You'd think that, after twenty-three years of marriage, I'd know my wife, wouldn't you? Come to that, after knowing me for neigh on twenty-five years, you'd expect that she'd know me pretty well, as well. But it seems that I have never known her at all and Kelly has totality underestimated me.
Look, I'd loved Kelly almost from the second I first clapped eyes on her, and from just a few weeks after that meeting, she'd had me completely convinced that she loved me.
Unlike some folks we didn't actually ... er, sleep together, before we tied the knot; but only by a hair's breadth. Shit, we did just about everything we could do, except for the actual deed itself and most often in the back-seat of my car. Kelly still does have a thing about fumbling around in the rear seats of automobiles; damned if she hadn't insisted that we christen every vehicle we've ever owned and more than a few rental cars we've hired over the years, whilst on holiday.
During the first few years of our marriage, our sex life — much like all newly-weds I suppose — was hectic and heavy. As is usual, it slowed down a bit after the children came along; although not until our eldest became mobile enough to find her way to our room during the night. Yeah well, that time comes to all parents eventually, or so I'm told.
Of-course the locations within the house that we chose to partake in our sexual escapades became a bit more limited as well. Basically we were forced to retreat to the bedroom, and lock the door. Unless that is, I could swing the odd day off work while the children were at school.
Where was I? I've kinda wandered off the subject before I've even begun. Oh yeah, twenty three years we've been hitched, and you'd think, after all that time, that I would have known my Kelly, just as well as she should know me, wouldn't you? Yeah well, like me you'd have been wrong!
I suppose I realised ... well with hindsight, I should have realised, that something weren't as kosher as it should be, when Kelly's car was nicked. But I didn't!
Look when you look at things that have happened in the past with a little scepticism, instead of blind faith. Hey man, you begin to see the world in a whole new light.
Late one evening, Kelly's car, or so I was told at the time, was stolen from the local supermarket car park by some little shit joy-riders. Kelly told me she'd forgotten to pick up something ... eggs I think, some ingredient she needed for a cake she was intending to make to celebrate our wedding anniversary the following day, anyway.
I'd been away on a business trip and wasn't really due back until the Sunday morning. But I'd moved heaven and earth -- and worked around the bleeding clock -- to ensure that I got home on Saturday afternoon, ready for the party Kelly had arranged for that evening.
Anyway her car was nicked by some little turds' who'd then -- having had their ten minutes of fun in it -- dumped it out on the by-pass and set the thing alight. The police officer who had very quickly located the burnt out wreck in a lay-by off the by pass, told me that it was a common occurrence in our day and age.
Anyway Kelly was obviously very upset about losing her beloved car, and it put quite a damper on the celebrations that Saturday evening. Consequently I had to spend most of the Sunday traipsing around all the second-hand car sales lots with her, finding a suitable replacement. Kelly took the opportunity to upgrade a little whilst we were at it though; so she finished up happy enough.
Kelly, as is her want, insisted that we went out in her new car the evening it was delivered. I'm sure the true purpose of the outing was to christen the rear seat. I told you that Kelly was a little kinky that way. Personally I was well past all that childish stuff and much prefer a nice comfortable bed. But sometimes you have to bow to the inevitable where the little lady is concerned.
Anyway a few weeks later the insurance company finally paid out, and as far as I was concerned, that was the end of the matter.
A couple of months passed and the time for my annual golf tour came up. One of the lads — actually George Watson, the Publican of the Queens Head Public House in the village - was in the habit of arranging a week's golf tour once a year.
Okay sometimes twice a year, but not too often, the wives wouldn't stand for it.
Actually there had been a time when the wives and even the kids came along with us as well, but that had been years before. By that time most of our circle of friends children were teenagers or older, and the wives would rather go off somewhere on their own. You know, shopping and theatre expeditions up to London, etcetera. Our golfing tours were usually to Scotland or Ireland and to pretty bleak and out in the sticks type places at that. The wives couldn't see the fun in getting their heads blown off or soaked to the skin whilst watching us bash little balls around the countryside.
Anyway we'd been over to Ireland that year. The coach dropped us off outside the Queens Head in the High Street, and we all trooped inside for the tour's closing ceremony. This consisted of a little presentation, where he who had lost the most golf balls, broken the most clubs or managed to accrue the greatest number of strokes, over par, during the week, was publicly and humorously shamed in front of the regulars. It was all taken in good heart and treated as part of the fun really!
But it was as Ronnie and I left the Queens Head that I got my first inkling that everything wasn't as it should be, in the State of Denmark. Not that I recognised it at the time.
Look when your world starts caving in all around you, it isn't often that you realise what is going on — or has been going on — until much later. Very much later! Well I didn't anyway.
Now where was I? Oh shit yeah, Ronnie and I were carrying our clubs and baggage out to my car; that had spent the week tucked away in the corner of the pub's car park. Anyway as we loaded the boot, a policeman appeared as if from nowhere and politely asked us if we'd kindly assist by making up the numbers in a line-up. He explained that they wanted to hold an identity parade and needed to find people off the street, who bore some vague resemblance to their suspect. Ronnie and I apparently fitted the bill.
Eager to do our public duty, Ronnie and I happily acquiesced to his request and followed the officer into the police station, just across the road from the Queens Head. Once in there, a little joviality ensued, because other officers had already roped in a couple of the other guys from the golf tour. Comments about golfers wandering the countryside, carrying bags of deadly weapons with them, and the like.
Anyway eventually we were led into a large room and asked to line up. Then some guy was brought in, and he was told to pick his own place in the line. Then a curtain was pulled back to reveal a window to a darkened room; through which we could just about make out the outlines of several people.
We were asked to turn this way and that, several times then the curtain was pulled back across the window again. The suspect was then invited to change his position in the line, which he did, with a surly expression on his face; before the rigmarole was repeated all over again, I assume with a second witness.
Once the curtain was drawn across the window the second time, the suspect was led out of the room by a uniformed officer, and a sergeant thanked us all for our cooperation. Then they began to show us the way out of the police station.
Well some of us. As I went to leave the large room, a plain-clothes officer approached me.
"Mr Paine, may I have a moment of your time please?" He said, deftly positioning himself between myself and the door.
"Sure, what can I do for you officer?" I replied. Well, what else could I say?
"This is a little embarrassing Mr Paine. But would you object to telling me where you were last Wednesday evening?"
I was slightly taken aback by the request, but I could see no harm in answering his question.
"What time? I spent most of Wednesday afternoon on an Irish golf course. The evening we spent in a little pub; singing our hearts out and getting as pissed as newts. Actually that's probably a lie. I have to be well plastered, before, I start singing in public!"
"Where was this pub, what's it called and would anyone remember you being there?"
"Jesus shit, I don't know. It was a pub in the village on Galway Bay somewhere. But the way I sing I doubt they will forget me in a hurry. Talk to George over at the Queens Head, he arranged the bloody trip, he's bound to know what the village is; even if he can't remember the name of the pub. Why do you want to know anyway?"
"Oh, you were on George's little golf soirée were you? He keeps on at me to come along on one of them."
"You should come some time officer."
"Detective Sergeant Dexter, sir."
Well Sergeant. You should join us, they are great fun; providing you can play golf with a hangover. But you haven't explained why you are asking me all these questions."
"Oh I'm sorry sir. Obviously a little mistake, but these things happen sometimes. One ... well both of our witnesses picked you out of the line up, instead of our suspect. I'm sorry but eyewitnesses can be damned unreliable sometimes; neither got a good look at the perpetrator to start with. Unfortunately when they pick out someone else in the line-up ... well, we have to look into it and ask these questions to clear the air so to speak. But don't go worrying yourself about it. We had one so-called eyewitness pick out the new vicar the other week; accused him of being a mugger. The witness was old and he knew he'd seen the vicar somewhere before; he didn't recognise his mistake until he went to church the following Sunday.
With that Sergeant Dexter thanked me again and shook my hand, then led me outside, to where Ronnie was waiting, and wondering where in hell I'd got to.
"Those so called eyewitnesses picked me out of the line-up." I told him with a grin as we walked back to my car.
"Holy shit, I've been hanging around with a criminal, what have you done. Did the coppers nick you?"
"Don't be stupid Ronnie, whatever they've got that bloke lined up for, he did it whilst we were in Ireland."
"What were you supposed to have done anyway?"
"Buggered if I know, the officer I spoke to didn't say."
"Didn't you ask?"
"Did you ask when that copper asked us to stand in the line-up? Who gives a monkey's anyway?"
"Well you might, if they try to hang it on you?"
That was a point, that I really hadn't thought of.
Kelly gave me an overenthusiastic welcome when I walked in the front door. It was lucky the kids have both flown the nest or it could have been embarrassing. As it was, I had to pull me trousers up in a hurry when a neighbour knocked, wanting to borrow one of my drills. It was all right for Kelly, she just had to stand up and her skirt covered her ... now lets not go into detail here, but those stairs are bloody uncomfortable for that kind of thing once you get to my age.
Anyway it was a quick wash and change and then Kelly and I were off back down to the Queens Head for a meal and a pint. Most of the golf tour lads were there with their wives and a real old party was in full swing by the time Kelly and I turned up.
"Looking tired mate, ready to jump on you was she?" George commented as we walked up to the bar.
"Kelly likes to keep us exercised, yeah!" I replied.
"I thought she got enough exercise while you were away!" Elaine one of the lads wives commented.
"Stop being so damned catty Elaine. What's that supposed to mean?" Her husband threw in to shut her up, I think.
Kelly and Elaine had never got on, so I'd ignored the quip anyway. Look, in any large group of friends; you're always going to find that there are a couple of people -- often wives -- who just naturally rub each other up the wrong way and a little cattiness often ensues. Everyone was used to putting the lid on Kelly and Elaine, even before they got started.
"I hear you all got roped in for a line-up this afternoon." George said, as he pulled my pint. I believe more to change the subject than anything else; any subject of discussion was better than Kelly and Elaine kicking off at each other.
"Yeah half a dozen of us did. Who told you about it?" I replied with a grin.
"'ere you'll never guess what. The witnesses they've got, only went and picked out Mal 'ere, as the culprit!" Ronnie threw in.
"How did you hear about it anyway?" I asked George. Ignoring Ronnie's attempt at adding sensation to the conversation.
Not much happens in this town that I don't get to hear about, eventually." George replied with a grin. "Besides, Sergeant Dexter was in a while ago. He wanted confirmation that you were on the golf tour with us."
"Not very trusting of him. I already told that we were in Galway on Wednesday."
"Oh come off it Malcolm. He's a bleeding copper; they take nobodies word for anything. I'll bet he's sent an email off to the Garda already; just to check that we were all there."
It was at this point I turned to pass Kelly her drink and I had to nudge her to get her attention. For some inexplicable reason she was staring at George.
When she finally realised I was offering her, her glass, she seemed to physically jump and then appeared flustered for a few seconds. But then composed herself again and led the way over to a table.
Oddly though, she chose a table well away from the rest of the gang.
"Why are we sitting over here?" I asked, taking a seat opposite her.
"We're going to be eating and they've all finished; we can join them later. Now what's all this about the police?"
Well, now you see, Kelly having jumped on me the minute I'd walked in the front door. I'd kinda not had time to tell her about the line-up when I got to the house and it had sort-a slipped my memory afterwards. Anyway, I gave Kelly chapter and verse, the long version with all the unnecessary details that it was Kelly's want to hear.
Jesus I was surprised that Kelly didn't want all the officers numbers, she can be a stickler for details sometimes. To be honest I wasn't looking forward to the rest of the week, she'd probably want descriptions of every golf stroke I played that week. She'd be sure to chastise me, when she saw my scorecards.
The odd thing was, whilst I was telling Kelly about the identity parade, she kept looking across at the bar. I couldn't be sure if she was looking daggers at Elaine, or if she was looking at George. Whichever it was, I could tell Kelly was uncomfortable or nervous about something. I'd been married to Kelly long enough to know that something weren't right.
When I asked her if something was awry, she looked surprised for a few seconds and then laughed before assuring me that everything was fine.
We ate our meals and then joined the rest of the crowd for a fun evening playing darts and bragging about our prowess on the Irish golf courses. There was also some humorous discussion about us all nearly getting thrown out of one particular pub one evening because some tone-deaf bugger insisted on singing.
Leaving the car at the pub that night, we shared a taxi home with Ronnie and his wife.
Ronnie and I walked down to the village together on the Sunday morning, to collect our cars and have a swift one while we were at it. We couldn't be very long because we both had lawns at home that needed attending too. Golf tours were usually appended with a collection of little jobs around the home that had to be completed rather rapidly on our return. Often the wives would come up with what the American's term "Honey do" lists that required our attention. It was our penance for slipping away and enjoying ourselves, as for as they were concerned.
It was as I was pulling out of the pub car park that I noticed Sergeant Dexter standing in the police station entrance, watching me. I gave him a wave and he nodded in return.
As the week progressed I found that I kept seeing Sergeant Dexter somewhere almost every day. I though it odd, I'd never clapped eyes' on the bugger before that Saturday, and then suddenly, I was catching sight of the bugger everywhere I went. It kept on like that in the following weeks, it appeared that everywhere I went Dexter would be there as well.
"You're getting paranoid, if you think he's following you. Why don't you ask him what he wants?" Kelly said when I mentioned the fact to her a few weeks later.
Kelly had been out of sorts a bit herself, and I think she had got fed-up with me going on and on about Sergeant Dexter popping up all over the place.
In the end I tackled the bugger in the café where I usually have lunch, he was seated in his usual place from where he could definitely see the entrance to my office building. I just walked over, sat myself opposite him and asked him what the score was?
"Well, I'm trying to work out how you did it?" He replied with a smile on his face.
"Did what?" I asked; he'd lost me the moment he opened his mouth.
"Oh come on, you know as well as I do. I just can't work out how you managed to be in Ireland and over here at the same time. What did you do, hire a private plane or something?"
Look Sergeant, it's obvious you've got me in the frame for something. My problem is, I have no idea what heinous crime I'm suspected of."
Dexter looked me in the eye for sometime.
"Shit, either you're the best liar I've ever come across in my life, or you really don't know!"
"My wife Kelly reckons I couldn't lie to save my life. Now what the fuck do you think I've done? Because while you're wasting your time following me around, someone is getting away with it!"
"We're talking murder!"
"Hey shit, not my scene. Look, I don't even fiddle my taxes."
"Yeah I know; you're squeaky clean. So bloody clean in fact that I had to check you out."
"So who did you think I murdered and why."
"If you don't know, I think it best if we don't go there, Malcolm. Just leave things as they are; you were someone of interest to us, but you are not any longer."
"After all the time you've wasted following me around, you aren't going to tell me?"
"Nope! I think I've probably put enough aggro into your life already. No sense in making things worse."
"You're correct Sergeant, you've caused me some real grief on the quiet. You've questioned my boss and half my work colleagues; we'll leave all the lads down the pub and my neighbours out of the equation, shall we? Now, I think it only fair that you tell me whose death I'm supposed to be involved in and why I might have wished to be so."
"No sir, I really don't think that would serve any good purpose. Except maybe ... Well I think it best to leave sleeping dogs lie, don't you? Now, if you'll excuse me, I won't be bothering you again, I promise you. Good day!"
With those words Dexter stood up and walked out of the café.
I really didn't know what to make of it, and said as much to Kelly that evening. The odd thing was Kelly reacted in a way I wasn't quite expecting. She just said that Dexter had obviously been wasting his time and that I should forget about the whole thing. Honestly, I would have thought that she'd have been just as curious as I was, as to who had been murdered in the first place. Kelly didn't appear to care.
Something else that was odd, was that I got a similar reaction from all the guys in the pub. I did know that Dexter had not only spoken to all of the lads, but some of their wives as well. One of the girls did hint that Dexter thought that I might be a bit of Casanova on the side, but then again, she could have been pulling my leg. The strange thing was, that no one seemed to have any idea of who had been murdered, or was even interested.
As I've said, I found it all a little odd to say the least. Actually down the Queens Head, the more people I questioned, the more I got the impression that I was being discouraged from asking.
Eventually I began to think that I was becoming a little paranoid. Consequently I had to give it a rest or I probably would have made myself unpopular.
But looking back now, it should have been pretty obvious to me that almost everyone knew something that I didn't; that is the only explanation I can come up with. The problem is why did they choose to keep me in the dark?
Weeks turned to months and I'd almost forgotten about the identity parade and Sergeant Dexter, when I spied a short article in our local newspaper. It concerned the death of one Aetos Galanis.
The only witnesses were a young couple who for unexplained -- but obvious - reasons were sat in their car in the lay-by on the bypass. This particular lay-by, the only one on that stretch of road, is quite large and is often used by courting couples because it's mainly hidden from the bypass itself, by a line of mature trees and bushes. It is actually the remains of the original road left over from when the by-pass was upgraded and realigned.
The youngsters reported, that they had been parked, for said unspecified reasons, in the lay-by for sometime. When around ten o'clock a Vauxhall Vectra had driven past them and pulled up alongside Mr Galanis's car which was parked further along the lay-by. Shortly their attention was drawn back to both vehicles when they became aware that an altercation was taking place between the occupants of the two vehicles.
In the darkness they could just make out two shadowy figures exchanging blows.
After calling the police, the young man put his cars headlights on to illuminate the scene and sounded the horn; he hoped, that doing so might bring the fight to and end.
Apparently it didn't, but it did allow the couple to get a slightly better look at the two combatants. The young couple also noticed a figure, they believed was a female, get out of the rear seat of Mr Galanis's vehicle and run to a car parked in front of it. Which she hurriedly got into and drove off, while the fight was still going on.
The young couple were some distance away and had wisely decided not to intervene physically, other than calling the police, turning their headlights on and sounding their car's horn.
Eventually one of the combatants fell to the floor and laid still. The other bent over him for a few seconds. The young man thought the assailant had removed something from Aetos Galanis's pocket. The police later discovered that he'd stabbed Galanis in the chest. Then the assailant got back into the Vectra and drove away, shortly before the police finally arrived on the scene.
The newspaper article said that the police were still asking the female who'd got out of Mr Galanis's car, or any other witnesses to contact them urgently.
I've got to admit that name Aetos Galanis meant absolutely nothing to me. I had literally never heard of the guy before.
It was only later, that I wondered why I hadn't seen any articles in the local paper about the murder around the time that it had happened. Yeah well, on thinking about it, of course it had happened on the Wednesday I'd been in Ireland with the golf tour, and in consequence I hadn't seen the reports on the TV news.
The story would have been in the following week's local newspaper. But it was Kelly's want in our house to buy the local rag, not mine. It was she who seemed to enjoy perusing the small ads. I've never had time for them myself; I weren't one for buying other peoples old worn-out junk. Consequently I might pick the thing up and look through it if I saw it lying around in the house, but I'd never go out of my way looking for it, or to buy it.
Thinking back, I couldn't remember seeing the local rag around the house for some weeks after my golf trip, and I began to wonder whether there could be some kind of connection that I was missing.
I looked up from the newspaper at Kelly, who was sitting there innocently reading a magazine.
"Kelly, have you ever heard of this bloke Aetos Galanis?" I asked.
"Oh what, the man who was killed out on the by-pass? No I don't think so. Why should you think that I would?"
"I don't know, but I imagine that it was his murder that Sergeant Dexter thought I had something to do with."
"You didn't, did you?"
"No, of course not!"
"Then why worry about it? Honestly Malcolm, it was just a case of mistaken identity; I can't see why you keep going on about it. I very much doubt that you were the only one who fitted the description of the murderer. I should imagine that Sergeant what's-'is-name must have investigated lots of people."
That was it really, I almost forgot about the murder. Until that is, a new golf club opened about thirty miles up the road. They gave some of us free day passes to try out their facilities; so four of the lads and myself took a trip one Sunday to give the place the once over.