Copyright© 2011 by A.A. Nemo
December 23, 2011
I didn't get much sleep that night. A couple of aspirin didn't help with the throbbing in my leg. Even down and drunk Colin Flaherty could swing a mean arm. Thank goodness that was the only time he connected. I kept replaying the fight and the awful knowledge that he had killed Teresa's husband nagged at me. I didn't know what I would do with that knowledge I certainly couldn't tell Teresa. In fact there was no way to explain to anyone how I knew anyway and I certainly didn't want to report our "altercation" to the police. David Parkes needed to keep a low profile.
That was another problem. As I tossed and turned I thought about the last couple of weeks and all the effort that went into my "disappearance" and to what effect? Apparently Keri didn't care or blithely assumed I didn't mean to divorce her. I imagined a scene where I walked into our house after several weeks' absence and there would be Keri rushing out the door, cell phone to her ear saying something like, "Oh there you are David. Sorry I won't be home for dinner but I'm sure Maria can rustle you up something. Got to run. Bye."
She'd give me a quick kiss on the cheek as she went by looking beautiful and smelling delicious. Yes, it was almost laughable. I'd tried to make a statement about our marriage and her infidelity and what had it gained me? My wife refusing to notice my absence and the fact I was divorcing her; and my daughters miserable because their father wasn't going to be home to share Christmas with the family. I was an idiot! My work had followed me to Ireland – although that was my fault. Why couldn't I just leave those kids at the firm to figure it out on their own?
So was my little tantrum all for naught?
Teresa's face came to mind. No, of everything that had happened the past weeks, the fact I had met Teresa made it all worthwhile. Had it? Yes, I was certain. She was beautiful and smart and had a wonderful daughter and I cared about her. How much? Was my attraction to her that of an older man escaping a failed marriage trying to recapture his youth? Was I just rebounding? Lots of unanswered questions roiled my mind, and of course the biggest question was how did Teresa feel about me? I thought I knew but there had been little that was obvious. She knew I was fleeing a failed marriage and that alone should warn her off. I was twelve years older, was that too much for her? I was wealthy, at least in her terms and she knew it. Was her reticence just a ploy to snag me, where Moira had been more overt? I doubted it, but in the middle of the night with the rain coming again it was hard to keep all the wild thoughts straight.
Finally I put my litigator skills to work and got my thoughts under control. On the plus side I was in a warm cottage in Ireland with a beautiful young woman as my landlord, who apparently cared some for me. Nobody really knew where I was. I could pitch my phone and shut off my computer and just become David Parkes. If Keri failed to acknowledge the divorce it would be awarded by default. There were two big downsides; I was living a lie and I hated to lie to Teresa. And the longer I kept lying to her that harder it would be to reel it all in. The other was my daughters. I couldn't bear being cut off from them. These issues were unresolved when I finally got to sleep.
I was awakened by the ringing of my cell phone. It was Joe Akers and it was five am. A quick calculation told me it was nine pm the night before in Chicago.
"Joe don't you ever sleep?"
"No. If I do I can't charge you double time!" he laughed.
"So where the hell are you these days?" He asked.
"Oh out on the left coast basking in the sun and watching gorgeous babes in bikinis play beach volleyball while you're freezing your ass off in Chicago!" I lied.
"Nice! Just wish I was there."
"Then how would you get away with charging me all that money?"
"I'd still charge you but I'd be a damn site warmer!"
"So Joe is this just a social call to pad my bill or is there a reason?"
"Just thought I'd tip you off that John Wiley was indicted by a federal grand jury and arrested late this afternoon ... The feds are charging him with money laundering, racketeering and some other bad stuff. Our old school mate Mike Flynn is taking the time from his constant political maneuvering to prosecute the case personally." He chuckled. "Ever the protector of the people of Illinois, Mike timed it perfectly to get the perp walk on the evening news."
"Can't say I'm sorry."
"Yeah, I understand. But they also got Tom Franks...
"You're kidding ... John's a slime ball but I never figured on Tom."
"Well it looks like they were in it together, so a shit storm is going to come down on the firm. Mike's official comment was that they had a tip which led to an on-going investigation and the grand jury indictment and they had to move on this one right away to prevent additional wrongdoing. You don't know anything about this do you?"
"Not a thing Joe. I'm just out here in California relaxing enjoying my retirement and staying the hell away from Keri. By the way any word from her attorney?"
"Nada, and I can't find anyone in town who's representing her. I don't know what the hell is going on. The process server said he gave her the documents personally and gave her your message but then he said she was so calm it was weird and she said it was all a mistake. Well if we don't get a response in thirty days, I'll move for a default judgment ... if that's still what you want."
"That's what I want and I'm not going to change my mind."
"Okay David, just checking."
"By the way, you don't have any plans to leave the country do you?"
I suddenly felt a chill.
"Mike and his investigators are going to want to interview everyone in the firm especially the partners and senior partners. All the financial records have been subpoenaed and they're going to look at everything under a magnifying glass. If you think they might find anything I can give you the name of the best guy in town."
"I don't think I'll need him Joe. I really am as clean as can be, and remember they just selected me for Senior Partner."
Of course, since I was the guy who sent the "Tsunami" information to Mike I figured I was pretty safe.
"Yeah, I figured, plus I've know you since Sister May Catherine slapped us both silly in grade school ... I be pretty disappointed to find out you were involved in this kind of stupidity."
"Thanks. And what kind of stupidity would that be – do you know or just guessing?"
"My source tells me that John and Tom were working with the mob funneling money through the firms books and in some cases their personal accounts."
"Jeeeze that is stupid. Not like they weren't making enough money."
Joe replied, "Plus the feds tumbled onto a storage unit on the south side that had over twenty-five million in cash in it. That alone should get Mike elected to whatever he wants!" He laughed. "Guess they just figured they'd never get caught. Wonder who tipped off the feds?"
"Good question Joe. They pissed off somebody. Not much doubt about that," I replied knowing full well it was me they'd pissed off. "Well I've got to go ... happy hour starts down on the beach soon and those volleyball honeys need some company."
"Just remember David, keep in touch and no out of the country trips."
"I've got everything I need here in sunny southern California."
It looked like my plan to screw with John Wiley had turned out to just what I'd anticipated. The mob guys were not going to be happy that a chunk of their cash was now in some federal facility – I wondered where they would find a space to hold all that cash.
That brought me back to the question of the five million I had compliments of Brendon O'Connell. Had it belonged to John or his employers? I suspected it was John's as his commission considering five million was peanuts when you looked at the probability that hundreds of millions of dollars were involved. I did hope it was money he was skimming but either way, he'd never see it again. What would I do with it? I hadn't thought about that. So far I hadn't touched it. If anyone was curious about my finances all they would see was expenses drawn from my own money even if my money was in off shore accounts and in places like Madrid.
I had a terrible thought – What if John had involved Keri in some way? It would be like him. I hoped not. I didn't think even Keri was gullible enough to get mixed up in some shady business. And despite her infidelity I didn't want her to end up dead at the hands of some hired killer. So now what was I going to do about her? The default judgment seemed the best way to go but that might never break through her denial. What the hell was she playing at? Sure we had grown apart over the years as our careers took off but I still had loved her, and with all the opportunities presented at work and elsewhere I never succumbed. That was what marriage was about and those important wedding vows. Reluctantly I thought maybe it was time to confront her and show her some pictures.
Then I went back to sleep for three hours, my mind mostly at peace since I had the germ of a plan in place. It was two days before Christmas.
When I ventured out of my bed the second time that day I pulled up my email while sipping coffee. There was a raft of emails from the firm, passing on facts and rumors. I deleted most of them. A few complimented me on my, as always, impeccable timing. I was amused.
Of course there was no sign of Teresa at that late morning hour. She had most likely gone to her office hours ago, although I knew Siofra was out of school. I cleaned up and walked into Kinsale, passing the spot where I had pounded Colin Flaherty last night. The rain had passed and the day was winter mild and sunny and there was no sign of anything amiss. The rocky soil gave nothing away. I was glad. I was also glad I had not killed him. No argument he deserved it, but I didn't think I was the right one to mete out karmic justice to Mr. Flaherty, at least at this moment.
I walked into Teresa's office. She smiled and waved me in since she was on the phone. Her green eyes sparkled. The part of my heart I had left melted. Siofra was at a small desk in the corner with some drawing paper. She smiled at me too. Today Teresa was wearing a white wool sweater with a gold Christmas tree pin and her hair framed her face. That was all I could see behind the desk. She was beautiful. She hung up and finished putting some notes in her computer and then said,
"How was your evening? It was kind of late when we got in last night. I was a bit disappointed not to see at least a light on at the cottage." She wore just a bit of an insecure frown.
I moved around the desk, and took her hands as she stood. I noticed she was wearing a dark skirt and heels. She looked delectable as usual.
"Teresa I missed seeing you but for some reason I was exhausted last night ... and then I didn't get much sleep until after five this morning. I'm sorry."
The frown was back as she put her hand on the side of my face. It was cool and soft. I wanted to kiss it.
"David are you feeling all right?"
She started to pull her hand away but I held it against my face.
"Never better. Never better."
When I released her hand she blushed. God she was beautiful!
"Ready for some lunch?" I asked as my breathing returned to normal.
Teresa nodded and I helped her on with her coat and was treated to the wonderful smell of her. The three of us walked down to the harbor to a fish restaurant that had quite a well-deserved reputation for excellent food. I noticed Teresa looking around. She tried not to be obvious but I knew she was looking for Colin. There was no sign. I hoped he had taken my suggestion and left town.
Over lunch she told me about her adventures with her sister shopping in Cork. Fiona's husband had been the babysitter for the kids and Teresa and Fiona had a wonderful time. I smiled at her enjoying the sharing of her afternoon and evening with her sister with me. It crossed my mind that I just couldn't remember when I had last had a lunch conversation with Keri or any conversation where she hadn't been talking about some social gathering she attended or catered with the Chicago upper crust. It seemed that with our daughters gone there wasn't much to talk about except work. And I guessed she didn't want to share the fun of her affair with John Wiley with me.
Siofra was very excited about her part in the school's Christmas pageant.
"Will you come? Mr. Parkes?" she asked
I looked at Teresa and she smiled and nodded her approval.
"Siofra, I will be honored. Thank you for the invitation."
After lunch we strolled back up into town, Teresa's arm through mine. We window shopped and I took note of a few things she admired. As usual I got an affectionate hug and a soft but brief kiss at her office as we said our goodbyes. I went on my way smiling. I spent the afternoon shopping and looking around the town. I ended up in front of a large gray church. The sign said, "St. John the Baptist". I hadn't even been in a church since a service for my mother twenty years ago. She had died of cancer when I was twenty five. It was tough on the family, especially my father who never really got over it and only hung on for another five years. I knew my three sisters still attended regularly. I hadn't thought of them much either – they'd be looking for me this year too as part of the Ryan family dinner and football fest. Keri usually did not attend – too much chaos for her she said. My oldest brother was in Singapore and the youngest Michael was a Marine officer in Afghanistan.
I walked up the steps half expecting the doors to be locked, but this was Ireland. They opened easily and I made my way into the silent church, the interior illuminated by the winter sun shining through stained glass windows. I took a seat in one of the rearmost pews. It was blessedly quiet. I sighed as I looked at the altar and the old familiar feelings came back. Why had I quit going? I couldn't even remember it had been so long. Of course Keri was not religious in the least. She worshiped at the altar of commerce and money. That wasn't really a fair description. Keri was an excellent mother and had been a wonderful wife for a long time. When had we stopped being a couple?
I don't know how long I sat there lost in my thoughts, before an older man, maybe sixties and very tall and thin dressed in dark slacks and shirt wearing a clerical collar came out from the side of the altar. It was only when he stood at the pulpit looking over his notes probably for his Christmas homily that he appeared to notice me. I went back to my thoughts and after a while I heard his footsteps, and I looked up.
"Welcome." He said in a classic Irish accent, as he stood near where I was sitting. Then he appeared to recognize me and said, "So you're Teresa's Canadian?"
I wasn't really surprised that he knew me. It was a small village and the slow season although I thought his observation was an interesting way to put it I thought. Did he mean as in Teresa was my landlord, or had she told him something more? Or was it just common knowledge around the small town that we were becoming a couple?
I only nodded. Even though I had not been a practicing Catholic in many years I didn't want to lie to a priest.
I had guessed correctly about his age. Close up he was probably in his sixties and he had the look of a wise and caring man. I was sure in his life as a priest he had heard it all. He looked at me as if looking into my soul.
"What's the problem my son?"
So for the first time in twenty five years a priest heard my confession as he sat beside me in that beautiful church. When I was done, he just sat and looked out the window at the fading light, then turned to me and said, "David Ryan, from Chicago is it, not David Parkes from Canada?" I nodded.
"David, I think you are now on the right track from what you've told me of your plans. I'm glad you've not been committing adultery with Teresa. I've known her all her life and she's special. She's not had an easy life. She deserves to be happy and you've the ability to give her that happiness ... but she is vulnerable and you can cause her great harm. You must be truthful with her. Your reasons for this masquerade are a bit convoluted but I think she'll understand."
He paused, looking at me.
"David, now think about this ... What is it you're running away from?"
A number of quick answers sprang to mind, but I took my time.
"Well father, I wanted to get away from my wife. Her betrayal hurt me worse than anything I've experienced."
He said nothing.
"And I needed to get away from my job. Not because I was also betrayed by my boss and it seems everyone in the firm knew it ... but because I was tired, burned out after twenty years of unrelenting pressure. The combination of Keri's betrayal and my promotion just pushed me over the edge. I didn't ... couldn't stand to see any of them any longer or face another day in my office or in a jail or a courtroom. I was done."
"When was the last time you and your wife took a vacation... ? Just the two of you?" he asked.
I looked at him, "I can't remember."
"So with your job and hers you both lost sight of the most important person in your lives, each other?"
I nodded sadly.
"And somehow you got comfortable with the idea that work and nothing else was the norm?"
"You forgot that a successful marriage is something a couple needs to work on every day?"
"Yes, but she..."
"Betrayed you? Yes she did and I'm not in any way excusing her infidelity. It's just that when a marriage fails there are always two sides, and lots of extenuating factors. The biggest is that we lose sight of what's important."
I just looked at him.
"Do you still love her, David?"
"Yes, I do at least I think so. I guess if I didn't I wouldn't feel this terrible."
"Do you think you can forgive her? And don't give me a quick answer. That's something to think about. But you do need to forgive her so you can resolve this ... so you can move on whether it's with her or apart. But it's not something you have to do right away. You're angry and disappointed and a bit lost without your partner of twenty-five years, plus you've suffered a blow to your ego. That really hurts, especially when your wife's infidelity occurred with someone you don't hold in high regard anyway. You have self-doubts that will destroy you if you let them fester."
Father Seamus was right, but I hated to hear those words. I had been wallowing in the mud of self-pity and my absence was hurting those closest to me and those who depended on me. Life sucked.
"Now as to your wife ... as you know the Church doesn't condone divorce. You weren't married in the Church but nevertheless you must go see her – I think you know you owe her that. So far she seems to have been calling the tune so now she needs to know how she has hurt you. The lack of communication with you could be indifference or it could be shock, paralysis in the face of your actions – you've left her and are divorcing her. She needs to come to grips with what she has done – to understand what she has done to your marriage."
His words made sense to the litigator in me but the hurt side of me wanted to reject them. I knew I had to follow his advice though.
"If you decide to divorce her then you will have decisions to make, as will Teresa if you are to be together. She's been remarkably happy these past couple of weeks. I hope you will be truthful with her."