The doorbell ringing at 9:45 that Wednesday evening initiated the unraveling of my wife's deception, although she did not realize it yet.
I answered the door to find myself facing a man and a woman dressed in reasonably normal business attire, although the clothing was somewhat out of style and obviously well-worn. I immediately got the idea that these two were with the police; not so much from their appearances, but from the fact that this was the week that Frank and I had agreed upon to execute our campaign of payback.
"Good evening, Sir," said the woman. "Are you Mr. Douglas Franklin?"
"Yeah, I am Doug Franklin. May I ask who you are and what this visit to my house at this time of evening ... unannounced as well, I might add ... is all about?" I had to play the ignorant fool, even though I had a good idea what was coming next.
"Who is it, Honey?" came the voice of Joyce, my wife ... the lying, deceitful ... well, anyway ... she had been really nervous all evening ... more about her later. She was wiping her hands on a kitchen towel as she came into the front room into which the front doorway opened.
"I don't know yet ... Sweetheart," I said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. As she came up beside me, she had a frown on her face.
"Are you Mrs. Joyce Franklin?" asked the woman at the door, shifting her attention from me to my wife. The man with her still had not said anything and looked bored--if anything--with the whole situation.
"Look," I said, trying to feign annoyance and cover my inner glee at what I suspected this was about, "you have been asking questions here on my front porch and have yet to tell me just who you are and what this is about."
With a resigned sigh, the woman withdrew her hand from her shoulder bag; and the man behind her pulled his hand out of the inside pocket of his sport jacket. When they both flipped their hands in what appeared to be a synchronized and practiced manner, two police badges caught the illumination of the front porch light fixture.
I heard Joyce, my wife, groan to herself as the woman said, "I am Detective Sergeant O'Neal and this is Detective Scurry, and we are investigating an assault that occurred earlier today. And we would like to ask you and Mrs. Franklin some questions."
I had practiced my put-on expression of surprise a couple of times over the past few days in front of the mirror, and now was the opportunity to see if it went over without arousing any suspicions.
"What assault? And why would you believe that my wife or I would know anything about such a thing?" I said with rising irritation--also well-practiced--in my expression and voice.
I glanced around to look at Joyce and saw that her face had lost all color and that she wore an expression of stark terror. She was looking away from all of us and appeared to be about to hyperventilate.
The male detective spoke up at this point. "The assault took place early this afternoon, resulting in severe trauma to the victim. In one of his few lucid moments before he went in for surgery, he identified Joyce Franklin as the primary witness to what happened to him. This has also been corroborated by several other witnesses at the scene of the event in question."
Still pretending ignorance and surprise, I said, "Who was this ... victim? I mean ... my wife ... the primary witness ... what... ?" At this, I paused--just as an honestly startled husband should pause--and continued to play the role of the ignorant fool, as part of the scene that was now bringing my wife's little secret world down around her ears.
"Mrs. Franklin, what is nature of your relationship with a Mr. William Gerardo, and what were you and he doing together when he was assaulted in the back parking lot of the Newton Motel on King Street this afternoon?" asked the Detective Sergeant O'Neal.
Well! That was blatant. She was obviously going for shock and awe.
There is was; out in the open. No getting away from it now.
Joyce let out an anguished sob and it appeared as if she were going to pass out.
I just turned my head slowly back toward my wife and looked at her with an expression of curiosity and surprise (at least I hope I did okay with those looks), that slowly turned to alarm and then anger, as she began to bawl openly and back away slowly from me.
Fridays are usually a bit less hectic than the other work days in the week, so I was not particularly busy that day in the middle of the afternoon when my secretary, Jan, told me that I had a call on line 1.
"Frank Simmons," I said.
"Mr. Simmons, this is Deputy Gibson, with the Cherokee County Sherriff's Office. Could I schedule a few moments of your time this afternoon or evening?" said the husky voice on the other end of the call.
"Deputy Gibson, I don't understand. Just what is the nature of your request?" I asked, already realizing that Doug must have held up his end of the bargain already if I was getting a call like this one.
"I'd rather wait and tell you in person, Mr. Simmons. Could I drop by your residence later to speak to you this afternoon or evening? Also, it might be best if Mrs. Simmons is available for this as well; in fact, she really needs to be there for this meeting," he said somewhat evasively.
I was glad that he could not see the smile of satisfaction on my face as I said, "Well, I must say that I am confused, but curious. Of course, you may come by. Is 7:00 okay? My wife, Sybil, works during the day, but she is usually at home in the late afternoon and evening. We both should be home by the time you get there."
"7:00 p.m. it is, Mr. Simmons. See you then." And then the connection was broken.
I hung up the phone, swung my chair around, stood up, and took a deep, satisfying breath as I gazed out the window of my office.
"Tonight, Bitch. It all comes out in the open tonight," I thought.
Then I realized that I would have to play out my part completely. I would have to call home to alert Sybil to the coming visit of a Sherriff's Deputy or else she might suspect ... rightly ... that I was setting her up.
The home phone rang four times and went to voicemail. This was strange; Sybil was supposed to be home by this time of the afternoon. Maybe she was simply in the bathroom. I called again five minutes later and got the same result. I waited ten more minutes and then I left a message telling her that I would be home at about 6:15 and told her about the call from Deputy Gibson and my lack of knowledge about anything concerning the pending visit.
As I hung up, I grinned to myself as I thought about how oh, so like an unsuspecting husband I had sounded as I had left that message with just the right amount of concern in my voice.
Back to Wednesday:
I had allowed the fury that had built up within me to be let out in the form of ranting and yelling at my cowering and crying bride. To ensure that I did nothing more than scream, I made sure to vent my feelings to the fullest all while Detectives O'Neal and Scurry were still around to serve as protectors of Joyce, and witnesses to my restraint in not getting physical with her.
After I had finished my histrionics and had visibly calmed down, and after giving the detectives all the answers that I could provide, I had left the front room and gone upstairs. There, since I had already pretty well decided what I was planning to pack to take with me, the hasty packing of clothes and toiletries was easy.
Then I had to make a great show of leaving. It did not take long before I was stomping down the stairs dramatically with my suitcase in hand and my backpack with my laptop computer and some documents I would need for a few days.
Joyce was still caterwauling on the sofa in the front room.
As the story had come out, with the help of the two detectives, it would seem that my wife had been to the Newton Motel twice in her life. On both occasions, she had been there to have sex with one Bill Gerardo. The end of the second visit had been rather more eventful than she had ever imagined or expected.
It would seem that, after Gerardo and she had left the motel room today and had split up to go to their separate cars, a hooded man had appeared from behind a van parked next to Gerardo's Lexus, surprising Gerardo when he was turned toward his car. The unidentified man had carried a baseball bat in one hand and had not appeared to care that Joyce saw him.
For the next few minutes, the hooded man had beaten Gerardo severely, badly bruising his ribs, breaking his left arm and right leg, and paying special attention to Gerardo's groin area once the victim was on the ground. Following the beating, strangely, the assailant had not attempted to rob Gerardo. He had simply looked up at Joyce with the bat propped on his shoulder and had shaken his head at her. Joyce, for her part, had remained frozen in place and speechless with terror.
After the hooded man had turned and run to the lot of the adjacent convenience store and had disappeared behind it, several people had begun to notice the wounded Gerardo and one or two had come over to help. Two others had simply stood back and taken cell phone pictures and video.
People had finally noticed Joyce standing there, recognizing that she had been there with Gerardo, and several phones had captured her image.
.... There is more of this story ...