01 January 1999

About 1:30 or 2am, Mike came barging back into the house, breathing heavily like either he was really excited or had just run a marathon.

I said, “I thought you were going to Savannah?”

He said, “We didn’t go to Savannah. Honey, we have to talk.”

The computer desk was in our front room, up against the back wall shared with the kitchen. The kitchen doorway was to my right and there was another wall to the right of that. Mike leaned against that wall and then crouched down to talk to me.

Apparently he and Scott had broken into the rigger shop on Gruber Road at Fort Bragg. The same one they’d both been stationed at before they went into Special Forces training. Somehow one of them climbed up the building and went in through the roof. The building has a garage door, so he opened it to let Scott’s truck in. He and Scott stole three or four computer systems including their 17-inch monitors, some laser printers, and a Xerox machine, most of it still out in our backyard workshop. He said the military police (MPs) circled the block two or three times on their normal patrol and never suspected a thing. He said he and Scott had been planning this for more than six months.

The whole time he was telling me this story he kept punctuating his speech with I-love-yous.

As he hit a pause, I asked him why he did it.

“Think of it as a disgruntled-employee kind of thing.”

Sure, that’s reasonable. Disgruntled about getting a promotion to corporal, which most Army E-4s weren’t anymore. Disgruntled about making the cut for Special Forces training. Disgruntled about never having gotten in trouble and in fact, having earned two or three Good Conduct medals over his career. And let’s not forget how they waived the high-school diploma requirement to enlist him in the first place. I get that the Gulf War was going on and maybe they were desperate, but still.

He noticed I was stunned and speechless. He repeated that he loved me and that he’d never do it again.

I went to bed at about 3:30am and woke up later kind of groggy. That cleared in a hurry when I remembered what had happened. It still didn’t seem real until I walked into the front room and saw stolen equipment everywhere. At least one system was taken apart and the CD-ROM was installed in our computer, along with one of the monitors. I went online for a little while and was grudgingly impressed, but I knew even then we couldn’t keep it all.

Mike was talking out loud, pondering what to do with his loot. At first he chattered about giving some of it to Dominic in Savannah to “get rid of,” and then decided that no, he would keep it all.

Scott set up one of the computers in his bedroom and he and Mike debated how to get rid of the military backgrounds, screen savers, and passwords.

I went to work in the afternoon in a daze. Once away from the situation at home I started feeling like I’d imagined it all and was sure that when I went home it would all be gone. I realized I would have to go to the police, but I wanted to contact Reba first and talk with her. When I went on break I spent my fifteen minutes writing her a letter in case I was too chicken to call her.

After I went home and Mike and Scott went to bed, I went online and told my internet friends everything that had happened. Everyone “yelled” at me to go to the cops. I told them I’d go the next day, but wasn’t going to wake my 2yo son. I went to bed for what I hoped was the last night next to my husband. It took me a while to fall asleep.

31 December 1998

A recap.

Last week of December: Mike mentioned that a deal he’s been working out with his friend Dominic in Savannah, GA, to get hold of some warehoused surplus computer parts from the friend’s Iowa hometown or thereabouts, has finally gone through. Mike plans to go to Savannah, a five-hour drive one way, with his friend and our roommate Scott Seman to pick up the parts on New Year’s Eve. Total round trip is supposed to take between eight and nine hours. Fine, I say, just so long as he’s back and alert enough to watch Sean while I work at the Kroger deli on New Year’s Day. No problem, says Mike.

Now up to date.

I got home from work at about 10:30pm after crawling in my car through a New Year’s Eve police checkpoint. Mike and Scott left at about 11pm. Mike has gotten our scanner set up after weeks of swearing horribly and fighting with its SCSI configuration, and I have finally organized all my photo negatives into negative-sleeve album pages and labeled them, so I’m settled in at the computer with a bottle of wine and scanning old family photos to add to my homepage.

Not exactly a party, but not a bad way to spend New Year’s Eve.