The note was typed and unsigned. Had it been only for himself? If so, why go to the trouble to type it? If not, why hadn’t he signed it? Or had he planned to take both our lives? But if he wanted to take both our lives, he could have done that at any time. Why go all the way out to the desert? It didn’t make sense.
There were, however, the dual insurance policies. These he’d insisted on taking out six months previously. The policies were specified nonpayable in the event of suicide, if it happened within six months of inception. When I asked why we needed insurance, after having lived together for so long without it, he’d responded that, should something happen to me, he didn’t want to have to wait for my family to take care of the arrangements.
Upon our arrival at Laguna Mountain, as I stepped out of the cabin, he immediately made a phone call — again, something he’d never done on any of our many trips before. Was he again calling his mysterious friend? Was this friend waiting in the desert to bring my husband back up to the mountain after leaving my truck, the suicide note, and me down in the desert? That would explain the nervous twitch in his hand when I declined to go. I suspected then — and still do — that this was the case.
As I drove on, leaving California, I thought about that gun pouch given to the police. There’d been extra ammo in a caliber different from the 22 I’d always known about. Where was this other gun? And why hadn’t he told me about it?
So many things were beginning to add up. Too many. I shuddered. An 18-wheeler passed, and the car swerved in the draft. I was driving too slowly now.
Was any of this proof of intent, on his part, to harm me? No, but the only real proof would have been my body, down there in the desert. That was an unacceptable option. My girlfriend said: “If it walks like a duck, and if it quacks like a duck, and if it has wings like a duck — it’s a duck!” Well, he had been walking and talking and quacking and flapping, a duck up to no good.
In the end, I had to look at it this way: If I leave, and I’m wrong, I have lost the man I have loved for ten years. If I stay, and I’m wrong, I have lost my life. Not a fun decision, but not a hard one, either.
The town of Barstow loomed before me — right turn on 40, coming up. North Carolina, here I come! I tried to cry, but couldn’t. There would be time for that later. When I got to North Carolina, there would be legal business to take care of, not the least of which was to close out that insurance policy. The last light of day — along with the last ten years of my life — was fading in the west.
I took one more look in the rearview mirror to make sure nobody was following me.
— Christi Johnson