Thanks to LadyCibelle and my friend SH for attempting to sort my foul-ups and editing for me. But I'm an incognisant fiddler, so responsibility for all cock-ups can be safely laid at my door.
MOT test = all vehicles — over three years old - used on the public highway in the UK have to pass a Ministry Of Transport certificate of road worthiness test once a year; it's usually referred to as the vehicles MOT.
ABH = colloquial shorthand for the criminal charge of Causing (or inflicting) Actual Bodily Harm on a victim. There is a sister charge of GBH which = Causing (or inflicting) Grievous Bodily Harm on a victim.
The security guard hit the button, that lifted the bar to allow me to enter the car park of the complex, after he'd spotted the parking pass I waved at him. It wasn't my pass, it was Jill's, but today her car was in for its annual MOT test and a service. By chance Gwen - the woman Jill normally car shared with — also had her car off the road, so I'd played chauffeur to the two of them that morning. We'd swing by the garage on the way home and collect Jill's car; then she'd drop Gwen off whilst I returned to the office for a couple of hours.
Because I had no intention of stopping very long, I slipped my car into a visitor's parking space not far from the main office foyer. It would save the girls the walk down to the other end of the car park where their allocated spaces were. Then I looked at my watch and worked out I had about five minutes to wait for them, so I sorted out a Neil Diamond CD to listen too; I rarely have music on in the car — for my benefit - when I'm driving.
So there I was lying back in the seat watching the lift lobby through the big glass wall at the front of the building, waiting to see Jill and Gwen exit the lifts.
Funny place really; government offices where no one - except those who had been thoroughly vetted - could ever get past the two guys on the security desk just inside the front doors, but - most of the ground floor at least — with its full height glass walls was open for anyone to see into. Not that there was much to see on the ground floor, the cafeteria, entrance and lift lobby's basically; the kitchens and toilets were walled off of course. Oh yeah, and the fire stairs.
Anyway about three minutes later than scheduled I saw Jill and Gwen exit the lift and start walking towards the front entrance. But as they got close to the security desk I suddenly became aware of two people — a man and woman -who must have been standing beside it with the security guards all the time I'd been there. I just hadn't noticed them
Now up until that moment I'd never thought of myself as a very observant person; actually I couldn't have been, because the revelations that came from me spotting that man and woman and what they did next was a real eye-opener for me. I've never been an exponent of the theory that you can read very much from a person's body language; that day I was proved to be wrong
The two appeared to accost Jill and Gwen, as they got close. Then several things happened in quick succession, that were to change my life.
First both Jill and Gwen stopped dead in their tracks; looking at something the guy held in his hand. Their gaze then switched to the woman who apparently also showed them something. The two talked to Jill for a while, but to start with Jill was shaking her head in the negative; of course I had no idea what was being said, I'm not a lip reader. But eventually Jill appeared to begin nodding to their questions; a little tentatively I'd have described the movement.
In the meantime, Gwen had stepped back slightly and she did something really odd. She kept looking in my direction and then back at Jill and the others who were still talking together. It was obvious to me that Gwen could see my car in the visitors' parking area and I got the distinct feeling that Gwen was wondering whether I could see them inside the building. What's more, she seemed nervous about that question.
I also noticed that very slowly the other three were moving away from Gwen, or perhaps she was distancing herself from them, you know moving out of earshot.
Then I noticed that Jill appeared to have become very agitated. She'd produced a handkerchief from somewhere and appeared to be wiping her eyes. Her body movements had become jerky, imprecise; I knew my wife of thirteen years well enough to know that she was very upset about something.
After what seemed to be an age, the conversation suddenly ended and the man and woman, after acknowledging the two security guards, came out of the building, got into a car parked opposite mine and drove away. Gwen and Jill however headed directly into the ladies' toilets.
A few minutes later, the two girls reappeared, gave a cheery wave to the two security guys and walked out to my car with smiles on their faces. Jill after getting in beside me said "Hello darling," and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. In doing so she got close enough for me to see that whatever damage she'd done to her make-up - whilst crying — had been carefully repaired.
We were out of the car park and on our way to the garage, before I asked the question.
"What did that couple want?" And in reply, I got the first inkling that possibly something wasn't right with my marriage.
"Oh they were from security, just routine nonsense; you know those guys are always giving us grief. Christ, as if we weren't checked out enough when we joined the department?" Jill replied.
What did I spot wrong? Well that was the first time I ever caught Jill, my wife of thirteen years, telling me an outright lie. That man and woman were definitely not part of the complex's security section. I knew that because of a myriad of different clues that I'd spotted.
Firstly, all the staff had to wear identity badges, usually on a chain around their necks, when they were in the complex buildings. Both Jill and Gwen had dropped theirs on the security desk as they left. The couple had showed Jill and Gwen some form of identification, but I was sure that it wasn't those badges.
Secondly, they'd been waiting for Jill in reception; I figured I was safe in the assumption, because it was her they exclusively spoke to, that internal security would surely have gone to see her in the privacy of her own office.
Thirdly, the car the couple got into, sported three small radio aerials on its roof, just like all of our local constabulary's patrol cars did. And, almost hidden in corners of its front grill, were two little light fittings. These, I knew, were the blue strobe lights also fitted to all apparently — at first glance - unmarked local police vehicles.
I was also well aware, that the local police had nothing to do with security within the complex; that was the exclusive jurisdiction of the MOD police.
As Jill had spoken, I'd taken a quick look in the rear-view mirror and saw that Gwen's complexion had turned a very slight subtle shade of pink. Our eyes met for a second, but Gwen quickly looked away. She then stared out of the side window, with what I can only describe as an embarrassed expression on her face.
I didn't look at Jill for the rest of the short journey to the garage, but I knew that she was nervous about something. How did I know? Well she got a bad attack of verbal diarrhoea. I'd been married to Jill long enough to know when she was filling time with superfluous chat about absolutely nothing, to keep me from asking any questions.
She'd done it a few times before during our marriage, most memorably on the day she was attempting to get me to a secret party my co-workers had planned to celebrate my promotion as head of department. She'd done the same thing again when she'd unsuccessfully tried to keep secret from me, our tenth wedding anniversary party she'd planned. I thought I made a very good job of being overwhelmed with surprise that evening.
At the garage, I went in and completed the paperwork for Jill's car. But out of the corner of my eye I could see — through the garage window - that Jill and Gwen were having a heated discussion about something in my car; Jill was also looking very upset again. But her face was all smiles again when I got back outside and handed her, her car keys. Gwen though could not look me in the face and avoided my eyes.
The two girls drove away to collect the children in Jill's car and I drove back to the office, thinking unwelcome thoughts.
Back in my, by now, almost deserted office I returned to my usual Monday evening routine. For a few years by then it had been Jill's habit to take the children to her sister's house on Monday evenings for a visit. She and the children would eat there and our children would play with Wendy's kids until about eight. Jill did this on Mondays because usually I was late home that day. It's amazing how many little problems come to light on the shop floor over the weekend when I wasn't around to sort them; consequently my Mondays were fairly busy.
I'd generally knock-off about seven; then stop in the pub for a pint and steak before going home, usually arriving about the same time as Jill and the children. Was it habit or could you call it routine? I have no idea, but that's how Mondays had gone for as long as I cared to remember.
But, routine was one thing that Monday proved not to be. Okay the fact that Jill's car had had to go in the garage on that particular Monday had made it unusual. And what I'd seen happen in the foyer of Jill's offices - and afterwards - had made it slightly more unusual and had made me begin to wonder. But what happened when I walked into the Queens Arms, really made my hair stand on end.
.... There is more of this story ...