Jeremy watched as the crowd slowly dispersed outside the police car. He had no idea of time but he had begun to feel some remorse and concern for his actions. If Ina really was leaving him, how would this situation affect his rights to see his children later? It wouldn’t be inconceivable that a judge could deny his visitation based on today’s events. Would he be booked? Was this an arrest? Would he do any jail time? It could be called assault and battery he reasoned. “No shortage of witnesses.” he admitted painfully to himself. And what about today? Randy was done with preschool at 1:30pm and he had no idea if he’d be able to get her. Trevor was done at 2:30. He would need to call someone. Who? He didn’t know all the people Ina might call in this situation. Moms had the network, Dads didn’t. He became suddenly aware of how few people he might call upon to watch his children that weren’t better friends with Ina. Mark might be able to he thought. Mark, his brother had recently married Gina, a good woman and they lived nearby in town. They had watched the kids once before and Jeremy trusted them. In addition they were family and his 6 siblings were tight. They’d lived through a very difficult childhood together and each knew the other was there for them no matter what. They rarely pulled that card on each other which made them that much more supportive when they did. “This is a no matter what moment.” Jeremy acknowledged. Jeremy’s hands were cuffed behind him so he wasn’t able to look at his watch. He’d probably have to call Mark or Gina from the station when they brought him in. Just then the front door of the patrol car cracked open and the large blonde officer set his notebook and a bag in the front seat. “Doin’ Okay back there?” The cop asked in a surprisingly warm tone. “Yeah.” Jeremy answered trying to keep his voice steady. “I’ve had better days.” “I’m sure.” the cop answered. “Sit tight we’ll be with you in a minute.” he said shutting the door again and walking over to the smaller dark haired officer still talking to Tami. She was the last person left out of the crowd of perhaps fifty that had been there during the altercation. The two police talked for about a minute nodding back and forth and then to Tami. Tami nodded herself, shook both officer’s hands, looked at Jeremy with a worried expression and then walked back towards the seminar building.
The two officers then turned back toward the car. The larger blonde one walking around to the driver’s side and the shorter one to the passenger side. The blonde cop opened the rear door and looked in at Jeremy. He motioned with his hand and said, “Come on out.” Jeremy slid over and the officer helped him out by the arm. He gently turned Jeremy around and began un-cuffing him. “What’s going on?” Jeremy asked in surprise. ” You’re free to go.” he answered as he clipped the cuffs back to his belt. Jeremy looked across the roof of the patrol car at the shorter officer. The man nodded his lips slightly pressed together as if in firm agreement about something. “They aren’t pressing charges and to be honest, we would have done the same thing in your shoes.” he said. The blonde cop nodded. “Get out of here now and don’t let us see you on campus for awhile.” “Wow, thank You officers!” Jeremy said now his voice finally breaking. “I do need to go pick up my kids! Thank You!” “Go on.” The blonde cop said. “Take care of your family.” said the other. Jeremy turned feeling suddenly lighter but deeply emotional. He felt he’d been given an unexpected gift and was surprised the officers had known somehow what was going on. Even more surprising they seemed to be on his side. He had no idea how he would manage without Ina or what the new living arrangements might look like after today. There were now many unknowns in his life. He felt like he’d fallen into a dark pit with no obvious way out. He reasoned that he should just start with something he could do and that was to pick up his children. ” At least today I will be able to be with them.” He thought as he walked back through campus towards his car.
Jeremy walked deliberately past the concrete buildings of the Campus. Students made their way to classes and chatted oblivious to the atom bomb in their midst. He felt like he could kill anyone that got in his way. Like a guided missile, getting to John had become his sole thought. He hadn’t spent much time on the University grounds he traveled through. Occasionally he had come to do some laps in the Campus pool or surf at the nearby beach. Somehow he knew intuitively where he was headed. He crossed the school grounds almost diagonally cutting across the grid-like layout in a bee-line for his destination. He had no building name or room number to direct him but navigated by identifying the groupies. They were easy to spot among the undergrads and they were all headed in the same direction. John taught self-help seminars associated with his book franchise. He’d made a fortune on telling people how to be successful. He had a whole library of titles that addressed each possible group of people who might somehow have a handicap in achieving it. That was his niche. Stories of those who overcame their particular difficulty filled the paperback books but all had John’s smiling silver haired visage on its cover. John was listed as the author but in fact all he’d done is collect the stories, package and market them. He gave high-priced seminars on how to be like him. Today he was giving one such seminar and all the followers who could muster the expensive ante had come to learn from their Guru.
Jeremy began walking past them hate filling him more and more with each step through the gathering congregation. “Oh my God!” he suddenly heard off to his left. He turned to see Ina collapsing against a nearby tree. She seemed now pathetic to him. Pale, limp and weak. Just another gullible sheep. “Wha, what are you doing here?” she sobbed as she grabbed him by the arm.”Your storm is here.” Jeremy said shaking her off roughly. She collapsed again crying and a small group of followers gathered around her. Jeremy could hear the buzz of questions behind him as he now began weaving through the denser crowd. Someone stepped out in front of him. A trim late 30’s blonde woman with striking blue eyes and very groomed shoulder length hair. “Jeremy!” she said. “What are you doing here?” she asked. “Tami” Jeremy said to himself now jarred out of his trance. “I’m here for John.” “Oh my God.” Tami said her eyes widening. She drew in an audible breath. Patti was John’s VP and personal assistant. She knew EVERYTHING about John’s day to day schedule and Jeremy felt sure he knew about Ina. Jeremy began to feel maybe they ALL did. All of them were in on the big joke. “You’d better get him Tami or I will.” Jeremy said with his jaw clenched. Tami looked at him with frightened eyes for a beat “Ok Jeremy, please wait here.” she said motioning as if to keep him in place. She backed away at first then turned on her heels and walked quickly away from him. “That fucking asshole.” Jeremy said again to himself as he watched her go. “He doesn’t deserve any warning. I certainly didn’t get one.” Jeremy began to pace like a caged animal. He could feel the crowd beginning to coalesce around him. The buzz of their conversation seeming to close in around him like a tightening noose. Just when he felt he would have to lash out to keep the group back John appeared in front of him. “Jer!” He said with his hands held open at his sides as if to say, “I’m unarmed.”
“You Fuck!” Jeremy blurted as he swung with his right arm. It had been years since he’d thrown a punch and this one only glanced off John’s chin. John leapt backward partially stumbling into a squatting position as Jeremy moved forward anxious to connect more solidly. John pivoted on one hand turning around more nimbly than Jeremy would have thought possible and began running. The crowd closed in and Jeremy became aware of hands grabbing at his arms and his shirt. He swung his arms wildly breaking free enough to give chase. “Call the police!” he heard a woman yell. “Get him!” he heard a man say. Jeremy ran steps in front of a group chasing him as he followed John on the lawn in front of a three story cement structure surrounded by pine trees. John wove through the trees trying to shake Jeremy slipping and losing his footing on one turn. Jeremy almost had him but a man grabbed Jeremy and slowed him enough for John to scramble back to his feet and begin running again. The man was short, stout and bald with a reddish beard. Jeremy shoved him in the chest dislodging himself and continued his pursuit once again with the rest of the group hot on his heels. The whole thing began to resemble a Charlie Chaplin chase and had become far more of an absurd spectacle than Jeremy would have wished. He had imagined instant death from one fatal blow, instead he’d created a comical Keystone Cops routine.
Mercifully the Campus Police pulled up lights flashing and siren going just as Jeremy, John and the crowd were all losing steam. They pushed through the group and took hold of both men. Jeremy was quickly identified as the assailant by the crowd and lead away. Jeremy’s resolve had evaporated. He felt worse than ever. Weak and ineffective, he couldn’t even punch his wife’s lover properly. What a failure. A large blond cop with military cut and blue police uniform cuffed Jeremy and put him in the back of the Campus Police car. Jeremy watched as the police spoke with a few people and took notes with small note pads and pencils. Many of the people stared at Jeremy through the car window as if he were some sort of dangerous beast. Maybe he was. He didn’t even know himself. He began to wonder how he had gotten here. It was as if he weren’t present for the last 30 minutes and someone else had been in charge of his actions.
Jeremy pulled into the parking structure and parked the small white car into the first space he saw. He didn’t bother going to the payment kiosk but simply got out of the car and began walking towards the exit. “Fucking bitch!” He thought. “I’m going to kill that asshole!” The parking lot was a three level structure on the North side of campus. Jeremy knew where he needed to go. He crossed the crowded bike path without looking. “Watch it!” someone yelled, but Jeremy didn’t notice. He had only one thing on his mind, all he could see was red. He had to find the man that had broken his family. The man who had taken his wife and carried on right in front of his face for over a year.
A half hour earlier, Jeremy had been talking to his wife. “I’m leaving you.” she had said seemingly out of the blue. He had been floored. It seemed impossible. Had he been so caught up in the new business to notice how bad things had gotten? His mind began racing. There had been numerous odd incidents with other men over the past couple of years. He had ignored them or dismissed them. He had believed her stories of unwanted harassment. He hadn’t really ever been passionate about her but thought they were at least honest and committed to the marriage and family. “Is there someone else?” he asked. “No.” she answered. “I gotta go.” With that she turned her back on him and walked out the door. He stared after her for a while still in shock.
He had been so busy with his new Animation business working 18 hour days while also trying to be a parent to his two small children, Trevor and Randy that he hadn’t thought of much else. Trevor was a bright, creative and precocious boy of 7. He was happy, gangly and floppy like a big puppy before it grows into its body. His little sister, Randy, was 3. She was quiet and introspective even at that age. Sometimes he would look into her bright blue button eyes and wonder what she was thinking. She was an enigma often hardly saying a word, lost in a world all her own. The whole family had moved recently so he could be closer to his animation studio and his wife Ina could be closer to her job too. She had gone back to work about 18 months before working as a masseuse and fitness trainer. The extra income had allowed Jeremy to pursue his dream of getting back into animation and being his own boss. It had also allowed them to move into this large new rental house closer to town.
As Jeremy pondered his new situation he realized there had been signs that Ina may have been seeing someone else. After they moved Ina had seemed distracted. She hadn’t been very interested in nesting into their new place. She didn’t seem concerned about the kids going to new schools and having no friends. Jeremy had been taking his lunch hours to go visit his son at his new school. It broke his heart to see Trevor standing all alone at the playground. He rounded up some kids and got them all playing four-square but the next day he was there by himself again. Jeremy agonized over it but Ina hadn’t seemed worried. Randy was at a new preschool and suffered equally when Jeremy dropped her off. She would climb to the top of the outdoor play structure to wave at him as he pulled out of the parking lot with big tears in her eyes. It broke his heart and he couldn’t understand why Ina wasn’t more involved. Ina had been dressing nicer too. She had lightened her hair and even wore a bit of make-up every day now. He had assumed it was because she had more time and money now that she was working. But maybe it was something else. Maybe it was SOMEONE else.
Jeremy remembered Ina had been keeping a diary for the past year or so. He hadn’t thought anything of it before but as he stood looking out the front door he began to wonder WHY she had felt the sudden need to write. People write in diaries because they need an outlet for their feelings. The more he thought about it the more it bothered him. He walked back through the house to their bedroom. It still felt strange like it wasn’t his house. They hadn’t been there more than 3 months yet. He looked around the room. They had a Queen bed with a white comforter on it and a couple of red throw pillows. there was a bedside table with a small lamp on one side and a tall dark brown dresser on the other. “Dresser.” Jeremy thought. He walked the few steps to the large dresser and examined it. As if knowing where it would be he pulled open the third drawer down. She had her jeans in this one. He pulled back the top pair of jeans and there it was. It was a small hardcover book with a red Oriental Persian design over a yellow woven cover. There was a red ribbon bookmark about 3/4 of the way into the book marking a spot. Jeremy took hold of the ribbon with his index finger and thumb and opened the diary.
“Today is the day!” it read in bold aggressive letters covering the page. There were hearts and stars doodled on the margins. Clearly she had been planning to tell him about her leaving for some time and was excited about it! Jeremy turned back a few more pages. “John Let me take him in the bathroom. I was super nervous but excited. Jeremy was in the next room with the kids…” RED. Everything turned red in front of Jeremy’s eyes. He read a few more passages his vision beginning to blur with tears. Looking at the dates he realized the affair had been going on for over a year. “John” was her main client. A wealthy successful writer who had regular massage and fitness training with Ina. He was married with a son of his own the same age as Trevor. John had been married before and had 2 kids from that marriage also. He was 20 years older than Jeremy, white hair and about 30 pounds overweight. “That asshole.” Jeremy thought. He had befriended Jeremy, inviting he and Ina out to dinner and even over to their home to swim in their pool. He wasn’t the kind of guy Jeremy normally liked, but he had done his part or so he thought in order to be a supportive spouse. Now, he, THEY had been deceiving him. They had been plotting to break up his family. Jeremy couldn’t stand the thought of his children going through a divorce. It was one of his greatest fears. Now Ina and John were going to break their hearts and there wasn’t a thing Jeremy could do to stop it. Or was there?? Jeremy dropped the diary on the bed, grabbed his car keys and got in his car. It had only taken 10 minutes to drive to Campus. John was giving a speech there. Ina had gone to support him. Jeremy knew that’s where he could find them both.