In May, 2005, I posted a story entitled How High a Price - Another View about Early and Susan Conroy.
That story used a plot summary and characters of How High a Price, written by The Troubador. Other authors have also written stories based on the same theme and characters, all courtesy of The Troubador's excellent beginning. Those stories can all be found here at storiesonline, courtesy of Lazeez. Joesephus added two excellent stories to the anthology, which follow the branch of this literary tree I began with my version of the tale.
Cheating stories are always popular because so much of it goes on in real life, and the emotions are so visceral. Add to that the Troubador's almost mystical open-ended creation. Something keeps drawing me back to it. So I have written this story for the anthology.
It is not a stroke story. It contains little sex. It is the story of a man wrestling with the problems caused him by a cheating wife. You should read How High a Price - Another View first because this one is a direct continuation of it, and this one will not make any sense without the first one. For those of you seeking a story of Susan or of Susan and Early, this is not it. This is Early's story.
I always enjoy feedback, either positive or negative. I hope you enjoy my tale.
Early Conroy was in a deep sleep, the kind where the mind whirls but the body can't move. He was hot and breathing was difficult. He struggled, feeling bound and helpless. He heard a knock. He tried to crawl toward it. The knock became more insistent. He yanked at his bonds, twisting and turning. The knock became louder. Suddenly, he yanked, twisted his body, and rolled off the bed onto the floor with a loud thunk, but the bed covers flew off him. He sat upright, unable, for a moment, to remember where he was.
"Early!" a voice outside shouted. "Open the door!"
"All right," he yelled. "Hold on a minute."
The room was damp and hot. Early's clothes, which he had worn to bed, were soaked in sweat. His mouth was dry and he could still taste the bourbon he'd consumed. He stumbled to the door, undid the safety chain, and opened it. Bill Miller was standing there with two grande lattes from Starbucks.
"What?" Early demanded.
"We were afraid something had happened to you? Are you all right?" Miller asked.
"Fine, but you interrupted a good night's sleep."
"You've been in there twenty-four hours," Miller said. He handed Early a cup. "Strong and hot. Are you going to invite me in?"
"Yeah, sure," Early replied stepping aside. "What time did you say it was?"
"Saturday night. You forgot to turn on the air conditioner. Do you mind?"
"Go ahead. Did you say it's Saturday night?" Early asked.
The room air conditioning unit was on low fan only. Miller turned on the a/c to its coldest setting and clicked the fan to high. "Yes, Saturday. Drink the coffee," he said. "You need a shower, too. While you take it, I'll get housekeeping to put on clean sheets. Did you leave everything in the car?"
"Yes. I really wasn't..." He let the sentence trail away. "What's going on out there?"
"It rained," Miller said. "All future communications will wait until you can think, which is after the coffee and shower. I'll get your stuff. Where are your car keys?"
Early tossed Bill the keys. When Early went into to shower, Bill began unloading the car. Thirty minutes later, housekeeping had changed the bed and departed. Early was dressed in a sports shirt and jeans. His coffee cup was empty.
"I'm awake now, Bill. What's going on?"
"How much detail do you want?" Bill asked.
"A full report."
"I videoed you driving away last night. Then I called the police and an ambulance. I knew Stickner was in bad shape and I wasn't sure about your... Susan."
"The cop last night..." Early said.
"Sergeant Peter Simmons," Miller said. "He's a good guy and a good cop."
"Got it. Sergeant Simmons said I fractured Stickner's cheekbone."
"You did. It was a hell of a right cross, Early. Marciano would have been proud of you."
"How was his surgery?" Early asked.
"I don't know. Jim Anderson of their firm swooped in and locked everything down. They even got a judge out of his Saturday tennis game to sign an order prohibiting us from going anywhere near Susan, Stickner, and every one else at that firm. And the court ordered us to turn over all evidence in our possession." Miller grinned. "John Wells anticipated something like that. We delivered all the evidence, including the picture negatives and the video, to Mrs. Rodgers before we got the court order to deliver them to the court. We even got a copy of the video in Simmons' hands and he took it to the D.A."
"Am I in the clear?"
"You need to call your attorney. And you need to check your cell phone messages. You've got it turned off," Miller replied.
"So, I'm not in the clear?" Early asked.
"I think you are, but you need to call..."
"My attorney. You don't have any more coffee with you, do you?"
"No, but Starbucks is only five minutes away. Want any bagels or muffins?"
"Two bagels with cream cheese and another double powerhouse latte," Early said.
"Don't leave and don't let anyone in while I'm gone," Miller cautioned. "I'm on guard duty."
As soon as Miller left, Early turned on his cell phone. He called his voice mail box to discover there were only five messages.
The first was from Catherine Means, his realtor. "Early, it's Saturday about one. An offer was made this morning on the house at full asking price. I accepted it for you as I'm required to do by law. So your house is sold. I've located some lovely town homes for lease that might appeal to you. Give me a call back when you can. I hope everything is all right."
The second was from Cynthia Rodgers, his attorney. "Mr. Conroy, we need to talk. Call me as soon as you can. My cell phone number is 555-1863."
The third was from John Wells. "Mr. Conroy, please call me back. It's urgent."
The fourth was from Susan. "Early, I am so sorry. I love you and I want you back. Please, let's talk."
The fifth phone call was from Cynthia Rodgers again. "Mr. Conroy, it's six o'clock on Saturday evening. I'm going dancing with my husband, then I'm going to bed. Please come to our house tomorrow morning at eleven thirty. We have a lot to discuss. Why don't you plan to stay for lunch? My husband cooks a mean omelet and I can pour orange juice with the best of them. I'm sure you can find my house. I live directly across the street from John Stickner in the stucco with the "R" above the gate. We'll see you then."
Early called John Wells back first. "Wells," he answered.
"Early Conroy," Early said.
"Are you all right?" Wells asked.
"I'm going to be fine. What's so urgent?" Early asked.
"Nothing now, but if you want to hang me, I put a rope around my neck for you."
"I contacted your attorney and gave her all the evidence without your authorization. I had no choice really. When it looked like we were staring at a court order..."
"You did the right thing, John," Early said. "Thanks for taking a risk for me."
"You're welcome. Damn but it sounded like a donnybrook the way Bill described it."
"I guess it was. Bill hasn't told me all of it. He's out getting coffee now."
They talked for a few more minutes before Early disconnected. Early was thinking about the legal situation when Bill Miller rapped on the door. Early let him and the men sat down. Early took a sip of coffee and thanked Bill for the sustenance.
"You were reporting," Early said as he lathered a bagel with cream cheese.
"Right," Miller said. "Stickner's wife was called by the paramedics. She was the one who called Anderson and got the legal ball rolling." Miller's eyes narrowed. "I know you told Simmons you didn't want to hear about Susan but I'm going to tell you."
"No," Early said.
"Yes," Miller said. "There are only two reasons why you don't want to hear. One is it hurts too much to even hear her name. You're a big boy. He can handle it." Miller took a sip of his coffee. "The other is you care about her and don't want to hear how you hurt her. You need to handle that, too." Miller waited until Early sat back in resignation. "Do you know which reason it is?" Miller asked.
"Just tell me," Early said.
"Susan fainted as you know. She was still lying there when the ambulance and police arrived. The paramedics took her vital signs and roused her. She was delirious, so they called for a second ambulance and transported her. She was admitted for observation."
Miller opened the small attache case he carried when he first came in and removed two photographs. "Besides, Jim Anderson, three people came to see her. Here are their photos." He handed them to Early.
Early looked at them. "This one is her mother," Early said. "And this is Cindy, her sister, and Jeff, Cindy's husband."
"Susan was released from the hospital this morning. Her mother took her home," Miller said.
"Why do you ask?" Miller said. Early came him a dirty look. "To Susan's home. The one you and she lived in. I don't know if they're still there. We got hit with the court order."
"Anything else I need to know?" Early asked.
"Not from me, but I'm sure your attorney has a lot to tell you."
"Now what?" Early asked.
.... There is more of this story ...