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And so it began...
MEET THE MAJOR PLAYERS
"Where are you now?"
END OF TEASER CHAPTER
Hey Everybody, Listen Up:
My novel, "The Bitch Tried To Steal My Husband's Body" was retitled to "Lust, Lies and Two Wives." Even though many of my customers, fans and editors absolutely LUVED the original and simply scandalous title, I do understand that the "B" word is offensive to some people and organizations. So...I have to keep everybody happy and therefore the contents of these books are sold under two different titles under two different publishing houses and have two different book covers.
"Lust, Lies and Two Wives" will be published in April of 2009 through Xlibris Corporation. You may place orders directly with Xlibris by telephoning 1-888-795-4274 or www.Xlibris.com. You may also purchase this novel from Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Borders.com, and Target.
I would like to reiterate if you have purchased and/or read "The Bitch Tried To Steal My Husband's Body," you should be advised that "Lust, Lies and Two Wives" is an identical novel.
"The Bitch Tried To Steal My Husband's Body" is NOT available for purchase at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Target or Borders. However, it can be purchased on www.Amazon.com and directly from www.Booksurge.com. You may also telephone Booksurge at 1-866-308-6235 and choose Option 6 for Customer Service.
And so it began...
They met in 1977. On this journey as she heads down Rocky Road with her then lover Lenny, this takes him down a familiar road-Adultery Avenue. Lenny and Denise make that left. She and her man traveled together a few miles and make a right turn onto Divorce Drive. He needed to stop there for a moment to get some business straight. A few miles down the road they approached Live-In Lane and bore right on to that. Two blocks down was the intersection of Pregnancy Pike and Childbirth Court. They took Childbirth and went nine blocks down to Maternity Lane. They stopped for a breather. Two miles down and to the right they encountered Wedding Way. They made a right onto that and stopped. Later, a few miles down they continued on and decided to check into Homestead Haven, a comfortable abode. They stayed twelve years resting up before completing their journey. The Homestead Haven faced a strip mall. The businesses sold a variety of items. One of the merchants sold betrayal, passion, lust and desire. His special of the day was "chicks on the side." Lenny purchased all of them. Another small establishment named "The Booty Call" boasted high priced items of Bigamy, Battery, and Broken Hearts and also offered Injured Body Parts at half price. Denise purchased two items and Lenny made a clean sweep walking out with everything. Subsequently, Lenny returned to that shop alone to buy another special of the day and was accosted by a female who was later captured. The charges against her were conspiracy, robbery, receiving stolen merchandise, negligence, reckless endangerment and fraud. The judge had to preside over the chicks on the side. While Lenny's body lay on a slab, one of these wenches continued to masquerade as his wife in drag with a phony marriage license in tow.
Close to a million dollars in insurance proceeds, a lifetime retirement pension and social security benefits are at stake that Denise Garner refuses to let a wench take-even though she had lived with Lenny for the past fourteen years.
Sit back, relax and watch this novel heat up all over the place. Denise Garner, the wifey-poo is gonna burn everybody. Let the court say Amen. Checkmate!
MEET THE MAJOR PLAYERS
Lenny Garner: He loved the fast life, namely wine, women and song. He ditched his first wife for Denise and became Denise's weak ass, willpower deficient, alcohol and cocaine addicted husband.
Denise Garner: Sophisticated, street smart, and classy, pursued the American dream by marrying the notorious Lenny. She fell head over heels in love with him-just like all the rest.
Noelle Garner: A beautiful mix of her Mommy and Daddy, Denise and Lenny. Their daughter was a troubled teen.
Carolyn Monroe: She was certainly a nurse who looked out for her purse, and her "G" spot. First on her agenda was having Lenny Garner-despite any obstacles, more specifically described as wives and children.
Zena: Lenny's favorite first cousin who blew the whistle on Carolyn Monroe's scheme.
Detective Adam Hartman: A gumshoe that knew. He is determined to nail Carolyn Monroe.
Dr. Relman: The medical examiner who had to answer to Mrs. Lenny Garner.
Theresa Roglich: Lenny's oldest sister who loved him dearly. She is the matriarch of the Garner family.
Tony Marino, Esquire: Denise's attorney who is hell bent on collecting the cash on her behalf.
Angela O'Neill Pelham, Esquire: She is the other half of Denise's legal defense team. This one is an expert on estates and taxes and her mission is to sew the pension board up and keep Denise in check.
Dale: Sexy, seductive, smitten and a soothing soul for Denise-midway through her failing marriage to Lenny. Dale is the star of the steamy chapters titled Shaky Ground, Closing the Door and Showing Up. That thrill is never gone.
Sit back, relax and watch this novel heat up all over the place. Denise Garner, the wifey-poo is gonna burn everybody. Let the court say Amen. Checkmate!
LUST, LIES and TWO WIVES
Out of Sight
Lenny Garner was a man with two wives
And many people were totally surprised
To find out that he lied and continued to reside
In a boat of sin which would eventually capsize
Denise Garner said "Where's the divorce?"
There must be a decree, of course
So she hunted and searched to find out his worth
While he waited patiently in the morgue
Now who would have thought that Lenny would do
This amazing caper in 2002
But he signed his name and now in 2006 Denise exclaimed
I'm the legal spouse and my benefits are due!
So now Lenny's almost done
And lying here next to the one
Who's come to his rescue and wrote this poem
So we all could have some fun
And wifey-poo Denise is not upset
And she'll get to the bottom of this mess
Not a stone will be left unturned as her husband stays firm
And believe me someone will get burned
As you know I'm a little celebrity
Writing a couple of books as best I could
You all need to know?that this funeral will be a show
I'm sending this video tape to Hollywood
If you're someplace you're not supposed to be
Or don't want to be on TV
You'd better ease out the door or crawl on the floor
Because I'm marketing this on ABC
Now our boy Lenny is having some laughs
And those balls of his had to be brass
But one thing I'll say before I walk away
Is my husband is a pain in the ass
I couldn't believe he was dead! The turkey died on Thanksgiving Day. Damn! It was typical of that Negro to screw up my plans during a holiday season. He'd been doing it since the day I met him in 1977. It was my intention to read this hilarious poem at my husband's funeral. I wrote it especially for that occasion after getting the news of his passing. Yep, I was all geared up to have a fun funeral.
The man thrived on entertainment, booze and partying, and had done it all of his life, so my idea of a fitting and perfect sendoff was to surround him in his casket with liquor-miniature bottles of Hennessey. I also had Walt and Charlotte download CD's of his favorite music which included Street Life, Flashlight, Love Overboard, Drop It Like It's Hot, Get Away, What's Going On, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, Always and Forever, Ain't No Stopping Us Now, and a bunch of other tunes he loved. Music would be playing during the viewings and repast. I'd also planned to video the entire event. Each guest would be handed little bottles of booze when they arrived and signed the guest book. At the final viewing, just before we closed the casket, mourners could walk by, say good-bye, and put their bottle inside. When his pal Dickie Kendell, found out that I'd ordered three hundred bottles of the spirits for the casket, he said to me," that'll be enough to hold him until he gets where he is going."
But, no-his family wouldn't allow my wishes. They made me back off from all that. I was a bit too creative for them. I only gave in to them out of respect, but I was pissed. His relatives told me that his eighty-two year old Aunt Claudia would indeed have a heart attack and die right there inside the funeral parlor if she heard that poem. That was a whole heap of crap. She got drunk all the time with him. She worked in bars damn near all her life, and my husband was a frequent and faithful customer. He not only patronized her establishment, he was a community and nationwide hanger outer and bar owners loved to see him coming. Everybody knew he was no saint, especially his family members and I figured-let's be real. I pled my case, but the poem and the booze were eliminated.
It all started the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 2006. I was having a lot of fun in New Brunswick, New Jersey, celebrating the holiday with my best buddy and test reader, Yolanda Rivers, and her family. I had made the decision to stay at the Hyatt for five days instead of at Yolanda's wonderful house in Somerset. If I had planned to stay with her, she'd be cleaning, food shopping, and doing everything she could to make me comfortable. She'd work herself to death and I wasn't in the mood to be a guest with manners who helped out. I wanted to do whatever I felt like doing, including nothing. Thanksgiving dinner was a scrumptious feast for twenty-three at Yolanda's cousin's house in South Brunswick. I was extremely comfortable with Eric and his wife. They lived in a lovely suburban home. It was the first time I had been in a house with a real movie theater. I was a Black American Princess who was not easily impressed, but Eric's home felt like paradise. After dinner we all sat around and told funny stories. There were some new faces in Yolanda's family that I had never met before, but they made me feel loved and welcome. The gathering reminded me of the times my husband and I were together. Unlike me, he came from a huge family who threw yearly family reunions and holiday get togethers. I actually missed my estranged husband's family more during our separation than I missed him.
My trip to Yolanda's was a well-deserved and refreshing getaway after an array of mishaps, episodes of bad luck, and arguments with my spoiled and ungrateful twenty-two year old daughter, Noelle. I'd purposely left her at home with her boyfriend, Vincent. Thank God he had an apartment in suburban Philadelphia, in opulent King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Vincent had a college degree and was a mechanical engineer at a great firm. His family was good pedigree and resided in West Chester, another wealthy suburb of Philadelphia. He went to church every Sunday and was basically a nice guy with whom I felt Noelle was safe. Always respectful, he treated her well in the year they had been dating. During that holiday period, he was my babysitter, and Mommy was glad to be having some time away.
I was worn out. I had been through a mini-stroke and pulmonary embolism in my youth and had been plagued with a series of health problems over the past six years. The new year of 2001 started off with a bang, a near fatal automobile accident. I was rear ended on busy Rt. 309 and awakened in Abington Memorial Hospital with multiple injuries and a serious concussion. Noelle was in the car with me and also sustained a concussion as well as other injuries. During my six months recovery, I developed severe pneumonia which left me on a ventilator and in a coma for nine days. I had cheated death again-twice in the same year. Three years down a bumpy road of trying to make ends meet with a sick kid in college, I had cataract surgery that ended horribly. A series of eye infections prevented me from driving at night. The lenses caused me to develop halo problems when I encountered traffic lights and headlights from cars coming in the opposite directions.
In December of 2004, I was rear ended again, this time by an obnoxious drunk driver, sustaining injuries that required surgery to my right wrist. I had torn tendons and ligaments and needed months of physical and occupational therapy. I suffered with severe pain, not allowing me to write and sell a novel. I became terrified of cars and highway driving and was in treatment for months for that phobia. I still haven't recovered from that hang-up.
I had been through it all, and now 2006 was continuing to kick my butt. Everybody always teased me, saying, "Denise Garner, you're a hypochondriac who runs to the doctor for every little thing." I had to admit they were right. In late August, I had what I thought were symptoms of diabetes. I felt I was peeing too much, so I rushed to my doctor and demanded to be tested. It turned out to be nothing, which was usually the case.
In June, I'd finally sold my four bedroom, five bath single-family home that sat on three quarters of an acre of land. I was convinced I'd go broke trying to hold on to that house. I'd been in Elkins Park, an affluent suburb of Philadelphia, for nearly eleven years, and Noelle was now grown and almost never at home. This huge, wonderful fourteen room house was simply too big for the two of us. I was exhausted from finding money to pay people to fix everything from trees falling down or dying, to forking over large amounts of cash to utility companies. I was broke and living on a $1300 disability check from the automobile accident I'd been involved in.
I was a published author, but that was not bringing in the bucks. I was a single mom struggling to put her daughter through college without any help from my detached husband. Hubby Lenny discontinued child support when Noelle turned eighteen in 2002 even though she had been plagued with Crohn's Disease from the age of twelve and was in and out of the hospital. He was ten years older than me and had been enjoying a cozy life in Philadelphia with his girlfriend, Carolyn, since 1992. She was a registered nurse in the skilled nursing unit at Pennsylvania Hospital in downtown Philly. He was a plans examiner for the City of Philadelphia, Department of Licenses and Inspections. We split up fourteen years ago because he liked too much alcohol, preferably Hennessey straight up with water on the side along with a Heineken to chase it all down. In addition to his heavy drinking, Lenny also had a penchant for snorting cocaine and smoking marijuana as well as frequenting every hole in the wall bar and speakeasy in Philly. He'd go to any party anywhere and had a few extra marital affairs. His many vices were a bit too much and made me fall out of love, and eventually, break up with him. I was convinced that he'd never grow up.
After leaving Eric's house, Yolanda and I went back to her place, staying just long enough for her to pack a bag. She planned to stay at the Hyatt with me that night and watch some TV until we passed out. The next morning, we slept in and had a late breakfast, then spent the day shopping and browsing in downtown New Brunswick. We returned to the hotel around 5:00 p.m. and I decided that I needed a nap. So Yolanda made plans to pick up a friend, Diane, and bring her by the hotel to see me later that evening.
Sleep never came. When Yolanda left the hotel, I called my best buddy, Zena Garner Tate, who lived in Washington, D.C. She was my husband's first cousin and we had been friends for about twenty-seven years and normally chatted a few times a day. I had been so busy that I hadn't called her since Tuesday night. It was the first time I had gone out of town without letting her know that I arrived safely and giving her a number where to reach me. She picked up on the first ring.
"Hey girl, what's up? I just got a chance to call you. I'm having a ball. How was Thanksgiving?"
"Hey. Are you calling because you got my message?" Zena wasn't her usual chipper self and that was strange to me. I detected something was wrong.
"I left a message for you on your home telephone. I thought that was why you're calling."
The tone of Zena's voice was now distressing to me. My antennas were up. "I don't know how to retrieve my home messages from another place. I haven't had time to talk to anybody. What's going on?"
"You need to come home. Okay. And you need to call Noelle."
I became alarmed and thought the worst. I always felt Noelle drove too damn fast and my psychic had told me that she'd be in a car wreck. I imagined her in a mangled car, closed my eyes, and shook my head. I stammered. "Has Noelle been in a car accident?"
Slowly, Zena said, "No." Then there was silence. When she didn't say another word, my stomach did a somersault and my gut sent my brain a message. "It's my husband, isn't it? Something happened to Lenny." I waited, hoping I was wrong.
"My husband's dead isn't he?"
I felt my body shutting down, my throat tightening as if I wasn't going to be able to breathe. But I snapped out of it. "What happened?"
"He was cooking Thanksgiving dinner yesterday and had a heart attack. I couldn't find you. I couldn't find your cell number. I was off from work today, but I was planning to go to my office to e-mail Yolanda so she could have you call me."
"I have to get off this phone. I have to find Noelle. I know she is with Vincent. I have to call there." My throat hurt as the words gushed out of my mouth.
"Look," Zena ordered, "don't tell her this on the phone."
"Of course I won't. I'll just tell her I am not feeling well, that I got sick up here and I'm coming home. I'll tell her I need her to pick me up from the train in Philly. I'm leaving tomorrow. Let me get off to call her."
"Well, okay, but Aunt Claudia wants you to call her. She needs to talk to you."
"Okay, but let me find my child first. I'll call you back."
My fingers shook as I dialed Noelle from my cell phone. No answer. I left a message for her to call me right away-it was urgent. Next, I called Vincent's number and left the same message. I recited every number where he could reach me. My heart pounded in my chest. Thoughts raced in my head. How was I going to handle Noelle? I couldn't tell her on the phone that her Dad had died. I needed to find another way. That girl was a Leo. She was not to be ordered around and followed her own will. I would try to get her to meet me someplace and break the news to her. Just thinking about dealing with Noelle made my blood pressure rise, so I concentrated on calling Aunt Claudia, Lenny's aunt, who lived in Philadelphia.
"Aunt Claudia, it's Denise. I just talked to Zena. What happened?"
"All I know is that he was cooking dinner and had a heart attack. The paramedics came and he was dead. That's all I know. Look, Theresa wants you to call her. I'm going to give you her number. Denise, try to work with her. Try to get along. That is Lenny's sister and she is upset. You know they just buried his brother Dennis last weekend."
Just the mention of Theresa's name had me reeling fourteen years back when we fell out.
"Listen, Aunt Claudia, I am very upset, too. I've tried to call Noelle and I can't find her right now. I left messages for her and Vincent to call me. I'm coming home. I'll call Theresa and I'll be good with her. Also, let me take a minute to tell you I know how bad you must feel. I know Lenny was your buddy. I am so sorry. I have to go. I'll call you later. I'm gonna call Theresa right now."
Before I could dial her number, I had to give myself therapy on being nice to her. I took a deep breath, hoped for the best, and pressed the phone to my ear.
"Theresa-it's Denise. How are you?"
Theresa asked, "This is Denise Greene Garner?"
"Yes, Theresa." I was wondering why she was being so technical addressing me as Denise Greene Garner. I immediately wanted to curse her out. I'd been pissed with her ass for years because she had taken Lenny's side when we separated and ignored her niece the entire time. But I decided not to put on my boxing gloves just so soon.
"Well, my brother passed away," she said.
"Yeah, well, I am trying to find Noelle."
"What do you mean trying to find her?"
"Here we go," I thought to myself. I knew it wouldn't be long before I'd be charged with being an unfit mother or something wretched. "Well, she's with her boyfriend in King of Prussia and I cannot find her. I've left messages on their cell phones. I'll be home tomorrow and will tell her then. I'll take care of things when I get home."
"Well, you don't have to worry about anything. We can do the funeral and all. I just wanted to make sure you knew," she said.
A hot sensation spread throughout my body. My blood rose from my feet to my brain.
"What do you mean I don't have to do anything? I'm his wife. I have to get the body."
"Well, I have the insurance policy. I'm in charge. You and Lenny never divorced?"
She was warming me up well for a fight. I screamed, "Divorced! No, we never divorced. I'm still married to Lenny. Where's the body?"
"I don't know."
"Oh, you are in charge and you don't know where the body is? Good-bye." I hung up.
At that point, I was enraged and furiously called Carolyn, Lenny's live-in girlfriend. No answer, but I still left the heifer a message. "Carolyn, this is Lenny's wife. I've heard the news about my husband's death. Here are my numbers. You can call me if you like. I can imagine you may not want to talk to me, but if you do, you can call me. I am out of town, but I am returning home tomorrow to take care of things. I know I'll have to take care of things."
After I hung up the phone, I leaned back and let my body sink into the comfort of the bed. I looked up at the ceiling, then closed my eyes as I tried to make sense of how I was going to deal with all of these characters. They hadn't been in my life for years-including my dead husband. If I'd never needed a cigarette before, I needed one now. I flung myself from the bed and called Yolanda's house.
Dammit it was a tape again! I left a detailed message about Lenny's death, then tried her cell. She answered.
"I'm upset. Something has happened and I need some cigarettes. I know I stopped smoking, but I need some cigarettes. You listen to your home tape and call me back. I have to go out for cigarettes. Call me back on the hotel phone."
Before she could answer, I slammed the phone down, grabbed some money from my purse and dashed out. I got on the elevator and ran down to the gift shop. I purchased some Newports, ran through the lobby, and, by the time I hit the driveway, I was already taking my first drag. I marched up and down the front of the hotel inhaling deeply as I kept watch on my cell phone, hoping for a call from either my daughter or the live-in wench. Neither responded. I was impatient, frantic. If I'd waited one more minute, I'd be the one having a heart attack. So, I called both Vincent and Noelle again and left the same message. Where the hell were they? When I returned to the room, the hotel phone was ringing. I could tell by Yolanda's voice that she was worried about me, but I reassured her that I was in control. I'm not sure she believed me. In any case, she was on her way to the hotel.
While waiting, I started to think about my own family. I called my brother Jeff. He lived in Ohio, but was in Philly visiting our relatives for the holiday. "Listen Jeff, Lenny is dead!" He was stunned and started asking a million questions. I explained what happened and that I was pissed because Theresa wouldn't tell me where the body was. That didn't matter, I told him. I was going to the City Morgue on Monday. After I got off the phone with my brother, the silence was driving me crazy. I had to talk to someone, so I called Zena back to inform her that I hadn't found Noelle yet or my husband's body. Then I called Aunt Claudia again. "Aunt Claudia, I was nice to Theresa but it did not go well. You know what she told me? That she's is in charge! That's my husband and she didn't tell me where the body is."
"Look, Denise, you and him haven't been together for a long time. Just let them handle everything. You know Lenny and Carolyn have been together for a long time. Now, look, you're gonna get his pension and a six thousand dollar insurance policy-just take the money. Don't let this get out of hand. Let Carolyn have the body."
From the way she clearly pronounced her words, I could tell that Aunt Claudia wasn't about to take my side.
"Aunt Claudia, where is his body?" I shouted.
"I don't know. All I know is that the rescue squad went to their house."
"I'll find him!" I swore and hung up the phone. I called Philadelphia City Hall and asked for the morgue. Lenny's body was not there. Then I called the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. They had no record of him being there or in their morgue either. This was driving me crazy. Everyone knew Lenny was dead, but no one had the slightest idea where the body was. I was aching for another cigarette. I couldn't smoke in the hotel room. It was a nonsmoking room and Yolanda was coming. She had asthma. I was an absolute nervous wreck. Next I called Pennsylvania Hospital where Carolyn worked thinking she may have taken him there. They had no information on him either. Next was Presbyterian Hospital and, again, I had no luck with them. My phone rang, and finally, it was Noelle.
I had to get this right, so I collected myself and said softly, "Hi, Noelle. I'm not feeling well. My leg hurts and I'm coming down with a cold. I'm coming home early. I need you to pick me up from the train in Philly tomorrow afternoon. I need help with my stuff. I'll let you know what time the train comes in when I check the schedule. I'm really sick. Will you meet me?"
"Are you really sick or are you tricking me?"
"Here we go," I thought. I could feel my plan was already dead in the water, so I told the first lie of the evening, hoping it would buy me some compassion. "I'm sick. Uncle Jeff offered to come, but he has a lot of stuff to do."
"Well, I'm sick, too," she said in a smart-alecky manner.
"Where are you now?"
"I'm in the movies."
"Well, you're not so sick. I'll tell you what, you be at that train station."
"I'm not coming."
"If you don't, you'd better be at our house when I get there!" I screamed.
"You're trying to start a fight with me. I'm hanging up."
"Don't you hang up!" I shouted.
"You're stressing me out, Mom, I am hanging up."
I blurted, "Don't hang up! Your Dad is dead! He died yesterday. He had a heart attack. I didn't want to tell you on the phone. That's why I was trying to get you to meet me. I am so sorry." Noelle was silent and then started crying hysterically. I tried to comfort her and whispered, "I am so sorry, Noelle. I just found out late this afternoon from Aunt Zena." Noelle's sobs increased and I couldn't calm her. I yelled, "Put Vincent on the phone!" Noelle continued screaming and I hung up. I waited five minutes, then called her back. There was no answer. I gave up, figuring Vincent could take care of her until I got back to Philadelphia.
I was still shaken up by that call, but, as crazy as it was, I needed to find my husband's dead body. Next I called the City of Philadelphia main number and asked to be connected to the police department for 8319 Union Avenue in Philadelphia. That was the 12th District and covered Carolyn and Lenny's neighborhood. I gave them Lenny's name and address and asked if they had responded to a call on Thanksgiving Day for him. They checked and found no record of any officer or paramedic going to that address. Now I was baffled and frantic. Where the hell could he be? A knock on the hotel room door pulled me from my thoughts. It was Yolanda and Diane with Yolanda's three month old Grandson, Xavier in tow. I adored that baby and had adopted him as my grandson. He was so cute and I knew Yolanda had brought him to cheer me up. As soon as she walked in, I reached for the baby and began to unbundle him and kiss his forehead. I hugged Diane and said, "You guys need to know they have hidden Lenny's damn body somewhere. I've called every damn place and I cannot find his dead ass. When I get home, I'm going looking for him on Monday. That damn Carolyn! I know she is behind this shit and Theresa is in it with her. I am pissed. Noelle is a wreck. I can't even talk to her. She's screaming in the movies with Vincent. I cannot believe this shit!"
Yolanda and Diane listened to more of the story and then asked questions. Yolanda still couldn't believe that all this body missing shit had gone down since leaving me that afternoon. They advised me of my rights as Lenny's legal wife. I continued playing with the baby as I took in their advice. He was soothing me. I was chatting, changing his diaper and babbling on about him. Then, like a bitch on a mission, I'd switch back to the Lenny predicament and rant about threatening to have Theresa and Carolyn's asses locked up when I got home and got my business straight. Diane and Yolanda were staring at me and shaking their heads. "Let's order a pizza," Yolanda suddenly interjected to change the subject.
She sifted through the menus that we had brought back with us earlier. "I'm not hungry. Get whatever you want and I'll pay for it," I said. They ordered a pizza for delivery. Another nicotine fit took hold of me. "I have to go out and smoke a cigarette. I'll be back. Here, hold my baby till I get back." I handed Xavier to Yolanda.
"I need one, too. I'm going with you," Diane chimed in.
Yolanda hurried to catch up with us and said, the baby propped on her hip, "I'll go down with you guys."
On the elevator, I growled, "That damn Carolyn. You know, I would have let her have his body. I really would have. You know-since they were together so long. Me and Lenny were okay. We made up long ago. I'd just talked to him at the end of July when Zena and David came to Philly from D.C. for a weekend visit. Zena and I were having breakfast at the West Avenue Grill in Jenkintown when her husband David called her to say he was with Lenny. Lenny talked to Zena but wanted to speak to me, too. He had dreamed about me the night before. We were fighting on a school bus. He said it was so funny.
The memory of that conversation suddenly filled me with deep sadness. He insisted that I call him back with my new address in Jenkintown. An hour after we hung up, David called, rushing us to come to his father's house. Fifteen minutes later, David called again and wanted to know what was taking us so long. When we finally arrived, I dropped Zena off. I had a lot of errands to run that day and didn't have time to go in. As I drove off, my phone rang and it was Zena. I found out why David had been impatient for our return. Lenny had been waiting for me.
Yolanda and Diane wanted to say something to me, but words never came to either of them. Instead, Yolanda rubbed my shoulder and Diane attempted a smile. Even the baby was silent. I hadn't turned back because I had errands to run and was tired. I mailed Lenny some great pictures of Noelle's head shots in September and an invitation to my birthday party in October so he could see her. I never heard back from him. That was strange because he had made it a point of asking me to send him my new address and to call him. They were beautiful flicks of her. She resembled a movie star-a Black Ava Gardner. I also included a photo of her and Vincent along with a nice note. It wasn't like Lenny to miss a party, especially at a restaurant where there was food and liquor. He hadn't seen Noelle in such a long time and knew she would be at the party.
Much later, Zena and I talked about Lenny never acknowledging that he had received the pictures and invitation. Zena figured Carolyn had gotten the stuff out of the mail and had never given it to him. I had even called him twice, leaving messages on his home phone to call me. I never heard a word from him. Now his ass was dead. Damn! I couldn't believe it.
We all got off the elevator and Diane and I hurried outside. Yolanda stayed in the lobby with the baby. We smoked in silence, Diane keeping an eye on me while I paced the front of the hotel. I rushed through the cigarette and hurried back up to the room alone. Yolanda and Diane waited for the pizza man. When they returned, I was sitting on the bed. The smell of the pizza didn't increase my appetite. I still didn't want to eat a thing and craved yet another cigarette. In a few minutes in came Danielle and Brian, the baby's parents. They hugged me and gave me their condolences. The atmosphere in the room lightened and we all laughed, talked, and played with the baby. I enjoyed being surrounded by my friends, but I was anxious to get back home. As everyone prepared to leave, Yolanda asked if she should spend the night with me, but it was nearly eleven o'clock at night and I opted to stay alone at the Hyatt.
As soon as Yolanda and the gang left, the hotel phone rang. It was my brother Jeff. "Hold on," he said. My cousin Lynne got on the phone. Lynne Melman Coney was a budget analyst for the Federal Government for thirty years. She was smart as a whip. We hadn't talked to each other for a long time. "Hey," Lynne said, "how you doing, girl?"
"I'm okay. I answered.
"I heard about Lenny. I'm sorry. I know you plan to see about all this stuff on Monday. Jeff told me what's happening about the body. Listen girl, Monday is not good enough. You listen to me. You get yourself together. If you are tired, you wake the fuck up right now! You get on the phone and you find his damn body as quickly as you can. You cannot let Carolyn or anybody else get hold of a death certificate. A death certificate is power. By Monday, she will have that and have his ass buried. Lenny has a pension and other stuff. I'll explain all about that later. For right now, you find his ass and tell the people who have him to stay put until you get there. Carolyn could have his ass moved somewhere tonight! My take is since he just died last night, they are still running tests on him. A lot of people were off today for Black Friday. You get
moving and call me back."
When we hung up, I felt like a doe caught in headlights. Lynne's comments added to my confusion. What the hell was going on! I just wanted my dead husband's body on Monday. That's the start of the business week. For Christ's sake, I was in New Brunswick, what could I do from here? Fighting off another deadly cigarette craving, I sat down and put my face in my hands. I didn't know where to start. I called back to the morgue in Philadelphia and asked them to check again. No Lenny Garner. I tried to figure out whose number I had that worked for the City of Philadelphia. I came up with Liz Edwards, a buddy of mine who was a court reporter. I called her immediately. "Liz, listen. Lenny dropped dead of a heart attack last night. I got the news early this evening. I'm out of town in New Brunswick with Yolanda. I've been looking all over for his body and can't find it." I went on to list all the places I had checked. Gasping, Liz was stunned to hear the news. She finally asked, "Where did he die?"
"Well, his aunt said paramedics came to his house and he died there."
"Okay-well, you know he may be at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. That's close to his house. Check out there."
"I have no number. Can you get the number and call me back? Here, take my number here at the hotel and my cell, too. I gotta pee." I sat on the toilet thinking about Lenny dying. I envisioned him holding his chest. I thought about him preparing a turkey and washing collard greens and making dressing. He loved to cook and had to cook living with Carolyn. He would have been dead a long time ago if she was in charge of the food. He had told me many stories about how bad a cook she was. Even Noelle said Carolyn was lethal with a pot and a pan, but she could make an apple pie. She had stayed three weeks with them one summer when I was sick of her acting like a crazy teenager. I was mad as hell at Carolyn because I figured if the bitch had known how to cook, maybe Lenny wouldn't have had a fucking heart attack trying to make the damn dinner all by himself. I was raging! I thought about Noelle not having a father to walk her down the aisle when she got married, our grandchildren not having a Grandpop.
The hotel phone rang interrupting my mental rant. It was Liz with the number for Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. I quickly dialed the number and let it ring and ring. No answer. "No answer at a fucking hospital!" I shouted. "Where are these damn people?" I hung up and dialed back, thinking I called the wrong number. No answer again. "Shit," I said lighting a cigarette. At that point, I did not give a hoot if I was in a non-smoking room. I had no ashtray and was looking for one. I spotted an almost empty juice bottle and grabbed it off the hotel table. I called Liz back and we talked. "Look, I don't know what's going on. My cousin is frantic, talking to me about death certificates and stuff. Why does everything have to be done so fast?"
"Well, you know Lenny was in the DROP program. I know that from talking to him in the bar."
"What the hell is a DROP program?"
"That's a city retirement program wherein an employee voluntarily drops out from working, taking an early retirement. It means he got a lump sum of money to retire and a monthly pension for the rest of his life. It's the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. We call it DROP. If he was living with Carolyn at the time of his death and she has a death certificate, being common law and all, she could get all that money."
"How much money?" I asked.
"Well, depending on his income, it could be a lot-like over a hundred thousand dollars. Did you get any money when he retired?"
"No. I'm not entitled to any pension money unless I divorce him. At least that's what I thought."
"Well, I don't know all of the rules for married people because I'm not married. I'll find out some stuff on it for you on Monday. I'll also have some phone numbers for you to call. Damn, I can't believe Lenny is dead," Liz said.
"Well, he just came home from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He buried his brother Dennis there last weekend."
"What! Damn. Humph. What happened to him?"
"I don't know. He was much younger than Lenny. Lenny is 63. Dennis had some disease, was sick all the time. Something was wrong with one of his organs or something. He was on a lot of medication and he drank a lot of booze. Listen Liz, I gotta run. I'll call you back. Thanks, girl, for everything. Shit. It's damn near two o'clock in the morning. I wonder where Lenny's dead ass is. I'm gonna kill him all over again when I find him. And you know what? If that bitch tries to bury my damn husband real quick and succeeds, I'll have his ass dug up and buried in my backyard. I swear I will. A piece of paper holds a lot of weight."
I hung up and could still hear Liz laughing in my head. My next call was to the police station near Lenny and Carolyn's house. I told the story again, but they had no record of paramedics going from their precinct to get Lenny-dead or alive. I called back to the City Morgue. I was crying and telling the person on the end of the receiver that I could not find my husband's dead body anywhere. The gentleman gave me a number that tracks all 911 calls placed from Philadelphia. From there, I was able to find out that Lenny was taken to Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital. That hospital was across the city line and not in Philadelphia. It was in Darby, Pennsylvania in Delaware County. When I tried Mercy Fitzgerald again, they answered the phone this time.
I started in the Emergency Room and was switched to the morgue. From there, I got a supervisor. I explained everything all over again to a woman who said she would have to pull a file and get back to me. She returned my call as promised and took some information. She directed me to another supervisor. I finally got Erin, a medical investigator at the morgue familiar with the file and my husband's dead body. After I explained who I was, Erin informed me that Lenny had been brought in by his wife and granddaughter. I explained again that I was his wife and that Lenny had no granddaughter. Suspect, Erin began to ask me a series of questions about my mother and father-in-law, Lenny's medications, where he was born, where he worked, his Social Security number, and where he resided. She talked to me about Carolyn and I explained that Lenny had been living with her for fourteen years. She also noted on the file that Theresa Roglich was listed as being next to kin. Erin was puzzled as to why a wife, Carolyn, was listing Theresa as next to kin. She explained that the state of Pennsylvania did not recognize common-law marriages. We talked for a long time and, afterward, she believed I had never divorced Lenny. I didn't know all the medications he was on, but I did know he was taking blood pressure medication and drank heavily. She told me they would run tests on him to find out everything that was in his system at the time of his death. I offered to provide her with my marriage license, but she said that it was not necessary. They had another way of checking to make sure I was his wife. They stopped requesting or allowing marriage licenses because, on a prior case, four women had come to claim a body and all of them had marriage licenses. Erin also shared with me that I should contact the Julian Hawkins Funeral Home and gave me a number to call Mr. Hawkins. Carolyn had made arrangements for them to pick up his body. I had to tell them that I had spoken with Erin and that they should not come as scheduled. It was then 3:30 in the morning and she suggested that I wait until 9:00 a.m. to call the funeral home. I agreed, thanked her and hung up.
I couldn't sleep, my mind was too unsettled. I must have checked my watch one hundred times. By six o'clock in the morning, I could not wait any longer and decided to call the funeral director. I explained the situation and advised him not to pick up Lenny's body. Half an hour later, he phoned me back to say he had spoken to Carolyn and she wanted her instructions carried out. As planned, he said he intended to go for the body. My voice became stern and I ordered him not go near that body. If he did, there would be trouble in the form of lawyers. I reiterated that I was the legal wife. At the mention of lawyers, Mr. Hawkins changed his mind. I was relieved.
At seven o'clock, I was in the shower and at eight I was packing. By nine, I was back on the phone with the morgue. Erin had finished her shift, so I had to deal with a new person. Thank God he was familiar with the situation, probably having been briefed by Erin. I needed to fax him some identification for his records. All I had was my driver's license and MasterCard, the first registered in Greene, and the latter with Garner inscribed on it. I ran down to the hotel lobby and had both copied. I wrote a note requesting the morgue to hold the body and faxed the documents. When Yolanda walked in the door at nine forty-five, I was ready for breakfast. As soon as she looked at me, I sighed and confessed, "I've been up all night."
We chatted as we sipped coffee and juice. I messed over home fries, toast, and fresh fruit. I was antsy, knowing damn well I'd never find my marriage license in all my papers. I would indeed end up at City Hall first thing Monday morning to request a copy. In the meantime, my plan was to go to the morgue as soon as I dropped my luggage off at home. Yolanda and I got my bags together, ordered a bellman, and headed for checkout. When settling the bill, I was hit with telephone charges in the amount of four hundred and three dollars! It was for calls made after receiving the news of Lenny's death. Prior to that, I had only been on my cell phone since check-in. Unbelievable! I looked at the gentleman's name tag behind the counter. "Gary, I really cannot pay all these charges. This is ridiculous. This is too much money for phone calls. As you know, my husband passed away and this is why I'm checking out a day early. As you see from my records, I didn't begin using my hotel phone until after I got the news of my husband's death, which occurred on Thanksgiving Day. Please ask your supervisor if he could reduce the charges. It was due to an emergency that I had made all these calls."
Gary looked at me sympathetically and conferred with his female co-worker. When he returned, he offered to lower the phone bill to $127.00. I thanked him, he gave me his condolences, and Yolanda and I left. I boarded the train to Philadelphia.
Once I got on the train, the most interesting thing happened to me. Ironically, I was sitting in front of two Black guys listening to them talk about their jobs. The more I spied their conversation, I kept hearing the word drop. Finally, I turned around and asked if they were Philly City Workers. They were friendly and answered, "yes."
We talked all the way to Philadelphia and they gave me much information. We exchanged numbers, too. They told me to get that marriage certificate early Monday morning and go to the City of Philadelphia Pension Board. They named a few other places to check out, too. The last thing they said to me was not to let anyone get a death certificate. The chance of our meeting was overwhelming for me. I could not believe that those two guys were on that train at the same time as me-God's work and certainly no coincidence.
When I got back home, everything was in an uproar with Noelle. Her condition had deteriorated since our last conversation. Her Crohn's Disease was acting up and she was scheduled to get an infusion the next day. After many years of being on the same medication, her body was not completely responding to treatment. She wasn't feeling well and was staying with her boyfriend.
When I had her on the phone, my maternal instincts sensed she was depressed and that the stress from the news of her father's death inevitably led to a flare up of the disease. She only admitted to me that her stomach hurt and she was upset about her father. But after everything she had gone through with the disease, it had to be much worse. I wanted to run over to Vincent's place to be with her, but I knew my daughter. Time and space was what she needed. I was scared to death, but I decided to stay put.
I called the Delaware County morgue three more times and left messages. Someone finally returned my call and told me that it wasn't necessary to rush out there. I could wait until Monday to pick up the body. They assured me they would not release the body to anyone other than me. I was glad because I was exhausted. The rest of the day was spent telling the story and getting advice from people. My cousin Lynne and her husband, Jerome, stayed on the phone with me the longest on Saturday evening. Jerome Coney was also a former city worker and had retired under the DROP Program. He was a wealth of information. He taught me everything I needed to learn about the DROP Program, death certificates, and city benefits-things very foreign to me. I still hadn't heard a word from Lenny's sister Theresa. After that conversation, I called the Pension Board even though it was Saturday night. I left messages for three people alerting them that Carolyn Monroe was pretending to be Mrs. Lenny Garner and that Mr. Lenny Garner had passed away on Thanksgiving Day. I added that I was his wife and would call again on Monday morning to discuss my situation further. I imagined each one of their faces on Monday after hearing my message. I sat back and howled.
The following night, much was on my mind with Noelle and her Dad's death. I was bushed from gathering information, unpacking, and the entire whirlwind from the last three days. I took an Ambien and passed out. Monday was going to be a very busy day and I needed a good night's rest.
Before I left my house the next morning, I called the morgue where Lenny's body was. I was on my way to City Hall for my marriage certificate, but they informed me that they had received one over the weekend from Carolyn Monroe. Lenny and Carolyn married on June 22, 2002! I was in a state of shock! How could he have married that wench when he had never divorced me?
I hauled ass to City Hall and found my marriage certificate on the computer from 1986. Bingo! They tried to get me a copy from the physical file and the entire file was missing. Nowhere to be found. Hunted and hunted. Nothing. They couldn't understand where it was. I swore they had paid somebody a couple of dollars to lose that file. I then requested my husband's marriage certificate. Lenny and Carolyn had filled out the application together at City Hall on June 3, 2002 to get married. Lenny indicated on the application that he had never been married to anyone.?Humph. Lenny was married prior to meeting me and divorced after we hooked up. He knew Carolyn about ten years prior to meeting me. Lenny could have been messing around with her when he was married to his first wife. The first wife hated her. Carolyn and Lenny got married in some church in Philly and kept it a secret from his family. It was probably kept a secret so I would not find out. If Lenny and I had divorced, I would have been able to go after the DROP money and pension. If I stayed married to him, the money would be his. If he had dropped me from his medical coverage, I would have found out, filed for divorce to get on the COBRA plan for medical insurance, and attacked the pension, too. That would have affected the DROP lump sum payment to him and his monthly retirement checks. So, they kept the shit quiet. Based on his yearly salary, he was eligible to get about $131,000 from the DROP Program as a lump sum payment.
Could Lenny have divorced me without my knowing it? Okay, I had to think quickly. I knew some shit was going down, so I went to another department that handled divorce decrees. A thorough check was done in 67 counties. No divorce decree ever came up. There had been a divorce complaint filed by me years ago in 1992, but Lenny and I stopped that action and just let it go.?After hours of searching, a copy of my marriage license was found in the City file containing my Divorce Complaint. The department gave me two documents with Court seals stating that I had never been divorced and faxed a set of the documents to the medical examiner holding Lenny's body.
The Delaware County morgue received everything. As far as I knew, Carolyn never gave the morgue a divorce decree, just her marriage license.?This blew their minds. The case was just too big for the morgue's office, and now, they were sending all of our documents over to the Chief Register of Wills in Delaware County to be reviewed. He would make a decision as to who was the legal wife.
After all that drama at City Hall, next was the Pension Board. After I explained my whole story to the clerk, I handed her my marriage license.?She wasn't alarmed because Carolyn had never applied for Lenny's pension thus far. Since another wife popped up, the Pension Board decided to have a meeting to discuss it. They planned on sending me papers to fill out requesting documents. The pension board had not known of Lenny's death until I reported it. A pension check would be generated to go to Lenny in three days. No plans were made to stop the release of that check, but they were sending a letter to Lenny's residence stating that checks would be stopped after that. They had to do it that way until they received a death certificate. They informed me that Lenny had picked Option J on his pension, which gave benefits to the spouse after his death for the rest of the spouse's life. He did not indicate a spouse's name. Just checked off spouse. If his spouse died after him, I discovered, the benefits would go to a minor child or an adult child with a disability.
I was on a roll! I was Mrs. Lenny Garner. My next stop was District Council 33, the Health Insurance Department. I notified them of Lenny's Death and they changed
things around to make sure health cards and things like that would come directly to me.?I was listed as the wife and was on the insurance until 2009, after which I would move to COBRA. That department had never been informed of Lenny's remarriage or his death.
Next, I went to the post office and had Lenny's mail rerouted to my house. I wasn't leaving anything to chance. I didn't trust that Bitch.
From there, I headed to Social Security Administration and reported Lenny's death. They gave me an appointment to return on the sixth of December with a long list of documents. To show proof that I was Lenny's wife, I had to show my marriage certificate. If I filed at age 60, my benefit would be $944 and $1322 if I filed at 66 or if I were disabled and unemployed. As a widow, I was entitled to an immediate $250 from them.
After all this running around, I spoke to my attorney, Tony Marino. Tony was my former employer and had handled several personal injury cases for me. We had
become good friends over the years and if anybody needed to know this shit-it was Tony. He wanted to meet to discuss the matter after I got the body stuff straight along with all the other business. The Medical Examiner wouldn't release the body for burial until the legal wife was determined and they heard back from the Chief Register of Wills?in Delaware County. Tony would represent me regarding Lenny's estate until I formally hired an estate attorney. If Lenny had a will, I would have to get a percentage of his assets. I had no idea if there was a will, but I anticipated there wasn't one because my husband was always too busy partying.
I believed Carolyn committed fraud on the marriage application. She indicated that Lenny had no other wives to her knowledge.?I could prove her dishonesty. In 1992, Carolyn filed a lawsuit against me, Denise Garner. She was trying to obtain $50,000 from me after Lenny moved in with her. She filed the suit for harassment, that I had been calling her house and some other stupid shit. She later dropped it, but the Court kept the records. She was well aware of my marital status because my medical insurance cards were being mailed to her house for years, as Lenny was the subscriber. In the end, she would be burned at the stake.
While I was trying to play Columbo, people, Lenny's friends and family members from all over were ringing the phone off the hook wanting to know the funeral arrangements. They got my phone numbers from Theresa who had become super tight with Carolyn. I simply told everyone the same thing, that I couldn't deal with the funeral at the time because Noelle's Crohn's was in a flare-up and I had to get her infused and healthy again. It came as a surprise to many people, but it wouldn't be for a couple of weeks before I could work on the funeral. I still hadn't talked to Theresa since my return to Philly. She was just as hard-headed as I was and had not called me either since informing me that she was in charge and had a policy.
This thing played like a saga. People were blown away at City Hall and other departments that my dead husband was leading a double life. The Medical Examiner's office confirmed that they were getting a zillion calls on the case of the two wives. People wanted to know when the funeral was. Erin, the investigator for the Delaware County Medical Examiner, and I talked late last night. She believed I was not lying, but procedure was that the Register of Wills had to get this case. She said that Theresa kept calling to find out when the body could be released to plan a funeral. At that point, I had not heard from the team of Dumb and Dumber (Theresa and Carolyn) because that was certainly who they were to me. As smart as I was, I would end up with his dead body. He was my husband, dammit, and after everything he had put me through, in the end, I'd be the chick in charge.
END OF TEASER CHAPTER