I can remember it well. It was the 2nd January 2015. I was in London and it was wet and windy. I was at a bit of a loose end because my now ex-girlfriend Sonya, had decided that her new year's resolution was to become a lesbian. We'd come down to London on New Years Eve to see the Fireworks and stuff. The plan was that were going to see a few shows and do a bit of shopping, before heading home to the Dales. Thinking back on it, she'd been not her usual self since Christmas.
Anyway, she'd waited until we were about to order our meal the previous night before breaking the news to me. She had just come out with it in a matter of fact way and left me sitting alone in the Restaurant. By the time I'd recovered my senses enough to find my way back to our Hotel, she was gone but not before emptying the 'mini-bar' of all booze.
Now, I was on my own with nothing to do but waste some time before I would go to see 'We will Rock you' in the evening. The Yorkshire in me made me stay because the hotel was all paid for as were the tickets for the show tonight. Any normal person would have gone home with their imaginary tail well between their legs but not me.
As I said, it was a wet and frankly horrible day yet here I was wandering along Oxford Street in late morning. There was a good number of people out and about probably spending money that they didn't have on stuff they'd never use or wear more than once. I was definitely in a 'bah Humbug' sort of mood.
For some reason, I wandered into Selfridges. It was then that I saw her.
In an instant, I knew that she was way, way out of my league. Well, she was looking at Louis Vuitton handbags after all. But her face was like a beacon of light and happiness. Even with one glance, she'd already brightened up my day.
Her straight hair hung down her back like a waterfall. Straight but with a gentle wave. It reached down to the small of her back. I wondered how long it had taken her to grow it.
Then there were her clothes. I could see a white sweater that appeared to be made from gossamer thread but was probably Kashmir wool. Over the top was a short black jacket that was belted and a short skirt that poked out the bottom of the jacket by a few inches. The skirt moved with her and gave an appearance of gracefulness. On her legs were black opaque patterned tights and boots. Not just any boots, but black leather with about a 3in block heel but were thigh high. Not just over the knee but at least halfway up her thighs. There was just about an inch between the bottom of her skirt and the top of the boots.
She wasn't wearing much makeup. She didn't need to, she was that drop dead gorgeous.
Well, that's my picture of her from just the first few seconds of seeing her. I sighed and made my way deeper into the store with her image fresh in my mind. Just those few seconds had made my day.
Yes, she was out of my league but the worst part was that I was probably old enough to be her father. Still, an 'old' man can dream, can't they?
A little later on, I remembered that there was a pub not far away that served decent food at decent prices so I decided to head there for lunch.
That was another dismal failure. Not only was the pub gone but also the Cinema on the corner of Edgware Road was also gone. It was one big building site. I had it in my mind to spend the afternoon watching some film. At least it would be dry and relatively warm in the Cinema. No such luck.
With all the other disappointments, I swore under my breath and caught the next bus going up Edgware Road to my Hotel. Still in a bit of a mood, I checked out of the hotel and went home. My parting gift to London was giving the concierge the tickets to the show. I didn't even want any money for them, I was just so fed up with London and wanted to get back to my nice place in North Yorkshire. Seeing that the pub had gone really was the last straw.
As I drove north, I did reflect at just how bad a trip it had been. The only highlight was seeing that one person obviously enjoying life.
That night, I sat by my wood fire at home and raised a glass of wine and said,
"To that delightful woman I saw earlier. May she find happiness in life."
Life returned to normal. I went to my 'day job' as a Dentist in a small market town in the Dales and home in the evening. On Fridays, I'd go to a local Pub for a pint of Black Sheep or whatever guest beer was on tap and a steak. I'm a pretty boring sort of person really. That was probably why I'd never had many real long-term girlfriends. My last but one, one, Julie had told me to my face that I was boring, boring and boring. I knew that somewhere out there, there was someone I could love and be loved in return. It was just a question of finding them.
The last of the snow had cleared from the 'tops' and the walkers were out in force on the hills. I was making a start on clearing the winter's debris from my front garden.
I'd just finished top dressing one of the flower beds when I heard a voice.
"Hello, can you help me?"
I looked up and it was 'her'. There was no mistaking the smile and that hair.
"W… How can I help you?"
"My car has run out of juice."
"That's ok. Is it petrol or diesel? I have some petrol in a can. There should be enough to get you over to Appleby where there is a filling station open."
"No Juice, Electricity."
"Oh, you have a flat battery? I have some jump leads. I'm sure that we can get you going again."
"Sorry. I'm not making myself clear. I drive an electric car. I was watching the countryside and all the cyclists on the road and didn't keep a watch on my battery level. I should have charged it miles back."
I knew very well what had happened.
"Where are you stopped?"
"On the bend by the bridge of the river," came her reply.
"This seemed like it was the nearest house."
I knew that she was about half a mile away.
"Then the first thing you should do is call the recovery people?"
"I did and they can't get to me for several hours and I am supposed to be at a wedding in less than two hours."
She was up shit creek all right but as the saying goes, 'of all the places in all the world to run out of battery, she chose my patch'.
"I think I can help you. Please wait there, I'll come around to you."
I went out of my front gate and saw that indeed, she was dressed for a wedding.
"What time is the wedding and where?"
She showed me her invitation. The place was about six miles away.
"Ok, so you have just over an hour and a half. As I see it, there is only one way to get you to the church on time. I suggest that we get your car back here and it is put on to charge and I take you to the wedding. When it is over and you want to leave, I bring you back here by which time your car should have enough charge to get back to somewhere where you can charge the car again and go home."
"How does that sound?"
She thought for a moment.
"If you are sure that it is not too much trouble?"
"It certainly beats sorting out these flower beds."
Then I added.
"If we are to get your car here quickly then we need to get going. Please come inside my home and I'll give you something to change into."
"I don't want you to get that obviously quite expensive outfit ruined. The only thing I have that can tow your car is an old Tractor. You would need to come on it to get your car. I don't think that you'd want to walk back there in those shoes."
She looked at her shoes. They weren't really high but they were not made for walking and my guess that she'd walked far enough in them already.
She smiled and walked toward me.
"I'm Nikki by the way."
"I'm Smith, John Smith by the way."
Ten minutes later, she was wearing some old but clean clothes of mine and some welly boots on her feet and hanging onto my old 'Fergi' tractor as we headed down the lane towards her car.
Thankfully, she'd parked it in such a spot as to not cause too much of an obstruction.
I quickly attached the tow rope to her car and with her behind the wheel, we set off back to my house.
Once back, I pulled around to the back of the former farmhouse. My own car was parked in a former stable block.
"Please go and get changed while I plug your car in."
"But… I didn't bring the charger with me…"
"Don't worry, just leave everything to me."
She didn't argue and headed off into my home.
I opened the door to the stable can drove my car out and parked it ready to leave to go to the wedding. Then I plugged her car into my Electric Vehicle charger. My car was also electric. As I said, of all the places to run out, she chose mine.
I checked that it was charging and went into my house to get washed.
I'd just dried my hands when she appeared wearing her wedding outfit.
"I'll just change my shoes and trousers and we can be off."
Then she surprised me by saying,
"Look, why don't you come as my '+1' to the wedding? That way you won't have to sit outside."
"I… I don't know what to say."
"Do you have a suit?"
"Go and put it on then, we don't have a lot of time?"
'Yes boss', I thought to myself.
I dashed upstairs and dragged my suit out of the wardrobe. It has been there since… well forever. I found a clean white shirt and a tie and got ready. Thankfully and for some reason, I'd shaved that morning.
After a quick comb of what little hair I had left, I headed downstairs clutching by 'best' pair of shoes.
"How do I look? I really don't want to let you down in the eyes of everyone else?"
"You will be fine."
"Then shall we go?"
We went outside and saw my car.
It was the same model as hers, even down to the colour.
"You certainly chose the right place to come too for help," I said as I opened the door for her to get in.
She smiled back at me.
"It seems that I did," came her reply as she relaxed a bit.
We arrived at the wedding in good time. Well, the bride was fashionably late and we arrived before her so all was well.
I led Nikki up the path to the church. I could feel lots of eyes on me. Who was this 'old guy' with possibly the most beautiful well, in my eyes she was, woman there.
Inside the church, I let her sit down in the second row on the bride's side. I went to go and sit at the back so as to keep out of the way.
"No!" she said quite forcibly.
"Please sit next to me."
I didn't protest too much. Just being in her presence again was more that compensation for not knowing anyone including her at the wedding. If truth be told, I felt like the luckiest man in the place that that included the groom. But, I knew that in a few short hours, it would all be over again and she'd be gone from my life once more.
The wedding and reception went off very well. Neither Nikki or I drank more than one glass of Champagne and that was to toast the happy couple. The Bride was from the next village but the church there had closed some years before. I recognised a few people at the reception but thankfully, none were patients of mine. One thing I hated was people talking to me about their teeth. I really get 'fed up to my back teeth' in no time at all.
To my eternal shame, I fell back into telling people that I was in the 'healthcare industry' rather than coming out and telling them that I was a dentist. Still, I did breathe a sigh of relief when we left the reception not that long after the happy couple had left to go on their Honeymoon.
I was about to head home when Nikki put her hand on mine and said,
"Thank you. You were great today. I could have not wished for a better '+1'."
Then she leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. Her perfume was slightly intoxicating but totally delightful.
Once back at home, we checked on her car.
"There should be more than enough charge to get you to back to civilisation."
She looked sad.
"I can see why people want to live up here. It is beautiful and so peaceful."
"From now until the end of September, we have thousands and thousands of visitors but this little lane is pretty quiet. Most of the traffic are cyclists but yes, it beats living in the city. I tried that for a while but… you can see why I came up here."
Then I said something that as soon as I said it, I felt that I would regret for a long time.
"We have met before you know. Well, not exactly met but I did see you at the start of the year in London."
"Yes, you were looking at Louis Vuitton handbags in Selfridges."
"Wow, you do have a good memory."
"I have this thing for faces. I see so many in my job that when I see a very pretty one, I remember it."
"Why were you there?"
"I went down to London to see in the new year and take in a few shows with my then girlfriend. Sadly, her new year's resolution was to declare that she was now a Lesbian and didn't want to be seen with a boring old Dentist ever again. That's the story of my life I'm afraid. But, I want to thank you for brightening up my day. I needed it."
"That sounds so final!"
"Be realistic Nikki. You are beautiful and from London. I'm a boring old dentist who is probably old enough to be your father and I live up here in the middle of nowhere. Please let's leave it at that and thank you very much for a lovely day."
Thankfully, she took the hint and drove away.
I went to bed that night thinking how much more of a total idiot I could have been and still remained standing. I was a total plonker which was not that uncommon for me.
Summer was in full swing and the events of Easter a distant memory. I'd been away from home at a conference in Cardiff and was looking forward to getting home again and getting back to my other passion in life besides teeth and gardening, writing. I'd gotten a whole load of ideas for characters from people I'd met at the conference.
I arrived home in a gap between the showers. These were in the weather forecast and pretty much SOP for this part of the world. Dramatic 'Cloudscapes' went hand in hand with the beautiful landscape.
I'd not been home for more than an hour when I heard the crunch of tyres on gravel. I knew instantly that my visitor was driving an 'Electric Car'. No engine noise was the giveaway especially when my drive that has a gravel surface and climbs up from the road.
My stomach did a total somersault when I saw the car. I knew it was Nikki.
I put on my best welcoming face and went out to greet her.
"Hello Nikki. I didn't think I'd ever see you again."
She smiled back at me.
"I still owe you something for helping me out last time I was here," she said as she emerged from the car.
I did a double take. She was wearing that skirt and those boots again. I loved them. They made her already long legs seem even longer.
She grinned at me.
"See, I even remembered what I was wearing when we first met."
"Will you let me take you to lunch?"
Just then it came onto rain.
"Please come inside before you get wet?"
She came into my kitchen. I hadn't put everything away and there was a pile of dirty washing lying on the floor in front of my washing machine.
"Sorry for the mess. I've been away at a Conference."
"I know. Your neighbour, Tom Smedley told me in the pub last night."
"Why the groan?"
"Now it will be all over the village that I've had a beautiful woman come looking for me."
"Thanks for the compliment."
"Well, as I said before, you are beautiful. But people will talk."
"I gathered that from being in the Pub last night. Everyone seems to know everyone else's business. That is a far cry from down south. The people who live in my block hardly recognise that anyone else exists let alone knows their names or what they do. Totally different."
"Yes, it is. That is one of the reasons why I left."
"Can I get you something to drink? I picked up some milk on my way home earlier."
She smiled back at me. Every time she did that my stomach did a somersault.
"Tea please. No Milk or Sugar."
As I turned to fill the kettle, I noticed that 'it' was lying on the kitchen counter. Nikki saw me stiffen and then what I was looking at. 'It' was just two feet from her.
She picked it up.
"Danger is for Tomorrow?"
Then she saw the Authors name.
"Rhoda Maxwell! I just love her work."
I dared hope that she would not put two and two together and make four.
"What are you doing with her manuscript?"
No chance. I was made. I was dead and buried.
I turned so that I could face her and tell her.
"I'm Rhoda Maxwell."
She almost doubled up laughing.
"That is just not possible. No man could write like her."
Then she saw my sad, straight face.
"Fuck!" she uttered.
"Sorry about that. From your reaction, I guess that it is true."
I was rooted to the spot.
"I am. It is what I do to keep sane. Being a Dentist is really boring at times. Having to smile at people all day who clearly would rather be somewhere else is hard work."
Nikki then did something that to this day I could never understand. She walked over and kissed me. Not on the cheek but full on, on the lips.
"Nikki, please no."
"John Smith, I am here because you helped me out when I needed it and then supported me at that god-awful wedding. They are already getting divorced by the way. But there was something about you that I could not get out of my mind. And now I know it."
"Nikki, to use a sentence from that book, 'you don't know shit'. Look around you. Who lives here?"
"You do obviously."
I shook my head.
Oh god, why couldn't she go and let me die in peace.
She went out of the kitchen still carrying the manuscript. I had been waiting for me when I returned. My editor had sent it back with her corrections for my approval. Nikki went into my sitting room.
Then she returned still smiling.
"Rhoda lives, here doesn't she?"
'yep, I was dead'.
"You got me bang to rights."
Just then the kettle boiled.
"Let me make the tea. Then we can talk," she said firmly.
She made the tea and we sat down on opposite sides of my kitchen table.
"I really had no idea. The people at the pub think you are a bit of a recluse. I think I can understand why."
"Rhoda, you don't mind me calling you that, do you?"
"I suppose not."
"It must have been that that drew me back here. There was something about you that kept nagging at me and wouldn't let go."
"Well, there it is. I'm a boring old Dentist who writes fiction under a female pseudonym in his spare time and who is like the Monty Python Lumberjack, wear women's clothes. I do draw a line at pressing wild flowers though."
She laughed at my joke.
"You aren't old enough to be my father by the way."
"Pull the other one…"
"I mean it. You are forty-four or close to it. I checked on the Dental Registry. I'm thirty-five."
"Nikki, you can't be."
She grinned and dug into her handbag. She pulled out her wallet and gave me her driving license.
"Here you go. I'm just turned thirty-five."
Through wet eyes, I saw that she was telling the truth. She was so beautiful.
As I gave it back to her I said,
"What do you want from me?"
She held onto my hand.
"You. You, silly person. Since the day of the wedding I knew that there was something about you that refused to go away but I could not understand why. That's why I came back here. I had to try to find out what it was. Now I know and I really don't care."
Then she smiled at me as she gently caressed my hand.
My stomach did more cartwheels.
I shook my head and muttered.
"This can't be happening to me. Things like this only happen in books or in film."
"I know. It is a bit unreal isn't it."
I didn't know if I should laugh or cry.
"Perhaps we will both wake up in a minute and see how silly all is."
"Why should we wake up?"
Then she stood up and came around to my side of the table.
"I remembered what you said that I was wearing that day. The day you first saw me. This is one of my favourite outfits. If you want, perhaps I could get you one just like it?"
This time, I could not hold the tears back.
"Stop wailing and give let me give you a proper kiss."
She sat on my lap and proceeded to give me just that.
"What do we do now?" I asked a bit later.
"I don't know. I… I never thought that I'd feel this way about anyone again."
She looked sad.
"Yeah. I was married but… he died. He was a doctor, a GP and somehow, he got Sepsis. The silly fool brushed it off until it was too late. That was nearly five years ago."
"I'm so sorry," I said.
"No, it is me who should be thanking you. Meeting you and going to the wedding dragged me out of the funk that I was in. All my friends said that I was different after the wedding. When you saw me in Selfridges, my friend Veronica was trying to get me interested in a new bag. I was until I saw the price."
Then she squeezed my hand again.
I knew that she meant it.
I didn't know what to do next. This was always a failing for me when it came to women.
"Nervous?" asked Nikki.
I nodded my head.
"Unless you want me to go, I'm going nowhere."
"Please, don't go but I still don't…."
She put her finger over my lips.
"Shh. Sometimes it is better not to say anything."
After a bit I said,
"Where do we go from here?"
"I think we should go out to get something to eat. My guess is that you don't have much to eat in the house with you having been away and all that?"
"Not much. I was intending on going to the Chinese in town. They do a great sweet and sour."
"Well? What are you waiting for then?"
"Well, you are sitting on my lap for one?"
She laughed. Then she took my face in her hands and sent my heart crazy with the most intense kiss that I had ever experienced.
Nikki stayed for a whole week before she had to return to London and her job as a paralegal. We spent a lot of time talking. She also read the latest Rhoda Maxwell manuscript.
When she reached the page when the heroine first makes an entrance she burst out laughing.
"You fraud you!"
"Oh, I see that you have seen yourself?"
"I did and you know what, it works perfectly."
"I did change the shop to Harrods though."
"Yeah but those boots gave the game away."
"And made her hair jet black," I added.
Nikki looked me right in the eye.
"Eh? Shall I what?"
"Dye my hair black and cut it?"
"I… No, not unless you want to… But please don't get it cut. I think it defines you."
At that moment, she was wearing her hair up in a loose top-knot. She removed the pins and let her hair fall free. Then she gathered it up and slung it over her shoulder.
"You don't know how sexy you are when you do that," I said softly.
"Then I'll leave it alone."
"Other than seeing yourself, what do you think of it?"
"It is your best yet."
"Are you sure that you are not just saying that?"
"No, I'm not. I have read all your other books and this one is even better."
"Then I'll dedicate it to you."
She shook her head.
"What about dedicating it to the woman in 'boots'?"
"Ok. To the woman in 'boots'."
"I meant what I said the other day, I'd love to see you in a pair. You have pretty good ones you know… Legs that is…"
I must have blushed because Nikki had gotten into the habit of kissing me on the tip of my nose whenever I did so.
We hadn't discussed my desire to dress in women's clothes and live as one. I didn't push it but at least she hadn't run a mile when she had found out about it.
At the end of her time with me neither of us wanted it to end. She had to return to London and I had patients to see and teeth to fix.
"What happens next?" I asked as she prepared to leave.
She smiled and said,
"Why don't you come down to me at the weekend?"
"I didn't mean that. I mean to us? Where do we go from here?"
"Do you love me?"
"How many times have I said that to you these past few days?"
We parted with a long and passionate kiss.
I was walking on air for the next day but when I hadn't heard from her, I began to get worried. I called her number but it went straight to Voicemail. I left a message.
I was on the verge of getting in my car and heading down to London when I had a visitor.
"Hello?" I said when I opened the door.
"Mr Smith? Mr John Smith?"
I knew in an instant that he was a Policeman and he was the bearer of bad news.
"Yes. That's me?"
"My name is Detective Inspector Clive Allen from the City of London Police. I gather that you are an acquaintance of Nikki Pearce?"
"May I come in? I have some questions I need to ask you."
"P… Please do."
I led him into my Kitchen where we sat down.
"When was the last time you saw her?"
"Err… Three days ago. She left here saying that she was going down to London."
"Have you been in contact with her since?"
"I have tried but her phone goes straight to Voicemail. I was beginning to get worried for her. Has something happened?"
"As far as we know, nothing has happened to her. She is a person of interest in a series of Fraud Offences that have taken place over the past few years."
My mouth started doing the 'dead fish' impression.
"How long was she here? I take it that she was staying with you?"
"Yes, she was. Nikki was here for almost a week. She said that she had to go back to work as a paralegal."
"Ah yes. She was once a paralegal. Her job enabled her to obtain information about people and their finances. Then she and her accomplice would become friends with the people that they had targeted and after a period of time, they'd get access to their finances and take them for a good proportion of their money. Usually around fifty to sixty percent."
He let that sink in.
"How much did she take from you?"
"Did you give her any money?"
"Oh… Yes. About two hundred."
"Two hundred thousand? That is a record even for her."
"No. Two hundred pounds. We were out one day and the cash machine we went to was broke. I duly subbed her a bit of money. Otherwise, she paid her own way."
This obviously startled the officer.
"Are you saying that she had no access to any of your money or funds?"
"To the best of my knowledge, no she didn't."
"Can you check?"
"It will take some time. Most of my financial records are not here. They are in the safe at my Dental Surgery. A year or so back, there was a spate of burglaries in the area. I moved them to the safe at work and never got around to bringing them back."
He breathed a sigh of relief. Then he smiled.
"You may have escaped a huge loss."
I could not believe what he was saying to me.
"But… I have a considerable sum of cash here and I know that it has not been touched."
"How much cash do you have?"
"Around five thousand pounds."
This obviously interested him.
"How did you come by that amount of cash?"
"A week before Nikki arrived, I sold two vintage Tractors that I'd restored over the winter at the Yorkshire Show. The next day, I went down to Cardiff for a conference so I left the cash here and I've not been near a bank to pay the money in since."
"Do you mind showing me and counting it?"
"Sure. Let me go and get it. It is upstairs."
I left him sitting in my kitchen. As I climbed the stairs, I found that I was shaking.
I retrieved the money from my 'sock drawer' and took it downstairs.
"There should be four thousand eight hundred pounds there. I took two hundred from it to do my shopping the other day. The rest of the change is in my wallet."
Together, we counted the money. It was all there.
"I can only think that she didn't know about it or where it was kept. You may have escaped lightly Mr Smith, very lightly indeed."
When he'd gone, it was as if my life had ended and I'd come to life again but this time in a totally different universe. I just didn't know what to do next.
Before I knew it, it was getting dark. I'd not eaten or drank anything all day.
The next day, I had to face reality and go to work. I had patients to see and teeth to fix. I did check my 'investments' and everything was in order. She didn't know that I kept all their records at the surgery where I was a partner. It was only then that the subject of my wealth such as it was had never come up in any conversation between us. Perhaps I was lucky, perhaps she… she really did love me. I hurt me even thinking about it.
For a while these kept her off of my mind but whenever I had a moment, she kept coming back like a bent penny. I just could not believe that she'd wrapped me around her little finger and was going to take me for everything I had.
As the weeks went by, she remained there in my mind. The places we went together and the things we talked about just would not go away. I put every effort into work and gradually the hurt softened. I knew that it would never completely go away but the hurt was lessening as time went by. More than once I wondered if this is what losing a child feels like. Then I came to my senses and told myself not to be silly and that I was a lucky person because she had not taken my money and ran.
All the hurt came flooding back one evening as I was preparing to leave work. A couple of days a week, we stayed open late so that people who worked 9-5 could come for treatment without taking time off work. I'd just shown the last patient the door when a delivery driver appeared.
"Package for John Smith," he said as he put a largish cardboard box on the floor.
Having such a generic and pretty common name meant that I'd had deliveries that were meant for someone else before so I checked the details carefully.
"We tried your home and this was the alternate address. Normally, we'd deliver this tomorrow but this place is on our route back to the depot," said the driver as I scanned the details.
Sure enough, the home address was mine. The only problem was that I hadn't ordered anything but it was for me, of that there was no doubt.
Slightly reluctantly, I signed for the delivery and the driver disappeared into the night.
I didn't open the box until I was back home. I just had a feeling about the contents.
When I opened the box, there was a letter on top of the packaging. I opened it and read it.
"My dearest John,
I am so sorry for everything. Meeting you again changed my life. I guess by now that you have had a visit from the Police. What they say about me is true. I am a con-artist. Well, I was. After the wedding, I started to see things differently. That's the real reason I came back to see you again.
When I left you, I knew that I had to do something about my life. That's what I have been doing ever since. I have been as they say, getting my life together.
I know that the Police want to interview me in connection to a number of crimes. I will gladly hand myself into them as long as you are there with me when I do it.
You see John, I really did fall in love with you. When I have paid for my crimes, I would like very much for us to try again to love one another.
As an appreciation of you as the person who made me see the daylight at the end of the tunnel and not just that of an oncoming train, I made good on my promise to you.
The enclosed items are for you to remember me by as I spend some time as a guest the Government in prison.
I am so sorry for not telling you everything but it was as hard for me as it was for you. You changed me John Smith a.k.a. Rhoda Maxwell. I really do love you, you lovely man/woman.
All my hopes for the future lie in your hands. Inside one of the items is a phone number. Send a message to it and I'll get it. If you say yes then I'll tell you when and where we can meet so that I can hand myself into the Police. I am more than willing to cooperate and believe me, they will be very interested in what I have to say.
I Love you,
Your woman in boots
I was almost in tears by the time I finished the letter. I was also angry as hell.
I pushed any thoughts of looking at the items in the box to the back of my mind. Instead I poured a very generous slug of Scotch and downed the lot. If I had a cat, I probably would have kicked it so it was just as well that I didn't.
Eventually, the lure of the box and its contents drew me back. When I opened the first package, I instinctively knew what was in the remaining ones.
The first package was a white Kashmir Wool jumper. Seeing it did manage to make me smile. That was until I saw the price and who it was supplied by. Three hundred quid!
Underneath the jumper was another envelope. Inside it, a brief note read.
"Don't worry my darling, all the money that I spent on these items came from a totally legal source."
The next two packages contained a pair of opaque tights and a black skirt just like the one she was wearing the first time I saw her.
The final box was much larger. I knew it they contained even before I opened it. On the top was another note.
"I had these made just for you. I hope I got all the sizing right. When I am done with prison I would love to see you wearing all these items. Just for me."
The boots were what many women would give their right arms for. The leather was soft yet firm. I had no doubts that these would stay up on the wearers thighs and not sag like so many cheap imitations do. The size of the boots appeared to be just right for me as well.
Inside one of the boots was a velvet bag. It contained a blue-green pearl necklace. The sheen told me that they were real pearls. A small tag told said that they were genuine Tahitian Pearls. These didn't come cheap. Your average department store or even better class jeweller would not carry these.
I could not decide if I should keep the gifts or… just get rid of them but Nikki had promised to get me an outfit just like this. I mentally guessed how much she'd spent on me and it was several thousand pounds. If as she said, had used legally obtained funds to buy them then I was well ahead
I found the slip of paper with a phone number on it. I looked at it with sadness.
In the end, I went to bed and put off any decision until the following day.
The cold light of another day did bring a little clarity to my thoughts. I decided that I would go along with her plan. If she ducked out with her promise to hand herself it to the Police then I could tip them off as to where she was.
In the middle of the morning, I sent a text saying 'yes' to the number. Then I returned to dealing with a particularly awkward root canal.
It was lunchtime before I looked at my phone again. There was a reply.
"Costa Coffee, Liverpool St (opposite the Railway Station), London. Saturday 11am."
I did a bit of searching and found that there was a Police Station just around the corner in Bishopsgate. Perhaps she really meant it when she said that she was going to hand herself into the police.
A bit more searching revealed that I could get the train from Darlington at just after 07:00 and be in London in plenty of time to meet her.
After a bit of prevarication and procrastination I decided to book a ticket to London. It would mean an early start in the morning but… I wanted to see if I could trust her to do what she promised she would.
I arrived at our meeting point in plenty of time. Nikki was there already. She was sitting with another man.
"Hello Nikki," I said slightly nervously.
"Hello John. I am so glad you came. This is Terrance Gooch, my lawyer."
"Hello Mr Gooch."
"Nice to meet you Mr Smith. I have heard a lot about you from Nikki."
Then he said to Nikki,
"I'll be waiting outside."
He left us alone.
"I'll get a coffee. Be back soon."
As I waited for the Coffee, I looked at her. Her whole demeanour was one of sadness. I also felt a twinge of sadness for her.
Armed with my drink, I sat down opposite her.
"Thanks for coming," she said.
"It means a lot to me."
"I wanted to make sure that you meant what you said."
She didn't react.
"You really don't know how much you changed me. For the first time in almost my whole life, you treated me as a person, an equal. It made me want to change my life."
"I really didn't do anything."
She shook her head.
"Seeing myself in your book was the start. It was a sobering to realise that people could see me like that."
"I'm sorry for describing you like that. I never in a million years thought that you would come back into my life and then connect me to her."
She shook her head.
"Don't be sorry. I came back because I couldn't get your kindness out of my mind. Then when I found out your pen name and read that story, something clicked in me. I knew then that I had to get out of the game. Even if we don't have a future, I will always be thankful for what you did."
It all sounded so final.
"How much time are you looking at?"
"Five years at most. But hopefully, they will do a deal. There are far bigger fish than me in the sea."
"The Officer who came to interview me talked about an accomplice…"
"He knows diddly squat. I did it all on my own. Most of the people I diddled deserved it. Most of the money I took was dirty in the first place. That's what working for a Chambers who are on the dodgy side of the law themselves does to you. I was probably the most honest person there."
I let what she said sink in.
"What about client privilege?"
"I wasn't a lawyer. Never qualified. They gave me work that should have only have been done by someone qualified but instead they gave it to me to cut costs. Shysters the lot of them."
"So, you have a little black book with all the dirty deeds then?"
"Almost. A USB stick with a few hundred thousand documents on it. I hope that will get me a much-reduced sentence."
Somehow, I doubted it. My guess was that the legal profession would stick together and collectively throw the book at her.
I decided to change the subject.
"Thanks for the package by the way."
She managed a smile.
"Have you tried on the boots yet?"
I shook my head.
"I don't know if I can. We shall have to wait and see."
"I know. I put you on the spot a bit. But as I said, the money for all them came from a legal source. I sold my car and a few other things to pay for them and the rest went to pay for my legal team."
"Oh yes. I've been working with them ever since I left you. We were documenting everything and adding all sorts of supporting evidence to the data that I have. The Police won't just get a few documents. And,"
She took a deep breath
"Because many of the crimes I committed involve some top people in the City, is the reason why we are here today. Those crimes were never reported because I relieved them of dirty money. That's why I'm handing myself into the City of London Police. They have a really good team of forensic accountants. They will wet themselves when they see what I have for them."
Then she looked at her watch.
"Speaking of which, it is time to go."
I left the Coffee Shop with her. She put her arm in mine. I didn't have the heart to stop her.
With her lawyer following behind us, we walked in silence to the Police Station on Bishopsgate.
Once inside, she stopped and looked at me.
"Don't say anything just give me a kiss. Then I can remember it while I am inside."
I duly gave her a good kiss.
When we broke apart she whispered in my ear,
"I do love you."
Then her lawyer stepped up to the counter and … then the Police took over.
My journey home was full of mixed emotions. I could see that she was determined to see this through. For that I admired her.
[Late October 2016]
I was waiting with some anticipation outside the prison at Foston Hall in Derbyshire for Nikki to be released. She'd served less than fifteen months of a thirty-month sentence. I'd visited her several times during her stay at 'her majesties pleasure' and after a lot of thought, I had forgiven her.
The dossier of 'goodies' that she'd given the police had allowed her to get a much-reduced sentence. That information had sent some shock waves through certain sections of the legal and business community in London and the South East of the country. One sitting MP had resigned when it was revealed that he'd been cooking the books of a charity that his wife was running in aid of their deceased daughter. The money had been spent on foreign holidays for them both.
A little after midday, Nikki emerged from the Prison. She saw me and waved back at me.
We embraced and kissed only briefly. There were other people waiting for their loved ones and I wanted to get as far away from there as possible.
"Thanks for coming," she said when we were sitting in my car.
"I said I would and here I am."
"Where are we going?"
"If it is ok with you, I thought that we could head to my home and you can relax for a bit and get that prison smell out of your hair."
Her hair was still uncut and in dire need of a trim.
"I found my first grey hair last week," she said dejectedly.
Then she realized why I was grinning.
"Perhaps I should get it all cut off and made into a wig for you?"
I had very little hair left on my head.
"No. Please just keep your hair the way it is."
"It needs trimming though," she commented as she sat playing with it. I could tell that she was starting to relax.
"Do you want any of your stuff? As you asked, I got it out of storage and it is in my barn."
"It depends. Most of it is rubbish anyway."
I had to agree and also disagree. There were several nice pieces of furniture in amongst the Swedish flat pack bits.
"I thought we'd stop for lunch the other side of Huddersfield. I know a nice place up on the moors."
Nikki didn't say anything for almost a minute.
"Do you think that the bakers in Appleby will have any of those steak pies left by the time we get there?"
I chuckled as I remembered how she'd liked them from … from before.
"I doubt it. It will be a couple of hours at least before we get there."
Nikki let out a big sigh.
I briefly touched her hand with mine. Hers recoiled immediately.
I saw a strange look on her face. It troubled me so I found a place to stop and did so.
"What happened to you inside? You didn't recoil like that before you went in?"
She sat stony faced looking straight ahead.
"I'm sorry, I can't talk about it."
"Do you want to be with me? Do you want me to take you somewhere else?"
She didn't answer straight away but carried on looking at the road ahead.
"Yes. I want to be with you. Can we just go to your home?"
I didn't answer but put the car into gear and carried on with our journey. I could tell that it would take a long time for her to get over her experiences in prison, if she ever did.
She didn't say much for the rest of the drive home. Prison had changed her in more ways that I'd anticipated.
The next week or so, Nikki tried hard to be friendly but found it hard to get enthusiastic about anything let alone help me out around the house. She spent a lot of time sitting outside looking at the countryside.
After two weeks, she came to me as I was peeling some potatoes for dinner.
"Can I do that?"
I was shocked. She hadn't offered to help since she'd come out of Prison.
"What… Oh. Yes."
As she peeled the vegetables she said,
"I've been a real pain in the arse, haven't I?"
"Don't answer that. I have and I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for putting you through… through everything."
"That's all right. You needed time to adjust… to life outside. It is only natural."
She shook her head.
"I needed to do more than that. I needed to decide what I was going to do with my life. Up to now, most of my adult life has been crap. Being in prison was the icing on the cake. It took me several months of being banged up to realise that my idea about going straight and leading a normal life on the outside might not happen. All around me were criminals. Yes, I was one but I didn't think of myself as one for quite some considerable time. Once I'd accepted that, I went with the flow and survived."
"You are here now."
"And this is the first bit of work I've done since I came here. You have the patience of Job."
I chuckled at the biblical reference. Being a Dentist taught me to be patient with people.
"Not really. I was just trying to let you sort yourself out. You made it clear that you needed to do some of it yourself so I let you do just that."
"And I am so glad that you did. Apart from my Parole Officer, you are the only person I have spoken to since my release."
Then she put the peeler down on the table.
"Why don't we go out for something to eat tonight? Be a bit sociable?"
I was stunned by her about-turn.
"I do need more time but I feel the need to see other faces. For the past year or so, I've only seen the same faces day in, day out."
"I understand. Do you want to go to the pub in the village?"
She shook her head.
"It is Tuesday, isn't it?"
"Do they still hold that folk evening at that pub over towards Appleby?"
"Yes, they do."
"Then why don't we go there."
Half an hour later, Nikki had showered and changed. She'd even put on a little bit of makeup. Even so, I could see lines in her face that were not there before… before she went into prison.
The evening was a great success and Nikki even sang along with some of the real old folk tunes. It was as if a great cloud was lifting from her.
That night, I went to bed a much happier person.
I don't know what time it was but sometime in the night, she came and got into bed with me. We cuddled together for a while until her steady breathing told me that she was sleeping. I went to sleep even happier than before.
Gradually, the old more confident Nikki returned. Even so, it was nearly Christmas before she broached the subject of our relationship.
"I couldn't have got where I am today without you. You do know that, don't you?"
My heart sank. It sounded like she was getting ready to leave.
"Are you trying to tell me that you want to leave?"
"Me? No, I'm not. Where would I go? Everyone I knew in London made it perfectly clear that I was 'persona non-grata' when I blew the whistle on some pretty influential people. I don't have a job or almost no money so I'm… I'm here for a while. Unless you don't want me here anymore?"
Part of me felt relieved that she wasn't going and part of me felt that she might become a burden to me and part of me didn't mind in the slightest.
"Well then, as you are staying and… seemed to be a little more like your old self we need to think about Christmas and stuff."
"I don't think I have enough money to buy you anything."
I smiled back at her.
"Just you being you, well, more like the old you again, is all I need."
"You say the sweetest things," she said with a smile.
I smiled back at her.
"Look, I am really sorry for putting you through the wringer since I got out. No one else would have put up with me like you did."
"Now it is my turn to say the sweetest things!"
After a bit, Nikki said,
"Do you still have those things I sent you before I was arrested?"
"Yes. I told you I did."
"Would you wear them for me on Christmas Day?"
I thought for a second and said,
"Would you wear them for me on Christmas Day?"
Nikki laughed. I mean properly laughed. I hadn't heard that laugh since she was here for that fateful week.
"I will, if you will?" came her reply.
That settled it apart from one thing which Nikki reminded me of the next night after I returned from work.
"It is all very well you dressing up but Darling, we must do something about your hair!" she said in a faux voice.
We both laughed.
"Well Darling, what do you suggest?"
"I'm sorry to say it Darling but the only solution to the problem is a wig."
We both laughed.
The wonders of the Internet gave us endless options. In the end, we chose a black bob. Well, if Nikki wasn't going to get her hair cut or dyed black then me wearing black was the next best thing.
Christmas Day turned out to be the best one I'd had since I was a small child. Those boots fitted almost perfectly and well the less said about the things that went on the better.
As we lay in bed that night Nikki said to me,
"A penny for your them?"
"I was remembering the first time I saw your face."
Then I said softly,
"The first time, ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes"
Nikki laughed and completed the moment with the last verse from the song.
"And the first time, ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I know our joy
Would fill the earth
And last, till the end of time
"Do you mean that? The love bit?"
"You know, I do, I really do."
"Then marry me."
Nikki didn't say much for a bit.
"Yes love, I will marry you."
Before I could say anything, she said,
"There is one condition though."
"Nothing too onerous though."
I waited and sure enough the condition came.
"on our wedding night… wear those boots to do… you know what…"
"Is that all?"
"You don't mind?"
"Not in the slightest. But I do feel that they need more outings than that. Say every weekend? It is such a shame to have them hiding away in the wardrobe, is it?"
"Oh you…." She cried as she hit me hard on the arm.
This story was sparked by seeing someone who looked like Nikki including the clothes, boots and that all important hair in Selfridges on 2nd Jan 2018 at around 11:30 in the morning. She was with a friend as were looking at handbags. If that lady ever reads this then please accept my gratitude for the idea of this story and brightening up my day no end. Thank you.
Oh, and yes, the site of the Pub on Edgware Road (Wetherspoons) was a building site.
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