Islands in the Stream

Islands in the Stream Islands in the Stream

Status: Finished

Genre: Romance


Status: Finished

Genre: Romance


This is a story about one person's trip back from betrayal. It is also a continuation of the "Totally Unromantic Love Story" series. Everything that I have written here is entirely possible, happens every day and could happen to you tomorrow. It’s not sci-fi. It’s commonplace life in the digital village. Also, before you get too judgmental about the heroine in this; keep in mind that the anonymity of cyberspace encourages people to do things that conventional morality might frown on. Those of you who rely on the facelessness of this site probably know what I’m talking about – Enjoy DT


This is a story about one person's trip back from betrayal. It is also a continuation of the "Totally Unromantic Love Story" series. Everything that I have written here is entirely possible, happens every day and could happen to you tomorrow. It’s not sci-fi. It’s commonplace life in the digital village. Also, before you get too judgmental about the heroine in this; keep in mind that the anonymity of cyberspace encourages people to do things that conventional morality might frown on. Those of you who rely on the facelessness of this site probably know what I’m talking about – Enjoy DT


Submitted: September 21, 2016

A A A | A A A


Submitted: September 21, 2016




The Devil’s name was “Vanity.” And my wife was far too easily seduced.

All her life Heather had been cute, but a little chubby. So, after the kids left home she started exercising. It was just to kill time at first. Then things changed – drastically! The more she worked out, the shapelier she got. Her body became her obsession. And she was reborn a goddess.  

That was when the flirting began.  For the first twenty-two years of our marriage, we were a companionable and loving couple. We stood together at social events. We danced with each other at parties. Now, there was such a wide disparity, between my smoking-hot wife and her out of shape, middle-aged husband, that we went in opposite directions.

Heather had her pick of attractive men. It was never just one guy. She talked and danced with ALL of them. At the same time, she rarely graced her former friends with her presence. The friends went from being insulted, to cutting me pitying looks.

But seriously - what could I do? Her behavior wasn’t overtly disloyal. She might dance with guys who were younger, fitter and more attractive than me. But there was never any real romance. She just looked like she was having fun. Needless to say, she was also happier than I ever remembered.

I was willing to ride it out. I had heard of middle-aged-crazy. And I hoped that this too would soon pass. Nonetheless, it eventually became clear that Heather’s newfound empowerment had changed her in fundamental ways. First there was the narcissism. Heather couldn’t stop looking at herself – and playing with her body. Then there was the ego. She was a trophy now, and she knew it. She just radiated, “I can get any man I want.”

Notwithstanding the serious disrespect that showed me, the other wives hated her. Heather didn’t deign to notice

Heather’s sudden, dramatic trip off the rails was easy to understand. One moment she was an average American housewife. The next, she was an object of lust for a pack of alpha-males. The radical transition from homemaker to love goddess would skew anybody’s perception of themselves vis-à-vis the world. All the same, this new reality started to impact her decision making.  And that invited the Serpent into the Garden.

She appeared downstairs one auspicious Friday morning. I was enjoying a breakfast bagel.  Her hair was tousled and she was wearing her ratty old robe. She got a cup of coffee and sat down opposite me. I recognized the stubborn look. I thought, “Oh-oh!!! This can’t be good!!” She said, “Tom, there is something I need to talk to you about.”  Those words are not anything that a husband wants to hear. So I put my bagel down and looked attentive.

She said, “I have never had my own identity. I have always been Tommy Jr. and Suzie’s mom and your wife. But now, I have transformed myself I am my own woman.” She stopped and waited for the obvious question. I said, “And exactly what does THAT mean?”

She said, “I was a wallflower when we met. I had boyfriends. But I was just middling. In fact, I think it was our mutual lack of personal charisma that made us so compatible. And we have led an utterly unremarkable life for the past twenty-two years.”

She stood up and opened her robe. She was naked underneath. Her toned thighs, tight flanks, hard stomach, and big firm tits were extraordinary. She ran her hands down her superb body and said with pride, “I’m not a wallflower anymore.” She closed her robe and sat down again.

She looked at me like she was willing me to understand. She said, “Men hit on me all the time. I ignore them because I love you. But one special man has offered to take me to an extraordinary place.” She paused, dropped her head and said in a whisper, “And God forgive me, but I am going to take him up on his offer.”

I had already guessed where this conversation was headed. And I was angry. But I put a lid on my temper and said, “So what does THAT mean?” She looked at me pleadingly and said, “You don’t know him. We met at the club. And since then we have had several lunches together. During that time, he has been a perfect gentleman.”

I said bitterly, “Meaning he hasn’t tried to fuck you yet.” She looked disgusted and said, “There is no need to be vulgar. It isn’t like that. He’s older and very rich and worldly. All he wants is my companionship.” I looked incredulous. So she quickly added, “He asked me to accompany him to Paris next week. And I am going to go with him. It would just be this one time. He’s married.”

I said, “Let me get this straight. You know that he’s married. And perhaps you’ll recall that you’re married too? Isn’t that the textbook definition of adultery?” She looked exasperated and said, “It isn’t like that. I am only going to be with him on this single occasion. It’s a once in a lifetime chance. After that I will be yours forever. And I will make it up to you. You’ll see.”

She added earnestly, “But I have to have one, extraordinary memory to paste in my scrapbook - before time takes this away from me.” And she gestured down her body again. Her tone told me that she had been obsessing about aging. I said, “That’s bullshit Heather. This guy isn’t a gentleman and what he’s proposing isn’t romantic. All he wants to do is fuck you. And all YOU are going to get out of this are some great orgasms and a few souvenirs of Paris.” I stopped and added, trying to sound more resolute than I felt, “Because I won’t be around when you return.”

She looked scornful and said, “Don’t say that Tom. You love me. I know you do. And you will let me do this because we love each other. It isn’t like I am sneaking behind your back. Just let me have this one starry-eyed fling and you will never regret it.”

She was wrong. I already regretted it. I took her left hand in both of mine and played meaningfully with her wedding ring. I said with sincerity, “I love you. Counting the courtship, we have had twenty-four fantastic years together. And we have two wonderful kids. So all I can do is beg you. Please don’t do this.”

She looked sad and said, “I will always love you Tom. And we are going to grow old together spoiling our grandchildren. But I am leaving for Paris on Monday.” That shot a thunderbolt of pure angst through me. I said imploringly, “Is there any way I can talk you out of this?” She gave me the kind of patronizing look that a mother might give a naïve child and said with resolve, “It IS going to happen. The arrangements have already been made.”

I stood up without another word and walked out the front door. She called “Tommmm.” It was the same whiny tone that teenagers use when a parent is being unreasonable. I kept going. I drove to the county park. I am not a crier. But my stomach was doing flip-flops. I opened the car door and deposited the bagel in the parking lot. I wiped my mouth and sat there looking across the same green lawn that I had watched my kids play on eons ago.

You never think it will happen to you. So you never have a plan.

I considered my situation. I had nowhere to go. Where would I stay? I make decent money. But with two kids in college and an upper middle class lifestyle, we barely scrape by. We had very little savings and our credit cards were close to maxed. I have no family, no close friends. In short it was either remain in the house, or sleep in the car.

Heather knew our financial situation. I think that was one of the reasons why she was so sure that she could pull-off this little stunt. Hopelessness, alienation and a sense of utter loneliness descended on me like a cloud of mustard gas. I said to myself, “I invested my emotional life in this woman. And now she is holding me for ransom???!!!”

That realization brought me back from the brink, and stiffened my spine. I am not a person who will gracefully accept victimhood. And I am decisive in my business dealings. So if Heather could make unilateral decisions, I could too.  But first I wanted to get some free legal advice.

I called Jim Edgerton. He is a friend and a lawyer. I said, “Jim! Tommy Meissner here.” There was a short pause. He said, “What’s up Tom?” I laughed and said, “I was calling to see if you knew a good lawyer?” He said, “Need divorce advice?” It was a statement, not a question. I said, “It sounds like you expected this.” Jim said, “Regrettably yes…. Heather has been seen around town with Charlie Wilkins. You know him.”

Of course I knew him. Everybody in town knew HIM. He was CEO at the area’s main employer. He was sixtyish, tall, distinguished, a pillar of the community and a well-known dirty old man. His wife was Maeve Wilkins. Her blessing made your reputation. And her disapproval turned you into a social pariah. I thought to myself, “Heather, what have you gotten yourself into?”

The house was empty when I arrived home. Heather was either at the club, or having “lunch.” I assumed that it was still JUST lunch. Wilkins was far too visible for an afternoon-delight. That was the whole point of the Paris trip. She was already starting to pack. The nighties and sexy underthings were a revelation. I had never seen anything like THAT before. It cemented the reality. I had to sit down for a second.

I was pretending to read a book when she breezed in. She was stunning in her fancy work-out gear. I would probably look that good too, if corporate America didn’t keep me chained to a desk for forty hours a week. She walked toward the stairs, humming a happy little ditty. Then she saw me. She looked delighted. She came over, stood in front of me and said, “Let me get a shower and you can join me.”

It was obvious that her motor was running. I glanced up - like she had interrupted me - and said, “I’d love to. But I’m at a really exciting part in this novel so I’m afraid that I am going to have to take a pass.” She got it. She said, “Don’t be such a pouty puss!!! This is STILL all yours.” Her body was amazing in her tight workout clothes. I looked at her with what I hoped was neutral interest and said, “Seriously!! I’ll pass.” For a second she was angry and maybe a little hurt. Then she got a look of determination. She said, “Fine!! Act that way!!! It isn’t going to change anything!!” And she stomped upstairs.

The weekend was agonizing. Heather kept up the pretense that the following week was no big deal. And she treated me like I was a naughty little boy for attempting to spoil her fun. Worse she acted like her “fling” wouldn’t change things. I avoided the delusional bitch as much as I could. She was literally a different person now. And that individual had no soul.

She tried to give me a pity fuck. She even trotted out a few of the items that she was reserving for Dickbreath. It didn’t have the slightest effect. I rationalized my bizarre lack of feeling as the consequence of shock. The circumstance was unthinkable. And it would take me a while to process the reality of it. THEN I would experience the pain.

Pride is the deadliest sin. Heather knew that her body was gorgeous. But it also had an expiration date. So in her particular version of the fairy-tale, Prince Charming would whisk her away for a passionate week of romance. THAT would prove once-and-for-all that she was the fairest in the land. THEN she could return triumphantly to her husband, feeling validated. And of course my state of mind didn’t factor into her narrative…

Heather’s self-involved behavior might have been triggered by the kids moving out. An empty nest marks the end of an era for a woman. Especially for a devoted mother like she was. Maybe she inventoried her life and felt like it was her turn. Or maybe she just went nuts. Whatever the reason, the Heather that I loved would never be so spectacularly selfish.

Her hazy grasp of reality wasn’t the scariest part. She honestly believed that I would accept her “little indiscretion.” And that we would immediately move past it because we “loved each other.” She was dead wrong in that respect. Plain and simple I couldn’t love a woman who thought that adultery was an integral part of her personal growth process.

Heather tried to talk about it on Sunday night. I think she just wanted to get me on-board with the idea before she left. But I had reached the end of talking. I said, “There is no excuse for what you are doing.” I looked at her intently and asked, “Do you realize how utterly out of character this is? And how drastically life-changing this step is for both of us?  You are throwing away twenty-two years of marriage, two kids and a happy home for a one-week fling.”

She looked at me like I was being unreasonably cruel. Then she said with affection in her voice, “You don’t really mean THAT. Your male ego is just a little bruised. But you’ll get over it. When I get back I am going to make you the happiest man on earth. You’ll see. This beautiful body will be all yours. And I’ll love you all the more for letting me do this.”

Whew!!! Talk about full of yourself. I am not the kind of guy whose first thought is violence. But I could get in touch with the fellows who shoot the wife and her lover.

On the big morning, I was sitting at the breakfast table drinking my coffee. Heather came downstairs very excited. I didn’t say a word. She was dressed to kill. She had on a modest skirt and three inch heels for travel. But she had her magnificent girls hoisted on display in a deeply scooped silk blouse with a light blazer over the top. The cleavage was spectacular.

She came bustling over to me. I think she was planning on an ardent send-off. It would fit her narrative. This was the part in the story where the adoring husband is so thrilled that the beautiful wife is going off to sow her wild oats, that he gives her a loving kiss goodbye. I didn’t bother to stand up. So she had to settle for a peck on the cheek. Her anger at my spoilsport behavior was clearly evident.

At that point a horn blew. She looked delighted and squealed, “He’s here.”  At least she had the decency to keep the son-of-a-bitch out of the house. She grabbed her roller-bag and rushed excitedly out the front door, leaving it ajar. I went over to close it.

She had just reached the limo. He was waiting there, looking handsome, tall, and distinguished. She put both hands on his chest and stood on tip toes to kiss him. It was the sort of loving greeting that a woman would give her long-time husband.

Except her husband was standing in the doorway behind her. Wilkins looked up at me. And then his eyes crinkled. He had done this before - a LOT. And he found it amusing. Heather turned and waved gaily as she got in the back. I didn’t wave in return. Instead I shut the door on twenty-two years of marriage. That was not without significant pain.

As they say - today was the first day of the rest of my life; which was total bullshit. As far as I was concerned, the road ahead ended in nothing but a wasteland of betrayed expectations. Yet, strangely I managed to work effectively. The part of me that wasn’t invested in Heather was devoted to my job. And it was soothing to wallow in the familiar rhythms of an ordinary workday.

I had made a conscious decision to shut Heather out of my thinking. Which was successful right up to the point where she sent me a breezy text telling me that they had gotten off okay. It was a stunning tribute to how out of touch she was. I was afraid that she might continue to send me pictures. So, I took myself over to the local Apple dealer and bought myself a new phone. I backed over my old one as I left the parking lot. Then I combed the local want-ads for a place that I could get into – immediately!!!

In the larger picture, I was probably headed for bankruptcy. But in the short term I had plenty of cash. That’s because, I make lots of money and I had decided to stop paying for anything that was associated with my old life. As the song goes, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

In fact, I was feeling so liberated that I invested in a double-wide. You can stuff all of your jokes about trailer parks. My new place was close to work. It had excellent parking, a nice deck and it was three times bigger than any of the apartments that I had looked into. The furnishings were brand new – if not a little tacky. And my neighbors were the social security set, not a biker gang. So it was quiet as a grave – in some respects, close to literally if you catch my drift.

On Tuesday I moved all of my portable stuff into my new residence. My last night in our McMansion was ghastly. Every ghost and haunting memory of happier days paraded through my dreams. The pain was excruciating. Then, in the morning I cast off my married chains and I was reborn – exactly like my faithless wife.

There was a front-page story in the Tribune the following Monday. It was under a banner headline that read, “Playtime in Paris!!” There was even a picture of the two adulterers looking ambushed, as they cleared Customs. The gory details were plastered all over a three-day news cycle. The coverage included a raft of rumor and innuendo about Wilkins’s other “alleged” affairs. The whole sordid mess made for fascinating reading. And it even got some national coverage.

I don’t know what Wilkins thought was going to happen. Maybe he just assumed I would be honored to have the horns hung on me. Or perhaps he thought that he was too powerful to be affected by a nonentity like me. Either way, he had a lot to learn about the price of hubris. He had forgotten about the “gottcha” vibe that permeates the Fourth Estate. The media craves red meat. And, there is nothing like a juicy scandal to sell papers. So I leveraged Wilkins’s OWN community prominence, to release the baying hounds of the press. It just took a couple of phone calls and some straightforward facts.

I don’t move in Charlie and Heather’s circles. So I don’t know the gory details. Wilkins stayed married. But, I also heard that his wife took a lover, at least that was what the tabloids said. I knew for CERTAIN that Wilkins Board of Directors, forthwith shipped him to the pasture; since he had become a very inconvenient presence as the man in charge. There was the usual golden handshake and Charlie Wilkins was consigned to the ranks of the idle rich.  I had conflicting thoughts. His future was ruined. I had caused that. But the fucker could still afford trips to Paris.

Heather started calling me at the opening of business on Tuesday. She must have tried to get ahold of me on Monday. But that phone had tire tracks on it. I knew that I would have to talk to her sooner or later. So I bit the bullet and answered. I said in my most professional tone, “Tommy Meissner, how may I help you?” Her anger was barely contained. She said, “Where have you been!!!??? I called all day yesterday and you didn’t answer your phone?!!!”

I said conversationally, “So how was Paris? You looked really good in the pictures.” She said furiously, “Where are you? Where are your things? Why aren’t you home?” I laughed merrily and said, “What part of I won’t be there when you get back didn’t you understand?” There was a long pause. She said somewhat chastened, “I didn’t think you meant it. There is no way you would just walk away from twenty-two years of happy marriage.”

I chuckled and said, “Oh but I HAVE Heather and I have a brand new life now. Better yet, it’s completely without YOU” There was an even longer pause. Her tone became seductive, “But lover. I can’t live without you. You know that.” She probably didn’t realize how true her words really were. I had left what remained in the savings and checking accounts. That is, after I had finished paying for my move. But that money would run out in a couple of weeks. And she had nothing to replenish it.

I said matter of fact, “You’ll have to get used to it Heather. I am completely out of your life. Now I really have to get back to work.” She blurted, “Wait!!! Don’t hang up!!! I really need to talk to you!!?” All of the bravado was gone. She sounded desperate.

I wanted to get this over with.  I said, “Let’s meet at Jhonny’s and we can work out the details of the separation.” She said pleadingly, “Can’t you come here? I can fix dinner?” I said direly, “I am never going into that house again - especially with YOU in it!!” She said hesitantly, “Okay… Jhonny’s… What time?” I said, “Seven o’clock.” That would give me a little time to build up my defenses for the coming onslaught.

And Heather didn’t disappoint. All conversation halted as she glided in the door. Jhonny’s is a neighborhood hang-out. Having a goddess like her suddenly appear in the place had the local yokels staring. She was indeed a spectacular woman. She had her long muscular legs on full display in a very tight scooped little-black-dress. The dress ended four inches above her knees.

She has a cute but unexceptional face. Nevertheless, with all of the beauty tricks that she picked-up over the prior year she could make herself into a movie star.  Of course, there was also her full and stunningly supple body. When she had burned off the baby fat she discovered that she had a lithe and very long waist. The contrast with her super-taut flanks and jutting ass made her seem even more voluptuous than she actually was.

Hate isn’t the opposite of love. Hate implies feelings for the other person. The absence of love is total indifference. That was what I felt as she approached the table. She had shown me nothing but blatant disrespect. And her condescending attitude prior to her departure had made any residual feelings moot. Now, all I felt was a desire to get this unpleasant chore out of the way.

She actually tried to slide into the booth next to me. I said, “Heather, we can’t talk sitting side-by-side and there are a number of serious issues we need to iron out.” She gave me a look like I didn’t know what I was missing and sat in the opposite seat. It was clear that she thought that she still held all the cards.

I said to be polite, “How are you?” She was going to tell me about her trip. I could see it in her eyes. What she saw in MY eyes changed her mind. Instead she said, like she was trying to reason with me, “Stop pouting baby and come home to the woman who loves you. I told you that you wouldn’t regret it. And I am going to work very hard to make it up to you.”

Still not getting it….

I had known the woman in sickness and in health, in boring day-to-day household routine and in the throes of passion. And I had loved her for twenty-two long years, without reservation. Now I had nothing left. She had blown-away all of my certainties. I believed in her. I believed in our marriage. I had believed that she loved me. And what I got was a bitch who thought that her spectacular body was a solution to every problem.

I said, “You are just going to have to accept that I am never coming back. So what we need to do is arrange the terms of the separation.”  She looked skeptical and said, “That’s ridiculous. We might have had a little disagreement. But the whole thing is behind us now. I am yours and yours only. And I will be yours forever.”

Who was this person???!!!

I couldn’t keep the incredulity out of my voice as I said, “You call getting fucked for a week a disagreement? That was a carefully planned and barefaced act of betrayal. The Heather I knew was loving and kind. She would never do something like that.” I looked somberly at her and said in my most neutral tone, “As far as I’m concerned, the Heather I married doesn’t exist. You killed her. And the selfish, vain and manipulative bitch that you replaced her with is no love interest of mine.”

Her face registered shock and disbelief. It must have looked a lot like mine when she dropped her Paris adventure on me. She seemed truly confused. I was wandering off script. We were supposed to live happily ever after now. That was what happens in all of the fairy tales. She said, “Look at me. I’m the same person you married - just vastly improved. Haven’t you enjoyed the new body that I built for you?”  

I said, “I DID until you willingly gave it to somebody else. You fucked Wilkins’s brains out last week – didn’t you?” She was about to tell me that it didn’t matter, that it was just sex. And she loved me, and only me. But there must have been a shred of sanity left in her, because she just stared at me shamefaced and guilty.

I said wearily, “It really doesn’t matter. You can fuck whoever you want now. I have no further claim on you. I just need to settle up our account. Then we can go our separate ways.” She looked appalled. It was like it had just begun to dawn on her that I was actually serious. She said hastily and with real emotion, “I was faithful to you for twenty-two years. And I will be for the rest of our lives. We share two wonderful kids. How does a week change that?”

Amazing!!! There was not one word of apology, or remorse. Heather I hardly knew ye....

Now it was my turn to be condescending. I said, “Really???!! You were willing to be another man’s fuck toy for an entire week and you thought I’d just wipe the slate clean?” The discussion was getting pointless… She simply didn’t get it.

I said, “Look Heather, I really have to be going. You will need money to live on. So here is how it is going to play-out. I am going to have Jim Edgerton present you with the most equitable separation agreement that we can come up with. I owe it to you for the FIRST twenty-two years.”

I added, “It’s all spelled out in the agreement. We share equally in all respects. The kids might need student loans to finish. And you are going to have to tone down your lifestyle. But I’m sure that you’ll be able to live on what I’m giving you until you get a job.” Regrettably, that offer didn’t include health club dues...

I looked at her just to ensure that she was listening carefully. I said, “More importantly, we are going to have to sell the house and split the profits from the sale. Neither of us can afford to live there anymore. But fortunately we have a lot of equity. So we can move it at a rock bottom price. And I already have an offer. That will keep us BOTH out of bankruptcy court”

It was beginning to sink in. You could see it. First there was bewilderment. And then there was panic. She looked like she was going to cry as she said, “This can’t be happening!!! How could you just leave me after so many happy years together? What am I going to do?”

I said, “You are a beautiful woman Heather. I am going to give you the quickest divorce possible. You will have your pick of men. And I know that it won’t be long before you hook your next sucker.” I wanted her off my books and onto somebody else’s – FAST!!!

She got herself under control and said, “You make it sound like a business deal. I give some man my body and he takes care of me. Is that what you are suggesting? That sounds a lot like prostitution?” I said, “Ahem… You’ve already been there and done that. What was Paris after all? You might call it romance. But I call it a sale. So if the shoe fits you might as well put it on.”

I stood up. She stood with me. She looked at me pleadingly. And said with true longing in her voice, “Come home Tommy. I miss our happy life together.” That was more like the Heather I used to know. And I almost folded. But I remembered what the new and improved version was like. So instead, I said, “You’ll get the papers tomorrow.” And I walked out of her life.


The divorce was as tranquil as the scenic coast of Normandy; on the 6th of June, 1944. There was no actual loss of life. But Heather’s pet Berserker, who Wilkins had personally paid for, did his best raping and pillaging shtick in court. Heather had finally come to the realization that her gravy train had hit a landmine. And she was absolutely desperate to get as much out of me as she could.

On my side, my buddy Jim was an extremely competent advocate. And my offer was very generous; given that there WAS a highly publicized trip to Paris hanging over the whole proceeding. As far as I was concerned, there was no love for Heather, only a steaming pile of nada. And nada is exactly how I felt - NOTHING. I didn’t want to bury her in the back yard. That would have given her far too much of what the Japanese call “face.” Instead I just wanted to get the bitch out of my life. I had loved her once. But whoever was inhabiting her body now, was no love interest of mine.

We were in a self-styled, “no-fault” State. But Judges have discretion and it was pretty clear that the guy overseeing our case hated Wilkins; possibly as much as I did. Maybe the esteemed magistrate had lost to the Douchebag in golf, or maybe Wilkins had fucked his wife? At any rate, every ruling that the Judge made came down in our favor. And as a result, Heather got the exact same alimony that I had originally offered.

The fact that we had sold the house simplified matters and probably kept us both out of Chapter-Seven. I had the mordant thought that I had gotten SOMETHING from my 22 years with the bitch. The equity covered all of our unsecured debt and stuck $30,000 in each of our pockets. I figured that would last Heather about three months at her current spend rate. Then she would have to join the rest of us peasants in that dull and boring domain called “reality.”

Tommy Jr. and Suzie were at Marquette. Tommy was in his senior year and Suzie was a junior. They were both supported by our college savings trust. So the $30K that I got from the house, added to some reasonably modest Federal grants, assured their completion. Heather had gotten to them first and spun the story in her favor. As a result, both were not pleased with me. Still, they were good kids and I knew that they would eventually come around.

We went our separate ways after the ruling, not without a small pang on my part. I felt a natural sense of loss, thinking about what used to be, and would never be again. Heather and I had been very close once. Nonetheless, I was not going to burn one more synapse trying to understand why my life had changed so radically.

The answer was obvious. Every one of us fights a lifelong battle with fleeting time. I’m human. I age, and I understand the inevitable sense that life is passing you by. Heather’s insecurities about getting older, had stomped her better angels into oblivion, and the inevitable outcome was our mutual ruin.

I also knew Heather. And I was convinced that she would have stayed on this side of the line if Wilkins hadn’t gone out of his way to drag her over it. Any ex-wallflower would have a hard time saying “no” when she was being hotly pursued by a guy like him. Especially when she contrasted rich, suntanned and suave with middle aged, pasty white and nerdy. So in my mind, Charlie Wilkins had a lot of sins to atone for.

The rest of Heather’s justifications were just that – an excuse to scratch the itch. Heather had made herself into a true object of lust. She would be an obvious target for any guy who was lacking in morals, personal integrity and a sense of honor. The fact that she so easily succumbed told me all that I needed to know about her, and the state of our marriage. So, I walked away without any recriminations. But loneliness is still an insidious condition.

Heather got married as soon as the divorce was final. It was something that I expected. She really had no other way of supporting herself. There was a twenty-three-year gap in their ages, she being two years younger than me – 42. Old Bud, her new husband, was 65 but he was cut from the same cloth as Charlie Wilkins. Maybe Heather had daddy issues? And now that Viagra is readily available I was sure that she had ways of working them out.

Her new husband was a player in the local political scene; currently holding down our District’s seat in Congress.  He was also a crony of Wilkins. I learned from the local gossip mill that Old Bud had a reputation for classic political corruption. It probably didn’t matter to Heather. She had her sugar daddy and she was in the news a lot, standing by his side looking like the trophy wife that she was.

I nearly retched. That was NOT because I had any lingering feelings for the canoe. It was just such a drastic example of the corrosive influence of ego. My only consolation was the forced smile and the look of utter desperation in her eyes during TV interviews. It was the beaten look of an abused pet. It was delightful to think that there might be trouble in paradise.

She had made her bed and it was gratifying to think that she would be forced to spend the rest of her life lying in it. Maybe Wilkins and his buddy were trading her back and forth, since Old Charlie was definitely NOT getting it at home any more. Or perchance her new husband was using her favors as political capital. Maybe she even had some heartfelt regrets. Thinking about THAT was the gift that kept on giving.

She had indeed tried to reach out a couple of times, just to “see whether we could still be friends.” I had treated her calls like any other telemarketer spam and basically ignored them. But the stressed face that I was seeing on the news made me wonder if she was crazy enough to think that there might have been a chance of us getting back together. Like I said, the bitch had been delusional for some time.  

Heather’s marriage DID free me from the bonds of court enforced penury. And I never suffered from a lack of social life. Any 44-year-old guy who is still reasonably presentable, unmarried and not too gay, is outnumbered by the women in his age group by three-to-one. That’s because all of the age appropriate men are busy fucking 20-year-old hotties. So I had my pick of beautiful, elegant and I might add sexually accomplished older ladies.

The problem was that all of my long-term plans and assumptions had been blown up and I was just drifting. The life of the average guy should follow the same time-worn plot. You get a good education, meet the girl of your dreams, land a fulfilling job, work hard, have kids, and die in each other’s arms. All I had NOW was the job.

I had met Heather Smith my senior year at Michigan. I was swimming for them while getting a degree in computer engineering. Computer engineering isn’t the bulletin board technology four-year vacation that jocks usually take. And since I had to swim to keep my scholarship I had zero time to socialize.

But, Heather was on the women’s team and we crossed paths a lot. That was back in the days before Speedo and TYR took over the competitive swimsuit business. And the super-thin nylon suits that we wore clung to your body in interesting ways.

If you were a guy, the first thing you did when you got out of the water was pull on the front of the suit. Otherwise the crowd got a good idea what you were packing and whether it was circumcised or not. Same with the women and nipples. So, if we were doing any joint work with the women’s team most of us guys either stayed in the water, or left our sweats on. Since, walking around on the pool deck with a giant boner can be very embarrassing.

Therefore, I was in my usual position hanging on a lane marker when Heather stepped up on the blocks. I’d never seen her before. But she blew me away. She was medium height, perhaps a little thick in the body. But she had big boobs and man-crushing hips and legs. Her face was not beautiful but the smile she gave her coach was pure sunshine. I was in lust.

She was also my kind of dominant fast. So the University publicity types wanted to take a picture with the two of us together for their program cover. And that’s how we started talking. The rest was history. I asked her for coffee, which led to a date, which led to her showing me what a really powerful woman was like, in bed.

The first time we had sex was in my dorm room. My roommate was gone for the weekend and I smuggled her past the coach who occasionally patrolled the halls. She was wearing something that constituted coed chic at the time. I believe they called the look “grunge.” That style was a real bonus to the college male population because all of that baggy stuff was easy to remove.

I already knew everything there was to know about her body. Back in those days, it was impossible for a female swimmer to maintain much of her modesty thanks to those clingy suits.
So, the only thing I didn’t know about Heather was the color of her aureoles. They turned out to be huge and a very light brown. She was lying back on my narrow dorm-room bed, totally naked, breathing raggedly and looking terrified. I wasn’t feeling any more confident. To say that I was inexperienced might be overstating my level of experience.

We kissed and she began to make little moans. I put my hand on one of those big soft pillows and found a nipple. It was hard to miss since it was sticking out about a quarter of an inch. I discovered that it was a darker shade of red-brown. I rolled it between two fingers and the moans turned to loud cries of sheer sensation. I had never been with a woman who made so much noise, and it startled me. So I backed off confused. Was I hurting her? But then I looked in her eyes, which were stoned with lust and realized that she was just that aroused.  

So I went back to working my lips on that wonderful hot little nub, while my hand made its way down her rounded stomach toward a pot of boiling lava.  I had also never encountered female lubrication like that. Every woman I had ever known to that point, and admittedly there were only a couple of them, required a lot of work to get as wet and hot as Heather already was.

Then I touched her little pink pearl and she let out a loud groan and began bucking frantically against my hand. I had also never witnessed a strong female orgasm and frankly I thought that she was having a seizure. Her eyes rolled up in her head her back arched and she began thrashing around next to me emitting a loud keening ahhh, ahhh, ahhh, ahhhhhhh!! Then she collapsed into some kind of stupor. I truly believed that I should call 911.

I was dithering about what to do when she opened her eyes, fixed me with a gaze that I would later come to call her “fuck-me” stare and said, “Where’s the condom. I need you in me NOW!!!” I produced the little foil packet. She tore it open with her teeth like a Marine throwing a grenade, rolled it very decisively on me and violently jerked me on top of her. She was one strong girl.

As I mentioned earlier, she was also already hotter and wetter than any female I had ever experienced. So rather than entering her I sort of fell into her right up to the hilt. It wasn’t like she was loose or anything. In fact, she was very tight. But she was just that lubricated. She emitted a long moan of pure satisfaction and then we began that age old rhythm.

We both kept our scholarships making the same general motion. It was just that we made it traveling through the water rather than on top of each other.  So the bed was literally hopping around on the floor. And the wet slapping noises sounded like pistol shots. She was loudly telling me how good it felt. And constantly shouting agreement, “Yes!!! Yes!!! Yes!!!”

On my part, I was desperately trying to avoid going off too soon. It was touch-and-go with respect to who would finish first. I don’t remember what she was doing at the time. I know it involved a lot of prolonged shrieking. And I remember thinking that it was a good thing that the dorm walls were cinderblock. As for me; suffice it to say that there was a short period of irrationality when I thought that they were going to find my balls somewhere in her womb.

We lay there panting for longer than a couple of seconds. Remember, both of us were more aerobically fit than 99.9% of the earth’s population and we had still practically blown each other’s vascular system. She looked at me wonderingly and said, “I have been with a few men but I have NEVER been fucked like that.”

I felt a pang of unreasoning jealousy. THAT explained the relative difference in skill level. Then she looked at me lovingly and added, “I am going to make you do that over and over. I could get very used to being fucked by you.”

We were inseparable after that. I graduated and picked up a Masters in Engineering while she finished her degree in Education. I had a little off-campus apartment and Heather moved in with me. We were never apart, except when she was at her away meets.

We got married as soon as she graduated and we moved to Chicago. I was employed, almost right away, by one of the Big Four accounting firms. We bought a little fixer-upper in Oak Park and I rode the El into the city every day. Heather taught at Bishop Fenwick. We led an idyllic mid-twenties DINK existence until Tom Jr. came along and Heather became a full-time mom. Without her income we were house-poor. But we pulled the weight together.

Heather was the world’s best mom and I was proud of her. She was just contemplating getting back in the classroom when little Suzie arrived. She was a bit of an ooops.  But we loved her nonetheless and Heather went back to full-time motherhood. There was never a thought of my wife returning to teaching after that. By the time Suzie was ready for school, I was the head of the Firm’s security practice. So we didn’t lack for money. Heather was completely devoted to me and her children. And thus, the time passed in a golden haze.

The kids grew up and we moved several times, eventually ending up in a little Virginia town south of the Beltway. That town was perfect for me, both up to DC and down to Richmond. I could drive into Richmond in 55 minutes. And the 45-minute trip up 95 to the Springfield Metro stop was relatively stress free compared to making the drive all the way into the rat’s nest of traffic around DC.

We finally had our personal freedom and we could do the things that we had always wanted to do; just Heather and me. I thought that we had a perfect life; until Wilkins slithered into it. I am not making excuses for her. But she had spent almost 21 years as a stay at home mom. She did it without protest. But in that period, she went from being an archetype of the woman athlete, to being a chubby and out of shape housewife. At the same time, I was becoming more-and-more successful and perhaps a little too absent. It was something of a perfect storm.  

There must have been a lot of pent up resentment festering down there.  Because her treachery was totally out of the blue and very hard to accept. Whatever the cause, my life’s plans had come to an end well before the “dying in each other’s arms” part. That was a fact. Sadly, it also gave me the hollow feeling that I had wasted my presence on this earth. I knew that was a weak and childish way to feel. But, given my situation I couldn’t lose the thought.

I was almost 46 years old. I had a great job. I was a Junior Partner in the Firm and head of its Cybersecurity Practice in Richmond.  I also had a lot of spending cash thanks to Heather’s taking herself off my books. More important, I didn’t have to hang around bars to get laid. Women flocked to me without strings attached.  Like I said, male fascination with hard 20-year-old bodies is the leading cause of extreme horniness in middle-aged women. But, I just didn’t trust any of them. So, I had nobody in my life and no practical idea about a way-forward.

A year after the divorce, I bought a little getaway on Capital Bay on the Rappahannock. It was really just a one room, tin-roofed shack. But it was peaceful down there on that big lazy river.  The scenery and wildlife could keep you amused for hours. I had a Manatee-10 solo kayak that I paddled around the various inlets and lagoons taking “artsy” pictures of the multitude of flora and fauna in the Virginia river country and just appreciating gorgeous high summer.

It’s always humid at night, and my window air conditioner wasn’t making much headway. So I dragged the kayak out and paddled into the dusk, and the bullfrog and insect noises. I was floating along letting the current move me south toward Tappahannock and the Downing Bridge. I had three bottles of Aslin Orange Starfish in the built-in cooler of the kayak. I propped my legs up on the coaming, laid back and contemplated the stars.
I flowed along with a full moon overhead in that hot, humid, peaceful night. As I did that, I began to come to grips with my problem. For a change, I was drifting physically, not emotionally. Maybe that was what caused it. But the answer suddenly appeared fully formed in my head. “March or die!!” It might be a totally melodramatic concept. But, I wanted my self-respect back. So I knew that I would have to stop being such a wuss and roll the dice.

It was a scary prospect for a 45-year-old to dump his comfortable life and start over from scratch.  Middle aged men don’t have the energy and naivety of kids. But the only other option was to keep wandering in the wilderness without a plan. And THAT just seemed so spineless.

I had floated almost a mile and it was getting close to midnight. The stars were as plentiful as ever and the moon had brightened to a new prominence. I could hear the heat sounds from the cicadas on my side of the river and at that point the details of what I was going to do rattled into my brain like coal out of a chute. It would start on Monday.

Paddling back wasn’t as easy as floating down. But I was in excellent shape and by 2 AM I was dragging my kayak back on-shore.  I got into my Land Rover and drove back to the trailer park… I still smile then I say that. I grabbed a couple of hours of sleep. Put on my businessman’s armor and headed for our main office in DC. I wanted to talk to the Managing Partner.

All the way back up the river last night I had been thinking through the details of how to do a complete wipe and reload.  I was obviously going to have to adopt a new strategy to guide my life. That was clear, since the old paradigm hadn’t worked out so well. In fact, when you think about it, the “American Dream” is soul sucking. You obey a hackneyed set of societal rules; keep the wife and kids happy and please your boss. Of course, all of those things are in service of others.

So, what happens if you do nothing but please yourself? The wife starts fucking around, your kids think you’re an asshole and your friends abandon you. Oh yes – right!! – I forgot!! - I played by all of the traditional rules for 22 years and guess what? The wife fucked around, my kids think I’m an asshole, and I HAVE no friends. Even work, which was a place where I continued to be successful, happy and fulfilled, was beginning to look like a lifelong trudge toward a dead-end finale – one in which I ended up with squat.

Moreover, I was already living in a mobile home!!! It was just located in the wrong place, - a place that I had to leave if I wanted a clean slate. Last night’s epiphany, and it had fallen on me like Paul on the road to Damascus, had showed me ALL of that. So accordingly, I was going to shuffle the deck. Basically, I planned to go feral and that was what I wanted to talk to the Managing Partner about.

Our main Office is located on New York Avenue, in between 11th and 12th. That, not coincidentally, makes it handy to K Street. The building gives the indispensable impression of wealth and success, which is needed to rope in the big-time DC power-players. So the Managing Partner sits in a throne room slightly larger and more opulent than the Taj Mahal.

As one of the Junior Partners I could get a meeting. But it was obvious he didn’t know who the fuck I was. I expected to hear Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary as I marched the 50 feet from the door to his desk.  The Partner rose and shook my hand. He motioned me to a seat and said, “What can I do for you – errr… Thomas?” Nobody but my mom ever called me “Thomas.”

I had thought this through carefully. Essentially, I was going to propose to live in the wild doing penetration testing. We already offered that service. But those pen-tests were the tame variety that really told you nothing. What I was going to propose was the rough sex version, without any safe-words. It would be an aggressor attack on the target system. And it was exactly what it would take to make sure that the customer really was secure.

The Managing Partner was horrified -  naturally! He spluttered and said, “That’s ridiculous. What would happen if we actually harmed, or brought down one of their systems?” I said, “Wouldn’t they want to find that out through us, rather than get the news in the middle of the night thanks to the Chinese or North Koreans? And we would know how to quickly rebuild them since we were the ones who took them down.”

He sat back for a second and seemed interested. I added eagerly, “Yes, it could potentially be destructive, and the last thing you would want to do is associate our Firm’s good name with a black bag operation on one of our clients, even if it was for their own good.” He nodded vigorously in agreement.

Good!!! I went on with, “So I am proposing that I separate myself entirely from the Firm, essentially go off the books. I will set up shop somewhere a long way away from any of you. And I will conduct all of my operations as if they were not part of the Firm’s line of business. Of course you will keep on paying me. But it will be through a shell corporation, in order to give you plausible deniability.”

He continued to look skeptical. So I added, “We won’t have MANY customers. But a few of the more enlightened ones will want to risk it. That will cover my salary. Otherwise, I am going out on my own anyhow and you will lose a very lucrative niche. I know I can sell it. So I am willing to gamble.” He sat back in his chair, steepled his fingers and looked thoughtful. Then he said, “Alright, you convinced me. At least you convinced me enough to take it to the other Senior Partners. I’ll let you know tomorrow.” I rose and thanked him. We shook and I strode back out into my new life.

I called the Managing Partner the next day. He said, “Thomas, we had a long discussion last night and most of the Governing Board thought your idea was bold and entrepreneurial. So we will back you. We need to get the details of what you are planning. Send those to Art Reynolds as soon as possible and keep me posted. I’m interested and good luck.”  Art was the Managing Partner’s personal macher.  If HE had been handed the ball, then they were more interested in my idea then they were letting on.

I had built up a decent cash reserve since the divorce. The trailer wasn’t worth much but it was completely paid off and so I peddled it for a little bit more of a stake. I had bought my river shack for cash. In fact, it was so cheap that I was never quite sure that the fellow who sold it to me actually owned it. So, I could walk away from it and not look back.

When I hit the road I had a middle six figure stake in my pocket. All of my worldly possessions were wedged into my Land Rover LR4. I had two criteria, I wanted to get as far away from my old life as possible and it had to be hot. I had initially considered places like California and the Southwest. But California is too expensive and I hate geezers and snakes, so Arizona and New Mexico were both out. Texas is either oil, or cowboys, and the Deep South is still Dixie. Accordingly, by a process of elimination I was headed down I-95 to the Florida Keys.

I was planning on setting up shop in Key West. I had heard a lot of good things about the atmosphere. And I don’t mean the weather. Okay… I admit… the place is gayer than a tree full of chickadees. But the general ambiance for a single guy who is NOT gay is so laid back and party-centric that I couldn’t think of any place more opposite my old life. And it IS tropical.

Then, on the way down I stopped for breakfast at a joint in Key Largo. Key Largo is touristy. But it’s a red-neck kind of tourist traffic; fishermen and skin divers; not folks who just want to drink, party and pretend that they’re Hemingway. And as I looked around the diner its blue collar ambiance kind-of appealed to me.  I thought to myself, “This is EXACTLY what I’m looking for. It’s a long way from my old life. And it has the feel of a place where I can put down roots.”

As I was wandering out I passed one of those bulletin boards that restaurants keep for the local clientele. And they had a place advertised for sale that looked interesting. So I drove back up U.S. 1 and took a look at it. Like every other domicile in that area it had arrived on wheels. But it was a lot nicer than the one I had just sold. And it was dirt cheap. I wrote the local real-estate folks a check and they were more than happy to hand me a key.

When I looked inside I discovered to my delight that it was furnished. Turn-key mobile homes do not feature the same quality of furniture that they put in the Palace of Versailles. But some are higher quality than others. And this one was all stainless steel and leather. The floor was some kind of convincingly authentic wood laminate instead of plush carpet and the view was across a deck and directly onto a canal. It was finished off with a little boat slip.

The neighborhood was mainly people who worked the docks, or in the tourist trade. The people on both sides had kids but they were still babies, and distant crying doesn’t affect me. There were some social security types and a few who seemed to be living off of Uncle Sam, or their relatives. But none of my neighbors were the upper-middle class yuppie snobs who I had been cohabiting with for 22 years. I was going to put my stake in the ground right here.

The fishermen probably cared about access to water. I cared about access to 1.54-megabit service, because that was my new stock in trade. Fortunately, the backbone for the Keys went right down U.S. 1 and the main fiber was only about 300 yards away. By the end of the first week I had my lair wired for T1 power.  

I wanted to blend into my new setting. So, I started hanging out at a couple of the local taverns. The LR4 is a burly beast, closer to the legendary Land Rover Defender in looks and functionality, than its more elegant relatives. The locals, who were more of the ratty F150 set didn’t know what to make of it. But it is muscular enough that it sent the right message. As a result, I was beginning to be accepted as a resident, not a tourist.

The Keys are a special place when you are NOT a visitor. The air is heavy with tropical humidity and the sun is in the climatic zone of Cuba, not Orlando. Every day features intense blue morning sky followed by a lot of building cumulus on the horizon as things began to heat up. There is always traffic up and down U.S. 1, even at night, and when you get closer to the highway the smell of exhaust and diesel begins to replace the tropical vegetation, crushed coral and waterfront smells.

It had been two and a half years since the infamous trip to Paris and I was beginning to feel more settled. I don’t know how other people might respond to an instance of life-extinguishing betrayal. But in my case I had become an island fortress; totally remote from my feelings and crouched behind thick walls of anger. It wasn’t the kind of attitude that would get you into bar fights. It was more like, a thick miasma of unapproachable cynicism. It made other people back off. And that was exactly what I wanted.

I was just dead inside. There was no rage, no pining for a lost love. I even KNEW that it was a defense mechanism. But I had no intention of changing my behavior. I was NEVER going to put my trust in any other creature but myself. Actually, there was one exception to that dictum. I DID get myself a dog. In my opinion, canines are the only creatures a man can truly trust. Mine was mostly Labrador and Shar-Pei, big, wrinkled and smelly; full of unconditional love and gentle kindness. And he was the best companion a man could ask for.

We talked constantly. Well actually I talked and he listened. He was a good listener. I confided all of my sense of hopelessness and ennui in him. He would cock his head back and forth and prick up his floppy battle scarred ears, as if he was saying, “I get it boss. I’ve been mistreated myself.” That dog contributed more to my healing process than a brace of psychologists and he charged a whole lot less for his services, just a few heaping bowls of dog chow a day.

I was actually beginning to feel better about myself. My business idea had turned into a much bigger deal then I had ever imagined. And that was a decided boost to my shattered confidence. The Firm had lined up a raft of customers. This was all done strictly by word of mouth, since they had to keep a Chinese-wall between me and their legitimate lines of business. But both of us were making money hand-over-fist.

All of my customers wanted the full dungeon experience. Most of them were military. Those guys had the most to lose if they were hackasackable. But there were also a few commercial concerns that really wanted to get fireproofed. I gave them my usual speech about what would happen, once I released my flying monkeys and they STILL begged for the ball gag and restraints. My services might be a little harsh and very risky, but it was the only way that a CEO could sleep well in the information age.

I had crawled the Dark Web, which is one very creepy and dystopian place, looking for people who could deliver a true extermination hack. It wasn’t easy because the real masters are an anonymous, faceless group. And most of those people would give the Antichrist a bad name. In fact, they all seemed to be about one white Persian cat short of being a James Bond villain. But they were also total anarchists, without any specific political agenda. So, they were relatively easy to recruit; if enough money was involved.

I paid them in bitcoins. Nobody in their right mind would deal with those guys on anything but an anonymous basis. They ALL had an over-inflated sense of self-worth and a complete lack of conscience. If that describes a sociopath, then so be it. But I was playing at the very top of the mountain now and that required the best-of-the-best.

They lock up people for actually sabotaging government systems, which is what I was doing. And I was off the books with my employer.  So, my aim was to keep each of my minions in iron-clad compartments. Those partitions ensured that none of them saw enough of the big picture that they could cause any society-ending harm. Seriously!!! Anybody who’d trust one of those oddly bent folks to do the right thing was either an idiot, or as crazy as they were.

My business proceeded smoothly for a year and a half and I made a lot of money; millions as the case may be. I had to stay on top of every engagement, just to ensure that none of my minions colored outside the lines. But in the end, it was nothing more than a job. It wasn’t personal; except in one notable case...

I am not a vindictive person.  

Oh!!! I’m sorry!!! Did I just say that!!!??? What I REALLY meant to say is that I’m a HORRIBLY vindictive person!!! So I lovingly tossed Charlie Wilkins and my ex-wife to my personal set of piranhas. That was ENTIRELY personal.  

The idea of that old fart dropping into retirement on a golden parachute just ate me up. So I handed him off to one of the Chinese hacker groups. Per my instructions they emptied Wilkin’s accounts and anonymously donated the loot to a Chechnyan charity.

No really – don’t thank me!!! And good luck getting THAT back.

They also exposed my ex-wife’s NEW husband for the corrupt, womanizing piece of shit that he was. That became a viral sensation for the fifteen second attention span of the internet. The fucker’s resignation was a foregone conclusion.  His and Heather’s financial ruin was a surprise to both of them. It’s a brave new world, and if you want to protect your assets you should keep them under your mattress, not online.

I was rubbing my hands in glee thinking, “Poor Heather - The men she picks just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.” I wonder if she ever connected the dots?

Then, one hot and humid night it all changed. Buster and I were sitting outdoors at my favorite joint. He was staring off into space, like he frequently does when he is feeling content. And I was staring off into space, as I frequently do when I am trying to justify my existence.

I had gone completely native, which was a lovely illustration of how much I had transformed. During my marriage, I kept Orvis in business dressing like the ultimate preppie. I had a closet full of Vineyard style clothing and I never wore the same outfit twice. Now I lived in one pair of ratty old boat-shorts; underwear optional. I wore a garish, aloha shirt on top, with a faded sweat stained Under Armor fishing cap. That was my only wardrobe and it was all you really need in a climate like the Keys.  When I wanted a new shirt, I just bought another cheap one from the tourist shops and dumped the old one. It beat going to the laundromat.

As I sat there, a slight figure in cut-off jean shorts and a hoodie sidled up to me. His sudden arrival startled me. He said, “Hey Mister” in a voice that was exceptionally high pitched for an adolescent. Maybe he was younger than I thought. He was a little guy, perhaps five feet and about 100 pounds. I assumed he was just one of the local teenagers hustling me for spare change. Then the kid flipped the hoodie back and I saw that “he,” was a “she.”  

I guess you would call her a hippie-chick, if those people still exist. Her hair was thick and auburn, cut short and she wore no makeup whatsoever. She didn’t need any, since her face was almost incandescently perfect, with eyelashes so long and thick that they looked artificial. But, it was her eyes that made her compelling. They were an incredible shade of green jade, inordinately large for her face, almost like an Anime character. Her nose was exquisite and her mouth was a sarcastic little rosebud.

The rest of her was built like a twelve-year-old. I said, “Does your mother know that you are out here hustling people?” She chuckled and said, “I haven’t lived with my mother in a decade. I left home when I was 18 and I am never going back.” I laughed and said, “Really??!!! Seriously!!!?? You aren’t a day over 14 so stop messing with me or I’ll turn you over my knee.”

She gave a mocking little laugh and said, “Oh, I’m sorry. Aren’t you the Thomas Miller Meissner who used to live at 1539 Greenbrier Lane, whose children are Thomas Junior and Susan, both of whom are Pell Grant recipients at Marquette University, and whose former wife is Heather Whittaker, currently in bankruptcy court?”

I looked into her eyes. They were no longer soft green jade. They were emerald hard. A chill ran down my spine. I tried to sound casual as I said, “How did you find me?” She might have looked like she was 14. But this was one of my minions. And she could make ANYBODY’s life a living hell.

She morphed back to a teeny-bopper and said cheerily, “I was the one who did the hack on your ex-wife and her two friends. It didn’t take a genius to connect the dots.” Damn!! The one time I get stupid and I have to run into somebody like her.  

I said irritated, “But I gave that project to the Red Dragon Revolution?” She said with amusement, “Yes.” I spluttered, “YOU’RE the Red Dragon Revolution???!!! But I thought they were Chinese!!!” She said amiably, “Pretty good cover, don’t you think?” I sat there staring at her, my mouth hanging open. She was smiling placidly back at me.

She might be all of five-one. But, this woman could put more hurt on you than several Chapters of pissed-off Hells Angels. I said alarmed, “But the RDR has pulled a ton of heavy-duty shit over the past ten years.” She said with equanimity, “Thank you.” I said with growing unease, “Aren’t they one of the groups that the Mafia and the Bratva use?” She smiled benevolently and said, “Sometimes.” GREAT!!! AND she’s ALSO connected!!!  

I said, totally flummoxed, “But, the RDR controls the internet’s biggest zombie botnet?” She smiled and said self-effacingly, “I don’t know whether it’s actually the LARGEST. But it serves my purposes.” I said overwhelmed, “And didn’t the RDR write the IPv4 worm that shut down the internet for a couple of hours?” She smiled modestly and said, “It was only in the industrialized countries.” Yikes!!!!

I had to ask the obvious question, “So what are you doing here?”

She said, “I came to warn you. I’ve been through your life with a fine-tooth-comb and you seem like a decent guy for a “pseudo.” I’m especially sorry for what the bitch did to you. I put the maximum hurt on her if you care.” She was beaming with a naughty-little-girl look that was frightening.

I am NOT a brave man. I wanted to throw up my arms, run screaming back to my trailer, and hide in one of the closets. But based on what this lethal little creature had just told me I knew that I had to continue to interact with her. I said, “You wanted to warn me --- about what?” I didn’t think that I would like what she was going to tell me. But I realized that the people with the best Kung-Fu know everything. And The Red Dragon was hacker royalty. So whatever she was about to tell me was important.

She actually looked at me with some sympathy. Up to that point she had been watching me like a snake about to eat a bird. And the fact that still she seemed more homeless waif, than femme-fatale was totally irrelevant. The best of them are born with their talent and it manifests itself very young.

She said, “I’m afraid that your efforts have been a little too successful. You have taken a lot of money out of the pockets of some very bad people. So the community has put a bounty out on you. And you need to disappear.”

I just intuitively believed her. The problem with success is that it makes you stand out. And I knew what happens to people the hacker culture decides to get personal with; your secrets are public knowledge, you have no money, your credit score drops to zero and the cops will be looking for you. I was also certain that whoever wanted to collect the bounty could pull it off. I asked the obvious, “How can I trust YOU to NOT collect that bounty?”  

She laughed uproariously and said, “I could have doxed you a long time ago. What do I need with money? I take whatever I want. My flight down here and the rental car were paid for by some guy you tossed my way named Wilkins.” I was so shaken that I blurted, “You mean you didn’t give his money to the Chechnyans?” That was irrelevant. I KNOW… I’m an idiot!!!

She said with continuing amusement, “What does THAT have to do with anything. You have perhaps 72 hours to disappear, or very bad things are going to start happening to you, and all the people you know. I’m here to arrange that disappearance for you.”

Then she stopped and said impishly, “So let’s go back to your place.” I almost heard a sexual inference in her tone of voice. But I was old enough to be her father. In fact, my daughter Suzie, was only seven years younger than my deadly new friend. Besides, she might be twenty-eight but she still had all of the sex appeal of a pre-pubescent teen.

I knew what was going to happen. She needed to use my equipment to kill me off. And in the transition I was going to literally become a new person!! In effect, the gods were pulling the rug out from under me one more time; just as they had on that fateful Friday almost four years ago. It was like being struck by lightning. One moment I was living a life full of peace and contentment, as Tommy Meissner. The next moment Tommy Meissner was very abruptly and unexpectedly dead. My mind was still catching up with what THAT meant. I had been happy for the first time in a long time and then in an instant it was all gone.

My total disappearance would have been unbearable, if I had still been married. But it was really no big deal for me now. Nevertheless, an intense feeling of nostalgia and regret washed over me. The kids were going to think that I was dead. I would never see them again. My employer of almost 25 years was going to be left holding the bag. And my career, which had been my entire life up to that point, was over. The feelings of loss were indescribable.

I rose wearily and motioned for Buster. He stood and gave me a look like, “Who’s she Boss?” I started to cross U.S. 1 heading for my trailer. She was tripping happily along next to me. She did not quite come up to my shoulder and Buster probably weighed more than she did. I said, “Not to sound ungrateful but why should I believe you?” She said, “No offense taken, I’ll show you when we get to 17 Poinciana Drive.” I said, “OKAY enough - I get it!!” Then I muttered under my breath, “Show off!!”

She was telling the truth. We work in command lines, not the point and click interfaces that the herd uses. She did a little typing and there was no doubt. Several groups wanted my head on a platter and they had put the word out on the Dark Web. I was flattered by the number of bitcoins they were offering. But, I HAD cost them a lot of ill-gotten plunder. I just never expected them to get that barbaric. My guess was that organized crime was the inspiration, not the nerd community.

My identity was still anonymous. But my little friend assured me that somebody would crack that in a couple of days. She said admiringly, “You are pretty good for an amateur but not good enough to stay hidden from somebody like me. So, do you want me to do it or not?” It was like she was asking for my choice of ice cream; chocolate, or vanilla? I was holding a gun to my OWN head. I knew I had to do it. But I JUST couldn’t pull the trigger. Tommy Meissner would be no more and I still had questions.

I said, “I have accumulated a lot of money. Will that come with me?” She laughed gleefully and said, “Of course. But you won’t need money as long as I’m with you.” I said bewildered, “Are you coming with me?”  She said, “For a while, you need taking care of. Once you get on your feet we’ll see where we go from there. I don’t have a dad, or mom so maybe you can be my Daddy.” That was said with a sly smile.

Well, I didn’t have any kids either - now, although my life insurance would set Tommy and Suzie up for a long time and I could monitor them from the internet. I would never get to hold the grandkids. But at least I would know about their life. Ironically, I would be able to follow them on Facebook. It was very sad and unfair. But I had known all along that I was fishing in deep water.  

I said, “How long will this take.” She looked at me like I was an imbecile. She said, “PLEASE… I’ve been planting back doors for decades. We can leave tomorrow. What are you going to do with this?” She gestured to the trailer. I said, “Can you give it to my kids?” She said, “Sure!” I said firmly, no argument permitted, “I need to take Buster with me.”

She looked skeptical. Then she said, “Alright, I can get him ADA certification as a service dog. What disability should I put you down for?” I said, “How about terminal stupidity?” Then I added, “I don’t even know your name.” She said casually, “You can call me Ariadne.”

I got it. In Greek Mythology Ariadne was a Cretan Princess. She helped Theseus escape the Minotaur and then Theseus dumped her as soon as he had escaped. I was hoping that my little friend wasn’t making some kind of sarcastic statement. I thought to myself, “I wonder what her real name is?”

Early the next morning James Robert Newhouse and his daughter Ariadne packed his things and headed up US-1. Why would I do something as nuts as just dropping off the face of the earth? It was an easy decision. I knew who I was dealing with.

Modern society depends too much on computers and predatory forces at the top of the virtual food chain make a lot of money from that dependency; most of it illegally. Anybody messing with their cash-flow can expect their wrath. I had assumed that my little operation would fly under their radar, since it was really nothing more than my post-divorce relocation plan. But it had been far too successful.

Cyberspace is like the wild-west. The fastest gun, is the one who dictates the rules. There is no sheriff in town and as a result, talented black hats never suffer the consequences of their crimes. In fact, they are basically the wolves and the rest of us are a flock of helpless sheep. The only reason why any individual sheep hasn’t been eaten, is because the wolves haven’t gotten around to them yet. Well, they had gotten around to me now. And that was why I was riding up US-1 with my new daughter.

Passports, credit cards and all of the other paraphilia of modern life take a few days to deliver. So we had to find a place to hole up.  Fortunately, Ariadne was a true wizard when it came to all things clandestine. I STILL knew nothing about her. But I DID know that she was an apex predator. She must have had ten iron-clad identities stashed away. And that foresight came in handy while we waited for the pieces of my OWN identity to drop into place.

We had decided that the U.S. mainland was too logical a place to find me. So the minute all of my stuff arrived we planned on taking the first cruise out of Miami. I hear you ask, “Why a cruise?” Can you think of a more anonymous way to pull-off a getaway? You are loaded on a thousand-foot boat with six thousand happy people? Then, all of those people descend on each port-of-call like the Marines storming Iwo Jima. It is easy to get lost in THAT kind of crowd – anywhere!

Ariadne had checked us into a suite at the Fontainebleau; again a stroke of genius. If people are looking for you; you hide-out in a seedy back-street motel, right? It’s the people who don’t have anything to hide who check into the most ostentations place on the planet. The suite was $800 per night. But I was certain that some nameless person was paying for it. Ariadne had a pile of American Express Black cards to draw from.

There was some minor hassling at the front desk. Buster did not fit the typical profile of the foo-foo canine.  But they had no choice when they looked up his service dog credentials. Being disabled and all I needed my big, intimidating, smelly dog.  The only other awkward moment was when we actually got up to our room. It was the biggest suite they had. But there was only ONE bed and I was not going to sleep with my daughter. Ariadne laughed and said, “Look at this couch. It’s wider and nicer than most beds. I’m small. I can easily sleep here.”

I had a duffle bag full of stuff. It was more-or-less everything I owned. Ariadne laughed and said, “You will have to spend today shopping Dad. In fact, I do too.” She winked conspiratorially and said, “My daddy can’t just be some schlub from Cleveland. And you need to be credible when you tap all of the money that you have in your Cayman accounts. Let’s meet back here in the room in a few hours and I want to see a whole new you.”

I had become totally dependent on Ariadne. So I did exactly what she told me to do. It wasn’t that I was wimping out to some girl who was young enough to be my daughter. It was just that Ariadne was the native and I was a stranger in a very strange land --- without much prior notice I might add. So, I would have been a fool to ignore her advice.

I killed the entire afternoon creating the new me. And in the process I blew forty-five grand at Ida and Harry’s, and Bleu Signature. I figured that the guy that I was now had been brought up in wealth. And so I did the full Ralph Lauren preppie costume thing; elite, understated, elegant and garnished with a little bit of “snob.” It was tricky paying for all my loot. I charged the whole thing to the room. And naturally they called to validate that. They quickly found out that my purchases were backed by an Amex Black. So forthwith, one of the porters and I wheeled the whole stash back to the suite on two baggage carts.

Ariadne had beaten me to the room and was outside standing on the balcony watching the Atlantic. I noticed that part of the closet was filled with her new things and there were a couple of half packed JW Hulme leather rollerbags lying open on the floor next to it.  Since those matched the two I had just bought, I knew that we had blown eight grand on luggage alone. Who says that crime doesn’t pay?

She startled me when she walked back in from the balcony. When I had left her, she was a homeless waif in a black hoodie. This young woman was a total stranger. Her thick auburn hair was still short and utilitarian. But it was now styled in some kind of swept back look that emphasized her flawlessly proportioned and perfectly arranged features and her uncanny jade green eyes. She had also put on makeup. She obviously knew what it was. Now she looked like a stunningly beautiful and extremely rich Wellesley graduate.

More interestingly, she was very clearly not built like a 14-year-old. She was tiny and that made her look waiflike. But I already knew from her cut-off shorts that she had long, well-formed legs. Now, in a modest sun dress, it was obvious that she had taut round hips and small but full and shapely boobs. In fact, if she weren’t my daughter I might develop evil thoughts about her.

She smiled and did a little twirl. She said seductively, “You like?” I said with astonishment, “My God Ariadne!!! You’re gorgeous!!!” She colored bright red and said, “You don’t have to sweet-talk me. I’m going to take good care of you anyhow.” The meaning of that statement remained ambiguous. I blurted with profound sincerity, “No!! I really mean it. You are BEAUTIFUL.” And there was no question about it. By any measure she was an absolutely spectacular little doll of a woman.

Her eyes kind-of softened, the way girls get when their emotions get fired up, and she tiptoed over on four inch heels that made her long muscular legs flex in ways that a father should not be thinking about.  She placed a gentle kiss on my cheek. Looked at me mischievously and said, “Thank you Daddy.” God!!! Where did she get that perfume from?

We ate dim-sum and Cantonese Lobster at Hakkasan. She was such a faultlessly superb little jewel of a woman that she was turning heads when we were seated. Half the room thought that she was my mistress. They were very disapproving. The other half were giving me benevolent looks, “How nice, he’s taking his hot little daughter to dinner.” I said, “Perhaps you should order for us, being Chinese and all.” She grinned and said, “I’m just the Red Dragon when I work, my ancestors are all Scotch-Irish.” That explained the dark auburn hair and contrasting green eyes.

She was actually behaving like we had a loving familial relationship. She was doing those possessive woman things, like adjusting my tie and picking stuff off the front of my lapels. But, I had NOT lost sight of the fact that she was perhaps the most dangerous creature in the greater Miami area, including all of the local coral snakes and alligators. It was like having one of those 20-foot pythons from out in the Everglades lovingly coddling you. I didn’t know whether to be delighted, or terrified.

We were sipping some really excellent plum wine after dinner. I said, “So where do we go from here mon-commandant?” She said, “It’s Tuesday. All of your paperwork will show up here in the next couple of days. I booked us on the first departure Friday morning. It’s on one of those Celebrity super-ships so we are going to blend in. It’s four days out of Puerto Rico into the eastern Caribbean ending at the Island of St. Lucia. I want to get off there. I’ve been to St. Lucia and it is very nice.”

I said, “What about you?” She looked confused and said, “I’m going with you. Why do you ask?”

Sigh!!! Okay, all-in; I said, “I really WANT you to go with me. I know that’s insane given that both of us have been living solitary lives on the fringe. And the only thing that I know about you is that you are the Red Dragon. But I have this weird feeling that I can trust you. I believe that you are a decent person and that you have my best interests at heart.” I didn’t add “Even though you are a well-known cyber-bandito.”

I went on with, “The longer we are together the stronger that feeling is getting. And I am confused by where it is leading me. I am starting to see you as a woman, not my daughter. And given the cataclysmic disaster that occurred the last time that I got close to a woman, I do not want a repeat.”

She looked at me with an intimacy that I had not experienced from any other person in my life. Especially from somebody so young. She was only chronologically twenty-eight. But then again, The Red Dragon was eons old. She took my hand, eyes boring into mine, and said, “For the time being think of me as your guardian angel. We still have to put a lot of distance between Tommy Meissner and Jim Newhouse. We can talk after we get done with that.”

She sat back with a smile on her face and said, “I will be your loving daughter for all of that time. And I will keep you safe. You still haven’t heard my story and you might change your mind about me after I tell it. THEN we can decide what comes next.” She gazed into my eyes and added with intensity, “I don’t EVER intend to leave you, unless you send me away.” Her eyes were shining with tears and she looked absolutely exquisite.

Things were a little awkward when we first got back to the room. We were both aware that the father-daughter thing was a cover.  I, for one, was also uncomfortably aware that I was about to sleep with a stunning little hottie, a situation that under normal conditions might lead me to doing something inappropriate. And the last thing I wanted to do was get into any messy entanglements with a woman, especially with somebody as lethal as Ariadne. But, there was still an undercurrent of physical attraction. That would have been super-creepy if we had actually been related.  

She disappeared into the bathroom. I heard the sounds of brushing teeth and she emerged dressed in a pale yellow, relatively modest pajama outfit that was made of some silky material. She had worked all of the previous night killing me off, and then resurrecting me in the official records as Jim Newhouse. So I had never seen her in bedroom attire. She said shyly, “I normally sleep nude but that wouldn’t work here.” She was not trying to be sexual in the least. God!! That was the last thing both of us wanted!! But I still had to upgrade her hard little body to world-class status.

Small women have an advantage; in that they do not need exceptionally large assets to look incredibly sexual. Ariadne had a true hourglass shape, with two perfect little buns and a full set of shapely boobs; all of that on a rock hard body. But she still probably weighed about 100 pounds. I was making a valiant effort to NOT leer. But it was impossible to miss the two little points sticking out of those delectable titties. I gulped and said, “’I’ll see you in a minute.” And ducked into the bathroom.

I emerged in a pair of maroon silk pajamas that were right out of “I Love Lucy.” The girl at Ida and Harry’s assured me they were the ultimate in fashionable sleepwear for men. I wasn’t too sure since I normally just sleep in a pair of boxers. In the meantime, Ariadne had made up her bed in the other room and was climbing in. The outline of her hips and bubble butt in clingy silk made me spring something embarrassing. So I quickly hopped under the covers and turned out the light.

I said, “Good night daughter.” I was REALLY trying to convince myself that incest WASN’T best. She said, “Good night Dad.” Her voice was strained. She sounded like she might be having the same problem that I was. I thought to myself, “God give me strength.”

My ID showed up on Thursday afternoon. It was an absolutely awe inspiring illustration of state-of-the-art identity theft.  We had been hanging out like father and daughter for the past two days and the role was beginning to rest comfortably on both of us. She teased me a lot and I looked lovingly fond of her. And there were no repeats of the extreme pangs of sexual desire that we had both felt that first night.  

The flight down to Luis Munoz Marin Airport in Puerto Rico was a two and a half hour hop. The ten-mile taxi ride in the San Juan traffic, over to the Cruise Port, felt like it was almost as long as the flight. Ariadne was sitting staring serenely out the window of the cab. She was wearing a pleated white skirt and blue polo shirt that made her look like she had spent her last ten years in upscale prep schools, not wreaking havoc in cyberspace.

Buster was crammed between us panting in the heat, slobbering on my new khaki slacks. He was proudly wearing his “Service Dog” vest like a new Marine in his dress blues. It made up for his trip down to Puerto Rico in the baggage hold. He told me in no uncertain terms that he never wanted to have THAT experience again.

Ariadne was an amazing little chameleon, which probably explained her success as a criminal. She could take-on the persona of anybody she wanted to be and we had selected millionaire single dad with sophisticated adult daughter as the best cover. I DID have a couple of million stashed away in numbered accounts. The year and a half I had spent in the pen-testing business had been very lucrative. But I had a feeling that Ariadne could have beaten my account balances by a power of ten.

Of course we weren’t spending any money. Ariadne had booked us a Penthouse Suite on a Celebrity super-ship. That particular suite featured twin beds, thank God!!! It had been a hack that got us the Suite of course. But, nobody on the ship was any the wiser once Ariadne had buffer-overflowed her way into the booking system.

Cruise ships are little cities filled with a brand new set of complete strangers every week. So in essence boarding feels like everybody is moving into town on the same day. The first night out we ate and hit one of the on-board shows. The sleeping was easy because we each had our own bed. And we were getting more-and-more into the routine of father and daughter.

Buster was a bit of a problem since crapping space was limited. But a couple of hundred slipped to our room’s butler gave him access to the ornamental lawn on the top deck. That was the feature that made us choose that particular ship in the first place.  And Buster was very thankful.

The cruise itself was rather boring. That was because neither of us wanted to risk using the ship’s super- insecure, on-board internet connection. Ariadne lived in virtual space.  So she was getting particularly antsy.  Neither of us are party animals but I eventually decided to take her to the ship’s nightclub, just to blow off steam.

I wore a tux. She was in a little turquois wraparound cocktail dress fitted so that it showed off her exquisite, body. The sight stirred the hearts of every male in attendance. In fact, I realized that I was sitting with a woman who was arguably one of the best looking females on the ship. Accordingly, Ariadne got asked to dance a lot. She turned the first couple down. But the third guy was very good looking and he seemed like an all-around decent fellow.

Ariadne turned to me questioningly. I said, “Of course sweetie.” She stood up, walked out onto the floor and began to execute what looked to me like a pagan mating ritual. It was a perfect illustration of the difference in our age. I knew that what she was doing was normal for her peers. I could see other twenty somethings dancing exactly like she was. The music seemed to flow into them and then out again. That resulted in moves that would be considered obscene when I was their age, but Ariadne’s generation seemed to think that it was just a normal statement about their wholehearted sexuality.

OMG!!! - the last thing I wanted to think about was Ariadne’s sexuality. I was sleeping with her every night. But watching her dance actually helped me to put a little distance between us. I realized that we were truly of different generations. Of course I am also some spiteful god’s personal speedbag.

Most people in MY generation go cradle-to-grave on a nice steady course without any life extinguishing events. None of that applied to me. Overnight I had lost the woman with whom I had built a life. Then, just as suddenly I found myself fleeing from shadowy forces who were seeking to destroy my newly rebuilt one. To make the situation even more daunting, I was being aided in my efforts by an enigmatic girl who was nearly half my age and who was arguably one of the most dangerous women in post-industrial society. Worse, she was exotically beautiful.

Given my past history with women, and the fact that I was running for my life, I would have to be insane to feel anything but extreme gratitude toward Ariadne. Yet, while I was watching her slow dance with that big, good looking dude I was having anything but fatherly emotions. She had her arms around his neck and he had his hands on her waist, Just above her round little ass. And she was leaning back staring directly into his eyes. There was nothing sexual about it. They were barely touching body to body. The better term was “intimate.”

And again, the way that she was dancing was no different than the other twenty-something girls out there. The problem was that the familiarity passing between those two was causing irrational and incredibly powerful feelings of jealousy in me. I wanted to be the one holding her. And I wanted to be the one who was swimming in those fathomless jade green eyes. I knew that feeling was nuts. I didn’t even know her real name. But there it was.

Then she made it MUCH worse. The music ended and they broke apart laughing. She grabbed his hand and glided over to where I was sitting. I was trying NOT to look like the green-eyed monster was in actuality eating me alive. She said lightheartedly, “Frank wants to take me to the Mast Bar. Can I Dad - please - please?” I tried to look paternal as I said, “Sure – but you had better not disturb me when you come in. I’m going to be asleep.”

She said, “Thanks Dad,” and squeezed my arm in a loving daughter gesture. They went tripping off together. He was my height. So, as they walked away the two of them looked like HE was taking his kid sister somewhere. That is, if you discounted those perfect little swaying hips, and the twitching of those two faultless little buns. I didn’t know that it was possible. But I actually felt a greater sense of hopelessness and loss than I had watching Heather kiss Wilkins before her trip.

I was pretty sure that Ariadne would spend the night with the dude. At least it looked that way. So I was surprised to hear the two of them laughing together as they came down the passageway. It had only been an hour and a half. Of course, for all of that time I had been lying in the darkness, eyes wide open and heart pounding listening to the ship noises and the engines.

There was a short interlude at the door, which featured a faint little moan. And then the door opened, the light from the hall outlined her slipping silently into the suite. She undressed in the dark and slid quietly into her bed. She rustled around for a few minutes and then lay quiet, sleeping the sleep of the blameless.

It was a very upsetting situation indeed. As the Red Dragon, she might be a menace to post-industrial society. But, as Ariadne she was hazardous to my very soul. I knew that I was falling in love with her and love and trust were luxuries that I absolutely couldn’t afford. Heather had drained that account all the way down to zero.

The very next morning, I showered and dressed in khakis and a Ralph Lauren polo shirt.  I found Ariadne in the living room of the suite reading USA Today. She was wearing a white tropical weight linen dress. The dress showed off her neat little body and her fabulous, legs.

Her legs were a true work of art. I had noticed that as far back as her cut-off jeans and hoodie days. But they were somehow more special in four inch heels and the new polished appearance. The sophisticated look seemed to come naturally to her. Her ability to put on the mantle of privilege was so convincing that it was either a superb job of acting. Or she actually came from big money.

She smiled luminously and said, “Last night was wonderful. Thank you.” I said jokingly, in a mock-stern voice, “I hope that you didn’t do anything that Daddy wouldn’t approve of.” She looked at me a little more seriously than I expected and said, “Don’t even THINK that. We drank and talked and he kissed me at the door. That’s it. You have to get it through your thick head that I am devoted to you – and only you, which brings up an important point.”

She focused on me, like she wanted to ensure that I understood what she was about to say. She said, “There are cameras watching every inch of this ship’s public area. And every one of them is remotely hackable. I know that, because I’ve already broken-into their system using my phone. Don’t you think that it would be a little bizarre If somebody saw me turning down guys my own age in order to hang out with my Dad”

While she was talking, I was thinking “devoted to me? What the fuck does THAT mean???”

She added, “In fact, I want you to find somebody tonight too. We are going to be in St. Lucia in a couple of days and we are going to get off there. In the meantime, we have to put on a credible show just for appearances sake.” I said, “So you decided to get off there?” She said casually, “Yes, my family has a place on that island. We can hole up until they lift the bounty. WE need to keep you so far under the radar that they are convinced you are dead” I said interested, “You have never told me about your family.” She said dismissively, “If we decide to proceed I will have to tell you.” She left it up to me to decide what “proceed” meant.  

That evening we were back at the nightclub. I was in my tux and she was in a classic little black dress. It ended several inches above her knees. Those incredible legs left a striking impression. And with the pearls and black patent leather pumps she was beyond gorgeous. The hoodie didn’t show off much of her boobs and she had been wearing polo shirts or high necked cocktail dresses since then. This dress was scooped in front.  I upgraded her titties to stunning. They might be relatively small compared to a Sports Illustrated super-model. But they were so high and closely gathered and her rib-cage was so well developed that her little mounds were profoundly impressive.

That discovery added one more drop of angst to my already precarious state. I am a total breast man. Heather had an impressive pair of tits. And even in her chubby housewife stage they had been fun to play with. Now my guardian angel was showing off a round, firm, pair of melons that almost put Heather to shame. It really fell into the category of cruelty to mortal men.  

My assignment for the evening was to find somebody my age. I understood why Ariadne wanted me to do that. We were continuing to maintain the legend of father and daughter. And this was a cruise. So the dad would probably be looking for some female strange of his own.  Ariadne was having no trouble meeting men. In fact, they were parading over to our table in droves. She danced with several of them including her friend from last night. I finally got up the courage to approach a table full of women who were clearly either divorcees on a girl’s cruise, or married women sowing their wild oats.

Their status didn’t matter. My only job was to find one, cut her out of the herd, and spend some time with her. They were all looking at me expectantly. My name is neither Clooney nor Grant, but I have developed some social skills; since Heather so unceremoniously kicked me out into the wild. There was a short dark Latino woman with impressive tits. There was a tall redhead with one of those fashion model builds and a blond who looked like a California Beach Bunny circa the Clinton Administration. I was thinking to myself, “Blond, brunette, or redhead, what a clichéd choice.”

I said smiling to the table at large, “Would any of you beautiful ladies care to dance?” The blond, who was by far the best looking of the three, was out of her chair like a shot; dragging me out to the dance floor.  She was still hot, in a mid-40s kind of way. And she had probably been a knockout fifteen to twenty years earlier. She was wearing enough gold to stock a Mayan temple and she just radiated, “recently divorced, did well in the settlement.”

We boogied for a while and eventually we drifted over next to Ariadne. My pseudo-daughter was turned facing away from the guy she was dancing with. HE couldn’t keep his eyes off of her frantically churning buns.  Ariadne turned toward me and we exchanged glances. She said matter-of-fact, “Hi Dad.” That, as all-the-while her legs, and hips were gyrating in ways rarely seen outside of heathen fertility rights – KIDS!!  

My partner, who was dancing in the same, jogging, old-person fashion as I was, did a double take. She said, “SHE’S your daughter??!!” I said, “For the past twenty-eight years.”  She looked at her again and said, “Amazing… She looks exactly like Chelsea Hughes. Her parents were friends of mine in DC.”

Well THAT little coincidence certainly let the skunk loose in the lady’s bridge club. I said, “Let’s take a break for a second.” And I led her over to a handy table. That didn’t work so well because the music was still deafening. So I said, “Let’s go get a drink.” My partner obviously thought that she was going to get lucky; she became very flirty. I walked over to the Globe and Atlas Pub, with her holding my arm like we were a couple, and sat down at an intimate little table for two.

My partner was a real beauty. The bloom was a little bit off the rose, but not so much that she wasn’t turning heads. And in her younger days she must have been a world-class stunner, long, natural dirty-blond hair, blue eyes and features that were so aesthetically perfect that you wanted to just hang her on a wall and look at her; like a Rembrandt. The rest of her in a tight black dress put new meaning to the term “brick shit house.” I was guessing trophy second wife recently replaced by a newer model.

She was giving me the whole bouncing crossed legs, deep revealing cleavage thing that women do when they are impatient to get around to the fun part. I would have probably fucked her right on top of the table. Except, you are only supposed to commit adultery in the rooms on a cruise. More importantly I didn’t want to set any precedents for Ariadne. If I fucked somebody, then Ariadne would have the same moral right. And the thought of some random stud humping her into a coma caused me extreme emotional distress; much worse than the week that Heather spent in Paris.  

I kept telling myself that Ariadne was 19 years younger, and that she was a legendary desperado in cyberspace. Not to mention the fact that she was literally my guardian angel. None of those arguments affected my fevered brain. I couldn’t deny the totally unreasoning desire to hold her and make her mine. And the woman sitting across from me knew something that I had to find out.

I said, “You lived in Washington DC?” She said, “Yes, my former husband was a Vice President at General Dynamics in Falls Church. I live in Georgetown now.” I said, “You mentioned that my daughter looked a lot like Chelsea Hughes. That seemed to mean something to you. I’m interested, who is this Chelsea Hughes person, and why do you remember her?”

My partner looked a little disappointed. She had thought that I was about to pop the big question; “Your place or mine?” A woman as good looking as she was could find plenty of bed partners and I was wasting her precious time if I wasn’t headed in that direction. That was the reason why she started giving “the look” to one of the lounge lizards who was lurking at the bar. It was like she was broadcasting, “Come save me from this nerd.” But in the meantime she answered my questions.

She said, “Chelsea’s father is Bill Hughes. He is a big-shot in security in DC.” I knew Hughes. It’s really a very small community at the top, and we all know each other. In fact, in my short happy life as a free-lance pen-tester I had actually subcontracted a couple of jobs through him. My partner continued with, “Several years ago Hughes invited me and my ex-husband to one of those low-life picnic concerts at Yards Park over by the Navy Yard. Hughes and his entire family were there. That’s where I met Chelsea.”

She seemed to be looking back in her mind’s eye as she said, “She is the second of Hughes four kids and the oldest of the ones that he had with his second wife. I remember her because she was such a beautiful girl. Her mother is a great beauty and I was Miss Teen California myself. But neither of us could hold a candle to Chelsea when we were her age. Your daughter is a dead-ringer for her.”  

I looked with interest at the woman across from me. That seemed to encourage her. Maybe she mistook my deep concentration for newfound lust. Anyhow, she added, “The strange thing about Chelsea was that she was attending MIT, not a sensible woman’s college like Holyoke, or Radcliffe. How could a girl THAT beautiful find a proper husband on a campus full of geeks?” She laughed merrily. It was clearly an inexplicable peculiarity on Chelsea’s part that she would actually be INTERESTED in nerd stuff.

At that point the dude she had been playing eye tag with appeared and said jovially, “Can I join you two? You seem to be having a good time. And I am always up for a good time” – subtle!! I said, “Of course, I have to go anyhow. I need to make sure that my daughter isn’t being kidnapped by some horny dude at the nightclub.” I gave my new tablemate a meaningful glance. He totally missed it. Then I turned to my partner and said with sincerity, “It was a pleasure meeting you and I hope I see you again.” She didn’t acknowledge me either. She was too busy concentrating a fuck-me stare on her next victim.

I went outside and leaned on the ships rail. The water of the Gulf Stream was boiling in a silvery cascade, in the ship’s powerful wake. The night was crystal clear, warm and fragrant with one of those huge Caribbean moons hanging on the horizon like a bright yellow dinner plate.  

Meeting that woman might have been an odd coincidence. But it was not out of the realm of possibility. Logically, a woman who traveled in the Hughes’s peer group might be on this cruise, since it was both expensive and exclusive. It was slightly MORE coincidental that I would run into somebody who knew Chelsea Hughes. But it wasn’t totally out of the question either. The woman I had been talking to was destined to inevitably head for the ship’s nightclub, which narrowed the odds down to perhaps thirty to one on any given night.

So I had a name. There was no reason to do anything with that knowledge, at least until Ariadne and I could drop the pretense of father and daughter. But I had some useful background. Ariadne was actually the daughter of one of the smartest guys I know. More important, rumor had it that his wife was a lot smarter and even more strong minded than he was. In fact, I had heard that his wife was one of the hottest MILFs in a City that prides itself on trophy women. That would account for my pretend daughter’s massive intellect and killer good looks.

The critical factor, and the thing that really convinced me that Ariadne was Chelsea, was the MIT connection. Hughes does exactly what Ariadne does, he is basically a hacker. It is just that he is a white-hat and based on her iconic exploits Ariadne’s hat was a whole lot grayer. Nevertheless, any woman who could make her way into MIT was clearly exceptional, in all of the things that Ariadne was good at. So, the evidence pointed directly at Chelsea Hughes.

I wandered back into the nightclub to tell Ariadne that I was going back to the room. She was dancing languorously, with the same fellow from last night; arms around his neck, head resting on his chest, PLASTERED to him. I couldn’t see his hands but they looked to be a lot further down her back, perhaps resting on those marvelous buns. This was clearly more than simple pretense, designed to sell our story. She was reveling in the romance. But of course, she was a young woman and he was a handsome man and the “world-of-its-own” ambience of a cruise ship makes normal life seem long ago and far away.

I had another unreasoning pang of jealousy.  Geez!!! This was getting ridiculous. I had no claim on a girl who was young enough to be my daughter and she owed me nothing. She had already saved my life, so-to-speak. The dark powers that she was wrestling with on my behalf would probably not kill me. But they WOULD leave me living under a bridge abutment for the rest of my short and miserable life.

I walked up to the two of them. The guy gave me a pleasant smile. He really DID seem like a good guy. Ariadne said, “Hi Dad, are you going back to the room?” I said, “Old people need their rest my dear. You two have fun.” Ariadne said very pointedly, “I’ll be back in an hour or so.”  I said, “I will probably be up but if I’m not I’ll see you in the morning.” It just killed me to say that. I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t see her UNTIL morning. As I walked out I saw the two of them kiss. Ariadne was clearly caught up in the moment.

My wife of 24 years had jetted off to Paris and spent a week fucking a dirty old man. And now I was losing a woman to a very good looking and totally decent fellow on a cruise. I felt a lot worse missing out on the daughter-figure than I did the wife. So I got a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue on my ship’s account. I wasn’t paying for it anyhow. And I sat there on the couch drinking my woes away at $100 a shot.

An hour passed. I had just about reached the point where I was wondering which side of the balcony to jump off of. Then I heard the same merry voices coming up the hall. That was a surprise… right on time!! There was a much longer lingering moment and a louder moan and then the door opened. Ariadne stood there looking happy and excited, but totally un-fucked – thank God!!!

She said lightheartedly, “Pour me some of that will you?” I poured her a glass and handed it to her. She plopped down on the couch and put her head on my shoulder. It was an affectionate gesture, not sexual in the slightest. She reached up and lovingly stroked my cheek. She said teasingly, “I see you scored.” I said just as jocularly, “Not like YOU did.” God!!! I sounded like SUCH a pathetic little bitch. She stiffened, shifted around and said with wonder, “Do I detect a hint of jealousy in your voice?”

BUSTED!!! - I said, “In the short time I have known you I have come to view you as a woman. As I told you back in Miami, that can be problematic. I loved Heather for 24 long years if you count the courtship. And then out of the blue, she just suddenly opted to run off with some guy who was never going to do anything but fuck her.” I smiled grimly and said, “Forget about the resulting heartache, I think you can see that would cause trust issues. Since then, I have not experienced any emotions but emptiness and deep suspicion when it comes to women.”

I looked at her with affection and said, “And then you come into my life and everything about you is just so beautiful and full of joy. More importantly, you CHOSE to protect me. I didn’t make you do that. It was something you decided on your own. So it is natural to have feelings about you; want to trust you and get closer to you. But you are also half my age and the generation gap seems unbridgeable.”

I grimaced and said, “The guy you were with tonight is perfect. He is handsome, seems to be very nice and fun. More importantly he is from your generation. The woman I was talking to is totally age appropriate, she is gorgeous and sexy and she is somebody that I would normally spend the night getting to know a LOT better. But all I could think about was you and what you were doing.”

I added with considerable emotion in my voice, “So I go looking for you and there you are being romanced by the right kind of guy; a guy who I would want my daughter to be with. That is a perfectly understandable, appropriate and even desirable outcome of two beautiful people being together. But, it just tore me up. So YES I suppose I’m jealous; jealous of your youth and all of the possibilities you still have in front of you. More importantly I am jealous of every man who gets to hold you in THAT way.”  

She had been staring intently at me. Her eyes were luminous. Finally, she said, “When I took your assignment I also researched you in my special little way.” That was a scary thought. A hacker who is as capable as Ariadne would know more about my life than I did. She could read things that I had never seen; like comments in school files, credit reports, and job evaluations.  

She gave me a tender look and said, “What I found was a thoroughly decent, honorable and caring human being who did the best he could in the face of every kind of adversity. I also discovered how exceptional you are, strong, smart and creative. And frankly I fell hopelessly in love with a faceless man; as deeply as it is possible for a woman to fall. Since then, you have been everything that I ever expected and a whole lot more.” Keep in mind, that my feelings for you originate from long before I met you in the flesh.

Then she looked at me keenly, like she was trying to convey an important message and said, “THAT is the reason why I broke cover and journeyed all the way from Boston to Key Largo. You need my help. But that is NOT why I am actually here. I am with you because I believe that you are my life partner. And the women in my family mate for life.”

She added with a coquettish smile, “What you witnessed tonight was nothing more than me relieving a little of the stress that you are causing me. It was covering our tracks; but honestly, that’s not why I was doing it. I love to be romanced and you can’t give me that; YET. So I am enjoying a harmless little flirtation with a very nice guy.” Then she favored me a naughty grin and said, “Sometime soon, you will discover what REALLY happens when I give myself to a man. It’ll be a whole lot different than what you’ve seen me doing so far. I only give my soul to one person and that’s you. And that commitment has been in effect for much longer than we have actually been together.”

She finished with, “Yes - you are old enough to be my Dad. And that might be more obvious now than it will be when I’m only 60 and you’re 79. But I feel like our spirits are seamlessly aligned with each other and I know that is why you sense that you can trust me.” Then she added, with sincerity, “I’m telling you to go with your instincts, because I will never betray you and I will be your friend, companion and lover for the rest of your life.”

Wow!!! We just sat there looking at each other yearning. I started to reach for her and you could see the blast doors slam shut in that magnificent mind. She said with steely resolve, “If I let THAT genie out of the bottle we won’t come out of the cabin until we arrive back in Miami and that would not serve our present purposes. There will be a lifetime for us to love each other THAT way, once we convince the Darkweb that Tommy Meissner is indeed disappeared.”

She pushed herself back and stood up and said, “Oh, by the way, in case you are wondering, you have already witnessed the most intimate I will ever be with another man. Your appeal is your steadfast strength, personal loyalty and devotion, which is all I ever wanted in a man and you can expect an equal measure in return from me. In the meantime, I think I am going to take an icy cold shower and go to bed. Do you need a cold shower too?” - girlish smirk.

I looked at her as honestly as I could and said, “No I don’t. What you just told me is more gratifying and profoundly moving than all the sexual experiences I have ever had. I have looked in my heart and I see that I do indeed trust you. In fact, I trust you so much that I am NOT going to add the usual reminder about not betraying that trust. I know you won’t do that because I know what kind of sincere and giving person you are. And I guarantee you that we will still be wheeling the booster out to the launch pad when I am ACTUALLY 79 and you are a mere child of 60. You will never regret giving yourself to me.”

And so the endless unreality of the cruise wore on. I ran into my friend from the nightclub several times. She was always with some lean, suntanned and age inappropriate stud. She gave Ariadne a thorough looking over every time we ran into her. And Ariadne started going out of her way to avoid her. Perhaps my pseudo-daughter remembered something too.

The last stop before St. Lucia was Martinique. Ariadne, her newfound friend and I spent the day shopping and taking in the rum distilleries. It seemed like a perfectly paternal thing to do with my daughter and her guy. For his part the kid was a thoroughly good person. His name was Frank. He was a Network Manager for the Dairy Farmers Association, which is headquartered in Kansas City. He was 29 years old and had played basketball at K-State. He kept calling me “Sir,” which made me feel slightly older than Methuselah.

He clearly found Ariadne very attractive. Naturally, she gave him a lot of girlish encouragement, holding his hand when they walked and generally hanging on him when they were standing together. And of course it killed me, but I found to my utter astonishment that I both understood what she was doing and more importantly trusted her. That feeling was reinforced every time Frank got close to an intimacy line that Ariadne had unquestionably drawn earlier. They would kiss once-in-a-while, in a high-school hallway romance kind of way, no tongues. He tried to slip her the tongue once and she jerked her head back like he had given her something disgusting.

On one occasion, he was so bold as to slide a hand over her shoulder and rest it on one of her perfect round melons and she wouldn’t speak to him for an hour. He appealed to me and so I sat down, as she was sulking at a separate table in the St James tasting room. I said, “Frank is sorry sweetie. He said he won’t do anything like that again.” Frank was hovering concerned in the background.

She shot me a penetrating and very meaningful look and said in a whisper, “Remember what I told you. My body is reserved for you, and you only.” Then she said in a voice that Frank could hear, “Okay Daddy, I accept Frank’s apology.” Then she turned to Frank and said in a menacing voice, “That had better not happen again, you hear?” But she took the sting off of her statement by going over and giving Frank a sweet kiss. He wriggled all over like a happy puppy.

Ariadne’s special little statement had given ME a giant hard-on. So I stayed seated at the table for another couple of seconds.  I looked at her holding Frank’s hand and chattering with him. She was wearing some kind of stylish short-shorts that were pure, expensive, contemporary chic. They showed off her fabulous legs, hips and butt in a manner that was very cruel to all of the horny old men in the surrounding area.

Some guys might like the typical fashion-model bird-legs. But women with well-developed and muscular calves and thighs are irresistible to me. My ex-wife had a beautiful pair of legs. But, Ariadne’s legs were sculptural masterpieces. They were muscled like she had grown up in gymnastics, or dance. But they were extra-long in proportion to her tiny body. They ended in a taut set of rounded hips and a bubble butt that screamed both strong, and fruitful.

She stood there waiting patiently holding her boyfriend’s hand, with one of her stunning round hips shot out. That position showed off a gorgeous butt cheek in a manner that was not helping my erection problem. I finally got things under control and said, “Well, I’m going back to the ship.”

Ariadne said, “Can you and Frank go back by yourselves. I want to do a little more shopping.” Frank said eagerly, “I can stay with you.” But Ariadne said a little too hastily, “No, I want to poke around without a man looking over my shoulder.” Any prudent guy will remove himself from a woman’s presence when she says something like that. So Frank and I took the launch back to the ship. I knew that Ariadne was headed for an internet café.

I was getting dressed for dinner when she came bursting into the room looking excited. She said, “I just checked. They are thinking about lifting the bounty. Most of them believe that you are dead. There are still a few holdouts but I spent some quality time encouraging them to get real.” Obviously the Red Dragon had been working virtual space on my behalf. One of the most disturbing things about my new situation was how easily I could forget who Ariadne really was.

The next day the ship landed us in Castries City, capitol of the sovereign island nation of St. Lucia. We were barely off the coast of South America at that point and the weather was truly equatorial, meaning the sun weighed a ton and the ocean breezes could not quite kill the humidity. The greenery was more verdant, even more so than it was in the northern part of the Windward chain. And the smell was tropical.

Our room on the ship was air conditioned. That was the reason why Buster looked at me like I had lost my mind when I said, “Let’s take a walk old buddy.” But we were getting off. And leaving everything, including Frank, behind. It was a total disappearance. I didn’t pack anything. Neither did Ariadne. We would get what we needed once we got onshore. Somebody else had paid for everything that we had bought up to that point and we could pick up anything we needed thanks to Ariadne’s particular set of skills. So it was easy to just leave everything, except my dog.

Ariadne’s family had a villa in the Cap Estate area on the northern tip of the island, west of Rodney Bay. Castries City is south and east of there. We flagged down a creole in a decrepit 1950s Plymouth. He seemed to be offering a taxi service, and God knows what else. His name was Jean-Claude. He had that classic island lilt and a machine-gun delivery, and for the entire trip up to the compound he never stopped talking about the people who lived there.

The villa was owned by three sisters and their families. One of them was Bill Hughes and his wife. That had already been established, since Ariadne was going to use it. The other two were sisters of Hughes’s wife along with their husbands. Jean-Claude said that he had been a long-time close companion of the younger sister’s husband, while that fellow was down here on St. Lucia. In fact, the guy had actually met his future wife there. The other sister was a millionaire businesswoman and it was her money that had bought the place. Jean-Claude told us that THAT sister was married to some sort of shadowy figure who the natives thought worked for the CIA.  

We got to the place and it was indeed impressive. Jean-Claude dropped me, Ariadne and Buster at the gate. It was a mere fifteen-foot-tall specimen of wrought iron. Ariane walked up to the keypad, which was part of the speaker built into the right-hand pillar. She entered an 8-digit identity code. The gate began to silently swing open and we walked down a tree-lined crushed white coral driveway toward a house that I still couldn’t see beyond the trees.

We walked around a sweeping corner and it was breathtaking. The mansion itself was neatly fitted into the downslope of a luxuriant green ridge that ran perhaps a quarter mile down to a 50-foot cliff above the bluest ocean imaginable. The building was gleaming white. The grounds themselves were verdant, landscaped and perfectly manicured. The entire area smelled of flowers and palm trees and all you could hear were the sounds of the ocean, the tropical birds, and somebody mowing the lawn far below.

I said admiringly, “That’s some very big money down there.” Ariadne said matter of fact, “That’s my Aunt Mary. My mom and dad do alright financially. But they couldn’t just drop four million cash, like Aunt Mary can. She bought the place out of the blue, to use as a refuge to nurse her new husband back to health. He was wounded in Mexico where the two of them met. I don’t know the whole story and I don’t want to know it. But my Aunt Millie took care of Mary’s husband here. She’s a world-renowned surgeon, so she was the right person to do it.” I was thinking to myself, “Yes… the women in Ariadne’s family are ALL as exceptional as she was.”

We were walking toward the house with that metaphoric elephant trooping along with us. I wanted to dispose of our troublesome pachyderm as fast as possible. So I said, “I know who you are Chelsea.” She didn’t look surprised. She said, “I was pretty sure that bitch recognized me. She’s the ex-wife of a friend of my dad’s. She got a lot of money in the divorce even though she was the one who was having the affair.” I was thinking, “Is anybody EVER faithful?”

Chelsea went on with, “That’s right, my real name is Chelsea Hughes. I am an almost 29-year-old MIT graduate working for Motorola in Marlborough, Massachusetts. My dad’s name is Bill Hughes and my mother’s name is Maddie. I am a very conventional girl as far as my family is concerned. Nobody knows about my other identity and needless to say I want to keep it that way.”

I said smiling, “You aren’t the Red Dragon and Tommy Meissner is dead. We keep each other’s secrets.”  She smiled back at me. It was like I surprised her. I said, “What!!??” She said, “Always together, just you and me, no people getting between us, we start over from here. I can’t believe it. That’s what I have dreamed of my whole life; one man, one love.” Her proclamation gave me another hard-on.

St. Lucia is a former French Island. So naturally the housekeeper was French. She greeted Chelsea like a long-lost relative. It was an entirely different side of my young friend. The new role was “lovely little family princess.” It was weird, particularly knowing what I did about her. The princess persona just didn’t come close to fitting Chelsea’s genius mind, or the Red Dragon’s track record.

Obviously, Chelsea had always been the beautiful one, the one who was the debutant. I could imagine how grinding being saddled with all of those genteel, white-glove expectations might have been, especially for a fiery personality like Chelsea’s. And it was probably the reason why she had rebelled. The Red Dragon was definitely on the opposite end of the spectrum from the girly-girl identity that had been forced off on her by her family.

I finally asked her to tell me how she had become such a hacker extraordinaire. We were sitting on the patio in her little piece of paradise, watching the gorgeous tropical day unfold. I said, “It must have been very difficult for you growing up. I suppose that was why you turned to a life of crime.” She gave me a grim smile and said, “You have NO idea!!! The expectations for a girl like me have always been spirit crushing.”

She said a little sadly, “My parents are rich and I am beautiful. Both of them are relatively enlightened, at least when it comes to bourgeois ideas about how girls should be raised, especially my mother. But they just couldn’t see past my looks.”

She added with some heat in her voice, “My older half-brother Billy, who I might add is the only other male I totally adore, flies with the Blue Angels and my younger sister Janey plays on the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team. My youngest brother Tom is a hacker and a prodigy like me. But he is a white-hat. In fact, we have been on opposite sides in a couple of exploits.”

She smiled impishly, “I knew it was him, but nobody would ever guess that the Red Dragon was little Chelsea Hughes, belle-femme of Georgetown. Both my Dad and Aunt Millie’s husband are big-time computer security gurus. They worked with Tom all of the time he was growing up to make him into what he is. But they never even considered working with me. I wasn’t supposed to be anything but the family’s gorgeous little gem and ultimate marriage bait.”

I could hear the anger in her voice as she said, “So as soon as I got to MIT I started fooling around on the Dark Side. The coursework itself was boring and way too easy and so I had a lot of time on my hands. Plus, I had access to the entire hacker culture through the student population.” I was thinking to myself, “Boring? Easy? What kind of woman is this?”

Chelsea was on a roll now. She said, “The more I hacked the better I got. I started with simple little exploits and it was more of a social thing. It was like a game among the students. But those were too easy so I started doing some trivial professional jobs off advertisements on the Dark Web. I liked the thrill of being wicked. And I got better-and-better until I eventually got the reputation I have now.”

She said with bitterness not conceit, “I was still the beautiful Chelsea. And I still lived the preppie girl lifestyle, which is unavoidable in the Cambridge area. But I was getting into much more intensive hacks and it was taking all of my time. So I stopped having a social life.”

She looked at me seriously and said, “As you know, virtual space is a world unto itself. And it was the only place where I was judged on my merits, not the size of my booty. It was liberating and I was an addict. I did whatever was necessary to keep up the pretense that my life was as it had always been, lovely little Chelsea going to work and occasionally running through the single girl club scene. But my only reality was in cyberspace as the Red Dragon and I was desperately alone.”

Her look was brooding. It was an expression that I wore all of the time before meeting her. She said, “I had nobody who I felt any kinship with and so I was completely closed off emotionally. That is, until I got your assignment. At first I thought you were nothing more than a nerd with a grudge. But the more I did the backgrounding on you, the more I came to see who you were, how badly you had been abused and how bravely you faced things. So I dug down a whole lot further.”

Her face brightened and she said, “The more I studied you, the closer my soul got to yours, until I had developed an absolute sense of affinity with you; it was an all-consuming crush, even if you were still just a faceless customer. There was no way that I could get in touch with you without sacrificing my own anonymity, and I couldn’t trust you enough to do that. Then my colleagues put you on the chopping block and I knew that I had to act; no matter what the consequences were for me.”

She looked at me somberly and said, “I want to be honest with you. I have probably stolen four or five hundred million dollars in my time as the Red Dragon, most of it from companies that didn’t even notice that it was gone. I gave away most of what I got from those exploits; to charities and needy people. I have kept a few million to feather my nest. I might be a thief. But I have never purposely harmed a single individual in my life – with the exception of your ex-wife and her friends.

They deserved what happened to them and I can get pretty medieval when somebody I love has been messed with. She got a brief look of satisfaction. It was like she was recalling a particularly pleasant moment; a good meal, or an especially fun day at the beach. It was astounding. I realized that, even before we met I was important to her. Her ability to empathize with me through the events of my life was a lot more amazing feat of intellect than her renowned abilities in cyberspace.  

She smiled grimly, and went on with, “Nobody will ever catch me because I am a ghost. Cyberspace is comfortably faceless and anonymous for people like me.” I already knew that. But she was laying it all out on the table, and I felt like it was important to let her finish her confession.

She said with pride, “Everybody thinks that the Red Dragon Revolution is a conglomerate of hackers in China. It would never dawn on even the most astute investigator that the whole organization is actually just a twenty-eight-year-old girl living in Cambridge Massachusetts.”

I completely understood what she was saying. Thanks to 256-bit encryption and an infinite number of proxy servers there was absolutely no possibility that a hacker of her caliber would EVER get caught. Nevertheless, Chelsea’s hacking didn’t bother me any more than her sexual history. That was in the past; a different context. NOW she chose to be solely devoted to me. And that choice was the basis of my faith in her.

You honestly can’t love someone if you don’t trust them. Trust is built through a shared history of life decisions and those are powered by each person’s ability to understand and care about the impact of their actions on their partner. For 22 years Heather and I were more-or-less sympatico. Then she lost the connection. That fact was obvious in her hurtful behavior. THAT lack of empathy led her to make one VERY bad choice, at least where I was concerned. In fact, her failure to make the RIGHT choice was the main reason why it was so easy for me to walk away from her.

On the other hand; there was no question that Chelsea and I were on the exact same page regarding our sympathy and consideration for each other. So, I was certain that she would choose wisely, when faced with any choice involving me. Hence, it was absolutely undisputable that I could trust her. I said, “Okay, I know how YOU got to this place and you obviously know how I got here. So what are you going to do going forward?”

She looked at me lovingly and said, “Why I will be your life-long companion and lover. That is, until the children come along and then we will also be parents.” She paused and looked at me seriously. She said, “I know that you were a wonderful dad. I also know that this is the second time around for you… regrettably!!! So I am willing to raise our children without much help from you. I come from a really big family and I love kids. So I want to have three or four.”

Chelsea’s assumptions were logical. Better yet, it showed how much she cared about me.  I HAD been there and I HAD all of the parenting t-shirts. But Chelsea did NOT understand that she was offering me rebirth. The first time around I had done all the right things, married, had kids. That aspect of my life had been very fulfilling. Then the fruits of that labor were snatched away by Heather’s Paris fiasco. After the inevitable divorce, I felt like my entire time on this earth had been wasted. Then this beautiful little angel drops out of virtual space and shapes a truly fresh start for me. In effect I would be allowed to relive all of the gratifying experiences of my past married life and maybe not make the same mistakes.  

My getting together with Heather had been the typical, unthinking, hot-blooded coupling-up that every normal kid does. This time my lovely Chelsea and I were going to talk through all of the terms and conditions. Her obvious personal integrity and intellectual confidence convinced me that I could discuss sensitive things with her, in a rational fashion. I knew that once we had done that, I could be sure of her absolute commitment. But I had to lay the cards on the table – just in case.

I said, “Are we talking about marriage here? If so there are two conditions.” Her face fell. I knew that she expected me to lay down some classic boneheaded rules. I said, “First and foremost I want you to put the Red Dragon away. She has wrecked enough havoc for a lifetime and I do not want the mother of my children spending the rest of her life in a super-max.” Her perfect face glowed.

I added, “And I never want us to misunderstand each other. The minute either one of us has any question, or concern, we will raise it and resolve it, no matter how sensitive it might be. I have a feeling that I would still be married if my ex-wife had told me early-on about her insecurities; oh, and by the way, I have no regrets since I have seriously traded up with you.”

She laughed modestly and I continued with, “But, there cannot be misapprehensions and secrets in a happy marriage and I want to make sure that we are always in synch with each other. So you have to agree to raise any problem that you encounter, and make sure we resolve it. Even if there has to be some serious ass-kicking in the process.”

She had been nodding impatiently as I was saying that. I said, “You look like you have something to say.” She said with a huge smile, “Of course I agree to all of that. But more importantly, when do we get around to consummating the marriage?”

I rose to face her and she launched herself into me, one arm around my neck and the hand of the other one on the back of my head dragging me down to a passionate open mouthed kiss. For an instant I was saying to myself, “She’s only 28!!!” I know… I think too much… Then she moaned loudly. My brain was telling me, “I heard that same noise out in the passageway of the ship” and I had an instant pang of unreasoning jealousy. Then the rational part of my brain told me to “shut the fuck up.”

Her mouth was wide open, she was making passionate little cries and it was obvious that she wasn’t going to be letting go of my neck anytime soon. So I swept her up in my arms Fabio style; which was easy to do, since she was light as a feather. I carried her across the patio and into our bedroom. The bedrooms all face the sea, along the expanse of the patio. Our door was open to the ocean breezes. So I carried her over to the bed. Meanwhile, she had her arms around my neck, fervently kissing me.

Part of me had to be aware of the navigation issues because she was clearly lost in her own passion. She was panting, gasping and making little guttural cries as her lips worked on mine and her tongue slid in and out of my mouth. My last thought was, “If smart girls are passionate then Chelsea Hughes must be the smartest girl in the world.”

I unpeeled her arms from my neck and tossed her on the bed. She was lying there totally abandoned. Her delectable little chest was heaving with passion and her intelligent green eyes were completely clouded with lust. She had been wearing one of her tropical weight linen sun dresses which was bunched around her waist. And it was obvious from the twisting of her hips and the constant cries that I had better get down to business, or she was going to start without me.

I had planned something a little more romantic for our first time together; than an all-out jungle fuck. But it was obvious that both of us had over-prolonged the father-daughter charade. All I could do was drop my pants, fix bayonets and charge. Her legs were widely spread, feet arched, toes pointing straight out at an almost ninety-degree angle. I climbed between her full muscular thighs and pulled her thong aside. I could feel the heat and the smell was intoxicating.

She was already humping greedily at me, even before I even made contact with her. The moment I entered her she threw her hips up in a ravenous gesture and I disappeared to the hilt into extreme lubrication. I had been thinking that she was probably as starved for this moment as I was. But between her shrieking and the sheer physical readiness of her body I got the sense that it had been more difficult for her to keep up the pretense, than it had been for me.

She was a total paradox. She is a tiny woman. But the sense that I got entering her was that she was the personification of the most powerful kind of female sexuality. Her hips were wide and fruitful and totally receptive. Her insides were in a frenzy. I had never felt the kind of continuous hot pulsating reception that I was getting from her; and she hadn’t even cum yet.

Her face was a mask of passion, head thrown back, eyes screwed shut and mouth wide open as she shouted her desire. I was totally in control of the moment, because she was so completely out of control. I reached up and gently pulled the spaghetti straps off her arms and rolled her top down.

I had never seen breasts like hers. In some respects, they might be considered huge, since there was a lot of breast flesh. But they were laid out in a way that was wider and flatter than it was protruding. They were mammalian perfection; sturdy little hills, completely solid, and broad, with built in cleavage. And it was one more evidence of this woman’s almost unworldly faultlessness.  

Her nipples were large and very brown and she was writhing them against my chest making sharp little cries of sensation while she ground her mound on me. I was resting in her up to the hilt, holding myself on my arms and watching her fuck herself to an orgasm. It was an uncannily arousing sight. Suddenly, her insides fizzed, her eyes opened wide, startled, lost in her passion, and then rolled up in her head. Then she came with an internal force that drove an exhalation out of her like I had punched her in the stomach.

To that point, her legs had been open and elevated in the classic female fucking position. But as she came, they shot impossibly wide, her hips elevated so that it created a fulcrum where the only part of me that was touching her was where we were joined. Then her heels slammed down hard on the bed and she began beating a tattoo of ecstasy, every muscle in her little body was tensed to the maximum.

I was not really being rational at that point myself. No male would be anything but highly motivated if they had witnessed the performance that Chelsea was putting on. We all like to think that we can make a woman cum. But this woman’s orgasm was an out of body experience. It made me feel like King Kong using John Holmes’s cock. That feeling of sexual power quickly got me around to the agonizingly exquisite cumming part.

I think that she might have passed out after she finished. Because she was totally slack. Then she seemed to come alive again and her desire instantly flamed into a second super-orgasm. She was clearly a moaner and a shrieker rather than a talker. But as I was in that last disjointed moment myself, I could hear her shouting, “Yesssss!!! Give it to me!!! I want it all!!! I loooove youuuu!!!!”

We had both been blown to a galaxy long ago and far away. So recovery time was much longer than usual. It featured a lot of frantic panting, aftershock moans and indeterminate liquids. I eventually shrank out of her and that sort-of got us both back to the ordinary plane of existence. She uttered a little groan of loss and opened her spellbinding eyes. She looked a little anxious so I said, “What??” She said, “Did that scare you away? I am normally pretty abandoned but I was totally out of control with you. I have no memory of the last twenty minutes except intense sensation.”

Once again, I was hit by a little pang of jealousy. The way I felt about this woman I couldn’t handle the idea that any other guy had ever had sex with her. I told myself that attitude was a little juvenile; given the fact that Chelsea was almost 29 years old, had lived in Cambridge for ten years, was totally gorgeous and that she didn’t know that I existed prior to six months ago.

I said, “Let me see here? You just gave me more sheer passion than I have ever experienced from a woman. And you made me cum in ways that I have never even conceived possible, let alone experienced. So NO I am not frightened by anything than the thought that you might give such a precious gift to another man.”

She looked at me dreamily and said with deep conviction, “That will never happen. I am bonded to you in ways that I never expected. And ironically, that is in light of the fact that I had already decided that you were husband material before I even met you. I am yours and I will always be yours.”

I said, will you feel the same way when you are in your sixties and I’m drooling on my shoes?” She whacked me on the arm, her broad breasts jiggled like a couple of puddings, and she said, “Wilson women mate for life. And I will be your wife, lover, mother of your children and your loving caregiver at every stage of it. We are ageless in our souls, you and me. So the chronological difference is meaningless. I will be with you for better or worse and I am always yours.”

As I looked at the superb naked beauty lying next to me I believed her, and I trusted her and I knew that thanks to her I was about to be reborn, a new man without regrets.

We spent a couple of weeks enjoying the peace and quiet that sheer wealth and luxury can bring. The sex was wild; more like an affair than married life. We made love like a couple of kids. Of course Chelsea really WAS a kid, energetic, spirited, giving and insatiable. Me? Not so much.

We both accepted that there was an unavoidable difference in age. She had to get used to the fact that I was 47 years old. And I had to get used to the uninhibited freedom from hang-ups that her generation enjoys. I benefitted from her enthusiasm but I was also clearly not as young as I used to be.

That didn’t matter in the slightest to Chelsea. She took greedily, but she gave as good as she got. And it was abundantly clear that the sex was simply her means of expressing her love in physical terms, not an absolute end in itself. So if I couldn’t get out to the starting line for the fourth lap, she would simply lay there hugging me with the most ecstatically contented look on her face.

The fact was that Chelsea was a different person than Heather. Much deeper emotionally, and simply more intelligent. Most significantly, although the sex was superb it was secondary. It was just a byproduct of our incredibly powerful sense of identification with, and attraction to, each other. And in many respects we were both remade as a couple by our joining.

That reconstructing was literal in my case. Records are kept on computers and somebody with Chelsea’s skills can make you into anything she wants; sometimes whether you like it or not. My new incarnation was interesting. I was a millionaire, venture capitalist who invested in a lot of humanitarian projects. My extensive social media profile was a masterpiece of deception; as was the necessary record trail.

The Red Dragon painted the picture as she saw me, simple, loving, decent and honorable. But not even my ex-wife would recognize the active, sophisticated bon-vivant Chelsea created; with a little help from Photoshop. My pictures required some alterations because of my past life. I was always faceless to the hacker community. But everybody who knew me in my past life would still remember what I looked like. So, a purportedly dead man who was continuing to show-up on Facebook might raise some questions.  

I had disappeared at sea. At least, that’s what the investigative records that Chelsea had planted said had happened. I had gotten into a little fishing boat and motored out several miles into the Gulf to do some fishing, never to be seen again. So Thomas Miller Meissner was declared dead in due course. I had decent life insurance and between, the proceeds from my 401k and the sale of the trailer both kids did all-right. It wasn’t their fault that their mother lost her mind. I still follow them on social media.

We decided to marry in a small ceremony at the compound. Since I was a fictional construct and her large extended family would never understand, we decided to keep that event just between the two of us. The Justice of the Peace and a couple of paid witnesses, one of whom was the ubiquitous Jean-Claude, were the only participants.  

Because my personal history was a product of creative writing, not an actuality, we needed to put a little time and space between my arriving fully fledged on this earth, phony history and all, and the “meet the parents” event.  Chelsea was part of a loving family group and she was its crown jewel. Her sudden and unexpected marriage would raise concerns. Those were issues that neither of us wanted to deal with; especially the question about who the dirty old man was. Hence, for the time being we agreed to keep our marriage as clandestine as the Red Dragon.

The wedding night was no more spectacular than any other night. That was because it was impossible to improve on perfection. I came out of the bathroom to find my wife lying there naked and waiting in all of her exquisite glory. It caused a momentary psychic wrench. It was hard for me to believe that I could be so fucking lucky. Heather had left me for dead and this wonderful woman had resurrected me into a lifetime of peace, tranquility and love.

It seems like impossible odds when you tote-up the many factors that conspired against our getting together. I was nineteen years older than she was. I had been through the wringer in my first marriage and the last thing I wanted to do was to trust one of those deceitful creatures again. While in her real life, Chelsea was the original fairy tale princess; the preppie debutant with the stunning looks, awesome mind and the Scarlett O’Hara lifestyle. And of course a lot more disturbingly, she was also a sinister global figure, feared by every CEO of every avaricious corporation in the world.

There was no conceivable way that we SHOULD have been able to fit together. But we did. And we did it at a level of consonance that was so deep and binding that I just KNEW that we would never be apart in this lifetime. The reason was simple. We both wanted the same thing; to spend our lives with one other totally likeminded person and we were both dedicated to THAT proposition.

Chelsea had seen and understood our compatibility while she was turning my life inside-out. She was astute far beyond her years. And her decision to be mine took place well before she actually met me. I felt the same sense of accord, almost right away. It came even as she was maneuvering me out of the clutches of the Dark Web. So I couldn’t acknowledge it yet. But, at least I was smart enough to realize that Chelsea was not Heather and so I was able to put all of my preconceived notions about women aside and begin to make the commitment in my own mind.  

I knew I would never regret it. That is because It is the soul, not the package. I had missed that piece of important insight the first time around. But my new wife’s loving and deeply nurturing spirit just spoke to me. As she slid the covers back she said, “Welcome to your life my love.” Then she pressed her superb little body against mine. I said with utter gratitude, “And thank you for giving it to me my love.”


Chelsea was sitting at the workstation in our den. My wife might be shopping on-line, or she might be dropping a global corporation to its knees. Given her particular set of skills, you can never tell what might be happening when Chelsea Newhouse is in front of a computer. Little Brookie was sitting there; giggling. Brookie is only five. But I got the impression that her mother was already introducing her to a brave new world.

I have never had any trouble accepting the fact that my pretty little wife can rain utter hellfire and damnation on anything, or anybody, she chooses. I knew going into the marriage what her capabilities were. But I also knew that Chelsea had the moral integrity of an Archangel; in her own special way. It was just that her views on what constituted a proper reckoning might be a tad Old Testament.  She hates bullies or people, who take advantage of the helpless. So once in a while she has to let the Red Dragon level the playing field.

It’s nothing more than a hobby for her. But it’s also like the story of my life. Some people have wives who win cooking contests. Mine is a shadowy global super-heroine. She is a passionate woman and I understand her desire to right truly egregious wrongs. I feel the same way. But while regular husbands might hear about injustice and think, “I wish I could do something about that”, my wife is one of the few people on earth who can actually get a little payback; even if she might topple the occasional third world regime in the process.

More important, it’s not Chelsea’s decision alone to release the Red Dragon. We carefully think through the justifications and consequences and consider the benefits together. It might be vigilante justice, but we always act together. That is also one more example of how close we are to each other. And I have to tell you that I get a lot of personal satisfaction watching my stunningly beautiful wife cleave the ungodly with the sure, swift sword of digital reckoning.  

All, in all, I am a happy and contented man and Chelsea is the perfect wife, even while she is saving the world. We decided to permanently settle on St. Lucia. So we bought our own compound closer to Donkey Beach. I am not going to get into the details of how that got paid for. Suffice it to say that we shared the cost through some numbered accounts; you believe that – right?

Enough time had passed that we decided to hold the “meet the parents” event. It had to happen sooner or later. But that timeline was accelerated radically by the fact that Chelsea was already three months pregnant. I was extremely nervous. It was obvious that I had robbed the cradle. And standing next to my tiny, already clearly expecting wife I felt like the world’s most debauched geezer. Especially given the fact that her mother was only two years older than me.

Her mom was perhaps the hottest GILF in the universe, completely different from her daughter. Chelsea is maybe five-one, small boned and exquisite. Chelsea’s mother is only five-two. But she has a body that is every teenage boy’s sweatiest wet dream. She has Chelsea’s hourglass figure. It is just so much more exaggerated, wide hips, incredibly tiny waist and huge tits. Also, her mother radiates sensuality, where Chelsea comes off cool and intellectual. Nevertheless, they both share the same boundless intelligence and strength of spirit. And I also know that they have the same inner fire.

Hughes and I had never actually met. So I wasn’t concerned that he would recognize me. But at the same time it was eerie encountering somebody from your old life. Both parents were remarkably understanding. It almost seemed like they had been through the exact same experience; meeting and marrying somebody who was not a likely partner.  We had a story prepared that Chelsea had backfilled with a lot of circumstantial evidence. It was a fairy tale worthy of Cinderella; involving charity balls and whirlwind romances in Boston. It would stand up to scrutiny. But of course it was total bullshit.  

It didn’t matter anyway. All Chelsea and her mother, whose name was Maddie, could think about was the impending birth of our little girl; who we had decided to name Brooklyn. Maddie clearly loved children, so much so that she would have probably been satisfied if my wife had been knocked up by a turkey baster. The result was that she and Hughes promptly moved into the Cap Estates compound in order to stay closer to the grandchild. I got the impression that Hughes didn’t really have much of a say in the matter.

The birth was a life-altering event, which in my estimation paid me back for all of the suffering that I had gone through at Heather’s hands. And I loved that precious little bundle far beyond human logic. She had a full head of auburn hair and all of the Wilson beauty. More importantly, she was my own special angel. My life would be dedicated to making HER happy.

Looking at the two of them laughing together, my wife and my child, I was overwhelmed by my usual neurotic devils. It was just TOO MUCH good fortune!! I said to myself, “Things like this don’t happen to people like me!!!” Then my rational mind kicked in and I thought with some irony, “Every normal person’s life is a lot longer than they realize. And all things are redeemable in the end. So, if you stay in the game, make the right decisions and act on them with resolve, you can turn anything around.  The fact was that; all my hopes and expectations didn’t vanish when Heather betrayed me. Instead, I found better ones.

Admittedly it took a lot of dumb luck. But I knew what I wanted as soon as Chelsea showed up in my life. And more importantly I acted on that knowledge with single-minded purpose. So if there is any moral to my tale it is this, “Your life is shaped by the choices you make and you aren’t out of options until you are dead. So, when the right opportunity presents itself, you had better grab it and hang on for dear life.” That simple little piece of wisdom was the REAL foundation of my bright and beautiful new world.

© Copyright 2020 DT Iverson. All rights reserved.

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