Life Ain't Easy
Chapter 1: Crying Time
'Now look, this is easy! It's just a six-foot gap. You can jump it with no problems. You've done it before.' Well that's what my brain was telling me. But my eyes were looking at the two-storey deep hole into which I would drop if I missed. Two hotel floor's, the ground floor must have at least twenty foot ceilings then the standard ten feet or so for the first floor, add a couple of feet for the services etc. Shit, if I fuck this jump up its going to hurt, bad.
Still I had to do it. I needed to be on the next balcony. It was from there; I was going to end three peoples' lives.
One last check to make sure the gun was safe in my pocket. Yeah and I had the spare ammunition in the other pocket. Great. One, two, three and I'm off. God it seemed a bloody long way but I made it. I climbed over the balustrade and dodged into the shadow by the wall. I'm safe, out of sight.
Now I wonder if anyone saw me. I seemed to be out there for ages. But who would be looking up at the building on a dark night like this.
For twenty minutes I stood in the shadows, my back against the wall. Any minute I was expecting to hear the police arrive, or at least the hotel security sniffing around. But I don't know why I worried; no one had ever spotted me in the past. I had been on this balcony so many times in the last few years and never been spotted before but tonight was different. Tonight I was expecting something to go wrong.
After thirty minutes I began to relax a little. How relaxed can you get when you're about to kill two people? Not very! I checked the gun again. Safety off. Safety on.
This was the third bloody gun I'd bought. The first one was a complete dud, worn out and jammed up solid. I suppose a gunsmith could have sorted it. But I don't think I would have got much further than the local nick had I taken it in for service. The second one I laid my hands on worked fine, but I'd only had a few rounds for it. I had to have some practice shots as I'd never fired a handgun in my life before.
It was only after I had used all the bullets up that I discovered it was some weird size and the wanker who sold me the gun couldn't get any more. I got the feeling that's why he sold the bloody thing to me in the first place. I could have shot the bastard, but I didn't have any bullets.
You know hand guns and ammunition aren't too easy to come by in England. Unless you are one of the criminal community that is and my dealings with them got me stitched up twice.
This third one I had acquired in the States about a year ago. I was over there with my company's sales team doing a tour of some trade shows with a brand new prototype machine for a few weeks.
On a day off I went to one of the local gun clubs. You know the sort of thing; they've got shooting ranges and all that stuff. Some guy there was very helpful, showed me how to shoot properly and strip down a gun and clean it.
I kinda hinted that I would like to get a gun of my own but would probably have trouble buying one, as I wasn't a resident. He got the idea but never actually told me how to go about getting one. But In the next hour or so I gathered all the information I needed to get hold of one from conversations he had with other club members whilst I was in earshot.
So the following weekend I made my way to a gun show. It struck me that it was more like a car boot sale but with a lot more paper work. As had been hinted to me, I hung around outside watching for guys going in carrying what I hoped was the odd gun. On my third try I struck lucky. The guy was intending to sell the same type of gun as I had used at the gun club.
After a bit of haggling I came up with an offer he couldn't refuse and we made a deal. We made it all official as he took down the details of the California driver's licence I showed him. The fact the picture was of a coloured guy didn't appear to worry him or the fact that I had an obvious English accent. He was just looking at all those lovely green backs. There was no ammunition for it but I was able to pick some of that up at the gun club. I had noticed whilst I was there that although you had to sign for how many rounds you bought, no one checked that you actually used the damn things. Well, with people coming in and out with their own guns I don't suppose it mattered.
Getting the gun back to England was the least of my worries as I had that planned for some time. We had a whole container full of machinery going back. Being as I was in charge of maintenance and it being a prototype machine with many supposedly secret parts inside, I was there when they sealed the container. Well, I had to have a quick check inside to make sure that everything was safe and secure, didn't I? No one apparently noticed that I went in with one brief case and brought a different one out.
It was the same thing when the container arrived at Harwich. Customs broke the seal and the dog went in looking for drugs. I was lucky for me they use different dogs for drugs and weapons. Then I had to go in and have another quick look around. I even got a nice helpful customs man to carry the briefcase out, whilst I carried out a wooden rocking chair that I had brought for my loving wife. We had a good joke about whether there should be some duty to pay on it.
All this didn't happen overnight. I'd been planning this evening for nearly five years now. Ever since I discovered my loving wife was a cheating slut. When I found out she was cheating, I was angry and mad at her, so mad that I almost divorced her straight away. But as it became clear what she had been doing and whom she had been making hay with, I got really mad.
The more I found out about them the angrier I got. Until in the end I decided that I was going to kill them both. And then as my life was as good as over anyway and I didn't quite like the idea of spending the rest of my life in Parkhurst or one of Her Majesty's other secure holiday camps. I planned to shoot myself!
None of this can really be making much sense to you, so let me go back to the beginning.
I met my wife Maggie about six months after I returned to England from New Zealand. My whole family had emigrated out there when I was eighteen. But I never did settle down.
The whole New Zealand experience hadn't been a good one for me. Well, the whole family in the beginning really, but the others seemed to settled down eventually. Shortly after we arrived in Auckland, we nearly all went down with some stupid childhood illness. The local health officials threw the preverbal fit and slapped us all into isolation for a while until they found out what it was. Some little brat on that damn 707 must have been contagious. But it was pretty uncomfortable for a time, I can tell you! No wonder they push that bloody MMR inoculation so much nowadays. Well, the first few weeks out there were spent getting over that.
We settled into a nice house and I went to college where I completed my studies in engineering. I made a few good friends and I suppose for a while I must have enjoyed myself. But when I was twenty-six and after a disastrous failed relationship the end of which upset me very greatly, I upped sticks and, leaving my bad memories behind, returned to England.
I met Margaret when she was employed in the sales office at Punchall where I got a job on the service crew. I was out on the road working with the service and maintenance team. We worked closely with the sales guys installing the computer controlled sheet metal punching machines they sold and keeping them in top-notch order.
It wasn't long before Margaret and I were the talk of the company. All the sales guys had been after her for years and had gotten nowhere. I turn up and after a couple of weeks Maggie and I were an item.
Now I'm not too bad looking, but I'm no bloody oil painting either. But Margaret was something else completely, altogether out of this world. Why the hell she ever teamed up with me I never could understand.
We went steady for about eight months and then got hitched. My mother, father, Brother Bob and his wife Jane came over for the wedding. But both my sisters were tied up with their children. Well, that's what they said, but really I think it was the cost of flying over. Neither of their husbands was earning that well.
It didn't really matter as the following spring Maggie and I went out to Auckland for four weeks so she got to know them all.
Things went well for Maggie and me. We had bought a house in the suburbs of London. A four bedroom semi-detached, well three bedrooms and a large cupboard really. I never have been able to figure out how they can call those tiny rooms a bedroom. But it has made a nice little study for me over the years.
Maggie and I had been married about two years or so when my brother broke up with Jane and also returned to England. Robert is a year older than me, but quite honestly we looked like twins. When the family emigrated Jane, his then fiancée had gone out with us and they got married in Auckland shortly after we arrived. But I had heard rumours from the rest of the family that all in the garden wasn't roses. For a few weeks he stayed with us; then got himself a flat in town.
Maggie and I both wanted children but it did take an inordinately long time before Maggie fell pregnant with our first daughter, almost four years. Then we had another three all about a year apart after the first one. Four girls! It looked like I was in for a worrying time when they were teenagers. But actually things have gone very smoothly as far as my daughters were concerned.
As the years flew by I worked my way up in my job until I was promoted to the head of the service department. Nowadays I wear a suit and tell everyone else what to do. I spend most of my time negotiating service contracts. And of course I fly off all over the world making sure our franchisees keep their service departments up to scratch.
Bob was always around to help Maggie and the girls when I'm away. It was strange when we were kids, Bob and I never did get on that well. But after he came back form New Zealand we appeared to get on like a house on fire. I had always thought that when we were younger he was jealous of me. Being the youngest, mum and dad always had tended to favour me.
Bob married another London girl, Shirley, who I had actually gone to school with but unfortunately that marriage didn't last two years. Luckily there were no children so he didn't have the problems I had when I left Auckland. He shacked up with another girl for a while but that didn't last long either. I couldn't figure it out; there must be something about Bob that women soon get fed up with.
My youngest girl was fourteen when my world began to fall apart, and that happened in the strangest way. I was doing the daily chore of going through my e-mails when this strange one came up with nothing but a link on it. I'm not stupid. I didn't recognise the address it came from and I don't get caught that easily. I trashed it and forgot about it.
The next day it was there again. After three days I got fed up and blocked it. But the following day it came again but from a different address, and this time it said 'If 0you've got any sense you will read this story.'
Well whoever it was had caught my interest. I studied the link address 'Xxxxxxxxx.com'. Who the hell were they? Instead of clicking the link I Googled them and discovered it was an erotic story site. After looking around a bit I decided it was probably safe to try the link. And so with just a little trepidation, I did.
It was some stupid story called "Eight year break" I read the story; it was about some guy finding out his wife had been cheating on him and that one of his three children wasn't his, but had been fathered by some other guy. Well, I'm not into all this sort of stuff so I shut the site down and forgot about it.
The following Monday morning the bloody e-mail was back. But this time with a link to a different story.
Now I began to figure that who ever was sending me this rubbish was inside our system. Somehow they knew that I ditched the first few e-mails and had gone to the site on Friday. I figured whoever it was, was playing silly buggers. So I thought the easiest thing was to open the story then forget it. Whoever was messing around would soon get bored.
Once again the story was about a wife getting pregnant by some other man. I quickly scanned through it, but as I said it didn't do anything for me.
Tuesday there was a third. Same thing: wife getting pregnant outside the marriage and the husband bringing up someone else's kids thinking they were his own.
That night as we all sat around the dining table at home I looked at my children. 'God, what must it feel like to find out the children you love are not really yours?' I thought.
But that couldn't happen to me. I had a loving wife and all my children had distinctive features. My turned up nose and blond hair. Luckily (or should I say worryingly as the guys were already hanging around the older ones) they were all developing Margaret's lovely figure. But those noses were definitely mine.
Over the next week or so the e-mails with the links kept on coming. The stories were all on the same theme. In the end I would just open them and forget them.
One morning an e-mail had some text on it. 'For god's sake, man, open your eyes! Your children are not yours. Their father was bragging that you are a fool and will never work it out. He thinks it's a big joke that you are bringing up his children.'
Now this wasn't funny anymore. Whoever sent these stupid stories was getting right up my nose now. So I sent a reply telling them that I didn't appreciate the joke. But I used more colourful language.
Half an hour later another e-mail arrived.
'Where is your wife on the third Wednesday of every month?'
This was bloody nonsense; every Wednesday Maggie plays bridge with her girlfriends and has done so for as long as I can remember.
So I wrote back, "Playing Bridge as she does every Wednesday."
'Not on the third Wednesday of the month she doesn't. She plays something else in room 204 at the Royal Hotel. They've had a regular booking for years now.'
By now I was seriously upset. So I wrote back demanding to know whom it was that I was corresponding with.
The answer came back, "If I told you, you would never believe me and probably never talk to me again. But you have got to do something about your wife. I have told you now so you will never hear from me in this manner again. But please don't let them make a fool of you any longer. We will be here when you need us. Trust me."
I wrote back but my e-mail was returned 'address not found'. I tried the other address and the same thing happened.
At dinner that night I once again looked around my daughters faces. Abigail the oldest at twenty, who had recently set up house with her boyfriend Mike, had come home for a couple of days as Mike was going away on a training course. Whoever the writer of those e-mails was, they had to be wrong. These four girls all had my nose and hair.
The Wednesday of that week was the third Wednesday of the month. As we finished dinner Maggie got ready to go to her bridge night. I was still undecided about what I was going to do when Abigail suddenly asked me if I was going out.
"Well I normally stay in, when your mother goes to bridge, to look after Hannah. (My youngest Hannah was still a few months short of her fourteenth birthday.) I know she wouldn't do anything silly but the law says she's too young to be left alone."
"I'll stay with Hannah if you like. You go and have a game of darts or something."
God, this was strange. I can remember all the arguments when Maggie and I had asked Abigail to look after her younger siblings in the past. Then I realised, Abigail is no fool. In a couple of year's time she is going to be looking for a baby-sitter herself. And who are the cheapest babysitters around? Mum and Dad of course.
"Why, thanks, Abby, I'll take you up on that. And by the way I hope you and Mike are planning on tying the knot before you need me to reciprocate."
"Next spring if all goes well dad. I'm having trouble persuading Mike to wait that long. He can't wait to make it official. He thinks I'm going to run out on him or something. But I think you must be sure you can trust the person you marry, mustn't you."
A poignant remark but a strange one for my daughter to make.
I told her she was being sensible, then went up to get changed. Of course I wasn't going to the pub, I was going to check where Maggie was going. I can tell you that wasn't easy for me to do. We'd been married twenty-two years and beside those e-mails I had never had any cause to distrust her.
I drove round to the friend's house where Maggie was playing bridge. And guess what? Her car was parked just up the road. So the e-mails had been a cruel hoax. Feeling just a little relieved I decided that that pint was a good idea.
I was turning the corner at the end of the road when something caught my eye. In the distance I just noticed a woman walking. When you've been married for twenty-two years you can recognise your wife a bloody mile away and that woman was Maggie. Another hundred yards and she would be at the Royal.
The pain in my chest was crushing. I actually thought I was having a heart attack. I watched Maggie walk up the road staying in the shadows. When she got opposite the Royal she stopped and looked around. I was surprised she didn't recognise my car, but I got the chance to make sure it really was her.
But why didn't she see me? Was it over-confidence? Had she done this so many times in the past that her checking around was just a formality? There had never been anyone to see her in the past, why should there be someone tonight? Then she quickly crossed the road and went into the Royal.
The Royal is a large hotel about a mile or so from my home. It had at one time been a very flash place but was nowadays living on its reputation. I had heard it had turned into a bit of a knocking shop on the quiet
What the hell was I going to do now? Who the hell was she meeting in there? I knew one thing; it looked like Maggie and I were heading for the divorce court pretty rapidly. My informant appeared to have been correct and Maggie has been playing around even if he had got the children part wrong.