Charles closed the door of his den and sat on the leather captain’s chair, pulling the laptop from its bag and waiting for it to jump into life.
This was his private place, the one room in the house where Michelle or the kids hardly ever ventured, largely because they were actively discouraged not to.
This was his room, full of the toys and memorabilia that a man with cash to spend had bought over the years.
The shelves were full of the toys that he’d collected as a boy, then added to as a an adult. The full Star Wars collection, Hans Solo and Luke Skywalker standing either side of The Millennium Falcon aiming their blasters at Darth Vader while Princess Leia shelters behind them.
It was a childish pose, didn’t he know that Leia was a strong , feisty, independent woman and would have blasted him in a second if she knew half of what he’d been up to?
The walls were adorned with photos from his boys weekends, fishing, shooting Grouse and playing golf on a weekend at Gleneagles. The fact that the boys were only there for the day and Geraldine had joined him in the evening for an intimate dinner and they’d stayed up half the night making love in each corner of the four-poster bed in their stateroom was strangely omitted from his collection of displayed memories.
There were photographs of his Harley Davidson which largely sat in the garage unused since he had found more stimulating toys to play with. He liked to take it out and polish every now and then, ride it to the end of the street and never further than round the block.
The Harley was just another toy, another object to add to his collection, just like the new collection he had started since he had gave Geraldine the push.
The room was never locked, that would have drawn too much attention.
But he was aware that Michelle had become suspicious of his late nights, sitting in his den until the early hours or out with “clients”.
She had been in the room a few times recently, looking through the few papers on the desk and in the drawers but there was nothing to see.
Or more accurately there was nothing to see unless Charles deliberately wanted her to see it.
Charles knew that Michelle occasionally spied on him, he could feel her growing curiosity in the questions she occasionally asked about his client-nights, asking where he had been and who he had been with.
That was a mistake, it showed her hand too soon.
Friends close, enemies closer, that was how Charles liked to play it.
His father, despite his general coldness had taught him well.
Back when he was a child, his father had taught him not to do what the other boys do.
Never ever forewarn your enemy.
He’d seen this behaviour on many occasions since, two boys fighting in the playground, more recently grown men making the same mistake of telling their opponent what they were going to do.
This was usually a sign of a fight being handbags at fifty paces .. and not going to come to anything.
I’m sure that you’ve saw this routine many times before?
Where both parties tried to threaten their opponent with bullshit hoping that the other guy would back down.
Then the pushing would start, “I’m going to …”
Actually they weren’t.
What they were doing was hoping that either the opponent was a bigger coward or had more to lose than them and would back down or a passer-by, friend or accomplice would break things up before things had gone too far and a physical battle ensued.
I mean really?
Seriously .. who really wants a physical battle?
Do you think that grown men acting like kids over some stupid incident really want that?
Even if you win, you lose, no-one wants a black eye or an assault charge.
So it’s really all posturing, bravado and bullshit.
Charles was different, he didn’t fight, he didn’t get into trouble, he spoke quietly, confidently and If there was a reason to do battle, he chose his moment and hit his opponent with everything he had when they least expected it.
Until then, schtum, nothing, bite your lip, smile and quietly make plans.
The lack of outward emotion would have made him seem cold-hearted to anyone if it wasn’t for the fact that he balanced this internal coldness with charm and humour at a surface level, but he was only charming when it suited him, when giving something up, got him what he really wanted, his black heart was as cold and ruthless as steel.
He logged into the laptop, business first, pleasure later.
He started a browser and logged into the bank account for the new company he had started.
Somewhere upstairs in the darkness, there was an almost imperceptible click as a record was written to a hard disk.
The contracts had been signed last year at Gleneagles, reselling insurance was simple, you buy a package form the bigger company, form relationships with clients and they sign up to pay at a premium for a service that you front but the risk is mitigated elsewhere.
Michelle’s father, Robert, had taught him the business, he was disappointed that he hadn’t had a son and being an old-school gentleman, he didn’t think that his daughter and pride and joy Michelle would be interested or capable of running the business.
Charles was happy to learn and be part of this, it offered him more rewards than he had ever dreamed of and his charm with Michelle’s fathers contacts had grown the business over the years.
Being a member of the right golf club and being able to give the right handshake helped, it didn’t guarantee business but it always got you in the door.
Again Robert, had been invaluable, opening doors for him which would have remained close to him if he hadn’t met Michelle and chose a path towards a bright future rather than finding a boring job in an office somewhere.
The fact that he didn’t love her was neither here nor there, he was always capable of picking up a bit on the side, something to keep him amused until they became too close and he had to kill it off.
But people talk and he knew that Robert was aware of this, that he didn’t condone it, but as long as he didn’t bring it home and it was just a bit of fun then he’d turn a blind eye.
After all, Robert had conspiratorially whispered late one Christmas day over a bottle of malt, that he had done the same in his younger years stating that it was okay as long as it was meaningless it didn’t matter. Robert leaned closer and whispered that he was sure that his wife knew about his affairs but turned a blind eye to it as long as everything was okay at home.
Then they laughed when Charles called him a crafty old bastard and Robert said that it takes a one to know one.
But time had moved on, the kids were old enough now and it was time for him to break free from Michelle but first he wanted to ensure that his future was secure and the next years contracts were in place, keeping the money rolling in while the divorce process runs its course.
Now he checked his emails, waiting on the communication that the contracts would be renewed, but there was nothing. He’d give Alistair a friendly call in the morning asking if he wanted to join him for a round of golf on Saturday. This may just stimulate the offer or at least get the last few points straightened out. Alistair had already given him the nod that the contracts would be renewed, it was just a matter of going through the process.
Alistair was head buyer for global company, a valuable contact who had become a good friend over the years as they both enjoyed the high life and were always willing to provide alibis for each other.
They were like grown up teenagers telling their parents I’m staying at their friends house and vice versa.
Alistair had even borrowed Charles apartment on a few occasions for secret liaisons with whatever woman he was seeing.
Charles didn’t ask, the unspoken rule was that you can never tell what you never know.
When Charles had explained the situation with Michelle and that he was thinking of starting divorce, Alistair had been sympathetic and a good confidante.
When Charles suggested to him that he could provide the service that Michelle’s company currently provided, with no cost difference to the company, Alistair was more than happy to help a friend particularly if that helped him through a difficult situation and they carried on with their fun and games.
And so it had begun, contracts had been signed, Michelle’s loss was Charles’s gain.
When the new contracts came through, he’d pull the trigger and get the divorce process under way.
He closed the browser and opened an explorer window, browsing to his secret folder, even although the laptop was kept under lock and key, he didn’t like to take a chance.
He browsed past the meaningless rubbish and opened the encrypted zip file, keying the password to access his latest memories.
The next 5 minutes he spent flipping through the images, each one a memory from his recent past and more than enough to generate the necessary stimulation.
It was never as good as the real thing, but if you can’t get it at home, then it was a good second and he looked forward to more of the same after he had broken the matrimonial ties.
When he was finished, he closed the laptop and put it back in the bag and pulled a couple of receipts from the coffee shops that he had visited, meeting clients, or meeting women, it didn’t really matter, as long as Michelle read them and he passed them to his PA later then he was playing the game of being seen to be doing the right thing.
He liked to think that he was meticulous in his deceit.
But there’s always a trace, particularly if you know how or where to look.
Michelle knew that there was no possibility of accessing Charles lap-top which he kept under lock and key most of the time, locking it in his desk drawer at night or the boot of his car when he wasn’t using it.
This had only made Michelle more suspicious and keen to determine what was on the disk and what he was up to.
She’d passed Alex from the investigations agency a spare set of keys and gave him the go-ahead to set up his equipment on a day that she had made sure Charles would be in the office all day.
Alex had been busy.
I enjoyed writing that, writing about an out and out bastard is good fun .. and its going to get worse .. I’ve already started on something but saving that as its maybe a bit too much!
But right now I want to go and wash my mouth out with soap!! 🙂
Have a good weekend whatever you are up to!