My Encounter with Robert Garwood, Part II

Chapter 14

During the summer, people periodically appeared to cut the grass at Robert’s house next door, but otherwise there was no activity there. Marilou was occasionally spotted coming and going, but she never spoke with any of her former neighbors, nor came by to talk with me.

In the early fall people moved into Robert’s house next door. Even though people were living there, Robert continued to keep his boats and other property stored there. These renters kept to themselves, had an unlisted phone number and at first would not even reveal their last names.

I quickly learned these people were Robert’s relatives, moved from Louisiana and leasing the house long term. Knowing they were Robert’s relatives, I suspected they had already received a long story about me in Robert and Marilou’s version of the truth. I also anticipated trouble. It didn’t take long for trouble to start.

Within weeks of their moving in we had our first confrontation. Arriving home from work one afternoon, I caught several of their kids (there were at least three children living there with frequent extended visitors) in my yard, cutting down trees, building a “pier” on the edge of my bayou shoreline using lumber that had blown in during a previous hurricane, and generally making a mess. I confronted them and their immediate vocal defense was “Bob said this was okay, he told us this is his property and his wood.” I ordered them off and filed a police report.

The parents refused to talk to me in person about the incident, not even allowing me on their front lawn. They rejected delivery of a certified letter, and Marilou ignored my written complaint to her. Then the family started mocking me openly and to my other neighbors. So I showed some teeth. I legally obtained their unlisted phone number and full names then made a late-evening phone call. We had a brief – very brief – chat before my neighbor hung up in shock. Piercing their anonymity shield had its desired effect and they stopped mocking me.

Meanwhile, stories the kids were spreading around the neighborhood drifted back to me. According to this family, Marilou and Robert never had an affair and only even became close long after Marilou was divorced. There were also intriguing stories that the divorce was for “irreconcilable differences,” somehow supposed to prove Marilou and Robert never had an affair while Marilou was still married to me.

On several occasions during that first year I needed to call the police due to gang fights and wild late-evening parties at the neighbor’s house. Then mysterious things began to happen to me. The Freon line on my heat pump’s outside unit, near our common property line, was cut. Water started appearing in my boat’s fuel tanks. That following summer while boating I had to be towed in twice by passing fisherman due to engine malfunctions. I had my boat in two different repair shops trying to figure out what was wrong. The second time, the very competent and very expensive mechanic who worked on my boat explained he discovered “several gallons” of water in each of my 12 gallon fuel tanks. So now I knew what was happening.

After a bit of thought, I wrote a nice letter to Marilou informing her there were some serious vandalism problems in her old neighborhood. I briefly described what was happening and explained that if I could catch the vandals I would be pressing charges, as damages already exceeded the $1000 limit than in Mississippi made vandalism a felony. But I also explained I was telling her so she could better protect her property next door. I wrote that it would be a shame if anything happened to the nice boats and other property her husband stored there.

Late in the afternoon of day the letter was delivered I observed Robert’s truck parked next door for several hours. It was the first time I’d seen his truck there since he moved away with Marilou. Although I had to call the police on several more occasions for fights and wild parties next door, I had no more problems with vandalism.

One interesting observation I made in filing my many police reports was the police’s attitude towards Robert. They were well aware of him and his background, and seemed to be not particularly pleased he was living in our community. They also exhibited frustration dealing with Robert’s cousins renting out Robert’s house.

After a period of post-divorce recovery, I decided to try a second shot at marriage. My avenue for romance was experimenting with the then newly-developing system of Internet match-making. During the summer of 2003 I met, via the Internet, a wonderful young woman and we quickly became close – emotionally. Physically, she was living in southeastern China which presented some logistics issues in developing our relationship. But we overcame them, and in October 2003 I flew out to China and we married. I returned home after a whirl-wind two week marriage and honeymoon trip, and filed for her visa. Just before my new marriage, I scraped together enough money to pay off Marilou’s property settlement, so I could start my new married life completely free and clear from her.

My new wife’s visa process became a nightmare, ultimately taking 20 months. During this period I slowly became friends with the youngest kid living next door, Josh, at that time just turning 15. By now there was a great deal of hard feelings on my part towards his family, but I could also see Josh was basically decent. Josh volunteered to help me with repairs on my boat several times when he saw me outside working on it, and I repaid him by taking him out fishing. Through him, I slowly got to know his parents, Robert’s cousins, on a non-confrontational basis.

Nearly one year after my second marriage, with my new bride still in China waiting for her visa, I was out in my driveway one Saturday afternoon washing my truck when Josh’s mom, Angela, came by. She asked if we could talk and I invited her up.

We talked for a long while. She admitted that until she and her family became Robert’s tenants, they didn’t really know what Robert was all about. Now, she admitted to being truly disgusted with him. She also admitted that Robert had told her a lot of stories about me that she now knew were untrue. She admitted that the stories Robert had told about me led to the early incidents of her kids vandalizing my property. Angela admitted that stories Robert had told them directly led to the “pier building” incident.

She also told me that Robert was now attempting to spread rumors about me concerning my new wife. Robert was telling people I had had “an Internet marriage, and was now having a lot of problems getting a visa.” The implication Angela had from these stories was that I was involved in a fraudulent marriage scheme.

From that day on, there were no more problems between Angela’s family and me. I relayed the information to Tom McKenny that Robert was once again attempting to spread rumors about me. Tom was already aware of the problems with my wife’s visa and promised to be alert if he heard any rumors about me that Robert was spreading. I had my hands full with my new wife’s visa, and maintaining a long-distance relationship, so I had no energy left to even consider retaliation against Robert for his latest round of rumor mongering against me.

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