Many thanks go to PapaGus and Deryk for their assistance in preparing this story for posting.
Everything was at the hurry up! Really!. My employers had just taken over a much smaller concern that had recently gone to the wall. I think the company probably got everything on the cheap from the administrators. In spite of my own having been very successful in recent months, and completely swamped with work, our management was somewhat in a panic to bring its new acquisition into the fold, and get it up and running.
To which end a group of us had been shipped up there to reorient the staff and oversee the installation of our company's systems. In short it was complete chaos for a couple of weeks. There had been little time to plan anything out and just about everything was happening on the fly. Even down to replacing the new acquisition's computer network, which was not extensive enough, and adding the necessary wiring.
In brief, the ten of us were running about like blue-arsed flies during the days and, quite literally, meeting up in our hotel bar for a while most evenings to plan what was supposed to be happening the next day.
None of us lived more than an hour or so away by train, but we were all staying over in town most nights, because of those so necessary evening meetings. One or two of the guys had managed to slip home on the odd evening to see their wives and families, but the choice of who we could afford to have slip away depended on what was happening that day and first thing the following morning.
Anyway, feeling pretty knackered, I'd been in the hotel bar for about half an hour waiting for the rest of the guys to show, when she walked in. Sherrie was one of the computer nerds, hired in from a specialist company, helping set up the computer systems and train the staff on how to use them.
And boy, did she take me by surprise when I realised exactly who had walked into the bar. Sherrie definitely did not look anything like the nerd who had been teaching our newly acquired staff how to work our company systems all day. Gone was the baggy sweeter, calf length skirt and spectacles, to be replaced by a tantalisingly short skirt and a fitted silk blouse.
She didn't look around and case the joint. Sherrie just settled herself onto a bar stool and ordered a drink. I figured she was waiting for someone, and I suppose, I wondered which of my married colleagues was about to stray from the straight and narrow.
I was up like a shot from my table and very soon slipped onto the stool beside Sherrie.
"Hey, gorgeous, what's a nice girl like you, doing in a dive like this?" I asked in as sexy a voice as I could muster.
Sherrie turned to look my way, I do believe, intending to give me the evil eye and most likely tell me where I could get off, but then she recognised me.
"Oh, Christ, Steve, Stop messing about. What are you doing in here?" she grinned.
"I'm staying here Sherrie." I said as gestured to the barman to put her drink on my tab. "Hey, I asked you first anyway."
"I'm meeting John one of those electrician guys for dinner. He lives in town and he's picking me up here."
I thought you computer guys were all staying at the Conaught?"
"We are, but John doesn't need to know that does he? Besides, the fewer people know that I date the better. I don't date work colleagues from my own company; it leads to too many complications."
"Ah does that explain why you hide your light under a bushel in the office?"
"I'm not sure how I should take that. I think I'll assume it was meant as a compliment."
"It certainly was Sherrie. On your look now as you sit here, and your skill as a camouflage expert at work. Christ you scrub up well! Poor John is going to get the shock of his life when he gets here."
She grinned at me. "A high proportion of the people I teach how to work our systems are men, Steve. Let's just say they take in instructions better when they are looking at the monitor and not trying to sneak a look at my god given assets. Well you know the secret of my success in the business now, Steve."
"Yeah it was one hell of a surprise when I realised it was you sitting here."
"Men; don't give me that one Steve. I'll lay odds that you watched me every step of the way in here. And that it took you more than a little time to work your gaze up to my face."
"Yes I did, I'll admit it, and who could blame me. Sherrie, you are one fine example of your gender! What a shame you don't date colleagues." I grinned at her.
"Steve you always were a charmer even to that geek in the office. But just remember you don't work for the same employer as me, so technically we're not work colleagues."
"What an enchanting idea Sherrie. Except for that one fly in the ointment, I'm married!"
"Damn, just when I thought I was going to get lucky." She grinned. "Still if you ever get tired of married life, you know my company's phone number."
We must have joked together in the same manner for about twenty minutes before Sherrie's date turned up, and after he'd recovered from the shock, they left together. I bought myself another drink and then went back to my table in the corner to await my colleagues.
I don't know, probably ten or twenty minutes later I went out to the gents. While I was in there another guy came and started to use the urinal adjacent to mine.
"Pretty girl" he commented.
"Sorry?" I said, not really being sure that I'd heard him correctly. It's always a little uncomfortable when a complete stranger starts talking to you in the gents, you just never know what his motives are; but I tried to remain polite.
"That young lady you were talking to at the bar, she's a pretty girl." The man clarified.
"Yes she is, isn't she?"
"You in town in business?" he asked as I started washing my hands.
"Yeah, we're setting up a new branch office in town."
"Yes I am, but why are you asking?"
"Oh I was just thinking. Married men who are away from home should look out for who's watching them, when the talk to pretty girls in hotel bars."
The guy was washing his hands by then as I dried mine under the air blower. He was confusing me something chronic. I was trying to workout whether he was some weirdo trying to pick me up, or an unlikely looking pimp, touting for business for his girls.
"Are you implying something?"
"Yeah! That you've been in the bar three evenings this week, and whenever you're in there, so is that little shit over in the other corner; haven't you noticed him?"
"No. I really don't know what you are trying to say?"
"The moment you started talking to that young lady just now, he started fiddling with his phone. And what's more; when you go up to your room in the evening he moves out into the lobby and hangs around out there until well after midnight."
We were exiting the gents by then and the guy told me that he couldn't say anymore at the moment, he thought the guy in the corner might have noticed that he'd spotted him. He asked for my mobile number and told me he'd call me in a few minutes, then he walked out of the hotel's front entrance.
Confused, I returned to my seat in the bar, still trying to figure out why I'd given a complete stranger my mobile number.
True to his word my mobile rang within a few minutes. It was the guy and he told me just to sit quietly and listen; then he told me an almost incredible story.
He went around the houses quite a bit, but the essence of what he told me was that he had recently been stitched up by his now ex-wife. He explained that while away on a business trip he'd innocently fallen into conversation a pretty young woman sitting at a hotel bar.
During their chat it came out that she had come into the bar to hide from her abusive ex-husband, who she'd managed to spot in the street outside before he'd had a chance to see her.
It hadn't dawned on my gullible new friend; that sitting on a stool up at the bar wasn't the most conducive place for her to hide. If he hadn't been so beguiled by her good looks and story, he probably would have realised that a better choice of seat for her, would have been in a dark corner.
Anyway she pointed out marks on her face and arms that led him to believe that someone had recently been violent to her, and consequently he swallowed her tale, hook, line and bloody sinker.
Then she suddenly claimed that her husband was about to enter the bar and fled via a door at the rear. Fearing for her safety, my new friend followed her, and quickly located her trying to hide in an alcove in the corridor.
He had suggested that he get her a room for the night where she could hide, but she insisted that she could not go into the hotel's lobby because her ex-husband would most likely see her.
Yeah, even I guessed what was coming next. After a lot of discussion it was decided that the young woman would take his key and would hide in his room, while my new friend booked her a room of her own. Then he'd give her the key and she could hide in there for the night. Which in essence was what happened. The instant he gave the young woman her key, she'd given him a hug and a kiss on the cheek in thanks before he'd escorted to her to the room and then he'd immediately returned to his own.
He didn't see the young woman the following morning, and brushed the whole incident off as a slightly expensive wander into the realms of old fashioned chivalry. Feeling quietly pleased with himself, he'd thought the incident was over. But it wasn't!
A few days later while unpacking his suitcase, his wife found a pair of ladies briefs tucked into the bottom of it; then all hell broke loose. Within days he was served with divorce papers and in them he discovered that a certain young lady was admitting to having a liaison with him in the hotel room that night. What's more, there were photographs of him with the young woman, in the bar, and entering and/or leaving, his hotel room.
He claimed that the whole pantomime had been set up by his wife and her lover, who he'd later discovered had been her superior at the place she'd worked before their children had come along. Although he had no evidence of the fact, and none that his wife had been intimate with the guy until after their divorce was underway, and they were officially separated.
"It was all too bloody pat!" he said "The bastard was round the house giving her the business the evening the judge issued the separation order. And I'd been banned from going near the place because the cow claimed I threatened her with violence!
"Now she's got the house, because I've got to supply accommodation for the kids until they're of age. I've lumbered with child support, alimony and maintenance on the sodding house. And all the while that arsehole is banging my ex-wife in it!"
"I can understand your obvious frustration my friend, but what has that got to do with me?" I asked when he eventually fell silent.
"Are you sitting in seat at that corner table you and your friends have been using all week?"
"Then try not to make it too obvious, but in the corner at the other end of the wall there should be a young guy sitting there on his own. I should imagine he's almost hidden from you behind that damn great Triffid of a plant thing."
I casually glanced in the direction me new friend had indicated. Sure enough, there was someone behind that plant, but I could not see whom.
"Yes, I think I see him."
"Well, I'm not sure what his game is, but that little shit is watching you my friend. I'm just giving you the nod because you look like a decent enough bloke to me, and I wouldn't like to see you stitched up like I've been."
"Well that's most kind of you my friend. But I don't intend to stray from the righteous path."
"Neither did I, my friend, and actually I didn't! But that didn't stop me from getting stitched up. For some reason your wife must think you're straying when you are away from home."
"Never! I'm very rarely away from home actually. This is my first trip in over a year." I informed him.
"Rather odd then, don't you think. Why else would that guy be following you?"
"Yes of course. He has followed you into the hotel for the last three nights."
"Nonsense, my friend, It must be pure coincidence that we've both arrived at the hotel about the same time every evening."
"He's not resident in the hotel. He goes home just after one AM. Look, I can prove it to you. Finish your drink and then leave the hotel. Walk down to the Plume of Feathers, it's only a couple if hundred yards or so. There are plenty of entrances, so if his is watching you, as I believe he is, then he'll have to follow you inside the pub to make sure you don't slip out of one of the others. If you stand up at the bar itself, you'll be able watch for him to enter, in the mirror behind it."
I passed the other guys on my way out of the hotel and told them I'd be back shortly. It was only after I'd walked about halfway to the Plume of Feathers that I'd wondered if I was doing the right thing. After all, there was the distinct possibility that I was setting myself up to be mugged or something. There was sod-all in the way of other people about.
I made the Plume safely and ordered a pint. Sure enough the young guy I'd risked a quick gander at on the way out of the hotel bar, came in and bought himself a drink at the far end of the bar. Then he took a seat on the far side of the room from where he could plainly watch me.
A couple of minutes later my mobile started ringing again.
"Was I right, or was I right?"
"Yes," I conceded, "he's over by the wall, trying to pretend that he isn't watching me."
"What are you going to do about him?"
"Buggered if I know."
"Well, just don't do anything stupid like letting him know that you've spotted him; or chatting up some bit of spare. Let me think on it and I will call you tomorrow."
"But what if he's ... you know, planning on robbing me or something?"
"No, he's not the type. I figure he's a college student, earning some readies, by working for some iffy private detective agency. He certainly has no idea of how to covertly follow anyone."
"I never spotted him."
"You, my friend, are a little bit too much like myself. The thought of straying doesn't cross your mind and therefore you don't have any reason to keep looking over your shoulder. Now, your redheaded mate, he's on the make and he's scanning around all the time. I'm a little surprised that he hasn't spotted your shadow."
Yes well, the redheaded colleague of mine he was talking about, is actually the office Casanova, and whom I'd first suspected that Sherrie was in the hotel to meet.
Having finished my pint in the Plume, I made my way back to the hotel by somewhat meandering route that took me along by the river. I hoped that it looked like I was out for an evening stroll to take in some fresh air.
Back at the hotel the guys were curious about where I'd disappeared to, but they didn't push me on the subject. Then we got on with looking at office plans and discussing what we hoped we were going to get done the next day.
Later, as I left the bar on the way to my room, I could just discern -- out of the corner of my eye -- that someone was hiding behind that plant again,
"Are you okay?" my new friend asked when he called me the following afternoon.
"Yeah fine, still can't figure out why that kid should be following me though."
"Do you want to know?"
"Yes I believe I do. Someone must be paying the bugger and if my wife's wasting my hard earned cash I'll pretty annoyed!"
"Okay, leave it with me. There's a couple of other divorced guys working at the office I've been seconded to. I'll have to stay out of sight because the bugger might recognise me, but we think we've got a foolproof plan where they can grab the bugger and ask him what he's about without letting on that you know he's been following you."
"That'll be a feat, wont it?"
"No the boys are going to kid him on that they've been employed to follow you as well and they are going to get stroppy with the lad. Shit, he's only a kid; he'll probably wet his pants. Anyway, they'll promise him that if he comes clean with them, they won't let on to whoever is employing him that he fucked the job up. With any luck, he'll keep his mouth shut rather than risk losing his job."
It was arranged that I'd take another constitutional around the same time that I had the previous evening. Only this time making my way to the river via a very specific route that took me along a dark ally.
I'll admit that when I got into that ally I wondered once again, whether I'd been conned into walking into something nasty.
Half way down the ally I just caught sight of two dark forms loitering in the shadows. I was somewhat relieved to hear one of them say. "Keep going - he's about fifty yards behind you!"
Then I continued with my stroll and nothing further of note happened -- that I was aware of -- and someone was back behind the plant once again when I made my way to my room that evening.
"Well it worked, but it doesn't make much sense." My new friend's voice said when I answered my mobile phone just after midnight.
"Oh he talked then?"
"Boy did he, they couldn't stop him talking."
"Well, they looked like big guys to me."
"In a pitch black ally, at that time of night, everyone looks like a big guy my friend. But this, you just aren't going to believe, I know I can't get my head around it."
"Your little tail has to pick you up from your office every evening. He has to follow you around until midnight and then when he's satisfied that you've gone to bed, he can knock off and go home."
"Is that it?"
"Yes, he's moonlighting for a local detective agency as we'd surmised. But they aren't really interested in what you do or where you go, unless it's to the train station."
"Yeah, you know those things that run on rails."
"Yeah that's how I got up here, no point in bringing the car."
"Well, the interesting bit is, if you do go to the station he's to watch what train you get onto. If it's a train going north, he can knock off and go home. If you get on a train going south ... well, then he's got a mobile number he has to call immediately."
"South you say?"
"Yes, I would assume you live on the south coast my friend?"
"But why would you get on a train going north?"
"My sister lives about a half hour up the line."
"Hmm, I think its bad news then, don't you?"
"Yeah, have you got the number the lad's supposed to call?"
"I'll text it to you the instant we end this call."
"What are you going to do my friend?"
"I think I will pay my sister a visit tomorrow night!"
"Do you need any back-up?"
"That would be kind of you. I have no idea what I'm going to walk into."
"Text me the time of the train you'll be going down on tomorrow and we'll meet you at the next station along the line. Oh, and my two friends, if you spot them anywhere, don't acknowledge them, if you understand me? They are complete strangers to you and it might be safer for everyone if things stayed that way."
"Is that really necessary?"
"They are two very angry ex-husbands my friend. You'll only have to give them the nod and they will be only too happy to take care of anything you need after we are safely on the train back up here."
"There are CCTV camera's on all the stations nowadays my friend. Virtually unimpeachable when an alibi is required."
I didn't recognise the phone number that my tail was supposed to call. It was a mobile number anyway, so it would probably lead nowhere even if I'd tried to trace it.
After travelling one station north I switched to a southbound train, and was joined by my new friend one station down the line from where I'd begun my journey. He informed that the youngster had watched my northbound train go out, and then left the station, presumably to get an early night.
I saw no sign of the two large dark shapes I'd passed in the ally the previous evening, and my new friend didn't mention them.
We obviously discussed what I might discover when I got to my house, and what we would do if no one proved to be home.
My wife hadn't mentioned that she was going out, so we figured that she was expecting company at home. Well, there was always the chance that I'd call for a chat later in the evening. I had done that already once that week and on reflection my wife had sounded just a little ... distracted.
She had admitted to me that she was in the middle of a TV program and that she had muted the sound on, when the telephone rang, and that she was trying to follow the program via the TV's subtitle feature. Constance always did follow those stupid soap programs on the telly, so I'd accepted her explanation at the time.
By then I wasn't so sure. Actually I was racking my brain trying to recall what else I'd heard in the background during the call. Some half heard sound was bugging me and a couple of times I had thought that maybe Constance had put her hand over the microphone. She'd also giggled at one point in our conversation, but I'd assumed that she was laughing at something in her soap.
I looked around, but just the two of us alighted from the train at my home station. My new friend must have noticed.
"Don't worry, they're here already. They came down by car earlier."
As we began walking towards my house, my companion began to talk to himself. For a few seconds I thought he'd lost his marbles, and then I realise he had one of those Blue Tooth do-what's-its in his ear. He was obviously talking to the two dark shadows.
He informed me that we'd better hold up somewhere for a while. Constance was still alone, but she was expecting someone.
When I enquired how he was so sure. He told me that she'd opened the integral garage's door about five minutes ago and moved our car out into the street.
"Looks like her visitor intends to stay all night." He commented.
We wasted a little time looking in shop windows in the town precinct where we couldn't be seen from the road, until my companion was informed that the game was on. Then we made for my house.
My companion stopped me from charging in like the proverbial bull in a china shop. He pointed out that tonight probably wasn't the first night Constance had had a visitor, so there was little point in closing the stable door after the horse had bolted. We needed to give them enough time to get well and truly into, whatever they were going to get into. So that we could get the evidence I would need when it came to a court battle.
My companion had more experience than I in these matters, so I took his advice. We hung around in the back garden for about twenty minutes before my impatience got the better of me; then I sneaked up to the rear lounge window. Luckily those curtains, that Constance had been so pleased to find, had shrunk ever so slightly when she'd washed them. I'd never got around to getting the steps out again and adjusting the ruffle cord so they completely closed together in the middle.
I really would never have thought Constance was capable of it. She was stark naked and kneeling between the legs of and equally naked Tony Copland. He was one of our Local Council Members no less, and his party's prospective parliamentary candidate for the next general election. Our sitting MP had already announced that he was intending to retire.
Quite obviously Constance was performing the act that a certain ex-President of the United States had described as "Not having sexual relations." I somewhat disagreed!
The only way I knew the guy was called Tony Copland by the way, was because Constance had been delivering circulars for his party before the last local elections. Constance wasn't a party stalwart or anything, but she had inexplicably become involved in the last local election campaign.
Ever since, I've wondered whether Constance's affair with Copland, evolved out of her work for the party during that election or whether her sudden interest in local politics and the election was a result of her and Copland's affair. I have to accept that's probably a question I'll never learn the answer to.
I suppose I was still pondering that question, when my companion pulled me away from the window. The last glimpse I got was of Constance's head going up and down. Copland had both his hands entangled in her hair, for encouragement I suppose. For obvious reasons I was having a little difficulty controlling my anger. But to be honest with you and what made it worse for me, was that Constance had always claimed that the mere thought of oral sex, made her feel ill.
When we were well clear of the house, my companion handed me a small video camera, complete with a lanyard to put around my neck. He explained that when we got in the house I was to keep the camera pointing at Copland and Constance as long as possible. But should Copland go to attack me, I should just release the camera and defend myself. He reminded me that the camera would continue recording, even if it were just hanging from the lanyard. And that whatever I said or did, once we got inside the house, I was under no circumstances to make threats of physical violence against either of the perpetrators.
"If he comes at you, you crack the buggers head open for all I care, but don't raise a hand to him first. I'll have this camera trained on you all the time to prove that you haven't attacked him and I'll try to keep this one on both of them all the time as well."
"Two cameras?" I asked.
"Yeah, it's my business, selling video cameras wholesale. Didn't I tell you?"
"You've told me nothing about yourself. I don't even know your name!"
"Probably better that way, if you decide you want the boys to do the business later on."
After sneaking into the garage, and slowly letting all of Copland's car tyres down, we passed on through the fire door and into the kitchen. From there we could actually see -- and record -- what was going on in the lounge, where Copland was by then returning the favour to Constance.
How the hell Constance never saw us standing there, recording the scene, I just don't understand.
Then Copland seemed to tire of his labour and climbed up to mount Constance, even though she did object by saying that he hadn't got her off yet. I thought that was damned unsporting of the guy.
Copland said something to Constance about not being able to contain himself any longer and started humping away for all he was worth.
Somewhat oddly, I thought, Constance told him to take it easy, and kind of inferred that he hurt her when he went at it like that. Their conversation didn't really make very much sense because Copland interspersed almost every word he spoke with the two words "Fucking bitch" while Constance kept repeating "Oh fuck!"
I'd never heard Constance use profanities in all the years I'd known her. Usually when we made love she'd repeatedly chant "Oh my god!" I'd always taken that as a compliment, perhaps I'd been mistaken.
Copland was going at it for several minutes when a mobile phone that was laying on the coffee table began to ring. This caused him to halt screwing Constance for a second, and look at the ringing telephone. After a moments thought he rolled over along the sofa pulling Constance with him so that she was on top and told her to fuck him as he picked up the still ringing phone.
Constance obliged and began to slowly move herself up and down. Actually I should imagine that Constance was happier to be on top; many's the time she'd performed in the same manner above me.
The odd thing was that by then Constance was looking into the mirror on the wall behind our sofa, and not far short of staring into my companion and my eyes in our reflections in the bloody thing. God alone knows where her mind was.
Copland put the phone to his ear and said "hello!"
Then things began to get comical. I of course could only hear one side of the conversation. What the caller was saying to him I have no real idea. But I kinda got the gist of it.
"How did you get this number?" Copland demanded.
"No, I have nothing I wish to make a statement to any newspaper about!"
"How dare you young man? I'm..."
"If you make accusations like that in your newspaper young man, I'll have your damned job for you!"
Constance had stopped her gyrations and was looking down at Copland. She must have sensed something in his tone. Or maybe what the reporter had said to him had suddenly put Copland out of the mood for sex and that had had repercussions for a particular part of his anatomy.
"Now you look here! I'm visiting a local resident on official council business. It's part of my duties as a councillor to assist..."
"That's none of your business. Her husband is well aware that I am here this evening."
At this point in Copland's telephone conversation, Constance's eyes suddenly snapped back to the mirror on the wall, and an expression of horror came over her face.
"Steve. Oh god no! Steve!" She wailed at the top of her voice.
Constance's sudden wail took Copland by surprise and he looked up at her. I can only assume he realised she was staring at something reflected in the mirror, because he moved his upper body to one side so that he could see my companion and me.
Now there isn't many times in my life that I've seen real fear in someone's eyes. But I saw it in Copland's eyes that night.
You know, I don't know whether he disconnected the mobile phone call or not. I do know that in his panic he shoved Constance off himself with such violence that she fell to the floor, smashing the coffee table with her head in the process and briefly knocking her unconscious.
I have to say that I've never seen anyone get into a pair of trousers so quickly. Then Copland located his jacket and threw that on.
My companion used his shoulder to push me into the lounge as we continued to film Copland in his rush to leave the house. I realised later, that my companion had moved us out of the kitchen to clear Copland's escape route to the garage where his car was parked.
Shoes in one hand and underclothes in the other Copland rushed past us out into the garage. I shortly heard him shout. "You bastards!"
In the meantime my Companion had told me to check out Constance -- but at the same time warned my to keep my camera trained on her -- while he followed Copland.
I assumed from Copland's shout that he'd discovered that his car had four flat tyres. Whatever, I heard the garage roller door open and him attempting to drive away.
I was by that time over with the just regaining consciousness Constance who having come to her senses, sat up, looked me in the eye and then promptly fainted. Giving her head another nasty clout on the floor in the process. Constance was not having a good evening of it.
I figured that I'd better call for medical assistance for Constance, so -- still keeping the camera trained on Constance's nude body -- I moved over to our land line and dialled three nines. Only to be told that an ambulance and the police were already on their way. Indeed, I could hear the sirens before I'd put the telephone down.
Rather odd really, I was still standing there filming the by then semi-conscious Constance when the paramedic rushed into the lounge.
"Time we left old buddy?" My companion had returned and was gently urging me towards the door.
He also stuffed a pair of sunglasses on my nose and an oversized trilby on my head, which he pulled firmly down onto the sunglasses. I have no idea where he had procured either and was somewhat surprised that he was now garbed in a similar manner.
I discovered why as we exited the house through the garage. A TV camera crew (local news I assumed) and several reporters were waiting to pounce. They threw questions too numerous to answer at us as my companion guided me to a waiting taxi. Some other stranger interjected himself between the newspaper people, my companion and myself and kept repeating, "My client has no statement to make at this time!"
As the taxi drove us to the railway station I looked across at my companion.
"What you told me, was it all bullshit?" I asked him.
"No, my wife stitched me up, much as I said. Her solicitor though ... Well, he was a right arsehole; you just met him this evening.
"Yep, Copland! Then last week a pal of mine who runs a PI business told me that a certain Tony Copland had got in touch and wanted you watched. Well, my pal didn't like the look of the job, it didn't make sense to him and Copland wouldn't explain what it was all about, so he turned the job down.
"But my friend, knowing the animosity I felt towards Copland, tipped me off about his desire to be informed if you showed any inclination to return home, unexpected like. Well, it was pretty obvious wasn't it; it didn't take a genius to put two and two together on what Copland's game was.
"Sorry about the press though, but I wanted to make sure Copland's political aspirations come to an abrupt end. Hopefully it won't do his legal business much good either. Actually once they get their claws in to bastard, I'm sure that the media will pretty quickly forget about you and your wife. There's a lot of more juicer muck in Copland's past for them to get their teeth into.
We were on the train heading back north, when my companion informed me that Constance was in the local hospital. A hairline fracture of the skull, his contact thought.
Then he asked me if I wanted anything done to Copland when the police get finished with him.
I looked at him, the question in my eyes, and he explained that Copland had discovered that it's not easy to drive a car with four flat tyres and he'd crashed into at least three parked cars and ended up parked in a shop window. Copland had last been seen being carted off in the back of a police van.
My companion -- who was obviously still in contact with, and receiving messages from eyewitnesses back at the scene through his mobile phone -- was a little hazy about the exact reason Copland had been arrested. He just referred to it as a traffic violation. Seemed reasonable to me at the time. Driving a car with four flat tyres surely cannot be legal.
Later, I gathered from TV and newspaper reports that Copland had panicked when -- as the roller door on the garage had gone up -- he'd seen the TV and press people gathered outside. He was standing in the garage in a state of undress and my companion was blocking Copland's access to the switch that would close the door again. So the panicking Copland had jumped into his vehicle and driven it away. Or should that be, he attempted to drive it away.
The brief description I read in the press said that his car had certainly moved along the road, but it had clipped the TV crew's van as it left my drive and numerous other parked vehicles as it went on along our street. Then, as Copland had tried to turn into the main road, he apparently collided with a passing truck. It would seem, that the collision with the bigger vehicle, had imparted Copland's car with the impetus it needed to imbed itself in a shop front.
What a shame our taxi had driven off in the other direction that night, I really would like to have seen the carnage first hand.
During our journey my companion informed me that that evening was probably going to be the last time we met. But he also said that if everything went to plan I would hear from him sometime in the future. He apologised again for the unfortunate publicity, but said he had needed something spectacular that would set the dogs loose. It was many months before I realised what he was talking about; I'll get back to that later.
At one stage as our train crossed a bridge over a river, my companion threw the mobile phone he'd been using out of the window. Telling me that I would no longer be able to contact him via it and nobody else would either.
"Keep the video camera, I've got plenty more!" He grinned.
"What about the film in those two?"
"I'm sure you've got enough for what you need on the chip in that camera, Steve. I've got plans for the recordings in these, and I might need to stir the pot a little. But don't worry; your wife's face will be kept right out of the papers."
"Who gives a shit?" I said.
"You do my friend, and I'm sorry that it's going to happen. No man likes the idea that everyone knows that his wife was a slut who's been hanging on him for god knows how long. It doesn't do our ego much good, that's human nature."
My companion got off the train a couple of stops before I did. He shook my hand, apologised again for the publicity and for any other repercussions that might inadvertently come my way in the future. He assured me that he'd do his best to negate them, but didn't clarify what he thought might happen.
His last act was to give me a business card and tell it was the solicitor's, who'd been outside my house; he was a good man and could be trusted. I was to use him for my divorce, if I decided to go for one and for any other contingencies.
Then the train pulled out of the station and I was never to meet him personally again. But I was to hear from him in a round about way, and see his face again. But I'll tell you about that a little later.
The night man on reception caught me as I entered my hotel and handed me a parcel marked urgent. I took it with me into the bar, where to be honest I was planning on having a skinful. Who wouldn't under the circumstances?
Ripping the brome paper from the parcel at the bar I discovered that it contained the manufacturers packaging for the little video camera that was now in my pocket and a printed note. In essence the note instructed me not to get drunk. I was to go to my room and make at least one copy of the file from the camera's memory card on my laptop, and preferable several others on any media I had handy. I also suggested that any copies I made and the original were not kept in the same place.
Downing the scotch and the chaser I'd ordered, I did as the note instructed placing one copy of the file on a DVD that I later took down and deposited in the hotels safe at the same time as I posted a second to my sister. I could only make the two extra copies because I only carry a couple of blank DVD's and CD's around in my laptop case.