Two lovers plan an escape but escape is easier said than done when one is married

The formica table was scarred from years of battles between cups and plates, the occasional fork and knife misuse. Mark slid the gun toward Judith and said,. “Keep this close.

Judith stared at the napkin it was wrapped in. Afraid to touch it.

“Why?” Judith looked around. Paranoia made her feel as if they were the most interesting people in the world, when in fact that couldn’t be further from the truth. The diner catered mostly to over-the-road truckers. The occasional passerby on their way to wherever the road takes them. The few that were seated around them, more absorbed in their stale coffee and greasy food than anything else.

“Listen. You’re not even going to need it.” 

“Then why...” Judith felt that she was talking too loud, lowered her voice, leaned in closer, “Then why should I have a... ... you know?”

Mark smiled as he spoke. “I like to be prepared for every eventuality. No matter what it is or how crazy it sounds.”

“Of course. You’re right.”

Mark sighed. “It’s not about being right, Jude.”

Judith scooped up the gun, napkin and all. It was heavier than she thought it would be. Such a small thing it was. Mark explained how to use the .38 revolver as it disappeared into her purse, however, his instructions fell mostly on deaf ears as she continued to contemplate the gun’s weight.

Can you do that?”

Judith focused back on Mark. “Yeah. Yeah. Whatever you say.”

“Just for a few more days. Week or two at most. Then we’re free.”

“Right. Just a few more days,” Judith parroted. The mantra for what seemed like, well, forever. Surprised how Mark had struck her the day he showed up to work on the home she shared with her husband. That sheer physical strength of a man who knew how to use his hands. It didn’t take long for Judith to learn Mark knew how to use those hands in a great many other ways. He was something completely different from what she was used to. A man that doted on her. That cared about what she had to say. That, when he touched her, was out of kindness and love instead of as a punching bag. When it came to lovemaking, it was passionate. Not an alcohol fueled romp. Although now, something had changed. Before, when they laid in bed together, fantasizing about how life would be if she were free from the bonds of her husband, life felt like a dream. When things began to progress from fancy to reality, it still didn’t seem as real. Now there seemed to be a sense of urgency. 

Judith abruptly stood up. 

“I’ll call if I need you,” she said. 

Mark grasped Judith’s wrist as she went to move past. “Are you alright?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“I don’t know.”

Judith bent down, kissed Mark. The paranoia she had felt earlier. Replaced now with an eerie calm. 

The bell above the door jingled as he watched make her way back to the car through the dirty window. Grey sky parting slightly, giving way to rays of light filtered through an otherwise stormy world. 

He downed the rest of his coffee, now cold. Called the waitress over, asked for the check.

Mark lit up the moment he was out the door and made his way to the far side of the lot. Past idylling semis. He thought of Judith. How life was going to be between them after this was all over and done with. Those thoughts made him yearn for the bed they shared back at his apartment when she could get away. That yearning turned to depression at the notion of the long drive back to that empty bed. If all went according to plan, then not for long. Mark expected Judith thought he was only out for the money she would undoubtedly inherit. He couldn’t care less. The thing that mattered most was her. Rich, poor. Didn’t matter. If he could convince her to pack up, leave it all behind, that would be fine. But they both knew that her husband would never make it that easy. Life was going to have to play out the way it was going to. 


The sun set. Darkness rose. Mark parked in the adjacent alley behind his apartment next to the Chinese takeout. The smell of fried rice had his stomach rumbling. He trotted up the steps two at a time. Pulling out his cell as he did. The plan was to order, grab a beer and by the time he made his way back down his food would be almost ready. 

Although, the best laid plans sometimes go astray. 

This would be one of those times.

The girl Mark liked to flirt with when he ordered picked up the line as he walked through his door. Then quickly disconnected when he saw that he had an unexpected guest. 

Russell Cray sat smoking nonchalantly. Looking out of place in a thousand dollar suit on an Ikea couch, giving off the impression that this would have been like any other day in their lives.

Mark, my boy. How was the food at Plumgrove Diner?” 

Mark stood in the kitchen. Unsure if he should flee. Then noticed that Cray wasn’t alone. Near his front door stood his man-mountain/driver. Mark never considered his place small. Now, with the size of Russell’s driver and the impending unknown, it felt claustrophobic. 

Cray took a long drag from his cigarette, smashed it on the plate from that morning’s breakfast. “Please, Mark. Won’t you come in?”

Mark willed his legs to move as the rest of his body screamed for him to run and sat in the chair across from Russell Cray. 

“Mr. Cray...” The words felt forced as he tried to think of something to say. Mark knew he was screwed. There were no two ways about it. People usually didn’t break into homes for social calls.

“Please call me Russell. Any two men that have been inside the same woman should be on a first name basis. Don’t you think?”

“Mr. Cra... I mean Russell. I don’t have the slight--”

“Mark, please. You and I both know what has been transpiring. So let us not start off on the wrong foot with lies and accusations. Agreed?”

Mark glanced at the other person in the room. Had no doubts that at any signal from Russell Cray that this man would break him in two. 

“May I smoke?”

“By all means. It is your home.”

Nicotine entered his bloodstream via the lungs with the desired calming effect. Albeit slightly.

“Mr. Cray... Russell, I don’t know what you think you heard--”

Cray shook his head. “TSK. TSK. TSK. Mark, what did I say about lies and accusations? Do you take me for a fool?”

“No! Not at all.”

“Then why do you want to play the game then? We both know why I am here. So...” Cray let the palabra at the end hang in the air. A minute. Two. A lifetime. 

Mark thought that he was about to peel from his skin in anticipation when Cray began again. “You and my wife have been getting along for some time now, haven’t you?”

“Yes.” The word barely a whisper.

“Now was that hard? Confession is good for the soul, no?” Mark could only stare back at the man whose wife he had been sleeping with. Russell Cray continued when he realized Mark wasn’t going to speak. “You know, despite what she has told you, she doesn’t love you. That and all her promises and stories are just that: stories.”

Mark felt like this was all a nightmare fueled from guilt from his relationship, the plan that was starting to come into play. In the end Mark knew it wasn’t from that kind of guilt. It was from the guilt of being caught. Then there were the thoughts of actually how much Russell Cray actually knew. Did he know about what had been entirely talked about?

“Mr. Cr— Russell. It’s not like that. We—”


For a big man, Nick moved quickly. Stepping from the door back again in a blink of an eye. 

Mark crumpled in the chair as air rushed from his lungs in a giant gasp.

“You made plans for my demise.” Any trace of serenity that was in Cray’s voice had disappeared. “As if I was some kind of unwanted pet.” He paused for a moment. When he spoke again, it was filled with compassion. “Rest assured, my dear boy, that you would have followed quickly behind me. From her boyfriend, no doubts.”


Russell Cray laughed boisterously. “Her boyfriend.” Pause. “Oh, you thought that was your title.”

Mark sat up. Rubbing the spot on his chest that Nick had hit. “What are you saying?” Cray’s implications began to sink in. “No. No. No. That can’t be true.”

“Sadly, it is.”

“She said she loved me,” Mark quietly whimpered.

“I am also quite assured that she told you how I am an abuser; that when we met that I had tricked her into marrying me.”

“‘Seduced’'' was more the word she used to describe your affair. How you used to frequent the place she waitressed.”

“HA! Waitress! Please. She was a stripper. I used to take clients there. She used to hang out at our table because we tipped so well. And we did that because she was so free in what she allowed.”

“If she was such a whore, then why did you marry her?”

“My dear boy, I am a businessman. Figured that she could come in useful. Besides, I always wanted a trophy wife. Especially one that didn’t care what I did as long as I paid the price. With the prenup, I had nothing to worry about. Unless I died, that is.” Cray watched as the news began to settle in Mark’s brain. “Starting to all make sense now, does it?”

“No. You’re lying. You’re playing with my head.”

“I do not blame you for thinking that. If you do not believe me. Feel free to call on her. Although, I fear that he is with her now.”


The home of Russell and Judith Cray sat up away from the road on a small hill behind a cluster of trees, surrounded by a six-foot stone wall, where, in the middle, was a twelve foot iron gate. Beyond which was a lazy, bending driveway that led the way to the well-lighted house. 

Rain had returned, lashed the windshield. Mark slowly cruised past the entrance to the drive, down the two-lane road to the familiar spot where he parked on the nights when he was sneaking in to see Judith or where they would meet.

His heart beat hard in his chest, his breathing fogged the glass now that he was parked. Not wanting to believe what Cray had said. Not wanting to believe that he was giving into it. Russell Cray’s seeds of information had sowed doubt in his heart and mind. But here he was.

Mark followed the path through an open part of the wall, amusingly a place that Cray was familiar with. With the fact that he not only knew of the open spot in the wall but had paid, and was led to believe, had been repaired was the thing that most drove Mark to this point. That the person in charge of its repair was none other than the man Russell Cray had called the boyfriend.

The path wound through a small grove of trees ending at the far edge of the backyard and overlooked the pool. Cobblestones surrounded the ground structure four feet out. 

Rain drummed a tribal beat loudly off the ground. Mark, nothing more than a shadow in the darkness, made his way to the entertainment room at the back of the house.

Mark’s heart skipped as the sliding door slid open easily. Knowing that all the doors were usually locked unless for other reasons. And since no one was going swimming tonight, that only left one. Except Mark wasn’t expected.

Emptiness, like a heavy weight, pressed on Mark as he made his way toward the stairs leading up along the wall on the second floor. Halfway up, signs of life could be heard. A playful giggle, muffled voice.

A door, the door that led to Judith’s personal room, was partially ajar at the end of the hall. 

Judith, nude, stood silhouetted from the small table lamp, the soul light of the room, her back to him as Mark pushed open the door.

“What the hell,” a man’s voice, confused, came from the direction of the bed.

Judith spun, said, “Mark, dear. What are you doing here?”

Mark could just make out her features as she stepped forward slowly. 

“Wh... what’s goin... going on here? Who is that?”

Commotion from the bed.

Judith’s left hand comes up marginally.

“Mark. You’re soaked through. Why didn’t you call? I would have told you tonight wasn’t a good nigh—”

“I can see that.” Anger was starting to surface. Cray had been right. He’d been duped. A patsy. “Just what the fuck is going on here, Jude. Who the fuck is that?

“Mark. It’s not what you think.”

“Not what I think. Just what do I think, Jude? Tell me that.”

Judith’s hand dropped. Her stance stiffened. “You’re right. Enough of the act.”

Judith turned quickly to the bedside table that sat not only the lamp but her purse. 

Mark was bewildered. The shot was incredibly loud in the room, the noise of it seemed to last forever before it faded into nothingness. 

Mark fell face first onto the floor.

Jesus Christ,” the man in the bed yelled as he jumped out, staggered to where Mark laid and knelt. “Jesus Christ,” he repeated, “He’s dead. He’s fucking dead.”

Judith’s gun hand dropped to her side, dreamily.

“Judith. Judith.” 

She heard her name from far away then, “What?”

“Where the hell did you get that gun? What the hell is going on?”

Before Judith could speak a tsk tsk tsk came from the dark doorway.

The room’s main lights snapped on, illuminating Russell Cray as he fully stepped into the room. The man kneeling next to Mark hopped back toward where Judith stood.

“Mr. Cray...”

“Poor. Poor, Mark. I wondered which one you thought would be a better fit with your plan. If you want my opinion, Mark would have been my choice. Other than William's main, endowed, asset, he’s not a particularly smart person. Or was that part of it too? Was he actually the real patsy?”

“You know me too well, husband.”

“Judith, what is goin--”

“Let me explain,” Russell Cray interrupted. “NICK!”

Nick rushed into the room, locked William’s throat in his vice-like grip.


Russell and Judith Cray sat at the patio table as their personal chef explained the breakfast as the servers placed plates in front of them. The muddled gray clouds from the day before had cleared, and the sky was a bright blue.

“What do you have planned for today, my dear,” Russell asked his wife.

“Oh, I don’t know. The usual I guess.”


Submitted: July 14, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Paul Dabrowski. All rights reserved.

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