First Impressions

It was 1967, I’d been an analyst for the CIA for 4 years, recruited while I was still in high school and living in an orphanage. The world is strange. The CIA helped me get a college degree and took me out of the orphanage, moving me to a barracks they kept for recruits. I was twenty-one years old.

At the time, I was strictly an analyst. It was my job to figure out who might be soviet sleeper spies living in the US. I had a natural talent for noticing patterns and even the slightest deviations from them. Things like “Margaret Smith left four and a half minutes earlier than normal for work on Tuesday and she stopped and got a donut, which she does about every three months.”

My supervisors thought that a newly hired professor at the University of Missouri had been recruited by the KGB to spy for the Soviet Union. I was sent to Columbia, Missouri, not far from where I’d been born. Other people would follow the professor around and track her schedule as well as monitor her phone calls. And all that information was fed to me for analysis.

We’d been tracking the professor for five weeks, when I started to get a feeling about one of his buddies. I didn’t think he was a Soviet agent, but there was something off about him. I’d listened to their phone calls, I’d gotten briefs on all their meetings. There was just something wrong with him. I passed along my concerns about this friend to my superiors who did nothing. He wasn’t a communist or an agitator and he had zero interest in the Soviet Union. But the feeling something was wrong with him nagged at me.

Four months earlier, a rookie patrol officer had captured a serial killer because he thought he was acting suspicious while hanging around a burger joint that didn’t allow women to enter the place. I decided to meet the officer, maybe he could help me figure out what was wrong with this guy. My cover story was that I was a librarian; which is a terribly exciting profession and not the kind of job that gets the interest of a police officer who was riding the fame train for catching a serial killer.

This meant I would need to employ all my feminine wiles to get his attention and come up with a good lie on why I thought this guy needed to be investigated. Being CIA had its advantages, I was able to discover that the officer was reading a book called 100 years of Solitude. It was the hottest book of the week. I grabbed a copy and put it next to me at a lunch counter he frequented simply called The Diner. It had only been open about two months. I ate lunch there for four days, book next to me, waiting for him to notice. The food was decent, but it was weird, I was often the only woman there.

Then on the fourth day, he took the seat next to me at the counter and ordered a cheeseburger.

“I’m reading that book,” he said.

“Me too, obviously,” I said smiling. He was attractive and had intelligent, but hard eyes.

“Donnelly Clachan,” he said.

“Myrna Strong,” I answered. “I’d ask what you do, but the uniform is a giveaway.”

“What do you do?” He asked.

“I’m a librarian.” I answered.

“You must get to read a lot of good books then.” And that is how I met Donnelly Clachan. By the end of lunch, we’d agreed to a date. It took three weeks to get around to bringing up my suspicions about the friend of the guy I was watching and it came about, in a strange way. We were at dinner, everything was going fine, and Donnelly set down his fork.

“I believed you the first day and the first date. But if you’re just a librarian, I’ll eat my hat.” Donnelly told me. “And while I’ve enjoyed these dinners, I don’t know who you really are or what you want from me and that makes me uneasy.”

“I can’t tell you what I do beyond librarian. My name really is Myrna Strong though and I have really enjoyed our dinners too. You aren’t what I expected. You remind me of my younger brother Jacob. And Jacob works for an agency where he can only tell one person in this world who he really is and what he really does, but I work with him, so I know.”

“Fair enough, and you came to me because you want my father.” Donnelly said.

“Uh, no. I don’t know who your father is.” I said, blinking at him, because I didn’t know.

“The serial killer known as The Butcher, Patterson Clachan is my father. You’re very smart and I’m betting you are one of those most rare of creatures, a female FBI agent.”

“It’s a good thing we didn’t make a bet, I am not with the Bureau.”

“Ah, the Agency then, making you even rarer. What does the Intelligence Agency want with me?”

“Nothing and that’s my problem.” I admitted. “I am on assissignment here. The person I’m watching has a friend and there’s something wrong with the friend, but he’s not a communist or KGB, so my bosses don’t care and won’t allocate resources to it. You have good instincts, I’ve gotten to read all about it with your capture of the Goodwill Killer. I’m hoping you’ll poke around for me, figure out what kind of criminal activity he’s involved in, and let me know, because it’s really bothering me.”

“You’re dedicated to this, that’s apparent, you’ve endured three dinner dates and had lunch with me, trying to work up to this. I’ll look into it for you. And you’re secret is safe with me.” Donnelly told me. I gave Donnelly Clachan all the information I had on the friend. And after dinner, he drove me back to my apartment. He parked and I sat there for a few minutes, on the fence, unsure what to do.

“I really am single.” I suddenly blurted out. “And I would love to go on a fourth date with you. I like you.”

“I’ll have to think about it.” Donnelly told me. I didn’t hear from him for eight very long days. And I hadn’t been lying, Donnelly did remind me of Jacob which meant Donnelly was a psychopath. On the ninth day, Donnelly came to the library to see me. He brought me lunch and asked if we could go somewhere to talk.

“I don’t know how you did it, but this morning, I arrested the man you had a feeling about for murder. It will be on the news later. They want to give me an award for catching my second serial killer in six months. He wasn’t even a suspect, but once I started paying attention to him, we caught him in the act of abducting a college student and he confessed to being the Co-Ed Strangler.”

“What?” I asked, quickly. “I thought he was dealing drugs or something.”

“I’ve been thinking too about you saying you liked me and that you wanted a fourth date.” Donnelly had looked at his shoes. “You seem like a smart woman and god knows you’re beautiful. But my father is a serial killer and I’m a psychopath. I occasionally become enraged over little things. I shout, I yell, I swear. I’ve even broken things. I don’t want to expose you to that.”

“All my brothers were psychopaths. My oldest burned our house down when he was a teen. Jacob and I were the only ones that survived. Jacob was just an infant, but some roof fell on his crib and protected him from the fire. I got out of the house. But that’s something we can discuss on our fourth date or fifth date or twelth date. I don’t meet a lot of men I like. I’m not going to make a good housewife, my apartment is a disaster. And I’m always going to want to be involved in something important. And you’re right, I am smart. I can’t pretend to be stupid just to make a man feel better about himself.”

“I think I just fell in love,” Donnelly responded. “And it doesn’t bother you that my father is a serial killer?”

“Are you a serial killer?” I asked him.

“No, but I’m more likely to be one than say one of your male coworkers at the library.”

“The men that work at the library are boring. I don’t want boring and ordinary.” I told him.

“Then Myrna Strong, I will pick you up on Friday night at 7 pm.” Donnelly had responded.

“You aren’t off one night earlier this week?” I had asked.

“Well, yes, tomorrow night.” Donnelly answered.

“Then you can pick me up tomorrow night at 7 pm.”

“My my, you are a bit forward, Miss Strong.” Donnelly had laughed at that and he wasn’t the only one in love. We dated six months, then my job transferred me and put me in a different line of work. Donnelly and I dated long distance for a year and a half before getting engaged. Then I was sent behind the Iron Curtain to find an asset and bring him back. I was shot during that trip in East Germany. Donnelly and I got married after I healed up and I quit the agency.

After he died, I didn’t remarry because not once in all these years, have I ever met another man that affected me like Donnelly did. Even after Nyleena and Isabella were born, Donnelly would look at me and I’d get butterflies in my stomach. He’d touch my hand and I would feel everything was right with the world.

And Donnelly fought for me. He brought home cases for me to help with and when he started working with Nathan Green in the shadows, he ensured Nathan understood we were a package deal, if he wanted Donnelly to help, I would be helping too. I wasn’t just his wife. I was his partner. And for whatever reason, I soothed the rage in him. Only when Aislinn was kidnapped could I not keep Donnelly calm, but I couldn’t keep myself calm either.

We married December 15, 1972. Nyleena was born in 1971, I found out I was pregnant when I was shot. Isabella was born in 1972. We had a stillborn baby in 1973 and they told us no more kids, but we decided to ignore thm and Eric was born in 1977 and Aislinn in 1984. Sometimes, when I look at Aislinn, my heart aches. She doesn’t know how much like her father she is, in looks, attitude, and personality. Thankfully, she got my sense of humor, because for all of Donnelly’s good points, a sense of humor was not one of them.

I still think of him every day. Some days, when I hear I joke or something interesting happens, I think “I must tell Donnelly when I get home.” Then I get home and he isn’t there. I used to shake my head at the idea of soul mates and wonder how people stayed married for fifty or sixty years. If Donnelly had lived though, I’d still love him as much today as I did all those years ago. Someone once asked me if I regretted having children with Donnelly since 2 out of 4 are psychopaths. I don’t. I love my children, all of them living and deceased, including Nyleena. And not once has it ever bothered me that Aislinn and Eric are psychopaths like their father.

My only regret in this life is letting Donnelly’s brother convince us to give him and his wife Nyleena to raise, as if it mattered to our reputations that she had been born out of wedlock. Nyleena turned out a great woman, even though we didn’t raise her, but I wish we had. I wish she had grown up calling Donnelly dad instead of uncle. I wish she had grown up calling me mom.

Although, I don’t know that her and Aislinn would have become so close if she’d been her big sister and not just her cousin. Also, she wasn’t murdered for being Donnelly and I’s daughter like Isabella was and like they tried with Aislinn. But damn, I do regret giving her up to them to adopt… But they couldn’t have children (she’d had cancer in her twenties and lost the ability) and Nyleena was born out of wedlock in the 1970s, so everyone thought it was the best solution. Everyone was wrong and that decision haunted Donnelly and me for all our lives.

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