The Troubador wrote a story entitled How High a Price in March, 2003, about a man and his cheating wife. That is always a popular subject. Since then, other authors have written stories based on The Troubador's theme and his characters, Early and Susan Conroy. Thanks to Lazeez, those stories can all be found at www.storiesonline.net
This is my story using the same theme and characters. It is a realistic story. Not sexy. Not sweet. Sad. Heavy. But realistic.
I thank The Troubador for allowing me to follow his lead. The title of the story, plot idea, and character names are his, but the story is mine. So if you have problems with it (or if you like it), contact me, not him.
Early Conroy, a friendly, sunny-natured man with a constant smile on his face, was a trouble-shooter and negotiator for his company. Travel was part of the job. When he traveled, he always left a detailed itinerary with Susan, his wife. Susan, a lawyer for a large firm, always informed him in detail as to her schedule. It was automatic after all these years together.
A business problem called Early out of town, this one a long trip to Los Angeles scheduled from Tuesday through Saturday. He had planned on catching the return flight out of Los Angeles at 9:15 Saturday evening. As usual, his car was at the SeaTac Airport. He would be home and with Susan by one a.m. Sunday morning at the latest.
Thursday morning, the deal suddenly came together. The people he was negotiating with signed the contract by 11:00 AM and left to deal with a crisis in one of their East Coast operations. With the change in plans, he could take the 1:45 p.m. shuttle on Thursday and be home by dinner. He rushed to the airport. He wanted Susan to know he was on his way home, so, once in the air, he called Susan's office from the in-flight phone.
"Jenson, Sharone and Anderson, how may I help you?" the receptionist greeted him.
"Oh, where's Jennifer?" Early asked. Jennifer, Susan's personal secretary, usually answered Susan's calls on the direct line Early called.
"Mrs. Conroy's secretary is out of the office today and tomorrow. May I help you?" came the perky response from the office receptionist.
"May I speak to Mrs. Conroy?" he asked.
"Um, Mrs. Conroy is tied up at the moment. I'm not sure when she might be available. Would you like to leave a message for her?" was the reply from a suddenly mildly flustered receptionist.
Something in the woman's voice activated Early's well-trained people skills. He thought for a moment. "No, thanks. I'll call back later," he said and he hung up.
The conversation with the receptionist troubled him, but it took him another half hour to put his finger on it. Susan told him on the phone last night that she would be in the office all day today. Still, it was possible she was working on a legal file or with a client and couldn't be pulled away. The real stickler was Jennifer's absence. Susan made it a point to have Jennifer working the same hours she did. The only times Early remembered Jennifer out of the office when Susan was working were when she was sick.
The plane landed on time in Seattle, and he was home by 6:35 PM. Susan wasn't there and the house was dark, which was surprising. The only times his wife worked late was at her office. If she was with a client, she was almost always home by 6 PM. He called her private office number again, only to get the answering machine. He left no message.
Early unpacked, tossed his dirty linen in the hamper, and changed clothes. When Susan wasn't home by eight o'clock, he made himself a toasted cheese sandwich for dinner. He started to sit in front of the TV to wait, but worrying about Susan overcame him. Had she had an accident? But if she had, someone would have called the house, and, at least, left a message. He was too restless to sit still and he found himself pacing the floor. He dialed her cell phone, but received the "out of service" message, indicating the phone was turned off.
The suspicion something was terribly wrong had grown to a hot ember by 9:20 when his own cell phone rang.
"Early, I was getting worried when I hadn't heard from you, but then I realized my cell was off. I'm so sorry about that."
"No problem. Where are you?" Early asked.
"At home," she replied. Was there a change in the timbre of her voice or had Early imagined it? "I'm just finished cleaning up the kitchen. It's been lonely around here without you."
"I miss you, too, baby," he replied.
His eyes were fixed on the darkened, deserted kitchen of their home. "No wife there," he thought.
He said, "I tried to get you at the office this afternoon." He let the sentence hang and waited for Susan to reply.
"I was there," Susan finally said.
"They told me you couldn't be interrupted. Something important going on?"
"Uh, I was working with John Stickner. He got me through that mess with the Melrose account this week. I owe him big time for that," she said with a voice that seemed to have a hidden meaning in it, one which Early couldn't yet fathom. "Honey, after I was able to turn that disaster around, it looks like I'm going to get that partnership! Mr. Jenson practically promised it to me!" Susan crowed. "Isn't that grand?"
"It sure is honey. We'll have to celebrate when I get back. I'm just sorry I wasn't there to get the celebration off the ground."
"Don't worry about that, love. Will you be home Sunday as scheduled?" Susan asked.
"Right on target." he replied.
"We can start our fiesta Sunday when you come home. It's going to be lonely in that big bed without you tonight."
After chatting about domestic issues for a few minutes, they broke the connection. Early thought of the many lies Susan had thrown at him. Until tonight, he believed his marriage and their love was solid and strong. It had been something he never questioned. Now he feared the worst.
Early Conroy was a man who always chose action over inaction. Discovering facts and making decisions under pressure was what he did for a living. He suspected his wife was lying to him and he needed more information.
He began to go through Susan's belongings, writing down on his legal pad anything he thought was missing and carefully returning everything to its exact place so she wouldn't discover his investigation. He inventoried her clothes, her chest-of-drawers, and her closet before turning his attention to her medicine cabinet and cosmetics. He finished with her home computer.
The computer yielding nothing but the clothing search proved fruitful. She had not taken sporting clothes, such as things she would wear if she was going to play tennis. She had taken her slinky black cocktail dress, a stunning pants suit, and her best high heeled shoes. She had taken her sexiest lingerie, including her red teddy and her lacy g-string panties. She hadn't taken her regular swim suit but her thong bikini, the one she refused to wear anywhere except in their own back yard by their hot tub, was missing. Most significantly, her birth control pills were gone from the medicine cabinet. Early knew his wife's habits. If she thought she might be gone overnight, she packed those pills.
Since Susan had mentioned John Stickner, Early decided to begin there. He found Stickner's address in Susan's home office Rolodex.
They owned a dark green Explorer used to tow their camping trailer and for trips into the Cascade Mountains. Since they rarely drove it in town and it was a common vehicle in a common color, it would be less conspicuous than his Mercedes. He drove the Explorer to Susan's Bellevue office, entered the parking garage, and drove directly to her private parking space. Susan's gray BMW wasn't there. To be sure, he checked every car in the garage before departing.
With a sinking heart, he drove towards John Stickner's home. He found it in a wooded area in the exclusive Medina area. The grounds were surrounded with an eight foot red brick fence and heavily shadowed with towering fir trees. As he slowly drove by, he saw Susan's BMW parked beside the garage where it didn't block the circular driveway. The house was dark, without a light to be seen.
Death can come slowly with old age or the ravages of cancer. Death can come quickly, with the screeching of tires on the highway or a heart attack. However death arrives, there is intense pain - a pain no one can share or relieve.
The death of love is the same - quick or slow there is enervating pain.
With Early Conroy, it came quickly as he sat in a green Ford Explorer on an exclusive street outside an expensive home wherein his beloved wife, Susan, was fucking another man. Early felt his body tingle and a cold, clammy sweat break out on his forehead. He threw open the car door, took a single step, and fell to his knees to puke out his guts in the damp grass. He puked until only green bile remained. Wobbly, he staggered to his feet and climbed back in the driver's seat. He started his car and went home.
When he got home, Early called Steve Majors, the head of security at his company.
"Jesus, Early, it's one fifteen in the morning. What the hell's wrong?" Steve exclaimed.
"I need the name and number of the private investigators the company uses," Early said.
Steve gave Early the name of John Wells and Wells' home phone number. "Anything else, Early?" Steve asked.
"I want my phone bugged," Early replied.
"Tell Wells. They'll do it. Do you want to talk?" Steve said.
"No. Thanks for the information," Early replied.
.... There is more of this story ...