“A poker party? A three-day poker party?”

“Yep. Three days. Just me, the guys, cigars, cards, and beer.”

“Eww. It sounds disgusting. Try not to lose too much, Barry.”

“Relax, Teresa. It’s only penny-ante stuff. I go mostly to hang with my boys.”

“You could use the time off, Barry. You work entirely too hard. Enjoy yourself. And don’t lose too many pennies.”

“What will you do while I’m gone, sweetheart?”

“Oh, I’ll probably have my girls over. Watch sit-coms, play Bunco, drink wine.”

“You try not to lose too much playing Bunco. I know how you get when you’ve been hitting the Chardonnay.”

They laughed, hugged, and kissed goodbye. Teresa followed him to the station wagon. He put his suitcase in the back, got behind the wheel, smiled at her one last time, and waved goodbye. Then he drove to the mall, parked on the lower level of the parking garage at the south end. He looked around nervously, stopped a few times to look in the reflection of a store window to make sure he wasn’t being followed and continued out of the mall and into the north garage.

- - - - - - - -

“The first rule about my club is you don’t talk about my club.”

“That’s Fight Club’s first rule, dear. You’re not going to fight, are you?”

“I’m not going to fight. Unless I have to, Pam.” George put up his dukes in a mock fighting stance.

“Better that than loving someone else.” Pam stepped between his wide-spread boxer’s arms, gave him a light tap on a solid six-pack of abs, and snuggled in close. He put his arms around her and gave her a gentle hug.

“You’re the only woman I’ll love. I promise.” They shared a warm, wet kiss. Then he stepped away, holding her at arm’s length.

“Have I told you lately how stunning you look?”

She laughed. “Only twice this morning.”

“Oh. I guess I’ve got club business on my mind. That must be why I’m slipping.”

“Have a good time at your club, George.” Pam gave him a playful shove towards the door. Then she turned and sashayed towards the kitchen. George gave a loud, theatrical groan.

“You make it so hard to leave,” he whined.

She turned, looked at him, and smiled. “Good. Maybe you’ll come back from your club early.” She blew him a kiss. He pretended to catch it and put it in his pocket. Then he blew her one in return, hefted his Samsonite, and headed for the door.

He drove to the mall downtown, parked in the south parking garage, and took his suitcase with him when he entered the mall. He walked past several stores, gave a wistful look at the Cinnabon store, glanced at his watch, shook his head, and walked past that, too. He kept walking, through the mall and out to the north garage.

- - - - - - - -

“I’ll be back on Tuesday morning, Susan. Unless they add a sales meeting after the convention.”

“Call me if they do, darling. And bring me something nice.”

“You know I always do.”

“I know, David. That’s just the icing on the cake. I really love you for your delightful humor, dear.”

“What? Not for my mad skills in the bedroom?”

“That, too, David. But mostly for your humor. Even in the bedroom.”

David kissed his wife and headed for the garage. She watched from the door as tossed his valise into the back seat of his Triumph Spitfire, leaped over the door and into the driver’s seat, opened the garage door with the remote, and fired up the engine. He blew her a kiss, waved goodbye, and drove off.

The wind disheveled his wavy brown hair as he drove down the freeway to the off-ramp for the mall. He still drew a few appreciative looks as he strode from the south parking garage into the mall, and passed several stores with a jaunty step. He didn’t go into any, though. He just continued on through the mall, and out into the north parking garage.

- - - - - - - -

“But you’re not even in sales, Johnny. Why are you going to a three-day sales convention?”

“Well, Tiggy, you know how I come home exhausted every day?”


“And grumpy, and frustrated, and unhappy?”

“Yes. But I thought I made you happy?”

“You do, Tiggy, you do. But I think it’s time I did more than drive a bus. This convention is my chance to learn all I need to move into sales.”

“What will you sell, Johnny?”

Johnny waited almost a minute before he answered his wife. “I’ll find out at the convention. They’re going to share professional tips from the top salesmen from a variety of businesses. Then we get to ask them questions in a panel discussion. After that, I’ll know what I want to sell.”

“OK, Johnny. I hope you find out what you need to sell. And how to sell it.” Tiggy gave him a little pouty face. He kissed her forehead, her cheeks, and finally, her lips.

“You’re a champion, darling. Thank you for supporting me in this.”

After Johnny left Tiggy he drove to the mall downtown. He parked in the south parking garage, did a little speed walking through the mall and out, to the north garage.

- - - - - - - -

“A fishing trip, Roger? Really?”

“That’s right, Dorothy, a fishing trip.”

“Where’s your rod & reel? Hip waders? Creel?” Dorothy looked at her husband’s chic carry-on. “In there?”

Roger looked at the rolling carry-on. He took a moment to answer.

“We leave all our gear there. Then we don’t have to carry it back and forth.” He put his hands on Dorothy’s shoulders and gave her that huge smile she loved so much. “After all,” he added, “there certainly aren’t any good fishing spots here in suburbia.”

He pulled her into a warm embrace. She hugged him back, then stepped away. “Three days, Roger? I’ll miss you.” She pouted.

“I’ll miss you too, babe.” Another smile, a wave, and he wheeled his carry-on out to the driveway. He collapsed the handle, tossed it in the back seat, waved again, and drove off. 

As soon as he turned left out of their cul-de-sac, Dorothy jumped in her car and followed. She’d seen this in the movies often enough. Keep him in sight, but stay a few cars back, so he wouldn’t notice she was doing that thing. Tailing him, that’s what they called it. Tailing.

She followed him up the freeway ramp. “That’s a good sign. He would need to take the freeway to get to the lake. Or to any fishing spot she could think of,” she told herself.

There were two cars between his old, beat-up red Toyota and her new, silver RAV4 when he took the off-ramp towards the city. “What’s he doing now?” she wondered when he pulled into the mall.

“Not here,” she said out loud. “Don’t get your beer and snacks at the mall. They’re much cheaper at the grocery store.” Worried he might spot her RAV4, she drove past his parking spot and continued up to another level of the parking structure. She managed to find a spot that let her sit there and watch the entrance. Unless he went down from his parking spot and walked around to the street entrance.

Nope. A few minutes later she watched him go into the mall entrance. Alone. Wheeling his carry-on. She slapped on sunglasses and went in after him, but she lost him in the crowds. So she went back to her SUV, drove down to the lower parking level, and pulled into a spot that gave her a clear view of his car.

Dorothy didn’t want to be suspicious of Roger. He was everything she wanted in a husband. Handsome with a great sense of humor, a solid breadwinner, attentive, clean-cut, and helpful. But when the mall closed, and his little red Toyota was still parked, she had no choice. The next time he went on a “fishing trip” she would hire a professional to find out what was going on. Even if a small part of her didn’t want to know.

- - - - - - - -

“That’s right, Mrs. Moore. He got into a black Escalade with four other men and they headed out of town. He told you the truth. He went fishing with his boys.”

“So you didn’t follow the Escalade?”

“I didn’t see any need to follow it. No way was he going to a secret tryst with four other guys.”

“So you assumed he went fishing with his boys,” Dorothy argued.

“That’s right. I made a logical assumption.”

“And you’re charging me $500 for that? I didn’t hire you to make an assumption. I hired you to find out what he’s really doing.”

“Look, lady, I spent gas money, food money, and a whole day at the mall. I gotta cover my expenses. You want me to actually follow five men in an Escalade, that’ll be another $500, at least.”

“You give me your receipts for food and gas. Give me a report on the actual hours you spent tailing him to the mall, and waiting for him to leave. I’ll cover your actual expenses and a reasonable hourly rate. I’ll even be generous, and give you $25 an hour for sitting on your ass.”

“That wasn’t what we agreed on,” Sam argued. “But I kind of like you, even though I think you’re nuts. How about $250 for this first job, and $500 plus for the next?”

“Deal.” Dorothy gave the private investigator his money. She told him she would call him again the next time her husband was going on a ‘fishing trip,’ using air quotes to indicate the alleged purpose of Roger’s foray somewhere.

- - - - - - - -

A month later Dorothy and Sam were meeting at the IHOP again.

“I’m telling you, he’s a spy or something. At least he works for the government.”

“Another assumption?”

“Yes. And a damned good one. Let me take you there. You can see for yourself.”

“Why are we headed for the mall?” Dorothy asked. “Are you trying to pad your expenses?”

“I’ll show you his entire route,” Sam explained. “No charge. I don’t want to get involved with any of this secret government crap.”

Sam drove to the north parking garage of the Cherry Creek Shopping Center.

“That’s where they got into the Escalade.” He pointed to one of many empty parking spots.

“Who was driving?”

“Your husband. Now, let me show you where they drove.”

Sam pulled out of the north garage and into town. After several turns, and a couple of times circling one block in particular, Dorothy exploded.

“What the hell is this? You’re going in circles, and we’re getting nowhere.”

“Listen, lady. We’re just doing what your husband and his four gentleman friends did.”

“Why would they do this? It makes no sense.”

“It’s what government agents do when they want to make sure they’re not being followed.”

“Oh. I see. And you’re basing your latest assumption on their erratic driving?”

“Just wait. There’s more. But you get the idea, so we’ll skip the rest of their route through town.” They left town then and headed to an unmarked road. A winding road, leading up the backside of a mountain. The side of the mountain hidden from the freeway nearby. When they passed a green sign that told them the elevation was 8,200 feet, the road stopped. It was a dead-end into the side of the mountain.

“What the hell?” Dorothy sounded frantic. She reached in her purse, scrambling around for pepper spray.

Sam didn’t know if she was going for a gun, mace, or what. But he could read the tension in her body. “Relax, lady, and listen.” Dorothy stopped her mad scramble and looked at Sam.

“See those straight lines?” He pointed at the mountain directly in front of them. She peered closely, but she saw no lines.

“No, I don’t see them.”

“Exactly. Now, come with me.” Sam got out of the car and walked to the rocky edifice facing them. Dorothy went along. When Sam reached out to touch the mountain and pointed to the rocks beside the road, she could see the straight line he was talking about. She looked to her right and found another one.

“This is some kind of entrance into the mountain. You need a passcode, or a remote, or something, to get in.” He walked back to the car, and past it. Dorothy followed. Sam pointed up and to his left. She looked along the angle he pointed.

There, sitting on top of one of the peaks, was a large, grey disk. A satellite dish.

“I’m telling you, lady, this is some super spy shit. Some James Bond stuff, or something. And I’m done. Can we go now?”

They drove back to the mall in silence. Dorothy paid Sam, got in her Toyota, and drove home. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Roger was hiding something from her, but it looked like it was way more than a secret lover. She didn’t even know if she wanted to ask him about it. Maybe Sam was right. If this was some big government CIA job or something, maybe she should just play along.

- - - - - - - -

Inside the mountain Roger, Johnny, David, George, and Barry sat in a semi-circle, each in a high-backed black leather chair, all on one side of an elliptical conference table with a black marble top. A brass placard in the middle of the table read “B.O.S.S.” A variety of snacks and beverages sat in front of the quintet. Credits were rolling up the screen of an 85” flat-screen monitor sitting across from the five men. Roger clicked the remote control, and the screen went black. Johnny and David were wiping their eyes with tissues.

“I am so glad we did this,” George said. “But Pam is getting very suspicious of my club. She’s even afraid it’s a Fight Club.” That drew a round of laughter from the others. 

“Dorothy’s having trouble believing me, as well. She finds the fishing trip story a little too fishy. She even hired a PI to follow us.”

“Did you see him? Or her?” Barry asked.

“No, but I saw on the bank statement where she took out some large amounts of cash. And she didn't bring anything expensive home.”

“We may have to come clean, guys.” Johnny looked each of them in the eye. “They might even want to join us.”

“Oh, I’m sure they would,” Roger agreed. The others all nodded their heads. “We would have to get more chairs, though. And change the name.”

“I suppose we would,” David admitted. “If the women join us, it wouldn’t do to call ourselves the Brotherhood of Secret Soaps.”

For years now they had met as a secret society of macho men, secretly watching sappy soap operas. Ever since they discovered this abandoned government facility and Roger figured out how to get in.

August 19, 2020 20:35

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RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

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