Interview with Caryn Deaver from Checkmate by Jean Hackensmith
CARYN: You’re very welcome, and it’s my pleasure.
THE PLOT: So, Caryn, how did you feel when Jean Hackensmith asked to write your story?
CARYN: Excited, but also a little scared. What Dan put Zach and I through during those four months is something I’ve tried very hard to put behind me. The story needed to be told, though; there are other women out there, I know, who are being stalked. Men, too. The book not only shows that you can survive the experience, but also gives some very good tips about things you can do to protect yourself from a stalker—especially one who wants you dead.
THE PLOT: I can’t even imagine how terrified you must have been, both during those four months when you were being stalked and eighteen years earlier when, truthfully, it all began. Would you be willing to tell us about that horrible afternoon?
CARYN: I was a victim of spousal abuse. That’s no secret. In fact, it started on our wedding night, when my ex-husband raped me. He put me in the hospital for the first time after I told him that I was pregnant with our daughter, Melissa.
THE PLOT: He beat you when you told him you were pregnant?
CARYN: Dan never wanted children. He made that clear, even before we were married. Like all young and idealistic women, I thought I could change his mind. He never used protection to prevent it from happening, so I thought that somewhere deep down inside, he really did want to be a father. Not so. A lot of this doesn’t come out in the book. Jean concentrated more on the period after Dan was released from prison.
I think it will help readers to understand my story better, though, if they know some of the history. Anyway, to get back to what sent Dan to prison in the first place, it happened when my children, Melissa and Brandon, were just seven and four. Dan came home from work one day, played with the kids for a few minutes—which was strange in itself—then sent them to their rooms. He hadn’t even said a word to me, nor I to him, yet once the kids were out of the room, he started to beat me. The beating was so severe that it left me unconscious.
When I woke up, the kids and I were in the bathroom. All of us were tied up. A few minutes later, smoke started to come under the bathroom door. Dan had set the house on fire. He was determined to kill us—to burn us alive. Luckily, the rope on Brandon’s hands was loose and he managed to get free, then he untied me. We all escaped through the bathroom window.
THE PLOT: That is unbelievable! Why did he feel he had to kill all of you? Why not just get a divorce and give you custody of the kids? He would have been rid of them then.
CARYN: The way Dan explained it to Zach one day on the phone was that divorce would have been too easy—for me. It’s what I wanted. To quote him, “I would have been dancing in the streets” if he divorced me. It would also have given me the opportunity to find someone else, and that was something Dan just couldn’t allow. I belonged to him. I was his possession. He wanted out of the marriage, yes; he wanted to be free of responsibility, but divorcing me was not an option. He had to kill me.
THE PLOT: So it was always about you then, never the kids.
CARYN: Pretty much. To Dan, the kids didn’t even exist. With the exception of that last day, he never talked to them, never played with them. They had to be absolutely quiet when he was home; usually, they were in their rooms. They knew they had a father, of course, but they never experienced the benefits of having a father. Luckily that changed when I met Zach.
THE PLOT: So, tell me about Zach. He’s the Fire Chief in Cheyenne, Wyoming, right?
CARYN: Yes he is, and he’s wonderful. Kind, caring, considerate—everything Dan wasn’t. Granted, he’s gotten upset with me a few times, especially during the time we were being stalked, but never did I feel threatened. Zach has never laid a hand on me, and he swears he never will. He’s also been a father to my children; the father they never had. Granted, they’re grown now, but even adults still need their parents once in a while.
THE PLOT: All right, Caryn, I know this will be difficult, but can you tell us about those four months? We’ve already established that Dan was stalking you, but what types of things did he actually do?
CARYN: It started out with him sending me gifts. Roses, candy, a bracelet…and brochures.
THE PLOT: Brochures?
CARYN: One for personal injury attorneys and another for gravestones.
THE PLOT: Oh, my…
CARYN: He would also include a note counting down the moves in his sadistic “game.” Checkmate—nine moves, Checkmate—eight moves, etc. Basically, he was telling me how many more things he would do before he killed me.
THE PLOT: So that’s where Jean got the title for the book—Checkmate.
CARYN: Yes. At first, the things Dan did were simply annoying…and a little scary. As time went on, though, his “moves” became more aggressive. He tried to kidnap me during a fire drill at the school where I work…Mika saved me that time.
THE PLOT: Mika?
CARYN: Our protection dog. Zach bought her—for $15,000—after Dan left a ten-foot-high message on the wall of the gym at the school. Dan especially liked to torment me at the school; that’s where all the gifts were delivered. Zach couldn’t be with me there, so he bought Mika.
THE PLOT: They let you have Mika at the school?
CARYN: She was a service dog. They couldn’t say not.
THE PLOT: So, do you still have Mika?
CARYN: I’d…really rather not get into that.
THE PLOT: Okay… So, what else did Dan do?
CARYN: He cut the brake line on Zach’s truck, he tried to run us off the road…
THE PLOT: And the police did nothing?
CARYN: There was nothing they could do. Initially, there was no proof that it was Dan doing these things. Once he started the physical altercations, when I actually saw him, then the police simply couldn’t find him. Dan was an ex-cop. He knew, as Brian put it, how to always stay one step ahead of the police.
THE PLOT: Who is Brian?
CARYN: Zach’s best friend—and mine now. He’s also a captain on the Cheyenne police force. He did everything possible to bring Dan in, but again, he just couldn’t find him. In the end, though, Brian came through for us…but Zach almost died in the process. In fact, we all did. Me, my kids, Zach’s kids, my grandchildren…it was a nightmare.
THE PLOT: I’m well aware of what you’re referring to, Caryn, but I won’t ask you to elaborate. If you did, our readers would know the end of the story, and we can’t have that!
CARYN: I’m sure Jean would appreciate it.
THE PLOT: Well, Caryn, just to help Jean out here, and to plug the book, where can our readers get a copy of “Checkmate”?
CARYN: It’s available through Amazon.com, HerOrbit.com and other on-line retailers. Autographed copies are also available through Jean’s web site at http://www.jeanhackensmith.com.
THE PLOT: Thank you, Caryn. It has been a pleasure…and you’re an inspiration to us all.