One Slip: A Hard FallbyJoesephus©
When Donna walked through the door, Steve blinked. And then he blinked again. The first blink was caused by his surprise at seeing her there; the second was caused by her expression.
Something about the way she held herself erect and the quivering chin made him think of death and firing squads. Steve's testicles retracted in fear. The hair on the back of his neck stood at attention, as he watched Donna try to form words. The tension crackled. He started to stand, to rush to take her in his arms but something about her body language froze his muscles as solidly as the first time Steve had been supposed jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Involuntarily voicing his greatest fear, he asked softly, "Are -- are the kids okay?"
"I cheated on you with Gil." she finally managed in a strained voice, the last word spat with incredible venom. Her eyes that had been darting around the room dropped to the floor and Steve found himself, incongruously, looking at her clenched hands and not at her face, bravely defying tears.
Steve wondered how and why he was standing; he should have collapsed with the rest of the world. Yet as he stood there, he marveled. He had heard the words, understood what they meant, but he had no reaction to them. Less than if she'd said 'it's about to rain.' Much less than if she said, 'Someone dinged my car in the parking lot.' Nothing, there was nothing there. Donna had just told him that his life was over and he couldn't summon a response. His analytical rear brain searched for a clue that the body lived. No, air was being taken into his lungs, his eyes registered a woman in front of him, and his ears heard that entity make a sound, a sound that his fore brain identified as a forlorn sob. Could a human make a sound like that? A sound so desolate that his humanity demanded that he offer solace to such a tormented soul.
"He's trying to blackmail me with these pictures to make me into a -- a -- a whore."
Steve blinked, then blinked again as the images falling from her hand seemed to freeze in mid air like one of trick scenes in the movies. It seemed he examined those horrid images for a lifetime, for an eternity. Then, his mind sought some way to retreat from those intolerable images. Some way to destroy them. Unable to deal with the reality being presented, the primeval portion of Steve's personality sought a way to change reality. Overloaded with stimuli, he lost awareness of his surroundings.
Still, the civilized part of his brain continued to seek a modern solution, an acceptable way to change this unwelcome new world. While that search was being processed the primitive portion of his brain had its solution, Gil's presence in this world was no longer desirable. Removing him from it would remove one source of the pain. As he marched past the entity sobbing in his office, the civilized porting of his was horrified to hear himself say, to Darlene, "Call your brother, tell him to send the coroner to Gil's office. Tell him to take his time. I'll kill anyone who tries to stop me, so don't rush."
The entity, that had been his wife tried to tackle him. It clung to his arm pleading with him. The sight of it disgusted him. The primitive brain contemplated removing it from the planet also. The civilized portion recognized that he was losing control, descending into insanity. In a determined rear guard action, it managed to set boundaries for his savage. Instead of mindless violence he only said softly, "Get out." His voice now so cold it would shatter steel like glass, the primitive brain issued a Parthian shot. "If I ever see you or hear you've been around my kids I'll make you wish you'd never been born!"
Shrugging the sobbing entity off, he marched to his truck. As he got in, he reached into the well between the seats and retrieved his 9mm Glock. Steve frequently carried large amounts of cash for his construction workers who wanted their wages in cash, so he had a license for the pistol. As the Steve checked its function, it felt good in his hand. Starting his beat-up pickup, he began the five-minute journey to his former best friend's office.
It was the utterly mundane act of stopping for a red light that gave Steve's civilized brain time to re-gain control. A simple question that he asked himself, stumped him. Why did that slim ball need to die? Was it because he was trying to blackmail the love of his life? Steve had refused to listen to rumors of that sort of behavior on Gil's part before. Or, was it the images that had fallen from Donna's hand? Images of her with Gil's cock in her mouth and of her on her back on Gil's desk, her legs spread lewdly, her neck muscles straining as she absorbed his cock. Images that showed her need, her desire, her love? His mind shied, unable to deal with those images... yet. As the light turned green, Steve pulled over and began to think. Almost immediately he knew that while he could kill in heat, he wasn't a cold-blooded killer. Sitting there, thinking, planning, Steve's blood ran very cold indeed.
Reexamining the images seared forever in his brain, he realized that the images were stills from several different security cameras. Gil's new office, had been set up to surreptitiously record events. It didn't take long to formulate his plan.
Two minutes after he re-started his truck, he pulled up to Gil's office, in total control, knowing what he was going to do. He made sure no one could see the gun under his shirt as he waltzed past Gil's secretary. Gil was doing something behind his desk as Steve slammed the door open so hard it almost shattered as it hit the wall. The sound reverberated through the now silent office like a rifle shot.
As it rebounded to click closed behind him, Steve pulled his gun and watched as the blood drained from Gil's face. The sound urine hitting the carpet was a precursor to the raw sewage smell as Gil's bowels released.
Using a voice colder than liquid-nitrogen Steve said, "turn on your cameras, I'm going to give you thirty seconds to make a tape for Nancy and the kids before I settle this. If you do this like a man I'll make it quick, otherwise I'm going to slowly make you regret the day you met me."
Gil looked like a cartoon character as he skittered around his office seeking some avenue of escape or shelter. Steve raised the gun. "If you don't want to say goodbye to your kids, I'll make sure everyone knows what a cowardly bastard you were."
Gil wasn't dumb. Making the recording would buy time, and time was his only hope. The tape of Donna was right on top all the other tapes he'd been gathering to get to safety in case Donna followed through on her threat to go to the police. Keeping his hands in plain view, he activated the system that had made him so much money. It was a simple system, blackmail amateur women to provide sex for customers and then blackmail those clients for more business. He couldn't believe that Donna was destroying him, she'd always been a friend.
Desperately seeking gain a modicum of sympathy, and more time, Gil began a tearful and manipulative farewell to his wife and kids. After a little more than a minute, just as he hoped his ploy might work, Steven's voice from coldest reaches of hell said, "Say goodbye. I'm going to let it roll for a few seconds so they don't have to see the rest if they don't want to."
Every remaining molecule of piss and shit flushed from Gil's body. "Please," he stammered softly the word almost unrecognizable in his terror-constricted voice. "Please I'll do anything."
Impossibly, Steve's voice got even colder, "I might have been able to forgive you cheating with Donna in a moment of hot passion but you cold-bloodedly tried to turn my wife into a whore."
Sensing a possible escape Gil whined, "No, I'd never do that to Donna, I just wanted her again. I love her, really I do."
Steve's voice now a few degrees colder than absolute zero said, "You're not blackmailing other women for your business?"
Unable to deny it, with the evidence scattered on his desk, Gil, clinging to the last tendrils of hope, tried a different approach. "No, I do, I have a half dozen that's why I don't need Donna for that. Look, I have the tapes of them right here. Donna's special. You know me. I'm not like you. I can't keep it in my pants and Donna... I'm so sorry Steve, really I just lost my head and then when she didn't want to continue, I thought I could use the pictures. You can't blame me, Donna's the finest woman I know, and I couldn't help myself."
Steve let a little incredulity seep into his voice and let the coldness warm to merely artic. "You swear that's true, you swear your oath, freely given like this was a court of law, in public where everyone can hear that you didn't intend to blackmail Donna because you already had enough women under control?"
Hope springing eternal, Gil began swearing by every value known to man. He swore he'd say the same thing from the steps of the courthouse and that he would do anything to make it right. He didn't even slow down as he heard the sirens approach, and he was still in full confession mode when the police announced their presence.
Steve's voice now cracked like a whip. "Gil, get your sorry ass out there before I change my mind."
As Gil opened the door to his office to flee, Steve made sure that Gil saw him hide the gun in Gil's desk. Rushing into the arms of the police, Gil screeched, "He's hidden the gun in my desk, arrest him he's trying to kill me." Steve turned to the officer and said in a clam normal voice. "I think he's having a nervous breakdown. He called my wife and said he was going to commit suicide, so I rushed over here only to find him with my gun to his head."
Gil was frantic. "He's lying, I've got it all on tape he was going to kill me, you can see it all..."
The deadly smile on Steve's face stopped Gil in mid word. He'd just removed any chance that the tape he'd just made wouldn't be admissible in his own trial. It was at that point that Mike, Darlene's brother walked in. He took the tableau in at a glance and listened as his sergeant recapped what had been said. Looking intently at Steve, he said, "I'm going to have to arrest both of you, where's the gun?"
Steve looked completely relaxed and said, "I put it in his middle drawer. It's unloaded, but I didn't want to make any of your guys nervous. The rounds are in my truck. You're gonna want to see the tape."
Mike still looking Steve in the eye said, "Darlene called and told me what's going on. I told her to contact your lawyer, he should be here any second. Is there anything you want to say before I read you your rights?"
Steve returned the steely glare. "I'm not sure I committed any crime, but I do know you have evidence on that tape he just volunteered that's going to send this bag of shit to prison for a long time. All I ask is that you make sure that if I make bail that bitch I married isn't around me or my kids."
Because Darlene had been talking to him on his cell phone as he'd rushed here, Mike understood that Steve was asking that the tape of his wife disappear before his kids had to see it. Still there was so much pain and hostility in that voice that Mike was tempted to say something, but it didn't look like Steve was in any mood to hear it.
Four hours later Steve walked out of the jail looking for his truck. Darlene and her husband Bill, one of Steve's site foremen, were beside him. Bill had brought Steve's truck from Gil's office and would ride home with Darlene, who had come to post bail. As it turned out, no charges had been filed yet on Steve. The DA had watched the video made in Gil's office and had concluded that he would need to go before a grand jury to seek an indictment. Privately he told Steve that he would be astounded the Grand Jury didn't no bill him, but that he would be grateful if Steve would keep in close touch.
Steve, escorted by Darlene walked to his truck, his mind had been so focused on what he was doing with Gil, and getting out of jail, that he hadn't given a single thought to Donna or his children. Darlene put her arm on his gently as he unlocked the door to his battered pickup, "My sister-in-law Pat is with your kids at our house, Donna isn't at home, but she's desperate to talk to you, don't you think this would be a good time to let her see you?"
The images that had fallen from Donna's hand exploded into his brain, and Steve felt the pain crash in on him. Suddenly he was finding it difficult to breathe as the air was sucked from his lungs and he couldn't seem to inhale. Steel bands where squeezing his chest ever tighter. Then, at first camouflaged by his emotional pain, he became aware that someone had smashed him in the chest with a sledgehammer. That pain exploded paralyzing his body. His mind marveled, 'it really does feel like an elephant sitting is sitting on your chest.' Unable to support the pachyderm, he slowly collapsed. The physical strength he'd always taken such a secret pride in, failed him. Grabbing Darlene's arm, aware he was dying he managed to croak, "Don't let that bitch near me, she's killed me."
Steve's world began to go black just like one of those old cartoons. His last thought was 'where's the tunnel of light?'
Chapter 2 At the Hospital
In the grim black and white ruins of Donna's world, there remained window of hope. One magic portal back to the land of colors and living creatures, but blocking the door like a lineman on a pro football team was Darlene's husband Bill. Rational thought had died for Donna when she got Darlene's clipped voice mail in her hotel room. "Steve's had a massive heart-attack, they don't think he'll make it, DON'T come to the hospital, but you might want to start getting the legal paperwork together. We've got the kids here at the hospital. We'll take care of them. He Doesn't Want You Here! Do NOT Come Here!"
She hadn't processed the whole message, only that the center of her life might be dying. She was vaguely aware that her field of vision narrowed until it was like looking through two toilet paper tubes. She was oblivious; her brain was filtering out everything not related to getting her to her husband. So tightly was she focused, that she never considered the reason for her husband's heart attack. She wasn't able to conceive what life would be like without him. Somehow, she had managed to drive her new BMW to the hospital, but she'd left it, door open and engine running, parked on the sidewalk in front of the hospital. She hadn't even stopped to think about her kids. Her children were the planet that her moon orbited, but Steve was the sun at the center of her universe. The children would grow up and leave but the sun; the sun was the source of life.
Her vision narrowed further, her rational brain knew that Bill couldn't stop her, but primitive brain insisted on physical action. Pausing about twenty feet away, she said, "Bill, that's Steve in there, I've got to see him, take care of him. I can't let him die!"
Bill snarled, "What you want doesn't matter you damn slut, the only way you're getting in there is with the National Guard using fixed bayonets. You've killed him and his last words were to keep you away, and by God and all the saints, that's what I'm going to do." What happened next was right out of the keystone cops. As Donna rushed for the door, Bill put his hand out like a traffic cop, and Donna collided with it. She hadn't seen the wet floor signs. So when she skidded into him, his push caused her to lose her balance and with a piercing scream her head crashed onto the hard floor.
As she lay in a disheveled boneless heap in front of Steve's door, fighting to hold onto consciousness, she heard Bill's angry roar. "Nurse get someone to get this piece of shit off the floor, my friend is going to die in peace." The pain from the verbal kick was far worse than the fall. It eclipsed her sun and the darkness consumed her.
She awoke in a hospital bed. Monitors, with an incongruous cheeriness in view of their function were chirping softly. She felt wonderful! But it only took a second to realize that there was an artificial patina to her exuberance. Someone had given her a 'happy pill.' It took several second to remember Steve and the reason why someone would drug her and she then she was furious. At least as furious as the 'happy pill' would allow. Her husband might be dying and no one should try to mute her responses to that. Before she could begin working on righteous indignation, the reason for his heart attack crashed in on her and she was grateful for anything that dulled her awareness. Donna wept.
Even with her senses dulled, she felt a kernel of resentment form. This wasn't fair. She was sorry, more sorry than she'd ever been about anything in her life, about what she'd done with Gil. She would do almost anything to make up for it, but it hadn't been this important. Certainly, not important enough to take Steve away from her, to ruin her life. A mindless half hour of sex shouldn't be able to destroy her world. That wasn't fair! Steve's response was all so out of proportion to what she'd done. The act hadn't meant anything to her, just a momentary lust that got out of control. It would never happen again and... and well Steve would just have to forgive her. But what about everyone else? Was there any way everyone else might somehow ignore what she'd done?
'Happy pill" or not, a tiny vacuum developed in Donna chest! It could happen, her world could end over something so stupid so vacuous. It was just a tiny little slip, how could a stolen half hour ruin her life? The scorn on her friend Bill's face, his demeanor and the contempt of his words reverberated and sank in. He knew and he despised her for what she done. She wanted to rush to Bill and plead for understanding, to explain. But how could she explain what she couldn't understand? She didn't deny her responsibility, but she had never thought about trying to explain it?
She shook her head again. These sorts of earth shattering results should require months, years of planning, not a mere half hour of lust that ultimately was simply messy and not magnificent. Then another thought intruded. 'Why rush to Bill and not to Steve?' she wondered. The vacuum in her chest threatened to consume her heart as her mind skittered around the edges of the concept of life without Steve, that Steve might have already died not understanding how supremely unimportant that half hour had been in her life.
The idea that she might not have the chance to fix this was... intolerable! Tears flowed down her cheeks and huge wailing sobs consumed her as Donna again surveyed the bleak colorless post-apocalyptical ruins that had been her idyllic life. Mired in dark depression the 'Happy pill' overpowered her and she slept.
Steve had been in a place as devoid of life. He was searching, languidly, for a tunnel of light when he heard a scream. Donna needed him! He had to help her! She was in trouble and he could no more ignore her than he could will his heart to stop, less so. Even in so distant a place her voice was a beacon he could follow. As that voice echoed in his mind, it became the lantern he needed to find his way, a reason to live, a focus of a desire to continue.
It wasn't until he reached the threshold that he saw the devastation of his life and dreams. As he reflected on that scene, he slowly oozed back from the harsh glare. The questions were painful to ask, much less answer. Did he really want to continue? To continue to Donna and the pain? On the cusp, without making a decision, he began to slide back into permanence of that velvety blackness.
Then, he heard a new voice, "Daddy? Daddy can you hear me? Nurse! Nurse, something's wrong, please hurry, please! Daddy, hold on please, Daddy please. Jimmy, Sarah hurry, I'm... hurry help meeee!"