By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Inside Reunion Arena, Gomez stands alongside Margie's unsuspecting husband. When Margie and her daughter are in position, and the cameras and microphones are stashed just out of view, the trap springs.
Gomez approaches the husband, telling the man his wife and daughter are outside and need to speak to him now. It's an emergency. The man strides out of the arena. His family stands in front of him, wearing grim faces. They are almost close enough to touch.
Then a swarm of people, machines, and accusations collapses on him. Sounds fade away; movements become slow. Microphones poke for position, and cameras stare.
Habeeb, as Tommy Gunn, stands in the man's face. "We're with Cheaters," he says, as though that will magically explain away the sudden thrust of confusion and fear.
There's no mistake about it: This bear of a security guard, this broad and brawny man, has become a rabbit. He quivers slightly; beads of sweat bubble up on his forehead. His pupils have shrunk to the size of pinpricks. He makes a move as if to flee, but stops. In the middle of this madness is his family.
A crowd quickly surrounds and closes them in: Soccer moms halt their troops; frat boys, rowdy on beer and testosterone, shush themselves; and hockey fans crane their necks for a better view of the action. The man speaks to his family in Spanish. The tone of his voice and his body language contain denials and excuses.
His daughter grasps his arm. "Dad," she says quietly, "we saw you." For a moment, there is just a father and his daughter and the simple heartbreak of human emotion. It's mesmerizing.
"That shot is golden." These words will be said over and over as the scene is reviewed, edited, and spliced together.
The cameras dive in. The microphones jab. The crowd gawks. Habeeb begins rambling, talking to the family even as it crumbles before him -- and the camera.
"[Your wife] just came to me and needed help," he says. "It's important that she knows that's how you feel. She's not able to sleep at night, not knowing what to do. Our job is just to help her find out the truth so she can make some logical decisions. Honesty is the best policy."
Now, he's hitting his stride.
"Obviously, you are in another relationship. We have some pretty explicit documentation."
Then, the bomb.
"Do you want to stay married?"
It's all the man can do to muster even a quiet response.
"I don't know," he says, barely above a whisper.
Habeeb tries to wrap things up, to put a neat little bow on the carnage. He tells the couple that they need to talk, that communication between couples is so important. He sounds like a marriage counselor.
"We want things to work out for the positive," he says. "I've seen your wife and daughter, and there's a lot of love there."
Then, suddenly, it's over.
The man somehow manages to return to work. The crowd disperses, remembering there's a puck about to drop. The family is swept into a waiting car, driven by Gomez.
Margie will not say why she ultimately decided to go through with this bust. Her brother, up to this point reluctant to be anything more than a silent presence of support, says, "We felt that since she had started something, she needed to see it to the end." The daughter adds that she hoped she's the one that gave her mother the strength to go through with this. "She wasn't just doing it for her," she says. "She was doing it for me. She was doing it for our entire family."
The family promises to discuss their experience with Cheaters at a later date. They never returned calls from the Observer.
The car carrying the family speeds off. All that's left is to film Tommy Gunn's case wrap-up -- sort of the Cheaters' answer to Jerry Springer's episode-ending final thought.
Habeeb turns to a video camera and says, on cue: "The words of an adulterer can cut like a knife. Sometimes it takes the love of a daughter to see the light. I'm Tommy Gunn, and I'll be keeping an eye on you." He repeats this entire rap two more times, toward two different cameras. Cheaters' cameras get it from three different angles each time. They are omniscient to the very end.
The next morning, Bobby Goldstein leaves this voice mail.
"How about yesterday?" he asks, sounding thrilled, giddy once again. "Was it Barnum & Bailey who said something about the greatest show on earth, or was it Bobby Goldstein? I was thinking about how you still don't believe it's the art for me and you think it's the bucks. You might want to come by my house and take a look at what stimulates me."
Was it P.T. Barnum who said something about a sucker being born every minute?
The Goldstein house sits near Preston Road and Northwest Highway, right next door to the estate of another Dallas art lover, Howard Rachovsky. The home befits a man of longtime wealth and taste. It's aglow with a vast array of paintings, sculptures, and finely crafted furniture.
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