"It's about time to get ready to go isn't it?" Tom asked.
"For the last time, I don't want to go. You know I don't know anyone who will be there and I really don't want to spend the whole night trying to talk to people who I don't know. They're your friends, why don't you just go without me?" Julia whined.
Tom sighed and turned to his wife. He said, "Honey, I've told you and told you it's a welcome home party and I want you to meet the gang I grew up with. After all, most of them are still my friends and we will be socializing with them from now on. Now please just change and let's go. After all, you met and socialized with hundreds of people you didn't know when you were running your business. What's the difference now? I know you can do it. I sure went to a lot of functions with you where I knew no one or very few of the people. Now come on."
"Oh, all right but you owe me big time buster."
Tom was excited about the party they were going to that evening. It was going to be his first big get together with his old friends and acquaintances since he and Julia had sold their businesses and moved back home to Missouri. He had sold a large computer servicing company in LA and his wife had sold her large catering business. They made millions between the two sales and decided to move back to the Midwest where they had grown up. He was more interested in the move than she had been-perhaps because she had grown up several hours away from where they were planning to settle now. They had enough investments to never have to work again and planned to travel extensively. The children were both in college and there was nothing to hold them back now. All they had to do was find a home to purchase, move in and start traveling. Tom's dreams had come true.
Tom had been in the local coffee shop for his morning coffee about a week after they had returned home when he met one of his best friends from high school. When Jerry found out Tom and Julia had moved back to town and were looking for a home he became excited. "Oh, man. With you back in town the whole graduating class will live within driving distance. We can get together and golf, fish and party like we used to cant we? Damn, I've gotta tell the guys. Why haven't you called us yet?" They talked a little more then exchanged numbers. Two days later Jerry called inviting them to the welcome home party they had been discussing.
When Julia came down stairs Tom stood and stared. Her beauty always excited him and tonight was no exception. She was in the proverbial little red dress and she was so beautiful it took his breath away. He moved to her and gave her a gentle kiss then he led her down the hallway and out the door to their car. His parents didn't even come out of the den when they left. They continued watching one of their favorite reality shows on TV.
The party was in full swing when they arrived-fashionably late of course. Julia made it a point to never arrive at a party until at least thirty minutes after it had started. That little quirk always annoyed Tom but he had learned to put up with it. She needed to make her grand entrance and this evening was no exception. She lit up like a Christmas tree when they entered the front room of Jerry's home and people began to notice them. The conversational noise reduced by several decibels as they entered. Everyone in the room stopped and watched as Jerry greeted them and turned to face the room.
Jerry stood beside Tom and Julia and shouted, "OK everyone, the guests of honor are finally here. I know most of you know ole Tom here since we went to school with him. Of course since he married after he left town probably not many of you know this beautiful lady with him. This is Julia, Tom's wife of 23 years. They met in Columbia at Mizzou and he decided he would rather marry her than a hometown girl. Now, let's party and renew old acquaintances and everyone meet and get to know Julia."
Jerry lowered his voice and said, "Come on guys, the bar and snacks are out on the patio." He led the two through the house and onto the patio where he got them their requested drinks. Tom and Julia roamed through the crowd visiting. Finally Julia decided to find the bathroom and left Tom. He was standing beside the bar when he heard shouting and looked up. Perhaps his best friend in high school and college was waving at him as he rushed toward where Tom stood.
When Stan walked up to Tom he had a huge smile on his face. After a hand shake and quick man hug they stood back and began catching up on their lives. Stan was standing looking toward the house as he talked animatedly to Tom. All at once his face went white and he said, "Shit, what's she doing here?"
Tom looked where he was staring and saw Julia talking with two other women. One was Jerry's wife Darlene and he didn't know the other one so he asked, "Who's that? What's the problem Stan?"
"Crap, I used to party with that skank out in LA whenever the company had management meetings. Jesus, I wonder who in the hell brought her all the way out here and what the deal is. Shit, if Janice or some of the other wives ever find out about her..."
"What's her name Stan and how do you know it's the woman you know from LA? I seem to recognize her but I don't know from where. That's my wife there with them. You need to meet Julia anyway why don't I have her come over and meet you then we can see if she can tell us about her. Or maybe Jerry's wife knows her."
"NO! Don't draw her attention. We'll mosey over there as soon as that Black headed skank moves on. Surely Darlene or Beverly can tell us the skinny. Christ could that skank fuck. She ran the catering company we used and she and her girls would entertain the men after the meal for a little-oh, hell, a lot extra. Crystal there charged $2500 a night or $500 a pop. She was worth every penny of it and more. Even at those prices she always turned men away. She would never hurry a John but limited herself to five separate men, any combination. She wouldn't stay much past 9:30 because she said she had to get back to her husband. Christ, sometimes she would let us make her airtight and could wear out five or six of us by herself. I don't know what she made for catering but just the entertainment fees probably made her rich."
Tom felt his eyes get big and his stomach lurched when Stan began talking about his times in LA. He looked at Stan in shock and said, "What? Uh, are you sure? I mean.."
Stan looked at Tom then said, "Hey ole buddy. What's the problem? You don't look too good all at once?"
Tom looked at Stan and grabbed his arm. He pulled him over to two unoccupied chairs and collapsed into one. He felt like he was panting, he was having trouble seeing. Finally he licked his lips and said, "Stan are you talking about the woman in the red dress?"
Stan stood a moment longer then sat beside Tom as he said, "Hell yes, who else could I be talking about? Hell, we know all the other women that were standing there. Most of them have never been out of the state for more than a short vacation with their husbands. Why, do you know her too?"
Tom licked his lips once more then said, "Stan, are you positive about what you just said? Do you have any proof?"
"Well, yeah, shit I fucked her three or four times a year for over ten years. I guess I know her. When Margie divorced me they had PI surveillance from California in part of the evidence. I'm pretty sure Crystal was one of the women they have in the report but I'm not sure now it's been so long. As for proof, hell, do you think I'm crazy? Shit, I'm a married man. Do you think I'd have anything like that lying around? What's the big deal anyway?"
"Crap," said Tom. "Stan that woman is my wife Julia. She owned and operated Crystal's Catering for over 15 years. She just sold it when we decided to retire and move back home. I almost had to divorce her to get her to quit. I just...I just can't believe...But you know, she would never, but never let me see her or make love to her the nights she catered a big do. She always said she was just so exhausted...FUCK!"
Stan was looking at his friend in shock as he saw him wilt before his eyes. Finally he said, "Damn Man. I'm sorry. I just didn't know and..."
The two friends sat in silence watching Julia as she moved from group to group working the crowd. Tom noticed she seemed to pay a lot more attention to the men than to the women and after what Stan had told him he began to worry and think. Damn, what should he do? If he confronted Julia she would get angry and he would be in a world of hurt but if she had been a whore...SHIT, SHIT, SHIT. What should, what could he do?
Stan sat with Tom and stared off into the distance for a while. Finally he said, "Hey Tom. You know I might be able to help you after all. A couple of the big wigs from the LA office always had camera's and video equipment at the meetings. Let me do some checking around and see what I can come up with. Hell, if they had some pictures I might get them to send me some of them. Hell, I can even tell them I think Crystal is back here and I want to see the pictures to see if it is her before I meet with her. I can tell them if it is her I want to use her to cater our meetings here from now on. Would that be OK with you?"
Tom just looked at Stan and nodded his head 'yes'.
Needless to say the rest of the evening was a total bust for Tom. Finally it got late enough he felt they could go home without raising too many questions and he rounded up Julia. When she saw him she asked, "Tom, what's the matter? Don't you feel well? You look like hell."
Tom replied, "No Julie I have felt worse and worse as the evening went on. I just want to get home and get to bed."
Over the next several days it was all Tom could do to be civil to Julie. He knew he had to try and act naturally but it was so hard. Doubt and fear were eating at his guts until he had trouble keeping food down. He was angry with Julia several times and blew innocent statements from her and his parents out of proportion. He would make angry comments then he had to apologize.
Finally, the Friday after the party Stan called. "Hey Tom. Why don't you come out to the country club tomorrow and play a round of golf. A bunch of us usually get together Saturday mornings and we would like to have you become one of the regulars. I have some things I need to talk to you about and I have some of those old pictures we discussed at the party."
Tom felt his stomach lurch once again but knew he had to know for sure. "OK buddy. Is 930 OK?"
Julia came into the room as he was verifying the time and asked, "Is 930 OK for what honey?"
Tom looked up at her and said, "Stan and some of the guys want me to come out to the club in the morning and play a round or two of golf. I told him I would. That's OK isn't it?"
Julia smiled and said, "Of course honey. You used to play all the time. I know how you must miss it. I'll be fine here with your mother."
When Tom arrived at the club he found Stan in the lounge waiting for him. After the pleasantries were out of the way he handed Tom a large UPS shipping box. "I'm sorry Tom but...Well, I looked at these pictures when I received them Friday and it's Julie. I have thirty or forty prints and there is three DVD's. Those guys made movies of several of the parties and watched them. Hell, some of them are almost professional quality. I got horny...OH, Shit. I'm sorry..."
Tom raised his hand and made a throw away gesture then shook his head. He clenched his teeth then said, "Hell, not your fault I married a whore. I just can't believe she managed to work like that and I didn't know. Hell, I know I traveled a lot and she worked a lot of nights but damn. I thought our sex life was great. She almost never turned me down except for the nights she came home so late and...Crap. SHIT. I don't suppose you know a good divorce lawyer do you? I don't care if she has quit now I can't live with what she's done if that was really her..."
"Yeah Tom, I know a good one. In fact, she is a member of the club and she is damn good. She was Margie's attorney when she divorced me seven years ago and...Hey, I wonder if she still has any pictures of Julie or the old PI reports in her files? Let's go see if she's playing today or if she is here. Maybe she can help you out. I don't know though. She and I have history and I'm not one of her favorite persons."
The two men walked through the clubhouse toward the waiting area for the first tee. Stan smiled and said, "You're in luck Tommie old boy. There she is. Come on."
Stan led Tom up to a very well dressed, beautiful woman that appeared to be in her mid 50's. She looked up at him and frowned. Stan said, "Sally, this is Tom Jennings. He's an old friend of mine and I told him you were the meanest shark swimming in this ocean. We...Well, he thinks he might need your services and I told him if he could get you in his corner half the battle would be over..."
Sally stood and looked at Tom for a moment then turned to Stan. "Knowing you as I do I'm not sure I want to represent any of your friends. What did he do-get caught cheating on his wife like you did?"
Stan raised his hands chest high, palm out and said, "Hey Sally. I got caught and you and Margie raped me. I know I fucked up but, well, I guess I feel like I owe Tom and you one. He was, hell he is one of my best friends and...Well, would you please at least just talk to him before you refuse to help him. I'm not sure but if you still have some of the pictures you and Margie used...well, you might be able to use them and some of the PI reports to help Tom. I think, no I'm sure one of the women I got caught with was his wife."
As Stan talked Sally looked more and more angry. She started to say something and Stan broke in once more. "NO, Sally. I had no idea it was Tom's wife when I was screwing around. I first met her officially at a party Friday night. She and Tom sold their businesses and moved back here from LA. She ran the catering company we used for our meetings out there and, well she and most of her girls catered to ALL of our needs at the meetings if you get what I mean. Tom didn't know anything about it until I opened my big mouth. I got some DVD's and pictures sent to me from the guys out in LA and gave them to Tom this morning. I know you don't think much of me but if you could help Tom..."
Sally looked at Tom a moment. Both men could almost see the gears turning in her head as she considered the conversation. Finally she looked at Tom and said, "Come with me. Let's find somewhere quiet to visit for a moment."
They found a secluded arrangement of chairs in the lobby and she sat. Tom sat in a chair beside her. Sally looked at him then said, "Tom my first impulse is to tell you I won't represent you. I have known Stan for years and he has always been a typical sleezeball salesman. I know most of his friends are much like him. Now tell me why you think I should take your case and make me believe you are the injured party here." She glanced at her watch and continued, "I only have about 20 minutes before my tee time so..."
Tom looked at Sally and said, "Well, I guess I am just the quintessential dumb husband. I traveled a lot, started and sold a very successful company. I left my wife alone a lot and she raised two wonderful children for us. When the last one began school she said she was bored and went to work for a catering company-Crystal's Catering. When Crystal wanted to sell, we bought it and Julia began operating it. Within two years revenues and bookings had almost tripled and she began making almost as much as I was. Of course that success came with a price. She worked several seven-day weeks and many late nights. I thought our sex life was suffering because of her and my work. I guess mine may have been but if Stan is right, her sex life sure wasn't suffering."
"Look, I know what kind of guy Stan is but he's always played it straight with me. I'm probably the only one of our class and friends that wouldn't be afraid to leave Stan alone with their wife. I helped get him out of a bad situation at our high school graduation party and from that time to this he has always gone out of his way to do right by me. I..."
Sally's head jerked in shock. She stared at Tom and asked, "Are you the one that helped Stan get his date back from those three boys that had forced her into their car at the after party? I heard they had Stan down and were kicking him while another one held his date down in the back seat?"
Tom smiled and looked out into the distance. He unconsciously began rubbing his left side and felt the small bumps on two of his ribs. He sighed and said, "Yeah, that was me. Even then I knew what kind of guy Stan was but I couldn't let those three kick him when he was down. Besides, I was really afraid of what they would do to that girl. She was so pretty and I could see the one holding her in the back seat was touching her while she cried and tried to get away...God, I can still hear her begging for help sometimes. I have always been so scared something like that would happen to my daughter and no one would step up and help her..."
Sally smiled and said, "Well Tom I don't care now if you ARE a friend of that turd. I'll take your case and you'll get everything I have for as long as it takes. You see, Tom, that little 17-year-old girl was my youngest sister. I was already away at college when my parents moved here to town so I didn't know anyone. If they ever told me your name I have long forgotten it but we always believed you saved her from rape and maybe more."
Sally looked into Tom's eyes and gave him a little smile then she said, "Now, let me see what Stan gave you this morning and let's see what we need to do to make things right for you. Like Stan said, I may have something in my files that will help you but a lot of it I can't use unless his ex wife gives her permission. I'll have my clerk get to work on that Monday."
Tom and Sally were still talking when they called her for her tee time. She looked up at him and quickly scribbled something on a piece of stationary she had picked up from the front desk. She handed Tom the paper and her pen then said, "Quick Tom, sign this contract hiring me and give me ten dollars for a retainer. You need to go on home or wherever now. I hope I can trust you to stay calm? Call my office Monday afternoon for an appointment and we will fill you in on what we have and what we need to do to make this case work for you. I do have to ask, if your wife really did this are you sure you can't reconcile? You need to think about that before we get too far along in the process."
"Sally there is no way I can keep living with that Skank. Just thinking about what she did to me during our marriage makes me sick. I want her served and the divorce over with as soon as possible."
The rest of the weekend Tom was moody and barely civil to Julia. Even his parents noticed the tension between the two. Finally Sunday night when Julia and Tom were getting into bed she asked, "Tom what's wrong? Are you still upset because I didn't want to go to your friends damn party? You've acted like a bear all weekend and I'm getting tired of it. Your mother asked me at lunch if we were having trouble."
Tom looked at Julia and sighed. She almost recoiled when she saw his clenched jaws. She was starting to say something when he began talking. "Julia I'm not sure if anything is wrong. I heard some things at the party that are really bothering me. Some of the guys there were telling me some of the most unbelievable things about someone I've known for years. If they are true I don't ever want to have anything to do with them and I just don't know what to say or do."
"Well honey why don't you talk to them and find out what is really going on? There's no reason to take it out on your family is there?"