THE DILEMMA — Part 1 The Holiday (By Ray Abinett)
Herbie Stuart stood on the edge of the runway watching the Cessna plane, his flight out of the remote Indian ocean island; disappear into the distance without him. It had been the fulfilment of a lifetime’s dream to come to the island to see the natural habitat. He had arrived two days ago with three other people. There was Judy, good looking with red hair and dressed in jeans and T shirt with “I’m FREE” printed on it. She looked about his age of forty, and was in the process of getting a divorce due to her husband’s infidelity. She had decided to get a long way away while it was being sorted so this trip had been ideal for her. He secretly quite fancied her. Then there was Ron, a South Londoner who had come looking for a friend he had known many years before when serving in the army, and had been disappointed and very upset when he learnt that his friend had died a year ago. And finally there was Carol. What can be said about beautiful Carol; she was about thirty, blue eyes, with long auburn hair tied in a pony tail and a figure any man would swoon over, and maybe die for. He never did find out why she had really made the journey.
In the distance, where the plane had now disappeared, Herbie could see that the sky was black and storm clouds were building up, which didn’t look good. Why the heck the charter airplane couldn’t wait another five minutes beat him, especially as it pilot had taken his £500 for a return trip. He could only guess that he had seen the approaching storm and didn’t want to get caught up in it. No doubt the others had made it back in time, lucky so and so’s. He shifted his backpack to sit more comfortable on his shoulders – there wasn’t much in it, only his mobile phone, camera equipment, water bottle and some fruit bars for sustenance, which he had bought with him from England. He had a few Euros’ which the locals preferred to their own currency
He was furious with his situation and kicked at one of the many stones that lay scattered around and on the dirt laden primitive runway that looked like it hadn’t been cleared for aircraft for some time.
‘Sod, Sod it.’ He shouted out loud towards the forest of trees which began fifty yards away, and surrounded the clearing, and then mumbled to himself;
‘What the bloody hell am I going to do now?’
Looking around him he couldn’t see a single person in sight to ask what he should do. When they had all arrived the Cessna had landed on this dirt clearing, cut out of a forest area, and a couple of locals had appeared as if by magic and offered to show them the way to their digs for the two nights they were to stay. The promise of a tour guide when he booked the trip never transpired: he would have something to say to the tour company about that when he got back, and he would ask for a refund as well. The locals had offered to guide them around the island to see the wildlife and Herbie had some good camera shots of Lemurs, exotic birds and lizards: and the scenery was magnificent. They had managed to negotiate a good deal with some of the locals for assistance, which actually turned out not too bad, as they were taken to areas that they may not have otherwise seen.
He decided to return to the village that he had stayed in as there was no chance of using his mobile phone to call the mainland for someone to fly back and pick him up where he was now. The only means of contacting anyone off the island was by short wave radio, and that was situated in a small wooden hut in the village where they had stayed. Unfortunately the village was a good hour away and he hoped he could beat the approaching storm. Tropical storms could be deadly if caught in them so he started back at a fast pace. He knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace for long as the forest area was dense in some places and the high humidity would certainly slow him down. It was a good job he had some bottled water with him.
He hadn’t gone far into the forest, when he heard some movement ahead and voices.
‘Hey look who it is.’ he heard a female voice say. Then a man’s voice replied;
‘It’s Herbie Judy; thank goodness we are in the right place. I was beginning to think that we had it wrong.’
Herbie stopped; shocked to hear the voices of two of the people he thought had just flown off, and then see them coming towards him through the trees.
‘What are you two doing here, I thought you two and Carol had flown off in the plane. I must have missed it by about a couple of minutes; although I thought I was early and had plenty of time.’
Judy was bending over with her hands on her knees and panting from the exhaustion of the heat and exertion of having just struggled to get there;
‘We waited for you and Carol.’ Ron said. ‘But then we were told that you had left, and we couldn’t find Carol so we came on thinking she must have left too. We saw the plane cross the island. The rotten toad; you were right he did leave half an hour early without trying to contact us to say he was leaving early. He must have seen those black clouds and got cold feet. We shouldn’t have paid him until we got back to the mainland.’
‘So what do we do now then?’ said Judy looking attractive in her shorts and clinging T shirt in spite of her sweating profusely,
‘Well I was just about to go back to the village to try and contact the mainland on their radio.’
Judy and Ron both sat down on their backpacks and Judy looked up at Herbie and said;
‘It’s taken us nearly an hour to get here, and I was so pleased to see you. I don’t think I could make it back to the village right now though.’
Ron nodded in agreement, and Herbie saw he was looking whacked out, after all he was in his late sixties, and then Ron said;
‘This is a real dilemma, if we hang about too long we are going to get caught in that storm that’s brewing. And if we try and make it back to the village we will still get caught up in the storm because of the time it will take to get back there. I don’t think I can make it, you will both have to leave me here and I will try and find some shelter and stay there until it’s safe for you to come back to me.’
‘Nonsense Ron, we can’t leave you out here on your own.’ Herbie said, putting his backpack down and wiping the wet off his face with his hand.
‘Herbie’s right Ron,’ said Judy, ‘we can’t leave you on your own, think of the snakes and insects that are crawling about and goodness knows what else. It’s just not safe.’
‘So we have yet another dilemma now.’ said Herbie, now seeing Judy in a different light, and liking what he saw. He thought her husband must have been crazy to leave such an attractive and caring woman. ‘Well we have to do something, let’s see if we can find some safe shelter for all of us and after the storm we can go back to the village then.’
They started back to the airstrip with Herbie and Judy helping Ron with his backpack. As they got to the edge of the trees there was a shout from behind them.
‘What are you all doing there; I’ve been looking for you, you’re in the wrong place?’
They all stopped and turned to see Carol jogging over towards them.
‘What the heck?’ exclaimed Judy?
As Carol came up to them looking not a bit out of breath, she said;
‘You’ve come to the old runway, we don’t use this one any more, You should have turned left instead of right when you got to the large tree near the waterfall.’
‘One tree looks like another,’ mumbled Ron
When they followed Carol, it was only a short walk to the runway that was used now. The only difference was the there was no large stones on it, but it was still dirt laden. As they approached the plane on the runway they couldn’t see the pilot.
‘So where is the pilot?’ asked Herbie.’
‘I’m the pilot, didn’t I tell you. I’m doing the return run while Jack, the pilot that flew you in has a break. We take it in turns.’
‘So that’s why you came with us. But what about those storm clouds and what was that plane I saw leaving.’ Herbie asked.
‘Don’t worry about the black clouds they are heading a different way to us. And the plane you saw was one from a neighbouring island, it flies across this island. I think he will have a little problem if he was heading towards the black clouds; now then, all aboard everyone.’
As Herbie helped Judy aboard she squeezed his hand. Ron noticed this and when they were all sat down Ron leaned across to Herbie and nodding towards Judy, he whispered;
‘I think you’re in there lad.’
Herbie smiled and whispered back;
‘I hope so Ron, I do hope so.’ and settled back in his seat and closed his eyes as the Cessna left the ground.
THE DILEMMA – Part 2 (The Marriage Caper)
Herbie Stuart woke with a start. He had been dreaming about desert islands and girls in grass skirts. Disappointed that it was only a dream he looked around and realised that he was still in the Cessna airplane on it’s way to Madagascar having just left a small island which he had been visiting to capture on camera it’s beautiful animal life and scenery.
It had been a fairly uneventful trip, except for the panic attack he had had when he thought that the plane had left to return to Madagascar without him. He blamed Carol for this who it turned out was the relief pilot for the trip. The pilot, Frank, who had taken him out to the island had stayed behind for a break. She had forgotten to tell him and the other passengers all the return flight details. Anyway they were nearly back now and looking out of the window he could see the small airport, situated just outside Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, that they were approaching. Antananarivo was historically the capital of the Merina people, who continue to form the majority of the city’s inhabitants.
The other passengers in the plane was Ron, a South Londoner who had come looking for a friend he had known many years before when serving in the army, and had been disappointed and very upset when he learnt that his friend had died a year ago.
Also Judy, good looking with red hair and dressed in jeans and T shirt with “I’m FREE” printed on it. She looked about his age of forty, and had told him that she was in the process of getting a divorce due to her husband’s infidelity. He had got on well with Judy and she had seemed to have taken to him. The fact that she had squeezed his hand as he had helped her into the plane just before takeoff was a good indication that things might be changing for him soon. Carol had come as a passenger on the flight out which gave the impression that she was on holiday as well, only for them to find out about her being the relief return pilot.
The Cessna did a sharp turn to the right as it made to land on what looked to be a very short runway. He clenched the armrests on his seat, but needn’t have worried because Carol made a perfect landing and stopped just short of the end of the runway.
‘That landing was a bit tight Herbie.’ said Ron as he took several deep breaths, no doubt he had been holding his breath as they landed like Herbie had.
‘Yes, I didn’t take any notice of the length of the runway when we took off; Frank must have made a shorter run at it.’
Herbie noticed that Judy was looking perplexed at her mobile phone as she had a serious look on her face.
‘Anything wrong Judy/’ Herbie asked.
‘Maybe, but I will find out later Herbie.’ She replied
The plane taxied towards the single building on the side of the runway and came to a stop. Carol turned round and said;
‘We’re here folks. I hope you have all enjoyed the trip. If you head to the reception area someone will direct you to your transport back to your hotels. Good luck everyone.’
The reception building consisted of a half brick half metal construction which had seen better days. The green painted corrugated roof was peeling, showing the metal fabric below in many places. The reception area consisted of a single badly worn Formica type desk and a horrible looking green and beige sofa with sunken seat and dented arm rests, and looked about ready to collapse. The woman behind the desk gave them details that a taxi was outside waiting to take them back to their hotels and hoped they had all had a pleasant holiday. Herbie thought, “Yes the holiday was ok but the lack of a official guide, which had been promised in the brochure, meant that they had to depend on local natives to show them round.” He had intended to complain but decided against it as the natives had been good and took them to places of great interest.
The taxi was waiting on a strip of dried up barren land outside the building and they were taken back to their hotel without any problems. As they picked up their room keys, Judy whispered to Herbie;
‘Do you think I could I have a private word with you later Herbie?’
Herbie agreed to meet her in the restaurant in an hour. As he made his way back to his room he thought that the way Judy had asked made it sound mysterious. He had got on well with her while on the island visit and liked her a lot. He had been hoping to see Judy again when they got back to England anyway, so perhaps he could see what she said later.
Later after a quick shower, shave and a change of clothes Herbie entered the hotels classic restaurant that reminded him somewhat of something out of a 1940’s Agatha Christie story, he was shown to a table situated against a wall with a large ornate mirror on the wall above. He had arrived first. A few minutes later Judy was shown to his table by the Maitre d’hotel. She looked beautiful as she was now dressed in a simple figure hugging black dress that fitted in all the right places. When Judy had seated herself with the assistance of the Maitre d’hotel Herbie said;
‘Judy you look…er..well.. Gorgeous.’
‘Well thank you Herbie; you don’t look so bad yourself.’ and she touched his hand as she said it. Which made Herbie tingle where it shouldn’t.
After all the compliments and they were settled, Herbie called the waiter over and ordered drinks. A short time later another waiter appeared and took their order for their meal.
\then Herbie asked; ‘Judy, what did you want to talk to me about?’
As Judy went to answer, the drinks arrived, and after the drinks waiter left Judy said;
‘Herbie, I understand from what you told me while we were on the island that you have worked in the police force in England.’
Herbie took a sip of his Bourbon and replied; ‘I was a full time copper a couple of years ago but left after a dispute on a case I was working on and set up as private investigator.
I’ve had a few successes but nothing complicated. Why do you ask?’
‘On the plane when you asked if anything was wrong, I had just received a text from a girl friend of mine who was helping me through the minefield of my divorce from my husband Gerry.’ Herbie raised an eyebrow inquisitively. ‘Oh well…. she had the same problem a year ago, and got a successful settlement.’ said Judy.
Herbie smiled and said; ‘Sounds like the right person to know right now.’
‘I’m afraid it’s not as simple as her situation,’
‘Tell me Judy? Why are you divorcing your husband really? I know you said he was being unfaithful but sometimes people make up and change their ways. Couldn’t you and Gerry have done the same?’
‘I’m afraid that’s not possible, I have tried in the past, but he is serial womaniser. I can handle the womaniser bit with the help of my friend but not what she has texted me about. She has told me that she has found out he wants all of my business as a payoff. I haven’t told you this but I own a small publishing house which I inherited from my Father. I am frightened he might have found a way to get it; and that’s my dilemma; should I fight him on his infidelity in the hope that the court will be on my side and give him nothing, or try to agree a financial settlement with him: which I know he would probably win and get a large chunk of my business.’ as Judy said this a waiter brought their meals. A fish dish for Judy and a steak dish for Herbie,
‘That sounds bad Judy. How long have you been married for?’
‘Four years. Most of them have been a nightmare. But it has now become too much and I have had enough of his antics.’
‘What do you think I could do to help then?’ Herbie asked, picking up his knife and fork to attack his medium rare steak.
‘He’s trying to counter my divorce claim of his unfaithful behaviour by saying that I was responsible for his actions due to my lack of physical attention. In other words he said I didn’t want sex with him.’
‘Is that true Judy, the bit about you not wanting it?’
‘Of course not; I was all for it most of the time, up to when he made womanising a hobby, but he didn’t – having satisfied himself elsewhere. And another thing, he used to come home drunk as well at times, and I had to get him undressed and into bed.’ Judy had tried to start on her meal but was only picking at it; Herbie saw she had tears in the corner of her eyes as she said this.
‘Ok,’ said Herbie, ‘Let’s enjoy our meal for now and then we can go and sit in the hotel lounge and talk about what can be done to protect your business.’
After their delicious meal, and then choosing, and enjoying their selection from the sweet trolley, they asked to have their coffees brought out to them in the lounge, where there was more comfortable seating. It would also give Herbie a chance to sit close to Judy, and find out a bit more about her and her background.
Leaving their table they made their way to a quite spot in the hotel lounge and almost immediately a waiter brought them a tray with a pot of coffee, small coffee cups and saucers and a plate of cake delicacies.
‘The service is very good here. I must remember to praise them on the internet.’ Herbie said.
Judy poured the coffee for them both and as she did so Herbie asked;
‘Can you give me some more details about your ex husband…er… to be.’
Judy passed a cup of coffee to Herbie and said;
‘Gerry used to work in the city of London until we married, then over a period of two years he packed up work and lived off my income from the publishing business. From what my friend has told me he has already employed a solicitor to take the case on and intends to bankrupt me and sell the business.’
Herbie sat thinking for a few seconds about all the scenarios that could take place, and how he could possibly help Judy. Obviously, Gerry’s solicitor thought that he had a good chance of doing the dirty on her as they had been married for four years. He wasn’t so sure about the lack of sex in the marriage, as it would be one person’s word against the other. Picking up his coffee cup he said;
‘Can you give all the details of where he lives, his routines anyone he is friendly with and anything else that you think I should know about him.’
They talked for some time and when it was nearly 1.00am Herbie asked Judy if she would like a nightcap in his room. She said yes without hesitation and they left the hotel lounge and made their way back to his room. They didn’t finish the bottle of wine they had taken up with them, or get much sleep that night.
They arrived back in London two days later having spent a short time seeing the sights of Antananarivo. Judy left to go home and Herbie made a phone call to an old friend of his, Jack Tring who knew the way the financial system worked in the City; and had made money on many devious deals. He was not averse to a little rule changing.
Herbie told Jack;
‘This guy Gerry used to work in the City and I was thinking maybe he has been involved in some dodgy deals which is maybe why he left his job. If you could delve into his business more, and, like, get into his apartment, then perhaps we can find some incriminating evidence that would scuttle his claim to Judy’s business. I’m asking you to help me here as you would recognise any paperwork better than I would. However, be very careful Jack, I don’t want to scare him in any way.’
‘Leave him to me Herbie. I think I know what to do.’ replied Jack.
Gerry came out of the apartment block he was staying in and walked up to the bus stop on his way to see his solicitor at Hennessey and Partners. Jack Tring saw him leave and made his way to the apartment, having been told the number of it by Herbie. Picking the lock he entered the apartment and searched it. Looking through Gerry’s private papers he found some paperwork, but it wasn’t what he had thought he’d find, and realised that Gerry had been living an appalling lie. He photographed the papers and left the apartment.
Herbie received the call from Jack later that day and was surprised and also delighted, when Jack told him what he had found.
‘Are you ready Judy?’ asked Herbie, holding her arm as they arrived at the court building where the preliminary divorce case evidence was being presented,
‘I think I will be alright Herbie, thanks for supporting me today.’ But Judy was feeling nervous as they made their way to the courtroom. Waiting for them was her counsellor with a sheaf if papers in his hand.
‘Just answer the questions simply Judy when asked by the Judge. He’s a fair Judge. But don’t worry I think we have the upper hand in this case anyway.’ and nodded to Herbie as he said this. Herbie gave a nod back.
As they entered the courtroom Judy saw her husband Gerry sitting next to his Counsellor, looking sober for a change, and with a smirk on his face. Judy sat down and Herbie sat in the courtroom behind a barrier and next to an attractive blond haired woman.
‘Be upstanding for Judge Menzies Caulter.’ said the courtroom clerk.
The judge looked over his glasses around the courtroom and then towards Gerry’s table and said;
‘This is a preliminary hearing to establish the details of the divorce case between Gerald Wright and Judith Wright. I have in front of me papers that say that due to the impending divorce between said couple, Gerald Wright is asking for a considerable settlement from Judith Wright made up in the main from the Publishing business owned by Judith Wright. 75% is the amount being claimed.’
There was a gasp from Judy who looked completely shocked. Gerry turned towards her and grinned. Judy’s counsellor sat stone faced and said nothing, just looking down at the papers in front of him.
The judge asked for an acknowledgement of his statement, which was duly given by Gerry’s counsellor.
The Judge turned to Judy’s Counsellor and asked;
‘Do you have anything to say to these claims?’
Judy’s Counsellor stood up and said;
‘I have just received today, information which overrides any claim by the claimant.’ Judy looked up at him in surprise as he handed a copy to the Courtroom Clerk to pass to the Judge.
The Judge perused the document and looked at Judy’s Counsellor, saying;
‘Please carry on Counsellor and tell the court of this new evidence.’
‘You’re Honour, The papers I have here state that Gerald Wright bigamously married Judith Cooper which is Judith Wright’s maiden name, and has been living three parallel lives for four years. He is still married to Josie Wright, who is his first legitimate wife, and also bigamously married to Donna Peacock. He has managed to hide this information from Judith Cooper, pretending he was womanising. He has deceived Judith Cooper and lived off stolen money from her Publishing business to the sum of 750,000 pounds. This was achieved by the means of Josie Wright, his legitimate wife, working for Cooper Publishing in their accounts department for the last four years, and siphoning off funds. And also,’ said Judy’s councillor pointing at the blond woman sitting behind him next to Herbie, ’Dona Peacock was in with the scam; in fact it was her original idea after Gerald Wright had met Judith Cooper. I therefore ask that this case be dropped.
Further arrests will be made in due course to settle the other elements of the case.’ As the Counsellor said this, a police officer approached Donna Peacock to prevent her escaping from the court; Herbie had sat there to prevent her getting away.
When Judy got onside the courtroom she said to Herbie;
‘I still don’t understand how all this new evidence came about Herbie, and I am very upset that Josie has managed to take all that money from my business without anyone spotting it.’
‘Well you see Judy that was the clever bit by Gerry. Because he was supposedly married to the boss, he had been going into the office and covering up the theft with Josie. After all who was going to disagree with Gerry anyway? It was only when my friend Jack got into Gerry’s apartment that he found all the evidence against him. Like, marriage certificates, account sheets with details of payments into several different bank accounts, which incidentally still have a large amount of your money in them, so you shouldn’t lose much from the scam. And wasn’t it good to see that smirk wiped off of Gerry’s face as he was marched out of the court room and into the cells with Donna. Incidentally, Josie was being picked up by the police from your company as this was all going on.’
‘Oh Herbie, it was the best day of my life when I met you, thank you ever so much.’
‘And mine Judy.’ He said giving her a hug. ‘Do you know what Judy; the other good thing to come out of this is that Gerry won’t get a red cent from you now as you were never married to him, and he’s a criminal so he won’t be very popular in the City now either.’
Herbie took Judy’s hand, and pointing over the road, said;
‘Fancy a pub lunch at the Wheatsheaf over there. Then we can decide where we go from here.’
Judy looked up at him and replied;
‘Oh I know where I want to go Herbie.’
‘And where is that then?’
‘As I’m not actually married, if you like….. we can go back to my place to finish that drink we started in Madagascar.’
‘I like.’ said Herbie.
THE DILEMMA – Part 3 (The Troublesome Man)
Charles Herbert Stewart, Herbie to his friends, and Judith Stewart, Judy to her friends, found the man lying in bracken at the edge of the wooded pathway only fifty yards from their cottage. They had only just moved to the cottage, close to woodland, and had decided to have a break from the work they were doing on the cottage, and at the same time it would give them an opportunity to explore the wood.
At first glance the man looked to be dead. There was no movement, he had a pasty complexion and his eyes were wide open staring fixedly and unblinking at the top of the tree he was lying under.
‘Do you suppose he’s dead Herbie?’
‘He looks as if he’s had a terrible shock Judy …..Or perhaps a stroke, but he’s not dead as I can see he‘s trying to move his closed fist.’ Herbie replied bending down to examine the man closer. Herbie touched the man’s shoulder, but he didn’t respond. He then tried to open his closed fist but the man moved his hand sideways.
‘Try and sit him up Herbie.’
‘Not sure if that’s the right thing to do, but I’ll try.’
Putting his arm under the man’s shoulders, Herbie gently lifted him into a near sitting position. The man’s eyes blinked and he stared directly at Herbie and gave a rasping cough. Herbie nearly let him go at the suddenness of this, and could see now that the man had dried blood on the back of his head. Judy helped Herbie, and said to the man;
‘Do you think your fit enough to walk a few yards? Our cottage is only just outside the woods. The man appeared to realise what was happening and nodded to Judy. He then leaned forward at the same time giving another rasping cough.
‘Come on then old chap; let’s get you somewhere more comfortable and you can tell us what happened to you.’ said Herbie; and with Judy help they struggled to raise the man to his feet. Then Herbie and Judy managed to get the man slowly back to their cottage. When they were indoors they helped the man to sit in one of their comfortable armchairs next to a wood burning fireplace.
‘Can I get you a drink or anything? ‘Judy asked.
The man, who had now started to be more responsive, said in a croaky voice.
A cup of tea would be nice. Thanks.’
While Judy went out into the kitchen to make a pot of tea Herbie decided to try and find out more about him.
‘What happened to you back in the woods then? You were in a pretty bad way. If we hadn’t come along, goodness knows what could have happened to you.’
The man, who now appeared to be fully aware of what was being said gave another cough then lay back in the armchair. Suddenly he sat back up; looking startled, and said;
‘What are you saying about woods? Where am I? What is this place? Am I near Charles place?’
Herbie, who worked as a private investigator began to be a little suspicious. One minute the man couldn’t say anything, being out to the world staring upwards with his eyes wide open apparently in a comatose trance, then next full of beans when asked if he wanted a cup of tea, and now he wasn’t aware of where he was, and seeming to start returning to a trance like state and asking for a person called Charles. Could it be that he was more badly concussed than first thought, in which case he should phone for an ambulance to take him to hospital for a check up.
‘Slow down matey. You appear to have hit your head, or did someone attack you?’
The man felt the back of his head and stammering, said;
‘I don…t kn…ow what happened.’
‘Who is Charles then?’ said Herbie.
‘Charles? I don’t know a Charles.’
Herbie decided that maybe it was not the time to question him further as his mind was all over the place, so it was most likely he was suffering from concussion; making him give conflicting answers. Just then Judy came back into the room with a tea tray and a plate of rich tea biscuits.
‘Here we are then this might perk you up.’ She said, putting the tray on a small table in front of the man. She looked at him and could see that he had laid back in the armchair and seemed to be fast asleep.
‘He went to sleep quick Herbie. Did you find out anything about him?’
‘No. I think he’s suffering from concussion as he doesn’t give straight answers? But he did ask if he was near Charles place. Do you think we should phone for an ambulance in case he is badly hurt.’
Just as Herbie said this the man opened his eyes and said; ‘I don’t want an ambulance. I’ll be alright soon.’ and he then collapsed back in the armchair, apparently out to the the world.
‘Well that’s a funny thing he heard ambulance alright so there can’t be much wrong with him. And another funny thing is that you’re named Charles so it wouldn’t be you he was talking about, would it?’ said Judy.
‘I never thought of that. But I don’t know this person. I’ve never met him before, and anyone that knows me doesn’t call me Charles.’
‘Well let him sleep for now.’ said Judy.’ He might feel better after it. Perhaps you could see if he has any identification on him while he’s sleeping. It may give some answers as to who he is.’
Herbie nodded and proceeded to feel inside the man’s jackets pockets.
‘What the heck is this doing there?’ Herbie exclaimed, waving a piece of paper around.
‘What is it?’ asked Judy as she poured the tea for them both.
‘It’s a note with our address on it.’ said Herbie.
Herbie and Judy had only been married for six months. They had met on a holiday they had taken on an island off the coast of Madagascar. They had been attracted to each other straight away, and Herbie had subsequently helped Judy with a difficult marriage situation. She eventually discovered that the man she thought she was married to for four years was actually a serial bigamist. He had been trying to gain ownership of Judy’s publishing company, but Herbie and his friend Jack Tring had foiled him. Now finding the piece of paper Herbie had a suspicion the stranger in the armchair was maybe connected to the situation because why would he be carrying a piece of paper with their address on it. Judy was thinking the same thing as she said;
‘You don’t think this stranger is tied up with my recent marriage situation with Gerry do you Herbie.’
‘I don’t know love, maybe: Look it’s getting late now we won’t do anything till the morning. You get to bed and I will sleep down here on the settee and keep an eye on our friend. Just in case he wakes up.
Herbie woke up the following morning just before six and looked over at the armchair where the man had been put the previous evening, but it was .empty.
“Good grief, where has he gone?” and shot off the settee. Then the man came humming back in the room with a cup of tea in his hand.
‘I thought you might like a cuppa, sorry if it’s not strong enough for you.’
Herbie took the cup of tea and looked hard at the man; he did seem more with it now, perhaps they would find out who he was now.
‘Hur..mph, muttered Herbie, ‘Thanks for that are you feeling well enough to tell us who you are, and what you were doing in the woods? You did ask where Charles was at one stage of your delirium. Do you know Charles Sir name by any chance?’ Herbie didn’t want to prompt him at this stage to see what his reply would be.
‘Sorry, but I can’t remember a thing; everything seems a blank at the moment. I have got a large bump on the back of my head.’
Just then Judy came into the room and could see the man was looking a lot better now, she said to him;
‘How are you feeling this morning mister Err…’
‘He can’t remember anything, seems he’s lost his memory.’ said Herbie.
‘Then what are we going to do with you then?’ said Judy.
Herbie stood thinking before saying; ‘He’s a bit of a dilemma isn’t he? We will have to contact the police to see if there is a missing person with his description so they can find out where he comes from.’
The man was looking strained as if he wasn’t keen about the police being involved. Then said;
‘Can’t I stay here until I remember about myself? I’m sure it won’t be long.’
Herbie said quietly to Judy so the man couldn’t overhear; ‘I’ll do a few checks, see what I can find out. I didn’t let on my name was Charles so we’ll not let on yet to see what I can find out first. ’
Herbie’s enquiries were unsuccessful no one had been reported missing, and he couldn’t find information about a missing person with his description. After several days he was becoming a nuisance, getting under Judy’s feet as she went about her house chores. He stayed in the house while they both went to work, which was a worry because suppose he was a burglar and this was his way of befriending households before disappearing with their property. But he didn’t and he stayed. Then after a week Herbie said to Judy;
‘He’s got to go. I’m fed up with him around the house, making himself at home like he has.’
Judy had got used to him looking after the house, as he had been hoovering and dusting and polishing making the house look tidy and clean. So she wasn’t in any rush for him to leave. ‘Let’s give it anther week Herbie, and then if nothing crops up we will turn him over to the police.’
The man must be known somewhere thought Herbie and was determined to find out where, When he got to his office his friend Detective Inspector John Striker from the metropolitan police phoned him. Herbie used to work with him when he was in the police force, but Herbie had left when he had a dispute over a case he was working on.
‘Herbie, we’ve had a lot of people contacting us about a con man to do with the lottery in your area.’
Herbie listened to what Striker told him and said he would keep his eye out for anyone who might be responsible for it. What he didn’t tell John Striker was what he was about to do very soon.
As Herbie entered his cottage Judy drove up in her car. He had asked her to return home quick as it was important.
‘What’s up Herbie? You sounded funny on the phone.’
‘You’ll see love. Let’s go in.’
In the lounge, the man was sitting in an armchair reading a paper with his feet up, the smell of polish and clean dusted surfaces. He looked up quick as Herbie and Judy came in the room.
‘You’re home early, anything wrong,’ he asked.
‘I’ve solved who you are.’ said Herbie. Judy looked shocked.
‘Have you, that’s good then, isn’t it?’
‘You can stop acting the innocence with Me.’ said Herbie, opening a local newspaper he had brought in with him.
‘You’re name is Frankie Rawlings, con man.’
Judy gasped saying; ‘What do you mean Herbie, con man?’
‘Well it’s like this Judy; our friend here is wanted by the police. He’s been signing people up to a peoples lottery scam and not giving the winnings when their numbers come up. Oh..and yes, this Charles he was on about is me after all; he inadvertently said my name when he was pretending to be delirious. He was on his way to sign me and you up to the scam. It seems he had read about us in the papers over your recent court case and was hoping to make a lot of money from us. He remembered who he was soon after getting here, and pretended to be delirious – biding his time hoping to get some money from us one way or another.’
‘But what about his head injury Herbie, that was real.’
‘I wouldn’t mind betting someone he had conned caught up with him in the woods; hence the blow on the head. He then put on a good act when we came along.’
Rawlings started to get out of the chair, but Herbie pushed him down just as a knock came on the front door.
‘That will be the police come to pick our friend up. Before you leave us what happened to all your paperwork that you must have been bringing to set up your scam.’ said Herbie.
‘It was taken by the man who attacked me. It seems he wanted to see if his stuff was there.’
As Rawlings was led away, he turned to Herbie and Judy and said;
‘I wouldn’t have taken much off you both; you did me give food and lodgings, for a week which was very nice Judy and Charles.’
Herbie smiled at the Charles bit.
‘And he was such a nice con man, clean and tidy, and I will miss him doing the house cleaning chores. He did them so much better than me.’