When We Were Married Ch. 04DbyDanielQSteele1©
IF TOMORROW NEVER COMES
Friday, July 22, 2005 – 9 a.m.
My name is Bill Maitland. I am the second most powerful man in the State Attorney's office in Jacksonville, about to be divorced from the most beautiful woman I have ever met in my life who has fallen out of love with me, and father to a son and daughter that I have ignored for too long while I concentrated on other people's tragedies.
Last night I learned that while I was looking at other things, my daughter had grown from a little girl to a young woman who lusted after the man who had stolen my wife from me. Actually, to be fair about it, I had thrown her to him, but it didn't make living with his presence in my life any easier.
But I'll be damned if I was going to let him screw up my daughter's life as well so I had a little discussion with him that involved brass knuckles yesterday. I had hurt him, but he'd hurt me so I didn't feel at all guilty about giving myself an edge with brass and surprise.
I'd like to say he was a big-dicked coward who showed me he didn't deserve to win my wife, but unfortunately I learned a long time ago that being an asshole doesn't automatically mean you're a coward as well. And he had tried his best to take my head off in our little discussion.
We'd both survived and he was leaving town and my soon-to-be ex-wife, so I guess you could call me the winner, but he'd managed to screw up my marriage and he'd forced me to look at my daughter with open eyes.
Still and all, it was better to live with the knowledge that my little girl was all grown up than to continue to live in a fantasy world where men were not fucking her. It still hurt me to think about, but I would always prefer to think of her as a sexless innocent than a sexually active woman. I didn't have any choice, though.
And then, in a day full of shocks, I'd had the last one early this morning as I learned that Father Eagen Dunleavy, who'd defied hatred and machetes to fight for life in the Hutu-Tutsi killing in Rwanda in the 1990s, had been shot out of the sky while on a mission back to Rwanda.
I'd met him while on a cruise on the French ship Bonne Chance and learned that besides being a good priest, he was a good man. I liked him before I knew that, but knowing that as good a man as he was could screw his life up as badly or worse than I had, made me feel better about my own mistakes.
He had helped me look at my life a little differently on the ship, and even in dying he had continued to help me try to make up for my past sins.
After I walked into my office at the State Attorney's Office earlier that morning, I closed my door after telling my secretary Cheryl that I didn't want to be disturbed.
I dialed a familiar number and a few rings later, my mother said, "Hello."
"Bill, is anything wrong?"
I couldn't help smiling because I knew she was going to put the needle in.
"Why does something have to be wrong for me to call my mother?"
"Because, you never call your poor mother. Charles tells me that you're a busy man and you're going through a lot, but if I didn't see your name in the paper every once in a while, I wouldn't know you were still alive."
"Mom, I know I haven't called you much lately, but-"
She wasn't having any of it.
"I think the President is pretty busy too, but I hear he makes time to call his mother!"
What can you say to that?
"Your right, Mom. I'm sorry. I'll try to call you more regularly. It's no excuse, but what with the....what with things with Debbie and trials, I haven't had time to turn around?"
"At least you're almost free of that woman. I am counting the days."
"I know, Mom. I know. I am too."
"You're just saying that, Bill. I know you too well. You still love her, but that will change. You just need to get away from her and get out and date other women. You're a successful man and you won't have any trouble finding somebody better."
"Spoken like a mother," and then I realized I'd said the words out loud instead of in my head.
"I know I think like a mother, but I'm not blind or stupid. That woman has had you wrapped around her little finger for 20 years so you don't know how good a man you are, and how other women would look at you if you could see anybody but her. But that will change when you're a free man again."
"Mom...okay. It's going to happen and I know you don't like her, but she'll still be my kids' mother. Try to be careful what you say around BJ, okay? Speaking of whom, is he in?"
"You don't know how many times I've bitten my tongue around BJ, and Kelly. God knows how she turned out as good as she is with that woman as her mother. But, I'll try to hold my tongue around the boy. He is just waking up and was having breakfast with Charles. You want to talk to him?"
There was a silence on the end of the phone. Then BJ came on.
"Dad? Did you-?"
"I had a talk with Doug. I don't think he was lying at the end. And I talked to your mother and Kelly. I know what happened. I'm glad you were there, and glad you called me, but I don't think – I don't think anything really happened. I think your mother walked in just in the nick of time. Anyway, Doug is leaving town, and going pretty far away. I don't think we'll have to worry about him much longer."
He was silent and I knew why. Doug had to be a pretty charismatic guy for a 14-year-old boy. I was sure BJ was torn by the fact that he was impressive, and on the other hand he was fucking his mother and possibly had tried for his sister.
"Anyway, BJ, that wasn't really the reason for the call, except to thank you for calling me. The real reason I called was..."
I stopped for a minute and time seemed to crawl. I'd found the words for Kelly, and I wanted to find them for BJ.
"I just wanted to tell you that I love you."
"I haven't said it very much, because it seemed kind of mushy to be saying to a teenager. But...you're my son and I love you, even though I guess I must have been a pain in the ass to you as far as your friends were concerned."
There was a long silence and then, "...Is everything...alright, Dad?"
"Everything's okay, BJ. It's just that you go along...thinking you've got all the time in the world to let people know...how you feel about them. And I guess you know..or I hope. But....
"Nobody lives forever, BJ, and we never know when we're going to run out of time. Almost the last words my father told me, and I can still hear them, is that he loved me. I've never forgotten and I'm glad he said them when he could."
"Dad, what is...what's wrong?"
"Nothing, BJ, nothing's wrong. It's just that, I won't be around forever. There will come a day when I'm gone. I want you to remember these words on that day. And I want you to know...know how much I love you. You're my son and I'm proud of you and you and your sister are the best things that ever happened in my life."
"Jesus, Dad, have you talked to mom?"
"No, it's nothing. It's silly. I just felt like saying that. I'm not going to be mushy with you again. Just remember. Okay. Now, tell your grandmother and grandfather goodbye. I'm at the office and I'm working. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
I hung up.
I called Cheryl and told her I was running out for a minute. For this type of errand it was easier to just call a cab than go to the trouble of taking the Escalade. I called around and the best church for what I wanted was the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church of Jacksonville at the corner of Ocean and Duval Streets. It was an old church and the closest to our offices and the courthouse.
I walked in. It was early and there was nobody around except a woman cleaning. I asked her where I could find a priest and before I could finish a short bald headed guy in street clothes was walking up behind me.
"Can I help you? It's early for visitors."
I looked around and saw a bank of candles burning near one door.
"I'd like to have two candles set up to burn perpetually in memory of some friends."
"They're called votive candles. There is no charge, but we do accept donations. And to burn in perpetuity? That's a long time."
I smiled at him.
"Only until I'm dead and gone, Father, after that they're on their own. As to the donation. How's about a hundred and I'll send you a check for a thousand this week. Should that keep them burning for awhile?"
"Yeah, I'd say so. They must have been good friends."
"One of them was, but both of them were good people. I don't want them to be forgotten."
"What were their names? Let me write them down and we'll set the candles up with name plates."
"Father Eagen Dunleavy and Brianne O'Collins."
He stopped writing and looked up at me.
"You were a friend of...?"
"An acquaintance of Father Dunleavy, but I considered him a friend."
"There's no charge."
I pushed the $100 at him and said, "Then use it for the poor."
As I rode back to my office and started preparing to deal with murderers and rapists and monsters, I felt a little better knowing that a small light was burning somewhere honoring the good there still was in the world.
Friday, July 22, 2005 – 10:30 a.m.
When I got back to my office I had a message waiting from the Big Man. I headed up to his office. Myra was at her desk busy with someone and she just glanced up at me and nodded to me to go in. Her gaze lingered on my bruised face for a second, but then she dropped back to what she was doing.
"Bill, you still sticking with that fairy tale about falling down some stairs?"
"It's the truth. People die every day falling down stairs. It was just my time."
"You know of course that you can't lie worth a damn."
"I thought I lied very well. Can't be a good attorney without being a good liar. It's in the job classification."
He just grimaced and said, "Yeah, but you can't lie to me. Doesn't matter...I haven't seen any police reports so I don't think the stairs are going to bring you up in front of a judicial review. The reason I called you in here was to find out what's happing with the Shawn Smith case.
"Knight is up my ass almost every other day because his union and his guys are up his ass pushing him to do something about Smith's case. And that prick reverend has called me every damned day insisting I get you to get off the ball and give Smith a clearance so he can go back to patrol and get of that desk duty he's been on."
"I'm still gathering evidence. But it's not the only case we're working. I'm trying to get ready for the killer granny which is going to be a big case because I'm going to do everything I can to see that she winds up on Death Row. And we've got that asshole William Sutton, the guy that beat his pregnant ex-wife to death. I'm scratching my head trying to find some way to make sure he doesn't walk after killing two people."
"I know you have other cases, Bill. There are always other cases. And there may be something else on the horizon. I'm hoping it goes away, but there's an outside chance we may get the Mendoza case. That's the one where they killed both those Texas prosecutors. Blew up one with a car bomb and cut the other guy's throat in front of his family.
"Quite frankly, most other offices don't want it. The Mexican Cartel that Mendoza worked for has basically declared war on the U.S. They're trying to hand this one off to anyone stupid enough to take it.
"The point is, there are always crises looming. But I can't keep having the Sheriff and all his men, and most blacks in this city, pissed off at me because you can't make a decision. There's enough doubt about this one, and Smith is a good cop, could you give him a pass?"
"There's more than enough doubt, and that's what a grand jury is for. Why not pass it on to them?"
"Shit, Bill, I can get by with having the cops pissed off at me. Although it hurts. And I can get by with having blacks pissed off at me. Although it will hurt come election time. I CAN'T get by with having the cops AND blacks pissed off at me. And putting this to the grand jury where it will look like we're going after this guy will piss everybody off."
"Alright, I'll try to come to some kind of decision in a reasonable length of time. Tell Knight and the Reverend I won't push this off any longer than I have to. I promise I'll do something to resolve it."
Friday, July 22, 2005 – noon.
There was a quick knock at her front door. She had taken a break from writing the presentation she was working on for Johnny August to take in a protein shake and probably ought to visit the gym in an hour or two just to clear her head. She wasn't expecting visitors. Kelly wouldn't be back this soon.
She opened the door and her eyes widened.
"Oh, my god, you two killed each other!"
"Just about," Doug said. His nose was completely covered with bandages and both eyes were blacked like something out of a prize-fighting movie. His right hand was encased in a plaster cast. "The son of bitch coldcocked me when I wasn't expecting it. Which is the only reason he's still breathing."
"It's an expression the old guys at the gym I trained at used. It means the bastard caught me by surprise and nearly put me out with one punch. He was cheating, using brass knucks, and he broke my nose all to hell. He even broke my damned hand. Actually, I fractured it on his face, but then he finished the job with the brass knuckles.
" But I got some good licks in."
"I'm sorry about that. Bill came by last night. I didn't know BJ was here and he called Bill just as he was getting off that French ship. Bill thought you had –"
"I know what he thought. And I'll let you in on a little secret. He wasn't after me just for Kelly. He's still got really hard feelings about me and you."
"I know. But can you blame him? Honestly? Anyway, he said you're leaving town?"
"Yeah. I gave my notice a couple of days ago. They weren't crazy about it, but they're not too torn up to see me go and I got a good sob story from the head of the section where I've got a new position at Roosevelt University in Chicago. I got a job offer from a friend and took it. I'll have a professorship in the Commerce and Enterprise section.
"The guy that was teaching it dropped dead of a stroke two weeks ago. They want young blood. And they want it now. UNF could try to hold me to my contract, but Myers agreed to let me go. He was decent, for an old shit. They've got temp professors finishing my classes."
She looked at him and felt sadness. He had been beautiful. For a man there was no other way to describe it. He had been beautiful. And she knew deep down that what she had done was wrong, and she'd regret it years from now, but God, he had been beautiful.
"Doug, I'm sorry that Bill...hurt you like that. I'm just glad he didn't have you killed. Because he could have. I'm not sorry you're going. I'm glad there's going to be a thousand miles or more between you and Kelly."
He stepped into her and held her shoulders and the picture of him above her sliding that huge cock inside her filled her head and she almost lost her breath.
"Are you glad I'm going to be a thousand miles or more away, Debbie?"
Finally she said, "Yes. We have no future. I loved what we had, but...I need it to be over. You need to make a new life for yourself."
He pushed her back inside the open door and closed it behind him. He could have pushed her down to the floor and she didn't know if she'd let him. She'd only know when he tried it.
"I told you before, Deb, you're making a bad mistake. I know something inside you still loves the guy. And I couldn't get past that. But he will never take you back. Maybe, someday, if you catch him in a weak moment he'd fuck you. But take you back, take you back as his wife....it will never happen."
"I know you keep saying that Doug. Maybe it makes you feel better to think the only reason I didn't choose to go with you is because I still have feelings for Bill. But that's not true. Even if Kelly hadn't been part of the picture, I still would have ended it. We're good physically, very, very good, but a marriage...a life together..is more than sex. Why the hell do you think I stayed as long as I did with Bill? It wasn't for the sex."
He leaned forward and kissed her and she closed her eyes. With her eyes closed she could ignore the damage to his face, ignore the memories of everything that had led up to that point, could just remember the good times when they were together.
"It is not too late, Debbie. I'll be leaving for Chicago later today. But I could get you on in Chicago. I've got friends and I could find a place for you.
"Kelly won't be a problem. She's staying with her grandparents. I know because she called me and told me and wanted to get together. She can stay with them while she finishes school, maybe go to school down here and by the time she ever came back to you, this...infatuation..might be burned out. She'll find some guy her own age.
"And BJ....he could stay with your parents or Bill's parents. Or he could come with us. Chicago is a great city. It's a great place to grow up. And I don't think he hates me. He's upset now...because I'm fucking his mom...but guys learn to live with stepfathers. I'd bend over backwards to live with him."
She opened her eyes and stepped back.
"Why, Doug? We had great sex, and we liked each other. But you've never stayed loyal to one woman long in your life. Even with a broken nose, you're still going to be catnip to women as long as you live. I'm nearly 40 and I'm not getting younger. I don't really trust you to be faithful, but even if you were, why? I know you like sex with me, but there's a whole world out there of willing women? Why would you tie yourself down?"
"Maybe I'm growing up a little. I never wanted this when I put the moves on you. I just wanted you in bed. But something changed. This is going to sound stupid as hell, but I....I want what you and Bill had. I want you in my bed every night. I want to go to movies with you and go ice skating at a rink...I want to eat popcorn with you watching TV at night. I'm almost 29 and that's pretty much 30. I wouldn't mind...having a kid. I never thought I'd want that...but a rug rat doesn't sound so terrible right now...MY rug rat."
She tried to avoid crying and managed to avoid it, but her eyes misted.
"No. I think...I think you might actually be honest about that...but it doesn't change anything. You need a woman your own age, Doug. If you're getting serious, and guys do that sometimes at your age, start looking around for someone you can make a life with, not some other husband's cast-off."
He stepped away from her.
"Okay. I had to try. I won't try to call or bother you again. If you change your mind..you'll be able to find me. But..."
He leaned over and kissed her once, hard.
"Don't wait too long, Deb. Maybe you're right. Maybe I was just getting to that stage and I didn't realize it. Maybe it was knowing you. But, I'm going to be looking for someone. Someone special. I'm not giving up sex, but I want more. And if I find that somebody, I'm not going to lose them. So if you change your mind, just don't wait too long."
"I won't. – change my mind."
He walked to the doorway and then looked back at her.
"I honestly feel sorry for you Debbie. You threw away one guy that loved you because he got too old. And you threw away another guy who loves you, because he was too young. You're never going to be alone because you're too beautiful...but you may never find anything like what you've thrown away."
"I know I said this before, but it's true. I wish I had met you first."
And then he was gone, closing the front door behind him.