Darien Teasdale had been called to the job site by his project foreman for a serious problem over substandard concrete the foreman refused to accept. It'd taken Darien the best part of the morning to sort out the problem with the sub contractor.
He was considered an extremely nice guy by all of his friends, sub contractors, and employees. He bent over backwards to be nice and not have confrontations. If he didn't things might get very ugly.
He'd been a killer in Iraq and Afghanistan for the military as a black ops agent. When some foreign official or military officer needed to be taken out, Darien's unit always handled the mission. He had personally killed over a dozen men and women in the two and half years he'd been in the theaters of operation.
He had killed when ordered with no questions asked. He'd become a cold, calculating killing machine.
After he left active duty, he'd spent three years of intense therapy with the military psychiatrists attempting to deal with what he'd become. He'd finally managed to bury the past and look to the future. Deep pain and intense anger remained for what the military had turned him into, but he managed to control it with the mental tools his doctors had provided him.
Now, he tried to bury all of that and just be a nice guy that everyone liked. His wife, Sally, had come into his life after his return to the world of sane and he had never told her about his darkest past. He didn't wish to even think about it much less discuss it with any one. Not even his Sally.
He was now driving to his suburban Tampa office. It was the dead of summer and the air temperature and humidity were both hovering at ninety plus. His truck's air conditioner was running full out staying ahead of the lousy outside air.
His truck was pretty old and banged up. The air conditioner was on its last legs and groaned with weird noises as it worked to maintain the interior air at an acceptable level. The exterior of the truck was two tone in color, black and rust with the rust slowly taking the predominate role.
He dialed the volume up on his radio to catch the last part of one of his favorite Beatles' songs over the air conditioner's noises.
He's a real Nowhere Man,
Sitting in his Nowhere Land,
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.
He hummed along with the song as it ran into the next verse. He had to hum since he couldn't carry a tune in bucket.
He had just crossed Dale Mabry Highway at Linebaugh Avenue when he noticed his wife's car turn into the Carrollwood Shopping Center. It was an easy car to know, a Hummer H2 in canary yellow. There was not another like it in the entire state of Florida.
He checked his watch and saw it was near lunch time, He thought he would pull in and surprise her and ask her to go to lunch with him. They'd not done anything impromptu like this in a long time. He smiled and whipped his truck into the parking lot.
He had to park several rows away from his wife's H2. By the time he found a spot and parked, she was already inside the mall.
He hurried after her. She would be easy to spot. Sally was a slim, trim thirty-something creature of beauty. She had long blonde hair with sky blue eyes and long sexy legs.
She would spend most of her days at various club meetings or political events, and then spend the late afternoon and evening with Kristen and Darien. Once Kristen had been born, it had been their joint decision that Sally would be a stay at home mom. And it had been their fervent wishes to present her with a brother or sister.
He took his sunglasses off as he entered the mall and let his eyes adjust for a second. He began scanning for her. He walked slowly looking right to left at the various shops. He was passing the Ruby Tuesday restaurant when he saw her. She had just sat a table with her back to him. On the other side of the table was a man. A man Darien didn't recognize. She leaned over and apparently kissed him on his lips. Darien could only see her lean and her body language said she had kissed him.
Darien was stunned. Who the hell was this guy and what the hell is doing with my wife?
He couldn't bring himself to enter the restaurant and confront them. He'd become so passive and so non-confrontational, he just backed away from the window he was looking through.
He almost ran for the exit and his truck. He slid in the cab and turned on the air to cool the stifling heat. He sat there for what seemed an eternity wondering what to do.
I've got to find out what's going on. Is Sally cheating on me? With that man? Who is he? These and other thoughts swirled around in his mind.
He'd sat there brooding for so long a time that he was still there when Sally came out with her left arm entwined with the man's right. He saw her turn to the man, smile and say something to which he nodded his head. She reached up putting both arms around his neck and apparently hugging him very hard.
They broke their embrace and he saw the man say something else to her that she nodded yes to and then waving to each other they headed for their vehicles.
He shook with rage. His life as killer was slowly boiling to the surface. He had no definitive proof of any infidelity, but he would get some evidence. And then, who knew? Maybe he'd use those military skills he'd buried for all of this time.
He went to his office and grabbed the yellow pages phone book. He let his finger trail down the page of ads for a private investigator. He never selected the first or last in a yellow pages category because he knew as a business man that those people named their companies simply to be first or last in the book. Lazy people would usually grab the first or last with no other thought.
Darien actually read the ads to find the right one. He finally found one that popped out at him. It read:
Kurt Coughlin Investigations
Domestic Surveillance Civil/Criminal Investigations
Former Army Intelligence Officer using Military Approved Techniques
Darien picked up the phone and within two hours was seated across from said Kurt Coughlin, former Colonel Coughlin of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.
"What can I do for you Mr. Teasdale?" Coughlin asked.
"I ... I think my wife Sally might be cheating on me." Darien stammered in reply. He went ahead to explain what he had seen hours earlier.
Coughlin asked how long they had been married. Darien told him.
Coughlin nodded and said, "You know Mr. Teasdale, this sort of thing is not unusual. After people are married about the amount of time you two have been, one or the other of the spouses gets an itch. They go off and scratch it for a few months and then it's over and done. This could be what's happening in your case."
Darien shook his head violently, "No! I've never thought of cheating on her. If she is, that's it! Somebody will pay!"
Coughlin was taken back by his client's response. It boarded on threatening. He'd have to look into this man's background and see if he was capable of violence.
Coughlin cleared his throat and said, "Oh yes, well, shall we say one thousand dollars for a retainer? I'll want to install audio and video recorders at your home and in her car. You'll need to give me five minutes access with her cell phone so I can download all call or text message data made the last few weeks. Do you have a picture of her I can have? I should have information one way or the other for you within two weeks."
Darien silently reached in his wallet and extracted a small picture of Sally he always carried with him. He handed it to Coughlin and then pulled out his checkbook and said, "Sure, that's fine. Two weeks? Do you know two weeks from tomorrow is my birthday? I guess you'll give me a present that I'll remember forever -- one way or the other."
That night he sat quietly as Sally prepared the evening meal and talked about minor stuff. She'd taken their six year-old daughter, Kristen, to the after school ballet class and described her antics at the class laughing as she did so.
Darien asked, "Did you do anything else today?"
Sally stopped and kind of looked at him with a slight display of concern, "No nothing, why do you ask?"
Darien's heart broke. She'd just told him a flat out and out lie. She was covering up her lunch date with the man Darien had seen.
Darien said in a flat vice, "No reason, just curious."
They ate dinner in almost silence. If Sally or Kristen asked him something, he replied. But he volunteered nothing to the conversations. After they ate Sally suggested he take Kristen to the family room and let her watch her favorite cartoon show they TIVO'ed each day for her.
Darien sat and a thin smile played on his face as he watched his little girl laugh at the mischief being done by the cartoon characters. He loved his little girl and if Sally was cheating on him, he would figure some way to end up with custody of Kristen.
Sally came in after cleaning up the kitchen and told Kirsten it was time for bed. Kristen came over to Darien and hugged him and kissed his cheek, "Goodnight Daddy."
"Goodnight baby. I love you." Darien whispered in a low voice that only Kristen could hear.
About forty-five minute later Sally returned to the family room. She'd bathed Kirsten, read her some of her favorite story book and tucked her in.
She sat down next to Darien and snuggled up to his side. "Honey, what's wrong, you're so quiet tonight."
Darien said, "Sally, let me ask you something. Are you happy? Have I been neglecting you? Do I need to do something different in our relationship?"
Sally was caught off guard. "Why are you asking me this stuff? Have I done something to make you think your failing in some way? You're a wonderful husband and father. I couldn't want any more from you than you give me now."
Darien replied, "Nothing Sally, I was just curious about how you thought our relationship was. A subcontractor of mine said he'd found his relationship wasn't as good as he thought it was. And it just got me thinking about ours."
Sally snuggled and said, "Why don't we go up to bed and I'll show you how our relationship is."
Darien replied, "Sally I'm not feeling great tonight and I've still got to deal with tomorrow's payroll approvals. Can I have a rain check?"
Sally smiled at him and said, "Sure honey. I worry when you say you don't feel good. You work so hard for us. Please finish as fast as you can and come to bed. Get a good night's sleep OK? Please?"
"Sure, I'll be up as soon as I can."
She went up and he did go to his office to review and approve the payroll changes then emailed them to the payroll service. He went back to the family room and stared at the TV for an hour or more, not actually seeing the telecast.
He finally turned everything off and stole upstairs. Sally was sound asleep. He undressed and gently slipped into bed so as not to disturb her.
He finally fell asleep about one in the morning.
The alarm clock shattered his sleep and he groggily sat and yawned. Sally was already up and more than likely dealing with Kirsten getting ready for school.
He performed his normal toilet routine and freshly showered and dressed came down to the kitchen for breakfast. Sally had made hotcakes and bacon. It smelled good, but he was late departing for an important meeting with a larger construction firm that wanted to talk with him about doing some business together
He begged off of the breakfast and Sally said in a disappointed voice, "I work hard to make sure you're fed well and you just run off with nothing in your stomach. If I didn't love you so much, I'd go find me another fellow who wants to have breakfast with me!"
Darien couldn't avoid the jibe, "Or maybe lunch?"
Sally said with some anger, "Yes, or maybe lunch, or maybe dinner."
Then she calmed down, smiled and said, "But see, I do love you and will only eat with you."
Darien's stomach fell again, another lie. Oh Sally, why?
Darien drove to his meeting and his mind kept swirling around lies and what he's seen. The more he thought about it, the madder he got. He began planning a revenge operation using the same emotionless decision process he'd used in the military when planning a mission.
He put the planning to back of his mind as he parked his truck and entered the office of Monument Construction. He walked to the receptionist and introduced himself. "I'm Darien Teasdale, Mr. Bartlett is expecting me."
The receptionist smiled and stood up. She motioned him to follow her and said, "Oh yes, Mr. Teasdale, please follow me. They're already in the conference room waiting for you."
She showed him to a large conference room with a table that could easily hold a dozen people. Today there were about ten people already assembled at the table. She showed him to the empty seat at the head of the table.
Ben Bartlett rose to meet him. "Hello Darien. We've known each other a few years. You've beaten us time and again on contract bids. Based on what we've heard you usually bring the project in ahead of time and under budget."
Darien smiled and replied, "Well, I have good people and I do know how to plan and estimate a job."
"Yes Darien, Monument is aware of all of that. That is why we want to make you an offer. Sell us your company. We'll buy it lock, stock and barrel. All of your people are guaranteed employment for the next six years. You'll run our project estimation group. We're prepared to offer you three million dollars for the sale of your company, a yearly salary of eighty-thousand dollars and a bonus of 2% of all projects that are brought in under the bid and ahead of schedule."
Darien was shocked. Sell his company? He'd never considered it. He'd thought this meeting was about some joint ventures.
He stuttered to the assembled group, "I ... I'm shocked to say the least. I had no idea that you would propose this. I'll need some time to think about it. Can I get back to you next week?"
Bartlett replied, "Sure Darien. Think it over. Give us your answer on Monday. Okay?"
Darien was escorted out and bade goodbye by the whole group. They watched him as headed for his truck. He'd just reached it when one of those summer Florida thunderstorms hit. The storm dumped water in sheets for ten minutes. While it rained, Darien just sat with the truck running and air on. He was amazed. Three million dollars plus eighty thousand a year and bonuses! Sally, Kristen, and I would be set for life!
Suddenly it hit him. Damn, here I am thinking about my family's future and right now I don't know if there will be a future.
For the next few days he disappeared more and more into a tight shell. Sally would try to talk to him and he would respond with one syllable answers. He paid little attention to his precious daughter. He really wanted to talk with Sally about the offer but he was now torn over if she would try to hang around or influence his decisions before running off with her lover just to get her hands into the money.
The only one he could talk to was his project foreman who had been with him for years. His foreman had said it was a no-brainer. Take the money and run.
It was now Friday and he owed Monument an answer on Monday.
Things got worse the next day. His P.I. Coughlin reported back to him verbally. "Mr. Teasdale. I've got some news. First, you're wife has met that man twice more at the same restaurant for lunch this last week. The last time they seemed to go over paperwork and she seemed to be picking something out of some pictures he had.
"I was actually able to take the table next to them and heard part of their conversation just before they left. I heard your wife say 'Bert, I'm glad this will all be over next Saturday. I think Darien is suspecting something. I want this over and done on Saturday. I've lied to him several times and I know he knows I lied.'
"The guy, Bert, answered her that she was doing the right thing and would be grateful to him when it was over and they could be out in the open about it. And that you would just have to accept the fact that it was a done deal.
"I found out who Bert is. His name is Bert Swanson. Seems that he and your wife dated in high school. He works at the local Chevrolet dealership.
"I've only seen them together those two times. Since you've not gotten her cell phone to me I don't know if there is anything incriminating on it. Also, when will you be able to give me access to the house so I can rig up the recorders?"
Darien said, "I'll try to get her cell phone to you this week. It's tough. She has the thing about attached to her hip. I'll leave a key to the house under the matt on Sunday morning when we go to church. Let yourself in and set up the recorders. Just be gone by noon."
Darien was even more depressed Saturday afternoon after his conversation with Coughlin. Sally returned from grocery shopping and was surprised to see him so much more depressed than she had left to go shopping.
She put the groceries away and went to the family room where Darien lay on the couch almost in a fetal position. She was extremely worried about her husband. She pondered her choices, Should she tell him about Bert and what was going on? Should she stick to her guns and wait the week until everything was ready and Darien would just have to accept it?
She was sure that her lies had some how triggered this withdrawal of her husband. She didn't know how, she just knew they had.
She decided not to try to rouse him from his funk tonight. Let him sleep and he'll be better tomorrow. She didn't want to wake him. He appeared to be sleeping so well at the moment and he really needed some good rest. She'd miss him in bed tonight but decided to leave him on the couch. So she covered him up with a quilt and turning off the TV and lamps left him by himself in the family room.
Darien awoke as sunlight poured into the room onto his face. Where am I? This isn't my bed.
He sat up and looked around. Suddenly it struck him. Damn, Sally had left me to sleep on the couch. She doesn't even want me in bed with her any more!
He stood up and decided, so, if she wants it that way, I can play. I'll just move to the guest room. This whole farce will end before Sally's planned date of next Saturday.
With that Darien decided he would take care of good old Bert and Sally on Saturday before they took care of him.