I’ve known and interacted with a criminal and a chronic liar — two separate people with one thing in common — a lack of conscience.
The criminal I watched grow from a devious child into a federally indicted adult. The liar charmed me into his lair like a mythological trickster. The endgame was unfortunate for both of them and me. Those moments of interaction with the criminal and the liar, were, however, sloughed off by my own dysfunction and confidence-shy self. And with a small dose of a Joan of Arc cry for martyrdom, I thought I could save them both.
This is a story of our times. It is a story of criminals, liars, gullibility, and faith.
Born a handsome child, the criminal was his father’s namesake (call him Junior). Excuse the colloquialism, Junior shined as the apple of his father’s eye. Filled with high expectations for “his boy,” Junior’s father elevated his son above his own daughters, who, in fact, were busy achieving positive goals that he simply ignored or discounted. Junior, meanwhile, took to risky behavior early in life: without regard to the fact he could not swim, he jumped into the deep end of a swimming pool; he trolled the summer-heated asphalt at night in search of rattlesnakes; he pilfered his father’s silver-dollar collection. “Boys will be boys,” the father excused his son’s questionable behavior. Yes, the boy needed some direction, his father agreed, and he sent Junior to military school.
But where was the boy’s mother, you ask? In a bar.
Military school’s rigors, as I understand it, were “unfair to the boy.” His father took him back under his wing and placed him in his home (as the mother and father were now separated), and put him in a school with a good football team so that the “boy could shine in football,” just like his daddy did back when.
Junior did not shine in football. Junior, instead, stole merchandise from the local market, stole bales of hay from local farmers; stole off-road vehicles from dealers; stole and destroyed family member cars — all without consequences. “Lay off my boy,” his father replied to the market owner, the farmers, the off-road vehicle dealers, and family.
Junior went on to follow his father’s trade. Oh the pride his father showed. After his apprenticeship, Junior went into business. His father loaned him the money to purchase the big truck, radios, tools, and office rental. It didn’t take long for Junior to learn how to take advantage of his customers. But when the customers complained and threatened to file a lawsuit, Junior filed for bankruptcy. His father gave him more money to help him out “in these rough times.”
Junior loved Cadillacs, cowboy boots and a big city high rise office. The energy crisis was rich in opportunity and Junior rode that horse by forming a corporation with private investors. He joined a church. The faithful bought stock in his dream as they dreamed of living the high-life alongside him. Sadly, Junior’s big company was closer to a ponzi-scheme than a viable corporate entity. While the faithful wrote him checks as investment, Junior cashed those checks to buy expensive vehicles and oceanfront property to build his own home. A few investors called him on it and demanded a return on their investment. Junior dashed to his father, who bailed him out of “the unexpected costs of doing business.”
Shortly after the death of Junior’s father, a local paper reported that Junior was named in a 22-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury for wire fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud, bankruptcy fraud, tax fraud and money laundering. This indictment was all made up by his enemies, he said from behind the iron bars of a federal prison.
He died while in court proceedings — either from murder by poison or by suicide. The news reporter left Junior’s end open for interpretation.
His initial charm roped me in like a calf in a rodeo. The analogy is spot on because I was as needy and as trusting as a calf in a dusty arena filled with cowboys looking to wrangle in a prize. It’s not that I was the top of the prize-heap, but there were assets in my resume worth the effort.
I believed his outer appearance of success. I believed his stories about his kindness to others. I trusted him to bring me out of a series of bad experiences and negative life-events. Moooooo.
His gilded speech convinced me that we’d do so well beneath the same roof. His money-making skills, matched to my place in the world, was a winning combination, he suggested. Why, yes, we would have a lovely family on Easy Street. “Trust me,” he said. Moooooo.
“You are my one and only concern and I will make your life better,” he said. Mooooo.
The first hint of this cowboy flailing with the truth, was a call from a bill collector about a debt he owed. Well, that happens to all of us, doesn’t it?
The second hint was my telephone bill showing calls to all corners of the countryside that I never dialed. Well, he’s in business and he deals far and wide, right?
The third hint was his asking me to type up paperwork that glorified the less-than shiny set of objects within his business. Well, a few well-placed adjectives aren’t the worse thing in life, right?
Three months into these hints, the smell of rotting fish oozed when a U.S. Marshall showed up at my door asking for this person, and when I began to ask questions.
He either changed the subject, diverted my attention, deflected, or out-right lied to cover his tracks.
The three hints grew out from being simple hints into truth-exposing tales of a chronic liar. His answers to my repetitive questions grew hostile; the information I had was wrong; that other person who said what I repeated to him was out to get back at him — nothing to see here, moooove along.
But the thing about a chronic liar is that false tales begin to jumble up. The liar gets angry and points fingers at everything and everyone else, because, well, it’s just not that easy to keep all those stories lined up in fact when they were never factual to begin with.
Joan of Arc
Bordering on being a classic enabler and ignorant of the lack of conscience held by both the criminal and the liar, I thought to help them, to change them, to make everything right around our respective lives. But I got burned. I survived the flames and let the heat open my eyes to the truth that there are souls empty of good will, for whatever reason, and that the wiser person blesses these souls with all good intention and then walks away. A wiser person, I have learned will also speak to the truth. A wiser person will understand that we are each on a learning path with choices to make. Some will follow the charisma of crooks and liars blindly. Other’s will find solidarity in the boldness of crooks and liars — to stand against the man. But to what end?
The end, I’ve learned is not a positive one.
Fortunately, my Joan of Arc moments failed and I refused martyrdom. Martyrdom really doesn’t work for me. But, when I now recognize a conscience-lacking person in my midst, I accept that they exist and could harm not only me, but other members of society. And they do and they will.
Does this sound familiar?