Sweeter Than Wine
had always been enormously intelligent. And
from the time he was a mere boy he had exhibited an uncanny ability to figure
out solutions to problems. His keen
mind now perceived his newfound knowledge of his wife’s infidelity as a
problem that required an ingenious solution.
did he know? He was, to his
knowledge, the only one (other than his wife and her lover) who knew about the
affair. That was a useful tidbit,
since it lessened the likelihood that the police would suspect him of anything.
He smiled imperceptibly as he realized that his solution would
necessarily involve the authorities.
else did he know? There was of
course the afternoon when he saw the lovers emerge from a motel room and embrace
before Jeannie got into her car and drove away.
And there was the knowledge that her partner in deceit was none other
than Peter, his best friend since college and his law partner for 20 years.
had divorced his own wife a year before and had changed.
At first Hawthorne simply attributed the changes to the divorce.
But lately Hawthorne had wondered whether it had something to do with the
firm. Indeed that was why he had
decided to discreetly follow his partner when Pete had left the office without
informing anyone of where he’d be. Such
behavior had become a habit Peter repeated several times since the divorce.
of course also knew that Jeannie, his wife of 25 years, had completely
blindsided him. Had it been with a
complete stranger it would have been bad enough.
But she and Pete? He smirked
now, realizing that it was the oldest betrayal in the book.
should the solution be? The idea of
quietly divorcing Jeannie, so that she and Pete could be together, was
unthinkable to him. Hawthorne
decided that Peter would have to die, and that Jeannie would have to grow old in
a criminal lawyer, Hawthorne had no trouble finding a hit man to murder Peter.
He used a small time criminal who owed him a big favor as a middleman.
Peter’s assassination was quietly and anonymously arranged, even to the
point of telling the hired gun that it was a woman paying for his services.
Payment would be in gold coins from his and Jeanie’s stash at the local
also arranged for some compromising shots of
Peter, with a nude actress, to be photographed during a forthcoming trip
to Los Angeles. The plan was that
the actress would be given access to Peter’s hotel room before he arrived, and
would surprise him. Hawthorne got to
look through the portfolio of actress photos, and picked one out that no
red-blooded male would be able to refuse, at least for the few moments needed to
take some pictures.
asked Jeannie to accompany him to the bank and to retrieve some stock
certificates from their lock box. He
had her sign the access card while he browsed through some brochures.
Once inside the private viewing room, he asked Jeannie to take an
inventory of the lock box’s contents and, while she was occupied with that, he
quietly pocketed 50 gold coins.
50 coins were paid to the criminal go-between, with the reminder that the
payment was to be said to be from a jealous woman.
Things proceeded on schedule, and two nights later Peter died instantly
from a gunshot wound to the head.
studied Jeannie’s face when the police informed them later that night of
Peter’s mishap. With smug delight
Hawthorne candidly watched several emotions ripple over her pretty features, all
disguised to register concern for him and for the loss of his dear friend.
Hawthorne was asked to accompany the detectives to police headquarters
for questioning and he made sure, from his demeanor there, that he aroused their
suspicions, while admitting nothing.
days later a group of uniformed officers, accompanied by two detectives,
predictably arrived at the Hawthorne residence with a search warrant.
Hawthorne had been expecting them and, before their arrival, had
deposited the photographs of Peter and the blonde actress on a top shelf in
made sure, the day after, that the police were anonymously tipped off who the
hired killer was. As planned, the
killer had 50 gold coins on his person when arrested, and confessed that the
money had come from some unknown woman.
recovering the gold coins, it didn’t take the police long to check with the
bank and to note Jeannie’s signature on the lock box access slip.
When she insisted that Hawthorne had been with her that day, he confirmed
it but swore that he had not removed any coins from the lock box.
the course of their investigations the police learned of Jeannie’s affair with
Peter. Hawthorne acted totally
surprised when they asked him about it, increasing their confidence that he
wasn’t involved in the murder.
with all of the facts, the District Attorney indicted Jeannie.
The charge was conspiracy to commit murder.
At the trial her protestations of innocence fell on deaf ears.
Throughout the entire proceeding, Hawthorne acted like he was firmly in
her corner, despite her infidelity. He
hired a fellow criminal lawyer to defend her.
But the only loose end the attorney uncovered was the identity of the
middleman. When questioned, the hit
man swore that the middleman wasn’t in court, even as he looked right at
was convicted. Her sentence was 25
years without the possibility of parole. A
week after she had settled into penitentiary life, Hawthorne visited her.
He lied to her that, in the year or so she’d been dallying with Peter,
he’d been having an affair with his secretary.
The secretary would be moving into their home.
Naturally his future visits to the prison would be few and far between.
thought of his pretty secretary taking her place was the final blow for Jeannie.
It occurred to her in a rush that Hawthorne hadn’t been in her corner
all along, as he’d put on a show of being.
As he took leave of her, she blurted out,
Son of a Bitch, you set this whole thing up, didn’t you?
grinned in delight and answered, “On advice of counsel, I plead the 5th.”
he left the penitentiary’s forbidding walls and was walking out to his car,
Hawthorne couldn’t help humming a happy tune.
It had all gone according to plan. He
had won. As a top criminal attorney
himself, he wasn’t bothered by the thought that there might have been a
miscarriage of justice. Indeed, he
mused, a higher justice had been served.
was a religious man, and he recalled a Bible passage to the extent that
“Vengeance shall be mine, saith the Lord.”
was one time they didn’t get it right, he thought.
Vengeance is sweeter than wine.