It hadn't been a pleasant divorce- nothing like his parents', God forbid, but then again his lenses had been clouded from being in the middle of all the hot air and bullshit from that one.
He should have been more attentive to all the warning signs. Jesus, they were clear enough, at least- he just never thought they were really so goddamn important to warrant a total separation. After a while, it felt as if they had gone back to dating- having a complete stranger in your apartment, and it takes you by surprise when you find them in front of your TV, on your couch, sipping tea and flipping through channels. And after a while, the snide comments and rebukes about how much time he spent at work and how little with her were whittled down to half-hearted snipes. He had given up on defending himself after the first dozen arguments, resorting to eating his dinner while she took the piss out of him. So after the first few months of that, he privately welcomed the mutterings under her breath.
He maybe thought she had mellowed out, given up. They still had sex, though it was more often that she wold leave the apartment after they were done, going somewhere and not telling him just where. When he came back from work one night, and found divorce papers nestled with all the familiarity of a close companion next to his doorstep, he had been gobsmacked. He had stood dumbly in the hall for an endless while, staring at the sheaf that had drooped to waist-height after their cursory retrieval.
He didn't refuse her.
He signed them, trying to write steadily enough so his signature wouldn't be illegible, and carefully blotting off the little bits of renegade moisture that ended up speckling the sheets. Freddy, whose heart hurt as if he were having one of those ill-fated heart attacks police officers were so prone to, decided that looking at the papers was too painful, and instead spaced out at the kitchen table, eyes fixed blankly on the opposite wall.
After a while, he stopped keeping her ring next to his bedside. It somehow migrated it's way to the change bowl, and he never found it in him to extract it, even when all the change had been wheedled out to reach the total for take out, and it would lay naked in the plastic bed.
Every once in a while, even five and a half months after the whoel shebang, he would wake up in the middle of the night, and shift so he could touch her, feeling shocked and stupid when he didn't. He would curse himself and turn back around, burying his face into the pillow so that the pressure would keep any kind of excess leakage firmly behind his closed lids.
It didn't always work.
When an assignment had wandered it ponderous way up to his field of view, he figured that poking his nose into the business of some mafia capo would at least wrest him from all this bullshit.
The ring hadn't been part of his cover- actually, there really hadn't been a single goddamn reason for him to wear it. Married criminals weren't good criminals- you had the unnerving tendency to fade off when you thought of the little lady waiting back at home for you, and Freddy doubted if they gave a rat's ass about dependability and committment being an issue, in so far as what you did when you weren't robbing liquor stores. Women were a fetter in the underworld, unless you were selling them.
Truth be told, he slipped it on the first time he was scheduled to meet with Nice Guy Eddie. He had been so goddamn high strung and twitchy that he'd nearly ripped open his window to chew out a dog-walker, who had been parked beneath his window with a yappy little sonuvabitch that was so strident it nearly eclipsed the sound of the phone. It was only then, coming off the adrenaline and rage, the thing metallic taste blossoming in his mouth, that he realized he was near tears, and Jesus did all he want was to hug his wife, and he'd be okay.
He didn't have time to cry, because the phone rang, and he got it, but as he was fumbling into his jacket, he rifled through the change bowl, until he hooked the old ring onto the end of one finger and pulled it out.
Freddy could hear his heartbeat, hammering in his ears, nervous tension flowing down his arms.
He slipped the ring onto his finger, and took in a breath.
It was okay. It was gonna be okay. He'd be fine. The pressure on his finger wasn't a hug, but it squeezed enough so for whatever reason, his heart slowed to an acceptable level.
He was out the door without another thought.
Later, when all he could see of the gold was a surly glint from beneath caked and dried blood, just beyond the fingers of another man as they fastened onto his with a grip like a vice, the flash of it only added to the growing surge of panic and fear that had begun to pulse against him since he had been peeled from off the pavement.
Freddy Newandyke wanted nothing more than to go home, even if it was to an empty house and an empty bed, to his comic book posters and scattered pizza boxes.
He could feel the ring grinding into the bones of his fingers as the pressure of Larry's fingers increased, and for whatever reason, it oddly comforted him.
There was no getting out of this. He was going to die.
But it might be okay.