'The preacher was desparately trying to get God's message across. 'The human mind sometimes want to wander. The bible says to take every thought captive. If you find your suddenly going in a wrong direction... STOP!
'Here's what it says in 2 Corinthians 10::3-5 'For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have the power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, AND WE TAKE CAPTIVE EVERY THOUGHT TO MAKE IT OBEDIENT TO CHRIST.'
Zack wondered if what he was doing was right. He shouldn't have let it go on this long. It was time to confront his wife. Yet, how? He prayed while on the plane. 'Lord, I don't know what to do.'
Zack stared out the window of the jet and tried to breathe. He was reading his wife's private diary from his laptop. Her world was a complete lie. She went through the motions of a happy wife but according to this diary, she was anything but. She had the luxury of a rich life with crystal chandeliers and heated pool in the yard. She wrote how she held hands with one man and yet another man held her heart. He was long gone from her life. Ten long years had passed and she only knew he lived in a small town in New Hampshire. Jolea had no idea how his life had unfolded or if he was still alive. Yet, he lived in her heart.
She cared for her family and enjoyed the life of wife and mother. Some days, she didn't even think of him. But, only some days. Some days were few and far between.
Zack's fingers shook as he scrolled down the page. He reached up and wiped his brow. His life as an undercover government worker took him to far off countries and back. His work for the government paid well. He worked as a famous photographer and no one knew he was in surveillance as well.
He leaned back in the seat of the first class section and watched the clouds go by. His laptop lay open on his knees and his wife's words began to blur. His heart pounded and he tried not to show any emotion. Yet, he read his wife's online diary with fear and pain. Each day she posted her life. It wasn't published to the world, only on her private diary.
Zack felt at first like it was just a little sneaky to read his wife's diary. He thought she would write about what she got him for his birthday. Yet, here in plain print was her heart's words. She didn't really know if she loved him. Her heart always yearned for what she could never have. Lincoln was a shadow that Zack didn't know existed. Sure, he knew that Jolea had other men before him. He just assumed he was the only one in her heart. He felt the anger build up again.
Zack knew that his anger was just a cover for the fear and hurt he was feeling. Yet, he had to clear his head. A lot was going on around him and people depended on him.
He wiped at his eyes and tried to compose himself. He had a meeting to go to in New York. A rich ambassador of some country he didn't remember was going to be attending the U.N. He was paid to photograph him exiting a taxi or something.
Zack was number one in his field. His million dollar home attested to that fact. Yet, for the last four months his wife was reliving a dream world she had with some guy named Lincoln Davenport. She had described him as being tall with blonde hair that never stayed put. Zack had read how he had gone into the navy and stopped writing to his wife after two years. She then wrote that Zack had been the one to fix a broken heart. From the date she had alluded to, Zack remembered that time.
He looked back down at the screen and read how his wife grew bored with caring for two children and wandering around the mansion alone. She was taking out photos of Lincoln every so often just to daydream. 'How I loved that long blonde wispy hair' she had written.'
Zack shut his eyes and prayed quickly for strength and guidance. He was a Godly man and he knew his wife to be a Christian as well. Yet, Christians still get tempted. He was going to do whatever the Lord said to do to make this right.
Zack had jet black hair cut short. He was tall but not lanky. His broad shoulders and muscles made him seem larger than life. 'I do enjoy Zack though.' she had written. Zack felt as if he'd been slapped. He closed the laptop and sipped his drink.
Suddenly, he reopened his laptop and googled the name of Lincoln Davenport. The man was a news reporter.. In fact, Zack remembered meeting him.
'Oh no!' Zack took a few deep breaths. 'This is insane.' He closed the laptop and put it away. The pilot announced they would land soon. A pretty flight attendant took the empty cup and plate from him. He suddenly had no clue as to what he was going to do. His actions were mechanical as he left the plane with his briefcase. His camera equipment was compact and over his shoulder in it's bag. He stood at the baggage carousel waiting for a dark green travel bag. When he spotted it, he picked it up. His traveling companion, Burt Saunders picked up his suitcase as well. 'OK Zack, let's get to the limo. I hear the traffic all ready.' It was always the same. Burt did the interviewing, as Zack took the photos..or videos. Sometimes a different reporter but the routine seldom varied. They were rushed here and there. Five minutes of an interview on tape and off to another news flash. This time, they were supposed to stay three days.
As they got into the limo, Burt hollered out to someone behind Zack. 'Hey, Link! Come on over!'
Zack's throat tightened and his stomach felt like he would hurl. His demeanor did not change, from years of practice with the public. He gave a wooden smile and turned to a tall man with blonde hair and eyes the color of robin's eggs. He was still the lanky guy his wife had described. Zack looked to see if he wore any wedding rings. He saw none.
'Is this ever a pleasure! I never thought I'd get to meet the famous photographer Zack Edwards! A real pleasure indeed.' The man barely noticed Burt and smiled broadly at Zack. Zack knew his work was famous in most countries, yet rudeness was never pretty. Burt looked stunned to be dismissed like that.
'I'm sure it's a pleasure to meet you too. My man here, Burt has a car waiting though so if you don't mind...' Without waiting for a reply, Zack turned and took Burt's shoulder and moved on.
'What was that? He acted like I was invisible! He sure wanted to meet you though!' Burt got into the stretch limo as the driver took their bags and stored them in the trunk.
Zack stretched out his legs and shook his head. 'I have no idea Burt. But, you are just as good a reporter as he is. Don't let it rock you. I'm tired.' He leaned back and closed his eyes.
'I sometimes forget how famous you are. You've always been just Zack to most of us.'
'That is exactly who I want to be. Him ignoring you ticked me off.' Zack opened his eyes to see Burt grinning.
'Aww shucks!' Burt said. Zack kicked him in the shin and closed his eyes again.
The next day they were planted on the sidewalk with other reporters and camera men. Zack was concentrating on his camera shots and proper angles. He noticed where the sun glared off a few windows and where the crowds looked to be thinning. Everything met his eye as he chose which angle and how long a video to shoot.
The work went well and Burt and Zack met in a restaurant for dinner that night with a few other reporters. Suddenly, a familiar face came by. Lincoln sat down next to Burt and spoke to him. This time, he didn't jump to say hello to Zack. Zack was relieved and yet listened and watched the man his wife wrote about.
He learned that Lincoln never married. He was thirty six years old and enjoyed a life of travel. The two of them spoke in a friendly manner but Zack wasn't one to talk of his personal life and he kept his cards close to his chest.
At the end of his job, Zack was glad to be on a plane to go back home. He had another job in Belize the following week. He opened his laptop to see what his wife was doing, or dreaming of. 'I am watching little Jackie tackle his brother Charlie. What would my life be like without those two monkeys? Zack will be home soon. I have to find something suitable to wear for that party on Friday.'
Zack suddenly remembered the big party he was supposed to go to. It was a black tie affair to give awards out to news broadcasters and photographers too. He wondered if Lincoln would be there. Yet, in all the years they had gone to these events, he hadn't seen him. Of course, he didn't know he existed either.
Zack's home was a rambling six bedroom mansion that stood on 30 acres of land. A portion of the his home was facing the Indian River. He had an Olympic sized in-ground swimming pool. The home had a huge living room that sported an aquarium as an entire wall. Tropical fish swam quietly as he enjoyed reading his paper in the mornings. He enjoyed hardwood floors in that room along with black and white leather furniture. A huge picture of a zebra he'd taken while on location graced the wall over his gas fireplace. The front bay window was filled with passion flowers and jasmine. The smells made air freshener unneeded.
The winding staircases made it possible to enter the upper level from either the south or north side of the living room.
His kitchen sported sandstone flooring that was durable with two preschool boys. His wife and he had spent a year decorating his million dollar home. The brick walls in the kitchen with silver appliances and brick marbled countered tops always greeted him with home coming elegance.
The home had a hideaway room that could be entered through the living room or the kitchen. This is where the boys had their trains set up and most of their toys. They had an intercom as well as tv there so they could see them from the kitchen, bedroom or living room.
The boys bedrooms were upstairs with the master suite. There was one empty bedroom upstairs as well. Two bedrooms were on the back side of the mansion for guests. Each with it's own bathroom and shower.
Zack's garage was a separate building from the house with servants quarters upstairs from it. He drove through iron gates and parked his car in his garage. He then strolled through a small garden to the side door which opened to the sitting room. If he preferred, he could drive to the carport and exit to the right and through the front double doors. He was seldom that formal though. He had that put in for guests.
There was a meeting room on the upper back part of his home. It was a solar room and held several plants and wicker furniture. He liked to sit there with Burt or the General when they visited. He had a dumb waiter installed so he could call the kitchen and Sophie or Martha could send up drinks and snacks.
Zack enjoyed his home and didn't mind it when it was a mess. Sometimes toys were strewn all over the den, living room and halls as the boys played. He enjoyed wrestling in the den on a huge burgundy fluffy carpet he'd installed for this purpose. 'Hard wood floors are too much for boys to wrestle on.' he'd said.
His master bedroom boasted of a beautiful fireplace and picture window that overlooked the gardens below. The king sized bed boasted of a huge rattan headboard he'd sent home from Africa. Ebony and Ivory statues were strewn about. His wife had decorated the room with black and white colors for winter, and she switched to pastels for spring and summer.
Jolea had made sure to have plenty of closet spaces. The halls were filled with doors that led to storage rooms and closets that held an upstairs washer and dryer. No need to go downstairs to pick up laundry and cart it up to the boys rooms. Everything was within easy access.
To Zack though, only Jolea and the boys mattered. He loved to come home and see them.
He opened the door to his home and two chubby little boys raced down the hall yelling 'Daddy Daddy!' Charlie was six and Jackie was five. He scooped them up and turned around in a circle. 'Airplane Daddy!' they yelled. He did that all the time with them when he came home. After he had been thoroughly kissed and hugged, he set them down. The scooted off to play as his wife stood watching.
Zack smiled per usual though his heart sank as he watched her come to him slowly. No eager reception. Had there ever been? Four months ago he would never have questioned her love for him. Now, he questioned his entire life.
He reached for her and drew her close. The smell of jasmine and he knew he was home. 'I need a shower and food.'
'I've got chicken kiev waiting.' She smiled and led him to their upstairs bedroom. She unpacked his dirty clothes as he stepped into the shower.
'How is Martha doing?' he asked. Martha was the governess he'd hired to help out.
'Oh, she is so nice. The boys love her. It's like having Aunt Francis full time.' Jolea began to go through the closet for Zack's jeans and a shirt as he stepped into the shower.
There was a shower head on each end of the huge tub. Jets were installed so it turned into a hot tub as well. A seat on both sides of the tub made it possible to sit either in the tub or on the side. The colors of sandstone and ivory were accentuated with a deep indigo inlaid mosaic design in 12 of the tiles scattered across the shower.
Zack began to relax as the hot water hit his back. 'We don't have anything to do tonight do we?'
'Nope! Just dinner and a game with the boys.'
Zack was glad they weren't expected anywhere. He was exhausted.
All bathed and dressed for dinner, Jolea sat watching Zack button his clean shirt. 'Do you think the dark blue dress will be all right for Thursday's awards banquet?' Zack turned to look at the dress hanging in the closet.
'I love you in anything and nothing at all. It will look perfect. Blonde hair, green eyes, blue dress, and I suppose those diamond earrings?' Zack loved Jolea and tried to buy her stones of every color.
'Of course.' she said.
Thursday night brought some of the most famous reporters and photographers of the nation out for this awards banquet. Zack and his wife had their photograph taken several times. They sat at the table reserved for them and began to sip champagne. Jolea took one or two sips and switched to ice water as usual. Zack drank ginger ale and no one knew his glass was always filled with it. To some, he was the world's best drunk. Yet, he didn't drink at all.
The roast pheasant dinner was served within the hour as everyone was entertained with a pianist. As the meal was almost over, Zack looked up and his heart sank. Walking towards him and Jolea was none other than Lincoln Davenport.
Jolea's eyes grew wide and Zack could see she was excited. His long practiced calm demeanor almost slipped as he saw the recognition in both their eyes.
'Jolea? Is that you?' Lincoln stood next to Zack's chair like a monument.
Zack tried to make the best of it. 'Lincoln, do you know my wife?'
'Know her? That is an understatement. I almost married her. Stand up and let me hug you!'
Zack stood up and helped his wife out of her chair. He felt like he was handing her over to a lion. The two embraced for longer than necessary to suit Zack.
'Well, I am seated way over in the back forty so I best get moving. It was so nice to see you though. I wish I could sit and chat.'
Zack was always polite and so he invited him to sit down in the empty chair next to them. Lincoln, was not as polite though. Rather than chatting for a few minutes and leaving, he remained at their table and asked to have his food brought to him.
Zack found he could do nothing but sit and smile politely as his wife's eyes lit up. Through the rest of the evening, Zack said very little. When it came time for the awards, Zack's name was nominated several times. He was called up to the podium to receive an award when Lincoln commented to Jolea.
'Listen, I need for you to help me with something. I want to work with Zack, but I'm not famous enough to get the nod. Can you put in a good word?' He smiled as he thought Jolea would do it in a minute for him.
Jolea was astonished. 'How long have you been at this reporter's job?'
'I worked for CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and ABC off and on for eight years. Why?'
'Well, I never saw you on television. Does Zack know you?'
Lincoln's face flushed. 'Yeah, we've met.'?'
Jolea began to get nervous. 'So, you work for the same people?'
Fine, I've been working for Midnight Madness mostly. So what?'
Jolea's mind clicked and remembered how that rag magazine had done an article about her husband before she was married. It nearly ruined his career. They had wrote lies about him fathering children in several other countries with various women while he took pictures. She sat back quietly.
'I will see what I can do.' she said. Lincoln did not want to talk about his life in the navy. Jolea wanted to ask many questions about why he never wrote her. She did ask a few. He suddenly grew angry though and turned to her.
'Look, I just wasn't interested in you that much. I had bigger fish to fry. You were well, fun. OK? Now, please don't embarrass us both and just stop asking. Let me know how you make out with my request OK?'
Lincoln left the table before Zack returned with his award.
Zack noticed his wife's face was blanched. 'Jolea, is everything all right?'
Zack saw his wife's reaction to Lincoln as he stood on the other side of the room and wondered what had happened.. The rest of the night Zack watched as his wife picked at her dessert and clapped when others went up to collect their awards. He noticed that she never looked over to where Lincoln was sitting.
No matter what she had been daydreaming about, she was his wife. He wanted to protect her from anything that would hurt her, even herself.
The ride home was silent as Jolea leaned her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes all the way home. Zack didn't ask a lot of questions. He knew he would find out from her diary how she felt. A few days later, on his way to Belize he opened his laptop.
'I wonder why I never saw his name on that rag magazine. I'll have to go buy one and see it. I know he was in journalism class. He graduated from the same college as I did. I went to learn how to write children's books. What was he interested in? I just assumed he made a career out of the navy. He looks the same. Yet, he doesn't seem the same. I can't figure it out. Why does he want to get closer to Zack? Zack's fame as a photographer has no way of making a name for him.'
The plane suddenly dipped and Zack grabbed his laptop. 'His phone call today made no sense. Why is he looking for Zack?' Zack stopped reading and turned to Burt.
'Burt, how much do you know about Lincoln Davenport?'
But put the paper down and scratched his head. 'Let's see, I met him a few yrs back when we were in a white house press conference. He was working for KBYOB back then. Didn't stay long. Then, I heard he worked for a couple other stations a while. He has a short temper, so probably didn’t last long because of that. He was never a friend of mine, but we used to chat on the road once in a while.'
'Did you know he works for a rag magazine?'
Burt sat up. 'Now that you mention it, there was this rumor. But, there are so many...'
'What did you hear?' Zack was beginning to think of something.
'Well, he always wanted to make it big in the reporting. However, he got accused of fabricating things. One time he said he learned it while working for a rag magazine.'
Zack nodded his head and turned back to his wife's diary. 'The world of reporting and photographing never seemed so mysterious as now. Zack makes it all sound boring when we talk about his job. In fact, we seldom discuss his work. Lincoln's remark to me left me reeling. Zack would never have said anything like that.'
The laptop closed quietly and Zack sat staring into space. 'Let's see, how do I feel.' Zack was very analytical which left little room for sudden outbursts in his life. 'I love this woman. I am crushed but on top of that I'm angrier than I have ever been. Got to keep control here. I've got to find out what this man is about. Then I can deal with Jolea.' he thought to himself.
He jotted down a few connections he had and filed them away in his pocket. The next few days for him were busy. He met with the CEO of the Belize company. He set up a tripod and took photos of some buildings. Later, he did a video of people being interviewed by Burt. He then went to a small sidewalk cafe' with Burt and enjoyed a light meal and ginger ale.
By the time he made it to his hotel for the night, he'd been up almost 19 hours without sleep. His adrenalin was pumping though and he didn't feel particularly tired. He sat on the bed and opened his laptop.
'I miss him. The children are busy with their toys and I sit alone staring out the window. I've finished the story for my editors. He needs only to select the artist since the last artist was killed in a fire last night. I will miss Sadie. I wonder what he is doing now.'
Zack decided to call home. No matter how tired he was, it sounded like Jolea was upset. 'Hi there!' he said a little too loud as she picked up on the first ring.
'Zack, I miss you! Sadie died in a fire last night. The editor phoned and now my book won't be out for another few months. I don't care, it's just so sudden. I've worked with Sadie for four years now. Oh, Zack I don't mean to unload on you. I was just sitting here and it's so sad. Are you ok?'
Zack marveled at how much she sounded like a little girl sometimes. 'I'm fine. Just getting ready to turn in. I'm bushed. Listen, I'm really sorry about Sadie. I'll get hold of your editor and send something to her family. Meanwhile, you just sit tight. I'll be home in two days. I'll be holding you in no time. OK? '
'OK, but Zack...I need to ask you something when you get home. Actually, I need to talk.'
Zack felt a cold shiver come over him. 'Of course. Call me if you need to talk sooner.'
Zack hung up the phone and checked the clock. It was almost midnight. His body over rid his brain and soon he was sound asleep.
Jolea hung up the phone and took out her picture book. She always had Zack take tons of pictures of the family. She liked to see him in the photos too. Suddenly, she thought of how her mind had gone haywire in the last four months. She knew that one minute with Lincoln had undid her from any further thoughts of him. She had an insight that he was not the man she'd dreamed of.
Yet, she stared down at Zack's jet black wavy hair as he was cuddling his sons and knew she had chosen well. His arms were always open and though in these past few months her mind had wandered, she loved him. She knew she loved him now. It was time to write.
'Without a shadow of doubt, I know I love this man. I've been such a fool. When I am in need, its his voice I want to hear and no other. I need to talk to Zack this week end.'
A shaky hand closed the laptop the following day. Zack read the words and grew hot and cold. 'So, she loves that guy. She wants to talk to me now. I'll make sure she gets to talk all she wants.'
First, he would have to call his friend Nick and make sure his boat was ready. He had purchased a 40 foot boat for use in the inner coastal waterways. Living in Orlando meant he could spend a lot of time fishing when he wasn't working. This boat was not too big, yet he could sleep four easy enough. He had planned to take his boys out on it when they got older. Meanwhile, he could use it with Jolea for a quick get away.
Zack hung up the phone from talking to Nick and set another plan in place. He drove up to Clear-water with Burt and met with Lincoln Davenport. Lincoln sat in a white sport-scar outside the 'Hungry Lion' grill. It was a local spot that overlooked the water as you ate your meal. The three men sat down next to the window and ordered drinks.
Lincoln ordered a double scotch and Burt and Zack looked up at the waiter and said 'We'll just have the usual.' They had been there many times. Their usual was ginger ale for Zack and a diet cola with lemon for Burt. They liked to keep their wits about them under these conditions.
The meals were eaten with friendly banter. Lincoln was especially friendly and got up the nerve to tell Zack what he wanted to do. 'I have a few assignments that take me to some of the places you will be in the next few months. I have a photographer that usually goes with me but I would love it if you could be my shadow for a few days.
Zack never took his eyes off his steak. He continued to cut it into small pieces and purposefully let a few seconds of silence pass. When he looked up into Lincoln's eyes, Lincoln saw a piercing gaze.
'First of all, I am paid by the networks I work for, the same as you are. I do not freelance while under contract. I doubt if Midnight Madness would do any thing different. So, aside from the fact that you once dated my wife...we do not have any connection.'
Lincoln's mouth dropped. 'But, I told you I work for the same people that you work for.'
Burt took a swig of his soda and wondered how Zack would respond.
Zack set his fork down. 'Oh, really! Just who do you think I work for?'
'You mean which major network?' asked Lincoln.
Zack leaned forward. 'The game is over Lincoln. I know you work for the same rag magazine that tried to gather dirt on me eight years ago. It didn't work then and it isn't going to wash now. You have no idea what you are up against!'
'They had you pinned back then, you were just using that job as a cover for gathering info for foreign countries. I can almost prove it!'
Burt burst out laughing. 'Zack, he thinks you are a spy! For a foreign government no less! Man, you are way off Link, I could have saved you a lot of trouble.'
Zack gave Lincoln a sneering smile. 'I ran a background check on you pal. My wife told me you disappeared after you left for the navy. You were dishonorably discharged. Would you like that to be Burt's next headline? I have other great bits of information on you as well. You once planted a stink bomb in one of the white house offices and your newspaper had to pay a bundle. I can only assume they paid you to do it, or you would have gotten fired. You are small potatoes in a gourmet stew. Get out of here before I call someone who can escort you.'
Lincoln's face grew red. 'I'll get you yet Zack ! Your wife still adores me. She'll give me all I need.'
Zack wasn't going to fall for the bait. Lincoln got close enough for him to spit at but he was sure other photographers were there to snap a shot. 'It was nice meeting with you.' he said with his famous white toothed smile. Burt got up and shook hands with him. A flash went off as one of the photographers hiding thought he was going to hit him.
The cover was blown and Zack continued to eat his steak. Lincoln knew he had blown it. He got out of the restaurant as fast as he could.
Burt slapped Zack on the back. 'That was the most fun I've had in years. He really thought you were a double agent. Zack, why didn't you tell me?'
'I didn't want to upstage you!' Zack grinned. Burt had no idea what he did besides taking photos and he wasn't about to tell him and put him in danger. How that rag magazine had gotten wind of him working for the government was still unclear. Their story was wrong though, he worked for the US government, not any other. His connections went high up and he still felt there was someone planting false information for some reason.
Zack phoned home and spoke to his wife. 'I need to go to Washington for a few days on special assignment. I won't be back for a few more days.'
'I'll miss you. I was wondering if we could spend some time on the boat.' she said.
'Sounds good to me.' Zack hung up and made more phone calls.
'General Towers, please.' he said to the person answering.
Soon a booming voice answered him. 'Zack , what are you doing calling papa bear!'
'A squirrel named Lincoln Townsend...works for rags. Seems, I'm still a delectable morsel.'
The conversation was always in code.
General Towers knew what was up. 'Guess I need to clean the fridge! I'll be growling in about three days.' That meant he'd find out and get back to him.
'Behave! Kiss the wife for me.'
The general hung up and went to work.
Zack and Burt went to Washington DC and tackled their assignment. A press conference in the rose garden, secretary of state speech, a human activist story and death of a congressman. Each night Zack took photos and managed to sight people who weren't supposed to be there. He sent the photos to head quarters per usual. The disguises of the people did nothing to hide them from Zack's trained eye. His lense was such that he could see a gnat’s eye quiver from five hundred yards. Within days people were apprehended and a possible fiasco was avoided.
An attempt was going to be made on the vice president by someone named 'Zero'. He was Zack's assignment and the reason he was in Washington. Zack kept his gun nearby just in case. He was also a sharpshooter. He gained that nickname 'Sharpshooter' from the marines but most thought it meant shooting pictures. Zack was good at both. In fact, he was the nation's best.
The vice president was scheduled to speak about abortion rights, gay rights, and the economy this week. All topics that elicited a passionate crowd. Zack was ready.
The first speech went without incident. Zack thought it was a little to eerie that not one person out of place figured into the crowd. He spent a lot of time filming that day.
That night he turned on his laptop. 'I saw Zack on television tonight. His back was to the crowd as usual and his camera on his shoulder. No wonder his muscles grew. That camera looks heavy. Meanwhile, I am thinking of Lincoln. Will he show up in my life again? That last phone call did not end well.'
Zack nearly dropped his laptop. 'How dare that jerk call my wife!' he shouted to an empty room. He was tired and hungry but none of that mattered. Lincoln Davenport had no business calling his wife. What could he do? Did his wife want Lincoln to call?' He sat down and removed his shoes. Hurriedly, he undressed and threw the dirty clothes in a bag. He was still grumbling when he turned on the shower.
He stepped out of the shower and toweled himself off. He stepped out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist and spotted her. 'Hi Zack!'
Janice was a photographer's worst nightmare. She had worked with him a year ago and since then, she thought he liked her. He had given no sign of encouragement. Yet, she seemed to have her assignments at nearly the same place.
'Janice! Get out of here!' He walked briskly to the door and opened it wide. He stood to one side waiting for her to leave.
Janice was a former model turned secretary to one of the major reporters. 'Aw, Zack. Don't you ever get the itch?' She walked close to him as if she were exciting the door. Suddenly, she reached over and licked his ear. He grabbed her arm to push her away which left her other arm free. With her free arm, she attempted to tear his towel off. Zack anticipated her action though and pushed her away.
The flashes from the camera alerted him to another prank. He pushed her out and closed the door. He was dialing the general within seconds. 'baby bear got a bad bowl of porridge, threw it out, filming continues.'
The general jumped. 'Oh, crap! I'm on it!'
Mysteriously, the next day no one saw any photos. Janice was fired and no one saw the photographers again. The cameras and all the equipment was destroyed. Zack lay awake at three a.m.on the phone with the general getting a full report. 'The guys were never out of the hall before they were apprehended. Do you want someone to stay in the room with you?'
'Not unless you can fly my wife here.' Zack answered.
The general laughed and hung up the phone.
The second speech from the vice president didn't go as smooth. There were body guards, secret service and the usual crowd. Then, Zack spotted a flash in the crowd. It was quick. Some might have thought it was the sun catching someone's earring. Zack knew better. His camera's gun was out and aimed withing seconds. Pop pop! The crowd scattered, as the vice president was ushered to a safe place. A man lay sprawled on the ground with a gun nearby. His wrist was bloody from where Zack had shot him.
The secret service men laid claim to the shot. Zack's cover would be blown if anyone knew he carried a piece. No one noticed Zack's camera was equipped with a weapon. Zack had put it away as fast as he'd drawn it out...while continuing to shoot video. He had trained himself to do these things, making sure his camera's secret weapon wasn't in the shot.
An hour later, Burt saw Zack at a local pub. 'I gotta tell ya Zack, that was close. Thank God those secret service guys knows what's happening. I'm still shaking. Think I'll call Emma. Hell, I'll call everyone I know just to be sure they're there. What am I saying? I'm nuts tonight.'
Zack smiled. Burt was a good guy. He was no coward either. He wasn't trained for this kind of thing. The six years in the marines had made Zack into the man he was today. Then, the last ten years he'd been at this job. Most of the time it was fun. But on days like this, with thoughts of his wife drifting in and out...he wasn't sure if but what he'd call Jolea too.
The news the next day said that a man was shot as he tried to shoot the vice president. Secret service apprehended him without incident.
The plane ride home was quiet. Burt slept most of the way. He'd drank himself into a stupor the night before after calling his wife and telling her how much she meant to him. Zack had phoned Jolea but she was busy giving the boys a bath.
He'd talk to her tonight. He opened his laptop to see how his wife's thoughts were. 'I saw the news last night and I was terrified. I always thought Zack chose an easy way of life. He must have been terrified to see this kind of shooting. He is such a gentle person. He never even gets upset. I was thinking of Lincoln. I think something bad must have happened while he was in the navy to make him the way his is to day. That's it, Zack probably never saw anything that bad.'
'Nice' Zack though, 'She forget I was a marine? Meanwhile I find out Lincoln went AWOL cause he was too lazy to get up for the navy's morning calls.' He shut the laptop and looked out the window. He was almost asleep when he felt his cell phone vibrate.
'Zack?' his wife's voice sounded far away.
'I was so worried about you. Are you doing ok?'
'I'm in the air and on my way home. I'm fine.' He was still angry but tried not to show it.. She had no idea he read her diary.
'That shooting was right where you were yesterday wasn't it?'
'Yes, in fact I took the photos that you saw on television.' Rats! He wasn't supposed to know she watched tv.
'So you weren't that close. Good. I bet it was the most excitement you've had in years.'
Zack smiled. He never would tell her what he did. She would be terrified. In fact, he loved his job but it was better to let her think he was just a photographer for the news.
'I'm proud of you Zack. I just don't want you in stuff like that.'
Zack smiled. 'So what's new there?' He wondered if she would tell the truth.
'Zack, Lincoln phoned and he sounded drunk. How did he get our private number?'
Zack frowned. How indeed? 'When was this?'
His wife told him and he realized it was the night they had met for dinner. 'Did he leave a number?' Zack knew he didn't but had to ask.
Jolea said no. 'Zack, he threatened to hurt you. Should I call the police?'
'No, I'll take care of it. I doubt you'll hear from him again though. Is that ok with you?' Zack waited for her response.
'I think it best.'
Zack wasn't sure if he believed that but it didn't matter. He was going to take care of his family even if his wife was in love with someone else. Zack said good night and made a few more calls. Soon he got a phone call that said Lincoln was not going to be a problem any more.
Three days later Zack drove himself and his wife to the docks where his boat was moored. He was smiling and gave no clue as to what his thoughts were. Jolea had met him as usual with a hug.
The morning sky was light blue and the sea was calm. He went below and made sure the galley was stocked. Jolea was busy unpacking a small bag. 'What did you do, empty the supermarket?'
Jolea was bent over and giving her husband a nice view of her rear. Her shapely legs were encased in a pair of white capris that went beautifully with her orange and white striped shirt. She looked like a delectable creamsicle. 'No silly, but I wanted to make omelets for breakfast and I picked up some steaks too.'
She turned around and didn't miss the bulge in Zack's pants. 'Hungry?'
Zack took three steps and pulled her to his chest. 'I could eat I guess.'
Jolea kissed him and gently pushed him away. 'let me put this stuff away first.'
Zack took a breath. 'I'm going up and cast off anyways. We'll be off and anchored near Hushaby Island in a few hours. Come on up when you're done.'
'Aye aye captain!' she smiled her salute.
Zack kept thinking of how she smiled as she was pushing him away. 'How often has she done that and I didn't notice?' he thought.
Jolea wanted to make it a surprise for Zack. She donned her new swimsuit which consisted of a few scraps of fabric stretched over the important places. The indigo blue went well with her golden blonde hair. Having two children made her a size eight rather than the size four she was. However, she'd trade her size four for those two boys any time.
Zack looked up and saw his wife approach in her new suit. He let out a wolf whistle. 'Hellooo!'
Jolea smiled and went up to the captain's seat. She put her arms around Zack's neck and watched him steer the boat. They waved at other crafts as they made their way to their destination.
Jolea pulled a wrapper on and sat in a padded booth with dinner on the table. From their deck, they could see the stars and hear the sounds of the ocean. The smell of steak and baked potato made Zack's mouth water. They ate in silence.
Jolea had a matchless candle lit and the glow gave off a romantic effect. When they finished dinner, Jolea brought the dishes down to the galley.
Zack grew nervous as his wife approached with bottled water to share. 'Can we talk now?' she asked.
Zack braced himself. 'Sure.'
He watched the moonlight bounce off of her hair. Her eyes twinkled a bit. His breath caught and he wasn't sure he could go through with this talk. He had told himself he wouldn't get frighten her with anger. He'd try to be understanding. Yet, his emotions were a mixture of pain, anger, and disbelief.
Jolea sat down and reached over for Zack's hands across the table. He held them gently and waited for the tidal wave to hit.
'I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past few months. For some crazy reason, I thought I had been holding on to you, yet loving someone else.' She waited for her husband to speak.
When he didn't, she went on. 'I thought you would jump when I said that. Anyway, I never would have tried to find him. I would never do something like that. It was just all these weird thoughts and wanting something I thought was, and I found out that it wasn't. Do you remember Lincoln?'
Zack's face was impassive as he tried to concentrate on his wife's voice. He nodded quickly.
'Well, I had remembered him as something totally different. In the meantime, I had forgotten what was right in front of me. You. Zack, I'm sorry. I just have to confess this to you. I really began remembering this guy and how I thought he held my heart. But, that night at the awards banquet I got to see what I had given up.'
'uh huh' Zack was still bracing himself for a fall.
'I looked at him and I found out he didn't look that good to me any more. I did ask him about why he stopped writing when he joined the navy though. I mean, he just disappeared and I wondered why. He got very irritated Zack. He told me that I was fun but it meant nothing to him. Then, he told me he wanted me to put a word in for him so he could work with you.'
Zack was awoken. 'What?'
'I cornered him, I told him I had never heard of him. He finally fessed up to me. He works for 'Midnight Madness magazine!' that same place that almost ruined you years ago. Zack, I'm worried. I think they sent Lincoln to me to get to you. That phone call the other night was scary.'
'You're worried about me?' Zack was trying to remain calm but felt himself getting antsy.
'But mostly, I wanted you to know that I found out where my heart is for good. It's with you Zack. I mean it, maybe a wife shouldn't do things like this but I did. I took a good look at the man I married. You are amazing on so many levels. The past few months I think my brain went on vacation. But, I gotta tell you...reality is where I always want to be.'
Zack let out a breath he didn't know he was holding. He leaned back in his seat and crossed one knee over the other. It took a few moments before he was able to speak.
'Well, this does make things more interesting now doesn't it.' His voice took on an acid tone as he watched his wife's eyes flicker and her mouth set in a firm line. 'It appears to be a night of confessions so I will make mine too. Four months ago, I was home on our computer. You had left your diary open and I thought perhaps you were writing about what you were going to get me for my birthday.' He took a drink and sat staring across the table at her.
'You read it?' Jolea spoke in a high pitched little girl voice.
Zack knew she was nervous and afraid. 'Oh yes. It was quite a read. What's more, I figured out your password and continued to read for the past four months. What a horrible man I must be.' He sat back and crossed his arms continuing to bore dark brown eyes into her.
The moon reflected on Zack's face and made him appear fierce and impenetrable. His chest rose and fell with his breathing. With his leg crossed and arms crossed, he appeared to be casually waiting like a cat about to pounce.
Inside, Zack's heart was pounding and he hoped she couldn't see his pulse at the base of his neck. His stomach was rolling but he knew he had to play this out. This woman thought him dull witted and dreamed of other men. Dreams sometimes led to actual actions and he needed to remain calmly aloof right now to play his game.
'I don't know what to say. I was just trying to sort things out in my head in the diary.'
'Of course, I understand. It's not like you could tell me, your husband, that you were bored with me and dreamed of a sexy tall blonde man with a lanky build. Your husband is full of muscles and dark as sin...,to quote you of course. So, this Lincoln has your heart and I just hold your hand. Though, I must say I took it a little further than hand holding over the years. I really thought my wife loved me.'
Jolea's eyes began to burn and her breathing became erratic. 'You know the answer to that.' Jolea felt trapped in a nightmare. 'If you knew, why didn't you come to me?'
' Don't turn this around Jolea. I am not the guilty party. I do admit, I was a fool to read your personal diary. I won't do it again and I do apologize. Believe me, I was the one who took the brunt of that mistake. However, I do not dream of other women while I hold on to you. So, you come to me now because you met your dream man and he turned out not to be who you thought. How am I supposed to feel? Insulted? Angry? I can't seem to put my finger on how I feel right now..'
'No, that isn't it at all. I woke up the moment he sat at our table. I looked at you and him and knew I was dreaming of something that was false. Plus, I would never have stepped out of line. It was just thoughts in my head that I was battling.'
'Jolea, we have been a member of River Church for years. I sit every Sunday that I am home listening to Pastor Briggs tell us about the battle of the mind. The thoughts about a past boyfriend might come into your head, but what you wrote was a lot more in depth. You were longing for him. Every time I read an entry I kept wondering if I had failed somehow. You hardly mentioned me. I'll tell you, I was so blown away I didn't even know what to do.'
Jolea sat and watched as her husband visibly trembled. She got up and went to him. 'I'm sorry, I don't know what else to say.'
Zack hugged her to him and moved so she could sit next to him. 'Jolea, you took your eyes off me. More than that though, you took your eyes off Jesus. I mean, I am worried something more serious is going on here than a wandering mind. I don't know how to help you. I've been praying for you, and I do forgive you sweetheart. I love you Jolea. You have to know something though...in my line of work I have to have a wife I can trust when I am away. Our boys need a mom and dad. Stuff like this can escalate into actions. I just want you to spend some time thinking. Do we need marriage counseling?'
Jolea sat in shocked silence for a moment. 'Oh Zack, no...' Suddenly she remembered what she'd listened to the Sunday before. Colossians 3:2 'Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.' Jolea began to sob as she sat tucked under her husband's arms. Zack held on to her and was thankful she hadn't reacted in self defense or anger. She acted in repentence. After a few moments she stirred. 'I'll make this up to you Zack.'
'Tell me what you need Jolea. Do you need me home more? More attention? What can I do to help you? I love you Jolea....'
Jolea began to cry again. She clung to Zack's chest and confessed her love through broken sentences. Zack was glad to hear it and tried to soothe her. 'We have to pick up the dishes Jolea. The birds are circleing.' Jolea smiled and nodded.
Slowly, she got up and went to the galley. Zack offered to help but she shook her head. 'You just relax.' She washed the dishes and put everything away. When the galley was cleaned, she went to their cabin and undressed. She sat by the porthole and watched the waves for a while. Zack left her alone knowing she needed some space. It was a heavy emotional time for both of them.
He sat in the dark on deck and watched the stars and thought of his wife.
Zack thought back to the woman he had met years ago. She was a tiny girl with an hourglass figure. Wavy blonde hair that had been long enough to sit on was flapping in the breeze as she hung clothes on her mother's clothes line. Zack was standing in his mother's kitchen that day.
He had come home from college to his parents new home. They were middle class Italians who had purchased a home in an older neighborhood. Zack was determined to do better for himself. He was dreaming of travel and had no thoughts of a wife any time soon.
His time spent in the marines had taught him well. He had begun photographing scenes of war. On top of that, he worked for the government. Few people knew how he had gained his money in both places. Working undercover as a photographer was a perfect set up. Jolea was just twenty years old and still in a community college. The sight of her hanging up clothes with a flimsy summer dress that blew in the breeze still made him smile. Her hair whipping around her as she stretched up to pin clothes.
She turned to pick wet clothes up and spied him in the window. He was shocked to see a beautiful face attached to all that beauty. She waved and smiled and he waved back. The next thing he knew, he was out back handing her wet clothes and talking about anything to keep her attention.
He slowly went down to their berth and undressed for bed. He sat on the edge of the bed for a moment waiting for a thought to guide him. 'Jolea, if we can; I would like to handle this on our own. I don't want this spread all over the church. I want to protect you from any embarrassment. I would like to sit with the pastor though. A little marriage tune up would not hurt us. Whatever you decide to confide to him will be in confidence. I won't bring it up though.'
Jolea knew he was trying to protect her as usual. 'I have to confess something else.' he heard a small voice say.
Zack leaned over and rested his elbows on his knees. 'Oh Jolea, I don't think that's necessary.'
'I think it is quite necessary. You see, I found out something about you. You work undercover for the government don't you?'
Zack turned around fast and found his wife sitting in the middle of the bed Indian fashioned. She shrugged her shoulders and took a deep breath.
'How in the world did you come up with that idea?'
'Simple, your boss phoned and told me. He's a sweet old guy. He was worried about you and thought I should fly over to be with you. I didn't let on that I had no idea you worked for our government. I guess he thought a husband would tell his wife those things.' Jolea played with a loose string on the quilt and waited for his reply.
Zack was speechless. 'I didn't want you to worry.' It was lame but the truth. 'Some of what I do is top secret. This is not to be shared with anyone, even the pastor.'
'Yeah, I figured that out. You see, I got to thinking of this big hunk I married. You were a marine and you also were a sharpshooter. I can't explain it, everything just made sense to me all of a sudden. Plus, you weren't too close to that guy who got shot.'
Zack scratched his head. 'So??'
Jolea smiled. 'A sharpshooter doesn't have to get that close to get a good shot. I'm proud of you Zack. All this time I thought I was married to a great guy. I just didn't know how great.'
Zack turned around and pulled her onto his lap. 'So, does this mean you are all right with it? I carry a gun like any other secret service agent. The only difference is that no one knows its there. I truly am a camera man and work for the government. I don't have any assumed names or act like OO7..very much.'
Jolea laughed. 'You have no worries.'
'I can tell you some things that wouldn't be considered top secret. Yet, I'd rather not.'
Jolea laughed. 'You know, after I got the call from the General I realized I had two choices. I could be proud of you or I could hate you for keeping this a big secret. Then I stopped to think of who you are. I knew you were protecting me and also doing a wonderful service to our county. How can I be living with a hero and stay angry for him keeping this from me. I still want you to be careful though.'
Zack knew the future held a lot of dark times. His time in this job was limited. He figured he'd be retired within the next ten years.
Later that night Zack woke up when an arm fell over his side. Jolea was a restless sleeper and sometimes took the whole bed. He turned and covered her up as she rolled back over.
'All mine.' he thought and went back to sleep.