Chapter 10




     For the first time in the four years I'd lived in Seattle, the cold, dark days of winter seemed to pass quickly.  The birds returned from southern regions just as the grass began to turn a luscious shade of deep green, and the tulips and crocuses began to bloom in Janet's flowerbeds. 


     Mom called in April to cancel her annual trip up in late May.  She had the opportunity to go on a cruise with a group of friends during the same week she usually visited us.  She rescheduled her visit for the last week in July, saying she'd look forward to helping me celebrate my birthday for the first time since I'd gotten married.


     In the end it was a blessing that Mom didn't come in May.  By then things between Janet and myself had taken a final turn for the worst.


     I suppose I should have seen it coming.  Because of Janet's responsibilities at work, and the P.I. jobs I had taken on that she still knew nothing about, we barely saw one another as the weather grew warmer.   No longer were Saturday's reserved for just the two of us.  More often than not Janet spent the day at the office.  Come Sunday she was too tired to engage in the activities we had enjoyed in the past - sailing, entertaining friends, taking in a movie, or picnicking in the park.  And our sex life began to suffer from her weariness, as well.   The rare occasions that we joined together as man and wife that spring were, for the first time in close to four years of marriage, hurried and unsatisfying.  She no longer wanted to take the time to play as had been our custom.   Long sessions of lovemaking in the jacuzzi or shower soon became a thing of the past.  Her mind always seemed to be on her work.  When I'd mention it she'd snap at me sharply, "I can't afford not to think about my work, A.J.!  Don't you understand?  This city's never had a chief prosecutor who also happens to be female.  It's up to me to prove that it's a job a woman can do and do well.  There are men standing in line just waiting for me to screw up."


     I did try to understand, but maybe the way she felt was not something any man can fully understand.  All I knew was that her job was putting great stress on our marriage.  It was getting to the point that I didn't think the additional money was worth the time we were forced to spend apart.


     It had been a beautiful spring day that Thursday, May 19th.  Summer was teasing us with the promise of her arrival.  The temperature had hit eighty-five degrees that afternoon.  As I drove through my neighborhood at six-thirty that evening with the Camaro's top down, the smell of freshly mowed grass hung heavily in the air.  The sidewalks were full of little girls on roller-skates and little boys on their bikes.  I had to brake for a moment to allow a group of kids to finish out the inning of a baseball game that was being played in the middle of my quiet street.  I waved to the ones I knew and heard called in return, "Hi, Mr. Simon!" as I pulled in my driveway.


     I shouldn't have allowed my mind to do it, but as I climbed out of the Camaro I envisioned a blond boy of about six breaking away from the group to run over to me in excited greeting.   How I longed for a child of my own to throw himself into my arms at the end of the day, much like I'd thrown myself into my father's embrace many years earlier when he'd arrive home from work.


     I had been thinking a lot that spring on how to carefully broach the subject of children with Janet once more.  Even if it meant adoption, I felt it was time.  Past time.  And I had decided that I wasn't going to take no for an answer.  That somehow, we were going to have to figure out how to meet in the middle where this subject was concerned. 


     I was surprised to see Janet's car in the garage when I walked through on my way to the family room.  Considering what our sex life had been like recently, I wondered if she'd arrived home early so that we could finally take a night to thoroughly enjoy one another as we had in the not-so-distant past.


     A wicked smile touched the corners of my mouth as I daydreamed of my slender, sexy wife waiting for me in the family room in a new negligee.  I pictured her slowly undressing me, then offering my body unselfish pleasure, as I would in turn offer hers.


     I walked in the house whistling, my suit coat flung casually over my shoulder.  When I didn't see her in the family room, my smile grew broader. 


     She's already up in the bedroom, my mind gleefully told me.  I pictured her naked and anxiously awaiting me in the middle of our big bed.  I hurried onto the foyer. 


     My foot had just hit the bottom stair when I heard a noise coming from the kitchen.  I laid my suit coat over the banister, then peeked around the corner.   My wife, still dressed in the suit she'd worn to work, stood at the counter viciously chopping carrots on a wooden cutting board for that evening's pot roast.


     I thought that was rather strange - for Janet to be making supper in the expensive linen suit and silk blouse she'd worn to work.  I also thought it was strange that she'd come home early just to make supper in the first place.  To make love, yes.  To make supper, no.  Because I like to cook, and Janet worked such long hours, supper was usually my area of responsibility during the week.  Janet generally took over the chore only on weekends. 


     She didn't turn around as I walked up behind her, though she had to have heard my shoes on the hardwood floor.


     I snaked an arm around her waist and lifted her hair.  I began to nuzzle her neck, while at the same time letting my hand roam over silk covered breasts.


     She laid down the knife and wriggled out of my grasp.  "A.J. don't," she commanded. 


     In all our years of marriage she'd never spurned my advances.  If she could read the hurt in my eyes she chose to ignore it.


     She must have been able to read my mind though, because as she took a few steps away from me she stated firmly, "I didn't come home early tonight to make love."


     To cover the hurt I was feeling, I snapped, "You haven't come home early to make love in quite a while now.  Why should tonight be any different?"

     She chose to ignore my sarcasm.  "I came home to ask you something."


     I leaned casually back against the counter top.  "So ask."


     "I saw Ken Hershaw in court today.  He couldn't sing your praises enough.  Funny thing though, A.J., he wasn't praising your abilities as a lawyer, but rather your abilities as 'one hell of a P.I.,' as he put it."  She folded her arms across her chest.  "Now, would you mind telling me just what's going on here?"


     I didn't care to be talked to by my wife like a fifteen- year-old kid who had skipped a day of school.  "I already think you know what's going on," was the only reply I deemed necessary.


     "And I thought we agreed that you weren't going to do that type of work any longer."


     Technically we had, back in the spring of 1990 when I'd told Rick I wanted out of the business.  But things had changed since then.  It certainly wasn't my fault that she was too damn busy to realize that.


     "That was a long time ago, Janet.  I--"


     "No, A.J.  I'm not talking about before we were married.  I'm talking about a year ago in January when I was pregnant.  When I found out you were doing investigation jobs for the firm.  I asked you not to."


     "And I told you I couldn't tell them no."


     "And I told you that you'd better tell them no! I told you why I didn't want you doing that kind of work anymore!"


     "Janet, give me a break! Nothing I'm doing for the firm is dangerous."


     "I don't care if it's dangerous or not!  You're a lawyer now, A.J.  Not a private investigator."


     "And just why is that fact so damn important to you anyway?"  I had to know.


     For once she didn't have a ready-made answer.


"Because...just because it is."


     I took a step toward her.  "Come on, Janet.  The truth here.  It's important to you because, as the chief prosecutor for the District Attorney's Office of Seattle, it gives you prestige to be able to say your husband's a lawyer for the largest and most respected firm in the city.  Heaven forbid if you had to confess that he was nothing but a lowly gumshoe."


     "And I'm not going to confess to that!"  Her eyes flashed.  "Because that's not what you are!"


     "But maybe it's what I want to be!  Maybe I'm tired of being a  mindless puppet for Bloomdecker, Hershaw, and Clark.  Maybe I'm tired of being the trinket you hang off your arm when you drag me to some judge's house for a dinner party!"


     It was the first time I'd ever said such a thing to her, and probably the first time I'd ever acknowledged to myself that's how I felt.  That sometimes I felt like Mr. Janet Simon, the man with no identity of his own.  The man who was just one lawyer among many lawyers who worked for Bloomdecker, Hershaw, and Clark.  The man whose wife was the chief prosecutor for the city of Seattle.  The man whose wife made sixty thousand dollars more a year than he did.  Admittedly, it was starting to be a very difficult concept for my male ego to swallow.


      My brother and I had been born, raised, and educated in San Diego. We were both well-known there.  Granted, some of the notoriety we'd gained as a direct result of our business wasn't always favorable, but then, a lot of it was.  We'd had many friends and contacts within the police department and business community.  I'd missed that since coming to Seattle.  I'd missed that feeling of belonging.  It was even harder as I watched my wife gain the same kind of prominence that was once familiar to me, while I was nothing but the handsome escort that spirited her to the social events around town.


     "Oh, A.J.  Don't be ridiculous," she now scoffed.  "You're not a mindless puppet, and certainly not a trinket I hang off my arm."


     "Well, that's how I feel."   


     Her eyebrows arched with skepticism.  "And being a private investigator again is going to change all that?  Change how you feel?"


     "Yes.  I believe so."  I stated confidently.  "I'd at least like to give it a try."


     "No.  A.J., I won't--"


     "Janet, can't you see?" I pleaded with outstretched arms.  "Being a private investigator is what I'm good at.  It brings me a lot of satisfaction."


     And it did.  Between teaching the college class and doing so many jobs for the firm that winter, I'd come to acknowledge for the first time since Erika's death just how much I missed being an investigator.  Just how much being an investigator tied directly to who I was as a person.  Just how much being an investigator contributed directly to the pleasure I got out of life.


     My wife firmly stood her ground.  "You're good at being a lawyer, too."


     "I am not," I vehemently dismissed.  "And besides, how would you even know if I was?  The most difficult case I've ever tried was the time those two deli shop owners where suing one another over the rights to the name Polly's Pickle Palace."


     It had been an extraordinarily silly case.  One Janet and I had laughed about for weeks.  Only we weren't laughing now.


     "You'll get better cases," she told me with positive reassurance.   "As time goes on more challenging cases will come your way."


     "When?"  I asked of her.  "When I'm fifty-five?  Or maybe even sixty?  I had challenges everyday when I was a P.I., Janet.  I--"


     "Challenges like the Garcia case?" 


     I turned away from her and took a deep breath.  "That's not fair and you know it."     


     "It is fair, A.J.," she emphasized.  "It's fair because it's the reason you gave up being a P.I. in the first place."


     After a long minute had passed I turned to face her. 


"That's behind me now."


     "Yes, for now it is," she readily agreed.  "Until the next time there's a case like it.  And I'll be honest with you, A.J.  If you go back to being a private investigator, I won't be around to hold you when you wake up screaming from a nightmare."


     Her warning hung in the air between us as we stood facing one another like two generals on a battlefield.  Finally, I told her quietly, "I had hoped you'd feel differently about this when you realized how much it meant to me."


     "Well, I don't.  I don't want you to ever do that job again."


      I shook my head.  "You can't forbid me to change careers, Janet."


     "A.J., I'm your wife.  I--"


     I held up my hand.  "No.  Just listen to me for a minute.  I'm not happy with what I'm doing.  No matter what you want or what you say, I don't like being an attorney.  I'm not good at it.  At least I'm not good at it in the same way I'm good at being a P.I.  And there's another reason why I want to make this change, as well."


     "And that is?"


     "I want us to have a child, Janet.  I--"


     "A.J...we've already discussed this."  The way she said that sentence made it sound as though the subject was closed for good. 


     "Discussed it, yes," I agreed.  "Reached a conclusion, no."


     "But I thought you'd come to terms with my decision this past winter."


     I arched my eyebrows.  "Your decision?  And since when did you make a decision regarding children that didn't involve me?"


     "Well...well," she stammered,  "you never mention it anymore and--"


     "I never mention it because I don't know how to bring it up," I told her forcefully.   "Janet, I want children.  Or even just a child, be it a boy or a girl.  I don't care if we do that naturally, or if we adopt.  But it's a priority in my life.  A priority you've chosen to ignore."


     She finally let her hands fall to her side.  Her posture sagged a bit with weariness, as if this was the last subject she'd expected to ever be brought up between us again. 


"But I thought we'd come to the conclusion that it would never work.  You won't let me hire a nanny.  You don't want to put a child in day-care.  I will not be staying home to be a full-time mother.   And besides, I'm working even more hours now than I was last fall.  I just don't have the additional time necessary to devote to a child."


     I didn't hesitate to tell her what I wanted the most.  "I can do just what I suggested last November.  I can run a P.I. business out of our home and be here during the day with the baby."


     And once again she adamantly refused.  "I won't hear of it.   You know that."


     "Then what will you hear of, Janet?"  I shouted as I ran a hand through my hair.  "Maybe it would be easier on both of us if you just told me that!   No matter what I want, you don't want it!  No matter what suggestions I offer, they're not good enough for you!  So you tell me.  Just what is it that you want?"


     "I want us to stay the same," she said softly.  "I want us to go back to being how we used to be when we were first married."


     "Well, it's becoming more and more evident that we can't go back to being like that," I stated.  "Too much has changed already."


     She turned away from me, shaking her head in frustration.  Under her breath she hissed,  "This is all Rick's fault." 


     "Pardon me?"


     She turned to face me once more.   She didn't hesitate to increase the volume of her voice.


"It's all Rick's fault."


     I was slightly confused at this point.  Exactly

what Rick had to do with us having a child was beyond me.


     "What's all Rick's fault?"


     "Your interest in doing P.I. work again."


     "And just where would you get an idea like that?"


     "The last time he came up here by October of '92, he talked you into doing a P.I. job with him.  It was right after that when you began doing the same type of work for your firm."

     With disbelief I questioned,  "And so that's Rick's fault?" 


     Her answer came in the form of an adamant declaration. 


"Yes, it is."


      "Janet...for God's sake!  It was a two hour job that didn't involve anymore than tracking down a seventy-three year old woman!"


     Which it hadn't.  Rick's name had been given to an elderly man in San Diego who was looking for the sister he'd been separated from during childhood.   The California Welfare Department had taken children away from their alcoholic parents, then split them up by sending them to live with different foster families.  Rick had finally tracked the sister to Seattle, so since he was coming to visit Janet and me anyway, decided it was a good time to wrap up the case.  He had asked me to ride along with him when he went in search of the woman's house.  We were only there long enough to hand her brother's phone number and picture to her, and to receive hugs of gratitude. 


     "I don't care what it involved! It started this whole P.I. business up again with you!  If he hadn't come to visit this never would have happened.  And I told him so, too!"


     I could just imagine how she'd told him.  Now a lot of things were beginning to make sense.  Like why she and Rick didn't seem to be quite the pals I had once perceived.  I planted my hands on my hips and firmly demanded, "Just what did you say to him?"


     She stuck her chin out in defiance.  "I told him I didn't appreciate him taking you along on a job such as that.  I told him if that's what he was going to do, he didn't need to come up and visit us again."


     Her anger must have completely clouded over her good sense.  That's the only way I can imagine her confessing such a thing to me.  At any other time in our marriage she would have known to keep it hidden.  Just like she had been doing up until this point.


     "You what?"  I roared.


     By the sudden regret that washed over her features I could tell Janet realized her mistake.  Her very big mistake.  Softly, she confessed again, "I told him he didn't--"


     "I heard you the first time!" I shouted at the top of my lungs. "You had no right to do that!  This is my home, too, Janet, and my brother's welcome in it any time he wants to be here!"


     With one clean sweep of my hand I sent the plates and glasses she'd set out for dinner flying off the counter.   Amongst the crashing and breaking of glass she cried in fright, "A.J.!  A.J., stop!"


     Now more things were beginning to make sense.  Like why when I'd called my brother in early October of 1993 to invite him up for his annual visit, he stammered and stuttered as he told me,  "Well...see, A.J....I guess it's just really...well, it's not gonna work out this year.  I got a lot of business comin' my way with Captain Gully's Excursions and I guess I'll have to take a rain check."


     I had thought it was rather odd when I couldn't get him to commit to a date for that rain check.  Generally Rick does not refuse free food and lodging.  Plus, I'd thought I'd shown him a good time the two previous years when he'd come up by himself.  He'd arrived on Friday night both times and stayed until the following Wednesday.  Janet hadn't taken any time off work in honor of his visit, but I hadn't expected her to either.  I, of course, had taken time away from the office so Rick and I could be together just doing the kinds of things brothers like to do. 


     I had gone beyond bewilderment, and was just plain hurt, when I'd called him in late March, only six weeks prior, to invite him up again.


     "Hey, you haven't taken that rain check yet," I reminded him over the telephone.


     "Well...yeah...I know," he stammered through the line.  "But I've been pretty busy all through this winter."


     "How about coming up the middle of April?"  I eagerly invited.  "Baseball season opens.  The Mariners are playing at the Kingdome.  I can get us box seats."


     "Yeah...that sounds great, A.J.  Only I can't.  I'm just too...busy."


     That's when the hurt began to settle in.  I'd never known my brother not to play hooky from work when the promise of box seats was dangled in front of his face.   He usually lunged at such an offer the way a shark lunges at bloody bait.


     "But you could get Harvey and Preston to run things for you for a few days, couldn't you?"  I asked hopefully.  Harvey and Preston were the older gentlemen Rick employed.  I knew for a fact he trusted them to run the business when he wasn't there, and that they'd done so on various occasions with good results. 


     " just. . .I just don't think so.  I'm just too...busy."


     I know I didn't manage to keep the disappointment out of my voice. "Oh.  Oh, I see." 


     "But, hey, maybe another time.  Okay?"


     "Yeah.  Yeah...sure.  Another time."


     And when I'd hung up the phone I'd told Janet about it.  Told her how strange I thought it was that Rick didn't seem to want to come up to visit.  Told her that I was worried that I'd done something to make him mad.


     And she had the audacity not to say one word about the fight she'd had with him.  Not one word about the fact that she told him he didn't need to come visit us again.  I could never remember being as angry with anyone in my entire life as I was at my wife right then.


     "A.J.!  A.J., stop it!"  She cried as I sent a lemonade pitcher crashing to the floor.


     I walked over and grabbed her arm, roughly yanking her to me.  "You had no right to do that," I snarled.  "You had no right to lead me to believe that you and Rick are the best of friends."


     Her eyes pleaded with me to calm down.  "A.J., please.  Please.   You're hurting me."


     And I probably was.  I had a tight grip on her arm, and for the first time in all the years we'd known one another she was afraid of me.  I dropped my hand in shame and walked away from her. 


"I'm...I’m sorry," I apologized, raking my hands through my hair once more.  "I didn't mean to hurt you.  I'd never hurt you."


     After a moment I turned to face her.  "Just tell how long this has been going on, Janet.  How long you've been playing this little game with me where Rick is concerned?"


     "It wasn't a game, A.J.," she said quietly.  "It was never a game.  It was something Rick and I agreed to a long time ago."


     My eyes narrowed.  "What do you mean by that?"


     "Before I tell you, please try to understand," she begged.  "Remember how much I love you and try to understand."


     "Just tell me," I ordered.


     She splayed her hands out on the countertop and looked down at her wedding band for a minute. 


"It started during the trial.  I sat there with you every single day and watched you...suffer silently through each testimony.  Then when you had to testify...well, it just about killed me to hear what they'd done to you and to Erika.  And I knew than that it was all Rick's fault."


     I shook my head, saying softly,  "But it wasn't."


     Her voice was steadfast as she looked across the room at me.  "Yes, it was.  You took the job because Carlos is a friend of Rick's.  Rick knew it was dangerous.  He knew you didn't want to take it.  But he did anyway.   It's his fault you suffered what you did.  It's his fault that little girl died."


     I didn't bother to tell her how ridiculously untrue that last sentence was.  And most of the rest of what she'd said as well.  It wouldn't have done me any good anyway. 


"And even after all these years that's still how you feel?  That it's Rick's fault?" 


     "Yes," she nodded.  "Because it is.  At least that's my personal opinion.  That doesn't mean I don't love Rick, it just means--"


     "It just means that you blame him," I finished for her. 


     "Yes, I do," she confessed.


     "And I suppose you told him that, as well?" 


     ", not really.  I went to his boat one day without you--"


     "He told me," I acknowledged, thinking back to the conversation Rick and I had at Christmas.


     "So he told you what happened?"


     "No," I shook my head.  "All he said is that you were angry with him for not encouraging me to get counseling."


     "I was.  That's why I went there actually.  But the whole thing rapidly got out of things used to get between Rick and me all those years back in Florida."


     "And that's when you and Rick agreed not to tell me that the two of you really don't get along as well as you'd like me to think," I guessed.


     She gave a slight nod of her head.  "Yes.  That's when I suggested it, and Rick agreed to it."


     "And that's when you told Rick you blamed him for what happened to Erika and me."


     "I didn't tell him that," she denied.  "He asked me that -

if I blamed him, but before I could answer him he walked out."


     "Because he knew you did," I stated softly.


     She hesitated, before agreeing just as softly, "I suppose so."


     "And that must have hurt him terribly, Janet," was the final thing I had to say on the subject. 


     Her eyes pleaded for my understanding.  "A.J...A.J. please."


     "No, Janet," I shook my head.  "I don't want to hear it right now.  I don't want to hear...anything right now.  How do you think I feel finding all this out four years after the fact?  You, better than anyone else on this earth, know how much I love my brother.  Know how important it is to me that my wife and my brother are friends.  How do you think I feel finding out it's all been a big charade?"


     She didn't have anything to say to that.


     I shook my head in disgust.  "You can't even deny it, can you?"


     I was surprised to hear her actually acknowledge, ",  I can't."         


     "I wish you could," I told her.  "But at least you're finally being honest with me.  I just wish you'd told me all this four years ago."


     Candidly she questioned,  "Because if I had you wouldn't have married me?"


     ", I probably wouldn’t have," I told her honestly, thinking of the broken promise regarding children, the fact that she was so vehemently against me changing careers, and now the situation with Rick.  "I...I wouldn't have."


     The last straw came when she stated with quiet bitterness, "I moved us to Seattle in the first place to get you away from Rick Simon.  But somehow his shadow seems to follow me everywhere."


     There was no use for me to get mad all over again at this point.   Given a little time to think about it, I would have put two and two together and come to that conclusion all by myself.  For just a fleeting moment I realized ignorance is bliss, and wished I could turn the clock back to the days when Janet and I were so much in love.  To the days when we were so happy.  But as I silently walked away from her, I knew those days were a thing of the past.  Within a short period of time, so much had died inside of me.     




Chapter 11



     This time it was me who moved out of our bedroom.  Janet didn't ask me to come back, and it wouldn't have mattered if she had.  I would have told her no.


     Ironically enough, I chose to sleep in the room that we had once planned on turning into a nursery.  Although it was good sized, it was the smallest of the four bedrooms on the second story.  It was located right next to the short stairway that led up to the master bedroom.  Probably the only reason I chose it as my new home was because it contained the queen size bed that had for so long resided in the master bedroom in the house on the Grand Canal.  At least it was something familiar in this suddenly unfamiliar world I found myself existing in.


     I surprised myself by not immediately quitting my job.  Nor did I file for divorce.  Nor did Janet.  We muddled through the summer, hiding our problems as best we could from friends and family.  I think close friends like Annalise and Craig came to the conclusion that something was seriously wrong, though Craig never mentioned it to me.  I assume Annalise asked Janet what was going on, but I don't think Janet told her right then.  I think that came months later, after we had both filed to terminate our marriage.


     Though neither of us had the heart to host summer cookouts like we'd done in the past, we were still invited to our share.  We always went as a couple, and pretended that everything was all right.  Just as we went as a couple that summer to any other social event we were invited to.


     But the truth of the matter is, we were no longer sleeping in the same bed.  And at home we barely spoke to each other.  That last event wasn't too difficult of a feat to accomplish, as we both buried ourselves in our work in an effort to avoid one another.  No longer did I worry about cooking supper for us during the week.  We were like two strangers sharing the same house, whose paths only crossed on their way out the door of a morning.


     I did a lot of thinking as I lay alone in bed night after night.  I wondered if I was being stubborn.  I wondered if there was some way we could work this out.  But then a fist of hurt would squeeze my stomach into a tight little ball and I knew I'd never be able to completely forgive her.  I felt like she'd betrayed and deceived me in much the same way Allan Cassidy had betrayed and deceived her.  Maybe the circumstances were different, but the feelings were the same.  We weren't going to have children.  She wasn't going to allow me to do P.I. work again.  She and Rick really didn't get along at all.


     I probably would have pinned at least some of the blame on Rick for that last fact, if it hadn't been for Janet telling me it had been her suggestion in the first place.  Not that Rick would have necessarily come running to tell me he and Janet didn't get along, but more than likely he wouldn't have tried to hide their fights and disagreements from me either.  Had that been the case, I suppose it's still possible I would have married Janet, but at least I would have known what potential problems awaited on the horizon.  Like when Janet told Rick he didn't need to visit us anymore if he was going to take me along on a case.


     And, it's as I told her.   Of all the women who had come and gone in my life, Janet was the one who best knew just how important my brother was to me.  And also knew that in order for a marriage to work for me, my spouse would have to look upon my brother as her brother.  Something that up until recently, I thought I had.


     Because Janet didn't file for divorce that summer either, and because she didn't move out of the house or suggest that I do, I can only assume she, too, was trying to figure out a way we could make things work.  But she didn't offer any suggestions, therefore, I suppose, that much like me, she wasn't able to come up with so much as a single plan.  The few times we attempted to calmly discuss our many conflicts, fireworks would soon ignite between us and quiet words of reason would give way to shouted accusations. I had half expected her to suggest marriage counseling during those times, but she never brought it up.  I probably wouldn't have gone anyway.


     As the end of July was drawing near the last thing Janet and I needed was a visit from Mom.  However, that doesn't mean I didn't feel the need to see my mother...or my brother, for that matter.   When Mom called to confirm our plans I told her that rather than her flying up to see us, that I was flying down to see her and Rick.


     "That's wonderful, honey," she stated over the phone.  "I'll have the guest room all ready for you and Janet."


     "Mom...Mom, Janet's not coming with me."


     "Oh.  Why not?"

     I suppose I should have told her then, but I wasn't ready to.  And since neither one of us had filed for divorce, there was still the off chance of a reconciliation.  Though I highly doubted that would happen, I thought it was better to keep my family in the dark for the time being in regards to my present marital situation.


"She's got a heavy case she's working on now," I told Mom instead.


     "Oh, that's too bad," she said with genuine regret.  She snickered as she added, "The two of you will just have to celebrate your birthday early then."


     I still have no idea as to what exactly my former wife had told my mother about our sex life.  And at that point, I certainly had no desire to find out.


     "Yeah...I guess we will," came my lame statement before breaking our long distance connection.


     Janet didn't say much of anything when I told her I was flying to San Diego for a few days to be with my family.  


     "I think that's a good idea," she agreed.  "It might be to both our benefits right now to spend some time apart."


     I wanted to remind her that we'd spent some time apart the previous Christmas without beneficial results, but didn't bother to bring it up.


     I flew into San Diego on Tuesday, July 25th, and stayed until Sunday the 30th.  Mom, Rick, and I quietly celebrated my birthday on the 26th with dinner at Mom's, then ice cream, cake, and presents afterwards. 


     Much like I had in December, I worked for Rick every day I was there.  Once again it helped me keep my mind off my problems with Janet, and it also kept me away from Mom, who I think was beginning to wonder if something was amiss.  Whenever she asked me about Janet I gave her only vague answers before changing the subject.  I think she realized, as well, that I didn't call my wife one time throughout my visit.


     I was eating breakfast at five-fifteen on Friday morning when Mom joined me at the table. 


     She looked up at the kitchen clock and yawned.  "What time will Rick be here to pick you up?"



     We talked of things in general for a few minutes before Mom asked, "Do you and Janet have any news for me yet?"


     I looked over at her, wondering what she was getting at.  "News?"  Came my innocent inquiry.


     "Yes, news.  Baby news."

     Without realizing it, my face fell at her remark. 


"Oh...that., Mom, we don't.  Janet's been...we've both been awfully busy, you know."


     I hurriedly fled the table in order to accomplish that oh- so-important job of washing my cereal bowl and spoon out in the sink. 


     "Yes," she agreed.  "That's what the two of you keep telling me every time I ask that question."


     With my back to her it was easier to lie.  "Well, we are.  Busy that is."


     "And is that why Janet's never home when I call?"  She wanted to know.  "Because she's so busy at work?  Even on Sundays?"

     Well, sometimes that was true.  Janet was working some Sundays now, though more to get away from the tension that permeated our household than for any other reason I think.  And unless Janet happened to answer the phone in recent months when Mom called, she never talked to her anymore.  She had requested that I tell Mom she was out, or busy at the office.  Janet loved my mother very much.  I believe it was painful for her to carry on a conversation with Mom, while at the same time knowing where our marriage was ultimately headed.


     "Yes, she's busy at work," I lied.  "Even on Sundays."


     I breathed an internal sigh of relief when Rick's truck pulled in the driveway.


     I turned around, smiling brightly.  "Rick's here.  I'd better get going.  You know how he hates to be kept waiting."


     She walked over to kiss me goodbye.  She wrapped her arms around my waist and gave me an extra long squeeze before looking up into my face.



     I could hear the unasked questions in her tone.


     I had no choice but to respond, though it was with a good deal of trepidation. 




     She hesitated a moment, then smiled softly with understanding before kissing me on the cheek.  "Never mind.  Have a good day with your brother."


     I kissed her back.  "I will."





     Though I was in great need of my brother's own quirky brand of humor during that visit, I wasn't on the receiving end of very much of it.  It wasn't lost on me that Rick was unusually quiet.  Somehow I sensed that he was restless, and maybe even a little dissatisfied.  Though at the time I couldn't figure out why.  He loved the ocean and he loved to fish.  He was running a successful business that brought those two things to him each day.    Yet, I got the impression that suddenly that's not what he wanted any longer.  Don't ask me how I knew that, because Rick didn't say a word to me about it.  Just like I didn't say a word to him about my own dissatisfaction over being an attorney, or my martial problems with Janet. 


     As I worked on Rick's boat that week I often caught him looking at me with a fond, sad smile on his face.  As if I was a reminder of something that had once been good, but that he could no longer have.


     I mentioned it to Mom on Friday night after Rick had gone home.  The three of us had eaten dinner at her house, then played cards.   She and I were sitting on her living room couch, only half listening to the late news that was playing at low volume on the T.V. set.


     "Rick's been really quiet this week," I stated with concern.   "Is he feeling all right?"

     "As far as I know he is," Mom replied.  She thought a moment before she went on to tell me, "I think with each passing year he misses being a private investigator more and more.  He took on more jobs this past winter than he has since the two of

you closed down the business."




     "He's been traveling a lot, too.  Leaving the running of Captain Gully's Excursions to Harvey and Preston more often.  Frankly, A.J., I've been worried about him."


     "How so?"


     "This may sound silly, but he almost seems to be...looking for something he can't find.  Remember how he used to disappear on his motorcycle for a few days at a time when he first came home from Vietnam?"


     "Yes," I acknowledged.  I remembered it well. 


     "And then remember how he finally ended up moving to Florida?"

     "Yes."  Of course I remembered that.  I had followed him eight months later.  Florida was where I had met Janet.  It seemed like a lifetime ago.


     "I'm afraid that's what he's going to do now."


     My brows knitted together in puzzlement.  "Move to Florida?"

     "No," she shook her head.  "Just...disappear.  Hit the road, as he used to say."


     I chuckled at her fears a bit that night. 


"Mom, I think Rick left that hippie on a Harley behind in the '70's somewhere.  I don't believe you have anything to worry about."


     "I don't know, A.J.," she skeptically shook her head.  "He hasn't been himself lately.  He just seems...lost.  Adrift.  Like whatever was anchoring him to San Diego isn't here any longer, and he's suddenly woken up and realized that."


     I wondered if Mom was alluding to me, but I didn't ask, and right then she didn't say.  I think she wanted to, but since I was doing my darndest to give her the impression that I was happily married and loved my life in Seattle, there was no way that she was going to try and convince me to move back to San Diego just to be near my brother.


     I moved closer to her and put an arm around her shoulders. 


"You anchor Rick to San Diego, Mom.  He's not going anywhere."


     Softly, she stated what she'd been thinking.  "No, A.J.  It's you who is your brother's anchor.  You always have been."


     Because I didn't know what to say to that, I simply kissed the top of her head and pulled her closer so she could lean against my chest.  Neither one of us mentioned the subject again for the remainder of my visit.



Chapter 12



     Janet wasn't waiting for me at Seattle's airport upon my return, but then I wasn't expecting her to be.  Nor did we make love when I arrived home after my six day absence.  Nor did she tell me how much she missed me.  Nor did I express that to her, like we had after our brief separation at Christmas.  She did express the fact that she was glad I had a good time with my family, and that I'd had a safe trip.  About the same kind of sentiment you'd express to a stranger who had engaged you in conversation in a supermarket checkout line.


     As our fourth anniversary approached, I couldn't help but think of our anniversary trips of the past.  It was hard to believe that only one short year before we'd been so happy.  I recalled us making love every single night in that creaky old bed in that South Carolina inn.  And when I recalled that, I also recalled how I had hoped we were conceiving a child at the same time.  And when I recalled that, the pain of Janet's betrayal hit me all the harder.  Without my knowledge, she was on the pill at that time.  Without me being aware of it, there was no hope of me creating a life within her womb.


     Despite all those memories, both the good and bad, I actually suggested we take another trip as our anniversary grew closer.  I suppose it was my way of making one last ditch effort at salvaging our marriage.  It was my way of finding out if there was anything left to go forward with.


     I didn't bring the subject up until Friday night, September 2nd, the start of Labor Day weekend.  Way back in January we'd both scheduled vacation for the week of our anniversary like we always had.  I had no idea as to whether or not Janet still planned to take that week off, but I did.


     She was surprised to find I had supper waiting when she walked in the door at seven-thirty that Friday night.  We hadn't eaten together all summer, unless it was at the home of friends, or at some social event we'd been invited to. 


     We didn't have much to say to each other throughout the meal.  We seemed to have lost the ability to carry on the intimate conversations that had once come so easily for us.  "Pass the salt," and "I'll have some more chicken," hardly qualifies as the above.


     We were almost through eating when I asked, "Do you have any plans for next week?"


     "What do you mean?"


     "Are you still taking the week off work?"


     She looked at me briefly before her gaze fell to her plate.  She pushed a stray piece of broccoli around with her fork.  "I haven't decided for certain yet.  Why?"

     I felt like a shy schoolboy asking a popular cheerleader for a date.  "I had thought that maybe we could go...away for a few days."


     She looked over at me once again, regret turning her eyes a deep, sad shade of blue.  "A.J., I don't think--"


     "I wasn't planning on anything extravagant," I told her quietly.  "I thought we could just take a drive down into the southern part of the state, and on to northern Oregon for a few days.  For as long as we've lived up here we've never done that."


     "No...we haven't,"  she agreed.  She thought a long time before finally consenting.  "I suppose that would be alright.  When do you want to leave?"


     "It doesn't really matter," I shrugged.  "Maybe Labor Day morning.  One of the guys at work told me about a little town a few hours south of here that puts on quite an old-fashioned celebration in honor of the holiday.  I thought we could head in that direction, and then just take each day as it...comes."


     "Okay," she agreed again before rising from the table.    "I'd better call Ryan to see if he can take care of Toby."


     "I already did that.  He said yes."


     For what was probably the first time all summer, she smiled at me.  "You think of everything, don't you?"


     And for the first time all summer, I smiled back.  "I try."



Chapter 13



     If this was one of those old 1940's romance movies, I'd be able to say Janet and I saw the error of our ways on that anniversary trip and returned to Seattle the happily married couple we'd once been.  Unfortunately, happy endings such as those went out with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.


     We took each day as it came, just as I promised we would.  We stopped and saw the sites that intrigued us, or places of interest suggested by friends, but didn't have a set schedule.  I drove until we were tired and ready to call it quits for the day.  Surprisingly enough, Janet didn't insist we stay in separate motel rooms.  We even slept in the same bed for the first time since May.  But we didn't make love.  Not once.  Neither one of us so much as suggested it, let alone made advances.  I think we both knew it would only be harder to say our final goodbyes if we did. 


     Considering the circumstances we had a pretty good time.  There were no fights, no petty arguments, and no short answers or growled words.  But the intimacy of both body and spirit that had been present on prior anniversary trips was missing as well.  We were like two old friends sharing an outing.  And I guess, in way, that's what we had become.


     We were within three hours of home that Thursday afternoon and driving by a large state forest.   Bright sunshine streamed in through the car windows.  It was seventy-five degrees.  I needed to stretch my legs, so pulled off the highway and onto a quiet road that wound through the tall trees.  I stopped when I came to the first parking area.  Because the summer vacation season had officially ended with Labor Day, and because it was the middle of the week, the place was deserted.  Janet and I remained seated in the car, both staring at the well-maintained dirt hiking trail a few hundred yards away that disappeared into the woods.


     I was just reaching for the car's door handle when she stated softly, "It's over...isn't it, A.J.?"


     I knew she didn't mean the summer, or our vacation.  I knew she meant our marriage.


     It took me a long time to say just as softly, "Yes.  I'm afraid it is."


     With that she turned away from me.  Silent tears began to run down her cheeks.


     I climbed out of the car and walked over to open Janet’s door.  I offered her my hand.  She took it and stepped out.  I pulled her to me.  I couldn't remember the last time I'd held her.  It felt good.  But unlike in the past, not in a sexual way.  It just felt good to comfort her rather than to fight with her.  Despite what had happened between us in recent months, I would be forever grateful to her for the way she'd healed the pain that had weighed so heavy on my heart after Erika Garcia's murder.  I'd cherish the good memories of our first three years of marriage.  I'd try to set aside the bitterness I felt in regards to the last one.


     She buried her face in my shirt.  "Oh, A.J...I'm so sorry."


     I kissed the top of her head.  "You don't have anything to be sorry for, Janet," I told her honestly.  "We've just...changed...grown in two different directions."    I'd said almost the exact same thing to her fourteen years earlier in Florida when we'd broken our engagement. 


     "I know," came her muffled acknowledgment.  "Still, I wish it could have all turned out differently."


     I did, too, but I didn't think there was any hope of that.  Yet, if she wanted to give it one last try, I was willing.  Despite the fact that I was pretty sure we were doomed to fail. 


     "Do you want to give it one more try?"  I asked.


     She looked up at me and studied my face.  She probably saw in it what I saw in hers.  That we both knew one more try was going to be nothing other than an effort in futility. 


     She swallowed hard and shook her head.  "I don't think it will do either one of us any good.  I think we'll only end up hurting each other more."


     I looked into her eyes so she knew I meant every word I said. 


"That's what I think as well.  There's no use to go on hurting each other.  We can't love like this anymore, Janet."


     And with that, she laid her head against my chest again.  We stood there a long time.  When she moved to release me I took her hand.  We walked up the hiking trail, holding hands the entire way.  We didn't let go of one another until we returned to the car a half hour later. 


     We headed home knowing that we'd both taken the final step toward divorce.  Ironically enough, it was September 8th.  Four years to the day after we'd married.  



Chapter 14


     It was me who filed for divorce first.  Though that event didn't occur as soon as we returned from vacation.  For whatever reason, Janet and I let September go by, and then most of October without either one of us making that last move.  I finally forced myself to a few days before Halloween. 


     As far as I know, no one at Bloomdecker, Hershaw and Clark knew of my marital problems.  Not even the few lawyers that I considered to be close friends.  But I'm sure several people sensed something was wrong.  I had been quiet all through the summer and preoccupied, as most people are when their marriages are falling apart.  One of our newest female attorneys must have guessed as to what was wrong...or she simply chose to ignore the wedding band I still faithfully wore on my left ring finger. 


     She was thirty years old and extremely attractive.  She was built identically to Janet, though even slimmer, and was a blond headed, gray- eyed beauty.   She told me she had done some professional modeling in college.  She was an intelligent woman, admittedly the kind of lady I was attracted to back when I was a bachelor.  Her name was Victoria, though she went by the less formal Tori.  It fit her.  She was gregarious, athletic, graceful, and always on the go. 


     We first got to know each other that summer of 1994 when we were assigned a case together.  Had my marriage been the happy institution it once was, I wouldn't have given Tori, or her beauty and chic style, a second thought.  But my marriage was all but over, and after that anniversary trip when Janet and I had both openly voiced that conclusion, I found myself thinking more and more of Tori.


     We were assigned another case together that October.  I have no idea what she thought of my skills as a lawyer, but she did seem to find it appealing that I had been a P.I. - and that I was doing P.I. work for the firm at the present time, as well.  I found that to be a nice change of pace considering what the other woman in my life thought of P.I. work.


     The time Tori and I spent together was innocent enough, though I knew we were beginning to tread dangerous territory when the nights we worked together that fall grew later and later.  Often times we were the only two people left in the office.  I had no reason to rush home anymore, and as far as what her circumstances were, I never asked.  I knew she wasn't married, but whether or not she ever had been I don't know.


     Against my better judgment I took Tori out to dinner one evening that October.  We'd worked late and were both hungry.  I looked at my watch and knew Janet wouldn't be home anyway, so figured what the heck, I was entitled to an innocent dinner out with a colleague.


     And that's what it was until the end.  I paid for our meal, then held the door open for her as we left the restaurant.  She took my hand, the one with the wedding ring, once we were blanketed by the autumn darkness.  Funny thing, though it caught me by surprise, I didn't make a move to break the contact.  It felt good.  A little too good actually.


     " can follow me to my place tonight if you'd like," her melodious voice offered as we walked to our cars.


     I almost said yes.  That's how tempted I was.  And I wasn't fooling myself.  I knew exactly what she meant by, "You can follow me to my place."  She meant she'd be happy to have me share her bed.  I was flattered.  She was fifteen years younger than me, though I doubt she knew that.  She was beautiful, intelligent, had a terrific sense of humor and fun, and in recent weeks had showered me with more attention than any one man deserved.  Now she was offering me her bed, as well.  Not a good combination of things to tempt a married man with.  Especially one who was no longer getting those things at home.


     And then I remembered my marriage vows.  And I remembered the standards I'd always set for myself.  I didn't believe in carrying on an affair while I was still married to Janet.  Even though our union was all but over in name only, I knew it would hurt her deeply if she found out I was sleeping with another woman.  It would remind her of how Allan had hurt her.  I couldn't do that her.  I wouldn't do that to her.  Despite our many problems, I still loved the woman too much to purposely cause her pain. 


     Tori and I stopped under the streetlight when we came to her little black sports car.  I squeezed her hand, then released it. 


"If the circumstances were different, Tori, I'd probably take you up on that offer.  You're a very attractive and intelligent lady.  I like you very much.  And if I've been sending out the wrong signals lately I apologize.  But I just...can't."


     She reached out and lightly touched my arm.  "I know you're having a rough time of it at home.  I just thought...well, I just thought that maybe it was over."


     As I said, how she knew what was going on in my personal life I don't know.  But then, I suppose it wouldn't have been too difficult for her to figure out. 


"It is over," I acknowledged.  "But for the time being I'm still married.  And I was raised to believe those vows mean something.  Until...until the court deems my marriage has come to an end, I'll stay loyal to my wife."


     "She's a very lucky lady...your wife," Tori stated.  "Does she know that?"


     I smiled sadly.  "At one time we both knew how lucky we were.  But sometimes things change that are beyond our control.  That's really all that happened between my wife and myself."


     She nodded as she climbed in her car.  I watched as she drove away.


     When I pulled in my driveway a half an hour later Janet was just getting home.  It was ten o'clock.


     "You had a late night," she stated amiably as we both exited our cars.


     "Yeah...yeah, I did.  I was tied up on case.  Working late with a colleague."


     She didn't even question me as to who the colleague was, or what the case was about.  She trusted me that much.  It made me feel all the more guilty, even though I hadn't done anything wrong.


     The next day I knew I had no choice but to file for divorce.  It was time for both Janet and I to face the end of our marriage.  I knew I couldn't risk another dinner out with Tori.  I was afraid the next time such a thing happened I would wind up in her bed.  I was bound and determined that before that occurred with her...or any other woman, that I'd be single once again. 


     Because I wanted to keep my private life private, I met with an attorney I knew well at another firm on my lunch hour the next day.  I told Janet that morning what I was going to do.  She hesitated just a brief second, before quietly agreeing that it was time.  She promised me she'd file for divorce also, as soon as possible, though it really wasn't necessary as long as one of us did.  I think she wanted to file, as well, so that all our legal friends who had access to court documents, as well as to courtroom gossip, would know it was a mutual decision. 


     Which it was.  Though admittedly, not an easy one.




Chapter 15



     I filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences.  Three days later Janet did the same. 


     Surprisingly enough, once that was done things got better between us.  Or at least the tension we'd been living with for so long lessened considerably.  I couldn't help but be reminded of our engagement all those years before in Florida.  It had been exactly the same way then.  Once we'd canceled our plans to marry our relationship improved one hundred percent.


     Nonetheless, it was a dismal holiday season.  I could only recall a few that had been worse.  The first Christmas after my father died was hell, and the two that Rick was in Vietnam were pretty rotten as well. 


     Janet and I agreed that we'd put our house up for sale as soon as the holidays were over.  We probably would have done it right away had a Realtor friend not told us it would be a waste of time.  He said November and December are the worst months in which to try to sell a home. 


     For the time being then, my wife and I resided under the same roof.  We continued, of course, to sleep in separate bedrooms, and for the most part lived separate lives. 


     I couldn't face having Mom and Rick with us that Thanksgiving, nor was I ready to tell either one of them that Janet and I were divorcing.  I look back now and don't know what I was waiting for, why I thought it would be easier to tell them once a little time had passed because, of course, it wasn't.


     I called Mom a couple of weeks before the holiday.  Her cheerful voice answered the phone on the first ring.




     "Hi, Mom."


     "Hi, honey. How are you?"


     "Oh...I'm fine."


     "How's Janet?"


     "She's fine, too."


     "Is she there?  Can I talk to her for a few minutes?"


     ", Mom, she's working."


     "Oh...she does an awful lot of that lately, doesn't she?"  Mom asked pointedly.  "Work, I mean."


     I used the same excuse I’d been using ever since June when I talked to Mom on the phone and she asked to speak to Janet. 


"You know how it is, Mom.  She's the chief pros--"


     "Prosecutor.  Yes, I know.  You've mentioned that on several occasions."


     There was an uncomfortable silence between us, before I finally stated, "Listen, Mom, the reason I'm calling is to tell you that both Janet and I are really sorry about this, but...but we have to cancel our Thanksgiving plans for this year."


     "What?"  Came her disappointed question.  “But...A.J., why?"

     Smoothly, I laid out the excuse Janet and I had earlier agreed upon. 


"We're both tied up on important cases right now.  Unfortunately, we're both going to have to work on Friday, as well as on Saturday.  We just don't think it's fair to have you and Rick fly all the way up here if we can't properly entertain you."


     I hadn't counted on my persistent mother offering alternatives.


     "Well...I'm sure Rick and I can entertain ourselves on Friday and Saturday while the two of you are working.  We can rent a car so we can come and go as we please.  That way we can at least be with you on Thursday.  I can speak to Rick about us not flying home until Monday, so we can spend Sunday with the two of you, as well."


     God, I hated what I was about do to her.  She was the last person on earth I ever wanted to hurt. 


"No, Mom," I firmly declared.   "I'm sorry, but it just won't work this year.  Janet and I have both been going into our offices on Sundays these past couple of weeks.  We'll probably even be doing some work here in our home office on Thanksgiving Day."


     "Oh," came her quiet reply.  "I see." 


     "Mom...I'm really, really sorry.  Things will be...different next year.  I promise."


     Despite her disappointment she said, "I understand, honey.  I know the two of you have very important jobs.  Sometimes work takes precedence over family."


     It just about killed me when she said that.  ", that's not true.  My work never comes ahead of you and Rick.  You know that, don't you?"


     "Yes, A.J.   I know.  And I'm sorry.  I didn't mean anything by that remark.  You and Janet...well, you both have a good holiday, okay?"


     "We will, Mom.  And you and Rick, too.  We'll call you on Thanksgiving."

     "That would be nice."


     We said our goodbyes and hung up.  If Mom suspected my story held more lies than truths, she never let on. 


     Janet and I had a quiet Thanksgiving alone.  We tried to keep the day as traditional as possible.  I cooked a small turkey with all the trimmings, she baked a pie.  Unlike in years past, however, when my family had been with us, the never-ending teasing and laughter was missing.  The T.V. didn't get turned on to one parade or football game, and there was no leisurely stroll around the neighborhood after the big meal.  Nor were any cutthroat games of Monopoly played later in the evening after cold turkey sandwiches had been consumed.  


     I did keep my promise to Mom and called her in the afternoon.  She and Rick had also chosen to have a quiet Thanksgiving alone.  I talked to Mom, and then to Rick, before passing the phone to Janet.  She spoke briefly with Rick, but talked at length about things in general with Mom.  It was the first time the two of them had spoken in several months.   When Janet hung up the phone there were tears in her eyes. 


     She didn't say anything to me, but she didn't have to.  I knew how much Janet loved Mom.  I knew she didn't want to hurt her.  I knew she was going to miss having her as a mother-in-law.


     Janet retreated to our office to indeed, spend the rest of the afternoon doing work she'd brought home with her.  Toby and I retreated to the family room where we sat in front of the fireplace, Toby sleeping, me reading.


     The day could have been far worse than it was, but that doesn't mean it was good, either.  I missed the Thanksgivings of the past, and wondered what the Thanksgivings of the future would be like.     




Chapter 16



     By the time December arrived our close friends knew Janet and I were divorcing.  I suppose that explains why, unlike in years past, our social calendar wasn't filled with invitations for holiday parties.  But, on the other hand, unlike in years past, we didn't host a holiday party either. 


     As Christmas rapidly approached Janet and I decided there was no use pretending any longer that we were a happily married couple simply for the sake of our families.  Therefore, she was going to spend the holiday in Florida, while I spent it in San Diego.  Janet would tell Myron we were divorcing while she was there, likewise, I would tell Mom and Rick the same thing.  It wasn't exactly the kind of Christmas present I wanted to give either one of them, but I no longer had any choice.


     Janet wasn't home from work yet one evening two weeks before Christmas when the phone rang.  I was in the family room, reclining on the couch and watching the news.   With one hand I groped behind me for the phone, only to smile at the familiar voice on the other end of the line.


     "Yo, little brother.  How are ya’?"


     I reached for the remote control, turned the television off, and sat up.  "I'm fine.  Just fine.  How are you?"


     "I'm okay."


     We spent the next few minutes talking about things in general, as we did every couple of weeks when either I called Rick, or he called me.


     When we'd finished catching each other up on all the pertinent news and gossip he said, "I also called to wish you a Merry Christmas."


     I chuckled.  "I think you're getting a bit overly sentimental in your old age, Rick.  You'll be able to wish me a Merry Christmas at Mom's house in two weeks."


     "Uh...yeah, well, that's just it, A.J.  I won't be able to."




     "I won't be able to.  I'm flying to Scotland tomorrow."


     "You're what?"


     Now it was Rick's turn to chuckle.  "You know, your reaction is identical to the one I got from Mom."


     "I can just imagine," I stated dryly.  "What in the heck are you flying to Scotland for?"


     "I'm looking for family treasures," he stated, as if I should know exactly what he was referring to.


     "Family treasures?  Rick...neither Mom's family or Dad's is from Scotland."

     "I know that, stupid.  I'm not talking about our family.  I'm talking about Caroline MacGregor's family."


     "And just who is Caroline MacGregor?"


     "She's this really neat little old lady, A.J.  You'd like her.  She was born in Scotland and came over here with her parents in 1924 when she was ten.  Anyway, she's certain her parents left some family heirlooms behind in the castle."



     "Yeah.  Castle.  They were royalty or something."


     "Rick, I hate to break the news to you, but Scotland doesn't have a royal family."

     "Yeah, I know, but her father was the nephew of an English duke, or earl, or viscount, or one of them guys.  Anyway, to make a long story short, she's payin' me to go over there and see if I can recover any of her family's treasures."


     "The ones they left behind in the castle," I stated skeptically.


     "Yeah.  Those."


     "Can't it wait until after Christmas?"

     "No.  It can't.  Evidently the castle has sat empty for years, and someone just bought it.  They're due to move in right after the holidays."


     "Somebody bought her family's castle?"




     I thought the whole thing sounded ridiculous, but kept my opinion to myself.  Rick was so excited about his upcoming adventure that rather than burst his bubble I simply said, "Well...have a good time.  Be careful."


     "Oh, yeah.  No problem.  There won't be anything to this."


     "How long will you be gone?"


     "I don't know.  Might be a while.  Four or five months maybe."


     "Four or five months!"


     "There you go, soundin' like Mom again," he chuckled.  "Yeah, four or five months.  Caroline wants me to look up some of her family while I'm over there.  And I've got a couple of other job prospects, too.  I figure I might as well get my money's worth out of the trip."


     " might as well do that," I quietly agreed.  "But what about Captain Gully's Excursions?" 


     "Aw, Harvey and Preston can run that just fine without me.  And besides, I'm never that busy in the winter anyway.  So hey, I'm sorry about Christmas and all, but it'll be different next year."


     "Yes...yes, it will be."


     "What was that?  What'd you say, A.J.?  I couldn't hear you."

     "I said it's...okay.  I understand."


     "So is Janet home yet?  I'd like to wish her a Merry Christmas, too."


     "No, she's not home.  She's still at work."


     "Wow, she's really burning the candle at both ends this year, isn't she?"


     It was the perfect opportunity for me to tell him Janet and I were divorcing, but I didn't.  I didn't want to do it over the phone.   "Yeah, she is."


     "Well, you tell her I said she'd better slow down when the new year comes.  I'm countin' on 1995 bein' the year you two make me an uncle."


     "Yeah...I'll tell her."


     "And hey, this trip kinda came up on short notice so I don't have any Christmas presents bought yet for you guys or Mom.  I'm gonna bring everyone something back from Scotland.  Mom said we'd have another Christmas celebration when I return, if you guys can fly down for a weekend or something."


     "Sure...sure, we can probably do that."


     "So what would you and Janet like?"


     "What would Janet and I like?" 

     "Yeah.  From Scotland."


     I smiled fondly at his enthusiasm.  "It doesn't matter.  We'll be happy with whatever you bring us."


     "Well, don't tell Janet this," he said, his tone wrought with conspiracy,  "but I was thinkin' of getting you guys a full suit of armor."


     "A full suit of armor?"  I repeated.


     "Yeah.  You know, to stand up in your foyer right next to the Grandfather clock.  Don't you think it would look neat?"


     "Uh...yeah.  Sure.  I can't think of anything we need more."  Nor anything I'd be more willing to leave with Janet in the divorce settlement. 


     "That's what I thought.  I was gonna get one for Mom, too, but for some reason she told me it wasn't necessary."


     I can see why, I chuckled to myself.


     I...I'm sure Mom wants something a bit more...compact."


     "Yeah.  I suppose.  Well, I guess I'd better say goodbye.  I've got to get my packing done.  Don't worry if you don't hear from me for a while.  It probably costs a bundle to call long distance from Scotland."


     "I'm sure it does," I agreed.  "But at least drop Mom and me a postcard every now and then so we know you're okay."


     "I will.  And I did promise Mom I'd call Christmas Day."


     "Good.  I'll talk to you then."


     "Yeah, talk to you then, little brother.  Tell Janet I said hi."

     "I will," I promised, right before hanging up the phone.


     Considering the restlessness I'd perceived emanating from Rick back in July, this sudden trip didn't come as a big surprise to me.  Granted, I hadn't expected it to occur at Christmas, nor did I expect him to travel as far as Scotland in order to satisfy his vagabond needs.  I couldn't help but wonder why he suddenly seemed to have no interest in Captain Gully's Excursions.  Couldn’t help but wonder why he seemed to be throwing away what he had worked so hard for. Couldn’t help but wonder what it was he was looking for. 


     Whatever it is, I hope he finds it, was my last thought before turning the news back on.    




Chapter 17



     Rick departed for Scotland the day after he talked to me.   Three days before Christmas I called Mom to let her know what time my plane would be arriving in San Diego on Christmas Eve.


     "I'm glad you and Janet are coming," Mom told me over the phone.  "I was so afraid you'd both have to work again like you did at Thanksgiving.  It's bad enough that Rick won't be with us this year."


     "Yes, it is," I agreed.  "It won't be the same.  But, Mom, I’m...I'm flying down alone."




     "Janet's not coming."


     "Not coming?  You mean not at all?"

     "No.  Not at...all."


     "A.J., what's going on?"  Mom demanded.


     "I'd rather not discuss it over the phone, Mom.  We'll talk when I get there."


     I could tell she didn't want to let the subject drop, but she knew me well enough to know I meant it when I said I wasn't going to discuss it with her over the phone.      


     Mom picked me up at the airport at four o'clock Christmas Eve afternoon.  She hugged me tightly.  "You've lost weight," she scolded, looking up to search my face for the reason why.


     "Some," was all I'd acknowledge in return.


     Neither one of us said anything about Janet as I weaved Mom's Mercedes in and out of holiday traffic. 


     We spent a quiet Christmas Eve alone.   Since I was the only person Mom had to cater to she made all the foods I like best.  Several times she commented on how thin I was. 


     "Just how much weight have you lost?"  She asked over dessert.


     "I don't know.  Five or six pounds maybe."


     The look she gave me clearly broadcast her disbelief.  "Make that nine or ten and you'd probably be telling me what's closer to the truth."


     I simply shrugged, then chuckled as she forced another piece of apple pie alamode on me.


     Once the dishwasher was cycling and the kitchen was picked up, we went out to the living room to enjoy an after-dinner glass of wine.  We sat together on the couch in front of the twinkling Christmas tree.


     Mom waited until our wine glasses were empty and set aside before asking, "So, what's going on between you and Janet?"


     I couldn't look at her.  I hung my head.  "It's not good, Mom."


     "Honey...whatever it is...however big the problem seems to be, I'm sure the two of you can work it out if you just give it some time."

     "We have given it time," I choked out, my eyes suddenly filling with tears.  "A lot of time."  Her image blurred before me as I finally looked over at her.  "We filed for divorce in October, Mom."


     There was no incriminating words and no questions as I began to cry in earnest.   She simply took me in her arms and urged me to rest my head against her chest.  "I'm so sorry, Mom," I sobbed, not even having the presence of mind to be embarrassed over my lack of emotional control.  "I'm so sorry I failed."


     It was the first time I had cried over the end of my marriage.  The first time I had cried for all the things Janet and I couldn't work out.  The first time I really acknowledged the pain of all that had changed between us.


     In that age-old tradition known only to mothers, Mom slowly rocked back and forth as she cradled me in her arms.  She murmured words of comfort, most of which I can no longer remember.  I do recall her telling me over and over that I hadn't failed at anything.  That I had nothing to be ashamed of.  That she loved me very, very much.


     When the storm had passed and I was able to get a grip on my emotions, we broke our embrace and I began to tell her of everything that had occurred between Janet and myself in the past year. 


     She asked a few questions, but other than that didn't offer her thoughts one way or another on all I had to say.  And when it was over and my story was finished, she took my hand in hers and squeezed.  Because Mom's a fair person, and because she has a deep affection for Janet, she didn't try to place blame on either one of us.  For that I was grateful.   Instead, she told me she knew there were two sides to every story, and that while she understood my feelings, she also understood Janet's. 


     "I was afraid something like this might happen someday, A.J.," she told me quietly as we both stared at the Christmas tree.


     I turned to look at her.  "What do you mean?"


     "When you first told me you and Janet were going to marry I...well, quite frankly, sweetheart, I was concerned that it was a bit too soon after Janet's divorce from Allan, and a bit too soon after all you'd gone through over the...Garcia case.  I was afraid that when the internal wounds you'd both suffered had healed, you'd once again discover you weren't meant for each other."


     "Why didn't you say anything?"


     She gave me a wry smile.  "Would it have done me any good?"

     I couldn't help it.  I smiled back.  "No.  Probably not."


     We sat there silently for a long time, both of us thinking our own thoughts.  Finally, I said, "For a while, Mom...for three full years, it was so good.  So damn good."


     She gave my hand a squeeze. "I know, honey.  I know.  And that's what you have to remember.  The good times."


     "I try to.  But I just feel like I've failed at something that's so damn important.  One of the most important things that ever happened to me. I just feel like such a...loser."


     She pulled me to her and hugged me once more. 


"A.J., you're not a loser.  And you never could be.  Throughout your entire life you've been nothing but a winner.  That doesn't mean you haven't gone through some pretty hard times, just like you are now, but it means you've always persevered.  It means you've always come out on top.  Every single time.  You will this time as well."


     And when I really thought about what she'd said, I knew she was right.  There'd been so many difficult times over the years, just like everyone has his or her share of difficult times.  My father's death, Rick's tour of duty in 'Nam, my first broken engagement with Janet, the ups and downs of Simon and Simon Investigations, and, of course, the Garcia case.  Mom was right.  Somehow I'd managed to overcome all those rocky roads. I knew

then, I'd overcome this one, too.


     "It's not going to be easy to come out a winner this time," was all I said.


     She gave me a knowing smile.  "Is it ever, kid?" 


     I smiled back.  "No. I guess not.  At least not in my experience."


     She laughed as she hugged me.  I hugged her back, grateful for the mother who could somehow still manage to turn the bad to good.




Chapter 18



     Since Mom and I were by ourselves that Christmas my father's sister, Pat, invited us to spend the day at her house.   As it was every Christmas, Aunt Pat's home was overflowing with uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends.  I enjoyed seeing everyone, and it actually proved nice to be surrounded by so many people all talking at once as we passed dish after dish of piping hot food.  After lunch, those of us that could still move went out to the backyard where the traditional touch football game was played. 


     I had asked Mom not to tell anyone that Janet and I were divorcing.  I told her I'd rather that she did that some time when I wasn't around.  She said she understood and abided by my wishes.  Instead, anyone who inquired was told that Janet was in Florida with her father who had been ill and recently released from the hospital.  Which was true.  Myron had been hospitalized with pneumonia in early December, though he had never really been in any serious danger, and was well on the road to recovery by Christmas.  Mom and I made it sound a little more life- threatening than that to those who asked, however. 


     Rick called that morning before we left for Aunt Pat's.   The evening before I had requested that Mom not tell him about my impending divorce either.  I told her it was something I had to tell him myself. 


     Mom handed the phone to me when she and Rick finished their conversation.  I could barely hear a word my brother was saying.


     I shouted into the phone,  "Where are you?"


     "At a pub!"  Rick shouted back.  "These Scotsmen really know how to celebrate Christmas, A.J.!  Wish you and Mom were here with me!  I can't talk much longer, this is costin' me a mint!  Let me wish Janet a Merry Christmas, too!"


     "Uh...she's up in the shower!  But I'll give her the message!"


     Mom looked over at me.  I could clearly read the pointed expression that said,  "There's no time like the present."


     "Oh!  Okay!"  Rick was yelling in my ear.  "Well, you guys have a nice day!"


     "We will!  You too!"  I yelled back.  "Bye!"


     "See ya', A.J.!"


     I hung up the phone, then walked over to the table to resume clearing away the dishes like I had been doing before Rick called.


     From where she stood at the kitchen sink with her back to me Mom stated,   "This would have been the perfect opportunity for you to tell Rick what's going on between you and Janet." 

     "I'm not ready to tell him yet," was the only answer I gave her. 


     And I wasn't.  Of all the people I had to inform about my marital break-up, Rick was the one who would be the hardest.  Not because he'd be judgmental, or place the blame at my feet, far from it actually.  But because he had always been so proud of me, and always been so proud of my marriage to Janet.  He thought that between our careers and our home we'd done wonderfully for ourselves.  Or so he often told me.  I just couldn't face disappointing him, at least not right then.


     Mom's voice interrupted my thoughts as I brought the last of the dishes to her. 


"Your brother will understand, A.J."


     I shrugged.  "Yes, I suppose he will.  Nonetheless, it doesn't make the thought of telling him any easier."


     "No, I suppose it doesn't," Mom agreed.  She looked up at me.  "But if you're concerned Rick will think less of you once you do tell him, you're dead wrong."

     My, "I know," wasn't very convincing, to either my mother or to myself.




Chapter 19



     Janet and I put the house up for sale as soon as the new year began.  It just about killed me to see that wooden For Sale sign stuck in my front yard as I pulled in the driveway each night.  God, how I loved that house.


     For several reasons, including that For Sale sign, I decided the time had come for me to move out.  I doubt Janet would have had any objections had I stayed there with her until it sold, but I felt it was time that we both begin living  separate lives again.


     I worked with a lawyer whose elderly mother had recently passed away.  His father had preceded her in death by several years, so with his mother's passing the man inherited his parent's home on Puget Sound. 


     He wasn't quite ready to part with it permanently by selling it, but rather was looking for someone he could trust to rent it.  That someone was me.  It was a beautiful little two bedroom home right on the water with windows that ran from the floor to the ceiling in each and every room.  It was the perfect place for me, a man who had often sought answers to some of life's toughest questions on the ocean's shore.   The solitude I so desperately craved awaited me in that tidy little home that was off the beaten path.


     Along with my move that January, came other decisions that Janet and I had to be make, as well.  Between the backgrounds she and I had in the private investigation business, and now our careers as lawyers, we'd both been witness to our share of nasty divorces.  We made a promise to each other that we wouldn't let things get that way between us.  For the most part they didn't.


     Not only had we agreed to sell the house, we had also agreed to sell the majority of the furnishings.  That eliminated any bickering over silly things like coffee tables and kitchen chairs.  We were both taking with us what furniture we'd brought into the marriage from our former homes, as well as of course, our personal items such as books and exercise equipment.  Janet insisted I take the Grandfather clock Mom gave us as a wedding present.  She also asked me if I wanted the roll-top desk she'd given me for the same occasion.  I got the impression that it was important to her that I have it, and it was a beautiful piece of furniture that I thought I'd continue to use, so I said yes.


     Because Washington is a joint property state all our assets would be evenly divided between us regardless of what each might have brought into the marriage financially speaking.   Money was one area Janet and I had never disagreed over.  Right from the start of our marriage anything the two of us earned went into our joint bank account.  There was never any 'his' or 'hers' when it came to our financial affairs, which ultimately made the divorce proceedings easier on both of us.


     I'll readily admit I was at loose ends that winter.  I continued to work for Bloomdecker, Hershaw, and Clark, simply because I didn't know what else to do.  I thought of opening my own P.I. firm, but wasn't sure Seattle was the place I wanted to do that.  But then the thought of going back to San Diego and doing the same thing didn't appeal to me either.  I couldn't imagine being a private investigator in San Diego again without Rick by my side.   Even though he'd continued to dabble in the business, I didn't think he'd be the least bit interested in reopening Simon and Simon.  And I was afraid to come right out and ask him for fear he'd say yes just to make me happy, without giving any consideration to what he really wanted.


     And speaking of former P.I.'s, my biggest surprise of all came that January.  The phone rang one evening not long after I'd moved into my new home.  I immediately recognized the gravely voice on the other end.



     "Yes...Myron.  It's me.  How are you?"


     "I'm fine, kid.  Just fine."


     "How'd you get this number?"


     "Janet gave it to me."




Here it comes, I thought with dread.  He's going to let me have it with both barrels.


     On more than one occasion throughout my marriage to Janet I'd heard Myron defile Allan Cassidy as, “That no good dirty rotten bastard who hurt my little girl.”   Therefore, I assumed I was about to be on the receiving end of Myron's famous temper.


     "Listen, A.J, I just called to tell you that I'm really sorry you two kids couldn't work this out.  I was shocked when Janet told me what was going on.  Absolutely shocked.  Do you think there's any chance that the two of you could somehow see eye to eye on all of this and call off the divorce?"


     "No, Myron," I stated sadly.  "I think we're well past anymore chances."


     "Well, I want you to know, kid, that I don't hold any of this against you."


     "Thanks, Myron.  That means a lot to me," I stated, and really meant it.  I had wanted to call him for several weeks, but had been certain he'd be so angry that he wouldn't want to hear from me.


     "Janet's strong willed," he went on to say.  "She always has been.  When she decides something is going to be a certain way...well, there's not much use in trying to talk her out of it."


     "I know," I agreed.  "But it's not her fault either, Myron.  Don't blame her.  We just...we just don't want the same things out of life."


     "That's what she told me," Myron acknowledged.  "And, kid...about this private investigation business?"




     "I know better than anybody how it can tear a husband and wife apart.  I loved Maddie with all my heart and soul, but she just didn't understand, ya' know?  Maybe no woman can.  From the first time I laid eyes on you, I knew P.I. work was in your blood.   And when it's in your blood, you can't get it out no matter how hard you try.  I warned Janet of that almost five years ago now, when she called to tell me that you were giving up the business for good and that the two of you were getting married.  I told her it would only be a matter of time before you'd be right back in the thick of it once more.  But she wouldn't listen to me."


     "Neither one of us would have, Myron.  We just didn't foresee...any of it, coming to pass."

     "No, I don't suppose you did," Myron stated softly.  "I don't suppose any of us really did.  You both seemed so happy."


     "We were," I assured him.  "There were more good years than bad."


     "I'm glad to hear that.  Janet told me the same thing.  I don't know, A.J, in my day it was a lot easier.  The woman stayed home to raise the kids while the man went off to work.  His wife might not have liked what he did for a living, like my Maddie didn't like me being a P.I., but she didn't divorce him over it either.  And this business about Janet not wanting children because her career is so important to her...well, I just don't understand it."


     And I knew he didn't.  Nor did I expect him to.  As he said, in his day it was a lot easier.  I don't know if that's really true or not, but certainly the roles of husband and wife were more clearly defined.  That doesn't mean it was better then, just different.


"Janet's got to do what makes her happy, Myron," was all I would say on the subject.


     "Yeah, I suppose you're right.  Listen, kid, you take care of yourself, ya' hear?"


     "I will."


     "When are you gonna give up that lawyerin' crap and go back to doing what you're really good at?"


     I smiled.  "I don't know.  I haven't decided for sure what I'm going to do."


     "Mark my words, kid, you'll be an investigator again before it's all said and done.  I didn't train one of the best P.I.'s I've ever worked with to have him throw it all out the window.  And uh...A.J.--"




     "You've been a good son-in-law.  I couldn't have asked for better."


     "You probably could have," I said with a sad smile, "but thanks, Myron."


     "Stay in touch, okay, kid?"

     "Sure, Myron.  Sure."


     And with that, we hung up.  Not long afterwards I found out Janet had received a similar phone call from Mom.   She and I are fortunate to come from very supportive families.  It made the whole mess a lot easier to bear.




Chapter 20




     In late February our house sold.  Saying goodbye to that stately old Victorian was harder than I thought it would be.  As I stood on the front porch for the last time, I vividly recalled carrying Janet over the threshold upon our arrival in Seattle as newlyweds.  We'd been so happy that day.  So in love.  In my wildest dreams I never would have imagined that this is where we'd end up.


     The day we gathered in the Realtor's office to sign the final papers with the couple that had purchased our home was a difficult one for me.  They were in their early thirties.  He was an aerospace engineer, she an author of murder mysteries. They had two sons, ages six and three, and a daughter who was five.  It was quite obvious that a fourth child was due to make his or her appearance within a few short weeks.  As I looked at the children, and then the woman's swollen belly, I was poignantly reminded of the dreams Janet and I once had.  The dreams that were dying a final death at that table as I signed my name to the necessary papers.  Janet must have known how I was feeling, what this young family represented to me, because she wouldn't hazard a glance in my direction throughout the entire time we were there.  When we were finished and I rose to leave, it was without so much as a goodbye to my soon-to-be ex-wife.


     But, if nothing else I was glad the old house I loved so much was finally going to be blessed with little feet running up and down its stairways.  That house had been made with a family...with children, in mind.  At least that's what I had thought the moment I laid eyes on it.   


     The next weekend Janet moved into a Victorian a few blocks north of the one we had owned.  It had been completely remodeled within the past few years and was well-maintained, though considerably smaller than ours had been.   She was renting it with the option to buy, which she fully intended to do once our divorce was final in May.  Unlike me, Janet had no doubts as to what her future held.  She would continue to live in Seattle and work as the chief prosecutor for the district attorney.           


     That was the longest, darkest winter of my life.  I was glad when it was over.  My heavy heart lifted just a bit as I watched spring come to Seattle through the windows of my rented home.  The waters of Puget Sound came alive once more with fishing boats and weekend sailors.  The seagulls returned, as did other forms of wildlife that had headed for warmer climates the previous fall. 


     And then May arrived.  And with May came the biggest shock of my life when Mom and Rick sailed in on the Precious Cargo.  And within twenty-four short hours the Simon brothers managed to create utter chaos in Seattle.  Even though I'll never admit it to felt great.  It felt like old times.  It felt like I was back where I belonged.


     Much to my delight I discovered that we hadn't lost our touch...or our ability to play off one another like finely tuned violins.  Among other things, we stumbled upon a dead body stuffed in a freezer, Rick instigated my escape from police custody, we rescued our mother from would be kidnappers, and we recovered the Precious Cargo for one very grateful lady.  Oh yes, and without realizing it, Rick spent the better part of each day dodging an irate Scotsman whose wife he'd been sleeping with.  


     And now the three of us - Mom, Rick, and myself, are sailing for home...for San Diego, on the above-mentioned yacht.


     I stopped by Janet's this morning to say goodbye.  If nothing else, this week has given me final peace in regards to the termination of my marriage.  Although overall, Janet and I have been on good terms throughout the divorce proceedings, Rick's arrival prompted old tensions to erupt like Mt. Vesuvius.  It even got to the point that she and I were arguing over whether or not Toby could spend time with Rick.  It was then that I knew we were better off apart.  It was then that I knew, for as much as I had wanted us to have children, it was for the better that we hadn't.  It would have broken Rick's heart had Janet kept his nieces and nephews from spending time with him.  Which I know now she certainly would have attempted to do.  I also know that would have caused arguments of turbulent proportions to break out between the two of us.  Arguments that children have no business being witness to.  Arguments that would have ultimately torn our marriage to shreds, leaving innocent little kids the injured victims of our shattered vows.


     Janet, dressed for the working day, opened the door wide and allowed me to step in the house. 


     "Wait here a minute," she instructed before disappearing up the stairway that led to the bedrooms.


     She returned a moment later with Toby on his leash.  She passed the leash to me. 




     "I don't really have time to take him for a walk, Janet.  I'll just say goodbye to him here.  I've got to meet Mom and Rick on the yacht in a few min--"


     "No," she shook her head.   "I want you to take him back to San Diego with you."




      True, we had agreed to joint custody of the dog that had, in many ways, become our substitute child.  However, I had not expected Janet to allow me to take him to San Diego with me, and I certainly had no intention of fighting with her for the privilege.  We've done enough fighting this past week.


     "I want you to take him to San Diego with you," she repeated.  "Mrs. Edwins, his teacher at Happy Doggie Day-Care, says his recent misbehavior stems from our divorce, and too much time spent alone.  She says Toby’s in need of a lot of attention...and a companion.  I know you'll have more time to spend with him than I will, especially with Cecilia to take care of him for you if you're not around for a few days.  And as far as a companion goes," she smiled, "well, I think he and Rex will become fast friends, don't you?"


     I returned her smile with one of my own.   "Yes...I'm sure they will."


     "And who knows?"  She lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "I may surprise the two of you with a visit one of these days.  Just to see how you're getting along and such."


     We held one another's gaze a long moment.  I slowly gave a nod of my head.  "Toby and I would like that.  You're welcome any time."


     She took a step forward and kissed my cheek.  "Take care of yourself, A.J."


     "I will," I promised.  "You do the same."


     I started to walk Toby out the door, then halted our progress and turned around.  "And Janet?"




     "If you ever need me for anything, anything at all, I'll always be here for you."


     Her smile was sad and reflective of the one or two regrets she'll always carry with her over where we ended up.  Just as I have one or two regrets of my own.


     "I know, A.J," she acknowledged softly.  "I know."




Chapter 21




     The stars had long blanketed the night sky by the time I retired to my stateroom this evening.  Rick and I spent the entire day together up on the deck navigating for home.  During one of our many conversations this past afternoon, I revealed some of the details regarding my divorce to him.  As Mom has assured me all along, he doesn't think less of me, but simply offered his quiet understanding in the way only Rick can.


     As well this afternoon, my brother's old familiar Panama hat and military field jacket were pulled out of storage.  He smiled at me when he said it felt good to slip into them again.  That they felt like treasured friends he'd spent too much time away from in recent years.


     Mom smiled a few hours later when I came out of the bathroom minus my moustache.  Exactly why I shaved it off I'm not sure.  It just seemed like the right thing to do.  Like that act was helping me leave Seattle behind for good. 


     Mom ran her fingers over my naked upper lip.  "I like it," she stated.


     I gave a self-conscious shrug.  "I thought maybe a change was in order."


     "I think that's a good idea," she agreed.  Her eyes twinkled with mischief.  "Besides, you're ten times more handsome without it."


     I blushed.  "Mother!"


     Her laughter echoed behind me as I returned to join Rick on the navigation deck.


     "What's Mom laughin' about?" 


     "Nothing," was all I would say.


     " shaved off your cookie duster."


     "Not you too!"  I rolled my eyes.  "And if you say it makes me look ten times more handsome, I swear I'll throw you overboard."

     "No, I wasn't gonna say that.  You're still as ugly as ever as far as I'm concerned."


     I sneered at him.  "Thank you."


     He smiled.  "You're welcome."


     We were both quiet, enjoying the sunshine and the serenity of the ocean for a period of time. 


     Rick moved to sit in one of the captain's chairs. 


"So...uh, wouldn't happen to know of anyone who would be interested in buying your old house...would you?"


     I turned to look at my brother.  "Why?

     "Diego and his wife bought a condo, so they're gonna be movin' off my boat in a couple of weeks.  I kinda miss the old place, ya' know?  It's perfect for me really.  Just the right size.  The house on the Grand Canal is more than I need.  I never have gotten around to buying any furniture for the living room, or the bedroom you used to use as an office.  And besides, Diego and Melissa took good care of the houseboat.  I couldn't have asked for better renters.  I really hate the thought of trying to find someone else who will be as reliable as they were."


     "I see," I nodded as I took the seat next to my brother.  "Well...I might be interested in buying the house back from you."


     As if it came as a big surprise to him, Rick asked, "You would?"

     I shot him a knowing smile.  "Yes...I would.  That is, if the price is right."


     "Oh, I have a feeling the price will suit you just fine," was all Rick would say on the subject.  "Mr. Gorman will sure be happy to see you return."


     I arched an eyebrow.  "Oh really?  And just what have you done to the poor man since I've been gone?"


     "Done?  What have I done?  I haven't done anything," Rick denied in a voice dripping of innocence.




     "Well, okay...there have been a few parties that have

gotten out of hand, I suppose.  But hey, it wasn't Carlos's fault that when he shot off that flare it landed on Gorman's roof and started the house on fire."


     "Carlos started Mr. Gorman's house on fire?"

     "Yeah.  Mom didn't tell you that?"

     "No.  She didn't."


     "Oh.  Well, I suppose that's 'cause she was kinda' embarrassed and all, because my name and picture ended up in the paper 'cause it was my house where the party was being held."


     I hid my smile.  "Yes, I suppose she was rather embarrassed." 


     "And then there was the time one of Carlos's cousin's had a little too much to drink and streaked buck naked through Mrs. Gorman's kitchen - while she was scramblin' eggs.  Boy, A.J., what a mess that was.  She was screamin,' and hollerin,' and there were broken eggs everywhere, and--"


     "I can just imagine," I agreed, vividly picturing the event. 


     "And last summer Rex dug up Mr. Gorman's prize roses.  He was really pissed about that.  He made me pay for 'em ,even though I had told him not to plant them so close to the lot line.  Let me give ya' a piece of advice, A.J.  Don't let Toby wander over into Mr. Gorman's yard."


     "I won't," I assured as I glanced down at the dog that was slumbering at my feet.


     "Oh, yeah, and then last fall that dead body got delivered to Mr. Gorman's house by mistake."


     "The what?"


     "Dead body.  It's a long story.  I was workin' on a case for Jerry Reiner.  But anyway, the guy drivin' the hearse got the house numbers mixed up and wheeled the corpse into the Gormans' living room.  That's when Mr. Gorman said it was the last straw.  The law suit's still pending."


     "What law suit?"


     "The law suit Mr. Gorman's threatening me with for, and I quote, "Causing irreparable long term psychological damage and emotional trauma," - whatever the hell that means.  All I know is I gotta move outta' the house.  I think it's my only hope in gettin' Gorman to drop the suit.  And hey, maybe you could talk to him for me.  You know, calm him down like you used to when I lived on the Hole In The Water."


     Again, I hid my smile while promising,   "I'll see what I can do."


     We fell silent once more as I pondered with amusement all the never-ending trouble my brother managed to constantly be mired in.


     "So...uh...what are ya' thinkin' of doin' when we get back to San Diego?  You know, about a job and all?"


     I gave a nonchalant shrug.  "I don't know for sure.  Like I said last night at the restaurant...I'll have to play it by ear."


     Rick looked out over the water as he navigated the big vessel. 


"I was kinda thinkin' that maybe we could reopen Simon and Simon...just for the summer.  Just to see how it goes.  We could use the Captain Gully office as our home base for a while, then if we think it might become a...permanent situation, we could move back into our old office.  The bank's annual lease is up September 1st, you know."


     "I know.  But what about Captain Gully's Excursions?  Summer is your busiest time of the year.  Are you sure you want to give all that up right now?"

     "Aw...I wouldn't be givin' that much up, A.J.," he casually dismissed.  Rick wouldn't look at me when he added, "Or at least not givin' up nearly what I'm gonna be gaining." 


     I couldn't help it, I smiled.  I guess Rick and Mom had it all figured out long before I did.  When I'd been below deck divesting myself of my moustache, I'd stumbled upon a grocery list Mom left laying on the galley table that read;


     Stock Medicine Cabinet For Boys




     Large bottle of extra-strength aspirin.


     Rubbing alcohol.


     Alka-Seltzer for those days when Rick gets on A.J.'s nerves.


     Tequila for those days when A.J. gets on Rick's nerves.


     A bottle of white wine for those days when they both get on my nerves.



     Evidently, her mother's intuition told Mom that Simon and Simon were soon to be back in business again.


     It was late in the afternoon when Mom joined us on deck.  She slipped an arm around each of our waists.  She took in Rick's hat and jacket, then my clean-shaven upper lip. 


     "You two look pretty good standing up here together."  Her blue eyes sparkled.  "As a matter of fact, you both look like you're right where you belong."


     I smiled down at her.  "For the first time in a long time, Mom, I feel like I'm right where I belong."


     Rick looked over at me, his own smile touching the corners of his mouth.  ", too, Mom.  Me, too."  His eyes lit up with that old Rick Simon mischief.  "Now, if I could only get A.J. to follow my orders when I tell him to go below and scrub the heads."


     "And I told you that I'm not going to do that!"  I declared.  "If you want the damn heads scrubbed, then you go below and do it."


     "Gee, Mom, I don't know," Rick dramatically shook his head.  "He's gotten awful high and mighty since he became a lawyer, don't ya' think?  Let's see, I bet a few all-night stakeouts that find him sittin' on the cold ground in some prickly bushes will bring him down a peg or two."


     "If anyone's going to be sitting on the cold ground all night, Rick Simon, it'll be you," I informed my brother.  "Before we go back into business together, we have a few things to discuss as to just what type of jobs we will and won't take.  If you think I'm going to accept everything that comes down the pike you're sadly mistaken.  I--"


     "Come on, A.J, be reasonable here.  We're not gonna be able to be that picky when we're first startin' out again.  It's gonna be kinda like startin' over.  We're gonna have to rebuild our client base.  Get Abby to talk to us again--"


     "What do you mean, get Abby to talk to us again?"


     Mom looked up at Rick.  "You haven't told him?"


     ", Mom. I haven't really had a chance yet."

     "What did you do now?"  I demanded.


     "Whatta ya’ mean, what did I do now?"  Came Rick's indignant cry.  "Why do I always get blamed for everything that happens?"


     As one, Mom and I teased, "Because it's always your fault!"


     "Well, this wasn't my fault!  And besides, what's the big deal anyway if I've managed to alienate the entire San Diego police force?  We've got other contacts.  We can--"


     "You've managed to turn the entire San Diego police force against us?"  I echoed.  "Oh, that's just great, Rick!  Just great!  How the hell do you expect us to go back into business together if we don't have any contacts within the force?"

     "We can do it!   We’ve got Towner."   He quickly amended that when he thought of all the trouble we'd recently caused Downtown Brown. "Well, okay...maybe not.   And quit lookin' at me that way!"


     "What way?"


     "Like it's my fault!  It's not my fault, A.J.  I don't care what Abby tells you.  So I helped those three convicts escape.  Big deal!  I didn't know who they were when I offered 'em a ride outta the police garage.  I didn't--"


     "You helped three convicts escape?  Aw, Rick...I can't believe you!  We'll never see the inside of that station again!  Abby was a vital link to the work we did!  We need...."


     "Don't yell at me!  I keep tellin' ya' it wasn't my fault!  I--"


     Our argument came to an abrupt halt as Mom began to laugh.  She pulled both of us to her, hugging us for all she was worth.  She looked up into Rick's puzzled face, then into mine.  Her eyes danced with merriment...and love. 


"It sure is going to be good to have Simon and Simon home again."


     Rick and I looked at each other before we, too, started to chuckle.  My brother hooked a hand around the back of my neck and pulled me to his chest.   He opened up his other arm, encouraging Mom to step into his embrace.  He gave us a long, hard hug. 


"You're right, Mom," he wholeheartedly agreed.  "It sure is going to be good to have Simon and Simon home again."


     What more could I do but hug them both in return while echoing, "Yes, it is.  It is going to be good."  I pulled away to give them both a big dimpled smile.  "As a matter of fact, I can't think of anything that would be better."


     And I couldn't.


     I held my right hand out to my brother.  He grasped it firmly with his own.


     "To new beginnings," I stated.


     Rick looked into Mom's smiling eyes, then into mine.  "To new beginnings," he agreed. 


     Mom covered our clasped hands with hers.  She squeezed hard, then said through her tears, "To new beginnings."


     And with that, Simon and Simon are together again...and ready to start anew.



~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~



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