When We Were Married Ch. 06AbyDanielQSteele1©
Like a lot of people who held my kind of job, I half wanted the case, yet halfway hoped it would pass to someone else.
And I promised myself that if it came to me, I'd make sure Jimmy, the husband of Debbie's younger sister, Clarice, was called in. I had heard enough to know that he had resources in black Ops he could call upon, and I wanted someone who was of our blood protecting Debbie and the kids if that day ever came.
The routine, the job, was good for me. I stopped thinking about Aline, about Debbie, about the past and what couldn't be changed and the future and what might be coming. I could just do my job.
At 11:45 a.m. Reverend Montgomery stormed in. That is, Cheryl had barely enough time to say, "Mr. Maitland, Rev. Montgomery is headed in to see you."
If this had been a cartoon, steam would have been hissing from his ears. He pursed his lips tightly and gave me what was probably an intimidating stare.
"I don't know what hold you have over Edwards, but I want you to know the black community is not going to let you railroad a good police officer into prison, Maitland."
"Well, hello Reverend, and how are you today?"
He breathed hard.
"Extremely upset, Mr. Maitland, and you know why. Despite the urgings of the African American community and the police community, you have decided to go forward with this witch hunt designed to put a good police officer into that hellhole of a state prison at Raiford. You know as well as I do that that is tantamount to a death sentence.
"What's worse, you have somehow managed to intimidate the duly-elected State Attorney to be derelict in his duties and refuse to order you to step down. I don't know what hold you have on him, but it must be truly powerful to convince him to commit professional suicide."
I tried to be as low key and calm as possible.
"Reverend, I'm sorry I've upset you. At the time we last spoke I told you I hadn't come to a decision on the disposition of Office Smith's case; I since have. All I'm doing is bringing the facts before a grand jury and allowing representatives of our entire community to make the final decision on how to handle the case. I would think you'd be glad to have the decision made by a cross-section of the community and not by one man."
He just gave me a long look and then sat down in one of the chairs and got up again as quickly as if he couldn't bear to be still.
"You truly are smoother than duck shit," he said, dropping the Reverend guise for a moment, "You know the right words and the right tone, but I'm not some idiot reporter or Chamber of Commerce law and order booster. You and I both know you're running this show and whatever happens to Smith is on your head."
"You're exaggerating my influence, Reverend. I think all that 'Angel of Death' nonsense is getting to you. It is quite possible the grand jury will hand down a nolo and refuse to indict Smith. Grand juries tend to be reluctant to indict police officers minus some overwhelming evidence of wrong doing."
"Only this time they won't, will they, Mr. Maitland? You think you can get away with this because you have your boss buffaloed. You have some dirt on him or what? But let me give you some advice. You do this and you'd better get ready for protest marches in front of this office every day – for as long as it takes. Our community will picket your home as well, not just YOUR condo, but the house in which your ex-wife and children currently reside. There will be television crews and radio reporters and media trucks and everybody in the neighborhood will know they have a nest of white racists in their midsts."
I stood up from behind my desk. Something must have passed across my face because Montgomery backed up.
"You realize you're threatening my family to frighten me off from pursuing this prosecution?"
"Not at all," and he smiled. A partial smile but he knew what he was doing.
"You know we are perfectly within our rights to picket your home and actually anywhere else we think we can pressure you to drop this unjust prosecution. The Constitution protects our free speech and assembly rights. If it inconveniences some, or possibly causes an illogical fear, that is not our problem."
"Like you said, Reverend, smooth as duckshit. But you and I both know the impact of shouting protesters, camera trucks parked all over neighboring lawns, the crazies that always come out at such events.
"And if something happens to my son, or daughter, or ex-wife, well, you had no idea something like that might happen. Right?"
"No, I don't know that anymore than you know that Shawn Smith will be indicted and probably convicted."
We stared at each other for a moment.
"I don't want to do this, Maitland. I think you're a piece of shit, but I don't want to force your ex and your kids to pay for your persecution of Shawn Smith. However, if you go ahead with this, we'll have to start the ball rolling and they will be sucked in. Don't go to the grand jury. I'm not a bad man, Maitland, no matter what you may think now. I don't want to have to live with myself if anything happens to them."
"We're at an impasse, Reverend. I'll make sure my ex-wife and kids are somewhere else when you start your protests and I'll use every resource of this office to prosecute anyone who makes even a threatening gesture against them if you do find them."
I used my best intimidating stare and tried to visualize him in a prison jumpsuit.
"Maybe I'll be able to nail you. Maybe I won't. You'll have to decide, in the words of that old Clint Eastwood movie, 'Do I feel lucky'?"
Stepping to the door of my office, he said, "I'd ask you the same question, Maitland. Do you feel lucky?"
After he had left, I sat thinking for awhile, and then I headed up to Edwards' office.
Myra said, "He's inside, Mr. Maitland."
I went inside. He was sitting behind his desk, looking through a file.
I stood there and after a few moments he looked up at me. He looked tired. He looked his age, where he usually looked strong and energetic and maybe in his late 40s. Today he looked every bit of his nearly 60 years.
"I just talked to the Reverend. Thank you for refusing to take me off the Smith case."
He shook his head.
"Why thank me for something you blackmailed me into doing. You know that's the only reason I'm letting you go ahead."
"Myra came down and talked to me. She thought you'd say to hell with it and just fire me. Why didn't you?"
He put the papers down and leaned back in his chair. That easy smile was gone.
"I took some time and thought it over. If I let you go ahead, I'll be crucified by cops and the African American community. If I fire you, I'll probably have most of the newspaper and television editorial writers after my head. Worse, the average Joe SixPack that doesn't read beyond the headlines will only remember that I'm another corrupt politician cutting deals. They won't remember the name, just the stink associated with it. That's what will kill me.
"Oh, don't get me wrong. I still think I'm probably sunk in next year's elections, but I think letting you go ahead may be slightly less damaging than firing you. Because you'd do every damned thing you threatened. I know you, Bill."
I didn't sit down.
"I know you disagree with me, but I think you're wrong, Austin. The cops and the blacks will be upset with you, but you have a year to mend fences. And the media will spin this that you're an incorruptible prosecutor willing to take on his own side to find justice. Calvin Coolidge got to be president bucking cops, and Thomas Dewey almost made it as a tough crime fighter. You're not dead yet."
Edwards gave me an almost-smile, then looked down at the desk. I think it was one of the private political, name recognition polls he had run every once in a while to see his standing in the public eye.
"You might be right, Bill, but I doubt it. And I don't think you even realize why you're doing this."
I just looked at him curiously.
"I know you think you're doing this out of deep moral conviction, do the right thing and all that crap. But you can't see yourself clearly. Nobody can.
"From where I'm sitting, you've never recovered from Debbie dumping you. You almost went over the edge and I very graciously sent you on a cruise to recover and you wound up falling for another woman who put you back together again. Now SHE's dumped you."
There was pity mixed with anger in his gaze.
"You're still off-kilter. Your head's not on straight, Bill. I think you're trying to destroy yourself the way you did with alcohol. I think you want to be fired, want to be driven out of a life that's let you down, that's hurt you. I think you want to be forced out of your safe, comfortable womb here and given a chance to start over new somewhere else."
"I can see how it might look that way, Austin. But I don't think it is."
He rubbed his chin.
"Doesn't matter whether I'm right or wrong, Bill. I'm going to give you that chance for a fresh start."
"You're firing me anyway? After what you just said."
"No, go ahead with the grand jury. See it through. But once that's done, in a respectable time, I want you to resign and go somewhere else. Maybe a few months after the start of the New Year. Take until the Spring.
"But I don't want you by next Summer. That's long enough there won't be any appearance that you're leaving because of Smith.
"And," he said, "I'll write you any references or recommendations you want. You are a very good attorney. Anyway, the 'Angel of Death' can probably go anywhere he wants and get a job, prosecution or defense, although it might do you good to go back on the other side for awhile. It pays better and you would have a better chance at a private life."
We were both silent for a long time.
"You sure that's the way you want it, Austin?"
"Yeah, I was pissed at you, but I knew what I was getting when I made you my number one. It's just that I don't think I want you around here anymore. I think it would be bad, especially if I go down in flames next November. I'd look at you everyday and blame you. It wouldn't be comfortable for either one of us."
Finally I said, "All right, Austin, I'll start checking around."
As I walked by Myra I saw her working on her computer. She glanced up at me for a moment, but for the first time in a long time, she wouldn't meet my eyes. She knew.
I sat in my office for a few minutes when I got back. I didn't lock the door but I asked Cheryl to keep anyone away that she could. I sat back, then spun my chair around to look at the pictures on the wall, the plaques, the evidence of a decade lived as a prosecutor.
The kids had been little when I'd taken the job. Debbie and I still had a good marriage. It had been a different world.
Now it was all going away. I wouldn't stay here. I knew that in the moment Edwards had told me my time here was ending, which meant that at least, in a way, I'd be leaving the kids behind. I hated that.
I'd be leaving a job I loved, and now hated at least a little bit. I'd be leaving Debbie. I might be able to start healing if I didn't have to see her every day and remember all the years we'd had together.
The intercom buzzed.
"You have a visitor."
She didn't even tell me who.
I didn't turn around.
"Hello, Debbie. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"I had a minute. Can we talk?"
I spun around. It hit me like it did every time I saw her. Women weren't supposed to look that good when they were approaching 40. Why the hell wouldn't she show her age?
"I just wanted to ask you to be careful."
"I've heard about the Shawn Smith case. There's a lot of buzz among the cops that he's coming unraveled. They say he's drinking, and talking crazy talk. Talking about getting you before you get him."
"Talk is cheap. He knows things are coming to a head and he's scared. I don't blame him. He's got a 50/50 chance of walking away, but not many people would risk their life on those odds."
"You mean he's a desperate man who carries a gun, knows how to use it, has killed people with it, and thinks you might send him to prison."
She surprised me by coming around my desk. I pushed my chair back a little. She stood close enough to me that I could smell her perfume. And under it I could smell her scent. I started getting hard despite myself. She'd always had that impact on me until the last few years when had I gotten so old that that scent didn't make me want to throw her down and spread those luscious thighs? How could I have forgotten? But I had, and now when it was too late all that came flooding back into my mind and my body.
"I've always known more about your work than you wanted me to. People talk. I'd see memos. I looked at your paperwork when you were asleep. You never knew I snooped, did you? When did you start thinking I was just another stupid soccer mom?"
"I never thought you were stupid, Debbie. You were smart enough to leave me out of your life for years, fool me into believing you were still my wife."
"Only because you never cared enough to check up on me. You never cared enough to wonder where I was all those nights."
"Because I promised you once upon a time that I was going to trust you."
"Trusting someone doesn't mean not even getting curious those nights I came in late and never said anything about where I was. I wasn't sleeping around, but any normal husband would at least have asked me where I'd been. You didn't even ask."
"You told me you weren't cheating and I believed you, which makes it worse. You didn't even have the excuse of having another woman to distract you."
I shook my head and pushed myself as far away from her as I could.
"Stop, Deb, I don't want to rehash this shit. It's the past. What's this have to do with anything today?"
"I know you, Bill. Better than you think or know. You don't have the sense to be afraid of things you should be afraid of. Shawn Smith is dangerous. He shot three men to death, one of them in the back. I want you to be careful, look out for Smith and make sure you have someone around you. You've got investigators, people who carry guns. Assign yourself a security detail. If nothing else, for Christ's sake, start carrying a gun."
She was leaning toward me and I put out my hand to stop her. I didn't want her to get close enough to touch. It was hard enough being in the same building with her.
"He's scared, but he wouldn't be crazy enough to shoot a prosecutor, especially when he'd be the first person they look for."
"Scared people don't use logic, Bill. You should know that. Are you trying to get yourself killed?"
I felt like a trapped animal. She just wouldn't go the hell away and I couldn't get past her without touching her.
"Look, Debbie, I'm touched that you care. I'm not being sarcastic. It's...I know you are probably worried. That's why I never told you everything that goes on here. I knew you would have worried but, really, this is not worth worrying about. I've had people threaten to kill me before, people who could have and would have if they'd had the chance, and I'm still here."
Then she had my hands in hers and she was staring down at me. A simple touch shouldn't be that intense, but for a moment I couldn't breath.
"I'm not asking you for myself, Bill. I know I don't have that right anymore, but you have two kids who love you. You've re-established bonds with them and you're a better father now than you have been in years. Take care of yourself for their sake. I don't want to take them to your funeral.
"Not for a long, long time."
She released my hands and stepped back, then walked out of my office with only one glance back at me. I could feel her touch long after she'd gone.
Why, why, why the fuck had she taken Doug into my bed. I could see her in my mind's eyes screaming in pleasure as he rammed his cock into her, because she'd done it when I fucked her. And I knew I'd never get that image out of my head which meant there'd never be a tomorrow for us.
SATURDAY, JUNE 1, 1985 – 9 P.M.
I was scarfing up the remains of a cold pepperoni pizza with some lukewarm and flat Pepsi when the door to the room swung open. Debbie stepped in, as usual preceded by those unbelievable tits.
If I could have sold semen by the quart, the amount I'd wasted in the bathroom jerking off thinking about them and other assorted parts of her anatomy could have financed my college education.
She took in the picture of me on the bed surrounded by books, cold pizza, flat Pepsi and a couple of Playboy centerfolds on the walls of my room that didn't come close to being as hot as she was fully clothed and just grinned at me.
"What am I going to do with you, Bill. I guess you can take the boy out of Palatka, but you can't take Palatka out of the boy."
I had made the mistake of telling her somewhere along the line that when we'd moved south, my Mom and had taken me to Palatka for a year before moving up to Jacksonville. Now she never hesitated to remind me because for some reason, in her mind Palatka was the ultimate hick town.
"It's Saturday night, the middle of the summer, the living is easy, professors are bored, and the girls are horny, and you're in here eating old pizza and reading textbooks and jerking off when everybody is gone."
I guess I started to blush. Even after knowing her for two months, that mouth of hers surprised me sometimes.
"Debbie..." I started.
"Come on, Bill, now you're going to tell me you're the only guy among thousands of males here who doesn't jerk off. Or are you getting so much action you don't need to use your hand?"
"Anybody ever tell you you got a mouth on you, Ms. Bascomb?"
She made a sucking motion and even though she was playing I got so stiff I couldn't have stood up right then without embarrassing myself.
"Actually," she said, gesturing with her hand as if she was giving a blow job, "guys have always told me I have a great mouth."
I tried to think of a clever comeback to that but the words stuck in my mouth. I finally said, "Anyway, what are you doing out alone on a Saturday night? I thought that was against your religion?"
An emotion that I could almost believe was disappointment flashed across her face for an instant, but I knew I was reading something into them that I wanted to be there and, in reality, it wasn't.
"I'm on my way over to CC's place. Some people are getting together there, listening to some music, smoking a little dope, just hanging out. I didn't feel like doing anything so I'm headed over there; halfway there I thought about you and figured this is what you'd be doing. It's depressing as hell, to be honest.
She stood there in front of me and reached out with one slim hand.
"I probably couldn't enjoy myself tonight thinking about you here alone. Come with me and eat something, have a few drinks and a couple of tokes. You might get lucky and hook up with somebody and then you wouldn't have to beat your own meat. You'll go blind if you do that too much, you know."
I pretended I couldn't see her and gestured with my hand as if I couldn't find hers, saying, "What happened? I'm blind."
She pulled me to my feet so hard that we bumped fronts and the soft pillows of her breasts cushioned the impact, but her nipples were hard enough to cut glass. She wasn't so tall that we didn't' press our important parts together. Then she moved back and she might have been breathing hard. I know I was.
"Idiot," she said softly, "you know that's the only reason I hang out with you. You're so weird you make me laugh."
"Whatever it takes," and although I knew she didn't realize it, every word was the truth. If she was with me only because I made her laugh, I'd take it.