**Names were changed in the story for privacy protection**
A few months of a bit of withdrawal went by. It was sort of hard adjusting to not making all that money to pay for the nice house we had, among other things that teenagers think that have to spend money on. I was still working at the car wash that my dad managed and going to school part time. Don’t worry. What happened with my dad blew over quickly. He had no room to judge me for anything considering his past. And we were still trying to work out all the things he had done. So, there was an understanding met very fast.
Thursday was always a busy day for us at the car wash. Usually because of one guy in particular. That was the day of the Dealers Auto Auction. A near by used car dealership owner would bring all his winnings to the wash to be cleaned, made to look like they’re acceptable cars (when he really bought them on the yellow or red light), and put on the front line. It was quite entertaining. Him, his mechanic, his wife, and his wife’s parents would all bring cars in. One by one. Until all of them were washed. On his good days, he’d bring 15-20 cars.
This started before I even began working there, and was by far my favorite day. Everyone else, including my dad, would get very annoyed with him because he was very picky, very impatient, and very moody. Therefore- Ashley to the rescue. I’d always swoop in and handle the writing up of his tickets. Each car was unique in the way that some needed more help than others. But all were pretty much clunkers, regardless. It quickly got to the point that he wouldn’t let anyone else help him but me. And as soon as his cars were all done, I’d call him up and let him know.
I felt really appreciated knowing that someone like him, with all these responsibilities, could (and wanted only to) rely on someone as young as me.
On a thursday soon after I quit “The Dog”, Larry comes pulling into the lot in his find o’ the day. It was a Cadillac Seville, hunter green, and, by the way, his favorite car to buy. I can’t tell you how many Cadi’s got stuck on the track that this man brought in. Anyways, here he comes. Every one scatters like it’s Billy The freakin’ Kid coming to collect or something. So he and I stood in the lane, alone, not really any different than any other time, and that’s when he says to me
“So. I hear that you had a bit of a stint working at one of those ‘titty clubs'”
I was absolutely thrown back. Let me tell you- besides being the most well known car dealer on that side of town, he was also the most well known preacher. That’s right, man of the lord and Evangelist to the fullest.
“Well, Larry, I’m not quite sure how you could possibly know that. But yeah. But I’m done with that, now”
Just at that moment he hands me a card, and his brood of “helpers” came pulling in with his other purchases.
“If you’re any good with computers, and are interested in coming by and seeing if you could help me out, give me a call. I really need some help around the lot. And I think you could use some help, yourself, young lady”
And he walks off to guide the cars into their places.
In a matter of days, I gave the old guy a call. I went by one friday and gave the place a look. He was so not kidding when he said he needed the help. And not kidding about me needing it, either.
The lot was alright in size. Probably a quarter of an acre total. The front part was used for the cars to be displayed, and the back behind the old wooden fence for parts. Also in the back were a lot of building supplies. He went on to tell me that he was remodeling, and could really use a “young eye” to make the place look clean and inviting to customers. It REALLY needed it. There was a tiny building in the middle of the lot that served as the office. If you could call it that. It was about 15ft long by about 15ft wide. Not total, that was just the only usable space. There was a door that led to the back space that had a step down. It was an absolute mess back there. Cluttered to the hilt with boxes of papers, random furniture and a tiny path that led to this little bathroom in the far back corner.
Larry, about 5’4 and as wide as he was long, explained to me that he intended on getting the office fixed with new paint, carpet, furniture.. ya know.. all the good office stuff. But first he really needed someone to get his mess in order. I asked what exactly I’d be doing, and he told me I’d be filing his taxes, putting inventory into the computer and watching over the lot while he was gone.
Okay so let me get this straight-
I watch the lot, do some computer work, help him clean up. No problem. He told me my hours would be 10am to 5pm Monday through Friday. And maybe the occasional saturday. He’d start me off at $250.00/week and if by chance I sold a car while he was gone, I’d get 10% of that sale.
SOLD!! I put my two weeks in at the car wash, and mid February of 2004 I became the office assistant at a used car lot. He made me cards and everything.
My hours wouldn’t allow me to still go to school. So I stopped taking courses, and told myself that I could always take online courses should I ever want to further my education.
The morning I started, he called my cell when I was on my way in. The key, he said, was left under the mat.
Just go on in and get started.
He told me.
Sure. Piece of cake.
It was such a cold day. February is not Oklahoma’s finest month in terms of weather. I was wearing black pants and a black and white striped long sleeved shirt with a v-neck. I wore a coat, but I remember it wasn’t a warm enough coat as I wasn’t anticipating not having heat in that tiny building. He did supply a tiny floor heater that I had NO LESS than 2 feet from me at all times. He had a radio on the office, too. So I turned that on to a soft rock channel, and off I went.
My first order was to organize the inventory. I decided that all the cars in our possession needed to be documented and accounted for 3 different ways. In writing in a notebook, on the computer in an “excel” type program and they each needed files with inventory number, VIN number, etc to put receipts in for the money spent on the vehicles to make them sellable. Including receipts from my old work place.
It took me probably 2 months to get this system down, but when I did it was fool-proofed and it worked fine for our small operation. I also got a lot of the clutter down in the back so that this man could finish the office and get me some HEAT! I filed all his taxes in a VERY organized manner. What he did with them after that, I do not know and kind of don’t want to.
Months went by, and slowly I started selling the cars. I could sell anything to anyone. I like to think it was because I was very honest, nice, and personable. It really threw them for a loop when they were looking at our cars and this young lady would walk out with a bright smile. Most shoppers expect different when shopping at used car lots, and I heard that everyday.
I wasn’t earning big bucks, but this place had potential. And for that point in my life, potential is just what I needed. My best friend and I were ready to not live together anymore. Not because we got into any fights. But she met the love of her life, and I had met someone. We were just ready to move on to the next point. I wanted to live closer to work so me and my boyfriend moved into a little house just 3 miles from there, which was a lot closer than the previous 20 I had been driving. And she got a small place on the other side of town. She was still stripping and working at Applebee’s if you wondered.
Living closer was a lot of relief. I was able to get there earlier and get things done before the crowd came in. Larry was never there. I was running things alone about 80% of the time. The time he spent there was like a whirlwind when he’d come in. He’d move things out of their place and tear the whole office apart. Finally I had to tell him.
When we get the new carpet and I get my new desk, you’re going to just have to leave things be. I work hard to keep everything organized and you come in like a tornado and mess it all up. So I’ll have my desk, you’ll have yours in the back. And if ya need something, just ask me.
I made it a point to say it right in front of his wife, who was there more often than he was and also who I’d grown sort of close to. She was there a lot asking me questions about my life. She sort of tried to mentor me. She was interesting to say the least. But had good intentions.
We’d all go to lunch together (me, him, his wife, and her parents) a lot. But on occasion, they wouldn’t be available, and he and I would go by ourselves while we were out running errands. We formed a pretty strong friendship in that I felt like I could open up to him a little about my life.
In time, I would tell him ideas I had for the lot and that I’d like to see about making more money. He was always very open to the idea. But this was 7 years ago. It seems like such a short time ago that our economy wasn’t that bad yet, and we were making enough money for the lot that he didn’t mind helping me out. I would eventually top out at $450/week with commission from the cars I sold retail (I sold a lot wholesale, too, but for mere pennies more than cost of the car so I wouldn’t get paid for those). I’d sometime sale 2 or 3 cars a week. So if I remember correctly, there were weeks that I’d bring home $1250/week. I also started a special financing program. I was in close with local financing companies that would finance anyone as long as they had a job for 2 years, and a ID. That helped us somewhat to move a few more cars. Not bad for a young Oklahoma girl.
I was eventually able to buy a house. With my boyfriend of course. Larry paid me in cash, always, so he had to write me a note for the lenders as proof of income. And that worked just fine.
While living in our new home, my significant other (a welder) hurt himself on the job. He was off work, unpaid, for a year before his worker’s comp case was even accepted. And then another several months before he’d start getting a check. So for all that time, I was supporting the household on the monies I made from that tiny car lot. There was only one car payment, which was his, because I would just drive home cars from the lot. There was his motorcycle payment also, and then the usual utilities, household needs, food, dog stuff. You know how it works, I’m sure.
At the lot, I became the System Administrator. All decisions, finances, cars bought at the auction, cars we had on consignment, wholesale deals, parts that needed to be ordered, and what we were eating for lunch, wentthrough me! I started this job when I was 18. And by the time I was 20, I had it all under my little finger.
I was very happy at the car lot. So happy that I went on to get my dealer’s license and was able to go to the auction to help with some of the purchasing. He and I didn’t agree on a purchasing strategy. He wanted to buy everything on the Red or Yellow light which meant this:
Yellow Light: Runs alright, needs some mechanical help, might have some dings, not that great of shape.
Red Light: You might be pushing that mother home, but it’s only $500.00
Me, I liked the green light. Nice clean cars, great shape, not a THING to do to them before I could put those stickers on them and stick right up front of lot proudly. Because that was part of my job, too, sometimes. Arranging the cars on the lot so they caught attention and faced the oncoming traffic just right.
At the end of the summer 2005, I decided that I was just going to take a couple weeks off. Just to vaca, and breath. I was under some stress with having to take care of the whole house, and Larry agreed that I really needed it. He knew the situation, and tried to help as much as he could.
He of course would need to hire someone to be there when I was gone. But when I came back, my replacement didn’t seem to want to leave. He convinced Larry to let him stay on to help with some of the sales. Yeah, as if there were a lot. We had a 30 car inventory, dude. So of course, right off the bat I had my eye on this guy. He was dippin’ in my kool-aid and I didn’t like that. But aside from that, he really creeped me out. He would sit there at the car lot staring out the window with his sunglasses on. He never took them off, ever. At this point, it was like someone had just shut the window on our business. It literally happened that fast. All the sudden the only business we were doing was wholesale, selling to Car-Mart. And there were no more $1250.00 weeks. This guy, who I would give you his real name if I remembered, was just annoying me. Just sitting there with me, waiting to jump on the first person who pulled up.
After some time with this guy, I started noticing something strange about the stories he would tell me. First of all, I would go on his computer every night when he left and check his history. He had “a thing” for two things. Big Beautiful Women, who had to be 500lbs or more, and men. Black men. I would tell Larry and at first we would just laugh. To each their own. And the Preacher was shockingly very accepting of that phrase. Hmm. Then he told me a story of how he once stole a baby tiger from a near by facility when he used to live in southern Oklahoma. He built it a barn to live it’s life in, and taught it to fish in the stream on the back of their property. He told me the story one friday. And over the weekend, I had time to brew up some doozies. I’m nosey like that. So the next Monday I started asking him of this pet, and how he was able to raise it, what he fed it. And from Friday to Monday, the man had NO CLUE what I was talking about! Talk about a red flag. Also, from Friday to Monday, he had met a girl at a bar. He was so fond of said girl, that she came to work with him everyday that week, and wasn’t allowed to leave his side one time. She was actually pretty pleasant. And if you’re wondering, she didn’t weigh very much.
That next Friday, Larry had a talk with him in the parking lot. I don’t know what all was said, but the guy was mad. VERY mad! He stormed off and that was the last we saw of him.
It wasn’t the last we heard of him though. About a month later I was sitting at the car lot alone. Nothing unusual there. A blacked out SUV pulled into drive, and 3 men in suites got out. They walked in and looked the place up and down, touching things (pissed me off… you know how I like things were I put them). They asked how I was doing as two of them sat in the chair situated in front of my lovely big huge desk that I loved.
Ma’am. What do you know about Mr. ____ _____? We’re trying our best to find him. We fear he’s dangerous.
I mean…. do they wanna know everything I know. Because I’m not sure that’s appropriate. But hell if he’s dangerous I might as well spill it!
So I told them
He hasn’t worked here in about a month. And he only worked here for about a month, so I didn’t really get to know him that well. And to be honest, I wasn’t trying to. I do know that he thoroughly enjoyed looking at “niche type” porn during work hours, and last I know he had a girlfriend that wasn’t allowed to leave his side. Hence my weariness of him.
Was that saying too much? Oh well.
They apparently didn’t find anything of much importance because they left. They told me if I hear from him to please follow up with them.
When Larry came to the office I told him about the visit. I told him that he made me very uncomfortable from the get go, and really wanted to know what that visit was all about. So Larry, being just as nosey as I am, called the number on the card the detectives left on my desk.
After a brief conversation with them, he hung up to tell me that my hunch was right. He had beaten that woman he met at the bar almost to death. He had knocked her bottom jaw across the room, and beat her with what they think was a bat. And he had gone missing.
Larry didn’t leave me at the car lot alone for a long time after that. If he couldn’t be there, he’d send someone to sit with me. And if no one was available, my guy would come up and hang out with me. Guess it’s true that your first instinct about someone is usually always the truest.
At home, my guy had become my fiance. He had a lot of time to himself being that he hadn’t worked in a long while. He had always been very artistic and creative, so he started practicing tattooing and became good friends with the local body piercing shoppe owner. He’d come to the house on the weekends and drink beer. He’d bring his wife who never drank to be his DD. Naturally, as the beer started stimulating us, we’d all get to talking about things. The guy, Bart, mentions that he’s going to start a local magazine showcasing Oklahoma finest ladies. His wife, Sissy, would be the photographer, and he talked her up to be pretty good.
I agreed to be their first model, and they promised to put me on the cover. And what happened after that would change my life forever.