750 words: hay bales, part 5
Yikes. Nearly forgot about writing today. Is the end in sight? Absolutely no idea. Ask the characters.
back in the hotel, james was less confident about his ability to follow through on the blackmail scheme. he had edited one of the photographs, making it look like it had been captured on an iphone by lowering the resolution, changing the crop and blurring parts of the image. in particular, he blurred enough of kat’s features so that she was largely unrecognisable, making it look as if light flare had obscured her. there was still enough to remind colin of his escapade, though, and it was this that made james draw back. he knew that kat had screwed the creep and the creep knew this but the idea of handing him a souvenir of the fact turned james’ stomach.
he had to admit to himself that he still loved kat. could he forgive her this transgression? probably not. their marriage was almost certainly over but he did still love her. james could remember too much good about kat and their times together. he could not hurt her, could not want to hurt her, much as he thought he should. but a great wrong had been committed and it had to be righted. silly as it sounded, james believed in balance. he knew there was no such thing as cosmic justice, but he believed there ought to be. if someone does something bad to someone else, then something bad ought to happen to them. he hoped that kat would see the end of their marriage as a bad thing happening to her. but he knew that the creep would see the end of his own marriage in those terms.
so, he got on with it. after editing the image and modifying the metadata to obscure its origin on his camera, he transferred it to the phone he had just purchased. he did not think that it was possible to tell what sort of phone a message came from but, even if it was, he doubted this was something colin would be bothered about investigating.
he was about to send the message when he worried that the creep would open it in the company of his wife or other people. there was no way to be certain but james rang his office anyway and asked to speak to him. the secretary asked what it was about and james made up some story about having met colin the previous month, discussed some lucrative business and now wanting to follow through on it. the secretary put james through and he hung up as soon as the creep answered. just to make sure that he had his phone with him, james rang his number directly and, again, hung up when it was answered.
no doubt, the creep was getting annoyed. well, now to get him scared. james sent the photograph with the simple message, ‘you take a nice shot. think your wife would like a copy?’
the reply came back almost immediately. the guy’s thumbs must have been burning. ‘who are u. how did u get that. what do u want.’
well, thought james, at least he got to the important bit by the end. james thought to send a demand straight back but decided to let colin stew for a while. for a long while. james returned to the conference and enjoyed the rest of the sessions, the pre-dinner drinks and the conference dinner.
he was more than a little drunk by the time he returned to his room. the blackmail phone was vibrating as he opened the door. he drank three glasses of water using the plastic bathroom cups before checking the phone. there were seven messages waiting for him and the phone had been called three times. it seemed that colin really wanted to talk to his photographer. all the messages were variations on the same theme of wanting to know what james wanted. he deleted all of them and switched the phone off.
it was then that his own phone rang. james jumped up from the bed, dropping the blackmail phone and checked the display on his own phone. it was kat calling and it seemed she had called twice previously. he thumbed the call button and answered, ‘hello, love. sorry i didn’t get your calls. i left the phone up here during the sessions and didn’t come back before dinner. how are you?’
he spoke as much mundanity as he could in the hope that his own mind would still before he would have to take part in any exchange with his wife. ‘you sound drunk,’ she said. ‘i am very drunk,’ he replied. ‘the pre-dinner drinks were sponsored by one firm, the dinner wine by another and then another pitched in with cognacs all round. you ought to have come with me.’
james wondered if the last comment had been over the top. kat had never accompanied him to a conference before, had stated her dismal view of conference spouses in the past and james had long ago stopped inviting her. she surprised him with, ‘i wish i had as well. work has been dreadful today. i really wish you were here to talk to.’
this took james aback. kat had never said anything of the sort before. she had prided herself on being able to take whatever her colleagues or customers handed out without crumbling ‘like a weepy woman.’ she had always said that she had to be tougher than anyone else and had carried through that policy even into her home life. james had learned not to offer any sympathy when she told him about work difficulties, just to back her up with whatever plan she had for overcoming them.
‘we can talk now,’ he said. ‘no,’ she answered, ‘it can wait until you come back tomorrow. i’ll let you get to bed so that you are fresh for tomorrow.’ they did chat a little longer but soon disconnected.
what was that about, wondered james. he found out.
he arrived home late the following evening, tired and still with an unshifting headache from the morning’s hangover. kat greeted him with affection, leading him into the dining room where she had laid out a light supper. ‘i thought you might like a snack before bed, to unwind from the conference and train journey. do you want a drink?’ james asked for tea. kat waited while he sat down and started cutting into the cold meat and salad on the plate, then went to make the tea.
james heard the kettle switch off in the kitchen but heard no sound of the tea being made. he went upstairs to their bedroom. kat had strewn clothes from his travel bag all over the bed and was now sweeping her hands through his laptop case.
‘what are you doing?’ he asked. kat spun around with papers in one hand and his phone in the other. ‘erm. i’m just unpacking for you, so you can go straight to bed after supper if you’re tired.’
‘thanks,’ said james. ‘i’ll make the tea then. do you want some?’