The Cheating Wife
by Tom Pacheco
Marcus Osborne sat on his office chair with his feet propped atop his desk. He reflected, if any one came into my office at this moment he would think I was the epitome of the happy and able private detective-and he wouldn’t be too far off the mark.
Osborne was in his early thirties, slightly over six feet, with strong classic features and thick black hair. He knew he was a handsome man. After three years in the business, his private detective agency had a good reputation in the city. He was single and in love. The only drawback to this picture was that the object of his feelings was a married woman.
Three knocks on the door of the office brought him back to reality. “Come in,” he said, taking his feet off the desk.
A slender middle-aged man with thinning hair and rimless glasses, dressed in an expensive suit, opened the door and walked in. The detective got up from behind his desk and shook the newcomer’s hand.
“Please sit down. I’m Marcus Osborne, director of the agency. What can I do for you?” He said this with a half-anxious expression which he had practiced in the mirror many times.
“My name is Harold Jones.” He spoke in a low voice. “You have been highly recommended to me. I have a very sensitive matter to discuss and I’ve heard your agency is very discreet.
Osborne acknowledged the words with a modest inclination of his head.
Looking away, Osborne’s new client explained. “I suspect my wife is cheating on me but I want to be sure. I want you to investigate . . . .Follow her when she leaves our apartment, let me know where she goes and who she sees.”
“We can give you a complete and detailed report. When would you like it?”
“I guess two weeks will be good enough. Unless you think you should follow her longer.”
“We’ll see . . .but two weeks may be okay.”
“Fine. This is my card with my address. And here is an envelope with her picture and a check for an advance payment. I already know your rate. Please don’t spare any expense.”
“What’s your wife’s name?”
Osborne held his breath. Christine Ann was his lover’s name. This man must be her husband. He opened the envelope and looked at the picture and the check, hoping to gain time and recover his cool.
Jones perceived his seriousness as a desire to start work on the job at once. “I see you’re a man of few words. I’m sure you’ll give me a thorough report next time I see you. Good day.”
Marcus finally found his voice. “Good day, Mr. Jones,” he said, getting up from his chair and walking his new client to the door.
After Jones was gone, Marcus sat down again at his desk. He was stunned. Mechanically, he opened the lower right-hand drawer and took out a bottle of Scotch and a glass. He poured himself a generous shot and, while sipping it, pondered how to handle this tricky situation.
So his new client was Christine Ann’s husband. Not much to look at, he thought. No wonder she wants to get a divorce and marry me. Besides, he thought, she’s in love with me.
He knew he couldn’t give this client a true report. Still, he had to make a report.
He decided to give his operative Scott Palmer the job and to stay away from Christine Ann during the two weeks of the investigation. He would tell her about her husband’s suspicions later, after he had delivered the report. They would have a good laugh then.
Two weeks later, Scott Palmer, twenty-one, eager, and in love with his job, came into Osborne’s office. “I’ve finished the Jones investigation. I’ll have the report on your desk first thing tomorrow morning.”
“Great! Do me a favor now, will you? Call Mr. Jones and ask him to come to the office tomorrow morning at ten.”
“You got it. See you tomorrow.”
But the next morning when Jones walked into the office, Scott hadn’t finished the report yet.
“Good morning, Mr. Jones. Sit down. Would you like a cup of coffee?” said Osborne, trying to gain some time until his operative brought in the report.
“That would be nice. Thanks.”
Osborne poured scalding hot coffee into styrofoam cups, placing the sugar and cream within Jones’s reach.
When they had started drinking the coffee, Scott walked into the office and, after greeting Jones, gave a folder to his boss. Quickly, Osborne took out the original and gave it to his client, keeping the duplicate face down in front of him.
Jones read the report without a change of expression. When he finished, he looked at Osborne directly and said, “Three.”
“Beg your pardon?”
“I was afraid of something like this. Three of them in only two weeks.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your report. It’s really complete. It shows that she had three lovers in two weeks.”
Osborne choked on his coffee, spilling some on top of the copy of the report in front of him. He exclaimed, “What!? Oh, pardon me.” And, using the excuse of wiping the coffee from each page of the report, started reading it.
When he finished, he felt weak and exhausted. With an effort, he raised his eyes to the face of his client, who, with a knowing look, asked slowly, enunciating each word very clearly, in a tone that really didn’t anticipate an answer, “Don’t you believe that there are some women you just can’t trust?”