This is my story. I’ve wanted to sit down and write it for a long time, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it until now. I justified my lack of enthusiasm by telling myself my story wasn’t done yet, but what is done? Death? I can’t write this down when I’m dead and given my health and the black cloud that seems to follow me around, that could happen at any moment.
I want to say first that I will try to post these memories in somewhat of an order, but I may jump around a bit as different things enter my mind.
Let’s jump back to June, 2010. I want to start here, because this was where the real trouble began. I was living with my boyfriend at the time and our 2-year-old daughter, Graywyn. (I’ll often refer to her as “G” for short.) I own a small 2-bedroom home in Wisconsin (hopefully not for long, though).
This was already a particularly low time for us. We had previously been doing very well with a commercial and residential construction company we were essentially running out of my garage. We had all the tools, the truck, the crew and we’d made a name for ourselves. We were doing big projects like Walmart, Sam’s Club, Victoria Secret, Harley Davidson and other name brands. We offered general construction, but tile was our specialty.
We’d been thriving before our daughter was born, but it took the two of us working together for one paycheck to make it happen. We always had money in our bank account. We had savings, were able to do things we wanted and we were pretty happy. I worked until I was about 6 months pregnant. We lived in Columbus, Ohio during my pregnancy and after we took a job that required us working on the 20th floor of a building with no elevator, I was pretty much done. I realized I didn’t have the energy to do the work. After I stopped going, things kind of went downhill.
By the time we found ourselves in June, 2010, the construction business was all but over with. Companies were filing for bankruptcy and homeowners didn’t have the money. We switched gears. I focused on writing and transcription, which is what I had done from home before the construction. I loved working with university research departments (still do for readers who may need transcription services). We were now focusing on flipping cars and doing car repairs out of that same garage.
The money just wasn’t there and we were struggling. We were still doing some construction and had a couple local homes (within a block of my house). My ex’s brother was living with us. Over a two year period we’d had a lot of people live with us to help balance out finances and to help them out. At one time, his brother and my sister were both sleeping in the finished basement and another worker of ours was living above the garage. It was a full household and I grew tired of being an adult and having to share my personal space.
By now, only his brother remained. I became aware that he was doing and most likely dealing drugs a few weeks prior to this. I’d seen him make a quick hand exchange (product for money) across the street of my house during a family party. I was pissed. I told me ex his brother had to move out…immediately. He didn’t right away, but by now he had.
He claimed he had work back in Ohio where more of their family lived. He said he was coming back, but we both knew he wasn’t and to be honest, we didn’t want him back. Enough home sharing and enough drug activity. He basically packed his stuff and left in the wee hours of the morning one day. There was something off about it.
A few days later, one of the guys who had worked for us, whose car my ex had been working on and who seemed to have some sort of beef with my ex and his brother, approached me. I’d always gotten along with him. I remember I had bought Christmas gifts for his children one year when I knew they were low on money. I do stuff like that when I can for people.
He told me that my ex was mixed up in something bad. He said it was drugs. I asked him to give me info I could verify (like where was he hiding the drugs, etc). His warning was simple. He has screwed someone over big time and these were the kind of guys who would come for me and my daughter, he said, to get to him. He told me I needed to leave.
I believed him about needing to get out of there. I’d had a dream a few months before about it. Sometimes I dream things. In the dream, I was home alone. I saw a man in my driveway with a gun. I remember locking the side door off the kitchen (the most likely door he’d go to) and then realizing my back door was unlocked. My dog was out in the back in the dream. I remember thinking he might help protect me. It’s silly now when I think about it. A bullet would stop him.
I was trying to figure out what to do next when I woke up. There were other elements in the dream, such as the knowledge that my ex’s brother was involved. The dream was vivid and served as a warning.
After the warning, I remember standing out in the yard with my ex telling him we needed to leave then. He didn’t say he didn’t believe me, but he did think my reaction was a bit extreme. He asked me where we should go? I had no idea and as I listened to my voice, a bit higher and more excited than usual, I sounded crazy to my own ears.
In the end, we didn’t leave. Instead, we went about our day. I sensed it coming, but had no idea I didn’t have more time.
Later that evening we were sitting in the living room watching a movie. It was about 10 o’clock at night and our daughter was asleep in her bed. I got up to make a later dinner. We were having egg-in-the-hole. I had the kitchen windows open and couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched when I was in the kitchen. I looked over at the kitchen door and noted the handle was unlocked. I started to go over to it to lock it, but something stopped me. This decision would make no sense to me until later.
I finished making our dinner and sat down on the couch with our plates to finish the movie. The house is rather small, so the kitchen, dining area and living room are all right there in an open space.
Just like in the movies, we heard a twig snap/crack outside the windows. We turned off the movie and set our plates down. My dog, Horatio, a wirehaired pointer/lab mix stayed silent. This was unusual, because any other time someone even breathed in our direction, he’d be barking. He walked silently over to the kitchen door and listened, his head cocked to the side. My ex quietly said, “You stay here.” Just like any stubborn heroin in a book or movie, I completely ignored his command and followed him over to the door.
Whoever it was tried to open the kitchen door, but it would stick, so they couldn’t get it open on the first try. By the time they did open it, we were both there. Two men were on the other side, armed. Both had ski masks on and gloves, but the first guy stuck his gun hand through the door opening first. This was his mistake, because Horatio lunged for him, grabbed onto gun and hand. My ex and I dropped to the floor and the two of used our body weight to slam the door on his arm repeatedly until he pulled his arm out, falling backwards off the deck onto my car.
“You’re dead, mother fucker!” He yelled over his shoulder before both gunmen fled. As soon as he pulled his arm out, we’d gotten the door shut and the deadbolt locked.
Thinking like a mother, my instinct sent me rushing into my daughter’s room where she still slept peacefully, not knowing what had happened at the other end of the house. I didn’t know if they’d left, if they’d just start shooting or what, so I grabbed by baby out of her crib and crawled to the central part of the house (the hallway). I laid her down on the floor and shielded her with my body while my ex dialed 9-1-1.
Police came. They assumed it was drug-related. The ran a drug dog through our house, our vehicles and our garage and came up empty. The police never fully believed our story and began investigating us.
As far as not locking the door, I feel like if I had, they would have kicked it open; probably broken it and we would not have been able to lock them out.
It’s the kind of scenario you replay in your mind constantly. I do, at least, since the night it happened. There was a knife block right there. Why didn’t one of us grab a knife and cut him? Would the police have believed us if there had been blood/DNA? Then I think if one of us had cut him, would his natural reaction had been to shoot? Would one of us be dead or injured? I guess it played out like it was supposed to.
We stayed awake all night. The next day, we packed some belongings and fled to the Dells. We stayed a couple of days and then went to a family member’s hard-to-find cottage.
We’d visit the house to get essentials. Neighbors would approach us and say they knew of the bad things that went down. They were scared. They didn’t want to get involved and would not be talking to police, but wanted us to know that my ex’s brother had left town with about $10,000 worth of drugs from a local gang (not to be named here, but a very well-known name) and that they wanted revenge. We were told by multiple people that there was a price on all three of our heads. $20,000 for me and him and $40,000 for my child. I guess the price doubles if you have to murder a baby.
I would never sleep a night in that house again and for years, I’d only go when I had to.
We didn’t know what to do next. At the time, I was managing about 250 writers for an online academic writing and research company. The owner lived half the time in the UK and the other half of the time in Cairo. Egypt was on my bucket list of “must visit” places, so when she heard what happened and offered to fly the three of us and my dog to Cairo and put us up in one of her apartment buildings, it seemed like a good plan.
And so the course would be set for worldwide travel….