As I blew the smoke out of my less than pink lungs, it hung in the humid air right in from of me, like a cartoon balloon wanting to tell me something. He pulled up in a white truck, newer than most…..asked me if there was a leasing office, since there was a For Rent sign out in front. That sign must have put up and down a half dozen times since we moved here in August of last year. It was really a no brainer. No credit or background check, five-hundred dollar deposit and seven-hundred and seventy-five dollars a month for a three bedroom, one bath duplex…..eight units total for rent, most were occupied for the time being. You would never get this much space in the heart of Orlando, so we opted for just inside of Lake County…Sorrento. I was happy to finally have our own place after a few months of staying with Ted’s brother, wife and kids. Leonard was extremely laid back and not much bothered him. His better half, Crystal was extremely meticulous and had some wild mood swings. Other than walking on a few eggshells…and the fact that our travel trailer was in their backyard hooked up to the house….it was bearable. They did have a great pool, which was a Godsend for May, June and July.
I said, “No, no leasing office.” I wasn’t going to get into a full on conversation with a guy out in the middle of nowhere. He then asked if we had a groundskeeper. Again I said, “No, no groundskeeper”….landlord lived in Georgia….she’s a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of landlord. He thanked me and returned to his truck. He didn’t strike me someone looking for a place to live. He was going through some paperwork in his truck. So, my curiosity got the best of me. I asked him what he was looking for.
It wasn’t the first time someone had come here to ask about tenants. I did a sex offender search online when we first moved here. There was one in the next duplex. I never really got to know him…not that I really gave a shit. He had been convicted of lewd and lascivious acts and battery on a child under 16. I made my older son Jake study his face, told him to stay away from him and let me know if he ever approached him. Little did I know that my husband of eleven years would go over there that next Saturday and confront him. The guy could have been no taller then 5’9”…weighing about 100 lbs. Ted just flat out asked him.
“Do I have anything to worry about with you and my kid”? I was watching from the front door. The guy was about 22 or so and scared shitless. I would be too if Ted confronted me. He was a huge man. 6’3”, but all chest and arms and covered in tattoos. His hands were easily twice the size of mine. No knuckles….lost those years ago in drunken fights and barroom brawls. His skin was a reddish-brown. Al those years of construction work outside had burned his Blackfoot Indian skin. He wasn’t full blooded Indian, but enough to have the skin. Short sandy blonde hair with a block shaped head. I don’t mean that in a mean way, it’s just the shape of his head. Very good looking…and loyal to a fault. Even after all these years, some with doubt, I never regretted marrying Ted three days after we met in 1998.
I later learned people called him Chris, but he was John Callhoun on the Florida Sex Offender Search. There were two or three other kids with him. When you’re pushing forty, a twenty-two year old is a kid to me. No one said a word…stunned silence I guess. He finally worked up enough courage to talk.
“No, no, no….there’s no problem….it was a mis-….uh….I was with a girl and her parents…..”. He said he was nineteen when it happened. He was dating a fifteen year old girl. Her parents supposedly went nuts and had him arrested. I’ll never know the real story, but I would never need to. They all gave Ted a wide berth as he just slightly smiled and said, “Good, so were on the same page”?
Yea…they were all over that page. The proverbial “I will beat the living shit out of you and you will be found in the trunks of ten different cars” page. I later learned that he lived there with a few roommates and their girlfriends. How he had a girlfriend of five years, I’ll never know, but she was of age…although extremely young looking. He was supposedly an uncle to his roommate, Kenny….even though he was younger than Kenny by about six years. Through marriage they said. Kenny turned out to be not so bad after a few more casual meetings outside while walking to the mailbox. He knew the landlord personally and let us know if she was coming to town so we wouldn’t have to see her. I have never even met her until this day…and that’s fine by me. Everyone is late with the rent at some time or another and so were we. She loved her fifty dollar late fees. Hey, when you rent to anonymous people, you essentially get what you pay for. Inconsistency.
I walked over to the guy in the white truck and he spun around with a huge file and some sort of badge around his neck. I looked it over, but could only make out the word “Recovery”. He was a bail bondsman. He showed me a picture of a Latino-looking type guy and asked if I knew him. He had an address for him that was off by a few numbers and one letter. I said that he lived here, but I didn’t know him, per say. He then proceeded to show me three pictures of other people….their driver’s licenses. I confirmed who they were and that they lived with him in the third duplex over from me. The mother, father, girlfriend….all in that same file. I didn’t even notice all of their names except for the father. It was the same as the guy he was looking for. That’s why they call him “junior”, I thought.
Then my big mouth got the best of me…again.