He was tall, good-looking, and in his early fifties — the kind of man who had attracted women all his life and certainly had the attention of the woman he was seated with. She was what might be called a looker — forty-one, tall for a woman with jet-black hair (thanks to her hairdresser), and with a pair of striking blue eyes.
The eyes would get you every time. They certainly got me twenty years ago. As the saying goes, that was no lady; she was my wife. As I watched, he leaned over and whispered in her ear. She laughed and turned to give him a smile. I could see them clearly. They were seated at a table across the large dance floor, and I was ensconced deep in a booth on the far side. I wasn’t exactly hiding, but I wasn’t advertising my presence either.
It was clear that she was very into him. There was more than sex to their affair. The table where they sat was filled with women cheating on their partners. It was supposed to be a girl’s night out but was clearly not a single-sex affair. More a girls’ night free of the dull everyday guy in order to have some exciting strange for a night, but my wife, Lou (short for Louise) had clearly ventured into a multi-night relationship.
Lou was the odd woman out. She was much more affectionate and serious with her man of the evening than the others.
“They’ve been together at least three months. It’s an every week thing. They seem to know each other quite well so it may have started earlier,” The speaker was Amanda one of the waitresses at the Rhinestone Dance Club. It was little more than a big space carved out of an old Kmart. Amanda like all the hostess worked part-time, received no benefits, and little pay. She existed on tips and a day job at the nearby Mall.
I passed her a Ben Franklin and said, “thanks. Can you keep an eye on them? ... Discreetly.”
“Sure, no problem,” she said pocketing the bill and going back to work.
I slipped out unobserved. I had what I came for. I was not your typical dim-witted husband. I had no reason to suspect Lou of cheating, but after twenty years together, I was sensitive enough to her moods to know when something had changed.
The changes when they came were all positive. She was happy, euphorically so. The more she tried to suppress it the more it showed. She shared her happiness with me doing everything she could to make our home life pleasant. She was dressing better and sexier. She was taking better care of herself. She’d gotten a gym membership in one of those females only places and made a regular appointment at the beauty spa.
The sex went through the roof. She was always available for a romp in the bedroom and dropped little hints that she was having sexy thoughts like excusing herself in the restaurant to visit the power room and returning to stuff her panties in my pocket.
Was this my wife? Well in fairness, it had been that first year we were married before the twins came unexpectedly. She was that kind of fun-loving girl whom every man wants in his bedroom. She was happy back then, and so was I. In those first years the only failure I could say that I had was the inability to make my wife laugh. Perhaps I am not particularly funny although most of my male friends laugh at my jokes.
Although we were insanely happy and deeply in love. I could never make Louise laugh. That bothered me, but we were a young couple in the heat of marital passion. However, things change, slowly at first, but then they have a way of sliding quickly downhill until you wake up the father of five-year-old twin daughters with a woman who is a mother first, and your lover a very distant second.
We were parents and as dull as parents can be. The last several years before the girls went off to university; Lou had been relatively indifferent towards my sexual advances. Then the empty nest hit her hard. For months after the girls left for school, a dark cloud seemed to encircle her and then suddenly the sun broke through. The woman I hadn’t seen in well, more than a decade appeared. If anything, she was a looser and freer woman than she had ever been.
No man could ask for a more dedicated or willing lover. She was everything I wanted in a wife. So naturally, I became suspicious. Some men are like that, never content, always looking for the hook. Perhaps if Lou had spent just a little time in all the years, we were together getting to know me, she would have gotten away with it, but apparently, she knew me not at all.
I followed her on the girl’s night out. The dance club was a relatively new country-western place and would not have been where I would have looked for her. The crowd within was mixed, a lot of young people, but an older group as well. When I saw her go to him and give him a brief yet familiar kiss, I knew. My first inclination was to beat him into the dance floor, but I settled for snapping his picture surreptitiously with my cell phone. The waitress was friendly and easily engaged. She knew them and the group they sat with.
I knew her female friends as well. They were the kind of older women who seem to keep their looks by getting perpetually thinner while their husbands’ guts expand. Women who feel entitled and invariably have a lover on the side, but nothing serious for, after all, they’re happily married. Lou just didn’t fit in with that. At least, I didn’t think so. The question was, therefore, who is this guy and just what is going on?
“I get a hundred dollars an hour,” she said.
She was younger than I expected for a private investigator. She looked late twenties, but I would bet she had seen thirty. In dress rather conservative, until your eyes reached the short skirt and the patterned leggings. Her shoes were the trendy heels that younger women seemed to gravitate toward. In short, Rachael Morgan of Morgan & Associates didn’t fit the PI mold and was perfect for my purposes.
“So how many hours are you figuring. I’m not made of money.”
“Depends. You’re not looking to discover your wife’s infidelity. You already know that. So, what is there for me to do?”
“I need to know about this guy, and I don’t just mean his name and address. I want you to bend him over and give him a rectal exam. I need to know what he eats for breakfast, and why he’s with my wife. I want to know how long they have been at it. Can you do that?”
“Maybe, I can certainly gather information, whether it will satisfy your needs is another matter. Why don’t you tell me your budget, and we can take it from there?”
“I’ll give you five-grand to start, but I want a report in two weeks with more than name, rank, and serial number.”
The bargain with the PI struck; I had only to wait and try to play the stupid husband. This was not an easy task, but I had a plan for the short term. I don’t travel much in my line of work. Real estate law tends to tie you down to a specific location, but I had recently taken on an out-of-town client, Harper Development. They were interested in building a new downtown hotel. They had the property, but when they went to build it failed the initial environmental study.
Theirs was not a major problem; the site had been utilized as a parking lot while it waited for development, which inevitably led to a topical contamination by petroleum products. The issue was that the DEC wanted wells drilled to ensure that the contamination didn’t penetrate below the surface. This could easily hold the project up a year or two.
While the civil-service staff of the DEC are honest, hard-working men and women dedicated to protecting the environment, our health, and the public safety, their political superiors are just as corrupt as the governor who appoints them. The question, therefore, is not whether to bribe someone, but how to get away with it.
Before you start condemning me, remember as a lawyer I serve my client, not society. You want a better government that’s your responsibility as the citizen. You take Clinton over Sanders, Trump over Clinton, and Cuomo over Nixon why blame me. However, in this case, the money needed to go to the members of the Independent Democratic Caucus or at least those who had survived the #metoo movement (if they only could stop beating on their women), and it had to be now before the real Democrats came back into power and replaced these closet Republicans.
The nuances of New York politics confused my Midwestern client so use to your everyday crook, that good dependable Republican style bait and switch fellow. Before my client committed itself to the Albany Labyrinth, it wanted to know that I had a ball of string and was reasonably sure the minotaur’s hunger was sated.
Therefore, I had the perfect excuse to fly to Chicago for a few days to placate the client and escape the situation with my wife. Chicago proved a learning experience for all parties. It began with a luncheon in the Willis tower fka the Sears tower. I had certainly heard of the building but never seen it before. I got the distinct feeling that my client was trying to impress me.
My opinion was at least in part motivated by my luncheon companions. They were three distinguished executive type gentlemen and one lady, who was tall, thin and attractive both in face and dress. The lady said little, but while the men ran interference, she leaned back and took all the conversation in. She was one of those people who can exert authority with a nod of the head or a flash of her eyes — a woman born to lead.
“How do we know this contribution will have the desired result?” They asked.
“Please, it’s not a contribution. We are hiring the State Senator’s law firm on a consulting basis.”
“But how does that help us with DEC?”
“Because the Senator’s current girlfriend is refurbishing her apartment using the wife of the DEC commissioner.”
The lady nodded clearly understanding the point.
“I assure you it is all quite legal and normal. I personally will not involve myself in direct transactions just as the politicians whom I deal with will not involve themselves in the kind of dishonest graft that has caused so many of our dedicated public servants to serve time in federal prison. Be assured that all payments are the kind of good honest graft that has made America great or great again as you prefer.”
The meeting broke up with, I hope, the proper sense of reassurance, but the woman whose name was Ann lingered.
“You’re staying over, Matthew?” she asked me.
“Yes, nothing to rush home about,” I said.
“Then perhaps you will indulge me by being my guest at dinner tonight.”
“Certainly, it would be my honor, but perhaps something less formal.”
“Exactly, what I planned. I will pick you up at your hotel at eight.”
She was both punctual and casual leading the way to a low-key Italian restaurant where the food was good and the service family style.
“I believe you prefer Italian cuisine,” she said over the antipasto.
“I see you researched me, Ms. Harper.’
“Yes, but it’s Mrs. Lennon actually. I’m married to a school teacher who’s at home with our three kids. Teenagers all I’m afraid, but then you’ve been through that and survived I hear.”
“True my daughters headed off to university last year.”
“Is it hard letting go?”
“Of course, but probably less for the father than the mother.”
“You say that as if your wife is suffering.”
“No, not anymore. She has found another interest.”
“A romantic interest?” she asked with a raise of her eyebrows.
I saw no need to lie. My dinner companion was, whether she called herself Mrs. Lennon or Ms. Harper, the daughter of the president of Harper Development. She was there to feel me out and determine whether I could be trusted with the delicate matter of obtaining their DEC approval.
“Yes, my wife has found a new love interest,” I said.
Ann looked thoughtfully at her wine glass. We had ordered a fine Chianti, which was a deep rich red. She twisted the stem of the glass and took a long, thoughtful sip before speaking.
“My husband Allen is a wonderful man. After the birth of our second child, I found myself profoundly depressed. About a year after the birth I met someone. He was charming and good-looking, and amazingly funny. He could make me laugh in a way that Allen couldn’t. Looking back, I can see that I fell hard mostly because the rest of my life seemed so bleak. There was no reason for that feeling, but the cure for it was a handsome, fun-loving fellow name of Charley.
“He opened up my life — the love we felt brought the sunshine to my soul. However, Allen is the hero of this story. You see he loved me enough to let me explore love where I found it. Allen gave to me a profound kind of love that could put aside the jealousy he felt and take pleasure in the love and pleasure I found. I’m not going to say it was easy or trouble-free, but here we are still married and in love fourteen years later.”
I had been watching her tell the story. She brightened as the words came from her mouth, and the hard mask of the businesswoman fell away. I knew why she had taken me to dinner. She was researching me, but I was also looking into her and her family. She had three brothers, but none were in the family business.
Ann Harper was her father’s good right arm. With an undergrad degree in engineering and a master’s in business, she had been groomed to succeed the old man. They didn’t want to put their necks on the line paying off politicians without the measure of the man who would do the actual transaction. For my part, it was just as essential to know the parties I was dealing with. However, somehow, we had ventured off the path, we had set our feet on and into some personal detour.
Ann was telling me her story, and as I listened, I realized that the vice gripping my heart eased just a little. From the moment, I began to suspect my wife’s infidelity a tension had settled into my ribs. When I first saw her with her lover, it had felt like she was squeezing my heart from my chest. I had been in intense pain this past week going through the motions of my life and my work. I began to suspect that it showed, and that Ann had picked up on it.
Ms. Harper was smiling benevolently at me, “You really should be talking to Allen. He could give you the man’s perspective. I know it’s very different for the man.”
“There’s a great deal of pain,” I said.
“Yes, we’ve discussed that. You experience both the pain and pleasure of the jealousy.”
She gave a little laugh, “Well I suspect that women never feel the pleasure, at least I never have, but Allen assures me that once you master the jealousy, there is pleasure with the pain. To do that, you must trust absolutely in the person you have given your heart and soul.”
There seemed to be something stirring within this woman. She had gone from the passive observer appraising me to the advocate trying to explain her position.
“It’s called polyamory,” she observed, “It’s not some sex-crazed lifestyle, but simply the freedom to explore more than one love within the security of a binding relationship. I can never leave Allen, just as he can never leave me because we are in love and pledged to each other. Held in a very old-fashioned way by the sacrament of our love and marriage. The fact that we experience love with others doesn’t preclude what we have with each other. It changes our relationship, but never ends what is a growing organic bond.”
She paused here and looked at me, “I’m losing you being too technical. Let me back up.”
“Allen came to me and set out what he had observed of my relationship with Charley. At that time, we hadn’t crossed the line of physical intimacy, but Charley had already declared his love for me, and I was only holding back because of my feelings for Allen.
“Allen told me to go ahead, ‘If he can make you happy when I can’t, I don’t want to stand in your way,’ he told me. We had no idea of the kind of relationship we were entering into. It was difficult at first. We had no one to guide us. I was in love with two men and sleeping with both. Allen and I were young parents together. Charley and I were on the merry-go-round of a new love. I was silly and selfish and didn’t talk to the two men about each other. I was trying to live two separate lives.”
She reached across the table to take my hands. The server had taken away the half-eaten antipasto by then and brought the main course. She had been making a pretty good dent in the wine, and I ordered a second bottle.
“Open your mind and forget what you have been taught about the sanctity of monogamy. When there are more than two, honesty isn’t just necessary it becomes a part of the expanding relationship. Fortunately, I found help before my silly attempts to protect everyone with ignorance destroyed my relationship with both men. When I saw myself drowning, I sought help from an experienced counselor.
“Chicago is a big town, and there were counselor’s and groups that practiced polyamory. I learned that rather than hide Charley from Allen and deny him to Charley, I needed to be open with both of them. The flesh and blood men were far less of a threat to each other than the not knowing. I started telling Allen what I did with Charley. Yes, even the sex we had together. It became part of the sex I had with Allen. I know it was hard for him. The jealousy was there, but jealousy is not a meaningful emotion it is a simple feeling. It can be overcome, which gets easier each time you do it.
“Charley was more difficult. He came to understand my relationship with Allen, but it was harder for him to accept as my marriage had children and a more complex relationship. At any rate, the affair lasted only about eighteen months and ended when Allen, and I decided on a third child. I may have been a little unfair to Charley. With my last lover, the situation went on far longer. We had been together eight years until last month.”
With my dinner mate’s confession, an intimacy grew between us. I realized then I had made as big a dent in the wine as she, and it had lowered my inhibitions.
“Your husband just accepts this situation of you having lovers?” I asked.
“Most of the women of my age and class have had an affair or two. They are sleazy couplings without spiritual fulfillment, or liaisons that jeopardize their primary relationship and are immoral to my point of view. What Allen and I have is better. He knows where I am, and what I’m doing. He needn’t fear for us, and I needn’t fear for him.
“Allen has been with other women. They have been brief relationships, and he admits merely sexual. I have felt jealous in the way that women do which I believe is more intense in the moment but doesn’t last becoming more a resentment if you let it. Men and women are different in what they want and need in a partner.”
“What do you tell your children, your parents, or your friends.”
“Children accept what they are taught. I don’t bring the sex with my lovers’ home although I do bring the men and their women if they have any. We act normal because we are normal. The kids are now at an age where they realize what is going on, but because neither Allen nor I make an issue of it, there is no reason they should. As to other family members, some know, and some apparently do not. Although, I suspect some have a contrived ignorance.
“We have friends who practice polyamory and those who are monogamous, or claim they are. We don’t hide our lifestyle, but we don’t broadcast it. I wouldn’t be telling you this now if I didn’t believe you find yourself in a difficult situation.”
“Yes, Louise and I have been together twenty-one years and been married for twenty. You don’t end a long-term commitment at the snap of your fingers. On the other hand, if she is serious about this man, I can’t see myself sitting back and letting their affair go on. I guess things will have to play out when I confront her.”
“Now, I have a question. You say you can’t conceive of letting another man into your marriage, but would you consider pursuing a relationship of your own?”
“I guess in the right circumstances, but I never have. Oh, I’ve fantasized about other women and even flirted a little, but that’s as far as I’ve gone.”
“Well, why don’t you consider it,” she said giving me a smile.
We finished dinner and at her suggestion visited a dance club briefly. I’m not much of a dancer, but she was very good and covered my lack of ability nicely. When she dropped me back at my hotel, she scheduled a morning conference after which she intended to arrange a meeting with her father. It had been a strange and thought-provoking night.
I didn’t fly home again until Friday. Ann did introduce me to the president of Harper Development. Her father was a tall, stout man in his late sixties. Mr. Harper made clear to me that I would be dealing with Ann, and what she said controlled.
For her part, Ann took me on a tour of Chicago. By the time I left, we were feeling comfortable together. I’m never sure that a woman is coming on to me, but with Ann, it didn’t matter. I liked her and would be happy just having her as a friend.
The report was short and to the point, but it was part of a bulky packet because of the extensive documentation. I got the feeling that Ms. Morgan was justifying her fee. However, I could not fault the thoroughness.
“Robert Price, semi-retired Architect, he’s fifty-two?” I asked although it was clear in the report that the man my wife was seeing was better than a decade older than myself.
“Yes, but he’s quite vigorous and keeps himself in good physical condition.”
“I can see that from the daily and weekly routines, you have provided me.”
“You wanted detail. I got you detail.”
I gave her a hard look. There was a definite attitude coming across her desk toward me.
“Married I see.”
“His wife is eight years older and for the last five years suffering from Alzheimer’s. Eighteen months ago, he left his practice as an architect to care for her full time.”
“Except of course for the time he spends with my wife.”
“As I reported, they meet just the Thursday evening, and the afternoon each week that his sister-in-law comes by to take the wife out shopping.”
“So, twice a week but every week, and we are not sure for how long.”
“Five maybe six months if you trust the neighborhood gossip,” she said.
“But you don’t.”
“No, I side with the waitress at the dance club a little over three months, but they possibly knew each other from somewhere else.”
“St. John’s,” I said.
“You say here that he attends St. John’s church with his sick wife,” I said pointing to the file. “When Lou and I were first married, we lived in an apartment a few blocks from St. John’s and attended services there. I believe Lou still does on occasion although we moved across town when we bought our house.”
Rachael Morgan made a note of the information I had given her. She was being very thorough and decidedly hostile.
“Have I done something to offend you, Ms. Morgan?” I asked.
She didn’t immediately respond but looked down and away. When she turned back to me, I could see the distress on her face.
“Please call me Rachael or just Rach and let me apologize. I do mostly cheating partners in this business. It’s my bread and butter, but it’s a lose-lose situation. There is no way you come out a winner in this game, but I take satisfaction that I exposed the cheaters.
“That’s not the situation here. Bob Price, as far as I can tell, never cheated during his twenty-eight-year marriage until now. When his wife got sick, he stood by her. Although she doesn’t always remember who he is, he personally cares for her because nurses aren’t all dependable.
“He could institutionalize her and return to his profession where he was very successful, but instead he takes drafting jobs and residential addition work that he can do from his home office. In short, he’s a good man whose only sin is that he’s seeing another man’s wife,” she said.
We sat in silence for a long moment. Rachael Morgan, private investigator, had done just what I had asked of her. She had told me who Bob Price was and why my wife was seeing him. Lou always had an eye for attractive men, and she was a profoundly caring woman. Every womanly inclination would have drawn her to the tall, good-looking man with the tragically afflicted wife. Bob Price must be like catnip to her, the heroically anguished figure waiting for her to come along and bring him comfort.
It was then that Rachael spoke the defining words, “I think your wife’s in love with him.”
“Of course, she is. Hell, you’re half in love with him, and you’re what thirty?”
“Thirty-two,” she said without contradicting my accusation and then, “I’m sorry. I wish I could think of you as the villain of the piece, but clearly, you’re the unavoidable victim.”
“I will tell you this, I will not be the victim here,” I said with more apparent confidence then I felt.
“Then may I ask what you will do?”
“Rach, if I could answer that I would be a far wiser man than I am.”
Marie is a good secretary. Over the years, I’ve had trouble keeping good secretaries. I don’t believe it’s anything I have done. They seem to get stolen on a regular basis. It seems to have been a seller’s market for legal secretaries for some time. Marie is different; she came to me third hand.
When the state AG let Marie and some other civil service staff go in a budget cut, she went to a large private law firm that hired her based on her resume, but her looks just didn’t fit the elite firm image. She has what can only be called a plain face, but that’s only part of the equation. She’s model thin with the kind of butt every woman in your gym is working out for. All of that pales compared to her breasts. My legal colleagues routinely forget her name as if the French version of Mary was an impossible mnemonic problem. They refer to her as the girl with the big breasts or with some less acceptable reference to her chest.
Perhaps it says something about me that I failed to notice her body when I hired her. It was her competent attitude and clear ability that impressed me. She was a twenty-eight-year-old single mother with two small kids and in need of a job with flexibility for childcare. This I gave her, and she returned me competence and a personal loyalty I previously had not obtained in my staff.
“You had two calls,” Marie informed me as I enter my office after meeting with the PI.
“Simon Rabinowitz and Ann Harper,” Marie said. Simon was the legislative assistant to State Senator Majority Leader Mansfield. He would be returning my phone call. Ann, I assumed was checking on my progress. As I needed to speak to Simon to determine where Ann’s hotel approval stood, I called Simon first.
“Matt, thank god you called back,” Simon began.
“Can’t talk on the phone. Meet me for lunch. You free at two o’clock?” Simon asked.
Looking at the clock in was half-past twelve, and I did need to get some things done in my office, “I can meet you at the legislative dining room at two-thirty,” I said.
The legislative dining room was an easy place to reach. It was not crowded in the late afternoon, and Simon meeting someone there would seem innocuous.
“Good choice, I will meet you there,” he said and clicked off.
His clear agitation was troubling. I decided to put off calling Ann until I had spoken to Simon and discerned the problem.
“I haven’t heard from her in over two months. She just walked out without a word. I don’t know what to do,” Simon told me.
We were in a back corner of the dining room off the south end of the State Plaza. At nearly three in the afternoon, it was all but empty. Our table was screened from the main room, and our waiter having delivered our late lunch had backed away. We had as much privacy as you could get anywhere in the state capital.
Simon was explaining his problem. He had begun by stating that it involved an “intern.” If there exists a more inauspicious start to a conversation, I haven’t as yet heard it. I had begun to believe that Simon had completely lost his mind, but I was trying to keep that opinion to myself.
“Look, I know what you are thinking. What kind of idiot gets involved with an intern in this political atmosphere, but she was no teenager. This was a woman past thirty and married.” Simone said in his own defense.
“Unlike that legislative staffer, Simon Rabinowitz who is married with three kids,” I replied
“That’s so cold. You need to understand that it was more than a physical attraction.”
“More than red hair, green eyes, and big tits? Mr. Rabinowitz, what would your mother say?” I said with a bit of a smirk.
“She was more like a thin Rose McGowan than what you’re thinking. Don’t prejudge her because her name’s Patricia Kelly,” Simon said, and it was more a demand than a request.
“Ok, but as you say she is gone without a farewell word or a forwarding address. So, why involve me with it.”
“Because we live in the age of ‘ME TOO,’ I can’t afford for her to pop up sometime in the future making accusations. I need an outsider to find her and assess the situation. On paper, you and I have no connection. You can find her and determine what happened. I can’t even look for her for fear someone starts asking questions.”
“I think you worry too much. It’s simply your word against hers. How can she prove you ever were together?”
Simon hesitated and looked embarrassed, but finally, he said,” she has a vile of my blood.”
“What!” I said too loud for even a deserted lunch venue.
“Keep it down. It’s not as crazy as it sounds.”
“Of course not. It’s the coming thing to go around exchanging blood with your paramours. What did you forget to mention that she’s a vampire?”
“She gave me a locket with a drop of her blood and then pricked my finger and took back a drop of mine for her locket. It was rather romantic at the time.”
“Big time,” I said.
“You’re going to owe me big time if I get you out of this.”
He gave me what he had in the way of background and former addresses for Pat Kelly, and we parted with neither of us having touched the lunches we ordered. I didn’t go looking for Ms. Kelly myself. I took that job to my new-found PI, Ms. Morgan. This proved to be the right move.
The Western Ave. Starbucks is a quiet place. Few remember when it was a Taco restaurant back in the last century before Taco Bell killed the competition. Starbucks completely remade the place, but it remains primarily a drive-through location. This is sad because the large interior makes an excellent place to enjoy a cup of joe.
Pat Lefkowitz clearly agreed with me as we met there at her suggestion. The interior space was cozy and uncrowded, and she was seated by the Western Avenue window as she said she would be. She didn’t match the description that Simon had given me, but Rachel Morgan had been more actuate. No one would call her thin today, but her buttoned-up coat didn’t completely hide the reason.
“Mrs. Lefkowitz?” I said sitting down.
“Yes, attorney Lansing?”
“I’ve come to inquire for Mr. Rabinowitz as to your situation, and as to why you left the senator’s office so suddenly.”
She gave me a droll smile in response and said, “do I need to open my coat?”
“No, I think not. Are congratulations in order?”
“Very much so. My husband and I are ecstatically happy.”
“May I ask—”
“A little over four months,” she replied not giving me a chance to finish the question.
The math was clear to me, but not the reason behind it. “I’m sure that Simon will be happy to hear the good news,” I said.
“I’d rather you not tell him. I wouldn’t want anyone getting the wrong impression. Everyone is entirely satisfied on my side, and I would like it to stay that way. I’ve prepared a small affidavit,” she said pulling a paper from her purse.
“I state clearly that nothing happened between Mr. Rabinowitz and myself, and I think I’ve covered all the bases, but if I’ve left anything out, please let me know.”
“And the blood?” I queried.
“Sorry, I used that.”
“Can I ask what you were looking for?”
“Tay Sacks. My husband is an Ashkenazi Jew like Mr. Rabinowitz. Some carry the gene as do some Irish Americans. When we decided to have children, we got tested. Such a simple thing, but such a big change in our lives.”
“I take it that Simon Rabinowitz passed the test.”
“Oh yes. He bears a remarkable resemblance to my husband, except he carries no Tay Sacks gene. I had amniocentesis last week. We’re having a healthy girl.”
“I see, so what should I tell Simon.”
“Tell him everything is all right. Give him the affidavit and don’t mention my condition.”
“Is that fair to him?”
“Would it be right to burden him with the knowledge of something that will haunt his conscience, but he can do nothing about without ruining his career, marriage, and family. Be his friend as well as his lawyer and keep your silence.”
She was right, of course. In this game, she held the winning hand. Unless fate stepped in with some remarkably unfortunate chance, no one would ever know the true facts. Simon had been provided the surety of his future reputation that he sought. He had asked nothing more, and I would do him no favor by exposing the child, he could never acknowledge or claim.
“So, I’m to simply keep your secret and walk away?” I said.
“It won’t be the worst thing you have ever done or will do but take solace in the happiness that my pregnancy has brought to my family. Something that brings such joy can’t be wrong.”
With these last words, she left me to ponder the truly cold-hearted actions that women can take in the act of childbearing.
The restaurant was warm on that early October night in Chicago. I sat down at a table to wait for Ann Harper. The final approvals were all in place for the hotel her firm was building. The fact that I had secured them without a bribe was something that made me a bit of a hero in her eyes. I couldn’t and didn’t tell her about Simon Rabinowitz’s little problem. He was delighted, by the way, with the affidavit attesting that he had never behaved inappropriately with Patricia Kelly, one more irrefutable legal truth manufactured from an actual lie.
I had reached a point in my life where my faith in others had deserted me. My outlook on life was becoming as bleak as a Dicken’s novel. I had agreed to meet Ann Harper in the vain hope that she could bring some flame into the embers of my life. My wife’s betrayal and the cynicism of Mrs. Patricia Kelly Lefkowitz left me thinking dark thoughts.
“Hello Matt,” she said standing tall in a tight black dress decorated by a single strand of pearls. Ann may not have been the loveliest woman in the world or even Chicago that night, but she sure had every pair of eyes in the restaurant trained on her. The outfit was meant to seduce, and it left the man standing next to her hard-pressed to be noticed, but he was well dressed, tall, and clearly her escort.
“May I introduce my husband Allen Lennon,” Ann said.
Allen stepped forward as I rose to greet him and thrust out his hand. He was a bit on the plump side, early forties, and balding. He didn’t try to overpower me with his grip, and he gave me a smile that said he was genuinely glad to meet me.
“I asked Allen, especially to come meet you. I thought you could do with his advice after we last spoke on the phone.”
“Well I’m happy to have the two of you as my guests for dinner,” I said.
They exchanged a look as they sat down, and Ann launched right into it.
“I thought I heard something in your voice when we spoke yesterday and knowing your personal situation, I thought we might help,” she said.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to let my personal situation intrude into our business.”
“Nonsense,” Allen protested, “Ann says you’ve done us a good turn better than we had the right to expect. It’s only fair we pay back.”
Allen nodded to his wife, and she rose saying, “I’ll meet you later Matt. You two need some time alone to talk.”
We watched her leave as did every other man in the place. When she was gone, Allen turned to me.
“Please, don’t be upset. Ann was concerned for you and thought that I might help. I can see you are in pain, and I think I have felt that pain myself,” he said.
“If you’re going to try to convince me of the merits of wife sharing, I’m afraid you are going to have a very disappointing evening.”
The waitress, a fairly attractive woman in her mid-twenties had arrived at our table, and Allen was quick to give her a smile, “Just two for dinner,” he said, “and we will need a minute.
She began to gather up the excess dinnerware as she recited the evening specials.
“That’s an exciting perfume you are wearing,” Allen said his smile going on overdrive. She blushed as she thanked him for the compliment.
As the girl left, I asked, “Do you always flirt with the wait staff.”
“Flirting with attractive women is one of the benefits of granting my wife her freedom. I do it right in front of Ann it drives her crazy. Mind you, it rarely goes beyond flirting, but I enjoy the prerogatives of a man who is in an open marriage.
“You sound like someone trying to justify an untenable position,” I said.
“Not at all. I admit leaving monogamy behind was at first difficult, but once you accept that an alternative exists then you adjust and move on. Let me tell you how it began for me.”