Saturday, October 19, 2013

Love Lost

Two bottles of wine, dinner and dessert served and now the coffee was being delivered to the table in steady intervals.  “Surely you don’t want to hear more?”  Diana had asked Mitch this question a dozen times throughout the telling of her story.  And each time he encouraged her to continue.  “I’ll tell you when I’ve had enough.”  The waitress and the group now gathered around the table nodded in agreement.  

Diana laughed.  “I’m afraid you’ll all be disappointed at its conclusion.”  “Doesn’t matter love; this is better than anything I’ve read in ages.  Go on.”  A gentleman in the back said, followed by more head nods and mumbles of agreement from the others grouped around them.  “Okay, if you’re sure.”

“We continued as we did before, but now we shared the same last name, the same house; mine and he only traveled every few months and usually only for a week or so.  When he didn’t travel he spent much of his time helping out at the store.  We’d added a few more employees and we had bigger bands performing and more well-known authors coming in for lectures and signings.  I was so proud of what we’d built and felt like it was time to grow our family.

Aaron and I both enjoyed the kids that frequented the store but we’d never discussed having our own.  When I brought the subject up he wasn’t convinced it was time.  Each year I’d ask him, each year he said we should wait.  When seven years had passed I became insistent and he started to travel more.  I knew it was to avoid the topic, he swore it wasn’t, but I know he was frustrated with me.  For nearly a year we lived like that.  

One night, after we’d fought about how we’d grown apart and wanted different things, he suggested he find a new place and we rethink our marriage.”  At this the group gasped.  “But y’all were so in love.” one commented.  “What a selfish jerk!” a lady in the back said and many others agreed.  Before it got out of hand Diana spoke, “He really wasn’t.  I was pressuring too much and he was right, his job called him away a lot and even with his current work schedule, there was no guarantee that he’d not be called away for longer and more often.  He was worried I’d be left to raise our children alone.

We were separated for four months, both of us were miserable, but neither of us would contact the other.  I didn’t know that during three of those months he had been called away to work a major job.  Not until he came to the store looking thin and tired did we talk.  Things were getting harder at work and the corporate guys were asking him to investigate more notorious clients.  He wouldn’t give me details, but he finally admitted that he wanted children, but they could be used as targets against him… against us.  He’d have to leave his job first.

He spent the next few months trying to convince his boss to let him train someone else.  He promised to give him another year, but asked that the bigger jobs be given to the younger guys so he could start a family.  His boss seemed satisfied with that offer, but wouldn’t give him a definitive answer.”  “Why didn’t he just quit?” one of the guys in the back asked.  “It seems he signed a contract.  I didn’t know about it, nor do I know the details of it, but it was to prevent him and others from just walking out.  The information they gathered was sensitive and disgruntled employees selling it to the highest bidder had been problematic.”  

“What exactly did he do?”  Mitch asked.  “As I said before, his job was to research potential clients.  The company mostly dealt with international real-estate.  Their clients wanted to stay anonymous during their purchases.  I overheard his boss tell Aaron that a deal fell through because the buyer was discovered and the government wouldn’t allow ‘someone with his power’ to make such a larger purchase.  When they saw I was in the room the conversation stopped.  

Six months after our separation Aaron made plans to move back.  Work had settled down, he wasn’t required to travel for a few months and we both decided to let the subject of children rest for another year.  He was open to talking about it then; after he’d trained someone and he was closer to his contract’s end.  I wasn’t happy about waiting longer, but I was glad to have him home again.  He was in the process of packing his things and moving them back to the house when I got a collect call from him.   

He was at the airport.  He wouldn’t stop apologizing for the last minute trip, but he promised to be back in five days.  He said this trip would help him speed up the process and end his contract sooner.  I was so excited about the idea that I told him I loved him and to hurry home.  I’d get his stuff moved back to the house so he could come straight home when his business trip was over.  I took Mark with me and we packed his place up.  He had leased his condo when we married, but the couple moved out the same year we separated, that’s where Aaron had moved temporarily.  

When we arrived at his place it looked like he’d packed in a rush.  Which didn’t make sense because he was used to leaving on long trips suddenly, but Mark and I figured he was in the middle of packing to move when the call came in so we explained the mess away.  We packed his things, cleaned the condo, and contacted our real-estate agent to see if they could get it leased again.  

A week past, then another, three weeks of no phone calls and when I called his boss he didn’t answer my questions.  At first I could have sworn he didn’t know Aaron was on a business trip.  But he recovered fast and said it was last minute and not to worry.  But of course I did.  In all his traveling, besides the three months he was gone while we were separated, he’d call or message me that everything was okay or give me his arrival time.  I heard nothing. 

Mark started asking about the condition of the condo when we moved Aaron’s things.  He asked if I noticed anything was missing, if perhaps the placement of things were odd.  He went in to full out conspiracy mode and had me in a panic.  After four weeks of no word and no answers from his boss, I called the police and asked what to do.

That’s when I became a suspect in my husband’s disappearance.

“You can see that he called me from the airport!”  “All we see is a call from a pay phone.  It could have been anyone.  We found his cell phone and identification in a wall closet at the condo.  Can you explain that?”  “I didn’t even know there was a wall safe in the condo.  I never lived there.”  “The neighbors said you two separated.  Does this have anything to do with him disappearing?”  “Have you talked to his employer?  They should know the details, but they refuse to tell me anything.”  

“His employer says he wasn’t scheduled for a trip and they are unaware of his current location.  Last they knew he was forwarding his calls to the house you two share.”
“But his boss told me they sent him on a trip, but beyond that nothing else.  I don’t understand why they say they don’t know anything.  Something isn’t right.”  Diana was in tears now.  But the officer interrogating her seemed unconcerned. 

“Why did you wait a month to call in a missing persons report?”

“Because his boss said not to worry!”

“But you said your husband was only to be gone for five days.  I would think a month would seem excessive.”

“It was that’s why I called y’all.  His boss stopped talking to me.  He wouldn’t accept my phone calls and his secretary said I should start researching on my own.”  As if suddenly realizing something, “Did you talk to her?  She seemed to know something was up.”

“The name you gave us was for the former secretary.  There’s a young man now in the position and he doesn’t recall any travel plans for your husband.  He was helpful enough to show us his files and based on their records he hasn’t left the country in over a year.”
Diana fell against the back of her chair in shock.  “What do you mean in a year?!  He’s traveled numerous times over the past year.  I know, I dropped him off and picked him up from the airport myself many times.”  

“We’ve already checked all the dates and times you gave us and there are no records of your husband traveling.  The last time he left the country was over a year.  I assure you our records are accurate.  International travel is closely monitored and if your husband had traveled as extensively as you’ve said he’d be flagged and watched.  He doesn’t even show up on our system.”

“But he has to have.  He wouldn’t lie.  He did important research for his company.  His was one of their best men.”

“According to his boss he was having problems at work and was about to be let go.  His company was going to allow him to stay on in a nonsupervisory position till his contract ended.  They said your husband had once been an asset to the company, but after the two of you separated his job performance was subpar and they wanted to let him go.  The contract Aaron insisted on prevented them from doing so.”

Diana jumped up from her seat.  “That’s not true!  They wouldn’t let him out of his contact and he offered to train someone for them.  He told me once he took this last job assignment they’d let him out of his contract.  Or it would at least help.  I’m not sure now.  I just know he wanted to leave so we could start a family.”

“What do you mean by start a family?”  The investigator looked down at some notes while asking his question.

“What do you mean?”  Diana looked at him oddly.  “Start a family as in, have kids.  He traveled too much with his company and suggested it was too dangerous for him to bring kids in to the world till he could leave.”

“Did y’all contact adoption agencies?  Maybe we can confirm with them y’alls plans.”

“Adoption agencies?”  Diana sat back down.  “I know we’re older, but there were no health reasons that we know of that would stop us from having our own.”

The investigator looked at Diana, then back at the file filled with information about Aaron that Diana was quickly realized didn’t match up to anything she knew about her husband.  

“Aaron was sterile.  He couldn’t have children.”

“How do you know?  How can you possibly know?!”

“His company did extensive health checks on all their employees.  I can’t fathom why they’d need all this information, but Aaron gave permission to keep the files open for future reference.  Were you not aware of his condition?”

“I don’t know what’s going on.  He was moving back home, he was taking on one last job and we were going to start a family.  You’re telling me that everything he told me was a lie.  That everything was a lie.”  She looked at the officer waiting for a response but didn’t receive one.

“I don’t think I can help you find my husband when I don’t even know who my husband is.”

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