As always I must thank my LadyCibelle and Techsan for proof reading and editing this story.
"Damn this bloody rush hour traffic," I thought, as I sat in the queue of cars and buses. All I wanted to do was get home and go to bed. I'd been called away with my two assistants to deal with a major breakdown at one of my company's production plants up north three days ago. After working around the clock, we had finally gotten the line up and running again on Thursday afternoon. The three of us who had gone up to sort out the problem had gotten our heads down in an office for a few hours whilst the workers on the line got back to earning some real money. At about four in the morning, we figured that this time we'd finally cured the problem so we decided to drive home.
I'd dropped one of my assistants off at his house and was now trying to force my way through the morning traffic to drop Ronnie off. But something had brought the traffic almost to a standstill in the High Street. As I got closer to the hold-up I realised that some Pratt had parked on the double yellow lines.
The High Street in our town is quite old and very narrow; just one thoughtlessly parked car can cause all kinds of problems. Especially at that time of day! As I got closer, I noted that the car was one of those bloody great "Shogun's." Mary, my wife Fiona's best friend, drives one of those and I wondered if that was who it was. It was just the kind of ignorant thing Mary would do; I never had been too keen on her. She thought her shit didn't stink.
Then suddenly I became aware of Fiona walking back towards the Shogun from the Pharmacy; carrying one of those little paper bags that they put medicine's in. Fiona went over to the Shogun and after giving some guy, who honked his horn at them, the finger, she got into the front passenger seat and the Shogun drove off.
I was still some distance away and Fiona hadn't apparently seen me but I was bloody curious as to what Fiona and Mary were doing out this early in the morning. I didn't say anything to Ronnie as I was sure he'd have made some stupid comment. After I dropped him at his house, I made my way home.
As I walked in the front door, I got the shock of my life; Fiona walked up to meet me wearing her dressing gown and looking, to the world, like she had just got out of bed. Even her hair was a mess.
"Hi, darling," she said as she put her arms around my neck and kissed me, "I'm assuming you'll want something to eat before you get your head down!"
Now I'm not the smartest guy in the world. But I didn't get off the fucking boat yesterday; somehow I got the feeling that something was just not kosher about my welcome home. Twenty fucking minutes previously, Fiona had been standing in the High Street dressed in a short black skirt and that purple blouse that I always thought she looked so nice in.
Now she was standing in front of me looking for all the world like she'd just crawled out of bed, there were even traces of that bloody skin cream she puts on her face at night. And she had been brushing her tangled hair as I came through the door. Oh, and her mouth tasted of toothpaste. Not unusual I'll grant you; but Fiona is a creature of habit, she brushes her teeth after she has had her morning shower and her hair was still dry, so she couldn't have showered yet.
What to do? That was the question I was asking myself. Do I say something or do I wait and see what develops. Now I spend my life sorting out problems for my employer. I'm the cat's whiskers as far as my bosses were concerned when it comes to solving problems. My method is simple: when a problem comes up, you say and do as little as possible until you really understand what the problem is. Going off half-cocked rarely solves anything. As a matter of fact, it can often make things worse, if you do the wrong thing.
No, you sit back and gather all the information you can before you commit yourself.
"No, don't worry yourself, Fiona. I'll just have a shower and get my head down for a few hours. Then I'll grab something later, on my way into the office. There's a couple of things that I had to drop on Tuesday that I need to get finished before the weekend."
"OK, babe, if you use our on-suite, I'll grab a shower in the guest room."
"Oh, aren't you going to join me? I've missed you the last couple of days. We could have a little fun." I'm not exactly sure why I said that; it could have been that I just wanted to see what Fiona would say.
"You'll be lucky, cowboy. I over-slept a bit this morning and I'm running late as it is. Once you get started, we'll in bed until lunchtime and I've got to get to the office! Don't forget we're going to Mary and Jim's engagement party tonight. I don't want to get there late."
"Don't worry, babe. I haven't got much to finish at the office. I'll probably be home before you are."
I've got to admit I was pleased with myself for my self-control. Inside I was bloody fuming but Fiona hadn't the slightest idea about that. I was pretty damn sure she had been out somewhere with Mary all bloody night and that when I had seen them, they had been on their way home.
Fiona's high-speed change into her robe convinced me that she had most likely not been playing the contented and faithful wife while I had been out of town. Well, at the very least she must have been out all bloody night clubbing it. Not something a wife of eight years should do without her husband's knowledge.
We went to our respective showers, then I crawled into bed. Fiona came in and kissed me before she went off to her office. I lay there trying to get some sleep. But sleep wouldn't come. You know, when you get the idea that the person you trust most in the world is — well, l have to give her the benefit of the doubt, so I'll just say - not behaving as you would like, all sorts of scenarios go through your head. Most of them are very upsetting.
After an hour or so of not getting to sleep, I got up again, made some coffee and cooked myself some breakfast. Which promptly went down the waste disposal unit, as it appeared that for some reason I'd lost my appetite; as well as the ability to sleep.
The pictures of Fiona crossing that pavement and of her standing in the hall in her robe as I'd walked in the door kept going around in my mind. And then there was something else that was very odd; the chemist shop doesn't normally open until nine. How the hell had Fiona managed to buy something at 7:45 AM when I had seen her there. Then I remembered her friend Gemma. Gemma's parents owned that chemist's shop and Gemma had taken over as Pharmacist when she came back from UNI.
It was as I finished washing up my breakfast things that my mind turned in the direction it should really have gone a lot earlier. There on the crockery draining rack was a glass. What was so strange about that? Well, nothing really, but it was there. I'd managed to give myself a bit of a headache thinking about what the hell was going on with Fiona. So I took a couple of aspirins and that glass was just the right size for taking a drink to wash down some pills.
Suddenly I found I was thinking what the bloody hell did Fiona have in that paper bag I'd seen her carrying that morning. What was it that she'd been able to persuade Gemma to open up shop early to give her? What the hell could have been so urgent?
A search of the house was called for. The chemist's bag turned up quite quickly in the paper-for-recycling sack down in the cellar. Fiona really is one for saving the planet, a mistake, I think, on this occasion. But my search of the rest of the house proved fruitless at first.
Then I thought about opening those unpleasant little bags that Fiona, — like most ladies — have reason to deposit in the trash bin for a few days every month. Luckily I didn't have to open and search any of them. The one I was after was conspicuous because it was the only one there. Mind you it would have stood out like sore-thumb anyway, as it appeared to have very little in it. Fiona, you should at least have had the sense to wrap the contents in a towel.
When I opened the bag I found a little cardboard box and the push-out packaging that had contained two Levonelle pills, along with the usual side-effect warning sheet that came with them. For those of you who have not had reason to come across Levonelle pills before, they are more commonly known as "The Morning After Pill."
Well, there it was: Game, Set and Match. The end of my marriage all nicely wrapped up in a little paper pharmacy bag. After all, there is only one reason for taking the morning after pill and if you don't know what that is, boy, are you in trouble! All I had to do now was find out who the hell the other player in Fiona's little game was?
Ah, but the more sceptical of you might ask, "How do you know it wasn't Mary who had taken those bloody Levonelle pills?" Well, one-word covers that question. "Hysterectomy", and Mary's one of those women who loves to tell everyone and anyone about hers. She had some problem (no, I never did listen) when her second child was born. At the drop of a hat she will spend most of the evening going through the gory details.
I've heard the start of that tale so many times I sometimes wonder if she isn't using it as a come-on for the guys. You know the idea - I can fuck until doomsday and never get pregnant again. Thinking about it, I wonder if that's what really happened to her marriage. Maybe her husband caught her playing the field and not the other way around as she tells the tale. It would explain why her ex has the kids.
Convinced that my marriage was soon to become history, I called into the bank on my way to the office and made a couple of subtle changes to our bank accounts. Nothing too drastic but enough for me to know my assets were safe. Luckily the mortgage on our house was in Fiona's name. The mortgage on our cottage in the New Forest was in mine. To be honest I think I was going to finish up with the better end of the deal on that one.
As soon as I got to my office I called the big cheese. For some time he had been trying to talk me into taking over as the manager at the company's plant in Southampton. Really handy for the New Forest is Southampton. That day, I told him I was ready to make the move whenever he liked.
"Good man, Nick. That job is made for you," he said, "But I thought Fiona didn't want to move since she would have to give up her job. Have you persuaded her to change her mind?"
"Not really, Roger. I think Fiona's decided she would like a change of husband. Either that or she's of the opinion I'm the sort of bloke who will put up with her shagging someone else when I'm not around."
I could see that Roger was shaken for a moment and he didn't quite know what to say.
"Oh, Christ, Nick, are you sure? I wouldn't have thought Fiona would do anything like that."
"Neither did I, boss, that's why I married her. But I'm pretty sure some cunt has been shagging the arse off of her whilst I was in Preston this week."
"Bugger, I'm sorry."
"What the fuck are you sorry about? Unless you fucked her that is."
"Don't be bloody stupid, Nick. You know I wouldn't do anything like that. I mean I'm sorry, that I had to send you up there. If I hadn't you would have been home and she probably wouldn't have... You know."
"Now that's not the way I look at things, Roger. If she cared so little about me that she went off and shagged some Pratt when I wasn't around for a couple of nights, she could do it anytime it took her fancy. Think how many times I have been away in the last couple of years. A dozen, two dozen nights maybe? Every time I've been away she could have been out partying for all I know. All I've got to discover is just who she was partying with last night."
"You appear to be taking this very well, Nick. I think I'd be climbing up the bloody wall if I found out that my wife was cheating."
"Ah now, you see, boss. That's what you pay me for. When the shit hits the fan, I'm cool, calm and collected. I find what's got to be done and do it. But I'll be honest with you on the outside I'm cool and calm, on the inside I'm fucking-well pissed off."
"Well, you keep that cool, Nick, and don't go doing anything stupid. But can I do anything to help you?"
"Just clear a couple of weeks leave for me, and arrange my transfer to Southampton ASAP."
"You're on, Nick, the guy running things down there is on loan from the Salford plant. He can't wait to get back home. Say the word and you're in the chair."
"Shall we say two weeks on Monday? I'll go down now and clear up anything on my desk. What I leave, the boys can handle. Roger, I don't know whom you've got in mind to take over running my department. But I think Ronnie is your best bet. He hasn't been with us as long as some of the others but they all respect his judgement and listen to him."
"Reading from your appraisals of his work, he's in the frame. If you think he's the man for the job, I'll offer it to him. And Nick, you know this position in Southampton gets you a seat on the board, don't you?"
"I sure do boss." I said as I left his office.
The rest of the day I spent clearing up some of the outstanding work on my desk and putting Ronnie in the picture over what remained. I couldn't tell him he was going to be offered my job. But I could make sure he didn't get any unpleasant surprises.
Things took a little longer than I expected and Fiona had gotten home before me.
"I thought you said you'd be home early tonight. I got off at four as I thought you might want to play a little before we went out tonight."
"Sorry, babe I've had some things come up that I didn't expect. Look, babe, there's no time to play now if you want to get to the party on time. I'd better go wash and change."
"We could shower together." Fiona had that naughty look in her eye.
"Not now, babe, there will be plenty of time after the party." I still had no idea about who she had been shagging the night before and I had no intention of catching anything she might have picked up. So sex with Fiona was the last thing on my mind.
On the way to the party I thought I'd see if she had any intention of coming clean and telling me what had happened. I figured that what ever had gone on the previous evening might have been a mistake on her part. Maybe it was something that she regretted now and she might want to clear her conscience.
"How'd it go while I was away?" I asked.
"How did what go?"
"Well, what did you do in the evenings while I was crawling around that bloody factory?"
Whether Fiona had worked out what she was going to say in advance or not, I don't know. But she wasn't caught off guard. I suppose she had taken into account that, although she'd called me during the afternoon on the Thursday and asked how things were going, I could well have called her at home in the evening and gotten no reply.
"Oh, nothing much. When I told Mary you were still stuck up north, she suggested we go for a meal straight from work. Then we went for a drink before she drove me home. I think I over-did the gin and It's a bit. I was dead to the world this morning."
Very well done, Fiona, even if I did say so myself. She covered it all quite nicely. If I had called she could have been out with Mary and when Fiona's had a few, she sleeps like a log; the telephone has no chance of waking her. Now if I hadn't seen her outside the chemists I might have believed her.
"What pub did you go to?"
"The Plough. We had a meal in that little Indian place and then walked back to the Plough. We didn't plan on staying very long but they had the karaoke on last night so we sat and watched it. Poor old Mary couldn't drink much as she was driving. But I'm afraid, I over-did the hard stuff a bit."
All very plausible except that the Plough was the pub they all go to from Fiona and Mary's office. I doubted that they were in the Plough alone. Jim would have definitely been there anyway. Christ, the bugger almost lived in there. But Fiona hadn't mentioned Jim. I figured that Fiona went to that meal with both Jim and Mary and as Fiona hates playing gooseberry, I figured that someone else went along as well. I just had to work out whom?
Mary and Jim's engagement party was a big affair, held in a function room at a hotel on the edge of town. Well, it had to be - that was Jim all over; everything was over the top with Jim. He planned on being the head honcho at the office and he lived like he already was.
Personally I thought that his company would be mad to put Jim in charge. Jim likes his drink a little too much. That's why Mary always did the driving. Jim had lost his driving licence to the dreaded breathalyser.
The party went off very well. The whole place was packed with people from Fiona's company. They are a crowd who likes a lot of socials and parties. This party was more like a company social. Fiona and I had been to so many gatherings with this crowd that I had gotten to know them all pretty well. I thought if I watched closely, somewhere along the way, I was going to spot who Fiona had been with the night before.
Actually it didn't take me very long to pick out the guy that I figured was the most likely candidate. Bruce Campbell had taken over as Fiona's supervisor a few months back and Fiona was always harping on about how she wasn't very keen on him.
But in the past, that had never stopped her from dancing with him. That evening Campbell never came anywhere near Fiona; an unexplained change in behaviour. That was my first clue. My second clue came when I was standing at the bar waiting to be served. Campbell was standing behind me and in the mirror behind the bar, I watched him nudge the guy standing next to him and then smirk in my direction.
Tenuous, I'll admit, but it was enough for me. Now all I had to do was bring the curtain down. I had been socialising with this crowd of arseholes for some years now, so I knew a lot of them. As the evening went on I figured I had to search out one particular guy.
Ralph was a pain in the arse but he was going to be useful to me that evening because he's a guy who can't keep his bloody trap shut. I waited and watched him until I saw him go outside, I assumed for a smoke, so I followed him out. But when I got out on the veranda Ralph was nowhere in sight.
Curious I looked around for him but at first couldn't locate him. Then I heard a giggle come from somewhere. I went over to the balustrade and there below me was Ralph with one of the young secretaries. "Christ, are they all at it in this fucking firm?" I thought. But suddenly a new and better plan formed in my head.
I pulled out my mobile phone, then pretending I was unaware that Ralph and the girl were standing just below me, I made a call to my answering machine at home. The giggling stopped the moment they heard me push the first button on the keypad. Then I had a conversation with myself.
"Hi, Donny, how's it going?"
"No, not to good. I heard the results this afternoon. They reckon it's quite serious but with time and luck they can cure it."
"No, no, it's not as bad as that. It's gonorrhoea! The only trouble is, it's a bloody penicillin- resistant strain. It's gonna take some time to cure it."
"Yeah, some special super strong antibiotic stuff they've got."
"Well, I pity any silly bugger who's been banging her in the last few weeks. Mind, she must have picked it up from one of those arseholes in the first place."
"Fucked if I know how many she's been banging when I'm out of town. I know I wouldn't advise anyone to go near her with a bloody barge pole."
"Well, divorce is the only way out of it that I can see. Would you forgive her if she was your wife and you found out she was fucking anyone and everyone behind your back?"
"I don't know. I should imagine the shit will hit the fan either sometime this evening or tomorrow morning. No, I can't do anything at the moment; we're at a friend of Fiona's, engagement party.
"Right, okay, mate, I'll speak to you tomorrow and let you know how it goes."
I walked back into the function room, hoping that Ralph had overheard everything I had said. If he knew or suspected that Campbell was shagging Fiona, I hoped he would fill in the blanks, put two and two together and come up with five. That's the trouble with nosy gossips - they will make the facts fit the story.
Fiona was sitting with some of her friends chatting, I doubt she had even missed me so I went over to the bar to get another soft drink. I don't drink alcohol when I'm driving.
I watched Ralph and his bit of stuff come back into the hall. The young woman went off to join her friends and they went straight into a little huddle. I assumed that the Dutch whispers had started. Ralph looked around the hall and located Campbell who was dancing with some woman. I watched Ralph circle the dance floor until he got to a point near Campbell from where he, not very subtlety, beckoned to him. But Campbell ignored him.