all on her. It was for the best.
He went on to tell her about stealing the tank of gas in Newport and the small matter of pawning the crab trap there as well. He worked at making her understand how he had no choice concerning the gas because they were down to their last dime and how they wouldn’t be able to get around and how he wouldn’t be able to drive to work to earn the money to feed the babies. He made her understand that the crab trap had just been lying around the old house down in Waldport, nobody was using it and after they had been kicked out of that house for non-payment he had simply turned it into badly needed spending cash so the kids could eat at McDonalds and nobody would miss it anyway.
Chris was on a roll so he kept on rolling. It was actually beginning to feel good getting it all off his chest. Mary Jo was squirming a lot and strangely that seemed to make him feel better too. It was about time she felt his suffering. He couldn’t keep it bottled up forever. He proceeded to tell her about his dad’s credit card and how he had rung up the $10,000 debt on it without his knowledge and how his dad still did not know he had done that even after they had left Ypsilanti and moved to Toledo, Ohio. He told her about the KIDVAN. Indeed the custom “KIDVAN” license plate was theirs but the Pontiac Montana van they had been riding around in all this time was not. He had stolen it from the Pontiac dealership outside of Ypsilanti. He reminded her of how often she had driven the van and gotten plenty of use out of it.
Mary Jo was crying. “Chris you are always rationalizing everything. You seem to think that every thing you do is ok because you say it is. But it’s not! That was stealing – out and out. There is no rationalizing that. You stole from people, that is a sin. You have damned us in the eyes of Jehovah. How could you Chris? What is wrong with your brain? I don’t understand.”
“Oh Mary Jo, you are always thinking in terms of right and wrong. You seem to be totally unaware of the gray area which is the rest of the world. Like I said we have to live in it. I am sorry I made you cry dear. Now you have made me feel bad.”
“You feel bad? My God, what about how I feel?” Mary Jo’s voice was raised but still almost drowned out by her sobs, “What you don’t understand is that you have become a criminal. I don’t care what everybody else does. We were not raised like this, Chris. It was not always like this. In the beginning I had a good job, so did you. We had everything we needed. Oh Lord what has happened? How could you do this to us? How could you do this to you. You could end up in hell, us too. I …hate to ask what more.”
”But I have always been a good husband and father. Even that time in Chicago…”
“What the…what are you talking about now, Chris?”
“I’m just saying that that woman who came on to me during that NY Times convention in Chicago didn’t get me because I wouldn’t let her, like all the other times. We had a two hour dinner then she came up to my room and I stopped her before anything could happen. I have restraint you know.” Chris conveniently left out some details about some other women such as that time the paper sent him to San Francisco.
“You say this now, after telling me about all these lies and deceptions and you expect me to believe you?” Mary Jo’s voice was rising, “I have followed you faithfully throughout this entire, crazy journey, despite how terribly I have missed my fellowship and my family and yours. I have stood behind you as ordained in the Book. And I have been faithful to you. I don’t know what you have been. I don’t know you. I can’t trust anything you say. I have lost faith in you, Chris.”
Madison had awakened and begun to cry. Mary Jo set about comforting the baby, giving Chris the green light to slip out of there quickly. It was a good thing, too because he was feeling that he was about to go hysterically crazy out of his head. He had finally been open and honest with her, sort of; and look what happens! He headed back to the balcony where the sauvignon would be plenty chilled. He was thinking how he needed to give her space. No, he needed to cool down, to hell with her.
There was his inner voice speaking to him again.
Now you’ve really done it. You have poured out all your secrets to her now. What were you thinking?
“Damn,” he blurted out into the night air, “What in hell was I thinking?”
Chris proceeded to mentally kick his butt for being such a dolt and a softy. He asked himself what on earth was wrong with him. He had told her way more than she needed to know and even enjoyed doing it! What did this mean? Why couldn’t he do things right like his dad? He would never do stupid things like this. And dad was just a mere human, nothing special. But it was different for Chris. He had to do everything right. Absolutely everything! Chris had a special relationship with Jehovah that nobody else knew about. But hell was not an option. What could he do to atone to Jehovah?
You know what you must do. We’ve gone over this before.
“Shut the fuck up!” Chris didn’t usually holler at his inner voice or use profanity but sometimes he just didn’t want to hear it. He had been following his inner voice for as long as he could remember and it had always done him well, up until now. He was in a situation. The feelings going through him were new and strange. He was feeling a kind of rage from inside, something different to a fellow who was known for keeping his cool. Heck, even when he was mad he rarely ever seemed to feel that way. It was just a show he put on to impress someone or make something happen. But this was different. He was mad at Mary Jo for sassing him and mad at himself or perhaps mad at his damned inner voice. He wasn’t quite sure.
He put his head in his hands and wracked his brains. With as high as his IQ was there had to be a way for him to think his way out of his mess. He found himself looking toward his inner voice again as he had done so many times before. He had sometimes been accused of being impulsive but he really wasn’t. Sometimes his inner voice would tell him to do things and he would just do them because if he couldn’t trust his inner voice which was, of course his own self, then who could he trust? So its not that he was impulsive – it was more like he was decisive – a man of action, so to speak. But alas, he had to admit that he was nothing more than a schmuck who followed orders. Mary Jo had said that she did not know him. He felt like he didn’t know himself. Who was in charge?
You are in charge you stupid idiot. All the things you have accomplished in your life and you sit here like some dope. Does it all lead up to this. You know what you are entitled to. What about that million dollars you were going to make? How are you going to do that in this dink town, slinging lattes or selling hardware for Freddies? You don’t even like working retail and look at you now. Do you want to be a failure for the rest of your life? You got to get the fuck out of here. You got to get mad. You got to be a man. You heard what Mary Jo said in there. She can’t live without you and you can’t live with her if you are ever going to amount to anything. So you just can’t up and leave her now can you. If you keep going the way you are you will surely drag them all down to hell along with you, as it is written. And you can all suffer for an eternity just like you do now. But you can give them a chance. You know how.
“Shit,” he hollered out into the night air, “dammit.” The sea lions that had been engaged in their unique chorus which consists of a cacophony of barking suddenly went quiet. Now he had a headache, thanks to Mary Jo. He refilled his wine glass and swished some around with his tongue to savor the bouquet. Then he cut off a perfect sized square from his cheese and mated it to a cracker. He stared out into the harbor. There was a stiff wind blowing in from the west. He could hear bells jangling along with the fog horn blowing. The lights strung across many of the boats were whipping in the wind, making for a mesmerizing scene. One sailboat in particular had this goofy looking greenish blowup Santa tied off the top of the main mast. It looked like some kind of grinch. Actually it was kind of evil looking for a Santa. It whipped around crazily in the blowing wind. The thing had an evil grin on it. Chris pondered whether or not he liked all the noise that was going on out in the harbor. It was the middle of the night, not a creature was stirring yet it sounded like a dozen dairy farms during an earthquake. He reached for the wine glass and swilled some around in his mouth to savor the bouquet. He did it again.
Chris decided to just relax and chill out on a chilly Saturday night in Newport. The sauvignon tasted mighty fine and he felt he might just polish it off to keep himself warm. It’s not like he had a whole lot of options, what with a passed out wife inside and a gaggle of sleeping kids spread out from the bedroom to the living room. He would just sit there and have a little communion with his other side. It might seem a little crazy – but no crazier than the night scene in the harbor that lay out in front of him.
This night on the balcony was different from his previous wine and cheese nights. Before, he would come out to relax and allow the wine to wash away all his troubles. Since the family had arrived at the coast, any more, these were about his only opportunities to chill out.
He was feeling a strong pull that the wine could not seem to counteract. In his thoughts, his inner voice seemed to be working him over – almost making fun of him. Where before, it would be telling him he was the master of his own ship and he could sail away to parts unknown and really enjoy life, now it was calling him a dismal loser that would never amount to anything.
It seemed as if the Fargo family had reached the end of the line, the end of land and the end of life as he had once known it. This town could not seem to supply him with what he needed – what he craved.
It was the people. Chris could care less about his recent promotion to the Freddies Home Improvement Center. He hated retail. The people in this town were down to earth, simple folk, not at all the kind of people Chris conspired to consort with. They didn’t look like him, think like him, dress like him or share his thirst for the exciting life. They hardly ever had any money to speak of. They were no different than the families he had left behind. Where were the beautiful people?
What’s more; not only was this place cold, wet and windy but there were no opportunities here. He could not put together any entrepreneurial pursuits that would be beneficial to his style of business. He was like a fish out of water. These people were so simple minded they couldn’t even put two and two together without getting four. None of them had ever been anywhere to speak of nor did they much care about where he had been, not that he dared offer much concerning his recent travels. Yes, there were some things that needed to be kept secret. He could never tell any of these people too much about where he came from, no matter how much it would have impressed them. Well, in time he would. In time, perhaps he would become a writer and tell his story to the entire world. He just had to get himself into the right place.
Chris re-busied himself with his taste testing task at hand. Somewhere along the line he closed his eyes for a moment.
Chris shook his head vigorously. He had spent many a long, boring day in G Pod but he generally managed to keep his thoughts occupied. He had certainly never devoted this much time to thinking about this. Perhaps he was nervous about the upcoming verdict. He was sure he would soon be acquitted and be walking free again. He could only imagine what that would be like. But what about those nagging doubts that kept pestering him; something to do with LIFE SENTENCE!
“Brrr.” Chris gave a shiver. He surely didn’t like thinking about that. He must have really become lost in thought. Much time had passed and he was tired. It seemed as if the arduous trial was taking its toll. He went ahead and went about his nightly rituals in his little cell, crawled into his little cot, covered himself with his one blanket, rolled over and closed his eyes.
The Final Act
Do something about it you chump.
“Wha…” His inner voice rousted him out of some kind of blue funk. Once he had polished off the last of the sauvignon, he had become so lost in thought, he might have zoned out a bit.
It was good that he had taken the time to think things through. That inner voice of his could be damned. He was his own man and he knew what to do. His situation was no different than what had been written long ago by Brigham Young himself, the very man who formed the Mormon religion. Chris knew a lot more about religions than anybody knew. Brigham was very decisive about things. There was no doubt about what he would do when he discovered one of his wives lying with another. And Chris well knew that, long before him, Moses was no different. It was not like Chris had no inkling about what had gone on with Mary Jo and that guy from CNN. People thought he didn’t know things – but he knew plenty! There were things that he knew that no one else alive knew. He had special insight. He knew that Mary Jo had sinful thoughts, no matter what everyone else thought. Why should she be any different from the rest? People only see what they see, they have no idea what goes on behind closed minds.
Chris knew what he had to do to atone for himself as well as to the eyes of the Almighty. Chris was very knowledgeable in the teachings as well as the ways of the world. Mary Jo’s sassiness had certainly managed to prove what he had known all along; she needed to be chastised. He would have to get stern with her.
Chris looked out over the harbor. Just beyond that barking, clanging cacophony lie the deep blue sea and beyond that… well, perhaps time was drawing closer to find out. He took another swig from his empty wine glass, swished it around in his mouth to savor the bouquet, rose from the lounge chair and went inside.
It is time to stand up. It is time to be more than a mere man.
Chris was thinking as he crept toward the bedroom and gently nudged the door open far enough to see Mary Jo and Madison sound asleep on the bed. He silently slipped the bedroom door closed behind him as he crept to the foot of the bed and looked down upon the sleeping figures. Chris was vaguely aware of his heart beating loudly. Unlike times before when he had crept around in the dark of night, this time it was loud in his ears. He put his hands to his ears and closed his eyes tight, willing the loud beating of his heart to quiet down before awakening everyone.
When he reopened his eyes he could still see his wife and child sleeping along with the figure of a human standing over them. He watched as little Madison stirred and opened his eyes. He watched as the figure placed two hands over little Madison’s face, totally covering it and the wide eyes. Two strong forearms held the little writhing body in place until the body stopped moving. Chris looked down upon this scene complacently. He made no move to alter what was transpiring for he knew that it was right.
The scene was suddenly interrupted by Mary Jo twisting around and rising up from the bed. She saw Madison and her mouth opened wide as if to scream. Chris was quick to respond, pouncing on her with the quickness of a predator. He grabbed her with one hand over her mouth, “This is not allowed. You may not speak. You must accept your punishment in silence, for you have sinned.”
Mary Jo struggled ferociously, clawing at his face forcing him to take evasive maneuvers. She pulled his hand from her face and he instinctively grabbed her throat to keep her quiet. “You must obey,” he snarled as he tightened his grip.
Mary Jo, realizing that she was fighting for her life found the agility in her petite body to hook a leg around his neck and pull him off. She jumped to her feet gasping for air and made for the door. But Chris
reached out a long arm, tripping her. As she struggled to her feet, Chris was there.
Barely able to speak or breathe she gasped, “Oh Lord help you. You have killed us all.”
Chris hauled back and slugged her square in the face knocking her back against the wall with an audible thud. He wrapped both hands around her throat and squeezed. He was looking square into her wide open eyes. “Do not call upon the Lord,” he hissed, “for I am the witness to the almighty Jehovah. I am the messenger and you did this. This was your fault.” He squeezed harder while holding her body against the wall and lifting until her dainty feet had left the floor.
Her struggles soon ceased and her body went limp. What Chris could not see or could never feel was Mary Jo’s gentle soul slipping away from this earth, taking along all of her hopes and dreams for the future of her and her precious family including all she had stood for in this life. The anointed one released his grip from her throat and her, now still body, fell to the floor. “This was your quickening Mary Jo,” he whispered as he stepped over her body, “now sleep.”
Chris stepped out into the living room, quietly latching the bedroom door behind him. Zach and Sadie remained sound asleep as the cable television channel played in the background, the Lion King tape having long ago finished. Chris grabbed the remote and muted the volume. He was aware that the loud beating of his heart had quickly subsided. He felt much better, quite relieved but tired. He stood looking down at his two children wrapped up in their favorite comforter, on the sofa bed. They looked like Jehovah’s two little angels. He so liked to gaze upon their cherubic faces during those times when they were sound asleep. Sleeping little ones made his heart grow fond. Something else they did this time was to make him sleepy. He grabbed the spare blankets, moved Sadie aside, snuggled up on the sofa and dropped off into a well deserved sleep.
Chris could hear those bells clanging then there was a sudden scream. He awoke with a start, banging his head on the concrete wall. That deranged idiot was at it again in the cell below him, dragging his tin cup along the cell bars and hollering. The guards were quick to attend to the disturbance as usual. As the din died down Chris was vaguely cognizant of a dream or something. Had he fallen asleep? He was aware of having been deep in thought about his family. He sure did miss them. He was well aware that wakeup call would be coming soon, so he rolled over and closed his eyes. Sleep came to him quickly as always.
“Hey Daddy, watcha doing here?” Chris stirred awake with Zach’s face in his. He thought he had been having that dream again but couldn’t be sure, he vaguely recalled something cold and dark but hard.
“Oh, this was my time to sleep out here with you kids, Madison is in sleeping with Momma.” Chris responded. He noticed the clock said 8 AM, “Well, we better rustle up some breakfast for everyone, how about pizza?”
“Yes Daddy, that sounds real good.” Zach answered with a beaming smile.
“OK then, Chris answered, “I tell you what. You go ahead and start the bathwater so you kids can get cleaned up to start the day and I will get on that pizza.”
“OK Dad, deal,” Zach replied as he enthusiastically bounced into the bathroom.
Chris hauled himself up off the sofa and headed into the bedroom. There was Madison on the bed right where she belonged. But Mary Jo was on the floor. She had not gotten up and gone to sleep. Chris nudged her in the ribs. She didn’t move. The thought occurred to him that she wouldn’t be moving anymore. He picked her up and laid her beside Madison, where she belonged. She and Madison were always together. Madison had been an unplanned baby just as the other two had been. It had always been Mary Jo’s responsibility to handle Madison particularly. And for now, he would handle the other two.
Chris returned to the living room. Zach was busying himself with the leftover pizza while Sadie had scurried into the bathroom where the bathwater was running. She was about to get into the tub, “Is it time for my bath Daddy?”
“Jump on in Sadie,” Chris replied.
Once she had gotten in, he immediately wrapped one hand around her face and held her struggling body down with the other, pushing her hard into the bottom of the tub until the struggling stopped. He turned off the running water and once he was sure the little Sadie was no more, he pulled the body out and set it aside. He then made his way back into the kitchen where Zach had been getting things ready. He was always the little man of the house. “OK Daddy, I am getting things ready so we can eat and maybe we can all do something fun today. Can we daddy?”
“Of course we can. OK let’s get into that tub and get our day started then.”
“OK Daddy, here I come.” Zach put his fingers together in front of him and scurried into the bathroom making sounds like a motor boat. His eyes went wide as he entered the bathroom and spied his limp sister.
Chris grabbed his son and pulled him to the tub. “Daddy what are you doing?” Zach’s voice had the shrill pitch of a child caught up in something way wrong.
“I am sending you to a better place.” Chris muscled his son into the tub. He didn’t go down easily.
“Daddy, daddy no, oh no!” His son’s wail ended in a gurgle of bubbles as his head went underwater. Chris throttled heavily on his son’s little neck. Zach fought mightily to save his life, kicking hard at his dad. It was all Chris could do to get it over with. Soon he found himself staring down into the wide open eyes of his son. His firstborn had been the last to go. What was it about those eyes? Were they Mary Jo’s eyes? There was no fear in those eyes. They were angry eyes. Chris was feeling very strange, like he was dis-embodied. It was dark all around him and he could hardly move, almost as if in a dream. He was trapped and could barely move as the angry eyes in the water bore down on him like a tsunami wave. They were coming for him!
Chris awakened with a start. It was wakeup call at the jailhouse. He had had that dream again and he was sweating. But it was way worse this time. It had never been this bad. His heart was beating all the way into his ears. He had never awakened like this before. Chris placed his sweaty hands in front of him and stared. The realization of where he was crept back into him like it did everyday he awakened in the jailhouse, when that fleeting fear would whisk through him, reminding him that it could be this way for the rest of his days. And there was something else. The realization had finally sunk in – it wasn’t all about him. There was a family once – that had depended upon him to keep them safe from the ravages of the world. The thought came into his head crystal clear. It turns out that I’m the one that my family needed protection from!
By the time Chris settled into the witness chair for his final day of testimony, any prior murky thoughts, dreams, fear or nervousness were far behind him. His head was as clear as a bell as he continued to recount the story of his life and his small family’s long journey into the abyss. He recounted in great detail how Mary Jo had picked him up from work on that fateful night and he had discovered, to his horror that two children were missing and that diminutive Mary Jo had indeed murdered them and dumped their weighted bodies into the Waldport Slough down south and that little Madison’s body lay in their bedroom near death. He explained how he tried to make sense of what had happened and how he tried to soothe the hysterical Mary Jo and make her aware of what she was putting him through. He described a battle royale including screaming and “…yelling as loud as I’d ever yelled before,” ultimately resulting in the end of her life but strangely not arousing the suspicion of anyone else in the condo. He apologized to her extended family for sullying Mary Jo’s name by implicating her in this heinous murder but explained how he had to make things right in the eyes of Jehovah and the rest of the world.
Indeed that was the crucial turning point. It was Chris's testimony that convinced the jury of Chris's reality - one far different from most of ours. The jury came back with seven counts of murder in the first degree. Then, Chris played his final card. The jailhouse shrink had laid a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder on him. He would use his NPD as a mitigating factor to prevent him from receiving a death sentence. It was a valiant effort but it didn't fly with Judge Huckleberry.
Christopher Michael Fargo, a.k.a.: Michael Fargo, a.k.a.: Michael Finkelstein, renowned writer now resides on death row at Oregon State Penitentiary. He is known as #14509855.
It looks like Christopher's wild hell-ride has come to an end.
But then again…you never know.
Indeed you do never know. This story is based upon an actual case, written in the "creative non-fiction" style. For publishing reasons names have been changed to protect the innocent as well as the guilty, unfortunately. Since this was written, there have been new developments in this case. There is much more to this story, one reason being that I am not done with Chris yet.
The full story will include the valiant fight Mary Jo’s family put up to see to Chris’ conviction including a particular dressing down delivered to Chris during his trial sentencing by one sister we will call Penny. It will include the ensuing lawsuit filed by her.
Not long after Chris entered Death Row, a certain young lady came a calling. We will call her Sheena. As so often happens in the cases of narcissistic killers – they attract the attention of the opposite sex even behind bars. Chris’ case is no different. He has received correspondence from quite a number of crackpots. He does not answer these. Also he refuses all media contacts. Some might consider this unusual for narcissists who generally tend to shoot their mouths off. However his silence may be masking another agenda. Back to Sheena.
Sheena is a young lady close to the same age as Chris. Evidently she stood out among all the others and Chris chose to bring her into his confidence. And so began another jailbird relationship as is so common in prisons all across this nation. These women who are attracted to killers behind bars are a peculiar breed. In fact CrimeTV.com has written a special article on that subject.
Sheena became his “media representative.” Chris put her in charge of all his correspondence and proceeded to write her letters on a daily basis. She proceeded to visit him twice a week on a regular basis.
Future writings will include more details concerning Chris’ mesmerizing personality, how it was developed, how it became narcissistically disordered and how he continues to use his so called “presentation” to get what he wants even as he remains behind bars. It will include details of how a naďve young woman comes to contact a convicted murderer out of curiosity and some kind of need to understand. It will include how, over time what I call a narcissistic dyad comes into existence. This is the strange relationship involving the narcissist and its victim that invariably leads to life altering events. The narcissist is very subtle and clever as it gradually asserts control over the intended victim. They are diabolically effective at this and the victim is more often than not, barely cognizant of what is happening to them.
Included in those daily letters to Sheena was a written account of his life – or shall we say, his version of it. He has presented another version of the murders that is yet different than the version he presented in court testimony. This version also pins the blame on Mary Jo, of course. He goes on to claim that she was inspired by a TV news report involving Andrea Yates that she viewed in their home back in Ypsilanti, back before Chris embarked the family on his journey of death. Interestingly, Andrea Yates has made the news again. Her convictions of murdering all of her children have been overturned. It has to do with testimony concerning a TV show that supposedly might have influenced her to murder. Interesting!
So, Andrea will get her retrial as Chris sits in his jail cell waiting for his first appeal to be heard. No sweat though, Chris always finds things to keep him occupied, such as typing up legal papers for the “baldies” as he calls the other Death Row inmates. He says they are all bald with hairy backs. Then he has little Sheena. She has amassed quite a portfolio on him over time. She has all his letters and drawings. She has devoted quite a lot of effort and expense helping with his appeal and doing legal followup work for him. Of course she also gives him money, like they all do. She sees herself as a concerned citizen who is doing what she needs to do on his behalf. She may not be aware that she could be becoming his dupe, nothing more than a tool to enable him to continue his narcissistic pursuits – basically his conduit to the outside world.
She may not be aware that the prison officials refer to her as simply his “girlfriend,” no different that any of the others who come to visit. Although, I believe she is very much aware of her role in getting his life story out there. There is only one way he can get his story out and that is through her. In the beginning she claimed to have no desire in writing his story but that has changed. Who is to say what his psychopathic mind is really up to but it appears that he has succeeded in getting prison officials running in circles trying to figure him out. They feel he is trying to sneak out his story so he can derive profits from it. He has written plenty. That may very well be the case. Chris is not a bad writer but nowhere near good enough to pull off a book. But is he seeking help? Does he have Sheena out there making deals? We don’t know yet. But we might soon?
For those of us who believed that there are laws preventing killers from profiting from their stories, be advised that that is not the case in a number of states. And Oregon is one of them. Enter Penny.
One can only assume that when Mary Jo’s sister, the one we will call Penny, got wind of these shenanigans she may not have been too impressed. No matter that she lives on the other side of the country. She reached out and touched Chris again. She found herself a lawyer in Oregon and slapped a wrongful death lawsuit on Chris, one million dollars for each dead relative. This is to ensure that Chris will never profit from murdering her family members. She has a lot of moxey.
Finally, the continuing story needs to include Mary Jo’s story and what she was put through in the days preceding her murder. This writer thinks that the one we will call Penny, would be the just the one to fill in the details and turn the tables even more on the murderer of her sister. This writer would sure like to hear from her, wherever she is.