Authors: JP Bloch
Done at last, I wiped my brow for the sweat. “It’s off to Grandma’s.”
“Dad, you’re the greatest.” Scotty smiled at me. Oddly enough, I found myself tickling and roughhousing him, and he giggled like he always did.
Ironically, though, all that happened did nothing to take my mind off of money.
Instead, I realized I needed money more than ever before. Divorce, custody, maybe even a murder trial down the road. And Biff’s parents could take on twenty of me in court with one hand tied behind their backs. I knew my mom had some money stashed away. She’d sold my childhood home for a handy profit and moved into a small, pricey condo. But I’d never borrowed from her before and especially now couldn’t bring myself to ask. She could end up being an accessory after the fact.
I told Mom nothing about Biff, other than that he and Betsy planned to live together. It would be a while before all the dots could possibly be connected. First, there’d be a missing persons report, then there’d be a search for the body, and so on. The dots were likely to connect to Betsy or me and not Scotty. I’d go to jail for Scotty without thinking twice, but I was damned if I’d let him live with Betsy as sole parent. Scotty gave me his solemn promise to say nothing to Grandma or anyone else about all that had happened. I completely trusted him.
I barely nibbled on the microwave breakfast Mom insisted I needed. Her condo, like my childhood home, was homey in a trailer park sort of way. Mom liked dollar store paintings of babbling brooks and placid deer and wooly covers for Kleenex boxes and toilet paper.
She called Betsy an A-Number-One Cunt right in front of Scotty, who said, “Dad, if Grandma says ‘cunt,’ is it okay if I do, too?”
My mother thought this hilarious, but before I could respond, she asked me to get the morning mail from the mail stand in the parking lot. And it was there, among the grim bills and hysterical sweepstakes offers, that I saw a pale blue envelope addressed to a Dr. Jesse Falcon, presumably the condo’s previous owner.
I started to toss the envelope into the recycle bin, but when I saw it was a credit line offer, I couldn’t resist opening it. Apparently, Dr. Jesse Falcon was my polar opposite. A new nationwide bank was pleased enough with his credit rating to offer him a twenty-thousand-dollar line of credit. There wasn’t even a disclaiming asterisk. I made sure no one was watching and tucked the envelope into my pants pocket.
If you’ve ever been in a car crash, you know the feeling: you spend the rest of your life wishing you left the house two minutes later or didn’t make that wrong turn. I could’ve thrown away the envelope. Yet, in the moment, I couldn’t. It just wasn’t meant to be. I had the answer to my prayers, as far as I was concerned. Not that I’d literally prayed, but sometimes living in hell is its own kind of prayer. I know it sounds unbelievable, like when people on trial for murder say they don’t remember firing the gun, but it really did feel like someone else was doing this instead of me.
I plunked the useless mail on the kitchen table. Scotty, I saw, was reading my mom’s
on the front lawn. “Mom, I’m curious. Who owned this place before you?”
Mom drank her morning black coffee as if it were straight whisky. “He was some shrink or professor or something. In a big hurry to move across the country.” She chuckled to herself. “He must’ve really stepped in a pile of shit.”
“How could you tell?”
“Oh, he was so full of himself. That kind of snooty jerk makes nothing but enemies. He’d yawn when I asked him questions, and when I said I might plant flower boxes in the front windows, he said in this uppity way, ‘Yes, I imagine you’re the type.’ I mean, what the hell was that about? ‘The type?’ Who the hell hates
, for God’s sake?”
“Betsy doesn’t like flowers. Allergies.”
“Figures. She has an allergy up her ass, if you ask me. Didn’t I
you ten years ago to get a paternity test?”
“It was eight years ago. And yes, you did. I was a wild, impetuous youth, and never paid heed to my wise elders.”
“Cut the crap. I assume you’ll sue that frigid whore for custody? If it were me, I’d sue her just for getting in my face. Do you need money?”
“I’ll be fine, Mom. But thanks.”
“Look, if it’s your asshole male pride, we can make it a loan.”
“Really, I’ll work it all out. Go be a nice grandma. Bake some cookies.”
go bake cookies, Sonny Boy. I’m watching my NASCAR races today.”
Feeling the torn, folded envelope crinkle in my back pants pocket, I felt like I couldn’t get to my laptop fast enough.
Stealing Jesse Falcon’s identity was not the nicest thing I’ve ever done, but it was by far the easiest. I have considerable computer skills, but a child could’ve done it. I would’ve preferred stealing money from Biff, but obviously that was likely to get me caught. Besides, was it really stealing if this Jesse Falcon never even knew he had the money in the first place? After all, I had every intention of paying it back.
First, I did a search for “Jesse Falcon” plus “psychologist.” Within seconds, I was browsing through his web page from a nearby university. I struck gold with his online vitae, which included his all-important social security number. It was the type of arrogant, absentminded mistake that people who think they are invincible often make. The university also had a union contract available online, so I looked up how much Jesse Falcon would’ve been making.
Then, since my mother told me he’d moved cross-country—the university, like many bureaucracies, was slow to update its website—I did another quick web search and found him to be in private practice. This gave me his current office address and phone number, in case I needed it later. Obviously, I wanted the twenty grand to come to me and not to him.
Next, for thirty bucks, a people-search website gave me a history of where he’d lived, his credit rating—superb—and any criminal charges—none. I knew how long he’d been married, the name of his one child, Sabrina, and where
lived and what she did for a living.
This same source also told me what bank he patronized. Conveniently for me, his accounts were all in another new nationwide bank that had branches everywhere. At the bank website, I clicked on the “I forgot my password” box needed to access the checking account. This required two test questions to make sure I was who I said I was: What was the name of “my” daughter, which I already knew was Sabrina, and what was the name of “my” dog, which I knew from Jesse Falcon’s web page was a bull dog with the pretentious name of Jeremy. I soon had Jesse Falcon’s checking account number and samples of his signature from photocopies of cancelled checks. I next set up a free, all-purpose e-mail account that supposedly was Jesse Falcon’s. And at a website that specialized in genealogy, I got a copy of Jesse Falcon’s birth certificate.
Finally, I filled out the online application for twenty thousand dollars. I watched a computer-generated dot spin around for a nervous minute or two before getting the ecstatic message that this other bank approved the twenty-thousand-dollar credit line. I—or rather, Jesse Falcon—could use it as a checking account, direct deposit, or debit card. I checked the box for direct deposit, since I couldn’t wait for anything to get mailed to me.
Maybe I was rationalizing, but Jesse Falcon’s online photo minimized any guilt I was feeling. He had one thick eyebrow arched higher, and the corners of his lips turned down in an ironic grin, as if he thought he were James Bond or something. He’d also written a conceited blurb in which he described himself as an “intellectual” and a “passionate lover of fine wine and living life to the fullest.” There was even a pompous quote from Virgil in the original Latin:
Audentis fortuna iuvat.
Upon searching for an online translation, I learned it meant
favors the brave.
I imagined him as one of those professors who always singled out a student to bully, to show how superior he was.
Offhand, I couldn’t find out why Jesse Falcon quit his job and moved so far away. My guess was that he knocked up one of his students. But then, I didn’t need to know that right now. Though I was new to breaking the law, I intuitively embraced the criminal golden rule to keep things simple. Don’t tempt fate unless you have to.
I told my mom I was getting a settlement with 21st Century Solutions. I don’t think she believed me for a minute, unless her saying, “When it comes to bullshit, you take after your father,” was a vote of confidence. But she had a firm belief in people making their own beds and sleeping in them. Mom took it for granted that all people were louses and considered this sad fact of life to be none of her business. She cut me more slack than she did other people, though sometimes I thought if I ever really got in trouble—like if I murdered someone—she’d say something like, “You did the crime, so do the time.”
But my mind was not focused on Mom or for that matter, murder. Instead, I went straight to a divorce attorney. I needed to do what seemed perfectly normal under the circumstances. Plus I might need a lawyer in a big way down the road. And so it all began.
Whatever else happened, I faced it like a man. I have to keep telling myself that. And I did learn one important lesson. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking you know who you are.
OOK AT ME,” she kept saying, like a little girl wanting her daddy to watch her jump rope. “Look at me.” Only she wasn’t a little girl, and nobody was jumping rope. I was screwing the daylights out of her, thrusting so hard I worried that the rubber would slip off or break. “Jesse . . . why . . . can’t . . . you . . . look . . . at . . . me?” she blurted
out between thrusts. “Are . . . you . . . thinking . . . of . . . your . . . wife?”
Truth be told, it wasn’t like I
looked at the woman inches below me, I merely wasn’t relentlessly staring at her with every cell of my being. How could I explain that no, I wasn’t thinking of my wife. Sad but true, my wife Esther would be the last person I’d be thinking of at a time like this. I just didn’t want this woman I was with to get the wrong idea. Supposedly she understood that our relationship was purely recreational. For the record, she even had a husband. But sure enough, she was starting to want what is obnoxiously referred to as “more,” or putting the relationship on “another level,” which always conjured an absurd image in my mind of all the couples in the world occupying different steps on a long, long stairway with hell at either end. Lesbianism notwithstanding, sometimes I wondered if women would be capable of orgasm if things like bridal magazines and china patterns ceased to exist. Or maybe I cheated with all the wrong women.
It was ludicrous to feel like I had to change the subject in the middle of having sex, but I did. Tactfully, I put my index finger to her lips. “Shhh,” I said. But instead of turning things down a notch, she coyly put my index finger in her mouth, indicating with an arch expression that she understood the signal for “blowjob.” This may have been seductive in different circumstances, but since we were already naked and
, it didn’t make sense. It was like handing someone a gift, and then after they opened it, saying to them, “I have a gift for you.” Subtle she wasn’t. A control freak she was.
“Are you pretending my finger is your husband’s?” I asked, giving her a taste of her own medicine. “And I don’t mean just his finger.”
It was fortuitous that precisely at that moment, we both came.
Afterward, she sat up, reaching for her panty hose. “You don’t like me at all, do you?” she asked, her supple leg extended in midair as she yanked up her stocking.
“You don’t like
. You only think you’re supposed to.” I zipped up my wool suit pants over my boxers. “You’re projecting your disdain onto me.”
She gave her hair a quick comb out with her fingers, fastening her blouse at the same time. “I don’t get what you mean.”
“Yeah, you do. You think what you’re doing with me is bad. That makes you a bad woman. You convince yourself you quote-unquote
me, which transforms you into a good woman. A victim of love and all that bullshit.”
She slapped me hard across the face.
Just as suddenly, as if she had multiple personalities, she put her hands to her mouth, horrified by what occurred. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I overreacted.”
I rubbed my jaw where she slapped me. “You always overreact. You wouldn’t know what to do if you didn’t overreact. On your tombstone, they should write, ‘She’s overreacting.’ But I’m used to it.”
“Oh, you . . . ” She tisk-tisked, as if resigned to her fate. “Honestly, the things I put up with.” For an instant, it was like we were a married couple ourselves.
I put my thumb under her chin and gave her a quick kiss. “You need to go.”
“I know, I know.” She distractedly reached for her coat and purse.
There was a knock at the door.
“Dr. Falcon,” said my receptionist. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but your next patient has been waiting now for ten minutes.”