Everyday was the same. Five minutes before the children came out of school the old Volvo would appear. It never came close and the driver never got out of the car. As the days went by other parents started to notice. When one of mums arrived late and saw the driver using binoculars, she called the police. The patrol car arrived just as the children came out. I was bending down to embrace Madeleine and Thomas when I saw him get out of the car. Even four hundred yards away I recognised him. That large frame, the way he held himself, even the way he pushed his fingers through his hair when he was stressed. I watched as he got something from his pocket a showed it to the constable.
"Mummy, why are you crying," asked Thomas "are you hurt?"
"No, don't worry. Mummy's, fine the wind just blew some grit in her eye." I lied to him.
As I gathered them up and walked back to the car. I looked back to see him, still talking to the policeman.
Two days later I went in my friend Penny's Isuzu. Penny went to collect the children with specific instructions to keep them waiting at the gate. It took him all of five minutes. At first he was tentative looking all around and then walking purposefully towards them. He was a hundred yards away when they noticed him. With the window wound down I could hear the shout as Madeleine saw him.
"Daddy!" She cried as she ran towards him.
Thomas pulled away from Penny and followed her. He went down onto one knee and gathered them both in a tight embrace. I watched with tears running down my cheeks as he held them, then got up and slowly walked them back to the gate. He crouched down to talk to them looking up to address Penny. I got out of the car and walked over to them.
"Hello Richard, it's been a long time."
He turned and looked up at me. His eyes were full of anger.
"That was your decision, not mine."
"What are you talking about, I'd never stop you seeing the children."
"What do you call this then?" he asked handing me a bundle of papers he'd taken from his jacket pocket. I looked but could make head nor tail of it The only words that made any sense, were the words restraining order.
"I don't understand. What is this?"
"You should know you took it out. It's an injunction preventing me from having any contact with you and that arrogant prick living in my house. I'm to have no contact with you and I am banned from coming within four hundred yards of you, him and the house."
"Tell me Cath, how am I supposed to see my children when I can't contact you and can't come to the house?"
Tears ran down his face as he took the injunction documents back from me.
"I'm sorry Richard I don't understand. I never took that out"
"Well somebody did."
I felt a small hand tugging at me. "Mummy, mummy, can daddy come home with us? Please mummy, can he."
I looked at Richard as he pretended to blow his nose to cover the fact he was drying his eyes. He shook his head.
"Not tonight Darling, Mummy has something she must do first."
Richard turned to leave. "By the way Cath, I shall deny this meeting ever took place." He started to walk away.
"Richard wait, can I have those documents?"
"No, It's my only copy. I'll email it to you.—From an anonymous account of course."
He bent down hugged Maddy and Tom, kissed them both and walked away.
Both children called out to him. He didn't look back but I saw him dabbing at his eyes with a tissue.
We walked back to Penny's car. I buckled Maddy and Tom into their seats and got in the front. Penny looked at me with disbelief.
"Please tell me you didn't Cath. Richard may have his faults but he's a good dad and he's devoted to those two. I can't believe you slapped a restraining order on him."
"I didn't Penny, but I mean to find out who did."
All the way home I couldn't get his face out of my mind. He looked so desperate, so broken and deeply hurt. I tried to tell myself he deserved it. He'd betrayed me he'd slept with another woman. Less than seven years of marriage and he couldn't keep it in his trousers. If he needed to fuck someone what the hell was wrong with me. I'd loved him dearly. There wasn't anything I wouldn't have given him. I kept myself in trim, always looked good for him. I thought he was proud of me when we went out. Just goes to show how wrong you can be.
It had been almost a year since those photographs dropped through my door and their content left little to the imagination. A young blonde on her knees sucking his cock, wrapping her legs around him while he fucked her pussy and on her hands and knees taking him in her arse. In some shots his face wasn't visible but I could see that tattoo and perhaps that hurt more than anything else. I could easily read it, not that I needed to, I knew what it said.
Property of Catherine Thompson with an arrow pointing down to his cock.
I remembered the day he'd got it done. On our first anniversary I'd told him to do something to show that he loved me. I'd laughed when he showed it to me, I'm not laughing now. When I looked at the pictures I felt sick. How could he do that to me How could the little tart suck his cock while looking at that tattoo? There had been no doubt in my mind. If he loved me he just couldn't do that.
I thought about Penny's words. He had always been a wonderful father, taking an active role from day one. He did his fair share of bringing them up, changing nappies, feeding and bathing them. Maddy and Tom idolised him. Their mood brightened as soon as he got home sometimes I felt jealous of his relationship with them. That's why I was surprised when he suddenly stopped coming around to see them. He never called to arrange a visit. For three months we had no contact at all. Despite the shock of betrayal I didn't hate him and I certainly wouldn't stop him seeing the children.
As Richard walked away he couldn't believe his life had gone so wrong so quickly. A year ago he had a good job, a nice house, a lovely wife and two beautiful children. One by one they had all been taken away. He got into the old Volvo and watched Cathy load the kids into Penny's Isuzu. He banged his forehead on the steering wheel. How could one drunken night lead to this?
He never normally drank much but that night he felt sorry for himself. His employer, Electronique plc. held their annual party in the garden of one of the large hotels in town. They erected a large marquee out on the lawns with a live band and cheap booze. It was a black tie job and more or less compulsory for managers to attend. Normally he went with Cath while her mother looked after the children. That year was different, Cath's mum was recovering from varicose vein surgery and Cath was looking after her. Richard felt very alone and found himself drinking more than usual. From halfway through the evening he could remember nothing. He knew that he'd woken up in a hotel room with the mother of all hangovers. When he checked out he was told him he'd paid the bill when he booked the room. None of it made sense.
Things got worse when he got to work on Monday. His colleagues were all nudges and winks and they called him a sly dog and other such names. Craig, his boss, didn't find it so funny.
"I thought you knew better. Cath's a lovely girl and you two are so right together, I never thought you'd put that at risk for a roll in the hay with some tart."
"Craig, what are you are talking about."
"I'm talking about you leaving the party with the mystery Blonde on Saturday night."
"I can't remember much after the dinner. I woke up in a hotel room that I was supposed to have booked the previous week. I have no knowledge of how I got there and I don't remember booking it. Why would I need a room? It's only a ten minute taxi ride to my place."
"I know you were putting it away but I didn't think you were that bad. Let me fill you in. From about 9.30pm you were keeping the company of a blonde woman. Nobody recognised her, but I'll give you one thing, she was drop dead gorgeous. Anyway about 10.30pm I saw you leaving with your arm draped around the bare shoulder of the mystery woman. There are a lot of blokes in this department from whom I'd expect that sort of behaviour, but not you Richard."
"I assure you Craig I don't remember a thing, if I had the pleasure of the young lady then it was totally wasted because I don't remember."
"Well you'd better make sure Cath doesn't find out, because she'll have your guts for garters."
A week later Cathy returned from her mother's. Two days after she got home Richard came home to a mad woman, waving pictures at him, and telling him to get out. He threw some clothes in a bag and left to spend the night on his brother's sofa. By the end of the week he got notification of divorce proceedings in his office mail.
He'd never imagined Cath would use the children as weapon against him, but that was exactly what she had done. This restraining order was the last straw. It didn't ban him from seeing Maddy and Tom, it just made it impossible to make arrangements.
He started the car and headed in the direction of the place he now called home.
We got home and I gave the children a snack and a drink, I used my laptop to check the email. There was nothing from Richard, I set about cooking dinner while Maddy and Tom did their school work. It seems ridiculous setting homework for five and six year old children, but that's the world we live in now.
Tony got home around 5.30 pm. His arrival was greeted by grunts from the children and a kiss from me. Tony had been my rock. Standing by me, and advising me through all the turmoil of the divorce. He'd found me a good divorce lawyer and helped work out a settlement. Richard never put up much of a fight my solicitor only had to threaten restricted access to the children and he just caved in. I don't feel good about the settlement, it seems I have everything and he has nothing. He even has to pay the mortgage on the house he can't live in. Tony says it's his own fault for not putting up a fight and for cheating in the first place.
I met Tony, or Anthony as he is known there, at work. Pendleton, Syms and Woodcock is a law firm. They specialise in corporate work, drafting contracts, ensuring their customers don't get caught out in mergers and takeovers. It's a big money company. I work in their accounts department and Tony is one of the solicitors. We met when I had to ask him to explain some of the items on his expenses claim. We often went to lunch together and we would talk about our lives outside work. He told me he envied Richard having a stable home life and a family of his own. I, of course, told him he would meet the right person one day. Over the months he became a close friend and my confidant, I told him everything, I even told him about Richard's tattoo.
I looked at my children sitting watching cartoons while Tony went up to change out of his work clothes. Richard's tear stained face sprung into my mind. It hadn't been a fair fight everything we had against access to his children. I felt myself welling up as I put the dinner on the plates and set the table.
Tony noticed that I was not my usual self.
"What's up babe? You seem a bit down tonight."
"Oh nothing really, I just saw a face from the past today. They don't seem to be doing that well. I was wondering if there was anything I could do."
"The only person that can help you in this world is yourself. There are winners and losers the important thing is to always be on the winning side. I'm sure your friend could do something to get them out of the hole they're in."
"You may be right. My worrying certainly won't help"
I got up and cleared away. Tony read his paper while I got the children ready for bed.
"Now you two go up and brush your teeth and I'll come up and read you a story."
"I want Daddy to do it," yelled Thomas.
Tony folded his newspaper, got up and walked towards the staircase.
"Not you," said Maddy. "We want our real Daddy."
"Well if your real Daddy loved you he'd be here, wouldn't he? But he's not and I am."
"TONY" I screamed as I ran over to them.
Maddy's tears were running down her face. "It's not true is it Mummy? Daddy does love us he told me so."
"Of course he loves you sweetie, more than anything in the whole world. I don't know why Tony would say such a thing."
"He doesn't love us and he doesn't like Daddy."
"I'm, sure Tony loves you too. He's just got things on his mind."
"Well I don't like him. I want to see my daddy again."
"I'm working on it sweetie, really I am. Now let's get you tucked up in bed and you let mummy worry about Daddy's visits". I put them to bed and read the little princess before kissing them goodnight.
I was fuming as I went back downstairs to confront Tony.
"Don't you ever talk to my children like that again"
"Oh they're your children now are they? I thought we agreed when I moved in that they were going to be our children?"
"Richard will always be their father there is nothing either of us can do about that."
"OK, I could have put it better but sooner or later they have to know. He's made his choice. He doesn't want to be a part of their lives anymore. I mean when was the last time they saw him? Three months ago?"
"Today, they saw him today. I was late picking them up from school so Penny met them at the school gate. When I arrived he was there with them."
"Did you speak to him?"
"No when I arrived he left."
"What did you say?"
"I called him a wimp, because he is. He hasn't fought anything. You got the house that he's paying for. You got more than generous child support. You even got some maintenance payments. Every demand we made he just rolled over."
"As I recall Tony, we said give me what I want or you'll never see your kids again. We had the only thing he wanted. Of course he rolled over."
"So why isn't he taking up the access he has, if they are so precious to him?"
"I don't know but I saw the heartbroken look on his face today. There'll be a reason I'm sure."
I don't know why I didn't tell him about the restraining order. I had the feeling that Tony knew more about it than he was letting on. Still I kept it quiet at least until I could read it thoroughly. I checked my email, still nothing from Richard. In desperation I looked in the Junk folder. There it was, a single file called injunction. No message, just the attachment. I printed it out and put it in my briefcase. Tony came in with an overnight bag.
"I forgot to tell you. I've got to go down to Southampton tomorrow. I won't be back until Friday evening."
"Just the one night? You'll be back on Friday?"
"Yeah definitely. Tell you what Cath why don't we go out to dinner Friday night?"
"OK I'll book a table."
He stepped up behind me and put his arms around me and his hands on my breasts and squeezed them. "How about a little loving on account?"
"On account of what?"
"On account of me not being here to get it tomorrow."
"Not tonight Tony, I'm really not in the mood."
I pulled his hands off of my breasts and started to walk away from him.
"Oh come on Cath you're not still angry because of what I said to Maddy."
"As a matter of fact Tony, Yes I am. I can't believe you'd shatter a little girl's image of her father because of jealousy. I thought you were a bigger man than that."
"Jealous? You seriously think that I am Jealous of that wimp?"
"Why else would you react like that, just because she preferred her father. Of course she prefers him she's known him all her life. She's known you less than six months."
"I'm sorry Cathy, really I am. You're right, we need to give it more time. Give it long enough and she'll come around, especially now he's not visiting."
"I don't want to talk about this Tony. I'm going to bed."
Robb knew something was troubling his brother. He could see the redness in the eyes that seemed to have sunk further into their sockets. He noticed the amount of times Richard's hands slipped from the spanner.
"OK, what's the bitch done now?"
"Sorry, I don't know what you're getting at."
"I may not be as bright as you Ritchie, but even I can see something's happened. Only yesterday I was telling Vicki that I thought you were getting over it, but tonight were back to square one."
Robb stood up straightened his back and looked down at his brother. They'd been trying to remove the engine and transmission from one year old Volkswagen Passat so the body shell could be burned out and crushed.
"She claims she knows nothing about the restraining order. She acted all mystified when I showed it to her."
"You've spoken to her? What sort of fool are you Rich? I was there when your brief told you to stick to the letter of that damned injunction until he could get it lifted."
"It's alright for him, they're not his kids. You know how quickly they change at that age. I had to see them Robb, I just had to."
Robb moved over to his brother and put his arm around his shoulders.
"Come on mate, we're not going to get this done tonight. Let's call it a night and go in a have beer."
The two men walked back to the bungalow and were soon sitting at the kitchen table, one holding a glass of beer, the other a cup of coffee.
"OK so what happened today?"
"Well I've been waiting outside the school every day for the last couple of weeks. Just so I could catch site of Maddy and Tom as they came out."
"You want to be careful. These days, that sort of thing gets you arrested."
"Yeah I know. I've already had old bill come and check up on me. I showed the copper the injunction and he understood everything, he was divorced last year."
"Stick to the point Ritchie. What happened today?"
"She didn't come, well at least her car never came. Her mate Penny collected the kids and I thought it was a good time to go and talk. So I hurried over to them. You should have seen them Robb, they were so pleased to see me."
"I'll bet they were, it's been, what? Three months?"
"More or less, Yeah. Anyway while I'm hugging them and talking to them she walks up, bold as brass and says it's been a long time. Of course, I tell her it's her fault not mine and she acts all mystified. Well I showed her the injunction and she says she knows nothing about it. I mean she stood there, looked me in the eyes and told me she knew nothing about it. If I hadn't seen her signature on that pack of lies, I would have believed her. Where did that monster come from Robb? The Cathy I knew wouldn't lie like that. She wouldn't take every penny I had and make it impossible for me to see my own children. Did I do that to her Robb? In one drunken night, did I turn her from a kind loving woman into a hard nosed bitch?"
"I doubt it was all you, I think the arrogant prick she's living with has something to do with it. So what happened after you showed her the injunction?"
"Like I said, she claimed she knew nothing about it. I decided to get out of there in case it was some sort of set up. Maddy had other ideas and wanted me to go home with them. As I walked away Cath called out saying that she wanted a copy of the injunction. Why would she do that? She must have her own so why ask for mine?"
"I don't know mate. I don't understand any of this. I always thought you two were solid. Never dreamed she would react like that to one mistake. It was just the one wasn't it?"
"Of course it was just one. I don't even remember that one. Anyway I said I'd scan it and email it to her tonight so I'd better go and do that."
"You be careful Ritchie. That could be classed as contacting her."
"Don't worry, I'll set up a new hotmail account then deny all knowledge of it."
Richard went off to his room.
Looking back, I really can't think of how I came to be living with Tony. There was no big sensation. No finding him in my every thought, no falling in love, only him always being there. I'd been devastated by those photos and I'd turned to him for support. I leaned on him and he was always there helping me make decisions. He more or less took over the divorce and I felt dependant on him.
When I needed a hug he was there, comforting me, telling me it was not my fault. He started taking me out, to "bring me out of myself" he'd said. We went out had a few drinks shared a few kisses and ended up in bed together. I was really lonely at home without Richard. When he'd suggested moving in with me It seemed like the ideal solution. I liked him, he was always kind to me and the children. I felt no real passion for him but it could work out.
Now I saw another side of Tony, cruel and vindictive. Richard would never have said such a cruel thing to a little girl, no matter who her father was. If Tony was behind the injunction then it definitely showed something I hadn't seen before.
That night in bed he spooned into my back and put his arm around me. His hand started moving down over my stomach and between my legs. He started stroking my pussy. I grabbed his wrist and pulled his hand away as I got out of the bed.
"I told you, I'm not in the mood. I want to get some sleep tonight even if you don't so I'm going to Maddy's room."
I crept into her bedroom and climbed onto the top bunk. I lay awake listening to my little girl sleeping. My mind kept going back to that injunction. I'd seen a statement from me saying the Richard had been harassing me at work and made threats to burn the house down with me in it. I knew I'd never made that statement, it simply wasn't true. I'd been shocked to see my signature at the bottom. I resolved to set legal minds to work on it.
There was a frosty atmosphere at breakfast the following day. Tony wasn't happy at being left alone in bed all night. Maddy and Tom made it clear they blamed Tony for not seeing their father and I was getting over a largely sleepless night. In the end I was a relieved to drop the children at school and go on to work.
At work I got out the restraining order and worked through it again. The statements which formed the basis of the injunction alleged Richard had threatened both Tony and I with physical violence. My statement said that he had spent several evenings sitting in his car outside the house. None of this was true yet it had my signature at the bottom. It stated quite clearly that the injunction was requested by Pendleton, Syms and Woodcock on behalf of their clients Mr Anthony Woodward and Mrs Cathleen Thompson. I pushed it around my desk for a while. By mid morning I had made up my mind the best person to help me was the senior partner Mr Michael Pendleton. I left my office and went up to see him.
"Good morning Cathleen what can I do for you. I haven't messed up my expenses again have I?"
"Oh no sir, nothing like that. I have a legal problem that I hope you can help me with."
"Ah well I'm not sure I'm the best person to help you. As you know, we specialise in corporate law."
"I know sir, and it makes my problem even more curious." I put the injunction on his desk. "This injunction was served on my husband. It was requested by this company and it's based on statements that I never made yet they have my signature on the bottom."
He read through the injunction and the statements. Then he read them through again.
"You realise you are making a very serious allegation here. I want you to think very carefully before you answer my question."
"Are you saying that you never asked anyone at this firm to secure this injunction?"
"I don't need to think about that I know I never requested it."
"Are you saying that you never made the statement the injunction is based on?"
"Yes sir, that's exactly what I'm saying."
"Finally are you saying that the incidents never occurred?"
"I can't be certain about those in Anthony's statement. He certainly never mentioned anything to me about them. I can be certain that none of the incidents in what is supposed to be my statement ever occurred."
"So what do you want from me Cathleen"
"I want that injunction overturned, so my children can see their father again and I want to know who is behind all of this."
"Forgive me asking this, but aren't you in a relationship with young Anthony? You realise that if he is involved in falsifying evidence it is likely to be the end of his career."
"No sir, I didn't but it makes no difference. My children need their father and the injunction prevents him making arrangements to visit them and stops him coming to pick them up. Whoever requested it was not acting on my behalf so they have lied to the court. If that person was Tony, then he wrecked his career not me"
"Leave it with me I'll see what I can find out. I'll get back to you this afternoon."
I left his office and went back to work. Later, just as I was about to leave, Mr Pendleton called and asked me to go up and see him. I rang Penny to ask her to pick up Maddy and Tom.
"What do I do if Richard turns up?"
"Don't let him take them, obviously, but it's OK if he wants to talk to them for a while."
"What about this damned order of yours? You're not using me to trap Richard."
"That's why I'm going to be late Penny, I'm trying to get it overturned. It doesn't cover the children anyway so you don't have to worry."
We said our goodbyes and I set off for Mr Pendleton's office. As I stepped into his office he stood up and came to meet me as if I was a client.
"Cathleen, good of you to come. I know it's time for you to leave I hope you've been able to get someone else to collect your children."
"All taken care of thank you Mr Pendleton."
"You ladies are so efficient. I don't know how you do it. Please take a seat."
I sat down and he took up his usual position. He rested his elbows on the desk and steepled his fingers. I realised he was having trouble knowing how to tell me what he had found out.
"First Cathleen, let me tell you how much I appreciate you bringing this matter to me. If you had taken this elsewhere it could have caused the company a great deal of embarrassment."
He paused, still trying to put it all together in an acceptable form.
"I've been in touch with the clerk of the court, with respect to your statement. Normally they would only accept an original" he explained, "but in the case of this injunction a photocopy was submitted. He knew he should have refused it but didn't like to offend such a prestigious law firm as ours. On closer inspection of that copy he suspects your signature was added in a cut and paste operation."
I sank down into the chair knowing what was coming next but hoping I was wrong.
"Davinda Trent requested the injunction. I've spoken to the young lady and I'm satisfied that she was acting on instructions from Mr Woodward, who apparently expressed himself very forcefully. We will be dealing with Ms Trent in due course. A petition to overturn the injunction will be placed before the judge tomorrow morning and it should be lifted by lunch time."
He looked at me sympathetically.
"I'm sorry Cathleen I can see that you were hoping for a different outcome. You must understand the firm had nothing to do with this matter. Young Anthony was working alone on this one and using our good name to get what he wanted."
He got up, walked around and sat on the edge of his desk and looked at me.
"Are you OK? Do you want to sit for a minute or two to let things sink in? Shall I ask Jenny to fetch you some tea?"
"No! No thank you sir. I think it's time I got back to my children."
"Of course my dear, and please call me Michael"
He put his arm around my shoulder and guided me to the door.
"There is one more thing sir, Michael. What Anthony did deprived my children the chance to see their father for three months. I can't forgive that. I don't think I can continue to work here."
"Please Cathleen, don't do anything hasty. Let's wait and see what Monday brings."
I agreed and left his office. I called Penny and told her I was on my way.
That night while the children slept I started to think. If Anthony could interfere in one part of my life what else had he done? I got out all the legal correspondence from the last year. As I dropped them on the desk the photos dropped out. No matter how often I saw them they still made me feel ill. I went through them and found myself thinking aloud.
"Oh Richard, Richard how could you do this to me. If you had to fuck someone's ass what was wrong with mine. How could you betray me?"
Suddenly it hit me, I looked again. I saw her sucking his cock looking at his tattoo. I looked at him fucking her arse. There it was, or rather there it wasn't. That damned tattoo, I should have been able to see it but it wasn't there. It wasn't Richard in that picture there were two men in that room. In some his face was visible but always with his eyes closed. I spread them out on the desk. I could only positively identify Richard in half of them. Why didn't he tell me about the other man, he must have known. I looked at the papers for the divorce. At the time I had been in such a state that I couldn't remember much about it. Now I looked at the grounds, That Richard Thompson did commit adultery with Ms Eva Balinkowa. Where did the lawyer get the name? I never knew her name but there it was. The only other person who discussed the divorce with the solicitor was Tony. He did it because I was too upset to deal with anything.-- Eva Balinkowa, I'd seen that name before somewhere. I thought it had something to do with work. The next day would see more investigations.
The following morning I started with a computer search using the woman's name. I found a number of payments to her. The last one, almost a year ago, was for £2,000. All the payments came from Tony's cost centre. I went down to his office to talk to Maggie, his secretary.
"Hello Cathy what brings you here? You know he is away don't you."
I smiled at her before making my excuses. "Yes I know he's in Southampton. I was hoping you could give me some information. We are doing an audit and we've found a number of payments to Ms Eva Balinkowa. I don't suppose you know who she is?"
Maggie blushed. "I do but I wish I didn't. I don't think it's right using women like her to secure business."
"What do you mean women like her."
"She's an escort. Mr Woodward uses her sometimes when he wants to keep a client sweet. I don't think it's right so he has to deal with her direct. I want nothing to do with it."
"Do you have a file on her Maggie?"
"Yes, I'll fetch it for you."
She got up went to the cabinet and soon came back with a file. She opened it and looked inside.
"She's a lovely girl. You'd think she could do better than earning a living lying on her back."
She passed me the file. "Mr Woodward isn't in any trouble is he."
"Oh, no more than normal Maggie, don't worry"
I didn't open the file until I got back to my office. I sat at my desk and went through it. Maggie was right she was a beautiful woman, and her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Kiev indicated she was intelligent. The pictures in the file certainty showed her in a better light than the divorce pictures. I found the phone number and called her. I was not surprised that at 10.00 am it went to voicemail. I left a message asking her to call me and continued with my normal work.
It was nearly midday when she called me.
"Hello this is Eva Balinkowa. You called me earlier."
"Hello Ms Balinkowa, my name is Cathleen Thompson from Pendleton, Syms and Woodcock. I have a matter I'd like to discuss with you could we meet for lunch."
"You work for Mr Woodward? I told him, I don't work for him no more."
"No I don't work for Mr Woodward. I really do need to talk to you."
"Is for work? We don't need to talk, you give me name, time and place. I do the rest and send you a bill."
"I'm afraid this one has a few special requirements we need talk about. Do you know Roberto's? I'll meet you there at 1.30 pm."
"Yes I know Roberto's. OK we have lunch, you pay. I see you later Ms Thompson.
I arrived early and she was fashionably late but there was no mistaking her arrival. Every man and some of the women turned to look. We shook hands and she sat down. A waiter came with menus for us and took her drinks order. He returned later and took our order. I looked across at her and realised why she commanded such a high price.
"Would you like to eat first or should I start now."
"We talk while we wait, what do you want me to do?"
I reached into my bag pulled out a photo and put it on the table. She took one look at it. Her bright laughing eyes suddenly turned cold and her face lost its colour. The anger in her voice was obvious.
"I tell him, now I tell you. I never do that again. You go now, you tell him."
"Tell who Eva?"
"Woodward. He sent you. I don't work for him no more."
"Eva I don't work for Mr Woodward."
"Then who are you?"
I tapped the photo of Richard. "I'm his wife."
She had started to get up but she slumped back down in her seat.
After a long pause she looked at me again. "Well quite frankly I'm disappointed. When a man spends most of the night telling me how beautiful his wife is. I expect her to be outstanding. You are pretty but to be thinking of you while he is with me is a little insulting. Now put that picture away and tell me what you want from me."
Our food arrived and Eva started to tuck in. "Please, we eat now talk later."
We ate in relative silence until the plates were cleared away, then Eva spoke again.
"So what do you want?"
"I want to know what happened that night, and why did it upset you so much"
"I am escort, yes? People have no respect for me, but I respect myself. What I did that night make me stop respecting myself. My job is to make people happy, but Woodward paid me to make your husband very unhappy. Nobody deserves that, your husband especially. He is a good man you know. I invited him to my room but he wouldn't come. He told me his wife is a wonderful woman and very beautiful. I had to get him so drunk he could hardly stand and took him to a room Woodward book for him. When we got there he was too drunk to manage anything. I tell you now I am very experienced if I can't get a man hard nobody can. He was too drunk to manage anything I have to pose with him, pretending."
"What about the arse fucking? You weren't posing then."
"That was Woodward. He said for what he was paying, someone was going to fuck me so he set the camera on automatic and he fucked me. I am an escort, yes, so I deserve to be raped."
I reached out and took her hand."No Eva, nobody deserves that."
"Your husband, he is a nice man. Woodward said he needed the pictures for insurance in case your husband didn't do what he promised. You know what make me feel really bad. I see him checking out in the morning and I smile at him. He say to me sorry have we met before? Then he say."
"No if I'd met you before I'd remember." I interrupted. "That's so cheesy and he uses it on all attractive women he meets. It's as close as he gets to flirting."
"Yes that's what he said but I knew he didn't remember me at all. I felt so cheap. He did nothing but I helped Woodward blackmail him. If you have the pictures I guess he didn't do what Woodward wanted. I am glad, Woodward is a bastard. Your husband is a good man, you keep him, yes."
"I'm sorry Eva, I lied to you. He is not my husband. He is my ex-husband."
"You divorce him because of me?"
"No I divorced him because of those pictures, which is not quite the same thing."
"I told you, Woodward is bastard. Your Husband, he didn't do what Woodward wanted? I told you, he is good man."
"It wasn't about business Eva. Richard never did business with Mr Woodward."
Eva and I sat and talked for another half an hour. She was a really nice woman. I could understand any man wanting to spend time in her company. She would make him feel like a million dollars.
I returned to work and called Mr Pendleton. He queried the payment for the services of Ms Balinkowa. He seemed concerned that the firm had paid her and asked for details of all the payments made. I called my mother and asked her to pick up Tom and Maddy and take them to her house for the night. I didn't want them in the house when Tony came home.
My head was reeling. The man I thought had betrayed me, hadn't. The one I had trusted to help me through my turmoil, turned out to be the cause of my problems. I sat at my desk and cried my heart out. I saw people come to my door and turn away. Eventually Brenda came in and spoke to me. She asked what was wrong and I let it all pour out. Brenda just sat on my desk and listened until I got it all out, then started to ask questions.
"Do you love Tony?"
"No I don't think so. Certainly not now I don't. In fact I don't think I ever really knew him."
"Richard, how do you feel about him?"
"I don't know, I'm so ashamed. You should have heard the way Eva was talking about him. She made him sound like the perfect husband".
"A year ago you would have agreed with her."
"You're right, I would. I wish I'd never seen those damned photos."
"Well you did, and you divorced him. Most women would have done the same."
"I should have listened to him, talked to him, believed him."
"It's easy to say that now but a year ago things looked very different. Why don't you go home and think about what you are going to do. Sleep on it."
"I haven't got time to sleep on it. Tony gets back tonight. Still, I know what I'm going to do about him."
I started as soon as I got home. I pulled out the two biggest suitcases and started packing Tony's belongings into them. It took all of my strength to lug them down the stairs. By 5.00pm I had as much as I could find packed up and ready to go. I sat down with a glass of wine waiting for Tony to arrive. I thought about Richard. He had a right to know what I'd found out. I didn't know how I was going to tell him but he certainly had to know.
It was half an hour later that I heard Tony's key in the lock. I went to meet him at the front door. As he came in he saw the suitcases then looked at me.
"What's all this, are we going somewhere?"
"We're going nowhere. You are moving out."
"You heard me. You're moving out and you are going now."
"What the hell has brought this on?"