Authors: J.R. Rain
I tapped my longish fingernail on the green plastic table. My fingernails tended to come to a point these days, but most people seemed not to notice, and if they did, they didn’t say anything about it. Maybe they were scared of the weird woman with pointed fingernails.
I said, “Why do you think Jerry Blum was involved in your wife’s plane crash?”
“Because as of today he is a free man. No witnesses, and thus no case. It’s been ruled self-defense.”
“But we’re talking about a
, and if the plane was headed to a military base, then we’re probably talking about a military aircraft.”
“I know I sound crazy, but look at the facts. Jerry Blum has a history of silencing witnesses. This case was no different. Just a little more extravagant. Witnesses silenced, and Blum’s a free man.”
I continued tapping. People just didn’t take down military aircrafts. Even powerful people. But the circumstantial evidence was compelling.
Whoops! I was tapping too hard. Digging a hole in the plastic. Whoops. A
I asked, “So what have federal investigators determined to be the cause of the crash?”
“No clue,” said Stuart. “The investigation is still ongoing. Every agency on earth is involved in it. I’ve been personally interviewed by the FBI, military investigators and the FAA.”
“No clue,” he said again. “But I think it’s because they suspect foul play.”
I nodded but didn’t tap.
Stuart added, “But he killed her, Sam. I know it, and I want you to help me prove it. So what do you say?”
I thought about it. Going after a crime lord was a big deal. I would have to be careful. I didn’t want to jeopardize my family or Stuart. Myself I wasn’t too worried about.
I nodded and he smiled, relieved. We discussed my retainer fee. We discussed, in fact, a rather sizable retainer fee, since this was going to take a lot of time and energy. He agreed to my price without blinking and I gave him my PayPal address, where he would deposit my money. I told him I would begin once the funds had been confirmed. He understood.
We shook hands again and, once again, he barely flinched at my icy grip. And as he walked away, with the setting sun gleaming off his shining dome, all I wanted to do was run my fingers over his perfect bald head.
I needed to get a life.
A half hour later, I was sitting in a McDonald’s parking lot and waiting for 7:00 p.m. to roll around.
I had already concluded that traffic was too heavy for me to get back to my hotel in time to call my kids, and so I decided to wait it out here, just off the freeway, with a view of the golden arches and the smell of French fries heavy in the air.
My stomach growled. I think my stomach had short-term memory loss. French fries were no longer on the menu.
The sun was about to set. For me, that’s a good thing. The western sky was ablaze in fiery oranges and reds and yellows, a beautiful reminder of the sheer amount of smog in southern California.
I checked the clock on the dash: 6:55.
My husband Danny made the rules. We had no official agreement regarding who could see the kids when. It was an arrangement he set up outside of the courts, because in this case he was judge, jury and executioner. A month or so ago he threatened to expose me for who I am, claiming he had evidence, and that if I fought him I would never see the kids again. Danny was proving to be far more ruthless than I ever imagined. Gone was the gentle husband I had known, replaced by something close to a monster of his own.
Not the undead kind. Just the uncaring kind.
For now, as hard as it was not seeing my kids, I played by his rules, biding my time.
I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel. A small wind made its way through my open window, now bringing with it the scent of cooking beef. Maybe some
, too. I sniffed again. And fries, always the fries.
I looked at my watch. Three minutes to go. If I called early, Danny wouldn’t answer. If I called late, then tough shit, 7:10 was my cut-off no matter what time I called. And if I called past 7:10, he wouldn’t pick up. Again, shit out of luck. The calling too late thing had only happened once, when I was in a client meeting. I vowed it wouldn’t happen again, clients be damned.
Two minutes to go. I treasured every second I had with my kids, and I hated Danny for doing this to me. How could he turn on me like this?
He’s afraid of you. And when people are afraid they do evil, hurtful things.
One minute. I rolled up my window. I wanted to be able to hear my kids. I didn’t want some damn Harley coming by and drowning out little Anthony’s comically high-pitched voice, or Tammy’s too-serious recounting of that day’s school lessons.
Thirty seconds. I had my finger over the cell phone’s send button, Danny’s home number—my
home number—already selected from my contact list and ready to go.
Ten seconds. Outside, somewhere beyond the nearby freeway’s arching overpass, the sun was beginning to set and I was beginning to feel good. Damn good. In fact, within minutes I was about to feel stronger than I had any right to feel.
And I was about to talk to my kids, too. A smile that I hadn’t felt all day touched my lips.
At 7:00 p.m. on the nose, I pushed the
button. The phone rang once and Danny picked up immediately.
“The kids aren’t here,” he said immediately in his customary monotone.
“They’re with Nancy getting some ice cream.”
Nancy was, of course, the home-wrecker. His secretary fling that had become more than a fling. The name of that witch alone nearly sent me into a psychotic rage.
“Yes. They like her. We all do.”
“When will they be back?”
“I don’t know, and that’s none of your concern.”
“So when can I call back?”
“You can call back tomorrow at seven.”
“That’s bullshit, Danny. This was my time with—”
“Tomorrow,” he said, and hung up.
An hour later, I was boxing at a little sparring club in downtown Fullerton, a place called Jacky’s. Jacky himself trained me, which was a rare honor these days, as the little Irishman was getting on in years. I think he either had a crush on me, or didn’t know what the hell to make of me, since I tended to destroy his boxing equipment.
The sun had set an hour ago and I was at maximum strength. I was also still pissed off at Danny, hurt beyond words, and now the old Irishman was feeling the brunt of it.
He was wearing brand-new punch mitts, which were those little protective pads trainers use to cover their hands. I was leveling punch after punch into his
hands, sometimes so rapidly that my hands were a blur even to my eyes.
And I wasn’t just punching them, I was hitting them hard. Perhaps too hard.
Jacky was a tough guy, even though he was pushing sixty. He was an ex-professional boxer back in Ireland who had suffered his share of broken noses, and no doubt had broken a few noses himself. I had never known him to show pain or any sign of weakness. And so when he began wincing with each punch, I knew it was time to ease up on the poor guy. He was far too tough and stubborn to lower the gloves himself and ask for a break.
I paused in mid-strike and said, “Let’s take a break.”
To say that Jacky was relieved would have been an understatement.
Still, he shot back. “Is that all you got, wee girl?” he asked loudly, and, I think, for the benefit of anyone watching, since I sometimes attracted a crowd of curious onlookers, and Jacky had a tough-guy image to uphold.