Mark Flatterby, a man in his late fifties, lived moderately, surrounding himself with colleagues, friends of respectable character, a wife and two children. All good on the Flatterby front then until a certain Maureen Cartwright turned up to work as an intern in his department: she was a student at the local university, yet seemed to have a character unsuited to scholarly pursuits.
What is of interest is that she had a flighty way with her and a manner of ducking her head to the left and smiling at you as if she and you had discovered a special connection. She had a “look” which I understand could slip the moorings of the most grounded man.
It seems the solid dependable Mark had taken young Maureen out to lunch to discuss her future, after purchasing a significantly expensive diamond and ruby necklace which he said would remind her of the glorious times they had shared during the course of her summer job, which in reality meant no more than the odd coffee in the canteen and quick remarks shared by the water fountain. Needless to say, she accepted the necklace without hesitation and took to wearing it at work and rewarding her gallant superior with more coy head movements and a small helping of shy and bashful simpering.
The necklace was followed by a matching bracelet because, as Mark had told her, it seemed a bit half-hearted not to give her the whole set, and so it might have continued had his wife not allowed her eyes to stray across her dull husbands credit card statement where she spotted two items amounting to four and a half thousand pounds with the name Buttermere jewellery against them. Not having received any surprise gifts in the last thirty-four years her suspicions were aroused.
Following a short conversation on his return from work he could be seen leaving the house, suitcase packed, and with his ears still ringing from his wife’s choicer observations about his character, also including “incidents” from their distant past, kept in her mental “trophy cabinet” where all the details of his previous crimes were preserved in undimmed glory.
That’s where I enter the story: after a phone call outlining the situation, I had gone to the bar of the Railway Hotel to find Mark holding up a glass of wine, clearly not his first, and smiling at me with a mixture of hope and resignation.
“Come with me Nige” said Mark and his vocal chords slid around the “G” in a way suggesting it was no longer safe for him to drive. “Where are we going?” I asked and he told me, “I‘ve burnt my boats and now I must propose to Maureen.” He had decided to throw himself at the mercy of Adventure; a goddess of uncertain character. “Is that wise?” I said but he told me that he had discovered his inner fire: love had called from the shadows and he must visit her and other nonsense believed by those who think fate might save us from our character.
A ring had been purchased, at Buttermere Jewellers of course, and we were set to travel to Maureen’s home, with me providing the gallant romantic with a steady supply of Dutch courage. When we arrived I settled discreetly out of sight but near enough to hear the speech we had rehearsed on our brief dream-filled journey.
After peeking indiscreetly round the corner I saw a guy open the door. He was built like a rugby player come boxer, who it quickly transpired was her current fiancé: he made his displeasure felt by means of a short but pointed demonstration of fist flexibility, after which Mark and I returned to his new abode.
Not all was lost, because Mrs Flatterby always believed that if you are going to marry a fool, you might as well stick with the fool you know. Apparently, love can survive the impact of an occasional reckless impulse and I am pleased to say that, following further purchases of jewellery and a “surprise” holiday for two in the Caribbean, he was allowed back inside the marital home, whilst this most grievous and recent crime took pride of place in his good ladies trophy cabinet, ready to be exhibited at the first sign of a transgression: let us hope that never happens