It was quite chilly in Chicago, even for a November morning. The first snow of the season had fallen during the night and an ocean of white powder covered the ground. The sunlight streamed into Chapin’s bedroom window and caught her right in the face. She covered her eyes with her hand, sat up with a start and dropped her feet over the side of the bed.
She glanced at the clock as she grabbed her robe. It was just after 10:00 in the morning all she could think about was Jack, and not in a good way. She had called him the night before but there had been no answer. She knew he was avoiding her, knowing how angry she was going to be. She was sure that in his fantasy world, he truly believed they were still together. This was his justification for going to meet her parents as long as she didn’t tell him not to.
She knew he was just getting to work and there was no choice but to have it out with him, yet again. And the sooner the better. She jumped into a pair of blue jeans and a white T-shirt because she knew he would hate it. He always said it made her look ‘common’ and she should dress more to her status. This had always made her uncomfortable, but at this point she felt anything that made him uncomfortable was worth doing. She grabbed a heavy coat and headed out the door.
Jack worked as the station manager for WWLH, a large pop format station in the Chicago area. It was a station that Chapin never listened to. She thought most pop music was fairly souless. It was all about commercialism and full of nothing but Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson clones or boy bands fabricated for the consumption of adolescent girls.
The elevator doors parted and Chapin headed straight for the doors of WWLH radio. She swung open the door and walked in with a purpose. The receptionist smiled at her with a plastic kind of smile.
“Welcome to WWLH. Can I help you?” Even her voice sounded ‘pop’ to Chapin and it only served to irritate her more. She also appeared to be the typical dumb blonde with big boobs that Jack would hire for a receptionist.
“Jack Palero!” she stated emphatically. “I’m looking for Jack Palero”
“Is Mr. Palero expecting you, maam?”
“If he isn’t, then the bastard is a bigger nut job than I thought he was.” The receptionist cocked her head sideways and just stared at Chapin with a look of total confusion. Standing in a doorway, stood a bald man in a Black Sabbath t-shirt who almost shot Pepsi out his nose at the comment.
“Oh Jeez! Well, you obviously DO know the flaky bastard, don’t you?” the man chortled. “Oh wait, wait. Let me guess. You wouldn’t be that Chaplin chick? The girlfriend he’s always talking about? I figured it was only a matter of time before you showed up here. Of course I always pictured you carrying a deer rifle, but I see you’re more the revolver in the purse type. To each his own, I guess.” The man paused and took in the confused, yet still irritated look on Chapin’s face. “Shawn Thorpe…aka Shawno Gordo…you know….Shawno and the Gang?” He extended his hand.
She glanced at his hand and crossed her arms. “OK…let’s see…where should I start correcting you Mr. Thorpe?” Chapin’s normal laid back attitude gave way to her mother’s perfect diction, pronounced clearly in staccato tones. “First, the name is CHAPIN. Not CHAPLIN. Chaplin was a comic and I am not he. Second, I am in fact NOT Palero’s girlfriend and have not even seen him socially for 8 months. Third, I don’t own a deer rifle or a relvolver, although I am beginning to like the idea and fourth, you mean ‘Kool and the Gang’”. She began to glance back and forth between Shawn and the receptionist. “Now could one of you please point me in the direction of Palero?”
“I’m sorry, maam. If you don’t have an appointment, I’m afraid Mr. Palero won’t…” Shawn interrupted her.
“I got this one, Tiffany. You just sit there and think about how lucky you are to have been able to move here from the Canadia’s. Right this way, Ms. CHAPIN.”
“How many times do I have to tell you Shawn? It’s prounounced CANADA,” she said in a tone that had turned quite irritating.
Shawn opened the door he had been standing next to and motioned to Chapin. As they passed through the door he glanced back at Tiffany. “If you are Canadian, you are from Canadia. End of story!” he said and scurried through the door, closing it before she could respond. Chapin was waiting for him in the hall.
“This way” he said and motioned down the hall. “By the way. ‘Shawno and the Gang’ is my show. I’m the morning man around here.”
“Sorry. I write for Jazz Journal magazine so I don’t listen to much pop music.” Her tone of voice gave away her disdain for the genre.
“Yea, me either.” Shawn said as if a wave of depression had washed over him. “But they won’t let us play good music around here.”
“Wrong demographic?” She had know idea why she asked because she really didn’t care, but hell, the guy was guiding her where she needed to go.
“That’s what your boyfriend…”He caught himself mid sentence. “I mean…that’s what that ‘guy who claims to be your boyfriend but obviously isn’t, which tickles me to death because now Jen owes me five bucks’ thinks. Hey maybe while you’re beatin’ him for whatever reason you are going to beat him, you could beat him into letting me change the format?”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
They arrived at a closed door. A placard saying ‘Jack Palero – Station Manager’ hung in the center.
“Here it is. Now, before you go in, I gotta warn ya. The rooms not soundproof and the carpet stains real easy so no screaming and I’d recommend blunt trauma. You know, less blood to clean up.” Shawn grinned at her, grabbed the knob and opened the door.
“Hey Jack. You got a visitor.” Shawn said with a huge grin.
“Chapin? What are you doing here?” Jack asked with an obvious note of concern in his voice.
“What do you think I’m doing here, Jack ass?”
“Well, I can see you two wanna be alone, make out or something so I’ll just step out.” Chapin shot Shawn a dirty look. He held his hand up to his mouth as if trying to not let Jack hear what he was saying. “Remember. Blunt trauma. Call me when you’re done and I’ll help you hide the body.”
“Thorpe!” Paul snapped. “I told you not to wear that type of t-shirt around here. ‘Black Sabbath’ is not the image we here at WWLH are trying to convey. You need to go change it now and don’t make me tell you again.” It was obvious in Paul’s voice that he was trying to show off.
“Uhh…yea…I’ll get right on that, big guy.” With that, Shawn closed the door.
Chapin turned and looked at Jack. He was tall and thin with a runners build and always had a condescending smirk on his face. His hair was short, brown and always seemed to have too much gel in it.
“I’m sorry about that, sweetie. Sometimes the hired help is a little hard to handle,” Jack said, a note of condescension lingered in his voice. “I’m so glad you stopped by. Our schedules have just been so busy. I’m sorry we haven’t been able to spend more time together.”
Chapin’s jaw almost dropped to the floor. “You really are out of your fucking mind, aren’t you?” Her mind rattled with disbelief. She couldn’t believe he actually had it in his head that they were still together. She blinked and her mind snapped back to why she was here.
“Look Jack. First, there is no WE. WE are not together. WE have not been together in over eight months. And WE are definitely not going to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving. You can get that thought out of your head right now.” Chapin was speaking more aggressively than Jack had ever seen.
“Well, hun…” She cut him off.
“Don’t call me ‘hun’. I am not your ‘hun’. We are not anything to each other, so cut it out. Get it through your head.” Chapin was not going to let him get a word in. There was no reason to. He should have nothing to say. This was not an issue for discussion, just an end.
“Your parents DID invite me. We can’t disappoint them,” Jack said calmly, with his usual smile on his face.
“THERE IS NO WE!! Don’t you get it? NO US! NO WE! NOTHING!” She knew she was getting nowhere so she tried to calm down and start again. “Look, I will take care of my parents. I’ll send your regrets. Now, listen to me very closely because I really want you to understand this. I don’t want to be with you. I don’t want to date you. I don’t want to have any contact with you. I don’t want you to call me, email me, text me or anything else having to do with me. Do you understand? Have I made myself quite clear?” She was quickly becoming exhausted.
“You have made yourself perfectly clear, Chapin,” Jack said, still sporting the smile.
“I really hope so. I don’t want to have to go through this again.” The tone of her voice showed that she wasn’t convinced.
“Oh, I’m sure we won’t. I’m sure we just need a few days of alone time and then we’ll be able to address our issues much more calmly. We’ll get through this, baby. I just know we will.”
Chapin couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She was running out of ways to make it any more clear. She looked him right in the eyes. His eyes fell away. “Look me in the eyes so that I am sure you get this and you will know that I am serious.”
“Ok. Let me try to explain it one more way. I don’t want to have anything to do with you. If you contact me again in any way, on the phone, email, text or in person, especially if you try to show up at my parent’s house, I will call the police, have you arrested for harassment and take out a restraining order. You may consider this your final warning. I hope this makes it totally clear, although I’m sure it doesn’t because nothing else has. Maybe the authorities can convince you where I can’t seem to. Am I getting through to you? Am I making myself clear?” She was so mad that she was almost spitting when she talked.
“Ok, I got it,” Jack said. He lowered his head and looked at the top of his desk. He seemed to be dropping the fight, but Chapin knew he wasn’t. He was just placating her for the moment.
She opened the door, turned around and looked him right in the face. “I mean it, Jack. One more time and I’m calling the cops.”
She walked out the door only to see Shawn sitting on the couch outside the office.
“I thought you would have at least hit him or something,” Shawn said.
“Thorpe! I thought I told you….”
“Umm. I believe the lady said if you harass us, we are calling the cops,” he said, grinning ear to ear. “So I suggest you not push us. We will be taking our leave of you now, Jack!”
Chapin looked at him confused but he smiled and offered her his arm, which she took. She turned for one last look at Jack. “I mean it!” she said. She grabbed the knob and closed the door to Jacks office, turned and she and Shawn started down the hall arm and arm.
“So now what?” Shawn asked. “I think I should get out of here for a while and let him cool down.”
“I don’t know what you are doing, Mr. Thorpe, but I have to go cover the American Cancer Society benefit show. Some of us have to work.”
“You know, now that you mention it, I am supposed to MC that show. We could walk there together, if you would like. Actually, having you around would keep good ol Jackie away from me, what with the restraining order and all.” Shawn was only half kidding. He was sure he wouldn’t lose his job, but he knew he would have to listen to Jack bitch at him for awhile.
“OK. Where’s your car parked? I came here in a cab,” the irritation slowly dropping from her voice
“Well, I don’t have a car, but it’s only 7 blocks. We can walk. It won’t take long and I could definitely use the exercise.” Chapin reluctantly agreed and they headed for the elevator.
“I’m sorry you had to be involved in that,” Chapin said. “I hope he doesn’t come down on you too hard.”
“Nawww, I’m not worried about him. Nobody really takes him seriously. He’s only there because his uncle owns the station and his uncle is much more attached to the money making power of the station, which is me, than any nepotism he may feel he owes his nephew,” Shawn said with more than a hint of cynicism in his voice.
They exited the elevator and headed for the front door. The building faced West Irving Park Road and was just North West of Wrigley Field. The Metro, the venue for the fund raiser was just a couple of blocks up from Wrigley Field so they headed out. Chapin was glad she had worn flats and not heels.
“We’ve got a little time, do you mind if we grab a bit to eat?” Chapin hadn’t had anything to eat since the burrito the night before and was somewhat famished. “I don’t really know the area, but I assume you do,” she said to Shawn expectantly.
“Sure! Not a problem. ‘Bob’s Burgers’ is right up here, about another block. Best burgers and fries in this part of the city. “
“Perfect!” Chapin breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m a burger fiend!” she exclaimed.
“I, madam, am a burger connoisseur!” Shawn said in the most condescending tone he could muster. The exchanged a laugh and walked the block to Bob’s. Chapin ordered a standard cheeseburger and fries and, reluctantly, a Pepsi. Shawn had the bacon cheeseburger and settled into a booth.
“So, if you don’t mind me asking, what happened with you and ol’ J.P.?” Shawn asked.
She paused for a minute and debated whether to talk about it. She was initially inclined not to. As a reporter, she was used to trying to get the secrets out of other people but revealing her own was something she wasn’t used to. But she was beginning to view Shawn as an ally. He seemed to have quite a bit of disdain for Jack and an ally on the inside may help her situation, especially if she had to involve the authorities.
“We met at a friend’s party. I was kinda set up on a blind date with him, but my friend didn’t tell me. I just showed up, we got introduced and he had thought we were together ever since.” Chapin face winced a little at thinking about it.
“I assume that your friend is now your ex-friend,” Shawn said with a smile.
“Well, at first he didn’t seem too bad. It’s not like I fell head over heels for him or anything, but he seemed ok to hang out with. We dated on and off for about three months.”
“So how did it get from that to this?” Shawn asked.
“I came home from a business trip and…” Shawn interrupted.
“And you found him in your bed wearing your underwear? I knew it! At first I thought that pair of panties in his top desk drawer was his, but now I know the truth,” Shawn exclaimed with huge smile. He always tried to lighten a situation with humor when it got too tense. Of course, sometimes his humor could make the situation even tenser.
She grinned and smacked him on the arm. “You’re a real perv, you know that?”
“So those panties ARE his. The plot thickens. Continue…”
“Well, basically I went to hang some stuff up in my closet and it had… umm… changed… while I was gone.” She paused to try to think of a way to explain it, but decided just to blurt it out. “You see, I have a large walk in closet in my bedroom. I hadn’t lived there very long so I still had some stuff from my last move in cardboard boxes stacked in the closet. Now the boxes were gone.”
“He stole your cardboard boxes? Man, that guy is weird. And I just thought he stole your panties, but cardboard boxes? Mental ward for J.P., I tell ya.”
“Can you just leave my panties out of this?” she said with a smirk.
“You’re the boss. So missing cardboard boxes…”
“Yea, the boxes were gone, but they were replaced by matching blue storage containers, with all my stuff sorted and categorized.” Chapin shuttered just remembering it.
“You should never have let him move in with you. That was your first mistake.”
“Move in with me? Oh no, we didn’t live together. We had only been out maybe 10 or 12 times, but I accidentally forgot my keys one evening when we went out, so he saw where I hide the spare. I didn’t think anything about it at the time. I mean, I trusted him.”
“Mistake number one,” Shawn said. “Now let me get this straight.”
At that point, the waitress arrived with their food. Chapin was amazed at the size of the burger and felt a little intimidated. Shawn on the other hand looked like he was in hamburger heaven. The waitress asked if there was anything else and walked away.
Shawn continued. “Now let me get this straight. The pin head lets himself into your apartment, without permission. Goes through your closet, tears everything out of cardboard boxes, sorts everything out, puts it into nice new storage containers and re-stacks them? I wonder if I could get him to do that at my place. My wife, Jen, will love this story, but I can’t tell her!” Shawn paused. She has been on my ass for months to sort out some old stuff we have in boxes from our last move. If she finds out Jack did it for you, I’ll really be in the dog house.”
“Well, he also labeled each box with category and a contents list. Oh, and set up a database on my computer so I could,” Chapin made quotes in the air with her hands. “Track down which box something was in at the click of a mouse.”
She took a bite of her burger. Shawn was almost halfway done with his. “You were right,” she said staring at the burger in disbelief. “These things are really good!”
“Oh yea! They’re the best!” Shawn exclaimed. “So what did you do when you found the closet redone? Did you figure it was him?”
“I knew it was him. He left and note detailing how I should use the database and how the color coded Sharpies had special meanings and reminding me that I have to follow the system for it to work for me. He was very proud of himself.”
“You’re fucking kidding? Didn’t he see that what he had done was criminal, breaking and entering? Not to mention the whole psychotic, anal retentive, just plain nut job part.”
“Nope…just proud of himself.” Chapin got a chill. “Most of the time I just look at it as weird, but every once in a while when I tell someone about it, I mean, it’s like a fucking horror movie trailer or something.”
“Anyway, I told him we were through and I didn’t want to see him anymore. I found a new place to hide my key. I even changed the locks because I began to wonder if he had made copies of them.” She paused and took another bite. “These are seriously good fries!”
“And how long ago did all that happen?” Shawn asked.
“Let’s see. This is November and that was in March so 8 months or so. Why?” she asked.
“Because as far as we knew, you guys were still engaged as of yesterday.” Shawn’s face was a combination of amusement and concern. While Jack was really off his rocker and Shawn was worried about Chapin being able to get rid of Jack, he had to admit that just hearing the story was hilarious.
“Engaged!? We were NEVER engaged! He emails me a couple of times a week and will call every once in a while and that’s it. I send the emails directly to the trash and always tell him that there is nothing between us and he needs to move on!” She was getting mad again.
“Your first mistake was not calling the police when he broke in. Having that restraining order in place would be pretty handy right now, don’t cha think?” Shawn asked
Chapin stared at him. She was very frustrated with the whole situation and here was this guy she didn’t even really know making jokes about it. But she knew it was funny as hell from the outside. The thought of writing the whole thing down and turning it into a book had crossed her mind before. “Hind sight is twenty twenty, I guess. But hey, didn’t you say my first mistake was TRUSTING him?”
Shawn paused and grinned. “Oh touché madam. Touché!”