The Sick Man
Bonnie M. Wells
A Country Girl Moves To Town
I was fresh off the farm in Little Hocking when Gary and I married and moved to Marietta with our infant daughter in 1965.
Actually we were both just out of high school and little more than kids ourselves, but we thought we were all grown up and ready for life in "the city."
My husband worked at Fenton Art Glass Company then and the Tiber Way apartment that we rented was affordable and close to his work.
We furnished the apartment with the few items we'd gathered from family, friends and yard sales, and actually, it was a very cozy apartment with a view of the railroad tracks that ran along in front of the huge building that had once been a hotel.
I didn't mind the tracks. My dad was a railroader, as had been his father before him. Eventually my brother Mike would join the railroadin' members of the family, as would my husband Gary Gordon.
In fact.....looking back.....perhaps those cold steel rails were an omen of things to come.
The Elderly Neighbor
Shortly after we moved into our apartment an elderly lady and her son moved into the one across the hall from us. I was delighted. I'd always been fond of elderly people, and I enjoyed visiting with Mrs. Deem while her son Harry (who everyone called Cowboy) was at work.
Sometimes, Mrs. Deem would watch my daughter while I went for a walk around the area. Usually Christina was asleep and all Mrs. Deem had to do was watch her sleep!
Christina was a very good baby .... except at two o'clock in the morning! Gary worked the swing shift at Fenton and that meant the evening shift began at five pm and went until two in the morning.
As soon as Christina heard him come in she threw a tantrum! Nothing would stop her howling until we bundled her up and went for a motor cycle ride! Didn't matter how cold it was. The child wanted to go for a ride!
It would start a tradition that she never outgrew! That little Honda 50 somehow got in her blood, and she was dangling from the handlebars of a motor cycle before she was twelve years old, with me scared half to death that she was going to kill herself! But she didn't.
A Serious Heart Condition
One of the first things that Harry Deem told me was that his mother had a serious heart condition. He worried about her while he was at work and usually called her at each break and at lunch time. I agreed to keep an eye on her while Harry was away.
At least they had a telephone, which was more than Gary and I could say. I figured if I ever needed to call Harry or anyone for help, I could use their phone.
Everything went real well that first fall and winter. When spring came (1966) I was definitely suffering from "cabin fever." I'd always had wide open spaces (160 acres!) and had always been an animal lover and outdoor person. I missed all my animals. I tried to tame one of the pigeons that frequented the apartment building, but most of the people who lived there didn't seem to like pigeons as much as I did! Didn't matter. I trained the bird (and its friends) to come to my open window, where I fed and talked to them. "Mine" eventually allowed me to pet it and bring it into the apartment for awhile.
As with Christina and the motor cycle, my love for pigeons would never leave me. Today I have my own "flock" and wouldn't trade them for anything!
It was a nice, sunny day and Gary was working day shift. I'd put Christina down for her nap and had just finished feeding my pigeon friends when I heard the moaning that came from the hallway.
I'd never been one to panic, but I was immediately afraid that the moans came from Mrs. Deem.
As I raced through the apartment, I envisioned her lying in the hallway. Perhaps she had taken some trash out to the cans and fallen...
I jerked the kitchen door open and darted into the big hallway that separated our apartments. That was not Mrs. Deem lying at the top of the steps!
Relief flooded over me ....quickly followed by concern for whoever this was. I approached with caution.
"Sir, are you sick?" I asked as I looked down at the man who lay on the floor with one leg stretched down over the first two steps.
He had one hand over his heart and continued to moan, as my mind whirled.
"Do you need a doctor?" I asked.
"Yes, please," came his faint reply.
I was petrified.
I didn't have a phone. Christina was asleep. Mrs. Deem had a phone, but I didn't want to scare her and perhaps cause her to have a heart attack....which is what appeared to have happened to the man lying on the floor!
Down the steps I raced.
Located directly under Mrs. Deems apartment was a barber shop. I swung through the door as if I owned the town!
"Call an ambulance .... we need an ambulance upstairs." I ordered!
The barber was a black man, but I didn't know his name.
"Are you sick? Is it for you?" The barber asked as he reached for the phone.
"No, it's not me. There's a man lying upstairs in the hallway and I think he's had a heart attack. Please call someone for him." I replied.
He held the phone for a couple of seconds and then hung it back up.
There was a white guy sitting in the chair getting his hair cut when I rushed through the doorway and there was another white guy flipping through a magazine awaiting his turn in the chair.
The barber removed the cape from the guy in the chair and all three men started for the door.
"Come on, we'll go see what's wrong." the barber told me.
The four of us rushed up the flight of steps only to discover....nothing .... no one!
I felt like an idiot. "He was laying right here when I came down stairs," I insisted as I pointed to the spot the sick man had been lying in.
One of the guys went on up the next flight of stairs and checked on that floor, but there was no one up there either.
By this time the two white guys were exchanging "knowing" glances at one another, and the black guy was looking at me a little strangely!
I was never so confused and embarrassed in my entire life! Where the hell had the guy gone?
But I didn't have much time to think about it. The white guys were heading back down the steps, sort of snickering as they went. While the barber edged his way toward the steps too!
"You go back inside your apartment and you'll be alright," the barber was saying as he turned to start down the steps.
"Okay," I mumbled ..... still confused.
Come Back Here!
The white guys were nearing the bottom of the steps, and the black guy was about half way down the steps when I reached for the door knob on my kitchen door and froze in my tracks.
"Get back up here right this minute" I screamed at the three men.
All three raced back up the steps.
"What's wrong?" one of the white guys asked.
"I was scared when I came out here. I was only thinking of the sick man and I left my door standing wide open. It's now shut and my baby is laying in there asleep. Someone has to go into my apartment and see if that man is in there!
Now I was getting a little frantic ... not panic stricken, but very concerned for my child.
The three men looked from one to another and none of them seemed able to comprehend what I was telling them. [Years later, I'd realize this was a very common problem among the men of Marietta, Ohio! One that persisted throughout the years!]
Finally the black man said .... "Do you want me to go into your apartment Miss?"
Well, that really pissed me off .... which is something else the men of Marietta has always been able to do!
"Look, I don't give a damned which one of you people go in there ..... all three of you go. I'll stay right here, but someone needs to get their ass in there and see about my baby.....and it ain't "miss".....it's Mrs. and I'm not playing any damned game here!" I screamed at them.
I Could Always Smell A Snake
I might have only been a teenager myself back then, but there were some things about me that never changed. I didn't tell lies on people. I didn't invent ways of getting attention from men. I have never been prejudiced against anyone because of their race, religion or anything else, and I have always had a strong self preservation instinct and knew when things didn't look right.
I could smell a snake before you could see it, hear a chipmunk scurrying across dry ground, shoot a snake in the water quicker than any of my brothers, ride a horse better bare-backed than with a saddle, and communicate with every animal in the woods. The last thing on my mind was "capturing a man!" I already had a man..... and never needed to "capture" any man in order to get attention. These things would never change.
Suddenly I saw the realization flash across all three men's faces ..... I was telling the truth!
They went through the door almost as a trio, while I did exactly as I said and stood silently in the hallway waiting for them to re-emerge from the apartment.
And when they did, there was a white man on each side of the "sick man" and the barber had a hand on the back of his neck! His arms were twisted up behind him and he had his head bent down so I couldn't really see his face, as they went past me.
No one had to tell me to go into my apartment and lock the door. I was inside before they ever reached the bottom of the steps.
Christina was still sound asleep, and I slowly sank to the couch where I trembled for about an hour!
Hiding In The Bedroom
After Christina woke up, I took her and went down to the barber shop. Of course the two white men were long gone but the barber was still there, and I asked him where the man had been found inside my apartment. He said he was hiding behind my bedroom door!
I asked if the guy was drunk or on drugs, but the barber didn't seem to think he was either.
I asked what the man's name was, but if the barber knew, he would not tell me. [ This would also become customary for Marietta men in later years! Why they always protected the villain I'll never know.]
No one ever reported the events of that 1966 day. No police were ever called. No report ever done. But I'd never, ever forget that day, and many years later I'd still have occasional thoughts of that day and wonder what would have happened to me if I'd gone back into that apartment. I'm afraid I know the answer to that question.
I'd Still Like To Know
Thirty six years later, I'd still like to know who the "sick man" was...... know the barber's name.... and if the two white guys remain in this area, who they are, and if they remember that day.
Thirty six years ago, I thanked the barber for helping me. Today, I want to thank the two men who were in the shop that day. I would have thanked them back then but by the time I recovered enough to walk back down the steps, they were gone.
And if anyone reading this story knows who the "sick man" was .... please send me an e-mail and tell me.
Because there are some things that have never changed.
I still have a stalker. Have had since those days in Marietta. But today I know who he is, and I'm trying to determine if he's related to the man in Marietta from so many years ago.
Still Working The Puzzle
In 1990 my daughter became a licensed beautician and was employed straight out of beauty school, by a black man who is a barber, but who also owned a beauty shop in 1990.
I'm not going to tell this barber's name here tonight because I think I can tell the story without it. But I can always change my mind at a later date!
By 1994, the man that I call "Wild Bill" in my stories, had revealed himself to everyone for what he really is ..... a sicko and a pervert. He is also a stalker. He also has an uncle that is a barber in the Marietta area.
In late 1994, after Wild Bill got out of jail for a sex crime committed against a Marietta woman, the black barber that my daughter worked for called me at home one day to tell me that I was no longer permitted in his beauty shop because I'd been "talking about a man named Wild Bill," and had been practicing witchcraft, or voodoo or something in his shop!
I tried to talk to the man .... tried to explain that I had never practiced witchcraft anywhere, much less in his shop ..... didn't know anything about voodoo or any of the other stuff he'd accused me of.....except that I had a conversation with some of his beauticians, one of which was my daughter who was being stalked by Wild Bill and I felt it was within my rights to try to protect her and to warn her.
Didn't matter. I was tried, convicted and punished by one man and never even had an attorney much less a trial.
Get Off The Property, Bitch
I honored the man's wishes ....and orders. I'd been told to "get off the property, bitch" before so it wasn't anything new.
And I never stepped another foot upon that property as long as he had it .... which, come to think of it wasn't very long at all. First he had to file bankruptcy, then he got a divorce and lost everything he had. Then I built my daughter her own shop so he or anyone else couldn't tell us to get off the property. And then I sat across the street and watched the building torn down where his beauty shop used to be.
And while this was all going on, I was thinking....
About Marietta, Ohio .... a black barber ..... a white stalker .... a black barber who refused to tell me who the white stalker was .... a white barber who's an uncle to Wild Bill .... a black barber who didn't want me talking about what Wild Bill had already done to me and others ..... some of which were his clients.
And as always, I refuse to just go in my apartment and shut the door and wait for everything to be alright.
Nothing is ever going to be alright as long as men harber and protect other men who are committing crimes against women .... especially this woman.
For you see, I am no witch .... I cast no spells, wish no evil upon anyone or anything ....but I am an American, and I have the right to tell what's been done to me and mine and by whom it was done, and no one....not black, white or any other color or creed has the right to protect those who have offended us without reason.
I once had a conversation with a woman who had gone to Marietta to rent an apartment which was owned by Wild Bill's barbering uncle. While the woman waited to speak with the barber she glanced through some papers that were stacked in the room where he'd told her to wait.
Those papers contained letters to the editor on various subjects, John Birch Society materials and pamphlets, and pornography! What a strange combination, I thought when she told me about it.
The woman decided she wanted nothing to do with the man and wasn't interested in his apartment.
And I think back a few years .... back to the mid 1970's when I was a chapter leader in the John Birch Society .... back when I wrote many letters to the editor on political topics of interest and concern.
And then I recall that Wild Bill was into "pornography" and that he used to get his hair cut at his uncle's shop .... and that he told me he remembered seeing my picture in the news paper back in the mid 1980's when I'd designed a canine center.....
Wild Bill would have been too young to have been the culprit that went into my home back in 1966 .... but today I wonder if he had a role model that he admired and followed .... and I still wonder who that black barber was that had a shop on Tiber Way in 1965 and 1966.
I know me well enough to know that I won't rest until I can answer the questions that have lay here for more than thirty years now. Strange thing is .... I think I know the sequence of events and people that came together to form this warped picture, and I was the last person on the face of this earth that should have been punished for trying to get a rapist and stalker off my back.
Any man of any color worth powder and lead to blow him to hell would have helped me, instead of adding more burden. It shall never be forgotten and I'm still waiting for an apology!
The Early Years
The Sick Man is part of The Early Years which is the first book in the 25 book series of Pure Coincidence: The Early Years sells for $7.50 plus $3.00 postage/shipping/handling, and must be ordered directly from me. Those wishing a copy should send an e-mail to email@example.com
This page last updated 2-08-2003 & 10-22-03 / January 2008 // BMW
Bonnie M. Wells