Twenty-some years earlier Helen Schwartz met Jack Gardner in a small, dingy Chicago tavern in the Uptown Neighborhood. She was slumming and he was a part-time bartender. Helen and her girlfriend were cruising the town looking—they both readily admitted—to get “fucked that night” by a couple of married guys.
Turns out, Jack Gardner was not married, but Helen and her girlfriend could not afford to be overly choosy about that credential, so he ended up fucking them both. At the end of the tryst, which took place in the room above the tavern, Jack walked them both to the front door and saw the largest limousine he had ever seen in his life waiting for these two college vixens. The car belonged to Helen, or more accurately, Helen’s father, Jacob Schwartz, the wealthiest and most successful jeweler in all of southeast Texas. Jack was in love, and Helen connived to be swept off her feet.
They say opposites attract and that was certainly true in the case of these lovebirds: Jack Gardner was tall, athletic, and as handsome as a movie star; Helen Schwartz was short, clumsy, dumpy-looking, and homely, her most prominent features being an overgenerous butt and a large nose spread too wide across her face. Jack barely got through city college and worked as a part-time bartender and full-time PE teacher at a private girls’ school on Chicago’s North Shore; Helen was a straight A graduate of a prestigious university, currently pursuing her master’s degree in art history. Jack was gregarious and easy-going; Helen was aloof and ruthless. Jack was strictly middle-class and perpetually in debt; Helen was beyond wealthy, an only child and sole heir to the Schwartz Jewelry fortune. Jack was lazy, but coveted money and social position; Helen was manipulative and relentlessly craved a handsome husband she could dominate. It was, as they say, a match made in heaven.
Before the nuptials, however, Helen made a few demands. First, Jack would have to quit his job. Helen refused to be married to a mere teacher (and she believed the rumors about him being excessively “friendly” with several female students at the school). Second, Jack would move with her back to Texas, enroll in law school, and become an attorney in the firm that handled her and her father’s business and personal interests. Jack readily agreed to everything and within four years, with the help of a private tutor and a paid imposter taking his bar exam for him, Jack was a junior partner at McCurry, Clyburn, and Morris. Jack was as happy as a longhorn steer in a meadow of tall grass. He was set for life; he was perfectly satisfied; and he had no further ambitions. Unfortunately, for him, Helen was far from being satisfied.
By the time he was forty, Jack was a senior partner in the firm and, at Helen’s insistence, he ran for the state legislature successfully. He served two terms in the Texas House of Representatives and one term in the state senate. Finally, he ran for and won the office of the attorney general. It was during his first campaign for attorney general that Jack Gardner met Carmella and Juan Blanco at a fund-raising dinner and discovered what generous contributors they were. Thanks to the Blanco’s, for the first time in his life, Jack had access to big money, independent of Helen. He cherished and nurtured the Blanco asset and privately vowed that someday he would break completely free of Helen’s millions by acquiring millions of his own.
Helen’s father, Jacob, had been a major party contributor throughout his adult life, all spent in Texas. When he died, Helen picked up his cards at the political poker table—the only woman there. The party found her more demanding of her personal interests than her father had been, but she wielded “generous donations” like a skilled knife thrower and they rarely defied her.
Somewhere, around year ten of their marriage, Jack had found a spine and the profanity-laced shouting matches between him and Helen became legendary in the inner circle of state politics. Nevertheless, in the end—loads of broken china and heaps of shattered knickknacks aside—Jack always capitulated; Helen always prevailed.
So it was that Helen Schwartz-Gardner became the governor’s wife. Jack, himself, had been disinterested in being governor, fearing the job would be more work than he wanted. Yet, despite his new found spigot of cash, he was not in a position to strenuously resist: another allegation against him of sex with a minor had just been swept under the carpet thanks to the party machinery (thoroughly greased with Helen’s money) and the party and his wife demanded that he pay the piper and run for governor. Now, he was serving his second and final term as governor, and thinking seriously about running for the US Senate. If he won, he would live virtually full-time in Washington DC, confident that Helen would never live anywhere but Texas. She would be quite contented as a US senator’s wife and occasional DC hostess.