Bette's Beer Shampoo

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She always came home clean.
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It was eight years ago when my wife Marsha got her first shipment of Bette's Beer Shampoo. I didn't understand what all of the excitement was about as she tore open the UPS box, but she was happy, so I was happy. Six brown containers of shampoo that looked exactly like long neck beer bottles. Every six weeks since then, she got another shipment.

Marsha and I had been married for twenty-two years. The kids were both gone. We were comfortable and well off. I was a marketing manager for a small company that made industrial sump pumps. Marsha did not work and never had. We had no problems either financially or personally. And then I screwed it up by getting curious.

I took Marsha's Kia to get an oil change. I happened to notice that she had two house keys on her key ring. I know that is not that unusual, but since I only had one key I couldn't help but wonder what the second key was for. It bothered the dickens out of me, so on the way home I stopped and had a copy made. I guess I could have just ask her, but for some reason I didn't. For the next two months I walked around with that odd key in my pocket.

The first Tuesday of every month is poker night. This month is was at Parker's apartment. Jeff Parker was the Human Resource Manager at Edison Pump Works. We had known each other for over ten years. Parker was the only player in our group of six that was not married. The other four players were also Edison employees. We had been playing together for several years. The host usually supplied snacks.

The only difference this time was the chili that Benny Sisk insisted each of us had to try. It was his wife's favorite recipe. Unfortunately after about an hour we were all quite a bit gassy and the bathroom was getting a good work out. Rather than wait for an opening, I ducked into Parker's bedroom and used the master bath. I finished off the toilet paper and opened the vanity to get a replacement roll. That was when everything went to crap. Prominently displayed on the second shelve was a bottle of Bette's Beer Shampoo. Along side the bottle was a selection of other female cosmetics that looked all too familiar.

The game broke up shortly after that. The chili had gotten to all of us. As I was leaving, I quietly verified that the extra key that Marsha had, worked perfectly in Jeff's front door.

I was worthless at work the next day. All I could think about was the five W's. I knew where, what and who, but I did not know when and I didn't want to know why. I had a fairly good idea about the where by five o'clock. It had to be Friday. The weekly sales/production meeting that I led, lasted from 9AM to 11AM. Jeff Parker did not attend that meeting. It was a long shot, but it was the best possible time for Marsha and Jeff to get together. Of course it could also happen on the weekends when she was shopping or going out for some other reason. I found myself over thinking the whole situation. I wasn't looking for absolute proof: just some small degree of verification.

I left work a bit early and headed downtown. I found what I was looking for at the Far East Market. Luckily, oriental food stores in our area usually carried a selection of Indian items. For ten dollars, I got three cones of henna tattoo dye. Guaranteed to last 7 to 10 days. Would it work? I had no idea. I was actually excited to try it.

Things at home were normal. I was avoiding any confrontation at this point, but I knew that it would come soon. Of course, I was now faced with the new dilemma: what was I going to do after the great reveal. Another sleepless night comparing all of my options and hoping for sleep that was slow coming.

Thursday morning I did something I never thought I would do: I called a headhunter. I never had much use for them before, but things were different now. The guy I selected was the one I felt the most comfortable with. We did a resume update over the phone and I decided on either Charlotte or Huntsville. I told him to get back with me no earlier that Friday afternoon. I didn't want him bugging me to death.

Jeff Parker had an employee benefit meeting that afternoon. I took advantage of it to go over to his apartment and do the dirty. The surgical gloves were a necessity. I emptied all three henna cones into the shampoo bottle and left with a big grin.

After supper I spent the rest of the evening on my computer. Things that I had no concern about before, all of a sudden became important. It was very late by the time I got to bed.

The next morning I noticed Jeff casually exiting the building as I started my weekly meeting. It was going to be an interesting day. I wandered up to the Human Resources office at noon to see if Jeff was free for lunch. I put on my best surprised look when his secretary informed me that Jeff had a family emergency and would be in Baltimore for the next week. On the way back to my office I was wondering if I was going to get a similar call from my wife or if she would be at home waiting for me. I had a sushi bento box for lunch.

My headhunter had three potential interviews arranged for me; two in Charlotte and one in Huntsville. I told him to set up the one in Alabama for Monday and notified my boss I would be taking a personal day. I spent the rest of the afternoon rearranging my finances and killing time.

Marsha was sitting at the kitchen table gripping a coffee cup when I got home. She had on a pair of old sweats. Her blonde hair was partially covered with the dark red henna dye which also streaked down her face and neck. She had let her hair air dry and had not combed or brushed it. It appeared that she had tried to wash the dye off of her face, but it didn't work. The parts that weren't dyed, had red splotches from scrubbing. I got the feeling that she wanted to say something, but nothing came out of her mouth.

She didn't see me smiling as I turned and walked out the door. I was planning on a nice rib eye for supper. I think I will enjoy Huntsville.

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