Will Work For Food, Part 2

Here is part 2 and the conclusion of Will Work for Food. Please remember that everything you read here is a rough draft. I’d love feedback. What works for you, what doesn’t. What you wished had happened.

Will Work For Food, Part 2

Pal was there looking as disheveled as he had the night before. I wondered if he had pocketed the money and spent the night on the streets. It was likely, someone like him being handed two hundred dollars and not really trusting there would be more to come. He sat on a worn piece of cardboard, all his meager belongings (which consisted of an army surplus duffle, a ratty wool blanket, his dirty poster board, and—I shit you not—an actual sauce pan which he used to collect his donations). He jumped up as I walked out, got right in my face with his pan and said:

“Can you spare some change, man?”

I tried to look surprised and annoyed, and then reached in my pocket as if searching for something. I pulled out a wad of cash, ones on the outside, and threw it in the pan.

“Now get out of here” I said “or I’ll call the police.” I headed to lunch.

I called home after work, told Anne-Marie I was going out for a drink with one of my co-workers and met Pal on a bench at the water-front park.

“Did you get everything?” I asked. Referring to the note with the to-do list I had given him at lunch.

“Track phone with camera, notebook, pen, stamps, Cityscapes Realty flyer, and the one with her picture on it. I opened a storage locker in the subway station on Fourth Street; number 214.” He said, reading off my note.

“Great. And you understand how this works?” I asked, staring at the river, processing the plan, running through all the possible errors.

“Yep. I make my new home outside her office building. I spend my days following her, snapping pics, logging everything she does. If I get any compromising pictures, I send them to this email address, go get them printed, and mail them to you. When I run out of room in the notebook or track phone, I show up begging at your office and you give me more money. I store all this stuff in the locker. You will pay me once a week when you visit with your wife for lunch as you do every Wednesday. If any new instructions they will be included in the money just like you did this morning.”

I had to give him credit, he was a quick study. “Perfect,” I said, “Now, give me the note I gave you. It has to be destroyed.” He handed it over and I tore it up, threw half of it in the garbage bin beside the bench and the other half went into the river. You can never be too careful. I almost felt bad for the guy. He was likeable and he seemed too smart to be on the streets, but this had to be done, there was no other way.

Weeks passed. I became a doting husband; so much in love. I became a philanthropist as well; giving money to any beggar I crossed paths with. I was a man to be respected. Anne-Marie sold million-dollar homes and penthouses. She was happier than I had ever seen her. My father in law spoke frequently about our anniversary. The party he would throw, that would double of course as a fund-raiser, and the extravagant trip around the world. I worked hard, spent many a late night in the office. But I always made time for Anne-Marie. Life was good. The best it had ever been.

The third time Pal showed up at my office, I handed him his ‘refill’ money and imagined the two notebooks filled with Anne-Marie’s comings and goings. All the pictures he’d taken. He surprised me by handing me a slip of paper attached to a small, artificial daisy.

“Bless you.” He said as he handed it to me. Puzzled, I took it and threw it into my bag. I took my lunch to go that day and headed back to my office where I could read his note in private. He wanted to meet at the park bench again. Tonight after work. I called Anne-Marie, let her know I would be working late again and not to worry about dinner.

He was there, sitting on his cardboard throw rug as if he had always been there when I arrived. I sat on the bench nearest him.

“I haven’t seen anything suspicious. I think it’s time to throw in the towel. I don’t feel good about what I’m doing. She seems like a really nice lady.” He said, never looking at me. I opened the newspaper and perused it.

“I think she knows I’m suspicious and she is being very careful. Trust me, she wants that anniversary money too, but I have a feeling if she gets it, I won’t be the one going on the trip with her.” I said quietly.

“Listen, man. I haven’t seen anything that makes me suspicious. It’s fine if she acts normal around you, but she don’t know I’m watching her. How come I ain’t seen nothing? This is nuts, I want to stop.” He said, now more animated. I needed to calm him down before he had everyone in the park staring at us.

“Ok, I see your point. But what you don’t see is that all the money she’s been making lately, it hasn’t shown up in our joint account. She must have opened a separate one that I don’t know about. And what about the number on her cell phone? It’s still there, just as frequent. You must see her on the phone all the time, right?” I pulled the paper aside to glance at him. He nodded. “Look, I agree, this can’t go on forever. Our anniversary is next month. I need some solid evidence. I told her I was going out of town this weekend and wouldn’t be back until late Monday night. I suspect we’ll get our evidence then. You will need to be outside our home all weekend. I will pay you extra for this, of course.”

“And then we’re done?” He asked.

“Absolutely. In the meantime, I would like to see what you have so far. I need the key to the locker.” He rummaged in his sack, laid the key on the bench, gathered all his things, and turned to leave.

“On Monday, it’s over. I’m done with this.” He said walking away.

“By Monday, it will all be over.” I promised to the space where he had been sitting just a moment ago.

I spent Friday and Saturday in a hotel downtown. I stayed in, ordered room service and soaked in the private hot tub. I read Pal’s notes. Oh, they were good. They were perfect. I could not have asked for better. He had logged her every move. Every phone call even. I skimmed the track phones. They were filled with pictures of Anne-Marie going about all manner of mundane daily tasks.  Saturday evening, at dusk, I changed into a pair of navy Dockers, a cream colored polo and a navy hoodie. I put a ball cap on and put the hood up. Checking myself in the mirror, I looked like an authentic criminal, ready to do some breaking and entering. I had a key to the back door, of course, so there would be no need for the breaking part. I knew Anne-Marie was home because I had just called her. I told her I missed her and I would be home late Monday night. She said she was home reading a book and had just finished dinner. She had teased my about ordering pizza delivery, as that was our old Saturday night ritual: pizza, wine, move, sex—not always in that order.

I let myself in the back door; the light was on in the living room—perfect. Anne-Marie loved to read on the chaise lounge in front of the picture window. This would allow for a perfect view from the street. I adjusted the gun. It sat, tucked in my pants behind me but easily within reach. I walked into the room. The only light came from the floor lamp behind the lounge where I could see her sitting. I stepped into the ring of light. The movement caught her eye and she gasped. She saw it was me and relaxed slightly. I could see the confusion on her face.

“Cass? What are you doing here? Why are you wearing that?” She was half smiling, guessing that I was about to play some trick. I said nothing. She put her book down and sat up a bit straighter, now a look of concern creeping on her face. “Cass! What happened? What’s wrong?” I took a few steps toward her but still, I said nothing. She stood (just as I planned); I lunged at her and wrapped my hands around her neck. She began to back away as I lunged and the momentum drove us backwards onto the lounge. It was perfect for me. She lay back on it as I stood over her, my right knee resting on the chaise. I squeezed. She kicked her feet and struggled. It was more than I had expected of her. There was no going back now, though so using her neck, I pushed her further onto the chaise, until her knees were straightened and I sat down on them. I commenced the strangulation of the woman I once vowed to honor and care for. With the adrenaline surging through my veins and my heart pounding to keep up, I barely heard the sound of Pal kicking the front door in. Anne-Marie had stopped struggling by the time Pal reached me and pulled me off her. He spun me around and gasped.

“What are you doing?” He shook me by the shoulders. I reached behind my back and grabbed the gun. I pulled it on him, letting the safety off. I didn’t answer him but countered with my own question.

“Why did you kill her, Pal? Why did you kill my wife?” I tried to bring the tears, let the adrenaline flood out. I was shaking. That was good. He backed away, his hands up in the air.

“Ok, Ok, Man. You don’t have to do anything. I get it. I can disappear. You say you came home and found her like this, and no one needs to know any different.”  He said. His voice just as shaky as mine.

“No. That won’t do, Pal. They need to find this one you. I held up the key. When they do, they’ll find all the pictures, notebooks, everything. They will assume that you became obsessed, stalked her and finally out of desperation, killed her. I walked in too late to save her but managed to shoot you before you could get away.” He opened his mouth to say something, but I shot before he got a word out. Half his face was gone before he hit the ground. I took off my rubber gloves and put them on him. I put the key back in his pocket, washed my hands and called the police.

“What you didn’t realize, Mr. Morgan was that Pal had taken out two lockers. We found the second key in his duffle. There he kept copies of the notes you gave him, all the cash you gave him and logs of your conversations.  On top of that, he also kept a track phone with pictures of you and your mistress. I assume to black mail you in the future or perhaps as insurance that he would get paid. Am I correct?” Detective Hynes asked.

“Of course not.” I said indignantly.

“And of course, you also did not realize how many security cameras there are about the city. The one in the subway locker area was most interesting. I’m sure you can imagine what we saw on the video from Saturday, July 15 at about 4pm.” He said.

“Yes, I know what you saw.” I said. “Look, I confessed, ok, I told you the whole story, can we just do whatever it is you need to do. I’d like to call my attorney.” I was exhausted. Defeated. At this point, I could only hope that Crystal had been released and I would receive leniency for the confession.

“Your ex-attorney has contacted us. He will not be taking your case. In fact, we have been advised to obtain a public defender for you, as your assets have been frozen and your father-in-law has made some calls, no lawyer in this city is willing to touch you with a ten foot pole.” He started laughing. “You know what I find ironic, Mr. Morgan? That the money we found in Mr. Addison’s second locker would certainly have put a good sized dent in your defense fund. But that ain’t your money anymore, is it? You can have this though” he threw a dirty-white poster board onto the table in front of me. WILL WORK FOR FOOD it said in unsteady block letters. He laughed and walked out the door.