“NO, get away from me!” she yelled as she tried to pull her arm out of his iron grip. I was overcome with stunned silence as I watched a middle aged man yelling at this frightened bird of a woman that she wasn’t leaving him. This is not what I expected when I took my chihuahua out for a walk in the park. My mind started racing about how involved I should be or what I should do. “Let me go, you’re hurting me!” she cried out, but his grip was firm and all she could do was squirm. My dog Bella, started barking at the commotion. She was never a fan of men to begin with and would growl for no apparent reason. This caught the attention of the couple and in the surprise, the mans grip loosened enough for the woman to break free. She fell to the ground dropping her purse spilling it’s contents into the nearby bushes.
Pointing his finger in anger towards me, he yelled “You keep out of this, it doesn’t concern you”. I have never been a fighter but I wanted to ensure this poor lady was safe. Though I was afraid, I took my phone out to call the police and possibly snap a few photos of the couple if I could. It seems as though I was not the only one who witnessed this event unfolding before my eyes. In my shock and dismay, my vision had become so focused on what was happening, that I hadn’t noticed other people in the park were becoming drawn into the scene.
Seeing that he was about to be surrounded by joggers, dog walkers and others, the man leaned into the woman as she frantically gathered her things, “We’re not done.” he told her, with a command of finality. As he turned to leave, he found himself facing angry people. “You leave her alone! Get out of here!” they shouted at him.
I looked over at the woman to see if I could help her with her things but instead found her clutching her purse and running from the scene. As my heart filled with sadness over the moments I just witnessed, I noticed a small black bag, not much larger than a school pencil case, tucked under the bushes. In her rush to escape this man, she must not have noticed it. It could be nothing more than a makeup bag but in my mind, it belonged to her and I was determined to make sure she got it back.
By this time, the yelling and screaming between this assailant and the visitors to the park was dying down. He was leaving, thankfully in the opposite direction from the escaping woman. My nerves were still shaking but Bella seemed to be happier. She was wagging her tail. As I dug into the bushes and pulled out the small bag it was surprisingly thick and heavy. I unzipped the bag and found bundles of bills, cash. Wow, was I surprised. I tucked it away in my jacket immediately and went to find a bench to sit on. I needed to know how much was there. Trying to keep this from view of the public, I did a cursory count of the money inside. It had to be $20,000. Digging through this little bag, I found a small black notebook. I paused to take a deep breath. I didn’t even know this woman’s name and I didn’t want to go announcing what I had found, lest this madman return. I have an aversion to being beaten up.
Thumbing through the book, it read like a diary. Going back several years, it detailed notes of their abusive relationship. The nights he would come home drunk and scream and yell at her. The fights they would have and dishes that would be broken. No matter what she did, he was never happy or satisfied. She tried and tried but this was not the life she dreamed of when they had met. As fortune would have it, they did not have any kids but escaping was still so hard. She wanted to see him get better but he had threatened to harm her friends and siblings if she ever left. She hatched a plan for herself. Every month she would pocket forty to hundred dollars away, whatever she felt she could hide that he wouldn’t notice. Her plan was working but not fast enough. Over the years, she had hidden a few thousand from him but she couldn’t take waiting any longer. She had to run. Today she planned on going to the bank and get out all that she could and just disappear. Her only fear was that the bank might contact him about a large withdrawal. No matter what, she had to take the chance and get out.
I took a few moments to think over what I had just read. This woman was fleeing for her life and in my hands I held the only means she had to starting over again. What was her name? Who was she? How would I find her? In her book, she referred to the man as Brian but she never referenced her own name. I wasn’t about to go looking for this Brian. As I weighed my choices, I heard a commotion from behind me. I turned in the bench and saw the woman returning to the scene with two police officers with her. She was sobbing and pointing to the area where the altercation had occurred. I listened to her describe the events that happened. She had a good memory. I assume the police came to see if they could get Brian but he wasn’t there. The woman’s arms were heavily bruised. Through her tears I could hear her say “I lost it, it’s all gone. He probably has it now”. My heart told me what she was looking for. I couldn’t sit still any more.
I put the notebook back into the bag with the cash and zipped it up. “C’mon Bella, let’s go” I said to the dog. I rose from the bench and walked towards the woman. “Excuse me,” I said. “I believe you dropped this” and I handed her back the bag. I’ve never seen anyone break down and cry like that before. Over the next few minutes, I gave the police a statement of what I saw. I discovered the woman’s name was Allison and that this wasn’t the first time Brian had been in trouble with the police. This time, however he was going to jail. They knew where he lived and worked and would be going to find him that same day.
As Bella and I headed back home, the tears of sorrow I saw on Allison’s face had become tears of joy and happiness. Her nightmare was over and she could begin a new life. Sometimes the right thing to do isn’t the easiest and even though I could have used that money, it wasn’t mine and the owner had a greater need than I did. I will never forget that day and I hope the rest of Allison’s life will help her to forget what once was.