My thanks go to my proofreaders for their assistance in preparing this yarn for posting.
Clarification: World War 2 prefabs, are mentioned in the text - they were temporary housing put up during and following WW2 to replace bomb damaged homes; a high percentage out-lived their planned 10 year lifespan by many decades.
I didn't like the town any more and I hadn't really wanted to go back there. But then the plan was that I'd only be in that place for a couple of hours at the outside.
My employer -- being aware that I'd lived there previously and also that I had once been an employee of the prospective client -- had it figured that I would be the best man for the job. Had it not been for possibility of a socking great commission cheque, I'd have refused to go, right from the get go.
I was somewhat surprised to find that I'd been favourably missed at the company; what's more I was honoured with the red carpet treatment ... the Big Cheese himself deigned to come into the meeting to say hello. Damn-it if it weren't almost a done deal from the moment they realised who had walked in the door.
However the negotiations on price ... well, they took a little longer than I'd hoped they would. A little bit of brinkmanship went on there, so I had to call back to my home office for authority before I could agree. I feared my boss would be upset, until he informed me that he'd loaded the first quote anyway. Although he claimed otherwise, my employers tone of voice assured me that he was well-pleased with the deal we eventually struck.
My problem was, that little game of brinkmanship took time to play out, and as a result I'd missed my flight home that evening. Yeah I could have ... probably should have, caught the train, but the journey was not a direct one. Maybe I should have driven down there in the first place, but, hey my employer was paying for the airfare and it would have been a bloody long drive. And as the boss had happily suggested that I stayed-over in the only four star hotel in town. Bugger, if it's free take every perk going, I always say. Anyway, I wasn't about to complain.
"Just one night in a plush hotel and then I can get the hell out of this dump, again!" That's how my mind was working.
Well blimey, the day had been damned successful really, excepting of course for the fact that that bloody meeting did overrun some. But then again I felt I couldn't complain about that either, because I was going to be on the receiving end of a bleeding great bonus.
One must remember that I'm not even supposed to be on the sales force in the first place, but for some reason my boss had assumed that my personal approach might have some influence on the outcome.
It seemed to me though that the client -- my old employer -- was also extremely pleased with the days events. Well it's not very often that the client, in those type of negotiations, offers to take the salesman (effectively me) out to dinner. I always thought things worked the other way around.
Admittedly it was at the same hotel that I was staying in, but that always had (supposedly) the reputation of being the best restaurant in town.
Maybe I should add that the most influential restaurant in town, it might be, but I could recall being served a few ... disappointing meals at the establishment there myself, when I had lived in that neck of the woods.
Whatever, there were five of us that sat down to eat that evening. The Big Cheese himself, one of the directors and two of my old work colleagues. No females I'm afraid, and that kept the conversation more on business, than pleasure. Something odd about that firm; no one ever seemed to discuss sport while the Big Cheese is around, I have no idea why. Anyway, without any females present it made for bleeding boring conversation if you ask me. But one had to at least try to look like you are interested.
Anyway it was while my mind was wandering that I spotted him. Actually if I'm being completely truthful, I spotted her first. Well, she is one of those women who grabs your attention, if you get my drift. But I was more than a little surprised to see that her escort that evening, was not her husband.
I better explain, that I'd first clapped eyes on that particular wet-dream, at a golf tournament. She had been proudly displaying her wares while standing beside her husband, an Arnie (in his younger days) look-alike; all six feet something of the bugger, and built like a brick shi ... Yeah, you know where I'm going here. Not someone I'd ever care to cross swords with in a hurry, anyway.
Although I suspect that everybody's eyes -- well the guys anyway -- at that particular prize giving ceremony, weren't on the Arnie look-alike being presented with his bleeding trophy. They were on the smiling million dollar real estate package attached to the bugger's right arm. I'm sure you get the general idea.
Whatever, it was the appearance of that blond bombshell that first attracted my attention in the restaurant that evening. I suppose I was wondering who would dare risk a confrontation with the brick shit'ouse. I'm sure you understand where I'm going there as well. If you don't ... well?
In fact, up until the woman's escort turned around to assist the blond with her chair, I was thinking that the whole situation was somewhat humorous.
But then, as her escort ... host, or whatever capacity he was acting in the evening (most likely I suspected, lecher) did eventually turn his face towards me, I recognised that I was looking at the bastard who'd been responsible for the death of my wife.
Okay, so now we have to digress even further, and get the part over that I really do not enjoy talking about. The time when I have to admit to the World and its Aunt, that I had been taken for a bleeding ride. This is not easy you know!
Elaine and I had been happily married (I thought) for almost eight years, when late one evening a police officer knocked at the door and informed me that my wife had been killed in an accident. Not injured mind you, there was absolutely no doubting the fact that my wife was deceased.
From that officer, I quickly learnt that Elaine's car had skidded off a wet road (it had been really nasty, weather wise that evening) and collided with a tree.
I immediately knew that something wasn't ringing true. Basically because, although my wife's car could/should have been termed a "hot hatch", by nature Elaine had always been an extremely confident and careful driver.
Slow -- if anything -- would be best way to describe Elaine's personal driving technique. My wife was proud of her looks and of her nice new car, and she really had enjoyed being noticed while she was driving the thing. Mind you, as long as I'd known her, Elaine had always enjoyed being the centre of attention, if you get my drift. It had always done wonders for her ego, and for me in bed at night. (If you don't understand where I'm going there, that's your problem, I have no intention of explaining further.)
Consequently, Elaine had developed her own personal method of ensuring that the driver of any and every vehicle behind her became aware of her presence on the road. Surely most drivers will get that one.
So yes, at first sight it had looked like just another unfortunate road accident, like many that happen every winter: except for the fact I'd had the instant gut-instinct, that something weren't quite kosher.
And then of course there were a few little inconsistencies that came to light in the following days, and had played upon my mind ever since.
Firstly, Elaine's car had slid off the road at speed and hit that tree, passenger side first. And as I've just said, Elaine didn't do "driving fast" for starters, not in that car anyway.
Secondly, and a touch more significant, the fire brigade had had to extract Elaine's body ... cut it from the front passenger seat. That tree had mangled that whole side of the vehicle into oblivion. Whereas the off side, or drivers side of the car had remained remarkably undamaged.
So that left the question, in my -- and the investigating police officer's -- minds, just who had been in the driver's seat at the time of the crash?
Whoever it was -- and by what freak chance I can't explain -- could not have been injured significantly, if at all. After all they had been able to open the driver's door, extract him or herself from the vehicle and vacate the accident scene completely. Long before anyone else had come across its location.
To be honest, the traffic police officer's investigating the case had been very good, if that is the right way to put it. Obviously they had been aware from the start, that whoever had been driving Elaine's car that evening, had left the scene of the accident without waiting around for the emergency services to arrive. And furthermore he/she had deserted a dead or dying Elaine. More significantly, they failed to report said accident to the authorities at the earliest convenience (or with twenty-four hours). Both first and third points, are offences under the British legal system, and the second, an offence against common decency.
All three together were than enough to evoke the officers keen interest in the question of who had been driving Elaine's vehicle that evening.
And yes, the police did at first suspect that it might have been myself driving Elaine's car that night. However, they were soon able to exclude me from their enquiries and very quickly removed me from the list of possible culprits.
.... There is more of this story ...