The Woman in the Computer

Kathryn Lynch


Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch


Photo of a woman on a computer screen.

Shopping in second hand stores was one of the Old Lady's favorite things to do. She considered the best stores to be the ones with limited personnel available to sort through all of the incoming donations. In these shops, boxes of unsorted items were often stacked by the walls, accessible to customers for “first dibs” on whatever was hidden inside.

The Old Lady moved a number of items, slid a box forward, and carried it to a ratty looking overstuffed chair. Nothing unusual; two remotes, picture frame, computer cord, cookbook, scratched up frying pan, three old music tapes, and finally—a payoff! A laptop rested on the bottom, requiring her to upend the box to remove it. Attaching the cord, she located an electrical outlet to see what might happen. To her surprise, the computer booted rapidly and appeared to be in good working order.

$8.00 later, the Old Lady left the store with her new toy.

At home, her first task was to delete Programs she would never use. This done, she moved on to Documents, intending to delete all of the files. One entry labeled “Him” caught her eye. Curiosity and her sense or snoop won out as the Old Lady opened the file to examine its contents.

January 14—I was fixing him breakfast and he hit me again. He doesn't like his eggs with broken yolks. I should have been more careful. He said that maybe the bruises will “teach me a lesson”. I was hoping that when the holidays were over, he would leave me alone for a little while.

January 20—We went shopping together at the grocery store. When we got home, he slapped me several times across the face. “That clerk in the produce department looked you all over and you just ate it all up! You were flirting with him”, he said. I really need to learn how to keep my eyes down when we are out of the house.

January 21—I have a black eye from yesterday. I think my nose might be broken. It keeps bleeding.

January 29—The mailman knocked at the door today to deliver a piece of certified mail. “Slut”, he shouted, just before swinging his fists into my ribs. “Do you have to come on to every guy?” I can no longer go to the door. Just as well. My ribs must be broken. It's so hard to breathe.

On and on it went. The diary covered months of the plaintive cries of a pitiful woman living with a brutal companion. Saving this file, the Old Lady moved on to Pictures. A file labeled “Her” stood out. Snapshots of a bruised and battered woman, probably taken with a phone camera, flashed into view. The woman had chest bruises, cuts on her legs, and black eyes. Some of the facial shots showed features so distorted that only the hairstyle indicated they all depicted the same woman.

The new toy was not so much fun any more.

The Old Lady had trouble sleeping now. Dreams of a battered woman holding out both arms pleading “Help me!”, intruded her world. She awoke often, shaking and sweating.

During the day, the ghost-like presence of the woman in the computer haunted the Old Lady. She avoided the laptop as if someone might suddenly leap out screaming from within its circuits, A sense of fear seemed to emanate from the bowels of the machine, sucking up all of the oxygen in the room. She knew instinctively that the diary and pictures were truthful and that they had been entered by a real woman in very real jeopardy.

When had the events in the diary taken place? The date of the final entry was recent. Going backwards it appeared that these beatings had occurred during the previous two years.

Was the woman a local resident?

Did the police know about this woman? Had the man ever been arrested for Domestic Violence? Even if the police had come to the door, had she remained silent, terrified of further injury after they left?

The Old Lady recalled the woman's last entry in the diary:

Some day he'll beat me so bad that I'll probably die. Then he'll get rid of my stuff”'.

Had he finally killed the woman, hidden her body, and donated her belongings?

Was it too late? She wanted to help but there was little she could do. The identity and location of the woman and her companion were unknown, though the dates of the computer entries indicated that they covered the period of the last two years . If she called 9-1-1 to report that a man was beating a woman, and that she knew this because it was documented on a computer she had purchased, they would quickly conclude that she was a Nut Job.

She had to do something. The next morning she wrapped and packaged the laptop, addressing it to her nephew in the Sate of Washington. The Old Lady's nephew was a Super Nerd when it came to the workings of a computer. If anyone could do it, he would be able to get the name and address of the IP user.

Three days later it was done. He had printed the entire diary and relevant pictures. The name and address of the IP user had been written down. The computer and all of the printed material were on their way back to her.

The IP user, a woman, had an address about two miles away. The Old Lady drove into the neighborhood, studying the house numbers, and parking nearby. The windows of the house were covered by closed curtains. There was just no way to see what might be going on inside. A red pickup sat in the driveway. She wrote down the license number on the packet of documents, and slipped quietly out of the area.

The Old Lady made an appointment with a detective, bringing with her the printed diary, the pictures, the name and address of the IP user, the computer, and the license number. She told her story carefully and chronologically. The police officer listened politely but she could sense that he was extremely skeptical.

I actually get paid to listen to crazy Old Bags like this”, the detective thought, with a patient expression on his face. In spite of his disbelief, he never closed cases, no matter how bizarre the story appeared, without first checking out a few of the alleged facts. Picking up the paper with the address, he headed out to the neighborhood with the red truck.

It happened a week later. The man was taken into custody and charged with four counts of attempted murder, twelve counts of aggravated assault, and sixteen counts of false imprisonment. Much to the relief of the Old Lady and the woman, he was not granted bail.

The woman was flown to a medical center eighty miles away. She was diagnosed with multiple broken bones, a punctured lung, bruised internal organs, infected cuts on her back and legs, and bruises all over, particularly in the face which made her unrecognizable. She was expected to recover in time. After lots of help from Counselors, she would be able to testify.

So it was, that this brutal man was brought to trial. The woman read from her own diary and identified the pictures as those she had taken of herself and uploaded to her computer. It was obvious that she was still fearful, but she handled the testimony like a soldier. The police computer expert verified that this material was, in fact, on the computer which he presented to the Court. He identified the woman as the IP user listed in the data.

The man was convicted of all counts. The sentences were to be served consecutively for a total of sixty years. He would not be eligible for parole for two decades.

Epilogue: The woman in the computer went to the Old Lady's house to introduce herself and express her thanks. They went to lunch together and still speak on the phone every week.

In time the Court returned the computer. She offered it back to the woman but the machine held too many bad memories. The Old Lady finished the job of deleting all Document and Picture files before donating the laptop back to the same second hand store. It would now be a “payoff” for someone else.

She would have to find another toy.

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