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Invisible Angelic Protection

From the bedroom window she saw them, standing shoulder to shoulder around the house.

By Amanda Proctor*

As appeared in

Let me say at the outset that Carl is getting professional help at a domestic-violence treatment center. Since I do not want to hurt his chances of recovery, I have changed names and locations to camouflage his identity. Otherwise I am putting down exactly what happened on the night of May 10, 1994.

Carl Broderick and his wife, Marie, were my landlords and next-door neighbors just outside Lubbock, Texas. We shared a driveway, but that's about all we had in common. I drove a 1987 Plymouth Voyager; Carl drove a brand-new Bronco and his wife a silver Cadillac. Their house was large; mine was small. They liked cats and I had a dog, a big German shepherd mix named—more hopefully than accurately—Saint.

With so little to draw us together, it came as a surprise that Marie and I hit it off from the moment I moved into their tenant house. Marie helped me unpack, arrange the furniture in the three-room bungalow, and repair a fence around the property to keep Saint off the highway. She also helped me take down the plywood panels the previous renters had used to block most of the windows.

"Why was the house all boarded up?" I asked.

"There goes my phone," Marie said, hurrying off. But her phone hadn't rung. Later I wondered if the tenants had boarded up the house because they were afraid of Carl.

I was in my kitchen about seven months after moving in when I heard Carl shouting angrily. Then silence, followed by more shouts. A few minutes later Marie came running across the driveway, her long, graying hair loosened from its combs.

"We had a little argument," she said. She looked as though she'd been crying. I asked if Carl had hit her. "Of course not," she said. I wasn't so sure.

Paul Bailey and Matthew Nelson were Marie's childhood friends and both were worried about her husband's behavior too—and her safety. Paul, who lived just up the road, was a bantam-size, take-charge guy who wore a diamond earring in his left ear. Matthew, who lived with his wife in Lubbock, was a gentle, heavyset, long-haul truck driver. I liked both men, even if Saint didn't.

Saint's grudge was with Matthew. Unaccountably, the big guy was afraid of dogs, and dogs can sense attitudes. Anytime Matthew came near our property, the hair on Saint's neck rose and he went into a barking frenzy. It was his "Matthew bark"—not the joyful greeting he gave most people, but a low half-bark, half-growl.

On May 10, 1994, around 8:00 p.m.—maybe three weeks after the shouting episode—I was driving home from my job as a medical technician in Lubbock when I was startled to see Marie running down the highway through the semidark toward me. I pulled over and Marie scrambled in. Her blouse was torn, her hair disheveled, and there was blood on her face and hands.

"Carl's gone crazy!" she sobbed. "He beat me up and smashed the Cadillac!"

The story tumbled out: Carl was drinking and taking drugs again. When Marie reproached him, he began to push her around. Marie ran outside and got into her Cadillac. Carl came after her. He jerked open the car door, grabbed her by the hair, threw her on the ground, jumped into the car and drove it through the side of the garage.

While he struggled to get the dented car door open, Marie ran out to the road. Crouching in the drainage ditch, she'd seen Carl's Bronco roar out of the driveway and turn west.

I wanted to go straight to the police but Marie didn't want "to get the whole world involved." Instead, she asked me to drive her home; before Carl got back she'd pack a bag and find a safe place to stay.

Reluctantly, keeping a wary eye out for Carl, I turned into our drive. I could see the rear bumper of the silver Cadillac protruding from the splintered wall of the garage. Marie ran into her house. When she came out carrying an overnight bag, she told me she'd reached Matthew's wife, who had invited her to stay with them. The minute Matthew got home, his wife said, she'd send him over.