DISCLAIMER: All information contained herein has been altered to protect the identity of myself, my subjects and my employer. The stories are true; the names may be changed.
She sat at my desk, hands folded in her lap. I stared at the bags under her eyes, wrinkled so as to resemble dragon scales--little microscopic triangles of skin with the points hanging downward, discolored reddish-brown and contrasting with the rest of her face, otherwise pleasant and free from lines. She had little blue eyes, nice and kind. With her old-lady red jacket, she evoked an image of my mother in ten years.
Pulling at a corner of her jacket swathed around her neck, she exposed a patch of skin, "I divorced my husband--ten years of marriage, and this is what did it in. I didn't stay with him for the kids; I divorced him to stay friends for the kids." She tilted her neck slightly to show me a scar at the base of her ear. "He just rammed the knife in there. See this scar?" this time, showing me the batwing webbing between her thumb and forefinger, showing me the scar that ran up and over the hill. "If I hadn't grabbed it, well, the doctor said just another half inch and he'd have got my jugular vein" pronouncing it "jagular."
How we'd gotten from our pleasantly mundane banking business of closing a savings account to attempted homicide and marital dissolution, I don't know, but I couldn't pull my eyes away from hers that looked back at mine gravely as she nodded serenely.
"The police came and took him to jail, but he didn't stay long. He was out a day later, threatening to come after me. I tell you, I moved out of that town as fast as I could. They never did hold anything on him. He had such an angry temper; a couple years after that, they found a couple out in that bit of woods south of town, they called it a hunting accident. I ask you, he was wearing a bright orange sweater and she was wearing a yellow one--how can it be a hunting accident?"
The town was Oakridge, Oregon, and it was, she said, a place where bad things happened. A friend of hers nearly escaped being shot as she walked out of a building. A coworker later told me of a customer who needed records of an ATM transaction ASAP, the transaction taking place in Oakridge, where she'd been accused of stealing money.
Trying to lighten things up, I said brightly, "well, that settles it. I'm never going to Oakridge!" Bless her heart, she just nodded more gravely than ever and said, "that's a bad place to be."