Thanks to LadyCibelle and my friend SH for sorting my foul-ups and editing for me.
"Something really weird happened today Kevin." Trudy my wife of eighteen years said to me as we were eating dinner one evening.
"What was it mum?" Cassie, our thirteen-year-old daughter asked, before I had time to react myself.
I'd stopped eating and was sitting there looking at Trudy with an expression of concerned interest on my face.
"Some young man took my picture as we came out of the restaurant at lunch time today!" Trudy informed us.
"Did he? I suppose you can't blame the bugger, you're a very good looking woman and you dress very ... er." I had to think of the correct word because Cassie was sitting there with us. "Smartly when you go to the office; even more so in the last few months." I replied nonchalantly and went back to eating my meal.
"Well I like to look my best at the office. But don't you think it odd that he would just take my picture in the street like that?"
"Not especially Trudy. Think about it, the guy was probably a paparazzi or something and he thought that a woman as good looking as you, strolling around during the day dressed up like you always are ... Well then, you must be a celebrity or something." I suggested.
"Oh don't be silly."
"Trudy, you've got an almost perfect figure for a woman your age, your dress and make-up are immaculate; of course people are going to think you're someone special. We do, don't we Cass?"
"Sure do mum, you're the best looking mum at our school. All my friends are jealous of me for having such a beautiful mother." Cassie chimed in.
"Oh now, you're both flattering me." Trudy said turning a little pink in the face with embarrassment.
"Nonsense Trudy, you're one very desirable looking lady. I'll bet all the guys in your office drool over you all day. Especially that John Ryan geezer."
"John Ryan, why should you single him out all of a sudden?" Trudy asked, having turned - what I considered - beetroot red at the sound of Ryan's name; but probably only slightly pinker that she had been.
"Oh come on Trudy, every one in town knows about that bugger." I took a quick glance in Cassie's direction, I hadn't meant to call him a bugger in her presence; but sometimes emotion gets the better of you. "Crikey the guys reputation goes before him."
"Trudy, he's a ladies man! You know, the b ... guy's got more notches on his belt than any other guy in town."
"He has; how would you know? You've never even met the man."
"Don't have to have met the ... guy personally to know of his reputation. He's had a whole string of conquests and he ain't too shy about bragging about them in the pub either. You know, if I didn't trust you so implicitly I'd be worried about you working in the same office as him."
Trudy suddenly went unaccustomedly quite. I really believe that if Cassie hadn't left the TV on in the lounge we would have been able to hear the cogs churning around in her brain.
In a way I'd know about John Ryan's reputation for years, and to be perfectly frank with you I had had some reservations when Trudy went to work for the same company as he worked in five years previous. But as they supposedly worked in completely different departments, I'd relaxed a little after a while.
Besides Trudy was my wife and she loved me, didn't she, she was telling me so all the time; so what the hell did I have to worry about?
But then again when your wife is as attractive as Trudy, there's always the chance that some handsome bugger might turn her head. And to be totally honest I was pushing forty and although I keep myself fit, I was showing that I was well past my sell-by date no matter what tricks I tried to pull to turn back time.
I thought I'd played a pretty good game actually. I anonymously and unexpectedly sent Trudy flowers at her office, on a random but regular basis. Sent her suggestive joke emails and cards — supposedly — anonymously arranging clandestine meetings for dinner — mind I believe she always knew they were from me, because I'd have to have already booked the babysitter. But you get the general idea; I played silly bugger loving husband like a teenage kid, so that Trudy — or anyone else for that matter - would think that I was getting as old as I really felt.
I wont go into our sex life here but take it from me it was as regular and energetic as it had ever been.
But a few weeks before this particular evening an old school friend of mine - who I hadn't heard from in donkeys years - but I was to discover also worked for the same company as Trudy, called me at my office out of the blue. I never have discovered how he knew where I worked, hearsay I suppose.
"How you going Kevin, Its Mark, Mark Willoughby, long time no see!"
"Jesus Mark, where the hell did you spring from? I haven't seen you in..."
"More years that we both care to remember Kevin. But I've seen you a few times when you pick Trudy up from the office."
"What, you work at Sangster's with Trudy?"
"Not exactly Kevin, I'm in a different department completely, personnel; but I've seen you down in the car park from my office window."
"Ah, nothing much to do but ogle to women I suppose?"
"You could say that we've got some real lookers on the payroll. The thing is Kevin ... your wife's one of them."
"I'm not sure that I like the way you say that!"
"Calm down Kevin, don't go getting excited, it might be nothing. But you being an old mate and all, I just thought I should tip you the wink. Can you meet me at lunchtime in the Feathers?"
"What's yours?" Mark asked as I joined him at the bar.
"Best please. Now what's this all about, Mark?" I demanded, probably a little harshly.
"Calm down Kevin, it might be nothing at all. It's just that ... Shit look, if I don't say something and ... Well, I'd bloody well never forgive myself. Look lets find a quiet spot out in the garden where no one can hear us." Mark said looking around as if he was expecting someone to be watching us.
Out in the sun, I followed Mark to a table well clear of any other that were in use.
"Look Kevin for all I know she could well tell the bugger where to go, but I've watched the prick for years and I know his MO. What's more he's very good at what he does."
"Mark who the fuck are you talking about and what in fucking hell does he do?"
"John Ryan, have you ever come across the bugger?"
"Yeah Randy Ryan from school."
"Yeah that's the bugger. Well he's married now and works in our sales division."
"Yeah I know, so what's he got to do with Trudy?"
"Hold up Kev, maybe nothing; I'm working on a hunch here. Look Ryan's always fancied himself as a bit of a stud, you must remember that."
"More than remember Mark, I was a little reticent with the idea of Trudy working for the same company as he did. But I found out that he was in sales and Trudy works in the buying office. From what I heard, nether the twain shall meet."
"Dead right there mate, different divisions entirely and rather a lot of animosity between the two of them as well. But in personnel, I see and hear things.
"I've kept an eye on Ryan because the little shit nicked my girl once, back when we were in college; never liked the bugger since. Anyway once he got married he calmed down for a few years, as far as I know he towed the line, if you know what I mean. He was always full of it with the girls around the place, but I don't think he stepped out of line with any of them."
"Then about four or five years ago, I noticed that he was spending a lot of time in the advertising department. The next thing you know he's joining the girl's from there at lunch times. You know how it is with the girls'; they team up together to go out shopping, to the café or the pub. Well, suddenly John Ryan's tagging along.
"Took me a long time to work out that when ever Ryan went with them, one particular woman was with the group. Didn't matter where they went, half the time I have no idea where they went anyway, I only saw them leave and return. But one thing I could be sure of was that Ryan would be with the crowd that this particular woman was with. Not that I ever saw anything untoward happening."
"So what does that prove?"
"Absolutely nothing and that's my problem, or as personnel manager I could do something about it; I'd love to be able to fire Ryan just for the kick of it.
"But then some months later when I'm looking through the staff attendance records, just by chance of course! By an extremely unlikely coincidence Ryan and this particular woman both have the same afternoons off for dental and doctors appointments etc."
"A bit circumstantial isn't it; who was this woman?"
"No one you know Kevin and she doesn't work for the company anymore; she moved away after she got divorced. And what's more those coincidental appointments happened once or twice month right up until she left the company."
"So you reckon... ?"
"I don't reckon anything Kevin, because I can't prove anything. The woman's old man never sued the company or anything, didn't even lodge a complaint. I'm just working on the balance of probabilities.
"The point is about six months after that woman leaves, I noticed that John Ryan was suddenly paying calls on the service department. You know, the office where the girls' who take the phone calls are. And yeah, it's not very long before he's going out to lunch with some of those girls. It took me a little longer to work out which one the second time, because they are a tight nit bunch in there."
"Anyway when the woman in question started the afternoon appointment lark, I sent a memo round telling everyone that we in personnel were going to run a survey and would be requiring all staff to give details of all medical appointments that required time off from work. I wrapped it up in a lot of shit about government statistical research etc. Anyway they apparently bought it, and both stopped the medical appointment game.
"But they must have been getting on somewhere out of working hours though because I'm pretty sure it went on for about a year, until the female in question went on maternity leave. Anyway then it was back to the Advertising department for Ryan."
"You think he got the woman pregnant?"
"Haven't the faintest idea Kevin. She's still with her husband anyway. She never returned to the company though; works for a company out in the sticks now. But that don't mean that Ryan isn't banging her on the quiet.
"Anyway I'm convinced he scored with some other silly tart from advertising and he was banging her for about eighteen months until she had an accident. Don't know what happen, but she was knocked around pretty bad. Finished up leaving the company, as well and I know nothing much about her since; except for a couple of reference requests from down Bristol way. Looks like she must have moved. Interesting that John Ryan was mugged around the same time as she had her accident though."
"So you're suggesting..."
"Nothing Kevin. But what would you do in her old man's position?"
"Kick the bitch out!"
"Well maybe her old man just knocked her about a bit and forgave her. Anyway that's the background. What I needed to tell you about is, that John Ryan has been hanging around the buying department for the last few weeks. And if you don't mind me saying, with your Trudy being the best looking woman in there, if not the whole company, then as an old mate I thought it was only fair to let you know the score.
"Look, I'm not saying that Trudy would do anything she shouldn't. But John Ryan's a very handsome guy, he's always had the gift of the gab and he's a very patient man. I really think it would take a very special woman not to have him turn her head, even just the once. I don't know exactly how he does it, but somehow he seems to get every woman he sets his sights on."
"I'll give you that, we all thought that Gina was really stuck on you at the time." I said remembering the girl that John Ryan had stolen from Mark.
"Yeah goes to show, don't it. You never can tell what's going on in a woman's mind even if you've known her for years."
"Or you're married to her, I assume you're suggesting!"
"I'm suggesting nothing Kevin, I'm just giving you the background so you can take whatever pre-emptive action that you deem necessary."
"Thanks Mark, I trust Trudy with my life. But only a fool doesn't watch his own back."
"If I spot anything more definite Kevin, I'll let you know, and by the way I really hope I'm wrong. But if by any chance I'm not, do me a favour in return and make an official complaint to the company; then I can have the satisfaction of sacking the bugger and making sure his wife knows why."
Not that I didn't trust Trudy, but I thought it would be prudent to take some kind of pre-emptive action. After a lot of soul searching, the method I chose was the threat of publicity that nowadays bugs celebrities so much.
An old friend of mine teaches photography at a local technical college; I had a quiet word with him and he set some of his special students the task of getting a few candid shots of two particular people. Yeah well, those paparazzi buggers have to learn their trade somewhere.
They didn't have to be suggestive pictures or anything, just candid shots of the two of them going about their normal daily lives, preferably in close proximity to each other. The sort of pictures that the paparazzi take of the rich and famous, all the time.
What's more there was no reason for the students not to be seen taking the photographs, but they had been sworn to secrecy about why they were taking them. Well yeah, I did have to put up a good few bob in prize money for the best shots, but I figured it a small price to pay.
When I put the plan into operation I suppose I did ask myself, was it going to work? But I figured that if John Ryan were trying to get my Trudy into bed, then they'd both have to be insane to actually commit adultery when they never knew when the next little shit was going to pop up out of nowhere and snap a candid picture of them.
"You're smiling, what do you find so funny about it. That man just appeared out of nowhere and took a picture of me; I felt like I was being stalked." Trudy finally said.
"Oh, don't be so paranoid Trudy. He was probably a student from the college taking some candid pictures around town. They're always about, haven't you noticed them before today?" I replied.
"Yes I have, but this boy purposely took a picture of me!"
"And as I've said so many times, who could blame him; you are the most beautiful woman in town. What do you expect him to do?"
"You think he'd take my picture just because of my looks?"
"What other reason would he take it for Trudy? Unless you were doing something illicit and he was a private detective getting evidence for your boyfriends wife." I laughed out loud as if it was a joke.
"But I wouldn't..."
"Trudy that was a joke, I would never suggest you'd do anything like that!" I lied. "I'm sure the guy was a student from the college who was just struck by your natural beauty. Don't worry about it."
I won't say Trudy looked convinced, but she let the subject drop after that.
"It was a girl this time!"
"Who was, what'd she do?" I replied, as if I didn't know.
"Took my picture as I came out of the lobby of the office at lunch time! I tried to ask her why she took it, but she vanished into the crowd."
"I don't think so, she was waiting for me, I'm sure she was."
"You're getting paranoid Trudy. I'm sure they're just students from the college I see them taking pictures around town all the time."
"But they don't single you out and take pictures of you!"
"Trudy I could hardly be considered anyone's pin-up, but you always look immaculate. I'm not surprised they want to get you into their pictures. Think yourself lucky some of those youngsters will probably be taking pictures of the rich and famous in the near future. Can you really object to them practising by taking pictures of you."
"They were in the White Hart today!"
"Those kids, taking pictures."
"Well, there was a whole crowd of them taking pictures in the garden."
"What of you?"
"No, not specifically. Of the pub itself; but we were sitting in the garden at the time. I know that we were in some of them."
"Whose the we, we're talking about here, Trudy?"
"You know, the girls from the office; we popped into the White Hart at lunch time for a drink because it was Sandra's birthday."
"Ah, secret boozing sessions during the day eh?" I replied humorously
"Don't be silly Kevin, you know we go for a little drink on our birthdays! Sometimes we all go out on the following Friday evening on the to celebrate as well."
"And are you all going for a piss-up this Friday with Sandra?"
"Well I was, but I don't think I am now."
"Oh, just someone who's getting up my nose a little in the office. If they're going to be there I think I'll give it a miss."
I didn't bite and kept my mouth firmly closed, but to say this news was music to my ears would have been an understatement. I had to assume that the someone in question was John Ryan.
But then I got to thinking, cynical bugger that I am. What if you've just been dealt a ringer, my son. Was your loving wife getting suspicious that you were responsible for those students with cameras all over the place, and was she very carefully and cunningly covering her arse? Good question eh?
Peter Phillips my college lecturer buddy called me at the office the following morning
"Kevin my old mate, I'd say something's definitely cooking. Four of my students were at the White Heart yesterday lunchtime. We go there every year and take pictures of the whole place; you know, publicity stuff. The hotel manager gives us the run of the place and we supply all the pictures he'd ever need for his brochures and the like."
"Anyway there was a crowd of women from Sangster's out in the garden, someone's birthday of something, your Trudy was with them. Well a guy with them tackled one of the students. He wanted to know why she was taking pictures of him; no prizes for guessing who it was. Well he tackled the wrong student, Sasha's got a mouth on her and she told him he'd be bloody lucky. Why should she want to photograph an old fart like him; she'd been tasked with taking pictures of the hotel and if he happened to be in the garden that was her loss, not his."
"What did he say to that?"
"Not much that he could say really, whilst he was talking to young Sasha one of the women from the Sangster party asked another student to take a group picture of all the girls together. Well the young lad was only too pleased to do so. Mind, Sasha did note that two of the party, a certain guy and your wife Trudy, didn't sit in for the group picture; they seemed to be very camera shy."
"Thanks Peter, how are the kids doing with the challenge?"
"Well we've got about a hundred candid shots already, how long do you want this game to go on for?"
Buggered if I know Pete, are they aware of every shot that's been taken of them?"
"I doubt it, I told the kids that they needn't hide, but not make it too blatantly obvious."
"I'll have to come by and see what you've got soon."
"Those students are driving me to distraction, wherever I go there seems to be one or two of them taking pictures and I'm convinced they are singling me out." Trudy said the moment I walked into the house that evening.
"Oh Yeah, I had a word with Peter Phillips this morning. I called him because you were getting all unnecessarily out of shape over it. It seems that they've got several projects going on. There's a photographic tour of the town they are doing for the council tourist department, and another group is doing a study of local characters, I'll bet that must be the group who've snapped your picture."
"I'm not a local character!"
"Sweetheart you're the best looking character in this town, take my word for it."
"Am I being flattered?"
"No, it's the truth and those youngster have probably spotted it as well."
"Well I like to look nice."
"Nice, you always look gorgeous my love. Anyway there's another group who are doing some advertising type work, it was possibly them you saw in the White Hart yesterday."
"You see just coincidence. Peter said that he'll look through them all and send you copies of any that you're in, if you like."
"What! No that wont' be necessary. I was just being stupid Kevin. Please tell Peter not to bother."
"Okay kiddo, I just thought you'd like to see them, that's all."
Yeah well, double bluff or what? Why should Trudy not want to see them, could it be that John Ryan would be in most of them with her and she didn't want me to spot that. Maybe there was something in Mark's original conclusion; perhaps I was too late.
Just after Friday lunchtime I received a call from Trudy at my office.
"Kevin, I've decided to go to out with Sandra and the girls to celebrate her birthday this evening, do you mind?"
I did, but I couldn't very well tell Trudy that, could I?
"No Kiddo, just don't go overdoing the booze. Do you want me to pick you up later?"
"Well, it would be better than waiting for a cab. But Kevin, if we go on to a club later we might not want to come home until chucking-out time; you wouldn't want to sit up until gone two in the morning."
"What else am I supposed to do babe, go to bed and lie there worrying; it's a dangerous world out there you know!"
"Oh don't be silly there's always plenty of police around outside the club and all the bouncers. There's even a couple of security guys at the taxi office at that time of night. I'll be fine, you go to bed and I'll see you n the morning."
"Okay, if you insist babe, see you when you get home and don't go doing anything your grandmother wouldn't like you doing."
"You never did get to meet my grandmother did you Kevin?"
"No, but I hear your mother was quite a girl in her time, you just behave yourself."
"As if I wouldn't! See you later darling."
Yeah well, I weren't happy, but there was sod all I really could do about it. I'd have to rely on Peter's students and their cameras to let me know what happened that night and hopefully their presence would stop things from getting out of hand.
I was sure they'd be around town, that cash prize was too much for them to miss. And in the club, well two of Peter's students moonlighted there every Friday and Saturday night; they wandered around snapping pictures of the clubbers, which could be bought for inordinate prices.
Although that wasn't the real reason they were there or that the club set up the printing room for them. They got far better pictures of the clubbers than the security cameras did, and anyone who got themselves banned from the club would find their picture displayed on the wall beside the doorman.
It was with some surprise that I heard the front door open at around half ten that evening and shortly Trudy came into the lounge.
"You're early love, nothing wrong I hope?" I asked.
"No I'm fine, I just wasn't enjoying myself, so I decided to come home to my husband and keep him from feeling lonely."
"That's kind of you, but I hope that doesn't mean I have to cut my evenings short when I'm out with the lads?"
"Do I ever curtail your fun?"
"No, but I wouldn't like to think that you cut your evening short on my behalf."
"Well to be honest there was someone there who was getting on my nerves, so I decided to come home early."
"Now we get to the truth of the matter. Who was it; one of the girls you've fell out with at the office?"
"Oh, no one important, I can handle it. Anyway is Cassie in bed?"
"Yeah, sound asleep."
"How about you and me having an early night then?"
"Sounds like a plan, but I wouldn't exactly call it early."
"Oh give over stupid, come on you know what I'm after."
"Hmm perhaps you should go drinking with the girls more often?"
That was one long night I can assure you. But I was curious as to what had happened, but I'm afraid Trudy was keeping very tight lipped about the evening.
Monday morning I received a call from Mark Willoughby around eleven o'clock.