Dodging the Past

Dodging the Past
Cyndi Pauwels

Until I stumbled across an article about him in the paper, I never realized how much Walter Dodge and I are alike. When Ginger pointed out that the picture of him on the front page could be me, “on a good day,” I went back for a second look.

In the news photo, Dodge towered over three other men, glad-handing in front of the butt-ugly one-hundred-twelve story tower they built to house their software development firm. Broad shoulders filled out his white suit in a way that kept the women in the background focused on his every move. Reminded me of one of those lame catalogue shots.

I straightened my shoulders, puffed out my chest, and tried to see his posture in the lumpy figure peering back at me from Ginger’s closet mirror. Maybe if I squinted. From the neck up there was a resemblance, if I were tanned, shaved, and twenty pounds lighter.

A few quick searches on the ‘net, and I pieced together more details of Dodge’s life to add to what the fawning article offered. Born December 22, 1970, only two months older than me. Public high school, state university, degree in computer science, all the same as me, at least on the surface. He didn’t have a juvie record that I could find, even with my less-than-legal search methods, and while I squeaked through college, Dodge graduated with honors. After that, we parted ways. He leap-frogged from one high-tech firm to another, raking in the dough until he bought out a small computer firm and transformed it into an international powerhouse. I got fired from more jobs than I can count. Funny how particular IT SysAdmins are about junior developers poking around in their network after hours.

When Ginger scooted back into the living room, I closed the laptop so she wouldn’t see I was piggy-backed onto the neighbor’s wireless again. That always led to an argument, but since the feds wouldn’t allow me access to the Internet in my name yet, what choice did I have? No way I’d surf at Starbucks or something, too many prying eyes. Believe me, I know.

She settled into my lap and nuzzled my neck in that special way she has. I closed my eyes, and reveled in the sensations she aroused, half of my brain considering how I had one up on Dodge in that respect. He was on wife number three. Ginger had stuck with me for fifteen years, even through that misunderstanding that cost me six months in federal prison. She deserved a break. So did I.

Over the next few weeks, I diagrammed my plans more carefully than I’d ever written a line of code. I let my buzz-cut grow out, shaved my scruff, and spent an hour each day in the sun. I started jogging again, cut out the late-night Taco Bell runs. During the day, I loitered inconspicuously outside Dodge’s headquarters, watching people and taking notes behind the pages of the Daily Register. I borrowed Joe’s decent looking black Chevy one week, Tom’s new grey Ford the next, and cruised the exclusive community where Dodge lived when he wasn’t jetting around the world. It took some fast talking to get past the gate, but I convinced the rookie security guard I was bidding a job for a new construction project and needed access to the back lots. Those business cards I picked up at the trade show last month came in handy.

At night, while Ginger worked her third-shift at the diner, I snagged her laptop and read all the IT journals I could find. I used a three-tier proxy chain to cover my tracks, figured that was enough since I was only hitting public sites, for now.

When Ginger asked what I was up to, suddenly being gone so much during the day, I told her that I was looking for a job. Guilt at the hopeful look on her face punched me in the gut, but I convinced myself it wasn’t really a lie. A job brings home money, right?

A buddy who prefers to remain nameless owed me a favor for some work I did for him a few years back. He still had the touch. Birth certificate, Social Security card, passport – all the stuff he came up with would have fooled those Homeland Security morons. Between his talents and mine, I gathered enough identification to convince the motor vehicle office in some hokey little burg over the state line in Michigan to issue me a new driver’s license. The frumpy clerk didn’t know the name Dodge was anything but a car.

I scrounged through the closet and found some old PC parts the feds hadn’t confiscated. Charlie gave me almost a hundred bucks for them at his repair shop. I used it to open an account in one of those online banks that never see your face, using six proxies that time. It was probably the easiest part of my plans, and no one caught on. For a software expert, Dodge was pretty lax with security. His credit reports weren’t set to alert for inquiries or new activity. A credit card was next, from the same online bank. No sweat.

I hacked my way into Dodge’s financials. Brute-force takes longer than finesse, but like I said, his security’s a joke. With all the stories about him online, and his publicist-written Wikipedia entry, finding information to break the knowledge-based authentication on his accounts was a cinch. I got into his Facebook page on the first try. His passwords were the usual cutesy pet names and stuff. Even for that big fat off-shore account. It was easy enough to tap into it and start making small, regular transfers into my online account, and since that was in his name, too, it didn’t raise flags on his statements. I checked.

Time to get up close and personal. I started attending every public event where Dodge was a speaker. He fancies himself a philanthropist, likes to hear himself talk, so there were lots of opportunities. I wore a slouch hat and a pair of drug store reading glasses, and made a big show of taking notes. No one gave me a second look. I followed him one night after a fundraiser. He sent the trophy missus home in the limo and took a cab to one of those all-night clubs. I sure wish my cheap camera phone worked better in dim light, but his performance gave me an idea for Plan B. It was time to talk to Ginger.

She wasn’t too keen at first, afraid I’d end up back in prison. But when I convinced her it was like rehearsal to be an actor like she always dreamed about, she agreed, especially when I told her we’d go shopping for a new dress. Her long Betty Boop wig from last Halloween came in handy too. Ginger stills looks damn good for being almost forty, and away from bright lights, she could pass for twenty-five, easy. It only took three trips to Dodge’s get-away club before he zeroed in on her. I had a better camera with me that night, set on zoom.

I backed off after that, let the account build up a decent balance while I considered my options. But Ginger was getting antsy, and I was afraid she’d crack and tell her sister or something. It was time to move. Ginger’s stint in cosmetology school finally paid off. She cut my hair and covered up the grey, adding a few “sun-kissed” tints to match Dodge’s color. I went shopping myself, with his money, of course, so I’d fit in at the tennis club where Missus Number Three hung out. Her name was Sierra Tigerlily Dodge, an old stage name. Broadway, she claimed. Sierra played at the club three times a week, sometimes on the courts. I paraded through the lobby like I belonged there, found her in the café, and it took her a second to realize I wasn’t Dodge. Just barely. Then she laughed.

She stopped laughing when I dropped the pictures of Dodge and Ginger next to her mojito glass, followed by a copy of the off-shore account statement.

“That bastard,” was all she said.

I did most of the talking. Before I got to the end of my spiel, she was nodding in agreement. Even had a few good ideas of her own. Watch out for the woman scorned and all. I sure hope Ginger never turns on me the way Sierra did on Dodge. She gave me her private cell number – I didn’t tell her I already had it – and shooed me away before her lunch buddies showed up. We met two more times, at a dive bar off Cleveland Street, and then it was show time.

I sent the pictures of Dodge and Ginger to a few online sites that cater to that sort of thing. Within three days they’d gone viral, splashed on the headlines of the city gossip rag, too. Sierra played the wounded wife to perfection. By the end of the month, divorce papers were filed, the pre-nup was executed, and she walked away a very wealthy woman. I got a text from her just after the papers were signed. “Go.”

In less than two hours I drained the off-shore account, splitting the funds between my pseudo-Dodge account and Sierra’s new private account at a Vegas bank. The proxy chains got a work-out that day. As soon as the float time was past, I closed the online account and sent the funds to Ms. Holly Golightly, aka Ginger in her Betty Boop get-up, through Western Union. What can I say, she’s an Audrey Hepburn fan. No harm in humoring her a little. After three hopscotch moves, the money was back into another online bank account, this one in Puerto Vallarta, and Ginger and I were on a plane before the sun set.

I couldn’t resist sending Dodge an email thank-you card with a picture of me and Ginger on the bay at sunset, in costume naturally, and bounced through every proxy I could find. Give him something to think about while he’s trolling for wife number four. Ginger loves to remind me how she’s the one who spotted the news story and noticed how much alike Dodge and I are. I let her gloat. She’s earned it.

I still follow Dodge in the tech journals. He stays out of the tabloids these days. And I keep the phony IDs locked in a safe under the floor of our beach house. Just in case.

about the author
Cyndi Pauwels is a struggling author living in Yellow Springs with her patient husband of 34 years. She has earned an MA in creative writing from Antioch University McGregor (now Midwest) and a smattering of publication credits in both fiction and non-fiction. When she’s not writing, she teaches freshman composition at Clark State Community College.