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The 45-year-old divorcée and junior-college dropout now lived in Bluefield, West Virginia, a fading town near the Appalachian coalfields where she’d been raised.In addition to collecting 4 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.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.His name was Duke Gregor.“How beautiful is your picture Audrey,” the message read.Despite her hand-to-mouth circumstances, Elrod’s new account soon began to receive a series of sizable wire transfers, many of which originated abroad.Over the course of one December week, for example, almost ,000 arrived from Norway; on January 2, someone in France sent ,977.She knew they’d soon spend hours gabbing on the phone, as was their daily habit.

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.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.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.

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