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Swimming With Sharks
About the Author: Bond Elam has published a number of stories in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, flash fiction in Mystery Tribune and the cover story in the April, 2019, edition of Mystery Weekly Magazine.

Gordon Stark never much liked black-tie affairs—all the high-minded ladies scurrying around, saving whales and homeless people. He liked even less the way his second wife, Vivian, was always fussing with his tie, straightening his jacket, insisting that he look just right for their photos on the society pages. So when the blush of passion from the first years of their marriage began to fade, it was only natural that Gordon Stark’s eye began to wander.

Ironically, it was at one of these gala events that Gordon’s attention was first drawn to, Gwen Kristersson, the woman who was to become his third wife. With her pale blonde hair drawn into a knot at the back of her head, she reminded him of a ballet dancer—prim and proper, her graceful shoulders radiant in her shimmering black evening dress.

Gordon was at least fifteen years her senior, with a lump of a nose, puffy jowls and flaccid lips that slid naturally into a disparaging sneer, but like many self-made men, he radiated a kind of beauty-and-the-beast charisma that sometimes blinded people to his short comings. Thanks to a well crafted prenup, he divorced wife number two with a minimum of financial pain, freeing him to marry Gwen just three months later in a lavish ceremony at the White Oaks Golf and Tennis Club—where, the society pages noted, the guests arrived, not in black ties and formal gowns, but in fashions and colors more suited to the club’s clay courts and neatly trimmed greens. No whales were saved, no homeless people housed, but the bubbly flowed and the guests swore to a man—and at least some to a women—that good times were had by all.

But that had been six years ago, and while Gwen had worked hard to keep herself fit—yoga, tennis lessons, lots of leafy vegetables—she was now approaching her mid thirties, which, from Gordon’s point of view, meant it was time for a change.

The only problem was that she had done nothing to violate the terms of their well crafted prenuptial agreement. As Gordon’s lawyer put it, she not only looked prim and proper, she was prim and proper. Which meant that Gordon couldn’t move on to wife number four without giving up a sizable chunk of his hard-earned millions. So Gordon did the only thing any reasonable person in his position could do: he hired a string of less-than-reputable private investigators to dig up some dirt.

Unfortunately, while disreputable investigators had been more than helpful in nudging a number of his business deals to completion, they were less adept at digging up dirt where none existed. However, one of the more enterprising of his investigators did manage to come up with an interesting piece of gossip regarding the White Oaks Golf and Tennis Club. It was just a rumor, of course, but word around the club had it that Tray Henshaw, who just happened to be Gwen’s tennis instructor, was sleeping with half the members’ wives, who, it was noted, were more than happy to reward him with gifts of money and jewelry for services rendered. Gordon’s wife Gwen, regrettably, was in the wrong half, but that, Gordon reasoned, was simply because no one had offered Henshaw the necessary incentive—an oversight that he intended to remedy when he invited the young tennis instructor to his exclusive suburban office.

Gordon knew he had the right man for the job the moment Henshaw walked through the door. Fifteen years younger and fifty pounds lighter than Gordon, he radiated boyish innocence, with a mop of sun-bleached blond hair and a Hollywood smile that the ladies lounging around the pool would find irresistible. To Gordon’s surprise, however, he denied there was any truth to the rumor of his affairs. Quite vehemently, in fact. When Gordon pointed out that he was well aware of the money and jewelry Henshaw had received from the club wives, Henshaw insisted the gifts were simply to help finance his night-school classes in computer science at the local university. Gordon was not unsympathetic with the young instructor’s educational aspirations. He had, after all, encountered any number of pole dancers who were working their way through college. He was even known to encourage the more energetic performers with generous financial inducements of his own.

Unfortunately, Henshaw was not responsive to similar offers of encouragement—not until Gordon pointed out that as a charter member of the White Oaks Golf and Tennis Club, he had no choice except to report Henshaw’s off-the-court indiscretions to the board of trustees, which meant Henshaw would no longer be working for the club. In fact, once the word got around, he would likely find himself unable to secure employment anywhere within commuting distance of the local university.

This story appears in our JUN 2024 Issue
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