Margaret Snead-Ellison didn’t know what was going on, but she had never seen James so stressed. She knew enough about his outside interests to know that she wasn’t to ask questions. But she was also his wife. If there was something going on that affected him this much, it had to be bad. He had taken several phone calls over the last hour or so, all from either Marcus, Will or Lynn. It wasn’t much, but she could always sense the different tone in his voice when he spoke with those two. She had long since come to the conclusion that whatever business he was up to outside of SandCorp, Marcus Matthews, Will O’Brien and Lynn Peterson were somehow involved. Over the years, she had become friends with their wives and spent many evenings and even vacations with all three families. She knew there was something that James kept from her that involved Marcus, Will and Lynn. It wasn’t until the second year of their marriage that she mentioned her suspicions to her husband. At first he laughed it off, saying that she had seen one too many spy movies. But the second time she brought it up, he could tell that she wasn’t going to drop it. He sat her down and told her that, yes, he, Will, Marcus and Lynn were involved in an outside business venture, but that the nature of the business was top secret and that it was imperative that she not ask any questions. She was skeptical at first, but he looked deep into her eyes and asked, “Do you trust me?” And she did. James Ellison was a good man, she had no doubt. If he said that he couldn’t tell her about it, then she believed him.
But she had never seen him like this. As she was thinking about whether or not to bring it up to him, he walked back in the room with a duffle bag in hand.
“Margaret, I have to go out of town for the night. It might be late before I get back tomorrow. I know it’s late notice, but something has come up. I hope you understand.”
“I assume this doesn’t involve SandCorp?”
James just gave her the look that he always gave her when she asked about his ‘other’ business.
“Right, top secret. Sorry.”
James put down his duffle bag and walked over to his wife.
“Look, I know I haven’t been myself the last few days, but I promise all of this is coming to an end very soon. All the phone calls, late night meetings, everything. This time next year, I’m all yours. Whether you like it or not.”
James then took his wife into his arms and held her for a few moments longer than usual. Margaret was really starting to worry, but before she could say anything, James’ phone started ringing again. James looked at the caller ID, and Margaret knew that it was time.
“Go, Jim. Just be careful. Whatever it is that has you so bothered, take care of it. Then come back home. That’s an order.”
“Yes, ma’am”, James replied with a smile. “I love you Maggie.”
“I love you too Jim. Try to come back in one piece. I kind of like having you around.”
With one last embrace, James walked out the door. This was one meeting he did not want to be late for.