John Edwards is a wanted man. Specifically, by the hapless legal courier who for the past few weeks has been trying to serve him with court papers to compel him to give a sworn deposition in the lawsuit his mistress, Rielle Hunter, filed against his former aide, Andrew Young.
"Let us know if you find him," chortles Young's attorney, Robert "Hoppy" Elliot. "Because we've been looking for him all over the place!"
Elliot and his team have company. Since surfacing in January, when he went to Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake, John Edwards has literally disappeared from the national scene. Over the past two months, he receded even further, becoming a ghost even around the Research Triangle of North Carolina, which he calls home. Few of the people who worked for him as a presidential candidate have heard from him, and not even his lawyers return reporters' repeated phone calls. (They also refuse to accept the deposition subpoena on behalf of their client.)
For the past two weeks, I've tried to piece together Edwards' life in this self-imposed exile. According to multiple sources familiar with different parts of his life, it's a lonely existence. With few real friends to turn to for counsel, he's also jettisoned most of his trusted advisers, including pollster Harrison Hickman. Those who've known him best say Edwards seems almost lost as to what to do with his life now that politics is no longer an option.
Elizabeth Edwards and the former presidential candidate's two youngest children, Emma Claire, 12, and Jack, 10, continue to live in the family's 28,000-square-foot mansion, on 100 acres in Chapel Hill. John Edwards, meanwhile, has been relegated to the nearby Hillsborough neighborhood, and a gated development called Red Lane, full of large, comfortable, high-six-figure homes, according to a real-estate source in the Chapel Hill area.
The only time he returns to the family estate, driving alone in his 2005 silver Chrysler Pacifica, is for visits with the kids. Those trips may not last: According to two Chapel Hill sources who requested anonymity, Elizabeth is considering downsizing, looking at properties in Chapel Hill's historic Franklin Street area or in the neighborhood known as Meadowmont, euphemistically called "Wisteria Lane," where all the women are blond, perfect hostesses and drive late model Volvos.
"Everybody in town assumes the mansion is for sale," a local real-estate broker tells The Daily Beast. "While it's not publicly on the market… you don't look at other houses unless you're ready to leave where you live. If a buyer with $5 or $7 million came along, it would be a pretty reasonable assumption that it would be for sale."
John Edwards' evenings have been just as complicated. Until recently, according to sources who include two members of law enforcement at a nearby police station, he sometimes frequented local watering holes, such as The Wooden Nickel and the Saratoga Grill. On these forays, according to these sources, he liked to chat up pretty single women, a glass of white wine in hand. (A man identifying himself as Kevin St. John, the manager of the Sarasota Grill, would only say, "I have no comment. I prefer not to be involved.") But even those diversions have stopped over the past six weeks, according to everyone I spoke with.
During the day, Edwards' biggest work project, according to a former adviser who spoke with Edwards as recently as a few weeks ago, involves huddling with legal advisers, strategizing how to stave off a possible federal grand jury indictment surrounding up to $1 million in presidential campaign funds that he is alleged to have diverted to hide Hunter during her pregnancy.