ALIBI in detail

ALIBI in detail - Chapter 20

Postby Lynnedean » Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:36 am

Chapter 20: Showtime!

Late evening.

The noise of Greg's car screeching to a halt outside the house prompts Linda, upstairs, and Danny, downstairs, to peer through the windows to see who it is. As Greg gets out of the car, Linda sees opportunity and Danny sees trouble.

Greg, clutching the damning bank statements in one fist, marches up to the front door and bangs urgently and heavily on it with the other. Linda can't wait to get at him and charges out of the living room and down the hallway in a froth. Danny is determined that Greg won't get in, and comes down the stairs at a high rate of knots, shouting, "No, no, Linda! Don't open that door!"

Steph, in hot pursuit of her sister, yells, "Linda!"

Heedless of all but her fury, Linda pounces on the front door, unlocks it and manages to pull it open a fraction just as the two reach her. Steph shouts, "Come away from the door, Linda!" as she grabs her sister around the waist and struggles to drag her back.

Danny puts both his hands against the door, and while Linda tries to pull it further open and Greg pushes from his side, he tries desperately to shut it. An almighty physical battle ensues, accompanied by a vitriolic and cacophonous verbal exchange as Linda and Greg fire insults and accusations like machine-gun bullets at one another through the narrow gap in the door.

Danny tells Greg, "You're not coming in, mate!" and, glancing at his sister-in-law, orders, "Linda! Inside!"

With Greg's face only inches from hers on the other side of the gap, Linda yells at him, "They'll find out what you've done, Brentwood, you bastard!"

Danny shouts, "Steph! Get her inside!"

Steph, still hanging on to her sister, replies, "I'm trying!"

Greg begins to reply to Linda, "It was done so …"

Linda drowns him out, yelling, "Yes, I know what you've done and I'm ringing the police!"

Steph says, firmly, "No, you're not!"

Linda refers to Marcey. "You and that woman!"

Greg replies, "Yeah?"

"I'd like to see your face when you both get bloody life!"

"Oh, I murdered him?"


The mild, unassuming and inoffensive Greg has been transformed by rage. He spews out his words like a snake spitting venom. "The two faced shit! Thieving, cheating, shit!"

Linda spits back. "You knew I was having an affair, you bloody knew!"

"Well, I wish I had!"

"What? Nobody stole from you!"

Steph at last manages to drag Linda away from the door, and Danny immediately blocks her return with his body as he continues to try to force the door shut.

Greg yells, "My money, my business!"

Linda breaks free from Steph and goes to the small, bottle-glass window in the middle of the door, just to Danny's left. Steph tries to pull her away again, but she resists, glaring at Greg through the window and continuing the fierce argument.

"You blew your money!"

"Yeah, he wanted me to think so, didn't he?"

Danny says, "I'm shutting this door!" But Greg is exercising the strength of a furious man and continues to thwart his efforts.

Linda threatens, "You're not walking away from this!"

Greg spits, "Screwing you! Screwing me! Yeah, and you bloody let him."

Steph and Danny's children appear at the top of the stairs, fascinated and not a little frightened by the rumpus. Danny spots them and, still struggling to maintain his hold on the door, orders them back to bed. What explanation he's going to give them in the morning is anybody's guess.

Through the bottle-glass window, Greg accuses Linda, "You bloody helped him!"

Linda screams, "You killed him!"

"Well, I hope he bloody rots!"

Linda screeches like a Banshee, "With her!"

She leaves the window and goes quickly around to the other side of Danny. Steph is too slow to stop her and she manages to put one foot in the gap in the door, but Danny's right arm blocks her from doing anything else.

Linda and her brother-in-law are now again fighting for the same place on the battlefield and Greg increases his efforts to push, at the same time shouting straight into his wife's face "Well, I was right, wasn't I? It was enough."

Danny shouts urgently at Linda, "Move your foot!"

Greg continues, "And it should have been, if you hadn't bloody robbed me blind!"

Danny warns Linda, "The door is closing! … It's gonna hurt!"

Steph warns, "Linda, he means it."

Greg yells, "You should have just bloody walked, you bloody cow!"

"I wish I had! Being a coward, you knew and said bugger all."

"Months and months of this!"

"You're talking shit!"

Steph yells, "Danny, get this door shut!"

Danny yells at the warring couple, "Let go, both of you – now!"

But Greg puts his back to the door and shoves with all his might, still shouting. "And making me think it was bloody me!"

Linda screams, "What?"

"Thieving – rotten – dirty – filthy …"

"Oh, he's making this up!" Linda is almost in tears.

Greg's face is contorted with the pain of having been betrayed. "Thieving bastard! Just why? Why?"

"He's lying! He's … Ow! Danny! Danny!"

Linda's words end with a cry of pain and frustration as a combination of Danny still pushing and Greg suddenly giving up squeezes her foot in the door. She pulls herself free and the door slams shut. She yells at her brother-in-law. "Danny – will you open that door!" as Greg, still clutching the wad of bank statements, storms off down the path.

Danny's had enough. Keeping his shoulder to the door he turns an angry face to his sister-in-law and says firmly, "Shut up!"

Linda pleads loudly, "Danny!"

Danny repeats the order harshly. "Shut up!"

Steph grabs her sister by the arm and propels the breathless woman down the hallway and into the living room. She closes the door behind them, and asks, "What money?"

"How should I know?"

Steph, incensed by the almighty row that has just taken place on her doorstep, and perplexed by Greg's accusations, shoves Linda down onto the sofa, demanding angrily, "What money?"

A flushed, flustered and furious Linda snaps back, "Ask him!"

Danny hasn't heard Greg's car take off, so goes outside to look for him. The car is still there, so Danny walks down the path to the parked vehicle, looking around. Greg is nowhere to be seen and, wondering what the hell that could mean, Danny exclaims, "Shit!"

What it means is that Greg has gone around the side of the house and gained access through the unlocked rear entrance. While Danny is still outside looking for him, he bursts through the living room door. On the sofa, Steph and Linda flinch and recoil, uttering cries of shock.

Seething with rage, his face contorted with emotion, Greg crumples and hurls each bank statement at a terrified Linda cowering on the sofa, yelling as he does so, "You knew about this. You bloody knew! And you still bloody let him! ... You heartless … scavenging … deceiving …"

Danny comes into the room at a run and seizes Greg roughly, shouting, "Come on! Out of it!"

As he is manhandled to the door, Greg struggles to break free. He has no intention of going voluntarily and says, "Oh, forget it! Get off me! Let me talk to her! I've got to talk to her!" But he's no match for Danny, who is determined to get this whole crazy business out of his house and away from his wife and kids. He's forced out of the living room and down the hallway, and can be heard being ordered at the front door to go home. He complains bitterly "This is really friendly of you!" as the door is slammed shut behind him.

Not knowing what's hit them, Linda and Steph, still on the sofa, and in a state of shock, snatch up the nearest papers that Greg has whirlwinded around them, and examine them.

Steph turns her head to her sister, her expression requesting an explanation. Linda turns her head to Steph, her expression showing complete incomprehension.

* * *
"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long." ~ Ogden Nash
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ALIBI in detail - Chapter 21

Postby Lynnedean » Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:36 am

Chapter 21: Boing! Boing! Boing!

Early next day. In the fields around Rosehill House, the sky is overcast, the trees are bare of leaves and a thin frost covers the ground.

The bleakness of the morning is reflected in Greg's mood as he sits in contemplation on a wooden bench on an expanse of grass in front of his home, facing the building. The collar of his overcoat is turned up and his hands are buried in his overcoat pockets. He is cold, but the wintry weather is not the only cause: the fire of last night has gone out of him. There is nothing now that he, or even Marcey, can do to halt or redirect the course of events, and his future looks as bleak as the morning sky, but he is past the point of caring. He looks at his beloved house, and he shakes his head.

* * *

At the Benefits Office, Marcey is settling herself down to start work. Before seeing her first client, she takes a cup and saucer from a drawer in her desk and pours into the cup hot coffee from a vending-machine paper cup.

Her mobile rings and she quickly puts down the coffee, and fishes the phone out of her handbag. The little screen informs her that she has a text message from Greg. She is anxious to read it because she has no idea what has happened since the police went to his home the previous evening, but before she gets a chance her boss pauses as he is walking past, and says, "Morning!"

It is not a friendly greeting; he is looking pointedly at the phone in her hand. Marcey presses the relevant button and, holding up the mobile to show him, says, "Sorry! It's off." She puts the mobile back into her bag, looking far from happy.

* * *

A car comes up the driveway of Rosehill House and pulls up on the gravel in front of the main door. Danny climbs out, walks across the frosted grass and joins Greg on the bench. He, too, keeps his hands in his pockets to guard against the chill of the morning.

For a long moment the two men sit without speaking, each lost in his own thoughts, and when they do speak, it is without looking at each other. It is Danny who breaks the silence. "Where was he getting the money?"

"Well, you name it, he's spliced it."

"How did you find out?"

"Well, we've been through the books. Anything with a decimal point, he's nailed it two places forward."

Greg puts out a hand, indicating the house he loves so much - a large, two-storey, red brick building with grey stone extension and tall, linked chimneys. "And look at it! Hm? … I wasn't wrong, I could afford it. The bastards had me thinking I was going round the bend."

"Linda reckons she knows nothing about it."

"Yeah, well. You seen the bank statement?"

"Yeah." Danny nods.

"You seen her name?"

"Yeah." Danny nods again but says with emphasis, "She knew nothing about the amount."

"No reason to lie – at all?"

"We believe her."

"Black and white, yeah."

After a short silence, Danny turns his head to Greg and explains, "I mean, she knew they had an account. She admits that they were saving up …"

Greg looks contemptuously off to one side, away from Danny.

Danny continues, " … but, em, she genuinely thought that … I saw her face when she went through that stuff. Greg - Linda freaked. She… she thought, five grand, y'know, five grand tops."

Greg turns his eyes back to the house, asking, "How could she not know she's got over a hundred grand?"

"How could you not know you'd lost it until now?"

Greg gives a sad little sigh. The money wasn't the only thing he hadn't known he'd lost until now.

Danny adds, "If you didn't." He looks at Greg as though expecting some response, but gets none. He continues, "And who's we – 'we've' been through the books?"

"At work."

Danny nods slowly. "Ah, your Marcia."

At the mention of Marcey, Greg looks again off to one side. He looks back as he replies quickly, "She's left."

"Ah, yeah, well, that's another corker, isn't it? An accidental death, can't see the woman for dust."

"Temp, it means temporary."

"Yeah, and 'busy' is short for being places that she shouldn't. And Linda's not kidding. She's got witnesses saying that Marcey was with you." Greg's expression indicates that he is not pleased with the direction in which the conversation is heading. Danny asks, "When did you meet her?"

"When you did."

"At the party?"

The question is asked with a shade of disbelief, so Greg begins to say in assurance, "I swear on the life of my wi…" He is about to say wife but checks himself and says, "… house."

"What, and then back for the bag?"

Greg nods. "Yeah."

"Just the two of you?"

Greg nods again. "Yeah. There's your bag - piss off."

As Danny replies, he glances sideways at his friend. "Well, she didn't piss far off, though, did she? The taxi driver's saying he picked her up just down the road."

Greg has been speaking quietly all this time. He speaks even more quietly as he says, his eyes still on Rosehill House, "Go home."

Danny sighs. "Linda's right …"


"If the police look at that … you both made false statements. Look, I've never met her. I'm not judging the woman, but the least that Marcey can be is a total bloody liar."

Annoyance is showing on Greg's face. He won't stay to listen to Danny talking about Marcey like this. He rises abruptly from the bench and strides off in the direction of his brother-in-law's car. Danny follows him, talking to his back. "You're in the shit with this, Greg. And you know you are - the pair of you! If you won't tell me what happened …"

Without stopping or turning his head, Greg replies, "No! That's your lot!" He reaches Danny's car and opens the door for him to get in.

Danny doesn't take him up on the somewhat unsubtle invitation to leave. "Greg, look - I've been a lot closer to you than I am to Linda. I'm the guy who stands in pubs defending you."

Danny's remark is meant to indicate the depth of his loyalty, but the implication that his friend is criticised over pints in the local, is hardly a compliment, and Greg's expression says an ironic, gee, thanks!

Danny is frustrated by the laconic responses and urges, "If I can help, I'll help. Just talk to me!"

Still standing with his hand on the open car door that Danny is ignoring, Greg replies crisply, "Pick a subject."

Danny takes a breath and dives in at the deep end. "Did you ... kill him?"

The water was far shallower than he thought and his head hits the bottom with an almighty bang when Greg nods and says, simply, unemotionally, "Yep!"

Dazed, Danny says, "Eh?"


"You … you killed him?"


"You killed Martin?"


Danny repeats the question yet again in disbelieving amazement: "You killed him?"

Greg gives a sharp, short nod and answers with the same cold and clipped, "Yep!"

"Oh, Jesus!" Danny is shocked and is breathing heavily. He squeezes his eyes shut for a second and shakes his head is if trying to clear his mind. With a hand, he indicates the house. "Wh … for … for this?"

Greg looks up at the house, and nods. "Yep!"

"And … and Linda?"

"Decimal points – boing! boing! boing! Everything. The lot. Yep! Deserved it." So much of the life has gone out of Greg that he just doesn't give a damn how Danny takes his confession.

Danny is thunderstruck. The door of his car is still being held open for him and he sinks down into the driver's seat, gasping, "Oh, Jesus!"

Breathing heavily, he stares up at his friend, wide-eyed. Greg says no more. He turns and walks off towards the house, leaving the stunned Danny to figure out what on earth to do next.

As for Greg, he now knows exactly what he himself must do.

* * *
"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long." ~ Ogden Nash
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ALIBI in detail - Chapter 22

Postby Lynnedean » Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:37 am

Chapter 22: Greg says goodbye to Marcey, and Marcey says hello to the police – again

When Danny arrives back home, he finds a police car parked outside and Linda and her sister coming out of the front door of the house with a police sergeant. When he climbs out of his car, Steph wonders what he's doing at home at that time and, noting the seriousness of his expression, she goes over to him, asking, "Danny, what's going on?"

The sergeant is close enough to overhear, so Danny replies, "They sent me home from work, stomach and that."

He certainly looks unwell and Steph takes his arm in concern. Linda, too, is concerned, but for another reason. She draws close to them and enquires quietly, "You didn't find Greg?"

The policeman is now getting into his car but is too close for comfort. Danny is non-committal. "No. Not … not … no."

Steph comments, "You look like shit!"


Danny breaks away from Steph and walks to the house. His wife follows, looking even more worried, prompting Linda to ask as she passes, "What?"

Steph's mind is on her husband and she doesn't reply. The policeman drives off as Linda follows her sister into the house.

* * *

In the Benefits Office, Marcey presses the button to indicate that she is ready for the next client. It is Greg who comes and sits down on the other side of her desk. His manner is unusually calm and he seems resigned to something. Marcey leans over the desk and keeping her voice down, says, "Where the hell have you been? I haven't slept."

"Well, I came round last night, you weren't there."

"I came to yours. The lights were on, but there weren't any cars."

Greg explains. "No. I popped round to have a chat with the lovely Linda."

Marcey asks worriedly, "How much does she know?"

"Well, a lot more now. We did money-marriage-murder in about two minutes flat. Now tell me I can't confront issues."

Greg is almost casual in his response. There is nothing about him now of the extreme nervousness and helpless fluster that Marcey is used to seeing him display. Today, he could unbutton his own shirt collar. Today, he would not jump out of his skin at the sound of a telephone ringing. Today, he is a different man.

And, today, this is a different situation. Greg appears to have taken matters into his own hands and for once has been playing cards that Marcey has not dealt him, which leaves her having to take advice from him.

"Tell me what we're saying, Greg."

"Well, you – nothing."

"Don't be stupid!"

"Don't say anything."

"That's impossible. She went to the caterers. She knows I came back that night."

"Yeah, but that's all anybody can prove. I mean, what can they say if I'm going, okay, I did it, he deserved everything he got for being tw*t of the year?"

Marcey is alarmed because that would be playing straight into Linda's hands. "You'll sound like you're meant to!"

Greg's expression indicates that he simply doesn't care. "Well, I'm glad he's dead. Can't hide that. What's the difference?"

"Well, I don't know in prison years, but that is not what happened, that is not the truth!"

"I know, I know, I know, I just … well, I got Linda going, a hundred and twenty grand, how can it be – oooh, no idea! I mean, she admits there's a stash but only about five grand. No idea at all how the rest of it got there. Total bollocks. I mean, if that stands up in court, I'll eat my f****** mailbags! I mean, fine – if she doesn't think it's hers, let's see her give the rest to charity, eh?"

Marcey is perturbed at his attitude and says quietly but with emphasis, "The money is yours."

"Yeah, but by the time I can spend it, it'll be worth half of that, even in bloody Failstone. Okay, sorry, not Failstone. Failstone's lovely - it suits you."

Marcey looks away with a smile, enjoying the sweet and unexpected compliment. But she's obviously worried that Greg doesn't seem to care in what mess his present attitude is going to land him. She takes a bottle of mineral water from her desk drawer and puts it down in front of him. With deep concern, she asks, "Have you got your tablets?"

Greg leans forward a little and rests his hands together on the desk. "I'm not on tablets."

Marcey looks directly into his eyes. She leans further over and puts a hand on his, saying, "Your eyes look better without them."

Greg looks down at her hand then back up at her. They look at one another in silence.

Marcey's boss disturbs the tender moment by calling over to her. "Miss Burgess?"
With a jump, the young benefits clerk comes back to earth. Quickly taking her hand off Greg's, she straightens a little and looks over at her boss, who asks, "Can I see you in my office?"

"Yeah. We're, em, just wrapping up."

Greg has lowered his head and for a second, the old, familiar, worried look flickers across his face.

The boss is still watching, so, immediately making the conversation appear normal, Marcey consults papers on her desk and says in a business-like voice to her 'client', "So I'm suspending your benefits for a fortnight, pending investigation." She takes a form from a drawer. "Fill this in if you want to appeal. You'll get written confirmation …"

Satisfied, her boss moves on. When he's gone, Marcey drops her voice again and with pleading in her eyes, impresses upon Greg the need for caution. "Don't say 'deliberately'."

Greg says, "By the time you got there, there was nothing to see. That's all you need to know. And I do hope that you find somebody who deserves you."

Realising that this is a goodbye, Marcey makes no reply but responds with a little nod and a look of sadness. Greg rises and walks to the exit. At the door, he turns and looks back for a long, thoughtful moment, and Marcey returns his gaze with tears coming into her eyes.

And then he's gone.

Marcey cannot linger with her thoughts: her boss is waiting. She snuffles into a handkerchief and, composing herself as she goes, makes her way to his office. She stops short as she nears the door. Through the window she can see that it is not her boss who is waiting for her. A burly police sergeant is peering at her through the glass and looking very serious indeed. Linda must have reported her suspicions. Marcey's stomach sinks into her boots.

In the office, Marcey sits at one side of the boss's desk, and the two uniformed policemen who are investigating Martin's death sit at the other. The younger man she already knows because she has spoken to him before on more than one occasion.

The sergeant places his cap on the desk, folds his arms across his chest and asks, "You, then, end up working for Brentwood Shaps. So how did that come about?"

Marcey has returned her stomach back to its rightful place in her anatomy, and is perfectly calm. As she answers, she casually doodles with a pencil on the page of a notebook on the desk. "Martin Shaps. When I was waitressing at the party he asked me what my day job was. I said this, that I hated it, wanted out, and he said that they might be looking to take on a clerical worker. People often say that drunk and it doesn't go anywhere, but you never know."

"But he wasn't drunk. He wasn't drinking."

Marcey does a very nifty side-step around the trap. Quick as a flash, she replies, "I know, I could tell, which is why I followed it up. Came to see him at work." She goes on casually doodling.

"What – the day after?"


"Really? He was dead by then." The sergeant almost sneers, thinking he's caught her out in a lie.

Marcey stops doodling and looks the cop straight in the eye. "I know, that's the point. You see, I'm realising that the guy I've come to see is the guy whose death I'm witness for. Greg Brentwood was a ..." She breaks off, asking, "Have you met him?"

The sergeant shoots a knowing sideways glance at his colleague and replies, "Several times, yeah."

Marcey nods, indicating that they will then understand what she's about to say. "He was a nervous wreck. How do I say I saw the body? Would you have told him you saw his best mate die? If they knew that, I didn't stand a chance of getting the job, or keeping it if they found out. I'd be like a… like a permanent reminder, wouldn't I?"

The young constable nods in understanding and comments, "Well, yeah."

The sergeant looks thoughtful.

Looking at the sympathetic constable, Marcey states, "I haven't eaten meat since."

He replies, "I don't anyway."

The sergeant steers the interview back on course. "According to Linda Brentwood, you cleared out the minute the verdict was announced."

Marcey is about to go into her blank-look thinking mode, but she's now got the younger man in her corner. He turns to his colleague, and answers before she can. "Because her name came up at the inquest - so they all know now." He turns back to Marcey for confirmation. "Yeah?"

She nods at him and then, looking pointedly from one man to the other, says, "I didn't know you could do that without my permission. Thanks for that!"

The sergeant, who had obviously been prepared for a different outcome, realises that all their questions have been satisfactorily answered. A trifle disappointedly, he says, "I see!" and reaches for his cap on the desk.

As the policemen leave the office, Marcey sits sucking the end of her pencil. If it had been a rifle, she would have notched the butt.

In the car park of the council offices, the police car is pulling out and driving off as Marcey comes out of the main door of the building, coat on, handbag over her shoulder. She watches the policemen leave as she walks with purposeful stride to her car.

If Greg thinks that she's going to remain safely on the bank while he jumps into the river and drowns, he's got another think coming!

* * *
"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long." ~ Ogden Nash
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ALIBI in detail - Chapter 23

Postby Lynnedean » Wed Jan 29, 2014 8:38 am

Chapter 23: All's well that ends well

In the kitchen of Rosehill House, Steph, Danny and Linda, who is in tears, are standing to one side. Greg is sitting at the kitchen table with one elbow on it, his head resting in his hand, and his eyes lowered. He is disconsolate and looks extremely weary. He is answering questions about Martin's death. Linda is far from convinced that it was an accident.

"Mouth to mouth didn't work," Greg says, flatly, miserably.

His wife paces restlessly. "You didn't even ring an ambulance."

"He was dead, Linda. Yes, it was my fault, but it was an accident."

Steph asks, "But you knew that they were having an affair?"

Greg drops his hand and raises his head to look at his sister-in-law and her husband. "Well, not from either of you two! Thank you - friends!"

Steph looks uncomfortable and Danny says, "We thought it was over."

Linda assures them, "Well, it wasn't."

"No." Greg has rested his head wearily back on his hand.

Linda says, "Far from it! Plus, he got me to lie to the police!"

She has slowly circled the table and now stands close to Greg. She leans on the table, bringing her head almost down to the level of her husband's to look in his face, but he keeps his eyes lowered. "I lied to the police about when Martin left. Admit that."

"Yes, I admit it." Quietly, without emotion.

"Meaning what, if it was an accident? Eh?"

Linda hits Greg on the shoulder and the force of it rocks him. He makes no response. Steph is alarmed and puts up her hands in a stop gesture. "Linda, just …"

Linda ignores her, remaining focussed on Greg, "You don't even know why it happened, do you?" Greg doesn't reply. With a sob, his wife repeats, "Do you?" and hits him again. He takes it again; he has no spirit to respond. Linda says, "That's why you don't talk. You can't … talk."

Greg repeats what he said to Danny outside the house. "Pick a subject."

Linda sits down on the chair next to her husband's at the table. "Children!" she says into his face.

The word is like another blow, and if on that subject Greg can talk, he is not willing to do it here, not willing to do it now. He remains silent, his eyes cast downwards.

His wife looks over at the others with an expression that indicates that she believes she has made her point. She stands up and walks around the back of her husband's chair to the other side of him and her frustration with Greg pours out of her as she does so.

"Every single bloody problem we had was tomorrow. I used to think you were getting your thoughts together. But where? I only knew what you were thinking when you'd been and gone and bloody done it! Which is why we ended up in this …" She throws up her hands to indicate the house.

The telephone rings. Linda stops her tirade to answer it, the action bringing a little relief to the tension in the room. "Rosehill."

A familiar voice says, "Linda, it's Marcey."

Linda swings around to face Greg. "Is it? Well, you know what, Marcey…" Greg immediately looks up. "… He won't be coming out to play for a while. Neither will you when the police get hold of you, because I know you're both lying!" She ends the call, and angrily slams the phone down on the table.

Greg looks at the telephone thoughtfully and then looks up at Linda. Looking back at the phone, he says quietly, "She had nothing to do with it."

"So how come you're sending her flowers?" From her handbag, Linda takes the florist's card she had removed from Marcey's bouquet, and puts it on the table in front of her husband. "I rang them to say the order hadn't been delivered. They said they'd ring me straight back - on this number."

On this subject, Greg will talk. He replies immediately, "I sent her flowers because she lost a child." The others are surprised. It is the last explanation they could have expected. Continuing to speak quietly, Greg explains, "No, he's not dead. He's eleven. She just … lost him. She deserved flowers. I sent her flowers."

The telephone rings again and, again, Linda picks it up. She doesn't get a chance to say anything because Marcey jumps straight in, and what she says makes Linda listen. "I've already talked to the police. If you want the truth, Linda, you are not going to get it from Greg, are you? I'm outside if you want me."

Linda pauses in thought for a moment then, without making any reply, returns the phone to the table. Having decided to find out what the other woman has to say, she turns and walks out of the kitchen.

No one else in the room is aware of who had rung the second time. Greg is puzzled as to what such a short, one-sided call could have been about and why it should have caused his wife to leave the room. He sits thinking for a moment then, suspecting that something is very amiss, he leaves the kitchen to find out where Linda has gone.

Linda has made her way to the front door. She runs out of the house and stops when she sees Marcey sitting a few feet away in her car.

Marcey sticks her head out of the driver's window and calls out, "Get in!" Linda dithers, in two minds as to what to do. Marcey prompts her to action. "Well, he won't tell you the truth, will he? He daren't. Get in!" With a quick glance back at the house, Linda runs to the car.

Inside the house, Greg, walking past a window, catches sight of his wife on the drive. He takes a closer look and suddenly realises that Marcey's car is out there and now his wife is running to it. He charges out of the front door as Linda is hurriedly getting into the car and Marcey is starting the engine.

Marcey sees him and shouts through her window, "Bugger off!"

Greg shouts back as he runs, his voice nearly drowned out by the noise of the revving engine. "Think! No - you can't do this! Don't do this!" He reaches the front of the vehicle and puts his hands on it to stop it. "Don't - do - this!"

Marcey begins to reverse in order to turn the car around, and Greg nearly tumbles onto the gravelled driveway. He recovers and runs alongside Marcey's window as the car is backing up. "Look, you don't owe me anything!"

He grabs the edge of the window and Marcey slows for a moment to order him away. "Move, Greg!" She glances at Linda. "Will you tell him."

The car begins reversing again. Greg hangs on. "I'm not going! You drive off, you're going to kill me!"

Danny and Steph have realised what's going on and they come out of the house at a run.

Greg is still clinging to the car. He's desperate for Marcey not to involve herself any further. He is afraid for her, and pleads, "Will you …? Look, you don't need to do this. Just think about it!"

Marcey has reversed far enough to turn. As she stops the car and prepares to go forward, she throws back at Greg something he said to her once when she pleaded with him to think. "Yeah, that's all I ever do and it gets me abso-bloody-lutely nowhere!"

As the car takes off at speed, Greg shouts with frustration, "That's not even funny!"

He turns and runs to his car, but Steph yells at her husband "Danny, keep him here!" and it becomes a race as to who can get to the vehicle first. Danny wins. He throws himself into the driver's seat and slams the door.

Greg reaches him just as he locks the car. He bangs on the window, shouting, "Danny!" When he gets no response, he pleads, "Danny, give me the keys." Danny simply holds them up to the window in a way that says, got 'em – keeping 'em.
Greg exclaims with disgust, "Well, guess whose side you're on!"

As he walks resignedly back to the house, his brother-in-law rests back in the car seat with relief.

* * *

In the showroom at Brentwood Shaps, a grim-faced Linda sits opposite Marcey, getting from her the details that Greg has not supplied. "Who burnt the car?"


"Whose idea?"

"Mine. Not burning it. Nobody put a match to it. He, er … he pushed it over and it went up."

Linda closes her eyes for a moment as she imagines the terrible scene. She looks back at Marcey and asks, a slight tremble in her voice, "What were you doing?"

"Cleaning your house."

Linda nods and mouths, "Oh." She asks sarcastically, "He goes, I didn't mean to do it, so you go, okay, and start rolling your sleeves up?"

Marcey replies quickly and firmly, "He was telling the truth."

Linda is disbelieving. "How could you be certain of that? You're obviously a long way off stupid." She shakes her head. "He bloody knew I was having the affair."

Marcey shakes her head and replies with a clipped, "No."

"He couldn't have found out after Martin's death, because I told no one. Neither of us said a word. I bloody well wish we had now so the police could nail the bastard."

"He didn't know until I told him."

Linda looks at Marcey with disdain. "I mean, that's just a bad lie. How the hell could you know, if Greg didn't? You hadn't even met me before then."

Marcey looks steadily back at her and, with obvious distaste, explains, "I saw Martin touch you – at your party. It's this … little thing with his hand." She makes a movement with her hands to demonstrate. Linda is disconcerted to discover that she and Martin had been seen sharing a covert loving touch. Marcey goes on. "And when I told that to Greg, y'see, that was the first he'd heard."

Linda is somewhat dazed. She closes her eyes and sighs as, in her mind, pieces are dropping into the jig-saw puzzle picture of Martin's death where she had thought there were no spaces. With a sob, she utters, "Oh! … Oh, my God!"

After a short silence, Marcey asks, "Where were you going with Martin?"

Linda shakes her head and replies sharply, "None of your business!"

Another short silence. This time, it is Linda who breaks it. Hugging herself for comfort, she says, quietly, "I knew nothing about the money."

"You knew about the five grand's worth."

"Yeah, because I put it there."

"I know. Cash deposits, about three hundred a fortnight."

Linda nods. "Money I'd earned, not stolen. I hadn't a clue where the rest of it …" She stops short and then acknowledges, "Yeah, well, I do now!" Her voice shivers with emotion. "I still can't believe it. Martin said nothing about siphoning the books." Her face contorts with pain. "And I wish I hadn't found out because … that's the only thing he's ever done that's … Oh! What the hell's wrong with me? I'm swapping the basket-case for the one with his fingers in the till. A great choice!" She begins to cry. "Great judgement, Linda!"

She rises abruptly and pushes her way out through the swing doors of the showroom.

While she has been speaking, Marcey has been processing Linda's words through the calculator of her brain. She continues to sit in thought for a moment then goes to look for the other woman. She finds her in the washroom, crying her heart out in one of the cubicles.

Marcey stands close to the closed door. "Linda?"

Linda sobs and says nothing.

"Linda? Do you know why Martin did it?"

Linda snaps back, "You're in no bloody position to go slinging his name around."

"No, no, I'm saying I think I do."


"What if he was never going to spend the money? Had you told him you were going to leave Greg?"

Linda wipes tears from her face with her hand and says, "Yes."

"What if Martin was trying to force your hand? Cos the worse business got, the faster you'd have to put your house on the market. It was only the house keeping you and Greg together. Martin was just trying to … trying to speed things up so you could leave. Not a penny has been touched from that account. See, I think that Martin was always going to give it back."

Linda has been absorbing all this, recognising the Martin she knew in Marcey's words. Now she nods to herself as she says, quietly, "That's exactly what he'd do." Her face relaxes as the balm of Marcey's reasoning soothes the soreness in her heart.

She opens the cubicle door and repeats "That's exactly what he'd do."

* * *

The shadows of evening have drawn in around Rosehill House. Inside, Steph stands with Linda as she talks with the two, now familiar, police officers.

Outside, Greg waits anxiously, trying to hear the muffled conversation and, by peering in through the window, gather from their expressions how it is going. He hears a footstep on the gravel behind him and nervously glances back to see who it is. Danny. Greg returns his eyes to the window just as the officers are taking their leave, and he walks around to the front door.

Emerging from the house, the sergeant sees him and speaks, wanting a word. "Mr Brentwood?"

"Yes, sergeant."

"People don't usually like me saying this, but, em … persuade your wife to see a doctor. Well, honestly, there's no shame in using sedatives for a week or two and they can be very helpful in a situation like this."

"Yes, so I'm told … Yeah, thanks for that."

The two policemen say goodnight and go to their car. Greg goes into the house. Linda, Steph and Danny are standing in the hallway. To Linda, Greg says quietly, "Thank you."

His wife does not respond. She turns her eyes from him, then walks away. Steph and Danny follow, leaving Greg alone with his thoughts.

* * *

Morning. Martin's funeral service has taken place, and the mourners arrive at Rosehill House for the traditional after-service gathering. People mill around, and a hubbub of conversation fills the dining-room.

Stan is standing near a food-laden table with a drink in his hand, talking to Linda. "If I'd done it in Devon, I'd never have got this many people. And of course, I shall want to foot the bill."

Greg is nearby and Linda looks to him to respond. He says, "No, I wouldn't hear of it, Stan. The company insurance more than covers it."

Martin's father is appreciative. "Well, that's very good of you."

Greg says uncomfortably, "Well …," and looks down at his feet.

A little later, everyone is gathered in the living-room, watching a home video of Martin as a child. Stan sits in an armchair in front of the television set, commentating on the film of his small son outside their home in Devon, washing the car in which he would later be cremated on a hillside near Braughton.

"I'm saying, Martin, you're supposed to shampoo it first, hose it later. And he goes, I never do that." Greg standing nearby, winces as the old man adds, "He loved that car. Cleaned it every single weekend whether it needed it or not. I was going to get rid of it but he wouldn't let me."

Greg is aware that his wife is standing behind him. Another car is heard arriving, and Linda goes to see who it is. Stan is still talking. "In the end I hung on to it. Gave it to him for his twenty-first."

Greg smiles feebly and turns his head away from the picture on the television screen. In doing so, he notices that Linda has left the room.

The new arrival is Marcey, who has called at the back door with a bunch of roses. Leading her into the kitchen, Linda says, "You can give them to Stan yourself, he's in the living-room."

"No - they're for you."

Linda turns and looks at Marcey in surprise. She gives a little, wondering shake of her head but takes the flowers. As she goes to the sink to stand them in water, she asks, "Can I get you a drink?"

"Oh, no, I'm working this afternoon – bar mitzvah."

"Well, you'd better have one then!"

Linda brings a bottle and drinking glasses to the kitchen table, and seeing Marcey smile, she responds with a fleeting half smile of her own. She begins to pour the wine, saying as she does so, "I'm going to drive Stan back down to Devon." Handing Marcey a filled glass, she adds, "I'll stay there a couple of weeks, then after that …" She walks over to the door leading to the hallway, and pushes it to, leaving it standing a little way open. "Don't know. Back to Scotland maybe."

"What about your work?"


"Don't you restore antiques?"

Linda leans against the kitchen counter, nursing the drink in her hand. "Not through choice, it was just a way of earning money when we needed it." She quickly corrects the remark. "When I thought we needed it."

Marcey nods in understanding then after a pause, asks, "Doesn't your sister work here?"

At this point, Greg, looking for his wife, pushes the kitchen door open and is about to come in but stops when he sees that Marcey is there with Linda. He pulls the door to again. Marcey has her back to it, but because of the noise it made and Linda's glance in that direction, she is aware that someone has looked in.

Linda continues the conversation, answering the question about her sister working on the Rosehill House premises. "That's up to Steph. She'll have to try and work something out with Greg. Good luck to her!"

At the sarcastic comment, Marcey casts her eyes downward. Linda notes her expression and as she sips her wine, says, "You don't like me talking like that, do you?"

Marcey looks up at her, her expression saying a definite no. "I don't see what you see. He's a bit, er …" She smiles. "My mum can take all night to tell a duff joke. Dad used to call her a short story and a long book." She lowers her eyes and chuckles at the memory.

Greg has remained in the hallway and is listening. Linda presses for more from Marcey. "Is that … attractive?"

Marcey replies, "The opposite is. Greg's the opposite. You don't know what he's said 'til he's gone."

Linda looks thoughtful. "How old are you, Marcey?"

She doesn't get an answer, because Greg, realising that the conversation is wading into deep waters, interrupts by coming into the room. He has a piece of paper in his hand. "Just, er, needed to get this signed." He says nothing to Marcey but acknowledges her presence with a glance.

Marcey decides to beat a retreat. "Well, I've got to be off, anyway. Good luck, Linda." She looks briefly at Greg as she turns to the door.

Linda says, "Same here."

Greg says nothing but watches Marcey as she leaves. When she has gone, he places on the table a pen and a bank form for authorising change of signatories on an account. His wife picks up the pen and signs. As he signs the form himself, he says, "If you need more money you know you've only got to shout."

"Thanks, Greg. I won't."

The two stand side by side at the table, not looking at one another. Linda asks, "Was he seeing other women?"

She turns her head to Greg for a reply. He doesn't look back at her. As he returns his pen to the inside pocket of his jacket, he gives a half shake of his head and says, so quietly that it is almost inaudible, "No." Linda is relieved. Greg adds with sadness, "Just wanted to hurt you back."

Linda is unhappy at that but understands and says nothing in response. Greg puts out a hand and takes hold of one of hers. At the touch, she looks down at his hand and then up at him. Her expression holds no warmth.

Greg takes his hand away, and says, "Oh, I can't just wave you off, can I?"

After so many years, he feels that there should be some amicable way of closing, but in the circumstances he doesn't know what. With a weak smile, he makes another attempt and goes to give Linda a hug. She doesn't respond, and he pulls back.

After a painful pause, he says, not looking at his wife, "Well, I can't say I'm sorry he's not there for you, but, y'know, I'm sorry he's dead."

Linda nods and then says, "You'll be fine, Greg."

With sadness, he replies, "Well, I'll … I'll miss you."

His wife repeats in almost a whisper, "You'll be fine."

With a faint smile, she goes out, leaving her husband alone in the kitchen. He doesn't remain there for long.

Marcey is starting the engine of her car as Greg is making for his front door. He steps out of the house in time to see her approaching the bend in the driveway that will take her to the road. Hoping that she has spotted him in her rear-view mirror, he holds up his mobile phone, puts it to his ear, then holds it up again. Marcey puts up a hand to show that she has seen him and, mouthing the words clearly, he immediately whispers, "Phone me."

As the car begins to turn the bend in the driveway, Greg sees the hazard warning indicators flash three times. It is Marcey saying yes.

Greg smiles, and walks slowly back into Rosehill House.

~~~ THE END ~~~
"Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long." ~ Ogden Nash
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