George. ( A short Novel)
eorge Johnson could only be described as a non-descript. He was a bespectacled man, of medium height and medium build, dark receding hair, blue eyes, shoe size nine and dressed very conservatively. A very non remarkable individual, on the surface, was George.
All his working life had been spent in the legal profession culminating as a solicitor’s second clerk. He was a person who, given a task, could work his way through it with the minimum amount of fuss. Although he had an inner strength of character it very rarely showed through to others.
He had married in his late 20s and for the very first time in his life he had been truly happy, tragically his wife suffered a fatal road traffic accident after only two years of marraige. George never really recovered from this major setback of life and withdrew into himself. He had taken early retirement at 55 with a modest pension and almost a lifetime of investments and savings. Financially he was now reasonably well off. George’s only extravagances were golfing holidays in Spain of which he took three or sometimes four a year. Being the person he was he soon mastered a fluency and understanding of the Spanish language and its customs.
ita Smith was almost the exact opposite of George, very attractive and gregarious. Tall with shiny black hair and a very slim body, she was a real head turner and never seemed short of male company. Throughout her life she believed that she used men to get what she wanted but the exact opposite really being true, men had used her. Now in her late forties, she had very little material possessions and was now alone and on the lookout for some sort, any sort, of security in life.
When she met George, whilst shopping in Sainsbury’s, she instantly recognised the safe haven she so needed in her life and her experience of men ensured he soon became ensnared in her web.
Within six months of their meeting they were married and Rita had wheedled her way into his modest detached bungalow long before that.
The exact opposites of their natures relationship was a failure waiting to happen. Within a further three months Rita had became bored with what she thought she wanted, a run of the mill type marriage. She slowly began to revert to her old flamboyant life style but this time she now had added a little financial security.
George on the other hand was quite content playing chess at the local club, an occasional round of golf with the odd half pint of beer in the nineteenth hole. His social needs were few.
Problems arose when one of George’s regular £2 a week lottery tickets won just under a million and a quarter pounds. In Georges old single world the win would not have changed his life style too much but now he had Rita and she began spending money more lavishly on designer clothes, cars, and was always moaning that she needed holidays. Whereas before Georges holidays were in three, maybe four, star hotels, Rita now demanded the best in five stars, always travelling business or occasionally first class. She now complained to George that his modest bungalow was not now in keeping to their new money and lifestyle. Although he was quite happy in their modest bungalow he soon realised that however long he kept putting off a move Rita would eventually get her way as she usually did.
On Holidays George preferred a round of golf, a nice evening meal and an early night with a good book. Again Rita was the opposite, shopping and beauty treatments during the day, with night clubs and the like after. George was usually asleep, or pretending to be asleep, when Rita came home in the early hours.
George began to have doubts about his wife’s fidelity. Mysterious telephone calls were disconnected when he answered them. Although when Rita answered the phone in his presence, she explained them away as wrong numbers. When George dialled the 1471 number recall, the same numbers kept cropping up.
One weekend Rita told George that she was to visit her sister for a few days. Despite numerous phone calls to his sister in laws number, she always produced the same alibi that Rita had always just gone out and would phone back when she came in. His calls were very rarely returned.
He suspected that his wife was not always where she said she was.
George decided to employ a private detective that he personally knew from his previous employment. Within a week the private eye had produced a report that definitely gave evidence of Rita’s indiscretions. Not just with one male friend but two individuals.
George had never been as unhappy in his life since his first wife's death. He had long since ceased to try and curb his wife’s extravagant lifestyle that only ended in protracted augments, which he nearly always lost.
George had now definite proof of her adultery and he realised enough was now enough. He began to look for a way out. Because the lottery win occurred within the marriage he realised that a divorce meant their finances would be split down the middle. Although money in itself mattered little to George, for he would still have enough for his needs, he reckoned that not being the guilty party why should he have to pay? Slowly a germ of an idea began to grow in his mind.
During his legal working life his path had often come across many criminals of all persuasions, including those who would do anything providing the price was right.
A phone call and a meeting with Michael Sorros were arranged and George outlined a plan to him. A figure of £50,000 plus expenses was agreed, half up front and the rest on completion of the contract.
Five weeks of planning with a secret trip abroad and George and Michael were now ready to carry out their plans.
“How about a holiday in Benidorm?” George asked his wife knowing full well what the answer would be.
Benidorm? Spain you mean?”
“The second week in November is usually Festival week. We could take that in I could play a few rounds of golf during the day, you shopping, then maybe take in a few shows of an evening. There is some great night life, there’s always plenty to see and do."
Rita looked a little bemused at George’s out of character suggestion about night life but a holiday abroad always appealed to her.
“Yeah! Why not. When?”
“I’ll arrange something.”
“I hope The Don Pancheo Hotel has got five stars?” demanded Rita as George drove their top of the Range Rover hire car from Alicante airport heading North East along the coastal Toll Autopista towards Benidorm.
“Well my love. Don Pancheo's has actually got only four stars but one wouldn’t know the difference. It is a very posh hotel and is recognised as the best hotel in Benidorm. In the past I’ve often rented apartments in the Guadalest area a few miles out of Benidorm so I know the area quite well.”
Rita was a little puzzled when he had used the phrase ‘Well my Love’ She hoped he wasn’t getting too ‘heavy’. She had come to Spain to have a good time and George didn’t figure too highly in her plans.
He continued “I thought I might have a round of Golf early tomorrow morning, you could do some shopping, and in the evening we could visit the ‘Benidorm Plaza’” George passed over a pamphlet highlighting Benidorm’s special Cabaret show."I'll book tickets on our arrival". George mentally reminded himself to book and pay for tickets to the Benidorm Plaza. It would tend toi show he fully expected to attend there with his wife.
“Yeah! whatever.” Was the unenthusiastic reply.
“I’ve booked to tee off at 10 this morning; shall we meet up after, for lunch? George almost knew the reply Rita would give before she gave it.
“No I’m going to top up my tan by the swimming pool then get my hair done and a facial I’ll probably see you around later
“Farewell Rita.” Was George’s curt farewell as he left the hotel apartment.
The door had closed before Rita could query the first word of his reply.
“Yes who’s asking?” Rita replied to the tall rather good looking stranger at the pool side.
“I’m Inspector Rodriguez Garcia of the Benidorm Locale Policia.” The man confirmed. He flashed some form of identity but even if Rita had been able to read Spanish she didn't have much time to inspect it.
“Are you the wife of George Johnson, the Englishman staying in room 482 of this hotel?”
“Yes why do you ask?”
“Then I’m afraid that I have some rather disturbing news for you. Would you get dressed and I’ll meet you in the hotel foyer.
“Will you tell me what’s happened?” Insisted Rita.
“Your husband has had, what we think is, a heart attack. His condition is serious and at this time he is being conveyed to Alicante General Hospital.” I can arrange to take you there.” he offered.
Rita’s initial reaction to this news was not of concern for George but one of expectancy; expectancy in becoming a very rich widow. This Spanish Policeman, she mused, was quite attractive and seemed to speak flawless English. Perhaps she might get to know him a little better.
“Yes, I’ll get dressed now.”
George’s mobile phone rang once indicating that a text message had been received. When he read it simply said ‘Done’ He removed the temporary sim card from his mobile phone and disposed of it by cutting through the small circuit board with a penknife and then depositing the two halves into seperate street litter bins.
Many people go missing in Benidorm, Senor Johnson.” said the Spanish Policeman to George. “They all usually return within a few days. Have you checked the Local Hospital?”
“No I haven’t, my Spanish is very limited, is it possible you could do that for me?” George deliberately lied about his language limits.
“Yes of course can you give me some details it should only take a few minutes?
The policeman returned “I am sorry Senor.” He said. “No one, with your wife’s descriptions, has been admitted or has attended the locale hospitales within the past twenty four hours, which in itself is good news? I’m sure she will return to you quite soon. You details have been entered into our missing persons log and you will be informed of any further information we receive. Please keep us informed when she returns, which I’m sure will be very soon.”
George drove to Alicante airport and posted a letter he had previously patiently prepared handling it at all times with white cotton gloves. He would do something very similar a further three times during the coming week.
“Looks like another crank letter.” The Spanish ESP2 Television controller’s assistant in Barcelona said to her immediate boss. “What shall I do with it?”
What does it say this time?” the lady controller asked.
“It has the same single, cut out newspaper letters, pasted onto none descript note-paper almost the same as before. It reads "
"Have we received any video and their previous stated demands?” asked the controller
“Not to my knowledge but other departments may have. Shall I make enquiries?” Replied the secretary.
"Yes please do that. Where is Senorita Silvaneo now?"
“She’s in the UK covering their Government elections and has been for the past week. She phoned in this morning to confirm that her assignment is almost complete and will be returning home by the end of this coming week "
“Give the letter to security, as before, with all the details. I don’t suppose there will be any need for further action.”
George remained in Spain for a further three weeks purporting to search for his wife, constantly reporting in at the Locale Policia Station in Benidorm’s old town. Always putting on the concerned husband act. Every second day he either visited or rang the British consulate in Barcelona making the same enquiries. And as always receiving the same answer, there was no further news on his wife’s disappearance. He visited the British Consulate in Madrid but the could offer no real help. Not that he wanted any other than to register his wife's disappearance and to appear a very concerned husband. A few days before he returned home he posted his final letter.
“It’s one of those crank letters again.” The ESP2 TV Controllers assistant said to the controller, “but this one looks a little more serious
In cut out letters as before, it read.
“What do you think?” The assistant controller asked her boss
“Where is Senorita Silvaneo now?”
She’s down in Make-up getting ready for tonight’s show."
“Give the letter to security suggesting they inform the police.” Ordered the Controller.
George’s home telephone rang, He answered it.
“Mr George Johnson?”
I am Detective Sergeant Collinson of the Interpol section of the West Yorkshire Police. I wonder if I might visit you in connection with your wife’s disappearance in Spain.”
“Yes of course. Have you found her, is she coming home?”
“Well that’s what I want to talk to you about. I have some information and I’d rather not discuss it over the telephone.”
“I’m in all day or I could come to you if you wish.”
“No sir I’ll be with you within the hour if that is OK with you.”
“Yes,” George replied, “I’ll be waiting.”
“We have had a contact with the Alicante Spanish Police.” Detective Collinson began “I understand that you were on holiday in Spain up to three weeks ago?”
“Yes that’s right has my wife been in touch with them?”
“Well not exactly sir it seems to be a little more complicated than that.”
Sergeant Collinson went on to explain that a body answering Mrs Johnson’s description had been found. A key for The Don Pancheo Hotel was in the females clothing. Further enquiries at the Hotel had determined that the room had previous been used by George and his wife. Enquiries had also confirmed that George had reported his wife’s disappearance.
“Would you be prepared to go to Spain and confirm the identity, or otherwise, of the body?” Asked the Detective Sergeant.
"Identity of my wife or otherwise? How do you mean otherwise?"
My knowledge of the details of the case is somewhat limited, sir but it does seem that there is some ambiguity. We will learn a lot more when we arrive in Spain" replied the detective.
“Yes Of course George replied appearing deflated. “I’ll make plans to go today.”
“No need to do that sir,” Said the detective. “I’ll make the arrangements and I would like to accompany you if I may. Would that be alright?”
George readily agreed.
The body George identified, was definitely that of his wife.
“How did she die?”
Detective Sergeant Collinson went into a long conversation with his Spanish counterpart.
“It appears that she was probably garrotted from behind as there is primary bruising to the nape of her neck and around the both Carotid arteries. There seems to be no doubt that she has been murdered.
“But who had reason to do such a thing?” Asked George, trying to sound incredulous. “To my certain knowledge my wife had no enemies and would not have had very much money on her person.”
“From what information that I have gathered,” Sergeant Collinson began "It appears not to be robbery but a case of mistaken identity."
“Yes sir, the Spanish Television Station ESP2 has received numerous letters, well four in all, from the Basque Liberation Movement stating that they had kidnapped their main reporter and presenter Senorita Silvaneo and unless their demands were met they were prepared to execute her.”
“But what has that got to do with my wife’s murder.
“It appears your wife greatly resembled Senorita Silvaneo the renowned Spanish Television Personality.” Explained the Detective Sergeant. “Was that so?”
“I don’t really know that Sergeant I rarely watch English television let alone Spanish TV.”
“Of course that’s understandable Sir.” emphasised the detective.
"That still doesn’t explain why, when they found out she was the wrong person, they just didn’t let here go.” Queried George.
“How do these fanatical minds work?” began the Sergeant. “They probably refused to believe your wife’s pleadings. The TV station had, understandably, ignored the letters knowing full well that Senorita Silvaneo was in Scotland at the time of the initial letter and had been quite safe. They assumed that the demands were hoaxes and no action on their part was taken. To their credit they do receive hoax letters quite regularly.”
“Well what happens now?” asked George.
“There will be further ongoing enquiries from the Spanish authorities but the Basque Liberation Movement, which is quite vast and powerful, much like our own IRA tells me that we cannot hold much hope for a proper conclusion.
All I can do is take a further statement from you to the effect that the person you have identified is that of your wife. I will compile a report on the information I have received from you and the Spanish police and submit it to my superiors."
“But surely you can’t leave it there? We’ve got to find her killer”
“From the information I have, and although I cannot be certain, I am sure no further action can be taken from our end. Unless we get further information we will have to leave it to the Spanish authorities.”
These last few words from Sergeant Collinson took quite a weight from George’s shoulders. He now felt he had almost succeeded in his task.
“I’ll arrange for our passage home.” Announced the detective adding. “There is little more we can do here.”
When will the Spanish police allow me to take my wife’s body home? I want to give her a proper burial.”
“I’ll find out and I’ll help you make arrangements.
George now felt home and dry; he felt that he had committed the perfect murder.
Occasionally George went over in his mind the events leading up to his wife’s demise now over 3 months ago. Step by step, in his mind, he often went over details trying to find any mistakes that he had made, and he could think of none.
Other than a final statement made to Detective Sergeant Collinson when they had arrived back in the UK, which contained very little more information than he had previously given, he had had no further contact with the Police, Interpol or any other department.
George had been informed that an inquest would be held; either here in the UK or in Spain, at a later date and that he would be requested to give evidence but that was a formality. He felt that nothing could be proved against him one way or another. He was home and dry.
After dual inquests , which he attended, in Spain and the UK both cases a verdict of murder by person or person’s unknown was determined His wife Rita had been formally interred in the local village’s cemetery. On a couple of occasions, just for show, George had visited the grave and adorned it with flowers.
The outside front door bell of George’s house chimed. Opening the door he was confronted with a smiling Michael Sorros.
“Hello George nice to see you again.” Michael began
“Eh! “Almost spluttered George “What do you want?”
“That’s as nice way to greet an old friend. I just thought I would pop in to discuss our business arrangements.”
George realised he had used the plural when he had said business arrangements.
“Can I come in?” Almost demanded Michael as he brushed past George and entered the front room.
“What business arrangements. Our business was concluded, I paid you in full, and we both know that.”
“Ah! That was before I knew you were a lottery winner. If I’d known that, then my fee would have been at least double, maybe treble.”
“We made a verbal contract and I kept my side of it to the letter.” George tried to reason.
“Are you going to take me to court for breaking our contract?” Laughed Michael.
“What is it you want?” George tried to sound angry but felt very afraid of what was coming.
“Right lets get down to the nitty gritty,” began Michael “ in Seven days time, on the Twenty First, I want Ten Thousand pounds in cash and every Four weeks after that another Thousand pounds. With your kind of money a couple of thousand pounds a month is less than the bank interest you get from your money. I’ll tell you later where we will meet for the money to be handed over.”
“What if I…” George tried to reason.
“There is no such thing as what if,” Michael cut in, “you cannot go to the police, we both know that.”
“But you have as much to lose as I have, you were the one that murdered her.”
“You have much to learn about me, me old pal, for that is where you are wrong. You paid me, yes but I paid another, whom shall be nameless. To do the actual dirty deed I wasn’t even in this country at that time. I have a cast iron alibi, it just so happens that I took the wife and kids to Disneyland in America, our passports will prove that. I wasn’t in Spain.”
“But we went to Spain to prepare the burial site. We both dug the hole in preparation.” George tried to reason.
“My wife will vouch for where I was at that time and it certainly won’t be in Spain. There are no passport entry visas for common market visitors. Even then you will remember we travelled by car to Plymouth, ferry to Sanantanda and by car overland not once did we have our passports properly inspected.”
“No such thing as can’t George, just remember in Seven days I want Ten Thousand pounds in cash and every Four weeks after that a Thousand pounds. Or need I say it the police will receive details of your transgressions”
With that final statement Michael Sorros got up and prepared to leave
George racked his brains trying to think what to say or what actions he could take but at this time he knew there were none.
“Goodbye George, see you Friday.”
As George watched Michael walk down the gravel driveway from the house, his mind was already working overtime, thinking that he may have to pay a few first initial instalments, he could afford them but as a continuing thing there was no way he was going to accept that.
Suddenly he felt alive again, adrenalin was cursing through his veins just as it had done when he was planning Rita’s murder.
There are more ways to skin a cat than straight up the middle.
Word count 3951