Madge was mixing her third vodka tonic, while a report on a typhoon in the Philippines was showing on CNN International. That was the only “real” news that was available from Sky TV. She couldn’t stand to watch “those bigots and right wingers” on FOX, which was the only other English language news available. Jerry was too cheap to buy a better package that included the BBC. No problem, she planned to switch the television off soon and then grab a book and read herself to sleep.
At that moment, Jerry walked through the front door of their apartment. Madge did a double take at her watch. Her husband then called out and said “Hi honey; I’m home.” For the past few weeks, he seldom arrived home before eight even nine p.m., but there he was kissing her on the cheek at 5:45.
“Well, you’re home early,” Madge said. She was surprised, not only by the time, but by the fact that her husband had a faint almost mischievous smile on his face.
“Yeah, I am,” he said. He walked over into the kitchenette area, opened the freezer, and grabbed a handful of ice cubes, which he placed in a glass. “Do you mind if I join you.” Madge shrugged. He then poured in some vodka and filled the glass from the open can of tonic on the counter. “And that’s the point.”
“Oh, oh,” Madge thought. When he did finally come home, he was often exhausted at best and angry and upset at worst. If she was awake, she usually heard some story, seldom accompanied by a kiss, about how stupid, or lazy, or unreliable he found the workers to be that day. If she were in bed, Jerry would watch TV for a while and then attempt to slide into bed without waking her. What he didn’t know was that she only pretended to be asleep lying beside him. Soon he would be snoring loudly. Madge watched apprehensively, as her husband, dressed in a white tee shirt with the sleeves rolled up above his thin biceps, blue jeans with less than the usual coating of gray dust and thick brown work boots, stood in the middle of their small living room sipping his drink. If anything he seemed pleased or at least, not unhappy. Madge just sat on the couch. She imagined that the look on her face was one that implied that he was welcome to go on and tell her what was on his mind.
“I’ve been neglecting you lately—too blasted busy with the house and pissed off all the time, and I don’t know, frustrated and tired. Whatever.” Madge sat still and alert on the couch dressed in an old tee shirt with Dubai stenciled across the front in faded green letters and a pair of green Bermuda shorts. One bare foot was tucked under her other leg. She didn’t dare move as she peered over her big white-rimmed glasses at a man she hardly recognized. “So…” Jerry stretched out the word, with a twirl of his hand as if he were making an introduction. “I thought we need a break. I know I need a vacation from that money pit and I’m sure you’d like to get out more; so whaddaya say. Let’s go somewhere.”
Madge was surprised by how surprised she was. Of course it was a great idea, long overdue actually. So why wasn’t she thrilled? Or relieved? Or at least pleased? She couldn’t help it. Instead of being touched by the fact that her husband seemed to be emerging from a long-standing funk, she felt apprehensive, unsure. “Where do you want to go?” she asked.
“I don’t know honey. I thought we might take a road trip, you know, like we used to. Just load up the car and take off. Head west. There’s plenty of this country we haven’t seen yet. Jeez, honey, I thought you would be pleased.”
“Oh, I am, I really am,” Madge said, even though she wasn’t so sure. “I just didn’t expect this.”
“I know, I know,” Jerry said drawing out the second I know with a mixture of regret and conviction in the tone of his voice. “I knew you would be surprised; and I hope pleased. I’ve been so focused, maybe even a little obsessed lately with the house. I know I need a break.”
Maybe—a little—lately. Madge found herself examining every word her husband said. She really didn’t know what to make of his sudden turnaround. The look on her face as she tried to figure out how and why she felt the way she did, apparently was not one of glee or appreciation.
“I don’t know, I thought you would be pleased,” Jerry said and then drained his drink.
“Oh, oh, don’t blow it,” Madge thought and then out loud “I am, Honey, I am.”
“Well, the look on your face…” Jerry was headed back for another vodka tonic. “You want a refill?”
“Please,” Madge said sensing how close her husband was to reverting to his usual peeved personality. “I was just trying to figure out where we should go.”
Again with a wave of his hand, “I don’t think we should have a set destination. Let’s just set ourselves free. We’ll follow our noses and have fun.”At that Madge was standing in front of her husband with her arms out at the side and then they hugged, for the first time in what seemed like months.
“How about tomorrow?” Jerry was all smiles.
“What about the house?” As far as Madge was concerned, the situation was becoming surreal.
“I’ve put Charlie in charge. He can handle it for a few days.”
“Oh my,” Madge thought. He could never handle it before—not as far as Jerry was concerned, and so with a consciously concerned look on her face, “Really?”
“Who knows?” Jerry said with a laugh, with the usual touch of bitterness. “Maybe he can, maybe the dumb fuck can’t; but we’ll soon find out. All I know is that we can’t go on this way much longer, now, can we?”
“No we can’t,” Madge agreed, as her husband bent over and kissed her on the lips.
* * *
Barb Multusky always enjoyed her lunches with Candida Riva Cortez. Candi was the one who helped her find their sweet little apartment and then was invaluable at helping them get set up. Moving to a new country meant that what had taken years to get organized back home had to all be redone all at once—pensioners’ visas that established legal permanent residency; drivers’ licenses and car registration after the purchase and importation of the vehicle; transfer of the water and electric bills and maintenance fee from the previous owner’s name; car, medical and home-owner’s insurance; a bank account (not an easy matter in Panama which included a personal interview); a family doctor, dentist and a vet for Carmen; and furniture and stuff for the apartment. The Multuskys had shipped very little down, a couple of oil paintings that really didn’t go with their new décor, some clothes and photo albums, but the rest of their belongings had been sold at garage sales; given away to family and friends; donated to the local church charity; or simply thrown away. Mitch suggested that they had made “a major impact on the environment” by how much they dumped into the county landfill. So Candi, as their hired “relocation assistance expert” and Barb’s first friend in Panama, helped with everything from arranging for contractors to repaint the apartment; to where to find the perfect coffee table; to knives for the kitchen; a new mirror, shower curtain and towels for the bathroom; and new drapes for the bedroom that matched the bedspread.
Candi’s English was excellent with the closest thing Barb heard to an American accent in Panama. More to the point was that probably because she was young and attractive, Candi was able to actually yell at workers, sales people and government clerks in a manner that seemed fiery and oh-so Spanish; while if Barb and particularly Mitch would have tried the same approach, they would not only be considered ugly Americans but actually deserve the title. That was certainly why Jerry Cole had most of his problems—somehow his exhortations came across as arrogant insults to the Panamanian ear. Where Candi was concerned the painters, electricians, store managers and bank officials seemed eager to please and anxious to avoid a dispute. Thin and angular, with her tiny fists on her thin hips, Candi was an almost stereotypical firecracker. As Mitch pointed out, “stereotypes don’t come from nowhere.” More to the point, Candi was their firecracker and both of the Multuskys adored the young woman.
Another of her prominent traits was that Candi was seldom on time—no, never on time. While seated under a large green umbrella at a table at Casa Blanca, Barb’s favorite sidewalk café, she had a few minutes to smoke a cigarette and wonder why she was so reluctant to interview Jerry Cole about Beth’s murder. Neither she nor Jack was anxious to take on their prime suspect. Could it be that the reason he was on the top of the list was his temper—a temper that was almost certain to show itself, the minute, no, the second, he suspected that they suspected him. Barb had pretty much decided to save him for last. He was the obvious candidate, which made him the least interesting and because of his grumpy disposition the most likely to be uncooperative and angry. Barb tried to convince herself that they were circling in on him by eliminating the others. The fact that so far no one, absolutely no one, had been eliminated was another problem, but what could she do?
Carmen’s leash was looped under a table leg, as she played one of her many roles as café dog. Carmen lay with her front paws crossed. When Barb looked up, she saw Candi striding down the sidewalk with her shoulders back and the sea breeze from the nearby ocean blowing her hair. Candi wasn’t a classic beauty, but her light brown hair with blonde highlights, her neat trim beige business suit with a short skirt and her medium high heels, made her look quite attractive in a stylish confident way. “This girl is going to end up being first lady one day,” Mitch would say which was also an indication of the high opinion they had of her husband Benito.
“Hola amiga,” Candi said. She never apologized for being late, probably because she didn’t consider herself as at all tardy. She had arrived as soon as she was able. Her mother was in town from Las Tablas in Los Santos province; her sister was getting married; and her new job as a trainer for the Marriot Corporation was keeping her busy. So after about five minutes of non-stop narrative about the traffic getting into Casco Viejo and the fact that she was trying to hire a new maid, Candi finally took a breath and said, “So what are you up to?”
For Barb, this was always an embarrassing question to answer. The first response was usually, “Oh, I don’t know, nothing much.” Compared to Candi, Barb was retired. Got up when she wanted; took Carmen for long walks; read an endless series of whodunits; and went to bed early. Of course, there was the so-called investigation, but wondering who killed Beth wasn’t time consuming like Candi’s job and family obligations with a never ending series of baptisms, birthdays, weddings and funerals. Barb had even gotten used to their conversation being interrupted by the insistent buzz of Candi’s cell phone. Barb was also not ready to confide in anyone about her worries concerning Mitch. Telling someone, would mean having to confront a situation, she wasn’t ready to admit, much less face. So at least there was the investigation, which Barb mentioned wasn’t getting any closer to finding out who the murderer was.
“And if you do, then what?” Candi had that fiery look in her big brown eyes.
“Oh, I don’t know, I guess we’ll notify the authorities,” Barb said without conviction.
“I have to tell you,” Candi began, shaking her hair out of her eyes, “that Benito is not at all happy about you becoming involved.”
“Does that mean he’s not going to help me anymore?” Barb was genuinely concerned.
“He didn’t say that, but he is worried that you might get in over your little old gray head.” Candida tried to make a joke, but it was clear to Barb that both Beni and she had talked about it. “What if it turns out to be somebody bigger, more powerful and much more dangerous than your current batch of disgruntled gringo suspects? Then what?”
“Then what indeed? If it’s that horrible developer that Beth was having trouble with, what’s his name?”
“Feliz, Rodrigo Feliz.”
“That’s right. Then we shouldn’t do anything, is that what you’re implying?”
“Now, don’t get your panties all in a bunch…” (Candi loved to show how with it she was with even using English slang and slightly off-color phrases.); “Beni’s just not sure how ready for prime time you are. I mean to mix a few metaphors in there, this guy Feliz is the big leagues and if he wanted to play hard ball he could cause a lot of people trouble including Beth and anybody else for that matter.”
“You know, I was planning to talk to Beth’s lawyer tomorrow about that very possibility,” Barb said.
“Who’s that?” Candi wanted to know.
“Boar, I think his name is Bill Boar. I believe he’s a Zonian.”
“Oh yeah, I’m pretty sure everybody calls him Billy. Beni knows him. I doubt if he’ll be much help.”
* * *
After crossing over the canal on the high arcing Bridge of the Americas about an hour before, Madge was amazed that her jovial husband wasn’t even tempted to stop at the construction site near the ocean in Gorgona, a rapidly growing beach community, where the Coles had staked their retirement claim, if the house would ever be finished. Instead he kept their steel grey mid-sized Hyundai Tucson aimed west at between 80 and 100 kilometers an hour. Jerry was hunched over the steering wheel wearing a blue and white Hawaiian style shirt, cargo style shorts and Crocs. Except for the billboards that were scattered all along the roadway, Madge considered the drive to be very scenic with mountains looming up in the distance. Coming over one such peak, there was a vast view of Punta Chame a thin peninsula sticking out into the Pacific Ocean. There were quite a few disheveled towns along the way at various crossroads that seemed to contradict the term of highway. In the States and elsewhere, real highways were unobstructed two or three-lane expressways that had to be exited on cloverleaves before being able to access fast food or a gas station. The Pan American Highway seemed more like an extended two-lane boulevard that at points swept past cow pastures and green tree-covered mountains and at other times slowed down for towns with names like Arraijan, Capira, Campana, Espave, Sajalices, Bejuco and Chame. All along the way, there were pedestrians; school kids in white shirts and navy blue trousers or skirts; an endless string of men in baseball caps, tee shirts and jeans; old guys carrying machetes and quite a few young women in short shorts with babies on their hips. In many places, plywood or concrete footbridges were stretched across the deep drainage ditches in the median that drained the rainwater off the concrete surface of the road. Many of the towns had pedestrian bridges built over and across the road, but few people were wary enough about the cars speeding by to use them.
Heavy trucks loaded with chicken crates or rebar, tanker trucks and dump trucks labored up the steeper grades, while SUVs and pickup trucks passed in a hurry. The Pan American Highway was the only road stretching the entire length of the country. A persistent adventurer could actually follow it all the way up through Central America and eventually reach the United States. This all-purpose road could sometimes be packed with weekend travelers. At other points, this thoroughfare could be wide open for miles allowing car to safely reach speeds of 120 to 150 K per hour. All a driver had to do was keep an eye open for the possibility of a man scurrying across the lanes carrying two heavy buckets or a slow moving pickup loaded with mangos.
Madge had kicked off her flip flops and tried to relax, with her window rolled down and her elbow out. The variable lenses in her glasses had turned dark in the bright sun light as a Bob Marley CD hummed along with the window wind and traffic noise. Jerry did not seem to be as perturbed about the glare or slow trucks or cars that wouldn’t pass quickly enough. Instead, he seemed to honk his horn almost merrily, as if he were in the game rather than a booing disgruntled fan on the sidelines. The problem was that the fun, the merriment the congenial patter, all seemed forced. It was like Jerry was putting her on; and at some point would turn on her and say something like “You stupid bitch, you didn’t really think this was all going to be fun and games did you?” Why couldn’t he be trying to make up to her, for his nasty outbursts; for all the tension and complaining? Wouldn’t it be great? Part of the problem for Madge was how sudden this trip came about. One day she’s cooling her heels feeling neglected in a rented apartment, wondering when her obsessive husband would deign to keep her company, and then the next day they’re on the road singing along to reggae. Up until yesterday, a mini-vacation was too much to hope for. What changed? Madge realized that especially since Beth’s death, that she had trouble trusting Jerry. If he was able to strangle somebody, he was able to do almost anything. If only she could ask her husband point blank—so did you off the bitch Beth—but of course she couldn’t. What if he did? What would he do next? And what if he didn’t, what did that say about their relationship—that she suspected him of murder?
Either way it was crazy. She had told no one that she was going, so nobody knew that she was gone much less where. As a loyal wife, she had put herself at the mercy of a man who may be capable of who knows what. Was her imagination running away? Yes, but she couldn’t help it. People don’t change overnight, but that was exactly what the smiling man behind the wheel had done—gone from worse to better, an overnight sensation. At that point Jerry asked her what she was grinning about. “Oh, I don’t know,” Madge said without sarcasm, “just happy, I guess.”
Jerry never slowed down when they passed through Coronado, a much more built-up community with large shopping centers situated on both sides of the road. There was even a McDonalds. When Madge asked about maybe stopping for lunch, Jerry said that he still wanted to put some miles between him and “the job.” Coronado was the last town along the way that there was even a chance of seeing somebody they knew. After that there would be no witnesses. “Oh, just stop it,” Madge told herself. “You’re being paranoid, you silly goof. Why don’t you just allow yourself to have a good time for once? Give the poor guy the benefit of the doubt. After all, he’s the one who has been banging his head against a concrete wall, literally and figuratively, trying to get their dream house built.” Yes, it was her dream house too, Madge reasoned. Maybe Jerry allowed himself to lose perspective sometimes, but what was she doing? Wasn’t she having paranoid fantasies that her husband was taking her on a one-way trip? “Get real,” she said under her breath. Of course it’s only paranoia if it’s not true. Madge thought it was a sad state of affairs that she hoped her fears weren’t true, but was also resigned to the possibility that she really didn’t know what was going on.
* * *
Beni needed to be in court all day, so Barb asked Jack to accompany her for the meeting with Billy Boar. She didn’t know the guy and had hoped that her young lawyer friend could help her sort through any legal matters that might have gotten poor Beth in over her head. Mitch offered to drive and acted a bit miffed when his wife told him that that wouldn’t be necessary. With her bear of a husband skulking around their cave, Barb decided not to mention that she had decided to bring Jack along for moral support and help with the questioning. It was getting obvious that Mitch wasn’t really in favor of his wife going around asking about what was in fact an unsolved murder. At first she assumed that Mitch was rightfully concerned over her safety; but in the past couple of days, she sensed that Mitch just didn’t approve. More than once he referred to Jack as a “wanker” and concocted sentences so the words Jack and off would be used consecutively as in “Is Jack off tonight?” or “Where is Jack off to?” or “I think Jack’s off the mark on that one,” in response to the theory that Jack thought that the young Columbian hooker should be added to their list of suspects. Barb did try to discuss “the case” with Mitch, but he seemed uninterested and frankly impatient with what he had recently referred to as “a wild-goose chase, with you, my dear, the only one in danger of getting goosed.” Mitch always liked to kid around, but Barb learned long ago, that a joke with an edge to it usually meant that the subject wasn’t always being taken lightly. Could it be that Mitch was jealous of Jack? Since she knew that she had absolutely no interest in a man she suspected of being gay; and that Jack had never, not once, flirted with her; she found it difficult to imagine what had provoked Mitch’s feelings, if that indeed was the problem. Since it wasn’t true, Barb decided that “the big old lug might as well get over it.” Mitch snatched the leash that was hanging on a doorknob and announced that he was taking Carmen for a walk, even though the little black and white dog was sound asleep on the couch. Mitch stuffed a plastic grocery bag into his back pocket.
“Try to get back before nightfall,” Barb said.
“Very funny.” Mitch didn’t storm out exactly, but Barb knew that something was brewing and that allowing him to stew, might not be a good idea. She decided to bring up “So what’s the problem?” soon. What she didn’t know was that a few minutes later Mitch witnessed her stopping their Honda CR-V at the corner by the Columbus House and picking up Jack Smith dressed in a white short-sleeved shirt and dark green slacks.
Billy Boar’s office was in a small non-descript four-story building on a side street off Via Espana. His door was open when they entered the outer office with an empty desk and chair in front. “Come on in,” a voice called out from the back room. “By secretary is off today,” Boar said as he stood behind his large mahogany looking desk. “Her kid’s sick and has to go to the doctor, or so she says. Same old story.” He motioned for the two to take their seats in two old but not very shabby leather arm chairs facing the desk. A long institutional table was along one wall, covered with stacks of papers and manila folders. Two pale green, three-drawer file cabinets guarded the only window that overlooked an alley. There were no pictures or diplomas hanging on the blank beige walls. Barb knew that Mitch would have said something like “Did you have a decorator or did you do all this yourself?” Which wouldn’t have been that funny. Little did she know that Mitch was not in a joking mood.
It turned out that Billy and Jack had met before, at a party or some social event, but no last names had been exchanged. Barb decided to get right down to business. “So who do you think might be responsible for Beth’s death?”
“Well, first of all, I did not know Beth socially, so I have no idea about jealous boyfriends, or angry neighbors or any of that, “ Boar said with a grin that Barb felt came across as smug. “But I’ll be perfectly honest with you, because I liked Beth, she was a good gal.” Boar scratched his close-cropped hair and attempted to grin, but rather grimaced. “I’m afraid that some advice I gave her, a strategy we employed may have directly or indirectly led to her untimely demise.”
Barb noticed that Jack was sitting bolt upright in his chair with a peeved look on his face.”I’m afraid you’re going to have to explain what you mean by that,” Barb said as, out of the corner of her eye, she watched Jack fidget.
Billy Boar, sat slouched in a high-back swivel chair, in a blue long-sleeve shirt and blue with gold stripes tie loosened at the collar. “Absolutely,” Boar said, while also taking a sidelong glance at a very rigid Smith. “As you might already know, Beth was involved in a dispute with a developer who was constructing a building right next door to one of her principal properties.” Both occupants of the leather chairs nodded. “Well our plan had two parts. One was direct action and we did file a formal complaint. The housing commission actually did put in place a temporary stop-work order because his structure basically was not in compliance with codes, guidelines and specifications, you know, the standard reasons. To be honest, that was enough to really piss off the developer, a total asshole by the name of …”
“Rodrigo Feliz,” Jack interjected rather too sharply. “We know all about that. So get to the point.”
“Okay,” Boar said, as he looked askance at a glaring Jack. “The second part of the plan was a bit more complicated; and it involved embarrassing Feliz in the media, with a couple of critical newspaper articles in “the American” and La Penza and on the internet in Panama News, Panama Digest what have you.”
“And, your point?” Jack was obviously testy, so much so that Barb felt she needed to interject, “Go, ahead Mr. Boar.”
“Billy,” the lawyer said with the sardonic grin back on his angular face. “The point was that we weren’t only trying to make him look bad among his big-wig friends at the Union Club, some of whom actually care about Casco Viejo and its status as a World Heritage site. I also thought that having his name in the paper, would cause enough heat that it would provide some protection for our Mrs. Beth Page. That’s where I think I just might have fucked up—excuse my language.”
“How so?” Jack was on alert.
“I decided not to actually have Beth quoted in any of the articles. I thought it was better, that the son-of-a-bitch Feliz, not be able to blame her personally. Now that I think about it, we probably would have been much wiser to have Beth go public and lead the attack. After all, because of the complaint, she was a target. If her name was well known as an opponent, it wouldn’t look that good if all of a sudden she was bumped off. I thought I was protecting her by keeping her out of the papers, but now that I look back, she probably would have been more protected if everybody already knew that our boy Rodrigo wanted her ass in a sling.”
“So you believe it was that Feliz character, that as you say had her bumped off,” Barb leaned back and looked small and defenseless in the large chair.
“Yup, I do.” Billy folded his hands in front on his desk, like a school boy.
“That’s all well and good,” Jack said, obviously not convinced. “However, somebody of Feliz’s stature probably has a prestigious law firm that could put up a pretty good fight especially against a one-trick pony such as yourself, no offense intended.”
“I’m not sure of that, but you’re absolutely right. Except we’re dealing with a big shot, with a gigantic ego, who’s pissed off and has the stature and money to get away with murder. You don’t think I have any proof do you? If I did, the police would have it. You asked me for my theory and I’ve obviously thought about it and I worry that I might have been able to handle certain facets of the dispute differently, with possibly a different result. Now that’s as about as candid you’re going to get from anyone.”
“Hardly,” Jack said. Barb was surprised by how righteous her associate was acting, with a truly indignant tone in his voice. “You said at the outset, that you didn’t have social dealings with Mrs. Page. Isn’t that right?”
“Yes,” Billy Boar said. To Barb he sounded calm, and seemed credible.
“Well, I’m afraid that I have a reliable source, who has told me that Beth had engaged in a very spirited telephone conversation with someone named Billy. In fact, she literally screamed the name ‘Billy’ several times into the phone. She was emotional and it didn’t sound like a business call. It was a night or two before she was strangled by someone she apparently knew, not some thug, hired by some local gangster.”
“Who told you that?” Boar wanted to know, “and Billy who?”
“You tell us, Mr. Boar. How many Billys played a role in Beth’s life?”
Again, the grin that Boar seemed to use in a variety of situations appeared. His features were sharp and calm. He even twiddled his thumbs as he responded, “Well, there’s Billy Beliz.”
“Who?” Jack seemed a bit caught off stride.
“Billy Beiiz, a young good looking developer from Columbia. Some people thought he was Beth’s boyfriend, there for a while, but I don’t know about that. What I do know, is that Beliz owed Beth a boatload of money. So again I don’t know,” Boar said with a shrug. “So how’s he for a suspect?”
* * *
Jerry Cole stuck to their plan, which was pretty much no plan at all. Their itinerary was unfocused and open-ended. After driving past the beaches of San Carlos and through the not particularly friendly looking towns of Rio Hato and Anton, they stopped for lunch in a bustling town called Penonome. Fried fish, deep-fried yucca—everything was fried. From there they soon bypassed Nata and Aguadulce. When Madge spotted Santa Maria on the map, she suggested that they might want to turn off the Pan American Highway and make their way down the Los Santos peninsula to Pedasi; a beach community that she had heard was nice.
“Nah,” Jerry said, “I thought we might go a little farther, maybe turn off near Santiago, and head up into the mountains.”
“Hey wait a minute,” Madge thought. “All of a sudden our nowhere-in-particular journey seems to have a destination. At least in Jerry’s mind. I guess we’re following his nose.” Madge wasn’t happy. She was finding it impossible to shake an uneasy, suspicious, sick feeling in her gut. Were they just winging it, or did her often angry, sometimes mean, but currently on his best behavior husband have a goal all along. If so, why didn’t he share it with his only passenger, who happened to be his wife? Really, nobody knew where they were headed. Madge hadn’t informed anyone that they would be gone, much less where they were going or when they would return. Madge felt vulnerable, even foolish, to take off to points unknown with a man that she could not rule out as a suspect in a brutal murder. Did he sense her suspicion? They had been married for 23 years, and knew each other pretty well after all that time. So if he should be able to tell that something’s bothering his wife, why can’t she get over being afraid? He had been a responsible and respected (if not always popular), executive engineer. Never had a criminal record and, though he threatened a couple of times, he never hit or grabbed Madge in anger. “I’m a nurse, after all,” Madge reasoned, which meant that she should be able to recognize and control irrational fears. Madge was so uneasy that she worried her demeanor would somehow irritate her husband and send him into a rage.
“Hey Madge,” Jerry said as they approached the outskirts of the large town called Santiago. “Check on the map and see if you can find a little place called Santa Fe. It should be off to the right somewhere in the direction of the mountains.”
Sure enough directly north at what looked like the end of a thin red line was Santa Fe.
“Jesus,” Madge thought, “this has been our destination the whole time.” Then out loud in what Madge hoped sounded like a casual tone, “So what’s in Santa Fe?”
“I have no idea,” Jerry said still jolly. “Let’s go and find out.”