After the security firm left, I returned to my parents’ house. I walked into the kitchen and saw my mom cutting up vegetables while Daniel played in the corner.
I looked at my son and my heart broke. He was backed into the space tightly as if he wanted to withdraw from the world. Chris had set this entire thing in motion and Daniel had been the one to suffer for it. I could take our son to therapists but he might never fully recover from what he’d been through.
“Where’s Chris?” I asked.
My mother stopped her cutting, “He’s out back with your father.”
I picked up a piece of carrot and ate it. “I hate to ask but could Daniel stay with you a few more days?”
“Sure, that’s fine,” she replied.
“I just think Chris and I need a little time alone. He’s not adjusting well.”
My mother nodded, “I noticed. He’s very jumpy. I guess that’s to be expected. He should probably see someone.”
“I was going to wait a bit before I brought it up with him. I think it’s a good idea, too,” I agreed.
Looking down my mother added, “Maybe you should consider trying another psychiatrist, too.”
I guess she expected me to get mad and argue but instead I replied, “I’ve been thinking about that, also.”
She smiled and I could see the relief in her face, “Good, you two spend some time alone and then maybe make an appointment for you both. I’ll take care of Daniel, don’t worry about that.”
“Thanks, Mom. I’ll just go find Chris.” I stopped on my way outside to give Daniel a hug. His arms clung to me fiercely.
“Don’t worry, honey. Mama will be back to get you in a couple of days. Grandma will make it so fun here you’ll hardly notice I’m gone.”
He didn’t attempt to answer me. Before the kidnapping, he’d turned into a little chatterbox. Now, Mama, was the only word he said. As he cried when I sat him down, I saw Chris through the patio doors. An intense flare of anger swept through me. He’d welcomed a screwed-up slut into our bed and hurt our son. Casey had shown no remorse when her brother had said he was going to cut his finger off and then later kill him. My husband had brought all this to our innocent little boy.
“Chris,” I yelled, “Meet me in the driveway. We need to go back to our house.”
“Okay,” he answered back.
“Bye, Mom,” I said as I hugged her. I made my way to the truck and reached under the seat. The CZ 75 was in its case. I pulled it out and tucked it in at the small of my back. I jerked my shirt out to hide the bulge.
Chris finally walked around the side of the house. “Why are we going back over, now?” he asked.
“I started to grab some of your clothes and things but realized I wasn’t sure exactly what you wanted to wear. I thought it’d just be easier for you to pick it out yourself,” I said, breezily.
It sounded plausible enough. He was picky about his clothes. I hardly ever assembled an outfit for him.
“You’re probably right,” he agreed, climbing into the passenger side.
I started the truck and backed out into the highway, “Have a good talk with Dad?”
He laughed, “He’s trying to hit me up for yard work since I told him I’m not going back to the office until next week.”
He sounded like the old Chris, unguarded in his talk. Who was the old Chris, though? He certainly wasn’t the man I’d thought he was. I’d trusted him unconditionally, never once questioning where he’d been when he’d come home late.
I continued making light hearted small talk with him until I pulled into our driveway. When I stopped the truck, he hopped out and went to the front door. “I forgot I don’t have my key,” he said.
I had to bite the inside of my mouth to keep the grimace off my face as I remembered Casey had probably taken it. I quickly joined him and unlocked the door.
He looked around the living room. “It feels different somehow, now.”
I pulled the tape and credit card statement out of the end table drawer and placed them in his hands. “I know all about it.”
The color drained from his face leaving it a chalky, pasty white. I could see the fear in his eyes. “Liz, I can explain-”
I laughed grimly, “I watched the tapes. Do you really think you can explain that away?”
“Liz, I never meant it to happen. It just did. It meant nothing to me,” Chris said plaintively.
“No, I’m pretty sure I mean nothing to you,” I replied.
He tried to reach out to me but I moved away. He ran his fingers through his hair, “It started innocently enough. Casey noticed your photo on my desk and we started talking. Then one afternoon, she asked if I could help move some things out of her apartment.”
“You knew what you were doing. You never once mentioned talking to her with me. I didn’t even know she’d been working at your office,” I spat out.
“It didn’t seem important,” Chris defended himself. “She just asked about you and Daniel and we talked about everyday stuff.” He sighed heavily, “I should have never gone to her apartment, but I had no idea what she’d planned.”
“Oh, so it was her idea to start an affair?” Sarcastically I said, “She forced herself on you I guess.”
Chris looked sheepish, “She pulled me toward her and started to kiss me.” He turned away from me and stared out the window, “I know I should have stopped it but I couldn’t.”
I spun him back around, “And that’s your excuse? She started it and you couldn’t help yourself! There were at least twelve tapes up there. You must have had her over here every day!” My voice continued to grow louder, “I was working my ass off at the store and the whole time you were screwing her in our bedroom!”
The fear reasserted itself on Chris’ face, “I know there’s no excuse. I was weak and I couldn’t stop it.” He looked at me desperately, “I’m so sorry. You don’t know how much I regret what I did.” The tears started to spill down his face.
“Oh, I have no doubt you regret it now after what she did,” I hissed.
“No, way before that,” Chris replied. “I tried to end it but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
I pulled the note Casey had written him from my pocket, “I know.” I threw it at him. “What was her original plan, for you two to kill me?” I screamed at him.
What color was left in his face dissipated. “I would never hurt you, Liz. I told her to leave us alone or I’d go to the police.”
“And I guess I have your word to believe that?” I asked furiously.
“She was crazy!” Chris exclaimed. “She seduced me and wanted me to marry her!” He looked back into my face, “I love you, Liz. She meant absolutely nothing to me. It was a moment of weakness that I’ve bitterly regretted.” Tears filled his eyes, “I would have never knowingly put you and Daniel in danger. You have to believe that.”
“I don’t know what to believe anymore,” I replied. “How many more women have there been over the years?”
Chris looked miserable. “I’ve never cheated on you before, Liz. Casey was the only one.”
I laughed angrily, “Then what was that setup doing in our bedroom?”
He actually flushed pink, “I knew how you felt about recording us. I remember your reaction when I asked you to do it.” His gaze shifted down to his hands, “But I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to watch us together.”
“Not being able to help yourself seems like your excuse for everything.” I pulled the gun out of its holster hidden at my back. “What if I can’t help myself and I pull the trigger?”
“He shook and lifted his hands up as I aimed the gun at his head, “Please, Liz, I swear to you I never meant any of this to happen. I deserve to be dead for what I did. I almost got Daniel murdered.”
He eyes misted, “But if you kill me, who’s going to take care of Daniel? You’ll go to jail and I’ll be gone.” The words slipped from him quietly.
His words sounded sincere. My hand wavered. Daniel. He was the innocent victim of all our mistakes. I lowered the gun and laid it back down on the table.
“What really happened that afternoon you vanished?” I said at last.
Chris breathed a sigh of relief as I sat down at the desk. “I don’t think she planned the kidnapping. She wanted to have it out. Before she had insisted I divorce you and marry her but now she wanted to kill you.”
“I told her to leave or I was calling the police.” Chris looked at me, “I know you don’t believe this but I never had any intention of leaving you. I love you. I always have. I made a huge mistake, then the next thing I know, I’ve got a crazy girl demanding I kill my wife shouting at me.”
“She went outside and I thought she was leaving but she brought a man inside holding a crowbar and said it was her brother.”
“I think she just meant for him to beat me up but he hit me really hard in the head and then I must have lost consciousness because that’s all I remember until I woke up in the room.”
Chris shifted on the sofa, “I overheard them talking. Casey thought she could still talk me into her plans but her brother told her it was too late for that. He had other ideas.”
“Casey must have finally realized I never loved her,” Chris finished. “She certainly didn’t try to stop her brother from hitting me every day.”
“Did you know she had cameras planted in the house?” I asked.
Chris nodded, “I guessed she did after she started telling me things she had no way of knowing.”
I hadn’t told Chris at the time but I’d pulled a stash of equipment from the house where he’d been held after I’d freed him and Daniel. I’d smashed it with a hammer and heaved it into a dumpster on the drive back home. No one would be watching any of that footage from our home again.
“What about the pills?” I asked.
Chris sheepishly replied, “I had no idea she was switching out her brother’s meds for pills in the house, hoping you’d take them, until I overheard her after I’d be held prisoner.” Chris shook his head, “She asked me once what medicines I took but I thought it was an innocent question at the time-that maybe she was concerned for my health.” He laughed mercilessly, “There was nothing ever innocent about her.”
“So if you wouldn’t get rid of me, maybe she could?” I asked sarcastically.
“I think she knew it wouldn’t kill you. She wanted to make you irrational and hard to live with so I’d finally leave.” Chris took a step toward me but I maneuvered out of his grasp. “I’m so sorry Liz. I wish I could undo what happened but I can’t. Can you ever forgive me?”
It was a good question. Could I? Could I ever forget what this man had done to me, and worst yet, our innocent child? Could I forgive a man that had turned me into a murderer? But then, could I afford to let him go? What if his conscience someday nagged him until he was tempted to tell someone what he’d seen his wife do on the edge of that lake? I nodded and said, “It will take time but I think I can.” I knew it was a lie the moment the words left my mouth.