Drive by Shooting

by Denham Forrest

Tags: Cheating,

Desc: Drama Story: Was it a random drive by shooting? A road rage incident? Even a mugging gone wrong? Or could it possibly have been something completely different?

My thanks go to my proofreaders LadyCibelle, and my friend SH, for attempting to sort out all of my co ... foul-ups! But I must remind the reader that I still retain my annoying habit (Well I would be surprised if I doesn't get right up their noses, after all the effort they put in on my behalf!) of fiddling with my tales of woe, almost every time that I open them. So blame for typos, spelling mistakes and all grammar foul-ups, should be laid at my door.

Clarification: - The Met = London's Metropolitan Police Force, often erroneously known as Scotland Yard; New Scotland Yard is their headquarters, and they shouldn't be confused with the City of London Police, who police the square mile. HEMS = London's air ambulance and rapid road response medical teams, based at the Royal London Hospital. Broadmoor and Rampton are high security mental institutions.

Where do I start, I'm not sure? Maybe by explaining that I was away at one of those damned seminars on environmentally-friendly disposal of industrial waste. We're talking a few years ago now, before what could be described as the environmental revolution — or re-evaluation - that's overtaken the world. I can't say that I was particularly enamoured to have been picked-out by my boss to look into our company's waste policies, and generally clean up the company's act in that area.

However, I can't say that I had objected to either kudos I'd gained by the promotion amongst my fellow workers, or raise in pay. The travelling involved — around all the company's different plants — was turning out to be a real pain in the arse though.

Much to my surprise, Maureen took my sudden need to travel in my job in good heart. She understood that it wouldn't be for very long and agreed that - with two young children and a mortgage to pay - the extra cash coming in would prove very useful to us. There were the odd times when she'd have a little gripe but they weren't very often.

Actually I got to enjoy my trips away ... well not so much the trips away, but the coming home again. The kids would be over the moon on my return, and Maureen would try to love me to death on the night of my return and for several nights — well we couldn't behave like that whilst the children were up, could we — after my return.

I must admit that I thought my three or four nights away every week, had given Maureen's libido a bit of a boost. As it does after children - in our case twin girls born within two years of our wedding - come along, our sex life had fallen into a bit of a rut. Even more so after she'd gone back to work (part time) when the girls' started school; we'd been a bit strapped for cash and living a little close — or maybe a little beyond — our means for a while there. So, the moment she got the chance, Maureen went out to see her old employer and then went back working for them on a part time basis. As the children got older, she'd increased her hours until she was almost working full time again.

I can't say that I very much liked idea of Maureen going back working for Norman Coolidge again. But Maureen had a gregarious nature and she hadn't enjoyed being cooped up in the house so much whilst the twins were little.

Oh, Norman Coolidge was all right — well, I thought he was at the time — but his wife when we met her on the odd social occasion — Norman and Greta had both been at our wedding — well, she always struck me as a bit of a weirdo. You know, she always had a strange look about her eyes, kind of unsettled me some. Whatever, Greta Coolidge didn't actually work for the company and from what Maureen told me I gathered she rarely visited the office. Maureen knew her old job well and really enjoyed working with the other girls.

Anyway, that was the state of play, when I went to that five-day seminar in Manchester. I've got to admit that for the most of it I was bored to tears. I'd actually met most of the people giving the presentations and discussed in person with them what they were trying to put over. But there were a couple that were of some interest to me.

It was late that night and I was sitting in one of the lounges discussing the relative merits of different boiler exhaust sulphur scrubbing systems with a couple of guys I'd got to know quite well over the previous year or so when one of them suddenly pointed that the bell boy was wandering around calling out that there was a message for me. You know the sort of thing the lad was apparently touring the public rooms trying to say "Message for Mr Broom!" loud enough to be heard but not too loud as to disturb everyone else.

"Here!" My friend called out and pointed to me.

"There's an urgent message for you at reception, Mr Broom." The young lad said when he reached our table and then he stood there expectantly.

I slipped fifty pence — can I help it if I'm a cheapskate - into his hand and then, telling the guys I'd be back soon, I headed out of the lounge. I figured that Maureen, who for some reason hadn't been in the house when I called earlier, was returning my nightly call home.

It was as I approached the desk, that I began to get a bad feeling in my stomach. Standing nearby waiting a little impatiently — or they were looking uncomfortable about being there anyway - were two police officers.

"Broom room 268. You have a message for me?" I said to the young woman stood behind the desk.

As I feared that she was going to do, she took a quick glance towards the two uniformed police officers and then said. "These gentlemen would like a word with you sir!"

My heart sank further, remember Maureen hadn't been home when I'd called and now there were two policemen at the hotel looking for me. I instantly assumed there'd been an accident of some kind and I feared for Maureen and the children.

"Would you mind coming with us sir?" One of the officers said. Immediately heading off towards the managers office.

I followed without answering, dreading what they were going to tell me once we got inside.

As we walked into the office, the manager himself left, closing the door behind him.

"Would you like to take a seat sir?" the first officer said.

"I don't think so; I'd rather know what it is you are putting off saying if you don't mind. Has there been an accident or something? Are my wife and children all right?"

"Your children are fine sir, as far as we know. But I do think you should sit down." The officer replied, physically guiding me towards a chair as he spoke.

Why is it that people think you needed to be seated to receive bad news? Well, he'd said the children were fine; that could only mean that Maureen wasn't, and that she had been involved in some sort of an accident, couldn't it.

"I'm afraid we have to inform you that your wife is in hospital sir. She has sustained some serious injuries and we believe she is being operated on as we speak. The Met has asked us to inform you that you should return to London immediately."

"What sort of injuries; how seriously hurt is she?" I demanded, jumping up from the seat that I'd unconsciously taken.

"We don't have the details sir, other than that your wife is apparently suffering from several bullet wounds."

"Bullet wounds ... what, are you telling me, that she's been shot?" I demanded.

"Apparently so, sir!" The officer replied.

"How? Why?" I said, really not believing what the officer was saying.

"I'm afraid we aren't aware of the circumstances, sir. The Met just asked us to find you, and assist you in getting back to London as soon as possible. There are police cars and drivers waiting to escort you all the way to the hospital sir."

"My children?" I asked.

"They are safe and well, sir, of that one fact I can assure you. I'm sure that the Met officers will have all that in hand. Now, we'd better get moving, there was a distinct sense of urgency in the Met's request." The officer said as he opened the door.

Things certainly got hectic after that, we left the manager's office to be met by a female police officer and one of the hotel staff carrying my bags; it was explained that they'd packed my stuff for me. Then I was bundled into a police car and driven at breakneck speed to somewhere where a helicopter was waiting. I learnt later that the chopper had been laid on by my employers, after the police had got in touch with them asking about my whereabouts.

I'm not sure where the chopper landed in London. But wherever it was, a limousine (also laid on by my employers) was waiting and under police escort I was rushed to the hospital and up to the intensive care unit; where I found an unconscious and very pale looking Maureen hooked up to all the paraphernalia we are so familiar with from all those TV hospital programs. Even down to the beep, beep, beep of the heart rate monitor.

I think it was a doctor who told me that they thought Maureen was going to make it, only not in those words of course. He told me she had sustained six bullet wounds, four that he said had only caused minor injury; but two more that - but for the fact that a Hems unit had been in the vicinity - would most likely have proved fatal.

I'm not sure how long it was that I sat there staring at Maureen's inert body, whilst listening to the incessant beeping of the machines and holding her hand, before a nurse came over and told that there was a police officer waiting who wished to speak to me.

As soon as the officer had introduced himself as Detective Sergeant Sharp, I asked him what had happened.

"I'm afraid that we don't really know, sir." He replied. "About three this afternoon, a neighbour of yours heard some shouting out in the street, followed by what he correctly assumed were a series of gunshots, and then the sound of tires screeching as a car drove away. When he went outside to investigate, he found your wife lying in the road at the rear of her car; he quickly ascertained that she had been shot. Although several other people heard the gun shots no one actually saw who fired them."

"Where did this happen?" I asked.

"Outside your house, sir. We believe that your wife had just returned home and that she was getting something from the boot of her car. Apparently another car pulled up and after a heated exchange someone in that car shot your wife; we believe from the driver's seat."

"But why?" I asked.

That's what we are trying to ascertain now, sir. At the moment, we don't know if it was a random drive by shooting; a road rage incident that got completely out of hand, or if she was targeted for some reason. Have you or your wife got any enemies who would possibly want to harm her?"

"Not that I'm aware of, Sergeant. We're just your average suburban family. You know, two kids and struggling to make ends meet."

"So there's no problems in the family?" He asked.

"What do you mean by that?" I demanded.

"You and your wife are happy, sir! No ... er, interests out side the home."

"Of course not, Maureen and I have been happily married for fourteen years."

"And you've never..."

"How dare you, of course I haven't! I'm a happily married man with two wonderful little girls."

"I'm sorry, sir, but we have to ask these questions, it's our job. And your wife, to your knowledge she's as happy with the status quo as you are?"

"What the hell do you mean by that?" I demanded.

He could obviously see the angry expression on my face.

"I'm sorry, sir, but these are questions that we have to ask. Someone has seen fit to try to murder your wife. It's our job to find out who and why, and that means we have to ask a lot of unpleasant questions. I don't enjoy asking questions like this, but I have my duty to perform!"

"Well do your bloody duty and find out what nutter shot my wife, but I can assure you that Maureen and I are happy in our marriage." I replied and at that the officer appeared to be satisfied.

Only he wasn't of course, what policeman takes your word for anything? Over the following weeks and months, I learnt that Detective Sergeant Sharp takes no one's word about anything. But I'll get back to that later.

When I asked him about my children, the Sergeant told me that my sister-in-law, Annie and a WPC were at my house looking after them. It was only after the doctor assured me that Maureen was stable and in no danger of dying on me, that I agreed to go home and see them.

The children took it much better than I expected. They'd been worried of course when the police collected them from school that day, but once Annie came on the scene they'd calmed down a lot. Of course, they were never told how close to death Maureen had been, just that she'd had an accident and was in hospital. It didn't take them long to put two and two together once the shooting was reported on TV though; what with all the reporters hanging around near the house. Eventually we moved them to Annie's house and they stayed there for two months, until Maureen — after several operations - was eventually released from hospital.

When I — and the police I suppose — asked Maureen, she told us that she had no recollection of the day she had been shot at all. She definitely could not understand why she'd taken that particular afternoon off work and been arriving home at the time of day she did. Usually Maureen left her office just in time to collect the girls from school.

The only explanation we could come up with was that she'd gone shopping that day. However, no one could work out what she had gone to buy, as there was nothing in the boot of the car when we looked. Although at one time one police officer did hazard the theory that maybe the person who attacked Maureen was a mugger. He put forward the idea that she had been shot for whatever she was removing from the boot of the car. I'm not sure whether DS Sharp ran with that idea though; he appeared to me to be spending all of his time investigating me.

As the weeks turned into months, it slowly got back to me that DS Sharp had interviewed just about everyone I'd ever spoken to, down as far as the cashier in the garage where I usually fill-up with petrol, and every damned regulars at our local pub. That's not counting every employee where I worked and the staff at all the plants I was charged with looking after; even the guys I'd been chatting with in Manchester, the night I'd been told Maureen had been shot.

We also learnt that he did the same with all Maureen's acquaintances, our neighbours and the people who worked in her office. Not that Maureen ever went back to work there, but some of her friends from the office turned up at the hospital and visited her a few times at home, once she'd been released.

I also gathered that the police — I assume in the person of one DS Sharp — on occasions visited the house when I was at work, to ask Maureen whether she'd managed to recall anything about that day. Sometimes Maureen told me he'd called in that day, but other visits I learnt about - through hearsay - from the neighbours.

After what DS Sharp had said to me about checking everything - and having no cause to be worried personally - I felt no real animosity towards him about his poking around our private life. Although I did get uppity with him a few times, because I thought his time could be better served elsewhere, finding out who had shot Maureen. Yeah, I took to calling and bugging the guy on a regular basis for about a year or so.

For some inexplicable reason, Maureen showed little or no interest in the investigation, insisting that she'd rather try to forget that it had ever happened. Although her reluctance to go out of the house on her own or return to work, lead me to believe that the shooting had had a far bigger impact on her psyche than she admitted.

After about a year DS Sharpe informed me that the investigation was being wound down. Although he wouldn't say, I got the distinct feeling that he knew - or at least suspected he knew - who had shot Maureen, and I suppose why. But, he also hinted that he had no evidence he could make an arrest on.

I did try to discuss the shooting with Maureen on several occasions, but with little avail. As I have said, Maureen appeared to wish to put all thought of the incident out of her mind.

After about two years went by and Maureen had completely recovered physically from the shooting, if not mentally; she would almost never go out of the house on her own. The children, her sister Annie or I, had to go with her even just to buy a pint of milk from the local shop.

I think it is possible that my worries about her mental condition, had led to me not pushing the subject of the shooting.

Our love life - that had been somewhat curtailed by one of her injuries - returned to about what it had been when the children were young. Although I'll add that after the shooting, I'd refused to travel very much — if at all — for my job. The odd time I did go away, well, eventually Maureen got back to welcoming me home as she had done; although maybe without as much enthusiasm on Maureen's part as I remembered.

Another five years had gone past and our two girls were by then off at university, when everything fell apart. Maureen was home everyday on her own and I had begun to worry about her. When she was younger, she'd been a people's person; I had been worried about her mental condition since the shooting and I couldn't see that being alone in the house all day, everyday, was going to do her any good. But she adamantly refused to go out and find herself another job, even a little part time one.

Then one day I'd just got back from lunch when yet another policeman came into my office to see me. No matter how he tried to hide it, I knew from the expression on his face that he was not the bearer of good tidings; remember I'd seen that expression on a policeman's face before.

"I'm afraid that your wife's had an accident, sir." He explained.

"What kind of an accident? How bad is she injured and where is she now?" I demanded, grabbing my coat.

I'd been there before and was not interested in the niceties of life; I wanted the facts so I could get to the hospital as soon as possible.

"She was pulled out of the Thames near the Albert Bridge about an hour ago, sir."

He was still telling me what hospital Maureen was in, as I raced out of the room. No police escort this time as I raced through the London traffic, paying scant attention to traffic laws or speed limits. It surprised me to learn later that I hadn't been caught by any of the speed camera's I'd raced by. Although it's quite possible that a certain police officer had fixed them for me.

At the hospital, I found Maureen in an ICU unit again.

"We lost her twice, but we managed to restart her heart again." A doctor explained, "they believe that her heart had stopped once already when they pulled her from the water. The River Police got her breathing again." He went on.

"Her long term prognosis?" I asked.

"Difficult to say at the moment, Mr Broom, it all depends on how long her brain was starved of oxygen. She could have sustained some brain damage; we'll get a better idea after we've done a CT scan later. But we won't know for sure until she wakes-up; if she wakes up."

"She might never wake up?" I asked in shock.

"We'll know more after we've done a CT scan! We are waiting for a slot now." He said, and then he left the room, I assume to chase that slot.

I sat by the bed and listened to that damned beep, beep, beep, again. Also taking a little solace in the fact that I could see plenty of squiggles being printed out on some kind of machine on the other side of the bed. I assumed that related to Maureen's brain activity.

I wondered whether to try and contact our girls, but eventually decided that I'd wait until after their classes were over for the day. If Maureen woke up without any long-term ill effects then there was little point that I could see in worrying the girls too much. That decision was probably down to cowardice on my part; I put off telling the girls about their mother's obvious attempted suicide as long as I possibly could. Maybe I hoped someone else would explain to them why she had done it, although at the time I had no idea myself.

A little later, the doctor returned with a couple of nurses and they began to prepare Maureen for the Cat-scan, suggesting that I go and wait in the family room.

When I entered, there were several other people sitting around, one of whom was watching the TV in the corner. For want of anything better to do, I wandered over to the beverage machine and was still trying to fathom the machines workings, when I sensed a presence at my shoulder. Turning I found DI Sharpe standing beside me.

"I'm sorry I should have realised that Maureen might do something..." His voice petered out as he realised that I was no longer looking at him.

My eyes — and ears - had become glued to the television set in the corner of the room where I could see pictures of two faces that I recognised being displayed on the screen. One was of Maureen's old boss, Norman Coolidge; the other was of Audrey Temple one of Maureen's one-time work colleagues.

The newscaster was saying something about Norman and Audrey having been shot dead in a room of a hotel near Heathrow airport the previous evening. He went on to say that a female - reputed to be Norman Coolidge's wife Greta - had been detained at the scene and was helping police with their enquires. Then he added that it was rumoured that Mrs Coolidge was also being questioned about an earlier shooting of a female in West London, and that urgent forensic tests were being carried out on the weapon used to kill Norman and Audrey.

I looked from the television back at DS (by then DI) Sharp.

"I'm sorry but I felt that I had to warn Maureen before it hit the media. I honestly had no idea that she'd react as she did."

"How long?" I asked.

"Have I known? Well, I worked it out eventually, but I couldn't find the damned gun. I've got to assume Greta Coolidge used the same one to kill them as she did to shoot Maureen. From what she's been telling my colleagues, Mrs Coolidge caught him with Audrey and she decided that he wasn't going to do it again." DI Sharp replied.

"No, how long did Coolidge and Maureen's affair go on for?"

"To be honest with you I'm not sure; not for very long I don't think. I got the impression that they only had the opportunity of consummating it once, and I've no way of knowing whether Maureen actually went through with it or not. Coolidge kept his mouth tightly closed about it and Maureen has always claimed that she couldn't recall what happened that day she was shot. It appears that Mr's Coolidge has always kept a very close eye on the bugger though.

"Are you sure?"

"About the one opportunity? Yes pretty sure! That was the only afternoon that Maureen ever took off work that I know about; we went through company records with a finetooth comb and questioned all of the staff thoroughly. Few had any inclination that anything was going on between Norman Coolidge and Maureen, but a couple were suspicious. I really don't think that Coolidge could have got away from his wife's surveillance any other time that I could find out about. Mrs Coolidge had spies all over that Company. It's probably how she knew about Maureen and Coolidge so quickly, and about him and Audrey Temple last night."

"But there were evenings when I was away, that Maureen wasn't home."

"All accounted for Mr Broom, I can assure you of that. She was either with her sister or her mother where she told you she had been."

"One of them could have lied." I suggested.

"They could have, but I didn't get the impression that they were lying. You know we get a kind-of sixth sense about that kind of thing after a time. All I needed was to be able to prove that your wife and Norman Coolidge had met out of the office just once, and that would have given me a motive for Greta Coolidge to have shot Maureen. Then I'd have been able to get the search warrant's I required. It is common knowledge that Mrs Coolidge was very possessive of her husband and a bit of a nut case as well on the quiet. She's also shown a tendency towards violence in the past. To be honest, I very much suspect she'll be judged unfit to plead and will be sectioned to somewhere like Broadmoor or Rampton. I was always convinced that the gun was in their house somewhere; I just never had just cause to get a damned search warrant."

"So what happened this morning then? From what you said when you walked in here, I gather you saw to Maureen."

"When I signed on this morning I heard about the shooting. I knew that no names had been released because the bodies hadn't been formally identified at that time and all the next of kin hadn't been informed. Anyway I knew that Maureen had always been a little paranoid..."

"Not a good choice of word!" I interrupted.

"No sorry, but Maureen's silence about whatever had gone on between her and Coolidge led me to believe that she had kept it secret from you. Really, I should have minded my own business, but I got very fond of your wife and I knew that she loved you very much. It was obvious to me ... well I feared that Greta Coolidge had used the same gun to kill her husband and Mrs Temple as she'd used to shoot Maureen. And that very soon it was going to become common knowledge. So I went around to your house this morning and forewarned Maureen about what the fallout might be."

"What did she have to say for herself?"

"Very little, she cried a lot because she knew as well as I did that very soon you'd work everything out. She loves you very much and she was scared that you'd leave her. When I left, she was going to call her sister Annie. The next thing I hear, Maureen and your names are tagged on my computer; the moment anything concerning either of you goes in the system, I know about it. Anyway when the river police identified Maureen I heard about it straight away and came down here."

"Did she jump?"

"Yes, she was seen jumping off Battersea Bridge on the CCTV cameras. What she didn't know was that a River Police launch was a few minutes up-river. They fished her out quite quickly and identified her from her car that she'd left on the Bridge. Probably that launch being so close, is what saved her life. The question now, sir, is what are you going to do?"

"I really have no idea, detective. You're right I would have been able to put two and two together, and I'm very disappointed. Whether I can get over it or not depends though. I love Maureen, I always have, but to find out that she had an affair; I'm not sure how that's going to affect my feelings in the long term. It's all been a bit of a shock to me."

"Well please take your time before you make any decisions. At the moment, Maureen is going to need you, you know. If you walk out on her now she might well not make it, think about how your children will feel as well."

"Don't worry I wont go jumping the gun." I told him.

Maureen hadn't suffered any discernible brain damage from lack of oxygen, and she was released from hospital three days later. Whilst she was in hospital, I said nothing about Audrey, Coolidge or his wife to Maureen, but she obviously knew that I was aware of events and there was an awkwardness about our conversations.

Of course I didn't ask her why she'd tried to commit suicide, I believe that — with DI Spark's help — I'd worked that out. Maureen just couldn't face up to fact that the girls' and myself would put two and two together regarding her affair with Norman Coolidge. Having explained the situation to the shrinks, I was advised to leave that to them for the time being.

Regretfully, during those couple of days Maureen was in hospital, I worked out that her sister Annie must have known about her and Coolidge's, little fling. Moreover, I'll add that I suspected that Annie might have even encouraged it. She definitely helped to hide it. But then, Annie had never been a member of my fan club, nor I of hers. It's a fact of life, that we can pick our spouses but we can never pick our in-laws. Annie and I had tolerated each other for Maureen's sake from our first meeting.

How did I know of Annie's convenience? Well, one question that had bugged me ever since Maureen had been shot - because it had never been answered - was, what had Maureen been getting from the boot of her car the day she'd been shot? I believe that I've worked out that it was an overnight bag, most likely containing a change of clothes. There was nothing in that boot when DI Sharp and — later - I had looked in there; but the first neighbour on the scene mentioned that he he'd noticed something that he thought was an overnight bag in the boot.

After thinking long and hard on the subject, I could not recall seeing one of Maureen's bags in the cupboard until several months after she had been released from hospital following the shooting. I'd looked for the damned thing to pack the gear in that she'd accumulated in her bedside locker and pack the clothes that she needed to wear on the way home in.

On reflection, it stood to reason that Annie must have removed that overnight bag from the car when she'd arrived to look after the children that day. For her to have done that, surely implied that Annie knew what was in the bag and understood its significance.

At the time, I hadn't seen the significance of my not being able to find that bag in the house. However, after Maureen's suicide attempt, I got to thinking about everything again. I challenged Annie on the subject and she denied all knowledge of that bag; that told me all that I needed to know.

To say Maureen was in a delicate mental condition when she came home from hospital would be putting it mildly. The shrinks asked — or rather warned — me be to be careful about talking about Maureen reason for doing what she didn't. They told me it was best if I let Maureen bring the subject up when she was ready; it was implied that eventually when she was ready, she would confess all to me. The problem was, she never did!

Quite literally whenever the subject came anywhere near either Maureen getting shot, Norman and Audrey's murder, or her suicide attempt. Maureen would ... Well she'd sort of clam up and go somewhere in her own mind.

At other times, she'd clumsily and nervously fuss around me - with a guilty expression on her face — continually saying sorry for no apparent reason, but I don't think she was saying sorry for her adultery she was apologising for being clumsy. Whenever I spoke to her when she wasn't expecting me to, Maureen would physically jump, as if I'd shouted boo or something, and then look at me with frightened eyes as if she was expecting me to hit her. It was very soon obvious to me that thing could go on like that forever.

Maureen and my marriage lasted just over four years after her suicide attempt. I never did ask her about her affair with Coolidge and maybe that was a mistake. At the time, I thought that not knowing the details would make it easier for me to forget; but probably I was mistaken in that belief as well. Maureen tiptoed around me for three years before she had a complete nervous breakdown and she was admitted to hospital again.

Annie and I were both asked to leave the hospital one day, when Annie accused me of harassing Maureen into her nervous breakdown. Annie accused me of never letting Maureen forget that "she had strayed" (Annie's words).

Maybe — in a way - Annie was right. However, it wasn't me who kept reminding Maureen what she'd done. I have to believe — for my own sanity — that it was Maureen who couldn't admit that she'd done wrong. I suspect that if she had confessed to me we could possibly have put it all behind us. As it was, we both lived a lie; I knew — or at least had a good idea - what she'd done and what's more Maureen must have known that I knew. Probably I should have "done my nut" in the first place and vented my anger at her. Maybe then, she would have admitted everything. But the shrinks advised me against that.

Eventually Maureen recovered and came home, but it wasn't to last for very long. Less than six months later, I came home from work one day and she'd packed up and moved in with Annie. She left no note or anything, Maureen just left.

The divorce didn't take very long to go through. If Maureen wasn't going to live with me, I could see no point in continuing the marriage.

What explanation Maureen — or rather Annie, - gave our daughters I don't know, but they drew back from me for a couple of years at least. As I understand it, Annie became Maureen's mouthpiece for a long time.

I had climbed quite high up the ladder by then and I was on a very good salary. Maureen got half our community assets of course, but she made no request for alimony. I supported the girls at university even if they weren't talking to me. Eventually though they both came to visit me and apologised for their behaviour, by then they'd realise how much influence Annie had over Maureen.

With Maureen and the girls' gone I could see no point in keeping the house so I sold it; I'd bought Maureen out in the divorce settlement. I found a little bachelor pad near the office that I rented, there was nowhere for the twins; but hey, they weren't talking to me at the time. I had no idea where they were living; possibly at their grandparents house or maybe with Maureen and Annie.

I dated a few women, over the next few years, but I couldn't seem to be able to find anyone who I believed would replace Maureen in my heart. So I buried myself in my work and played golf for relaxation. Because free membership to a health club came with my work, I also spent a lot of time in the gym and eventually I became very fit, possibly fitter than I'd been for many years. Being so fit and not particularly bad looking — for my age - I did find that I was turning a few women's heads; which, considering my age, surprised me a lot. However, being a single man again, I was quite well off and most everybody around knew it; I was never sure if was my fit body or my large bank account that was the attraction. Consequently, I kept most females at arm's length.

Really, I'd fallen into a bit of a rut, although I hadn't realised it. Work, gym, golf and gym, were my life at that time. Oh plus the odd visit to the pub, although I probably spent more time drinking at the nineteenth hole, than I did at my local pub.

Then one Saturday afternoon about three or four years after my divorce, everything changed again. With the rest of my regular four, I was coming off the eighteenth green, heading for the nineteenth as usual, when an old friend of mine came out to meet me. Taking me to one side, he —as tactfully as he could — informed me that Maureen was in the bar with a certain police officer.

I, of course, knew that DI Sharp was a member of the club, but I'd rarely run into him; our tee times just never seemed to coincide, or one of us would be gone before the other got into the bar.

Whatever, I wasn't too sure how I would handle seeing Maureen and DI Sharp together. So I headed directly for the changing rooms. Surprisingly the rest of my four came with me and we went off to a nearby pub for a drink that day.

I don't know why, but the realisation that Maureen was out and about again, kind of upset me some, even more so that she was going out with men. It caused me to rethink what I was doing, eventually I was bound to run into her again some place and I knew that if she were with a man it would upset me.

Then I found myself wondering why I was working so damned hard, why wasn't I out every night having a good time; I had no answer for that one. But, somewhere along the line I decided that I'd had enough of everything, especially the damned city. I knew that I had plenty of cash in the bank and that I'd get a damned good pension if I took early retirement, so that's what I resolved to do. I literally cashed in my chips and moved on to pastures new.

Well the south coast anyway, eventually settling in a seaside village in Cornwall, where I could fish, sail and play golf to my heart's content. Found a nice little cottage that needed some renovation even though it cost me and arm and a leg, and I bought myself a boat.

Eventually I did let the twins know where I was, by writing to both of them care of their grandmother. That's how I contacted them at that time; neither were writing to or contacting me in any way. Although I didn't inform them that I was leaving city, until after I had left. Yeah I think that maybe I was sulking a little about the way they'd taken sides. As far as I saw things, I'd bent over backwards to be as conciliatory as possible towards their mother. Yeah, I went for the divorce, but I never threw her out, she walked out on me!

I had a good spring and summer settling into my new life and really enjoyed the next six months or so. But then one evening I was sitting at a table outside one of the local pubs, enjoying a pint and watching the sun set over the small harbour and the Fal estuary, when I noticed someone who looked unsettling familiar, climb of off the Falmouth Ferry. Very quickly she passed out of my sight as she walked along the quay, and I successfully convinced myself that my mind was playing tricks on me and that I was seeing things.

Having emptied my glass, I got another from the bar and had only just returned to my seat when I noticed one of the young boys from the village run along the sea wall. He stopped, looked directly at me, then turned around and ran back out of sight again. I'm not sure why I noticed him, possibly because seeing any of the local lads bother to run when they aren't in trouble was unusual. Oh, those lads were in trouble a lot by the way, but otherwise they are not a very energetic bunch unless they are diving into and swimming in harbour showing off to the young girls.

About ten minutes later Maureen suddenly appeared beside my table. I discovered later that the young lad had shown Maureen how she could approach the pub - by going along a little alley between some houses — without being seen from where I was sitting. I can only assume Maureen thought I'd do a disappearing act had she tried to approach from the sea wall.

"May I sit?"

"It's a free world." I replied, wishing I had the gumption to ask her what the hell she was doing there.

"Thank you. Do they come out and serve you here, or do you have to go to the bar?" She asked.

I stood up and asked, "What's your poison, Miss Murdock?"

"G and T, please." She said holding out a fiver for me to take.

I ignored the five-pound note and went to the bar to buy her drink.

"By the way, it's still Mrs Broom; I have no intention of reverting to my maiden name. It wasn't me who applied for our divorce."

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