Second Chance Ch. 04byS-Des©
Thanks again to KevH, DawnJ, and Aruban who offered so much advice and support, and to those who've enjoyed the previous chapters enough to continue on. I promise this chapter will give you all the answers left open in the previous ones, perhaps even offer a few surprises....
"Tim, it's Donna, I don't know why you believe what you do, but it's not true. Please call me..." He hit a button and the answering machine croaked, "Deleted."
"Tim, where are you? Please, I'm going out of my mind. I didn't do anything, why won't you believe me? I'm begging you, call..."
The messages went on and on. There were over two dozen. As he went from one to the next, the tone in her voice gradually changed, sounding more emotionally overwrought as they went on.
He reached the last one only to find her sounding tired and detached.
"Tim, don't bother trying to contact me. I was willing to listen to whatever nonsense made you believe the worst about me, but I'm done. The way you treated me was unconscionable. I didn't have any idea you could be that cruel. Now you ignore me on top of it? It's too much and I'm not going to beg anymore. I love you and I'm sorry... for both of us. Goodbye."
Something in the tone of her message took the anger right out of him. It was already a forgone conclusion that they were through, but to hear her say it was still crushing. He had been so sure that she was the one he'd be spending the rest of his life with. Now he would have to start all over, if he even had it in him to try.
The distraction of his thoughts caused him to miss the chance to delete the message, and the machine proceeded to the last one. A woman's voice, sounding nervous and uncertain sounded through the machine.
"Yes, uh...this is for Tim Sullivan. My name is Marcie and you need to get in touch with me as soon as possible. I'm going out of town, but I need to talk to you about your wife. You need to know the truth about what happened in the restaurant with Jake. Please don't put this off; you really need to call me right away. I...I don't want to talk about it on the phone, but it's very important. My number is . . ."
Tim stood there in shock, missing the rest of the message. Who the hell was she and how did she know about the restaurant? What did she mean "the truth?" He snapped out of it and replayed the message, writing down her number, completely forgetting about Donna's last message.
Tim walked into the bar, looking around anxiously for the woman in blue jeans and a red blouse. He spotted her at the other end of the room already seated at a booth. She half waved with a grim expression, giving him the impression that she wasn't happy to be there. He headed toward her, troubled by an uncomfortable feeling, like the stillness you sense right before a tornado strikes.
"Hi Mr. Sullivan, thank you for meeting me," she said, not extending her hand.
"Marcie," he replied guardedly. "Your message was impossible to ignore. What's this about?"
"Right to the point, huh?" she said sadly. "Good for you. Well, I don't really know where to start. This is very difficult for me to discuss."
The events of the last few weeks left Tim with no patience for small talk. "Listen, I don't know who you are, or what this is about, but I'm not going to play games. You said you know something about the restaurant and Jake, so start talking."
She nodded, her face reflecting shame. "I guess I can't blame you. It was a terrible thing to do. I was just hoping that it didn't cause a rift between you and your wife."
His temper flared. "A rift?" he said in disbelief. "She screwed her old boyfriend on our anniversary. I threw her cheating ass out of my house. Now please stop wasting my time and tell me what you want."
Marcie looked up at him sadly, "I'm so sorry Mr. Sullivan, I swear to you I had no idea. If I had known, I never would have helped him."
"Jake," she confirmed. "I was the one who helped him trick you."
"Trick?" he said, suddenly feeling sick.
"Your wife never had sex with him. She wouldn't give him the time of day."
"No," Tim groaned. "You're lying. He told me..."
"Yes, he told you exactly what he thought would keep you from believing her. We met right after he moved here and we've," she paused, looking uncomfortable, "we've been intimate on and off since then. A few days before your anniversary, he called me and asked for a favor. He said that this guy who had screwed him over was going to be at this restaurant with his wife, celebrating their anniversary. Jake asked me to help him convince the guy that she was cheating on him."
"The way he told it, you were some awful man who was making his life miserable. He said that your wife used to go out with him, and was making terrible threats toward him at work. My head was telling me how wrong it was, but I wanted to believe him. It took some time for him to convince me, but I finally agreed to help." She looked away, the shame she felt clearly evident on her face.
"We got to the restaurant just after you and sat at the bar. After a while, Donna got up to go to the bathroom. Jake and I followed her, and he waited in the hall while I went inside. When she was washing her hands, I walked up to her with a glass of wine and..."
"And you spilled it on her dress," he finished, feeling distraught at the memory of Donna trying to explain her absence.
"Yes. I apologized and told her that it was going to ruin her beautiful dress, so we needed to get someone to help. I walked out and told Jake to go ask a waiter for some club soda for the stain. It was his plan to keep her in there long enough for you to think something could have happened. I went back in and kept her busy until the waitress arrived. When she did, she took over and I just kept apologizing and tried to keep her talking. Because I spilled the wine on the bodice, she had to take it off to clean it, so the waitress ran out to get her something to put on."
"When she came back, Donna took off the dress and put a smock on. That's when I saw the underwear she was wearing. That was what Jake said he needed, but I noticed that the panties she was wearing were sheer and it was obvious that she...well, you know."
"I told her that my man loved the fact that I did that too. She seemed embarrassed, but told me that she had just done it that day to surprise her husband for their anniversary. I knew it was exactly what he needed and excused myself to go tell Jake everything. Then I went back in and tried to stall them while he talked to you."
She finished her story and looked up at him sadly, "That's everything."
Tim wanted to scream that she was lying, that this was some kind of intricate plot, just to fuck with him. People couldn't be this devious. In the end it was all so overwhelming all he could do was make himself ask, "So why are you telling me now?"
"He was so thrilled with how well it went that he got loaded afterward. When we got back to his place, he told me the truth about everything. I was disgusted with him, but the more I thought about it, the more I hated myself. It was idiotic to believe what he told me and worse to do something that horrible to people I didn't know. He just had a knack for convincing me to do what he wanted. "
"After he finished bragging, he fell asleep. I left and haven't spoken to him since. To be honest, I don't think he's even noticed." Her expression showed disgust. "I felt like the least I could do was make sure you knew the truth. I just hoped that it wasn't too late for you and your wife. Neither of you deserved this and I can't tell you how sorry I am for my part in it."
Tim's mind swam with confusion, trying to sort out the truth from the lies. "So why did it take you two weeks to get around to calling me?" he said accusingly.
She tried to make him understand her regret was sincere. "If you had done something this horrible, would you be anxious to meet the person whose life you helped to destroy? Besides, I did call you several times, but got your machine. I wanted to talk to you in person. This isn't the kind of story you can leave on a machine and hope for the best. I waited as long as I could, but I'm leaving in a few days and don't know when I'll be back, so I finally left a message."
They talked for a few more minutes, but she didn't have any insights into Jake's motivation. Tim wanted to be angry with her, but was too busy hating himself. Still, after everything that had happened, he knew he couldn't just take her word for it. He didn't know who to trust at this point. The only thing he could think of to do was to go back to the restaurant and try to confirm what she claimed.
An hour later, Tim arrived and asked to talk to the manager. He was a well-dressed man with graying hair, who appeared to be in his early forties.
"Hi, my name is Robert, how can I help you?"
Although he had played out a dozen scenarios on how to address what happened, in the end Tim decided the truth was the best. He told the man about Jake's claims, but didn't mention the incident in the bathroom.
"Mr. Sullivan, this is a fine dining establishment. I can assure you that there is nowhere on the premises that an encounter like this man described could have taken place."
"Well," he said, choosing his words carefully. "Do you know about any unusual things happening two weeks ago Friday night? My wife said that there was an incident in the ladies room with another woman and a glass of wine."
"Wine," he said thoughtfully, stroking his chin. "That sounds familiar, let me check." He reached over and picked up his phone. "Tammy, could you find Louise and send her in please."
He hung up the phone and looked at me, "Louise is in charge of the wait staff and would know if anything happened." They waited a moment, then a young woman in her mid-twenties walked in.
"Yes sir," she said formally.
"Louise, did anything strange happen two weeks ago Friday night? It would have had something to do with an accident in the ladies room."
Suddenly her eyes lit up, "Oh, you mean the woman in the Red dress." Tim's stomach exploded in pain so severe that he was forced to wrap his arms around it and lean forward. She gave him a strange look, but continued.
"There was an accident where another woman spilled some wine on her dress. I brought club soda and got her a smock from the kitchen to wear while we cleaned it. She was very nice, but terribly embarrassed about the situation. Are you her husband?"
He nodded, unable to say anything.
"She couldn't stop talking about you and your anniversary. It was so sweet. I hope I'm that happy some day. Did her dress..." She stopped abruptly as he stood and rushed toward the door without a word.
"Did I say something wrong?" she asked as he ran from the room.
Tim walked hurriedly through the hospital doors, hoping to see one of Donna's friends at the front desk. The maternity ward was high security so there would be no way to get in to see her. The best he could hope for was to find someone he knew to try to help. Unfortunately, the two women behind the front desk didn't look familiar. He took a deep breath and walked up to them.
"Hi, I'd like to talk with Donna Sullivan please. She's a nurse in the maternity ward," he added, trying to sound nonchalant.
The older woman eyed him wearily. "And you are..."
He couldn't help letting out a small sigh of disappointment. Her expression wasn't pleasant. "I'm her husband Tim."
She turned to the other nurse and they shared a look. "I'm sorry sir, Mrs. Sullivan expressly asked not to be bothered." He could almost hear the unspoken phrase, By you.
He thought quickly, "Could I leave her a note?"
The first woman shrugged her shoulders. "If you'd like. I'll make sure someone leaves it in her box."
Tim quickly scribbled down an apology, making sure to tell her he knew that she had done nothing wrong and how terrible he felt for the way he treated her. It seemed terribly empty, but he had to find a way to get her to talk so he could tell her everything. He begged her to call any time, promising to meet anywhere she wanted. After signing it "Love Tim" he felt a wave of guilt rush over him, remembering his astonishingly harsh words for her. Feeling humiliated, he handed it to the nurse, who acted as if just touching it was offensive.
Tim thanked her and left, wondering if Donna would ever even see it.
"Oh Tim," Trisha said sadly. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know," he answered. "She won't see me at all. It's been two days and I've been to the hospital three times. Her cell phone is disconnected. I even tried calling her mom, but I'll spare you the gory details. Suffice to say, I won't be getting a Christmas present from my Mother-In-Law this year." Seeing Trisha's distraught expression he quickly added, "But I don't want you getting upset about it. This is my mess and I'll find a way to fix it."
"Donna's got to be hurting so much," she said, wiping a tear from her eye. "She hasn't talked to either of us since just after you left. I told her we couldn't get in the middle and that the only thing I knew was you said you had proof she cheated. I told her if she needed to talk I was here for her, but she hasn't called back. She must believe we'd take your side."
Tim nodded in agreement, feeling his own tears begin to flow. The last two days had been the hardest of his life, far outdistancing the pain he felt at Donna's supposed betrayal. He had thrown away a wonderful marriage based on the word of a man he despised, not to mention the horrible things he said to the only woman he had ever loved. His misery combined with the guilt had been overwhelming.
"At least Pete found a way for me to deal with what I've done," he said with an effort to appear hopeful.
"Your husband took one look at me and told me to go straight to HR and ask Monique for the number of the family counselor the company recommends to their employees. As soon as I find a way to talk to her, I'm going to let her know that I will be going until I find a way to fix the problems I've been dealing with since she came back. I'm not going to stop until I know that I can be the man she deserves. I'm going to make sure she knows it too."
"Just don't you give up, no matter what it takes," she said, drying her eyes.
"That's the easiest promise I'll ever make," he replied.
They hugged and he went to the living room where he met Pete. They walked toward the front door, where Tim's friend leaned in closely and whispered, "You know, there's something else you have to do."
"I know," Tim said quietly, "it's something that should have been taken care of a long time ago."
"So what do you want to do about it?"
He looked at him with a quiet fury burning in his eyes. "I want to kill him."
It was just after ten o'clock when Jake finally stumbled out of the bar toward the parking lot. It only took the private eye four hours to find him someplace away from prying eyes. Tim smiled thinking about how convenient having money could be. He watched the larger man walk toward him with his head down, lost in some thought.
As Jake came closer, he finally noticed the man sitting on his trunk, staring at him. "Hey you, what are you doing on my car," he said threateningly.
Tim couldn't refrain from answering sarcastically, "Aren't you Joey, that washed up football player."
He laughed, "Well, well, well, it's the computer geek," he said mockingly. "How's the wife?"
"We'll be fine, Jake. You on the other hand, have been a really bad boy."
He came closer. "Are you planning to do something about it?"
"What if I am?"
"We did this dance before. It doesn't turn out too well for you. Maybe you should walk away and let her be with the guy she's supposed to be with, like you did last time."
"Oh, this isn't going to be anything like college, Jake," Tim said confidently.
Jake sneered, "Yeah, why is that?"
"Well, in college, you had all your friends around you. This time it's my turn."
He looked around, apprehensively. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means, dumb-ass, that you are in a shit-load of trouble," came a baritone voice from behind him.
Jake spun and to Tim's delight, the color drained from his face as a hulking figure stepped out of the shadows. The man was African-American, standing six foot four inches tall and weighing in the neighborhood of three hundred pounds (although he constantly told his wife he was down to two hundred eighty). Although he had lost some of the muscle that made him an all-American defensive end and a sure fire first round draft pick, he still was a person that made virtually everyone he met step aside when he passed. If it hadn't been for the horrific knee injury in his senior year of college, Tim probably would have never met him.
"Jake, I'd like you to meet my friend Pete."
He looked over his shoulder, trying not to appear unnerved. "Hey, listen, I don't want any trouble," he stammered. He turned back to face Pete, while slowly backing away.
"Mother fucker, you've got nothin' but trouble," Pete growled.
Jake looked around for a way to escape, then evidently decided that he had no other choice, so sprung at him, hitting him with a body block. Tim saw his momentum move Pete back about a step, then he calmly grabbed the smaller man under one shoulder and, using his knee for leverage, threw Jake a good five feet. He landed with a terrible thud on his back, the concrete knocking the wind out of him.
Pete was on him in a flash, sitting on his chest, a knee on each arm to keep him from fighting back. Now helpless, Jake watched as Pete brought a huge hand back and struck him hard across the cheek. Tim watched with satisfaction as Pete hit him over and over.
"That's enough. I think he got the point."
He looked over and nodded. "It's your party." He rose slowly, then added, "This is for messing with my little brother," dropping back down with a tremendous shot to Jake's ribs.
Tim could hear the crack and winced, unable to stop himself from wondering ironically if Jake would be doing his own rehab or if he'd have to hire someone. Pete stood back up and stepped away, leaving Jake writhing on the ground in agony. He looked over to Tim, who moved close.
"You listen to me, you son of a bitch," he hissed, close to Jake's ear. "You got off light. The only reason that Pete got to kick your ass was because he was afraid of what I was going to do. If you ever bother Donna again..." To accentuate the point, he pulled out a modified stun gun he had worked on with the guys in engineering. It had just enough juice to be painful, and leave a tingling that Jake would remember well into the night.
"Ahhhh," he screamed as Tim hit him in the groin with a jolt.
Jake stopped rolling and Tim knew he had his full attention. He grabbed Jake's face with one hand and stared into his eyes. "Do you believe I don't know how to take care of you? Really? Don't ever fuck with my wife again!"
He leaned close and whispered menacingly. "Listen up, I want some answers, and every one I don't believe is going to earn you another little kiss from my toy here, do you get me?"
Jake looked up at him in shock, wondering if Tim had lost his mind. "Are you crazy?" he started to ask, but was cut off by another jolt, drawing a strangled cry.
"Okay, okay," he begged, "What do you want to know?"
Pete watched out for trouble as Tim made sure he got all the answers he was looking for. When he was finished, he stepped away.
"Now Jake, in case you get the idea to whine to anyone about our little talk here, I want to point something out to you. Do you see that brown four door across the street?" he said, pointing at a parked car. When Jake nodded, he continued.