When We Were Married Ch. 04C


"Mr. Smith's house was invaded by three large, violent men who had told friends they were going to 'beat that nigger's ass' and take back a woman he was in a relationship with. He was defending himself and his fiancée from these men. There should be no question of NOT exonerating him."

I sat back and thought for a moment. I had to handle this carefully.

"I understand that the three gentlemen in question did make that threat and did use the 'N' word, Reverend. There's not much doubt about that. Of course, a lot of black -- and white -- males use the 'N' word indiscriminately and so that is not proof per se that they were racists out to lynch Mr. Smith.

"There is also evidence to indicate that Mr. Roper, and his brothers, were simply going to Mr. Smith's house to retrieve Roper's wife. She was still married to him, and was now living with Mr. Smith. We have all the ingredients for a fairly standard domestic violence situation.

"Where the situation goes off the rails is that there are indications the three men were unarmed and that Patrolman Smith not only shot two of them to death after they forced their way into his home, but also shot Roper's brother to death as he was trying to run away OUTSIDE Smith's home."

Montgomery's voice rose.

"Police recovered a handgun that the three men brought into Mr. Smith's home. They came armed and prepared to harm him and his fiancé. He was perfectly within his rights to defend himself and he said he thought the third man was running to their truck to retrieve another weapon."

I just looked at him for a moment.

"Oddly enough, the weapon they were supposed to have taken into Smith's home was not registered and there is no evidence it belonged to any of the Ropers. There has even been speculation that it might have been what is sometimes called a 'throw-down' gun, that police drop at the scene of questionable shootings to claim self defense."

Montgomery looked like he was going to explode.

"That is an almost libelous statement, Mr. Maitland. If ..."

"If, what?"

He stared at me. "Let's be frank. If he were white and three black men had invaded his home, you'd have exonerated him months ago. He is being left to twist in the wind because of the color of his skin."

I stared back and tried to keep my expression neutral.

"Let's be real frank, Reverend. You're accusing me of being a racist."

"If the shoe fits...?"

"There's only one racist in this office, and you know who it is. If Smith were white and had shot down three unarmed black men, one of them in the back, you'd have your church and the local chapter of the NAACP marching in front of this courthouse every day."

He just rubbed his chin and then said, "I, and my fellow clergy and members of the African-American community expect you to do the right thing and issue a report clearing Mr. Smith of any wrongdoing within the month. Or we will be forced to take other action."

I shook my head and said, "Not going to happen. I'm going to weigh the evidence and I'll make the decision when I see fit. Not you, not the clergy and not the African American community."

Montgomery slowly got to his feet.

"We are well aware of your reputation, Mr. Maitland. You've gained local fame as the so-called 'Angel of Death,' but you've always been known as a man who does what he wants with the power you wield. You seem to think you stand above and beyond the normal restraints on political figures."

"Because I'm not a politician."

"Your boss is."

"Austin Edwards is not your typical politician."

"No, maybe not, but he is a politician. Everyone knows he is using this office as a stepping stone to the Governor's office in Tallahassee. Do you think he's unaware of the percentage of votes cast in most elections by African Americans? Do you think he's unaware of the mountain he'll have to climb if he is painted as a white racist, or a man who employs a racist as his top prosecutor?"

" I guess you'd have to ask him those questions. I'm not paid enough to consider those kinds of things."

Montgomery reached out and I took his hand.

"Please don't take what I've said personally, Mr. Maitland. It's just that there is a long history as I'm sure you're aware, of black men being ground up in the wheels of white justice in the South. That's not going to happen this time. I hope you come to the right decision in this matter."

I didn't say anything, just let him walk out. I'd come to the right decision. I just wasn't sure if it would be the right decision he was expecting. And I wasn't real sure that Austin Edwards had balls enough to back me in doing the right thing in this case. He had big ones, but he might needs Balls of Steel if a racial donnybrook erupted over this case.

When he had walked out I leaned back and tried to think clearly. I was about to lose my wife -- officially -- whereas I already had in fact; I had to decide what to do to keep my 17-year-old from pursuing a very foolish crush if Baker had been telling the truth; I had to figure out how to shut down a powerful drug dealer who had threatened my family, I had to try to keep my job while going up against a powerful black political figure....where the hell did it all end?

"Mr. Maitland?"

I looked up into dazzling blue eyes. Set in a heart-shaped face, set under flowing red hair that reached almost down to her ass, Atop a five-foot 6 frame wearing a fairly demure pastel blouse.

She bent forward and the blouse gaped open and I couldn't help staring at perfect round, orange-sized breasts.

I pulled my gaze up and met her eyes and recognized her.

"Sheila, Sheila...."

"Simpson, Mr. Maitland. I hope I'm not...disturbing...you, but Mr. Hopper wanted me to drop these documents by on the Trent case."

She didn't have to, but she remained leaning over my desk. And those damned oranges just seemed to be growing larger.

"Trent? Oh, the Trent case."

My tongue didn't seem to want to work. It seemed thick and awkward all of a sudden.

She smiled and said, "I hope you don't mind, but that patch makes you look like a pirate. It's very... intriguing."

She stood up straight, very slowly. She stood very straight, her shoulders arched backward making those breasts poke out prominently against the blouse. She just stared at me, the kind of stare that is a challenge. Once, a long, long time ago, I would have known how to and would have reacted the way a man does to that kind of invitation.

But it had been so damned long since any woman had looked at me that way, except for Aline. I wasn't expecting it. And so she had me off balance.

"Thank you, and thank Mr. Holder."

After a minute she just nodded and walked away. Damn. I didn't know what was happening, but it could be a problem. I had never been tempted to fish in the office pool because I was happily married and because I'd seen it blow up in supervisors' faces. But....I wasn't happily married anymore...and a very attractive young woman who once upon a time would never have given me that kind of stare had just done so...and..

I had an erection I could have driven nails with under my desk. Damn.

Twenty minutes later when I could stand up without embarrassing myself, I told Cheryl I need to get out for a few minutes and I headed downstairs to the first floor to step into the new Starbucks that the county had talked into moving into an old hot dog and coffee shop that had been there for 15 years.

Debbie loved dry cinnamon cappuccinos but I liked plain old-fashioned cappuccinos, but I also liked more foam than anything else. It took 15 minutes because it was the hottest thing in the courthouse. I stood at the counter where they'd served me and sipped the foam.

And I saw her walking away from me down the hall in the direction of the Clerk of the Court's traffic office. She should be helping to prepare the ship to leave again in a few days. But she might have gotten leave to go ashore.

It was her; the same heavy, black hair, the same shape and the same walk and that ass....She was dressed in something unfamiliar; a short green skirt topped by a blue green two-button Worthington jacket. What was she doing walking toward the clerk's office. Had she come to see me? But, she had to know what a terrible idea that would be.

I was walking toward her before I even realized what I was doing. And then someone called to her and she turned back in my direction and I stopped dead still. How could you be grateful and heartsick at the same time.

I made my way to the elevator without looking at the stranger that superficially resembled Aline des-Jardins. Of course it hadn't been her.

I had told her I'd think of her every day, and I hadn't realized just how true that was.


Thursday, July 21, 2005 -- 3:15 p.m.

"Send her in, Abby."

Debbie stood there for a moment, then walked in. There was no reason to be hesitant. She'd promised Crider to talk to the man, but after this first time she could walk away with a clear conscience.

He rose to his feet as she walked in and stepped forward to take her hand.

"Mrs. Bascomb, I'm glad to meet you. Did you have any trouble finding my office?"

"No, your secretary's directions were good. I appreciate your being willing to see me, even though..."

Dr. Ernst Teller gave her a look that made her think he could read her mind. He was a tall, angular, brown-haired man with the hair cut in an old-fashioned almost-buzz cut. He was an older man, but she couldn't peg his age. He had a hawk nose, piercing gaze and the ramrod straight posture, He couldn't be called handsome, but he was striking. If she had seen him at a party, she wouldn't be able to take her eyes off him.

"Even though you think this is a waste of your time and you don't plan on coming back."

She gave him a surprised look.

"You must really wow them at parties with your mind reading act, Dr. Teller."

He smiled a gentle smile. He was good, she thought. It was a smile that encouraged her to like the man, but with none of the usual male overtones that she had come to expect every time she met a new male. She knew that most people would WANT to trust this man.

"Thank you, but it's just that that is the usual reaction I get from most people when they enter my office for the first time. Most people come here not sure that they want or need to be here, want or need my services."

He pointed to a small grayish couch behind a coffee table with a unique black and white inlaid Rorschach ink spot design that matched a large painting on the wall.

"Please, have a seat."

"Should I lie down?"

"Not unless you really, really want to." And he smiled again. She sat on the couch and leaned forward. He sat down in an overstuffed leather chair that his body seemed to sink into.

"Now what?"

He shrugged.

"We talk, if you want to. We could sit and stare at each other for the next 55 minutes, but that would be a waste of both our time. Why don't you just start talking and maybe you could touch on why you're here, or why Dr. Crider thought you might benefit from coming to see me."

Thirty minutes later he leaned back in the chair and puffed gently on a pipe he had produced after asking her if she minded his smoking.

"On first reflection I'd have to say I agree with Dr. Crider's assessment. Any woman in your circumstances would probably be experiencing similar emotions. Even if, as it appears, the divorce is something you feel is necessary, it has to be extremely stressful. Divorce, along with the death of loved one, is one of the most devastating events a person can go through.

"You pile on top of that a love and sexual affair with a new man in your life -- you say he's only the second man you've been intimate with in nearly 20 years, the rift in your relationship with your daughter, your son's seemingly rejecting you by going to stay with his grandparents, and an inability to come to some sense of closure with your husband...."

Teller breathed out a ring of aromatic tobacco smoke.

"As a famous wit once said about dancing bears, the wonder is not that they dance so badly, but that they dance at all. The wonder is not that you are having these panic attacks, the sense of your world ending, but that they are not so much more severe and disabling. The true wonder is that you're able to function at all with so much going wrong in your life."

She stared down at the Rorschach inlaid pattern.

"That may be true, Doctor, but if this is functioning, God only knows what it would feel like if I weren't functioning. I need help. I don't feel like I am going to make it at times. And...there's more...."


"I've told you a little bit about Bill, and I know you know him. Everybody says Bill is a good guy. My own mother is on his side in this. And I know I've hurt him by filing for divorce, by falling in love -- no, by falling in lust with a younger man.

She looked up into Teller's eyes and for the first time in a long time she didn't feel like somebody was judging her, had judged her, and condemned her without listening to her side.

"I couldn't tell anyone...I couldn't tell Bill....but our marriage has been dying for a long time. He walked away from it. Not me. Maybe I expected too much. He's 41 and he was never a great athlete. He's led a sedentary life and he got fat and physically -- unappealing.

"And me -- well, I've worked hard keeping myself in shape. I've always been --considered attractive and I like the fact that men like me. And I'd lie in bed some nights and look over at him...short, and fat and balding...I know it's not fair, but I...felt disgust.

"I....I like flirting with men. I like knowing that men want me. I....maybe I carried it a little too far at parties...And....there were other things I did.....I never physically cheated on him...I never had sex with other men..but the last few years....I wanted to....I fantasized.....I......wore out a vibrator.."

She looked up into Teller's eyes.

"I'm not that dumb blonde that most men think I am just because I have big breasts and I'm beautiful....not bragging, I just am....but I'm smart.....smart enough to know that Bill never did anything except let himself go, let me go.....he loved me...and every night in my head I was having sex with other men. I wanted to divorce him a hundred times before I called him that day at his office..

"And....what makes me really feel bad...makes me feel like shit, Dr. Teller, is that I knew how much I was hurting him when I told him I didn't love him anymore. It was true but I didn't have to say it that way....but I did. And I wanted to. I wanted to hurt him....and I don't really know why.

"And Crider noticed...I already knew it but I didn't know why....when I talk about him I get angry...I get furious.....I'm the one who was cheating on him in my mind..I'm the one who started flirting with a young, good looking guy that just wanted to get me into bed..I'm the one who froze him out of my life so I'm the bad guy here... but...I hate him...Goddamn I hate him...sometimes..

"I guess....I'm afraid....only a crazy person would feel that way....am I crazy?"

"Crazy is a very imprecise term....You feel guilt because of the way you have treated him, but at the same time you obviously have strong feelings of anger, resentment, even hatred perhaps...

"The obvious question is, has he done anything to deserve that anger? Has he cheated on you? Had affairs with other women?"

"I'm sure....I mean...I don't think so. This is terrible, but I can't imagine a woman wanting him...that way...or...at least...not until recently. The son of a bitch waits until I'm not in love with him, I'm divorcing him, and he starts looking good again. It's like he's doing it to spite me. Sometimes I..."

She stopped.

"You see what I mean, doctor?"

"Has he been cruel to you, abusive? Has he ever struck you?"

She gave him an incredulous look.

"Bill? I could probably take a man into bed while he was there and I don't think -- I know he wouldn't hurt me. He might kill the guy....and I don't understand that either. He's a good attorney and....he's tough as a pit bull, but to physically attack someone? No, I guess that's part of what happened. I lost respect for him physically.

"I -- I couldn't believe it when he attacked Doug at UNF. I am embarrassed, but at the time I was ashamed for him. It was like a toy poodle taking on a pit bull. And...when...when he actually beat him down....it was like he was somebody I'd never seen before. I remember thinking, who is that guy in Bill's body. Because it's not Bill."

He just sat there silently and she remembered what Bill had told her once about interrogation tactics. Silence is always the easiest way to break someone down. People hate silence.

"I -- uh -- he was never abusive. He was -- too nice -- maybe. There were times...at night....that he'd roll over to me and I knew what he wanted. But he was so damned flabby. And I told him no. And he backed off. I mean, I wasn't in the mood. I was working on college things and the kids were always into something and we hadn't been...physical in a while.

"But...he should have made me. He should have taken me. A man would have rolled me over and fucked me."

She looked up at Teller but he didn't seem fazed by the language.

"Sometimes a woman wants a man to be dominant, to take her. But...that isn't in Bill. So I guess I resented him for not...forcing me...That's stupid, isn't it. And unfair. How was he supposed to read my mind. But that's the way I felt."

Teller let out another wreath of grayish-white smoke.

"It's not stupid, Ms. Bascomb. It's common, in fact, for many women to want their men to be dominant, forceful in the bedroom. He wasn't, and while it might seem unfair, that would be another reason for you to be angry at him. Rational, no, but understandable, yes."

"Maybe understandable, but I don't understand....there's something I've never told anyone before. Nothing I say will ever go outside these walls, will it? And you know Bill. You will never breathe a word of what I'm going to tell you?"

He just shook his head.

"One night....I had this dream.....I woke up and Bill was lying in bed next to me.....and I hated him...oh God, I hated him. Not dislike, not anger, but hate. I went to the safe where we keep a Glock for protection. We keep it loaded because it's safely locked away. I took it out and went back to our bed.

"And it was as if there was a fog, or something, surrounding the bed. I could see him lying there, and I knew it was him, but his face was hard to make out. And it was as if I was awake watching myself dream and I knew I had no reason to hate him as much as a did.

"I held the Glock out in front of me with a two-handed grip the way Bill had taught me and I centered it on his head, and I pulled the trigger. Again and again and again until there were no more bullets left.

"I woke up screaming and Bill was holding me and I wanted to hug him and I wanted to push him away. How the hell could he be holding me and telling me everything was alright when I had just blown his head off?"

She looked up at Teller.

"I told you I was crazy. Or maybe he made me crazy. There's nothing he could have done, nothing he ever did, that would make me hate him that much."

Teller was silent for a while, then put the pipe down on a little side table.

"You do know that there's a difference between what you dream and reality, I hope. You didn't shoot your husband. From what you've said, you've never physically assaulted him. Dreams express emotions, and there is some deep-seated, violent anger that you feel toward him. The puzzle is there's nothing in what you've said that could possibly explain the depth or intensity of that anger."

He looked at a large clock on his desk with a image of "The Scream" engraved under the large crystal watch face and said, "I'm afraid that's all the time we have for today, Ms. Bascomb. I think we've definitely got some things we can talk about and explore in the future, if you feel that would be helpful."

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