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.
Well, when the local Chief Constable is able to vouch for a suspect's whereabouts at the pertinent hour, the police tend to believe his alibi without further question. Especially if you drove the stuffed-shirt and his wife home from a golf club committee meeting, because he had ... imbibed a little more falling down water than is prudent. So the investigating officers quickly cast their interest elsewhere.
No, I didn't know the bugger personally; I'd popped in for a massage and a session in the clubs sauna, as I was experiencing some real trouble with my shoulder around that time. Knowing that I would heading in the right direction, the Club Captain asked that I do the guy a favour.
A couple of days after the accident, came the part that hurt me even worse than my wife's actual demise. When Elaine's personal effects -- that had been retrieved from the wreck -- were returned to me. I discovered both Elaine's bra and panties in her handbag. The police officer charged with delivering them to me, even apologised that he had not been permitted to remove those articles from that handbag. He understood exactly what those articles of clothing implied, just as much as I did. Especially when you add them to the mysterious, vanishing and unidentified, driver.
It didn't take the police very much time to come up with the most likely candidate, to have been driving Elaine's car that night. However the man also had an alibi, although not one of an independent nature - i.e. his sister (I believe) had insisted that the man had paid her a rare visit that evening. And of course, he denied that he had driven Elaine's vehicle that evening. However he did not deny that he had ever been in Elaine's car, nor that he and Elaine had been ... acquainted.
However after all of the police investigations there was no actual evidence that could prove that John Rivers had ever been behind that particular steering wheel, at any time.
An acquaintance of Elaine's he might have claimed be, but the police turned-up ample evidence that the man and Elaine had been ... covertly "keeping company" behind my back, on a regular basis. Apparently, for the previous couple of months or so, at least.
How did the police find out about the guy and the affair so quickly?
Oh well, you see, from amongst the wreckage of the vehicle, the police had recovered a mobile telephone: one that I did not recognise. Rather suspicious when on further investigation it proved to be registered to Elaine. All the calls and messages recorded on that handset had been made between it and another similar mobile phone that sported a somewhat spurious registration.
However the police very efficiently traced that mysterious mobile phone back to one "John Rivers"! Not someone that I'd even heard of before, let alone made the acquaintance of.
And apparently, Elaine had not been the only ... distraction in John Rivers' social life. One of those other mistresses -- nothing else I can think of to describe them as -- and another married woman, I might add, had very quickly pointed the police in the direction of the true owner of that misleadingly registered mobile telephone.
An affair between the man and my wife there was ample evidence of. However there was still no actual hard evidence that it had been John Rivers behind the steering wheel of Elaine's car the night she died. The alibi -- supplied by Rivers' sister -- would suggest that it could not have been him.
The police officers I spoke to, and even the Coroner, were convinced that whomever the driver of Elaine's vehicle had been, he/she was guilty of "Dangerous Driving, causing death!" at the least, and possibly even "Manslaughter!"
It had come to light that Elaine's car had triggered a speed camera, while travelling in excess of 100 miles per hour, just a few minutes before the accident. And everybody was aware, that it had been appalling weather that evening: pouring with rain the majority of the time!
At the inquest, I learnt that police could place Elaine's car at a particular -- motel type -- hotel earlier that same night, although her name did not appear on the guest list ... and neither I might add, did John Rivers'. However Elaine's vehicle's registration number did appear on the establishment's car park list, referenced to a certain, Mr Browns room.
In fact, I learnt later (unofficially from police officers whom I will not name) that Mr Brown, Green and White were all aliases regularly used by John Rivers in such places: and that one or the other of them was a pretty regular client of that particular establishment. Noticeably correlated with the registration numbers of several different vehicles, regularly driven by a whole harem of different married women. From police investigations, it appeared that John Rivers was in the habit of putting it about a bit.
He was such a regular at that particular hotel, in fact, that Mr - Whichever - name Rivers was using appeared to know his way around the security camera set-up very well indeed. And he was pretty adept at keeping out of shot, if you get my drift. That is, unless he was actually signing-in; there was no way that any bugger could avoid that particular camera. However he, and particularly his guests, rarely if ever appeared in a recognisable manner on any of the hotel's surveillance videos.
At first I found it completely incomprehensible that John Rivers could manage to achieve such a feat, but he did.
An odd fall-out for me, of learning about John Rivers' curious behaviour around security camera's, had been my own later fascination with the bloody things. By the date of the night I'm talking about, it had almost become an addiction for me ... or maybe more like an obsession really. Wherever I went, I'd find myself locating all of the security cameras and working-out which areas they covered.
Strange behaviour, that had drawn me to the attention of more than one (good) security guard and the odd police officer or two. Oh and some customs or passport wallah at Heathrow Airport, I should add.
However all those years later, and much to my surprise, that damned obsession with security camera's, was to prove to be very useful on the particular evening I'm trying to tell you about.
The Coroner's inquest on Elaine's death was never formally closed, to my knowledge anyway. I must admit I have no idea what happened after I moved away from the area; I was trying to start a new life. But the old-boy had kept delaying his verdict, because he personally wanted to know who had been behind the steering wheel of Elaine's vehicle that night.
Although eventually the old codger did deign to allow her body to be released for burial. Cremation, I was well aware -- would have been Elaine's preferred option -- was not an option though. Something to do with any future defendant's legal team requiring reasonable access to Elaine's remains, should there ever be a prosecution.
No, I didn't ask too many questions, everything had dragged on for long enough as it was by then. By that time I just wanted it over, so that I could get out of that bloody hell hole of a town.
I really hadn't intended leaving "things" there. By 'things' you understand that I mean the original John Rivers/Elaine situation, not so much Elaine's actual death - that was the authorities ball game. However by that time, I was convinced in my own mind that Elaine had been cheating on me, something I figured that definitely did fall within my own remit.
But then, as no bugger had been charged over her death ... well, that gave me two reasons to wish to do some bugger a little harm.
However I was to discover that adultery might not be a crime that the authorities had an interest in, but causing death, or manslaughter, by dangerous driving is very much on the police's list of no no's. Several times I was ... waylaid by police officers while casing Rivers joint; or should I say prospecting possible scenarios: spying on John Rivers, to be precise. However apparently it was obvious to those officers that I was looking for the opportunity do something ... naughty.
The officers warned me off, in no uncertain terms.
To be honest that first police officer who'd informed me of Elaine's death that night, approached me and suggested that eventually, some bugger was going to do John Rivers a real nasty. However, he suggested that I'd lost enough in my life already, and asked me what good it would serve me personally, to do a stretch at Her Majesty's pleasure.
He also assured me that any officer who did come across an incident between John Rivers and some other angry husband, would most likely hang back, for a while at least. However the officer also informed me that the police could not allow Rivers to be fatally harmed. He also suggested that they really would not be happy if it were me they were forced to lock-up!
To put it succinctly, the police suggested that the greater distance there was between John Rivers and myself, when and if something eventually did go down, the better things would be for me.
So once Elaine was finally under the ground, I sold the house, changed my job, then moved away to pastures new, and tried to get on with my life. You know, I was doing quite well in that respect, until my work commitments brought me back to that town again.
So there I was that evening, six years later, struggling with my emotions and watching that a-hole, as he so gentlemanly held that blond bombshell's seat for her, as she sat down at their table.
Yeah okay, I did really feel like, walking over there, and bashing the mans brains out; but I couldn't. The place was far too public for a start. And as the police officers had said at the time, there was reason for suspicion, but no actual firm evidence, that John Rivers had been behind the wheel of Elaine's car that night.
However there had been, motive and opportunity for him have laid Elaine on numerous occasions, but I'd been too besotted with the woman, or blind to even contemplate that she might stray. Dumb in fact! One doesn't have to speculate on any male's motive where Elaine had been concerned. Even that wet dream Rivers was entertaining at the hotel that evening, couldn't hold a candle to Elaine.
Those police officers had been very straight with me, too straight some might say. That's why I'd quit my job and left town, as I feared that I'd kill bastard. I can assure the reader turning my back and moving away from the town had been a battle with my emotions that I'd only just won.
But then suddenly seeing him making-up to another treacherous silly tart ... well those old emotions began to cause my blood pressure to rise once again.
But I was a little older and wiser by that time though. I looked at things in a different way. My mind had instantly started to wonder whether I could engineer a confrontation between Rivers and that woman's husband. I'm sure you get the idea, I might be responsible for anything that happened to Rivers as a result, but my hands would remain clean ... legally. Much like his were, when he got clean away from that accident.
I was still lost in those kinds of dreams when Mike -- one of my old work colleagues -- suddenly broke into my thoughts.
"Are you alright Craig, you've don't look too ... Oh shit! Is that who I think it is?"
Having noticed that I'd gone quiet and dropped out of the conversation, Mike then must have followed my eye line. Some of my close friends had known the score at the time, even if I had tried to keep it quiet. At first I was at a loss to explain how Mike had known that it was John Rivers, as I recalled I'd never uttered the mans name to anyone.
I didn't reply to Mike's question in words, but I did nod my head almost in-perceivably, I hoped.
That's when I got a shock and discovered that all four of my dinner companions were fully conversant of my history. I was aware that Mike and Douglas roughly knew, but in how much detail, I had no idea. But the Big Cheese and the other director, Cooper knowing ... well, that took me by surprise.
"Craig my boy, you're not liable to do anything rash here, are you?" The Big Cheese asked, "It's been a very successful day for you, today my lad. And I should imagine a very lucrative one as well. I can understand your resentment, Craig. But it would be very silly for you spoil the day now, by doing something you might regret later."
"No, don't concern yourself, sir. Many years ago the police informed me that ... should anything untoward happen to that ... Wanker ... they will be showing great interest in my whereabouts at the relevant time. I've no intention of spending the rest of my life in the slammer, thank you very much!"
"That's all right then, you've had enough turmoil in your life, Craig. If anything untoward were to result from this contract, I'd feel responsible."
"I understand, sir. A very long time ago I decided that taking the law into my own hands, would be a very bad idea. Satisfying I'm sure, but I doubt it would prove ... congruous with my personal long-term plans. It's just seeing him here this evening with yet another mans wife ... Well I do find myself struggling to recall that woman's husbands name."
All four of my companions, seemed to instantly understand where my mind had been going. Unfortunately, while they all agreed that Rivers guest was of the variety of female that could be labelled, unforgettable, none of them could actually put a name to the woman, or her spouse. Of course Douglas and Mike did recall seeing her at the same Golf Tournament, just as I had. Regretfully that particular competition had been held about fifty miles away from our home town, so she -- and her husband -- could live almost anywhere.
Actually the odds were Rivers had brought his companion to that particular Hotel because the home she shared with her spouse was a long way away. Rivers himself lived some considerable distance away, in another district.
My four dining companions (for the most part) did their best to distract my attention from Rivers and his tart, for the rest of the meal, as I did my best to ignore the man's presence. But, I fear, none of us made a very good job of it. To be honest I must have been looking daggers at the bugger all night; it was no wonder that Mike had spotted me glowering at Rivers.
According to Mike, had Rivers noticed/recognised me, my facial expression alone should have struck the man dead on the spot.
You know I was quite relieved -- as I'm sure was the rest of our party -- when Rivers and his tart, completed their meal, surprisingly quickly, and then left the restaurant. I remained somewhat emotional, but eventually regained most of my composure.
To be honest I was wondering how I was going to handle breakfast the following morning, should Rivers show up there. Well I wouldn't have anyone I had to watch my Ps and Qs in front of, would I?
But then, from the couples obvious haste to consume that meal, I sort-of had figured that the philanderers were not in for an all-nighter, and I relaxed a little more.
After making a show of putting our meal -- and any beverages Mike, Douglas and myself were to consume later -- on the company tab, the Big Cheese and the director, Cooper, left the three of us before we entered the bar.
I should also point out, that Douglas and Mike had been my best mates at one time. Douglas had introduced me to golf and I'd introduced both guys and their wives to the dubious pleasures of sailing.
Yeah well, they all proved to be fair weather sailors, if you understand what that means. A passage around Lands End in moderately inclement weather, had gone a long way to cooling their (and their significant others') ardour for the pastime.
To be fair it had been Katie (Mike's wife) who had organised Elaine's funeral. Both Katie and Doug's wife, Terrie, had taken charge of disposing of all of Elaine's personal effects for me. The two women had consoled me when we first learnt of Elaine's death, but quickly claimed that they had never fully trusted my wife, once the truth began to come out. I do not believe that -- before her death -- either woman had the slightest clue about Elaine's affair with Rivers.
Whereas my two best mates were there for me, when Elaine had died, it was their wives who seemed to instinctively know what had to be done. I'd missed all four of my friends when I'd first moved away, but then again their presence always reminded me of that good times we'd all shared together with Elaine.
Hey, maybe that time apart, had been good for all of us; they'd often harped-on about thinking they were about to meet their maker, as we'd rounded Lands End that time.
Whatever, after the Big Cheese and Cooper had left us in the hotel foyer, Craig, Doug and I headed into the bar, where I was pounced upon by both Katie and Terrie. Although I'd realised both woman would be around at sometime to collect their errant husbands. At the time I had little idea as to why the women had not been invited to eat with us that evening.
There were an embarrassing few minutes, while my mate's watched their wives fawning over me, maybe with a little too much familiarity, as well. All five of us settled down in the bar to talk about ... well me actually, and what I'd been getting up to since I'd left town. As I said, we hadn't really kept in touch.
It was only after the tale of the old cat and dog had been thoroughly chewed over, that Doug mentioned to the girls that I'd spotted Elaine's "fancy man" in the restaurant. I hadn't mentioned the bloke's name to anyone up until that point.
No, of course I hadn't identified the guy to anybody; his name had been leaked to me in confidence, quite early in the investigation. Back then my mind was working on personal retribution: telling the world and his wife, that I knew who the bastard was ... Well, that wouldn't have been far short of pleading guilty in Court before I even committed the crime, would it?
Whatever, Doug's statement had drawn a decidedly odd response from both women. The two girls looked at each other, and then they shook us all to the core, by describing exactly how John Rivers current tart had been dressed.
Us three guys looked back at the women in disbelief. As I said that particular restaurant is (supposedly) the best in town, in consequence it had been as crowded that evening as it almost always was. I ... we couldn't understand how the girls would have any idea which couple could have contained John Rivers. Even more so, because I had still not named the man to anyone at that time.
"See that woman sat out in the foyer?" Terrie asked, with a deft flick of her hand.
"Who wouldn't!" Doug replied, with a grin.
Terrie didn't remark on the innuendo in her husband's voice. I had to lean over in my seat before I could clap eyes on the woman myself, but once I did I unintentionally blurted out.
"Bugger me, what the bloody-'ell is she doing here?"
It was a rhetorical question, of course; I just couldn't understand the woman's presence at the hotel. You see, I instantly realised that there was something familiar about the woman, but a moment later, the penny dropped. The woman was John Rivers' wife. To be completely honest with you I couldn't understand how I'd managed to walk through that foyer and not to spot the bloody woman sitting there myself, as Doug had done.
Only of course, she'd caught Doug's attention, for a different reason than she should have caught mine!