After a divorce, an elegant woman seeks the help of a criminal thug to prevent her ex-husband from harassing her. Events escalate to unimaginable consequences.
This novel is about a couple, each of whom possessed brilliant skills and potential, who hit snags in their life's journey during the sixties, seventies, and eighties, which detoured them, including prison time but didn't defeat them.
This novel, inspired by a mid-Western case, treats many of the issues during the '60s, '70s, and '80s including Vietnam War, abortion, PTSD, women's prison, women's lib, conscription, and Ohio State basketball.
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THE SEND Off-October -1989
Riding in a limo with three of her four children, Janet Spence Watkins Keane, age 43, was dressed to the nines on the way to her send-off party at the American Legion Hall in Barrie, Ohio. The mood in the vehicle was subdued as the volunteer driver tried to make pleasant chit-chat. The children, Bob Jr., the oldest, age 25, an engineer was holding his mom's hand. The next oldest, Brian, a pilot and air traffic controller, age 24, sat opposite his mom. Next to Brian was Jan's only daughter, Pamela, age 19, a five-foot-ten beauty and a college freshman who was jittery and yapping nervously as the limo followed the ten-mile route to the hall. Kevin Watkins, age 22, was already at the hall on duty as a rookie member of the Town of Barrie police force. When the limo turned the corner thereby gaining a direct 400-yard view of the hall, the limo passengers could see and hear a band playing uplifting tunes with a crowd of at least one hundred people enthusiastically applauding Janet's arrival. "Girl I'm gonna miss you," by Milli Vanilli was the most popular song on the pop charts and was so apropos that night. The nervous tension in the vehicle evaporated as Janet, smiling broadly, stood up, poked her head out of the sunroof, and started singing the OHIO STATE Buckeye fight song. She suddenly came alive as she proclaimed, "Let's have a great evening - one we'll never forget." Her son Kevin, the cop, greeted her as he assisted his mom in alighting from the limo.
There were one hundred more people inside the hall clapping and whistling as she approached the stage where the mayor and school superintendent were positioned.
Banners strung around the hall gave a variety of messages. For example: "Orange was always your best color"; "Always sleep in the top bunk"; "You always wanted to live in a sorority"; "Is it Confine school rather than Refine school"; "Beware of people in Black Robes"; "Anything for warm winter weather."
Yes, Janet Spence Watkins Keane, the wife of Federal Judge William Keane was leaving in the morning by train to serve a prison sentence for eighteen months in the Kincaide Federal Correctional Institution in northern California. She was advised to plead guilty to an "Obstruction of Justice" charge in return for a non-prison sentence but the visiting trial Judge surprised her and her attorney with an actual sentence of confinement. Most of the Barrie community thought she got a raw deal and wanted to show their love and support for her by organizing this send-off party.
Conspicuous by his absence was her husband, Judge William Keane, Chief Judge of the Northern Ohio Federal District.
Present was her ex-husband, Bob Watkins and her mother Irene Spence as well as approximately two hundred well-wishers. Her father Dr. William Spence had passed away in 1982.
Mayor Stillwell started the evening off by welcoming everyone and making it clear that the aim of the evening is to let Janet know that she should not hold her head in shame but should recognize that we all still love and admire her and that when she returns from her short respite she will be welcomed back by everyone with open arms.
The Superintendent of schools spoke about the great contributions the Spence and Watkins families have made to the town and the great record in sports and academics that Janet achieved at Barrie High School.
Father Dermott O'Malley recited a prayer for Janet:
"Dear father in heaven, please watch over and protect our beloved Janet on this eighteen-month journey upon which she is embarking. Please forgive the mistake she made for which she is atoning with penance far greater than you would have exacted. Please hold her family together during this difficult situation and allow her to find peace from turmoil and love from life's complexities. Amen."
After the sobering prayer, Bob Watkins Jr. took over the microphone and said let's have a great time partying with my mom.
The band struck up the tune "Y.M.C.A." and the dance floor was immediately crowded with people of all ages awkwardly trying to form the letters with their arms.
After a few lively dance numbers, it was announced that food was being served by Rotary club volunteers. During the food break a representative from the Elks club presented Janet with a five-hundred-dollar gift certificate from Barnes & Noble to allow her reading material while in California.
Not to be outdone, the Barrie Chamber of Commerce presented her with a tape recorder and a five-hundred-dollar gift certificate from Goodys for music cassette tapes.
At one point during the dinner phase when a wave of silence occurred, Janet stood up, grabbed the microphone and spoke somberly, "I want to thank everyone for coming. Your support means the world to me and I'll forever treasure this evening. Please don't worry about me. I can tough it out knowing I have tremendous support from my family and all of you present tonight as well as from others who are not here. There's been several ups and downs in my life and I've made a few bad choices, but overall I'm proud of my life especially my ... my ... chil ... children."
Janet was choking on her words and broke into tears. The people present as if on cue stood up clapping and chanting, "Janet, Janet, Janet ..."
The Mayor walked over, gave her a big hug and presented her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers.
The rest of the evening included dancing, merry making, tears and hugs. Janet and the family left at ten p.m.
The next morning the federal marshals arrived at Janet's house at seven a.m. where they found her prepared for her arrest dressed in a blue designer sweat suit and blue sneakers. The marshals, instead of an unmarked car, arrived in a huge wagon with U.S. Marshal plastered on either side. After an emotional goodbye with hugs and kisses with her children, ex-husband and mother she was handcuffed and led out of the house by the marshals. Outside, the front lawn was covered with media and supporters who immediately began booing when they observed the handcuffs. Even the media was booing.
In the wagon the marshals uncuffed her for the ride to Cleveland where she was to board the train to San Francisco, California. She waited in the train station, again handcuffed in the company of two marshals, for what seemed an interminable length of time suffering the indignity of several gawkers seeing her manacled between two uniformed burly men. After an hour's wait she boarded the train and headed west.
During the sixty-seven-hour train trip to San Francisco, Janet's handcuffs were removed, and she was allowed to watch a few current movies including "Field of Dreams" and "When Harry Met Sally." Jan kidded with the marshals when the movie's famous line was uttered by instantly quipping, "On my way to prison, I better not have what she's having."
Jan had plenty of time to reflect upon her life starting with her entry into Barrie High School in 1960. Almost in a trance-like condition for most of the trip she could see her past life play out before her almost as a movie.CHAPTER 2
The New Freshman-1960
Janet Spence was getting ready to go to her gymnastics lessons when her mother yelled, "Get a move on or you will be late for the third time and run the risk of being expelled from the program." It was a hot summer day in Barrie, Ohio, a city of thirty-five thousand people, and spending the afternoon in a sweltering gym was not this fourteen-year old's idea of fun. Her mother, Irene, continued, "High school will be starting in two weeks and you have to be prepared if you want to make the gymnastic team and cheerleader squad."
"Ma, it's not that important to me. I think you will be more crushed than me if I don't qualify."
"Honey, please believe me that I want nothing but the best for you. In my experience, the high school years are the best years of your life especially if you're pretty like you. If you are a cheerleader, you will automatically be very popular, and you will have boys falling all over you."
"So, you don't care about my studies?"
"Of course, I do, but there's no reason why you can't have it all."
"That's a lot of pressure mom."
Three weeks later Janet, an only child, entered the 1960 freshman class at Barrie High School. Right away she tried out for cheerleading and gymnastics. Tall for a gymnast, Janet was five foot-nine inches and a striking blonde. She was thrilled the following week when it was posted on the bulletin board that she made the varsity women's gymnastics team and was chosen for the junior varsity cheerleading squad. Her mother, Irene Spence, was ecstatic and to Janet's surprise even her father Dr. William Spence, a prominent internist, congratulated her. Janet knew her dad was concerned about her studies, but he never showed any interest in her other pursuits. He had never gone to a dancing recital or gymnastics meet during her middle school years. However, he made sure she was in all the advanced academic classes as he hoped someday, she would attend medical school and enter practice with him.
Irene Spence grew up in Columbus, Ohio. Her parents, John and Mary Kelly, were Irish immigrants who adapted nicely as U.S. citizens and raised four children in a strict Catholic household. Irene Kelly was always a good student, but the family could not afford to send her to college. She gained employment after high-school as a medical secretary and worked her way up to office manager of a large medical group in Barrie. The whole Kelly family were supporters of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. She met her husband Dr. William Spence when he joined the medical group shortly after completing his residency at the Ohio State University hospital.
Dr. Spence was not Catholic but agreed to bring up his children in the Catholic faith. He also grew up in Columbus. His parents were middle class Presbyterians who raised three children all of whom were successful. Dr. Spence was a law and order-no nonsense-quietly conservative gentleman. He and his parents were Richard Nixon supporters.
The Spences were a handsome couple and became quite renowned in the Barrie community. After Janet was born, Irene continued as office manager but on a part-time basis. Irene tended to be a social climber whereas Dr. Spence was happy to stay home, smoke his cigar and read about history especially the Civil War and World War II. He played an occasional round of golf at the country club and was a sports enthusiast especially with respect to the Cleveland Browns and everything Ohio State.
His favorite sports icon was Jim Brown who was the premier running back in the N.F.L.CHAPTER 3
The Star Athlete
Bob Watkins, a sophomore, was not in any advanced classes but was a gifted athlete in football, basketball and baseball. As a freshman Junior Varsity athlete, he stood out in all three sports. In fact, half way through the basketball season he was promoted to the varsity team as a freshman and played meaningful minutes during the Ohio State tournament in which the Barrie Bobcats were eliminated in the semi-finals. His dad was a plumber, but they lived on a small farm which was located on the other side of town from the Spences. The families did not know each other and had never crossed paths.
Bob spent his summer in 1960 working on the farm during the day with his older brother Ken and then the two of them would spend a couple of hours each evening shooting hoops in the driveway. Ken was entering his junior year and was a steady player on the Barrie Bobcats basketball team. Ken was being recruited for basketball by a few Division Three teams, namely Ohio Wesleyan, and Oberlin Colleges. Bob's ambition was to play in Division one for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Barrie, Ohio was only sixty- five miles north of Columbus.
Jan Spence had heard of Bob Watkins soon after her arrival as a freshman because some of the upper-class women on the gymnastics team talked frequently about him. He had rugged good looks and a friendly personality. One of the girls went to a school dance with him and she liked to brag about this single encounter with him.
Bob at six feet two and one hundred and ninety pounds played fullback on the football team and by early October had already scored twelve touchdowns. Jan and Bob did not cross paths in the fall of 1960 because she cheered for the junior varsity team and did not attend the varsity games. In truth she did not understand the sport and really didn't like the violence of the sport. She was more attracted to the intellectual and artistic students.
The Ohio State basketball team won the national championship in 1960 featuring such greats as Gerry Lucas, John Havlicek and Bobby Knight. Although Bob Watkins loved all sports his overpowering ambition was to play basketball for the Buckeyes. Even during high school football season, as exhausting as his daily football practices were, he and Ken would still spend at least one hour each night shooting hoops in the driveway.CHAPTER 4
1961-1962 School Year
Janet Spence from outward appearances had a successful freshman year at Barrie High School. Her grades in all courses except Latin were A+. And even in Latin it was B+. She won several individual varsity events on the balance beam and free-lance floor exercise. The J.V. cheerleading went well but she was tired of all the gossiping and backbiting that went on. During the summer vacation she got a job as a waitress through a friend of her mother at the "Trellis Tea Restaurant." It was only open for breakfast and lunch. She liked the job because it was frequented mainly by classy women who were movers and shakers in the community. Many of the patrons took an interest in Janet.
Janet and her mother had a serious confrontation a few weeks after Jan began her summer job.
"Jan, I want you to cut your hours at Trellis, so you can take a special ballet class offered this summer at Barrie Junior College," said her mother Irene.
"Why mom, I like my job and I need the money."
"Well, your strength in gymnastics is the free-lance floor exercise but if you want to be 'all-state' you need to be more graceful and these ballet lessons will help tremendously," lectured her mother.
Jan threw her hairdryer at her mother as she exclaimed, "Screw All State, I don't give a shit. I'm happy at the tea shop and I need to relax and just be a teen with no pressure this summer."
Irene countered, "Now Janet, mom knows what is best for you and part of growing up is to learn how to handle pressure and your father and I will carefully monitor how much pressure you are under."
"That's bullshit mom, don't you realize I've been mildly depressed this past school year because nothing is fun; just a struggle for perfection."
Irene was taken aback and replied, "I'll take it up with your father."
Later that night Irene explained to Dr. Spence the encounter she had that day with Janet. "Hon, I've never seen Janet so disturbed. What do you suggest?"
The Doc scratched his nose as he usually did when deep in thought and finally replied, "I agree with you, she could use the ballet training and I don't want her working more than part-time as a fifteen year older. It's typical teen rebellion."
Irene was relieved as she suggested to her husband, "You better tell her as she is really mad with me at the moment."
The next day at breakfast, Dr. William Spence spoke to Janet, "Honey, I know you don't like the idea of taking ballet lessons, but this is a rare opportunity where these lessons are available just this summer in Barrie. Next year the program will be offered only in Columbus. Because you are only fifteen, I don't want you working full time at the tea shop. Next year when you are sixteen you can work full time and save for college. Incidentally, I have a surprise for you. Pick out one girlfriend to go with us next week-end on a trip to Cleveland where we can attend a concert featuring, 'The Rolling Stones.'"
Jan calmly replied, "Dad, you're bribing me but to be honest, I'm susceptible as the Rolling Stones are my favorite group. I guess ballet lessons are not so bad-after all."
At the end of the summer Jan was ready for school. She was tired from working as a waitress and to her surprise enjoyed the ballet lessons. She was keenly aware of the improved posture and poise she developed. Also, having grown to five-foot-ten and having nicely filled out her body, she was required to adjust the mechanics of her routines. The ballet lessons helped with those adjustments.
Her pre-season performances in the free-lance floor event were significantly superior to her past performances. She was now the star of the Varsity Gymnastics team.
Bob along with his brother Ken worked all summer on the family farm. They did not own updated equipment which the large profitable farms had. A large percentage of their labor was physical. Bob gained fifteen pounds of muscle and weighed in at two hundred and five pounds. For a high-school running back he was the biggest and fastest in the conference.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Betrayal of the Judge's Wife"
Copyright © 2019 Richard Murphy.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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