We started off the following year even more hectic than the previous one. The restaurant had taken off much faster than anticipated and Michelle was working twelve to fourteen hour days. She had hired Eddie Sampson as manager which kept her free to deal with the kitchen. She had also hired another cook and one more waitress. By June on most nights you would have to wait for a table between thirty and forty-five minutes. Michelle was getting home until after midnight on most days.
On July first of that year, I was sitting on the sofa watching television waiting for Michelle to come home. It was a Friday night and I always waited up on Friday and Saturday nights. Occasionally, I would fall asleep on the sofa which happened on this night. I woke up to my cell phone ringing loudly on the ottoman. I look at the screen it was two fifty-six in the morning. I sat up and answered the phone not recognizing the number.
“Who am I speaking to ?”, the male voice asked.
“Tim Williams.”, I replied.
“Mr. Williams, I’m calling about a Michelle Woods currently residing at your residence.”, he stated.
“Yes sir, she’s my fiancé. Is something wrong ?”, I asked.
“Yes sir, she has been involved in a serious accident on the highway. She has been taken to the Baylor University Medical Center on Gaston Ave.”, he reported.
“Oh god, is she okay ?”, I replied.
“Sir, at this time it’s all I know. I suggest you get to the hospital as soon as possible.”, he suggested.
I ran to the bedroom and put on a pair of jeans, pullover shirt and sneakers. I grabbed my wallet, keys and phone and ran out of the door. On the way out of the subdivision I called Stan Woods and relayed the little information I had at the time. He told me he would meet me there at once. I arrived at the hospital about three thirty and ran into the emergency room. I was immediately met by two police officers and a hospital administrator.
As they led me to the trauma center waiting room, I was informed that Michelle was struck by a SUV on the driver’s side on the vehicle. The driver of the SUV was not seriously hurt but was severely intoxicated blowing a .21 on the breathalyzer. All I was told at this time was that Michelle was in surgery and to take a seat.
I was completely numb and for the first time in my life completely helpless. About ten minutes later, Stan and Beverly Woods came running into the waiting room. I repeated everything I knew at the time and explained that she was in surgery. It was around four that morning when a surgeon entered the room and walked towards us.
“You’re here for Ms. Woods ?”, he asked.
“Yes sir. She’s my fiancé and this is her parents.”, I replied.
“I’m Dr. Mikler, I’m a neurosurgeon and I have been working on Ms. Woods. I’m not going to lie, she’s in critical condition. She has suffered multiple broken bones but at this time the head trauma has me more concerned. She has severe swelling of the brain and I have to take her into surgery again quickly. My only chance is to remove the pressure on her brain by draining the skull and then put her in a chemical coma. Do I have your approval ?”, he asked.
I looked over at Stan and Beverly Woods making sure they had a say in this. They just stood there glassy eyed looking at the surgeon.
“Doctor, is this the only chance she has…… doing this operation ?”, I asked.
“I’m afraid it is.”, he said, softly.
“Do it then.”, I demanded.
The surgeon left and I went back to the chair I had been sitting on. About twenty minutes later, Robin Woods came running in the room falling into her parent’s arms. After brief conversation, she came over to me and kissed me on my lips softly, which I found odd. She sat down next to me and took my hand in hers.
“Tim, I’m so sorry. What are they doing ?”, she asked.
I explained what the neurosurgeon had explained to me and told her that Michelle was still in surgery. All we could do was sit here and wait. About thirty minutes later, Dr. Mikler came through the double doors his scrubs stained in red. I started to get up but he motioned for me to stay seated. He came up to me and knelt in front of me resting his hand on my knee. He didn’t have to say it, I knew.
“I’m sorry sir, I did everything I could think of. She died about ten minutes ago. I’m so sorry for your loss.”, he said getting up and patting my shoulder.
Beverly Woods was sobbing hysterically as Stan tried to console her. Robin wrapped her arms around me and pulled me close. At that moment I realized that the most important thing in my life was gone forever. About thirty minutes later, I was still sitting in the same chair not knowing what to do or where to go. Just about that time, a man dressed in a suit walked up to me and sat down.
“Mr. Williams, I’m Detective Guthrie of the Dallas Police Department, I work in homicide. Can I asked you a few questions ?”, he inquired.
“Yes sir.”, I responded, weakly.
“Michelle Woods was your fiancé, correct.”, he asked.
“Yes sir.”, I replied.
“She lived with you at this address ?”, he asked, showing me her driver’s license.
“Yes sir.’, I answered.
“What was she doing out that late at night ?”, he asked.
“We own the Mon Armor Restaurant in town. She was coming home from work.”, I answered.
“That’s good enough for now, Mr. Williams. At the present time, the other driver will be booked with vehicular homicide. The charge may go up or down slightly after it goes to the district attorney. My office will be in touch with you.”, he stated, handing me his card.
I got up stilling feeling numb and told Stan and Beverly Woods I would contact them later. I took a few steps and almost fell grabbing a chair for support. Stan ran behind me and helped me back into the chair.
“Dad, I will take Tim home, you get mom home. I’ll call you in an hour or so.”, Robin commanded.
I do not remember getting in my car or Robin driving me home. I woke up with the sunlight streaming through my bedroom window. It took a minute for me to understand that this was not a dream. I sat up on the bed and began to sob uncontrollably. How could everything go so horribly wrong in an instance. I sat there for a few minutes then got up and walked down the hallway. Robin was sitting at the kitchen counter on one of the stools drinking a cup of coffee.
“Let me make you a cup…. sit down, Tim.”, she urged.
She poured me a cup and sat it down in front of me. She wrapped her arms around me and pulled me close to her. Once again, I cried uncontrollably and held on to Robin for dear life.
On Monday morning, the detective cleared us to begin funeral arrangements for Michelle. An autopsy had been done and the other driver charged with vehicular murder. This was his seventh DUI charge but only the first time he had taken a life. I told Stan and Beverly Woods that I would take care of all the arrangements. I drove to the funeral home and picked everything out feeling I knew what Michelle would have wanted.
The funeral was held that Saturday morning from nine to twelve at the funeral home with a mass thereafter. With then drove to the cemetery in severe thunderstorms that just would not let up. Everyone was crowded under three large green canopies trying to avoid the rain as much as possible. As the minister concluded the service, I stepped out into the driving rain. Michelle’s coffin has a pure white gloss finish to it with matching gold trim. I walked up slowly to the coffin and place a single red rose on the top of the lid.
“Baby, I can’t explain how I feel…. I am lost. My whole world has been taken from me. I don’t know how to keep living without you. Everything was perfect. I’m not sure I want to do this without you. I know what you would want me to do but I’m not sure I’m strong enough to do it. God, baby I love you. Now and always,”, I whispered, bending over to kiss the coffin.
By the time, I got back under the awning I was soaking wet. I was handed a couple of towels as I sat back in my chair. One by one, everyone passed by and expressed their condolences one last time. At the end it was just Stan, Beverly, Robin and I. Stan and Beverly were having people from the funeral over to their home. I had already told them, I was not going to attend I was going straight home.
I was the last one to leave driving straight home. By the time I got home I was shaking from the cold rain. I quickly took a hot shower and went to bed clutching Michelle’s pillow in my arms.
As December rolled around, I truly understood what the term “just going through the motions” meant. I was simply putting one foot in front of the other day after day. I would show up for work early, leave at five o’clock and head to the gym. Come home about seven thirty, shower and fall into bed.
The other driver was a thirty three year old male whose father was a major stockbroker in the area. They had tried to get the charges reduced to involuntary manslaughter, but the district attorney refused. Carlos Reyes promised me to take the family to civil court since the younger male was on his father’s insurance policy. The policy was a five million dollar policy but I didn’t care. I would give five million dollars just to have Michelle back.
In the end William Walker Jr. was given twelve years in jail. Twelve fucking years for taking Michelle from me. I learned later that he could be out in as early as seven years. As promised, Carlos Reyes went after William Walker Sr. with a vengeance. After a month’s long trial, the jury awarded me the full five million dollars which I tried to split with Stan and Beverly Woods. They both refused adamantly stating they were both financially secure.
By this time, I as well could be considered financially secure something that few people thirty years of age could say. I had six hundred thousand dollars in my savings account, four hundred ten thousand in my checking account, four hundred fifty five in my 401K, two hundred thirty five thousand in cash in my safe in the office which was left from the money Mary Stein had given us. I had paid off my house a year earlier so in addition to the money I had, I was debt free. And I was waiting on a check from Fidelity Insurance for five million dollars.
So all in all, Michelle’s life was worth five million dollars and twelve years in jail. It’s amazing how the courts can put a value on your loved one. The money meant nothing to me. You can always earn money, but you can never bring someone back after their gone.
Several weeks later, my banker called to tell me he had received the five million dollar bank draft from the insurance company. He put the money in a holding account until I could figure out how to distribute it.
I was in my office finishing a year end review on one of my clients when Terri came in and told me Cindy Butler, Richard’s sister was outside in the waiting room. I told Terri to bring her in immediately. Seconds later, Cindy walked through the door. She walked over to me as I stood up and hugged me briefly.
“Tim, I’m so sorry for your loss. I simply cannot believe what life throws at us sometimes.”, she sighed.
“Thank you, Cindy. What can I do for you.”, I answered.
“First, I want to ask you if you have time to do my taxes this year. I don’t trust my accountant anymore and Richard said you’re the best.”, she asked.
“Sure thing, Cindy. Not a problem.”, I replied.
“Thanks, you’re a doll. Now one other thing and I know this is bad timing but…… Richard told me that you’re going to get a huge check soon. I have a property that just came on the market, I would love for you to look at. If this is a bad time , I completely understand. This is just a really nice property that I think would be right up your alley.”, she stated.
I offered her a seat and got back behind my desk and sat down. She opened a manilla file and laid it on her lap. She shuffled through the papers and found the one she was looking for.
“This is a gated community called Oakdale in North Dallas. This is a modern contemporary home with eight thousand nine hundred and thirty one square feet on a three quarter acre lot. The house has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a library/office that is quite large, living room, dining room, wine cellar, laundry room, and home theatre. Outside you have a very unique pool with a waterfall, climate controlled sunroom and a large covered gazebo next to the pool with a fire pit.”, she stated.
“Sounds nice Cindy, what are they asking for it. ?”, I replied.
“It’s listed for two million six hundred thousand and fifty dollars. I have seen a few photos and it’s not going to last long. It goes on the market in a few days. I know the realtor handling it and we can see it whenever you would like.”, she offered.
“No harm in looking, set something up for tomorrow evening.”, I asked.
“Sure thing, Tim.”, she commented.
The following afternoon, I left work a bit early and drove to the address Cindy Butler agreed to me meet at. I arrived at the address on Briar Oaks Circle to find Cindy Butler already there. Most of the homes that I had passed were traditional, Mediterranean or Spanish influenced architecture. This home was definitely more on the modern side which I liked. It was set back off the street a way’s and had a huge driveway which I pulled into. I got out and walked to the front door which was already open. I called out to Cindy Butler and she shouted for me to come in.
I walked through the foyer and the first room on the left was the formal dining room. I continued walking down the foyer and arrived in the living room / kitchen space which was completely open. The kitchen had all commercial appliances which were relatively new along with a full Sub Zero Refrigerator and next to it a Sub Zero Freezer. This was a kitchen Michelle would have loved.
Across the room was the living room which was very large as well. It had a sixty five inch flat screen television mounted to the wall that would stay with the home. She then took me down the hall to the four bedrooms. Two of the rooms were huge and could easily be a master suite. The master suite bathroom was amazing with a huge soaking tub and a shower with nine shower heads installed. One large overhead rain shower head and four each body shower heads in a vertical pattern on each side. The second large bathroom had the same large soaking tub but a smaller stand alone shower.
We then moved to the rear of the house where the home theatre room was on the right. It had an eight five inch flat screen television on the wall. There were six theatre chairs in rows of three to view the screen from. The room was wired for surround sound and had dimming lights that could be controlled from a remote.
She quickly showed me the laundry room then we went out the back double doors and stepped in a climate controlled sun room. It had ceramic tile on the floor with a table and four chairs at one end. At the other end there was a large sofa and two large chairs all facing out to the pool.
We stepped through the large sunroom door onto a huge concrete deck that surrounded the best pool, I had personally ever seen. The pool was large and on one end there were huge rocks and boulders that formed a rock wall perhaps twenty feet high. The pumps had been routed so that they created a waterfall effect running down the wall of rocks and back into the pool. There was even a small cave or grotto to right that you could slip in for seclusion. This was a gorgeous home there was no doubt about it.
Since this was Thursday and the house would officially hit the market the following Tuesday, I asked Cindy Butler to let me think about it over the weekend. As I drove away, I could not help feeling sorry that Michelle wasn’t here to view the house.
As I contemplated the new home over the weekend, I did still have to decide on how to use the insurance money. I could pay cash for the home, then sell mine and deposit that and the balance of the insurance money in one of my accounts. By Sunday night, I decided to buy the house for several reasons. First it was a great buy and I would never have to move again in my lifetime. Second, every time I moved from one room to another in my present house, I found myself reminiscing about something Michelle and I had done in that room.
I called Cindy Butler early Monday morning and told her to make a proposal on the home. She mentioned that this area this was what they call house hot. Homes rarely lasted a week in this area. She recommended we offer the asking price which I agreed to. She called me later that evening and told me the owner had accepted my offer and removed the house from the market. Since it was a cash sale, we would close in thirty days.
As soon as I got settled in my new home, I would have to figure out what to do with the restaurant. Eddie Sampson, the manager Michelle had hired was running the place for now, but something had to be done for the future.