Liars Among Us


We left the restaurant walking side by side to our cars, with my left arm around his
waist and his right arm around my shoulder, laughing about being mistaken once
again for husband and wife.

“Maybe you should’ve married me and had a litter of kids on the farm,�
he said. “We could’ve had this much fun every day!�

“Oh, I doubt it. I would’ve killed you within the first year and you
know it,â
€� I replied without doubt or hesitation that only made the hug tighter and the
moment funnier.

“Maybe I wouldn’t have cheated on you... No,  I wouldn’t have,â€� he
said and repeated himself that second time almost too seriously.

“Oh, please! You know you would have. It’s your notoriously heterosexual
nature, my dear,� I replied. Then to avoid a man getting out of his car from
overhearing, I whispered the rest in my friend’s ear, “You probably wouldâ
€™ve cheated on me on the honeymoon -- no, no... at the re-
cep-tion! You are
such a slut, after all.�

My friend’s laughter was immediate and robust for a thin man only an inch or
so taller than I. He stopped walking, brushed back hair that the breeze had blown
in my face and kissed me goodnight. He put both arms around me for a full hug
that felt as though he didn’t want to let go -- which was O.K, because often we
were in this spot. Doubt two people ever loved one another more without being in
love.  Headlights from a car pulling into the parking lot were on us as I broke free
to unlock my car door to get inside.

“That’s why I love you; you know me so well, and yet, you
still like me,�
he said, leaning in the open car door into my car for another kiss goodnight before
he closed my door and watched me start the car.

“Hey, they’re playing our song!� he said, laughing more, as Bonnie
Raitt’s “Something To Talk About� was on my car radio. I just laughed
more for the timing of it. It was just on the jukebox playing in the restaurant bar
when we put on our jackets and did the little two-step dance out the door.

“Drive carefully,� he said laughing.
“You, too.�

This 25-year tradition of not crossing the platonic line came more easily for us,
once we got past the first year of so wanting to and starting to cross over. A
passerby outside that restaurant might have easily mistaken this dear friendship
for a romantic involvement or two strangers picking each other up for the night. It
always appeared to be everything that it wasn’t.

And over 25 years, there were plenty who would talk about us behind our backs --
and some of those might even have been the ones later who got braver and joked
directly to us about it. But I liked those who had lives of their own and didn’t
give a rat’s ass what we were or are to one another. It’s amazing how every
little innocent detail of that night, until and after we parted at the restaurant,
would come under the biggest microscope for speculation and discussion for some
time.

My friend was always honest with me about everything, I thought. We were wild
friends together for half a lifetime. We stayed out all night, sometimes drinking
when we were younger. We were always the two missing first from most parties
after a while because we knew there was something more exciting to do together.
Sometimes, we took drives and parked for hours talking. Usually, we walked
aimlessly around whatever town we were in and talked openly about everything in
our lives that we loved, disliked and wanted to change. And we always laughed and
carried on through it all and had way too much fun, almost more than what
people should be allowed. For two quiet people, we made quite a racket together.

That particular night at the restaurant, though, something was a little different in
the air. Something was a little off with my friend. He seemed a bit distracted at
times. I sensed there was something that he wasn’t telling me and I probably
should’ve pursued it more at the time. But I had come to stop telling him
everything in the months preceding that night about my life and thought that
maybe the time had come when he also needed that bit of space of privacy for
himself.

When I drove to the end of the parking lot and waited for traffic to clear to get on
the road, I could see in the rear view mirror that he did not get in his car. I started
to turn the car around to see what was wrong because he was always losing his car
keys, when my phone rang with his number showing on the caller I.D. Then
through the rear view mirror I saw sparks around his face. I assumed that he lit a
joint and a seed popped and he was smoking it before he drove back home.

So there he was on my phone, saying how high he was already from a couple hits
of that joint. He wasn’t going home on second thought. But he was definitely
smoking pot when he had just told me a half hour earlier that he hadn’t done
so for months.

“Why don’t you cancel your plans and meet me on the Southside in about a
half hour? Lets go find a band and then hang out till breakfast. Come on, that guy
you’re meeting is a jerk and you know it,� he said in between coughs from
his mighty weed.
“Unlike me, he doesn’t appreciate your wit, charm and natural beauty,�
he managed to say before he resumed coughing.

“Oh, Romeo, thy shit’s getting deep,� I replied. “Why don’t you
just drive on home, take the long, scenic way, listen to some good music and call it
a night. Don’t you have to be in court tomorrow morning? And what are you
doing smoking weed again?� I asked.

Just as he started to say that he didn’t have any appeals to file till late
morning, another quick call came through and I put him on hold. I got right back
to him.

“O.K., if you stop smoking right now, I’ll meet you in about 30 minutes on
the Southside. My plans have been canceled,� I said.

“See, I told you he’s a jerk. I have never stood you up.�

I didn’t hear the rest of what he was saying because the phone cut out. I found
a mac machine and withdrew $50 and continued on my way. When I called him
back, I got his voice mail and kept driving to the Southside.

The next time I talked to my friend was after 5 A.M. when he called from jail. He
was arrested at 3:30 A.M. on charges of battery and attempted rape. What he was
saying was not sinking in to me. His call woke me from a deep sleep and none of it
was making sense. I asked if he called anyone in his family of lawyers, and he
hadn’t. He asked me to call his brother or sister first. I started getting sick. I
started doubting him the second that he didn’t ask me to call the old man.
After all, their dad was the best lawyer in the bunch and his best hope of getting
this whole mess taken care of quietly.

“Are you there?� he asked. Yeah, I was on the open line, but in shock. This
was much too serious a situation for us. He was officially booked, fingerprinted
and had his mug shot taken. Again, I asked what was going on.

“I’ve been set up,� he answered.

"Why?�

“I don’t know, babe, I don’t know.�

“Do you swear on your daughter's life and your mom’s grave that you were
set up?� I asked point blank.

“Yeah, I have been set up and rather magnificently,� my friend assured me
with his voice starting to break. Time was up so I made the call.

By late-afternoon, my friend was out on bail that his dad posted for him and we
took one of those aimless walks. He told me that he had made plans to meet a lady
who works as a secretary in their law office. He was supposed to meet her at 8 p.m.
at the restaurant where we ate dinner. I had noticed that he looked at his watch
and the wall clock several times around 8 and later. She didn’t come then. â
€œSo what happened to her?â€� I asked.

He didn’t know. He said he hadn’t seen her since the day before at work.
When our phone line went dead, he told me that he went to his car, sat back
relaxing in the seat to kill 15 minutes and then was going to drive to meet me
again. He said he fell asleep and the next thing he knew police were pulling him
from his car and reading him his Miranda Rights. He was informed that his
brother’s secretary was in a hospital emergency room down the road and
claimed she met him outside the restaurant where he assaulted her.
“What do you know about this woman? How long has she worked there?� I
asked.
“About 2 years.�

“And you and she never had anything going on before?�

“No. We flirted sometimes, but no. I worked a lot with her on a case this month
and asked her out. I broke the old man’s rules. She wanted to go out last week
but I couldn’t. So we were supposed to meet at 6. She didn’t come to work
today and called me at 4 to say that she was out of town but could meet me at 8.
Since I had the reservations made, I asked you to have dinner with me since your
date wasn’t meeting you till 9,� my friend explained.

He went on. “I tried to call her from the bathroom around 8:15.  I got her voice
mail and left a message to call if she were delayed or if she were still coming. She
didn’t call back.�

“Was that particular restaurant your idea or her choice where you should meet?
� I asked.
“Hers. Why?�

“Because that might end up mattering,� I said.

“I didn’t see her. I didn’t assault her. I don’t know who did or why
she’s blaming me. But I didn’t do it,� he said and started crying.

“Is there any connection between her and any pending cases that you have?�
I asked. “Could she have involved you to stall any defenses?�

He had a confused look on his face, shaking his head no. “I don’t think so.
When did you become a detective?� he asked.
“When you became a suspect,� I replied.

In the next hour, his brother came to join us and relayed all information that he
learned. The police reportedly talked to wait staff and bartenders who said that my
friend had at least 8 drinks there. Untrue. I arrived first. He had water, then coffee
with dinner, then 4 bottles of beer in the bar.

“They said that a few people bought you drinks, too,� his brother said to
him. “The police report also states that two people saw you and the victim
together in the parking lot by your car and one saw her getting in your car and
leaving with you.�
My friend was stunned. “No, I never saw her. I didn’t do this.�
“Does this woman resemble me?� I asked both of them.
“Perhaps a little,� my friend said.
His brother disagreed. “She’s a carbon copy of you!�
“But personality wise, she doesn’t come close to comparison,� my friend
added.

We clarified that I didn’t get in his car, either. So that last piece of the police
report couldn’t have been a case of a witness seeing me and thinking it was the
secretary. The last piece of the account was fabricated, not just by the supposed
victim, but by a supposed witness as well if my friend were telling the truth. We
clarified too that others in the bar wanted to buy us drinks, but we graciously
turned them down.
“Do you believe him?� his brother asked me when my friend went in the
house.
“Yes,� I replied.

His brother surprised me by saying that he did not believe in his younger siblingâ
€™s innocense. He felt that it was in his younger brother’s best interest to
offer the woman a large sum of money for pain and suffering to make it all go
away. He said there are two other secretaries willing to make statements that the
woman and his brother were having a sexual relationship at work.

"He told me nothing happened. That he never touched or even kissed her," I
offered in my friend's defense. "I believe him. There are liars among us and he has
met more than his fair share today!"

Does he know that you and I have been seeing one another?� he asked me.

“No, I was going to tell him but wanted to wait because I didn’t think we
would continue to see one another. And now I know we won’t,� I told him
and walked towards the pool. I thought he could be a more faithful version of my
friend, his younger brother, but all of a sudden, I knew I was so wrong.

During the 10 minutes or so that I was alone on the patio, my mind was racing to
try to figure out what might be real and what might be a big lie. I was joined by
the senior member of the family who came out for a swim but then stopped to talk.

“It has been too long since you were here,� he said as he hugged me. I
always liked the old man and always enjoyed talking to him. He worked hard to
build his law practice and for a long time struggled financially to raise his family
and run the business. He never lived beyond his means, but always made the
mistake of spoiling his children. When he started winning big criminal cases, his
popularity and reputation grew and so did his income. He taught two college law
classes to help financially. He put all four of his children through college and
helped with law school for three who wanted to follow in his footsteps. The old
man, no doubt, was disappointed that his younger son had divorced twice and did
not excel at being as good a lawyer as his brother and sister did. But my friend was
definitely his dad’s favorite child, though.

“So what are you thinking?� I asked the old man, after telling him that I
didn’t like what I was thinking.        
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