Betrayer by Mario V. Farina

"What's your husband doing in Albany these days?" Jill asked.

"I thought I had told you," replied Belle. "He's attending a teachers' convention and should be coming home at the end of the week. How did you know he was in Albany?"
Betrayer by Mario V. Farina
"I go there every so often to shop. I watch for the sales, and, you know me, I can't resist a good sale. I was on Western Avenue, and I saw Ed going by. Didn't have a chance to say hello." "The convention is on State Street," commented Belle. "I wonder what he was doing on Western Avenue." "Well, I don't think this has anything to do with anything, but he was with a nice looking young lady. Blond. They were deeply engrossed in conversation. Maybe they were on break and having some lunch. It was about two in the afternoon, I think." "Yes, that must be the reason. She's probably a teacher also. And they had simply gone for a quick lunch." Belle Cameron and Jill Wallace were having coffee in the kitchen of Belle and Edward's new home on Mason Avenue in Troy. They had been married almost a year and had recently purchased a small Cape Cod. Jill was a new friend. Belle did not fully believe what she had said about the meeting that her husband was having with a woman. She had full trust in him, and believed that there was nothing wrong, but there was just a slight hint of a doubt. "I'll try to ask him a simple, innocent question, when he returns," she thought. It was Tuesday, and the days passed slowly. Belle couldn't shake from her mind what Jill had told her. She was going to have coffee with Jill again on Thursday, and maybe she would learn a little more. When they next met, Belle said, "I've been wondering, Jill, how the conference is going. I'll be happy to see Ed when he returns tomorrow." "Funny you should say that," Jill interjected. "I was in Albany yesterday and was on Western Avenue again. Would you believe, I saw Ed with a different woman. Red hair! I knew I shouldn't do this, but I kept out of sight and followed them to see if I could find out what they were doing, so that I could tell you and relieve your mind, if you had had any suspicions. They walked together holding hands, until they came to a house on Wilson Avenue. They went in and I waited about an hour, but they didn't come out. I hope I'm not telling you anything that you wouldn't want to hear." "Well what you're telling me is disconcerting," replied Belle. "I will definitely need to ask him about this when he comes home Friday." "I'm sure there's a very good explanation for all of this," responded Jill. "I wouldn't worry about it a great deal." "Well I am worried. He told me he was going to be at a conference, but I have not heard from him since he left, and I've been wondering how he's been doing. I trust him completely, of course. But what you've told me doesn't seem to have a simple explanation. I just can't help but think that . . ." "I would feel the same if I were in your shoes," interrupted Jill. It seemed to take a week for Friday to arrive. Finally around four-thirty, the door opened and Edward walked in jauntily. "Hi, Belle, I'm home," he called out. She ran to him and they kissed their hellos. Belle resisted the urge to begin questioning him. This was not easy but she succeeded. After dinner, as they were sitting in the living room, Belle said, "Ed, dear, how did the conference go?" "As usual," he replied, "dull, but informative." "Were there many people there?" "Oh, several hundred, maybe." "What did you do for lunch?" "There was a Burger King at the end of the block. I usually went there and had a couple of burgers." "Did any of the others go with you?" She asked nervously. "No, I was usually alone. One day one of the guys came with me." "One of the guys?" " Yeah, I didn't know him very well. I think his name was Joe." "Anything else interesting happen?" she asked haltingly. "Anything that you'd want to tell me?" "No, nothing at all. It was all routine stuff." Belle was not satisfied with the conversation that she and her husband had had. As soon as she had an opportunity, she phoned Jill. "I talked to Ed," she said. He didn't tell me anything about the women that he had been with in Albany. "What do you think might be going on?" "I think it's very suspicious," responded Jill. "He and that redhead seemed awfully cozy together. I wouldn't put it past him to, well, you know! I have an idea; why don't you arrange a little dinner party and invite me, and some others, and I'll see if I can worm it out of him what was going on. I'm very good at finding out things that people might be trying to hide." "I'm not sure that will work," objected Belle, "but it's worth a try. I'll keep you posted." After they had hung up, she went back into the living room, and exclaimed, "I just had a wonderful idea!" "Tell me about it." "I'd like to have a party Sunday and invite Jill Wallace and your sister, Madeline, and her husband, Tom. How does that sound to you?" "Those are sudden invitations, aren't they, dear? Do you think they will be able to make it. It's a coincidence that I was just thinking of inviting my sister and Tom for dinner. So your idea comes at a good time." On the following day, Belle phoned Madeline and was pleased that she and her husband would happily accept an invitation for the following Sunday. She called Jill and told her that she had arranged for a party on Sunday, and, of course, she should attend. "Now, we'll find out what that scoundrel has been up to," commented Jill. "I've always been a little suspicious of him!" "He may be doing something on the sly, Jill, but you're judging him too soon. He could have had perfectly legitimate reasons for being with those women. I'm sure you'll find out. Besides, this will give you an opportunity to meet my husband's sister and her husband." "I'll come early so that I can help with the party," said Jill just before hanging up. On Sunday, Belle and the Jill worked on the arrangements for the party which was to begin at two in the afternoon. Ed was in and out purchasing last-minute items. Two o'clock arrived and everything was set for a gala afternoon. All that was needed was the arrivals of Madeline and Thomas, then the festivities could begin. Precisely at two, the doorbell rang. Belle opened the door and escorted the visitors into the living room. She turned to Jill, and said, "Jill, I'd like you to meet Ed's sister, Madeline, and her husband, Tom." Jill looked as if she had been hit with a sledgehammer. Her face turned various shades of yellow, blue, and green. She opened and closed her mouth, but no sounds came out. She stiffened as rigid as a statue and seemed to be on the verge of toppling to the floor. "Jill! What the devil are you doing here?" shouted Madeline. "I thought I'd never see you again. You have no idea the hate that I still have for you!" "What's going on, Madeline?" Belle objected. "Jill is my friend. Why are you speaking to her that way?" "She's a devious demon," responded Madeline. "When I met Tom and we began planning to get married, this woman, that you call your friend, and that I thought was my friend, tried to convince me that Tom was being disloyal to me. She told me about things that Tom was doing, that were perfectly innocent, but she made it seem as if he was two-timing me. And she made up fake stories completely out of whole cloth. She wanted Tom for herself and was using the most vicious of schemes trying to take him away from me. Tom told me the truth and I ordered this evil person to get out of my life and stay out!" Belle turned to Jill and exclaimed, "Those things that you were telling me about Ed and other women were lies!" Jill did not respond. "Belle," Ed said. "When I was at the convention, there was a time when I was with Madeline. We were selecting an anniversary gift for me to give you for our first anniversary. She was the only woman I was with while at the convention. If Jill said there were others, she was lying!" "The next move is up to me," thundered Belle uncharacteristically. "Ed, would you open the door. I'm going to take this woman by the arm and escort her to the door, then, pardon my French, I'm going to push her out with a kick to her derriere."


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