Chapter 1: Steve's Response
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 waited for Donna to 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 he'd been forced to 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 name 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. Yes, 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 a soul so tormented.
"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 those 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, his personality assumed a certain duality.
The civilized portion of Steve's brain continued to seek a modern solution, an acceptable way to change this unwelcome new reality. The primitive portion already had its solution -- Gil's continued existence was no longer desirable. Removing him would remove one source of the pain. As Steve marched past the "entity" sobbing in his office, the civilized porting of his brain 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 restrain him. It clung to his arm pleading with him. The sight of it disgusted him. The primitive considered removing the entity from the living too. The civilized brain recognizing that it was losing all control, fought determined rear guard action and he only said softly, "Get out." His voice now so cold it would shatter steel like glass
The unsatisfied 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 off the sobbing entity, he marched to his truck. As he got in, he reached into the well between the seats and retrieved his licensed 9mm Glock. As 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 allowed Steve's civilized brain time to re-gain control. A simple question asked the primitive stumped it. For which of Gil's offenses was Steve going to spend the rest of his life in prison? Was it because he was trying to blackmail his wife into whoredom? Or, was it the images that had fallen from Donna's hand? Images of her with Gil's cock in her mouth. Of her on her back on Gil's desk, her legs spread lewdly, her neck muscles straining as she absorbed his cock. Or the 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. Both portions of his brain now united in a desire for vengeance, but not at the cost of a life in jail. In a civilized world revenge required acting not in heat but in cold blood. 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 would be poetic justice indded.
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 kicked 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.
Stepping through, he closed it behind him. Pulling his gun he 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 your 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 understood that 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. My kids shouldn't have to see what I think of her."
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 on Steve. The DA had watched the video made in Gil's office and had stated that he would need to go before a grand jury to seek an indictment. Privately he told Steve that he would be astounded if 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?'