A story of a man and his choice to accept their daughter as his own or choose to turn his back on everything he loved.
Thanks to Angel love for her editing skills.
I read the report from DNA Testing Centers without anger or suspense. I had anticipated the results in part but still had no idea of whom Penny's real father was. All this report told me was that it wasn't me. That much I had already figured out. But, I had all I needed now to find out.
Penny Ann Hendricks was our baby's name. Penny for my wife's mother, Ann for my mother and Hendricks, my last name. My name is Jonathan Hendricks. Her mother, and my wife of six years, is Page Williams, news reporter for the local CBS affiliate. You'd probably recognize her. She won the Phipps Award, given every year by the network to the reporter who had made an impact on the area. She was honored as the reporter who had done the best job in reporting the plane crash that happened right here in our county, and that was all over the news just a year ago. She had done a remarkable job, I admit, traveling around the area and getting interviews from people that were more inclined to remain anonymous. She had earned the award. She, her cameraman, Harry Palmer and her producer, Jim Santiago had all worked on the story, but Page was the voice.
Just after the story broke and Page had completed her award winning reporting, she took some time off. She and I spent most of it just getting reacquainted and traveling around the area. Nothing big, just some fun. Just before that, she spent some time in the city trying to organize her upcoming news show, one she had been promised once the story was finished. She had an apartment in the city that she used when she was working late and didn't want to come home, just to have to turn around and go back. The station paid for it so it was no big deal. She used it maybe once or twice a month. She used it while working on the new show.
It was just about three weeks after she had returned to work that she found out she was pregnant. She told me one night after dinner and I was so happy and so excited that I could hardly contain myself. I was acting like a kid but I didn't care. We had been trying for so long and now it had come true. We were going to have a baby. Page seemed less excited than I but she was happy that we were finally starting our family. I knew she worried about the effect on her new show and her career but I reminded her that many of the best women newscasters had taken time to have children, I mentioned Amy Robach from MSNBC and several others. She finally agreed and seemed to be more relaxed.
We went to the doctor and got the reports and all of the rules and regulations and cautions about being healthy and taking proper care of Page. It was a little early for the sonogram, but Page and the doctor worked out the timing. She was six weeks pregnant. The delivery date was figured and we were ready. We worked on the house to convert one of the spare bedrooms to the nursery, and generally doing all the things you would expect an expecting couple to do. We were both very happy and Page found being pregnant actually worked in her favor with the popular response. People loved it and she began to actually enjoy being pregnant.
On the other hand, I had been casually daydreaming about when she got pregnant. I was trying to remember what we were doing and where we were when she became pregnant. I thought a little memento of that time would be a cute gift for Page. As hard as I tried, I couldn't find a time that coincided with the time period that the doctor had given us. The best I could come up with was the time Page was in the city working on her show. Three of the four best times for her to have gotten pregnant were when she was there. Sex between her and I during that time was few and far between due to stress for her and traveling for me. I had gone to see my father during that time and that trip took me away for three days. The same three days Page was in the midst of her fertile cycle. And backtracking from what the doctor told us, that was the time she became pregnant. So the only conclusion that I could come to was that she had screwed someone in her apartment in the city while I was seeing my dad.
Maybe this is a good time to give you some background on us. Page and I had gone to college together and we began dating in our junior year. She was very popular and I was not, so much, but she seemed to like me and we began to date. We tried to keep it casual at first, dating other people but finally decided to make it an exclusive relationship. During our senior year, we became intimate and we finally knew that we were going to be together. I proposed during Christmas break that year and she accepted. We planned to be married once we graduated.
Page majored in communications and she wanted to go into reporting. With her looks and her voice, she was a natural. She interviewed with several stations and finally took the job with the local CBS affiliate. I had majored in engineering and took a job with the Ford plant there in town. We were together which was our goal. We were married in July of that summer and we moved into a small, but very nice condo. That way, we had little to worry about in maintenance and we could spend our times working or being together.
We were very happy for the first two years, she developing her career and me advancing in mine. Money was no object and we had few vices. We were able to have pretty much what we wanted. It was in the third year that things got dicey.
Page was offered a job as an on-site reporter. That meant that she would be doing a lot of traveling and she would be on location for one or two weeks with each assignment. It meant she would be gone up to 17 weeks a year, always in a different location. It meant that we would be apart almost as much as we were together. It was considered a lead in to the job that she had been working toward and I hated it, but she wanted it so much that I gave in. She took the assignment and we struggled, trying to find time to be together.
Page continued in that job for the next two years, traveling almost more than she was home. She knew her cameraman Harry better than she knew me. I wondered often how much better, for no other reason than simple jealousy. I never had reason to suspect Page was doing anything other than working. I was beginning to wonder if we could survive since we were apart more than we were together and I decided to have it out with her when she came home between assignments. I prepared for her homecoming that weekend with a wonderful meal, cooked by the local restaurant that served as my home away from home while she was traveling, to be served for the following night.
Page came in late that Friday night and we spent little time together since she was so exhausted that she took a shower, kissed me goodnight and went to bed. She was sound asleep within minutes so I sat up by myself as I did so often and watched TV until I was bored enough to fall asleep on the couch. That's where she found me the next morning.
She woke me with a kiss and a smile. I was less enthusiastic and wanted only some coffee and a shower. She had the coffee made so I grabbed a cup and went for the shower. With the water flowing over me, I began to wake up and remember who I was. I slowly came fully awake and remembered that Page was home. I brightened immediately and became even happier when I felt her slip into the shower behind me. She put her arms around me and I felt her breasts push into my back. It had been so long that it took me a minute to become aroused. She helped in that by sliding her hands down my body to my now awakened erection. We made love in the shower and then, later on we discovered each other again, this time more slowly and completely.
After I dressed and came back downstairs, I found Page in the kitchen reading the local paper and eating an egg sandwich. I watched her for a while deciding if I should go ahead with my plans to talk to her. I decided I had no choice if we were to survive as a couple and sat down across from her. Without putting down the paper, she shoved what was left of the sandwich toward me and I finished it. We sat there for another few minutes before I plunged in. I asked her to put the paper down and give me her undivided attention. She did as I asked but seemed surprised and somewhat anxious.
I began with a review of the past two years and the amount of time we had spent apart. I told her I understood her desire to get ahead in her job and I understood this was necessary as a prelude to an on-air reporting assignment, but I finally laid it on the line. Either she talks to management and changes her assignment, or she quits. The only other choice was a separation. I saved that until last. I found myself choking up as I spelled out my frustrations and laid out my conditions. It was harder to do than I had expected.
I stopped, having said all I wanted to say. I watched her face as she considered what I had said but I couldn't tell what she was thinking. Finally, she looked at me with a small smile on her face and told me that she had already talked to her bosses and told them that she was finished with working on assignment and that either they made a move to put her on camera or she was going to look elsewhere. She told me she had a meeting with them next week and that she was sure she would not have to go out on assignment again unless it was on a national story. Those were rare and not a big deal. She finally laughed and told me that she was going to tell me today but that I made the move first.
I heaved a huge sign of relief and got up to move to her and take her in my arms. She stood up waiting and we embraced. It was a good time. We laughed and talked and made plans and in general, acted like a couple of teenagers again. It was good to feel that way. We needed it after the past two years. We were able to find each other again and our marriage began to heal and find its own again. We had now been married four years and five months and I was content.
She was given the job of special reporter and she was on camera at least three times a week. She had a producer and she was able to work on her stories and get them ready for presentation on the evening news and on the weekends special editions. She was good at what she did and she was becoming well known around the area. She grew in her job and I continued to advance in mine. We were doing well. That's when the plane crash happened.
The plane went down in a wooded area just four miles from our city. The plane carried 44 passengers and four crew members. It had gone down in a small storm and there were no survivors. Page was on site within minutes of the crash and she was able to interview many of the workers when they took a break. She had some really heavy interviews and they tore at the heartstrings of her listeners. She made everyone feel the sadness and the tragedy of the crash and she was giving the mourners their time on camera to let the world know of their grief. She was on the screen almost continuously during that time and I tried as much as I could to comfort her in the evenings and when she had some free time. She worked herself to exhaustion until things began to calm down. She continued on the story but with less and less intensity until she could return to normal herself. She finally took a break.
During the break, her boss pulled her in and told her that she was being given her own show, beginning in three months. He told her that she had earned it and he wanted her to do the type of shows she was so good at. She had plenty of time to put together some stories for the introduction. It all worked out since I wanted to take some time to visit my father. He was sick and my mother wanted me to come as soon as I could. She scared me so I just took the time from work as a personal emergency and scheduled three days with them. Page said she would stay in the city at the apartment and work on her upcoming shows, but to call her if I needed her. Shortly after that visit, we took our time together and booked two weeks just for ourselves.
Then came the announcement of her pregnancy and the next seven and a half months were pleasantly busy. I put my concerns about the timing aside for the time being since I could do nothing about it anyway. I had no real doubts about Page and never thought she was cheating on me. I put most of it down to just not figuring the date of pregnancy close enough. It had to be my baby. No question. She seemed very happy and acted as any normal woman would during pregnancy. She was moody and happy and angry and all of those emotions that were running rampant at the time. We survived and we decorated and we planned and we were happy.
Page took maternity leave 3 months before the baby was due at the doctor's suggestion. When she announced her leave, I suggested we have her cameraman, her producer and several of her station mates over for a final party. I told her I would take care of everything. She was less enthusiastic than I expected but she agreed and we planned the get together for a week later. I did as promised and the party was a great success. Page was so big that she sat in the center of the party as guest of honor and enjoyed the attention she was getting. I watched her interaction with Harry and Jim and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Each talked with her and gave her a kiss on the cheek and she smiled at both but that was all. I relaxed and kept things moving. I refreshed everyone's drinks and made sure that no one drank too much. The party was finally winding down and everyone was leaving. I played the good host and walked each to the door as they left. Both Harry and Jim wished us the best and neither seemed to be more than a good friend. In my eyes, the party was a great success and I had what I wanted.
Page had enjoyed the party and she talked about it for the next several days, thanking me for doing it. She had become more needy as the pregnancy developed and she was less and less inclined to have me out of her sight. She must have told me she loved me to death twenty times during the last two weeks. She wanted me with her all the time and she seemed to worry if I wasn't there. She was fine during the day while I was at work but the evenings seemed to be the worst. She wanted me there beside her. I chalked it up to pregnancy.
Penny arrived at 2:43 in the morning on the 28th of October. The delivery was easy and quick and Page didn't have much time for worry. They gave her an epidural and she said afterward that delivery was a snap. I was glad for her sake and Penny was perfect. I couldn't get enough of watching her and if she wasn't in the room with Page, I was outside the maternity ward window just watching her. She was beautiful. We took mother and baby home two days later.
Page was a beautiful mother and she insisted on breast feeding Penny. She would sit in the rocker we bought for the nursery and softly hum while Penny suckled. It was a picture that I treasured. She loved Penny, there was no question and she was good with her. I learned to change and wash her but Page was the care giver. I was the father, the protector. Page was the nurturer.
One afternoon while Page was taking a nap and I was watching Penny asleep in her crib, I went into my den and got a package that I had ordered some time ago. It had the items needed for DNA testing for up to four persons. I took one swab out of the container and swabbed the inside of her little mouth. She never woke and felt nothing. I put the swab in the container and marked it 'Penny'. I took another swab and put it in my mouth to take my own sample and labeled it 'Sample 1'.
I took both containers to the den where my desk was and took out two bags. Each had a spoon and a napkin. Each was labeled. I took two more swabs, opened one of the bags and, carefully following directions, wet one of the swabs with sterile water from a bottle. I then carefully swabbed the spoon, all around the base. This spoon had been used with a jell-o dessert and a sample of that, spread on a wooden stick, was included with the packet. The swab, the plastic spoon and the napkin went into one packet and it was carefully labeled. I repeated the procedure with the other bag and labeled it as well. The two swabs from Penny and I went into an envelope along with the two kits, labeled 'Sample 2' and 'Sample 3'. I sealed the envelope and set it aside. I would mail it when Page woke up. A quick trip to the post office.
Our life went on as before with Page learning to be a mother and I a father. I had to admit, the time was the best we had shared during our six years together. I loved my little girl and she was a joy. We were a perfect family. Page slowly got her figure back and she settled into the routine like she was made for it. I wondered when she would consider going back to work and finally asked her one evening when we were sitting together on the patio, Penny playing in a small playpen we took outside with us. Her answer surprised me. She said that she was considering staying home with Penny until she was at least three or four. She felt that Penny should have her mother with her to help her develop and grow. She asked me if that would be a problem and I told her no. I would be happy if she stayed home. She had to know that. She just took my hand and pulled it to her lips. We snuggled together until time to go back inside for dinner.
The results from the package I had mailed three weeks ago came to me at a post office box I had rented. I picked it up one evening after work and put it in my briefcase. I wanted to wait until I had plenty of time to open it. I actually wanted to think about it first. Did I want to open it? What would I do if it said what I feared it would? I needed time. The results wouldn't change if I didn't open it for a while. I locked it away in a drawer in my desk at home and forgot about it for a while.
I had gone to bed one evening after a particularly bad day at work and was reading when Page came in. She had just finished checking on Penny and she was heading for the shower. We had celebrated Penny's two month birthday today and Page had used a cupcake with a tiny candle in it. She blew it out and Penny laughed. It may have been silly but we enjoyed it. Penny did too. It made my bad day just a little better but I was still stewing over it. I decided to read a novel that I had bought some time ago. It was light and simple and easy to read. I had just started to get into it when Page came to bed.
I could smell the perfume she had on and it was beginning to make my stomach tighten. It had been more than eight weeks since Penny was born and we had not had sex for almost four weeks before she was born. That meant I had been celibate for almost 12 weeks, or three months, or 84 days, or... well, you get the picture. It had been a long time anyway. I thought about the last time and couldn't remember when it was. That started to bother me and I found myself mumbling under my breath. I had to get some control.
After reading the same page at least three times, I decided to give up. Maybe I could just get some sleep. I put the book down and reached to turn out the light when Page asked me to leave it on. I did and turned to her to ask why. As I did, I noticed that she had nothing on. She had come to bed naked and I hadn't noticed? She had a robe on when she came out of the bathroom that I remembered but I guess I was lost in my ruminations on my lack of sex when she climbed into bed. All I noticed was her perfume.
Page leaned over me and kissed me with passion. That type of kiss was never one of a kind. It signaled her desire to have sex. I recognized it but was not exactly sure so I asked. She laughed and told me that the doctor had given her the go ahead today and she was more than ready. She asked if I was and I just laughed. I reached for her and she was ready and more than willing. I pulled her to me and kissed her back and I could feel her surrender to me completely. She was more than ready: she was willing and compliant and I knew that she would willingly do anything tonight that I wanted. That made me more tender than I would normally have been. I wanted to make love to her tonight, and then have sex with her afterwards.
We had been back to having sex on a regular basis now for more than three months and it was actually better than before Penny. I wondered if it was because she was not working now and she was not so keyed up and stressed out. I mentioned this to her and she agreed, saying that she was not really sure if she wanted to go back to work. We discussed it but it was too soon to have to make that decision. In any event, she was happy not working and she was delighted to be a mother. I watched her and she seemed to thrive in her new role.
Page and I had just had a bout of afternoon sex on a Saturday afternoon and I was trying to forget it long enough to get the grass cut. I was sweating and it felt quite good but something was nagging at me. I couldn't figure out what it was until I remembered. Harry had called that afternoon and Page had talked to him on the phone for more than 20 minutes. She took the phone into the other room to talk to him and I couldn't hear what they discussed. When I asked her later, she just shrugged her shoulders and told me it was nothing. I didn't press her but it left me with an uneasy feeling. As I stopped to fill the tank with gas, the envelope with the results of the DNA testing popped into my mind. I hadn't thought about it for several months. I guess Harry was one of the test subjects and since his call, I had begun to remember. I worried it for a while but knew in the back of my mind that I was going to open it tonight.
When Page put Penny down for the night, she went in to take a long hot bath. This usually took her about 30 minutes so I felt this was enough time. I went into the den, shut the door and took out the envelope. I sat down at the desk and left it there on the blotter, asking myself if I really wanted to do this. Hadn't things been great since Penny was born? Hadn't Page and I been in a good place since then? Hadn't our sex life been better than ever? Yes to all. So, why did I want to do this. Because I had no choice.
I opened the envelope and read the results. The first report was comparing my swab and Penny's swab. The results were negative, indicating that I was not a parent. That much I had suspected. I had little reaction to that one, other than a small but growing pain in my gut. I knew it would get worse before it got better. I pulled out the second report: the one that generated the DNA profiles from Sample 2 and Sample 3. The results were positive for Sample 2 and negative for Sample 3. Sample two was a genetic match for Penny. I knew without looking what the key was. Sample two was Harry Palmer. Harry Palmer was Penny's biological father.
I slid the reports and graphs back into the envelope and locked it back in my desk drawer. I now had my answer and I had no idea how I felt. I had to think about this and I needed time. I didn't think I could do it here. I didn't think I could keep my cool with Page knowing what I knew now. I needed to be alone. I walked down to the kitchen and pulled out a bottle of Jim Beam that I kept in the cupboard. I drank very rarely and kept it there mostly for company. I took down a tumbler and sloshed some whiskey into the glass and added a couple of ice cubes. I sat down at the table and tried to think of where I could go for some alone time: time enough to think.
I had started on my third drink when Page came into the kitchen. She stopped when she saw the bottle sitting in front of me. With hands on her hips, she asked me what the hell I was doing. Instead of answering her, I just got up and walked with the bottle down to the den and shut the door, locking it behind me. I went to the small couch and slouched down. I sipped my booze as Page knocked on the door, asking me what was wrong. I decided not to answer her and continued to drink. She finally gave up and I had another drink. It was sometime after midnight when I finally passed out. I slept, or rather, remained unconscious until the next morning.
With a hangover that was one of the worst of my life, I went upstairs to the bedroom and took a cold shower. The water began to shock me awake and I felt my senses returning. I stood under the blast as long as I could and then dried off and changed. While the night had gone with me passed out on the couch, my mind had been working in the booze soaked background. I had some ideas that I would consider now that I was sober. First, I wanted some time alone. I needed the time to think of my future and what I could and could not live with. Page: could I accept what she had done and could I forgive her? Was my life better with her or without her? Penny: what would this do to her if I couldn't forgive her mother? These were questions I needed to resolve in my own mind.
As I dressed, I thought of Harry. I needed to know the extent of their affair. How long had their affair been going on and how much did Harry know? I wanted to get his side of this before confronting Page. I didn't trust her now so I needed some basis for corroboration. Harry was the other guy, or at least I hoped he was the only other guy. Page wasn't a slut so it was likely Harry was the only one. Thus, a plan was born. Now for the first step: telling Page that I had to be by myself.
I went downstairs to see Page and Penny at breakfast, just as they did every morning. The fact that it was so routine made the pain in my gut worse. Would this all be gone soon? I got control of myself and smiled at Page and Penny as I got my cup of coffee. Page just looked at me but said nothing. She wouldn't make a scene in front of Penny, that much I knew. I sat down and watched as Penny ate her Cheerios, one at a time. I made happy noises at her and she grinned at me, making the world just a little more acceptable. If only.
Once Page put Penny into her playpen with some juice and a cookie, she returned and sat down across from me. She looked at me before asking me what was going on. She was angry and trying to control her temper but she was on the verge of yelling. I let her stew for a few minutes while I looked back at her. She was still beautiful. Her long blond hair was still soft and silky and shone like gold with the sun coming in the kitchen window. Her blue eyes were just a little dark at the moment due to her anger but they were still the eyes that I had fallen in love with. She had begun to go to the gym with Penny and she had been working out with a group of mothers with new children and she looked really great already. None of this was helping me to say what I had to say.
I told Page that I needed a couple of days away by myself to deal with some problems that had come up. I didn't elaborate but told her that they were personal and I needed the time away from her and Penny to deal with them. She, of course, wanted to know why I excluded her from these problems but I told her I couldn't tell her that. I just needed time away by myself. She was becoming upset and I could see tears in her eyes but I had to be firm. I told her that the problems were serious but that I felt it was necessary to be alone to work them out.
She was raising her voice now and she was on the verge of exploding but because of Penny, she held back. She insisted that I tell her what they were but I refused. She got up and ran up the stairs to the bedroom and I heard the door slam shut. I heaved a sigh of relief because this was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I went in to watch Penny play while I picked up the phone and called for reservations at the Holiday Inn Express just off the freeway. It was about 20 minutes away, far enough to feel alone. If Page didn't know where I was, that was all I needed.
Page came back down about an hour later and went about her routine without comment. She seemed to have accepted my intended plans but not happily. She did some laundry and watched Penny take her mid morning juice. She was quiet until she had put Penny down for a nap. It was almost 11:30 and I still had about three hours before I could check in. Page must have decided to try again because she sat down across from me and started. I remember that morning as the first time I made a venture into telling her what I knew.
"What in the world are you doing Jonathan? What is so important that you have to go off by yourself? And what personal issues could you have that don't include me? Is there something you don't want to tell me or something you don't want me to find out about?"
I considered what I was going to say very carefully. I didn't want to really get into this for the reasons I've already mentioned, but why not just a little bump?
"There are some things that I need to decide how best to handle. They are issues that will concern you and Penny but I'm not ready to discuss them with you just yet."
"I don't know what would be so important that you need to wonder how to handle me. That's insulting. Why don't you just say it? Whatever it is? Are you having an affair Jonathan? Is that what this is about?"
"I've never been unfaithful to you in our marriage. I'm not the one that was gone half the time over the past two years. I'm not the one traveling with another man when I was here waiting for you? And I'm not the one that has an apartment in the city for sleepovers."
The look of shock on her face was priceless. This was the first time I had ever mentioned any of those things in a threatening way. This was not something she was prepared for and it caught her by surprise. The look was one of shock and embarrassment, not anger. She sat there, looking at me without saying anything. She was truly at a loss for words. Before she could find the words to rebut me, I walked out of the kitchen and upstairs to pack a bag with enough for about three days. As I closed the bag, she walked in.
"I have to ask you a question and I want a straight answer. Are you accusing me of having an affair with someone? Do you think Harry and I are sleeping together? Is that what this is about?"
"I don't remember accusing you of anything. You asked me if I was having an affair. I just pointed out that you had more opportunity than I did. And what about that phone call from Harry? You talked to him in another room so I couldn't hear? You talked for more than 20 minutes but wouldn't tell me what it was about? If nothing is going on, why couldn't you tell me what it was about?"
"It was personal."
As she said this, the irony of her words came back to catch her. That was exactly what I told her why I had to leave. I watched her face go through the various stages of surprise, understanding and finally guilt. She chose the option of saying nothing. As a result, I grabbed my bag and walked out and down to the car. I loaded the bag in the back seat, checked to be sure I had my briefcase and sundries and got in. As I pulled out of the garage, Page opened the door from the kitchen and watched me leave.
I checked into the Holiday Inn and put my meager belongings into the small closet equipped with three hangers, an ironing board and an iron. Hopefully, the wrinkles would hang themselves out. I turned on the TV and sat down on the edge of the king-sized bed. Now that I was here, I had no clue. I had no idea of what to do next. I simply sat there for about an hour until I finally decided I had to take some action, even if it was wrong.
The first question I faced had to do with Penny. She was my daughter, in all respects except the biological. At this point, that was still important but not to me. I could see no way in which I could end up without being a part of her life. That was a given.
The second question was what to do with Page. If this were a one time thing, it's possible she didn't even know I wasn't the father. I put the odds of that at one in 100. More likely she did know and it wasn't a one time thing. I put the odds of that at one in 10. I thought the truth was somewhere in the middle, but the odds were good that she knew I wasn't the bio father. The rest was just speculation right now.
The third question was the rest of my life. With Page or without her? With Penny or without her? And finally, with Page and Penny or without either. Most of the choices sucked.
As I sat there, I had a brainstorm. Why not ask the source? Why not go to the root of the problem? Of course! I picked up the phone book and looked for the number of Harry Palmer. I found seven of them. All I knew what that he lived here in the city and on the west side. That narrowed it down to three. I could deal with that. I called the first one without success. I called the second and hit pay dirt. It was the right Harry. I told him who I was and that I would like to meet him about a surprise party for Page. I told him that it was important she not find out that he and I spoke and he agreed. I made an appointment to see him that evening.
When we met, I was surprised to find him to be an older man, about the same height as me but quite a bit heavier. Not very impressive but at a distance, we looked a lot alike. That's why Penny looked so much like me. So did Harry. Since we met at a restaurant, I told him to be my guest for dinner and he agreed. We ate and chatted like old friends. He seemed quite at ease with me but that didn't tell me anything. It was clear as he talked about Page that he liked and respected her and was sad that she had not come back to work. He just said that he was working with another reporter that he didn't much care for. Too bad.
After we finished dessert, we left the restaurant and walked outside together. As we walked toward the parking lot, I decided to take my shot.
"Harry, do you mind if I ask you a personal question? Just about work?
"Sure, John. Ask away."
"Great. Harry, how many times did you screw my wife?"
Harry stopped dead in his tracks and looked like he wished he could be anywhere but here. He turned to look at me and tried to say something but he was having trouble getting the words out. He finally mumbled something about "never," and, "have no idea of what you are asking," and, "how could you think that," and a bunch of other shit.
I finally took him by the shirt front with my two hands and put my face right up against his and repeated myself.
"I asked you a simple question. How many times have you fucked my wife? I know that you did so I just want to know how many times. And if you lie to me again, I'm going to beat the shit out of you until you tell me what I want to know. Do you have that straight now?"
I pushed him back against one of the cars and moved up close to him so he couldn't move away from me. He was scared now and he was shaking. I put one hand on his chest and held him there, glaring at him. He finally slumped back and gave up the fight.
"Just once. Just one time at her apartment here in town. We had been working for 26 hours straight on a story about a drug deal and we were both wiped out. She had just finished interviewing a real bad ass and we were both shaking in our boots. Rather than go back to the studio, we went to her apartment since it was closer. We had a few drinks, started to laugh about the whole thing and we ended up holding each other. Well, the next thing we knew we had done it. It shocked both of us. We had been together so long but nothing like that had ever happened and it scared us both. I couldn't get out fast enough and neither of us ever mentioned it again. I know that she was sorry because she couldn't stop crying. I couldn't help her since I didn't even want to be there so I just ran. That was the only time and it has really made things bad between us."
I had moved back to let him talk and now he seemed to be glad to spill it out. I could tell that the whole thing really caused him some grief. I actually believed what he told me since it came out without any attempt to try to hide what actually happened.
"I called her a few days ago to tell her I had taken a job with another station over in Denver. I'll be doing the same thing but we won't have to see each other anymore. It had to be done. That's why she hasn't come back to work and I haven't been to see her. We used to be friends. Now we're strangers who can't stand the sight of each other. I really miss her and I wish to God it had never happened. That's the God's own truth."
Harry stood there with his head hanging and his arms limp at his sides. That story was actually painful for him to tell me and I could see how much it hurt. I found myself feeling sorry for the guy. Not sorry enough to tell him about Penny but sorry nevertheless. That explained why Page couldn't tell me what the phone call was about. She couldn't tell me why he was leaving.
I had what I had come for and nothing more was to be gained by beating him up or ruining his career. I told him that I didn't want Page to hear about this conversation between us. He promised. I just walked away from him without another word. As far as I was concerned, he was nobody to me anymore. He could prosper in Denver or rot in hell. I didn't care any more about Harry Palmer. I drove back to the hotel with a slightly lighter heart.
As I lay in bed that night thinking about my conversation with Harry, I now had some of the answers I needed. It was a one time thing and it was over. It was clear that Harry did not know about Penny and would never find out if I had my way. So he wasn't going to take her away from me. Since he didn't know, there was no need for me to do anything legal. Page wouldn't tell anyone else since it would look bad for her. So, one down, a few more to go.
The next day was Monday and I went to work with reluctance. I was still confused and still not sure what to do. I checked my voicemail and found three calls from Page asking me to call her but I deleted them without response. I talked with my boss and made some arrangements to take the rest of this week off since I had five weeks of vacation scheduled for this year. He was happy with me since this was a quiet time of the year in our business. He would scream later on if I wanted time. I finished work for the day and went back to the hotel for the evening. I decided to call home to see how things were going. That should be interesting.
I stopped at a pizza joint on the way back and picked up a large with everything. That would be dinner and a late night snack. Since I had a small fridge in the room, I had all the cold drinks I wanted so I filled it with beer and soda. All the comforts of home.