Note: If you haven't read Part I, it's a doozy and well worth the extra few minutes before diving in to Parts II, III, and IV.
What I told Jackie that night when I opened up for the first time, and what I’ll tell you now, is that the year Tams died my life turned to shit. Two years later it still hurts to write those words: ‘Tams Died.’ It hurts even more ‘cause I killed her.
There I said it. Now you know. I will also repeat what I just told Jackie and also the cops, the court, and that cunt of a judge two years ago: it was not intentional. I loved my wife, and I’ve never struck her. Not once. That night was a fluke and went down like this:
Husband comes home to find wife naked and with someone else. Someone else was a woman and flees, barely dressed, out into the night. Husband and wife have what they call a ‘come to Jesus’ shouting match. Wife fires of a series of hurtful zingers and starts to stomp off. Husband grabs at wife who pulls away forcefully, staggers forward off balance, stumbles, and smacks head on the gleaming Italian marble floor. And just like that, she was gone. “Cerebral hemorrhage due to blunt force trauma,” they said.
As there were no witnesses, just a ‘he said, she dead’ situation, I was slammed online, annihilated in-person, crucified everywhere. But only two days after Tam died, another wacko got access to an assault rifle and shot more civilians, thereby blasting me off Google’s front page. There were two fatalities this time, which would barely register a blip in normal circumstances, but the shooter kept a whole class of teens hostage for 9 hours. The media sniffed at first, then swarmed, leaving me alone, hollow, and angry, my family in shambles, and my Tams still very dead.
While I carried around an anchor of anger the first year after Tam’s death, selling the house and getting rid of much of our furniture helped me turn the corner. As did finding The Complex and then Jackie. I thought I needed a generic and sterile home for my fresh start, but I soon found I needed a strong, independent woman to help me channel the anger and rage into proactive grief.
Jackie and I had been visiting The City for a few months when I was approached. Like all great salesmen, Biff Bergman made me feel welcome and special, a little like the old days. Instead of pitching his services as agent and manager, he told me he represented a live event series called Frenimies. He and his production team signed up former rivals - political, athletic, artistic - whoever he thought would draw an audience regionally. If he could sell national or global replay rights, even better. I was a natural for Fren, as he called it, given my past. Not only could he pit me against various former athletes, he also wanted to recruit former murder suspects as my Frenimie foes. When he presented the money involved, I could not keep a straight face. The seven digits were staggering. And much needed given the dry well of income the past two years. I took a cursory glance at the contract and signed on the spot. Which I later found out, was exactly what Biff was expecting. He had the drill down to a science and had successfully recruited, and then screwed over, dozens over years.
With the show well into production and millions around the world checking us out, I started to see Biff’s shady ways. He was making noise about withholding our back end bonus due to some technicality. So before being taken completely advantage of, I became a producer for the first time. And started making a GC clone – that's Global Competition – called Friend or Foe, shot in the off hours, and with many friends as the case. So I produced for very little up front money and in one of Urban Eights model units. The shit hit the fan soon after our first season aired. My life turned upside down again. But this time I was prepared. And I was pissed off.
Ben's Note - After being a homeowner, a landlord, and a single-family detached home tenant, I'm now a resident in a luxury apartment complex, just minutes away from the subway, and several miles south of Oakland. Since moving in several months ago, I've been surrounded by a host of stories. The Complex is the first result from several inspirations and installments will appear every Wednesday through August.