“He walked in and slid the photograph across my desk.”
Lain Chandler’s words were tangled with anger and sorrow. I could see the emotions wrangled behind her wet eyes. Soft blue pools of confused emotion. The fresh makeup couldn’t hide that she’d been crying and her usually pressed dress was disheveled.
She had come in unannounced a wreck. I told Dedra, my secretary, that of course I had time for Mrs. Chandler.
I got up from chair with the intention of escorting Lain to one of the large chairs setting in front of my desk. She avoided me as I approached, making her way to a chair on her own. I shut door to the lobby. I admittedly confused.
She watched me as I returned.
Sitting on the corner of my desk, I tried to give her a soothing smile and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it away. Her eyes on the verge of bursting.
“Tell me what happened.” I said trying to be as comforting despite her hard demeanor.
“He came into my office, Jack. A vile, mealy man. Conned my assistant into believing he had an appointment.”
“What man?” I tried to ask.
She stood and stepped further away. Out of reach.
Her back to me, she wouldn’t let me see her face. Her brunette tresses hiding any glimpse of her soft featured face. From any side she was a ravishing woman. Most men would find it hard to believe she was pushing forty and was a mother of two.
She stood stiff, discernibly agitated.
So I prodded. “What picture?”
“When I saw that picture slide across the desk, I knew the score. I knew he was involved. That bastard.”
She turned towards me. Sorrow mostly spent.
“Who? What picture? Bastard, who?”
I wanted to grab her. Pull her close. Make her explain. She pulled her arms up and away.
“Dan. Jack, Dan’s the bastard. Remember him? College pal? Tennis buddy? My husband?”
Her words stung with spite. Anger misdirected. I hoped.
“Yes, of course, Dan. He, Dan, showed you a picture?” I paused, pursed my lips. Confused. Suddenly my mouth was dry. “Of what?”
She pushed passed me and flopped back down on the chair. Quiet.
I walked back around my desk and sat as well. The distance was probably a good thing.
I could feel her agitation affecting me. Man, I could really use a drink. I didn’t do that anymore. I was a “Friend of Bill” now. I had too many addictions. I didn’t need to drink. I wanted one though. Three fingers straight down.
Lain looked across at me.
“No, it was not Dan.” She said sharply, as if irritated I couldn’t follow along. “Not directly. The mealy man who had the pictures. The PI. The Private Dick.”
“Was he ever. He oozed into my office, big fat grin. Rumpled suite. Pretty low rent. You would think Dan could afford better Dick,” she laughed weakly. Lain never hid the fact she thought Dan was inferior in bed. A soft man, but he was a good husband and wonderful step-father to Celia and little Wesley. She jabbed some more, “Especially with the allowance I gave him. Not some low rent boozer.”
Her head shook in disgust. Dan Rickman was Lain’s third husband. Despite being an admirable father figure, I doubt she ever intended on keeping Dan. At least not long.
I admit I was complacent in that fact.
“Lain? So what did the detective say?”
“That man came in so smug and sure of himself.” She waved her her hands dramatically, Tears flowed a bit more, from anger more than anything. “Probably thought he could eat from both ends of the table. Gorge himself. Get fat. Fatter, if possible. So he told me what he was, that Dan paid him to find some dirt and that he had taken photos of me. The compromising kind, of course. And for a price, I think he suggested $20,000 or some silly amount like that, I could buy the photos. His silence. After all, it would be bad if those ended up in Dan’s hands or even, heaven forbid, got leaked to the press. Social standing being what it is. He said it would be scandalous. Scandalous?”
I didn’t need to ask who was in the photos with her. Our affair started a few months after the marriage. Lain had voracious appetites that you just didn’t turn down.
“And he showed you the photos?” I asked.
“Just one. He said it was mine. On the house. Gratis. It was all I needed to see.”
Her voice cracked and her eyes began to water again.
“One was enough. Told the whole story.”
She opened her bag and pulled out the photo. She slid it across my desk.
“He was shocked when I told him to go to Hell. That he’d never see a dime from me and that my husband could have his divorce. You know until you, Jack, I hadn’t loved anyone, really, since Wes. When he died, I went cold. ‘Number Two’ thought I was absolutely frigid. But you?”
I looked down at the picture. The photo was grainy, but there I was. Me, in all my glory going south side with a curvy brunette that wasn’t Lain.
“Lainie, let me explain.”
I stood and looked up to see Lain had pulled a .22 from her purse.
“You! You I loved. I was going to leave Dan. Let him have a nice sized alimony. Live the rest of my life with you.”
She was shaking. Both hands clasping desperately around the guns grip.
“Honey, where’d you get that gun? You need to put it down.”
My hands were out, palms up. Fruitlessly I waved both trying to calm, Lain, and what? Block the impending bullet?
“I can explain.” I said again.
“Explain? What? How you were sleeping with Celia? My daughter? Celia?”
She laughed hysterically. “I guess I should be flattered that fat son-of-a-bitch mistook my nineteen year old daughter for me. We must practically be twins.”
“Are we? Practically … Twins?”
The gun lowered. Her mascara tortured eyes lowered. She sobbed. Body shaking, she was ravaged with inner turmoil. Lain looked drained. Weak. Broken.
“Lain.” I said softly. I reached across the desk.
Eyes and gun raised. I didn’t hear the gun. I didn’t feel the bullet. I just fell back against the wall as she mouthed, “I loved you.”
I saw her turn and walk out the door.
My shoulder burned hot. There was a scream. A gun shot. Then another scream.