This is a continuation of Rob's Saga by Just Plain Bob, so you should read his story first to understand what's going on. I'd like to thank Just Plain Bob for the tempting challenge and for leaving so many possibilities open.
It took quite a bit to tie up all the loose ends. Given the hero's lack of complaints in the counseling session, I was struck by his calm reaction to his wife's announcement and wondered why he was so calm if it really was out of the blue. This is my first submission here. It's been a log time since I've written fiction and the final draft turned out very differently from my first outline. Minor characters seemed to insist on a larger role and it's not always clear who's really in charge.
For most of my life I pretty much had a handle on things. Sure, sometimes things happen in life but I had always been able to roll with the punches up 'til now. I was overwhelmed; I felt like I was juggling bowling balls without a helmet, each one threatening to crash on my head and end the whole performance.
The first bowling ball, my whore of a wife Audrey, decided to clean me out and leave me for the second ball, a biker named DJ. Well this "wimp" got the better of him and I gave DJ a little limp to remember me by. Ball number three: a biker gang wasn't going to let me just stomp on one of their own, so they came after me. Luckily my cousin Lou is a police sergeant and the Diablos didn't get their revenge so much as deliver themselves right to the local PD on a platter. DJ wasn't in jail but I worked him over again pretty good and tried to sell him on the advantages of Anyplace But Here. I doubted he would stay away, though. Without DJ, Audrey was suddenly repentant and wanted me to forget her "lapse." Audrey was actively fighting the divorce, so I just let it stop. As long as I had my house and my money I didn't care if she had my name. DJ's absence also left me with three more problems: his old lady Kari, and her twin sixteen year old daughters, Beverly and Barbara, who were now homeless. I let the three women moved into my house. (Don't ask, I'm not sure how that got by the dumb idea filter.) Kari was an ok cook and give me my space but the twins were having a contest to see who could get me to go for the jailbait first. Flashing and accidentally dropped towels had become pretty commonplace. So I had taken the path of least resistance and just stayed away from home rather than be alone with the girls.
If any of that made sense to you, would you please draw me a big diagram and explain it to me? Using small words?
But life doesn't stop so you can catch your breath. I had to keep moving along as I waited for a ball to drop. I would hit the gym before breakfast (my new way of avoiding the twins after their mother left for work) and was pleased to find an old buddy, Chris, was also a member there. We ran into each other maybe once or twice a year but it always seemed like we just saw each other yesterday. He knew that Aud had run off with some biker. Hell the whole town knew. While he spotted me on the weights he made the mistake of asking how the divorce was going, so I told him. He did a good job of not laughing at me.
"When she left she didn't seem too tore up about it," Chris half-asked, half-stated.
"Yep," I exhaled as I finished my last rep.
"And now that asshole is gone she suddenly doesn't want a divorce," he confirmed.
"That's about it," I replied while toweling off.
"And with all those bikers itching to make an example out of you, you go and let his old girlfriend and two underage daughters move in rent-free?" Chris shook his head as we headed toward the juice bar. "In what way is that not galacticly stupid?"
"Well, it may not have been too smart," I hemmed a bit.
"It was stupid," he corrected. "It's like the Great Pyramid of bad ideas."
"It's not that bad..."
"Really? How do you know she isn't just setting you up? You screwed up her meal ticket."
The same thing had occurred to me almost daily but I didn't want to admit it. "I guess I don't. But I can't just throw them out on the street now."
"You can, but you won't." We had taken a seat at the counter and ordered a couple of fruit drinks. "Right now you're just reacting. You need a plan, man. Bet you wish your old man was here."
"Ain't that the truth." My father had passed away about five years before, but I still missed him, especially at times like this. Dad was a planner. He used to say that a trucker has an opinion on everything, since he had so much time on the road alone with his thoughts to work 'em out. Well dad had a plan for everything, including things that were unlikely to happen. When his buddy Mick came into some cash they opened their own business. My dad had had all the details worked out years before. He also had a backup plan in case the business never took off. He wasn't mad when I chose not to join the business; he'd had a contingency plan for that. I can't recall him ever caught unprepared.
Even so often, he would grab a couple of beers, hand me a can, and I'd follow him out to the porch. He'd ask me about what I wanted in life, and somehow get me to work out how to get it. "The worst time to make a big decision is in the middle of a shit storm," he'd told me. "So have the decision made before things start goin' south."
That's part of the reason I reacted so calmly when Audrey pulled her little stunt. I had already thought about life without her. After mom passed I'd considered what might happen if Aud died or got sick or, yes, even if she ran off with some asshole. People fear uncertainty. Since I knew the worst-case scenarios I hadn't been scared, I just took the course I'd decided long ago was the best under those circumstances. What had gotten me in trouble was reacting to things I hadn't anticipated. I could have let asshole go, but he wouldn't leave it alone so now I had the Diablo Riders to worry about. And I let my impulsive feelings for a damsel in distress make my other decisions for me. Let's face it, dad, I have no clue what I should do now.
"Hey, Rob," Susie, the club nutritionist, put down our drinks and then leaned on her crossed arms, enhancing the view. We'd known each other since elementary school and we'd reconnected when I joined the gym. "Not to butt in, but y'know who always reminded me of your dad? Joel. Always two steps ahead of everybody. I bet he could come up with something better'n our sorry brain trust." She smiled as she indicated the three of us.
"I think it might be easier to find dad," I joked. Joel Morgan was the brightest star our school had produced in memory. He graduated at fourteen, earned two college degrees by seventeen and had built a successful multinational from scratch. We didn't really run in the same circles, but we got along well enough when we were kids. My mom was friends with his late mom, a single mother, and mom asked me to look out for him since he was smaller. By the time he was big enough to look after himself it was just habit. Now he was a jet setter; who knew where he was nowadays.
"Guess again," Susie interrupted my thoughts. "He's in town for awhile visiting his aunt and uncle. Was in here a couple of days ago setting up a temp membership. You should go see him."
"You were always cool with each other," Chris seconded. "Couldn't hurt to ask."
"Robbie! How the hell are you?" Joel shook my hand with a firm grip and ushered me into his aunt's living room. He had filled out since his teens. He looked fit and happy, eyes bright and smile wide. His shirt and slacks fit perfectly and were so plain I'm sure they set him back a pretty penny. His Aunt Edna Mae fussed over me, and brought out some coffee.
After she left Joel said, "I guess you want some advice about your living situation." I'm sure I looked like a fish with my mouth hanging open. He waved if off, chuckling. "Relax," he said. "I just got off the phone with Sue. Tell me about it."
I did. Our coffee got cold as Joel listened intently, occasionally asking a pointed question. When I finished and let out a breath he sat back. I realized we had both been on the edge of our seats. Joel just sat and stared at the wall for a bit. I think to him it was a puzzle, a nice idea to turn over and play with. Eventually he smiled: he had a plan. As he laid it out we discussed and argued until we were satisfied it couldn't get any better. That's when I smiled. This plan could get me everything I wanted. I was back in control. That night I slept soundly for the first time in weeks.
My first step was to call cousin Lou. He set up a meeting with one of the guys from the Tri-County Task Force, a Lt. Connor. I'm not sure what it was, but he just looked like a cop, which I guess is why he was in the station instead of undercover. He stuck out a ham-like hand and shook mine with genuine warmth.
"I'm sure the captain already thanked you, but you really helped us a lot last month. Some of those guys might beat the charges but we got the big ones dead to rights. So what can I do for you?"
When I started explaining my idea he laughed, but he soon started listening more closely. By the time I was done, he sat back and looked at me in admiration. "Damn," he muttered. "Hey, Rico! Get over here." Another cop sat down and he had me go through it all again. By the time I finished Rico was visibly excited and had two pages of scribbled notes. They both thanked me and told me they would be in touch.
.... There is more of this story ...