He had been at the FBI for three weeks.
It was six weeks ago that he had told the FBI Investigators to get the fuck out of the home he shared with his wife.
It was five weeks ago that Patrick Basehart had been fired by President Trump.
It was four weeks ago that his wife had been officially cleared of any conspiracy charges.
It was three weeks and six days ago that the FBI formally offered him a job.
When the FBI called with his first assignment he was surprised and then conflicted. After swearing at a prosecutor twice during a background check interview, it felt like a safe bet to assume that any and all job opportunities were off the table.
It was a good thing he was not a betting man.
His initial reaction was to tell them to shove their offer of employment. He felt like he was betraying his wife by working for the government organization that went through great lengths to inflict an indictment. However, Diane stopped him and reminded him she had the last laugh through her efforts that resulted in the prosecutor being fired. Forever being the bigger person she encouraged him to take the position.
He started the following Monday.
But it still felt wrong, like he was working for the enemy.
He would never admit it to any of the other FBI agents, but he was already enjoying his new gig.
He was investigating ballistics but to a greater and larger scale without worrying about the innocence of a client. The facts were all that mattered. The technology and equipment was more sophisticated, the cases were more complicated, and the outcomes were more rewarding.
For the first time in his life he felt fulfilled both at work and at home. His proposal had worked out perfectly, better than he could have imagined. The deal was for him and Diane to live together… Full-Time. He was to stop traveling and work in Chicago, and then they could stop being married part-time. This job at the FBI was the stepping stone to that arrangement, a missing link to a life he desperately wanted with his wife, a routine.
Waking up to each other every morning.
Kissing hello and goodbye every day.
Meeting for dinner.
Coming home to her.
Waiting up for her.
Falling asleep together.
Seeing each other more than 30 days a year.
This routine that they had both been so afraid of had been established rather quickly, and the outcome was making him so happy.
He still could not shake this nagging feeling that after everything they had overcome in their relationship that he still was not protecting her as a husband should. He wanted to be her confidant, her savior. Despite all the progress over the last eight weeks, he didn’t feel like he had earned those roles in her life.
After coming back from a crime scene he noticed the time while waiting for an elevator. Knowing she was not in court he took the opportunity to see if he could catch his wife and hear the sound of her voice for a brief moment.
“Hi. I know your busy. This will only take a minute.”
“Well for you, I’ll give you two minutes.” She replied in a flirty tone.
“I just wanted to call and see if we were still on for dinner.”
“Absolutely, I should be able to leave the office around 6:30, no later than 6:45.”
He had known Diane for almost ten years. She had never been available before 8pm on a weeknight in all that time. Yet over the past eight weeks she had made more of an effort at work-life balance. She was coming home earlier and leaving her phone turned off once she walked in the door. She left her laptop closed on the weekends. If she required a late night she came home for dinner and then went back to the office, or most recently brought her work home with her and waited till he fell asleep to crack open her files.
“Are you sure? I can make a reservation for later. I know your busy.”
“I am always busy. Trust me, I’m fine.”
He knew she was swamped. On top of her normal casework she had two new clients, the spouses of the reporters who had been murdered in the “Kill All Reporters” movement. He could hear it in her voice that leaving the office a couple hours earlier was causing her stress.
“I’ll make the reservation for 7:30, so you don’t have to feel rushed. If you can leave earlier, you can call me and I’ll meet you. If not I’ll see you at the restaurant at 7:30.”
“You’re very sweet. Thank You.”
He could hear the relief in her voice, and could practically feel her appreciation through the phone. He wanted to see her, but marriage was compromise. He needed to show her he could be flexible when it came to her work.
The elevator had opened and as people started to exit, others started to enter, including the agent who interviewed him. As he entered the metal square box he had no choice but to stand next to her, but decided against acknowledging her presence.
“Dalessandro’s still okay?”
“Perfect. I’ll see you at 7:30. Hopefully sooner.”
“I’ll see you then.”
“I love you.”
He couldn’t hide his smile.
“I love you too. Bye.”
Putting his phone back in the interior breast pocket of his blazer, Agent Grace took her opportunity to address him.
“Agent Grace, hello.”
“Glad to see that you have joined us. Welcome.”
The elevator had open to his floor at the perfect moment. Exiting he had hoped his reunion with the agent was over, he had not expected her to follow him and address him with his back to her.
“I hope there are no hard feelings regarding your background check. It was not our initial intention to use that opportunity to investigate your wife.”
Turning around to face her he replied gruffly “She’s more understanding that I am.”
“It was standard procedure. I am just sorry it was all for nothing.”
“What do you mean?”
He followed her into a conference room and waited for her to close the door.
“The charges were dropped against Tully Nelson. He is a free man.”
The agent hesitated, internally struggling with whether or not to continue her next thought.
“Mr. McVeigh, it’s not my normal prerogative to offer advice or to interfere in a couple’s marriage but if I were you I would keep your wife away from Tully Nelson. This is not the first time he has made threats against a politician, and I think it’s a safe bet that it will happen again. He appears harmless but his jokes, and his threats; they make him dangerous. You just got your wife back, you wouldn’t want to lose her again.”
Agent Grace goes to the door to leave, turning before completely exiting the conference room. “Again, my apologies to you and your wife.”
She left Kurt in the room alone. After standing there for a few moments comprehending the information he was just provided he suddenly realized what he needed to do.
It wasn’t hard for him to find Tully Nelson. He was employed as a bartender at an Irish Sports Pub in the Loop. He had called ahead to confirm Tully was on the schedule that evening. He only wanted to make this trip once.
He never wanted Diane to know he was here. He could only imagine her reaction, probably categorizing his behavior as a way to “mark” his territory, of which she would be correct. But coming here was more than jealousy. He needed to protect her, something he had failed to do as a husband. They were starting over and their marriage was on equal footing. They didn’t need the toxicity of the past reeking havoc on their progress. But he needed closure and this felt like the right way to get it.
The pub was halfway empty. A few patrons were watching the cubs game and sipping beer while a couple groups of suits were celebrating the end to a work day. It didn’t take long to spot him, dressed in head to two black, pouring a couple scotch neat’s. He recognized the man instantly. He had been unable to erase the image from his mind of Tully walking with ease into his wife’s firm and asking for her at reception like he had done it 100 times before, like second nature.
He had been honest when he told Diane he didn’t want to know the details about her affair with the bartender. While she wanted to know every detail about his one night stand with Holly his preference was to know as little about the man as possible. That didn’t mean it didn’t still hurt knowing that for a period of time, however brief, she had chosen to confide in this man over him. He knew the man was a polar opposite from himself, but knowing they had her in common broke his heart a little. Knowing this man had been in their house, that she had defended this man in court, that this man had been her escape, it made him angry, but not at Diane. His actions with Holly had created the domino effect that landed her in Tully’s arms. He was angry at himself… and at Tully.
One thing he knew for sure, after today he wanted as little in common with this man as possible.
“Tully Nelson?” Kurt said approaching the man as he was clearing off the bar top.
“Yes. Can I help you?”
“I just need a moment of your time. Is there someplace we could speak in private?”
“Sure. Follow me.”
He followed him to the back of the bar, in a room most likely used for private events. Tully, naïve to the situation stood before him with his hands behind his back, looking him straight in the eye.
“You look familiar. Have we met before.”
“We met in the elevator at Reddick, Bosman & Lockhart a few months back.”
“Right…Right… Not the cop.”
Moving his hands to his hips and replying with a slight chuckle “That’s Right.”
“What can I do for you?” Tully asked again, clapping his hands together as a motion of cooperation.
“I understand you were being investigated for conspiracy and assassination threats.”
“Yes, I was, but it was a misunderstanding and those charges were dropped. I thought you said you weren’t a cop.” he replied, on the offensive.
“I’m not… FBI… Ballistics.”
The look of panic across Tully’s face was satisfying. He shouldn’t have taken pleasure in that fact that he was toying with man…but he was.
“Listen, I don’t understand what you are after. The charges were dropped. The prosecutor was fired. I don’t have my gun anymore. Are you reopening the investigation? Should I contact my attorney?”
“Not exactly. I do have a direct order for you though.”
Kurt stepped closer, facing Tully and looking in straight in the eye. He spoke not at a high octave but his tone was fierce and unwavering.
“Stay the hell away from my wife.”
“Your wife?” he countered in a confused tenor.
Tully swallows hard. “Your Diane’s husband?” finally putting two and two together as to why he had seen Kurt before in the elevator.
“That’s right.” Kurt replied stoically.
“She told you about us?” he asked surprised.
“Listen.” Tully raised his hands in surrender. “I didn’t intend to cause trouble. It was my understanding you two were separated. Diane is not the type to carry on a torrid affair. And neither am I.”
He was right. She wasn’t the type. She had just been broken.
“You’re right she’s not. And we were separated. We’re not anymore. We’re starting over. Therefore, you need to go away.”
“Listen….” Tully moves his hand in attempt to get Kurt to provide his name.
“McVeigh… Kurt McVeigh.”
“Kurt. I meant no harm. She told me you two were separated. We had some fun. She broke it off shortly afterwards. I respected her wishes and I left her alone.”
“And yet you almost got my wife indicted because of your threats, or as you would call them jokes, against the President.”
“Hey, Trump. He needs to be stopped. Put in his place for the chaos he causes. I’m not afraid of him.”
“Look.” Kurt stated, taking one hand off his hip and waving it for emphasis “I don’t care what causes you do or don’t follow. But from now on you’ll leave my wife out of it.”
“Listen man who I want to represent me as my lawyer or legal advisor is my right. I have the right to any attorney I want. If I want Diane to represent me then that’s who I’ll have represent me.”
Something inside him snapped at those words. He wasn't confronting this man because he was jealous. He was confronting this man to protect his wife. It just so happened that protecting her was something he failed to do in the past. As a result he grabbed Tully by the collar, pushing him against the wall.
“Let me make myself perfectly clear. You are to leave my wife alone. Forget she’s a lawyer. Forget where she works. Forget where she lives. Forget her phone number. Forget what she looks like. Forget you ever knew her name.”
“And if I don’t?”
With a slight smirk “Let’s just say you’ll be pining for Patrick Basehart and wishing for an indictment.”
“Is that a threat?”
“Yes.” He replied, again stoically.
The ping of his phone interrupted the moment. Releasing Tully from his grasp he turned to leave and reached for his phone, seeing a message from Diane.
I snuck out early, couldn’t wait to see you. Do you want to meet me in the restaurants bar for a pre- dinner drink? Or we could go for a walk? Your pick.
He shook his head, cursing at himself internally for not minding the time while quickly typing a reply.
Can’t. I haven’t left the office yet. I’ll probably be a few minutes late for our reservation.
As he was leaving the backroom Tully’s voice forced him to turn around.
“She’s one of a kind. You’re a lucky man.”
He looked in the man’s direction one last time. “I know.”
Walking out of the bar without looking back his phone pinged again.
“Is everything alright? We did say 7:30?”
He replied to his wife with a white lie, hopefully his last.
“I’m fine. I’m on my way.”
He thought threatening Tully would make him feel better, provide him some type of closure over Diane’s affair and end the guilt he was feeling regarding his affair and his new job. While it felt good to finally protect Diane he still couldn’t shake the disappointment in himself, in how everything could have been avoided if he had just moved in with her full-time at the start of their marriage rather than five years in after a two-year separation.
He walked into Dalessandro’s still slightly agitated, coaching himself the need to calm down before he saw Diane. He never wanted her to know where he had been and who he had just seen. He wanted to be honest with his wife of course, but at the same time he had an obligation to keep her safe. Keeping her away from Tully Nelson was the first step in fulfilling that obligation.
He spotted her sitting at a square table in the corner, isolated a bit from the large crowd of patrons. She had her chin propped in her hand, engrossed in a file folder open on the table and was wearing her oversized reading glasses, the frames he often teased made her look like a naughty librarian. Dressed in a head to toe black suit with matching stilettos, and a metallic statement necklace she looked breathtaking, even after a ten-hour work day had taken its toll.
An absentminded flip of her blonde hair took his breath away.
Tully was right about one thing. He was a lucky man.
“Hi Beautiful.” He said while touching her shoulder first in order to not startle her and then leaning over to kiss her cheek. “I’m sorry I’m late.”
“Hi. That’s alright.”
He moves to sit next to her, creating a 90-degree angle.
“Are you alright? You look grumpy.” She asked concern.
“I’m fine.” He rewards her with a brief smile in order to provide some reassurance.
“I was nervous I went to the wrong restaurant. I don’t think I’ve ever arrived somewhere before you in all the years we’ve known each other.” She states in a teasing tone, probably in an effort to lighten the mood.
Unsatisfied with his reaction she then closes her file and removes her glasses and reaches to hold his hand. “You know if you needed to stay late at the office you could have called. I would have understood. I could have brought home dinner, or brought it to you.”
“I appreciate the offer and maybe in the future I will take you up on it, but tonight work is fine. I’m all yours for the evening.”
“Okay.” She replies with a wide smile. “I ordered you a beer.” She states as she moves her hand off his and points to a glass that he notices for the first time.
“Thank You.” Kurt replies and takes a much needed sip. “How was your day?”
“Insane. Per normal.” She stated with her shoulders falling ever so slightly as if releasing tensions. “To top it off everyone at the firm is being deposed for Detective Whitehead’s trial. That reminds me. They may depose you too. They’re going after anyone involved with any of Whitehead’s investigations in the last six months.”
“Thanks for the heads up.”
“Did you hear? Another reporter was killed last night.” She states while reaching for her glass of wine.
“I did. David Morose. Long-time investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune.”
“He had just posted an expose on the Chicago Police Department regarding their special crimes unit and their efforts to buy back illegal guns. He was just trying to report the truth.”
“Do they think his last article and his death are related?”
“I don’t know. It’s not clear. Maybe… It just feels like every time the world is in some semblance of control, another wave hits that was worse than the last, constantly reminding us how fragile everything is, including the foundation.”
This time he moves to cover his hand with his own. “Are you alright?”
“I am. I’m not giving up.” Squaring her shoulders and smiling with her reply, reminding him how strong she can be.
“I know you’re not. I just want you to know that I’m here. That I want to protect you.”
“I know you do. I got the memo when you told the FBI to go to hell during your background check. I know what lengths you’d go to protect me” she confessed, intertwining their fingers to show her appreciation.
“Good.” He nods in reply.
“How about you? Did you have a good day?” she asks, taking another sip of her drink.
He moves to take another sip of his beer, needing the liquid courage. “It was interesting.”
“Interesting?” Diane said amused in the tone she used whenever he made her carry the weight of the conversation.
“Yep. It’s very different working on this side, having access to the information and technology that I do.”
“It’s like you have additional layers of evidence to review.”
“Kinda.” He nods.
“Are you enjoying it?” She asks, smiling slightly to get him to elaborate.
He shrugs “I’m getting used to it.”
His statement is met with a large sigh from Diane.
Diane squeezes his hand again, looking at their hands joined together and the lifting her head to make eye contact.
“Kurt. I don’t want you to just get used to it. I want you to enjoy it. You took this job to be close to me.”
He nods, “Right.”
She bows her head as she begins her next statement while holding his hand a little tighter.
“I don’t want you to hate your job and resent me for taking it. I know you want to do everything you can to protect me and to make me happy and I love you for that but what kind of wife would I be if I didn’t do the same for you. I just want you to be happy.” Her voice breaking, her tone slightly uneasy as she made her confession.
He stared at her for a brief second and somehow for the first time in three weeks, actually in two years, the guilt is lifted from his chest. They wanted to make each other happy. That was their top priority. That’s marriage. After five years they were finally behaving like a married couple.
He leans forward and tilts her chin with his free hand to get her to look at him. “You know what I enjoy? What makes me happy?”
She shakes her head slightly. “No.”
“This…Us…Being Together… Everyday.”
“Kurt…” she begins to argue, assuming he is just trying to be complacent.
“No, I’m serious. Talking about our work, sharing our lives. Seeing each other every day. This makes me happy. This is what I always wanted. If I can do this every night with you for the rest of my life then I’ll be happy.”
She smiles big and wide at his admission replying simply with “Me too.”
He leans in to kiss her briefly and thus putting an end to the serious conversation portion of the evening.
He then leans back in his chair and waits a beat before moving on to more important matters. “So… what am I ordering?”
Diane looks at him with a confused look “Uh… I don’t know. What are you ordering?”
“Well, if I recall, the last two times we came here you somehow charmed me into sharing my entrée.”
Remembering the occasions Diane replied in a flirty tone “Oh, did I?”
“Mmmhmmm.” Propping his head into his hand and nodding, amused.
“Well I am a very good negotiator” she almost sings as she untwines their fingers and slowly moves her hand to rest on his leg.
“Among other things” he flirts back.
“While I was waiting for you I was considering the eggplant parmesan.” She states looking back down at the menu instead of at him.
“Were you?” he states while watching her every move.
“The veal parmesan looks good. If I remember correctly these are both your favorites.”
“They are.” He confirms.
“Since you already mentioned it. I wouldn’t be opposed to sharing. But only if you want to.”
He shifts in his seat and leans into her rewarding her with a lopsided grin when he says “Deal.”
She returns his statement with her classic smile that never fails to make him weak in the knees. And then as if on cue the waiter addresses them to take their order.
It was a long journey to get here but they were finally prioritizing their marriage. They both knew it would not always be easy. They were still two very different people with very different interests, views, and values.
They would have moments where sharing their lives would prove difficult, if only because they were both used to being independent.
But tonight marked a new milestone in their relationship.
They were finally prioritizing each other.
They were finally guilt free about the past.
And most importantly they were finally happy.