Thanks to the knee doctor for editing help.
Callie and I had been at it for two days now: arguing that is. One of our close friends, Ben Sorensen, was having a birthday celebration and my wife's old boy friend, Clay Bixler, was going to be there. Clay, Callie, and I all went to high school together. Callie and I became a couple after she broke up with Clay over something I don't even remember. Clay went to Yale and I went to MIT. Although Callie and I remained a couple, she still continued a relationship with Clay. I never really knew how close the connection was between them but I always resented it. Even after Callie and I were married, Clay's presence continued to haunt me.
"Who the hell invited him anyway? You know damn well I don't like it when he is fawning all over you."
"Bruce, you have to get over this crap. You know very well that there is nothing going on between Clay and I. I married you. I love you. Clay is just an old friend who is fun to be with. You have been taking this far to seriously for far to long."
Callie was pushing thirty and looking great. Her hair was shoulder length and had an auburn tint to it. She was dark, sort of Mediterranean looking, and had full eyebrows and pouting lips. She was not too skinny and not too fat. She worked out a couple times a week, ate right, and knew how to groom herself to look her best. The sex was good but we were in no hurry to start a family. We were saving to buy a house first. Callie worked in an insurance office and I was busy inspecting refineries and storage facilities around the area.
"Sorry as hell, Callie, but I just don't trust him around you. How come he never married? How come he never even dated? I can't help believing that you were the only girl that ever mattered to him and I also believe that he would do anything to get you back."
"See what I mean, Bruce. You are getting paranoid about this. Clay and I are just friends and you know that. I am a little annoyed that you don't seem to trust me. Clay is coming to Ben's party, and we are all going to have a good time. Now get a hold of yourself."
Clay got a degree in American literature and had an entry level teaching position at a community college about two hours drive from us. I liked to get my hands dirty and ended up with a degree in petroleum engineering. I was hoping to use it to travel, but decided it was better to stay close to Callie. There was plenty of work within a day's drive, but it was a little mundane.
Callie wanted to mess around that night after we went to bed but my heart wasn't into it. She was a little huffy when I rejected her advances but she seemed to be trying too hard, like she felt a need to compensate for something. I guess I was getting a little nutty about the whole thing.
Sunday night arrived sooner than I wanted it too. Callie had been on the phone with Ben's wife, Amy, several times making party plans. I didn't like Amy too much. Ben and Amy had a daughter about three years old and for some reason I never thought the girl was Ben's. From remarks that Callie had made a few times I got the feeling that Amy cheated on her husband. The big problem was that she was just about the only friend Callie had.
It took an hour to get to the Sorensen house. There were about a dozen people there including Clay. Ben was a CSI buff and that was the theme of the birthday party. I tried to be congenial to Clay but it was strained. Callie and Clay were chatty and friendly most of the night. At times I felt she was baiting me. When present time came everyone gathered in the living room. For some reason, Amy insisted I sit aside of her on the couch. Callie and Clay were standing together on the far side of the room near the patio door. Everybody was cheering Ben on as he started unwrapping. After about ten minutes, I noticed that Callie and Clay were gone. I started to get up and Amy grabbed my arm.
"Don't leave now Bruce. We are just getting to the best part."
Her attempt to keep me there was very transparent and I was now getting seriously concerned. I tried again to get up but again she insisted that I stay. About that time, the lights went out.
In the dark we all heard Ben. "Here comes the best present of all; the ultraviolet blood and semen detector. Everybody look for the blue, glowing evidence." The room burst out in giggles as Ben flicked on the probe light. As the guests backed out of his way, Ben passed the unit back and forth around the room. Amy and I moved off the couch as he came near and everyone broke out in laughter when they saw the couch covered in bright blue spots.
"Looks like we can't keep that a secret anymore." Ben joked as he continued around the room.
All of a sudden we heard Callie. "What's going on? What is all the laughing about?"
Callie and Clay had just come back into the dark room from the patio. The room got completely silent as Ben turned the light toward the couple. Callie's mouth, chin, and the front of her blouse, were all covered in the bright blue glow. The front of Clay's pants also had a streak of blue. After a few seconds someone in the room broke the silence. "Girl, you are so busted."
Callie looked down at her blouse and realized what the remark meant. As the room burst out in laughter again, I was making my way out the door. I believe I was halfway down the street before anyone noticed that I was gone.
On the way home, my cell phone rang about four times before I turned it off. Luckily I didn't get a ticket because I made it in record time. While I was getting my stuff together at the house, the land line phone rang a half dozen times before it stopped. I grabbed everything I needed from the file cabinet, my laptop, and all the work clothes I could carry. I left the suits and pretty stuff for Clay. It took less than thirty minutes, and I was on my way to the cheapest motel I could find. I sure was glad Ben had his party on a Sunday because I had a lot to do the next day. I hadn't even stopped to think about what had occurred. I was moving on adrenaline.
The sun was shining on Monday morning. I guess I should have made a checklist but I was in too much of a hurry. The phone, water, and electric companies opened at eight, so I cancelled them effective on Friday. I grabbed a prepaid cell phone at Wal-Mart right after I had a quick breakfast. Chester Bunt was the only lawyer to open before nine so he got the job of setting up a quickie divorce. I signed the blank forms and prepaid him. Both cell phones were closed out next, and I paid a hefty fee for early cancellation. By that time the bank was open. It took twenty minutes to close out three credit cards as well as the saving and checking account. I took it all. Finally, I went by work. I explained the situation in detail to my boss and he understood. They gave me a check for sick leave, vacation time, and wages that were coming. I had no place to cash it, but I could use it to open a new account wherever I ended up. He called a friend in Galveston and got me a job in less than ten minutes. As I was leaving work, Ben Sorensen pulled up next to me and rolled down his window.
"Bruce. It's not what you think. It was a setup, a joke. You have to let me explain."
"Sorry Ben, too late to explain. By the way, get a DNA check on your daughter." The last remark was totally out of character for me, but I was really pissed off at his attempt to smooth things over. I regretted saying it. Bens face went pale as I drove away.
At noon I was eating lunch at a Cracker Barrel on Route 81. At last I was able to relax.
One of the smart things I did at college was join a fraternity. Not only did it help me get through a tough course of study but I also made some good friends. I called a few brothers the first chance I got and explained my situation. They promised they would take care of it for me.
For the next seven months, I was busy doing safety inspections on off shore oil platforms. I would fly out to the rigs and stay about a week. Between tours, the company had a few trailers at different sites where I stayed. I called Chester every few weeks to check on the status of the divorce. Callie refused to sign it, but did not file one of her own. I asked Chester what my options were, but he didn't have any ideas worth a shit. Some of the guys told me a detective had been snooping around looking for me. Next week I was in Aberdeen, Scotland. The North Sea is cold even in August but I stuck it out for almost a year.
I had to come home eventually. My old boss welcomed me with open arms. He was hoping I was back for good. I thanked him for all his help, but told him I couldn't stay yet. Chester Bunt turned out to be a dud of a lawyer. I was still married and he had no idea what I should do. Looks like I needed a new lawyer. I had a good bit of dough saved up so I decided to take some time off.
Callie was no longer working at the insurance company and she was not at the house. It was hard to ask anybody anything without letting them know I was around. I was trying to lay low. I drove down to check if Callie was with Clay, when I found out some interesting news. About a year ago, Clay was fired from the community college. They found three thousand pictures of naked children on his school and home computers. Although he denied any knowledge of where they came from or how they got in his computers, he was let go. There was not enough proof for a civil trial, but enough to get him fired. One of his coworkers said he moved to Iowa. I love my frat brothers.
I used to be clean-shaven and well groomed. Now I was sporting a full beard and a ponytail. I was about ready to move on to something new when I ran into an old high school buddy. He didn't recognize me, but I knew him right away.
"Tony Cordetti, Wow I haven't see you since high school. How are you doing?"
He looked at me trying to figure out who the hell I was. "Bruce, Bruce Terrell"
"Damn Bruce, you sure look different. I never would have recognized you."
We ended up having coffee and talking about old times at school mostly. He was married with three kids and sold farm equipment. I was looking for a way to steer the conversation around to Callie when he mentioned Ben.
"What ever happened to Ben, Tony?"
"He is still around. Last I heard he was still over at Kemp's Floor Coverings. I think he got divorced last year, but I don't know for sure."
"Are you on good terms with Ben?"
"Sure, we are not the best of buds but always got along OK."
"Tony, let me tell you a story and maybe you could help me out. OK?"
For the next ten minutes I told Tony everything that had happened. He seemed interested: in fact, he seemed flattered that I would confide in him about it. He was more than happy to help me.
Three days later, Tony met me at the Waffle House parking lot. He handed me the small voice recorder that I had given him.
"Good luck with that Bruce. I'm not sure it is what you wanted to hear but he sure was willing to talk about it. I don't think you should go see him though because he is really pissed off at you."
"Why is he upset with me?"
"He claims you cost him his marriage. Anyhow it is all on the tape. Next time you are in town call and we will get together for supper."
"Thanks Tony. I appreciate it."
I picked up a pizza and a six-pack before I got comfortable in my room. The first ten minutes or so of the tape was just meet and greet stuff before Tony was able to steer it around.
Ben, what ever happened to Bruce Terrell? I haven't seen him since high school. I heard he married Callie after college but he sort of disappeared.
Yah, well I am glad he is gone. That son-of-a-bitch cost me my marriage.
How did he do that?
It's a long story. Do you have a few minutes?
Well, when we were in high school, Carrie was madly in love with Clay Bixler. In the middle of the senior year they had a fight, and Carrie latched on to Bruce to make Clay jealous. She and Clay got everything straightened out, but Callie kept things going with Bruce and eventually she even married him.
Who the hell did she love Clay or Bruce?
I don't know. I think she wanted both of them. She knew Bruce was going to amount to something, but I think she liked being with Clay. Anyhow, after they were married Callie kept teasing Bruce about Clay. She would do and say little things to get him riled up just for the hell of it. I am not sure, but I think she was still sleeping with Clay when she could, according to my slut ex-wife. Callie and Amy used to confide in each other, but Amy didn't tell me much. I know why now.
How did it come to a head?
Well I was having a birthday party. Amy and Callie decided to play a joke on Bruce. Amy got me one of those semen test lights for a present. It came with a vial of test fluid so you could calibrate it. While I was opening my presents, Clay and Callie went out on the patio and Callie smeared some test fluid around her mouth, chin and shirt front. Then she put some on Clay's zipper. When the lights went out, they came in and said 'what's going on?' I shined the light on them and when Bruce saw the blue, he freaked out and left. We tried to stop him and tell him it was a joke, but he was long gone and wouldn't answer his phone.
Man that was cold.
Well, we all thought it was a good joke, all except Bruce. I found him the next day coming out of work. I stopped him and tried to explain, but he wouldn't listen. He said 'Sorry Ben, too late to explain, By the way, have a DNA check done on your daughter. Man that hurt. It was the last time anyone saw him.
What did he mean by the DNA crack?
It turned out that Amy had an affair and the kid wasn't even mine. We ended up getting divorced because of it and I blame that on Bruce.
Why? He didn't cheat on you.
No, but I was better off not knowing. I hate the bastard for ruining my life.
What ever happened to Callie?
Bruce tried to divorce her, but she was so mad she threw the papers away. Clay lost his job teaching and Callie thought Bruce had something to do with it. When Clay relocated out west someplace, Callie went with him.
Where did they go?
I have no idea. Before our divorce, Amy told me that Callie went with Clay just to piss off Bruce for what he did to her. Amy seemed to think Callie liked Clay better than Bruce anyway.
Damn. That sounds like a mess. Guess I don't want to have anything to do with old Bruce. Hey. Good to talk to you Ben, but I got to go.
Take care, Tony. Stop by if you need some carpet.
The pizza was gone and so was the beer. Knowing that Callie left with Clay convinced me that I had done the right thing. I sure would like that divorce though.
I started checking colleges in Iowa. The smaller schools held the most promise so I concentrated on junior colleges and community colleges. After pulling up the school web page, I checked out the faculties. In three hours I found it, a small Christian college near Ames. I left the next morning.
There were plenty of small apartments available in the area on a weekly basis. After getting settled I started checking out the Shepard of the Hills junior college. It seems they had a pretty strict hiring policy to insure that the students were not exposed to unsavory influences. Clay and Callie had rented a small cottage about a mile from the school and to my surprise Callie was about six months pregnant. With my beard and ponytail, I was able to move about fairly easily without being noticed.
About a week later, I had a new divorce lawyer and the head of the Shepard of the Hills had a letter containing information about the background and present living arrangements of its newest English professor. Clay had not informed the school of the kiddy porn problem at his last school, nor had he informed them that he was living with a married woman, not his own, who was carrying his child. According to the school hiring policies these could cause problems for my buddy Clay. I was sitting on a hallway bench during the closed-door session at the school. Callie gave me a funny look as she and Clay walked past me to enter the conference room. It was as if she knew me, but she wasn't sure. I was actually able to hear bits and pieces coming from the room as Clay tried to explain himself. I guess he didn't do too good a job because they let him go immediately. I had my head hidden in a newspaper as they came out. Callie tried to look closer at me as she passed by, but I was able to hide my face.
As they walked to their car a well-dressed man approached Callie and handed her an envelope and a small piece of paper. He nodded to her and walked away. She stood by the car, read the note, and tore the envelope in two. I was standing on the steps of the school as they drove by. Callie realized who I was and threw the torn papers out the window. It was sort of nice realizing that I was going to be busy the next year. I sighed deeply as I looked at the pieces of the divorce papers blowing down the street.
My best efforts at getting divorced from my loving wife had not been successful. I had plenty of money to tide me over for a while so, I decided a trip to Reno was in store. All I had to do was go there, apply for residency and wait out the required time period. At least I could get it done even if she didn't sign any papers. I was never able to figure out her reluctance to the divorce. After the fiasco in Iowa, I lost track of the pair of them. It didn't seem to be important at this point. My next scheduled job was eight months away in Holland for Union Oil.
I had no trouble finding a place to live because my needs were simple. If you can live on an oil platform for weeks at a time you can live anywhere. The complex I was in, was a motel that had seen better days. It was all on one floor with a gravel parking lot and an obvious lack of landscaping. The rooms had one-piece mini kitchen units, a bath, and a bed. No problem.
It was easy to find a lawyer to handle my divorce and it looked like I had found one who knew what he was doing at last. All the required paper work was mailed to Callies' parents home back in Pennsylvania. I assumed she was keeping some sort of contact with them. She grew up on a farm and was a little tomboyish. I guess that is what I liked about her. It would also cause me a little problem.
I took up geocaching to kill time while I was waiting. I guess most people doing the Reno divorce thing get temporary jobs, but I didn't need to. I had a small Suzuki Sammi to run around in and plenty of time to explore the countryside. There was plenty to do in the casinos, but I wasn't interested.
My first indication of a problem came after about three weeks. The complex where I was living had cheap plastic mail boxes nailed to the wall by the office. The post office would not do individual door-to-door deliveries. It was still daylight, but the shadows were getting long when I returned from caching near Tahoe.
I parked in front of my unit and walked over to see if I had any mail. Most of what I got was for occupant or the previous people who lived in the apartment. As I reached into my box a small section of stucco seemed to explode a few inches from my head. I dropped the mail and then as I stooped to pick it up, I heard a dull thud as a small hole appeared on my neighbor's mailbox. My senses finally caught on to what was happening and just when I turned to run, I felt a stinging pain in my left shoulder.
Thank goodness for a nosey manager. He popped out of the office door when he noticed what was happening. I realized now that they were bullets, but I had heard no shots. Whoever was trying to hit me disappeared. Twenty minutes later the police and EMT people arrived.
Detective Dwayne Greene was standing over my bed when I came around. They had to put me under to sew up my wound, which was considered to be very nasty. It didn't get much meat, almost a flesh wound, but the damage was extensive. There was no bullet.