Identity Crisis was written for a
contest which required the
story to start with "I knew
something was wrong."
Identity Crisis
by Xander Riley

I knew something was wrong. Karen wasn't due home before ten-thirty tonight. Between her daytime job at the local college and teaching adult education
classes in the evenings, she was gone most of the day. The few hours a day that she was not at one of the schools, she would spend at the library,
grading papers. The house was empty at least sixteen hours each day. Yet here she was, walking in the front door an hour early - at half past nine.
Something must be wrong.

She set her briefcase on the floor and plopped down into a recliner. No television, no stereo. Only silence as she stretched out with her eyes closed.
One long sigh and thirty seconds later, she was snoring softly. The only other sounds in the house were the ticking of a clock and the low hum of the air

I stood there for a moment staring at her beautiful face, so peaceful in slumber. Her long blond hair perfectly framed that face. She looked absolutely
angelic. Not wanting to wake her, I picked up her briefcase and slipped out of the room as quietly as possible. Hesitating a moment at the door, I glanced
back at the sleeping beauty in the living room. So peaceful, so lovely.

Nothing had happened quite the way I had planned, but circumstances had worked out for the best. If I was lucky, she would not wake for another eight
hours. I would be long gone by then.


Breaking and entering was not high on my list of skills. In fact, this was the first night I’d ever tried. It's not that I'm too 'high and mighty' to steal, just that I
tend to stick with the more white-collar crimes like embezzlement. My newest gig is identity theft. Quite a lucrative venture, I'd say. There are so many
uninformed people these days that it is very easy to get their personal information. All it takes is a phony website. In no time at all, I have thirty or forty
names, addresses, social security numbers, and passwords.

The latest list of potential candidates included about a third of the staff at the high school and a fifth of the staff at the local college. During a recent tour
of the campus, I swiped a printed copy of the e-mail address list from the college receptionist's desk. People always talk with their co-workers about
unusual correspondence they have received, so I usually target a single work group at a time. That way, when they chat with their colleagues, they
realize that they all received the same notification. I know that teachers do not earn high salaries, but the principal and administrative staff do quite well.
As an added bonus, Christian Mulroney had responded to my e-mail. Being on the board of directors for the college, he had received my request to
update his records online. And, like a fool, he entered his password on my bogus site.

Everything was going as planned until my notes disappeared. I had scribbled down all the names and passwords on scrap paper. The next morning, the
stack of paper was gone. Along with my chance to score big. Frantically, I called my girlfriend on her cell phone. I had to find out what happened to the

"Frank? What are you calling me for? You know I'm in class!"

"Baby, I'm sorry, but I think you took my notes for work. Or maybe you threw them away. I just need to know where they are so I can get them back."

"What notes? I didn't take anything from your place. The only thing I had with me was my term paper. The one I had you read last night. Remember?"

Damn! That stupid paper she wrote about capital punishment. It was the most boring thing I had ever read! I must have written my list on the back of her
damned report.

"Sure, I remember reading it. That was the best article you've written so far, Honey. But I think I wrote my notes on the back of the pages last night after
you went to sleep. I really need those pages back right away!"

"Great. Just great! You know that I'll be counted off for presentation with all your scribbling on the back. How am I supposed to pass the class when you
keep ruining all my work?"

'Ruining your work'? Sorry, Babe, but your 'work' was ruined as soon as your pen hit the paper! Besides, the only other time I 'ruined your work' was
when you grabbed my ass and caused me to spill coffee on your report. Jeez! The first thing I'm going to do when I'm rich is to dump your sorry ass!

"Just calm down, Sue. What room are you in? I'll come over and pick it up right now."

"Forget it! I already turned it in to Miss Turner in my morning class."

"Well, then I'll explain the situation to Miss Turner. Maybe she'll let me copy your report to leave with her. Then I can take the original pages with my
notes. Everything will be fine. What room is she in now?"

"How am I supposed to know? Maybe she's at the gym or out with her boyfriend. I don't know and I don't care! I have to go now. We're having a pop quiz."

"Wait a minute…"




Without any help from my useless girlfriend (now ex-girlfriend), I started my search for Miss Turner. It was easy enough to get her first name from the
college. All I had to do was pretend that I was a student who wanted to use her as a reference on my resume. They wouldn't give me any other
information, so I turned to the internet for help. There were twelve Karen Turner's listed within a fifty mile radius of the college.

One by one I started whittling down the list. Thank goodness that they now list age ranges on the website when the information is available. Three of the
names listed were in their seventies or eighties - way too old to be the right one. Four others were listed with their husbands - not likely to be the Miss
Turner I was looking for. That left five possibilities to research. I located the addresses of all five and narrowed it down to a single possibility - the only
listing within a thirty mile radius of the college.

By this time, it was nearly five o'clock. I called the college again, this time pretending to be her doctor. I was informed that she had already left for the
day. When I told the receptionist that I would try her at home, she casually let me know that Karen was probably on her way to her second job at the high


I quickly hung up and searched for the class listings online. The only class tonight was scheduled to last from six o’clock until ten o’clock, so I would have
plenty of time to break into her home and steal back the term paper. This would be a cinch!

It was a short drive to her house. I parked at the end of the street and strolled up to her front porch. Nobody answered when I knocked - just as I had
expected. But there were too many neighbors on the street at that hour. Kids were playing kickball, fathers and mothers were returning home from work,
and there were dogs barking everywhere. I slipped off the porch and around to the back yard where it would be less obvious when I broke in. Luckily for
me, she had left the kitchen window open. I climbed inside and began to search the house.

The first place I checked was the living room. There was a desk with a computer, a file cabinet, and even a fax machine. That would be the obvious place
to look first. The file cabinet was not locked, so I rifled through the folders searching for Sue's name. The folders were color-coded with printed labels,
which made it very easy to scan them.

There were folders for the telephone company, power company, cable TV, and internet provider. I continued looking past the household inventory, the
DVD collection listing, and the e-mail copies. It seemed that this woman kept everything - receipts from restaurants, grocery stores, clothing boutiques,
and even a file for each of her doctors. Pregnancy test results were in a separate folder with the label crossed out. But not a single file dealing with
schools or students.

Maybe there was another office set up in another room that she used for her school paperwork. The bedrooms were in the back of the house. I headed
down the short hallway to search each room. That was when I noticed the family portraits on the walls. Photographs of a happy family - middle-aged
mother and father, two teenagers, and a toddler. Another picture showed their wedding. Framed beneath it was their wedding certificate and an
invitation. Frank Turner and Karen Fulton.

Damn! This was the wrong Karen Turner! All this time wasted in the wrong house. Well, I wasn't willing to consider this a wasted trip. I went back to the
files and copied their account numbers and social security numbers into my own PDA. At least I would get
something out of this! But I had to hurry
before they returned home for the evening.

Not a single person noticed me as I crept back out of the house and hurried to my car. Then I had to drive back home to check out the other four Karen
Turners. Apparently, she lived further from the school than I had anticipated. It was nearly 6:30 pm by the time I made it back home. My list was still open
on my PC. I studied the remaining four names, trying to figure out a way to narrow down the list.

What do I know about Miss Turner? She's single. She's a teacher. She works a second job teaching adult education classes. Sue mentioned that she
had a boyfriend and she might be at the gym. The boyfriend part was not exactly helpful, but the gym could be useful.

Back to MapQuest on the PC, I searched for gymnasiums near the college and high school. There was only one. I called the phone number and told the
receptionist that I had an emergency message for Karen Turner regarding her house. After a couple of minutes of horrifying classical music while on
hold, the receptionist came back on the line to inform me that there were no members with that name. She had also checked the guest list - again, no
Karen Turners. I thanked her for her time and disconnected the call.

I already knew that the high school did not have a gym. Well, at least not a gym with workout equipment that Karen would use. The college did not have
a gym, either. If there were no gyms near her work life, then she would most likely join one near her home. Back to the list and MapQuest to find which of
the four lived near a gym! I started thinking of the four as A, B, C, and D so that I could keep them separated in my mind.

Living sixty miles from the city, 'C' was not likely to be the Karen I was looking for. But I could not rule it out yet. Another great website allows an aerial
view of any location. I entered her address and zoomed in on her property from above. It was not close enough to tell much about the house, except that
it was small and the nearest major road did not show until I zoomed out four times. Yet something did not seem right about the house. It was evening, so
the photo was dark and the house was just an outline. The car headlights were the only way I could tell where the roads were located. A subdivision was
lit up about a mile from her house. But there were no lights anywhere near her house. Maybe 'C' had no power?

Opening another browser window, I logged into the power company's website to verify the areas covered. Bingo! 'C's house was just outside the zone.
With no public power, I crossed 'C' off my list. However, the other three were in the covered zone. It was time for another tactic.

'A' and 'D' were approximately forty miles from the college, while 'B' was almost fifty miles away. All three were very close to a major highway which led
into the city. 'D' was ttle googling and I identified the apartment complex and then located their website. It was very upscale and expensive, not likely to
be home to a teacher working two jobs. But it had a gym room. I tried to call the leasing office, but there was no answer at that time of night. No one
would be in the office, but her neighbors would be home from work by now.
in a house so I left 'D' on my list.

A li>First I tried 'D's phone number to make sure there was nobody home. I knew Karen was at work, but her boyfriend might be at her apartment. When
there was no answer after twelve rings, I hung up. Next, I reverse searched the phone number for a neighboring apartment. A woman answered on the
second ring. Pretending to be one of Karen's co-workers, I explained to the woman that I was worried about her since she didn't show up for work
tonight. I had to hold the phone away from my ear until the screaming and obscenities stopped. She slammed the phone down, disconnecting me.

How was I supposed to know that this Karen was a stripper and had been caught having an affair with the woman's husband? Of all the neighbors to
choose, I had to pick the one who hated her. Not a total loss, though. I filed away 'D's phone number for a future connection.

If it wasn't 'D', I was left with 'A' and 'B' as the remaining suspects. What was my next criteria to search for? How could I narrow down the list to a single

Both addresses were near more than a single gym, so I needed a different way to isolate the correct one. Time to start the mental analysis again:

Karen Turner.
Single - boyfriend, possibly a roommate, both 'A' and 'B' were large enough houses for a couple.
Gym rat - health conscious, both 'A' and 'B' were near a gym.
Teacher - must own a car to get to work, both locations were forty to fifty miles from the college.

OK, now we're getting somewhere. A car means gasoline, repair shops, and insurance. Gas Stations would be a total waste of time since I didn't have
her credit card information and she may only use cash. Repair shops could be anywhere - either near her house or near the campus. Insurance
companies would be tougher to crack because they utilized security questions before discussing an account. So, I'm back to where I started.

It was time to start calling the neighbors. I researched the phone numbers for three addresses each near 'A' and 'B' and decided to pretend I was
Karen's co-worker at the college. I struck gold on the first call. The neighbor who answered was a retired professor who helped Karen grade papers on
the weekends. He was suspicious of me until I mentioned that I also worked out with her at the gym. That seemed to relax him enough to talk with me.
Within five minutes, I learned not only her normal schedule, but also that her boyfriend was out of town on business and her cat was at the vet. Tonight
would be the perfect opportunity to break into her house.

Once I had hung up from the chatty old man, I grabbed my tools and started the long drive to Karen Turner's house. If I was lucky, I'd be there within the
hour. By ten minutes past nine o'clock I was inside her house, searching for my papers. By nine-thirty, I had realized that the papers were not in the
house. I would have to wait until she returned home and, hopefully, had them with her.

The big decision for me now was whether or not I could hurt someone to take them by force. I had never struck a woman in my entire life. Could I do it
now? Before I could decide how to handle the situation, Karen walked in the front door.


As I've already reported at the beginning of this tale, I did not have to hurt her. She never noticed that she was not alone in the house and she slept
soundly through the entire ordeal. My notes were in her briefcase, along with her grade book. I put the notes in my car and left her case on the front
porch by the door. If my luck continued, she would simply think that she forgot to bring it inside with her.

Of course, I changed my ex-girlfriend's grade from a B to a D before putting the grade book back in the case. That, combined with the fact that she had
no term paper turned in, should destroy any chance of her passing the class. It serves her right for being such an obnoxious idiot!

I was finally back on track again! The passwords I had stolen could provide the big break I had been waiting for. Identity theft can be a money-making
dream-come-true. But it shouldn't be this much work.

Unfortunately, it should not take this much time, either. Christian Mulroney had already realized his mistake in providing his personal information to a
phony site. He had changed his password and notified the bank of the attempt to steal it. Later that night, when I tried to log in as Mr. Mulroney, my IP
address was flagged for the authorities. It wouldn't be long before they came after me. It was time for me to run away. Again.

I was beginning to wonder if the old saying wasn’t right after all: Crime doesn't pay. Maybe with this fresh start, I’d get a real job and work for a living. Or
maybe not.


Now I'm living in a another new city with another new name. ‘Frank’ is history; I go by ‘Lance’ now. My new girlfriend, Tina, is a maid in a four-star hotel.
No college women in my life this time around! And Tina has an access key to all the hotel rooms. Life is good.

© Copyright 2008 Xander Riley
Return to Portfolio Listing