The Private Investigator by Steve Goodlad

“Liar!” 

“This isn’t evidence.” 

June had been briefed by her boss Gordon; “she’ll thank you for it, like you for it when she ought to hate you for it. You’re the one, after all, who will give her the bad news, the messenger who ought to get shot.” 

Well Gordon, June thought, so much for that script. All she had done was hand her the incontrovertible evidence; the manilla folder with the long-range photographs; a bit blurred but clear enough for recognition; him arriving in his Saab, she arriving a few minutes later in her Audi. A meal together and later a hotel room. The next morning emerging from reception hand in hand then a kiss goodbye. It had been a long all-night shift. Cold too, but she’d got the photographic evidence as well as (thanks to a little bribery) the booking information; one double room under his name, paid for on a company credit card. 

“Yes, it’s pretty much as you imagined…” she had started to say before the tirade of abuse. 

Which then got personal; her age, experience, appearance, dress sense and so forth. You would think it was June who was having the affair with this woman’s husband. Maybe this was the rehearsal? 

“You might start off as the enemy, the hired enemy.” Gordon had warned. But you become bit by bit their collaborator, their associate. Who else do they have that is going to tell them this painful truth?” 

June’s bedside manner; part counsellor, part comforter, wasn’t working. This hadn’t happened on the training course. All that role play meant to cover every outcome, but none of the scenario’s had ended like this one. She was meant to be the ally, her accomplice. At the very moment she learns the worst, this woman was meant to become her friend. She’s supposed to thank me for it, thought June, even the manual had said so: “How to deal with the evidence giving interview.” And probably because they didn’t want students to run a mile from the course it played out the scene where you present them with a cup of tea, a tissue and offer words of solace. 

The door opened then and Gordon stood there, providing an escape route. He would handle this one from hereon. She closed the door behind her, feeling stunned and still hearing the raised voice of Mrs McKenzie. She decided to make herself scarce and wait in the car opposite the office until she saw her leave. 

Twenty minutes later, the woman exited the building, pulling her coat around her, trying to retain some dignity against the odds as though she had two sprightly ferrets down her blouse that she was trying to ignore. There was a glow of virtue about her, wafting from her like a pomade defence against the putrid stench of society. 

June could not help feeling pleased about the disasters that the well-off sometimes get into. They don’t lead charmed lives after all, so she needn’t be jealous or feel sorry for her. But was she just licking her wounds after the event? 

“What did it take?” she asked Gordon on her return to the office. 

“The last resort” he replied. 

That meant the Glenmorangie. “Very prim and proper.” June was still bitter. 

“But she paid, and she took the photographs. I wouldn’t want to be in her husband’s shoes when he gets back from his “business trip.” 

He looked at June and saw the doubt in her eyes. “Look, it happens. You did a good job. You told her what she came for but didn’t want to hear. Her marriage is wrecked, her life has fallen off its hinges. This is just the start for her, and we’re no longer involved. Job done.” 

The next assignment involved following a husband who worked as a Funeral Director. An incongruous profession she thought for a straying husband, surely his wife could follow him discreetly? It all seemed ridiculous, traipsing a bunch of flowers like a mourner, dressed in black to follow a man doing his job. She sat on a bench waiting once more for him to emerge from another chapel. The leaves on the trees as bright as paint, the frost chewed flowers on the graves looking like left-over party decorations. 

He led the mourners out through the open door and they spread out, looking cautious and dazed, like a coach party on a mystery tour finally put down at their destination. To look authentic, she stood by a grave and once again laid her bunch of flowers on a stone looking like some accident, wilting after too many visits already to too many graves. 

He got in the car and waited in the driver seat. She was camouflaged in the gold and rust of the trees. He was looking at his mobile phone. She lifted the telephoto lens to get a clearer view. He occasionally swiped his screen left and right. June is not really a gumshoe, but she is a busy professional with no emotional ties. She too looks at dating apps. 

Later that same evening, she followed his own car into town. He parked in the multi-storey and in his smart suit descended to the High Street. He entered a restaurant and June hesitated before entering and enquiring about a table for one. She can put it on expenses she thought. She is in luck. 

She followed the waiter and was about to pass her quarry when she saw him about to kiss an already familiar date? June was caught momentarily by surprise. She could no longer follow the waiter as the intended table was in a line of sight and she would surely be recognised. “Gordon’s going to love this one” she thinks as she retreated from the restaurant feigning an urgent phone call, to set up a photograph of the couple emerging. She dearly hoped for a close-up of her client's husband getting romantic with none other than Mrs McKenzie. 

Published in Issue #19

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