Love & Murder in Cyberspace: The secret life of Ms. Galagher Chapter Two

Love & Murder in Cyberspace: The secret life of Ms. Galagher Chapter Two

(A version of this article was published in Typepad on August, 2008)

I

Thursday morning, November 16, I got a phone call from Becky, Jake’s secretary. The Galagher report was ready. Would I please pick it up? The sooner, the better. The boss, she insisted, needed the money.

I’d told her I myself was on pins and needles.

I was there in a jiff. Within an hour, I found myself engrossed in the reading.

II

November 15, 2006

Dear Mr. Walker:

I must state at the outset that you presented me with a tough nut to crack. I’ve been in this business for scores of years, soon to retire, but never have I ran into so elusive a subject. Ms. Galagher must have the swiftness of Hermes, the cunning of Odysseus, and the ancient wisdom of Hera. She is a real charmer. Please forgive me for resorting to these banal analogies. They’re all true. Even if I didn’t know you were a classicist at heart – remember, we talked about it several times over gin martinis at Roy’s – I still would have employed the same language. None fits better. So in a sense, Mr. Walker, you chose a worthy target. Ms. Galagher is one of a kind.

Now to the business at hand. And here, I’m afraid, the situation is not so rosy. But first, some vital statistics.

Full Name:                           Nancy Roberta Galagher, no siblings

Date and Place of Birth:     January 12, 1969; St. Paul, Minnesota

Parents:                                James Kilpatrick Galagher and Gloria Skeie

Present Address:                 1327 Willow Street, Apt # 17, Alameda, CA

Telephone Number:            (510) 548-0727 (unlisted)

Education: Graduated from St. Mary’s Catholic School for Girls, St. Paul (1989); BA in Cultural Anthropology, University of Chicago (1996); MFA in Political Science, Mills College (2002)

Financial Data: Beneficiary of a trust fund set up by Ms. Gloria Skeie ($250,000); a savings account of approximately $30,000 with World Savings; a credit card (Visa), $10,000 credit limit; a small checking account (Washington Mutual)

Criminal Record:               None

Before I bring you current on Ms. Galagher’s present goings-on, I must digress for a moment. I’ve done some preliminary checking into her family history, and let me tell you: it’s not a pretty picture. 

She comes from a highly dysfunctional family, mainly due to her alcoholic, given to violent temper, father. James Kilpatrick acquired notoriety in his hometown – especially parts known as “the Irish District” – which is a feat in itself given the size of St. Paul. Hardly a day went by without his name making the police blotter or the local papers. Typical offenses were relatively minor, considering – barroom brawls, spousal abuse, disorderly conduct, things of that sort. It’s their frequency that’s staggering. 

In time, a restraining order filed by Gloria Skeie (1981) was followed a year later by a no-contest divorce. Ever since the child was in the sole custody of the mother while the father had mysteriously disappeared. The mother never remarried. Nancy was thirteen at the time.

Rumors have it that James Kilpatrick was given to molesting his daughter from a very young age. When the mother had eventually found out – or at least began to suspect – all hell broke loose. 

It’s rather significant that there weren’t any domestic violence complaints before 1981 whereas in 1981 alone there were at least five. Which lends credence to the theory of chronic child abuse by the father and follows the usual pattern: it tends to spread to include spousal abuse as well, both out of shame, I presume, and to keep the suspecting wife silent. 

Further support comes from the nature of many of James Kilpatrick’s offenses: he’s been known to frequent houses of ill-repute and many times had been arrested and cited for indecent exposure in front of a minor. 

To be fair, I must add that in every instance, these charges were dropped for insufficient evidence. Still, his long and despicable record speaks for itself.

Here’s my take on what really transpired between the filing of the restraining order by Ms. Gloria Galagher in 1981 and the divorce proceedings in 1982. For little Nancy’s sake, the wife must have agreed not to press child-molestation charges on the condition that James Kilpatrick remove himself from the wife’s and daughter’s presence for the remainder of his natural life. He was never again to be seen or heard from by either of them, which tends to explain his somewhat mysterious disappearance. 

In my experience, it’s not unusual in such cases for the mother to be protective of the child’s welfare. Testifying in court about the gruesome details of a sex act with a parent can be traumatic even to an adult. There’s no telling what irreparable damage it can do to a child.

All of this is unsubstantiated, of course, in the realm of speculation. It needs hard facts to back it up. I’m confident, however, that I am right, and if given enough time, I could get to the bottom of things. A stay in St. Paul for a day or two, another one in Chicago, and I’m sure I could clear this up for you once and for all. 

The question is, Mr. Walker, are you willing to incur additional expense – even more importantly, how much do you want to know and how badly do you want to know it? Since none of us can undo the past, perhaps we should let it rest. Call me and let me know what you think.

Before I bring you current, let me close this sad chapter in young Ms. Galagher’s life. Up and until 1982, she was attending public school. Then, there followed a two-year gap of which we know nothing. In 1984, once again, we see her enrolled, this time in St. Mary’s — a prestigious Catholic school for girls. She stayed there for the duration until she graduated in 1989. She was twenty at the time. For your information, St. Mary’s not unlike a convent. The girls live and stay on the premises. Even at recess times, they’re not allowed to visit their families, although visitors are allowed.

Which brings up two main points. First, Ms. Gloria Galagher must have been well-to-do. A year at St. Mary’s costs a parent nearly $40,000 – no less than some of the best Ivy League schools; five years represent a nifty sum of $200,000. As you can see, Mr. Walker, these figures quickly add up. There wasn’t any divorce settlement to speak of, none at least involving any substantial transfer of money or property. James Kilpatrick was a drifter besides — a no-good bum who couldn’t hold a job. He lived, one could say, off his wife’s generosity and kind heart. Whatever she saw in such a man is beyond me. Perhaps he was attractive once. We’ll never know, of course. In any case, all the money in the family comes from the wife’s side.

The second point is more critical, for it bears directly on Nancy’s past – not to mention her present circumstances, behavior, and character. 

As you know, most kids graduate from high school at the age of eighteen, not twenty. Nancy was a brilliant student besides, not only diligent but bright, and her transcripts from the University of Chicago and Mills College only bear this out: a composite 3.98 GPA from both institutions, magna cum laude material by any stretch. So repeating a year was out of the question. 

There is only one way to explain her delayed graduation: between ages thirteen and fifteen – the period immediately following her parents’ divorce – she was out of school, public or private. There is no record of her enrollment in any educational institution, none whatever. Where was she during that time? At home? Some other facility? And what was she doing while there?

It’s my educated guess, Mr. Walker, that she was undergoing therapy. It would be highly irregular if she didn’t, and her education had not been interrupted for the fact. The rising awareness on the part of the victims of child abuse, especially if it’s sex-related, can be very slow in coming, painstakingly gradual, often delayed until late adulthood. That’s one reason why the offenders usually get away with their despicable behavior for as long as they do: their victims “cooperate” in a manner of speaking. 

To maintain their sense of self, they choose to live in a state of denial — a world of make-believe — rather than risk the shattering of their already fragile egos. Unwilling to face the facts, they create a reality all their own, embellish it, make it into something it’s not. Until the awareness sinks in, and when it does, it hits them like a ton of bricks. It’s a shock of a lifetime, and it often scars them for life.

Since Nancy’s mother was a person of means, it’s understandable that she’d take all the necessary precautions to make the transition as painless as possible. Naturally, she loved her daughter (all the more so, I presume, since the ugly truth had come out) and felt guilty perhaps – if not by association then for not having had the premonition to step in and act sooner. Who knows, maybe she could have spared her daughter some of the pain? 

One thing, however, is indisputable. The child couldn’t continue the way things were – to keep on facing her teachers, other children, friends, as though nothing had happened. Some kind of therapy was a must if there was to be any hope of recovery. Where exactly? Under what circumstances? What were the relevant details? – this, I’m afraid, we’ll never know. Nor do I believe we should. Let’s just say that money can assure one of privacy – privacy beyond scrutiny, that is. And in this case, we had better respect it and let it rest.

Another possibility is that in addition to therapy, she had to undergo an abortion. Abortions are legal in Minnesota, but to keep the father’s name out, and for little Nancy’s sake, the decision was made to seek help from a private facility. 

Even now, I dread to think of this. Still, we can’t discount the possibility. All the more reason, Mr. Walker, not to delve into the past! Let’s just respect it and hope for the best.

Once again, it’s only a theory. We’re still in the realm of speculation. Consider this, however. The day of Nancy’s graduation from St. Mary’s (1989) coincides with the commencement of her trust fund. Within a week, she’s out of St. Paul and on her way to Chicago. Why such a hasty departure? Not because the fall term was about to begin. That’s almost a year down the line. (Her application bears the date of February 5, 1990; the letter of acceptance, along with a modest scholarship, of February 26; her first day of classes, September 4.) What was the real reason?

In my experience, Mr. Walker, there are no coincidences, only consequences. It’s a simple universe, really, far simpler than most people suppose. It’s a universe of cause and effect – nothing more – and to tell the truth, I’m comfortable with it. Now, this is what I think.

Nancy had a talk with her mother, a heart-to-heart talk. Must have told her St. Paul was out of the question, that she couldn’t continue living there, not then, not ever. Too many memories, past associations – harmless in and of themselves but reminding her nonetheless of the pain she’d gone through! It’s as though that pain wasn’t in the past but had to be relived daily, every single waking day, and then some.  

While at St. Mary’s, she’d thought she’d be OK. She lived there in relative isolation, removed from all the artifacts and people that might have reminded her of her horrible experience. But only one day into her homecoming, if we can call it that, convinced her beyond any doubt that she was deluding herself. The streets she once walked on, the park where she played as a toddler – anything and everything about her hometown, including the quiet neighborhood where she grew up, served as a bitter reminder. Even her lovely home had lost all its charm. 

The nursery room, her own little room that was given her once she reached puberty, even the living room with its cozy fireplace on cold Minnesota nights – every piece of furniture and knickknack, in fact, once delightful and source of pleasure and joy, the carpets, the drapes, the impressive mahogany bookcase taking up the entire wall, and those so huge and comfortable pillows into which she could sink and look into the glow of the burning wood, savor the smells and marvel, and forget oneself and dream, while the warmth emanating from thence penetrated every cell of the body, the sounds of the classical pouring in uninterruptedly from KSJN — did you know, Mr. Walker, that Classical Minnesota Public Radio is one of the finest in the country? – all that meant nothing to her. On the contrary, it had descended on her with the force of a tsunami. 

Then and there, her mind was made up. However much she loved her mother and hated the idea of parting, she couldn’t stay. She was an adult now, no longer a minor, and therefore free to go as she pleased. It was time to move on and turn a new leaf.

Why Chicago? Perhaps she had a distant relative there – an aunt or a second cousin. Who knows? It could have been Timbuktu. The important thing is – she had to get away from St. Paul and quickly, as far away as possible. And she did, with her mother’s blessings, no doubt.

I’m not a betting man, Mr. Walker, but I’ll bet you dollars to donuts – it’s my intuition – that she didn’t make many trips back home since that eventful day in early October when she left St. Paul so abruptly nearly twenty years ago. I may be wrong, of course. People are full of surprises. Perhaps she’s grown more resilient, better capable of dealing with her painful past. Her love of her mother always served as a magnet. The odds are against it, though. From my long exposure to sexual molestation cases, therapy goes only so far.

As to her stay in the windy city, I’m afraid I can’t be as helpful. I was running out of time. Everything looks kosher, though. It takes on average four years to get a BA; Nancy had done it in six. Nothing unusual there. She may have worked part-time or taken less than a full load. If you like, I could make further inquiries, but I don’t think it would be time well spent. So let’s turn to the final chapter, the here and now.

She arrived in the Bay Area in 1997. Enrolled in Mills College a year later. Lived in Oakland throughout her post-graduate studies and held several part-time jobs. In 2003, after completing her master’s, she moved to Alameda and stayed in the same apartment ever since. Also, in 2003, she started working for Earthcom in Oakland. 

That’s as far as I got. Saw no point in pursuing it further. I decided instead on having her followed — to learn some of her quirks, habits, idiosyncrasies. Isn’t this what you wanted to know, Mr. Walker – the person behind the veneer?

Well, I’ve had her under surveillance for almost a week now, and let me tell you: I still know next to nothing. Ms. Galagher is the exact opposite of a creature of habit. There’s no telling what she will do or when. It’s almost as though she’d made it a point a long time ago that no day in her life would be like any other. Consequently, there aren’t any routines to depend on, no schedules to adhere to, no activities or engagements she participates in on a more or less regular basis. 

That’s what gets me, Mr. Walker – the very irregularity of her life! She shops at different places and at all times of day or night. Attends a spa now and then, but then again, there’s no telling when. Even her coffee habit – you do know, I suppose, that she’s addicted to caffeine – isn’t much of a lead. It’s Starbucks most of the time – gosh, I don’t see how she can stand it! – but you can never be sure. Sometimes she’ll throw you a curve and go to Peet’s or Java Rama instead. Still, you can’t count on an encore. She’ll be whenever and wherever least expected.

If there were one way to summarize Nancy’s life, habits, her modus operandi, to attribute a rationale to her conduct, a rule she seems to live by, it would have to be this: unpredictability is her very essence. She’s as unpredictable as a cat. One could say – and that’s no exaggeration, believe me – that she lives as though she was being followed. In fear of being followed! 

Her unpredictability is, as it were, on purpose – by design. It’s supposed to throw you off, to make you lose your scent, to derail you. She lives, in a nutshell, as though she were (still?) a prey – and you, I, everyone else for that matter, a predator. But perhaps neither of us should be taken aback. If my theory concerning her sordid past even partly bears out, her behavior is “normal.” The trauma is for life. Once haunted, always haunted!

Since your interest in this case concerns a possible engagement, I delimited my inquiry to matters of social and personal significance. Ms. Galagher has many acquaintances but very few friends. (I’m not counting, of course, her work associates, of which there are many.) It’s a pity considering she is such an extrovert – so quick on her feet and silver-tongued besides. We both know, however, that social graces, outgoingness, what have you, aren’t always what they seem. It’s a defense mechanism for many – a way of warding off the insecurity of the self. Still, she deserves better.

There was a woman named Linda, five years Nancy’s senior, purportedly a butch. They shared an apartment while attending Mills College and, for a stretch, went through a stormy period. There were some fights, rumors of abuse, possibly a complaint filed with the police. (Don’t ask me how I found out!) It lasted about a year. 

They still talk to one another now and then, although it’s Linda who initiates most of the calls. Whatever relationship may have existed between them, it must have cooled off, for Nancy is unresponsive. As best I can tell, they haven’t seen each other in years.

So there’s at least one bit of good news, Mr. Walker. Ms. Galagher may be a feminist at heart – as far as convictions go – but she is not, and I repeat, not a confirmed lesbian. 

The brief interlude with Linda proves nothing. Everyone experiments with sex sooner or later. It’s part of normal human development. Besides, it’d go against the grain, counterintuitive to most child abuse cases. These unfortunates either turn into abusers themselves or forever remain under the specter. Of one thing I can assure you, though: Nancy hasn’t crossed the line.

Whatever the causes of homosexuality in both men and women, and it’s a controversial topic – genetics, acquired behavior, what have you – violence isn’t one of them. Usually, a boy or a girl finds that their role model – same-sex parent in most cases – isn’t up to snuff. Consequently, they shift their allegiance to “the stronger sex” – the other parent, that is. Role (mis)identification is the usual outcome. A boy becomes a girl, tries to act like one – smiles, giggles, etc. – and vice versa, of course. 

Violence, on the other hand, always trumps sexual identity crisis. It turns its victims into subjects, automatons if you will. If a gay man or woman has a choice in a manner of speaking, it’s only in becoming “the other.” Child molestation victims have none. Besides, violence is gender-neutral. Abuse is abuse, regardless of who – whether a man or a woman – is doing what to whom.

As you requested in our last meeting, I’ve done some preliminary checking into Ms. Galagher’s so-called “sugar daddy.” His name is Richard Cromer, and the description more or less fits. I wouldn’t say, however, that their relationship was platonic. They do see one another now and then, and on occasions, there transpires what you might call an “exchange of favors” – a quid pro quo. He’s relatively well-to-do, has a profitable business on the side – something having to do with a traveling circus or a carnival – and lavishes Nancy with gifts.

Naturally, she reciprocates. In the main, however, you’re right not to be jealous if your interest in her centers on the emotional. 

He’s a playboy-type — “a wannabe” may be a better term since his experience and ways are rather parochial, for who’d chose Alameda for their hunting ground? All his money is inherited. He’s on the witty side but dull compared to you, shallow and artificial. He couldn’t hold a conversation if his life depended on it, certainly not about the classics or literature – any number of topics in fact that you and I have touched upon and tried to discuss while inebriated, mind you, over those potent gin martinis at Roy’s. Besides, Ms. Galagher isn’t the only one he sees. He’d been spotted with other women around town – seems to flaunt this behavior, in fact. To some men, as we both know, it’s a mark of distinction, not unlike displaying a trophy or a badge of honor.

Surely, Nancy can’t be unaware of this. She is too bright besides, too intelligent and too introspective to fall for such a man. The way I see it, it’s a relationship of convenience. They each get out of it, I suppose, what they think they want and deserve. 

For Mr. Cromer, it must be her brightness, her native intelligence, her wit. For her, who knows? A sense of security perhaps, a father figure, the one thing she’d never had. One thing, however, seems certain: with him, she feels safe. 

So if romance or affair of the heart is what you’re after, then, by all means, go for it, Mr. Walker. In that department, Mr. Cromer is indeed no rival. Be prepared, however, to travel the high road. Shed your idealism. Let go of your passion. Keep in mind that most people, through no fault of their own, come as damaged goods. 

You’ll need the patience of a saint – the kind of love Paul speaks about in First Corinthians – to pull it off, especially with someone like Nancy. Love her by all means, cherish her all you can – most importantly, perhaps, be kind, understanding, and patient – but don’t expect anything in return, not for a while at least. Who knows, someday she might come around and become the treasure you see in her? I wish you luck.

If I were to end it here, Mr. Walker, I’d recommend cautious optimism. I can’t do it, however, in good conscience. Of late, a week or so ago, another man has come into her life. Mark Gould’s the name, a new hire by Earthcom. Do you know him? 

I’ve done some preliminary checking, but it doesn’t make any sense. He lives in a shelter, one step away from being homeless, bi-polar besides. Yet, Nancy seems to be taken by him. I’ve seen them together more than once. On one occasion, I saw him re-emerge from her apartment at midnight after they’d spent hours together, doing God knows what. Thus far, I have no idea what goes. So until I do, Mr. Walker, and it’d take about a week, two at most, I suggest you hold your horses and don’t bring up the engagement.

It’s up to you, of course. You can proceed on the basis of this report, knowing full well it’s inconclusive, exercise your best judgment and keep your fingers crossed, or you can retain me for another week or so – to make sure. If I were you, I know what I would do. Considering the nature of your concern, how important she is to you, and how much you’ve already invested, I’d go the extra mile.

It all depends, of course, on whether you can afford me. Unfortunately, my services won’t be cheap because this kind of work is usually around the clock and the hours can quickly add up. (We both know how cautious Ms. Galagher can be.) I’m afraid I’d have to ask you for a thousand upfront, another thousand when done. Again, I realize it’s a hefty sum for what seems like only a week’s work. Still, if you’re serious about marrying this woman, believe me, it would be money well spent. Better safe than sorry!

Feel free to call me and let me know what you think. Meanwhile, I hope we shall run into one another at Roy’s one of these days and have another delightful conversation.

Sincerely,

Jake Hammonds, PI

License # 74356

1515 Clay Street, Suite 1250

Oakland, CA 94612-1499

I

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