September 13, 2016: The Day I Learned What Real Heartbreak Feels Like

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Couple arrested for theft of $14K from Bend bookstore
September 6, 2016

A Bend couple was arrested Monday on suspicion of stealing at least $14,250 from a downtown bookstore.

Sandy Police arrested George Wickham, 23, and Lydia Bennet, 24, as they allegedly attempted to flee north to the Canadian border. The suspects were returned to Central Oregon and booked into Deschutes County Jail on charges of first-degree aggravated theft, first-degree forgery, felony fraud, and evading arrest.

Wickham and Bennet are employees of Annie's Bookstore & Cafe, on Nebraska Avenue. According to Bend Police, Wickham pocketed cash payments from customers over a period of four years, falsifying sales receipts to cover his tracks. Bennet allegedly assisted in the scheme by manipulating electronic inventory records.

On Monday, the owner of the bookstore called police to report he had uncovered discrepancies in financial records the previous weekend. He said he confronted Wickham, who denied knowledge of the theft. The next morning, the owner noticed Wickham's and Bennet's belongings missing from the staff room and found the front register emptied of $250 in cash.

Wickham and Bennet were apprehended on US-26 in Sandy, driving a red Subaru Impreza owned by Bennet's mother. Wickham reportedly sped away from police before losing control of the vehicle and hitting a light pole. No one was injured in the crash.

***

That stupid girl. That stupid, selfish, short-sighted girl.

I should have seen it coming. I knew Lydia is a spoiled brat with no impulse control. I knew George is a sociopath with a history of deceiving and destroying young women.

Though I think myself oh so smart--a great literary genius with brilliant insights into the human condition--I'm laughably ignorant about the real world. I thought the worst Lydia would ever do is drop out of college. I thought the worst George would ever do, he'd already done in the past.

George didn't only bamboozle me into believing his lies about Will. He conned me. He literally conned me, and I was too naive to notice.

Do you remember the day I met George? I went into Annie's and picked up a book about mortgages. George blinded me with flattery and big blue eyes, and then he claimed the credit card reader was on the fritz and asked for cash instead. I handed some over, feeling smug and virtuous for supporting the adorable local bookstore.

Not a single dollar of that cash reached the store's bank account. I know now that the bills went straight into George's pocket, and I walked off with the book, unknowingly stealing it from the struggling small business. How many customers did George pull the same trick on over the years? Enough to rob Annie's of $14,000 worth of merchandise.

"I should have told you about George from the start," Will said last week at his house, when I repeated what Jane had said on the phone.

"Why didn't you? Isn't that why you came into the store? To warn me?" I remembered the weight of Will's hand on my shoulder that day, and the way he stared into my eyes as if he were trying to tell me something telepathically. But I'm not like him; I can't read minds.

"I thought I was overreacting. You were just buying a book from him, not dating him. I was afraid you'd think poorly of me for bad-mouthing some cashier you'd never see again."

Will was right, Diary. I was so prejudiced against him back then, even if he had told me the truth about George, I wouldn't have believed him. I would have thought Will was a bully spreading nasty gossip about his own brother. Of course, I happily swallowed George's nasty gossip about Will without question.

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