Assembling the bomb:
Thinking back to my younger years and vacations by the ocean, I can remember the sounds in the middle of the night; the small waves lapping softly at the shore and on occasion, a larger wave would wash up, followed again by the smaller ones. That was how my stomach felt that Friday morning; small waves of nausea interrupted by an occasional larger one. Not quite causing a gag reflex or the need to empty the contents; I had done that already a couple of times. I swiveled around in my desk chair and looked out my second floor office window. It was another idyllic May morning; the sun shining, a few white puffy clouds scattered across the azure sky, the flowers rampant in our building's carefully tended gardens. It should have been a sight of great comfort and pleasure and yet I was unable to grasp the scene in any positive way. I saw it all and yet I saw nothing.
Peter Dennison had set these sensations in motion earlier during our brief meeting. The baby-faced investigator had presented me with his second and probably final report on the activities of my wife, Caroline. I had been steeling myself for this meeting and I thought I was prepared for the inevitable tragedy that would spill from his compactly typed account. I was wrong. Nothing could prepare me for what he revealed. I sat in shock, first with the written report, then the photographs and finally the audio tapes. Neither of us had said a word since he had handed me the six pages of the printed document that would change my life forever. I remember standing and offering my hand to Peter and thanking him for his thoroughness and the speed with which he had conducted the investigation. He must have shown himself out because I have no recollection of him leaving.
I couldn't bring myself to listen to the tape recordings again and I tried once more to read the report, but the words just blurred and I was unable to concentrate. Instead, I just stared at the eight by ten glossy photos; ten of them; each more destructive and demoralizing that the others. I'm not sure how long I sat there after Peter left, but gradually I became aware that I needed to act. I needed someone to talk to and that someone had to be my brother Bob. I slowly picked up the telephone and punched the preset for his office number.
"Bob Thorpe here." was his ever pleasant greeting. Bob was one of those wonderful people who actually answered his phone without screening, caller I.D. or voice mail classification.
"Hi Bob, it's Mark." I said in a soft voice.
"Mark... what's up... you sound awful." I could hear the concern in his voice. We were close and each was in tune with the other's voice tones.
"Can you meet me for lunch today? It's really important or I wouldn't ask on such short notice."
Bob probably had a lunch appointment but he clearly understood the meaning of 'really important'.
"Yah, of course. Anyplace special?"
"How about 'The Snug' at 12:30?"
"See if you can find a booth in the lounge that's private, away from the usual crowd." I asked.
"Sure, I'll get there a little early. Do I need to bring anything?"
"No, I'll look after that." I said cryptically. "And Bob... thanks."
I sat back in my chair and stared again at the items on my desk. Six neatly typed pages, three audio cassettes, ten photographs and a plain manila envelope. It might have just as well been the components to a hydrogen bomb. I gathered the items together and slipped them in the envelope and then into my soft leather brief. I took a sip of water from the glass on my desk, stood up, took my jacket from the coat rack and walked out of my office, closing the door quietly behind me.
"I'll be gone for the rest of the day, Elizabeth. If it's absolutely urgent, call me on my cell. I may not answer, but leave a message." I said quietly to the elegant woman who truly controlled my business life.
Elizabeth looked at me and heard the tone of my voice and asked, "Are you all right, Mark?" Only this wonderful sixty something year old woman called me by my first name. She was the dean of the executive assistants and probably knew me almost as well as Caroline. She too understood the hidden meaning of my words.
"I may or may not be in Monday, Elizabeth. I'll call you and let you know what's go... uh... what's happening."
"Take care Mark." she said sincerely. I was conscious that she hadn't wished me a 'good weekend'. Perhaps that special radar of hers had already concluded that it wasn't in the cards.
As I walked into the lounge of 'The Snug', I spotted Bob sitting in the furthest corner booth. While there were people in the adjacent booths, the seat backs were very high and afforded a reasonable amount of privacy. The noise level was moderate and it would mean we wouldn't have to raise our voices to be heard. I slid into the seat alongside Bob and shook his hand. I'm sure my expression was dark and Bob didn't waste any time with unnecessary pleasantries. The waitress was nearby and stopped at our table. We both ordered a double single malt scotch, Bob's on the rocks and mine with a side of water. We passed the time in small talk until the drinks arrived. I silently held mine up toward him and he responded. He looked at me questioningly and I knew the time had come.
"Bob, I've discovered Caroline is having an affair."
"Oh god, Mark... I'm sorry. I would never have thought... I mean... she never hinted that she was unhappy..." his voice trailed off.
"No, I'm just as shocked and bewildered by it all myself. I didn't have any hint that she was involved with anyone." I replied.
"How did you find out?"
"About six weeks or so ago, I got an anonymous phone call that went something like 'Did I know what my wife did on Friday afternoons?' It was a man's voice and that was just about all he said and then hung up. I guess I dismissed it as a crank call and almost forgot about it. We were having a dinner party with some of her Real Estate friends the next weekend and on Friday I knew I had forgotten to do something, but I couldn't remember what it was. I had to call her on Friday afternoon. I never called her on Friday. She made it clear she didn't want to be disturbed because that was the day she got ready for the big weekend open houses and showings. Anyway, I called her office and asked for her and her sales assistant said she was gone for the day. I thought that was kind of strange, so I asked her when she left and the girl said she left about 1:30, just like she did every Friday. It didn't register right away, but a few minutes later I remembered the crank call. I phoned home, but no one answered. I tried her cellphone, but it was obviously off. I called back to her Real Estate office and asked her assistant if she had gone to one of the show homes and was told that no, she didn't work on Friday afternoons. I was buffaloed and suddenly, I was getting an ugly feeling that something else might be happening." I had stopped at this point and took a pull at my drink, looking at it like it might contain some undiscovered truth. No such luck.
"What the hell did it mean?" Bob asked. "Where would she go?" He hadn't spoken since I'd begun and was intently listening to my story.
"When she got home that afternoon I asked her how her day had gone and she said it was fine but it was a shame to have to spend all day in the office when the weather was so nice. I have to tell you Bob, the bottom fell out of my guts when she said that. It was a lie. I had a hard time holding myself together for a while. I kept hoping and praying that there was a logical explanation for everything. On Saturday, she was out before nine on her way to work and I was on my own. The thing I had forgotten to do was to get some flowers for the table for tonight's dinner party, so I headed out to the florists to look after that and stopped for a latte at the Espresso Shack on the way home. I was really starting to obsess about this business of where she was and maybe who she was with. I remembered that Caroline kept a planner on her home office computer and when I got home, I had a look at the past few Fridays. There were lots of notes for the mornings and a few lunches at noon, but nothing for the afternoons but one strange symbol. On some Fridays, there were the letters aK and on others the letters bK. They sort of alternated on each Friday, but not always. I checked back to the beginning of the year and I think almost every Friday had one of those two letter codes."
"I've got to admit, Mark. I'd be damn suspicious too if it were me." Bob offered. "What did you do about finding out?"
"I did something I thought I would never do. I hired a private detective to find out what she was up to. I'll tell you Bob, I felt sick about that decision too."
"I guess you would."
"Anyway, I hired this young guy from the firm that looks after our corporate work, but I made sure no one knew he was working on a personal matter. We use this outfit for internal problems like theft and drugs and the like. I gave him all the information that I've just described to you plus a picture of Caroline, her car and license number and her cell phone number. I also gave him permission to bug our phone and if necessary, set up audio and visual equipment in the house. All perfectly legal as long it's in our home and I give permission. It took him two weeks to get back to me that indeed Caroline was leaving the office before two on Friday afternoons and either going home or going to another house. He said that another person was meeting her at our house around two thirty and staying for a couple of hours and then leaving. He followed the other person and they went to the other house where they obviously lived. He was reluctant to give me any more details at that point but said he had set up some of the equipment in our house and I should know that it was monitoring the living room, master bedroom, guest room and her office. The phones were also set up to record both outgoing and incoming calls by anyone. I was really sick now. I didn't know how I was going to face Caroline and not lose my temper or reveal what I knew."
"Jesus, Mark. I can't believe this. I wouldn't know what the hell to do in this situation." Bob said, shaking his head.
"Well, I had pretty well moved too far down the road not to see it out, so I had to suck it up and wait for the big finale." I continued. "That came this morning. Peter confirmed she was having an affair and had audio and visual proof to give me. It was worse than I could have possibly imagined."
"Christ Mark, can it get any worse than this?" Bob said looking forlornly at me.
"I'm afraid it can, Bob." I took the manila envelope out of the leather brief and passed it to Bob. He looked at me and slowly reached inside and pulled out the contents. The report and the photos beneath it followed by the audio tapes were set in front of him. He started to read the report but his curiosity got the better of him and he pulled the pictures from the bottom of the pile. I've seen shock on the face of people before, but I don't think it could equate to the look on Bob's face as he first saw the photographs. He lost all color and had sucked his breath in at the first sight of them.
"It can't be. It's not possible. This is a trick!" he looked at me pleading for confirmation.
"I wish it was, Bob, I really wish it was."
The pictures were graphic and clearly depicted two lovers in the throes of passion in our bed. The two lovers were Caroline and Bob's wife Karen. Bob was stunned into a frozen mask of white horror at the sight. I was sure he was going to faint or even, as I had earlier that morning, empty the contents of his stomach. Somehow he got a semblance of control over himself and flopped back in his seat, staring blankly at the pictures.
I took another sip of my drink and Bob quickly downed the rest of his; his eyes never leaving the photos before him. He had a bewildered look of a man lost with no idea of how to find his way home. His eyes were wide and he seemed to be breathing in small gasps and holding them in for a few moments. I put my hand on his and took the photos from him and put them and the report back in the envelope.
"Bob, let me tell you what's in the report." I began. He sat there looking at me, nodding almost imperceptibly.
I started by telling him that the audio tapes were as graphic as the photos. The liaisons between the two women were completely sexual and included various equipment including dildos, vibrators, strap-on, handcuffs, blindfolds, anal plugs, nipple clamps and almost any other device you could imagine. Peter had discovered where these were hidden in our house and listed them in the report. He didn't know if everything in this 'toy box' was being used or not.
"For what it's worth Bob, the audio tapes indicate that Caroline was the dominant person and Karen was her subordinate. It would seem that Karen may have been coerced or seduced into this relationship and wasn't strong enough to resist Caroline. I can't prove that, but listening to the tapes and knowing both Karen and Caroline's personalities, I think it's a strong possibility."
"It doesn't make me feel better, Mark. I'm sick and I can't cope with this. I can't believe she would get involved in this. It's just not like her. There must be some reason for it." Bob was searching for answers that only Karen could provide.
I told Bob that I thought the code in her calendar was K for Karen and a or b was the house code. I thought a was our house and b was his, but I wasn't sure.
"If I'm right, Bob, Karen will be going to my house in about half an hour to be with Caroline. I've been thinking about this all morning and I've decided I'm going to be there and confront them. You can come with me or not. It's up to you. I'd completely understand if you chose not to be there."
There was silence at our table for some time. Bob was clearly trying to decide what he should do and how he should react to Karen in this situation. I let him think it through.
Finally, he looked up at me. "I think I'd better be there when this all goes to hell. She may be a mess and I may have to get her home."
OK, Bob, I understand. Listen, why don't you leave your car here and I'll drive you to the house. If I'm wrong and they're at your place, I'll still need a car to get home. I don't plan on being around Caroline after this."
"What do you mean?" Bob looked up surprised.
"I mean I've decided our marriage is over. I won't have her in my house unless she gets a court order and if that happens, I'll move out. She's destroyed the best thing I've ever known and I can't forgive her."
I'm not sure exactly when I had come to that decision, but it was now set in my mind. I knew there would be no way for us to reconcile; the photos alone were seared into my memory forever. She had deceived me, shattered our marriage vows and betrayed my trust. There would be no coming back from this.
I paid the bill and we slowly walked out to my car. Bob was silent and still looked to be in shock. I gave him a copy of the report with the photos and tapes. He held it in his hands, just staring at the envelope. He didn't say a word during the fifteen minute drive to my house. When we arrived, Karen's car was parked in the driveway and Bob groaned and his head flopped back to the headrest and his eyes closed.
"Bob, it's not too late. You don't have to do this. Just wait here and I'll come and get you when things have settled down." I offered.
"No, I have to face this too. I just hope it isn't as bad as those pictures." he said sadly.
Plunging the detonator:
We got out of the car and quietly walked around the side of the house to the back door. I unlocked the door and we entered the laundry room. I peeked in to the adjacent kitchen, but the lights were off and there was no sound. I turned to Bob and motioned him to stay there while I checked the living room. I crept down the hall toward the living-dining area. The reflection from the glass on a large print hanging on the hallway wall gave me a good view of both rooms and it was clear no one was there. I turned back toward Caroline's office and noticed the door was closed. I listened at the door but I could hear nothing. I carefully turned the knob and quietly pushed the door open a couple of inches. The light was off and no one was in the room. That left only the upper floor. It was unlikely they would be in the unfinished basement. I motioned to Bob to join me and we quietly ascended the stairs to the upper floor. As I climbed the steps I began to hear sounds; more like low murmurs and an occasional exclamation. I ducked down low to make sure we weren't spotted from the hallway and listened to see where the sounds were coming from. It didn't take long; it was obvious they were from our master bedroom and it was even more obvious it wasn't two people having a polite conversation.
Bob could hear what I could hear and the look on his face was troublesome. I knew my brother well and we all have a breaking point past which we can behave in an irrational manner. I could tell Bob was close to that point. I wasn't a lot better. I had concentrated on getting this far and I knew what to expect, but I still didn't know exactly how I would react. I stood up as I reached the top of the stairs and quietly moved toward the door. I looked between the edge of the open door and the door frame but my view was obstructed by the Armoire. I could see some of what was happening, but I would have to move into the room to see it all. I stood there for a few moments; gathering my courage and trying to control my breathing. Finally I turned and looked at Bob and then walked slowly into the bedroom.
Caroline was face down on the bed with her ass stuck up in a position suitable for rear entry sex and that was exactly what she was having. Karen was behind her and was stroking a sizeable black penis shaped dildo in and out of my lovely wife. What caught my immediate attention was she was driving this large device into Caroline's ass; previously know to me as the 'No-Go-Zone'. I could hear Caroline moan and then a moment later she spoke in a demanding tone:
"Harder, I want it harder! Fuck me harder you useless bitch!"
"Yes Caroline." was Karen's meek reply.
Both of them were facing away from me and I looked around at Bob. He was standing just inside the door. His mouth was open and his eyes wide with disbelief. I turned back to the scene on the bed and that's when the shit hit the fan. Caroline turned her head to look back at Karen and immediately saw Bob and then me.
"Oh shit, No!" was Caroline's first reaction.
Karen rose up and looked back in the direction of Caroline's eyes and saw Bob and me. She screamed a blood curdling scream and fell off the bed, hitting the Armoire on the way down. At least it stopped her screaming. Bob stood frozen in place while I walked to the end of the bed. Karen had begun to pick herself up and was bizarrely trying to cover her large breasts and pubic area with her hands and arms. Caroline had rolled to the other side of the bed and was scrambling for her clothes.
"A bit late for that don't you think girls?" I was in sneering mode suddenly and spoiling for a fight; at least a verbal fight. I looked back at Bob; he was crestfallen and a pitiful sight.
"Bob, why don't you go downstairs? Karen, get dressed and Bob will drive you home." It was the most sensible thing I could think of saying and it seemed to be appropriate. Karen was crying quietly and moving around picking up and putting on her clothes. Bob turned and slowly walked out of the bedroom and went downstairs.
"I'll see you in the kitchen when you've got yourself together Caroline." I said in my best no nonsense voice. I turned and followed Karen down the stairs to the Living Room. She handed Bob her keys and they let themselves out the front door. Not a word had passed between them.
Riding the shock wave:
I walked back to the kitchen, opened the liquor cupboard and poured myself a stiff Scotch. I sat in a chair at the kitchen table and waited for Caroline's arrival. I was collecting my thoughts and wondering just how the next few minutes would go when Caroline slowly walked into the kitchen. She stopped a few feet from the table and looked carefully at me. I suppose she was worried I might strike her or attack her, but my calm demeanor must have partially allayed those fears.
"Sit down Caroline!" I used my authoritative voice for effect.
She looked cautiously at me and moved toward the table. She chose a chair as far away from mine as possible.
"I suppose I owe you an explanation." she offered quietly; barely able to look at me.
"I have no interest in your explanation." I snapped back.
"You have to understand, Mark. I love you. I didn't want to hurt you." she pleaded.
"You have a funny way of expressing love, Caroline. However, that's neither here nor there. Allow me to tell you what the consequences of your... tryst... if that's the right word... will be." I was working myself toward High Dudgeon quite nicely.
"Mark, this didn't mean anything. It doesn't change how I feel about you..."
I cut her off. "Don't bother, Caroline! Your lies and deceit speak for themselves. Infidelity is infidelity; period!"
"Mark, can't you find it in your heart to forgive me?" she pleaded.
"My god, Caroline, can't you come up with a better cliché than that?" My distain for her pleas was clearly showing. "You've betrayed a sacred trust; your wedding vows. Do you understand that much?" I demanded.
"Yes... I'm so sorry... I never meant to... I would never..." She finally ran out of steam.
"As a point of interest Caroline, how long has this affair been going on?" I really was curious about two things. How long had she been deceiving me and whether she would tell me the truth in the first place.
"Not long... a while."
"How long is that?" I demanded.
There was a long pause. "Since last fall." she answered in almost a whisper.
"My god Caroline! Last fall is over six months ago!" That takes it out of the 'fling' category and puts it into a full blown affair, I thought. Now I was really pissed off.
"Why do you hate me so much?" she suddenly asked.
"I don't hate you Caroline. I'm past hate. That came before being sick to my stomach and disbelief. It came before anger and disillusionment. It came before sadness and resignation. I've gone through every ugly emotion in the book and back again. There is very little feeling for you left. You have destroyed me Caroline. You have destroyed me as surely as if you'd driven a sword through my heart. I loved you with everything I had for every one of our 23 years. I never dreamed of cheating or betraying you; it would be inconceivable. But you didn't feel that way and now... now it's over." I had said everything that needed to be said about my emotions and I didn't need to explain myself further.
"No please, Mark, please... don't do this... please!" She was beside herself with fear.
"Sorry Caroline, the wheels are already in motion. You will be served with divorce papers; probably on Monday. The grounds will be infidelity.
"No! Mark! No! Please, please don't do this. I can't... what will I do without you?" She had deteriorated into begging with no rational argument to support her. "What about the children?"
I had been waiting for her to play this card. Our children were on the verge of adulthood. Catherine, or Cat as she preferred, was a 20 year old Junior at the district college and was destined to be a teacher. She was one of those rare people that believed teaching was a sales profession. Her responsibility was to sell her charges on the concept of learning; to instill a desire to absorb knowledge. She would either become one of the great teachers of our time or live in academia, collecting degrees and marrying an associate professor.
Michael, her 18 year old brother, was a freshman at the same college. His interests were more business related and he too was serious about his education. At the same time, he was popular with both his male peers and the lovely young ladies that populated the campus. He was enjoying every minute of his post secondary education. Both of them lived on campus because we could afford it and because they were unprepared for the seventy mile daily round trip to and from the college.