“Mom, we don’t hate dad. We never did,” said Jennifer. “That’s right mom. Heck, we love him, I guess. But . . .” started Randy. “Kids, I know what you mean, and your dad, neglectful as he was, and stubbornly so, did things the best he could. He, well, he, he just thought that he needed to do more, well, to make a better living for us. He was always a workaholic. Still is I guess,” said Darla. “Mom, we’re willing to see him, talk to him; I mean if you want. Randy and I talked. You know after what you told us yesterday. We’ve no problem talking to him. But, well, we don’t want to have to choose between Marty and dad that’s all. Marty’s been good to all of us. We, well, we love him too. That said, mom, we’d have no problem visiting with dad now and again. I mean if you want us to,” said Randy. “That’s right, mom,” said Jennifer. “Oh boy,” mused Darla. “Kids, I’m going to talk to your dad. But, I have to tell you if the attitude you have shown right now is made clear to him, he probably won’t want to have anything to do with us anymore. I mean, ‘if I want you too’, you have to want to, the two of you, or there is no go on this. “Kids, your dad loves you. And, I just can’t believe that at your ages now that you can’t see that. Was he the dad of the year? No. But, he never stopped loving you two, no matter what it looks like. “Anyway, I owe the guy. And as far as you two are concerned, you owe him too even if you don’t realize it now. I assure you, the day will come . . .” “Mom, we get it. I guess we said it wrong. We want to have a relationship with him too. Don’t we, Jennifer,” said Randy. “It’s just . . .” “We just don’t want to have to choose between our two dads. We love Marty too. Well, and we don’t want him to think that we’re betraying him. Like we said before, he’s the one that’s been there for us. Mom, he’s our ‘real’ dad. That’s how we see him,” said Jennifer. “Yeah, mom. So long as we can have both were cool with having a relationship with dad, our biological dad,” said Randy. Darla frowned. The attitude wasn’t right. It was like the kids were setting conditions. No, challenges, that Red would have to meet or else. If he got the idea, that there was an ‘or else’ in the mix none of them would ever see him again. She knew it as she knew the sun would rise in the east. She looked her children in their eyes and knew, just knew, that they would be doing this to please her. Their hearts weren’t in it. They didn’t love their dad; it was that simple, not enough for sure. Oh, Red, you blew it my good man, she thought. ****** Darla, was fidgeting; she couldn’t help herself. “Think she’ll be a no show,” she said, not looking at him. “Why wouldn’t she show? Roberto said she would. She’ll be here. She’s only two minutes late,” said Marty. “There she is,” he said. “Gray business suit, like he told us.” “Hi, I’m Sally Abrams,” she said. “Hello,” said Marty. “I’m Marty Castaign. This is my wife Darla.” They all settled into their chairs. The bar girl reappeared having seen the new arrival. They ordered. “So?” said Darla. “Yes, he works at a small restaurant in Tyler,” she said. “He seems content enough.” “Content?” said Darla. “He’s pleasant to the customers. No apparent angst. Of course I haven’t seen him after work or anywhere else either if it comes to that,” said Sally. “Just the one time on the job.” “Were you able to speak with him?” asked Marty. “Not privately. Just ordered coffee and a burger. He served me. He was nice enough. Seemed like a good guy, I thought,” she said. “It’s none of my business, but knowing what I do about this case; well, I hope you two have a good reason for wanting to mess with his life. I mean if you’ve already moved on. He for sure has.” “It’s about him and his children,” said Darla, with a touch of irritation that this, agent, would even have the brass to voice an opinion on their private affairs. “Okay,” said Sally, “Robby said to give you what you needed. Here’s his work address. Oh, and he lives there in a small apartment in the back.” “Okay, thank you, Miss Abrams. You’ve been a big help,” said Marty. “You’re welcome,” she said. She rose bowed slightly in Darla’s direction, which bow was returned, and then she was gone. “Tomorrow, Marty. We go there tomorrow. And he’s going to talk to us even if we have to tie him down,” said Darla. “Okay, I’m right there with you. I’ll be carrying your spear,” he said. She nodded her appreciation. “Marty . . .” “Yes?” “I’m going to do my best, my very best, to fix things; but he has to meet me somewhere in the middle. I’ve thought about this a lot. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that this, problem, is of his making not the kids. My divorcing him, well, okay, that was me, and well, you too,” she said. “It is mostly his fault, I mean about the kids. But, Darla, we blew it in trying to make him suck up to us to get more time with the kids. I knew it at the time. He’s one of those guys, who never gives an inch, no matter who’s right or wrong. He is totally one way, his way,” said Marty. “I guess. No, I know you’re right. But it’s water under the bridge now. This is his chance, and ours too, I know that. If he blows it, well, he blows it. We’re, I’m, at the end of my tether,” she said. ****** “Long time no see, amigo,” said Gabriel Montoya. “Yeah, it’s been a little while,” I said. “Two years is a little while?” said the visitor. “And what are you doing here? Mister Roberto was almost embarrassed to Escort Erenköy tell me where I could find you.” “Whatever, Gabriel. Whaddya got?” I said. It seemed my best bud and workmate had seen fit to find out where I was. Well, I guess I didn’t blame him. I probably would have done about the same had the roles been reversed. But, I would be talking to him at some point anyway. “What I got is that guy Griswald on the stick, skewer,” he said. My smile was as broad as all outdoors. “Oh, and that judge Carlson too. The two of them share the same pipe.” My informant was smiling to beat the band. It was clear he was having a ball, skewering, a couple of corrupt legal eagles. Bringing them down was going to be his pleasure, that much was clear to me. “And the other two?’ I said. “They’re clean. Nothing,” he said. I nodded. I was surprised that I didn’t feel disappointment that we’d come up empty on the two cheaters. I guess I was getting over being screwed over. Helluva thing. “Gabriel, turn the stuff you got over to this guy.” I wrote a short note to him. There was a name and precinct number on it. “A cop? Who is this Jess Richter guy?” said Gabriel. “My ex-partner. From back in the day,” I said. He nodded. “Okay, consider it done,” he said. We talked a little more, but then my friend the drug dealer was gone. I knew he’d carry out what I’d laid on him. Hell, I knew he’d enjoy it. ****** “Yeah, I was there when they took him,” said Marty. “But, how, what?” said Darla. “Drugs. I had not a clue. I’m still in a state of disbelief. We’ll represent him, but the D.A. has made it clear that a plea would best serve him. Still, I’ll leave it to Malcom to make that choice,” said Marty. “My god!” said Darla. “He could get ten years!” “More maybe. But, if he pleads out, it could be as little as ten years. Oh, and judge Carlson was in the net too,” said Marty. “What! Do you think . . .?” “I do think. The two of them helped us in the divorce. I think your ex set them up and lowered boom because of how bad he was shafted in that divorce. I have no doubt we’ve been under scrutiny too. But, lucky for us there was nothing to find,” he said. When you talk to him . . .” started Marty. “Yes yes, of course. Do you really think he’s after us too?” she said. “Like I said, I don’t know or have any way of knowing, but I’m of the opinion that you absolutely have to soften his heart, Darla. Our Red is likely still one very bitter and angry man if I’m any judge, and I am,” he said. “What are we going to do now, I mean here in the office?” said Darla. “Griswald was the senior partner.” “Take it over, you and me take it over. We’ll play it straight with Malcom, keep paying him his base and such. When he gets out, I mean if he’s convicted, he’ll have something to start over with. He won’t be earning anything extra since he isn’t working and won’t be, but he’s the managing partner and therefore has a claim on the profits,” said Marty. “Yes, good. I’m good with that,” she said. “Jesus Marty, he and Schwartz founded the firm. It’s gonna be real strange without him around. And judge Carlson! Red, if it is him, must really be on the warpath to go after a sitting judge. “And, add to that, we have eleven employees here that need their jobs. They’re counting on us,” said Darla. He nodded. “Yeah, well now we, you and I, and the associates are going to have to be picking up the slack. We are going to be real busy. “You still going to see him, your ex, tomorrow?” said Marty. “Yes, and now it’s just gotten to be a bit more urgent,” she said. “Okay. I will have to be here though. I’m going to be asking the presiding for continuances on Malcom’s cases. I know he currently has four in the hopper. We’ll get ’em, the continuances, that is,” he said. She nodded. ****** I guess I’d mellowed over the past many months, and one of the reasons for that was Joanna Winthrop. She and her husband were easy to work for, and I did as much as I could to make it easy on them. “Sooner or later you two will be meeting up, Red, don’t blow it on account of an overly sensitized male ego. Talk to her. A casual relationship is better than none when two people break up,” said Joanna. “Yeah, maybe, but personally, I doubt that she and I will ever be meeting up. She doesn’t know where I live, and . . .” Suddenly, I began to wonder. Could there, maybe . . . “Anyway, Joanna, I’ll keep what you’ve said in mind. I find I don’t hate her anymore, nor really her lover, I mean husband, either if it comes to that. But, it’s been too long now. They’re getting on with their thing, and I’m getting on with mine. It works for me,” I said. “Hmm, maybe,” she said. “Maybe.” I’d told Joanna Winthrop that I was getting on and that I was fine. I wasn’t. Darla was never far from my mind. To say I was jealous of her lover, her husband, didn’t begin to cover it. I was super jealous. I still loved the woman more than anything, and, I hated her too. She’d killed me. At one and the same time, I wanted to take her in my arms and love her and stomp on her prostrate and helpless form. Rational? Hell no. It was what it was. And then it happened. ****** She didn’t look good; she looked fantastic! White business suit, ever the lawyer. Curled fluffed out tresses. Heels and makeup designed to enslave a man. The woman had to be immortal; she just didn’t age; it wasn’t fair. Me? I looked poor, average, and harassed; well, it had been a long day. içerenköy escort She stood just inside the door staring at me in my white not too stained apron holding the coffee pot in front of me. I set it down on the counter warmer, turned, and headed back into the kitchen. “What’s the matter, Red?” said Joanna who was busy getting ready for the evening rush. “Remember what you said a few days ago about my ex and I meeting up down the line?” I said. “Yes,” she said. I turned slowly and looked back at the swinging door I’d just come through. “She’s here?” said Joanna. I nodded slightly. “Oh my god!” she said. “Yeah, that,” I said. “Well,” said Joanna. “Well what?” I said. “You know what, Red,” she said. I sighed and nodded. “Okay, I guess so,” I said. She nodded toward the door coaxing me to go through it. I turned and went out to face the music. She’d taken a seat in a booth. I picked up the coffee pot and headed for her. “Coffee, miss,” I said. I wasn’t quite being an asshole. “Yes, coffee would be good, Red. Would you have a moment to sit with me?” she said. “I guess so,” I said. “Roberto?” I said. “Yes, he told me where to find you. He’s concerned about you if you care to know. Frankly we all are, me especially.” “Oh, that right?” I said. “Yes.” “Why would that be?” I said. “Red, I still have a place in my heart for you believe it or not. And, well, I need to apologize for the way, well, the way the divorce went. I thought, Marty and I thought; well, there was a method to our madness. And, it was madness. We realized that too late. By then, well, things just took on a life of their own, and well, here we are,” she said. I stared at her. “Whatever,” I said. “So, all of that said, why are you here? I’ve gotten on with my life. I suspect so have you and—him. So, why are you bothering me?” “Like I said, Red, I still love you on some level, and I need you to forgive me, me and Marty. Please!” she said. She was being earnest. “Consider yourself forgiven. Anything else?” I said. “Red! Please, you’re just shining me on. I can tell from your tone of voice. You need to help me out here. Please,” she said. “I do?” I said. “And, there is something else,” she said. “Yes?” “The children. Our children, Red,” she said. “They want to talk to you. You know, kinda reconnect. Would you . . .” “Reconnect. Why? I know what they think of me. I’ve been replaced by your lover. For the record, nothing you ever did to me mattered but that. And yes, I know it was as much my own fault as yours his or anything else. More in fact. I admit it. “But regardless of any of that, it is clear to me that they just don’t really give a rat’s ass about me anymore, and I have the tapes to prove it,” I said. “Didn’t know that, did you, Darla. Wait a minute! Did Roberto . . .” All of a sudden I was real angry with my ex-bud. She looked down. “Yes, I heard that there were tapes about, well, not good things,” she said. “Yeah, not good things,” I said. “So, why would I believe that they want to reconnect with me?” I said. “They’re older now, Red. They see things a little differently than they did then. Really.” “Let me ask you, Darla. If it came to a choice between him and me, who would they pick?” I said. I could see I’d struck a nerve. “That’s what I thought.” “Red, there doesn’t have to be any of that. Choices, I mean. Marty’s a decent man. He hopes, as much as I do, that you will want to become part of the family again. Frankly, Red, you running off like you did was pretty juvenile. You need to wake up and fly right,” she said. “It’s always been about you not feeling adequate to the task of fatherhood because of your damn male ego.” I looked at her with narrowed eyes. But, at the same time, Joanna had said pretty much the same to me over the last many months. I had to allow that maybe the two of them were at least partly right. My male ego was it. Well, okay. At least the woman in front of me wasn’t actually insulting me. “When would it happen?” I said. “You mean you’ll talk to them?” she said. “I’ll listen to them. How much I’d be willing to talk to them would depend on what I heard. I heard them opting for that man of yours instead of me. It hurt a lot, ego or not. But, I will listen to them. “But, you still haven’t answered my question,” I said. “What question?” “If it came to choice between him and me, who would they choose?” I said. “I don’t actually know. They did tell me that they didn’t want to ever have to make a choice like that. And frankly, given the circumstances, I think that they’re position on the matter is not unreasonable. Do you think it is?” she said. “Honestly? I don’t know. I just know that I’m their real dad. I just know that I worked my ass off to do for them. I just know that all of the money I earned went into the coffers for them I never bought myself anything except food and clothes. Everything else was for them or for you,” I said. “And for that, I was accused of neglect and what amounted to passive abuse.” “Red, I know. And, I know you love them still. I know what you heard on those tapes was hurtful, and I know that my divorcing you killed your heart. But, I also know that if you would just lighten up a little, some part of what we cost you, and what you cost yourself might still be gotten back. You owe it to yourself, and to us, to at least try. How about it?” she said. “Saturday, here, 2:00PM; I have to work, but it’s slow that time Tuzla escort bayan of day. We can talk then. But, just the kids and you not him. If that’s acceptable then set it up. “Is there anything else? Because I’m getting paid to work not to yak all day with you,” I said. “It’s acceptable. I’ll set it up. And, Red, thanks for talking to me. It was nice,” she said. I nodded, rose, and went into the backroom. “Well, that was short,” said Joanna. Her brow was knitted. “It was all business. She wants me to talk to the kids. Says that they want to talk to me,” I said. “You going to?” she said. Yes. I guess so. Supposed to happen Saturday, here, at 2:00PM. That okay with you, boss?” I said. “Well good. Of course it’s all right with me,” said Joanna. “Oh, and Rob will be back from visiting his mom, by Saturday. You can take the day off if you want.” “Nah, I wanna work. But an hour or so in the afternoon would be appreciated,” I said. “Like I said, stud, you got it,” she was smiling. She was a caring woman was Joanna Winthrop. Rob was a lucky sonovabitch. ****** I saw the red Lexus pull up. I saw them get out. Jennifer took a deep breath as she and her brother, stony faced, made their way up the four steps and into the restaurant. I stood and met them half way. The place was empty at that moment. I knew Joanna and Rob, who were in the back, would likely be listening in at least in part. But, I didn’t care. “Hello, Jenn, Randy,” I said. They nodded. No hello dad, no hugs or smiles. This was going to be a real uncomfortable meeting. I had the feeling that they wouldn’t even have been there were it not for pressure from their mother. Well, what was, was. “Hi,” said Jennifer, finally, as she took her seat. Randy remained silent. “I guess we’re supposed to talk,” I said. “You kids are what now, 19 and 20?” “Yes, we are,” said Randy. “And, well, mom and Mar . . . mom thought it would be a good idea for us to try and reconnect. That was the word, right, Jenn?” “Yes, reconnect, that was it,” said my daughter. “Your mom thought it was a good idea?” I said. “Yes,” they both said at once. I smiled. It was so obvious that they didn’t want to be there that I almost felt sorry for them. I decided to make it short. “Look, you two, it’s clear to me that ‘you’ don’t want to be here. Since we sat down neither of you has made the effort to call me dad or father. I guess, I wasn’t the best of one, so maybe I don’t deserve the title anymore. So, anyway, let me make it easy for you. “Go on back to your mom and her new man, your new dad, and be happy. I’ll get along okay. Tell your momma that. And tell her . . .” It finally hit me. I was about to lose it. I stood, turned, and left. I left through the back. I didn’t even see their faces; I didn’t want to. But, Joanna did, as she would tell me later. I just walked. And I did lose it, but thank god not in front of them. ****** “No mom. We never got a chance to do any of that. He just up and walked out,” said Randy. “Jenn, is that true?” said Darla. Marty was looking on; he had suspicion written all over his face. “Sort of,” said Jenn. “Dear heart,” said Marty, “what did you guys do or say?” “More what we didn’t say,” said Jenn. “We were talking, maybe five minutes. Then he looked at each of us kind of funny and held up his hand to stop us from talking. Then . . .” “Then?” said Darla. “Well, he made a big deal out of the fact that we hadn’t said hello to him or called him dad or father. But I did say hi, I mean after we had taken our seats,” said Jenn. “And you Randy?” said Marty. Randy looked down. Darla glanced in Marty’s direction. “Damn it!” she said. “That poor man.” Marty came to her and took her in his arms. “You did what you could. It’s over. It’s over for him and for all of us. Time to get on with things,” said Marty. “You two head on back to college. You need to be in the dorms by sundown,” said Marty. “Yes, the dorms, your dad paid for!” shot Darla at her two children. Then she ran out of the room. The silence among the three remaining in the room was deafening, to borrow a phrase. ****** “Happy anniversary, dear,” said Darla. “And to you, dear lady,” said Marty. “Five years. Good years.” “Yes, good years,” said Darla. We should go back out and mix with the guests,” he said. It is our anniversary that they’re celebrating. Must be a hundred folks here today,” said Darla. “Yes, actually a few more than that.” He was smiling. He kissed her deeply. “You’re wonderful,” he said. “And here is the happy couple,” said someone as they stepped into the manicured gardens of the hotel Rob Roy. No one noticed the casually clad figure leaning against the column on the staircase to the right. He was the only one not cheering. The only one not happy to be there. But he was there, and the sadness he felt was large. “Goodbye forever, my darling wife,” I said quietly to myself, as I turned to leave. Be well, and be happy. I am so sorry that I failed you, and the children.” The next days were the most melancholy of my life. More so than even my divorce from her. The divorce was tinged with anger, but, not so much with sadness. The anger was gone. It had been replaced with a kind of emotional malaise. And, now, with sadness, a kind of slow emotional death. And, there was no cure, none I knew of at any rate. I picked up the phone. The lawyer and I spoke for some minutes. It would be the last time that we would do so, or so I hoped. The day before Roberto had been hard to calm down, but I’d finally got him to shut up and to just listen. “Roberto, you’ve got the business. I signed it over to you for one dollar. Lawyer Hofschneider will collect the dollar from you and hold it for me indefinitely. Sign the documents and do a good job running your business.