Dexter's Renaissance Ch. 01-02

bycoaster2©

I suspected that was the result of her affair but I monitored her e-mails to Randall just to make sure I hadn't aroused her suspicion. Aside from a reduced sex life, I thought I behaved pretty much as I would have in the past. It wasn't always easy. There were times when I was very angry and had to leave the room to cool off but I was careful not to portray the rage inside me too obviously.

In every plan there are risks. It was time for me to take the first risk. I phoned my boss, Tom Yardley, and requested an appointment.

At precisely three-thirty on Friday afternoon I presented myself to Tom's secretary and was told to go right in.

"Hi, Dex. Come right in a make yourself comfortable. Would you like a coffee?" he asked, pointing to the carafe on the sideboard.

"Yeah ... thanks, Tom." I poured myself a black coffee, my hands not being quite as steady as I would have liked them to be.

"What can I do for you?" he asked.

"Uhhm, Tom ... I'd like to talk to you about something very personal and I need to know that what I tell you won't go outside this office."

He gave me the strangest look and was clearly wondering what in the hell this was all about.

"As long as it isn't illegal, Dex, sure. It won't go anywhere from here."

"Thank you. It's a very delicate topic and you'll understand my problem when I lay it out for you."

"Go ahead," he nodded, his eyes riveted on me.

"I have discovered that Sandra is having an affair."

I didn't miss the look of complete astonishment on Tom's face. He knew us very well and I'm sure he was as shocked as I had been with my discovery.

"Are you sure?" he asked, still displaying disbelief.

I handed him a copy of an e-mail I had brought with me. I had blanked out Randall's name just in case he might know him. The e-mail detailed their plot to extract the most money from me they could along with the usual love-talk. I sat quietly as Tom read the message.

"I can't believe it!" he said, shaking his head. "I would never in a million years have thought her capable of something like this."

"Neither did I. Unfortunately, I have about thirty e-mails dating back over a year that indicate how their plan was formed and when they intended to enact it."

"How does this affect Pinecone?" he asked.

"They don't plan to trigger the divorce until I receive the twenty-five hundred shares on my anniversary date. They'll get at least half of that in the divorce and the longer they keep it the more they will be rewarded."

"Jesus Christ, Dex! This is the nastiest thing I've ever heard of. I still can't believe Sandra would agree to take part in it."

"Believe it, Tom. I'm pretty sure her lover is pulling the strings here. He's very knowledgeable about stocks and maybe he's thinking that if he can get the lion's share of my holdings, he can skip with it ... maybe even leaving Sandra holding the bag."

He continued to shake his head in amazement as we talked. Finally, he let out a long sigh and leaned back in his big chair.

"What can I do to help?"

"I need to protect those stocks from falling into the wrong hands. I want you to hold them back until I've rid myself of those two vultures. As long as they are not legally in my possession they can't be claimed as community property in the divorce."

"All right. No problem. What else?"

"Is there any paper around that says you will present me with those stocks on the date of the twenty-fifth anniversary?"

"No. You know me, Tom. Our word has always been good. We work on a handshake and good-faith basis. After nearly twenty-five years I thought that we knew each other well enough to trust each other."

"Absolutely. I just don't want them claiming that I was entitled to the stock and the paper trail proves it. Right now, as far as they are concerned, it's just hearsay. But that does bring up another point."

He looked at me, waiting for me to continue.

"There's a rumour going around that we might be taken over by a bigger firm. If it's true, will my anniversary award be protected?"

Tom chuckled, shaking his head. "I heard about that rumour and I can assure you it isn't true. Quite the opposite but that's not something I can discuss right now. Rest assured, your job and your anniversary bonus is safe."

"That's good to know, Tom."

"Anything else?"

"Yes ... this is a biggee, Tom. I'd like a leave of absence beginning when I've got all my ducks in a row and until my divorce is final or the situation is resolved. However, as far as the outside world is concerned, I'll have resigned and left town and you have no idea when or if I might be back."

"That is a biggee, Dex. You run that department. I can promote Dorothy to replace you but that leaves a big hole in our design staff and a problem for me to handle with Dorothy if and when you come back."

"I've thought of that. Are you still looking for a site representative for the Sint Maarten airport job?"

"Yes. Are you volunteering?"

"Yeah. But here's what I want you to do. I don't want you to pay me. It will tip people off that I'm not really gone and the next thing you know word will get out and my wages might be garnisheed. Just set aside what you would pay me and I'll collect it when I'm ready to get the stocks."

"Okay ... I guess we can do that. Anything else?"

"Tom ... it's got to look like I'm gone for good. We've got a bunch of jobs on the drawing board and there's no reason that I can't be your site guy for some of the less demanding ones. I have some cash and, if I have to, I can live off my RRSP for some time so I won't need immediate access to my salary. I can do my taxes on line so there won't be any trouble that way. All I have to do is set up a mail drop and I should be able to make this work."

"What about the house? You can't just give it to her. Not now."

"No. That one I haven't figured out. The mortgage and the house are in both our names. If I could find a way to have the house in just my name I could mortgage the place to the hilt, pocket the money and leave her stuck with the payments. That part I haven't worked out yet."

"Yeah ... that is a problem. It's almost like you have to start all over again," he said, scratching his chin.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, if you put your house up for sale and bought a new one you could probably work it so that the house was just in your name but the mortgage was in both names. That would leave you free to put a second mortgage on the new house. The court would probably order you to make some kind of payments on the mortgage but if you weren't around, well ... that would make it her problem, wouldn't it?"

"I'll have to think about that. It sounds complicated but right now I'm damned if I'm going to let them get the equity in that house and leave me with nothing. I worked to get that mortgage down and I want to take advantage of it. I'm sure the courts will ignore that but I'm going to do what I have to do to keep everything I can get my hands on."

"Okay, Dex. Just try and keep everything legal. You want to protect your passport and your future here at Pinecone. I'll do everything I can to support you."

"Thank you, Tom. I really appreciate that. I'll keep you informed of what I plan and let you know my timing. Thanks again," I said as I rose.

Tom got out of his chair and walked with me to the door.

"I'm very sorry about what's happened, Tom. I don't know what to say besides that. I'm still having a hard time thinking Sandra would do this to you ... but ... well, good luck," he said sadly, patting me on the shoulder.

I felt better after talking to Tom. He was one of the originating partners of Pinecone and we had a great relationship. In time he would have to tell Wolf Balak, the other partner, what was going on. Wolf was more involved in the marketing side of the business. He looked for any new opportunity that he thought we could handle and would go after it aggressively. He called on architects and general contractors to keep our name prominent in their thoughts. He spoke several languages and was invaluable in keeping the office humming with activity.

So aside from the home equity, I at least had some kind of plan to deprive my wife and her lover of some of their ill-gotten gains. I was weary after the meeting with Tom so I headed home, not looking forward to the weekend. I was getting tired already of the pretending that everything was normal. That was a bad sign. I had a long way to go before I could trigger my plan and I still had one big hurdle to overcome.

I thought about what Tom had said about buying a new house. When I gave it more of my consideration, I wondered if there wasn't a chance to pull it off. It would take some salesmanship and some trickery but I wasn't above doing anything to salvage something from our home.

"Sandra, I've been thinking," I began one evening later the next week. "With Jon in college and Merry at technical school, I was thinking that maybe we didn't need as big a house any more. We've been in this one for almost twelve years and maybe it's time we found something new just to please ourselves. One of these days in the near future we're going to be on our own," I finished, waiting to see how she would react.

"What brought this about, Dexter?"

"I don't know. Maybe it's time we looked after ourselves. You know, be a little selfish," I said, wondering how she would react to that comment.

"Do you have somewhere in mind?" she asked, becoming interested.

"That new subdivision up on top of Albion looks interesting. Decent sized lots, quiet neighbourhood, modern houses with all the features and a price we can afford."

"So ... you've been thinking about this for a while?" she asked, still a bit surprised.

"Yeah. I mean, wouldn't you like a nice new house with all the latest in appliances and features?"

"I don't know. I haven't thought about it."

"Well, it doesn't cost anything to look. We can go and visit a couple of the show homes and see what you think," I said, hoping she would agree.

"Yes ... I guess we could do that," she said, agreeing hesitantly.

"Look ... if it's a bad idea just say so. I'm not trying to get you to do something you don't want to do. It's just a suggestion." It was a risky thing to say but I needed to have her agree on her own and not with me pushing her into it.

"No ... no. You just took me surprise. I wasn't expecting this. Come to think of it, I would like to see what a new house has that we don't," she said, sounding a bit more receptive to the idea.

"Well, the show homes will be open on Saturday and Sunday. Why don't we go Saturday afternoon?"

"Sure. Let's do that," she smiled. She sounded more enthusiastic with her answer. Step one of my mission was complete.

We toured the four show homes on Saturday and I very carefully refrained from any negative or overly-positive comments. Some of the decorating was bizarre but I let Sandra decide that for herself. Just the same, she had plenty to say about the features and the new things she saw in both layout and decoration. When we left just before they closed up for the day I was pretty sure Sandra was hooked.

"So what did you think about the houses?" I asked as I poured her a glass of wine.

"I liked them. They are so much more modern than this house. I was surprised that the prices weren't as much as I expected they would be."

"Did you see a floor plan you liked?"

"I thought the second house we looked at made the most sense for us," she said, picking up the glossy booklet the agent had given her.

"Well, if you like we could talk to the agent tomorrow and get some specifics about what's included and what's optional."

"Yes ... let's do that," she said.

I got the impression she was already visualizing moving into a new home. I suspected, however, that she saw Randall in the master bedroom rather than me. Well ... we'll see about that.

The floor plan she chose was eighty thousand dollars below the market value of our current house. With taxes and fees, it would allow us to make a number of upgrades that would add value to the new home.

"I think we should go for the granite countertops, the Brazilian cherry hardwood floors and the slate tile in the bathrooms and kitchen area. Do you agree?" I asked Sandra.

"Yes, as long as we can afford it," she said.

"By my reckoning, we'll end up with about the same mortgage balance as we have now. It's not as big as our current house but it has all the features we want."

"That would be great, Dexter. I don't look forward to moving but this will be exciting. A new house with everything we want included."

I met with the sales agent on the following Monday afternoon to finalize the sale. I made sure it was in my name alone. He didn't question my request. Perhaps it wasn't that unusual. It would be seven or eight weeks before the home we chose would be ready for occupancy. It was framed, sheathed and roofed and the plumbing, electrical and heating were already installed. They were just starting on the insulation.

The next day I made arrangements to close the existing mortgage and write a new one for the outstanding balance. Sandra's name would be on this document along with mine. I arranged for her to meet me at the bank and we closed off the old mortgage and signed for the new one.

Sandra had contacted a real estate agent she knew and the woman had listed our home at $625k, a little more than I expected. It would leave us some room for negotiation if necessary. I was breathing a little easier at that point. So far my plan was working.

I dropped into a local branch of an international mortgage broker and met with a gentleman about obtaining a second mortgage. It was supposedly for a vacation property we had our eye on. Naturally, the new house would be put up as collateral and since the title was in my name I had no problem in obtaining a commitment for a second mortgage for $350k, depending upon an assessment they would make of the property. I would hold that back until the house was finished and landscaped. They were well aware of the first mortgage.

By the time the new home was finished and turned over to us it was mid-summer. I was becoming very anxious that my escape plan would somehow be discovered but by monitoring the e-mails between Sandra and Randall I couldn't see any sign that either of them was suspicious.

Sandra in fact was praising me for suggesting the new home and delighted with all the features it had. Mr. Teller was downplaying the whole thing, his emails suggesting that not long from now they would be together and that new home would be theirs. I couldn't figure out how Randall thought he would be able to dump his wife and move in with mine and not have a big financial burden to carry in supporting two families.

My getaway was inching closer now. As soon as the appraisal was done, I would obtain the second mortgage and put my final plan into place. Those funds would be deposited into my business account. I met with a different financial investment company where I was assured that I could transfer my RRSP account to any of their branches anywhere in the world. They also assured me that my agent could not block any move that I wished to make, even though it was to another company. That was a relief.

"I'm getting close to being ready to go, Tom," I told my boss.

"Have you got everything you need?" he asked. I could see the unhappiness on his face.

"Yes. Your suggestion about a new mortgage was the answer and I've got all the pieces in place now. I've made another decision, though. I don't plan to divorce Sandra."

He looked surprised. "Oh ... have you had a change of heart?"

"No ... not at all. I just don't want to bother with lawyers and courts and the possibility of alimony that I would never intend to pay. I'm just going to disappear. You, of course, will be one of the very few people who know where I am so I'm counting on you to keep the dogs at bay."

"How will I know where you are? You quit, didn't you? You don't work here any more, do you? I won't have any idea of what to tell anyone who asks me about you, especially Sandra," he grinned.

It was the first time I'd seen anything resembling a smile out of Tom in some time. I hated to go but we both knew it was necessary and we both knew that he wouldn't really be losing me. We arranged a business meeting with dinner on the eve of my departure at a very nice restaurant that neither of us had been to before. Little chance of being recognized we thought.

And so it was done. My life in Maple Ridge was coming to a close. Whether it was temporary or not remained to be seen. My twenty-three year marriage to Sandra was also coming to a close. She didn't know it of course. I was supposedly going on a week long road trip to review some new software programs, starting on a Sunday night. I already knew she planned to get together with Randall the moment I was out the door.

I was scheduled out on a late Sunday afternoon KLM flight to Amsterdam, overnight at the Radisson, on to Paris by train Monday, then Air France to St. Martin on Friday. It was the long way around, but it would throw anyone trying to follow me off the track for a while. Besides, a few days in Paris would be good for my spirits. In many ways, I was going into exile ... voluntarily to be sure, but just the same it was exile.

Almost everything I did to arrange my escape was done on my laptop computer. The plane and hotel reservations, the transfer of funds from my business account to a new international bank, the cashing in of my whole life policies and ultimately, the transfer of my RRSP out of the grasp of Randall Teller and into another safe haven.

It took until Thursday evening before Sandra realized she hadn't heard from me. Perhaps sooner, but that was when I saw the e-mail from her.

Where are you, Dexter? You haven't called. Are you all right? Why aren't you answering your cell phone? Please call me, I'm worried.

Love, Sandra.

She had sent it at eleven that morning, probably just before she got ready to go to work at one that afternoon. Normally she would have heard from me no later than Monday, then Wednesday before I came home on Friday. That was my routine for the last few years when I was travelling. This was different. I assumed by Friday or at the latest Monday, she would be on the phone to Tom asking about my whereabouts.

Randall would be alerted to the move of the RRSP the day I left Paris for St. Martin. That, combined with my "failure to communicate" would let him and Sandra know that I was onto them. That same Friday, Tom would mail a package containing copies of all the e-mails to Mrs. Teller. With all these things happening in a matter of a couple of days, life was going to be very chaotic for the two lovebirds.

I had arranged for the second mortgage to be automatically paid from my new account. With any luck, they'd be a long time figuring out that I owned the house and the new mortgage. The longer it took for them to realize just how much I had screwed them out of, the better I'd feel about it. On top of that, they would have to give up hope of getting their hands on the Pinecone stock. After all, if I had quit I couldn't claim the twenty-five-year bonus, could I? It was one of the few things that gave me pleasure in a time when there was precious little pleasure in my life.

Sandra was sending a continuous stream of e-mails that I was deleting, most of them without reading. I wasn't going to respond to any e-mails other than from Tom Yardley. I wasn't sure when he'd tell Wolf Balak about my situation but I'd let him decide that. At some point, I knew I'd hear from my son and daughter but again, I wasn't going to respond for another week or so. I didn't want to torture them but I also didn't want to reveal what was going on. I would leave it to their mother to tell them what was happening. I would definitely be interested to hear her version. My parents didn't use the internet so they had no way of communicating with me, nor I with them. I would have to look after that in due time.

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