“M” –Mangled Marriage of Mack and Marissa
Mack had just gotten out of jail for beating his wife nearly to death. After only three months in jail, he was now on probation and court ordered to attend “stupid” outpatient therapy once a week for two hours for a whole year! “Disgusting” was his cleaner thought. He wouldn’t bother to go, but if he didn’t, the therapist would report him and he’d just end up back in a cell–“no thank you!” So attend he did–hating every moment that he had to pretend he was learning “anger control–how stupid do they think I am?”
His great desire was to get his wife back. He was pretty sure he could do that, but for that damn therapist who kept talking to her. The therapist would never encourage her to return to him. Just the opposite, she’d gotten his wife to take a protection order against him, and he could not go closer than 100 feet to her! He’d lost custody of his son…”all because he’d lost his temper…once…okay, maybe two or three times. He didn’t mean to hurt her, but she aggravated him so much, she was so stupid sometimes. Still, she was drop dead gorgeous, and he loved her in some ways. But sometimes, he just had to haul off and smack her! He just got out of control this last time. He didn’t mean to pick up the butcher knife, didn’t mean to cut her arm, her hands–he was just so mad, and the knife was just there. It really was her fault, if she would just shut up!”
“I truly believe I can get her back, if I can just talk to her! I have to see her,” Mack thought to himself. So, he hatched a plan. They both had to go to the large public mental health center for counseling. The center took great pains to schedule them on different days however, so they wouldn’t cross paths.
“What can I do? How can I fix it so we are forced to run into each other there, and we can talk?” Mack knew there had to be a way, and he was scheming as hard as he could! When he was at the center for his group therapy tonight, he noticed that the cleaning crew left the front office open while carrying out the trash. The office was always locked, you had to talk to the receptionist through a glass window. But here was the door, propped open! There sat the appointment calendar for anyone to thumb through! Quickly, he picked it up, opened it to the current week, and “yes! –Marissa was scheduled at two o’clock tomorrow afternoon. Stupid therapist!” A plan began to form in his mind.
Wednesday brought a bright, sunny day in Georgia. Marissa was scared to death as she loaded the last suitcase in the trunk of her car. She’d already arranged for the sale of her car, and the buyer was taking delivery in an hour at the Mental Health Center of all places. She was headed to school to get her five year old son Michael. She couldn’t believe it, but she was leaving the state today!
She really thought Mack was going to kill her this last time he’d beat her. He’d cut her as well. Although she loved him, she knew now that he’d surely kill her if she let him into her life again. Her own group and individual therapy had convinced her she had to get away. She should have done it while he was in jail, but now she had to take Michael and go! She had no money–that was part of the problem. But once she’d convinced the therapist she was serious, the shelter had introduced her to the Underground Railroad for Abused Women. She was scared to death, but today was the day. She would take Michael with her to the Mental Health Center. A lady from the Women’s Shelter would meet them there, and take them to the train, bus, or airport, she wouldn’t know until it happened. They would give her a new ID, a new passport, and send her to a home where she and Michael would stay, just tonight, one night! The next night they would be staying in a different home or shelter, or hotel. Her expenses were taken care of. It was like entering the witness protection program. She’d filed for divorce while Mack was in jail. He’d signed the papers in exchange for reduced active time. She’d said goodbye to the few friends and family she had, just saying she had a job opportunity and was moving away. Her parents were deceased, she hoped to never see Mack again.
Marissa knew that in about seven to ten days, she and Michael, from now on to be called Ken, Kenny, or Kenneth, and his Mom Carol, would arrive at their new home, an apartment paid for by the Underground Railroad. Kenny would go to school and be safe she hoped. She had a job waiting for her, she didn’t even know what yet, but different from what she’d done before. She was scared a bit, nervous, but excited also. “Finally,” she thought “Michael And I will be free, safe, and able to pursue a more normal lifestyle.” She was only thirty years old.
Meanwhile, back in Atlanta, Mack was putting his plan into motion. What he didn’t know was that Marissa and Kenny had arrived at the Center at one thirty. She had signed papers and transferred the title to her car to its new owner. Pocketing the cash, she met with her therapist only long enough to say goodbye and be shown out the back door to a waiting car, with tinted windows, where they quickly loaded her, Michael, and their suitcases. Waving goodbye, Marissa and Michael were gone, on their way to their new life before two o’clock.
Not knowing any of this, Mack took a break from work “to run an important errand,” he told his boss. Within minutes, he’d called in a bomb threat against the Mental Health Center from a pay phone. He drove directly there, thinking he would surely find his wife in the parking lot, evacuated along with everyone else. He laughed, no one could beat him, he always got what he wanted!
When Mack pulled up near the Mental Health Center, he was delighted to see all the staff and clients standing out in the parking lot, just as he’d predicted. He parked on the street, and began to look for Marissa. He saw the police forming teams, each with a bomb-sniffing dog, and enter the building to search. Half of him wished he’d been able to plant a real bomb!
He walked around a bit, but didn’t see her! “Where could she be?” He knew she wouldn’t still be in the building. Then he saw her therapist, his also, “that stupid woman!” He looked carefully, then approached the counselor. “Hi Angela, what’s going on?”
Angela was surprised to see Mack for sure! She smiled at him and said, “Hi Mack, what brings you here this time of day?”
“Well, I was coming by to settle my bill, and I heard on the radio about the bomb threat. Thought I’d swing by and check it out. Everyone okay? I thought I’d heard that Marissa had an appointment this afternoon, it worried me, so is she here?“
Red flags went up immediately in the therapist’s brain and intuition, but she stayed calm, and kept a smile on her face, as she said, “Oh, thank heavens, as it turns out, Marissa canceled today. I can’t remember why, but we rescheduled for later in the week.” (She lied to protect Marissa, hoping the delayed appointment time would keep him from searching for her beyond the center.)
Mack said he had to get back to work, but she saw him circling the crowd and the building. She immediately sought out the nearest police officer she could find. She pointed Mack out as she and the officer watched him get into his car and drive away. Immediately, the officer issued a bulletin for him to be brought in for questioning as a person of interest in the planting of the bomb at the Mental Health Center, or the issuing of a false report.
It was determined before long that there was no bomb in the building. Angela entered with all the other staff, although she didn’t feel very safe or comfortable. The afternoon and evening continued as if nothing had happened. About six o’clock however, Angela got to talk to the same police officer she’d seen earlier. She reminded him that she’d reported that one of her male clients, arrested formerly for domestic violence, was seen loitering around the Center during the bomb threat evacuation, and that he’d admitted he was looking for his wife, from whom he was separated. She asked if he knew whether or not he’d been involved.
The officer said he was just coming to see if Angela was still in the building, and continued to tell her the outcome. They had picked Mack up to be questioned as a person of interest. Under intensive interrogation, Mack had admitted he had planned the whole thing, that he had called in the bomb threat. He admitted that he’d wanted to see his wife evacuated from the building, and even how he’d discovered her appointment time!
Angela was surprised and saddened, even though on some level she’d suspected just that! She knew, and it came to happen, that when he appeared in court the next morning, his probation was revoked and he was sent back to jail for breaking the terms of his release–trying to harm his wife, get close to her, possibly threaten or intimidate her, and calling in a false report. This meant of course, Angela would no longer have him in the Men’s Violent Offender’s Group either. While sad, and wishing she could have done more to help this couple, she also used his incarceration as a warning to other group members that they meant business–that if the men failed to attend group and participate, or broke the rules of their probation or restraining orders, they would be reported and go back to jail. It had an impact, most didn’t want to lose their freedom.
Mack got out of jail a year later, and immediately went to see Marissa. He was surprised to learn she had moved away quite a while ago, no one seemed to remember just when. He used the internet, but could find no trace of her. After he was back at work, he used his first paycheck to hire a private detective to find her. Even the detective was unable to discover her whereabouts. The women’s shelter, the Underground Railroad had done their jobs well, and Carol and Kenny were happy in their new home and community.
(© This fictional story by Helen Y. Holshouser, was inspired by a true one, unfortunately.)
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