Thanks to the hip and knee doctor for editing assistance.
I knew that things were going to be different as soon as I started my new school. I was born and raised in Philly and moving an hour away from the city would definitely take some adjustment. By adjustment, that meant that I had to learn to live with it.
I kept my nose clean and stayed out of trouble at the request of my father and insistence of my mother.
The population was diversified to say the least. Some Blacks, some Spics, a few Italians, and Jews. The majority were hard-headed Dutchies. They weren't Amish or Mennonites, just German Lutherans, who dominated the area and everything in it. It was a melting pot, so I had no real trouble blending in, but I missed my Philly friends.
I stayed in the area after graduation, mainly to be close to my family. I still made regular trips to the old neighborhood and stayed close with my old friends.
I got my first job driving a fuel oil delivery truck. In a few years I was working inside, dispatching, and taking orders. I had a knack for the business and could actually see myself as an owner of a similar operation in a few years.
I had no trouble finding friends of the opposite sex and my social life was better than I had expected. When I got married, my mother was a little disappointed that my new wife was not Italian, but she did her best to make sure that Marcie was accepted with no reservations. After two kids, Marcie insisted that I get clipped. I had no problem with that, but once the kids started school, Marcie wanted to go to work.
My father never felt that it was a good idea for a wife and mother to work. I am not completely sure of the rationale behind this, but looking back, it made sense. It wasn't that I minded Marcie working, as much as I disliked the fact that she was socializing with people that she knew and grew up with. I liked some of her friends, but not all of them. In school, she had been involved in all sorts of student activities and she really enjoyed them. I avoided such things and the people that were doing them. I always felt that they were a bunch of snobs sitting around stroking each other's egos. I knew that she had been sexually active before I met her, but I was also. We never discussed things that we did before we were together. It wasn't a rule or anything, just something that we fell into.
We were married for about ten years when things started to come apart. Marcie had been working in the claims department of one of the local national insurance companies. I got concerned when she started working overtime and weekends. Six months later, I knew that I had to end it, when the seminar came up.
"Tony, I just don't understand what the problem is? It is only for three days. I already talked to your mom and she agreed to stay with the kids while I am gone. You will be home in the evenings. I know you can cook for yourself."
I couldn't believe that she had the guts to ask in the first place.
"Who is going on this seminar?" She seemed to perk up a little when I responded.
"Six girls from the department, Betty Klink from personnel and Rodney."
I smiled when she said his name. I was amazed that she hadn't figured out that I knew all about her special lunches and night work sessions with her immediate boss, Rodney Foote. Rodney and Marcie grew up together. He was one of the kids that was in every club and participated in every activity, other than sports, when he was in school.
"Do you take me for some kind of a fool, Marcie?"
"I don't understand. What are you talking about?"
"I have known about you and Rodney for six months now. If you think I am going to let you go away with him for three days you are out of your mind."
"Tony, what are you talking about? Rodney is my boss. There is nothing going on between us. I would never think of cheating on you. You know that."
I looked at the empty Budweiser can in my hand and slowly got out of my chair. As I walked to the kitchen, I crushed the thin aluminum in my hand and threw it at the trash can. I missed, but didn't bother to pick it up. The new can made a hissing noise as I popped the top and sat back down. Marcie just sat waiting for me to reply.
"You are the mother of my children and as a mother you do a good job. The only reason I haven't thrown you out is because of that. I talked to my mom and explained it all to her. She said that I should stay firm and hope that you get it out of your system, for the sake of the children. If I dump you, the courts will give you my kids. I can't have that happen."
"You told your mother that I was cheating on you?"
"No. A lady from church told her. I just didn't deny it when she confronted me."
"You are not serious. I don't believe you. Why are you saying all this?"
I took a big swig of beer and smiled. "Rodney lives at 321 David Drive. It is only three blocks from your office. You and your boss go there, usually, three times a week and stay for almost three hours each time. What do you do at his apartment for three hours? After you explain that to me, you can tell me about the overtime that you have been putting in at the office. Did you know that your office cleaning lady also goes to church with my mother?"
Her eyes were all watered up and her lower lip was trembling.
"As long as you do not publicly embarrass me or my family, I won't do anything. If that changes, then all bets are off. You can leave or you can stay, but you will never take my boys from me."
She was definitely upset when she jumped to her feet. "Damn you, Tony! I hate you. You Wop bastard." With that outburst, she left the room bawling. That was the first time she had ever swore at me and the first time she every made any derogatory remarks about my heritage. The Dutchie in her, finally came out.
We had two boys, Terry and Rick, who shared a room with a set of bunk beds. The third bedroom was a catch-all room. That is where I slept from that day on. It was a rented house. We had over sixty thousand dollars saved for a down payment on our dream home, but my dream had turned into a nightmare.
Nothing more was ever said about the seminar. Marcie no longer worked overtime. She carried her lunch to work. The atmosphere at home was not chilly, rather it was cold and freezing. Mom had no new feedback from her church friends. Things seems to be normalizing, but I felt uncomfortable. There was no sex at the time, but I would not put up with that situation for too long.
Against my better judgment, I agreed to accompany Marcie to her company Christmas Party. I didn't want to let her go alone and I felt that I could pass the evening quietly by just staying out of the way. It was a good plan, but full of flaws.
The company rented a hall with a dance floor, a buffet table and a couple of open bars. I could nurse three beers for the entire night and not feel any pain. By the time we got there, the only tables that were left were near the company big-wigs. It was quite apparent that all of the employees were avoiding those seats. Things seemed to be all right for the first hour. I noticed Rodney across the room hanging out with some buddies. Several of the guys that Marcie worked with asked her to dance, but good old Rodney stayed away. I was glad to let her dance, because I didn't want to.
I had just started my third beer, when I noticed that Marcie and Rodney were exchanging glances. It consisted mostly of nods and head tilts, but there was something definitely going on. I tried my best to act bored and disinterested, but to still keep an eye on them.
My wife excused herself to use the ladies room. I made a quick sweep across the room and noticed that Rodney was gone. It was unbelievable. After we had the discussion at home, it was totally stupid for her to attempt a get together with the jerk while I was in the same building. She could see him anytime at work, with no possibility of being interrupted. I believed that the only reason for doing it would be to make me look like a cuckolded jerk. By hooking up with Rodney in the middle of a company affair, she would be hanging the horns on me for everyone to see. His cronies were standing together by one of the bars with big grins on their faces, as Marcie entered the hallway to the restrooms. She glanced back to make sure that I was still in my seat and then disappeared.
I stopped by the head table on my way to the restrooms. I leaned over and apologized for disrupting the party, just to get their attention. The guys across the room with the silly grins were suddenly not smiling any more. They seemed agitated because they had no idea what they could do to help good old Rodney.
I went into the ladies room first, and found it empty. I had better luck in the men's room. From there on, things seemed to happen in double time. They were kissing. His back was to me and his hand was up her skirt. There was no resistance on her part.
I grabbed Rodney by the back of his neck and took one step sideways, before slamming his head forward into the bathroom tile. Something definitely broke. I could hear my wife shouting my name, over and over, but totally ignored it. I spun the son-of-a-bitch around and the blood from his broken nose splattered all over my shirt. He was limp, but still standing, so I gave him a good shot to the stomach. He went down and immediately started to vomit. Marcie was pulling on my jacket sleeve with no effect.
Things were quiet in the main hall as I dragged Rodney to the middle of the floor by his necktie. I might have been choking him, but I didn't give a damn. The band had stopped playing and everyone watched as I dropped him. I looked around the room to see if anyone was interested in coming to his rescue, but there were no takers.
"I am sorry for ruining your great party. I will be going now, but I am leaving my slut wife here for your entertainment. Drop her off at the house when you are through using her."
Rodney was on his hands and knees attempting to get up. His face was a bloody mess. Marcie was standing in the doorway with her mouth hanging open. It was hard to tell if she was upset with what I did to her lover, or with what I had just said to all of her co-workers. It didn't really matter to me.
I noticed that Rodney was directly under the mistletoe and I couldn't help myself. Before leaving, I gave him a kick in the balls that he would be remembering for a week. He immediately fell forward while bashing his face on the floor again. That had to have hurt. No one ever said a word.
I called my mom from the car and asked her to come by the house to pick up the boys. Going out of town for a few days seemed like a good idea and I didn't want to leave the kids with their mother. I was sure that she would be in no condition to properly care for them. I was making plans as I drove, and had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to go. My boss had no objection to giving me a week or so off.
Mom and dad were already there when I arrived. After paying the babysitter, I helped in getting the boys ready. My one bag consisted of mostly socks and underwear, but I threw in a few shirts and pants, just in case. Before leaving, I got the cash box out of the basement rafters. The banks were paying less than one percent interest on savings accounts, so I had decided to keep the money at home. I know, I know, it's stupid to keep $62,000 dollars in the house, but I guess it is something that I inherited from my mom. She used to keep big stashes all around her kitchen.
I was turning out all the lights when a cab pulled up and dropped Marcie off. She walked in and sat on the couch without saying a thing. She looked more worried than mad; more upset than scared.
"I told you that there was only one rule. Do not humiliate me or my family in public. You just couldn't resist doing it, could you?"
I waited for a moment as she started crying and then walked out the door.
It was just a little past nine as I hit the Schuylkill Expressway. Damn, that party didn't last too long, at least not for me. I decided that I would kill a few days in Atlantic City before going back home, but first I had to see my old friend Sal.
Sal had a sandwich shop in the old neighborhood. It wasn't like the flashy ones you see in the Philly travel films, but more of a convenience for the people that lived close by. His primary income came from other endeavors that most of us either ignored or participated in. He lived on the second floor and worked out of the back room.
It was like old home week. After I explained my situation, he agreed to help me.
"Tony, it is going to cost you twenty. Can you handle that or do you need me to spot you?"
"I got it up front. No problem."
"Do you want it messy or quiet?"
"Transparent. No fuss, no muss. Nothing."
"You have to leave for a few days? Do have you have anything set up?"
"No. I was thinking of going to Atlantic City."
"How about six days and seven nights at the Taj?"
"What are you talking about, Sal?"
"I got some comp's coming. I think it would work out pretty good for you."
"Sounds good to me."
"Are you going alone, Tony?"
"Yeah. This is all sort of spur of the moment. I didn't have any time to invite guests."
"You shouldn't be alone. You need somebody to help verify that you were there. Hold on a minute." Sal picked up the phone and dialed a number that must have been familiar.
"Carla, it's Sal. Make your self pretty and get your ass down here." There was a short pause. "No, nothing like that. You are going to be going on vacation." He was snickering as he hung up.
"Tony do you remember Carla, my brother Michael's oldest?"
"Yeah. Chubby little thing with dark brown eyes. I remember that she was always laughing. How old is she by now?"
Sal was smiling at my recollection of his niece. "She's twenty-three now Tony, and she ain't chubby no more."
All of a sudden I realized that Carla was going to be accompanying me to the shore. I felt a little uncomfortable since she was Sal's niece, but hell, he was the one setting it up.
"Tony, do you have a credit card?"
"I got two of them. I was going to cancel them Monday morning."
"No, don't do that. I want you to use those credit cards as much as you can. Meals out, room service and even some casino cash advances, but don't go overboard. You need the card action to prove that you were there. Spread it out, time-wise, so that it doesn't look like you snuck back home. It might cost you a couple of grand, but it's cheap insurance."
Sal knew his business. It all made sense. As I was mulling it all over, Carla came in.
"Tony. I ain't seen you since you moved up to the sticks. You look good."
Now I know why Sal was smiling. Carla was absolutely gorgeous. Those dark eyes were amazing and all of the baby fat that she used to have, had seemed to have moved to her chest. I knocked over my chair like a klutz, as I jumped to my feet.
"Tony needs somebody to keep him company in Atlantic City for a few days. Are you up to it?"
Her mood seemed to change a little when he said that. "Aren't you still married?" She directed the question to me. Before I could answer Sal jumped in. "The marriage is dead, Carla. Tony needs a nurse
right now. I knew you always liked him, so I thought of you first."
"Sal, I am not going to break up anyone's family. It is not fair for you to ask me to do this. Besides that, I am not one of your hookers. Why don't you just get one of the girls to go with him?"
"I don't expect you to sleep with him. Just keep him company and help him forget his troubles."
Carla had a puzzled look on her face, as if she just figured something out. She was quick as well as beautiful. "I'm sorry." She looked from Sal to me with a little smile. "I'll be glad to go with you Tony, but you have to promise to buy me some salt water taffy."
We were all smiling now. "I'll need about an hour to get ready. Don't let him drink anything, Sal. I don't want to drive down there with a drunk." I think I saw her wink at me as she left to get her things.
Sal and I recapped our discussion while Carla was gone. He graciously accepted my twenty thousand dollars and promised complete satisfaction.
The drive to Atlantic City was uneventful except that I was forced to give Carla a complete run down of the problems that I was having with Marcie. Her only comment was: "Oh, the poor kids."
Carla frowned when she saw the double beds, but she fortunately didn't notice me snickering a little. I was pretty sure that we would only be using one of them before the week was up. All good things come in time.
We did a little bit of gambling but didn't go overboard. I was smart enough to realize that in the long run, I would always end up losing. Carla was happy with the quarter slots and I was just looking for something to kill time. We spent more time eating and walking on the boardwalk than anything else. Of course, we did see every show in town.
I was a perfect gentleman the first night, but Carla and I were tearing up the sheets by noon the second day. My mother was right, I should have married an Italian girl. It felt natural and I did not feel as if I was cheating.
We were getting ready for supper on the fourth day when we got visitors. There were two of them: not in suits, but in sports jackets.
"Tony Randazzo, I am Ray Fritz and this is my partner Rupert Marks. We are from the Berks County Special Crimes Task Force. Can we talk with you for a few minutes?"
Carla walked out of the bathroom in her bra and panties. She glanced over at the two men, walked to the bed, and picked up her bathrobe. She seemed a little embarrassed, but she knew that they might be paying me a visit.
"Do you want to give me an idea what we will be talking about?"
"We would like to talk about your relationship with Rodney Foote."
"I didn't have a relationship with Rodney Foote, my wife did."
For some reason, they seemed a little bit uncomfortable. Fritz was doing all the talking while Rupert was busy staring at Carla. "We realize that Mister Randazzo. We understand that you had words with him last Friday at the Continental Insurance Christmas party."
"Why? Is he pressing charges?"
"No. He has disappeared and we were wondering if you could help us locate him."
"Gentlemen. Before we discuss this any further I would like to have somebody from the Atlantic City Police department here, and I don't mean a blue suit. If you can't arrange that, I want a lawyer; my lawyer from Reading."
There was no response from my visitors. "Carla, get dressed as we are going to supper. Sorry fellows, but we have six o'clock reservations. The steaks at the Safari are fabulous. I'll probably be coming home this Friday. Would you like me to come and talk with you then?"
They seemed a little dumbfounded.
"Why do you think that something happened to this bozo? Maybe he just left town for a while." I asked.
"He was picked up by a cab leaving the Community General Hospital on Sunday morning and no one has seen him since."
Carla had finished dressing and I was putting on my jacket.
"Well. I have been here since Friday night and you can verify that with the hotel staff. Now if you will excuse me, we are going for a couple of steaks. Do you have any more questions?"
"Yes, but they will wait until Friday. We expect to see you then."
I gave them a simple nod, and gently steered them towards the door. We all rode down on the elevator together and nothing more was said. When we got to the lobby, they went to hotel security as we went to the Safari.
Terry and Rick were all over me when I got home. The saltwater taffy made things even better. Marcie, on the other hand, was a little cold. It was clear that she had no idea what was expected of her. After talking with the police, I spent the rest of the afternoon with the boys. and planned on having a talk with Marcie that evening.
The boys were situated in front of the TV for the night so I sat at the kitchen table waiting for Marcie to finish cleaning up. She seemed to be taking longer than usual, but I didn't budge. Finally she turned towards me and sat with her elbows on the Formica top.
"What did you do with Rodney?" She wasn't mad or demanding, but seemed to be sincerely concerned. She looked at me when she said it and then looked across the room as she waited for an answer.