September 27, 2011 by heartonsleevereview
We welcome Charlie Cole as this month’s Penis Post for Testosterone Tuesday. Charlie is a former private investigator turned headhunter-by-day, writer by night. Long and storied history of bad habits and coffee drinking. Only son of an only son, and his work can be seen at http://fictionaut.com/users/charlie-Cole.
Paid in Full
“She’s not coming to dinner, Tom.”
Tom Norris looked up from his glass of wine. The man standing at his table wasn’t the waiter or the maitre d’ and that was a problem because Tom was ready to order. He had his eye on the Chicken Marsala and another glass of wine.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“Tom, are you feeling alright?”
Tom blinked twice before answering.
“I… what… yes, I feel fine. Who are you?” Tom leaned forward with the question, jabbing his finger at the man as if it were a loaded revolver and he was prepared to plug him if he didn’t speak up and do it quick.
A slow smile crept across the man’s face. He was average in every way. Medium build. Not too handsome. His face was shaven, his hair kept. His suit was off the rack, but still fit him well.
“Thomas Francis Norris, you’re married to Samantha Anne Norris, your wife of over ten years. I’m a friend of the family.”
“A friend of the family?” Tom asked.
“Well, I’m your friend, Tom. Your best friend.”
“Really? That’s odd because I have no idea who the hell you are.”
“My name is Wilson Walsh.”
“What do you do, Wilson Walsh?”
“I paint houses, Tom.”
“You paint houses?”
“I painted your house.”
“My house? When?”
“Tonight. While you were sitting here ordering the Merlot and looking at the menu, I painted your house.”
Tom sat staring at Walsh, his finger tapping absently.
“Where’s Samantha?” Tom asked. “Where’s my wife?”
“I think you know, Tom,” Walsh whispered, never losing his smile.
“You son of a bitch, if you—“ Tom started to stand from his chair as he spoke.
“Sit!” Walsh snapped.
Tom sat, eyes wide. Walsh’s response was sharp and cold and gone a moment later, replaced by that slow, reptilian smile. He pulled out the chair and settled into it.
“Please… where’s Samantha?” Tom asked. His hands trembled just above the table.
Walsh sipped the ice water that sat at the place setting. He smoothed the tri-folded napkin, considering it. He snatched it off the table, let it drop open and spread it across his lap.
“Let’s order, shall we?” Walsh said. “We have a lot to talk about.”
“But what—“ was all Tom could manage before Walsh summoned the waiter to the table.
Walsh leaned toward the waiter as if telling him a secret.
“I’ll have the gnocchi with the gorgonzola cream, please?” Walsh said. “Tom?”
Tom looked up, forlorn. “I’m not hungry.”
“Nonsense now, come on. Eat something. You need to keep your strength up!” Walsh said. “He’ll have the chicken marsala. Oh, and another glass of wine. In fact, leave the bottle. Thanks!”
The waiter disappeared and Walsh turned his attention back to Tom.
“You honestly don’t know what happened, do you? Poor bastard.”
Tom started to protest but didn’t have it in him.
“Where’s Samantha?” Tom asked again.
“She’s at home, Tom. She’s in your bed.”
Tom swallowed hard.
“Why isn’t she here?”
“I think you know why, Tom.”
“Please, just tell me. I don’t understand. I don’t know what happened. Just tell me.”
“Tom, there’s a reason that you’re here alone and she’s there. There’s a word for that.”
“What word?” Tom pleaded.
“What did you do? What the fuck did you do?” Tom seethed through clenched teeth.
“That’s going to have to wait,” Walsh said.
“Because our soup is here.”
The waiter delivered the Italian wedding soup for each of the men and offered the bottle of wine, more bread, was there anything else they needed?
“We’re fine.” Tom said at last, his tone final.
Walsh swirled his spoon through the steaming broth, collecting it onto his spoon, then sipping it.
“Mmm, so good.”
The other man looked up over his next spoonful of soup, eyebrows raised.
“What did you do?”
“Tom, I did what you paid us to do.”
“Us? Who is ‘us’?”
“The firm, Tom. You paid us. Paid us in full. You were pretty clear about what you wanted.”
“What firm?” Tom’s voice was strained, tense.
“The divorce lawyer, Tom. You hired us. I was at the office that day,” Walsh said.
He sipped his soup, watching Tom begin to unravel events in his mind.
“Is she dead?” Tom whispered, eyes lock on Walsh’s. “Dead?”
Walsh blew on his soup, swallowed. Nodded. Yes.
“Oh my god… oh my god…”
“Tom, it’s what you told us you wanted.”
“I said I wanted a divorce!”
“You said you wanted her out of your life. You said she made things unbearable,” Walsh said.
“I… I… That’s not what I meant…”
“Tom, do you remember the questionnaire you completed for us?” Walsh asked.
“Yes, I was told that it was just to serve me better,” Tom said.
“And it was,” Walsh replied. “But what we found, dear Tom, was that you had a lot of rage.”
“Who doesn’t?” Tom replied. “I was miserable. Our marriage was broken. Of course I was angry. Who wouldn’t be?”
“No, no, no… not angry. Rage.”
Tom shrugged. So what?
“Our in-house psychiatric consultant felt that you had ‘homicidal tendencies’. Tom, you were on the verge of murdering your own wife.”
Tom opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
The waiter appeared.
“How is everything?” he asked, clearing the plates.
“Delicious. Absolutely delicious,” Walsh said with a smile.
Tom sat frozen while his full bowl of soup was taken away.
“You didn’t care for your soup, sir?” the waiter asked.
“He’s saving his appetite for the main course,” Walsh volunteered.
Tom looked from the waiter to Walsh and back. He nodded.
“Well, you are in luck, sir. Enjoy!”
The chicken marsala was served to Tom and was glorious perfection. Walsh’s gnocchi was a sight to behold. Either dish could have been featured in a culinary magazine.
“Tom, you wanted us to do this. You told us as much. We just helped you to not throw your life away in doing it.”
“I didn’t want her dead,” Tom said.
“More?” Tom said.
“When I went to your home, Tom,” Walsh said. “I found something most unexpected.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Samantha… she wasn’t alone. There was a man there at the house.”
Tom blinked at the news. His head slowly rotated from side to side as if trying to decipher this turn of events. Walsh forked the gnocchi into his mouth and watched him put it together.
“Tell me more,” Tom said, and reached for his silverware and began to cut into his chicken.
“You were gone on business, just coming back for dinner with Samantha. She knew this and had a man to the house. A gentleman caller if you will.”
“Who was it?” Tom asked, taking a bite of the chicken. The sauce was velvety smooth.
Tom dropped his fork and it clanged against his plate. Walsh’s eyes narrowed, darted around the room and his hand covered the knife on the table for a moment, then relaxed.
“Jeff… I played racquetball with him. He had a great backhand. That son of a bitch…”
“Indeed,” Walsh replied. “How’s the chicken?”
“It’s pretty fucking amazing. So what did you do?”
“Tom, it’s better that you don’t know all the details. You won’t be able to let something slip if you don’t know.”
“Suffice it to say. If you had those feelings about Samantha, I can only imagine how you would feel about the man she shared your bed with.”
“You’re right,” he conceded. “You’re right.”
“So we had to burn down your house,” Walsh said.
“Evidence, Tom. Evidence. She’ll be found in your home. Evidence of a break-in. Arson.”
“An unfortunate one man car accident. Car versus tree. Such a shame,” Walsh said.
“Wow. You guys are thorough.”
“We try, Tom. We’re always working in the best interests of our clients.”
“So, is it a two for one deal, then?” Tom chuckled taking another bite of chicken.
“How do you mean?” Tom asked.
“Our fee doubled because of the extra work.”
“No, Tom, Jesus had nothing to do with it. Quite the opposite. We had additional work. Additional fees apply. We accessed the money from your account.”
“You took money out of my account?”
“We’re paid in full, Tom. That’s all that matters. You never want us to come to you to collect.”
“No, I suppose not.”
Walsh touched the corners of his mouth with his napkin, then wiped his silverware and glass at the table, removing any fingerprints.
“And Tom, if you should ever think to breathe a word of this to anyone? We have enough evidence to frame you for both murders. Do we understand each other?”
Tocharlie Cole m Norris nodded, mouth still full, eyes wide. Walsh stood, dropping the napkin on the table.
“Allow me to get the check, Tom. You have a nice night.”
Tom raised one trembling hand in farewell and Walsh walked past him.
“Oh my god…” he breathed.
He turned, seeing Walsh only a step away.
“Try the tiramisu. I hear it’s killer.”