This is the twenty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 1370 words.
Lucy had phoned in sick, unable to face her colleagues at work after the revelations over the weekend. She had spent most of yesterday in tears, and was feeling used and stupid. Annoyed with herself too, for believing that Sally had wanted to be her friend. Sitting on the bed in the guest room, she listened to the sounds in the house as Alex got ready. She was hoping he would leave early, as she was hungry, and wanted to go down and make something to eat. She wanted to avoid any confrontation with her husband too, and had an idea that there would be reporters outside the house.
For the first time since she had met Alex, she was scared of him.
Alex Conroy was happily answering questions outside the house. He adopted an expression that was just right, he thought. Pained, wronged, and just on the edge of upset. But resilient, and aggrieved. He had practiced the look in the hallway mirror, before opening the door. The expected phone call had come quite late last night, and he had been ready. As the Chief Executive of the Council, he didn’t have a boss to report to as such. But he was answerable to the elected officials who had appointed him. One of them rang, asking him to attend an informal meeting on Monday, so they could work out how they would handle all the fuss.
In the main office of the Traffic Division, Sally Wilcox walked past her new colleagues to knock on the door of the team inspector. Some were blatantly leering at her, others muttering under their breath. Her uniform felt tight and heavy after all that time not wearing one, and she knew that the officers in Traffic were going to resent having her foisted on them. She would just have to stick it out until everything went away. If it ever did. Inspector Harris seemed kind, but didn’t mince his words. “Good morning, sergeant. Let’s not pretend that you want to be here, or that I want you here. We both have to make the best of this cock-up, it seems. I’m sure you must have a lot of leave owing, so why don’t you take it? Come back in a month, and make a fresh start”. She stood up, feeling rather relieved. “Thank you, sir”.
In the boardroom, Alex sat opposite the three politicians. Phil Coulter was the leader of the controlling group, and they knew each other from the Golf Club. On his right was a woman he also knew well, Margaret Kelly. The other man was someone he had seen around, but couldn’t place. Phil asked him to tell what had happened in his own words, and Alex went through it chronologically. His wife had been having an affair with a younger man at work. When she had been away on an assignation with her lover, the son of his next door neighbour had been murdered, after discovering a burglar in the house. The police had eventually focused their attention on him simply because he had been at home that night, and lived next door. They had no clues, no suspects, and no other motive to work with. When they had been unable to tie him to the murder, a policewoman had instigated a lesbian relationship with his wife, hoping to make her tell lies about him. He had come across that by chance, when he had been out buying a new waterproof suit, and spotted them together. As a result of this, he had now engaged a legal team to represent him, and he was sure the police would be issuing a full apology soon.
After finishing his account, Alex leaned forward, rubbing his temples for effect. “In such a short space of time, my life has been turned upside down. My wife of more than twenty years has betrayed me twice, and a group of incompetent police officers has conspired against me to justify their jobs. I really have no idea what is going on, Phil. I assure you.”
Coulter looked at Mary and the other man in turn, slowly nodding to them both. When Alex sat back up, he began speaking, sounding sympathetic in tone. “We understand from the Chief Constable that the three officers responsible have gone. One has resigned, and two have requested transfers. I agreed with him that was in the best interests of all concerned, as any disciplinary action would have just caused everything to drag on. He tells me that the investigation will continue, but you will no longer be the focus of it. I do hope that your legal action will be resolved quickly too, and we can all put this unpleasantness behind us. Meanwhile, we will be issuing a statement giving you our complete support, and letting everyone know that you will continue in your job, with an unblemished record. How does that sound to you?”
Alex stood up, and shook hands with each of them in turn. “I would like to thank you, and assure you that this will not affect me carrying out my duties”. Phil smiled warmly. “And when things calm down, how about nine holes one Sunday morning? It’s been a while since we played”. Alex nodded, saving his own smile for when he was outside the room.
Neil Williamson was addressing his team, and Superintendent Singh was sitting in to listen too. “Right, all of you listen up. We are going to go back over everything, and I mean everything. I want the CCTV gone over, and I mean all of it, and any statements scrutinised word for word. Crime scene photos will be reexamined, and anyone who might have been in the immediate area re-interviewed. Until you hear otherwise from me, the case of Allan Sinclair gets your complete attention, is that clear? And I cannot stress this enough, but nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to approach either of the Conroys, or say anything to the press, or his lawyer Julian Carpenter. Now, off you go, get busy, and bring me some results”.
Derek Farley had a team of three on the story. The Nationals had picked up on it, and were running with the scandal aspect of course. He was digging deep into the Conroys, and the Sinclair family. But after they had worked all through the night, studied dozens of documents, and used every one of their contacts on the Council, and in the Police, they had nothing on Alex. The man had literally done nothing interesting. He didn’t even smoke cigarettes, let alone have some exciting dark past. The Sinclairs were a dead end. Reliable working people who had never so much as been caught speeding. The only thing Derek had on them was that they had hidden Allan’s condition. But that was something he had already used. If he was going to keep the story bubbling, he knew they had to come up with something. Meanwhile, they would use what they had on Sergeant Sally Wilcox, and her same sex marriage to a distinguished Police Commander.
Then young Abby Coulter appeared, her face beaming like a lighthouse. Her father was a politician, the local County Council leader, on his second term, and very popular. When he had asked Derek to offer his daughter a start as a junior reporter, he had been happy to oblige.
The girl was grinning so wide, she couldn’t speak properly. “I have just come from the Vet’s where Lucy Conroy works. She wasn’t in today, so I couldn’t get to speak to her. But you will never guess who I did find”. She showed Derek a photo on her phone. A young man with black hair, and a moody look on his face. “His name is Eduardo, and he was having an affair with Lucy for almost a year. He is the reason she wasn’t home that night, as they were off at some hotel miles away. He has agreed to give us an exclusive, and he asked for one thousand pounds. I told him that if you agreed, I will ring him, and he will come in after work”.
Derek sat back in his chair. “Good work, Abby”.
To be continued…