What You Wish For Just Might Happen.
Scott Milner was a contented man with a great job, a loving wife and a wonderful daughter. Life was good and his future was bright. Gradually his happy life started to unwind and began spiral out of control. After seventeen years of marriage, his wife, for no apparent reason, became dissatisfied and angry. It was obvious that he was on a gradual path to divorce. His formerly secure job became the casualty of a corporate upheaval, and to make things worse, his employer tried to cheat him out of his compensation. He began to obsessively worry about the future of his daughter, and how he would be able to pay for her education and keep her in his life.
Convinced that his life was disintegrating, he became increasingly desperate. Looking for a way out, Scott was seduced by a woman who had a plan that would save him. All he had to do was commit a crime, a lucrative fraud that would strike back at their employer and allow him to escape his current problems.
It didn’t take long for the plan to go wrong. Scott soon found himself divorced, unemployable, and the subject of a police investigation, and then things got a lot worse.
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Scott drove home in an alcoholic fog. He pressed the remote control, but the garage door refused to open. “Damn.” He sat there looking at the garage door, listening to Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” until the battery saver shut off the radio. “Now Becker’s dead.”
The front door to his home opened, and Amy bounced down the steps.
“Dad, what’re you doing?”
“Hi, sweetheart. Just thinking about work. It was a difficult week, and I’m fried.”
“Mom’s mad. She says to come in and get some dinner.”
“You go inside, and I’ll be in right away.”
Amy tossed “Hurry” over her shoulder as she returned to the house.
Scott opened his car door and walked unsteadily back to the trunk. He felt around inside of his briefcase, cursing softly, and he finally located the burner phone in his coat pocket. He turned it off and hid it in the spare-tire well.
Once in the kitchen, Dana glared at him over a glass of wine. “Were you planning on sleeping in the car tonight?”
“Catastrophic energy failure.”
“It’s eight o’clock. You could have called.”
“Sorry, Jeff wanted to get a drink. Time got away from us.”
“So that’s more important than your family?” Scott ignored the challenge. “What’s on Jeff’s mind, other than women?”
“He’s in love; a one-woman guy now.”
“You mean this week?”
“He sounds serious and quite committed.”
“Do you remember that this is my retreat weekend?”
“Uh, yeah,” Scott lied, happy to be sticking close to home with Amy.
“Sounds like you forgot. You get to take care of Amy all weekend. I should be back late Sunday evening.”
“What goes on at these things?”
“I pay good money to drink mediocre wine and compare husband horror stories. You’re on the program.”
Scott woke at ten minutes to nine on Saturday morning with a crackling headache and his mouth puckering like the inside of a vacuum dust bag. He showered, pulled on shorts and a T-shirt, and shuffled down to the kitchen.
He found Amy, a pretty girl of fifteen, engrossed in her laptop. She had long brown hair, and her blue eyes and pleasant face were complemented by incredibly beautiful skin. She was sitting at the breakfast table in her sleep clothes, intently watching the screen. “Mom left about seven.”
“How about some breakfast?”
“I ate.” Amy still concentrating on her laptop.
“I’m not impressed by the yogurt and fruit thing. I’m making a scramble.”
Scott cracked four eggs and beat them with milk, diced up some ham, and poured it all into a pan. He tossed a couple English muffins in the toaster, sprinkled herbs and feta cheese over the eggs, started a cup of tea, and sent out a feeler. “Got anything you’d like to do this weekend that doesn’t involve buying a new car?”
“I want to go to a poetry reading this afternoon. I just love the poet who’s going to be reading at the Busted Mug in Pasadena.”
“Really? Poetry’s a new one. I don’t seem to recall that from anywhere.” Scott quickly ran over the names of some poets in his mind in a vain attempt to establish parental relevance. Frost, Kipling, maybe Ferlinghetti or Ginsberg? He wisely abandoned that avenue of bonding.
“My English lit teacher introduced us to poetry. I really like it. There also happens to be a cute boy in class who likes the same poets that I do.”
“Okay, my dad decoder ring just started glowing. I bet the cute guy is faking the poetry thing so he can put some moves on you.”
“Dad! You’re such a cynic. Jordan is a nice guy.”
“Jordan? What is he, a missionary?”
“Stop joking. Can we go?”
“I wouldn’t miss it. Come over here and eat a decent breakfast for a change.”
Scott parked off of Green Street and walked with Amy to the Busted Mug. The coffeehouse was located in a large, old, renovated two-story home. Probably made in the twenties, the old dame was now an orphan among the condominiums and commercial buildings that had grown around her. A young woman greeted them at the entrance. She had long straight hair, wore a beaded headband, a long granny dress, and sandals. Scott paid the cover charges in exchange for two coffee drink tickets. They found a small table and ordered lattes from another hippie impostor. A chalkboard resting on a chair identified the three poets holding forth that evening. Scott sipped his coffee, which was quite good, and resigned himself to a culturally diverse evening, secure in the knowledge that his DVR was recording the Dodgers at home.
The first poet was a young man wearing expensive distressed jeans and a designer hoodie. He earnestly lectured the audience on the social justice issues of the day and challenged the audience to join the righteous battle against inequality. Unmoved, Scott wondered how seriously one had to take an affluent white kid with acne and dreadlocks.
Poet number two was an older guy wearing a Chargers jersey, cargo shorts, and sandals. His long gray hair was artfully disheveled. Scott liked his lighthearted ramble through his life’s ironies, contradictions, and puzzlements. Scott speculated that he probably benefited from a steady income secured by a disability check. He wondered if the wise old sage persona got him an occasional night in bed with a young female admirer.
Scott stole glances at Amy. She looked so excited and engaged that he had to smile at her enthusiasm for a newfound pleasure.
Scott excused himself at the intermission for a trip to the men’s room. When he returned, a young man was sitting at their table talking to Amy. He was slightly built and had a ponytail. Scott got a glimpse of some ink under the collar of his shirt. As Scott sat down, Amy introduced him as Josh, another poetry lover. Scott’s parental “protector detector” pinged, and for no tangible reason, he instantly disliked Josh.
“Mom took me here a couple weeks ago, and I met Josh. We like the same poets.”
Scott shook Josh’s hand. “Nice to meet you. Are you a poet?”
“Ah, no. I just like poetry. I hang out here a lot.”
“Are you a student? What do you do when you’re not listening to poetry?”
“I’m a senior at Pasadena High School. I’m going to Cal State L.A. when I graduate this year.”
“No kidding. How old are you?”
“Just curious. Did Amy tell you she’s fifteen?”
Amy corrected. “Almost sixteen.”
The conversation died as the last poet took the stage and the lights dimmed. This was the poet Amy had come to see. She was an angular woman in her thirties with gray eyes, and black hair with a green streak down the middle. She read from a small self-published book of her own poetry. Scott listened attentively for Amy’s sake. The reading was interesting, but dwelled a little too much on her adventurous sex life to suit Scott. He rationalized that he couldn’t control all of Amy’s life. She was growing up and bound to hear it somewhere.
Scott carefully watched Amy and Josh during the reading. He was developing his suspicions about Josh. They seemed to be enthralled with the spoken words, and looked at each other a little too often and far too warmly for his liking. There was a pulse of feral hunger that made Scott very uncomfortable.
At the conclusion of the presentation, they drifted toward the back of the room. Amy kept looking over her shoulder at the poet holding court on stage.
“Dad, do you mind if I go meet her and get a book autographed?”
Scott fished some money out of his wallet. “Take your time. Josh and I can chat.”
Josh and Scott both watched Amy join the small crowd at the stage. Scott stepped into Josh’s space and looked him in the eyes. “Give me your driver’s license.”
“What? No! What’d you want my driver’s license for?”
“I want to check your age. I want to know who’s interested in my underage daughter.”
“Hey, fuck you, dad. I don’t have to show you shit.”
Josh panicked and tried to brush past. Scott shoved him through the men’s room door, grabbing his left wrist, painfully twisting his arm behind his back, and bending him over a sink.
“Hey, that hurts! What the…? Are you crazy?”
“Get out your wallet.” Scott hiked up the pressure on the bent arm, causing Josh to cry out.
“Okay, okay. Stop! That hurts!” Josh managed to get his wallet out with his free hand. Scott grabbed the wallet, shaking the contents into the sink. Picking up the driver’s license he read aloud. “Duane Dietz, 44352 Valley Boulevard, Alhambra. Hey, ‘Josh,’ your DOB says you’re twenty-two years old. Empty your front pocket.” Josh started to object, then changed his mind and dug deep into his pocket. He threw the contents into the sink. Scott picked up some aluminum foil-wrapped pills and ignored the condoms and a pocketknife. He held the pills in front of Josh’s face, “What’s this?”
No response, so Scott hiked his arm up an inch.
Josh cried in pain. “Molly! It’s Molly!”
Scott picked up an employee ID card from the spilled wallet items. “This says you’re a Medical Technician Assistant at Pasadena Community Hospital.”
Scott pulled him away from the sink and gave him a shove with his foot that sent Josh sprawling across the floor crashing into a trash bin. “If I ever see you near my daughter again, I’ll really fuck you up. Do you understand me?”
Josh sobbed, rubbing his arm, “Yeah.”
“I’m as serious as cancer. If I ever see you again, you’ll be pissing blood.”
Scott pocketed the condoms, the knife, the identification, and the pills. He checked himself in a mirror, and walked out to meet Amy.
Amy looked around. “Where’s Josh?”
“He got a bad biscotti and went home. Come on, let’s get dinner.”
Scott and Amy drove to Old Town and got a table at their favorite Italian restaurant.
Scott looked up from his menu. “How about sharing a Caesar salad and a large Margarita pizza?”
Amy approved. “Perfect, but no anchovy on the salad. They’re disgusting.”
“Done.” Scott ordered, asking for anchovies on the side.
Scott looked at his daughter, thinking about how to deal with the Josh issue. He hated to spoil the evening for her, but the situation needed handling. “What do you know about Josh?”
“He seems like a nice guy.”
“Someone you might want to be friends with?”
“Sure, maybe. He’s cute.”
Scott pulled out the driver’s license and photo ID and set it on the table. “What do you think of that?”
Amy sat staring at Dietz’s identification. “Is this a joke? Where did you get these?”
“I took these from ‘Josh,’ which obviously isn’t his real name. The license says he’s twenty-two. He’s not a student. Near as I can tell, he empties bedpans at a hospital.”
“I can’t believe it. He seemed so nice and kind.”
Scott put the pills on the table. “He had these in his pocket. He said it’s Molly, but they could be anything.”
Amy flushed. “Oh my God! What an asshole! I’m so mad that I let him get close to me.”
Scott let the rectal appellation slide, not wanting to distract from the life lesson. “Amy, you’re a beautiful young woman, and you’re going to be admired by men all your life. Take your time and know who they are before you let them get too close. Stay away from the cool guys on the hustle. Play it for the long run. Time reveals everything. Your mother didn’t sign off on this clown, did she? I’m guessing you really met him online?”
Amy blushed and nodded, yes. “We agreed to meet at the reading.”
“Does he know where you live or go to school?”
“No. I didn’t give him that kind of personal information.”
“This guy you agreed to meet is a predator. You understand that? There are a lot of them out there. You need to be careful, guarded, and skeptical. Only takes one mistake to put you in the worst nightmare of your life.”
Amy’s face flushed. She nodded her understanding.
“One more thing, don’t ever lie to me again.” Scott noticed the waiter coming. “It looks like dinner’s here.”
On the way home, Amy was very quiet. Once in the house she left for her bedroom. “I need to take a shower and go to bed.”
“Okay. See you in the morning. Don’t kick yourself over this. Just learn, and don’t do it again, okay?”
Amy came back and kissed him. “I will. Thanks, Dad.”
Scott checked his watch, “I need something at the drug store. I’ll be back in twenty minutes.”
Scott approached the pharmacy counter at the all-night drug store on Foothill Boulevard. He asked to speak with the pharmacist. A young woman, her white coat embroidered with the name “Kathy,” came to the counter.
“How may I help you?”
“Can you tell me what these pills are? There is some writing on them.” He put Josh’s pills on the counter.
Kathy glanced at them without picking them up. “Rohypnol.”
“Yes. It’s Rohypnol. Do you have a prescription?”
“Actually, no. Thank you.” Scott pocketed the pills, walked through the liquor aisle, browsing until a bottle spoke to him. He picked out a bottle of single malt scotch. The label promised that the scotch whisky had been “Aged in rum casks.” Sold. He checked out.
At home, Scott opened the kitchen cabinet, took out a short whisky glass, poured in two fingers of single malt, added an ice cube, and allowed it to melt a bit. He tasted the whisky. It was rich and smooth with none of the chemical taste of cheap scotch. He wandered into the den looking for the TV remote when the phone rang.
Carol sounded stressed and panicky. “Why haven’t you called? I need you!”
Scott nearly crushed the glass in his hand. “Hang up. I’ll call you back in two minutes.”
He went to his car, retrieved the cell phone, turned it on, and dialed Carol’s number. She picked up, but before she could speak, Scott angrily growled, “I told you to never call my home!”
Carol was crying. “I’m sorry, I just thought you…maybe you dumped me. I needed to talk to you.”
Scott paced on the driveway. “You can’t ever call my home.”
“But I needed to talk to you!”
“I’m hanging up now. I’ll call you tomorrow. Do not call here again. Do you understand?”
“I’m sorry, I…”
“Don’t call again. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Got it?”
Carol sobbed. “Okay.”
Sunday, Scott got up early and cooked some bacon. He was in the middle of making pancakes when a very subdued Amy appeared.
Scott began. “I want you to understand the seriousness of what happened yesterday. I took the pills that I got from ‘Josh’ to the pharmacy. They’re Rohypnol, the “Date Rape” drug. ‘Josh’ also had some condoms and a pocketknife on him. I believe he intended to drug and rape you.”
Amy struggled to speak. “I am so sorry. I didn’t think anything was wrong. It seems like a bad dream now.”
“I just wanted you to know how serious it was. He’s probably done this before to other women. Have something to eat.”
After breakfast Amy went to her room to read poetry.
Scott tried to look casual as he walked out to his car, retrieved the cell phone, and called Carol.
She sounded anxious. “I’m sorry about yesterday. I just got so lonely.”
“Let’s meet at the condo at noon tomorrow. Okay?”
“That’s wonderful! I so need to see you.”
“Tomorrow at noon.”
Dana arrived home at seven o’clock. She looked tired as she dragged her overnight case into the den.
Scott rose and kissed her. “Welcome home.”
“I’m beat. Quite a retreat; the drive home was miserable.”
“I’ve got some disturbing news. You want it now or later?”
“What do you mean, disturbing? What’s wrong?”
“I took Amy to a poetry reading at a coffee shop, and a young guy showed up. They had obviously had a previous relationship of some kind. Turns out they met online and agreed to meet at the coffee shop. I guess my presence was not part of the planning. I became suspicious and confronted him. He was lying about his name and age. He was much older. I also found some Rohypnol, a knife, and condoms in his pocket. I think he intended to drug and rape Amy.”
“Oh, God. What happened? Is she okay?”
“No harm. Nothing happened. I smoked him out and booted his ass down the road before they got past introductions.”
Dana flashed to anger, “How could she be so stupid? How many times have we warned her about Internet predators?”
“She’s young, and kids have unformed judgment. I had a long conversation with her. She understands just how grave the situation was. She’s been very quiet. She’s quite embarrassed and feeling pretty low-down. I think it’s handled. She needs some support and understanding now. She’s doing a good job of beating herself up without us piling on.”
“I just want to do something, but it’s probably best if I let it go for now. Once she gets over the shock, I’ll reinforce the lesson.”
Scott went upstairs to shower, Dana plucked a bottle of Chardonnay out of the fridge and retreated to the den. She poured a glass and thought about events at the retreat.
Participants at Dana’s retreat had been paired two to a room. The single-room upgrade was too expensive, by design. Dana had avoided the awkward situation of an incompatible roommate by pairing up with a known partner. She was pleased to hook up again with a trim, attractive professional woman she’d met at a previous retreat. They’d hit it off almost immediately. Their bonding was strengthened through the lectures, group exercises, and the communal meals they shared. They’d traded horror stories complaining bitterly about men.
The relaxation element of the retreat included a massage, a sauna, and of course, wine. A couple glasses of Merlot and an extended deep massage had relaxed Dana and her friend into a puttylike state. They’d gone into the sauna in a fuzzy state of relaxation.
Once inside, they found themselves alone. Dana’s partner leaned over and kissed her. Dana returned a long deep kiss.
They’d retired to their room and spent the night in the same bed.
Things were going as planned.
About the Author
The author was born in Orange, California, and with the exception of three years in Minneapolis and a stint in the navy during the Vietnam war, he’s lived in the Los Angeles area.
Laurel, his lovely spouse of over thirty years, enjoyed a career as a professional librarian and executive manager of a large metropolitan library system.
He earned a bachelor of science degree in Business Administration from California State University at Los Angeles and a graduate degree in Administration from Pepperdine University.
He enjoyed a thirty year career as a Human Resources/Employee Relations manager, a career that inspired the plot of What You Wish For.
The author is an avid student of history. He ran a high end audio business manufacturing business, selling audio cables for twenty years. Other interests include photography, classic automobiles, motorcycles, movies and music.
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