I sat at the dinette table slowly rotating my cup of tea; a cup of tea I had not yet taken a sip from. Across from me, she watched me do it. Sixteen years of marriage down the shitter.
"I'm sorry, Red. I—we—we—we . . ."
"I get it. Don't say anything else. Please don't say anything else. I get it," I said.
"I'd do anything to have spared you this, Red. Really," she said. I stood, suddenly. I turned my back to her.
"I said to please not say anything else, Darla." I could almost feel her nodding behind my back.
"The kids, am I going to have to fight you over them? Just say yes or no, okay," I said.
"Uh-no. I know you love them. We, we'll always have them in common." My turn to nod. I turned back to face her. There was something in her look, but I wrote it off to the exigencies of the moment.
"Okay. I'll be out of the house by morning. I don't want it, the house. You and your lover can have it to play in." She sagged back into her chair.
"Okay," she said. I turned to go, to leave. I stopped just shy of the door and turned once again.
"We should've grown old together, Darla," I said. "It's what should've been." I paused. "Sixteen damn years gone!" I turned one last time and went out. Nothing else was said.
That was the beginning of what I was sure was going to be a truly sad tale. That, at least from my point of view if not hers, theirs. Neither of us heard them, the kids. But, they, I would later discover had heard us.
Darla and I met in college during our mutual senior years; we, the both of us, just twenty-two years old. She pre-Law, me Criminal Justice. She looking to one day hook up with a major law firm, me the state police. We shared a class together, Evidenciary Forensics.
Never the shy one, one might almost have termed me aggressive, I asked her to have lunch with me on our second day of class. She'd eyed me suspiciously, likely figuring I only wanted a chance to get into her pants. Well, she was right about me wanting to get into her pants, but it was not by any means the only thing I wanted. I wanted her to be mine forever. Yeah, I know, love at first sight is supposed to be fool's gold. Well, those who think that are entitled to their wrong opinion.
"Why?" she asked, her tone coy and investigatory.
"Because your pretty and I really really like pretty girls," I said. I was not smiling. I had on my most serious of serious expressions; hell, I practiced it all the time in front of the mirror while I shaved in the morning. But, she did smile.
"Hmm, okay, you're pretty enough yourself to interest me, at least for the short haul. Meet you at the Hut at high noon." She turned, without waiting for me to respond, and walked off.
Lunch at the Hut led to a series of thirteen dates, by actual count, before I got past first base with her. When I did, I had to summon every nuance of sexual experience that I had ever laid claim to or even heard of to keep up with her; even then, it was at best a tie. She was insatiable and very very imaginative.
I remember my exact words preparatory to that first time, "Ready for the next step?" I said, smirking and figuring she'd for sure shoot me down. She stared at me for a long moment.
"Yes, I think I am," she said. We were waiting for the waitress to bring the check when she'd said it. She started to laugh; my more than surprised look must have set her off.
"Didn't expect that, I see," she said.
A little slow on the uptake, I gathered my wits into a neat little pile and did my damnedest to not embarrass myself.
"Honestly, no. I mean I was hoping, but no," I said. She redoubled her smile.
The waitress came up, I slipped two pictures of Andrew Jackson into the little black folder that held the bill, stood, offered her my hand, and we left.
Her place was a modest two bedroom condo about a mile from the college. I guessed her parents had some dough
"Nice place," I said.
"Thanks," she said. "Like some wine?"
"Sure, I guess," I said. She left and was back in two minutes. She handed one of the two glasses of white wine. I guessed it to be a pretty good sauterne.
We drank quietly on the couch. She was eyeing me, I was eyeing her and the heat was building between us. I reached out and touched her cheek; she leaned into me. I kissed her gently. She came back at me with a scorcher. I let my hand tentatively slide down and in from her shoulder and brush her breast. She smiled. I squeezed her tit and was rewarded with an even better kiss; she tasted fantastic.
She touched my cock through my pants and gave me a squeeze of her own. I began to slowly unbutton her blouse. She leaned back to facilitate my invasion. She wore no bra and her tits were exquisite. We began undressing each other with some urgency. Actually, furiously!
I stood and turned her around. Her butt was to me. I leaned into her as she knelt submissively on the couch before me. I entered her and she cooed. I began seesawing in and out of her, fucking her, loving her. She was wonderful. I was going to marry her no matter what and god help anyone dumb enough to get in the way.
As we lay spent on the couch wrapped in each other's arms, I plotted to make her mine. I slid down and suckled on her nipples. Physically, there was just no downside to this female creature. I was going to have her, and not just for a night.
For six months following that night we dated and were intimate almost every time. Then, it was grad time. We walked across the stage where I pulled a stunt that brought frowns from the school's admin staff and hoots and grins from most of the assembled student body.
Having gotten my sheepskin, I marched across the stage to the lectern that the invited speakers had used for the usual grad ceremonial stuff and took the mike.
"Darla MacAlister, will you marry me?" I said. I was looking straight at her out there in the midst of the be-gowned audience. There was a bustle of classmates around her. For a second, she looked stunned. She nodded and then shouted.
"Thank god," I said into the mike, "otherwise this could have been really embarrassing." Well, I said I had a kind of aggressive bent. At any rate the cheers went up, and for a moment there was pandemonium, but dean Howard got things quickly under control by cracking a joke of his own about young people that I cannot now recall, and the graduation ceremony continued.
We did marry, and that right after graduation. One year after we graded Jennifer was born followed a bit more than year later by Randy. And the early years were wonderful.
I'd finished my stint at the academy after but six months of marital bliss and joined the force. She did finish law school that three years into our marriage.
Darla interned at Griswald and Schwartz Law Offices. Griswald, as it happened was the lone senior partner, since Charles Schwartz had died some ten years previous to Darla joining the firm as its first official intern. The firm’s lone junior partner, Marty Castaign at the time was the only other licensed law dog. Me? I did a few years in a cruiser, then passed the test and got myself promoted to detective and started wearing the inevitable cheap suit.
At the end of a two year internship, Darla’d been made a junior partner, as the firm had grown enough to hire two more wet-behind-the-ears licensees. She was assigned the division that handled the smaller felony cases: burglaries, some of the less brutal examples of domestic violence, and the like. She enjoyed the work, and, as it turned out, she was good at it.
For my part, my partner, Jess Richter, and I were part of the anti-gang task force. As any cop can tell you, that particular duty can be more than challenging, demoralizing actually. This last led to a very bad day for me eleven years into my career.
It had seemed a routine call at first, as if any domestic disturbance call was ever really routine. We'd taken the call because we were nearby. Arriving at the residence,! we went in after hearing the scream, guns drawn. The sight of our Glocks brought immediate order out of chaos.
"He's been beating on me," she said. "I need to get the kids and get out of here."
"Where are the kids ma'am?" said Jess.
"Next door," she said.
"Jess take her and go get them," I said. "I'll stay with the gentleman until you get back."
"Roger that," he said, and they were gone. No sooner had they gone than the gentleman rushed me. He'd surprised me. We hadn't cuffed him because he was being cooperative. But appearances this time around were most definitely deceiving.
Lucian Corvallo, was, as it turned out, a born troublemaker, gang member, wife beater, and a truly star quality asshole. Good 'ole Lucian, seeing that he was no longer outnumbered two to one, and that my gun was now holstered, decided that rather than allow us to maybe arrest him, he'd take it upon himself to argue the point. We'd been at it for a full three or four minutes before Jess finally returned and separated us. But, the damage had been done: Lucian was dead, and I was off the force. Not a good day for me. Did I mention that at times I tended to be a bit on the aggressive side?
Darla was not happy. And, I think that at that moment she was a little afraid of me. She'd never had reason to be, but maybe even that particular point could have been argued. At any rate, the two things that could not be argued were one, the fact that I loved her and, two, that I had never laid a hand on her; nor the children either if it came to that. So, anyway, I figured to be able to win that particular argument.
"Red, you have to get your temper under control. You just do. And I mean now! I mean, out of a job! One you worked so hard to get! And you killed a man, and with your bare hands!" she said. "You've really done it this time."
"He was a bad man," I said.
"I have no words, Red. I have no damn words! I insist that you get counseling. I'll have Marty cover you in the legal stuff if that guy's relatives come after you, but by God you are going to get counseling. Sometimes, Red, you scare even me," she said.
"Now, wait a minute, Darla. I've never, ever, laid a hand on you. You've no call to say something like that to me. I love you. Hell, you and the kids are my world," I said.
"And, that's another thing, Red, you need to be here more than you are, more than you have been. Yes, I know you love the kids, but love as an abstract thing is not enough; you actually have to demonstrate it, a lot! Heck the kids hardly know their father," she said, "and that's a fact."
"Be here? Be here more! I'm working my ass off to make a home and a better life for all of us. Yeah, I do, did, sign up for all of the overtime that I could get, Why not, the pay's, was, good and . . ."
"Red! Stop it. You're making excuses. We don't need the extra money. Between the two of us we make more than anybody could possibly want or need," she said. She saw my face fall.
"You mean you make enough," I said. "Well, I'm not abrogating my responsibilities and becoming some wimpy-assed house husband. I intend to do my part, contribute my share."
"Red, there is no competition between you and me. We're equal. And, the kids are a big deal in case you haven't gotten that yet. They need us. They need both of us.
"Hell, anyway, where do we go from here?" the question was rhetorical. "You know you could just stay home for a while. Handle things here, and the kids, until you figure out what you want to do," she said.
I could feel my eyes narrow. "Become a house husband? Is that what you're suggesting after what I just told you? Try to remember, Darla. I just got done telling you that that was one thing that is never going to happen," I said.
"No, no. I'm not suggesting that. I'm just saying, well, that maybe you need a little time to get your head straightened out. In fact, I've been so damned busy myself lately. I mean, well, we could hire a maid if you don't want to do the household stuff. No problem with that," she said. "It'd make things easier for me for sure. Anyway, like I was saying, I've been thinking about it for a while. I mean you do all of the yard work and stuff now, and I do the usual wife stuff. A maid would be a big deal for me."
"Yeah right, a full time maid? And pay her how?" I said.
"Well, I mean . . ."
"You mean you'd pay her because your husband's a deadbeat. That about it?" I said.
"Damn it, Red! Whoever said anything like that! You are most definitely not a deadbeat. If anything you are the exact opposite. So opposite, that you are neglecting your children, and that, young man, is a fact!" she said. She'd finally stopped me.
"I'll be going out. I—I—will be getting new employment. I'll be back later tonight," I said.
"Red—I'm . . ." but I was gone.
"Mom and dad are sad," said Jennifer as she closed her bedroom door behind them.
"Momma is for sure," said Randy.
"What are we going to do?" she said.
"Do? Do what? We can't do anything: we're kids," he said. "I'm only ten, and you're only eleven! What can we do?"
"Mom will tell us what we need to do," said Jennifer, repeating herself. "She always tells us what to do. She'll make dad stay home. I heard what she said." Her brother nodded.
"Darla, you've got to give yourself some credit. He's a good guy and everything, but if he isn't going to be there for the kids; well, that's a problem of his own making," said Marty.
"Yes, yes, I know. But it's not as simple as that. Red thinks he has to keep up with me earnings-wise, and he just can't do it. Even working eighty hours a week he is at best able to make half what I do. He's a hard worker, insanely so, and I admire him for his work ethic. But, he has this crazy need to keep up with the Joneses," she said.
"Yeah, well that's just plain stupid. And as for that, he should be home poking you more too," he said. She blushed. "When was the last time he did you?"
"Marty! That's none of your business," she said, but she was smiling.
"Yeah maybe, so how long, Darla, really? Just tell me," he said.
"Oh all right. Two weeks ago. It was quickie in the morning before he left for work," she said.
"A quickie? And you're okay with that," he said.
"No, I'm not okay with it, but what can I do. He's six-four and two-ten. I'm five-three and one-ten. He can do pretty much what he wants with me and there is nothing I can realistically do about it.
"Well, all I can say is, that if I had a honey like you, there'd be damn few days that I wouldn't have you bent over a couch or on your back in bed," he said.
"Sounds nice," she said. He suddenly had a look about him that she couldn't decipher. But, that became a moot point ten seconds later.
"Come on," he said. He led her back to his office. Closing the door, he turned and kissed her, hard!
"Marty, we shouldn't . . ." He kissed her again.
"If your man won't take care of you; well, I'm going to," he said.
He unbuttoned her suit jacket and then went after her blouse. Her bra hooked in the front, easy-peezy. It followed her jacket and her blouse to the puddle of vesture on the floor.
"Sweet Jesus! You're beautiful," he said. He leaned and kissed her nipples, then sucked on one and then the other. He sucked almost desperately. She giggled at his obvious excitement. She pushed him away from her.
"Take your clothes off, Marty," she said, as she shed her skirt and panties.
He looked at her with puppy dog eyes. She went to her knees and pulled his pants down. She touched him playfully. She took his cock in her two hands and licked the tip. She licked it again. She let it slip into her mouth, and she began to suck him. He kept jerking spasmodically as her tongue nearly drove him crazy.
He finally pushed her down on the couch and slid down her body and began doing his duty. A duty he swore he would be seeing to again if there were still any gods on mount Olympus.
Sliding back up her body, he kissed her. "I really think . . ."
"Marty, don't talk. Just take me. Do me now," she said. She spread her legs allowing him to kneel between them; her porcelain thighs, their satin smoothness enslaving him as they had her Red. He pushed into her. He began screwing her. Soon she was bucking and wheezing and drooling out the side of her mouth. The office began to stink of sex.
He stiffened and filled her, washing the walls of her vagina with his seed.
Dressing some little time later, they looked at each other wondering what had happened. Or more, how it happened.
"Marty, it was just the animal in us nothing more. I'm married. Happily married. It shouldn't have happened, but it did. I enjoyed it; hope you did too," she said.
"Enjoyed it? Oh yeah, that's the word," he said. "I enjoyed the hell out of it."
The guilt would come later. She cheated on her man, her good man, her Red.
After deciding that I had to leave, and after having told her that she and her lover could have the house, I was beset with doubts. I needed her, but now it looked that I'd lost her forever. The divorce was just a legal hurdle; we were already done.
She'd laid it on me that she had a lover. She hadn't called him that, but that had been the meaning. Her good 'ole side kick at the shop Marty Castaign. I'd been a cop for chryssakes! How long did she think she could hide him and their adulterous relationship from me? Well, in point of fact they'd been able to do so for almost five years; fucking wonderful!
It hadn't been me who'd caught up with them either; it had been the kids. Jennifer at fifteen saw the signs and more; and then, saw him coming out of our bedroom, mine and Darla's. The kids had been sent home early that day. The high school they were attending had had a bomb scare. Seemed like they got one of those every year anymore. It was a hoax, but better safe than sorry.
At any rate, Jennifer knew what the situation was as soon as she and Randy had seen them. It had shocked them, but they knew Marty and didn't raise any big to do about it. Helluva thing, my own kids covering for their cheating momma. All such notwithstanding, my wife decided to out herself figuring, I suppose, that the cat was definitely out of the bag anyway, and she needed to try and minimize the impact on me; she'd failed in that.
I was out of the house. She had her lover and the children. I had my de facto singlehood. Goddamnit!
All roads had led us here to her lawyer's office.
Gordon Hofschneider was pinwheeling a pencil between his fingers, as we sat there waiting; I've always wondered how anyone ever learned how to do that. Gordon was my lawyer. A little on the young side, but I trusted him. And, I trusted my wife, even though she was divorcing me for her lover. I didn't feel good, but I didn't feel threatened. I guess, as divorce cases went, or so I figured, ours was going to be among the less traumatic.
"Good morning, Mister Griswald," said mister Hofschneider, as his counterpart entered the room and took his seat. "Have you perused our proposal?" I sat waiting stolidly to my lawyer's left.
"Yes, but, I'm afraid we felt impelled to make some changes," said lawyer Griswald.
"Changes?" I piped in. "What changes?" I was looking straight across the table at my soon to be ex-wife who'd come in some seconds after her lawyer-lover: though he was merely an observer in this situation. She looked away.
"Darla? We had an agreement," I said.
"Red, let me handle this," said Gordon. I leaned back in my seat and stared, but I did shut up. I hadn't had all of that cop training for nothing.
The proceedings lasted a half an hour more. I looked over at her. She'd changed everything, or her lover had, or Griswald had, somebody had. Everything! Broken her promises. And now a judge would have to be making the final pronouncements not the two of us. I silently swore that my hatred for the stinking bitch and her lover would never die.
It took another two weeks before the word came down from the bench, but finally come down it did, on my head!
I was sitting in the corridor just outside the courtroom where it had all just come to an abrupt conclusion moments before. I just sat there and stared at the tiled flooring. She'd gotten almost everything she and her asshole lover had asked for. There was no alimony; she made too much money. Yippy-eye-oh-kai-yea! But, that was about the only thing she didn't get. She'd come away with custody, a sixty-forty split of our liquid assets, and child support of six hundred a month till the kids were eighteen.
She finally came out of the courtroom. She passed no more than ten feet from me.
"Shared custody, Darla?" I said.
"Red . . ." but her lawyer-cum-lover hustled her away.
"Fucking bitch!" I screamed after her.
That was two years ago. I hadn't seen her since that morning at the courthouse. But, I had pulled my head out of my ass and gotten myself a new career. I was a private eye, and a good one; and the bucks were coming in; I was making half again plus what I ever did as a cop and that after expenses. It's likely not real surprising that I found my niche specializing in helping husbands and fathers who'd been screwed over by their wives. Well, I had a special place in my heart for them.
New career and all notwithstanding, Darla and good 'ole Marty Castaign were never far from my mind. I was keeping a close eye on them. Someday, they'd blow it and I'd be there to gloat. Oh yeah, I was most definitely gonna have their proverbial asses; I lived for that day. But, I had to be careful. I didn't want to jeopardize the little time I had with the children.
It was clear to me that Jennifer and Randy were being turned against me. How did I know this? Because at best they were bored and antsy when they were with me. Nor was I allowed to pick them up. The bitch had them delivered to me on my weekends. Oh, and she was never late in doing so. Oh no, she followed the letter of the law to a T did my ex the bitch. I got my one weekend a month without fail, but not a nano-minute more! Was I bitter? Stupid question.
My secretary buzzed her in. I didn't want to deal with her, but there were practical sides to things over which even a hot shot private investigator like me had little control. This was one of those practical sides.
"Good morning, Red," she said. Her tone was amicable, as well it might have been. She had to know I wasn't in the mood to listen to any of her bullshit. I just watched her, not saying anything, especially not good morning. Any morning with my ex-wife in it figured to be anything but good. "Still not talking, I see."
"It's been two years, Darla, with me hardly ever laying eyes on you, a definite plus, actually. Whaddya want? I'm a busy man, even though you and your asshole lover, excuse me, I mean asshole husband, might not believe it," I said.
"Still bitter about the divorce," she said. "I was hoping that enough time had passed that we might be able to mend some fences."
"You know better than that, Darla. Mend some fences? With you and the asshole? After how you screwed me over, especially with the kids! No," I said. "You've done everything in your power to keep the children from me and undermine me with them the way I see it.
"You know, I even doubled their child support, without you or your lover—excuse me, I mean your husband—having to sue me for it. And still, all I get is token visits with my kids. Who, by the way, seem less and less interested in being with me even as little as it is; and yes, I do suspect your hand and maybe his in that. So fuck you, the both of you!
"But, enough said, whaddya want? Get to it or get out." She could see my hand was poised to buzz in Heidi to throw her ass out.
"Okay, okay. I was just trying to be friendly," she said. "Actually I'm here, at least in part to make some of the visitation stuff good with you. But, I do wish you'd stop all the nastiness, the profanity; it's not real useful. Okay?"
"We will never be friends again, Darla, so get to it," I repeated. "And, as to the profanity, let's just say you inspire it. Okay?"
"Whatever, Red. Anyway, Marty and I are planning a vacation at the end of the month, and we wondered if you would be willing to take care of the kids while we're gone," she said. She knew she had me.
The divorce settlement had given her essentially total custody except for alternating holidays, and the one weekend a month. I was bitter as hell about it. I'd wanted shared and joint. I wanted to be able to see them anytime I could, try to make up for my neglect; I'd finally realized I'd been guilty of that; but I was certain that the bitch and her asshole had put the boff on me doing anything to fix it. The kids were almost old enough to do their own thing, but by now, the way I saw it, they'd been brainwashed.
Yes, I had eventually accepted the fact that my kids were all but strangers to me. But, I had also been reinforced in my belief that such was so because I had been working too hard and that for them! Hence, I was guilty of neglecting them, but not guilty of not loving them, or being an undeserving parent. Not in my mind.
My two worst enemies, Darla and Marty, had essentially held that a more liberal custody arrangement, read better for me, was just too distracting, that I was never around.
The law firm, where she worked as a junior associate, had spared no effort in getting her what she wanted. Their buddy the judge noted that I'd been kicked off the force for killing a man. That put the final nail in my fatherly rights. It had also given her virtually everything she'd asked for. But now they had an eternal enemy, me.
I had it as my primary goal in life to bring them down if I could, and that both individually and collectively: the two of them, their law firm, the judge, the lot of them. Except for my kids, it's all I lived for. Okay, maybe they weren't kids anymore, technically they were teenagers, but they'd always be my little ones regardless, so sue me. Still, I was biding my time. I had time. I was fifty years old and almost to the place where I could realistically compete with their money and influence.
After the fact of the divorce, my lawyer had been able to protect my new business, which I was certain she knew I would have shut down if she'd tried for it anyway; so, I guess things could have been worse. I will say, that although I had no reason to think so really, Darla had appeared to have been at pains to not interfere with my agency. It was almost like a bone she was throwing me to keep me happy, though the confluence of happiness and my life was in fact a virtual oxymoron.
"What's the matter, good 'ole asshole doesn't like my babies anymore?" I said.
"Cut the crap, Red. Marty's a good guy; frankly, better than you when it comes to being caring. You're the one who's always whining that you don't get to see the kids often enough, or so the kids tell me. So, which is it yes or no?" she said.
"Caring? Yeah, he's caring, for himself! He's got my wife, my house, my kids, about everything I ever cared about, so yeah, I guess you could make an argument that he's caring, just not about me.
"But, to answer your question, yes, of course I'll babysit. And I can't tell you how much I appreciate you thinking of me," I said. "Send me the particulars: dates times et al, and I'll be there. Now get out!"
"Okay, Red." She got up and headed for the door. I was just picking up the phone to make a call I had scheduled, when having reached the door, she turned and gave me a look. "You know, Red, one of these days you're going to have to let it go; I mean the anger."
"No I won't, Darla, and it isn't anger, it's hatred. Now get out!" She seemed to pale a little, but finally turned and left.
Hanging up the phone I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes. I could feel them misting over. I opened them just as Heidi entered with the folder she knew I needed.
"You okay, Mister Clayton?" she said. I nodded.
"Yeah, I'm okay. That it?" I said.
"Yes sir it is," she said. She passed it to me, and I looked it over. Gabriel Montoya was not a nice guy. He was decidedly a bad guy. A guy with a longer rap sheet than most mafia soldiers. But, Gabe baby had one very useful quality which I was determined to exploit: he was a drug dealer, a high end drug dealer. And, Gabriel owed me. I'd saved his ass from the law when a young and over eager assistant D.A. was going to nail him for that which he was innocent of. His less than useless court appointed lawyer had had the good luck, or sense, to ask for help and I had helped.
It'd taken me months after the divorce to find the guy. All I'd had at the start were rumors. Rumors that Malcom Griswald, of Griswald and Schwartz Law Offices, was a user, a big time user.
"Heidi, get Montoya on the phone okay. No, on second thought, call him, but have him come in. It's time he and I talked. This is good stuff." For the first time on this particular morning I had something to feel good about. It wasn't enough, but it was a start. I had to hope it was going to be just a matter of time before I nailed Griswald and maybe others in that fuckwad law office.
"So, my friend, what can I do for you?" said Gabriel Montoya.
"I need to bring a bad boy down. This bad boy helped cost me my wife. I want his ass," I said. "And, anyone else associated with him that I can add to the muck we're going to be collecting."
"Okay," he said. He was speaking very deliberately. "Mister Clayton, I owe you. But, before we go off the deep end here, are you sure you wanna do this? It could get ugly," said Gabriel.
"I can do ugly," I said. "Go for it."
We made plans for the long haul in case it took that long to call up the evidence that we'd be collecting. I was feeling good.
"So, is he willing to watch 'em?" said Marty.
"Of course he is. He loves them. It's one of his better qualities. Actually, maybe his only good quality," said Darla. "Loving them has never been a problem for him, knowing how to love them, however, is way beyond his ken.
"Well, good. Maybe he'll be a little less obnoxious from now on. I mean if we just let him see his kids a little more often," he said. "Does he still believe that they love him as much as he thinks they do?"
"Yes and no, he thinks that they would if we weren't turning them against him; and I'm not going to be the one to burst his bubble. It would kill him," she said. "Like I said he's not really all that bad of a dad, or man; but he's neglected them almost from day one to the point where they hardly know him now, and they don't trust him to be a full time dad. And, frankly, neither do I. Oh he'd be on his toes for a while, until his next big thing. But then the excuses would be resurrected, and it would be the same old same old.
"He's a good man, Marty, in some ways, just not in the ways that count most. Anyway, that's why he's gone and you're here."
"Well then, it's his own fault. As busy as we are, and we are busy, he's double us put together," he said. "He should have been around more. It's his own fault. And, he does have a violent streak. He didn't have to kill that guy. He's strong enough that he could have just played with him until his partner got there. And, he had a gun. I think he actually wanted to beat the asshole to death, or he would have eventually used the gun instead, found a way to use it. The ultimate macho thing, you know, mano y mano as the mex are always sayin'."
"Yeah maybe. And yeah, it is his own fault, mostly, and it is sad. If he ever finds out that it was the kids who didn't want to split time between us, well, I just don't know. He's become a contradiction in personalities: on the one hand a hard-nosed gumshoe, on the other a pussy when it comes to the kids," she said.
"Yeah, well, you said it, it's sad," he said. She nodded.
He came to her. He put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her to him. His hands slipped to her buttocks and he felt her up quite satisfactorily.
He led her over to his desk. He bent her over it.
Kneeling behind her, he lifted her skirt and kissed her butt. Slowly he pulled her panties down. He kissed each cheek; then, he spread them apart. He gazed worshipfully at her anus and the tiny brown circle of her sphincter. He licked her.
He stood and gently forced her legs to spread for him. He teased her pussy for a minute or two, and then pushed into her. He fucked her slowly lovingly this time. He not only needed her, he loved her as he had never loved anyone.
"You got it?" I said. He looked at me from across my desk.
"Boss, yeah, I got it, but it's not what we thought it was. Well what we, you and I, expected," said Roberto.
"Huh? Whaddya mean," I said. "If it wasn't what we expected then what?"
"Boss, I mean you're the boss. But, well, I'm gonna say don't ask me for any of this stuff, and drop it. Drop it all, he said. Forget those two, that law firm, all of it." I stared at him like he was crazy.
"Excuse me, Mister Santana, Mister Roberto Santana; but you work for me. I want the stuff, all of it, and I want it now,” I said. Reluctantly, he pushed a thick manila envelope toward me.
"I'm sorry boss," he said. He got up and left. His look told me not to try and stop him, I didn't.
I looked at the envelope. I looked at it as at a toxic thing. Little did I know just how toxic a thing it was actually going to be.
An hour later most of my questions about Darla's perfidy, what I had thought to be her perfidy, were answered. I didn't feel anything, not then, not right then. I would, I knew that, but not then, not right then. My children, the loves of my life, didn't love me, apparently never had, and Darla had had it right, it was a matter of my neglect of them that was clear. Roberto's evidence was very clear on that. I actually heard Jennifer, my little girl, pleading with Darla not to make her go to my place the next weekend. She, Jennifer, had something she wanted to do with, Marty.
Sick? Oh yeah, I was sick. Roberto was going to get a raise because I'd essentially forced him to be in the middle of all of this, and to say it was unfair of me to put him in the middle of it would have been an understatement of heroic proportion.
I went home early. I poured myself a drink and then another. The morning after; well, I didn't feel too good.
I went in to work but not before the afternoon was pretty well in the books. I called Roberto into the office.
"Robby, I'm sorry. Yesterday I didn't mean to . . ."
"Boss, it's okay. Can I do anything? Just name it," he said.
"Yes, as a matter of fact you can. I'm going on a long vacation. For obvious reasons, and please don't try to talk me out of it. You will be the only one in the know about it. I'm not going to be worth much around here for a while, so I'm taking some time off. You're going to be the boss. The others will be called in one at a time and informed of my decision.
"And, Robby, no one is to ever find out what is on those tapes and videos. Just you and me, is that clear? And, I mean especially my ex-wife," I said.
"Yes, sir," he said.
"Also, I want my monthly check, all of it, put into this account without fail each month." I handed him the three by five card. "Tell no one. It's the way I want it. Okay? It's the kid's college fund. Hofschneider will see to any legal stuff you need to take care of while I'm gone; he has my confidence, and he's been informed that I'm going on a long sabbatical. I've already told him that you'll be calling the shots," I said.
"Boss . . ." my look silenced him. "Okay, boss, as you say. But . . ." he’d paused. "How will I be able to get hold of you if I need to," he said.
"You can't. Just handle whatever it is. I'll get in touch with you if and when, well, if and when," I said. He just nodded.
"Boss . . .”
"Robby, this is something that I have to do, and I have to do it alone," I said.
"I don't know where he is, and that guy, Roberto Santana, says he doesn't know either. And, I believe him. For some reason, well, I don't know. Something set him off, drove him over the edge, I think. I just don't know. It can't be something I did, said. I mean I was giving him extended access to the children. He clearly couldn't stand the sight of me being there, but he did say that he did want the kids to be with him. He was equally clear on that. And, it is also clear that he blames me for keeping them from him, and you.
"Marty, maybe you and I did wrong in trying to passively force him to change his ways. He was never going to beg us for anything; he's just too proud for anything like that to ever be effective. I know that now. Shit! And I was ready to grant him unlimited visitation, no restrictions, if he did change his ways. I mean he did double the child support that the courts laid on him, did that on his own. That was something right?" Damn him!" she said.
"Are they with you," said Marty, "the kids?" He was eyeing her.
"Yes, they're in the outer office. Michelle is keeping them entertained while we're in here," said Darla. He shook his head, slowly.
"Boy, this is a problem. He was supposed to take them for the three weeks. Well, we'll just have to take them with us. I'll get the tickets later today. We'll still be able to do most of what we planned together. They have all kinds of programs onboard for the young ones, especially the teenagers," said Marty.
"You don't mind them being along?" she said.
"No, of course not," he said. "They'll be lots of stuff for teens to do."
"You're the best," she said, coming to him. She hugged and kissed him.
Holding him at arm's length, she looked into his eyes. "Marty, I feel bad for Red. Ever since the divorce –ever since you and I married . . . "
"Yes, I know. I know, you need to get him where he isn't so, well, so something," he said.
"The word you're looking for is crazy," she said. He just smiled.
"Yeah, maybe," he said.
At least the day was warm. The park had always been the place where I did my thinking, and I was thinking now. The irony in that? I'd skipped out, and that's what it was, in order to put it all behind me, all of the hurt, and, here I was actively thinking about it. And, not only thinking about it, but trying my best to justify the unjustifiable. What a fool I'd been!
It had all been because of my fucking male ego. She made more than me, so I doubled everything I did to make the extra buck: the ultimate example of keeping up with the Joneses. What a fucking cliché.
Now, I had no children. Now somebody else had my wife and my house. Now, my job, my career, were little more than meaningless avocations. If I could only die. I wondered if death really would give me surcease from my misery. I remembered words in Shakespeare's Hamlet that fit my situation, ". . . to die to sleep, perchance to dream, aye there's the rub, for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil." Indeed, what dreams? Dreams of my babies not wanting to be around me, disgusted with me because of my neglect. Truly my dreams were more than I could bear, that I had not meant to be an absentee dad notwithstanding.
Now, nothing is what I had, and nothing is what I wanted. Helluva thing. The sidewalk seemed to materialize out of nowhere as I walked. The green of the park now at my back, I gazed at the sign in the window across the street: hiring. It was a small ma and pa restaurant by the look of it. Why not?
"Hi, yes, I saw the sign in the window, and, well, I want to apply," I said. The man looked me up and down.
"You want to work here?" he said. He looked dubious.
"Yes, is something wrong?" I said.
"Well, people who work in places like this don't usually wear two hundred dollar wingtips, or clothes that cost more than my car," said the man.
"Appearances can be deceiving," I said.
I'd not given any thought to the way I was dressed when I'd left. I'd abandoned my condo, my car, my closet full of clothes. All I had with me was a small tube bag with a couple of changes of clothes, and a thousand dollars. I was starting over, cutting ties with my old life—wasn't I? All I wanted was some mindless job and to be left alone. This place looked ideal for my needs.
"Really?" he said.
"I was downsized. The clothes will age," I said. The man nodded.
"Okay, my name is Rob Winthrop. My wife, Joanna, and I own this fine establishment. Anyway, if you want a job, I can use you. Can you start today?" he said.
"Yes, sir. Yes I can," I said.
I hadn't done dishes in ages, but I was doing them now. I was doing a good job of it too. Joanna Winthrop turned out to be a very pleasant lady in her early fifties. Over time we talked over everything, well, almost. My familial past remained tucked away in the darkest recesses of my mind never to be resurrected.
I was pouring coffee and stopping here and there to chat with the locals about the usual: the weather, the governor, the price of gas when I saw her. She was eyeing me from the end of the counter where she was sipping her morning brew.
She was pretty, but she was making me feel uncomfortable. I didn't know her. I'd been pushing coffee and morning meals for almost two years for the Winthrops, and I was sure she'd never been in before. Anyone who looked like her I would have remembered. She looked away. By the noon rush I'd forgotten about her.
"Her name is Sally Abrams," said Roberto. "But, Darla, the boss doesn't want to be found. I know I told you that I would do my best. But . . ."
"Roberto, I need closure. And, I have to believe so does he. Why he ran off may be a mystery now, but it's one I am going to do my level best to solve. Got that!" she said. "So if your gal knows anything I want to talk to her."
"Darla, you don't want to know the reason," said Roberto Santana. Her face darkened with the sudden realization that this man knew something. No this man knew "the" thing
"Roberto, you know don't you? You know! I mean the reason! It's been two years. Whatever burr he had up his ass has got to have worked its way the hell out and gone by now," she said. Roberto sighed, no cringed.
"Not this particular burr," he said, finally. Her look was very serious.
"You know the reason, Roberto. You know why he left like that!" she said
"Darla, when he was here last, he was suffering from the way you, and your guy, raped him in the divorce. He had me check to see why the kids were so reluctant to be with him. He thought that you and Marty were turning them against him. I got what he wanted, on tape. What he heard were the kids saying, essentially, well, that they didn't consider him their daddy, but rather saw Marty, well, in that role. It killed his heart, Darla. It killed his heart. That's why he left," he said.
"Huh—wha . . ." she started. "He heard what?"
"He saw the video, and it had sound. The kids were not kind to him. He recognized, I guess, that it was his fault, their being estranged from him, and not yours or even your husband’s. And, he just decided, I guess, that he couldn't deal with it; so, he cut country. I've been managing things for him ever since, me and mister Hofschneider.
"Darla, I'm no psychologist. God knows I've been places like he's at right now. But, not all at once like him. There were just too many things coming at him from too many directions," said Roberto.
"I don't understand," she said. "The kids are just that, kids. He could have . . . and still could, turn it around with them. What would have been so hard about that?"
"You didn't see the video; it wasn't good. And of course, you divorcing him, replacing him with some big ticket law dog, him trying to keep up with you money-wise. Well, and then what the kids said and the way they said it. Well, everything just kinda overwhelmed him. He gave up.
"He ain't coming back, Darla. I just hope he doesn't end it, and I worry a helluva lot that he might," he said.
Her eyes got big. "Mister Santana, we can't let that happen. He is too good a man for that. I'm going to talk to the kids. Then, you and I are going to talk to him! How about it," she said.
"The kids are only part of it, Darla. Like I said before, there are just too many things for him to have to deal with." She slowly nodded, rose, turned, and left. Her look, he mused, was nothing if not determined.
She strode to her car. She was angry. Angry with her former hubby. Childish did not begin to describe him as far as she was concerned. Oh, she was sure that Roberto was right about the way he saw things, her Red. She sighed, he wasn't hers anymore; but then, on some level maybe he was. They did share two children. He'd loved them; she was sure of that. He just didn't know how to show it; never had.
She felt bad for him. But, she just couldn't bring herself to take the blame for his ego being what it was. He could have been a lawyer instead of a cop. He could have made the big bucks. But oh no, he had to do it his way; well, until he couldn't. Now, she was going to have to make an effort to clean up the mess he'd made for himself. Yes, she had to do it, to give herself piece of mind. It wasn't fair, goddamn it, it wasn't fair!
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<a href="https://www.lushstories.com/stories/love-stories/red-and-darla-claytonchapter-one-of-two.aspx">Red and Darla Clayton-chapter one of two</a>