It was seven PM in the evening. It was damp and dreary with a slight hint of a chill in the air. Strolling into his favorite local eatery a somewhat upscale steakhouse, Frank’s Lounge and Bar situated on the shores of the marina, Remington requested of the hostess to be seated at the booth in the corner away from the maddening crowd so he could console himself in self pity after a horrible week ending as he said to himself a frosty Friday.
A single man being divorced now for five years and seven months with no kids, he was a ‘Lone Watie’¹ in the world. Not only had he been asked to leave his job due to the lack of projects after the pandemic shutdowns silenced all operations, but now his girl friend of two years, who was ten years his younger, decided she no longer wanted to be associated with his presence and so she departed for a wealthier prospect.
Receiving his drink order of a vodka tonic, Remington taught how he could overcome the latest of collapses in his personal life. Sipping on his drink he heard Rostropovich’s rendition of Bach’s “Prelude for Cello to Suite No. 1” being piped over the internal sound system of the restaurant. Continuing in his solitude of thought, he felt the back of the booth in which he was seated jar from the acquiring of someone taking a seat in the adjoining booth that was to his back.
Not paying too much attention to this brief interruption, he continued on in his pondering of thoughts now hearing the “Ashokan Farewell” by Jay Unger being played. This melodramatic tune even saddened and deepened his thoughts even more. Hearing what he thought was two male voices coming from the space next to him, it seemed to him that they were carrying on a secretive conversation of treachery the one of which he thought was not to be overheard.
Not wanting to make it known to his neighbors that he was listening, he continued on in his eavesdropping in an attempt to discover their topic of conversation. As he heard Louis Armstrong’s “La Vie En Rose” coming over the air waves, he heard one of the two discuss how he wanted the murder of his wife to be played out. Hearing this statement caught all of his attention. Not really believing what he had heard to be the truth, the other person replied to the request of the other how much was he willing to pay him for such an act. As he sat with all the attention of the Victor RCA dog, he leaned even closer to the back of his booth in hopes of overhearing the cost of such of a performance. Looking around to see if any other waiter or person might be in plain sight so that he could gain a measure of confirmation, no one was visible. He continued sitting in his disbelief for he could not understand how this type of conversation could be carried out in earshot of others who paid no more attention to this than an airplane landing. He wondered how he could convince anyone of what he was hearing to be the truth.
As he sat pondering on his next move, then without provocation his waiter appeared. Not wanting any food at this point, he asked of his waiter to have the manager to come to his table. Without hesitation, the waiter departed immediately to fulfill the request of his customer. Exhibiting the urgency of the request, the manager appeared at his table. Remington normally a quiet, patient, unexcitable person gazed up with all the seriousness in his eyes and asked the manager to have a seat. Sliding in across from him, Remington began recounting the story of what he had overheard coming from the neighboring booth next to him. Sitting in a state of aw and disbelief, the manager stood up and walked towards the booth that was the subject of Remington’s narration. As he stood at the entrance of the neighboring booth, the manager was amazed at what he discovered. Returning to Remington’s table, he retook his seat across from Remington and began to relate to him that the booth in question did not have anyone. Not believing what the manager had stated, Remington immediately ‘arose with such a clatter’² to view for himself seeing that the booth was in fact vacant and empty.
Standing and not understanding what he was seeing, he began to question himself and doubt if what he knew and what he had heard was what had happened. Remington returning to his table with a look of confusion encompassing his entire being took his seat. Apologizing to the manager for wasting his time with this apparent fairytale of a story, the manager graciously acknowledged and accepted Remington’s dissertation and simply stated, “No apology necessary” and took his food order, returning back to the duties of the restaurant. The manager silently departed from the presence of Remington allowing him to float in the ocean of his uncertainties who continued to sit staring at the table not understanding how no one was at that table. Thinking that maybe the events of the past week have had more of an impact on himself than once thought, Remington decided to write off what he thought he had heard as the illusions of a stressful week.
Reconciling he was dreaming, the manager as a means to ease the stress he perceived Remington was experiencing, sent him his meal with the waiter advising compliments of the house to show he had no ill will towards his actions. Accepting that what he had done as a fallacy of the week, Remington began to enjoy the gesture of the manager’s kindness. Taking his first bite, Remington sat back to relish in the taste of a find cook slab of meat when he heard the voices of the two start again in their previous discussion. Pausing in his chewing, he could not believe what he was hearing. Not wanting to show himself as a person losing the faculties of life, he did not want to go through what he had gone through and experienced just moments prior.
He placed his utensils down on his plate and quietly slid out of the booth to stand confronting those two that were the current source of his discomfort. Regrettably, once again he stood in an aura of disbelief for again the booth as before was empty of anyone.
The realm of Remington’s reality was now ever expanding and collapsing to such a point that he wanted to go hide and not be seen for the manager and others within the restaurant were now witnesses to his latest act of futility. He knew it would be of no use to try to explain so returning to his table he finished his meal and departed to the tune of “Somewhere over the rainbow” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole being played on the restaurant’s speaker. Being convinced he was not crazy and that he knew what he heard to be true, Remington decided he would do all within his power to prove what he had heard to be the truth.
As the sun rose over the horizon to start a new day, Remington recalled the events of the previous night. Knowing the location of where this ruthless act was to take place, Remington made plans to be present at the house by the sea before the actions of those would happen to prevent and stop if he could the death of the woman. However, before he could prepare for his departure, a hard rapping commenced at his front door where upon opening the police and all their regalia stood wanting to talk which before its conclusion, Remington was being arrested and charged for the murder of the woman whom at the time he did not know her name only where she lived, a house by the sea. As he was being led away in handcuffs, he was advised of the name of the person he killed, it was his ex-wife.
After weeks of a trial surrounding the events of that one frosty Friday, he was told he would spend the rest of his life incarcerated for a crime he knew he did not commit but could not convince a jury of peers he did not perform. The evidence on which he was convicted was highly prejudicial and that any experienced forensic criminalist would be able to determine was circumstantial at best knowing that proper procedural protocols were not followed.
Fifteen years later evidence was uncovered that there was in fact a conspiracy to commit murder, but it was not premeditated by Remington. The detectives assigned to the case felt in their minds that though the evidence gathered condemned Remington, the mere sense of the evidence being too well planned or staged caused their suspicion. As the two detectives delved deeper into the background of the victim, it was discovered that she was married to the manager of the restaurant where it all started for Remington, and it was his testimony that greatly assisted the prosecution in gaining the conviction.
They learned that the manager and his estranged wife were having marital problems so much so that a divorce decree could have been pending. However, it was also learned that because of a slight little yet unknown clause in their prenuptial agreement that the manager and his wife signed, it stated upon the action of a divorce, no matter which party would initiate and execute, the wife would receive half of every financial earnings and the business, and its earnings generated by the husband. As this would be detrimental to the manager, the husband, weeks prior to the execution of the murder of his wife, he established a $5 million life insurance policy on her, feeling it would be cheaper to take her out than to divorce her and lose half of his business and net worth.
Working out an arrangement with an unsavory character he employed to eliminate his wife, he subsequently planted all the damaging evidence needed at the murder scene which would help make Remington the perfect patsy for the crime and would lead to his ultimate conviction. This prenuptial being a prime motive for her demise, the detectives spent the remaining five years trying to right the wrong done against Remington.
Twenty years to the day of his initial conviction, Remington sat in a courtroom before a judge listening to two old, retired detectives recant and recount the events of years past that led to his false imprisonment. It was not until the two were able to arrest the manager’s co-conspirator on another murder where they able to present the confirmations of their findings now to this judge whose decision would ultimately determine Remington’s future. Hearing him say that all charges levied against him in the murder case of his ex-wife were being dropped and he was being set free was one of total jubilation and Remington having no family was left to himself to experience the joy of finally receiving justification of what he knew all along. It was not going to be the “End of the Line”³ but rather that he was finally going to be “Learning to Fly.”⁴
¹ “The Outlaw Josie Wales”(1976), character reference played by Chief Dan George
² “Twas the Night Before Christmas”(December 23, 1823), Clement Clarke Moore
³ “End of the Line” (1988), Traveling Wilburys
⁴ “Learning to Fly” (2014), Tom Petty & Jeff Lynne