Paul Harris stared up at the ceiling in the pitch black room, his eyes wide open despite the early hour. It was four o’clock and he couldn’t sleep. Three sleepless nights. This was no different that Saturday night, Sunday night, nor last night. He had known he was going to have problems sleeping each night. His thoughts were a jumble all day, at night, when they turned in, it was worse. Still, no matter what he did his thoughts never moved far from Betsy.
Last night he had been worried about her. He thought of her last message to him, the one that had come that last night he and Ross and McIntyre and Grant had gone out. Just a quick text that he had read as he sat on the bus ride back to his home, to his Maryanne, his wife and three kids, Noah, John, and Daniel. After he had read it he had sat, stunned for the entire bus ride having no idea what to do.
Out of the blue he told me that if he ever found out I was cheating on him he would leave me dead in a ditch. And that I should consider this my only warning.
He texted back of course but there was no response. Not only that but the icons showed that the text wasn’t even delivered. Had she blocked his number? Should he call? It was almost one in the morning. Calling would certainly be a red flag for her, especially if her husband was already suspicious of her. She would be afraid to call or write for fear that he would find out more. He had called anyway. He got her voicemail message. He left a quick message, “Call me,” he said.
The words dead in a ditch were stark. What kind of jackass said that to his wife and mother of his children? He had gotten off the bus and walked back to his apartment like a zombie, barely knowing where he was going, his body on autopilot while his mind raged. He had tried calling again. He knew it was a mistake but he couldn’t stop himself.
Having served as a Weapons Sergeant in the Special Forces for six years, Harris was both a man of action and of thought. Where other soldiers were used to rush in, Green Berets were trained to be covert and determine the best strategy for victory, not just see the tactics. But this text had he reeling. All he could think to do was race over to Betsy’s house and protect her. Screw Maryanne, to hell with the kids and his desire for them not to grow up as a product of a broken home, his love for Betsy trumped all that didn’t it?
He hadn’t slept that night at all. Different responses and idea zipped through his mind. None of them had stayed around long nor had any of them gone further than the planning phase. He could drive over there and beat the fuck out of Jeremy, Betsy’s husband. But that would expose her and him as having a relationship. It would blow up both of their families, something neither of them wanted. For the four years they had been meeting for coffee dates, lunch dates, afternoon escapes into a cheap hotel room, that had been their guiding principle, that their families came first. Neither of them might be happy with their spouses, but for the sake of their children they would keep their love quiet.
He thought that he could find and track Jeremy, and then find an excuse to beat the shit out of him. Still, that wouldn’t help Betsy. That wouldn’t deflect the suspicion. That might make Harris feel better about
All night Harris had stayed up and thought about that. Was she okay? How much had he found out? Had the emails and voice mails that he left gotten through or caused her greater exposure. He regretted calling now, but what did she expect. She couldn’t expect him not to call her when she left a message saying that her husband had just threatened her.
That next morning, Maryanne had sensed his anxiety. She walked around on eggshells getting the kids ready for church and gently prodding him to come along. He had let himself be minded and herded and kept on wondering what to do. By Monday afternoon, after three abortive attempts to drive down to Long Island and stakeout her house, after over twenty non-answered texts and two more calls also unanswered and unreturned, Harris had hit a stasis point that usually came when he wanted something he couldn’t have; he was angry. Angry at his life, angry at Betsy for not returning his calls, Angry at Jeremy for being her jackass husband, Angry at himself for not doing more, angry at the world for not allowing him to meet Betsy before he married Maryanne and before she had married Jeremy.
That was the mood he was in now. Anger. It was four in the morning and he could feel the lump of anger, which he knew was probably more likely hunger, sitting in his gut. Maryanne slept heavily next to him. He check his clock again, the fifth time in five minutes and saw it was still just a quarter after four.
He got up, dressed quickly and quietly, and got out the door by four thirty. Two subways, and a three block job and he was at the park by five. He was at the workout site early, but already Grant was there, sitting in his big truck, watching for the clients before they showed up. Harris walked up to the truck and jumped in after Grant unlocked the door.
“You’re not on the schedule today, I am.”
“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep,” Harris said. “I wanted to get a workout in so I thought I would come.”
“Fuck, you could have let me know. I could have slept in.”
Harris shrugged. He didn’t care if Grant was pissed or not or if Grant slept in or not. Way down the list on his priorities of caring. But in the back of his mind, he knew that Grant was right, and he could feel the start of guilt and regret for being selfish, for putting his problems with Betsy first in his mind.
“I didn’t know I was going to be coming out till about half hour or so ago, so you would have already been on your way anyway.” It was a little lie, but it would make Grant feel a bit better, Harris hoped.
Grant didn’t say anything. He looked upset, but he had looked upset before Harris had said anything. Grant being upset was common.
“Got any ideas about what you’re going to do?” Harris hoped by talking Grant might snap out of his being upset to what he was used to, Grant being disgruntled.
It didn’t work. Grant just kept staring out the window at the park.
Again, Grant didn’t reply.
Grant was in a mood, but he could sense it was more than just being about not being called. Maryanne liked to call him a sour-puss in front of the kids, and it was an apt description. If Grant wasn’t upset, then Grant probably wasn’t alive.
“I was thinking of splitting them up and running them based on ability.”
Grant looked out the front windshield at the clients all coming out onto the field in the North Meadow. They had all been doing this enough to know what to do without waiting for an instructor to tell them. They parked on 97th, off to the right, with two wheels on the grass. They walked to the area between the two softball fields, and lined up most experienced to least experienced with only ten people in the front line. If they had more than ten, which they usually did, they made another rank. There were twenty-five this morning. They laid out their exercise mats and placed their water bottles on the grass next to the mats. After that, they stretched and warmed up till the instructors showed up.
Harris looked at the dashboard clock. Five-twenty-nine.
“I’ll take the fast group.” Harris got out of the truck and started out toward the group.
“Fuck Grant,” Harris thought to himself. Harris hated when Grant got holier than thou. Was it okay for him to be pissed about not being told Harris was coming? Sure. But just to sit their silently like that. Deliberately not speaking. That was bullshit.
They were all four the owners of the business, but there were times when Grant seemed to think he was the boss. Fuck, he wasn’t even the highest ranking person in the group. Harris had been a Captain. McIntyre a Sergeant First Class, Ross a Staff Sergeant and Grant had been nothing more than a Chief Petty Officer. But there were times when he acted like he could do whatever the fuck he wanted and everyone else had to toe the line.
The one thing it had done for him, sitting with Grant, is that now he was in a much better frame of mind. One of the reasons he had wanted to come out and lead a group in a run was that it usually made him feel better, it put him in a better frame of mind. He had been worried that since Betsy had been a client when he met her, hell this was the place where they began, he had been worried there would be too many memories. But now, as he approached the group of clients waiting to workout, he knew he had made the right decision. Seeing a pissed off Grant, getting to go for a run, this is what he needed to get Betsy how of his head.