"And now it is my great pleasure to introduce a man I'm having sex with, Robert Anderson, Anchor and chief spokesperson for WJXT Channel 4 in Jacksonville."
I stopped the tape at that point. The speaker was a tall redhead, dressed in a clingy red evening gown cut low enough to display some of her delectable breasts and from another angle a low cut back, the red burnishing the ruddy skin and the mane of thick hair coming down almost to her waist.
There was nothing unusual about her expression, except a slight smile as if she had made a joke she expected her audience to enjoy. I wondered what the joke was about an apparently happily married woman admitting to having sex with a man she wasn't married to in front of 500 movers and shakers from around the nation.
The fact that Roxanne Hunter was my wife made it more interesting.
Bobby Carroll, who knew she was my wife, grinned at me and said, "I told you she said it, Tommy. But that's not the funny part. Roll the tape."
"There's more funny coming?"
I sat in front of the monitor and stared at my friend. It was surreal, but Bobby wouldn't be laughing if he didn't think it was funny.
I hit the play button.
As soon as the words came out of her mouth she lifted her gaze from the papers in front of her on the lectern of the conference room at the Westin Snowmass Resort near Aspen, Colorado. She glanced out at the audience and the camera caught her glazed expression as it must have sunk in on her what she had said.
Even for a redhead with the dusky skin of her Mexican mother, the blush that spread over her cheeks, her upper chest and back was clearly visible.
A quick pan of the audience showed stunned expressions and a few beginning smiles.
"I – Oh God – that didn't come out right. What I MEANT to say was, a man I would LOVE to have sex with, like 99 percent of you ladies out there and most of the female population of Jacksonville where he and I hail from. Now be honest, there's a reason he's the biggest anchor – BIGGEST? – oh my God!"
She turned to the blonde man sitting beside her on the dais and said, "Please, Robert, get up here before I dig my grave with my mouth and destroy my marriage. Help me out here."
He pulled his chair back and stood up to his full height, six inches over her tawny five foot ten. He was a big dude. He stood beside her for a moment and then put his arm around her and gave her a kiss on the cheek which brought cheers and wolf whistles, most from women in the crowd.
"I wish I'd known about the sex, Rox, I would have enjoyed it a lot more."
At that the audience erupted. I understood it. Most of the time, Literacy events anywhere in the country for educators, politicians and anyone trying to reduce the rate of illiteracy were respectable, sober and uplifting events. Funny, not so much - actually not at all!
This was a little different, involving educators from around the country, primarily inner cities, who had come together in the pleasant environs of Aspen just before Christmas as a sort of reward for their good work over the past year. Probably 99 percent of them had never heard of Roxanne or Anderson. I was sure that, after enjoying the night, they'd go back to bars around town, party and maybe get in a little skiing the next day - not your normal Literacy environment.
Standing up in front of the room, Anderson was cool, confident and sexy. It was easy to understand why WJXT had almost regained it's previously dominant position in the Jacksonville/Northeast Florida television market, stealing a chunk of my own WJXT -12 audience. He was eye-candy for females.
All anchors, male or female, were, of course. You never saw ugly anchors anymore. The only relatively unattractive staff you ever saw on television were field reporters, and even a few of the good ones had been canned around town for the sin of being too fat or too old or just DULL on camera. It wasn't fair, but it was life. It was business.
Everybody knew that Anderson was only here temporarily. He really was a good newsman, working his way up from field reporter instead of vaulting into the anchor position from journalism school with his looks and sex appeal. The networks are always looking for smart and sexy. He wouldn't be here longer than another year – if that.
Anderson gave the audience one of those looks that told every female – every person – that he was talking to them personally. Then he glanced back at Roxanne. She blushed and I thought there was something that passed between them but it might have been because I was pissed.
He looked back at the audience and said, "I'm sure this will come as news to you, but the beautiful Ms. Hunter's husband is Tommy Hunter, news director at our competitor Channel 12 in the great city of Jacksonville, Florida where I am happy to work. Much, as a competitive newsman, I would love to be sticking it – to Mr. Hunter – I can reassure him that I have not been up to anything with his wife."
He looked up straight into the camera and I know the son of a bitch was speaking directly to me.
"Not that I wouldn't love sticking it – to him – but if I had ever had the pleasure, I would definitely remember it - and I don't! Although I have to tell you, I may have some pleasant dreams in the future."
He looked down at his notes and when he looked up again 'hot and sexy' had been replaced by 'earnest and sincere, ' as he began, "But all joking aside, we're here tonight about a very serious subject. There are thousands of people in our community, in communities around this nation from the poorest to some of the wealthiest, who simply can't read. Not a can label, or a prescription, or instructions on how to take medicine. They are or will be crippled throughout their entire lives because they lack one basic skill for survival in the modern world. They can't read. We're here tonight to thank each and all of you for your efforts to solve this problem."
From that point on it was a sincere, routine and sober speech, as was the rest of the evening. I had seen portions of it. In certain situations we swapped coverage, and not just on the huge stories. It would have been too expensive for both stations to send teams, but since we didn't' expect anybody to be shot or any explosions, 4 wasn't losing anything by sharing. We'd repay the favor.
I had watched portions of it, even though I hadn't seen much of Roxanne. It was my job to keep up on what other stations were doing, because it still involved a local personality and a beautiful local woman. Roxanne had gone as a representative of her employer which strongly supported the literacy campaign. She'd flown out Friday afternoon and surprised me by coming home early Sunday morning.
I'd never seen this portion before though. The tape released started with Anderson's formal speech, which I didn't think about because he was the reason 4 was covering it.
Even above and beyond the cost, I wouldn't have sent a crew out. Our best cameraman was still dealing with the loss of his wife and child in a head-on crash three months before. I was treating him very carefully. Not just because we were friends, but because he was good, really good. Civilians think cameramen just point a camera and shoot. They have no idea.
"This was on the tape that 4 shot. They didn't use it on air because they're the family station, but they saved it on kind of a blooper reel. You know how cameramen gossip and I heard about this really good piece and talked a friend into making me a copy. It's funny as hell, don't you think?"
I stared at him and I think he began to get an inkling.
"You'd think it was funny if Carol walked into a party and told everybody she was having sex with another guy?"
"For God's sake, Tommy, it's not the same. She was joking about wanting to screw the guy. Hell, half the women in Jacksonville feel the same and if you believe the stories, a lot of them have actually done it. It was a joke. Everybody roared and - watch the tape. She wasn't guilty - embarrassed but not guilty, and he'd have to be the best actor in the world to react the way he did. Maybe she was thinking about screwing him. I'm sure she was, but fantasizing about screwing somebody is not the same thing as doing it. Hell, if that was the case, every guy in this station would have screwed Christina and half of them would be divorced by now."
Christina D'Allessandra, who went by the television name of Dallas, was the morning co-anchor. Twenty-six years old, straight black hair and the high cheekbones of her American Indian grandmother, along with a pair of headlights that caused guilty fantasies in every married man at the station, except for me. But I understood what he was saying.
"When was this shot, Bobby? That Literacy event was – what – a month ago? Mid December. I've never heard a word of this."
"Everybody was talking about it, but everybody took it for what it was – a joke. Obviously Rox was embarrassed. She probably thought you'd react the way you have. I guess she knows you better than me. I thought you'd laugh about it. You've got nothing to be sensitive about. Shit, Carole has joked a few times about getting a free pass to try you out. If I was the jealous type, I'd be the one pissed off. Evidently Rox brags about you when the women have their hen parties."
I just stared at the monitor. I'd stopped it on Anderson's smiling face. Bobby was right. It was probably just an inadvertent Freudian slip. She'd been thinking about banging him and the words slipped out and she turned it, with his help, into a joke. I couldn't blame her for her fantasies.
I was 40. She was 38. We'd only been married eight years. I'd been around. Hell, one of the reasons for getting into television was that, although I might not get the variety that singers and rock stars enjoyed, male TV types still got a fairly high female traffic count. I'd gone through a lot of one-night stands, and bedded some women in Jacksonville that would cause a lot of raised eyebrows if it was ever known. And some of them had been married.
But I'd been single and I'd never gotten a woman into bed with the help of drugs. Alcohol was a different story. I'd had a lot of women who got there because they were too drunk to use their better judgment. But hell, they were all over 21 and if they chose to get drunk and forget they were married, I didn't think that was my responsibility.
Just before I'd gotten married I'd hooked up with the hottest woman I ever met until I ran into Rox. Blonde, with incredible breasts, I'd run into her doing a real estate story. She was a realtor and almost convinced a confirmed bachelor to think about house hunting. We saw each other for three months. She'd been married to some insurance guy but said that didn't mean she couldn't sample some strange on the side. Alright, she was cheating and I was helping her, but I wasn't the world's moral policeman.
I knew Rox had been around. You can't be 30 years old, look like her and not have had a few men. More than a few I knew, because I was a reporter before I became a director and I checked her out. She was an executive for public relations with the Ritz Carleton hotel chain on Amelia Island and that put her in the path of a lot of rich, horny guys and she had done a lot of sampling.
We wound up in my bed after a news media convention, and then she kept coming back for me again and again and she confessed to me that she was scared because she'd never felt this way about another man. A few months later I confessed that I just wasn't happy when I wasn't around her, not just for the sex but just being with her, going to a movie or walking the beach at St. Augustine or Ponte Vedra. Of course, they all ended with us in bed.
However, in contrast to every other woman I'd ever gone out with, the dates weren't something I had to go through for the bed time. I realized one night, walking the beach near St. Augustine as the waves crashed a few feet from us with the incoming tide, that just walking alongside her, hearing her voice and her laugh, was enough to make me happy. If we made it to bed, that was great, but I didn't need it!
I told her what I was feeling and we walked and talked until it was almost dawn. Then we want back to my place, went to bed and just curled up next to each other. We didn't need the sex.
Of course, the next morning I woke up with her sucking me and she proceeded to fuck me until I thought my cock was going to fall off but, it was just a celebration. We both realized this was the Real Thing and were married three months later.
As I thought about all that I looked up at the big clock above the monitors. It was 7 p.m. and we were long past prep for our local Thursday night newscast. January 26, 2012 - past the holidays and life was back to January humdrum. Casey Martine would handle the overnight and I'd be back at 8 a.m. to prepare for the next night's hour and a half local news cast.
"Come on man, let me buy you a beer and then we can go home to our loving wives," Bobby said, casting a worried look at me.
"Thanks, Bobby, but not tonight. I've got a few last things to finish up and then I'm heading home."
"Tommy, man, you're going to be alright, aren't you? It was just a joke that went wrong, that's all it was. I'm an idiot sometimes. I shouldn't have shown that to you. Carol always tells me I'm an idiot - maybe she's right."
I reached out and punched him in the arm, hard enough to make him wince.
"Alright, you're an idiot. You dragged it out of me but - I'm not mad about the tape! Honestly, I know it was a flubbed joke. I've got some other things to think about. The network brass is pushing us to do an eval on Christina and I'm not sure if she's quite ready to move up.
I want to give her the chance, but I'm just not sure she's ready."
Of course, it would be the station manager, Nick Carnos, who made that decision, but we'd worked together a long time and he trusted my judgment of on-air talent. If we pushed her up and she flamed out, it would reflect badly on Nick and myself, and we both hoped for a future beyond Jacksonville. However, if I didn't push her, I knew it would break her heart. She really was a nice girl and not the typical Diva you'd expect from a woman who looked the way she did.
"Please, please, please, don't push to kick her upstairs. God knows how many male hearts would be broken around here. I know my sex life with Carol would suffer. Half the time I'm inside Carole, I'm fantasizing about Christina. Don't, for God's sake, say anything to Rox about that. Women talk and Carol would freeze my dick off if she found out."
"Get out of here, Bobby. My lips are sealed. Let me finish so I can get home to Rox."
When he left I went into the archives and pulled every piece of tape I could find that had been shot of the meeting besides the raw un-broadcast tape that 4 hadn't run. We routinely tape other stations' coverage as well to make sure we don't miss things. Using the computer, I found every second that had been shot that night.
Actually, outside of his speech, there wasn't much footage of my wife and Anderson. I ran the spot where they had exchanged that glance after her flub. I couldn't read it and I'd watched a lot of tape. But there was something there. I just couldn't put my finger on it.
I went over the rest of the meeting on tape. It was incredibly boring with an unbelievably large number of shots of people coming to the dais, accepting awards and thanking their significant others for support. Amid it all though, I found two more spots!
The first was actually prior to her introduction. It was a shot from some distance of Anderson walking into the room, with his arm around my wife's waist! They were talking and she was laughing - just as they walked inside she had leaned over to him and whispered something up into his ear. As she did she reached over to touch his arm, the way a woman will touch you when she either knows you very well or wants to get to know you very well.
When I saw the look on his face, I knew he was fucking her.
It was anti-climactic after that, but I kept looking. There was a moment when the camera was focused on some educator standing at the microphone with her award. It must have been only a few minutes before Rox introduced him as the main speaker.
Behind them I could see Rox and Anderson sitting and picking at their plates. It only took a second, but the camera caught him gently flicking a piece of something off her lower lip. A moment later she laughed softly and looked lovingly at him. Then her eyes glanced up toward the audience and the cameraman and she jerked and pulled herself away from him.
It would never fly in a court of law, but there was no way in hell two strangers or even casual friends would have been interacting that way. It was the behavior of two people very familiar, and fond of each other, yet she had never said a word about him to me, and I knew they had no reason to be that well acquainted.
My cell buzzed. I looked – Rox!
"Where are you, baby? It's nearly 9. Is something going on at the station?"
She still worked for the Ritz but on a Monday-Friday schedule, no weekends officially, although they called her in plenty on the weekend. She drove from home in Mandarin to Amelia Island and home again each working day, so usually she didn't make it in until 7 or 8 p.m. at the earliest. I was usually home before her, with something to eat whether picked up on the way or defrosted.
"Just working late on a project. You're a little late. Where have you been?"
"Oh. We had a few things I had to work a little late on. And then Jan and Cassandra wanted to stop off for a drink at that new place just before you get to 95. Great drinks and they have these Yummy young waiters delivering the drinks. Jan and Cassandra played this game of taking their bras off in the bathroom to see which one could get the waiter hard first."
Jan was single and Cassandra divorced from a wife-beating psycho, and Rox loved regaling me with the stories of all the dissolute things they did as single women. She said it made me hotter when I got home.
The silence lengthened.
"You must really be tired. You don't even want to know who won the Stiffie contest?"
"Not really. I guess I am tired. Can you throw something in the microwave. I'll be home in about an hour. I just want a bite to eat and then I'm hitting the sack."
"If I dabble some whipped cream in certain spots, is there any chance you might do a little nibbling, too?"
"I don't think so Rox, I really am beat. You wouldn't get my A game. Can I get a rain check?"
There was a longer silence. I was 40 years old and I worked crazy hours and there had been times I just wasn't in the mood. She respected them, because I knew when the job had gotten to be a little much for her and I didn't push her, but it didn't happen very often.
"Okay, Tommy. Would you like a back rub or something. Maybe a stiff drink?"
"No, not tonight. Just a little something to eat and then some sleep."
"Would you mind very much if your loving wife cuddled up with you while you went to sleep? I always sleep better next to you."
"Baby, this is one of those nights when what I need is sleep. If you don't mind, I'm going to the guest bedroom. That way I'll get sleep without bothering you and you can stay up and get some work done without worrying about bothering me."
That had never happened before.
"Tommy, what's wrong. Have I done something? What's going on?"
"Nothing, just let it lie for tonight, okay? I'll see you when I get home."
Then, I just hung up on her! That had never happened before but then again, I'd never known for sure that she was a cheating bitch.
I made copies of the pertinent portions of the tape. It wouldn't matter because they wouldn't have any effect in a court of law, but I'd need them for those moments late at night when I'd try to convince myself that it had been my imagination, that Rox couldn't have done that to me. Because I wanted to make myself believe even now that I was wrong, but I knew I wasn't.
When I walked into our condo she was sitting at the plate glass window set into the rear wall of our first floor den. That window was the reason we had bought it. I couldn't count the nights we had lain on a rug in front of that window and made love under the stars.
She was up and out of the love seat and at me before I got to the counter that separated the kitchen from the den. She hugged me and wrapped that incredible body around me before trying to kiss me.
For the first time in our life together – before and after marriage – I turned my face so she kissed my cheek and let her hold me. I didn't reach out with my hands to hold her. She hugged me again. It was seldom if ever that I didn't start getting hard within a few seconds. Tonight I don't think I could have, even if I had been in the mood.
Slowly she backed up and stared at me as if she didn't recognize me.
"I'm really tired. Did you heat something up?"
"Chinese, beef and broccoli. Do you want me to make you a plate?"
"That's okay. I will. I'm going to head into the guest room, eat a bit and then sleep."
She reached out with one slender hand and touched my shoulder, as if I were a fragile piece of crystal that might shatter. The picture of her putting her hand on Anderson's shoulder in that possessive and loving gesture flashed into my mind and she must have seen something on my face. She dropped her hand and stepped back.
"Tommy, what is it. I know something is wrong. Don't tell me there isn't. You're frightening me."
I looked into her eyes and I couldn't even now believe that what I knew to be true had happened. For the smallest fraction of a second I wanted to pretend that I could get past this. We could go on and I'd forget that I'd ever seen the tape of that meeting. I would resist the urge to have her followed or bug her phone or check her email for secret accounts and lovers' messages. I would put it behind me, I would force myself to forget, and some day, some time, the denial would be the truth and it would be over. Then it would be as if it had never happened.
It only lasted for the smallest fraction of a second. You can't un-ring a bell. I could never forget what I'd seen, what I now knew. I don't know for how long, but there must have been times she had come to me from his bed. I knew how she was in bed. She'd lain underneath him if she didn't ride him, and she'd screamed and scratched his back as he poured himself into her. Maybe, if he hadn't used a condom, I'd fucked through his semen remaining inside her, and she hated condoms.
She must have thought about him on nights when I lay on top of her, when I had thought I was her entire world. Now, I realized, I was an ignorant stranger, standing on the outside of the world she had forged with another man.
I looked into her eyes and she seemed to be the same woman I had planned to grow old with, but she was not that woman any more and never would be again. I had to turn away because otherwise I would burst into a child's tears. I felt the way I did as a seven year old when my mother had held my hand at my father's funeral. She had told me he had gone to heaven and he would never come back, just as now, the woman I loved had gone away, and she was never coming back.
I turned away from her as I felt my eyes flooding with tears. I walked toward the guest bedroom. I forced myself to make words.
"I'm not hungry. I just need to sleep. We can talk tomorrow."
I could feel the force of her stare on my back as a I walked away. I stepped into the guest bedroom, which was the least used room in the unit. I closed the door behind me and locked it. Then I stripped down and set the alarm for 5 a.m. and dropped my head on the pillow. I thought I wouldn't be able to sleep, but the lie had become the reality. I couldn't have lain there for more than a couple of minutes when everything went away and then it was only a few seconds before the alarm was going off.
My unconsciousness had been a blessing. I hadn't had to think about anything. When I woke up, my mind was clear. Sometimes that happens. Without knowing how, I'd come to an accommodation with reality, with the death of my marriage and the fact that I was going to be alone now.
Oh, not 'alone' alone. There were too many women and I still had my hair and could bang away pretty good. I could still make Rox scream and hit the high notes on good nights, or what I had thought had been good nights. But I had reason to know I could still satisfy a woman. My bed wouldn't go empty.
But none of them would be Rox.
I wanted to get out before she woke up, but no such luck. She knew my schedule and came stumbling out of our bedroom, auburn hair a tangled mass, padding barefoot toward me, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. She didn't look anything like the carefully prepared Roxanne she presented to the world.
I would have died for this rumpled stranger if she had still been mine.
I backed away and moved into the bathroom, closing the door behind me. She forced her way in as I stripped off and stepped into the walk-in shower, closed the sliding door behind me and turned on the hot water full blast. I shivered as the full blast of cold water hit me but in seconds it started warming up and soon was scalding, which was the way I liked it.
A few seconds later she stepped in, tall and bronzed and naked, her heavy breasts bobbing as she slipped between the hot water and me. Then she was standing against me, nipples weaving patterns against my skin, her hands dropping down to grab me and stroke me into erection. Her lips and tongue caressed the side of my face and started dropping lower.
I caught her by her shoulders and pulled her up to face me.
"No Rox, I don't have time for this. I've got some big things going on at the station and I can't play here. We'll make up for it tonight, I promise."
She stared at me and I think she must have known, but she couldn't ask me without opening up the proverbial can of worms. She had to maintain the lie that nothing had changed, that we were still a happy couple.
"Why won't you talk to me, Tommy?"
"Because I have things on my mind. I just don't have time to get into it. Just go to work – do your thing - enjoy yourself and we'll get all this straightened out tonight – or whenever."
She stood there with the water streaming through her thick red tangles, down the her neck and over those wonderful breasts and if I looked down far enough over her hips and that triangle between her legs I'd lost myself in so many time. It might have been water from the shower, or it might have been her tears, but water ran down her cheeks.
"You've changed, Tommy. How could you change so much in one day?"
"People change, Rox. Life is a process of change. Nothing ever stays the same. I thought you knew that."
"Who are you?"
"I could ask you the same question. Who are you, Rox? Are you the same woman I married, the woman who said she would love and cherish and be true to me for the rest of our days?"
At that the tears began and she backed away and stumbled out of the shower. I closed the shower door behind her and cleaned myself in preparation for the most important day of my life.
I finished the shower, came out, quickly ran an electric razor over my stubble and went into the main bedroom.
She lay naked on the bed that had been ours. She didn't look up when I walked in and went to the closet to pick out an outfit for work. I dressed relatively casually in slacks and a nice Hawaiian shirt - the news editor doesn't deal with the public or advertisers!
With white tennis shoes and shortie socks, I was ready to go and was about to walk out the door when she said, "Whatever you think, whatever you've heard, Tommy, I want you to know that I love you. That will never change. You have to know that."
"How do I know that, Rox?"
There was no answer as I walked away from her.
When I got to the station I knew what I was going to do. I called Sam Gold, who was the associate news director and normally would not be working until the next day. He grumbled when I asked him to come in and pull a double shift, but I volunteered to work any two weekends he selected for him. I didn't think I was going to have any really important weekend plans the rest of the year. Probably it would be a good thing to work as many weekends as possible. Then I told Martine that Gold would be in within the hour and I'd be taking off on a personal project. No questions.
As soon as Gold came in and caught up, I bowed out and made my way to my office. I needed to do some thinking, make some private phone calls, check some emails and make my plans.
At noon, Robert Anderson's private and very personal email account received a message stating, "You and that slut Roxanne Hunter have been very careless. There are photos of you fucking her. You should have been more careful. Cyclops."
At 12:15 the following message arrived with an attached photo: " I know you're angling for a job at the CBS affiliate in New York City. How do you think they'd feel about a scandal involving you and the wife of another station official, stuffing nose candy where it shouldn't go. Think they'd still be interested. Cyclops.
The attached photo had been obviously photoshopped, but it showed what appeared to be a naked Anderson in bed with a naked Roxanne Hunter and a bowl containing a very suspicious white powder that Anderson was snorting.
At 12:30 the next message arrived: "The clock is ticking. Doesn't matter whether the photo stands up, there's enough proof of what you two have been doing. Did you know that the new part owner of the group that bought a controlling share of the top CBS station in New York City is a very quiet, but devout, member of the Moral Majority and a devout Christian. How do you think he'll feel about the scandal? Cyclops."
At 1 p.m. a message was routed though the electronic maze of bounced messages to "Cyclops," saying, "You're a joke. Go away."
At 1:15 the following message was sent to Anderson.
"Let's see who ends up laughing."
At 2 p.m. Anderson messaged Cyclops: "You win. What do you want? It's worth it just to get rid of a nuisance. How much do you want?"
In reply, "No money. Just come by for a little talk. Bring yourself to the New Siam on Adams Street across the street from the Bell Tower, 3 p.m. If you're not there by 3:15 I'm gone."
At 3:10 p.m., Anderson walked into the New Siam and looked around. He didn't see anyone he recognized until I turned from my seat in a booth at the back and waved at him.
"Hi, Robert. What are you doing here?"
He just stood there for a moment, then walked to the back and stood there looking down at me.
"You realize I've got a couple of friends from the Sheriff's Office standing outside waiting to arrest you for extortion?"
"Bring them in if you're ready for the Shitstorm Apocalypse."
"Big talk for a guy who's career is ready to go into the toilet. You won't ever work for any other news organization anywhere in the world."
"I don't think so. What kind of threats did you get? Phone threats? Did anybody ask for money? I'd like to know why you're in here threatening me."
"You know damn well what. E-mail messages telling me I had to be here to keep you from spreading false rumors and faked pictures of your wife and myself."
I just stared at him and enjoyed the moment.
"So, you have electronic copies of messages, apparently, from someone threatening you, yet not asking for anything. Wonder if that constitutes extortion. In any case, I just happen to have gotten a yen – no pun intended - for some Thai food. If you charge me with being the person behind those messages, good luck getting anything that looks like proof.
"In the first place, it wasn't me. Secondly, whoever did this to you was, I'm sure, aware of the new technology that makes tracking down the source of an email virtually impossible or at least very difficult.
"I know the cops or FBI could eventually find this person, but I kind of doubt they're willing to put the kind of money or manpower into the challenge they'd face just to convict someone for sending vague threats, if they were even threats! I have a feeling you and they will be international laughing stocks before it's over but, you're welcome to try since I had nothing to do with it. Then, when they fail and my innocence is proven, I'll play this damn story up and see if I can get national to look at it. Then I'll sue you personally for trying to destroy me so you could get my wife."
"It would make a great story and you would come out looking like a winner, for sure."
A tall guy in a Sheriff's Office uniform walked back toward us. He tapped a button in his right ear which made me assume they were taping our conversation outside.
"Jesus Christ, Anderson, you want us to launch a full scale police investigation wasting god knows how many man hours and our tech guys over what might be threatening emails. Not asking for any money. By a guy who's pissed because you're banging his wife? Really?"
"It was still an extortion plot, Brady."
"Anderson, grow up. I only came with you because I got curious. I can just see the State Attorney moving ahead full force against a respected news guy over what MIGHT be a threat."
He looked down at Anderson, then at me.
"I'll look the other way. Why don't you guys just go out behind the Siam and pound hell out of each until you get this straightened out between you."
"Fine with me," I said and wasn't surprised to see Anderson shake his head even though he had four inches on me. He couldn't afford to have that perfect face marred. The cop just shook his head and said, "Anderson, don't call me again on crap like this. Favors go only so far."
He walked away. Anderson looked like he was getting up when I said, "Don't walk away, or you will regret it, believe me. Also turn off the bug they gave you."
"I'm tired of your shit, Hunter. You put me through all this just because of some fantasy about me and your wife."
"If you walk away, Anderson, you're going to regret it for a long, long time. You probably think I'm bluffing, but are you willing to take that chance? I just want to talk. Grab a cup of wonton soup or something."
He leaned back in the booth.
"I'm not hungry, but I am curious. What are you up to?
"Okay, cards on the table. I heard that introduction that my wife gave you at the Literacy Banquet a month ago. I also looked at a lot of tape of that night. I don't have any doubt of what's going on, but I have questions I'd like you to answer."
"I don't need to answer any questions because there's nothing going on. If you heard the whole thing, you know it was a joke. She flubbed the intro and I played off it for a laugh. Are you that damned insecure that you really believe there's something going on."
"Anderson, look at me. I'm the news director, I've been here for 15 years and a lot of people owe me favors. I also know where a lot of bodies are buried and I have a whole staff of investigators. I don't know how long you and she have been seeing each other but, unless it started the night of the Banquet, there's a trail. There are people who know things. I'm sure you were discreet, but not enough, and I WILL find out."
"If you don't talk or you lie to me today, when I do find out I'm going to destroy you. There's a photo, actually a series of them, showing you putting illegal substances up your nose at a party six months ago - taken surreptitiously by a cell phone. You never knew about it but they're real. They came to me and I put them away because you're another newsman and I didn't want to destroy your career just because you're stupid."
"You ought to realize that I know a lot of people at the networks, on both coasts - people I've met and worked with. I'll put out the word that you're undisciplined – in regard to drugs and sex. Being an Anchorman or having a top network position isn't like being in Hollywood. It's not something that adds gloss to your reputation. It makes you unreliable and there are a lot of news directors and network people, guys in their 40s and 50s with young pretty wives, and they really don't want a hound like you screwing them."
"Maybe I won't stop you. Maybe you're on a rocket to the top, but I'm going to do my best to hurt you."
He sat back and stared at me as I outlined the situation. He hadn't said a word, then finally, "Unless... ?"
I took a sip of the hot green tea the waitress had brought to the table before Anderson arrived.
"Unless you answer my questions honestly. I don't want to destroy you, although I will if I have to. I want to know how you and my wife got together, what happened. Is it still going on? If you answer truthfully, you walk out of here and I forget you exist. I am going to divorce her, but your name will never come up. I'll make it simple – 'Irreconcilable differences'."
"How can I trust you? You can say anything, then afterwards if you get pissed at me..."
"Because I give you my promise, and there are a lot of people in this town who will tell you it's good. I've never broken my word."
He looked at me for a long time, then asked, "What is that? If it's green tea, grab a waitress. I love that stuff. I just didn't know they served it in a Thai place."
"I've been eating here a long time and the owner is a friend. He said a few people like it."
After the waitress set the pitcher and a cup in front of him, he filled the cup with steaming tea and sipped at it. Finally he looked up at me and said, "It was nothing personal, man. I knew she was married to you. We even talked about it. But it just – it just happened."
"How do I know you're telling the truth? You're enough of an egotistical son of a bitch to be claiming something just to get a rise out of me."
"How many people know there's a small TH with an arrow pointing toward her pussy, just on the inside of her ass cheek? It wouldn't show in a bikini. You couldn't see it unless she was spread out to let someone take her from the back."
She had had the tattoo put in signifying "Tommy Hunter's pussy" two years before. At the time it had made me very happy.
He took another sip.