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Sunday, June 29, 2014
Occupational Hazard-Perfect Lies by Elizabeth Parker
“I’ve invited you here because you’ve
indicated that at one point or another you wanted to change. Am I correct? Do
you crave change in your life? Change your outlook? Your perception? Change
your goals? How about this?” He watched as the crowd listened intently. “How
about changing your future?”
The crowd applauded. Excitement evident in
The speaker's voice got lower and his
diction more carefully pronounced. His British accent enhancing his already
“With change, anything and everything is
possible. Do you want to change the way you go about your day? Change those
feelings of hopelessness and despair to those of hope and happiness? Change the
opportunity for blinding success?”
“Let me ask you this…and this, my friends,
is the question of the hour. Is it possible for you to embrace change?”
He glanced around the room, his eyes all
knowing, predicting their reaction. His confidence evident, his posture erect.
He got their attention. His penetrating stare suggested a hint of arrogance,
and as he gazed around, his eyes seemingly locked with everyone. His voice
lowered. He was empowered, and he knew it. He portrayed himself as a visionary,
and everyone wanted to share that vision.
“If you want to change, then this workshop
is for you. If not, please take a moment to gather your things, collect your
refund at the door, and leave. I assure you; I won’t be the least bit
Ellie Dawson had been watching his show
for years. Though it was only televised once in a while, she never missed an
episode. His words had motivated many. They had indeed changed lives. He not
only had his own venue, but also spoke for schools, businesses, and even, at one
point, religious groups. He was the guru of motivational speaking, the icon of
inspiration. He grasped people’s attention from the moment they started
watching, from the minute they began listening. Oddly enough, no one had ever
taken his offer to leave—possibly because they believed in his words, possibly
because they were too afraid.
Jeff was an intelligent man. He knew what
he wanted and how to get it. He was financially set for life. His wife, Rose,
and his children never wanted for anything. Rose was a staple to his image. She
stood by his side in photographs with a wide smile etched on her face. He was a
family man, a supportive listener. He made people laugh and always offered a
smile. He provided a shoulder to cry on. People leaned on him.
He was also the type of person who
listened carefully when people spoke, retained only the useful tidbits,
processed it, and then recited it as his own. His sense of humor might’ve just
been an image he wanted to reflect, a personality he had stolen and emulated as
if it were his. He regurgitated stories told by people he’d met as if they had
truly happened to him.
He seemed to be the most transparent
person, but realistically, he was the least.
People trusted him and admired him. It is
safe to say that some worshipped him.
He gave people a purpose for living. For
some he took it away.
In the end Ellie didn’t know what made him
call her. At least that was what she told people. Deep down, in a part of her
that she feared, she knew exactly why he called her. For reasons unknown to
her, he liked her. What scared her, though—what kept her up at night and
tortured her—was that she liked him, too. Undeniably, there was a connection.
And at one point, she respected him.
So when she agreed to answer his call, she
appeared confused, though for whatever strange and chilling reason, she wasn’t.
Her gut told her to pretend to be for one reason and one reason only.
After all, what would be said of her had
she admitted that she expected that phone call and wasn’t surprised in the
least upon receiving it?
She wished it hadn’t come to this. In her
heart she believed she could’ve stopped it, prevented at least some of it. She
wished she would’ve spoken up sooner.
Because deep down, she knew. When the news
broadcasted and it hit every cover story, she knew. She felt it in the pit of
her stomach. The realization caused her insides to wretch. She felt the blood
rush to her face, like heat of blazing fire. Dozens of memories flooded back. A
tidal wave crested with lies—meetings that were missed, inconsistencies that
alone meant nothing but collectively were driving clues. Puzzle piece upon
puzzle piece flowing together in a fluid-like motion, snapping into place with
the force of a magnet. A thud only she could hear.
She couldn’t believe it to be true.
Although it all made perfect sense. Now.
Ed and Ellie Dawson had been married for
five years. Joined by family and friends, they celebrated their love in the
typical Vegas fashion, including an Elvis impersonator singing “Love Me Tender”
before and after they said the magical words I do.
Ed had captured her attention immediately
when they first met at the library.He
just happened to be returning the very book she had been looking for and his
rugged and well-toned physique caused her to do a double-take. His baby blue
eyes dazzled her immediately and the small scar on his chin made him even more
attractive.After only speaking for a
few minutes, they found they had a lot in common, including the same birthday
month—four years apart with Ed being older— and they begun their courtship that
Though they were both level-headed and
determined individuals, Ellie was more of the dreamer with a twist of creative
flair. Both were intelligent go-getters and chased their dreams without
While Ed worked in the financial industry,
Ellie delved into a few different outlets, including computer science,
artistry, and writing. Her most current—and most lucrative—love was advertising
and marketing. While her passion was painting and writing, opportunity hadn’t
yet come her way in those fields, so she had to seek a living elsewhere,
knowing that one day, she would land the job of her dreams—an occupation that
would twist all of her passions together.
At one time she had considered becoming a
model. She had the looks of one with her deep brown eyes, long eye-lashes and
porcelain skin.Her silky dark brown
hair reached the center of her back and whichever way it was styled, it always accentuated
her soft features. She rarely wore makeup and when she did, it was only a dab
of mascara and a light lip gloss to moisten her full lips.She had one dimple high up in the center of
her cheek, rather than on either side of her mouth— a unique but endearing
quality.Regardless of her good looks, becoming
a model was not her true passion so she never pursued it further.
Ellie was born and raised in Las Vegas,
Nevada, spending some time living in the quaint town of Boulder City before
settling in Bullhorn County with her husband, Ed.
Although many Nevada natives dream of
pursuing a life in other states, Ellie had always loved Vegas and its
neighboring towns, with Bullhorn County being her favorite. She had no desire
to leave. She loved that the skies were almost always a bright, cerulean
blue—and when the sun retired for the evening and the skies darkened, a full
constellation appeared, illuminating the city with dozens of stars for children
to wish upon—hoping their dreams came true.
She grew accustomed to the neatly
manicured sidewalks, parkways decorated with murals and statues, and the
colorful array of desert flowers that were the staple to every community. Only
in Vegas could tropical palm trees and pines be planted near each other to
create the perfect aesthetically pleasing landscape. Eye candy for the soul, as
she liked to call it.
Although many complained about the
transient dwellers, she had become used to it and made a handful of
relationships that stayed for the long haul, including her husband Ed.
Since growing up in Vegas, she had seen
her share of celebrities—including the Elvis impersonators—on the Las Vegas
strip as well as in normal commoner locations, such as grocery stores, banks,
and gyms. Without all of their flashy costumes and makeup, they were just like
everyone else. She had met and maintained normal conversations with many of
them, which resulted in Ellie becoming immune to the term star struck. To her,
celebrities were ordinary, only famously so.
Suffice it to say, the first time Ellie
met Jeff Rourke, she wasn’t nervous, although others might not have shared the
same sentiment. He was the most talked-about man in Las Vegas and perhaps the
most prestigious. No doubt he was one of the most successful. His sector in the
world of motivational speaking was well known, and his seminars were always
sought after by those who lived locally and tourists alike. One would go as far
to say that he was indeed a celebrity.
With his light-brown hair and eyes to
match, he had the dashing looks of a movie star, and his dress code was
impeccable—a fashionable suit always neatly pressed, his hair meticulously
groomed, and his eye glasses the latest designer label. He was in his
mid-forties when she met him. Ellie was a few years shy of thirty. To say she
was in awe of him was an understatement. He’d become a millionaire by
thirty-five and a multimillionaire by forty. How could one not be impressed?
He shared his life and his good fortune
with his beautiful wife, Rose, and their two children in a luxurious home overlooking
the city, complete with a well-tended garden and palm trees on the west side of
By financial standards Rose never had to
work a day in her life, but she chose to do so three days a week at an elegant
boutique less than a mile away. On the other two days, she catered to her
children, Eric and Paul. Some tried to classify her as a pretentious type
mother, as most were who resided in her neighborhood, but the truth was that
she loved her children more than anything—including her husband—and didn’t
follow the rules of high-class society. She was a woman who respected the law
and obeyed within its boundaries.
When Ellie first met Jeff, he also came
off as a down-to-earth, normal, but established man. An average guy who just
happened to have an abundance of money.
Jeff's office clearly represented his
exquisite taste. His executive U-shaped desk was of made of real cherry wood
with a shiny black base. A matching hutch and file cabinets stood in the
corner, directly under the expanded window. A subtle but rich-looking lamp
hovered above, and his chair was top-grain leather with all of the ergonomics
in place. There were two guest chairs in his spacious office as well, both
sizable, leather, contemporary, comfortable looking, and inviting to any guest.
When she took a seat on one of the plush
chairs in his office, he encouraged her to get comfortable, making the
interview more of a conversation between friends rather than a formal
He looked her straight in the eyes,
treated her kindly, and poured her a cup of gourmet coffee from his
As they spoke her cheeks hurt from
smiling. The interview was a monumentally huge moment in Ellie’s life. The more
he described the position, the more she realized that it was the perfect fit.
This was a job she had only dreamed about. Working for Jeff Rourke would be the
opportunity of a lifetime. While she remained on guard during the interview,
his polished charm wasn’t lost on her. He was easy to talk to. He had to have
known he was more established than Ellie and much more knowledgeable, yet he
spoke to her without an ounce of condescension.
The interview lasted for over two hours.
They not only discussed the job, but also talked in length about his family,
her family, his previous dreams, how he got to where he was today, his goals
and accomplishments, and Ellie’s future.
It seemed as though the sky was the limit.
The doors of communication were wide open, and he had cordially invited her
As a motivational speaker, he was
accustomed to making it easy for people to talk to him.
Much to her own chagrin, she found herself
divulging information about her family and previous relationships as well as
her current relationship with her husband and how they met. She didn’t even
know how they arrived at that point, but somehow, over two cups of coffee, he
knew more about her personal life than some of her closest friends.
“It’s so nice, Ellie, to hear successful
stories about a marriage like the one you and your husband have. At my age all
you hear about is divorce...or about spouses dying, believe it or not.” He
chuckled. “But in all seriousness, it's clear to see you’re a woman with a good
head on your shoulders. You’re on the right track to achieving your goals.”
During their conversation he kept within
his boundaries and not once did he step over the line. Not that she expected
him to, but when she told friends and relatives where she was interviewing,
rumor had it that someone as good-looking as Jeff Rourke simply had to be a womanizer.
After meeting with him, Ellie felt nothing could be further from the truth. He
more or less acted as a father figure would. Or at least a close uncle. He
showed interest. And when the interview was over, he scribbled a few notes,
shook her hand, thanked her for her time, and promised he’d be in touch.
When she left, she wanted the job more
than anything. She had butterflies in her stomach, but not the kind that
accompany a crush. Like a plant thirsty for water, she wanted to soak up the
knowledge that made him who he was today. She wanted to be a part of something
big. Something that would make a difference in this world.
And that something was Jeff Rourke and
Associates—the associate being herself.
Traffic had prevented Ellie from arriving
home as quickly as she would’ve liked. A three-car pileup on Interstate 215
caused a jam for at least two miles. Too excited to wait any longer, she called
her husband from her hands-free phone, admiring the colorful murals that had
been painted on the dividing walls on the belt. It was the one thing that kept
her mind off of the congestion.
Though the job hadn’t yet been offered, in
her mind it was all hers. The rapport had been wonderful, the location was
convenient, and the description could’ve been written specifically for Ellie.
There couldn’t have been a more perfect fit.
“He was amazing, honey. We really hit it
off from the moment we met. And just in case you were worried, he’s not a
womanizer like everyone thought he was. He’s pragmatic, very sociable. He
showed the utmost respect for me. Would you believe he even made me a cup of
“OK, well, calm down for a minute. Don’t
worry so much about making the coffee. Wait until he at least makes you an
offer. And I wasn’t worried about him being a womanizer, but now perhaps I
should be,” he joked.
Choosing to ignore his last comment, she
rambled on. Jealousy wasn’t something that consumed their relationship. “He
will call. Seriously, I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. And the
job description could have been tailor-made for me. He’s been in the business
of motivational speaking for over ten years, but he wants to expand. He needs
some creative talent to do the marketing, take photographs, create business
cards and manuals, and help during the seminars. Who better to do all of that
than yours truly?”
“Well, I have to admit, it sounds fitting.
Come home, and we’ll go have lunch, but not to celebrate…yet. Let’s not get
your hopes up until it’s final.”
Reluctantly, Ellie took his advice. It was
a Thursday afternoon, and her husband was off from work.
They enjoyed lunch on the patio of a
popular café that specialized in a unique variety of delectable crepes. It was
located in the heart of town and surrounded by expensive boutiques; they
expected to have to wait to get a seat, but since it was the middle of the day
on a weekday, there were some empty tables available.
Ed was always Ellie’s most reliable
support system. He was happy to celebrate the good times, be there for her in
the bad times, and rein her in before she got too excited about something that
hadn’t yet happened. A few years older, he had more experience in the
job-hunting world, so he rarely got his hopes up until he had an offer letter
in his hands, and even then, he still reserved his excitement until he was
sitting at his new desk.
He conveyed that same thought process to
his overzealous wife during lunch and tried to bring her back down to earth.
Though his attempts were futile, she had understood his point.
Eventually, it had sunken in, and so had
Jeff Rourke promised he’d call by Friday,
but Friday came and went, leaving the weekend without promise and a diminishing
glimmer of hope. Perhaps the interview didn’t go as well as she had thought. It
was possible she had misinterpreted their rapport for nothing more than
amiability. It hadn’t been the first time she was wrong about someone she first
met. As a matter of fact, she rarely erred on the side of caution. It wasn’t
part of her naturally optimistic personality.
But perhaps he already had someone else in
mind—a better candidate to suit his needs. It wasn’t the outcome she had
planned for, but it was conceivable and something she had to consider.
On the east side of the vacant street, the
couple pulled up to the gas station early Friday morning, and the man stepped
out of the car, stretched his long legs, and walked over to remove the gas cap.
They had gotten an early start and wanted
to get to the cabin as soon as possible. The sun hadn’t yet risen, and it
seemed as though their neighborhood had turned into a deserted ghost town. Only
one other car pulled up behind them—a shiny black sedan that looked like it had
just left the showroom.
Frankie watched as the man exited the car.
He was tall and built, possessing an air of arrogance as he strolled right past
Frankie. He turned toward Frankie's direction, but seemed to look right through
him, as if Frankie didn’t even exist.
As Frankie got a closer look, he noted a simple
decal on the front of the man’s shirt and his muscular calves, black socks, and
white sneakers. He looked at the man's face but didn't look him in the eyes.
He wondered if it was fear that prevented
him from locking eyes with him. But fear of what?
Frankie watched him walk into the mini
mart. His stride was slow, seemingly calculated. Frankie removed the gas nozzle
and let it hang from the tether while keeping his eyes fixated on the strangely
Frankie pumped his gas, replaced his gas
cap, and tilted his head. He looked inside the store and then swung his head to
take notice of his beautiful wife sitting in the passenger seat, her head
resting comfortably on the headrest with her blond hair cascading over the
edge. Without a logical reason, he rushed to get inside the car before slamming
the door behind him.
From where he sat, he had a perfect view. Within
seconds, it all made sense. Inside the mini mart, he could see the man’s
shoulders rise and his elbows lock. He rested an object on the palm of his left
hand. Frankie squinted to get a better look as his wife also caught a glimpse.
Reality hit just as the bullet did.
Ribbons of red splattered the glass door of the mini mart.
Just as Frankie’s foot pushed on the gas
pedal, the man strolled out, smiling. The decal on his shirt now speckled with
blood. He was crazy enough to wave to the couple as they sped past. Frankie
watched in his rearview mirror as the man strolled to his car slowly, as if he
were on a sightseeing tour. As if he hadn’t just killed a man.
Frankie stopped long enough to see a
figure. After his eyes focused, he realized it was a woman. She rose up from
the backseat, What he couldn't possibly hear, were her desperate screams
blaring and no longer muffled from the gag she tore loose.
Frankie Spencer and his wife, Kayla, sped
off and called the police station, hoping to God that the killer didn’t take
notice of their license plate number or catch a good glimpse of them.
Once they reported the killer and the
woman in the backseat, they sat in silence as Frankie concentrated on the road,
his knuckles white as they clutched the steering wheel. The only noise was the
sound of their tires running over the grooved pavement. The silence more
deafening than the gun blast.
He wanted nothing more than to turn around
and help the woman in the backseat, providing she wasn't there voluntarily, but
the killer was clearly armed and dangerous. By going back, he’d be putting his
and his wife’s lives in jeopardy. It was best that the police handle it. After
all, they were better equipped and more adequately prepared. Even though logic
prevailed, he still felt like a coward and a helpless one at that. A lump had
taken residence in his throat, the horrid scene playing repetitively in his
Only six months prior, Frankie had read
about a situation that went bad when a domestic dispute got out of control and
a neighbor tried to break up the fight. He got in the middle of the husband and
wife’s argument and consequently was killed. So was the wife. Frankie thought
if he was ever in that situation, he would’ve done the same thing, but now he
thought differently. In this situation he knew he’d wind up dead.
Once he and his wife felt they were out of
any immediate danger, Frankie parked on the side of the road in a feeble
attempt to calm their nerves while keeping an eye out for any signs of the
Within seconds a parade of cop cars flew
by, their sirens on full blast, heading toward the very gas station, on the
lookout for the killer.
There was nothing more that Frankie and
Kayla could do. They had given the police all of the information that they
could offer and, against Kayla’s wishes, their contact information. For now it
was time they moved on. They pulled out onto the open road and continued with
their original plan.
It might’ve been an hour before either of
them spoke. Streams of images clouded their minds, the sounds of gunshots
replaying over and over on a painful, continuous loop.