THE RECALCITRANT P.I.
a Mac Armstrong mystery
Copyright © 2018 by T.F. Pruden
All rights reserved. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the author
Toni watched the resident intern walk away from the lengthy conversation just ended with her to start another with a family waiting nearby.
Despite knowing the pattern would be repeated indefinitely, she took an unwanted comfort from the sight of a harried physician in rumpled hospital garb. The young doctor told her, with restrained patience, Mac would pull through.
Mac had again escaped what Toni now hoped must be his destiny.
The way she felt today, it could not take him soon enough.
The doctor assured her that with any luck, Mac should be his old self in just a few short months. There would likely be therapy required, but the compound fracture to one leg with the similarly injured arm immobilized looked far worse than it was. His face though swollen, even now returned to normal.
Neither those injuries nor the broken ribs should limit future activities.
There was yet no way of knowing how badly Mac might have hurt his head nor was a reliable prognosis available. When it came to concussions, the physician with mirthless but gentle bedside manner revealed, only time could tell how severely a brain was damaged.
Until the fellow came around, there was no way of knowing how badly Mac's might have been injured.
Toni made no reply when told Mac should likely soon be fine. She nodded with feigned sympathy when told about the concussion while considering the divorce papers she carried in her purse. The no-fault paperwork she filed earlier today waited to be served to the soon-to-be erstwhile husband lying in the hospital room behind her.
More than anything else she wanted to serve the bastard with the divorce papers by throwing them into his face. That or hand them to him with one hand while slapping the smug arrogance off it with the other. She hoped one day someone would manage to do that.
Knowing it could not be her; Toni instead hoped she might see it happen.
In her opinion, there was not a person alive who deserved it more.
Two years of marriage had, albeit slowly, worn away Toni's sympathy for Mac. While the ability to empathize with those she cared for remained, it withdrew when thoughts turned to her husband.
Toni had reached the end of what she believed a lengthy rope.
She first tried waiting in patient silence. When that failed she cried, often with pitiful intent, when he arrived home at odd hours. In search of a more practical means to alter his behavior, she took part in what seemed an endless number of deviant sexual practices for which she had neither taste nor curiosity.
As it turned out, nothing would change the behavior of her husband.
He often seemed a dedicated, if low paid, workaholic. With that she was, eventually, able to grow comfortable.
It was his secret habit she refused to accept.
Of course, ignorance of his extra-curricular activity meant it arrived as news to her. Mac worked as a bartender to supplement his income as a Private Investigator, which Toni believed little more than a lingering hangover from an earlier addiction.
It was only now clear she must deal with more serious challenges than Mac earning a living. In truth, from the day of their marriage, there seemed little future in any of his career choices for either of them.
With ebbing patience, she had tolerated the fits and starts.
What she would not take were threats to either health or sanity. This she silently swore to herself through tears after the conversation with her doctor. The terrible news arrived as a disgusting shock. Caught unawares, Toni was first devastated.
Though stunned, her anger sparked as implications of the diagnosis were explained, growing as she learned in detail what to expect.
It was soon replaced by silent rage.
Toni nursed the fury, tending it like a fire within her.
Treatment began at once. For a change, Mac's crazy schedule worked to her advantage as she was able to get the papers filed without his knowing it. In a matter of weeks, they were prepared.
Toni struggled to contain a secret joy.
While their divorce would be legally described as a no-fault, she intended to make sure Mac new exactly where it lay.
The cash he earned tending bar was a necessity. Neither his P.I. work nor her career as a childcare worker paid enough to support a lifestyle they both enjoyed. Toni eventually accepted she was spoiled by it.
Changes must be made if they were to achieve her dreams.
The certificate she worked toward was intended to improve their circumstances. To get it, she worked long hours followed by more invested in study at night with relentless aspirational intent.
A lifestyle change would soon happen, but the circumstances improving for the better would be hers alone. At this point, Toni didn't care what happened to Mac.
The news of his latest near-death experience filled her with a momentary glee she made sure not to reveal to the harried physician.
Toni then waited until the nurse left a second time before slipping into the semi-private room where Mac lay, helpless, on the bed. He was in bad shape, there was no denying it. She shook her head as momentary sympathy for him rose, reminding herself in silence of what he had done.
While his dreams might well come true after their divorce, hers now could not.
He said nothing, but she knew Mac would be aware of her presence. The lust they shared, though shameful to her now, was also undeniable. A thought, a glimpse, even a scent was enough to overfill Toni with urgent need for the private investigator.
It was all she could do not to climb under the blanket to get what she wanted, badly, right now.
Once for a short time enthralled by them, Toni hated herself for the feelings.
She said nothing, instead removing the brown envelope containing the divorce papers from her purse, placing it with gentle care on his chiseled pecs. Mac could look them over whenever he might be up to it.
She was responsible only for letting him know he was served.
Toni smiled with relieved satisfaction as she leaned over to allow her soft lips to brush against Mac's ear.
"Mr. Mac Armstrong," she breathed in her lustiest whisper, "I'm pleased to inform you that you've just been served divorce papers."
Toni stepped away from her husband's hospital bed. His eyes opened, grotesquely swollen but now wide with shock, to stare up at her. She smiled what she hoped was her sweetest, before winking down at the battered face of the man lying helpless before her.
"I also want you to know," Toni spoke with bloodless glee, "that I hope you rot in hell, you miserable sonofabitch."
Thorsby, Alberta, Canada
October 11, 2018