Deborah’s Dilemma

He was in the process of choking her to death when she did it, she claimed. My long time good buddy, she stabbed him, with a kitchen knife. He beat her one time too many and now he’s dead. End of story, right? Not quite. Federal marshals saw a man in flashy, bright colored cloths standing at the curb in front of her townhouse apartment on the afternoon a witness escaped from their custody with the help of a man fitting that description.

She lied to federal agents, said she knew nothing about a man in flashy, bright colored cloths. They couldn’t prove anything different so they let her go. Later in their investigation they uncovered evidence implicating the deceased, my good buddy, in the same domestic terror plot supposedly masterminded by Max Nitz. They called Deborah back in for further questioning. Again, she told them she knew nothing about it.

They put her under close surveillance and soon realized she supported herself by dealing cocaine to a wide circle of creative friends in the downtown and campus areas. Federal agents coerced her supplier into setting her up for a major bust. He told her she could make a nice chunk of cash quick and easy. She went for it.

I wondered if I would ever see her again. She would certainly be a different Deborah after everything she had already gone through and everything she was still going through. My heart ached for her, starting from the moment I learned she had been arrested for the bloody murder of my once good buddy. I never questioned her story, as presented in the news. I was afraid to make contact with her on my own while she was still under investigation for involvement with the terror group. But I waited at lunchtime in the park by the fountain everyday hoping she would contact me there. When they busted her for delivering three kilos of cocaine to undercover agents, I almost lost hope.

Then, one sunny day, during my lunch break in the park, as I stuffed my mouth with a messy frankfurter, I heard her voice saying: “That’s heartburn city, mister peaceful John.” I wondered if I might be imagining things. When I looked up, a woman wearing a large hat and dark sunglasses looked back.

“It’s me,” she said: “I needed to see you. I hurt so much inside.” I stood to put my arms around her. But, she said: “No, not here. Let’s go somewhere.”

I called my supervisor and told her I needed the rest of the day off. Then I rented a car and we drove out of the city. She talked and cried while I steered the car along quiet country roads and listened. She still loved him, I realized, and I wanted to ask why he was choking her to death at the time she stabbed him. But I decided to wait and let her tell me that on her own terms.

At one point, she sat up, wiped the tears from her eyes, and silently stared out the window. I felt so relieved to see her stop crying, I refrained from saying anything, until we reached our destination, a small crafts oriented village with a good restaurant, about an hour’s drive from the city.

We parked the car and started walking. I suggested we sit outside on the restaurant’s back patio to enjoy the sunny afternoon. Deborah avoided eye contact as she quietly followed my lead. Business was light as usual for that time of day and we were able to occupy a table in a previously empty section, creating a quiet atmosphere in which to relax and converse. I attempted to brighten her somber mood with cheerful small talk about the menu and the location’s history. But I received no verbal response from her and she didn’t even look up until the waitress came over and asked for our order. Her mood had not diminish her appetite, however. She ate hardily and drank several glasses of wine.

While waiting for her to initiate a conversation, I quietly mused. She would never again be that sweet and innocent young woman I first met and fell in love with just a short time ago. I found that difficult to accept. And I realized it would be even more difficult for her. Yet, as I watched her eating, her silence seemed forced and calculated to me. And I began to entertain negative possibilities. What if it wasn’t self defense? What if she deliberately killed him? But why? And in such a bloody fashion, with a large kitchen knife?

Halfway through our second bottle of wine, she stopped eating, sat back in her chair, and said: “They want me to commit myself to a psycho clinic for therapy.”

“Who does?” I responded reflexively.

“My parents, their lawyer, and some doctor. I’m a victim in all of this, why can’t they just leave me alone? Even the cocaine thing is a phoney rap. I got set up with that deal. My regular people love the quality of my stuff, they love my price, and they love me. It shouldn’t even be illegal. Drug law makers and enforcers need a psycho clinic at least as much as I do, if not more, from the looks of things.”

“What can you do about it?”

“Run, change my name, and never look back. I didn’t ask for any of this. These events have their own momentum. Why should I continue to submit myself? I shouldn’t, and I won’t.”

“Run? To where?”

“I don’t know yet. I was hoping maybe you could help me with that. I need money.”

“Money? I haven’t got a whole lot of money but I’ll help you in any way I can.”

“I also need a place to stay. I’m living with my parents right now. I love them but, they’re driving me crazy with their platitudinous happy talk, their upbeat ignorance, dismissing all bad news, never assimilating or reflecting on anything they consider to be negative thinking. For them, the solution to every problem lies in a mere attitudinal shift. They believe I need therapy and counseling to adjust my attitude about sex and drugs and religion and everything else.”

“What legal charges are you facing?”

“That’s the clincher. My court date is coming up soon. I’ll get time for the cocaine. And I do not want to go to prison, not for any amount of time.”

“Living on the run isn’t easy.”

“Living in prison isn’t easy. I’ll take my chances on the run. They’re just getting started with the charges against me, John. They set me up with the drug bust just so they could hold me in prison until I’m desperate and will do anything to get out. Then I’ll tell them whatever they want to know about Max Nitz. And they feel certain it won’t take me long to become that desperate, once inside their woman’s prison.”

“What do you know about Max Nitz?”

“More than you do, obviously. What made you attack that federal marshal? Why did you help Liz get away from him? They really want you. They have questioned me for hours, trying to break me, hoping I would give you up to them.”

“I honestly don’t know why I did it. I had been thinking irrationally all morning. After I awoke from an intensely sexual dream, I put on these strange looking cloths made of flashy, bright colored fabrics. I had them hanging in my closet, but I was always afraid to wear them. You saw me, you know what I looked like.”

“I really liked what you were wearing. You looked great. And your outfit was so flashy, the federal marshal doesn’t remember much else about you.”

“If he looked directly into my face again, however, he might recognize me. He said he’d remember. And I’m certainly not interested in testing his memory.”

“You’ve become somewhat of a hero to Max’s followers and anyone else, especially women, who might sympathize with Liz for not wanting to testify against her father. Max’s followers have also been seeking your identity. And I’m running from them, too. They think I know too much.”

My feelings for Deborah were vacillating. Part of me wanted to drop her like a hot potato. Her story presented more questions than it answered. Another part of me still wanted to fuck her, come hell or high water. But, knowing how she may have suffered to protect my identity, the greater part of my feelings for her cautiously reentered the domain of love. Too many questions remained unanswered, however, to feel unconditionally committed, and I said: “How come Max Nitz and his followers think you know too much?”

“Because I know everything about them, John. I grew up within the militia movement. My father was a leader in the central group from which Max’s group split and moved in a more militant direction. Although I never became a full time follower, I went to a lot of their meetings. That’s where I met your friend, Philip, your good buddy, as you say.”

“I had no idea Phil was involved in the militia movement.”

“Then you didn’t really know him. You may have known your boyhood friend, but you didn’t know the man he grew into. Because the militia movement meant more to him than anything, including me. And when they asked him to prove that, he almost choked me to death. I had to kill him or be killed by him. That’s a horrible choice to face. And what really hurt the most was knowing he loved them more than he loved me. That gave me the burst of energy I needed to reach for the knife and stab him while he was choking the life out me.”

“What kind of people are they, that they would ask him to do such a thing?”

“They’re the kind of people who might kill a son to prove their loyalty to a vengeful leader who they identified with and feared. They have an almost mystical identification with Max. And the federal government made him look even more important than he really is by arresting him. That has emboldened his followers. Max’s top lieutenants are increasingly being challenged by a new radical element within their ranks, to do something violent, to prove their loyalty, if nothing else.”

Deborah’s connection to the radical militia group and Max Nitz further complicated my ability to fully commit to her needs. Running from her parents and the federal agents would be difficult enough. But running from the psychopathic extremists she had just described would require a level of cunning and courage I had never before demanded of myself and I wasn’t sure I could do it.

“Oh my god, here comes Fritz,” Deborah cried out.

“Who’s Fritz?” I wondered aloud.

“He’s the last person I want to see right now. He’s Max’s brother, Fritz Nitz.”

I reflexively stood and turned to face him. He didn’t look anything like I had expected a psychopathic extremist to look. In fact, he looked normal to me as he cheerfully smiled, extended his hand, and said: “Hello, John. I’m Fritz.”

After shaking his hand, I said: “Have a seat, Fritz, let’s talk.” I felt confident in my own ability to cope with the present circumstances. Better now than later, I reasoned, hoping a confrontation with Fritz could eliminate Deborah’s need to run from them in the future.

She looked sincerely frightened, as she said: “How did you find me here?”

He replied: “We just recently moved our militia’s headquarters here, to this tradition laden village. You would know that, honey, if you stayed more in touch. When you’re finished eating, I’ll take you over there.”

“No thanks,” she said, snappishly.

“I insist,” he said, snapping back. Then, turning to me again, he said: “She can be delusional at times, have you noticed that? Or are you gullible enough to believe everything she tells you? Nobody I know asked Philip to prove his loyalty by killing her. She’s the only one who entertains that idea. Maybe it helps her justify what she did, to believe that, but it’s not true. And she needs to stop telling those kinds of lies to them government agents.”

“Why would Philip tell me that if it wasn’t true?” Deborah responded.

“If he told you something like that, he wasn’t referring to us. You must have misunderstood him. Or you’re just making it up. And maybe you don’t even know which one it is, yourself, anymore.”

“Leave her alone, Fritz,” I said: “She’s been through enough already. And she needs to get completely away from all of this, including you, the feds, her parents, and everyone else.”

“Except you, of course,” he replied, lightly punching me in the arm as he laughed.

“Yes, except me. Because I have no real involvement in any of this.”

“You helped Liz escape. Sounds like involvement to me. Them government agents might thinks so, too. I’m glad you did it. As is the rest of the group. We’d welcome you in with open arms. And face it, you have nowhere else to go.”

Deborah went to the ladies room and I asked Fritz what he thought about the circumstances surrounding Philip’s death; he said: “If Phil had picked a less attractive woman he might still be alive. He could get insanely jealous, lose his temper. And Deborah’s quite attractive. I’d like to fuck her, wouldn’t you? Or maybe you already have. Maybe it’s you Phil was jealous of. Maybe he was choking her because he found out she fucked you.”

“No, I’ve never had sex with Deborah,” I said: “I’ve only known her for a short time and this is the most we’ve been together. But I understand what you’re saying. If you’re the jealous type, don’t pick such an attractive woman for a mate.”

I could see traces of white crystalline powder around both of Deborah’s nostrils when she returned from the ladies room. Her whole manner had changed. She sat up straight on the edge of her chair with an alert and determined expression on her face; and said: “I’ll stay with you in the militia community, Fritz, but I want John to stay living on the outside. We’re probably the only two who know he helped Liz escape.”

Fritz said: “A few others know about John, Deborah, but you are the one we worry. If you agree to stay with us and John cooperates on basic trust and security issues, it could go a long way towards calming people’s nerves.”

I said: “What trust and security issues?”

“We will respect your security needs, John, and we will trust you to do the same for us, and for Deborah. Them government agents ain’t stupid. When Deborah disappears, they’ll suspect us. We can cope with that. If you’re interested in seeing Deborah again, you’ll follow our instructions without deviation. You look like an intelligent guy, John. You understand what I’m saying, don’t you?”

“Yes, I understand what you’re saying, Fritz. Is that how you want it, Deborah?”

She looked agitated, perhaps already coming down from the cocaine toots and desiring more, as she said “None of this is happening the way I want it. I don’t know what else to do. I can deal with living in the militia community. I can’t handle going to prison. It might be a while before I see you again. But do as they tell you. And I’ll see you whenever.”

After Deborah’s departure with Fritz, I stayed sitting at the table on the restaurant’s back patio. My head was spinning from both the wine and the circumstance. I needed strong hot coffee before I tackled the long drive back to the city in a rented car by myself.

I returned the car to its downtown rental lot and rode the bus home. As I entered the house, I met my mother, along with her friend, heading out the door; and she said: “We’ll be gone for the weekend. Take care of yourself. There’s food in the refrigerator. Don’t forget church on Sunday.” She offered me her cheek to kiss, and said: “Love you.” Then she was gone.

With the house to myself, my imagination began to flow. I climbed the stairs to my bedroom knowing my dream girl would be there waiting for me. She never lets me down. Well, almost never. While Deborah’s dilemma still weighed heavily on my heart, I made a conscious effort to forget about the so called real world. With my imagination I could conceive of a world more to my liking. Although dealing with my dream girl did have its challenges. She wanted sex all the time. And sometime I just wanted to talk.

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