Thanks to the knee doctor for editing assistance.
It was the middle of the week and the house was empty again. My wife, Darcy, and my twin daughters were not home, as usual. I don't think it is unreasonable for a man to expect his family to be home when he arrives. It wasn't always this way. Until six months ago I could count on a warm welcome and a nice supper. Not any more. Something changed and I am not sure it is for the better.
Darcy and I had been married for six years. We met in high school, and had the wedding right after I finished college. I had never been with another girl. Darcy was normal in every way, and I felt comfortable being married to her. She had brown hair, brown eyes, a nice figure, and normal breasts. She didn't stand out; just blended in. Because of this, I never had any reason to doubt her fidelity. Maybe that is the reason I should have.
We had two beautiful, four year old, twin daughters: Janet and Janice. I loved them dearly but Darcy didn't seem to feel the same way. She didn't enjoy the childbirth and insisted that I get fixed immediately afterwards. For the first few years, she would look forward to my getting home, so that I could look after the twins. Then we met Bill and Emily.
Emily Mercer could not have children of her own and would volunteer to baby sit every chance she got. Darcy was elated. She could get out of the house and go shopping, or take care of other personal things, any time she wanted. I swear that within three months time, the twins were spending more time with "Auntie" Em, than they were with their own mother. Quite often, the four of them would go out together, but usually, Emily would watch the girls while Darcy was running around.
Lately, I started to wonder exactly what the running around was, that Darcy was doing. It didn't seem to be necessary to be gone that often, to support a normal household.
Overall, I was happy with my life. I had a comfortable job, a nice home, a late model car, and a picture perfect family. Darcy and I would go out occasionally, while Bill and Emily baby-sat the twins. On weekends, the four of us would get together to play cards or have a Bar-B-Q. I liked Bill and enjoyed his company. I wasn't sure of Emily, but Darcy seemed to love her.
My concern about how my wife spent her free time was not deep enough to cause me to look into things. I just sort of made a mental note of it and moved on. It was a Tuesday morning, when things got interesting.
I parked my BMW in my reserved spot at work. I was high enough on the food chain to get a parking spot, but not a good one. It was at the end of the lot and on a slant, but better than no slot at all. A level parking lot in our town was rare. Why the founding fathers choose a place as hilly as this, to build a city on, always baffled me? I was only at work for about an hour, when I had to go out on a call. I think the crappy parking spot saved my life.
It hadn't rained it several days, but there was a wet spot on the ground by my front wheel. Normally I wouldn't have had a second thought about it, but not today. It was running across the asphalt in small, shiny, rivulets. There was a metallic shine to the liquid, and I felt forced to touch it, with my finger. It was not water. The BMW was less than a year old and I could not imagine that anything had broken. I definitely did not want to drive it. Twenty minutes later, a mechanic was on his back looking under my car.
"I am sorry Mister Evans, but I am going to have to report this to the police."
"A broken brake line has to be reported to the police? Sorry, but that doesn't make sense."
"I am not an expert at this stuff, but that line didn't break or come loose. It was tampered with."
"You mean it was cut?"
"No, it wasn't cut. It looks like if was filed or sanded down with something. Things like that don't happen by accident to metal flex lines. This was done on purpose. Don't touch anything and let the cops handle it."
"How far could I have gone?"
"Two blocks at the most, and the whole system would have been emptied. With the hills in this town, you would have had a hell of a ride and a nasty stop. Let's leave this and go to the shop. I can give you a loner until the police are done with it."
By the time I left work, the BMW was not there
I finished the day using the free rental car, and got home at my normal time. Darcy was home and seemed surprised to see me.
"Hi honey. Did you have a good day? Where is your car? Why are you driving a Ford?"
Something seemed suspicious. Why did she choose today to stay at home? Was she waiting for a phone call? I noticed that she didn't have supper ready. I got the feeling that she wasn't expecting me to come home at all. Even the twins were there to greet me.
"The Beemer was due for a thirty thousand mile check up. They won't be able to get to it until tomorrow. What is for supper? I don't smell anything." I saw no reason to tell her about the brake line.
Darcy was stammering around a little. "I thought we could order in tonight, and wanted to wait to see what you were hungry for."
"Pizza is fine. I am going up to take a shower."
Before I got under the water, I could hear Darcy talking to someone on the phone. Things were getting interesting.
I had an early visitor the next day at work.
"Robert Evans, I am Lieutenant Daniel Greene. Do you have a minute?"
"Of course. Is this about the car?" Daniel Greene was a large man but not fat. He had close-cropped hair and wire framed glasses. Except for the rosy glow to his skin, he seemed to reek of efficiency.
"We are done with the car Mister Evans, and you can pick it up at the shop, any time. Your mechanic was putting a new brake line on as we were leaving. We have a few questions, if you don't mind?"
"Am I suspected of something?"
"No, of course not. But we do suspect something fishy is going on. Have you had any arguments or disagreements with anyone lately? Is anyone mad at you or holding a grudge?"
"Not that I know off. Was that mechanic right? Is someone setting me up? Could I have been killed?"
"Well Mister Evans, someone was definitely hoping to cause you bodily harm and maybe death. It was strictly an amateur job, however, I don't think you would have been killed, although it is possible. Whomever did it, didn't bother to turn off your air bags. That car has front and side bags. Unless you were going at a high rate of speed, I don't think you would have been killed. However, that's not the point. Just because they didn't know what they were doing, doesn't mean they were not trying to kill you."
"Damn, that is reassuring. I guess if someone is trying to kill you, it is best if they are incompetent. Instead of dying, I could just be maimed for life. Great. What do we do now?"
"Take my card. If anything comes to mind give me a call. In the mean time, be careful. I'd bet my next paycheck that they are going to try again."
"That's encouraging as hell. I'll definitely think on it."
As he walked out the door, Lieutenant Greene stopped and turned. "By the way, how is your married life?" I didn't answer and I don't think he was expecting me to.
I left work shortly thereafter and went home. The house was empty. We had a small room that was used as an office of sorts. It had our home computer, a desk, and a small filing cabinet. I sat at the desk for several minutes with a cold Fosters, trying to figure out what to do. It is disturbing to say the least, to know that someone wants you dead. I am a good guy. I never screwed over anyone. Why would anyone wish for my demise? I thought my marriage was good. Darcy never really complained about anything. I gave her a nice house, a good car, a batch of credit cards, and two beautiful children. What else could she want?
Darcy took care of all the household bills. She took care of the checkbook. She paid the utilities, car payments, mortgages, credit cards, and insurance policies. Insurance? Insurance? Just on a whim I pulled the insurance folder.
Like most young couples, we were terribly under insured. When you are young, you don't think about the possibility of death. I had a small insurance policy, thorugh work, for $50,000. Other than that, the only coverage I had was the home mortgage insurance that Darcy insisted on. If I died, the house would be hers, free and clear. It was cheap, because I was still young, so I had it added to the mortgage payment.
I never went into the file cabinet or the checkbook. Darcy knew that, and it turned out to be her mistake. She was meticulous. Her bank account always was right, to the penny. She always knew where every file and receipt was.
The mortgage payment included the cost for the homeowners insurance, so there was never a receipt for that. My insurance from work was a payroll deduction. Why were there two receipts for $150 each, in the same month, made out to Republic National Insurance?
I never dealt with that company, and I had no knowledge of any insurance policies with them. I put the receipts in my pocket and kept looking. Nothing else unusual came up.
Darcy kept papers on everything. It was a compulsive thing with her. I felt that this was something, that I was not supposed to know about, but she was not able to help herself. She had to keep the proof of the payment, to satisfy her compulsion.
I called the Mercer house. Emily had the kids and said Darcy was shopping. She was friendly but evasive. I called Darcy's cell phone but it was turned off. Interesting. I decided to go for lunch and then do some investigating.
"Robert Evans, fancy seeing you here. What can I do for you?"
The lady behind the customer service desk at Republican National Insurance was Debbie Martin, or at least that was her name when we went to high school together. She had her own private office, and the desk nameplate said D. Reynolds. I remembered her because she was the only girl who ever asked me out. Although everyone knew that Darcy and I were a couple, she asked anyway, just in case. Of course I turned her down. Her hair was cropped very close with an auburn tint. She had a good tan and her make-up was perfect.
"Well how are you Debbie? Haven't seen you since high school, and we live in the same town."
"Well and kicking. It's good to see you again. Sorry to hear about your marriage."
Now she really got my attention. What was she sorry to hear about? I had a strong feeling that something was going on, and this random comment by a woman I had not seen in several years just intensified it. I could not, and did not reply to what Debbie had just said. She picked up on this immediately.
"Oh shit. I'm sorry as hell. Forget I said anything Bob. I was way out of line. Sometimes my mouth gets away from me." Debbie was tripping all over herself trying to undo what could not be undone. She said it and I remembered it.
I finally broke the awkward point by asking the question I came to find the answer for. "Can you tell me what these receipts are for?"
She took them from my hand and seemed relieved that I had chosen not to pursue the previous discussion. After a few clicks on the keyboard she sighed, and gave me a pathetic look.
"Bob, I hate to say this, but it seems as if this reunion is going downhill at a rapid rate." I didn't reply. She clicked a few more keys and then leaned back in her chair.
"Do you know a man named Phillip Chase?"
"No, can't say that I do. Is there some reason I should know him?"
Debbie reached around and rummaged though some magazines on the credenza on the side of her desk. She made her selection and opened it. "That's Phillip Chase. Have you ever seen him before?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact I have. He was at a Bar-B-Q that my neighbors gave about six months ago. I remember him quite well, because I felt he was paying too much attention to my wife. I even remember commenting about it to Darcy, at the time. What does he have to do with this?"
Debbie got up and closed her office door. After returning to her desk, she leaned forward and looked straight into my eyes. Her friendly demeanor had turned serious. It was obvious that she didn't want to say what had to be said.
"Darcy has been having lunch with Phillip Chase a couple times a week for the last three months. Sometimes they are long lunches. Phillip has dropped a few remarks to his co-workers, that they are planning to be married in the near future. Nobody else in the company knows Darcy, except me. I knew she was married, and I knew it was to you. That's why I mis-spoke when I first saw you. I assumed that this was something you knew about, and that you were here to settle some insurance questions related to a pending divorce. I apologize for being insensitive."
"Do you know this guy?"
"We work in the same building and for the same company. I always thought he was an asshole, and never understood what Darcy saw in him, especially since she had you."
I found the last part of that comment to be interesting.