Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Kiel’s Secret

                                           Kiel’s Secret

          Things rarely went as planned for Kiel Barkley these days, his construction company was behind on its two biggest projects and his wife wanted a divorce. The bank was calling in one of his loans and in thirty days the loan on his second project would meet the same fate. All his subs were owed payments and his business account was in the red. Ten years building a good name and a reputation to see it crumble in less than six months. Twenty-three years of marriage and money was going to be the destroyer.
          Losing his company he knew would be hard on him but his wife had been his whole world, losing her he considered fatal. Freda had been supportive over the years while the money was coming in and spending it wasn’t a problem. Friday night dinners and a club for some dancing always seemed to make her happy. Girls night out with the office crowd and Saturday at the mall for new outfits, shoes for a closet that was about to burst, is what she called a good life. 
          Now here he was on the verge of ruins and she wanted out because according to her, she had nothing.  Kiel had promised her a big house and now he may not be able to deliver and that new car she wanted was also out of the equation.  On any given day Kiel came home to find his wife on the phone complaining to a co-worker or one of her friends about how miserable her life had become.  Flowers on Fridays were no longer accepted with kindness, a hug and a sweet kiss. Instead Freda made a frown combined with the slump of the right shoulder, left hand on a hip, a stare that could kill, ending by the rolling of both eyes and finally a silent kiss my back side as she walked away.
          At night their king size bed might as well be an ocean Kiel thought, as he laid there staring at the ceiling. Where once his wife slept so close he could taste her breath, now she was so far he couldn’t smell her perfume even if she doused in the bottle. Freda slept so close to the opposite edge he thought she might fall off one day. With her back to him there was no longer any pillow talk. Kiel’s thoughts would echo his father’s words, make it work son because God hates divorce.
          Kiel knew he was tired of trying. The more he did for his wife the worst the situation at home became. With both his son and daughter in college, to Kiel going home had become dreadful. Freda had once been his greatest adviser and motivator but these days she had become his accuser and discourager. Kiel felt trapped and with his back against the wall, with nowhere to turn and no one to confide in. On this one Monday morning he decided to take his Forman’s advice and go see Al.
          Albin Stravinsky was known for being helpful and also ruthless. He had come to the States without a penny to his name and quickly gained the respect of his Russian countrymen. He had started out as a look out for a small crimes gang. The gang mostly did break-ins on local businesses that wouldn’t pay for protection from the local Russian mob.
          One day while on look out a store owner returned at night to find Albin’s partners trashing his place of business and threatened to call the authorities. Albin followed the man into the store and without warning ended the man’s call and also his life. The following day Albin was called to the home of the leader for the local syndicate. Albin was not a man who feared anyone or anything but on that day he thought for sure that he would die for his action the night before. Albin was not a small man by any means at five foot eleven inches tall and one hundred and ninety pounds. But as he walked next to the two escorts he felt like a dwarf.
          He was asked to sit in a half empty room with only a desk and a few chairs. Albin looked around and with its dim lighting it looked like a death chamber to him. The minutes turned to a half hour before a man in a motorized wheel chair came into the room. The man introduced himself simply as Dieda and five minutes later he promoted Albin to collector and enforcer. Dieda gave him a new Lincoln town car and asked him to choose two of his former gang members, one as partner in crime and one as a driver. Dieda also handed him a large sum of money and politely asked him to buy himself and his two accomplice’s new wardrobes.
          For the next four years Albin became Dieda’s number one money earner and his right hand man. Seven years after that meeting Albin learned everything about the organization from money laundering, drug involvement, racketeering and loan sharking to its control of the prostitution in the city. Less than ten years from arriving in the states Albin personally assassinated Dieda and became the head of the organization in the city.
          Kiel entered into the four star restaurant that Albin owned and used to conduct most of his business. At the bar he asked to speak with Albin and was first met by two men who asked him to follow them to a private room in the back of the restaurant. After searching him for weapons and a wiretap he was asked the nature of his visit and who had given him Albin’s name.
          Five minutes later Albin entered the room and introduced himself and took a seat across from Kiel. The two spoke like they had been old friends and Kiel explained his predicament and the hole he find himself in. The two men talked and after an hour Albin laid out the terms of the loan and what he wanted in return for his help. Kiel found it a little risky and the vigorish a bit too high, but at the moment his choices were limited.  Albin ended the meeting by agreeing to meet at one in the afternoon on the following day at Kiel’s construction sites to finalize the deal.
          Three days later Albin and two of his associates, as he called them, arrived at one of the sites where Kiel was erecting an office building. The two went over the contract Albin’s lawyer had composed which stated that Albin and one of his companies would own forty percent of the project upon completion. Kiel knew he stood to make very little money at the end of the construction but under the circumstances, he had no other option.
          Two weeks after Kiel closed the deal with Albin he arrived home to find his wife’s closet and her dresser drawers empty and his wife gone without even a note saying good bye. The house seemed lonely and yet peaceful at the same time. That night without any warning or reason Kiel cried and missed his wife more then he thought he ever would. This became a daily emotional occurrence that Kiel had little control over. During the day he would have to get away from his office and co-workers, find a lonely and quiet place to grieve.
          At times he had no idea how long he would last before he would have no more strength or ambition to continue on with his current life. On weekends Freda would stop by and spend time with him more out of guilt then her want or pleasure of being there. They would sit by the pool and converse, laugh and play and before the sun went down Freda’s mood would change and she would have an excuse to leave. Kiel would walk her to the door where Freda would just say good bye without any physical contact and disappear into the evening till the following weekend. Three month later the visits became bi-weekly with the excuse that she had to do laundry for the coming work week. Other weekends her excuse was that she had been invited to a baby shower or a birthday party for women only. Kiel didn’t want to accept the fact that the woman he was in love with no longer loved him and may never come home again.  
          Freda had moved five miles away to a furnished apartment and was now questioning her decision. Six months before moving her friends had talked her into leaving her husband. “If you’re not happy than just get your own place”, they would say on their girl’s night out. “I left my husband”, one would say, “and I’m a lot better off without him” Another would bob her head saying, “I’ve been divorced twice.” While yet another one who always said, “and I’m happier now then when I was married”, but never said it with a smile but with a sad look on her face.
          Freda knew that all her friends had abusive men in their lives but this was not her case. Kiel was a good and decent man and had always treated her well and with lots of respect. She sat on the couch and thought of all she had left behind to live in a place that God only knew who had slept in the bed she now lays her head on every night. She didn’t want to admit it to herself but she missed the man she had tried so hard to push away for the last nine months. She also realized that she had let material things become the essential for living. She had become envious of others and of their possessions and had forgotten the vows she took over twenty years ago. For richer or for poorer, the thought just popped into her head and the tears just started to flow.
          The phone rang and at first she thought of just letting it go to voice mail but before she was finish with the thought she had answered the call. “Hello” she said while wiping the tears from her eyes. “Hey Freda this is Sandy, I’m calling to see if you want to go out with the girls tonight?” Freda thought for a minute before she answered. “No thanks, I’m not feeling well I think I’ll just stay in tonight.”  Sandy was not one to give up easily so she pressed on. “Why not and what’s wrong?” Freda inhaled than replied, “Nothing I just want to be alone that’s all.” Then she just hit end and returned the phone to her purse. Freda woke up the following morning on the couch after crying herself to sleep and the tears started all over again.
          Kiel was at the end of his rope with his marriage on the brinks of disaster and his business in the hands of a mad man, he had problems even closing his eyes to sleep. Sunday he woke up and for the first time in almost twenty years, he dressed and headed to his father’s church. Kiel arrived about ten minutes after the service had started and not wanting his father to see him and preach a message directed at him, he sat in the rear of the church.
          During the worship part of the service Kiel remained seated still fearing that his father from the pulpit might see him. When the worship was finished his father stood, prayed and gave the announcements for the week. Just when Kiel thought his father would start preaching, he introduced the speaker of the day.
          Ray Stallman was in his early sixties with a full head of white hair and a voice that needed no amplification to be heard. He started by introducing his wife who stood and face the crowd and waved with a pleasant smile. Ray then prayed and said that today the title to his message was simply, “Trust”. Ray’s first few sentences got Kiel’s full attention that lasted until the end of his message. Kiel thought that Ray was speaking solely to him and that no one else needed to hear this but him.
          Twenty five years ago Ray had been a plumbing contractor who had lost his business and came close to losing his wife. They had separated for almost three years and it wasn’t till his wife came to the Lord that she returned to her husband and through her testimony and devotion Ray also became a Christian. Trust God was all Kiel heard through the next hour everything else was blank. At the end of his message Ray made an altar call but no one responded. Ray stood there explaining the need for redemption and the grace of salvation. For five minutes no one stood as Kiel had wished for, because he neither wanted to be first or the only one standing alone at the front. Another minute or two went by, seeing that no one moved and with an urgency to step forward, Kiel got out of his seat, walked the center aisle, knelt at the altar and cried. 
          Albin was starting to lose his patience with Kiel who was already two weeks past due on his second project. He had received payment for the first project along with his forty percent but the second project was starting to cost them fifteen hundred a day on late fees. Every day that went by was a seven hundred and fifty dollar penalty to Albin as he was now a fifty percent partner on this project after bailing Kiel out for a second time months ago when the bank called in the second loan for a third time. He had his men pushing Kiel to finish the project but the weather had not been favorable the past few months and they had lost many days to bad weather.
          Albin picked up the phone and threatened Kiel that unless he got his money Freda’s health could be in jeopardy. Kiel hung up the phone, sat at his desk in the construction trailer on the site, bowed his head and prayed. He was interrupted by a knock on the door, that then swung open and two men stepped in. The second man shut the door behind him and both of them stepped over to where Kiel sat. The two men reached into their jackets and pulled out badges, Treasury Department they said simultaneously. Kiel sat there and the only thought that came to mind was, ‘what now Lord.’
          Agent Carl Homes explained to Kiel that over the past eighteen months the Treasury Department and the FBI had combined their efforts and resources to bring Albin and his organization to justice. The two agencies needed all of Kiel’s records and his contract with Albin as proof that Albin was laundering money through Kiel’s construction company.  Kiel was promised total amnesty for his cooperation in their investigation. He agreed to help under the condition that his wife be placed on protected detail. After an hour the two agents left with copies of the contracts and deposits Kiel had made with Albin’s money. Kiel sat glued to his seat for another hour afraid that if Albin found out what he had just done, his life wouldn't be worth a nickel.
          Freda sat in her living room thinking how small she felt and about everything she had done to bring her to this point in her life. Six months before walking out on her marriage she had let her friends talk her into meeting Marcel. One thing led to another and here she was today in an affair that felt more like guilt then love.
          It was close to one year since she had walked out on Kiel and the burden and shame just got thicker by the day. Marcel had started out being a gentleman that gave her lots of attention and affection but lately he wouldn’t even answer his phone when she called. She had filed for a divorce four months ago and the papers still sat on her dresser without a response to her lawyer.
          Freda had never been a Christian; her parents raised her in a catholic home and only went to Easter and Christmas mass. She had heard from her husband about his parents beliefs and about their church but had never attended. She had found out through a friend that Kiel had been going to church for the past nine months. The thought of showing up was never far from her mind but guilt and shame had a hold on her that she couldn’t escape.
          Her friends had resolved to not inviting her much these days since she said no most of the time. Freda didn't feel much like the party girl anymore acknowledging that it had ruined her marriage and her relationship with her children. Loneliness had become her main companion, and crying her avenue of releasing her hopelessness and despair.
          The agents had advised Kiel to pay Albin every last dollar he owed him on the final contract including the twenty two thousand in late fees. Three weeks after the project was completed the FBI arrested Albin and most of his organization. The two agencies had enough evidence to not only convict Albin of multiple crimes but to also deport most of his organization back to their mother land. Kiel was happy to have been kept out of the loop and not asked to be a witness for the prosecution who had more then they needed to convict Albin of organized crime.
          Kiel closed his construction company and decided to take a job offer as a project manager for a competing firm. Kiel considered it a blessing, the pay was great, the benefits outweighed the stress and evenings and weekends he was a free man.
          Kiel knew that his wife had been unfaithful but still he prayed for her daily, that God would somehow touch her heart. One Sunday he was surprised to see her sitting in the rear of the sanctuary, but when the service finished she had left without saying a word.
          It was three weeks later that during the opening song the people sitting to his right stepped to the aisle to let a woman enter his row. The woman stood next to him and put her purse on the seat and touched his forearm, looked up at him and smiled, then bowed her head. Kiel reached over and wrapped his arm around her shoulder and squeezed her to himself and kissed the top of her head. The two sat through the entire service without uttering a word and at the end she simply said good bye and vanished. Kiel made no attempt to stop her or persuade her to stay, he just watched her as she made her way through the crowd and out the doors.
          Five days had gone by and Kiel had not seen or heard from Freda until the door bell rang that Friday evening. He got up from the dining room chair, wiped his mouth and headed for the front door. He opened the door to find a fragile looking Freda on his door step not daring to look up at him. “Hey babe” he said with a smile on his face. She looked at him and asked, “What’s the smile was for?” The two stood staring at one another until Kiel broke the silence, “well because you have always put a smile on my face at the sight of seeing you”, Kiel replied with the grin still plastered across his lips and then invited her in. Freda stepped in and stood like a statue by the door and still bowing her head afraid to look at him. Kiel reached out and lifted her chin, looked in her eyes and said, “You have to stop feeling ashamed and start forgiving yourself just as I have forgiven you.” Now with many tears streaming down her face she replied, “If you knew all that I have done, you wouldn't be so inclined to forgive me.” Still holding on to her chin and looking her straight in the eyes Kiel replied, “I know everything and still I choose to forgive you.” With his smile now turning to tears he heard her simply ask, “Why?” through a thick sob. He brought her close to his chest and hugging her he whispered in her ear, “Because God forgave me for the same sin, that more than once, I had committed against you.” 


19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

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