I am still receiving e-mails and instant messages professing her love and adoration — as well as seeking ‘bail’ money. They are from a woman who had previously been writing me very affectionate love letters and planning for our future. That is, before she was purportedly seized at the airport. She is being detained, putatively, over customs documents, involving $6.5 million dollars in diamonds…in Johannesburg.
That’s in South Africa for you geographically challenged NCAA basketball tournament players who didn’t even know where Wichita always-was-and-still-is when you were interviewed on national TV. (G-d must love stupid people. Because he made so many of them not smart enough to recognize that they are still embarrassingly obtuse – even after 4 years of a very expensive overnight camp called college.)
Anyway, Johannesburg, appropriately enough, is not only South Africa’s biggest city and commercial center – particularly in gold, diamonds and other mining — it has, also, long earned the reputation as the “world’s crime capital.”
Hmm… Like I said: How apropos…
So when this ‘gemologist’ first reached out to me with the flatter that she just loved my columns, we started communicating thru e-mails and IM’s. And to tell you the truth, I had never utilized Instant Messaging before she hooked me up.
And soon the perfumed lavender letters flowed as the ballet of seduction roiled.
Day, night, top of the morning and well past the other side of midnight, we were eager, if not breathless. With about a seven-hour time difference from America’s East coast — before Daylight Savings robbed a precious hour — we whispered and crowed like hens and roosters awakening the dawn.
It was, indeed, invigorating. I love letters.
We exchanged pictures. Hers was only a thumbnail face pix. All I could see was blonde hair and a long attractive face. We spoke of our aspirations and limitations. Shared hopes and regrets. Tears and joys. As a writer, I sometimes forget there’s a real person on the other end of my scribes. I get lost in the illusion. But Susan didn’t. To her it quickly became more than an incipient affair. She gushed.
She related that she was born and bred in Germany, but received her college degree and gemology training in London. Her husband, an American, who sometimes accompanied her on business trips, had died a couple years back from renal failure. He left her a widow to raise and nurture their now 4-and-one-half-year-old daughter.
Finally she was exhaling again — coming alive to renew life’s vigor. She was ready, so to speak, for a new amorous gem. And now from my columns and electronic letters she was falling in love with a fellow world traveler. And planning a life for us – together.
This was all in three, or at most, four weeks. She wondered how we were doing… If I would be accepting of her young daughter… Where we would all live… And to send her pictures of houses I might find….
She and her husband had resided in either northern New Jersey or Northern Virginia. I was never quite sure. But she was perfectly willing to relocate to Philadelphia.
It was enough to make a guy like me more than a tad edgy. Especially after barely surviving the near-death, five-week, emergency hospitalization from the poisoning of the last ex’s perfidy. I’d be less jittery examining an elephant’s bloated rectum with a gas light.
I could actually see the looming headlights of the oncoming fatal car crash.
Susan also sent me a copy of her official certificate. It was a document verifying her to examine $6.5 million dollars worth of diamonds in South Africa for a company called Robbins Brothers. The American company, I later learned, has a retail chain of jewelry stores throughout Southern California and Texas.
The document was very official looking with all the Robbins Brothers branding and colors. And it was officially signed by the CEO. I checked.
Then quite suddenly – that is without a nanosecond of warning — I received an e-mail on a Friday from Susan. It included an Air France flight itinerary. She was not only immediately – that day—leaving for America, but coming to Philadelphia… and to me. “…Into your arms to forever hold you tight, my dear…” she cooed, plus so much more.
And bringing her young daughter with her. Which is the first time I discovered she had her daughter with her on this ‘business trip’.
Hmm… How were we ever going to perform all those absolutely divine carnal acrobatics with her daughter present?
I checked with Air France. Sure enough: Susan Moore and her daughter, Carole, were booked on the flight from Johannesburg via Paris to Philadelphia. Due to arrive on Sunday afternoon.
I have to admit that I worship surprises. I love the action. The anticipation. The upheaval. And I don’t care when or where. Or even how? It’s how I’ve lived my life. I don’t make long range plans. And tomorrow is long-range.
So, I began to make arrangements for their arrival. Yet strangely I was both exhilarated and pestered by the impending adventure.
And then the other shoe dropped. The lightning ripped. The thunder crashed. And the rain began to pour through a leaky roof.
From the Johannesburg airport Susan sent me a series of urgent IM’s. She was having trouble with customs. The documents weren’t all in order for the plethora of diamonds and other gems in her luggage. It went from aggravation to a missed flight… and finally, to handcuffs.
Her story twisted and pivoted like a matador.
It was what I had presumed was going to be. It was what I had written about some years before when I had stumbled upon a large warehouse school in West Africa. It was a rather sizeable operation in Nigeria training the ready and willing to extract dollars from the unwitting.
A sting. A sham. Another cautionary tale of nothing is ever what it seems. If it is too good to be true, it is too good to be true…
Finally after a day or so, Susan popped the anticipated question. She wanted me to send bail money to free her and Carole from detention at the Johannesburg Customs House. She wanted the money-order directed to an ‘agent’ by the name of ‘Craig’. And she wanted me to find a Walmart, immediately. Because their money-order departments closed at 7 p.m.
She just needed $1,500.
Everything from our ‘courtship’ to her unexpected departure to her customs woes was in a ‘rush’. And, of course, it was over a weekend, when alternatives become inconvenient.
The game was afoot! Tally-ho!
From the outset of the airport fiasco I found any lingering credibility difficult. It was like she and her merry gang hadn’t thought out a good finale after executing such an enticing theatrical drama. It fell apart because… well, because no plan ever survives contact with the enemy. They ran into the unexpected. Namely me.
I have seen too much…from a front row seat. I have a difficult enough time believing things – even as the delusions are unfolding right before my eyes, ears nose and mouth.
And, now in the naked black holes of cyberspace things can seem so much more stark. Less like an illusion, a magic trick. Now you see it… and now you really see it.
I wondered to her: How could I be your only lifeline? What about your employer?
With some tenacity I tracked down the Robbins Brothers headquarters in California. And I ended up talking to some self-proclaimed, high ranking petulance. Mike Espino simmered with attitude. I tried to explain what had transpired. I know it is particularly difficult for guys with over-tight knots in their red power ties. It shortchanges the exchange of life-saving gases — like oxygen and carbon dioxide. As well as cerebral blood flow.
I explained that if they had a gemologist under contract by the name of Susan Moore in South Africa she was either in trouble. Or, someone was using her name, face and credentials under the Robbins Brothers certificate for fraudulent activity. And I was just being a good Samaritan…Who was going to write a story – no matter what. So talk to me.
He claimed to have absolutely no clue about Susan or anything else. And that’s not just because he was from California where most folks have no clue about anything but wine, whining and which way the wind’s not blowing. He seethed that he would check into the matter. Naturally he ratcheted his tie tighter. He never called back or returned my calls.
All the while I am receiving ‘rushed’ and anxious IM’s. Susan is pleading, begging and cajoling for me to send the money immediately to rescue her and little Carole.
But, of course.
I finally told Susan that I was going to have an old journalist friend in Johannesburg not only check into the entire matter, but physically ‘hand’ her the money for bail. I told her I had sent him her picture and whereabouts. At that she seemed flummoxed. She fumed over how I could inject a stranger into her business. And why couldn’t I just send her the money. That is if I truly cared for her. And Carole…
But, of course…
And the never ending story is still continuing…It just won’t go away like my exes. Then again, they didn’t either. That is, until they got the money…
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…