Warning: there is some domestic violence in this chapter.
‘William Stanley, President of Stanley Tire and Rubber, was found dead this morning, along with two other employees. It appears to be a murder suicide. Police are not revealing any details. Speculation from an unnamed employee points accusations toward revenge. Again, police have not confirmed motive. Keep following Channel 3 for updates.’
“Aint that my luck.” Harold just finished another beer could not see the sorrow of the story. “Wonder who is the one who snapped.”
News like that meant many would be suffering and drinking tonight. Harold was going to do his part to join them. The legacy of the man was gone, with it the blind faith of those who were betting on him. Harold needed a drink, or several. With Jess outside he did not see the harm in having one. There was always a bottle of dark rum in the higher cabinets.
The dark rum they kept from an anniversary gift awhile back, was forgotten until now. He returned the bottle to his chair. Raising it to the memory of Mr. Stanley he began to drink the contents.
The collective hope of the few betting on the miracle, was squashed with the discovery. Harold like many of them felt there was nowhere else to run. Hope, that the old man who spent his life as a patriarch of their industrial family, was also going to take the role of being their guardian angel vanished.
The final word had been spoken, and it did not favor the working man.
Jess re-entered the home slightly before Harold had finished emptying the bottle. The thought of planning a way to overcome this latest setback erased the moment she witnessed the empty container in his hands. It was no longer avoidable, he had a problem. “What are you doing?” The only words she could muster in the thicket of shock she was navigating.
“Remembering a man,” the answer seemed reasonable to Harold. “And drowning a bad dream,” which seemed a more fitting response.
“Give me that!” Rage overwhelmed the shock. The distance closed. “This is not the man you need to be in front of the kids!”
The afternoon was ending and soon the kids would be home. The biggest fear she had about their father’s battle with the bottle, was arriving. Her worn dirt covered hand reached for the bottle.
“Isn’t it about time the kids see what kind of loser their father is.” Self-pity was the response he came back with.
“You are better than this. We are better than this.”
“You may be, but honestly, this is exactly where I have been.” Self-pity was magnified through drink. “I gave everything to that company, and they threw me away.”
“There will be another chance you are a good man.”
Jess’s tears flowed, adding to the guilt Harold felt. Perhaps she was right, it had only been a few weeks. Many people got behind a wheel after a drink. It would be something he could rebound from.
“You just need to stop drinking.” Sorrow amplified the desperation in her voice.
“I drink to make me feel better.” Sympathy for her plight was lost.
“You drink to hide,” she was playing on his pride, “like a coward.”
Jess never seen the hand coming, but she felt it. Darkness and disorientation preceded the pain. A stumble back, then falling on her rear. The sharpness of that impact, less than the mark on her face.
He stood begging for the injured woman to defy him. He had never struck Jess before, and he was not sure how the event even happened. The action had been done. The road was getting more a straight path in the wrong direction.
Jess did not get mad. She did not cry. The red of her cheek was the answer to the doubts she had been experiencing. She had been there for him the entire rough road. The road was still going strong down the wrong way. The slap was a sign that her exit had come up. Revenge was not to fight back. Harold was a good size larger and stronger than his wife.
Revenge for her was to allow him to finish this journey by himself. There would no longer be a supportive wife or kids in his life. There would be no one to get him out of jail when the bottle led him astray. She knew life would be difficult for her and the kids but it was a necessary move she had to make.
Jess did not look up. She just went to the kids’ rooms. She packed everything she could fit in two suit cases. She only took the kids’ clothes. The rest was a bad memory of a man she had misjudged for a decade. A memory she wanted gone. The mark on her cheek took away the last reserve she held.
Returning down to the man she had invested her life and children in she could not utter anything but a warning. “I am leaving you. Do not follow us. Do not try to find us.” The disappointment could not be covered in her words. They pinned Harold to his chair. As Jess walked out the door for the last time all he had was frustration. All he could do was launch the object that caused the downfall toward the slamming door. The glass shattered the moment it struck the slamming door. He knew so did his marriage.
“let me in man, come on I was the one who found the bodies anyways.” Antonio wanted into the plant badly.
Clemmons oversaw the late shift. There was no way he was going to violate the orders. A plant this large made a crime scene that would take days if not weeks to process. The deaths occurred in his area, so they were his responsibility. One person entering would contaminate any possible evidence. “It will be open in a few days.”
“What is taking so long. Gordon slit the old man’s wrist, hid the body, sliced the throat of the executive, then was taken down by a dying Nathanial. There just saved you all a bunch of work. Go home.” A side step to get around Clemmons was met with a firm hand to his chest.
“You sound like you were an eye witness. How have the detectives not been able to solve this after you talked to them?” Clemmons already knew Mr. Stanley had been dead for days before the bodies were found.
“I just need to go get something out of my locker. I have a buddy who needs a drink.” He knocked away the cop’s thick hand.
“You know I know they have reported Mr. Stanley dead on TV.” His hand went to his gun shifting his hip back. Something troubled him. “but only a few people know that his wrists were slit.”
“Woah, woah, calm down.” Antonio took a step back.
“How do you know that? You found two of the bodies. Mr. Stanley was not found until much later, well after you left.”
“People talk. It is common talk around the circles.” Clemmons did not show signs of falling for the simple explanation. “One of your men told me.”
“Which one?” the hand tightened on the grip. Thoughts of disobedience of one of his fellow officers irritated him. All the work good officers do was always erased by one or two bad actions. This time it was minor, but any break in oaths was another crack in the trust.
“I don’t make it a habit to know too many of you. Or any of you for that matter.” Clemmons was brewing a storm of frustration and anger. Both clouds were about to collide. “Tell you what. I will go. My buddy can wait on that drink.”
“I think you need to talk to one of our detectives.”
“I have talked to your detectives.” Antonio started walking away. “I don’t have time for this, I have to find a new job.”
“Men die and you have to run and find a job? In the middle of the night?” Clemmons had no reason to detain him. The man had already been interrogated when he reported the bodies. Most of the threatening posture was to keep the fight to enter at a minimum.
“Not all jobs take place during the light of day.”
“Why do you want to walk at the lake instead of the neighborhood?” Kelly walked down the path to her friend waiting on the sidewalk around the lake.
Jess would not turn around just staring into the water. Silence dominated her at first. “I have lived here all my adult life and I don’t think I have ever appreciated how special this lake is.”
The almost symmetric lake had been the center of town. Jess had drove past it more times than she could remember but never payed attention to it. It was a place to bring the kids for swimming in summer, and skating in winter, the occasional concert in the pavilion but none of those memories could make up how she felt.
“What are you talking about Jess?” Kelly was growing concerned. She came here to share the latest tragedy of her separation, and get a boost from her friend.
Jess turned around to reveal the mark on her face. It had darkened leaving no doubt.
“What happened to you Jess? Who did this?”
“I am leaving him Kelly. I am leaving this town. The kids and I are starting over.” The words seemed to barrage Kelly.
“Where will you go? Can I call you? What happened?” It was hard to grasp the effects of the statement. It seemed like a short time ago, Jess had stopped her from taking drastic steps. Was this time to return the favor?
“He crossed my last line. I was a good wife and he crossed the only line.” Jess was fighting back tears. It could not be hidden. She erupted. “I was a good wife.”
Kelly wrapped her arms around Jess. They had been friends due to choosing a place to live next to each other when times were good. The proximity developed the friendship. Now they were both suffering the same fate.
“I am restarting this whole life thing. Me and the kids deserve it. I have been a housewife but I still have skills. Someone will take a chance on me.”
“You can go back to school with me, and stay here!” There was a bit of light peering through the northeast Ohio sky. The ray skidded across the lake highlighting the two swans peacefully floating. Kelly pointed to them.
“They are swans, Kelly.” Wiping off another tear, she could not hide the disappointment and frustration in her friend now.
“No that could be us if you stay. Floating peacefully through the waves without a care.”
“Kelly, I need a fresh start. I need to clear my head. I need to get away from all this because the memories of happier times taunt me as they were just to tease me. They were a false glimpse instead my happily ever after. I fell for it, then my prince turned into an ogre.”
“You need to have faith.” The words were meant to reassure.
“Faith is easy when things are going your way. This is the universes way of telling me I was wrong to keep it. I am saving the kids before the ogre ruins their lives too.”
“Can you at least call me when you get settled?” Kelly was negotiating.
“I just want out of this nightmare and any reminder it ever existed.”
The swans parted ways.