Black & Tan Blues
It was Monday and the start of a new pay period at the General Motors assembly plant. Most of our section was waiting for the buzzer to mark the assembly line startup. We were short one at our quality control station and it was beginning to look like we might have to pull our relief man or double down to cover the shortage. Just as the alarm sounded, running footsteps were heard behind the parts racks surrounding our location,
"Hold it guys, I'm here!" cried a voice and Trevor Martin came around the corner, a big smile on his dark face.
"What's shaking, Trev? Back on nights again? Has it been three months already?" I teased.
He laughed, "Hey Ken! Yep, it's time to rotate again. Breaks the monotony and let's me check out some different ladies." Trev grabbed a couple of torque wrenches and a clipboard and hopped across the moving line to take his station.
Trevor and I had been friends since we both came to work at the plant three years before. Both of us had gotten out of the Army within a few months of each other. And our overseas tours in Germany had overlapped about a year. Ironically we had been stationed within fifty miles of each other but had never met. I had been a buck Sergeant in a combat engineer unit stationed in Schweinfurt and he was a Spec5 tracked vehicle mechanic stationed in Wurzburg.
We had visited a lot of the same towns, restaurants and nightclubs. We had both spent many miserable training periods in Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels; suffering through the cold and snow in winter, and the heat and mosquitoes in summer.
We had also both gotten married before going into the army. My wife had accompanied me to Germany, Trev's wife did not.
I had met my wife Donna at the local community college. She was a year older than me and was finishing up a two year Medical Technician program. We had started dating and fallen in love within a couple of months. I had drawn a low number in the selective service lottery and when it became evident I was going to be drafted we decided to get married.
Somehow Donna ended up pregnant before I ever reported for basic training. You know when they say the pill is ninety nine percent effective? Well, we were part of the unlucky one per cent. I did manage to get home for the birth or our daughter, Samantha. And as soon as Sam was three months old, Donna and Sam came to Germany to live with me.
Trev's wife, on the other hand, had decided she wanted to stay in the States in order to save money. He did make it home on thirty days leave midway through his eighteen month tour, but when he returned home after his discharge he found his wife was six months pregnant and all the money he had been sending her gone. He later found out she had been shacking up with one of his best friends on and off ever since he shipped over to Germany. Apparently saving money wasn't her only incentive not to go with him. Needless to say the divorce was bitter and not in his favor.
Trevor was a very popular guy with the ladies; black, white or Hispanic. It didn't matter to him. But if there was any hint that a woman was married, separated or even divorced for reasons of infidelity, he would have nothing to do with her. And if you asked him if he ever thought of remarrying, he would just say, "Been there, done that and I have the bite marks in my black ass to prove it." Fact was he didn't trust women much and wasn't shy about letting anyone know it. His relationships tended to burn out pretty fast.
Trev and I would get together for a few beers after work about once a week when we were both on second shift. When we were on opposite shifts we would get together at the local American Legion a couple of times a month. Mostly we talked about our Army days and life in Germany, our progress in school and occasionally labor issues. Sometimes I would brag about my wife and daughter and Trev would brag about all the women he was dating.
Trevor also had become the assistant union steward for our plant a couple of years ago. He would laugh about that and say it was mostly so he could meet all the women that worked in final assembly. Even though we had a lot in common, we rarely socialized away from work or the legion. Trev had been busy completing his associate's degree at a local community college in order to qualify for the skilled trades program, and I had been working on my B.S. in Civil Engineering at Michigan State.
When I returned to school after getting out of the Army I had decided to pursue a civil engineering degree because of my military experience. Many of the combat engineer officers had degrees in civil engineering and most of my job had been assisting them. I admired their skills and abilities and thought it would be a great career.
However the reality of supporting a family while trying to go to school full-time set in fast. The VA education benefits and working part time just wasn't enough. I finally decided to take classes part time year round and work nights in the auto plant. Donna had stayed home with Sam until she was about two then she went to work part-time in the hospital as a Cardiac Tech, typically working three or four days a week. While not rich, with both of us working money became a non-issue. Finally I was just about to reach my goal of completing my degree. Our plan was as soon as I finished school and got a job in my field Donna would quit working, get pregnant and we would give Samantha a sister or brother and that would complete our family. Our dream was to buy or build a house in the country on a few acres and give up renting for good.
Donna was a typical Nordic blond. Her family was from the upper peninsula of Michigan where many of the original settlers had been from Scandinavia. In fact her grandparents on her mother's side had migrated from Sweden before WWII. And she had Finnish ancestry on her father's side. Donna was tall, only a few inches shorter than my six feet two inches, slim and athletic. When we had met she suffered from some self-confidence issues. Mostly because growing up she was tall and gawky for her age and she intimated the boys. She claimed she only had two dates before college, but after high school she had filled out, developed grace, style and looks.
When I met her she was a real catch. While saying someone is the love of your life seems to be a cliché, it makes it no less true when it happens. No one else I ever dated came close to the feelings we had for each other. While neither of us was a virgin when we married we were not very experienced either. Teaching each other what sex and love was all about when we were stationed in Germany had brought us even closer together.
While having Samantha was a surprise to both of us it was the best gift we had ever gotten. Sam had Donna's blond hair and eyes, my nose and chin. We both doted on her. Donna was a good mother and we both were looking forward to adding another child to our family. While it is true most men talk about having sons, secretly I preferred another daughter. I just loved hearing my little girl's laughter and listening to her talk. She was just adorable and it was a real challenge not to spoil her.
As the evening progressed Trev and I would talk across the assembly line as it moved slowly past. With the lunch period approaching, he asked me what I was doing for lunch. I told him I had brown bagged it and would eat on the table by the employees locker room. He said he would join me and we could catch up the latest news.
As we sat down we started to talk about school. Trev had finished his Associate Degree the previous semester and was excited that he had finally gotten accepted into the skilled trades program. He was expecting his notice to begin his apprenticeship in the Machinery Repair program any day now.
I was equally as excited by the news I had received in the mail from the university before coming into work today. My last elective class had been waived due to my military experience. I had taken two of my finals today and once I passed my last final exam on Tuesday I was done and my degree requirements completed. We both congratulated each other.
Trev asked if Donna was as excited as I was. I said I hadn't told her yet since she had been at work when the mail came. I thought maybe I would wait until I knew I passed that last exam then surprise her. I told Trev that I already had my resume complete and a mailing list of every architectural and engineering firm in the state, as well as every county road commission office ready to start sending them out.
As most conversations between guys tend to do, the subject got around to women. The last gal that I knew Trev had been dating was gone now. They had broken up a couple of months before. He was now involved with a woman named Vicky who worked the first shift over in the paint shop. He didn't know how long that would last with him moving to seconds but he didn't seem too worried about it. We talked a bit about some of the other women who were working in the plant in various departments. Who was fooling around with whom, who was getting married and who was getting divorced.
After a bit, Trev said casually, "Say Ken, do you still have that picture of your wife hanging in your locker? I saw a woman a couple of weeks ago I swear looked just like that picture."
I said, "Sure, but the last one you saw was at least a year old. I have a couple of new ones now. Where did you think you saw her?"
Trev kind of hesitated then said, "I don't remember off hand, but I'll think of it. Do you mind if I look at your new pic's?"
Like a lot of guys I was always proud to show off my family. I had several pictures hanging inside the door of my locker. We had had new ones taken for our church directory just after New Year's. The company that took them took a variety of poses and groupings and you then picked the free one you wanted in the directory and then they would sell you any others you might want.
I had one of the three of us, one of Donna and Sam and one of Donna alone and a couple of Sam alone. Samantha had just turned four when the pictures were taken.
Donna was wearing a v-neck maroon sweater with her long blond hair hanging loosely to her shoulders. She filled out the sweater nicely and even though you couldn't tell from the pictures Donna had great legs. Samantha was almost a carbon copy of her mother with her blond hair and pale complexion, and they had almost identical smiles on their faces. I didn't look half bad myself wearing a dark sports jacket and an open collar shirt under it. My short dark brown hair and darker complexion was something of a contrast with Donna and Sam.
Trev admired the pictures and made appreciative comments about both my girls. He seemed to study the picture of Donna for a few minutes and finally made up his mind about something. "Ken, you mind if I borrow this picture of Donna? I want to show it to Vicky to see if she thinks this is the woman I thought we saw a couple of weeks ago."
"I guess so, but I don't know what the mystery is Trev. You can't even remember where you saw her," I said.
"I know, I know, but Vicky might remember. I will bring it back tomorrow or the day after."
About that time the buzzer signaling the end of the lunch hour sounded and we hustled back to our stations on the line and I forgot all about the photo.
The next morning I spent about three hours cramming for my last final exam and went over to the university and got it over with. I felt pretty good about it afterwards. I was certain I did well and was anxious to see the results which were to be posted by the end of the week. I looked at my watch and saw how early it was. I had a couple of hours before Sam had to be picked up from pre-school.
Today was Donna's off day and I thought what a great time to get a little loving before I had to go to work. We had been getting short changed on mattress time the last couple of months. The assembly line was working overtime three, four days a week and usually about six to eight hours, three out of four Saturdays. The money was good but it was putting a strain on us. And I had been carrying three classes this semester which created a huge study load. With her working days and me nights, during the week we only overlapped an hour which didn't give us any quality time. I know she resented not getting the attention she deserved from me but every time we talked about it she told me she understood that we were doing it for our future and that it was almost over.
Truth was Donna had been in a funky mood the last five or six weeks. On the weekends she would be short tempered, lethargic and unresponsive to any overtures I might make, romantic or otherwise. She would improve as the week progressed and by Thursday or Friday she would be back to her old self. Which didn't do us much good since it was the weekends which gave us the time and opportunity to recharge and reconnect with each other. After a couple of weeks I finally confronted her about it and she just grimaced and said she guessed that our schedules were finally getting to her and she would get over it, but that hadn't happened yet. I had decided to let it drop and not press it until the semester was over.
I walked in the door and yelled, "Hello?"
"I'm in the kitchen!" Donna yelled back.
I walked around the corner and Donna was standing at the sink preparing dinner. The one or two days she was off during the week we would try to have a family dinner together before I had to go to work. It was a routine we hoped to maintain daily when I finally quit the plant and was working a regular day shift.
I walked up behind her and wrapped my arms around her waist and started kissing her ears and neck while pressing my groin against her butt.
She twisted away and without turning away from the sink she said sternly, "What do you think you're doing?"
"My last final is over, I don't have to study anymore and I want to celebrate a little with my wife. Anything wrong with that?" I said mildly as I tweaked her breast.
She snorted, "I don't know what there is to celebrate about, you still have one semester to go and you still have to work second shift and I am still home alone with Sam almost every night. I don't feel amorous so keep your hands to yourself!"
I stopped and stood back and looked at her. "Donna, what's with this attitude you have had for the last month or two? What's got into you?"
Without turning around she said, "Not a damn thing!"
"Donna, turn around and look at me!" I said and took her arm and turned her to face me.
She turned and said, "What?" Her eyes looked into mine then slid away. For the first time I was uneasy, this wasn't like her.
"I know this has been hard Donna. But we are getting close to the end. I miss you and Sam terribly during the week. But it will be worth it in the end. Just hang in there. Please?" I pleaded.
Donna just stared out the window, face expressionless. Finally she muttered, "Sure, sure Ken. I'm going to go pickup Sam from pre-school. Finish this will you?" Without waiting for an answer she wiped her hands on a towel and walked away.
I sagged against the counter and shook my head in disbelief. What the hell? This was so out of character for Donna that I was totally floored. I thought about telling her that I was done with school to see if that would improve her mood, but then I thought 'screw it.' I would be better off to wait for her to pull out of this, whatever it was.
After we had dinner, I had a chance to play with Sam for awhile. When I finally got around to leave for work, Donna was sitting in the living room reading the newspaper. As I went in to give her a kiss goodbye, Donna put down the paper and said, "Ken, I want to apologize for being such a bitch earlier. I don't know why but I have been on edge lately. Will you forgive me?"
I sat down next to her and took her hand in mine. "Donna, do you know it's been at least two weeks since we have made love? We have never gone that long unless one of us was sick. I feel I'm losing touch with you and I don't like it."
Donna looked down at her hands and said, "I know Ken. We will do better once this is all over, I promise."
Once again her inability to look me in the eyes disturbed me. But I accepted her apology as a good sign and kissed her goodbye.
Work was uneventful, Trev and I didn't speak much and he was gone on some union business during the lunch hour. I got home at my usual time. I was so exhausted from the day I had had, taking my last exam, thinking about my confrontation with Donna and working a full shift I went right to bed. Usually I stayed up for awhile and read or watched TV to unwind. But I cuddled right up to Donna and put my arm around her and pulled her close. She murmured something and went right back to sleep.
I came out of a sound sleep feeling a hand stroking my hard cock through my sleep shorts. I managed to open one eye and look at Donna in the dim light; her eyes were closed as she massaged me with one hand and tried to pull my shorts down with the other. I struggled to turn my head toward the nightstand to see the alarm clock. Shit, I had only been asleep about four hours!
I lifted my butt and let her pull my shorts off as I slipped my hand under her nightshirt and caressed her thighs and belly. As I rolled toward her she sat up threw the covers off and pulled the nightgown over her head and threw it on the floor. She laid back down and turned her back to me and pushed her ass against my cock. I reached around her and stroked her tits and played with her hardening nipples. She lifted one leg, reached between her thighs, grabbed my cock and placed it at the entrance to her pussy and slowly pushed back. She was so wet I entered her easily. She gasped as I hit bottom and froze for a moment adjusting to my size. She moaned as I slowly pulled back then pushed back in. After a couple of slow deliberate strokes she started rocking her hips and thrusting back at me.
"Damn it, Ken! Do it to me, do it to me hard!"
I took a hold of her leg behind her knee in one hand and held it up in the air, spreading her thighs open as far as possible and started slamming into her from behind as hard as I could. Every time I hit bottom she would make a grunting sound. After a few minutes she started to pant, "I'm coming, I'm coming, don't stop, don't stop."
Stopping was the last thing I had in mind. My balls were boiling and I was going to blow. I wasn't going to last long. With a groan I slammed into her one last time as I blasted two weeks of pent-up need into her pussy. She gave a small scream, and her body went stiff and her legs twitched uncontrollably. In the dim light I could see her neck and shoulders turn a bright red as she came.
I lowered her leg back down and we laid there spooning for awhile. Finally with a sigh Donna pulled away and sat up. "So good, but I've got to get ready for work."
She leaned over and gave me quick peck on the cheek, "I love you Ken, and I will try to be more patient." She rolled off the bed and headed towards the bathroom before I had a chance to reply.
I must have gone right back to sleep. The next thing I knew the alarm was going off. Since I was done with classes it was my turn to get Sam up and ready for pre-school. She and I had breakfast together, and then we cuddled up and watched cartoons for a bit before I finally got her dressed and ran her over to the school.
It was great to finally have a whole day to myself before I had to go to work. I got my resume out and made one finally entry updating my degree award date and re-typed it. I was so confident that I had passed that I decided to run over to Kinko's and get a hundred copies of my resume and cover letter made.
I sat down at the kitchen table and started stuffing and addressing envelopes to the engineering firms I was interested in. Donna and I had talked and since both our parents lived close we decided to try to stay in-state, which still left over one hundred possibilities. As soon as my degree was confirmed I would pop my applications in the mail.
As I worked my mind wandered to Donna's recent changes in behavior. This morning, while the sex was great, if not quick, I could count on one hand the days that Donna had initiated sex in the morning in five years of marriage. And she had never done it on a work day that I could remember. The tiff we had yesterday must have triggered it. But we had had arguments before, some worse than this and I had never gotten that response. I was totally lost trying to account for it.
I finally finished up and put the box of envelopes under the bed. I still hoped to surprise Donna with the news that school was over as soon as I confirmed a successful conclusion to my exams. Later that evening, the three of us had dinner together before I left for work. Donna was in a playful mood for the first time in quite a while and teased me about being tired from our early morning activities. Sam chattered on about what her friends in pre-school had been up to. Just sitting there, the three of us together gave me a warm feeling. I was so looking forward to being able to do this every day.
I got to work a few minutes early and started the usual prep work. Trev came over and we chatted for a few minutes. He seemed to be in a somber mood and I kidded him about burning the candle at both ends. He just smiled and asked if I had any plans for after work, he thought we might get together for a beer. I thought that was a good idea and we went to our stations as the line started up.
The line worked a straight eight hours that night so we got to Gino's Bar and Grill about one forty five. Gino would lock his doors at two in the morning but if you were one of his regulars he would let you stay as late as four. We always made sure to tip the bartenders well for the privilege.
We snagged ourselves a booth and a couple of beers. This was a drinking man's bar so there was just a jukebox playing quietly in the corner and a hum of conversations floating around the room.
Trev reached into his pocket and pulled out the picture of Donna I had given him and slid it across the table to me.
With a strained look on his face, Trev said to me, "Ken I need to talk to you about this."
I laughed and said, "That's okay Trev, I don't mind that you kept it a couple of days."
Seriously Trev said, "No Ken, what I meant was I wasn't being truthful about where I thought I saw Donna. But I wanted to show her picture to Vicky to make sure I wasn't mistaken."
"Okay, so what's the big deal?"
Trev cleared his throat and took a swig of his beer and put the bottle down. "Last Friday night Vicky and I went out clubbing with Tony Williams and his girlfriend Vanessa. You remember Tony don't you?"
"Yeah, sure, you guys went to high school together. He worked over here on final assembly before he transferred over to Plant Three a year ago."
"That's him. Anyway we saw Donna that night at a club."
I thought about that for a moment wondering why Trev thought that was significant. Donna had a habit of going out one night a week with a couple of girls from her department. I never faulted her for wanting to get out once in awhile since I had been on second shift for over three years now. They usually went to dinner and on occasion I knew they had stopped at a nightclub for a couple of drinks. Donna would get a babysitter for Sam but she was always home and asleep before I got home from work.
"Okay, I know Donna goes out with her girlfriends occasionally during the week. What's the big deal?"
Trev hesitated for a minute and said, "Ken, this was at the 'Black & Tan'."
I felt my face start to flush and my stomach start to churn as it sunk in what he was saying. The Black & Tan nightclub was located on what was considered the 'dark' side of town down along the riverfront. It catered to a strictly Black clientele, except for some white women who dated black. If you were a white man, you were taking your life into your own hands if you ventured down there. The police were called at least once a week to quell some kind of disturbance. The city council had tried several times over the years to revoke their liquor license because of all the problems but the nightclubs lawyers had managed to fight them off.
Even given this notoriety, the Black & Tan had been one of the most popular Black nightclubs between Detroit and Grand Rapids for years. It didn't matter where you stood in the Black Community, gangbanger, criminal element, businessman or politician. At some time during the year you were seen there.
As what Trev just said ran through my mind, I shook my head side to side, "No Trev, you must be mistaken. There is no way Donna would go there!"
Trev looked at me in sympathy, "Ken, you couldn't mistake Donna in that crowd. With her blond hair and complexion she stands out like a horsefly on white rice. Besides I showed her picture to Tony this morning. He recognized her too. She was there with another white chick, long brown hair, skinny with big boobs."
My mind was spinning. She couldn't have been there. But I knew Trevor wouldn't lie to me. He never had before and he had no reason to now. There had to be some explanation for it. I tried to focus on what Trev was saying about the other woman.
"Long hair, brown, skinny you said?"
"Yeah, almost as tall as Donna, but thin, real thin. And her tits were so big they had to be fake."
Suddenly it came to me! "Tits on a stick!"
Trev's eyebrows went up. "What?"
"Did she look like two tits on a stick?"
"Yeah, I guess you could say that, why?"
I started swearing, "God damn it, god damn it! That bitch, that no-good motherfucking bitch!"
"Connie Johnson Felgenhauer Wilkerson! That bitch!"
"I would guess you know her?"
"Yeah, I know her," I said bitterly.
"A couple of years ago before we moved into the house we are renting now, we lived in a townhouse over on the south side of town."
Trev nodded, "Sure, I remember."
"Well Connie Johnson Felgenhauer Wilkerson was our neighbor. Her and her two kids. She is about our age but she has been married and divorced twice already. That's why I started referring to her with all three last names. Has one kid by each marriage. Nice kids not that she took that much of an interest in them. Nearly every weekend she farmed them out to her ex-husbands.
"We were quite friendly with her until we got to know her real well. Donna took care of the kids a couple of days a week for awhile. Connie was a cashier for Old State Bank last I heard. But I think she gets most of her income from child support from the two exes'. She had a tendency to go out to party after work occasionally and forget to come home. A couple of times the kids ended up spending the night with us because she didn't show up until morning. When she did finally show up she looked like she had been rode hard and put away wet. After the second time that happened I told Donna no more. Connie would have to find someone else to watch the kids."
"Sounds like a piece of work. Is that why you are still pissed at her?"
I shook my head, "No, a couple of things occurred that last year before we moved. When we first met Connie she wasn't bad looking but had the flattest chest you ever saw. I mean not more than a couple of pancakes with nipples. Anyway somehow she came up with enough money to get implants. Seeing the results I thought she went about two cup sizes overboard. She looked like 'two tits on a popsicle stick.' I told her that once and she got really pissed. But she was so proud of those things she would prance around with the tightest t-shirts she could find with no bra. She liked to come up behind me and rub her tits on my back. Not when Donna was around of course.
"She talked those implants up like they were gold. She got Donna convinced that she needed them too and before I knew it Donna was making a full-court press to convince me that I would love them if she got them. Well Donna is a tall girl and well proportioned. She is over five feet ten inches and weighs close to one hundred and thirty pounds. Last time we talked about her measurements, she said she was around 35B-25-36. She has nothing to be ashamed of in the chest department. I love her just the way she is. I had to fight like hell to disabuse her of the notion. It was about that time she decided to go back to work and I think it was partly so she could earn her own money and make her own decisions about what to spend it on."
I took a deep breath, "The other thing was worse."
"I had a friend named John Preston. We went to the same high school but he was a year behind me. He was working nights on axle assembly when I came to work in the plant. He and his wife Traci had a little girl Sam's age. The four of us used to get together with the kids once in a while. Traci kind of let herself go after they had the baby, got fat and sloppy. No medical reason that we could tell, just too much fast food and not enough exercise. John and her used to fight about it all the time.
"Anyway John stopped over one day while Connie was over visiting. I introduced them. A week later I was coming home from work about two in the morning and John's pickup was parked in front of her townhouse. Another week went by and John left his wife Traci and moved in with Connie. He told me he was in love with her and wanted to marry her. I thought he was nuts and told him so. Less than a month later John got off early one night, came home and found Connie in bed with another man. They had a big fight and Connie kicked John out.
"His wife of course filed for divorce and ripped him up in the settlement. John only sees his little girl two weekends a month and can barely afford a studio apartment to live in. Neither John nor Traci have spoken to us since the divorce was final."
I thought back to that episode with foreboding. Was it just coincidence that the man John caught Connie in bed with was black?
"Shit, that's pretty ugly Ken."
"Yeah, shortly after that happened we moved out and into the house we are renting now. I never spoke to Connie again."
"So how did she get back into the picture?"
Angrily I said, "About five, six months ago I came home from work on a Friday night at my usual time. I found Donna curled up around the toilet. She had been puking her guts out. She smelled like cheap whiskey and the inside of an ashtray with a whiff of marijuana. Last I knew she was supposed to have gone out to dinner with her girlfriends from work. I cleaned her up and got her back into bed. She was practically passed out.
"The next morning I took Samantha to my parent's house and then came home and waited for her to stagger into the kitchen. I jumped on her with both feet. She was too hung over to fight with me. It turns out that Connie had called her at work several times trying to get her to go out. Said she wanted to reconnect and catch up on things. Donna finally decided that it wouldn't hurt to spend some time with her so she had Connie pick her up at the house that night. Donna says they went to a couple of bars, and Connie introduced her to some friends who started buying them drinks. Donna has never been a big drinker, usually sticks to wine, and doesn't handle liquor all that well. Donna said she thinks she remembers smoking a joint in Connie's car at some point in the evening. The last thing she remembered was Connie helping her into the house and paying the babysitter."
I shook my head. "I was so pissed! I yelled at her for the first time in our marriage. I told her in no uncertain terms that Connie was a bitch and a slut and nothing but trouble! I wanted us to have nothing to do with her in the future and if she had a problem with that then we were going to end up in marriage counseling for sure. It was the worst fight we ever had. She was crying by the time I finished and said she wished she had never gone out with her and that it would never happen again."
I slumped down in my chair and stared at my beer. "We haven't spoken about Connie since. But it looks like it did happen again and she kept it from me." Then what I had just said hit me. By not telling me she was essentially lying!
As I thought about that a dark cloud settled over me. Donna had never lied to me before, or intentionally kept anything from me, at least as far as I knew. I thought we shared everything. After that incident she always made a point of telling me who she was going out with. I never thought much about it since I always trusted her. And last Friday was no exception. She had told me she was meeting her friends from work for dinner.
I looked up at Trev. He was looking at me with sympathy like he knew what had occurred to me for the first time. And something else, there was something else in his expression that put fear into my heart.
"There's more to this, isn't there?"
Trev nodded and mumbled something under his breath about "Goddamn women!"
He hesitated another minute, finally he said, "Tony is one of the regulars at the Black & Tan. He's probably there nearly every weekend and knows just about everyone who comes in. He said Donna and this Connie have been in there for at least the last three or four Friday nights that he knows of."
I just stared at him in disbelief! "Shit, no! That can't be true!"
Trev took a drink of his beer, and said "It gets worse, Ken."
I put my hands over my ears and looked down at the table. My thoughts were running in circles. Did I want to know anymore?
I sat up and looked Trev in the eyes, "Tell me."
"They have made a couple of friends."
Sickly I said, "Men friends you mean?"
"Yeah, and they are bad dudes. Both are in their late twenties. One of them is Curtis Hallock. He works at United Parcel Service in the sorting facility doing I'm not sure what. But he's also a small time drug dealer. Been busted twice for possession and once for assault and battery. He's known to carry a blade most of the time. He was married and is in the process of getting divorced.
"The other guy is James Martin. He's a corrections officer in the medium security prison over in Ionia. Off duty, he usually carries a gun, legally. He has been divorced twice and is paying child support for three kids by his second wife. Child support for three kids puts a huge dent in his salary. His first ex-wife just happens to be Tony's sister. The word going around is he is smuggling marijuana and cocaine into the prison and selling it to the inmates. Supposedly Curtis is his supplier. He and Curtis were in high school together."
I was speechless! I couldn't respond.
"I'm sorry, Ken." Trev said. "I know it's a lot to take in."
"What else?" I whispered.
Trev looked miserable. "Curtis has been bragging it around that they are getting some action off of these two white chicks and James apparently dated this Connie before. He says they have been slipping out to the car sometime during the evening and getting it on."
"Do you believe them?"
"I believe Tony. And James is his ex-brother-in-law. And he used to party with both of them years ago. Tony doesn't think too much of James since he found out he used to beat his sister when he was married to her. But he's still on speaking terms with them. Curtis may be spreading around bullshit, hard to tell."
"But you think there is something to this?"
Trev looked me in the eye, "Ken, they were acting mighty friendly Friday night when we saw them at the club. I'm sorry."
Suddenly my eyes teared up and I got up and went into the restroom. I sat down in a stall and put my face in my hands and I actually cried. After a bit I got up and washed my face in the sink and stared at myself in the mirror. My face was pale and my eyes bloodshot. Other than that you couldn't tell I was a man whose life as he knew it was falling apart.
I slowly walked back to the table and sat down. I looked at Trev, after a moment I said, "I have to know for sure. I have to see for myself."
Trev stared at me in shock, "That's not a good idea Ken. You know the shit that can happen over there!"
"Doesn't matter, I have to know. I have to know! Will you help me or not?"
Trev just shook his head, "Shit Ken, you know how I feel about women who cheat on their husbands."
We sat in silence for a few minutes, both of us lost in thought. Trev finally said, "Okay, Ken. But you have to promise me to do exactly what I tell you. Can you do that?"
I nodded, "Yeah, it's your world. I can respect that."
"Okay, let me think about it and we will talk at work tomorrow."
As we walked out the door, Trev patted me on the shoulder, "Be cool Ken. I know it's hard but you can't let her see what you're feeling."
I just nodded and left for home. Later, I sat in the dark of the living room for awhile just thinking. Eventually I got up and wandered through the house. I went into Sam's room and looked at her curled up with her stuffed dog under her chin. I kissed her on the cheek and stroked her hair, saddened at the changes I suspected were going to come. I went into our bedroom and looked at Donna sleeping. Her blond hair spread across the pillow shone from the light from the doorway. I looked at that face I knew so well and wondered how she could do the things I suspected her of. I felt my love changing, turning into something cold and bitter, wanting to scream at her and beat her within an inch of her life. I took my pillow off the bed and slowly closed the door.
I fell across the couch and covered myself with a blanket and stared into the darkness. The next thing I knew someone was shaking me. Donna said, "Wake up, Ken. What are doing sleeping out here?"
I mumbled something in reply. Impatiently she said, "I've got to get ready for work. Go to bed and don't forget to take Sam to pre-school." I stumbled back to the bedroom and slid under the covers and was instantly asleep.
Later as I got up with the alarm, I thought about the days ahead, trying to suppress the feelings that threatened to spiral into rage. I decided I needed some time with Sam. I got her up and we did our breakfast routine. I asked her if she would like to stay home with me today and maybe go to the zoo. She got all excited and started to tell me about all the animals.
I gave her a hug and said, "Then that's what we'll do today."
She said, "Is mommy going too?"
I said, "No honey, mommy has to work today."
She got sad for a minute and said, "Well we can tell mommy all about it when she gets home, can't we?"
I laughed and said, "Yes sweetie, you can tell mommy all about it when she gets home."
We had a wonderful day together. It was a beautiful sunny spring day and we walked through the zoo holding hands and watching all the animals. When she got tired I carried her on my shoulders with her giggling constantly. Afterwards I took her to McDonalds for her favorite happy meal. By the time we got home Sam was exhausted and fell asleep on the couch watching her cartoons.
I started making dinner and trying to keep my thoughts away from everything that had happened the night before. By the time Donna walked in the door dinner was ready and Sam was awake. She jumped into Donna's arms as she walked in and said, "Guess what mommy, daddy took me to the zoo today! And we had McDonalds and everything!"
Donna' looked at me and then looked back at Sam and said, "Wow, honey that's great! Sounds like fun. I wish I could've gone."
As we sat down to the table to eat, Donna said to me kind of crossly, "You could've waited for the weekend and then we all could have gone together."
I looked at her calmly, "Well Donna, if you remember, the last few weekends you haven't wanted to do much of anything except sleep, watch television and not be bothered."
Donna face turned pale then red. She looked away from me and didn't respond. She turned to Sam to listen to her talk about the funny things the monkeys had done. I thought to myself, 'think about that bitch!'
A little while later as we were finishing supper, I decided to yank her chain a bit. I said, "I haven't heard you talk about Josie or Mary from work much. What have they been up to lately?"
Donna kind of looked at me out of the corner of her eye. I'm sure she was wondering why I was asking now, I never had before. Casually she answered, "They are about the same. In fact we are planning on having dinner together tomorrow night."
"Oh, where are you planning to eat at?"
"We haven't decided yet. Why do you want to know?"
"No reason. Just wondering what kind of places you have been going to."
Donna rattled off the names of about a half a dozen restaurants around town, mostly modestly priced up-scale kinds of places with a bar but no entertainment.
"Sounds like you girls have been getting around. Well I've got to get to work." I got up from the table and gave her and Sam a kiss goodbye. As I left Donna still had a suspicious look in her eye.
I was waiting for the line to start and Trev rushed in at the last minute as he usually did and got the usual ribbing from the rest of the section. As he brushed by he said lets talk at lunch. I just nodded and we started our shift.
We were standing around outside the building with the smokers after we ate when Trev said, "I still don't think this is a good idea, Ken."
Stubbornly I replied, "I've got to know for sure. If it is true some heavy shit is likely to happen. There can't be any mistakes."
"Sounds like you have been giving this a lot of thought?"
Soberly I nodded and looked at him, "If it's true, then it's something I can't live with."
He sighed, "Okay this is what I want you to do. Call in sick tomorrow and meet me in the parking lot at Gino's at eight. I will drive us over to the Black & Tan in my car. And no hanging around a bar drinking while you're waiting. I want you sober, got it?"
"I got it."
He looked at me, "Good thing you have a darker complexion than your wife. Don't shave tomorrow. The stubble will darken your face even more. You have any dark clothes? I don't want you to stand out, the darker the better. And wear some dark glasses. I don't care if it is night time. Half those gangbangers wear sunglasses in there anyway."
I nodded again.
"You have a dark panama or fedora hat? Something with a brim?"
I shook my head no.
"Okay, I'll bring you something. Tony is going to meet us there. He is going to grease things with the bouncer before we arrive. He and I will keep you sandwiched as much as possible."
"Christ! Sounds like a James Bond operation."
Trev looked at me seriously, "Bad shit happens there every week. I don't want it to happen to you. Not the least of which is if something happens to draw attention to us she will probably see you and you will never get the truth. We will get in, keep a low profile, see what there is to see and then get out. Okay?"
"Okay Trev. And thanks I really appreciate it."
"Hell Ken, you know my ex-wife screwed me over big-time, I would hate to see it happen to you."
The rest of the night went quickly. I got home as usual. As much as I hated to do it I slept in our bed with Donna. It wouldn't do to get her thinking I was avoiding her on purpose. I never heard her get out of bed, but I remember her saying goodbye when she left for work. Awhile later the alarm went off and I got up and around to start the day.
After taking Sam to school I drove over to the university and the college of engineering. I walked around to the prof's offices and checked the exam results posted on their doors.
I scored a 2.5 and two 3.0's. Normally I would have been a little disappointed with the 2.5 but that was the least of my problems. I stopped at the admin office and verified that my credits had been accepted and my degree was good to go. I returned home and retrieved my box of job applications and dropped them off at the post office. Regardless of what else happened I was moving this part of my life forward.
I scrounged through my closet and found the clothes I needed for the evening. I put everything in a sack and put it in my pick-up. Since Donna was planning on going out to dinner I fixed something for Sam and me. Donna was later than usual, and as she rushed in the door she apologized saying she got called to do an emergency EKG on a patient that was just admitted. I told her I still had time but I couldn't miss work tonight. I gave her the story line about there being several people on leave and we were going to be shorthanded. I kissed them both goodbye and headed out.
I decided to go over to the mall and kill some time watching a movie before I had to meet Trev. My mind was running a mile a minute and I don't even remember what I watched. I got to Gino's a little before eight and Trev was already there. I told him I would change in the men's room and be ready in a couple of minutes.
He was standing by his car when I came back out and I asked him if I was dressed appropriately. I had a black sports jacket over a black polo shirt and dark jeans. He nodded and handed me a 'Blues Brothers' black pork pie hat. "See if this fits." It did.
He just grunted and said, "Let's go."
We got to the Black & Tan about a quarter to nine. There were a lot of cars in the mostly unlighted parking lots. There were quite a few people, singles and couples walking towards or congregating around the front of the club. We finally found a spot almost all the way in the back. Trev said, "Wait here while I go check things out."
He came back in about fifteen minutes. He looked at me and his face tightened, "They're here. Tony is keeping an eye on them. Let's go."
I tried to swallow the lump in my throat and nodded. I put the hat and sunglasses on and Trev said, "Cover as much of your face as you can with the brim. Try not to look up, Okay?"
We got into line to go in. I was drawing a few strange looks from others waiting to get in but nothing was said. When we got up to the door to pay the cover, the largest of the two bouncers said to Trev, "Who's your friend, bro?"
"He's an old army buddy who saved my life in 'nam." Trev said with a straight face.
"Shit, who're you trying to bullshit, Trev? You never made it to 'nam."
Trev grinned and said, "Okay, okay, he's my second cousin on my dad's side. He's the black sheep of the family and we're kind of ashamed of him."
The bouncer laughed and said, "Go on in, you already know where Tony is sitting."
We walked in and it was nearly standing room only. The only lights were around the band and the bar. The band was playing loudly with a heavy beat and the smoke was so thick you could cut it with a knife. It smelled like cigarettes, stale sweat, booze and occasionally the sweet smell of marijuana. There was a large crowd on the dance floor bobbing up and down in unison with the beat. I followed Trev as he slid over to the left of the room. Once in a while, he'd stop and say something to someone, exchange the lodge handshake and then move on. I ignored the looks and muttered comments I was getting, kept my head down and stuck to his side like a tick.
We finally got to a table with a couple of empty chairs and Tony sitting there giving us the eye. We both leaned over and Trev said, "Ken, you remember Tony?"
I nodded and we shook hands, "Thanks for your help Tony." He just shrugged and pointed his head over his shoulder.
"They're over there against the wall. They just got here about a half hour ago."
Trev had me sit on the side where I could see them without turning my head. I looked over at their table under the brim of my hat and steeled myself for what I was going to see. Shit, we were only twenty-five, thirty feet away. Donna and Connie stood out like a beacon on a stormy night on the darkest night of the year. The four of them were in a booth with the women against the wall. Donna was sitting next to a big guy, who had to be easily six foot four inches, and weighed maybe two thirty. The other guy sitting next to Connie was probably more my height and size. I whispered to Trev, "Which one is the football player sitting next to Donna?"
I looked him over carefully. Well dressed, shaved head with a moustache and goatee. He talked easily to everyone and was obviously paired up with Donna. He looked tough but gave the impression he was a smooth operator.
The waitress came by and took our drink orders. I could hardly take my eyes off of my wife. She was talking, laughing and acting as if she was as comfortable as in her own home. Curtis had his arm around her shoulders and was occasionally talking into her ear. She had a glass of white wine in front of her that was mostly empty already. Connie was draped all over the other guy whom I assumed was James.
Trev and Tony talked back and forth and occasionally threw a comment my way. I was so focused on the other table I don't remember what they said or if I even replied. During the course of the evening it seemed like a steady stream of men found their way over there to talk to Curtis or James but it was obvious they were more interested in checking out Donna and Connie.
I just sat there and watched as the evening progressed. I could barely stand to touch my drink my stomach was in such a knot. A couple of times the four of them would get up to dance which from what little I could see was mostly of the dirty dancing variety. Curtis had his hands all over Donna and it was obvious she didn't mind. Donna was wearing a low-cut blouse with a short skirt and high heels. An outfit I don't remember ever seeing before. When they walked back to the table Curtis would have his arm around her waist or on her hip and she would be giggling. It was also apparent she wasn't wearing a bra.
Donna was on about her third glass of wine when James kind of turned his back to the floor and took something out of his shirt pocket and lit it. The four of them casually passed around a joint under the table pulling it out to take a hit before putting it back under the table to pass it on. I watched in shock as Donna took a big hit and held her breath with ease. I swear she did it like a pro. We had experimented with marijuana a couple of times when we were in Germany. She always said she didn't really care for it.
Trev must have seen the look on my face as he leaned over and said, "Are you going to be all right?" I nodded. "If you can't be cool I have to get you out of here."
Things were heating up and I tried to imagine I was just watching some strangers make out. A couple of times I had to look away. My emotions alternated between rage and overwhelming sadness. I constantly had tears in my eyes as the enormity of what was occurring sunk in. Finally James said something to Curtis and he and Connie got up and walked toward the door. Curtis turned back to Donna and leaned in close. We could see he had his hand under the table and up under her skirt. Donna had this glazed look on her face and had one of her hands in his lap. He continued to whisper in her ear and she just closed her eyes and nodded from time to time. After about an hour James and Connie came back to the table. Connie's face was flushed and they both had a satisfied expression on their faces.
Curtis pulled his hand out from under the table and said something to them and they all laughed. Donna sat up and looked around like she wasn't sure where she was. Curtis said something to James and stood up. He held his hand out to Donna and helped her out of the booth. The two of them walked along the edge of the dance floor toward the door, Donna clinging to his arm and nearly every pair of eyes in the place following them.
Trev leaned over to Tony and me, "This is where we need to get out of here, understand?"
I nodded and the three of us got up and walked toward the door. I followed Trev and Tony followed me. The fresh air hit me like a hammer as we made the door. It was just in time since my head was pounding and I was real close to losing anything I still had in my stomach. As we made our way out from the crowd around the door, Trev said to Tony, "Do you know what he is driving?"
Tony nodded, "Yeah, Lincoln Town Car, four-door, silver. What else would any self-respecting drug dealer drive? He usually parks in the last row of the back parking lot." We walked that way checking out the cars as we went.
Quietly Tony said, "There it is." And pointed over to the right. We stood in the shadow of a warehouse from about four cars away and had a real good view. They were sitting in the front seat with the windows down a couple of inches. We could see the glow from a joint being passed back and forth.
As we watched I held out the hope that this was all there was to this so far. Finally the glow was extinguished and the two of them didn't seem to move. Finally the front doors opened and they both got out and stood talking across the roof of the car. I gave a sigh of relief which gave way to a groan of disbelief as they both opened the back doors and climbed in.
We could see their heads come together for a few minutes then separate. Then Donna's head disappeared down into his lap. A sudden flash of uncontrollable rage hit me. I started to shake and took a step forward. Trev and Tony both grabbed my arms and Trev hissed at me, "Ken, No! Not here, not now!"
A sudden burst of clarity hit me and I stopped trying to move. It was over. My marriage was over. The most important thing I had that I thought was mine wasn't. The most important thing I thought I loved, I didn't anymore. Only one thing was left in my life now, and that was Samantha.
We stood still for a few minutes. We saw Donna's head come up and the two of them came together again. Then the two of them disappeared from view. After a few minutes Donna's widespread legs appeared above the seats and started to jerk spasmodically.
I shook off Trev and Tony's hands and said without emotion, "Thanks Trev, thanks Tony. I've seen enough. It's time to go."
As I turned and walked away I said savagely, "My marriage may be over but this isn't."
"No," I whispered to myself, "Not nearly over!"