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Hyperion May 2, 2005

The Hyperion Chronicles

“What happens in the Chronicles…”

#350 The Girl who Cried Lobo1

Since the news first broke that Jennifer Wilbanks had not been abducted by a Hispanic couple in a blue van, and carted across state lines to Albuquerque, New Mexico (1400 miles or so, by my estimates), and that she did not heroically break away from said abductors, and frantically call home from a pay phone outside a 7-11, not knowing where she was, but knowing where she came from, her roots, her family, and wanting to hear her families’ voices, and then that family subsequently called sheriffs in Georgia, who called sheriffs in New Mexico, who called the police department in Albuquerque, who quickly converged on the 7-11 and rescued the distraught woman; when it came out that all of it had been a sham, I knew I needed to write something, but what?

Perhaps my bias already shows through. I remember when they first found her, and it was merely relief everyone felt that Jennifer was still alive, I thought the story was missing something. Paranoid as I am, you would think I might have pieced it together. Two things in particular stood out:

Even if she didn’t know where she was (as was believed at the time), wouldn’t calling 911 be a more likely thing to do than calling God-knows-how-far-away to Georgia? I mean, taking in account that she’s near hysterical (which she probably would have been if she’d just escaped a week-long hell from abductors), doesn’t it take more wherewithal and thinking to call home—collect—than to just dial three little numbers? I mean; calling collect can be tough nowadays (but much easier with 1-800 C-A-L-L-A-T-T).

And secondly, when the news first came out that she was safe, and in police custody, it was like four in the morning here. I was watching an impromptu news conference in Albuquerque with a police representative, and she casually let it slip that the driver of the van was a “Hispanic man.” I remember thinking then that it kind of reminded me of the Susan Smith episode. You might recall, Smith killed her two kids 11 years ago by drowning them in a lake. Initially Smith blamed two black men for hijacking her car, and went on TV to tearfully ask that her kids be returned.

Sadly, I didn’t put these two things together until the news was already out. Apparently Jennifer Wilbanks’s story didn’t hold up well, for it was only a few hours later she cracked, and instead of a triumphant reunion with family and friends, instead we saw the now-famous walk through the airport with the orange—blanket? towel? third grade macaroni art?—draped over her head like she was the Son of Sam or Pablo Escobar. It turned out her shorn hair had not been an adductor’s cruel trick, but simply Jennifer’s own way to avoid notice as long as she could.

Like I wrote, to my shame I didn’t figure this out. But in my defense, I had other things on my mind. In that same news conference when I first learned of the great Hispanic conspiracy to ruin debutante weddings, the police spokeswoman also, answering a reporter’s question, casually mentioned that there may have indeed been sexual assault.

From what I understand, John Mason, the fiancé, had been considered a suspect all week. Sad, but the facts are that in these types of situations, it’s usually someone you know. All week long this Mason searches desperately for his fiancée, fearing the worst, suspected by cops, and much of North America. All across the land conversations took place, “Do you think he did it?”

Then he finds out she’s safe, more or less, but may have been assaulted? I cannot imagine what might have been going through his mind. I—sitting thousands of miles away—had feelings of confusion and ambivalence. Could he still go through with the wedding? Would everything be forever tainted? And who could the poor guy even talk to about it? You can’t not marry a woman after all this happens. You’d be the national shmuck for years.

But then the final blow. She didn’t get kidnapped. She just left. That’s almost worst. I mean, how bad a catch are you when your wife-to-be skips out on a wedding with over 600 guests and 28—28!—bridesmaids and groomsmen without even leaving a note? (At least a ransom note.)

I suppose she could claim that she couldn’t call, because she was in Vegas, and as we all know, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Also, I found out she has a twin brother, which goes toward my long-standing belief that all twins are evil, or at least contain the capacity for evil deeds. Still, joking aside, is there any justification for this?

For a moment let’s not judge her for getting scared and running away. It happens, and it sounds like there was a lot of pressure on her. But besides the fact that she left her fiancé in the national hot seat for days, that entire community rallied to find her. Friends, neighbors, out-of-town wedding guests; total strangers helped look for her day after day. Businesses offered free food and drink to the searchers. An entire community came together. I don’t care how much anxiety you have about the dress; to not tell anyone you’re off to play some Blackjack, and just let it go at that, is inexcusable. She knew they were looking for her. My proof: she cut her hair. Even 1400 miles away she knew they were looking for her. And she let the search continue. She let them suspect her fiancé. She let her family, the town, the nation worry about her.

In another country this woman would have to hang herself (literally) in shame. I’m not sure they can do anything to her here. I know they are looking into criminal charges of false statements, but that probably won’t go very far. What they should do is file a class-action law suit against her to get back the money it cost for all the police overtime—and God help her if any crimes took place because everyone was busy with this. Business owners could get in on it too; to recoup the losses they so generously gave. Even bridesmaids might want to consider joining. If there’s one thing worse than donning the hideous dress of a bridesmaid, it’s flying thousands of miles to not get to. The news media…well, they get what they deserve.

The woman herself will probably go on Oprah or Doctor Phil, and cry and tell everyone she’s sorry and she didn’t take her medication and her mother was putting pressure on her and everything. Maybe the public will forgive her.

And what about the fiancé? As of this writing I’ve not heard from him personally. By the time you read this he may have spoken. Early word indicates he will forgive her. Be that the case, he’s a better man than I.

All I have left is an angry feeling in my stomach, and many unanswered questions. What about the next woman who really is in harm’s way? Will we be a step slower to help? Will this make people more cynical about coming to the aid of their fellow humans? Will this inspire copy-cats; people wanting to get their 15 minutes and not worried about the “Boy who cried Wolf” syndrome? And when will we finally realize the danger posed to the world by evil twins?

Locking myself in the monkey barn,


May 2, 2005


Thanks to Jerrica and Tootsie


1 Lobo is Spanish for Wolf

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