Michael O’Reilley was going to apologise to his family. Apologise for all the wasted years he had inflicted upon each of them, and somehow beg their forgiveness for the emotional anguish which he had caused. Jennifer, his wife of twenty-two years, had suffered most over the past three of those, and it was to her that he was now hurrying, heart and mind filled to the brim with remorse and self-loathing for the humiliation which he had heaped upon her during that time.
In the early years their marriage had been a happy one by and large, and had produced two children – Sally (21) and Stephen (19). Neither had spoken to him directly for over twelve months now, and the final straw had been the news of his carefully concealed affair with Marcia Cox.
Their paths had crossed some years previously at the annual company Christmas party to which Jennifer had always been a reluctant guest. This time she had refused point blank to go along, and Michael had been compelled by protocol to attend. That he was more than a little worse for wear that night was beyond question; he had consumed more than his usual amount of alcohol due to the company’s picking up of the bar tab, and Marcia had dragged him on to the dance floor.
With inhibitions dulled by the free booze, their movements together had become overtly sexual in nature, and it was no surprise to anyone in attendance that evening when they disappeared together at the end of the event. The hotel venue had rooms to spare, and a hurried payment in cash gained access to a first floor double. The act was frantic, highly charged and almost frenzied in its intensity. Marcia stirred feelings in Michael that had lain dormant in his comfortable marriage for many years.
They performed together as one entity, and he felt the years fall away as their basic instincts carried both of them to the heights of sexual gratification. They had lain exhausted for almost half an hour that first time, before a slower, more sustained and infinitely more gratifying encore took place.
They met at frequent intervals afterwards, and Jennifer seemed to be in total ignorance of his infidelity. Marcia was divorced, and made more and more physical demands upon him as their relationship developed. The ‘Cold Light of Day’ syndrome passed them both by and ultimately over-confidence in their invulnerability from discovery was to prove Michael’s downfall.
Jennifer had called the office. She never did that, but this one time she broke the rule. He was not there, and his secretary was very reticent in her response to questioning. She was not a naturally suspicious woman, and had readily accepted all of Michael’s previous explanations for lateness and overnight stays using business reasons as an alibi. This time, however, all her senses went to red alert. She was waiting for him when he came home that evening.
A series of pointed questions had degenerated into a fight which culminated in an ultimatum from Jennifer that divorce proceedings would be instigated if he refused to terminate the affair. He was stunned. He could not afford the open publicity of a breakdown in his marriage, and there were a myriad of reasons, none more than the disintegration of his family, for conceding to her wishes.
He saw Marcia once more, fully intending to simply break the news and walk away, but she was nothing if not enticing. All of her being cried out to him in a way he could not deny; they had one more bout of mutual enjoyment. He awoke with a start in the middle of the night, a night about which he had once more lied to Jennifer. There, at the end of the bed, was the figure of Tom Mason. Long time friends, they had been inseparable in years past. Tom had died in a fire at his home, and now appeared as some kind of advising angel to turn O’Reilly’s life around. Without a spoken word, and by the mere look on his friend’s face, Michael knew that his time with Marcia was now truly over; dressing quickly and silently, he left the room and made for his car.
Driving back home that night, his thoughts took flight to each of his children who had also been affected by his years of ‘Roving Eye’ behaviour. In truth, he had not been the most attentive of fathers, treating both in the same way when they reached the point of having minds of their own. Not a week went by without some argument with either or both of them, and usually it centred around their refusal to bend to his will. Their teenage years had been the worst, particularly with Stephen who, as he grew bigger and stronger, was more inclined to stand up to the old man.
Sally had left home at nineteen and moved just about as far East as was possible. She was now married and living in Boston to a plumber and Red Sox fan. His name was Carl and they had an eight week old son – a grandson which Sally swore he would never see. Father and daughter had finally come to verbal blows over her marriage to the protestant Carl, her own family being staunch Catholics. If her alienation resulting from Michael’s affair had not been enough, the final straw of his hypocrisy at their ‘mixed’ marriage finally, in her eyes at least, put the lid on their own relationship.
Stephen, although not overly confrontational on the matter of his father’s extra marital activities, had nevertheless firmly taken his mother’s side on the issue of Marcia. He was now living and working in LA after leaving the family home in Santa Monica, and had stated his unwillingness to return home on a permanent basis. Stephen was gay, and had attempted on a number of occasions to talk to his father about his feelings. Michael had reacted badly to the news, and a war of words culminated in the son leaving home to live with his partner. The move to Los Angeles took place soon afterwards. They had not spoken for over eighteen months.
O’Reilley looked down at the fuel gauge of his Lexus and mouthed a silent curse – almost empty; he would need to find a gas station pretty soon. As if in answer to some unspoken prayer, the Super Eight appeared a hundred yards up the road and he pulled in to a deserted forecourt. It was eleven-thirty by his watch, and replacing the cap on his thirsty fuel tank, he made his way inside to pay for the gas. The scenario froze him where he stood.
To his right, and standing directly in front of the teller, was a man clad in black and wearing a ski mask. The .45 in his hand pointed straight at the poor man’s head, and all three looked at each other for what seemed an eternity. The gunman was the first to move, backing slightly away from the counter and waving Michael closer to bring the two of them into the same arc of fire. The man behind the cash register was shaking visibly with fear, and it was clear that O’Reilley had stepped into the robbery shortly after the thief had himself entered the premises. The till drawer was still closed.
The gunman now had a problem, and Michael picked up the first signs of nervousness in his behaviour. Beads of perspiration had broken out above his eyebrows and just below the rim of the ski mask. His eyes flitted erratically between the teller and the new intruder. Michael was about ten feet away from the muzzle of the hand gun, and with the robber now in a situation which was rapidly getting out of his control, was working out the odds of disarming the man before anyone got hurt.
All he needed was a slight distraction, something to take the eyes of the robber away from him for the briefest of intervals. He braced his right foot against the shop wall to give any attack the maximum amount of forward momentum. At this point, the gunman could have simply walked away; he was nearer to the door than the other two and would surely have been allowed to make his getaway. Michael could just as easily have raised his hands in surrender and sat upon the floor thus allowing the robbery to run its course.
In one moment, the fate of all concerned was decided. The robber glanced briefly in the direction of the teller and barked at him to empty the cash register. With the distraction complete, O’Reilley launched himself at the man and carried him backwards into a display shelf. Unfortunately the gunman held on to the .45 and was first to his feet as Michael scrambled to his knees. Three slugs fired in rapid succession hit him squarely in the chest. He was dead before he hit the floor.
Turning back to the teller, and with the .45 now coming round to the man, the robber was caught by a shotgun blast which took him off his feet and across the entire width of the shop, but not before one lucky round had caught the poor man right between the eyes. It was a bloodbath.
Michael O’Reilley had very much wanted to apologise to his family. As he stood there looking at down at his own crumpled and bloodied corpse, he realised that none of that was now about to happen. Jennifer would not now know of his resurgent commitment to their marriage and his ending of the relationship with Marcia. He would never now hold his grandson and ask his daughter and her husband for forgiveness. His son would never be made to see that he truly did realise all people were not made the same. No, in one moment of madness, in an instant of minding someone else’s business, none of them would ever know of the change in his character.