My thanks got to SH.
I took a quick glance over my shoulder and saw that there must have been nigh on a thousand eyes staring back at me in disbelief. A quick calculation will tell you that almost five hundred people were waiting back there, somewhere, to watch me surrender to my nemesis.
Okay, probably a slight exaggeration, but I'm not in the business of estimating the size of crowds of people. So I should imagine, that there were probably getting on for five hundred people at least, who had been waiting to witness life finally catching up with me for a very long time.
You know, I can probably put my finger on the exact moment things started going wrong in my well planned out life. It was the instant I sat down to while the evening away playing a friendly game of cards with a small group of work colleagues, whilst on a business trip abroad.
By that time in my life, I had reached an age where I thought I had everything taped. A confirmed bachelor, I'd been around quite a bit in my thirty-eight years. I'd been putting it about quite a bit over the years actually. And even if I say so myself, most folks who knew me, would have to admit that I was a bit of a dab-hand at persuading unattached ladies into my bed.
Yeah okay, there had probably been more than a few attached females amongst them, but a gentleman keeps those kinds of encounters strictly to himself. What's the point in bragging about such encounters and possibly putting the kybosh on a return engagement?
Life had been good to me. I worked for a financial auditors practice and travelled the world with a team of colleagues turning over and analysing different company's books. The work was boring really, but the travel and side benefits -- if you know what I mean -- were definitely more to my liking. I had got myself laid in nearly every city around the world that I'd ever visited. And not necessarily with ever changing female members of our team either, most often there'd be more than the odd bit of spare kicking around the offices we visited.
Yes, I was on a good screw financially as well. I owned a nice mews cottage in a better part of London outright, and downstairs in the garage could be found my classic, much cherished and upgraded E-type Jag, parked alongside my company supplied Merc. I'd also built myself up a nice little portfolio of shares and other investments over the years; the dividends from which should take care of my retirement needs very nicely.
You see there's an advantage to not getting yourself tied down to one particular woman. No bloody expensive kids to start with, and expensive nick-nacks and the like, to fork out for. Actually I'd kinda worked it out as a young man, that the shorter you kept any romantic entanglements, the less costly they would turn out to be in the long run.
Hey, don't go getting the idea that I'm some kind of a skinflint or miser or something. That ruddy Jag down there in the garage, had cost well over a hundred thousand by the time I'd had all the work done on it to bring it up to twenty-first century spec. Mind you, it was one bloody brilliant babe magnet, that's for sure. It had paid for itself several times over in fringe benefits.
But if I'm being honest, when I was on my travels, I had got to the point where I didn't try too hard anymore; to chat up the local spare, that is. By that time in my life, I'd often give the chasing talent game a miss and spend a few nights in the hotel with the rest of the team. That is, unless there was a particularly stunning piece working in any particular office.
I suppose I'd better explain that our company was one of the larger ones in our business and our audit teams didn't always remain the same. Logical really, rotate the team of auditors and it was less likely that some of them might get together and maybe tempted to take a backhander or two. Yeah well, there are bent auditors as well as more than a few bent company directors. Shit, that should be obvious to everyone, look what happened in the States a few years ago. What was the company called Ethron or something? Anyway, our job was supposed to ensure that that kind of fiasco didn't happen with any of the companies we audited.
Anyway on the nights when I wasn't, er ... Okay fornicating or hunting. I'd often join the gang in the hotel bar and we'd have a good time. Most often on those nights, we would finish up playing cards, often poker, but also Bridge or Euchre or some other such similar game. Look, doing complicated maths and searching for anomalies in a company's books with a hangover, ain't to be recommended.
As I remember, there were five of us on that particular job. Boney and Sheila Hughes, a married couple in their forties. Actually I know that Boney's real name is Napoleon; but English kids don't go through their school life with that name. I know where the Boney nickname comes from, but I'll not bore you with the details here. Whatever, some nicknames stick and Boney seemed content to keep using his.
Stephanie Burrows a thirty-two year old on her first trip abroad since coming back off maternity leave, and who's two main subjects of conversation where limited to her new child (obviously) and her loving husband Donald.
I always did wonder if Steph harped on about Donald so much, as a kind of "Don't you dare try anything with me" message for me.
Me of course and ... Yeah well, Monica Thomas had been on the list when I accepted the job. A divorcee somewhere in her thirties, Monica was always a good laugh to be on a trip abroad with, and we'd made whoopee together on more than a few occasions in the past.
But at the last minute Monica had been forced to cry-off. I never did find out exactly why, sickness in the family I was led to believe. The vacancy in the team that had been left by Monica's departure, was filled at the last minute by one Miss Roberta (Bobbie) Weatherspoon and that particular piece of news had come as a bit of a downer to me.
Honestly, you'd think that any bird named "Bobbie" would be a bit of a laugh wouldn't you? Well, not our Miss Weatherspoon! A graduate of course, Bobbie Weatherspoon was twenty-eight years old and the coldest fish I'd ever come across in my entire life. I didn't think the woman knew what a joke was, let alone was capable of laughing at one.
Oh, she could smile all right! I'd seen her smile on more than one occasion; usually when she was being introduced to someone important, or -- more commonly -- when she'd found something not quite kosher in a company's books.
Mind you, when she did smile -- if you could mentally screen out the spectacles perched on the end of her nose all the time -- she had a really beautiful face.
Bobbie also had one hell of a figure on her, make no mistake about that. Not that I'd ever got much more than an imaginary look at it, in detail. She wore her blond hair pulled back and fixed in some kind of roll on the back of her head. And, Bobbie permanently wore dark business suits complete with a white blouse and a tie. I've kinda mentioned the spectacles perched on the end of her nose, the whole ensemble made her look somewhat like a severe old-fashioned schoolteacher most of the time. And what's more, when Bobbie Weatherspoon changed into mufti to relax in the evenings ... Well, Bobbie's idea of changing to relax was into a suit of a different shade of dark blue, grey or even black. She might have changed the clothes she was wearing, but the effect was exactly the same.
I've got to admit that those suits were well tailored though, they fitted that shapely body of Bobbie's like a bloody glove and -- frustratingly for me -- they left little to the imagination.
When Bobbie first joined the company, I'd look and imagine -- or try too -- what she'd look like in a nice cocktail dress or even a bathing suit. No, never a bikini, no one in their right mind could ever imagine Miss Weatherspoon wearing a bikini. Boy, she'd obviously heard of my reputation with the ladies, and Bobbie would glower back at me with an expression that clearly said, "Pervert" in ten foot high letters.
Anyway we'd been in town for about two, or maybe three days and I hadn't found myself anything that interested me around the office where we were working, or any spare kicking around the hotel either. I honestly couldn't be bothered to go off hunting on my own. So that night after dinner the five of us settled down to play cards together. It definitely wasn't my idea to play poker, I can promise you; I'm not a very good poker player at the best of times.
Oh, I suppose that I should mention at this time that whenever anyone in the company plays gambling games and mainly because we're often away from home for more than several days or weeks at a time. We have a golden rule in the company that one breaks on pain of dismissal. Yeah, it's written in our contracts of employment along with the clause about fraternisation with other employees of the "opposite" sex, if either party is married. Odd way to phrase it actually, I had to wonder whether anyone on the board was AC/DC.
Anyway the rule was that you may only bet, what you bring to the game with you. It's a simple rule that prevents anyone getting too greedy or, shall we say, overconfident. If you can't put the "cash" down up front, then you can't make a bet. The rule was brought in after some poor sob's wife back home in the UK, suddenly found that her husband had emptied their bank accounts whilst on a losing streak out East somewhere.
Anyway, all five of us sat down to play and each placed twenty-five dollars on the table in front of them; look we were playing for entertainment not to get bloody rich. Don't ask me why or when it became standard within the company to use US dollar chips in all of our internal gambling, but it was. Most probably it could be traced back to the tale that some poor bugger had been stitched up with a couple of thousand dollars worth of dodgy chips at a Las Vegas casino some years before. Somehow or the other those chips had become our gaming currency within the company.
Whatever, that evening the game chugged along; I won some hands, but lost quite a few more. Three hours later when the game broke up and some of us headed up to bed, I found myself walking away holding two one dollar chips and some change. No real problem, because usually I kept a hundred dollars of US currency in my travelling bag and I could buy back some chips from the winner that evening.
I have no idea how Sheila Hughes and I finished up at the bar together. I think Boney had gone off to phone someone and Sheila had decided to wait for him in the bar with me, instead of standing around in the hotel lobby. Bobbie and Stephanie had gone off to their beds, I'm pretty sure.
"Competitive isn't she?" Sheila said, as she slipped onto the stool beside me.
"Who?" I asked.
"Bobbie Weatherspoon. Christ Dave, didn't you notice that she cleaned up this evening!"
"Can't say I noticed Sheila, I was only playing to pass the time."
"Oh god Bobbie never does anything, just to pass the time. She has to win no matter what the cost. Hadn't you noticed?"
This was news to me, but maybe it wouldn't have been, if I'd watched Bobbie a little closer. I had been watching that poker face of hers to start with, for any clue as to what kind of hand she was holding; but eventually I'd given that idea up as a bad job. Some of the others faces around the table had been far easier to read.
"I'm afraid that Miss Weatherspoon, and I don't get along too well Sheila, as you might have noticed. I try not to catch her eye if I can help it."
"Ah, you can't read her face like you can Boney, Steph's and mine! But, let me assure you that Bobbie really enjoyed herself raking in her winnings this evening, especially the cash she took off of you. You should have seen the grin on her face as your stack went down."
"Ah that doesn't make her competitive Sheila. That just means she doesn't approve of my lifestyle and likes to see me get my comeuppance."
"No I think you're wrong there Dave. I've been on trips with Bobbie before, and I know that she likes to win everything she goes in for. Christ you should see her on the golf course, and blimey, in the gym she just will not get off her exercise bike in the mornings, until I've had enough."
I turned and looked directly at Sheila.
"Er, Bobbie Weatherspoon and you use the same gym, where?"
"Here, in this hotel every morning, silly. Bobbie and I are in the gym when you and Boney are doing your lengths in the pool, and lazing around in that bloody Jacuzzi. Boney won't admit it, but I'll bet you two spend more time in that Jacuzzi than you do in the pool."
I'm not sure, but I believe that my eyes must have given my thoughts away to Sheila. She grinned at me.
"Oh dear, I've let the cat out of the bag haven't I?" Sheila said with a cheeky grin on her face. "Our company lecher, didn't know that our Miss Weatherspoon squeezed herself into a really tight pair of shorts every morning. And a rather ... risqué, for her, top as well, actually. Christ Dave, she's got a real pert little bot on her, just the way you like them. I'm really surprised that you haven't got in there yonks ago."
Once again I didn't reply, but my facial expression must have said a thousand words to Sheila.
"Come on Dave, Boney and I have known you long enough to have learnt your ... er, preferences when it comes to females. I'm really surprised that you haven't tried to work you're charms on her yet."
I smiled at Sheila Hughes; she had me taped, that was for certain!
"There's no point in throwing snowball's at the moon Sheila. I told you, our Miss Weatherspoon does not approve of my lifestyle. She's amply aware that I'm chief company lecher, as you so descriptively put it. And, not in so many words maybe, but she's made it perfectly clear to me that I'd be wasting my time, barking up the wrong tree."
"Oh my, the master has met his match. Well, I never thought I'd see the day! Still Dave, if you'd like to get a ... slightly more intimate gander at your nemesis. Then you should take a short cut to the swimming pool through the gym in the morning."
"Give over Sheila, I ain't that bloody desperate to see what the girl's arse looks like in a pair of shorts."
"Here, who said anything about Bobbie's arse. Mine ain't nothing to be sneezed at you know? And you should see me in my new workout top, its real low cut and only comes down to here." Sheila giggled, indicating a point on her torso, just below her extremely ample breasts with both hands.
"Bloody hell, Dave, she ain't kidding." Boney's voice came from behind us. "That bleeding sports bra thing, cost me an arm and a bleeding leg. Mind Sheila needs it; she'd beat herself to death on a running machine without it." He added with a smile on his face.
Luckily Boney and I had been colleagues and friends for a very long time. He, as well as his wife Sheila, knew, that friends never trespass on another friend's private property, if you understand me. The conversation between us had become a little risqué, quite a few times over the years.
"You'll never believe this Boney, but Dave had no idea that Bobbie Weatherspoon is a fitness freak." Sheila explained to him.
"Oh man! Now Dave you disappoint me. Why do you think I always take a short cut to the pool via the gym every day."
"It isn't a short-cut Boney. I thought you slipped in there to make sure that Sheila wasn't messing around with some hunk."
"Shit mate, the only bloke I got to worry about has been chatting my wife up for the last half hour or so. I tell you what though, you should really hang around in the changing room until I get down in the morning and come with me. Bobbie weatherproof in her workout gear is a sight to behold."
"Why should I wait for you?"
"Oh come on mate, there's no need to make it too obvious. I stop by to give Sheila a kiss before I go for our swim every morning. You can just tag along, you know just coincidently like."
"Do I get to kiss Sheila as well?"
Yeah well, you can imagine where the conversation went from there, can't you. Much leg pulling, by everyone concerned.
Whatever I coincidently, and completely unintentionally, happened to be in the changing room the following morning when Boney arrived in there to get ready for our morning swim. Yeah well, if you believe that, you'll probably believe everything a politician tells you as well.
Anyway, did I get a pleasant surprise -- and a very black look - as we took our short cut through the gym. Sheila was there pedalling away on her exercise bike, and well; Bobbie Weatherspoon was doing her thing on the next cycle along, her ponytail swinging from side to side as she laboured.
My, my, I thought. I'd suddenly figured out why Bobbie stuck to those business suits all of the time. Bobbie's figure really needed to have had a government health warning stamped on it, especially where some of the company's older staff members were concerned. Jesus, even I found I was having a little difficulty catching my breath.
Whatever, I'm pretty sure that if Bobbie had dressed any more fashionably, some sick folks would possibly have taken her for a dumb blond, who had worked her way up through the ranks on her back. Do I need to explain further?
Sheila did give me a nice little peck on the cheek before Boney and I made our excuses and left for our swim. I figured that it would give my heart a good workout to accidentally run into Boney in the changing rooms again in the future. Maybe not every day, but I'm a sucker for a nice piece of scenery.
That evening, Boney had a touch of the gippy-tummy, not unusual for him on those foreign trips and he'd retired to bed early. As we were down to four players the game was Euchre. A complicated betting procedure had been worked out within the company years before, and I have no intention of going through it here. Suffice to say that Bobbie and Sheila who had been playing together, walked off with most of the cash. Although I had noticed Bobbie looking daggers at Sheila a few times, when Bobbie obviously considered that Sheila hadn't made the best possible play.
The next day was the Saturday, so we only put in half a day at the office we were auditing.
In the afternoon all five of us went off to see the local sights and track down a decent golf course. We'd been invited to several, by the directors of the company but we preferred to find our own; company policy.
At poker that night I did quite well to begin with, but later I got cleaned right out again. I'm giving no prizes to anyone who can come with the name of the big winner that evening.
"Told you!" Sheila whispered to me triumphantly as we all waited for the lift together. "She can't bear not to win at anything."
On the golf course the following day, finally I had to admit it myself and agree with Sheila. Although I must also admit to being totally bewildered who Bobbie could play an excellent round of golf, dressed in a business suite, complete with close fitting jacket and -- what I believe should be described as -- a pencil skirt. Bobbie had won all right, but only just; I kinda figured, that if I'd concentrated on my own game a little more and less on trying to understand how she could play so well dressed as she was, then I'd have taken the honours.
I'm going to admit now that watching the poker faced Bobbie Weatherspoon trying so hard to stay in front at whatever she did, was beginning to be fun. That evening for instance the other four played Bridge together, whilst I sat out. Bobbie was partnered with Stephanie and ... well, I swear I could see the frustration building in Bobbie's eyes as Steph made the wrong calls time after time.
Bobbie might have remained as poker faced as usual. But I can assure you, that it was a very frustrated Miss Weatherspoon who went off to bed that evening with a light pocket.
So went the rest of that whole trip actually. It wasn't the first trip I'd been on where Bobbie had been part of the team as well. But it was the first trip that I'd noticed that I'd never left the card table or the golf course richer than I'd started and that Bobbie usually did.