FEATURED TITLE OF THE MONTH
I'LL GRIEVE TOMORROW
By D. K. Graham
Pat Paxton noticed a car parked across the street from his house when he drove into his driveway on Saturday afternoon. He looked startled when, as he reached his front door, a man came forward and asked if he were Patrick Wayne Paxton. He acknowledged that he was indeed Patrick Wayne Paxton, and the man handed him an envelope, and then turned and walked back to his car and drove away.
Pat looked down at the envelope, knowing in his gut what it was. He was a bit intrigued to see that the return address was Ludington, Michigan. Letting himself into the house, he dropped his briefcase on the hall table and went into the kitchen. He poured himself a whisky, and then opened the envelope.
“Son of a …” he shouted! “She went ahead and did it! Well, we’ll see about that!” He pulled out his cell phone and hit the speed dial to call his lawyer. “Chuck, you won’t believe this! Marny has filed for divorce, and she’s done it in Michigan, for Pete’s sake!”
He listened as his attorney and long-time friend Chuck Windom told him to calm down. He said he’d be right over and they would discuss this calmly.
Pat’s hands were shaking as he clicked off the call. Chuck didn’t live very far away, and he was at the front door in a matter of minutes. He let himself in and found Pat still in the kitchen, swigging down the whisky. Pat indicated a clean glass and held up the bottle, which Chuck gratefully accepted. He knew this conversation wasn’t going to be easy.
“Okay, let me see the paperwork.” Chuck accepted the envelope that Pat handed him, took his drink to the table and sat down to read it. “It looks pretty cut and dried. She isn’t asking for anything that she doesn’t already have with her. There won’t be any need for arbitration. She isn’t coming back; that’s obvious! My advice is to sign and return the paperwork, and get over it.”
This was not at all what Pat wanted to hear. “What do you mean, ‘get over it’? She’s my wife, damn it! She can’t do this, just run away and leave me to fend for myself!” Pat was clearly upset.
Chuck tried to calm him down. “Now, come on, Pat. You had to have known for a long time that she hasn’t been happy. Everybody who knows you two knows that.”
“What do you mean, she hasn’t been happy? I gave her everything! She didn’t want for anything. I let her work at a job she liked, even though it didn‘t bring in much toward her keep. Hell, she lived like a pampered princess!”
“Now, now Pat. We’ve been friends for a long time, and I’ve been your attorney for several years. I’ve seen you at your best and, unfortunately at your worst. Think back to what you just said, you ‘let her work at a job she liked even though it didn’t bring in much toward her keep.’ She is a person, Pat, a human being. You don’t own her! Marriage is a partnership, and you shouldn’t have to ‘let’ each other do anything! You have spent the past several years cutting her down in everything she has said and done. All of your friends and acquaintances know that. We’ve all seen it. Frankly, I’m surprised she didn’t bolt way before now.”
Pat was so mad at that moment that he couldn’t even think straight. “You know what, Chuck? We have been friends for a long time, or at least I thought we were. Now I know that, clearly, you aren’t my friend, and as of this moment, you are no longer my attorney! I will find someone who has my best interests at heart. Give me back that paperwork and leave, please.” He reached for the divorce papers and grabbed Chuck’s drink from his hand. “Good bye.”
Chuck was clearly taken aback by this turn of events. “I was only trying to help you. But if that is your decision, I’m sorry you feel that way. See you around.” He got up from the table and headed out the door.
Pat heard the car door slam and the squeal of tires as Chuck sped off down the street. “How dare he talk to me like that! I thought I knew him better. Taking Marny’s side in this, that’s unthinkable!” Pat stormed around the house, banging doors as he went and shouting at the top of his lungs. He wasn’t thinking very clearly as he grabbed a suitcase from his closet and started throwing clothes into it. Grabbing an old insurance company issued road atlas from the magazine rack in the living room, he turned off the lights and headed out to his car. He knew he needed to get to Michigan, even though he didn’t have a clue what he was going to do when he got there.
Pat drove all night and arrived at the city limits of Ludington, Michigan shortly before lunch time. There was a one-hour time difference, and he had been on the road for over twelve hours. He had only stopped for gas and to grab a quick bite to eat for breakfast, and he was tired and hungry. He figured that, if the attorney’s office was in Ludington, Marny must be living here, as well. He pulled into a motel parking lot, went inside and got a room. He had no idea how long he would be there, so he rented the room for three nights, with the possibility of a longer stay.
After checking in and taking his suitcase into the room, he headed back out to grab a quick bite for lunch. He figured he would go back and sleep for a while before looking for the attorney’s office. He didn’t know how else to start looking for his wife.
After he had showered and climbed into bed, it was a matter of minutes before he was snoring soundly. He awoke to the sound of leaf blowers outside his window. Glancing at the clock, he noted that it was 3:00 p.m. He knew that if he didn’t get up and get going, he wouldn’t be able to catch anyone at the attorney’s office before they closed for the day. He didn’t want to waste another day finding Marny and getting her back home where she belonged. He got up, dressed, and headed out the door. He went to the front desk and asked for directions to the address on the envelope that he had received from the divorce attorney.
A few minutes later he was parking in front of a pleasant looking house with a sign outside stating that this was, indeed, the office of Ronald G. Allen, Esq., Attorney at Law. He got out of the car and went into the office. He approached the smiling young lady at the reception desk.
“May I help you?” she said pleasantly.
“Yes, you may. Is Mr. Allen in? I really need to speak with him.”
“No, I’m sorry. Mr. Allen is in court this afternoon. Do you want to make an appointment? He has an opening tomorrow at 2:15 p.m.” The receptionist was looking at the calendar on her computer screen.
“No. I really must speak with him today!” Pat was really annoyed, and it showed.
“I’m very sorry. He won’t be back in the office until tomorrow. Would you like to speak to Ms. Clark, his paralegal?” She indicated a woman who had just come out of an office down the hall.
“I guess it won’t hurt to try. I doubt if she can help me, though.” Pat watched as Kathryn Clark walked toward him.
“I’m Kathryn Clark,” she said with a winning smile. “May I be of some help to you?”
Pat looked at her and replied, “I doubt it, but we’ll give it a try. Is there somewhere we can talk in private?”
“Why yes, follow me please.” She led Pat into a conference room, but left the door open. Pat had seemed irritated, and she wanted to have an escape route if he got too upset.
Once seated at the big conference table, Ms. Clark asked, “What seems to be the problem?”
“My wife is the problem,” he growled as he shoved the envelope containing the divorce papers toward her.
She picked up the envelope, looked at it and remembered the name on it. She had prepared the paperwork and was familiar with what Marnella Paxton had told Mr. Allen about the case. “What is the problem? This is a pretty simple divorce case. It shouldn’t need any explanation.” She was trying to remain calm. She knew he was irritated, but also knew that he didn’t have any history of violence. If she could maintain her cool, she felt everything would work itself out.
Pat jumped to his feet and slammed his fist on the table. “Simple divorce case, my ass! You don’t have a clue, do you?” he shouted.
Kathryn Clark jumped backward in her chair. She hadn’t expected that outburst.
Pat continued, “I want Marny’s address, and I want it now!”
“Now, Mr. Paxton, you know I can’t give out that information. The privacy laws prevent me from divulging any personal information without the consent of the client.”
“To hell with the privacy laws! I want that address, and I mean to get it!” He reached into an inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small handgun.
Kathryn bolted out of the conference room with a panic-stricken look on her face. “Hit the button!” she said quietly to the receptionist.
Molly didn’t hesitate. She knew she wouldn’t be directed to hit the panic button to summon the police unless there was a major reason.
By the time Pat had re-entered the main office, a policeman was already coming through the front door. “What’s the problem, ladies?” he asked. Then he noticed Pat standing there with his gun drawn. The officer said, “Get down, ladies. I’ve got this.” He drew his own gun, but Pat was quicker. He fired a shot and hit the police officer in the shoulder, causing him to drop his service revolver.
The sound of the gunshot brought more officers on a run. As they entered the front door of the law office, Pat panicked and threw down his weapon, running down the hall toward the back of the building, hoping to find a back door.
As one of the police officers called for an ambulance for the injured man, two officers ran down the hall chasing Pat, and another officer headed around the back of the building to head him off if he tried to escape out the back door. Pat was quicker than the officers, though, and was out the back door and running up to the front of the building, jumping into his car and gunning the engine as he drove off. Three of the officers pursued him with their lights flashing and their sirens blaring.
The police officer who had called for the ambulance had stayed behind to wait for it, and to fill out the crime report. Kathryn and the receptionist, Molly, gave him Pat’s name, and an all-points bulletin was put out for him. They were all sure he would be caught and returned to the local jail in a matter of minutes. They were wrong.
In a panic, and not having any idea where he was heading, Pat veered off the main highway onto a dirt road in a wooded area to the right. He was far enough ahead of the police cars that were in pursuit that he figured he could buy some time if he could hide in the trees. In front of him was a stream, and there was nowhere else to go, so he got out of his car, rolled up his pant legs, kicked off his shoes and socks, and carried them as he crossed the stream on foot. He knew it was only a matter of time before the police found his car, and probably had dogs out looking for him. He made the decision to get back into the stream, and he started walking northward, hoping to lose his scent in the water.
The water was icy cold and his ankles were aching by the time he thought he had gone far enough to lose any dogs that might be tracking him, so he got out on the east side of the stream, put his socks and shoes back on, and wandered farther into the woods.
The spring air was cold, and it was beginning to get dark by the time he stopped to rest. He couldn’t hear anything but the birds and an occasional twig breaking as woodland creatures went about their routines. He hadn’t had more than a few hours’ sleep since leaving Kansas City the day before, and he was getting hungry. Lunch seemed eons ago.
He couldn’t believe he had actually shot a cop! All he had wanted to do was find Marny. She was his wife, and he had a legal right to find out where she was. Why was life being so difficult? Now he knew his chances of finding her were all but over. If he did make it back to civilization, he would be sent to jail for using his gun on a cop. Why did that crazy bitch at the reception desk call for help? He wouldn’t have used his gun on the women. He only wanted to frighten them into giving him Marny’s address. Was that so bad? If that stupid cop hadn’t barged in when he did, everything would have been okay. He just knew he’d be on his way to Marny’s address by now, or even maybe be with her so he could talk some sense into her. She was so stupid. Why did she think running away would solve her insecurities? She never did anything right!
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