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.
According to witnesses, she had finally broken free of the grip of her terror and had turned in panic to get into her Corolla. It had take quite a bit of frantically trying to get the key in the lock before she was able to get the door unlocked and open, and then to scramble in and get the car started. Once the engine had finally turned over, she had sped away from the lot, with one or two people's phones capturing images of her car, including her license place.
It seems that, according to Detectives O'Neal and Scully, Mr. Gerardo had drifted in and out of consciousness on his way to the hospital in the ambulance and had said the words, "Joyce" and "Amy" alternately. He had been awake only once in the regional hospital's ER long enough to answer a couple of questions for police and mention Joyce Franklin's name before he was being wheeled into surgery.
"So, Mrs. Franklin ... once again, I need to ask ... what was the nature of your meeting with Mr. Gerardo?" Detective O'Neal had asked with an expressionless look at my wife.
"I ... I..." she had swallowed and had looked at me with the saddest expression I had ever seen her wear. She had then whispered, "Doug ... I am so sorry ... I..." Then she had looked away and begun crying again.
Only when I had begun yelling at her, asking what the hell this had all been about had she finally relented and admitted that she had been at the hotel with Gerardo for sex, but I had been too incensed to listen to her when she had tried to say, "But it is not what you think..."
Yeah, I had thought; right out of the infidelity manual of instructions, under things to say when you get caught cheating. That was when I had begun to put on my show of going upstairs to pack and leave.
I was remembering all this as I drove away from our home of the previous four years--one year of living together followed by three years of supposedly happy marriage--after only about a half hour following the arrival of the two detectives. Now, I was headed to my already-arranged hotel room for a week's stay.
Regardless of how things turned out when all this was over, I needed to be away from the house right now in order to keep alive the subterfuge. I also had to prepare myself psychologically to carry through on my part of the agreement with Frank. I had to get my 'game face' on.
Forward to Friday again:
When I got home Friday afternoon, after having received the call from Deputy Gibson, I discovered several not really surprising--or unexpected--things.
First, Sybil, my wife of eight years, was not there. Her car was not there either. After I had dropped my gym bag and had stopped in the kitchen to grab a Yuengling out of the fridge, I had looked at the wall phone in the kitchen and had seen the blinking light--no doubt indicating my voicemail message from earlier.
Passing through the den, I got the impression that something was slightly out of kilter, but I was still too jacked up with anger to dwell on it. I climbed the stairs to our bedroom and sat down on the bed to take off my shoes. I stripped off my shirt and tossed it toward the hamper--missing it, of course. I took down my pants and, when I went to hang them up in the closet, I noticed that Sybil's clothes were gone.
I sighed and turned back to the bedroom. Looking in her dresser, I saw that all her underwear and stuff was gone too. When I got back downstairs after dressing in some slacks and a polo shirt, along with my moccasins and no socks, I then realized why the den had been different--several knickknacks, pictures, and other items of Sybil's were missing.
Ah, well. Good riddance, I guess. I should have been sad; after all we had spent a quarter of our lives together. But I was still just too pissed at the time; and, after all, I still had a part to play in front of Deputy Gibson when he got here in a little while.
"Mr. Simmons," Deputy Gibson asked, "when did you find out about your wife's affair with Mr. Philip Avery?"
"My wife's ... what ... affair? Avery?" I put on the well-practiced confused and surprised look. "You mean ... my wife is cheating on me? Who... ?"
Then I gave a visible deep inhalation of breath, closed my eyes for a second, and did my best to appear to be trying to remain calm--although I was laughing my ass off inside.
"Before you said anything just now, Deputy, I had no idea that my ... wife was having an affair." Then I opened my eyes and looked at him, after having rubbed my eyes with the forefinger and thumb of my right hand; the forefinger and thumb that I had coated in Tabasco sauce right before the Deputy had rung my doorbell. My eyes were now visibly red and tears were forming when I addressed him.
"I guess that her ... lover ... is this ... what did you say his name was ... Avery?" He nodded slightly. I whispered as I sat down heavily, "No. I ... I had no idea."
"May I speak to Mrs. Simmons, Sir?" Gibson asked. "Maybe she can shed some light on our investigation. Is she here? We will need her statement as well."
I shook my head and tried to appear dazed. "She ... when I got home, she was gone; along with all her things. I ... I guess she has left me. That's all I can make of this." Now was the time to switch gears emotionally, if I were to carry this off for the benefit of the Deputy. It was time for the aggrieved husband to strike out in righteous anger.
"Just WHEN did the Sherriff's office begin investigating the dalliances of slut wives who whore themselves out while their ... BELOVED and trusting fools of husbands work to provide for them?" I stood and began to pace and wave my arms to add to the dramatic look of things. Then I paused to give the Deputy my best snarling look.
He was obviously a veteran of many of these types of situations, as he was not fazed a bit. In fact, he looked slightly bored by the whole thing.
"Mr. Simmons, we do not investigate cases of adultery, or 'dalliances, ' as you call them. But we do investigate matters when those dalliances may be the instigating cause behind felony aggravated assault and battery, and possibly attempted murder," he said without raising his voice one bit. But he was watching me closely as he said all this.
Once again, I put on the surprised look. To quote Captain Renault from the movie, Casablanca, silently in my head, "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here."
"Deputy, I am shocked ... absolutely shocked to find out that my wife has been cheating on me. But, do you really think that she hurt her lover; tried to kill him?" I asked, knowing how ridiculous it sounded.
Deputy Gibson almost smiled as he drawled out, "Noooo. I don't think that she did anything like that. What I am trying to find out is just who else might have had a motive to do something like that. For instance," here he looked piercingly at me, "the aggrieved husband, maybe?"
Okay, it's Oscar time!
"Wh ... I ... Deputy, I assure you; I had no idea that this ... affair was going on. And I CERTAINLY am not a violent man. And just when did this assault supposedly take place, if I may ask?"
Deputy Gibson paused for about ten seconds; obviously gauging my response and thinking about just how much to tell me as he assessed my possible guilt in this matter. "It took place at a motel parking lot out on Lone Tree Road at about eight-thirty yesterday evening.
"It seems that the motel has a bar attached to it; and the victim, Mr. Philip Avery, was a regular there, often meeting with Mrs. Simmons, I am sad to report." Deputy Gibson really did not look sad at all about telling me this. Then he continued.
"He had only had two drinks yesterday evening, in the company of your wife, I might add. They both seemed agitated, according to the bartender. They finished their drinks, and then he walked out to his car in the parking lot just a few minutes after she had left on her own.
"An eyewitness in the parking lot says that a man wearing a black ski mask, and wielding what looked like a baseball bat, assaulted Mr. Avery by striking him high in the back. Then, once the victim was on the ground, the masked man proceeded to beat Mr. Avery all over his body. He avoided the head, but seemed to take particular delight in striking Mr. Avery's testacles." Here the Deputy paused and seemed to wait for me to show some sign of emotion--maybe shock, outrage, or guilt.
"It's been our experience, Mr. Simmons," Gibson continued again, "that this type of attack, and the physical targeting of the beating, is indicative of a cuckold husband taking his revenge on his wife's lover."
I couldn't help myself. I actually flinched at the word 'cuckold.' But, other than that, I was able to maintain my expression, combining innocence and incredulity at my circumstances.
"Deputy," I finally said, "I ... I am still trying to process all of this, so forgive me if I sound strained right now. I mean ... what with my wife leaving me ... and finding out..." I let my voice trail off.
Nodding in feigned sympathy, the Deputy gave me a look that hinted at the idea of, 'Go on ... and?' obviously looking to see if I would rise to the bait and maybe confess to something.
"I can assure you that I had no connection to the incident you have described last night..." I said with a sigh, "other than the connection that you have alleged about my ... wife's knowledge and ... relationship with this guy, Avery. But, last night, I was in my office with my office manager, Janet Barkley, finalizing our business tax filing documents until almost ten p.m. Just contact her, and she can verify my whereabouts during the time frame that you describe."
Deputy Gibson simply nodded and said, "Yeah; I already talked to her just after you left your office this afternoon and before coming over here. She already provided you with your alibi."
Now, I had to show anger in order not to give away anything else. "What do you mean; you ... you already talked to her? Then, what was all this about asking me all of these questions, and hinting that maybe I was involved?"
"Hey, hey, Mr. Simmons," Gibson said, now stepping back and leaning back a bit to give himself some room to react if I got violent with him. "We have to check out everything in these cases. And, you have to understand that, based on many past cases of this type, the aggrieved husband is usually the primary suspect until something else comes up."
"And now, I presume, something else has come up? I mean now that you know where I was during this assault?" I asked, still showing anger, but demonstrating restraint as well.
"Let's just say that we now need to pursue other avenues of investigation, and leave it at that ... for now," he said. Ah, still trying to rattle me.
"Well," I had to do the 'indignant' bit now. "If you have anything more to suspect me of, and you wish to ask me anything, you can do so through my lawyer!"
"Calm down, Mr. Simmons," Gibson said, with the upraised hands, trying to pretend that he meant to ease my hurt feelings with his gesture, and still not raising his voice. "I don't think it will come to that. By the way, if Mrs. Simmons DOES contact you, I would ask that you tell her to contact the Cherokee County Sherriff's Office, and I would ask you to let me know too about any contact with her." At this, he handed me his card.
"Anyway, that's all I needed tonight. I truly am sorry about the situation with you and your wife; and the way you had to find out and all. I'll be going now."
With that, he put his Stetson on and walked to the door. As I was about to close the door on him, he turned around toward me and said, "Remember, now; if y'all hear from Mrs. Simmons, we really would like to talk to her."
I just nodded and he turned to go. I closed the door behind him and breathed out slowly.
This time, I went back into the dining room and pulled down the Wild Turkey instead of going into the kitchen after a beer. Taking my first sip, I silently toasted Doug and smiled; the boy had come through for me; just as I had for him.
Thinking of my now-departed slut of a wife, I said aloud, "Sayonara, Bitch."
The next Wednesday:
The swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated did not seem to be a magazine that fit in with the tone that a divorce lawyer's office might seem to want to set. But, hey; I'm a guy; and I like to look. So I was thumbing through it as I sat and awaited the start of my appointment.
I had checked in with the receptionist at the domestic law office of Chantal Hawk, a divorce attorney well-known for her ruthless pursuit of the well-being of her client. Word was out that she especially hated cheating wives; and the message had spread loud and clear about her among the aggrieved married male population here in Woodstock and all around Cherokee County. Other attorneys, some judges, and even a few law enforcement types quaked in their boots when she was around; or, sometimes, just when her name came up in conversation.
It was now Wednesday of the week following the violent events that had surrounded the affair of my wife and since she had pulled her disappearing act from my life. I had called to make this appointment and gotten it confirmed for today. Following that call, and after getting my confirmation that my initial deposit to her account via my credit card had cleared, Ms. Hawk had emailed me with a list of steps that I needed to take immediately to protect my assets and myself.
If you have read any of the 'cheat' stories on the internet, then you know about closing any joint accounts, cancelling credit cards, dividing savings and checking accounts, changing insurance and retirement account beneficiaries; all the hateful and financially devastating things that must be done during the lead-up to a divorce.
During all of this, I had also called Doug from a phone at a bar. He needed to know about my appointment, specifically the timing.
I had deliberately arrived about half an hour early for the appointment so that we could do our own little dance of deception.
As I thumbed through the magazine, looking at the babes in their swimsuits, I became aware of another person entering the office and approaching the receptionist.
"Excuse me, but I may be in need of a good divorce lawyer," said a male voice; one that I knew already, but I had to pretend that I did not. I had to force myself not to look around.
"Of course, Sir," answered the receptionist. "And just how did you hear about Ms. Hawk?" and on and on the questions went; she was doing her bit to verify the effectiveness of Chantal Hawk's marketing and advertising scheme while she began to gather the prospective client's initial information.
After about three or four minutes of this, the receptionist told the guy, "If you would just fill out these forms for us, we can see about getting you an appointment with Ms. Hawk. She's booked up today and tomorrow, unfortunately; but we shall see what we can do about getting you in to see her on Friday."