As has been the case with my more recent contributions, this is about sex (not much point in posting here if it wasn't), but there's not any overt, hot action. So, if it's graphical sex scenes you want -- pass on to the next contribution. As usual, this is much more about relationships. Also as usual, I really welcome comments and feedback both positive and negative -- providing it's constructive. It's how we learn and improve. But remember, it's a STORY.
I love people watching! Though of course I have no qualifications in it -- well, as long as you don't count a GCSE B grade in Psychology. And coffee shops are great places to people watch. Over there are three nannies -- looking after the little darlings of career professionals - busy planning their Saturday evening let loose from the shackles of pseudo-motherhood.
And those two ... middle aged, holding hands across the table, loads of eye contact ... either having an affair, or maybe (let's be charitable) at the start of a new relationship. A table of sixth formers from the local college, noisily discussing homework and "what a complete knob the teacher is". Oh, almost missed him, Mr Anonymous, one of those people you never see, they just blend into the background. He's probably a spy -- would just melt into the background wherever he is.
Then next to him are the elderly couple, reading the newspapers, not talking. I wonder when I'm that old will Brett and I be like that? Either not wanting to, or maybe not needing to talk ... we'd just know each other so well, we can convey things with little looks, nods and smiles (or frowns!) Of course, the first thing Brett and I need to do is get married. I think we are the stage where it seems inevitable -- and I'm not complaining about that.
I finish my coffee, pick up my shopping and head for the station. Much easier to grab the train for a couple of stops than having to drive and park, especially as my shopping is pretty light -- some sexy lingerie to keep Brett happy, and some new shoes to keep me happy! Besides, I do enough driving for my job -- as an expert in corporate Health and Safety law, I travel a lot to see companies in the UK and increasingly Europe, though of course I don't drive to them!
The platform is busy, but the train is expected in a couple of minutes. And even if I have to stand it's only a ten minute journey. I resume my people watching. It's mainly shoppers and mainly women at that. Oh well, what's this? Nearly missed him with his hat on -- Mr Anonymous the spy is catching the train too. I smile to myself as I wonder who he's "tailing". I look around for likely suspects. Well, no one seems likely unless we have subversive housewives in darkest Surrey!
I clamber on to the train and manage to find a standing spot between the pushchairs and shopping bags. I see Mr Anonymous farther up the carriage, studying the rail map. My stop can't come soon enough and the train half empties at my station. We all file out and I set off on the ten minute walk home. After a short distance, and I don't know why, but I look round. The pavement is quite crowded but my friend the spy is amongst the crowd and heading in the same direction as me. If I didn't know any better I'd think he was following me.
I turn into the cul-de-sac where Brett and I live. As I get to the front door I look round, half expecting to see my "tail" -- but I just smile to myself as the road is empty. The house is empty too, as Brett's out at football with his brother. I drop my coat over the banister and go upstairs to strip and have a nice long bath. As I take off my top I look out of the window and stop dead. He's there -- standing at the corner. I can see him on the phone, and instinctively step back so can't see me looking at him. After a couple of minutes he hangs up and sets off back the way he came. My body acts by itself as I whip off my skirt and pull on my jeans and a jumper. I dash downstairs and go to pick up my coat -- then I get a gilet out instead. I put on my trainers and grab one of Brett's baseball hats! I dash out of the door grabbing my shoulder bag and phone, adjusting the hat size as I set off in the direction my snooping friend went.
As I turn the corner I can see him a good fifty or hundred metres ahead. I catch my breath and start to walk at a nice even pace as I realise he's heading back towards the station. I glance at my watch -- I know the train times. None due for a few minutes yet, so he isn't going to time it so he catches a train that I miss. I take the opportunity to tuck my shoulder length blonde hair into the hat. Different clothes, no long hair -- hopefully he won't notice me. Best of all, he's just not expecting to see me. Just to make sure, I take my sunglasses out of my bag. Now I FEEL like a spy!
I position myself a fair distance from him on the platform. The train arrives and I'm pretty sure I've not been spotted. I get into the next carriage from my new friend, but don't sit down. I stand at the door so that when the train stops I can see when Mr Anonymous gets off and tail him. As anticipated, he gets off where we got on less than an hour ago. I have to stay a little closer now, because I don't know where he's going. But he doesn't stop, look round or in any way, act as if he suspects someone is after him. Fortunately I don't have to tail him for long before he turns into a small office block that has several brass nameplates outside. I give it a minute and go and take a look.
Anthony Hogg, Solicitors
The Barnes Partnership, Chartered Surveyors
Temple Investigations Ltd
Holbrook Holman, Chartered Accountants
Well, I'm a lawyer not a rocket scientist, but let's be honest, you don't need to be one to work out who my friend works for. So, what do I do now? I decide to sleep on it and have a really good think about who could be so interested in me that they are having me followed.
I get home and am soon enveloped in my delayed, foamy, hot bath. Okay, so who is interested in me? Well, work. I can't think why any of our clients would be interested. I suppose someone could be looking to headhunt me, but to hire someone to follow me? No doesn't stack up. Well I'd been abroad a lot recently. In fact I'd seen more of Rob, my boss, than I had of Brett in the past month, but although I'd been to Moscow twice, it's not like it was in the past. Russia is now a major market, not a major enemy!
So it's not work -- or not any way I can think of. Who else? Family? No reason at all. No, not them. It's all pointing in one direction ... Brett. But why? Okay I'm away a bit, but always have been since we started going out. So it's nothing new. And we always make love a lot when I'm here. Well, come to think of it, maybe we have tailed off a bit ... maybe a little more than a bit ... but doesn't everyone? And Brett hasn't pushed so I don't think we've a problem there. On the other hand, maybe he's putting one and one together and getting three. Away a lot plus reduced frequency of sex equals ... I'm having an affair. If he's worried, why doesn't he talk to me? Yeah, men talking about sex problems -- that'd be a first!
I am still trying to work out why, when there's a "Hiya babe!" from downstairs.
"Up here! In the bath ... come on and join me!" In the spur of the moment I know exactly what I am going to do.
Two days later Brett and I are walking to the station together on our way to work. I feel brilliant. After the bath on Saturday afternoon we'd spent most of the evening in bed -- getting up only to eat some pasta and open bottles of wine. And on Sunday it was the same -- it had been ages since we'd just spent time with each other -- and we'd had more, and better, sex than we'd had for ages.
"We should have got a taxi to the station", I joke, "I can hardly walk."
"Well, it's a good job we have to go to work today, because another day in bed with you and I reckon I'd die of exhaustion." He stops me and smiles. "But I'm not complaining."
We stride on, happy in each other's company. We discuss the week ahead. I am only going to be away on Thursday evening, but tonight I am out with a couple of girlfriends. Brett wants to watch Monday Night Football, but says he'd come and pick me up.
"No need. I can get a cab back. After all, it means you can't have a beer or three while watching TV. And besides, are you forgetting, your car's in to have that bump fixed."
He looks a bit doubtful. Good, I think to myself. But he hugs me and said it is definitely not a problem, and to call him if I need to, because they are delivering a hire car to work for him today.
At Waterloo we kiss and part company. In the office I chat to Rob and Fiona, my co-worker, about the weekend and then go to my office to look at the plans for the new facility that the Russians are proposing to build in Hull.
Before I sit down I look out of my window and smile to myself. It had been a couple of days since I'd seen him, but there is Mr Temple Investigations. I turn away to dock and switch on my laptop. It is about fifteen minutes later that my phone rings:
"Hello, Wells and Reece."
"Can I speak to Alan Jefferson please?"
With the phone to my ear I stand up and look out of the window as I say:
"I'm sorry, there is no Mr Jefferson here. Are you sure you have the right number? This is Wells and Reece."
I can see my friend speaking into his phone, and hear his voice apologise and say it is obviously a wrong number. I hear the line click and I see him put his phone into his pocket and walk away.
So, that's how he knows I'm here. No doubt that will be the first in a series of calls for Mr Jefferson. Time for me to make a couple of calls myself -- first off though I definitely need to call my brother to wish him happy birthday! Then a call to Pavel, my Russian client to rearrange a meeting. Then Chloe, to check the arrangements for tonight.
Phone calls done, I spend the rest of the day with Fiona planning the trip to Europe next week that Rob has fixed up. We are interrupted twice with calls asking to speak to Mr Jefferson. Fiona suggests we block them somehow, but I just say it didn't worry me. I don't think she noticed that I looked out of the window both times. My tail wasn't there -- obviously doing some distance surveillance. Hmm wonder what they'd do if I had had an external meeting? I shrug it off.
I feel quite exhausted as I packed up to leave. Fiona is a real hard worker -- no let up at all. As I walk past our fourth and final employee, Jessica our receptionist, I say goodnight and she pipes up:
"Oh, did Brett get hold of you? His secretary rang to see what you were doing today, as he needed a word and wanted to know when you'd be free."
I don't let the surprise show -- you see, Brett doesn't have a secretary. So that answers my question about how they knew where I was going to be all day. I just tell Jess he had, and left it at that. I am really looking forward to this evening. Chloe and the gang are always great value, and another bit of my plan is about to be implemented.
"Well, Mr Stoner, we have some news on what your partner's been up to this week."
Brett never slept as well when Karen was away on business, but last night he'd not slept well because he was worried about what he might find out at the meeting Temple Investigations had invited him to. He loved Karen, he wanted to marry her, but ... something had changed, he felt sure of it. His mum and dad had broken up, his sister's marriage was a train wreck. He was determined not to be Stoner disaster number three. He wanted to be absolutely sure before he committed himself to Karen.
"Okay, fire away".
He could see that Dave Temple was doing his utmost to look neutral, but his poker face seemed to be hiding a smirk. Brett felt a churning in his stomach.
"Well the report starts off quite innocuously. Saturday while you were at football she was shopping. She bought some ..."
"Yes, I know, some lingerie and shoes. She wore them for me. Let's move on -- or did she buy something else?"
"No, no -- just checking. Because obviously if she is having another relationship, the items might have been for his benefit."
Brett shrugged and nodded.
"Sunday, we got your text message that you'd be spending the day together. Thank you. Monday she worked at her office all day, and in the evening she went out with these ladies."
He tapped is mouse and swung the screen on his laptop round so Brett could see Karen, Chloe, Jen and another girl going into a gastro pub.
"Yes, I know -- that's Chloe, her best friend and some other friends."
"Yes, well they ate, drank quite a bit and had lots of attention from several men in the pub. Your partner danced several times -- and a couple of times with this man."
The photo was a bit blurry in the darkened pub light, but Brett could make out Karen dancing reasonably close to a dark haired guy Brett had never seen before.
Brett shrugged again:
"So, she loved dancing, did they have a grope, a snog or what?"
"As far as we were able to tell, there was nothing untoward. However, things got very interesting after that."
Brett's chest tightened and he waited while Dave paused for effect. Bastard's enjoying this isn't he?
"At eleven thirty, Karen went into the ladies', she emerged five minutes later looking like this ..."
Brett stared at the photo. The jeans and T shirt (albeit very expensive designer T shirt) had been replaced. She had on her new shoes, stockings that had presumably been under her jeans. He knew they were stockings because her plaid skirt was so short you could see the tops. The tart outfit was rounded off with a strappy top and some heavy makeup. Her immaculate hair was now gelled and spiky.
Brett closed his eyes and shook his head, he knew what was coming next. Oh God!
"She left the pub alone, the woman called Chloe was heard to say 'good hunting' and she walked two blocks towards Railton Road. That's at the edge of a bit of the town renowned for kerb crawlers, in case you didn't know. She never got that far because as she stood on a corner, this car pulled up."
The photo showed a silver Golf with Karen leaning in. The photo was a voyeur's dream and her skirt was now round her bum and she was showing stocking tops and thighs to the world ... and to the detective's camera.
"As you can see, she leaned in the window. Spoke to the driver for a short time, then hopped round and got in and they drove off. Unfortunately my man was on foot and his car was back at the pub, and so we weren't able to determine where they went, what happened, or who the man was. The vehicle was rented to a company."
Dave Temple sat back and waited to see what Brett would say to this damning evidence. He desperately tried to not grin. Brett's nonchalant reply really surprised him.
"Oh don't worry about this, it was nothing."
Dave's mouth made an "O" and a frown echoed Brett's "nothing".
Brett shook his head and looked up at him:
"Okay, I'll tell you who it was. It was ME you fucking idiot! Karen decided to give me a little present. I'd said ages ago that that I had a bit of a fantasy about picking up a prostitute. She decided to let me live it out. Okay? Can we move on? Or is that it?"
Dave looked a bit crestfallen, but went on confidently:
"No, there's more. On Tuesday afternoon she went to meet one of her business clients -- a Mr Pavel Gerasimov. She'd booked a table at the restaurant round the corner from his hotel. But when they met in the hotel lobby (he clicked his mouse and Karen and Pavel appeared), they had a discussion and then they headed to the lift and went to his room, well his suite actually."
Several more clicks and several more images of the two of them, standing close together, laughing, and then his arm around her as he steered her to the lift.
"They spent the entire afternoon in his suite and she only left a few minutes before meeting you."
Another photograph of Karen alone, leaving the hotel.
"You might want to compare that photograph with the earlier one. Notice her legs. She has some sort of hosiery on when she went in, and isn't wearing any as she left."
"So, the implication you are drawing is that Karen and Pavel spent the afternoon in the throes of passion, and in the course of it her stockings, tights or whatever got damaged. Right?"
"Well of course we weren't able to get anywhere near the room because Mr Gerasimov has a bodyguard."
Brett took a deep breath:
"Well, let me shed some light on it for you. Despite his Russian name, Mr Gerasimov is actually from Chechnya. He's a muslim, and at the moment it's Ramadan, and Pavel fasts between sunrise and sunset. That's why they didn't eat together at lunchtime. But after my wife met me in the evening, we went back to the restaurant, met Pavel and had a very pleasant evening. I can categorically guarantee that Karen and he only discussed business in the afternoon, because you see ... Pavel is gay, bats for the other side, is homosexual, prefers men, bent as a nine bob note ... however you want to put it. And he's a very nice bloke by the way."
Now Dave Temple really did look crestfallen as Brett asked if that was it. Temple got a grip on himself and said that there was one more thing.
"Your partner was away last night, yes?"
"She was in Leeds, yes!"
"It looks like she met someone -- not her client -- for dinner. They spent some time together in the bar afterwards and then went up to her room. He left about an hour later."
Brett looked puzzled -- and pointed at the screen.
"Oh sorry!" Temple clicked the mouse and a picture of Karen with a young man, about her age appeared.
"We weren't able to get any recordings or evidence from inside the room, but we do have this picture as he left her room."
There was Karen giving the man a kiss -- not a lover's kiss, just a final peck really, like you give to someone after you've said the real goodbye.
"And we are trying to establish who he is."
"Don't bother, I can tell you that too -- it's her brother. It was his birthday this week, she mentioned she'd try and deliver his present -- he lives in Sheffield, so he must have gone over to meet her."
Brett looked at Dave Temple and shook his head:
"Not had a great week have you? Karen was picked up by her boyfriend, a gay guy and her brother. God I can see how people get put away on circumstantial evidence!"
Brett and I had had another brilliant weekend. The weather had been good and we'd done a bit of walking, ate out at some great places and went to the O2 to see one of my favourite bands. And of course we made love a lot -- and fucked a bit too. I think there's a difference ... but we can discuss that another time.
And now, here I am in the Heathrow departure lounge at 7:15 am, having been up since before five. The only people who think International business travel is glamorous are those that don't do it.
I wait for my colleague, and pick her out coming through passport control and the scanner area. We give ourselves a typical girlie embrace and head off to the BA business lounge. Then I see him, over by Café Nero, cup in hand trying not to look at me, but at the same time watch me.
I shake my head:
"Oh sod this!"
Fiona looks at me:
"What's the matter?"
"Hang on a minute; I need to talk to someone."
She looks a bit puzzled, starts to say something and then just watches as I head off through the travellers, air hosties and security guards. He sees me coming towards him and looks away, pretending not to have seen me. I get right up to him and stand in front of him, wearing my best smile:
"Good morning. Can you do me a favour, get your mobile out and ring Brett for me, please?"