/Whois - Chapter 18 - The Sound of Silence
Jerry and I didn't have long to wait before the stalker attacked again.
"Wait til you get home...you won't believe it," my husband said over the phone. "I'm not sure what it means...so I'll just let you see for yourself."
I raced home, bolting through the door breathlessly, expecting to find our computers inoperable. They were working just fine...especially the screen saver. Scrolling back and forth across the screen in neon pink was the word..."settle." Settle?
"What does it mean?" demanded Jerry.
"Well...it basically means, calm down." I said with a small chuckle.
I had to give the stalker points for creativity though. Because it was so innocuous, I couldn't help but see the humor in it...in fact, oddly enough...I thought it rather cool.
I found no humor whatsoever though in the following day's message. The words had changed from pink to cool blue and rippling across the screen were the words "The Lake." While to most people, those words don't sound very important, Jerry, Otter and I would have recognized it as the title to one of my more erotic e-mail stories.
Without hesitation, I went to my computer and proceeded to log on...
"What are you doing now? Running to tell Otter?" Jerry sneered.
"No...Arch planted a few traps in my computer. I'm going to see if he caught anything."
After a few moments of silence, Jerry slapped his forehead.
"Of course! What a great idea! But you don't need to depend on Arch. You know what a questionable source he is...I have a better idea."
Leaning back in the chair, I looked over at my husband expectantly.
"I have a friend...we were in the Marines together...he owes me. Why settle for some kid in Australia? He does this for a living. Don't bother Arch...I'll get a hold of my friend and we'll get to the bottom of this quickly. What a great idea,hon...can't believe I didn't think of this myself! I'll call Pat tomorrow. What's for dinner?"
Without completing the log-in process, I shut down the computer and made dinner instead. If Jerry had a friend...well, then perhaps it was better.
For several days I badgered Jerry...had he talked to his friend yet...was his friend checking into it? Jerry assured me that he'd communicated with this mysterious Pat and would probably receive confirmation shortly. One day, he came home and held up a disc...told me it had been slipped beneath the windshield blade of his car. The label was typewritten and it simply said "snobird."
Together we popped it into the disc drive and read it...
Do not worry...all will be well. Your husband and I will take care of everything. Trust your husband, I've known him for many years and have placed my own life in his hands on many occasions. Tell him I said he is a very lucky man to have a wonderful wife like you.
My stomach made a slight churning motion and for the first time in all of this, a vague suspicion began to surface. What was it that had made me so uneasy? I reread the message several times, but the only thing that kept popping out was that last line. It just didn't seem to fit somehow. Pat didn't know me...I didn't know Pat.
And this whole disc beneath the windshield thing...it sounded like a bad spy caper. Otter and I would be ashamed to even write such a detail into our work. It was just downright corny...the work of somebody with a very lame imagination. But...no...it couldn't' be...
"There!" Jerry said with a big smile, "I told you Pat would come through. He'll be cruising around our systems now...and if somebody is there...he'll catch him."
I smiled back...but I definitely did not feel reassured that all was well.
The next day, I brought Vince up to date on the current escapades of the cyber stalker and handed him the disc. I wanted him to read it, without my input and tell me what he thought.
I waited...holding my breath...
"Have you ever considered the idea that the stalker could be Jerry?"
I exhaled in relief...so I hadn't been way out of line with my own thoughts.
"Actually...I have. I just needed to hear you say it."
Otter needed to be warned, so I dashed off an email to him from the security of my work office.
That evening, as Jerry sat at his computer and I sat across from him at mine...we both waited for Otter to arrive. Jerry just didn't know that I knew he was waiting.
I could have confronted him, but I've learned a lesson or two about liars in my lifetime. One lie follows another lie which then leads to another until you are too exhausted to care anymore. Until I could figure out HOW he was doing this, or trip him up in the act...I was going to keep this to myself, only sharing it with Otter.
Otter: WTF sno?!
Snobird: Shhh...Otter...just do as I do okay?
*Snobird changes her nickname to kismet*
Otter: Ohhh...smart, very smart...
*Otter changes his nickname to karma*
Jerry really had no idea how many nicknames Otter and I owned. We'd gathered them up in the process of many skits and improvisational chat, some were registered and some were not. Kismet and Karma raced into a channel only to exit as Sno and Ota...slipping furtively into still another room and coming out as Pea1 and Pea2 before finally making the leap to a completely different server.
Pea2: Do you think we shook our tail?
Pea1: Well...he's banging on his keyboard like a gorilla and growling...so I think so.
*Pea1 snorts and falls over laughing*
Pea2: So...what do you want to do?
Pea1: Well...since we're in France...wanna have a picnic or something?
Pea2: Sounds good to me...let's go.
*Pea2 slips his paw into snobird's hand and whistling they set off for a picnic by the river*
"What are you doing?" Jerry queried ominously from his side of the room.
"Nothing much...just having a picnic on the Seine with Otter...why?" I replied with false innocence.
Jerry smacked his computer with so much force that both desks shook, stood up and left the room. I relayed the turn of events to Otter.
Pea2: Well, well...whadya know...hubby is a cyberstalker...
Pea1: Now to catch him...
Pea2: Sno...I've been thinking. Just hear me out okay?
Pea2: Mebbe...well mebbe...
Pea1: Just spit it out piscavour...
Pea2: Mebbe you should come to Australia...
*Pea2 drops the bombshell and waits...*
Pea1: Oh sure...right...that's the solution.
Pea2: I'm serious sno
Pea1: No Otter...it's not a choice. Not right now anyway. Besides...you are married...I don't think your wife would appreciate me just showing up at your doorstep.
Pea2: Well see...here's the thing sno. She found out about us. I just didn't want to bother you with that because of all of this stuff you are already dealing with...and I was just dealing with it myself...but...I don't think it's going so good...
Pea1: Otter...you should have told me. How did she find out about us?
Pea2: She saw my phone bill...
*Snobird smacks herself in the forehead and then for good measure smacks Otter in the forehead too*
Pea2: I know, I know...I feel stupid...trust me...
Pea1: Do you think you can work it out...I mean...the kids and all.
Pea2: I dunno...I have to try I guess...right?
Pea1: Yeah...Otter...you do.
Pea2: But...if it doesn't work out...will you at least think about it?
Pea1: I promise...I will think about it.
The following day, I did something I swore I would never do. I left work early and with a few hours of alone time, I booted up Jerry's computer and did some searching. It seemed he had been keeping a diary of sorts. I couldn't find any line which specifically said "today, I deleted a command in the boot file" or "what fun to fake a phone call and convince my wife it had been Otter." What I found was even more disturbing. "My wife is a totally different person...today she left a towel on the bed." I hadn't realized that my distribution of used linen was cause for crisis. There were other such lines and sometimes total gibberish that made no sense whatsoever. Whatever was going on with him, whatever he had seen between Otter and I...it was driving him to the edge of madness.
Something had to be done. Just as I'd told Otter he had to try to save his marriage...I had to make the attempt as well. Whether I could or not, I wasn't sure. All I knew was that I couldn't leave Jerry clinging to the edge of some precipice...I had to at least make an effort to try and pull him back before somebody was hurt...physically hurt.
When he arrived home, I waited for a while. We ate dinner and talked casually for a bit before I thought the mood was conducive to a sane discussion...
"Jerry...I know it's you. You've been stalking me online haven't you?"
The chair fell over with a loud thud as Jerry rose from it, shaking his fist in my face...his own a bright shade of red.
"How DARE you accuse me of that. I'm your husband! I've told you it's that Otter...why do you believe him? Why? You should believe ME!!"
"Jerry...I know. Sit down and we'll talk about it okay?"
"I don't want to talk about it...it's useless. You don't believe ANYTHING I say...you'd rather just believe Otter..."
I took a deep breath...
"If you won't talk about it...then you leave me no choice. I want a divorce."
There...I'd said it. The "D" word. The silence was deafening...
"Fine. If that's what you want...FINE!" Jerry raged...and then abruptly stormed out of the house, probably heading for his favorite bar.
Sometime later, as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep, he stumbled back into the front door. The bed creaked as he sat down by my side and reached out to stroke my hair. I could smell the liquor on his breath, but I wasn't in a place to judge.
"If you want a divorce...okay...but I don't," he said calmly. "I'm just tired of living in the silence...all this silence. I come home...and you are on the computer...and there's only silence. Laurie...we both know eventually I'm going to be completely deaf...that someday I'll have to live with the silence. But does it have to be now?"
A tear escaped my eye...his misery was overwhelming and I hadn't realized that he'd been thinking this way. Of course this made sense to me...why hadn't I thought of this? I felt so selfish and without any further consideration I turned and embraced him. Of course I wouldn't let him suffer silence...I would do anything to help him...anything.
My husband was handicapped to an extent. As a baby, he'd suffered some sort of disease that had left him with partial deafness in both ears. Jerry wore hearing aids...most of the time. There were times when he wouldn't put them in...or he would turn them down...to shut me out. I suppose I could have been more compassionate...but since the ability to overcome his handicap was sitting on his bureau, I really hated conversations where every response was..."What? What did you say?"
But all of that irritation was forgotten with his declaration. I tried to imagine what it would be like to exist in such a place of profound silence...and decided that perhaps, maybe...there was a way that silence could be beaten and bring us closer at the same time.