On the same day he received notice of his wife demanding a divorce and that ridiculous restraining order, Paul and fellow accountant, Matthew Clayborne, ran into Cade at Expat’s Pub on Carson Street. Cade had stopped in to pick up a fish sandwich to go. Recognizing Cade from the photo, Paul introduced himself and invited Cade to join them. Despite suspecting that the invitation was far from friendly, Cade changed his order to eat-in and ordered a cola.
“No beer? Can’t hold your liquor?” Paul remarked with a smirk.
“No interest in writing under the influence,” Cade replied dryly, refusing to give this man the satisfaction of getting under his skin. Instead, he leaned back and began studying the various paintings of steamboats that graced the wall behind his adversary. This was going to be a long meal, but Rory had missed work today and hadn’t responded to his texts or phone messages with anything beyond a single vague email about having the flu.
Paul had begun the evening with one goal, to go home to straighten out Rory’s “misconceptions” regarding just how and when they would divorce, if ever.
Now he had a second: to make clear to Cade just who Rory belonged to. Once this nobody knew that he could never compete, Paul was sure that he’d give up. She knew that Cade was off limits now. She was stubborn, though. Even as he straightened her out that day, she had protested Cade’s involvement. He didn’t buy it for a moment.
Signaling for another beer, he decided that it was time to stake his claim. He began deliberately and unreservedly describing his courtship of Rory to both men. “Her last boyfriend beat the hell out of her,” he began for the sake of effect.
“Really?” Matt leaned forward, fascinated as always with any gossip. “You’re kidding, aren’t you?”
Cade just listened.
“I wish I was, Matty. That bastard pounded her until she was unconscious once. It was a really abusive relationship. She stayed with him, too scared to leave. Poor little thing. It wasn’t until she caught him cheating on her that she broke it off. Dumped him right then and there. It saved face, you know, and let her get out without having to tell anyone about the abuse.
“He said she was nothing and that no one wanted her. Poor little girl, she believed him. He destroyed her self-esteem. When we met, she was a mess. She thought that no one could love her,” Paul took a swig of his beer, pausing for a moment. “I tell you, guys, it’s great to have someone and know that you did so much for her. She’s all I thought I could want in a girl. A little delicate, but perfect nonetheless.”
“I’m having a little trouble seeing your wife as delicate, Paul,” Matt laughed, voicing Cade’s same thoughts. “She was anything but reserved at that dinner we had last month.”
Turning to Cade, he clarified, “We went out to welcome a new partner. Man, Rory sat there, pretty as you please, until one guy brought up bringing more gambling into Pittsburgh. She stopped us all dead, remember, Paul? She was the only woman there to say something besides yes and no and thank you. I think the other women were stunned that your wife would reveal a brain behind that lovely face of hers during a dinner with us good old boys.”
Paul’s smile did not reach his eyes. “My little girl’s a bright one, all right.”
“Cade, let me tell you, she took on Greg Edwards without flinching, and Lord knows that man knows everything. She held her own, though, and even got him to concede on the economics of it. The best part of the night, though, and forgive me for saying this, was when you hushed her up, Paul. Damn, if looks could kill. I bet she gave you hell when you two got home.”
“Yeah, Rory always tries to give me hell but I keep her in line, if you know what I mean,” Paul laughed. Cade kept his expression bland, thinking of the bruises he’d seen on Rory’s arms.
“Here, I’ll buy the next round,” Paul made the offer and signaled the waitress for two more.
“None for me. I have to get home to my wife. She’s cooking tonight. I’ll see you later.”
“Sure. See you tomorrow, Matty. I’ll drink yours.” Paul gave a short laugh at his own joke and grabbed a handful of peanuts.
“It’s taking forever for that sandwich. I’m going to have to take it to go after all.” Cade eyed his watch, then asked waitress to ask for take-out when she delivered Paul’s beers, wanting nothing more than to get out of there and call Rory.
“Don’t run off yet, relax. Let’s get to know each other a bit. After all, we have Rory in common.” Paul began popping the peanuts into his mouth one at a time.
Cade simply nodded and checked his watch again, ready to make his excuses and forget about eating, when a man walked in and joined a friend on the other side of the room.
“Son of a bitch. Look at those two sitting over there,” Paul motioned to the two men.
Cade looked, saw nothing particularly remarkable, and said as much.
“The tall dark-haired one is the punk Rory dated before me, Richard Daniels. The one who almost killed her.”
Paul nodded in reply as he finished his drink and motioned for another one. Cade studied Richard, trying to see something in the man that hinted at the violence Paul claimed him capable of. “So why do you care?”
“Julie Daniels was that punk’s sister. He’s some artist now,” said Paul, ignoring Cade’s question. “He did a show a few months ago. Viorst was quoted as saying that Dicky over there was an up-and-coming artist, a master of his medium, or some garbage like that.”
“Dirk Viorst? I’ve seen his work.”
“Yeah, my baby went to school with him, and she has some originals of his. She uses stationary with his art printed on it. A naked fairy sitting on a log or something like that.” Paul’s eyes, Cade noticed, never left Richard or Alex.
“Speaking of, I hope Rory isn’t waiting dinner for you.”
“Nah, she knows better.”
“How is she, by the way? Maggie said she has the flu.” He opted not to mention that she wasn’t returning his calls or texts.
Paul shrugged. “Pretty upset over the murder. I’m not sure how much more of this she’ll be able to handle. You know, we went for a walk the other day. I was trying to get her out of the house for a while, trying to remind her that the world’s still revolving. She went, but it didn’t work. I mean, she went, but she wouldn’t say a word. She won’t talk to me about anything. All she does is cry. She’s just pulling further and further away from everything. I’m worried that this is too much for her, to be honest.” He sighed and studied his beer for a moment. “I just pray that she doesn’t have a nervous breakdown over this.”
Cade decided it was time to deprive the man of his audience. “Well, give her my best. I’m going to have to run myself. I have some work to finish.” He gave a brief, cordial nod and made to stand.
At that, Paul’s foot shot out and caught the leg of Cade’s chair, preventing him from pushing away from the table and forcing him to either sit or cause a scene. The caring husband façade vanished, and the violence he’d claimed Richard capable of was in his face.
“Hold it, asshole, we need to talk.”
Cade set his jaw as he settled back into his seat and leaned back, crossing his arms over his chest. He’d expected this from the moment he’d sat down and was ready.
“You leave my wife the fuck alone. I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but it’s over.”
“I mean it. She’s mine.”
“Fine.” He wouldn’t give Paul the satisfaction of a definitive answer, nor would he get into a brawl.
“You don’t get it, do you? I can destroy you. I can have you audited into poverty. I can take that whole goddamned magazine down if you make me. You won’t have anything left when I’m finished.”
“And what will Rory have when you’re finished?”
“That’s a poor consolation prize for a woman like her,” Cade said, pushing his chair back forcefully as he stood. “Launch your audits. Just remember, the public loves a scandal, and I’m sure that a nice cover story about your firm and its practices would sell quite a few copies. I suspect that your personal life wouldn’t hold up under scrutiny, either. That would topple your career much faster than any audit. I can’t think of one company that wants to be associated with a man who beats his wife.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I see one more bruise on Rory and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Go on and call my bluff, you bastard. I love a challenge.”
“I might just do that.”
“Like I said, I love a challenge.” Cade also loved the idea of smashing his fist into Paul’s face to pay him back for everything he did to Rory. Instead, as he moved to walk away, he planted his hand on Paul’s shoulder – heavily – and leaned down to make his threat. “And, off the record, if anything happens to Rory as a result of this conversation, I can’t say I’ll be responsible for what happens to you.”
The moment he was outside, and sure that Paul would not follow, Cade pulled his cell phone out and called Rory. It went right to voicemail. He didn’t leave a message beyond a request for her to call him. What else could he say? That her husband just accused them of having an affair? That he indeed wanted to have one with her and what did she think? How about that he just accused her husband of abuse and threatened him? Somehow, he didn’t think those would go over well with her, not when she was so intensely private.
Cade hung up when her voicemail picked up, then went back to trying to concentrate on his article. He checked his watch. Six o’clock. He’d try again in fifteen minutes.