The red light on the old answering machine that her husband had never gotten rid of was still flashing, as it had been for days. She continued ignoring it. She no longer had any friends, no one who would call her so it was either a message for Cameron, one more thing he had left dangling, or it was a telemarketer’s robo-call.
The funeral had been lengthy, and as she was the grieving widow, she had felt obligated to stay for the entire reception afterward. She had shaken hands with everyone, answered greetings, and thanked people for their condolences, but other than the employees she had met that week, she had recognized no one at the service. They were all people Cameron knew through his business or the Rotary—two aspects of his life she had been excluded from. Still, she had done her duty.
She had always been a quiet, somewhat naïve woman, even at thirty-two when she met Cameron. She had applied for a job at his firm, and gotten it. At the interview, she had met a large, handsome, charismatic man who gave the impression he was a secret romantic. He had seemed kind.
Despite having fallen for him at first sight, she had refused to date him for more than a year. Eventually, she had succumbed to his charm and agreed to have dinner with him. They were married two months later.
His death had happened so suddenly. One minute she was cleaning the attic, and the next minute she was answering the door, talking to two policemen who told her that her husband had been killed in a terrible accident on the expressway.
She had thanked them for letting her know what had happened.
They had been concerned about her and asked if she had any relatives or close friends to come and stay with her. She didn’t, but had lied, saying she would call a friend. The truth was, she had no one to celebrate with, so she had called a cab and went to the mall. She bought a smart new wardrobe, all in celebratory black, picked up a new laptop computer, and then bought a cell phone and an iPad.
Cameron had taken away her cell phone, saying it was too expensive, and she didn’t need one. It was the same reason he’d given for taking away her car. The only computer she had had the use of was the old one that was hers when they were married, and it was barely functional.
When she arrived home that night, she had a few moments of panic that he would find out she had spent the money, but soon her common sense reasserted itself. She was still a licensed CPA and would need all those things if she was going to get a job.
Cameron had cut her off from her friends and taken the joy of living from her, and no matter what she did to try to please him it wasn’t enough.
From the instant she had signed the marriage certificate, his sole purpose in life had been to control her every waking moment. He had never physically abused her, but he seized every opportunity to drive home how dependent on him she was, how she was nothing, without him.
And no matter what, Cameron always had to have the last, triumphant word.
For the last five years, she had wished him gone. Never dead, but just…not there. And now he was gone.
Not just gone, but dead.
After her first rush of euphoria, Jayne had put away her credit card, wondering how she would pay the bills as they never seemed to have any extra money. The first thing Cameron had made her give up was her job. He claimed he earned enough, and her working made him look bad. She hadn’t pursued it, as she had learned early on that no one ever got anywhere by disagreeing with him—Cameron always had the last word.
The next morning, Jayne went to the office at nine o’clock and introduced herself to the employees, none of whom had been there for more than a year. She explained what had happened, and asked them to continue working as if Cameron were there. She also said that the office would be closed for his funeral, which she thought would be on Friday.
They seemed stunned and offered her their sympathies. She sensed they hoped his demise meant they could look for work elsewhere, but were too polite to ask. After that, she made one more splurge and had her hair cut in an edgy new style at the shop next door to Knight Accounting.
Then she met with their attorney to make the funeral arrangements. That was when she discovered that Cameron had left her rather well off.
The lawyer had set her up with all the authorizations she needed to prove to the financial institutions that she was Cameron’s surviving spouse. As she didn’t actually know anything about their finances or how he managed them, she had then gone to the bank, getting printouts of all the monthly statements. That night she had made a detailed spreadsheet of who she owed money to, and how much.
During the next week, while the lawyer handled the details of her husband’s estate, Jayne immersed herself in Cameron’s financial life. The day after her visit to the lawyer she had purchased a modestly priced car and then returned downtown to the offices of Knight Accounting.
Ignoring the curiosity of the staff, she locked herself in Cameron’s office and methodically inspected his private files. It had been easy to log into his computer, as he used a ridiculously stupid login for everything—his birthday.
What she had discovered had given her pause.
Cameron had been systematically funneling money out of his own company and into offshore banks where he would owe no taxes. Not embezzling from the clients—thank god, not that.
It also appeared that he had lost many of his long-time customers, good clients who had left him for other, friendlier firms.
His funeral was finally over. All week long, she had been laying the groundwork for…what? She didn’t know, yet. But while she had sorted through everything and gathered information, she had deliberately put planning her future on hold until after his funeral.
And now that was done. She made herself a pot of tea.
Jayne had some crucial decisions to make. She could sell everything, sell the company and leave town. If she did that, she could start all over on a beach somewhere warm and sunny. She could live well, and would never have to worry.
But where was the challenge in that?
What she really should do, was sell the house and move into the rooms over Knight Accounting. If she worked at it, she could turn Knight into a respectable firm again. But she would change the name to Jayne Knight, Accounting.
She opened her iPad and began detailing a list of what she intended to do, starting on Monday when she would appear at Knight accounting and let them know her plans and that she was their new employer. The announcement of her changes would be followed by interviews with each employee and raises for those who chose to continue with her.
She glanced up and saw the light on the answering machine, still flashing. Sighing, she crossed the kitchen and pressed the button, allowing the message to play.
She nearly dropped her tea when Cameron’s voice emerged from the tinny speaker. Jayne shook her head, thinking about the man she had never actually known until she was married to him. “Traffic is hell tonight. I’ll be late….” His voice broke off, drowned out by a horrible cacophony of grinding, crashing sounds.
“Yes, Cameron.” She pressed ‘delete message,’ denying him the last word. “Indeed, you are.”
Jayne Has the Final Word © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved