Left Hanging Out to Dry
Internet dating can have disastrous consequences!
I know it was reckless, but I closed my eyes and pushed the button, anyway!
My daughter, who was lurking nearby, drew a sharp intake of breath. “Oh, good grief, Mum, why are you always so impulsive?”
Quickly closing the lid on my laptop, I half-turned in my chair, my hands shaking, to meet her horror full on. Had she seen what I had done?
“I only live once!” I replied defensively. “What’s the big deal? We are meeting in a café, in a crowded place. What can go wrong, for Pete’s sake?”
“Weeell,” Maria looked thoughtful. “He could be a monster! Put a drug in your coffee, take you to a hotel, and have his way with you.”
I raised my eyes incredulously, half-tempted to say, “I should be so lucky!” But I knew that would not be well-received.
“Who says, have his way with you? What are you — eighty?” I dissolved into helpless giggles, soon to be joined by Maria.
In between snorts of laughter, Maria managed, “No, but you will be in less than ten years. I’m not sure you know what you’re doing.”
“Me neither,” I replied dourly, “but I am doing it! I’m sick of being on my own. I need some adult male company.”
“You have friends,” she insisted.
“Of course, but the old girls from the Stitch and Bitch club are boring me to death.”
Maria spluttered. “You can’t call your embroidery friends that! You are wicked!” She laughed again and added, “I guess they don’t have man bits, either!”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” I spluttered. “You will have to stop censoring your language for me! If I were a girlfriend, you would say, “Your companions don’t have dicks!”
Maria slopped her coffee onto the tabletop. “Muuum, I can’t get used to your saying such crass stuff!” She snorted; eyes raised to the ceiling.
“Get used to it, honeybun. Mamma’s off to get a man!” I thumped the table for effect, sending my drink slopping over the sides of my favourite mug.
Wilson was waiting for me when I arrived at Café Eighty-Six. I recognised him immediately, sitting ramrod straight in the corner, his highly polished cane leaning against the wall.
I was more interested in the name of the café at that moment. Looking around the dim interior, it seemed to me that most of the patrons were possible octogenarians. If the place hadn’t been named for its clientele, then I suspected it had a more aggressive meaning.
Who, or what, had been eighty-sixed, from where?
Before I had the chance to invent a complete scenario for my next novel, Wilson raised his arm and waved me over.
Gulping down a sudden attack of nerves, I pushed my shoulders back and walked towards my date. I hated the idea of him seeing a vulnerable, ageing woman approaching; it was very important to me that I appeared reasonably vibrant for an old girl.
Poor Wilson tried to match my energy, struggling to rise from his chair without acknowledging the pain in his knees or the ache in his back. It was a poor attempt!
I pretended not to notice. “Wilson?” I asked politely.
“Nora!” he leaned with strained nonchalance against the table. He pointed at an empty chair, keen for me to sit without waiting for assistance.
I decided I would put the poor man out of his misery.
A fine bead of sweat glistened on his forehead as I grabbed the seat opposite and sat down. He gratefully sank onto his chair while I considered whether his sweaty outbreak had been caused by nerves or exertion. I decided it was both!
“I was afraid you wouldn’t turn up,” Wilson confessed.
“Why wouldn’t I?” I enquired, signalling for an assistant. I needed coffee — immediately!
Wilson appeared to shuffle in his chair. Probably trying to get his old bones comfy. “You deleted your profile after we made a date,” he accused.
It was my turn to develop a fine bead of forehead sweat. “Oh dear, you caught me out,” I confessed. “I am so nervous about online stuff! I chickened out and deleted my profile. I thought, if this date doesn’t work well, then I might not bother with the whole internet thing. I was getting a head start.” I attempted a winning grin.
“And if it works out?” His eyes were trying to hold mine.
I squirmed. “Then I won’t need an online dating profile!” I replied triumphantly.
Over coffee, we discovered we had quite a few common interests, one being penmanship. He liked to dabble in poetry, and I talked about my adventures through my novels.
“Would you care to come back to my apartment?” he asked shyly.
I hesitated. It wouldn’t be seemly to rush right in. “I suppose that would be alright. Where do you live?”
“A few blocks from here. Just a little too far to walk, but really, it’s only a hop, skip and jump. I can call a cab.”
“Do you have any sherry?” I asked, allowing hope to brighten my features.
“Will brandy do?” Wilson’s chair scraped back as he flicked through his phone contacts.
“It’ll do,” I agreed.
Wilson was just too eager. We had only been in his apartment an hour before he started to mention his illness and his need for money.
“So, you see, dear,” he had leaned over and patted my hand, his brandy snifter tipping precariously, “if I don’t get more money somehow, I will have to terminate my chemo treatments.”
“Surely,” I was sympathetic, “the public hospital system can take care of it for you.”
Wilson’s feet shuffled. “Oh, it’s so much more complicated than that! I need further specialist appointments, medication and so on.” He wiped a tremulous hand across his damp forehead. “I have no one to turn to.”
Wilson got painfully to his feet. “I need the bathroom, dear. Perhaps you could pour some more brandy.”
“Should you be drinking — with chemo and all?” I asked.
Wilson shuffled painfully across the floor. “What difference does it make? I am probably a goner, anyway.”
When the elderly man returned slowly to his seat, I handed him a refilled brandy snifter. He took it in both hands, sipped it appreciatively, and smiled. “That’s good! Did you think about what I said?”
“Of course,” I smiled gently. “Who wouldn’t be moved by your story?”
Wilson rallied enough to lean forward with newfound agility, I thought. He raised his eyebrows questioningly, then took a deep draught of the brandy.
“Would you like me to match Ada’s contribution? Twenty thousand, wasn’t it?” I asked innocently.
Wilson began to nod enthusiastically until he realised the implications of my statement. The colour drained from his face as he almost choked on his brandy.
Without a single hand tremor, Wilson held his glass at eye level as if expecting all the answers to his questions to be floating in the amber liquid.
“You …,” Wilson’s statement remained unspoken as he fell forward, his glass softly landing at his feet, unbroken on the carpet. The fluid flowed out, staining his Persian rug.
Maria had been right about one thing; internet dating was fraught with danger!
With Wilson out-cold and stripped to his disgusting old man Y fronts, hands tied to his bedrails, I scattered the contents of his ill-gotten gains all over his body. The stash had been easy to find, predictably on the top shelf of his wardrobe, in an old cardboard box.
As I spread the cash around, I made sure the front of Wilson’s underpants were well-covered with banknotes. Maria had been wrong about my interest in ‘man bits.’ There had only been one thing on my mind — disgracing Wilson and reimbursing Ada. The thirty thousand now decorating the wrinkly body of Wilson would easily cover that. The rest was destined for charity.
Using Wilson’s phone, I photographed him sans clothes, sprinkled with ill-gotten loot, holding a nice A4 note printed with the words, “I am Wilson Bryant, a disgusting scammer of elderly ladies. BEWARE!”
Wilson had made my job ever so easy. When I checked out his laptop, the internet dating site was up and running behind a screen saver, just waiting for me to click on his profile. It was easy peasy to upload the best of six photos and click save.
All done! I was satisfied! Ada would get her money back, anonymously, and Wilson had been well and truly hung out to dry!
If you enjoyed this story, please check out the following adventures featuring seniors: