Flashback 1986, part six

When they went out for dinner, Juan had left his phone behind in the room. Returning, he saw that he had missed two calls from the same number, a number he did not recognize. Laura switched on the TV, so Juan walked down to the motel lobby. He made sure that his phone was programmed not to reveal his location, and then he returned the call.

“Hello,” a gruff, half-familiar voice answered.

“Yes, hello,” Juan responded. “You phoned me earlier this evening.”

“Is this Juan Rivera? The airport security guard?”

“It is indeed.”

“Juan, my name is Ron Lawrence.” When Juan gave no indication of recognizing the name, the voice continued, “I’m Laura Kinser’s husband.”

“I… I didn’t think she was married.”

“She is. We are. You can look it up on the internet.”

“Assuming for the moment that you’re telling the truth, why did you call me?”

“I had a long conversation with your boss this morning. I found out who you are, and he told me that you suddenly claimed a vacation. Tell me this, is Laura with you?”

“I don’t think I have to answer that question.”

“Don’t bother. I’m sure she is. If this was just about her, I wouldn’t care. But I called to warn you. You are in extreme danger right now. Not from me—from her.”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“Listen. Laura is a very sick woman. Not physically ill; just sick in the head. She does crazy things. People get hurt because of the things she does. If she is with you, you are not safe.”

A light dawned in Juan’s mind. “You’re the man who was chasing her at the airport the day she escaped.”

“Yes, that was me. Now we know each other.”

“And are you the one who claimed that the woman at the airport wasn’t Laura, that she only thought she was Laura.”

Ron sighed. “I should have told the whole truth. I needed people to believe that she is crazy and dangerous, and saying she wasn’t really Laura seemed like the best way to get cooperation.”

“And then you came to my apartment dressed as a policeman.”

“I am a policeman, Juan. I know I screwed up with the phony warrant, but I was in a hurry. Believe me, I’m trying to protect you.”

Juan thought quickly. “Laura hasn’t done anything crazy since she’s been with me.”

Ron laughed. “That whole thing at the airport—that was her idea. I don’t know how she talked me and Harvey into helping with her scheme. It started when Harvey told us that his doctor said he would die soon. Laura started talking about going out with a blaze of glory. Soon she had us playing along with her plan to have Harvey switch clothes with her at the airport and blow up her airplane. I should’ve known better, but it all made sense at the time.”

“But why would she want to do that?”

“Kid, when you’re crazy, you don’t need a reason. She’s been like this as long as I’ve known her. Even the two of us getting married was an impulse on her part.”

Juan made a decision. “Ron, I have your number. If anything bad starts happening, I know how to get ahold of you. Meanwhile, I’m going to do my best to help her get her life back.”

“You’re making a big mistake,” Ron told him. “She’s a dangerous woman. She’ll destroy you.”

“Thanks for the warning, “Juan said, and then he pressed “end.”

Before he went back to the room, Juan Googled Laura Kinser and found her on-line biography. She was indeed married to a man named Ron Lawrence.

When he returned to the motel room, Laura was still watching TV, although she had changed clothes and was wearing a bath robe she had bought that afternoon. Juan suspected she was wearing little, if anything, under the robe, and he tried not to stare.

“I just had an interesting phone conversation,” Juan started. Laura muted the TV and looked at him quizzically. “He said his name was Ron Lawrence. He said he was your husband.” She did not respond, so Juan added, “Laura, I didn’t know you were married.”

“’Was’ and ‘were’ being the key words,” she responded, bitterness in her voice. “How did he find us here?”

“He only has my cell number. He doesn’t know where we are. Laura, you being married changes a lot about what we’re doing here.”

Laura snorted. “Ron and I are separated,” she said, “and we are not getting back together. Especially not after this week.”

“Ron says you planned the whole scene at the airport.”

I planned it? That’s preposterous. Why would I plan something like that?”

“I asked him that. He said you didn’t need a reason. He said that you’re crazy.”

Laura shook her head. “Let’s get a couple things clear,” she said. “First, there’s no such thing as crazy. The diagnosis is borderline personality disorder. Second, I’m not the one with the disorder. He is.”

“He is,” Juan repeated. “But why the scene at the airport?”

“Insurance fraud,” Laura answered. “Both life insurance and the insurance on the plane. Ron needed a lot of money fast, so he staged the whole thing. Harvey was about to die anyhow, so he was easy to convince. I had a lot of objections, but he basically forced me to do it. He said that I would be kept hidden until he could repay the life insurance, and then I could make a dramatic reappearance and be the top news item everywhere. But when he ‘hid’ me by locking me into a room at the airport, I began to realize that my life wasn’t so important to him after all.”

“That’s when you escaped.”

Laura smiled. “That’s when you saved my life.”

AUTHOR DISCUSSION: That is as far as the story got in the novel. The private investigator Juan knows in Westfield was away, working on another case which was also part of the plot. I added a few things (like the cell phone, of course), but to this point, this fairly represents what I wrote more than thirty years ago.  On the other hand, I have had time to think of an ending for the story and to start writing it. That ending will appear next week. J.

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