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As she waited for the Bluefield Area Transit bus to whisk her back to West Virginia, Elrod would think about her fiancé, a Scottish oil worker she’d met online.She knew they’d soon spend hours gabbing on the phone, as was their daily habit.
In addition to collecting $344 in unemployment benefits each week, Elrod made ends meet by hustling: She resold packages of discount toilet paper and peddled small quantities of prescription drugs.She would pass by the drive-through tobacco outlet, the Dollar Tree, and Bellacino’s Pizza & Grinders en route to the mall’s centerpiece, a typically gargantuan Walmart.There she’d head straight for the store’s Money Center counter, where she used Money Gram to transmit usually somewhere between $1,500 and $1,800 to a man she knew as Sinclair.She discovered that message in March 2011, 20 months before opening her First Community account, while cleaning out her junk-strewn “Other” mailbox during a respite at a Charlotte mall.The missive caught her eye because of the sender’s handsome profile photo, which showed a middle-aged man with a ruddy face, strong black eyebrows, and a welcoming gaze.Mc Gregor often talked about the agony of losing his wife, Susan, who he said had died in a car accident in Edinburgh in 2003.
But he’d refused to let that tragedy destroy his joie de vivre, as evidenced by the many photographs he shared with Elrod: When he wasn’t working on North Sea oil rigs, he enjoyed reading classic novels, playing with his tiger-striped tabby cat, and strumming a heart-shaped guitar.
Mc Gregor was also a tremendous listener who never hesitated to lend Elrod a sympathetic ear.
“He wasn’t like the little boys I was used to dealing with—he was the opposite of that, so sincere, so caring,” Elrod says.
Sometimes, if her phone bill was due or her refrigerator was barren, she kept a few dollars for herself.
But more often than not, she ended the day no richer than she’d started.
She wrote back, thanking the sender for complimenting her beauty and asking how he’d found her.