Skulduggery

 

man2_skulduggery

 skulduggery
  1. dishonorable proceedings; mean dishonesty or trickery: bribery, graft, and other such skulduggery.
  2. an instance of dishonest or deceitful behavior; trick.

It was late and still James wasn’t home. He usually worked long hours, but he was always home for family dinner. The last few months that had changed. At first it seemed like a random occurrence, but then she noticed his late arrivals happened the third week of the month.

He’d come home looking haggard like he’d done three days worth of work in a single workday. When she questioned him, his entire demeanor changed.

“Ana, work takes a lot out of me,” he had practically yelled, “I’m working to make sure this family is taken care of and instead of being appreciated, you make it sound like I’m failing as a husband and a father.”

She had reassured him that she was only concerned, but he’d left the table and headed to bed early.

Their evenings had become increasingly confrontational. Now he was often late, tired, and withdrawn. She was pensive and nervous.

When she later found three deposit slips in his pants pocket, each for six-figure amounts, it became obvious that her family was in more trouble than she had realized.

The creaking sound of the front door brought Ana rushing downstairs.

The sight of her husband stopped her in her tracks. He looked worse than usual and had a bandage around his right hand. The look on his face let her know he wasn’t in the mood to talk. He brushed past her and up the stairs to their bedroom.

“James?”

He ignored her and began packing clothes into a bag.

“I’m your wife,” she demanded, “you need to tell me what’s going on.”

He stopped packing and looked at her.

“The company I work for has a relationship with the cartel over the border,” he said calmly, as if he were talking about the weather. “I’m helping them–”

She held up a trembling hand; she didn’t want to hear any more.

Ana rubbed her palms against her brow.

“This is not some silly, childhood game of skulduggery and shenanigans; real lives are at stake, here,” she said.

What was she missing? Why didn’t he understand how crazy this was?

“Ana, for the first time in our lives we have a chance to get out of this decaying mass we call a town and actually have a better life for our family,” he said. “How could you expect me to pass that up?”

James shook his head, completely confused.

What was he missing? Why didn’t she understand how much sense this made.

“I’ve never asked you for anything more than what we have,” she said, trying to reason with him. “I’m fine with our life together, because what’s important to me is that we’re together.”

Ana had spent her life without her father, he was always off chasing some wild, money-making scheme. She’d married James seven years ago, loving his straitlaced, calm, hard working demeanor. He was nothing like her father, and yet here she was watching him leave too.

But unlike her mother, she wouldn’t be waiting for him we he returned.

She halfway hoped they would get caught, so he wouldn’t return to an empty house and the heartbreak of missing a family he would never get back.

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