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Chapter 2

Just as Susan began to doze off, the phone next to her bed began to ring. She was drowsy but she reached out and grabbed the receiver.

“Hello?”

“What did you tell the nosy bitch? You had better not lie. I’ll know if you are.” Donald said.

“Donald, what’s happened to you? You are not the same person I married anymore.”

“What do you mean? I’ve always been this way. You are just too stupid to see beyond the end of your nose, past my money.”

“The Donald I fell in love with and married knows I don’t give a damn about your money and you are not the person I fell in love with.”

“Love? There’s no such thing. You were a good fuck and that’s about it. So good in fact that I can’t wait to do you again as soon as you get out of there.” He said crudely.

Susan didn’t know what to say but she made up her mind right then and there that she would not be going back to him.

“Don’t get any stupid ideas about running either. I’ll hunt you down and make you sorry you even thought about it. You are mine and I’ll kill you before I let you go. One of these days I’m going to fuck you in that tight white ass of yours.” Donald laughed evilly as he threatened her and then hung up.

Susan sat staring at the phone and listened to it buzz for a few minutes until Mary came back in to check on her.

Susan turned her tear stained face to the nurse and Mary knew that something had happened. “What did he say?” She asked as she took the phone from Susan and hung it up.

“He told me not to run. He said he would hunt me down and make me regret it. He said he would kill me before he lets me go. He also said one of these days he’s going to rape me in my ass.” Susan choked on the words and began to feel sick. She grabbed the bowl on the table by the end of the bed and began throwing up. Mary retrieved a wet rag and wiped her face and hands when she was done.

“That does it. I’m going to talk to your doctor and have your husband barred from coming back into the hospital. We have a women’s counselor here during the day and I strongly recommend you talk with her. She can help you get away safely.” Nurse Mary told her.

“Where’s my purse?” Susan asked.

“Right here dear. I put it down here when we first brought you in, before he got here.” Mary opened the door on the cabinet next to Susan’s bed and retrieved her purse. Susan quickly pulled out her wallet and looked to see if she had any money on her. She had about $50 in cash and both of her credit cards were still there.

“Mary, can you do me a favor? Is there an ATM in the hospital?” Susan asked.

“Yes. Down by the gift shop.” Nurse Mary answered.

“Can you get me some cash, if I give you my card?” Susan asked, as she held out her credit card.

“Oh, I’m sorry but I can’t do that. I could lose my job if I got caught. It’s against hospital policy.” Nurse Mary said, truly regretful.

“I’m afraid he’s going to cut off my card if I have to be here for more than a day. I’ll need money if I’m going to leave, otherwise I have no choice but to go back to him.” Susan said worriedly.

“The counselor might be able to do it, but I can’t. I’ll call her right now.” Mary said. She left the room and went to call the counselor.

Susan tried to think about what she needed to do but the pain killers that were in her IV were making her sleepy and she couldn’t focus well for very long. She was so glad now that she had not canceled her personal credit card or her personal bank accounts after they had gotten married. She had liked having her own money.

She had saved a considerable amount when she had been working and had barely touched it since they had married except when she had been decorating the house. She had paid for most of the furnishings in the house except for Donald’s home office. She should be able to make it for at least six months if she was frugal with her money.

She was worried that Donald might be able to cut off her funds or freeze her accounts since he was legally her husband. She’d find a place to live and get a job again were her last thoughts as the medication finally took control and she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

The doctor had kept her in the hospital for over a week, until the bleeding had stopped completely and she was able to walk around without wincing. He told her that several of her ribs had been badly cracked but only one had been completely broken and she would have to keep them bound for another week or two before they would be completely healed and the bruise faded away.

Susan had spent several hours talking to the counselor who informed her that if she drew out cash from a joint account where Donald was the sole provider, she could be prosecuted for stealing, if she didn’t go back to him. She also advised her that so long as her personal accounts were still in her name and Donald’s name was not on the account, then Donald would not be able to access them without declaring and proving her to be deceased.

“The best he can do is to freeze any card that he is directly connected to. But I warn you, if you use his card after you leave here, he will be able to track you so I would say, order clothes and what you are going to need to get away from him and then cut the card up and throw it away. There’s nothing he can do about it since he did not take steps to stop you from using a card he provided for you.” The counselor had advised her.

The counselor told her that there were safe houses she could go to while she filed for a divorce but also advised her that once she entered one, she wouldn’t be free to come and go and would have to stay until she had her divorce. “It’s too easy for someone to follow you back and find out where the safe house is located. That endangers other women staying there and many of them have children to protect.”

Susan didn’t care much for that idea and decided that if she was going to go, she would just leave the state and file for her divorce once she got somewhere safe. She had asked Nurse Mary, whom she had gotten rather close to during her stay, daily if he had tried to call but Donald had not even tried to call to check on her the whole time she was there.

Susan decided to just pay the hospital bill with their joint credit card. Hell, he had done this to her, let him pay the bill. The counselor let her borrow a laptop and she also ordered some clothes and shoes online and paid for a rush delivery to the hospital. She was going to have to have something to wear since she had ruined the outfit she had on when she had bled through her pad on her way to the clinic that day. She didn’t order anything extravagant or more than she would need because she didn’t want to give him any ammunition to use against her in court when the time came. Donald wouldn’t get the bills until she was long gone. She would throw the card away once she was safely away from here.

When she was finally released from the hospital, Nurse Mary walked her out to her car and found that whoever had brought her car from the clinic, had removed the seat cover on the drivers’ side because of the blood. Luckily she had not bled through to the seat underneath. She hugged and thanked Nurse Mary for all her help before getting behind the wheel.

Susan drove back to their house because she knew Donald would be at work and gathered some of her personal belongings, including her passport. She considered leaving her wedding ring on her pillow but knew it was worth a lot of money and she might need to be able to pawn it if she couldn’t find a job right away. But she did take it off and put it in her purse.

She was terrified that Donald might come home and catch her so she basically threw things into a suitcase she could easily manage to carry on her own and left her car in the garage. It was in both of their names so she would not be able to sell it without Donald’s signature and it was too easy to spot if he came looking for her.

She took a cab to a diner in the next town and paid cash for the fare. She walked to the bus station and changed her clothes in the bus station bathroom. She pulled her hair up and hid it in a hat and pushed a large pair of cheap sunglasses that she had gotten at a convenience store, on her face and took a bus going south. She didn’t care where, especially, just so long as she was getting away from Donald.

After several days of riding that bus, trying to think of a plan, she hoped that she had covered her tracks well enough and decided that the next thing she needed was a job. So when the bus driver finally said it was his last stop and that he would be returning to New York, she knew this was the end of the line for her.

She got off the bus and found herself in New Orleans. She had gotten cash from her personal debit card at the bus station before she left but it was almost gone so she bought a newspaper to look for a job. She wouldn’t be able to work in her usual field, at least not right away. That would make her too easy to find. So she looked for things that would keep her under the radar and still allow her to make enough money to survive on.

It was still fairly early in the day so she found a place to get something to eat while she searched through the help wanted ads. There were a couple of cashiers jobs but that wouldn’t allow her to be able to run if she saw someone she knew or if anyone started asking questions.

The restaurant where she had chosen to eat had a chatty waitress who noticed that she was looking at the help wanted section and told her they had a waitress position open if she was interested. It was a small restaurant off the beaten path, mostly waiting tables but sometimes they would let her help out in the kitchen.

Susan loved to cook. The owners, the Boudreau’s, an elderly couple that had said Susan reminded them of their daughter who had died several years earlier of a rare brain cancer. They had taken Susan under their wing and let her stay in the small apartment above the restaurant.

Susan had minded her own business but was leery of anyone who looked at her too long or asked any questions about where she was from. She managed to stay under the radar and had worked there for over 6 months. Then one day a man she thought looked familiar came in but didn’t sit at one of her tables.

He had asked his waitress what her name was and Susan finally realized that he was a business associate of Donald’s. They had met at a company gathering she had attended with Donald right after they had gotten married. Susan had been terrified that he would tell Donald, so after a quick explanation to the Boudreau’s, she had packed her stuff and ran again.

Again she got on a bus, this time going west with no real thought about where she was going to go but watching over her shoulder all the time. She knew an old classmate friend from college that lived in Houston so she decided to go there. Susan changed buses in Baton Rouge and headed for Houston. Susan found her friend’s number in the phone book and called Helen Strong and gave her a brief run down on her situation. Thankfully Helen told her that she could stay with her until she could decide what to do next.

After a few weeks in Houston, one night Susan had used the pay phone on the corner to call the Boudreau’s, wanting to know if Donald had shown up looking for her and was told that indeed he had.

Mama B told her he had shown up about two days after she left so the man who had recognized her must have called him. “He seem like nice man, Susie, til Papa B told him that you left town. Den he start yellin’ and demandin’ to know where you was. Da two policemans dat come have der lunch was here and dae make him leave an’ told him no come back. Oh Susie, please be safe! We miss you!” Mrs. Boudreau told her, in her broken English.

“Please don’t cry, Mama B. Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.” Susan assured her. The operator came on and asked for another dollar to continue the call and Susan had to quickly sign off. “I’ll keep in touch and thank you for everything.” Susan hoped Mrs. Boudreau could hear her as she hung up.

Susan had stayed for another few days, until her friend, Helen said she had heard a man asking a convenience store clerk around the corner from where she lived if anyone had seen Susan. He had a picture of her and the clerk acted like she was unsure. The man had asked to hang a copy in the store window and the clerk said she would have to get the permission of the manager but she took a copy and put it under the counter.

Helen had gone straight home and told Susan and then helped her pack. As soon as it was dark, Helen snuck her to a bus station on the edge of town and Susan was on the run again.

For the next year, Susan had hopped from one small town to another, doing any kind of temp work she could find. She had been a stock clerk, a cleaning lady and had even pumped gas in a small station in Arizona. She never stayed in one place for more than a couple of weeks, usually for not more than a few days, until she had finally made it to Vegas.

There were so many jobs and she had landed a job working in one of the casino’s serving drinks for a couple of weeks but she hated it. Drunk men were always pawing at her and making lude suggestions. One night a drunk had gotten a little too familiar with his hands and when another told her she reminded him of someone, she decided to run again. She cut her hair and dyed it jet black. She quit her job and decided to go back to Texas. That’s where she was heading now.

As the bus pulled into the station in Dallas, Susan picked up her purse and waited her turn to get off the bus as she tried to peer through the dirty windows on the bus to make sure no one she recognized was waiting on the platform.

The company she used to work for had an office in Dallas. She had hoped that a woman she used to communicate with, Melanie Davis, would be able to help her find out if Donald had filed for divorce on the grounds of abandonment yet. She was putting a lot of faith in hoping that Melanie would keep her whereabouts secret as she got off the bus.

Susan’s senses were on full alert as she gripped the handle of her suitcase and began walking down the street to the cab stand. She prayed that her disguise of the hat and dark glasses that she wore when she traveled would give her cover if anyone was looking for her.

Even though she had dyed her hair black and always kept it hidden up under her hat, her gray eyes were a dead giveaway if Donald was showing a picture of her around. She asked a taxi driver to take her to a clean, safe hotel that wasn’t too expensive. He drove her to a local hotel that was rather run down but the cabbie told her “It may not look like much but it’s cheap and they’ve got clean rooms. The man who owns the place doesn’t allow any trouble and so far has managed to keep out the riff raff.” Susan thanked him and paid his fare in cash, including a generous tip.

Susan was almost out of cash so she had used her personal credit card when she checked into the cheap hotel. She put her bags in the room and freshened up a bit then she changed out of her traveling clothes of jeans and a t-shirt and into something that was more appropriate for a casual meeting with the woman that she had met at a conference several years ago.

She and Melanie had clicked from the very first time they had met and had sat together at the conference they were attending and had gone to dinner together every night Susan had been in town. That was all before she had met and married Donald.

Susan shook her head and made herself focus as she got ready to leave the hotel. She checked that her hair was still well hidden and left the room. She made sure the door to her room was locked, slipped the key in her pocket and then walked down the street to the service station on the corner and asked to borrow the phone. The young man behind the counter said “OK, so long as it’s a local call. Susan assured him that it was and then she put in the call to Melanie’s office. “Melanie Davis” a familiar voice answered.

“Melanie, it’s Susan Griffin. How are you?”

“Susan, my goodness. Talk about a coincidence! There was someone here looking for you just a few days ago.”

“Who?” Susan whispered.

“Tall, good looking fellow that said his name is Donald Murphy. He said he is your husband. He said if you contacted anyone here that we were to call him and let him know and he left his card. What’s going on Susan?” Melanie asked.

“Please Melanie, don’t tell him I called. He is my husband but he started hitting me a few months after we were married and a little over a year and a half ago he made me lose the baby I didn’t even know I was pregnant with. I’ve been on the run ever since.” Susan gave her friend the condensed version of what had happened.

“Oh, my God, Susan. Are you alright?” Melanie asked.

“Yes, I’m fine now but I’m never going back. I need some help finding out about how to get a divorce and a restraining order.” Susan said quickly. Susan realized that the clerk at the counter was trying to eavesdrop on her conversation so she asked Melanie “Is there someplace we can meet where we can talk in private?”

“Do you remember the little bar we went to when you came for that conference?” Melanie asked.

“Yes, I think so.” Susan replied. Melanie told her the name of the bar and gave her the address and said, “I’ll be there in an hour.” Then she hung up.

Susan got a taxi and gave the driver the address of the bar. Susan hurried inside and chose a table with a clear view of the front door but she was kind of hidden from view as she nervously waited for Melanie. The bar was practically empty but every time the front door opened, Susan nearly jumped out of her seat. She had never been so relieved to see anyone as she was when Melanie finally arrived about 15 minutes after her. Susan greeted her friend and pulled off her hat and glasses as they sat down to talk.

Melanie commented on her hair and the weight she had lost. “I can’t believe you cut off all that beautiful red hair and dyed it black. The cut needs help but the black doesn’t look bad on you. But, lord girl, you’ve gotten so skinny.” Melanie told her.

“Being on the run for over a year, not eating and sleeping right will do that to you.” Susan explained what had been going on and Melanie listened with her mouth hanging open most of the time.

“How in the world did you get hooked up with someone like him? Lord, I mean, I know he’s very good looking and he was so charming but there was something about him that I just didn’t trust. I told him I hadn’t heard from you in over 2 years, which is true. He asked if anyone else in our office might have had contact with you recently and I told him the truth that I didn’t know but that I seriously doubted it. I told him that I hadn’t heard from you since you had resigned.” Melanie told her, much to Susan’s relief.

“Did he happen to mention how long he was going to be in town?” Susan asked.

“No, he didn’t and I didn’t ask. He had another man with him, a big burly looking fellow that just kind of stood near the door and looked around.” Melanie said. “He said he was his chauffeur but he looked more like a leg breaker.”

“No, Donald wouldn’t give up the pleasure of doing it himself. He’s probably a private detective.” Susan said as she sat back with a look of disgust on her face.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Melanie asked.

“Just don’t let on you’ve seen or heard from me if he comes back asking more questions.” Susan said.

“Do you need money? A place to stay? You know you are welcome to come stay with me as long as you need to.” Melanie offered.

“No. But thanks. I need to find a lawyer that can tell me how I can get a divorce without having to see Donald again. Do you know of anyone?” Susan asked.

“No, I don’t but I’ll ask around and see if I can find you one. Do you have a safe place to stay?” Melanie asked.

“Yes.” Susan replied. “At least I think so.”

“Well, call me the day after tomorrow and I’ll let you know what I can find. Do you have a cell phone?” Melanie asked.

“No. I threw mine away. I think that’s how he’s been tracking me. Most of them have locators in them.” Susan said

“Get a track phone. You know, one of those cheap throw away phones you can buy at Walmart or the dollar store. You can put a whole months’ time on it without having to sign any paperwork or join anything.” Melanie said as she dug in her purse. She opened her wallet and pushed a couple of hundred dollar bills across the table to Susan. “Here, take this, please.”

“Oh no, I can’t take money from you.” Susan said.

“Call it a loan then. Pay me back when you get your life back together. I hope someone would do the same for me, if I ever needed it.” Melanie said sincerely.

“Thank you Melanie. I will pay you back, I promise.” Susan said as she accepted the money and slipped it into the pocket of her pants. Melanie glanced up and looked through the window of the bar.

“Oh my God! Susan, he’s here. He’s about to come in the door. Quick, run to the ladies room and stay there till I come for you.” Melanie said.

Susan quickly grabbed her purse and ran for the back of the bar. She just made it to the bathroom as the front door opened. She ran into a stall and locked the door. She stood in the stall shivering from head to toe, listening. She waited for what seemed like hours but was actually only about 10 minutes. She emptied her bladder and wanted to wash her hands but she was too terrified to leave the stall. Finally Melanie came in and called out to her.

“Susan, are you in here?” Melanie said in a voice only a little above a whisper.

“Melanie?” Susan whispered back. “Is he gone?”

“Yeah. He left. He had half a beer and then he left. Look, they may be following me so you had better stay here for a while longer and then get a cab. If anyone follows you, tell the cabbie to take you to the local police station. Damn, I wish you had a cell phone. I could call and let you know if they follow me.” Melanie said.

“Look, I know the bartender on duty right now. Roger is a good guy. I’ll tell him to look out for you and I’ll call the bar when I get back to my apartment and let you know if the coast is clear. Here, here’s my home phone number and address. If you need any help or a safe place to stay, please don’t hesitate to call me.” Melanie told her and gave her a business card with her home address and phone number written on the back.

“Thanks but if you can just find out about the lawyer for me. I’ll call you when I get someplace safe. For now, I’m going back on the road again. I should have known better than to come to Dallas. He knows the company has a branch office here. I want as much distance as I can get between him and me.” Susan said.

“I don’t blame you. Well, be safe and call me. I’ll find a lawyer for you, don’t worry.” Melanie said as she hugged Susan and left the restroom.

Susan returned to her stall but didn’t lock the door this time. She sat down on the toilet and tried to think. This was the closest she had been to her husband since he had left the hospital that day. She wanted to run but she was afraid he would be waiting for her outside. She just wished this nightmare would end.

After about half an hour, the bartender finally came knocking on the door. He pushed it open a crack and called out “Susan? I’m Roger, the bartender. Melanie is on the phone for you. It’s OK, there’s only one person in the bar and he’s a regular. It’s safe to come out.” Roger said.

Susan peeked around the corner and saw Roger holding the door for her. She could see past him into the bar and he was right, there was only one person sitting at the bar, a short, fat, bald man who leaned heavily against the bar. Susan followed Roger to the bar and picked up the phone.

“Melanie?” Susan said into the phone.

“Susan. Yes, it’s me. Look, I’m pretty sure he followed me home and is sitting outside right now. There’s a strange car sitting out there across the street. Get a cab now and get out of town, Susan. Call me as soon as you are safe.” Melanie said.

“Thanks Melanie. I will. Look, don’t take any chances with him. I’ll call you as soon as I get somewhere safe again. Thanks for everything.” Susan told her friend and then hung up.

“Can I get you something to drink?” Roger asked when he saw her hang up.

“No thanks, Roger. I need a cab.” Susan said.

“I’ll call you one. Have a seat. It shouldn’t take long.” Roger told her and picked up the phone. He dialed a number and ordered a cab. Susan only had to wait a few minutes before a cab pulled up out front. With a quick goodbye to Roger, she ran out and got in the waiting cab. She gave the address of the hotel and he quickly drove her there.

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