By Mark Kodama
He never did anything. He did not work; he did not help around the house. He just sat around, collecting his pension. She did all the work. She worked full time as a secretary. When she came home, she cooked, cleaned the house, did the laundry. One day, she decided she was fed up. So she made a plan.
Sheila ordered a large freezer, which she set up in the garage. She put plastic under her bed sheets. She brought up the ax from the garage. She would store Harold in the freezer until she could figure out a way to dispose of his body.
“Shelia,” Harold brayed. “My scrambled eggs are too dry again. You know I like them moist. And the bacon is burnt again. It will give me cancer.”
Shelia pulled the bacon out from the refrigerator and two more eggs. She scraped Harold’s food into the garbage.
“Shelia, you know how I hate wasting food,” Harold said. “We have a mortgage to pay. I did not waste my time serving this country to watch my money thrown into the trash.”
“You don’t expect me to eat it, do you?” Shelia said with icy eyes and a cheerful smile.
“No,” Harold said. “But why not? You cooked it. You should eat it.”
Shelia spit in his new eggs. “Here, Harold are your new scrambled eggs, moist the way you like them.”
That day, Shelia went to work at the law firm. She was now 35-years-old. Men still found her attractive but she did not know how long that would last.
She went to the ladies’ room. She pulled her skirt tight so it grabbed her hips. She touched up her mascara and lip stick before returning to the office. She had been having an affair with Barry, the managing partner, for more than a year now.
At 40, Barry now led the law firm, rising above the more senior partners. Barry was not particularly a good lawyer but he was a people person and controlled the insurance companies that sent business to the firm.
Barry hated his wife but loved his children. He promised Shelia that when the time was right he would leave his wife.
Shelia should have never married Harold who was twenty years her senior. But he was a former military officer and it seemed like a good choice at the time.
When Barry called Shelia into his office, he held her seat for her before closing the door and rocking back in his leather chair behind his cherry wood desk. Barry was tall and athletically built. He was a quarterback in college. His silver hair was combed back, every hair in place.
A photograph of his family – his wife and two boys – smiled from the picture frame displayed on top of his desk. The picture frame said “Dad.”
“I have a pretrial settlement conference on August 13 in Judge Lister’s chambers at 2 p.m.”
“I’ll note it on your calendar. Does the client have to be there?”
“No but the insurance rep must be in attendance with authority.”
“I’ll get a letter out.”
“Have Jim prepare the pretrial. I’ll have a look at it before it is filed and sent out to the insurance adjuster.”
“Okay,” Shelia said.
There was a rap on the door.
“C’mon in,” Barry said.
It was Jim, the senior associate.
“I need a pretrial statement for the Beaumont case.”
Barry handed him the hard green folder on his desk. “The rest of the file is in the file room.”
“I’ll take care of it now,” Jim said.
“I want to see it before you file it and it goes out.”
“Did we receive the discovery yet for the Rameriz case?”
“Just came in,” Jim said. “It is a whole box full of past and present medical records.”
“Okay,” Barry said.
“I’ll work on the Lister pretrial statement now,” Jim said and left the office.
“We need to set up depositions in Rameriz,” Barry told Sheila. “Coordinate with Jim. Call Plaintiff’s counsel and get some dates.”
“Yes, Barry,” Shelia said, before getting up to leave.
“Shelia,” Barry said, his eyes soft. “You are a doll.”
After work, Shelia stopped by the mall where busy holiday shoppers were buying last minute presents. She bought a cinnamon bun and coffee. She thought of Barry’s house in Langley. What a grand house with all the Christmas lights. She had been there a number of time, bring files from the office when Barry worked from home.
She looked at the cinnamon bun covered in sweet white frosting; it stared back at her. She took one bite and threw the rest in a trash can.
She and Barry sometimes made love in the guest house when his wife Brittany and his children were not home. Brittany was a bitch but their two sons were nice.
Shelia was still beautiful. What a mistake it was to marry that old Harold when she could be with Barry or someone like him.
Shelia stopped at the ice cream shop then thought better of it and returned home. She lived in a nice neighborhood but her house was the oldest on the block.
When she moved in with Harold 15 years ago, it seemed like such a quaint house. Then all the Chinese and Indians moved into the neighborhood, knocked down the old houses and built new mansions.
When she came home, all the lights were out. When she opened the door, Harold called to her. “Did you buy more milk? We need more milk.”
She gritted her teeth. She removed her shoes and hung her coat on the coat rack. She pushed Harold’s bottles of medicines aside – pills for his heart and diabetes, iron pills for his anemia and stool softeners for his constipation – and then set down her purse.
“Do you think you will get rid of me?” Harold’s voice rang from the bedroom. “I will haunt you until the day you die,” he laughed.
She rolled her eyes and washed the dirty dishes that Harold left for her in the sink before she climbed the steps to the bedroom.
After she slipped out of her clothes into her pajamas and cleaned her teeth, she turned on the lamp on the nightstand by her bed. Harold was already asleep, snoring with his mouth agape.
She would have divorced Harold ten years ago. But her mother and father were Catholic and would not permit it. “You made your bed and now you must lie in it,” her mother told her. What would they think if she killed Harold. Sheila shuddered.
She watched Harold, laying on his back, snoring, then gasping then snoring again. She covered her ears with her pillow. Harold’s porno collection was stacked by the television. She thought about the plastic under the sheets and the ax in the bathroom closet.
She read from her book The Postman Always Rings Twice before shutting off her light and going to sleep. She wished she had the nerve to get rid of Harold.
Barry came in the office, just before close of business. “Well, we went back and forth but could not settle the Beaumont case. Looks like we are going to trial.”
“Calendar it for January 15. Get a letter out to Mr. Beaumont and the insurance rep. We need to take the deposition of our expert Dr. Cleaver and get Mr. Beaumont in here a week before the trial to prepare him as a witness.”
“Thank you, sweetheart.”
Barry opened his desk drawer. He pulled out a small present wrapped in green with a red ribbon. Inside was a diamond pendant on a gold rope chain.
“Merry Christmas, Shelia,” he said.
Harold and Shelia spent Christmas dinner with Harold’s younger brother Marty and his wife Steph and their two sons. Marty was a K Street lobbyist with a house in Northwest DC.
Harold and Shelia could not stand Marty and Steph and their patronizing distain for them. And the way they name dropped was just so annoying.
“So I was telling Mitch McConnell, you know, the majority leader of the Senate, that they were going to have to get tough with the Democrats,” Marty said in an overloud voice. “Pass me the turkey, honey,” he said. “You know politics is a contact sport.”
Shelia did not touch her white wine. Harold gulped his down.
“Don’t you have diabetes Harold?” Steph said. “Doesn’t he have diabetes?” she said to her husband.
“Easy, brother,” Marty said. “You have to be more like me. Self-control, brother. Everything in moderation.”
Harold poured himself another glass. “I’m just enjoying your stories, brother.”
“Did I ever tell you guys about the time I met with the President?” Marty asked.
“You mean President Bone Spurs?” Harold asked.
“Yes, you’ve told us that story,” Shelia said. “But it gets better every time you tell it.”
Beaumont was a big man with big hands. He wore an expensive dark suit. He drove a black town car for the owner of an olive oil import company. Barry warned Shelia not to speculate about him.
He had been in a pedestrian car accident on Connecticut Avenue. He said he had never seen the woman dressed in dark clothes on a rainy day. The woman was severely injured.
Beaumont did not seem to be too bothered by the lawsuit. “I made a mistake,” he said. “It was dark and she was wearing dark clothes. It was in the winter so I did not see her.”
Barry asked me to bring them a tray of coffee which I did. “Thank you Ms. Smith,” Beaumont said and nodded. Shelia noticed he wore a thick gold wedding band on his right-hand ring finger.
He was polite and business like. Although the insurance company had its own attorneys who were employees, they often hired outside firms to handle larger cases and the overflow.
The jury found that Beaumont was at fault but also that the injured person was partially at fault so the insurance company did not have to pay anything.
I felt sorry for Ms. Moriarty who would be crippled for life. But juries can be cruel and this one certainly was cruel.
But Barry and Jim were ecstatic and the insurance company pledged to send more case in the coming year.
“Don’t feel bad for Ms. Moriarty,” Barry said. “It is an adversarial system and the jury has spoken.”
One day, Shelia saw Beaumont at the grocery store. “Hello, Ms. Smith,” he said and smiled. He offered to help her with her groceries.
“I’ve very grateful for the work Barry and his team did on my case,” Beaumont said. “But I’m sorry that Ms. Moriarty did not receive anything.”
“Me too,” Shelia said.
“Justice is not always fair,” he said.
“Sorry to say,” she said.
“You seem down,” he said.
“I have a lot on my mind,” she said.
“Would you like to go for a cup of coffee.”
“Yeah, sure,” she said. “I could use a good cup of coffee.”
They were both from Los Angeles and Dodgers fans. They even had some of the same friends.
“So are you married,” Shelia asked.
“Separated,” he said.
“You?” he asked looking at her wedding ring.
“Don’t ask,” she said.
“Sorry, I did not mean to pry.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “I just can’t stand the man.”
“Sorry to hear.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“Sometimes thing don’t appear to be what they are,” he said. “And sometimes, you just grow apart.”
“Do you have kids?”
“No,” she said.
“You seem very nice.”
“You are too.”
“Maybe we can catch a movie sometime . . . as friends.”
“I would like that,” she said.
They exchanged numbers but Beaumont did not call for about a month. He said he had been away overseas for his work.
They were soon going out and started sleeping together. Beaumont owned a nice house in a gated community in Northern Virginia. He kept a cache of weapons in a gun rack and had cameras on the outside of his house. “What is it that you really do, Beaumont?” she asked.
“Can’t tell you,” he said.
“You aren’t in the mafia, are you?”
No, I am not,” he said. “And you must never ask that question again.”
“Where were you last night?” Harold asked Shelia.
“Grocery shopping for eggs,” she said.
“I think you have a new boyfriend,” he said.
“What makes you say something like that?”
“I can smell his cologne on your body, you little tramp.”
“How dare you!” she said.
He slapped her hard across the face, her face turning crimson where his hand had hit her.
She then kicked him in the groin and he fell to the floor. She ran to the bathroom and locked the door.
He banged on the door. “Shelia, come out right now.” He ran to the garage and looked for his ax. Not finding it, he brought up his sledge hammer.
He battered down the thin bathroom door. “I’m going to show you who wears the pants around here,” he shouted.
Shelia grabbed her ax. When Harold broke through the door, she split his head open with the ax.
Harold fell to the tile floor, violently shaking, blood pouring from his head spreading onto the tile floor.
Shelia swung the ax again and again until his body stopped moving.
Shelia called Beaumont and told him all that had happened. He came over to help her. Shelia could not look at Harold’s mutilated body. She could not even go near the bathroom.
Beaumont cut up the body, put it in large garbage bags and put it into the freezer in the garage. He cleaned up the bathroom putting everything into black plastic garbage bags.
He loaded the garbage bag with the bloody cloths into the trunk of his car and took it to the trash dump. He disposed of the ax and the sledgehammer in the woods.
Beaumont kissed her on the head. “Don’t worry baby. I will take care of everything.”
The night was dark and rain poured down. Beaumont never had a chance. On the way back from the dump, when an old man dressed in a dark jacket and slacks holding a lantern jumped out onto the bridge.
Beaumont turned to avoid the old man on the bridge and drove into the rushing river below.
Barry had grown cold to Sheila after she stopped sleeping with him. “I’m with someone else,” she said.
“Who is he?” Barry said. “Is he someone I know?”
“Let’s just keep it professional,” she said through he clenched teeth.
When the insurance companies decided to keep more cases for their own attorneys, the firm suffered a financial crunch.
Sheila was among those that the firm fired. She came to work that morning and she found she was locked out of her computer.
The office manager told her and others who lost their jobs that they no longer worked there. She collected their keys and gave them a severance check.
Sheila was able to find temporary work at various firms doing secretarial work. Automation and computers was making many of her duties obsolete.
She needed Harold’s pension more than ever just to pay the mortgage. At night, Harold appeared in her dreams. “You think you got away with this, don’t you,” Harold’s ghost said. “There will be a day of reckoning for you.”
Some nights, especially when it was windy, she could hear Harold banging on the freezer door. “Let me out you bitch!” he screamed.
During the day, she would often go to the garage. She put her ear to the freezer door. Nothing.
One night, she removed the garbage bags from the freezer and put them inside her trunk. She drove to the county dump. By the time she arrived, it had begun to rain. A large rat – the size of a cat – scampered across the dirt road.
She threw the black bags full of pieces of Harold on top of a heap of rubbish, one of many little hills trash. She could hear the rats eating the trash. “Cannibals,” she said. “Have at it.”
Ahead is where Beaumont drove off the bridge. As she approached the bridge, she saw an old man with a lantern on the driver’s side of her car.
The grizzled old man was dressed in a dark jacket and dark slacks. He wore a beanie on his head.
She slowed down and rolled down her window. He had a day’s growth of white stubble on his face. “Hello,” the man said in Harold’s voice “Where are my eggs?”