This is the twenty-seventh part of a fiction serial, in 1100 words.
Lucy heard a knock on her bedroom door, then Alex speaking. “Can you come down please, Lucy? Julian Carpenter is here to see you. I will give you ten minutes to get presentable”. He walked away, not waiting for a reply. She dragged a brush through her hair, but couldn’t be bothered with any make-up. The last three weeks had felt like living in a prison. When the newspaper had run the awful story with Eduardo’s side of everything, and the allegations that she had conspired with Sally to set up Alex, she had felt sick. It was all over the TV too, and reporters turned up outside once again. She had sought sanctuary in the guest room, and ordered groceries online for evening delivery.
Alex had been remarkably friendly. She still cooked his meals and did his washing, and though he ate without making conversation, he had made no reference to the article in her presence. In fact, he had given a TV interview outside the house, defending her, and describing the allegations as ‘utter nonsense’. But his apparent good mood wasn’t helping her growing fear of him. She was more than ever convinced he had killed poor Allan, even though she had no idea why he might have done it. Work had phoned, asking for a doctor’s note. They said they couldn’t pay her without one, and asked if she would please come in for a chat about her future. She suspected they were going to fire her, over using the premises to have sex with Eduardo. Apparently, he had already left, rather than be sacked. So she had resigned over the phone. She would explore her options when all this mess was over.
Julian stood as she entered the room. He knew his manners. “Mrs Conroy, lovely to see you again”. He extended a hand. “I have some papers to go through with you, and I would very much appreciate your full attention. Is that OK?” Lucy nodded and sat at the dining table opposite him. Alex left the room, without a word. Julian began, not pausing for any replies or questions. “So, we all know that you had an extra-marital affair with Eduardo Acosta that lasted for close to a year. This involved lying to your husband about your whereabouts, inventing fictitious female friends, and even going so far as to discuss a new career that you never had any intention of pursuing”. He slid a second sheet from the pile. “You then arranged at least one clandestine meeting with a female detective involved in the case of the murder of your next door neighbour, possibly with a view to embarking on a lesbian relationship with her. The other possibility is that you were already colluding with her to incriminate your husband in the murder, and arranged the weekend trip with Eduardo in consultation with the woman who had become your new girlfriend”. Lucy started to speak, and Julian held up his hand to stop her.
But Lucy would not be silenced. “I confessed about Eduardo. I only started with him because Alex neglected me sexually, and hardly noticed me. I’m not proud of it, but I had my reasons, and Alex has to take some responsibility for driving me into the arms of another man. As for Sally Wilcox, that’s all rubbish. She befriended me, and asked to come dress shopping. I had no romantic feelings for her at all. Until the murder, I had never heard of her, let alone met her, and I certainly had no idea that Allan would be murdered that weekend. How could I?”
Julian waited until she had finished. “Lucy, may I call you Lucy? I am not judging you, don’t think that. I am merely stating the facts as they have come out, and I am not debating the rights and wrongs of your situation. But you must realise that your position in this house is untenable, and that Mr Conroy intends to apply for a divorce, on the grounds of adultery. Adultery that you have freely admitted I might add. Given recent reports in the press, and the ongoing investigation, I suggest that it would be best if you listen to my proposal. Are you happy to do that, or do you wish to employ your own legal advice?” Lucy swallowed hard, sat back in her seat, and nodded.
“From information provided to me by your husband, and a current estimate of the value of your house, I have reached a figure of three hundred thousand pounds. You will be given that money in a few months, once he has put his affairs in order. In return, you will leave tonight, with enough things to get by for a while, and stay at a hotel I have arranged for you. The hotel bill, and all meals, will be paid for by Mr Conroy, as well as reasonable expenses to cover day to day living. Your other clothes and possessions will be carefully packed up and sent on, once you have established a permanent forwarding address. Or they can be put into storage, if you so wish. You will agree to an uncontested divorce on the grounds of your adultery, and also sign a non-disclosure agreement, a promise to say nothing more about anything to the press. You will have no rights to any other money in the future, including access to your husband’s pension, or any extra should the house be sold. The sum mentioned will be in full and final settlement, and the ownership of this property, and anything left in it, will be transferred into the sole name of your husband. Is that all clear to you?” Lucy nodded again. “You could of course say no, and defend the divorce in court. In law, you are entitled to half of everything, but that amounts to much the same as what we are offering”.
Lucy sat quietly for a while. It seemed like too long to Julian, so he continued. “You would have substantial legal bills if this goes to divorce court, not to mention the press attention starting up all over again, and focusing on you this time”. He sat back, and folded his arms. If he had expected Lucy to be upset, he was wrong. She was smiling. The meeting had taken her by surprise, but the offer was better than her wildest dreams. She could escape from Alex, go anywhere she liked.
She looked Julian straight in the eye.
“Where do I sign?”
To be continued…