It should have been an ordinary divorce battle, with its familiar portions of malice and chicanery. But then things got ugly. In Sex Offender Lives Here, a father attempts to gain custody of his son, only to be caught up in an epic clash of cultures.
Once, Fletcher Geffney had everything: a lovely wife, wealthy and influential in-laws, an estimable literary career. Now he stands to lose it all, including his 10-year-old son Christopher, after his wife makes a series of alarming accusations in the course of a preliminary child custody hearing.
Under normal circumstances, Fletcher might have successfully defended himself against criminal charges he insists are false and unfounded: the statutory rape of a 15-year-old fashion model, possession of child pornography and endangering the welfare of a minor.
But these are uncommon times. The Balloon Man, a sexual predator with a capacity for almost supernatural stealth and savagery, is preying on children. Even as the Balloon Man's reign of terror unleashes a frenzy of outrage and fear across several states, an opportunistic local politician seizes on Fletcher's newsworthy predicament to campaign for new and frankly unconstitutional enhancements to his state's registry system for convicted sex felons. In response, the controversial leader of an advocacy group called Sex Offenders Solidarity (SOS) seeks to make Fletcher the public face for the legal and social plight of sex offenders.
Soon persecuted felons, some dangerous and some merely abject victims of circumstance, begin showing up at Fletcher's door seeking shelter and safety in numbers. Fletcher's neighbors grow restive, then openly hostile. Activists, ideologues, andvigilantes on both sides of a cultural divide join the fray. With unnerving swiftness, Fletcher finds himself at ground zero in a pitched battle between an agitated, frightened citizenry and a shadowy underground of deviants and criminals.
Out of options and out of time, Fletcher conceives a plan to kidnap his son from his wife and flee the country. Just as he is about to put this plan into action, a tragic event-the disappearance of a local 10-year-old girl-triggers a final, deadly escalation of violence. Fletcher's day of reckoning-with both his angry community and with the family he has wronged-arrives at last.
Sex Offender Lives Here is the story of a father's worst nightmare. It is also the story of a father's redemptive love for his son and his struggle to come to terms with the mistakes he has made in his life. Harry Ramble's debut novel is a tale told with passion and keen moral clarity, dark humor and unsparing insight.
|Publisher:||Ebb Press, LLC|
|Edition description:||EBB PRESS LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Harry lives in New Jersey, with his wife and two children.
Read an Excerpt
Evidence Log Entry #13DBE
Re: Evidence in the kidnapping
of Geffney, Christopher, 7/1/09.
Item: Transcript of data contained on
CD-R disc given to Conrad T. Hogan
by Fletcher Geffney. (Witness statement on file.)
Entered 7/3/09, Investigator J. Dunleavy.
Not for release to the public.
Some day, when you're older, you'll want to know what happened here. You'll want to know what kind of people your mother and father were, that we could do the things we've done.
When that day comes, I don't know where I'll be. I hope I'll be with you. I hope we'll be somewhere safe. I hope we'll be living some semblance of a happy, healthy, normal life.
But I can't see that far ahead.
If, for some reason, I can't be with you, then this will be my only chance to explain what has happened.
I know what the public record will say. And I know what your mother will say.
So this is my say. My account of the calamitous events that have overtaken us.
I love you so much. So very, very much.
And your mother loves you, too.
Though our actions suggest otherwise, we only wanted the best for you. We wanted you to be safe. If we failed in that-and we did, of course-it wasn't due to any lack of love and affection for you. Rather, it was a lack of love for each other. Your mother and I were incapable of sustaining a commitment to each other strong enough to preserve a simple, decent life for all of us. We didn't have enough trust, enough good faith, enough respect for each other and our own selves.
In the end, all we had was you.
We love you equally, fiercely, without condition.
What I'm about to dois a terrible thing, a forever-life-altering thing, but you must understand that I have no choice. If I could, I would go back and undo everything that's been done. I would go back and surrender you to your mother and make the most of whatever diminished role she intended for me to play in your life. I would have tried to be content with that, if only to ensure your happiness and your rightful expectation of a normal life.
But it's too late for that now. We were playing two different games, your mother and me. At first, we were both intent wholly on gaining primary custody of you. Me, because I felt I had more to offer you, and your mother because, well, because she's your mother. When it became apparent that I might be successful, your mother started playing a new game. A vicious, deceitful, dangerous game. By the time I recognized this change in strategy, it was too late.
The criminal charges against me are false and unfounded. To the extent that I have done wrong, I've done so in only the most technical, letter-of-the-law sense. I have done nothing malicious, nothing even remotely evil. And even then, I was tricked. I was set up.
Some day, perhaps, I will be vindicated. But even then, in that far future day that would be much too late for both of us, I could never recover sufficiently in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of what passes for justice, to be reinstalled in your life in any meaningful way. Not after what's happened.
If that came to pass, what would you know of me? What would you remember? That I was some dangerous criminal? That I was a monster, a predator of the most vile sort? That I was a threat to you? That your mother saved you from me? I cannot be expected to live in the shadow of lies like these.
You must understand. If I give you up now, I will never see you again. I'll never see you again and even my presence in your heart will be erased. And that cannot be. I will not permit it.
So. Okay. This is more, maybe, than I had intended to say here. Right up front. But I'll let it stand.
Someday you'll understand. I hope when the time comes for me to explain all that has happened, I'll have more than these pages to offer you.
Dear Everyone Else,
I'm out of jail again. Released for the second time in three weeks.
Many thanks to my beleaguered lawyer, Art Archibald. I believe I've used the last of my get-out-of-jail-somewhat-free passes, however.
I'm writing this in my garage. I'm sitting in a plastic lawn chair, tapping this out on a borrowed laptop propped open on an overturned trash barrel. Borrowed, because the police have seized my own PC and laptop as evidence against me.
There's shattered glass all over the floor. Thick, opaque plastic is tacked up over all the windows. There's a sour, ugly stench still hanging in the air from earlier this week, when some neighborhood hero, some occupier of the moral and ethical high ground, tried to set fire to my house. My house has been spray-painted with hate messages, my lawn strewn with garbage.
I moved out here partly to get away from the new occupants of my house and partly to be closer to my Jeep, which is parked in the second bay of this two-car garage. I've already suffered the consequences of being too far removed from my vehicle during an emergency, and I'm not going to make that mistake again.
It's about 2am now. The house is silent. If any of you are creeping around outside-a not uncommon occurrence-you're doing so very quietly, very stealthily. My recent co-tenants-the convicted sex felons so popular with all of you-are either asleep or on watch. I don't get up there much anymore. It's their house now; I'll be gone soon enough.
You'll be glad to know they're all suitably humbled after the utter failure of their Sex Offenders Solidarity gathering two days ago. Their big public "statement." Whatever they have planned for the near future, whatever's next in their doomed campaign for basic respect and the protection of the rule of law, you can be sure I'm not privy to it. I'm out of the loop. If they ever imagined me to be an emblem or public face for their desperate plight, they surely don't anymore.
I'll say the following, one last time: It was never my intention to provide these people with a safe haven or support of any kind. I never wanted them here. They were thrust upon me by circumstance and I simply ran out of the time and energy required to thrust them away. Some of you know that, even if it serves your purposes to suggest otherwise.
Not that I care anymore. They're your problem now.
Until today, I've tried to act within the confines of the law, to defend myself with decency and dignity. That's over, too, now.
Emily rolled out her endgame earlier yesterday. We met in the park in town and she suggested a final, hideous escalation of our hostilities that I cannot allow to take place. Destroying my life, it seems, is no longer enough for her. Now she would endanger our son, expose him to devastating mental and emotional anguish, simply to consolidate her legal hold over him.
I won't permit that.
So I have a few days, maybe three or four, to prepare my way. And then I'm gone. With my son.
That's how long I have to state my case here.
You may wonder why I would bother. After all, most of you won't like what you read here. Many of you will refuse to believe anything I say. Fine, then. Feel free. But I'll state my case anyway. I see no reason to let the lies my wife and others have told stand as the final word.
You people think you've won. But you haven't. You won't. Not where it matters.
You've taken my job, my home, my good name, everything. But you won't take my son from me. You can't have him. And you can't turn him against me.
I'm sure, after I kidnap Christopher, that there will be a lot of handwringing and gnashing of teeth about criminal dads and child endangerment. About a broken system that aids and abets outlaw fathers. I'm sure there will be Amber Alerts out from here to Ohio. I'm sure all sorts of ghastly motives will be attributed to me.
But remember this. I will have been the second person to kidnap Christopher. My wife kidnapped him first.