Under cover of the night, p.8

Under Cover of the Night, page 8

 

Under Cover of the Night
 



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  Wesley told his attorney, Richard Cunningham, that the complaint shocked him and that the allegations in it were “preposterous.” They filed a counterclaim stating that the allegations contained in paragraph five were denied. “The defendant affirmatively states he has a class A contractor’s license and undertook the building of the house at Smith Mountain Lake for which the parties received an occupancy permit on August 12th, 2004. In order to obtain the tax benefits, the parties had to declare said home as their principal residence. Defendant commenced residing in said home, but plaintiff refused to do so, claiming she did not want to drive that far to work. Defendant further affirmatively states that it was the plaintiff who was wooden, distant, and uncommunicative. She refused all acts of intimacy and spent an exorbitant amount of time in her place of employment.”

  In response to Jocelyn’s allegation that her husband was spending a considerable amount of time with Shameka Wright and would not answer when she asked him if he was having an affair with that woman, Wesley stated that the “defendant admits spending time with a friend, Shameka Wright. Plaintiff did ask the defendant whether or not he was having an affair with Shameka Wright, at which time he denied any such affair.”

  Wesley also denied the statement about Jocelyn not knowing where he was during nonwork hours by saying, “It was the plaintiff who spent less and less time at the marital house, which was now the lake property . . . Defendant did not conceal his whereabouts . . . Any lack of knowledge on the part of the plaintiff was due to her lack of interest in the defendant and her work schedule.”

  Wesley went on to complain about Jocelyn not attending after-school events with him, and about her solo trip with the Kernses to Canada in 2005. He defended himself on the adultery charges claiming that “plaintiff has continuously encouraged defendant to engage in sexual intercourse with others since she did not want to have an intimate relationship with him.” Finally, he accused Jocelyn of “willful and constructive desertion.”

  He also filed a motion of relief requesting that he be granted exclusive use of the lake house, that Jocelyn provide temporary spousal support, and that $100,000 be deposited in an escrow account to cover the loan made to them by his father.

  The interaction between Jocelyn and Wesley had gone wrong some time ago, but now it was about to turn very ugly. Jocelyn would no longer go along to get along. She raised her objection to his solution to financial issues, determined not to let him “get his way for once.” She knew he really wanted the lake house, but she wanted the house sold—it was his “love nest with Shameka,” and she found it intolerable that he should be allowed to keep it.

  She refused to talk with Wesley any longer about anything. She insisted that the lawyers handle all communication. She changed the locks on the house and installed a security system. And she continued seeing her counselor because she enjoyed the empowerment she realized she was getting from her sessions.

  FOURTEEN

  Laura Rogers visited her sister throughout 2006 whenever she could. Because she knew Jocelyn was not the most diligent housekeeper, she pitched in to get things under control every visit. She’d finish up Jocelyn’s laundry, load her dishwasher, and put away dishes in the cabinet. Laura was certain that without the straightening up that she and Jennifer Kerns did when they were there, Jocelyn would have just lived out of a laundry basket or piled her clothes on top of her dresser.

  Laura noticed that one thing had changed since her sister separated from her husband, however. Now, Jocelyn was diligent about reminding her to lock the doors.

  • • •

  When the 2006–07 school year began, Wesley Earnest had sought and achieved his goal of a more prestigious position at another facility, Great Bridge High School, also located in Chesapeake. He and Shameka Wright were still together, taking turns driving to each other’s homes every weekend when they weren’t off vacationing or skydiving.

  Wesley also sent another letter to Jocelyn. “I’m so very sorry for the turmoil in our lives over the last few years.” He claimed that his mother called his younger brother, Tyler, “an agent of the devil.”

  He also resurrected his false claim that Jocelyn had told him to sleep with someone else in order to fix their marriage, but still audaciously claimed that the best thing he’d ever done was marry her. “I want to grow old with you . . . I am a broken man, ready to get my life back, and I need you.”

  • • •

  On November 8, 2006, Jocelyn returned home from work to discover that her home had been invaded. The whole house was cold. Not only had the thermostat been turned off, but the pipe to the gas logs in the fireplace and the water pipes to the heater in the pool had been cut.

  A lot of property had been removed from the home: a bike, a camera, a shotgun, financial paperwork, a coin barrel with a thousand dollars in change, a safe, a computer, fishing gear—including one rod that belonged to Jennifer’s daughter Emily—and some of her clothing.

  The greater sense of loss was caused by items of sentimental value, like the pictures, furniture, and gifts that Jocelyn had received from her grandmother; the moose memorabilia decorating the downstairs bathroom—given to her by Jennifer; an inuksuk, a stone figure built by the Inuit of Arctic Canada that Jocelyn had brought home from a trip to the cabin; her diplomas; and three of her personal journals.

  Jocelyn immediately suspected that Wesley was behind this violation, and she was most concerned about him having those journals in his possession, because they gave him access to the information the private investigator had provided Jocelyn, and revealed her preparations for the dissolution of the marriage and the personal thoughts she’d shared with her therapist. Jocelyn was convinced that Wesley thought she was too stupid, too dense, or too naïve to take any actions to protect her best interests. Now that he would know otherwise, Jocelyn became extremely frightened of her estranged husband.

  Through lawyers, Wesley claimed he had not been there, but said that he had hired movers to remove his belongings. It was hard to believe, however, that professional movers would have entered her home, taken items of sentimental value, and committed acts of vandalism.

  Jocelyn tried everything to get her possessions back from Wesley. She tried anger, niceness, pleading—but nothing worked.

  • • •

  After this invasion, Jocelyn did a drive-by of her house looking for anything suspicious whenever she returned home at night. On the advice of her therapist she packed “go” bags, each with a change of clothing, copies of any important papers, and money. She kept one in her car, another at the office, one at Jennifer’s, and a fourth at her mom’s house.

  Jocelyn thought only one solution remained: she had to go to the lake house and get her things back from Wesley before the divorce hearing, where she anticipated that the judge would rule that Wesley could not enter her Pine Bluff home, and Jocelyn could not go into his lake house.

  On December 4, 2006, the day before the hearing was scheduled, Jocelyn called Jennifer from work. “Would you go with me to the lake to get my belongings? After tomorrow, I won’t be able to go in there.”

  Jennifer agreed. On the drive out, Jocelyn stopped at Penske’s. “I want to rent a moving truck,” she said.

  “When?” the man behind the counter asked.

  “Now,” Jocelyn said.

  “This is the only one I have right now,” he said, pointing to a huge truck on the lot.

  Jocelyn took it, and the two women drove out to reclaim Jocelyn’s property, hoping that Wesley would not be there when they arrived. He wasn’t. They searched all over the property, except inside the garage and an outbuilding, both of which were locked and Jocelyn did not want to break inside. Stymied in her quest for her own property, she decided to take some of Wesley’s belongings as bargaining chips. They loaded the truck with a large-screen TV, a DVD player, a large wooden trunk, a quiltlike bedcover, a light tan sectional sofa and match
ing love seat and recliner, a new twin mattress, random tools, a toolbox, a leather tool belt, cleaning supplies, lightbulbs, cans of spray foam insulation, a glass coffee table, two small cutting boards, a small rug, silk plants and ficus trees, documents, and the leftover tile from the installation at the house.

  After three hours, just around dusk, they drove away from the lake and unloaded the truck at Jennifer’s house for safekeeping. Jocelyn hoped Wesley wouldn’t know what she had done until after the court hearing the next day.

  FIFTEEN

  Jennifer Kerns spent the night with Jocelyn after the lake house expedition, and they went together to the Earnests’ divorce hearing. As expected, the judge established exclusive use parameters for the two houses in question. He also ruled against Wesley’s request for spousal support, and ordered Jocelyn to pay 25 percent of the mortgage on the lake house (rather than the half Wesley had requested). The two latter decisions were devastating to Wesley’s bottom line. His income would be stretched paper-thin.

  Throughout the proceedings, Wesley craned his neck around to look straight at Jennifer. He mouthed words that she could not understand. He obviously was trying to tell her something, but she had no idea of what it was.

  Afterward, Jocelyn went to work, but Jennifer stayed sentry at the Pine Bluff house. They thought it possible that Wesley would come over there looking for his belongings, but he never showed.

  • • •

  On a weeknight in the latter half of February 2007, Jennifer Kerns was at home with her three children while her husband, Bob, was out at a meeting in Appomattox. The phone rang.

  “Ohmigod! Ohmigod! He’s here! He’s here!” The moment Jennifer heard Jocelyn’s quivering, whispery voice, she knew her friend was distressed and terrified.

  “What are you talking about?” Jennifer said, pushing down a rising panic.

  “I was sitting here watching TV and saw my doorknob turning. He’s out there. I’ve seen him.”

  “What does he want?”

  “I don’t know what he wants. I was not expecting him. What is he doing here in the middle of a school week? What could be so important?”

  “Are you alright?”

  “I’m scared. What should I do?” Jocelyn asked.

  “Did he see you? Does he know you’re at home?”

  “Yes, my car is in the driveway and I turned all the lights off as soon as I saw him.”

  “Stay down and hide. I will be right there.”

  “I’m belly crawling around trying to watch where he goes.”

  “If he gets in or comes after you, get out ASAP and turn your BlackBerry off so the light or noise doesn’t give you away. Get into the woods and make your way through them to the bridge. I will look for you there if you’re not home when I get there.”

  “Okay. Be careful but hurry!” Jocelyn pleaded.

  “Do not let anyone in even if something happens to me! Just call 9-1-1. Stay on the phone with Emily until I get there! Jocelyn, do not be afraid to call 9-1-1.” Jennifer handed the telephone to her high school–aged daughter and said, “Stay on the phone with Jocelyn. If you hear anything suspicious call 9-1-1 and tell them your mom is on the way.”

  Even though it was a frigid February night, Jennifer didn’t pause to change into something warmer than the T-shirt and sweatpants she’d being wearing inside. She slipped on the closest shoes—a pair of flip-flops—got in her car, and drove as fast as she could to Jocelyn’s house.

  When Jennifer turned onto Pine Bluff Drive, however, she did not see Wesley Earnest anywhere. She looked up and down the street, around the yard and house, around the neighbor’s house, and even cracked open her window to listen for any sound that could betray his whereabouts—but saw no sign of him. There were no other vehicles in sight. Not a single person stirred anywhere in the vicinity. The yard was unbroken darkness. The shades were drawn tight on the house. If any lights were on inside, none of the illumination escaped from the windows.

  For a few moments, Jennifer was paralyzed with fear. She knew Wesley hated her, too—maybe even more than he hated Jocelyn. What would he do if he caught me? What if he ambushed me on the way into the house? What if he was under Jocelyn’s car and grabbed my ankle as soon as I stepped out?

  Then, an even more horrifying thought struck her. What if he was already inside? What if he’s hurting Jocelyn right now? That concern finally propelled her forward. She sucked in a deep breath, opened the car door, and forced herself to step on the ground, her senses on high alert as she peered into the blackness of the cold night and listened intently for any sound that could portend danger. She trembled in fearful anticipation as her panic built. Was he inside? What if Jocelyn thinks he’s gone and opens the door for me and he pushes inside? Where is he? Why can’t I see or hear him?

  Jennifer grasped her keys so tightly they formed painful creases in her hands. She stepped up on the deck and headed toward the front door. She laid her hand on the handle of the storm door—and suddenly, there he was.

  Wes stepped out of the shadows less than two feet away from her. He was dressed to be nearly invisible in the night, wearing dark shoes, a dark pair of sweatpants, and a dark sweatshirt with the hood up and drawn snugly around his face. As close as he was to Jennifer, it was still difficult to see him.

  Jennifer swallowed down a lump of escalating fear and tried to sound chipper. “Oh, there you are,” she said. “Joce called me and said you were out here, that’s why I’m here.”

  “It figures she would call you,” Wesley said.

  “She does not want to see or talk to you and that is why the lawyers are handling everything now.”

  “That’s why I’m here. We are wasting money having them handle things. We could do this ourselves. I’m here to talk some sense into her. This will end up ruining our finances and credit,” Wes said.

  “She doesn’t want to see you,” Jennifer told him. “She wants the lawyers to handle these things.”

  “I just wanted to talk to her about the financial things and her reasons for wanting the lawyers to handle it. It was going to be financially detrimental for both of us that way. I wanted to get it across to her that she’s being unreasonable.”

  “She doesn’t care,” Jennifer said. “She just wants it over. She wants it done.” Jennifer was shivering from the cold piercing through her inadequate clothing, and her bare toes were totally numb.

  Wesley continued arguing his case and complaining about the high financial cost of the attorney process. When he finally realized that Jennifer was not going to encourage Jocelyn to open the door, he asked, “At least tell her a few things for me.”

  Jennifer ambled toward her car in an effort to draw him farther away from the house. “Okay, Wes, but she’s my best friend and I will support any decision she makes that she feels is in her best interest. I will not try to sway her in any way.” By this time, she’d led him out to the driveway, but still could see no sign of his vehicle anywhere.

  “Okay,” Wes said, then started listing the points he wanted her to relay to Jocelyn. He reached up behind his back with his left hand and slipped his right hand around to the small of his back.

  At that point, Jennifer realized there was a strap going over his shoulder and some sort of satchel was hanging behind his back. She cringed. What was in that bag? He swung a messenger-type, soft-sided briefcase around to the front and set it down on the hood of Jennifer’s car. Ohmigod, does he have a gun?

  “Maybe you ought to write this stuff down so you remember it all.”

  Jennifer opened the car door and sat sideways in the driver’s seat. She pulled a crayon and a children’s book out of the backseat to use as an ersatz desktop. All the while, she kept a close eye on Wesley, still fearful of what might emerge from his bag.

  Wes handed her a piece of paper and dictated his thoughts to Jennifer. She wrote with icy, stiffening fin
gers, wondering if he would ever finish.

  • • •

  Bob Kerns arrived home to find his teenage daughter still on the phone with Jocelyn, his two younger kids in bed, and his wife gone. When Emily updated him on the situation, he called a friend who had a concealed carry permit and the two of them headed out to Pine Bluff Drive. They drove up the road, past the house, and then parked a little way beyond it and sized up the situation between Jennifer and Wesley. When they decided everything appeared to be under control, Bob returned home to his children.

  Wesley talked to Jennifer for nearly three hours, as if he were trying to outlast her. While he emphasized certain points, he pulled financial papers, bills, and other documents out of his bag for her to pass on to Jocelyn. Finally, he handed her a letter in an envelope and the deed to the boat. He referred to the latter as a goodwill gesture. Then he turned and walked away, heading out to the road in the direction of a small woods adjacent to the property.

  Jennifer waited until he was out of sight. I’d better go in right away. What if he’s been in and out before I got there? What if he already hurt Jocelyn? What if he circles back and catches me going in? I’ve got to hurry, she thought as she raced up the sidewalk. She unlocked the door, eased her way into the house, and locked the door behind her.

  Then she burst into tears—tears of fear, anger, and relief. Jocelyn was safe. The two women hugged and comforted each other.

  In her hand, Jennifer held her notes with all the information, questions, and statements that Wesley wanted her to present to Jocelyn, as well as the other documents including the letter. All the arguments to make her see how the divorce and property settlement could be done in a different way than it was being handled now. She handed everything over to Jocelyn.

  Jennifer offered to spend the night, but Jocelyn told her, “I’ll be okay. You need to go home to your kids.”

  “Then, come with me,” Jennifer pleaded. “Spend the night with us.”

 
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