Marshall sat quietly on the bench in the park facing the street. Sitting in front of him, not fifty yards away was proof that his wife of a year and a half was cheating on him. The hot Fort Worth sun beat down on him, reddening his face and neck, but he made no effort to move as he continued to watch Abigail dine with a handsome, young man with spiky blond hair. It was clear even at this distance that they were laughing and flirting; her hands rarely leaving some part of his body.
Marshall knew he should feel hurt, angry, or betrayed, but what he felt was relief; relief that she had found some sort of true happiness in her life that he had been unable to provide. He had meant it when he told Mary nearly two years ago that he loved Abigail deeply. Deeply enough that he had given up his best friend for her. Sure, he and Mary remained friendly for a few months, but between his attention to Abigail and the wedding, her attention to Kenny and her family, and their new relationship as boss and subordinate, it was just all too much to keep up.
It hadn't matter too much, though, because less than two months later, Abigail issued her last ultimatum after a phone call from Mary that sent him back to Albuquerque in the middle of a vacation with her parents. It didn't matter to her that it was strictly a professional call and that the order for him to return came from someone above them both. No, it only mattered that it was Mary on the other end of the phone call. So, Marshall had transferred to the Fort Worth office, leaving his Albuquerque past behind him with just a few handshakes and a basket of muffins. There were no good-bye dinners planned.
Things had grown increasingly tense between himself and Abigail since their move to Fort Worth as they slowly became nothing more than roommates. Marshall tried to concentrate on being both a good marshal and a good husband, but that was the problem: he had to concentrate on either. Being a marshal had been as natural to him as breathing, but here, he found it was a job and not a calling. His reviews continued to be excellent, but could see in his bosses' eyes after each one that he was missing something.
At home, he did all the right things, said all the right words, but he had no feeling behind them. He laughed at the appropriate times, but it sounded hollow. He entertained her friends just as she wanted, but he never connected with any of them. He was living a half life, the life he had lived before Mary brought a spark into his life, only at least before then he had hope for his future. Now, he was living as if resigned to his fate.
He had suspected that Abigail was cheating a few months back when she stopped trying to make an effort to cook gourmet meals with him and ceased complaining about the long hours that Marshall worked, even longer than he had in Albuquerque. She joined a gym and began to run alone in the mornings, sometimes the evenings too. Marshall found he enjoyed the alone time and never questioned where she really was. The whispers of his wife and another detective reached even his office, but Marshall ignored them as he ignored so much of his life these days.
Marshall sighed as he stood up, taking one last look at the joy on Abigail's face; the same look that she used to give him, before he ended his friendship with Mary. Marshall calmly walked back to his office, securing a two month leave to sort through his personal issues. He was sure he heard his boss breathe a sigh of relief when he walked out of his office. Next, he went to the home the he and Abigail shared, packing his things in the boxes they had saved. Marshall waited for her to return. Their good-bye conversation was brief, without tears. He agreed to move out with only the items he had packed and to leave Oscar behind.
From home, Marshall checked himself into a long term hotel room. He called his father instead of his mother to explain the situation, knowing he would understand why. After all, Seth had picked up on the underlining tension in their relationship long before either he or Abigail had. Seth promised to inform the family and keep Marshall's mother off his back for a bit. Marshall booked a flight for DC the next day, showing up at Stan's office unannounced.
To say Stan was surprised to see Marshall waiting outside his office when he came back from an afternoon meeting, would have been a vast understatement. Still, Stan ushered him inside with a warm handshake and a pat on the back. He listened sympathetically as Marshall told his story about his collapsed friendship with Mary and the affects on his relationship with Abigail. Stan nodded in the right places, frowned in others, but rarely said a word.
"Marshall," Stan said, quietly after Marshall had been quiet for a few minutes, "why are you here?" He waved his hand. "I mean, I'm glad to see you, but you could have told me this over the phone."
"I guess... I wanted to see a friendly face, a face that wouldn't judge me for my actions," Marshall answered, deliberately. "And I was wondering if you might be able to help me transfer in the next two months."
Stan leaned on his desk, folding his hands together. "Back to Albuquerque?"
Marshall shook his head. "I think Albuquerque is no longer the place for me."
"What if I told you that Mary was no longer there?" Stan studied him, closely. He had a hard time keeping inspectors at the Albuquerque office since Marshall left for Fort Worth and they were once again talking about shutting it down. It was sentimental, but Stan had a hard time letting it go.
Stan sighed. "She transferred about six months after you left. In fact, Mary's no longer in WitSec at all."
Marshall's eyes snapped to Stan's. "What?"
"I guess she felt it was simply two much with two babies under the age of two," Stan explained.
"Two babies?" Marshall croaked. "Kenny?"
Stan frowned. He might as well tell the whole story now that he had gotten this far. "Kenny lasted just long enough to screw Brandi a couple of months after she gave birth; a girl, Chloe. Guess he really had a thing for single moms. Brandi took off not longer after that, leaving Chloe with Mary. Mark's mother had a heart attack and he got a job offer in Chicago that he couldn't pass up. He still sees Norah as often as he can. Even with Jinx helping, it was too overwhelming to be away from the kids at any moment so she took a courthouse job in Atlanta, working Monday through Friday."
"Is she happy?" Marshall asked, even as he couldn't imagine that she would be in that position.
"She works. She has the girls." Stan shrugged. "She tells me that she's content."
"Do you," Marshall's voice caught and he took a moment to clear his throat. "Do you think she would see me?"
Stan gave him a sad smile. "No. No, I don't think she would. She's not the same Mary that you knew. She's... broken. In her eyes, everybody she's ever trusted has let her down. I think, you've taken the top of that list. Look, Marshall," Stan said when he saw how grief-stricken Marshall became, "I don't think you were necessarily wrong to want to move on since Mary was unwilling to admit any romantic feelings she had for you."
If possible, Marshall looked even worse than before. "Did she have romantic feelings for me?"
"I don't know. She never told me if she did. What I know is that she needed you to keep her grounded and without you, she went right back to making terrible decisions and letting her family run her life. I suspect that if she didn't have Norah and Chloe, she would have fallen back into the same pattern and followed Brandi across the country to 'save' her. She's in a stable place right now. It took her a long time to get there after your friendship broke apart." Stan rubbed his own head. "It's probably best to leave it alone."
Marshall nodded, wondering how they had come down to this. He let a few minutes pass before speaking again. "If you know of any openings besides Albuquerque-"
"I do," Stan assured him, saddened that he would be unable to place Marshall there. "There's an inspector retiring in Seattle in a few months. It's a relatively young office. They could use the experience. Now, you'd have to drop back down to inspector-"
"That's fine, Stan," Marshall interrupted. "I didn't much like being Chief anyway; too far removed from the people we're trying to help."
Stan smiled. "I'll talk to McNeill this afternoon and see about getting you an interview."
Marshall stood, shaking Stan's hand. "Thanks, Stan. I appreciate anything you can do."
"What does you flight leave?"
"Tomorrow morning," Marshall replied, dutifully.
Stan nodded. "Why don't you join Lia and I for dinner tonight? I'll give you the address. Seven okay?"
"Perfect." He took the piece of paper with Stan's address before leaving the office, his shoulders slightly hunched. Stan sat back down, running his hands over his face. He had been glad to see Marshall again, but was heartbroken over the turn his inspectors lives had taken. Sometimes, even the strongest friendship had a bitter end.