Beyond the Quiet: Romantic Thriller (5 page)

BOOK: Beyond the Quiet: Romantic Thriller
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I ripped the first one open, expecting to perhaps s
ee evidence of a small deposit.

Instead, what I saw took my breath away.

It was a delinquent notice, a late payment reminder about a mortgage in Mac’s name on our condo.

But that was impossible. Three months after we’d moved, our house had sold and we’d paid off the condo. We’d been so happy that we invited Stan and Maggie to celebrate with us at a special
burn our mortgage
dinner. Even when Mac became so ill, we never borrowed against it. It was to be my safety net from all the medical bills.

It had to be some other Mac Montgomery. Still, as I ripped open the last three env
elopes, I grew cold with dread.

Each envelope held a demand for payment notice, each statement progressively stronger until the last one, dated this month. In that letter, entire sentences were typed in bold capital letters.

According to the bank, since the property owner, Ronald Montgomery, had ignored their previous notices, they had no choice but to demand all four payments. If the account was not immediately brought current, the bank would begin foreclosure proceedings.

Waves of nausea caused my stomach to lurch and I swung the car door open, afraid I was going to be sick. I read all four notices again, trying to make sense of what I was reading. It had to be a mistake. Mac wouldn’t have mortgaged our condo without telling me. No way would he do that to me. Perhaps because he had been eleven years older than I, Mac had always been my mentor as well as the man I loved. I had never had any reason to distrust him and I was not about to begin now.

The first thing to do was to get to that bank and tell them it was a mistake. How long did I have to get this straightened out? I checked the date on the last notice; it was two weeks ago. Two weeks! The bank could, even now, be preparing to take my home from me.

Chapter Five


Backing out of the parking space, I didn’t even realizing my car door was still open until someone yelled at me. When I slammed on the brakes, everything on the passenger seat slid to the floor. Oh, God, I wasn’t fit to drive, not yet. I eased the car back into the space and shut off the ignition.

When I reached Stan on my cell phone, I blurted out what was happening.

“Now don’t get all shook,” he said in his normal, calm voice. “In the first place, since the condo was in both your names, a mortgage would ha
ve required your signature and—”

“But my name isn’t on these demand notices,” I told him, my voice growing shrill. “Just Mac’s.”

“Okay, then. It’s some sort of computer error, something we can straighten out in no time. You have all the papers on the condo?”

“Of course. Mac and I put them in our safety deposit box and I haven’t touched them since.”

“Give me the information and I’ll call and make an appointment with the loan officer. I’m sure it’s nothing but a computer glitch, but we need to take care of it. You don’t sound in any condition to drive, so stay put, and I’ll pick you up. We’ll stop at your bank and pick up the documents.”

Stan sounded confident enough that I began to breathe easier. If Mac had decided to take out a mortgage, surely he would have gone to Stan. This had to be a mistake. Of course it was, so why didn
’t I feel any better about it?

I studied the demand notice. Mac’s full name with his middle initial, an eight-digit account number that looked so official, so correct. A knot of dread squeezed so
tight I could hardly breathe.

Mac always said I worried too much, and he may have been right. But if it were not a mistake, if he’d taken out a loan and it was delinquent, I'd have to make it up. Immediately. I'd worked with too many foreclosures not to know the danger of non-payment.

With most of my funds still tied up, how would I make back payments? I had a hard enough time right now. I just prayed Stan was right, that it was all a mistake.

Once I got the safety deposit box open, I’d know.

When Stan pulled his Expedition alongside my car, I felt an incredible sense of relief. As usual, he looked great in a deep chocolate sports coat that complemented his blond hair and ruddy complexion.

“How are you?” he asked, opening the car door for me.

“About to throw up.”

He wrapped me in his arms and I smelled the comforting scents of coffee and aftershave. Just for a moment I relaxed and rested my head on his shoulder, loving the feeling of being held, wondering why I could never say that to m
y husband.

My husband...I pulled away. “What if Mac really took out this loan?
Why would he do such a thing?”

“I don’t know, doll. Maybe he took a small loan, something easily repaid.”

“But how? I never signed anything. This can’t be happening.”

“Before we speculate further, let’s check the safety deposit box. Chances are, this is all a mistake, that he was confused with someone else with the same name. Errors like that don’t happen often, but it’s been known to occur.” He grinned. “That’s one reason I’m
in business.”

By the time we pulled into my bank off I-10 and Newberry Avenue, I was feeling fairly relaxed. It would, after all, be straightened out soon. Inside, after the double-key ceremony of extracting the box, the young woman led us to a private room and left us alone.

Stan placed the metal box on a desk. I looked at that box and wondered how such a small container could hold my future.

“Want me to open it?” he asked.

I shook my head and raised the lid—to a file folder holding a sheaf of papers. I rummaged through.

Mortgage papers.

It was all there: a legal description of the property, including sketches by a surveyor; an appraisal report; a disclosure statement from a bank we’d never dealt with; payment coupons. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“My God.” Suddenly my legs went so weak that I had to sit down. “
He did it. He actually did it.”

“Lisa, honey, are you all right?” He poured water from a pitcher on the
desk, but I left it untouched.

“Why would Mac do this?” I asked. “And when? He seldom went out by himself the past couple of years, certainly not the last year. You know that. For the past few months he could barely
get to the bathroom and back.”

Stan flipped through some pages. “This mortgage was initiated two years ago.”

“That was when he was first diagnosed. How much is it for?”

He picked up the disclosure statement, took out his pen, and jotted down some figures. “Looks like eighty-five percent of the condo’s value.” He drummed his fingers on the table. “Okay. We need to talk to the loan officer as soon as possible. If I can get u
s in today, can you handle it?”

“Let’s get it over with.”

All I could think of now was how I could ever manage to pay it. Eighty-five percent of what the condo was worth was such a substantial sum that even with all the insurance money, I still wouldn’t be able to manage it.

Stan made a phone call, and I listened numbly to his attorney legalese as he made an appointment for that afternoon.

He drove me home and hovered over me until he began to get on my nerves. I just needed to be alone, to have some time to think—if I could get my numbed brain working, or my frozen limbs moving.

“Want something to drink?” Stan asked for the
third time. “Some coffee? Tea?”

I finally shooed him out the door, promising to
be ready at three-thirty.

I wrote a quick note to Shanna, keeping it light, but told her I might not get to Minnesota as soon as I’d hoped, that there was some sort of a legal problem having to do with the condo that had come up since her father’s death. No use telling her about the mortgage; I didn’t want to shatter the perfect memories she had of her father. I certainly didn’t want her to go through life with memories l
ike the ones that tormented me.

“Get a good man, Lisa,” my mother had whispered from the hospital bed, her faded gray eyes pleading. I was seventeen. She gripped my hand with her own and, trying not to cry, I studied the red, work-roughened fingers. She’d worked constantly at anything she could get, trying to hold things together and keep a roof over our heads. Her skimpy paychecks never went far. We’d been evicted several times because of non-payment of rent. Where she got the money to move, I’ll never know. My step-father certainly never helped with bills.

“Find someone who’ll take care of you, provide for you,” Mom had said, her voice a struggle, “someone who’ll give you the home I never could. Promise you’ll find someone like that. Promise!”

I promised
. She died later that day. The doctors couldn’t find a specific reason. I think she was too tired to keep living.

I had always wished she could have lived long enough to see my home and family, to know her h
opes for me had been fulfilled.

I wasn’t so sure they had been.


At three, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, dismayed by what I saw. My face was an unhealthy, ashen color and my eyes were glassy with fear. One thing for sure. I didn’t look like someone about to attend an important business meeting.

Once, when I was in high school, I was supposed to go to a special meeting for new students. We'd just moved, again, and I didn't want to go. I was sure I'd have
stamped across my forehead. Mom tried to encourage me, finally taking me to her closet to dig out her one nice dress. She fit it to me and helped me with my hair and makeup.

“Lisa, honey,” she said, “when you walk into that auditorium tonight, hold your head high. No one will think you’re a nobo
dy if you look like a million.”

Even today I believed that
. I might feel like hell, but I didn't want anyone to know, so I washed my face, applied drops to my eyes and put light cover-cream around my eyes. I took my time with my cosmetics and hair, adding a fine mist of shine to the few strands of gray at the sides. Then I donned my gray silk pants, a black silk shell, and gray jacket. For the final touch, I added a sterling herringbone necklace and matching earrings.

When I walked into the bank with Stan, no one had to know that underneath, I just wanted to slink in and beg them not to take away my home.

Traffic on I-10 was the normal afternoon terror, and after some zigzagging off Redlands Boulevard, we pulled into the bank’s parking lot. It was a newer building, all reflective glass about thirty-five stories high. At the far end of the lot, sprinklers watered trees set in little squares in the concrete. Everything looked so modern, so pretty, yet I felt as if I were visiting a mortuary about to say the final goodbye to my illusions of a happy marriage.

When Stan shut off the engi
ne, all I wanted to do was run.

He turned to me. “You okay?”

Nodding, I tried to smile.

“It could still be a mistake,” he said.

“Do you really believe it?”

Silently taking my arm, Stan ushered me into the lobby. We were shown to the vice president’s office by his secretary.

“Mr. Hunter will be with you shortly,” the Latino woman said, smiling and leaving the room.

His office looked inviting with a dark cherry executive desk in front of wall-to-wall matching bookcases. Books and family pictures filled the shelves, and more pictures sat on his desk next to a computer and telephone. Good, I thought. Maybe this guy would be human, someone I could talk to.

Mr. Hunter entered the room at a brisk pace. “Sorry to keep you waiting.” Younger than I expected, probably in his early forties, he was a rather severe looking man with thinning brown hair. He wore sturdy black-framed glasses.

Stan made the introductions and we all shook hands. I hoped mine weren’t wet. We did the polite chit-chat thing like the civilized people we were supposed to be, then Stan explained the problem and ga
ve the paperwork to Mr. Hunter.

Silently checking the pages, Mr. Hunter then turned to his computer and entered some figures. He studied the screen, then opened a file on his desk, doing all of this without glancing at me. The air in the room was
thick and my hands felt clammy.

Finally, after an ete
rnity, Mr. Hunter looked at me.

“Mrs. Montgomery, if I interpret this correctly, your husband, or someone else by that name, took out an equity loan two years ago on the property listed on this purchase agreement. Your property.”

“Evidently so.”

“Without your knowledge.”

“Yes.: I needed water for my dry throat.

I’ll need a certified copy of the death certificate,” he said, rummaging through some papers. “But first let’s make sure we have the correct Mr. Montgomery.”

He pulled out some official-looking pages clipped together and asked me to verify Mac’s social security number. After I nodded, he checked off some other facts, including what I knew of Mac's military record. Finally he turned the computer monitor around so that I could see the scr

Would you please verify your husband's signature?”

I glanced at his face, seeing the mixture of confidence and, what? Pity? Oh God, please don't let me pass out r
ight here in front of everyone.

I looked.

It was Mac's signature; I'd know it anywhere. Unable to speak, I simply nodded.

“You're sure?”
Stan asked.

I couldn't look at him. I nodded again.

“Well.” All efficiency now, Mr. Hunter turned the monitor around. “Mr. Montgomery stated he was divorced and that the property was his in the settlement. It's standard procedure to verify the information, but somehow, it must have slipped through the system.” He shook his head. “It’s unfortunate and highly irregular—”

“In that case—”
Stan interjected.

“But perfectly legal.”
Mr. Hunter turned back to the computer. “In November, two years ago, Mr. Montgomery applied for an equity loan for eighty-five percent of the condo's value. Payments were made regularly until four months ago.” He turned to Stan. “Since they were legally married at that time, Mrs. Montgomery is responsible for the entire debt. While this situation is regrettable, foreclosure proceedings have already begun.”

BOOK: Beyond the Quiet: Romantic Thriller
13.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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