A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

Obsession

Obsession

He kept looking down at the briefcase at his feet. The gold plated catch was half-open and he could just see into the dark interior and spot the square of tin foil. He knew what he had packed in there many weeks before and he knew what he had to do.

Mitchell Scrotti was feeling his age. Fifty three years had passed since he had been forced into this world and as he rounded the top corner of the 30 minute training course he felt his chest and legs tighten. His back was awash with sweat and, to his considerable embarrassment, the front of his running shorts was deeply stained by sweat so that he looked as though he had urinated himself. He prayed that he would not meet anyone, particularly anyone from the office. He didn’t reflect that his last thought was a sad reflection on his life. He didn’t realise, had never stopped to think about it, that his only ‘friends’ were the people he worked with. He didn’t stop to think that even his wife, Philomena, was more often absent from home than she was present to pass after-work hours with loving companionship. Mitchell was fifty-three, balding, and overweight. He had dyed his greying hair a reddish color and he consciously brushed the long strands that grew over the side across the top to make it appear as though he had more hair than he, in fact, had. He had recently been diagnosed with hypertension and stage II Diabetes and the dietician he had been ordered to see by the company’s human resource person had described him as obese. He hadn’t warmed to that women at all and, to add insult to injury, she had ridiculed his diet when he had explained to her that he was a gourmet cook and ate very healthily indeed thank you. He was dedicated to work (he was an industrial chemist by training who had made the transition to the burgeoning field of biotechnology and then reaped the rewards when it suddenly became flavor of the month) and his only activities outside of work were jogging, collecting, and fishing. His generous salary had allowed him to buy a magnificent sports fishing boat and he had equipped it with all the latest gizmos that the trade magazines offered. He didn’t catch much but he enjoyed being out on the water, far from land, and spending a lazy afternoon trolling for whatever he could drag up. While fishing he perused the boating and fishing magazines to shop for new gadgets he could fit to his boat, already overburdened with enough technology to fly to the moon. Mitchell thought his existence could be described as comfortable, and up until that fateful day, he had wanted for nothing.

She was new to the company and he remembered coming through the door, his head still full of sparkling waters and leaping fish, and he looked up and saw her standing there with Maddison from Personnel. She was dressed in an ivory business suit with a red carnation in the lapel. He remembered the carnation because he had been trying to grow them himself, without much success. Her red hair fell to her shoulders and her freckled face looked like she had spent the last months in sunny climes. She extended her elegant hand when Maddison introduced him and it was like a jolt of electricity as he pumped the limb. He looked deeply into her green eyes and the sparkling crinkles around the edges warmed him as no other women, not even Philomena, had. Her name was Amanda and she seemed full of life, interesting, beautiful, vivacious, funny, bright, and available. By available Mitchell didn’t mean sexually available, but always willing to stop and listen to what it was he had to say. So many at the company went through the motions of nodding their heads and saying ‘ayy’ and ‘mmmm’ at the appropriate moments, but their minds and interest were elsewhere. Amanda was genuinely interested in his boat, his fishing, his collecting, his frustrating attempts to garden. She offered tips, bought him a book on raising carnations, sent him a postcard over a long weekend when he had told her he was going out to the Gulf to fish. It showed an older man with a scantily clad, obviously younger women, tray in hand, bending over him as he hauled in a huge marlin that twisted in the air and threw its dorsal surface back in absolute subjugation. The scantily clad younger woman was whispering in the fisherman’s (and he bore a remarkable likeness to Mitchell) ear and Mitchell could feel Amanda’s sweet breath as he read and re-read the card as he bobbled about on a glassy Gulf sea.

He started taking his lunch an hour earlier so that it coincided with Amanda’s lunchtime schedule. They initially started off in the staff cafeteria, but more recently lunches had been at the myriad of café’s and restaurants that surrounded the plant where they were based. Mitchell had to admit that he had gone slightly overboard in this phase of their relationship. Amanda had admitted to a passion for gourmet cooking and Mitchell had always had to rely on his own efforts to satisfy his own urges. Philomena thought dining out was an extravagance and could just as happily eat fast food, which didn’t leave dirty cutlery, and Philomena declared ‘modern and healthy eating.’ As time went by Mitchell found he more and more confided in Amanda other things he didn’t altogether like about his marriage or his life. He burdened her with latest medical problems and she was very sympathetic and caring, unlike Philomena who had shrugged and suggested he do more exercise. In Amanda he found a willing ear and it was only natural that friends shared little secrets and did little things to help the relationship mature. That’s why he bought Amanda the errings. She had commented that it was difficult for redheads to get good jewelry and makeup, as the colorings were very hard to match. She had mentioned that she had found the most darling pair of errings that were just perfect but unfortunately her limited budget wouldn’t stretch that far and her husband, Jerry, was studying for a law degree and money was tight. Amanda had mentioned she was married almost as soon as she met Mitchell and he had thought no more of it as he was not looking for a lover, only a friend. At first Amanda had been reluctant to take them, saying they were too expensive and that she had only been joking, but eventually she took them and wore them to the office party the week after. It was at the party that she had (admittedly drunkenly) grabbed Mitchell toward midnight, pushed him into a corner away from prying eyes, and passionately kissed him. Mitchell had never been kissed like that before and he found it very exciting but he just added alcohol, exhaustion, end-of-the-year joviality, and good friendship together, and like a chemical equation it equalled fun, and didn’t think any more of it.

It was in the ensuing break that he started to worry. Philomena worked the three days after the compulsory break and, as he had three weeks owing, Mitchell took off on his boat with a load of books, gourmet food, and lots of fine wines. The letter came from Amanda in the second day. She talked of the party and hoped that he didn’t misinterpret her behavior and then indicated that she would like to come down and spend several days on the boat. The way she wrote the boat it seemed to Mitchell that she sort of regarded it as hers and that’s when he started to have some doubts. He put through a seaphone call to her but got her husband. That’s when Mitchell realised that his idea of friendship with the lovely Amanda was not what she had in mind. Jerry, the husband, was, at first, short with Mitchell then, part way through the call, he started swearing and accusing Mitchell of trying to steal his wife with all your money and fine ways. Despite Mitchell assuring him to the contrary the conversation became so uncomfortable that Mitchell had to terminate the call. He pondered on it for a few hours, then the sunshine and the fish and the wine put other things in his mind. By the end of the day he had forgotten all about it and banished Amanda from his mind. When he returned from his holiday things had changed. Amanda was very solicitous and needy. She seemed both warm and cold toward Mitchell. She didn’t mention the letter or the subsequent phonecall with Jerry but she kept asking Mitchell when he was going away again, what had happened to his health, when would they start lunching again.

It seemed to Mitchell that this thing had spun out of control. His plan, ill conceived as he saw it now, was to fake an illness and hope that Amanda would lose interest. He had to fake an interesting illness and one that would leave Amanda out in the cold. He told Amanda that Philomena had developed a fatal illness and had only weeks to live. He needed to be with her for the last days of her life and they were staying at a remote hospice with no outside contact and Mitchell made it clear where his priorities lay. Amanda was concerned at first but when Mitchell made it plain he was dedicated to his dying wife, she seemed to take a backward step and left him alone.

He thought after he came back from his extended ‘holiday’ that he needed to try and re-establish some semblance of his former relationship with Amanda. He rationalized that she was young and it must have been hard for her trying to support herself and Jerry while being shown the ‘good life’ by Mitchell. He would keep things low-key this time. He hit upon the perfect plan. He would play a harmless practical joke on Amanda. That would cheer her up and she would see the levity needed to deal with this stressful situation. With the annual round of office evaluations coming up he saw the perfect opportunity. He concocted a ‘fake’ assessment of Amanda which would jokingly refer to some of the things that irked him but also cheer her up. He carefully typed it up in his study and dropped it on Amanda’s desk with a DRAFT-CONFIDENTIAL stamped over it so it wouldn’t unduly alarm her. He dropped phrases like ‘Amanda is strong clever, friendly (sometimes to her detriment), beautiful, and sexy.’ Under weaknesses he referred to Amanda as ‘sometimes goes more than an extra mile, balances the loves in her life sometimes causing hurts unintentionally.’ Under her annual goals he listed ‘to resume past relationships with the passion and ardor of former months, to accept praise and tokens of good work without question.’ He couldn’t have realised what a huge mistake he was making.

Within the day Mitchell was in the companies top floor office and, slumped in his seat, he was still hearing the words ‘sexual harassment’, ‘company policy’, and ‘boundary issues.’ By days end he was on two weeks paid leave while the company investigated the complaints of Ms Amanda Price against Mr Mitchell Scrotti. He thought he would try and see Amanda and resolve the situation before the people on the top floor who had no idea what had been going on, got there hooks into it.  His plan was to get Amanda alone, and explain himself, then tell her a few home truths,  but that was proving to be harder than he imagined. Firstly, he had been advised not to go anywhere near his former place of employment. That sounded ominous enough but then he was also advised to keep away from any contact with Ms Amanda Price at least until the day after the hearing. He just had to see her. He devised a cunning plan whereby he would send flowers, suggest a meeting at one of their former favorite restaurants, then sign it ‘J’. He hoped she would think it was from her husband and would not think anything of it and then……. Then his thinking became somewhat muddy but he saw her forgiving him in the face of his considerable charm. The plan worked right up until she opened the restaurant door and saw Mitchell sitting there with an identical bouquet of flowers on their table. She screamed at the owner to take note of who she was, gave her name, then named Mitchell and pointed him out to a terrified waiter.

His next plan was even murkier. He found himself outside her mid-city apartment, just before 2am, with a vaguely formed plan to talk to Amanda while her husband was out of town. He had been drinking since about 7pm and was not altogether in charge of his situation. He knew Jerry would be away from home because he had intercepted Amanda’s mail whilst Jerry and her were at work for the last week and he had found that Jerry was to attend a conference in a nearby city. He was horrified when, just as he was about to tap on her bedroom window, he felt a hand on his shoulder and he was staring into a blinding light and being asked to place his hands behind his back. He next felt the cold steel of handcuffs and then a gentle hand on his head as he was placed in the back of a squad car with blue and red lights flashing and onlookers clucking as they drew away. He also saw Amanda, looking very satisfied, leaning from the very window that, moments before,  he was going to tap. He was released, of course, but things were getting both desperate and ominous.

All he had done was made the mistake of wanting to be her friend. In her he saw a kindred spirit. Someone who understood what it was like to be gifted, to be doing something that only bought in the money. He had little experience with women and assumed this is what you did when you had a friend. To be perfectly honest he had been afraid of Amanda. She was obviously much more experienced in the ways of the world than him. He thought that maybe she had bought about these terrible accusations because he had resisted her wish that they consummate their relationship. His honesty, his openness, his quirky sense of humor had all been horribly misinterpreted. True, he had mailed a couple of letters that could be interpreted in a different way from what he intended, but that was because of his naiveté.

He had appeared at the hearing and in court and dutifully and told his story. Dressed in tan slacks and a grey sportsjacket and wearing the tie that Amanda had given him he thought that the people assembled there would see his innocence immediately and reinstate him in his job. At first he had been surprised by Amanda’s lawyer’s assertion of an orchestrated campaign of harassment. The physical assault at the office party, the sexual innuendoes in his fake assessment, the impersonation of her husband, the deceptions, the prowling, the arrest, the phonecalls late at night, the mail interception. Then he heard the words stalker, murderer, would-be-rapist, and mentally unstable and he knew that things were not going anywhere near where he thought they should go. He became increasingly agitated and, when the jury saw his agitation, they mistook it for guilt. By weeks end he was looking at jail time and a future without the company, possibly without Philomena, and an end to all his retirement dreams.

He remembered something that one of his work colleagues had said as the whole, messy, affair spun out of control. ‘Everyone has a dark side to them, and we almost always keep in locked away on a box. Wobetide someone who lets his out and lets it roam the streets at night.’ At the time he didn’t think much of the comment but now he thought that others in the company were aware of what was going on.

He looked across at Amanda and saw the sly smile on her face. She had indicated through her lawyer and his lawyer that this would not be the end of it. Jerry had shown her that as a couple their earlier years of marriage had been seriously put under strain by the unwanted attentions of Mitchell Scrotti and they planned to sue for damages. They planned to sue for $3.2 million and Jerry had photocopied a 1998 case that established a precedent for this sort of thing. Mitchell leaned down to the briefcase at his feet. His hand located the square of foil and he withdrew it quickly and his hand went to his suit pocket where he unraveled the foil and extracted the single brown plastic capsule that he had wrapped there two weeks before the trial. He put the plastic capsule under his tongue and then picked up the glass of water that had been thoughtfully placed in front of him. His eyes met Amanda and Jerry’s and he hoisted the glass in a mock toast and downed the pill. The pill that contained an industrial dose of cyanide that would turn first his eyes red, then they would roll into his head a moment before the convulsions started, and then his bodies desperate attempts to get oxygen, then sweet, sweet unconsciousness and death.

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