I met Libby through an online dating site after I graduated college. Our “In Tune” rating was exceptionally high. I tended to get nervous and tongue-tied around women, but it was different with Libby. We had so much in common we finished each other’s sentences half the time. I was so taken with Libby, I found myself growing more and more concerned about her spending time with anyone else.
After we got married, I was obsessed with Libby cheating on me. If she went to the grocery store and came back in an hour, I wanted to know why not 45 minutes. If she returned in 45, why not 30? If she mentioned a guy at work, I needed to know everything about him down to the color of his eyes. Woe to Libby if she knew.
A while back, Libby gave me a book to read after she’d finished it. She said it was a good mystery. As I was leafing through the pages, a scrap of paper fell out. What appeared to be a phone number was written on it. At first I wadded up the paper and threw it away, but kept wondering about it. Finally I gave in. I retrieved the scrap and called the number. It was the local dry cleaner. Still, I couldn’t get the thought of Libby cheating on me out of my mind.
I realized I had to control myself or I was going to drive her away. I’d done better the past few weeks thanks to sheer determination and my “happy dancers” — pills that were to help stop my thoughts from spiraling out of control. I’d slipped only once recently that I was aware of. Libby mentioned some colleague named Frederic, and I started to grill her about him. She tried to laugh it off at first, but when I persisted, she finally said “Accountants don’t have groupies, Mark.” That reference to my mother shut me up.
Mom was a drag queen. Rather I should say, Mom was The Drag Queen. She held the speed record for “funny cars” for three years and during that period won more races than anyone. She was known throughout the drag racing world and had adoring fans wherever she went. I think my father was one of them. I never met him. I didn’t even know his name; I don’t think Mom did either.
When I was little, Mom would hit the circuit for weeks at a time. I never knew when she’d be back. Usually my aunt or uncle would take me in till she returned.
I only saw my mother race once. I was eight, and she took me along. I guess she couldn’t find anybody to dump me off with. As I watched her race, the engine in her car exploded halfway to the finish line. To this day I can see one of the tires, in flames, flying high in the air then bouncing down the track spewing black smoke behind it. Mom didn’t have a chance.
After my mother was killed, my aunt and uncle decided full-time guardianship wasn’t for them so I was shunted from one foster home to another till I was 18. That’s when I learned Mom had done at least one good thing for me: She’d put most of her considerable winnings in a trust fund in my name. I used it to go to college, put my head down and pretty much didn’t look up for four years.
Ever since Libby had made the remark about groupies, I’d try to stay on my best behavior. But finding that phone number, even though it turned out to be nothing, had unleashed my insecurities. I was standing at a cliff, mentally waving my arms to keep from falling over. I had to know the truth. But before I accused Libby of anything, I needed proof. So I decided to hire a private investigator.
The next day I took off work an hour early and stopped by the office of Herman Webster, a private dick I found online. I gave him a photo of Libby, told him about my suspicions, and paid him a cash retainer.
I got home about the usual time and went into the kitchen. Libby was sitting at the table and closed her laptop when I walked in. “Hi, Mark,” she said. “How was your day?”
“How was your day,” I said. “What are you doing there?” I nodded at the computer.
“Just a little work I brought home, Honey.”
“I picked up a couple salads from All Greens,” she said, pointing at a sack on the counter. “Help yourself.”
“All Greens? That’s a little out of the way for you isn’t it?”
“Not so much, Sweetie.” She came over and gave me a big kiss. She was being awfully nice. Too nice. Good thing I’d hired a PI.
I woke up in a cold sweat at 2 a.m. How did I know I could trust this Webster fellow? Maybe he was an incompetent, a boob. Maybe he himself was a player. Maybe he was the one my wife was having an affair with. I popped a happy dancer, slept fitfully and had weird dreams about flaming tires plunging from the sky like meteorites.
I took a long lunch the next day and went to the office of another PI. Dick 2. I hired him to investigate Webster.
After dinner that night, Libby started working on a crossword puzzle in the paper. Peculiar. She’d never been into crosswords before. “Need some help?” I asked her.
“No, I think I can handle it.”
Sure, I’ll bet you can “handle” it I thought. Then it hit me why she was interested in crosswords all of a sudden: Some kind of code with her secret lover. She fills out the puzzle and leaves it in an agreed-upon place. He finds it, and it tells him the time and place of their next rendezvous. I realized that I needed more manpower to deal with that level of sophistication. I hired Dick 3 the next day. His job was to investigate Dick 1 and Dick 2 as well as my wife. Handle it, huh? I’d show her how to handle it. At that moment, I was pretty confident I was going to get to the bottom of things. I felt that way for about five minutes. How well did I really know Dick 3 anyway?
I left the office of Dick 12 feeling good about things. I’d developed a matrix. First, each Dick was assigned a specific window of time to watch Libby whenever she wasn’t at work. I didn’t have a surveillance solution if her secret lover was in her office, but I was getting close. Dick 9 knew a guy in Libby’s company and was trying to subcontract to him. Dick 11 was investigating the guy … although I didn’t tell Dick 9 that.
Second, the matrix provided what I termed the cycle of self-validating investigations. Dick 3 was surveilling Dick 6, who was in turn spying on Dick 9 who was responsible for the goods on Dick 3. Every Dick was watching — and being watched by — three other Dicks. Fool proof.
The evening of the day I hired Dick 12, Libby said she was going to the gym. Sure. I knew my Dicks had everything in hand, but decided just to be on the safe side I’d tail Libby myself…
She did go to the gym. I was relieved until I realized maybe that’s where the crossword code said to meet. A little boppita boppita in a dim corner of the locker room, eh? As I sat in the parking lot, trying to decide whether to go in and confront Libby, what did I see? Dick 9 entering the facility. It wasn’t his time. Or was it? Half past seven. I was so nervous I couldn’t remember the formula. Did I round up or down on the half hour? Was Dick 8 or Dick 9 supposed to be watching Libby now? I didn’t know what to think or do. So I popped a happy dancer and waited.
After about an hour, Libby came out of the building. Alone. Of course they wouldn’t leave together. I was torn between following my wife or monitoring the exit for Dick 9 or some other suspicious-looking character. I decided to tail Libby to see if she went straight home. She didn’t.
Libby turned east on Jefferson. Our house was west. I thought I had her till she turned into a convenience store, went in and quickly came out with a drink. She got back on Jeff and headed west. I realized I’d better beat her home so I took Alexander and drove like hell. I’d no more than got into the house and turned on the TV when Libby walked in.
“Hi, Honey. What’re you doing?” she said.
“Just watching the game.” I hoped she wouldn’t ask who was winning.
“That’s nice,” she said, gave me a wink and pulled off her top as she left the room. “I’m going to jump in the shower.”
She went in the bathroom and left me sitting there not knowing the score.
I decided it was time to bring things to a head one way or the other. I reserved a conference room in the Grand Road Inn and called a meeting of all the Dicks for 2 p.m. Friday…
We went around the table, and each Dick reported on everything he’d learned. After all the surveillance and investigation, none of them uncovered anything bad about Libby or each other— with one exception. Dick 2 had discovered Dick 7 was having an affair with Dick 4’s wife. Dicks 7 and 4 almost came to blows, but I told them to settle matters on their own time. And then…then there was nothing more to be said. I adjourned the meeting.
I went back out to my car and sat there several minutes trying to gather my thoughts. I started to take a happy dancer, but put it back in the bottle. Maybe I could kick these things. Libby had been cleared by 12 Dicks after all. My darling wife. My wonderful, beautiful, loyal — Suddenly the passenger’s door opened and Dick 12 slipped in.
“I learned something today,” he said. “I didn’t think you’d want me to talk about it in front of everybody in there. It took some digging, but you said to leave no stone unturned and to tell you the truth no matter how bad it was.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. “Let’s have it.”
“Libby’s father. Turns out he’s been a real philanderer over the years.”
“Poor Libby. I won’t tell her. I don’t think she knows.”
“That’s not the thing. The thing is he was also a big funny car fan back in the day. A fan of your mother.”
“Your old man and Libby’s.” He raised his two index fingers then slowly lowered one hand.
As what he was telling me sunk in, it pushed the blood to my feet. My ears started ringing, and the sound became a roar loud as a dragster at full throttle. Dick 12 said something else — I saw his lips move, but couldn’t hear him — then got out. I fumbled the happy dancers out of my pocket and choked down two. I sat there for several minutes till I felt I could drive, then went home.
I was surprised to see Libby’s car in the garage. I crept into the house and found her in the bedroom. “What are you doing home so early?” I asked.
“I had a doctor’s appointment, Mark,” she said. “I didn’t want to say anything until I was sure.” A huge smile blossomed on her face. “Honey, I have the most wonderful news!”
I sat, practically fell, onto the edge of the bed. The dragsters started roaring in my ears again. Libby’s lips kept moving. I had wanted the truth no matter what. It was going to take a lot of happy dancers to live with it.
Banner Image: Pixabay.com