Chapter Three – The Devil is in the Details

 

Jack checked his watch and noted the time. He fiddled with the device for a moment before lowering his arm back to his side. The watch was new, or at least new to him. It was a lackluster, purely utilitarian, scuffed up Timex Ironman. The type of watch you could pick up in any Walmart, Target, or gas station convenience store. This particular watch he had picked up in a nearby pawn shop. It was hardly the timepiece he would ordinarily be seen wearing, but this wasn’t an ordinary day for Jack. Today was a hunting day and his prey was a cagey beast.

 

He leant up against his rental car and busied himself by watching a panhandler as he waited. The panhandler looked scruffy. He had stains on his clothes, a tear here and there in his sweat pants and a prominent cardboard sign on his lap that read, “Starving Vet.” Jack kept his eye on the man as passers by dropped money into the hat he had in front of him. Some even bent down and shook his hand to thank him for his service. Jack however kept his distance and merely watched. It was all a ruse of course. He had seen the very same individual in front of a different office building a few months prior. But that time he wasn’t a starving veteran. That time he was crippled veteran, complete with a ratty wheelchair covered in American flags. It seemed like his legs were now working just fine. The beggar counted the money in his hat and pocketed the larger bills and coins. As he did he looked up at Jack. Jack nodded. The man nodded back, and Jack looked elsewhere for amusement.

The vehicle he was leaning on was a plain red, four door sedan. It was well maintained, good on gas, and utterly lack luster in style. On the back seat of the car was a box of mini pylons and a net full of soccer balls. Hanging on the rear-view mirror of the vehicle was a shiny and completely untouched referee’s whistle. Had anyone been looking they would have found the package that it came from stowed surreptitiously under the driver’s seat. On the passenger’s seat was a clipboard with a small stack of paper attached. Flipping through the pages you would have found a number of highly effective soccer drills with names like, “The Bank Game”, “Keep Your Yard Clean”, “Four Corners”, and “Killer Whale”. All of these drills had been recently printed out at a Kinko’s downtown about twenty minutes ago. Jack smirked when he saw “Killer Whale” and mischievously had placed that particular drill on top of the stack. Much like a director sneaking himself into a shot as an extra, it was a bit of tomfoolery that only he would know about and it gave him a little tickle in the corner of his cheek. In front of the passenger side seat was a pair of soccer cleats that Jack had acquired when he picked up the watch. In truth, they didn’t even fit him. But what did that matter. These were the small details that made his camouflage effective.

 

Jack adjusted himself in his semi relaxed fit track suit and looked across the plaza. From a distance he caught a glimpse of his target. She had pushed her way out of office building and was weaving between the loose crowd of people. Her gaze was steady and uncaring. She clearly had a destination in mind and the individuals in her way were merely obstacles. Halfway across the plaza she twitched as you do when you notice something out of the ordinary on the periphery of your vision. Her steely gaze adjusted as she turned to look Jack’s way, all the while continuing to weave through slow moving suited men and women. The moment she made eye contact with Jack her facial expression changed. Her 1000 yard stare became that of a gleeful schoolgirl. She abruptly changed course and began making a beeline for Jack. She was dressed in a skirted power suit, charcoal grey in color, reserved but professionally elegant. Her blonde hair was cut to a shortish length the way many middle-aged women do, but her’s was quite attractively styled. Matching her golden hair her ears and neck were adorned with matching gold teardrop pendants with a diamond center stone. On her left hand was a sizeable engagement ring partnered with a matching wedding band. She fiddled with it as she came closer and by that and the twinkle in her eye, Jack knew he had her.

“Oh Jack!” she exclaimed, “You didn’t have to meet me at work. I know you had a soccer practice to run. The kids need you more than I do.”

“Not today Melissa.” Jack smirked. He leant towards her, swung his arm around the married woman’s waist and kissed her gently on the cheek. “I rescheduled the practice.” he explained softly into her ear. “I just couldn’t wait till the weekend to see you.” Over her shoulder Jack saw the panhandler looking back at him again. He smiled and gave Jack the thumbs up before thanking another passerby for their pocket change.

“Oh Jack you flirt.” she giggled, adoring the attention. She bit her lip and stared into his eyes with a reverence that was normally reserved for gods and celebrities. Jack could see she wanted to kiss him, but tact and maturity held her back. “Should we take my car then?” she asked softly.

Jack smiled and turned to the rental car with a chuckle, “Ya, it’s not much to look at is it.” Melissa was one of the more difficult targets in his so called career. She was a strong woman both of character and morals. Jack instinctively knew that if he had approached her as some Don Juan wannabe she would have shot him down in seconds flat. He had discovered the hard way that power women have learnt to be wary of that sort of character. As much as the attention is a treat to them, they are suspicious and expect it to be false. Many people flirt to get ahead, Men are no different than women in this regard. As a woman on the top of the corporate ladder, Melissa had ascended through hard work and fierce determination. She surely would not accept anything less from any man. Jack knew that being a suited flirt would mean curtains for this seduction.

 

Jack had found, however, choosing to be someone that’s of a lower social standing works incredibly well. He called it, “the stable-boy effect.” This time he was Jack the middle-school soccer coach. He was good with kids, approachable, sweet, compassionate, and kind. He was middle-class Jack with working-class attitude.

Melissa’s husband, Robert, had paid for Jack’s services nearly three months ago, and though he was becoming impatient he understood that his wife would need time to be seduced by Jack. He had reservations about the manner in which Jack was going about it, however. For him, he could not comprehend why a successful, powerful, driven woman would find any interest in a simple, cash starved, soccer coach. As Jack had explained it to Mr. Vargas, “Women with everything find themselves wishing for something different. The princesses of the world don’t seek princes; they look for someone who doesn’t behave the way all the other men in their life behave. They are looking for something fresh, something new and intriguing.” Once Jack had placed himself in Melissa’s path a few times the two had struck up a number of polite conversations. To her husband’s surprise Melissa immediately became enamoured with Jack the soccer coach. After receiving the green light from Robert, Jack had arranged this final meeting for himself and Melissa.

 

Despite his meeting with Dr. Velenta, Jack wasn’t changing what he did for work just yet. He had accepted Melissa’s husband as a client and had put the time and effort in with Melissa. Jack felt it was simply foolhardy to drop the consulting contract on a whim. “After all,” he had reasoned. “I have standards to maintain.”

 

“You know you’ve been working hard all day, I can drive you if you’d like?” he asked politely, leaving the door wide open for the immediate smash return back across the conversational net.

“Maybe you’ll get to drive me later,” Melissa winked then giggled, “but for now let’s go to my car.” she smirked. “Follow me.”

 

Jack did as he was told and smirked to himself as he watched the mature woman strut in front of him. For a woman in her late forties Melissa was a feast for Jack’s eyes. The skirted suit Melissa was wearing did just the right amount of clinging that Jack could delight in the subtle bounce of her ass with each step.

 

Melissa looked back over her shoulder and caught him staring. She smirked to herself and continued to walk ahead. Jack smiled. She was clearly savoring the slow burn of excitement that came from an attractive man gawking at her. From the more recent conversations he had with Melissa he knew she hadn’t had the pleasure of that sort of attention for some time. Her husband, as much as he was polite and tender, was not the type that overtly showed emotion or gave her bounds of attention. Melissa had become accustomed to it but couldn’t help but desire more.

 

“Over here,” she motioned pointing at the car park. Jack nodded and picked up his pace so as to be walking next to her again. He looked over at her and smiled. As soon as Melissa returned his glance he winked. She shook her head but giggled all the same. “What am I going to do with you?” she asked rhetorically.

 

“I think you know what you’re going to do with me.” Jack responded. His low gravelly voice rumbled across Melissa’s eardrums giving her small shivers down her back.

 

She turned to Jack again her mouth open as if to say, “How dare you.” but no words came out. Instead she merely got lost in his eyes for a moment. She broke away from his gaze just in time to see the parking attendant standing in front of her.

 

“Ticket ma’am?” the young fresh faced teenager requested.

 

“Here you go.” Melissa responded not bothering to watch the boy sprint off to retrieve her car. “What’s your game here Jack.” she finally said. “What are you doing to me here. You know I’m a married woman.”

 

“Married on paper yes, but not in your heart and you know it.” Jack responded. He stretched out each word with perfect tone and timber forcing Melissa to digest each morsel individually and then again as a whole.

 

“Maybe. But–” she stopped herself and looked around briefly to ensure know onlooker was observing the pair, “–this is bad. This is wrong.” She gripped the zippered suit jacket Jack was wearing and pulled on it gently as she spoke.

 

“If it’s so wrong why do you want it so badly?” Jack stated softly. He reached out his hand as he did and gently placed it on her shoulder, before running his hand down her cheek under her jaw line.

 

Melissa took an immediate gasp of air. The unexpected and utterly tender touch of Jack’s hand on her skin electrified her. Her eyes fluttered and she bit her lip again, staring into Jack’s eyes. Slowly Jack closed the distance between them; softly passing into her orbit like a beautiful but ominous comet. Melissa closed her eyes and turned away, sighing as she did.

 

There was a rumble in the distance and Melissa spoke, her words tumbling out of her mouth like marbles, “That’s–uh–my–my car is–that’s my car.” She didn’t turn to look at Jack this time.

 

Jack took a quiet breath himself. She’s much more cagey than he initially surmised.

 

“Jack,” she said suddenly, turning to him now. Her eyes were glossy and she was blinking rapidly, clearly trying to stop herself from tearing up. “I–I don’t know if I should let you come with me.” she admitted.

 

The guilt in her voice was excruciating to Jack’s ears. He had pushed passed these feelings before; many times in fact. But this time was somehow different. Jack felt the urge to simply give Melissa a hug instead of pouring on the charm. Acting purely on compassionate instinct he did just that. He reached out and encircled the proud woman in his strong arms. All at once she collapsed into his chest, burying her head and sobbing softly. “It’s ok Melissa. We can just go talk somewhere this time.” he said as soothingly as he could.

 

Melissa looked up at him as a tear streaked down her cheek. “This–this isn’t fair.” she blubbered.

 

“Ma’am, your car.” came a voice from behind Melissa.

 

She wheeled around to see the same teenage boy pointing at her car. His face was deadpan and unsympathetic to Melissa’s tears. He clearly didn’t care about either of them and simply wanted them to move along. Jack reached around Melissa and tipped the boy. He toddled off with a smile on his face as he pocketed the crisp twenty. Melissa looked back at Jack, then back at her car. “Come on then, you’re driving.”

 

“Are you sure?” Jack asked sincerely.

 

“Positive. I’m in no mood to drive.” she paused for a moment then looked at Jack directly, “It’s high time I get to be the bad girl for once. Get in and drive me home.” she commanded.

 

Melissa wiped the tears from her eyes and hopped into the passenger side of her mean looking black Cadillac XTS. Jack settled into the driver’s seat and quickly adjusted the mirrors to his needs. He looked over at Melissa and smiled, “Where to Miss Daisy?” he asked jokingly.

 

“Oh shut up.” Melissa chuckled, clearly grateful for the small comedic relief. “I’m not that old!” She shook her head in feigned irritation before continuing, “We’re heading to my place, if that’s alright with you.” she mockingly requested.

 

“Yes ma’am.” Jack quipped, nodding and touching his hand to his head as if tipping his chauffeur hat to the tough business woman. He paused for a moment before engaging the engine. Unlike previous jobs he felt a twinge growing in his stomach. He had discussed this evening with Melissa’s husband earlier. The plan was to text him when he arrived at the house. This would allow Mr. Vargas to give sufficient time to Jack and his wife, so that when he came home unexpectedly he would find the two of them engaged in any number of carnal acts. Jack found himself now curiously considering not sending the text at all. He frowned and Melissa caught him in the act.

 

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

 

Jack quickly turned, “I have no idea where you live Melissa. I’m going to be the world’s worst chauffeur.” he smiled and Melissa chuckled.

 

“Here, it’s in the GPS,” she replied quickly. After keying a few buttons the display indicated a direction to follow and an electronic woman’s voice told Jack to proceed to the street ahead of him and turn left.

 

“Seems I can’t get away from a woman telling me where I need to drive her.” he laughed.

 

Melissa smirked, “Oh I’m sure you don’t mind.”

 

“Not a bit.” Jack laughed, “–but I am used to being in charge.” he growled the last words and turned to Melissa as he did. Jack saw the look on her face and the twinkle in her eye. He smirked and let her chew on that for a moment, quietly following the GPS through a couple of turns. “So you’re husband is out of town then?” he asked nonchalantly.

 

Melissa nodded, “Yes. Again. It seems he’s gone more frequently every month.” The married woman fiddled with her ring and looked back at Jack. “You know Jack,” she said softly, “–I think he might be cheating on me.”

 

Jack furrowed his brow. Ordinarily this would be a slam dunk for him now. If a woman he’s targeting in any way suspects her husband is cheating on them it’s a sure bet they’ll be in his bed before the end of the night. Women, when given the opportunity, are just as apt to cheat as men; Jack found they only need to make it about revenge. Once vengeance came into the picture, Jack had no more work to do. So here, in this moment, upon hearing Melissa question the fidelity of her husband Jack had the opportunity to close the deal easily, yet he couldn’t bring himself to do so. “Noooo–” Jack finally responded, being as cool as he could. “You don’t really think so do you?”

 

Melissa nodded again, “I’m almost positive.” she responded. “I just haven’t had the guts to try and prove it.”

 

Jack sighed, “Why’s that?” he asked.

 

“Because–” she turned to him and winced, “–because it hurts Jack.” She looked ahead at pedestrians crossing in front of the car and shook her head. “When you’re married you want to believe that this is it. That there’s no more of that running around crap. You want to believe that once you’ve got this ring on that it some how holds magical powers that will keep your marriage together and strong forever.” She fiddled with the engagement ring again, pushing it around her finger. “But it’s not like that at all. Things change. Life changes. You change. Suddenly you look at the man you’ve spent the last fifteen years with and you don’t know who he is.” Melissa sighed and slumped in her chair.

 

Jack looked over at her then back at the road. He furrowed his brow again in thought, and then looked at her once more.

 

“What?” Melissa said finally seeing him stare.

 

“Would you divorce him?” Jack said finally.

 

Melissa turned to Jack and he could see in her eyes the struggle to speak her mind.

 

“I don’t mean divorce him for me or anything like that. I mean, divorce him for you. For your own sake.” Jake clarified.

 

Melissa looked out the passenger side window for a while, not answering the question but clearly deep in thought. “I–I don’t know. Maybe?” she said softly.

 

Jack took another deep breath. There was a turmoil raging inside of him that he had never felt before. He found himself sympathetic to Melissa’s plight. Secretly Jack had done his own investigation of Melissa’s husband as he always does a prospective client. He had found this an excellent security measure. For the rare times that clients either refused to pay after the completion of the contract or for any other reason that strikes Jack as a risk to his own safety; Jack always had irrefutable proof of the husband’s infidelity. He could, and had on occasion, needed to use it. So as this was usual Jack found that Melissa’s husband Robert was indeed cheating on her. What was a little unexpected was that Robert was cheating with another man. Jack felt himself struggling to decide whether or not to tell her about this. It would be a breach of his contract and he undoubtedly would pay the consequences, but it just felt wrong to sit idly by this time.

 

Jack opened his mouth to speak, but immediately closed it again. “Something’s wrong isn’t it.” Melissa asked softly.

 

Jack nodded, then turned to the blonde, “I need to tell you something,” he finally managed to mumble.

 

Melissa nodded, “Can it wait?” she asked, placing her hand on his thigh in a gesture reassurance.

 

Jack looked at her, then looked at the road. He opened his mouth, then closed it once more, silently nodding. “Ya. It can wait.”

 

“Good.” Melissa replied. She left her hand on his thigh and gently stroked it back and forth in idle thought while staring out her window again.

 

Jack looked down at her hand and immediately noticed her rings were gone. He looked over at Melissa, then back to the road smiling to himself. Regardless of how he resolved his own moral dilemma it was clear that Melissa had already resolved her own.

 

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