Ben Davis lounged in his favorite leather wing-back arm chair savoring a balloon of the finest cognac and choice of Cuban cigar, with his fellow club members. The dancing flames crackling from the nearby open fire place created a warm, comforting ambience.
After a long week presiding over lengthy and involved criminal trials, the highly respected New York City Judge’s preferred way to spend a relaxing Saturday night was to share cocktails with his like-minded colleagues in the privacy and exclusivity of The Yale Club lounge.
The time approached 9pm when the Judge checked his cell. His UBER was now only 5 minutes away. ‘Well gentlemen…’ he began, then emptied his glass. ‘I must be on my way…’ He stubbed out what remained of his cigar.
His aging knees creaked as he stood from his lounge chair. ‘All being well…’ he said as he fastened a button on his dark suit jacket. ‘I shall see you all on Wednesday night...’ He tugged down on his shirt cuffs, checked his cuff links, then dusted some lint from his right sleeve.
With a nod farewell he moved to collect his overcoat before he made his way down to the street to meet his pre-ordered ride.
The doorman heaved open the front door as the Judge approached. ‘Have a good evening Your Honor,’ he said.
The Judge lifted his chin in a muted greeting as he ambled out onto the street and into the back seat of his waiting black UBER street car.
Apart from the initial greeting from the driver, not much else was said during the ride. The UBER app had already informed the driver of his customer’s destination.
The Judge’s travels took him south down 2nd Avenue. The slow-moving traffic was surprisingly heavy for a wintery Saturday night.
The UBER driver coasted to a stop behind a number of vehicles stationary at the East 42nd stop light. The Judge checked his watch then lifted his impatient eyes to the street.
In the time it took for the Judge’s heart to skip a beat from the shock of someone standing on the roadway, by his window, the balaclava-wearing person at the door had already fired two shots, in quick succession into the Judge’s chest.
This was followed by a single head shot that sprayed bone and brain matter across the opposite side window, before the Judge’s limp, corpulent body slumped across the passenger seat.
The muffled thuds from the suppressed pistol were almost lost among the sounds of the New York City traffic.
By the time the UBER driver realized why his car’s rear window had shattered, the shooter was gone, swallowed up by the concealment of darkness.
While the Judge took his last breath over in mid-town, the formal part of the evening had arrived in a reception venue across the Hudson River.
Jack Head checked his watch. His nervous eyes lifted to Caitlyn. His wife gave him a reassuring nod. Jack drew in a deep breath and exhaled. He pushed his towering frame up from his seat.
He glanced around the 100 or so guests while he lightly tapped a fork on his champagne glass, until the conversational hum silenced and all eyes turned to him.
Public speaking was something that came natural to Jack. As a career cop he’d given countless television interviews, been a key note speaker at conferences, spoken at universities and regularly briefed all levels of government on various aspects of criminal offending.
But tonight, Jack experienced something foreign to him. The pit of his stomach was heavy and it churned. His massive hands perspired. His heart raced. For the first time ever, he was nervous about giving a speech.
Tonight was important to him and he knew it was important to his boy, Dan. To be accepted back into his son’s life after missing most of it, meant the world to him.
But when Dan and Sarah asked him to speak at their wedding, the big man shed a tear for only the 2nd time in his adult life. To him, such a request was recognition of Dan’s forgiveness for all his parental shortcomings.
Jack scanned the silenced room. All eyes were now on him. He forced out a smile. ‘Good evening…For those of you I am yet to meet…I’m Jack… I’m Dan’s proud father…’ he said, then gestured towards Dan seated at the Bridal table... ‘When Dan and Sarah asked me to say a few words at their wedding I was deeply touched and honored. It meant so much that he wanted me to be part of his life again… Those of you who know me… and know our family,’ he said, as he made eye contact with Caitlyn. Caitlyn smiled her reassurance. ‘Know that I wasn’t the best Dad to my boys. I missed their developing years and most of their milestone events, through a misguided priority of work over family…’
This all came to a head for Jack, when around three years ago his focus was solely on an all-consuming case, where a killer sent him cryptic clues that gave him 48 hours to decipher, before the next victim was murdered. It was a case he later dubbed The Cryptic Killer.
It was during this investigation that Jack’s oldest son, Max, whom he had not seen in a number of years, was killed in a car accident, while on a work assignment in LA. It was a life-changing event for Jack, in many ways.
‘But 3 years ago,’ Jack continued. ’I had a rude awakening… Sadly, it took the tragic passing of my eldest boy, Max…Dan’s older brother… for me to realize the importance of family.
‘There is not a day goes by that I am not thankful for Lynnie,’ he said using his pet name for his wife Caitlyn, ‘and Dan, for accepting me back into their lives and giving me a second chance at being a dad and a husband… Some people don’t get that chance… but I did.’ Jack’s voice broke. He coughed to try and mask his emotions.
Even after all these years, trying to hide his emotions was still an instinctive reaction Jack carried over from his childhood.
Jack’s father was a man’s-man and a tough disciplinarian. He was physically imposing, not unlike Jack’s build, and he believed it was a sign of weakness for a man to show emotion- any emotion.
“Real men don’t cry and they don’t show fear, boy”. His Father’s words still resonated after all these years.
As an adolescent, if Jack, or his brothers cried after being disciplined, his father would always say, “You gonna cry are ya…? Then I’ll give you something to cry about” and he would hit them again - only harder.
Jack learned very quickly to disguise and suppress his tears and emotions. So, the big man shedding tears, whether they be for happy or sad reasons, was until recent times, as rare as hen’s teeth.
Caitlyn took hold of his hand for support. He squeezed her hand as he continued. ‘Anyway… I want to say to my boy Dan, that it has been an honor to share with you the last three years of your life, and I look forward to many more.’ Caitlyn discreetly caught an escaping tear.
’Anyway, enough about me… I would like to welcome you all here tonight and thank you for coming along and sharing in Dan and Sarah’s special day. Some of you have traveled considerable distances to be here and we thank you for that. I know Dan and Sarah are most appreciative.
’I’m not going to embarrass Danny with anecdotal stories…I think I’ll leave that to the Best Man…Kade. To our beautiful new daughter, Sarah… how gorgeous does she look everybody…?’ he said. He gestured to Sarah. He paused to allow the collective compliments that followed. ’Caitlyn and I have noticed how much love you have for Dan and we are forever grateful for that. We welcome you into our family with open arms.
‘Before I finish up, there is one last thing I would like to say.’ Jack motioned to Caitlyn and she joined him standing. He draped an arm around her. ‘To our wonderful son and our beautiful new daughter. May your marriage be full of more love than you can experience in this lifetime—we love you both dearly,’ he said.
Jack and Caitlyn resumed their seats to the warm applause of the guests.