“A Moment of Madness” (circa-1988)
The six mile Metro journey to Newcastle was relaxing and uneventful. The train was packed with Monday morning commuters heading for their all too boring and familiar places of work. As usual everyone was wearing their trademark sour faces and no one offered a kind look or even a hint of a smile.
Men reading ‘the tabloids’ had their eyes fixed on either today’s naked image on page three or the back page for the sport. A smartly dressed man reading a ‘broadsheet’ newspaper held a pen precariously between his thumb and index finger studying the daily crossword puzzle.
A middle-aged woman with her head buried in a romantic novel shuffled uncomfortably in her seat and a younger woman sitting opposite casually thumbed through a glossy magazine, pausing occasionally when the article featured men, sex or the occasional celebrity gossip.
The rest of the commuters just sat in silence, wishing they were home in bed.
He was nervous. His head was in chaos. He hadn’t slept. He couldn’t eat. His heart was banging like a drum inside his chest, the true reality of the court hearing at Newcastle Crown Court at ten-o’clock hanging like a lead weight in the pit of his stomach.
“Fuck me,” a voice cursed from the chaos inside his head. He could find himself out of a job by the end of the day. “Fucking hell,” the voice echoed. He could be spending the night in Durham Prison.
He shuffled uncomfortably in his seat, breathing slowly and deeply threw his nose, trying to calm the racing heartbeat inside his chest, the confident words of his solicitor the previous day giving him some comfort.
“Bring your cheque book to court rather than a tooth-brush,” he told him with reassurance. “With an unblemished record and exemplary character, he should expect to receive a community service order and a substantial fine rather than a custodial sentence.
The wind and rain hammered mercilessly against the carriage windows sending waterfalls streaming in uneven patterns across the dirty glass, making visibility almost impossible.
The soft seductive voice of a woman – who could have earned a fortune on one of those telephone sex lines – breathed the name of the approaching station through the tannoy system, the noise of brakes screeching on metal and the sound of a door buzzer signalling the train had stopped at the station.
Running his hand over the murky glass, clearing a layer of condensation and looking out onto the platform, a warning sign fixed to a steel post forced a smile.
‘DONT STAND TOO CLOSE TO THE PLATFORM EDGE OR YOU MIGHT GET SUCKED OFF.’
An anxious crowd of commuters all surged forward towards the automatic doors, shaking wet brollies and stamping their feet, a wall of impatient people with no consideration for others, pushing and squeezing their way into the comfort of the warm carriage.
A fat man with a jolly face waited patiently until everyone had boarded the train before helping a blind woman and her guide dog into the overcrowded carriage. After placing her hand firmly on the vertical support rail the golden Labrador obeyed her command and sat down next to her.
The train jerked as it pulled away from the station, tightly pressed bodies holding onto high level support rails, arms outstretched above their heads, swaying precariously with the momentum, shuffling unsteadily on their feet, trying to find purchase on the wet floor.
The dog’s ears suddenly pricked. His black nose started to twitch. He lowered his head, an inquisitive nose following the scent of a familiar smell, searching between the legs of unsuspecting commuters, probing between the pleats of a middle-aged woman’s rain coat, the unexpected acquaintance of a wet nose sniffing her bottom forcing her to let go of the high level rail and turn quickly on her heels.
Her eyes were instinctively drawn to the fat jolly man standing directly behind her, the force of an umbrella and a string of verbal abuse taking the smile off his face, her hasty departure to another part of the carriage leaving the blind woman and her faithful companion oblivious to the unfolding events and a cluster of nervous commuters shuffling uncomfortably on their feet, trying to gain as much distance between them and the lecherous man.
The fat man fiddled nervously with his shirt collar before brushing a layer of perspiration from his forehead and forcing a cough into a clenched fist, shaking his head and lifting his shoulders in his defence, pointing an accusing finger at the dog, offering an ‘I’m-not-guilty’ smile at the other commuters.
But his crimson face and virtuous gestures did little to proclaim his innocence.
The train was warm and comfortable. The peaceful rhythm of the metal tracks clicking over joints and the gentle rocking of the carriage provided the perfect mix for a sleepy cocktail, the moment of calm before the inevitable storm inside the courtroom giving him time to look back over the years.
The memorable and more cheerful times in his life and the most recent event that led to his appearance in court today.
It was a bitterly cold morning in January when he walked into the main reception at Newcastle Civic Centre to begin his first day in a new job.
The multidisciplinary offices occupied the first three floors of the building, employing two hundred professional and administration staff. The technical and professional disciplines included architects, technicians, building surveyors, mechanical and electrical engineers, quantity surveyors, structural engineers, and landscape architects.
The architectural design office on the third floor alone comprised of about sixty professional staff, a mixture of architects, technicians and building surveyors.
His first morning was moderately uneventful, most of his time taken up settling into the working environment and meeting the rest of the architectural staff.
The afternoon followed much of the same routine, visiting member of staff on all three floors, greeting faceless people, endless introductions, too many handshakes and certainly too many names to remember.
Then he was faced with a vision of purity and wonder.
Jill Wallis worked in the medical room on the ground floor of the civic centre. A Mona Lisa smile, a sweet innocence mixed with a hint of provocative elegance, sparkling blue eyes set against milky white skin, long dark hair almost reaching her waist, mouth-watering breasts bouncing enticingly beneath a white blouse, a stunning hour-glass figure poured into a pair of velvet trousers, the tight fitting fabric concealing the impossible curves of perfection
Jill Wallis was without doubt the Holy-Grail of feminine beauty.
For the rest of the day he couldn’t get her out of his head.
His second day at work was just as bad. He feigned a headache just to visit the medical room, a little disappointed when he was greeted by an overweight nurse who gave him a couple of tablets and sent him on his way.
The third day started out much the same until he was invited to a lunchtime retirement party at a pub across the road from the office. A glimmer of hope… She might be there.
Jill was there but unfortunately for him so was her fiancée.
He gave her his best smile. It worked. Jill invited him over. She introduced him to her fiancée. He was immature and disrespectful. He was certainly punching above his weight. Jill Wallis deserved better.
On the fourth day he was already forging a plan.
It wasn’t going to be easy. It was certainly a challenge. But he knew that if he wanted to be part of this woman’s life he would have to be patient, using all his charm to gain her trust, melt her heart and win her affections. But he was old enough to know that patience was a virtue and experience had told him that if he employed all these factors into the chase, Jill Wallis would eventually belong to him.
Weeks turned slowly into months. He worked tirelessly. He made any excuse to visit the ground floor on the off-chance that he might see her in the foyer. He even volunteered for first-aid courses and feigned a range of different ailments just to visit the medical room.
He made a mental note of when she arrived and left the office. On a couple of occasions he waited in his car until she left the office and headed for the bus stop. His chivalrous offer of a lift home always greeted with a friendly smile and a kind word.
Was he making it a little too obvious? Was he turning into a ‘voyeur’ as well as a ‘stalker’? But time was running out and he was becoming frustrated. Fuck it he thought. He decided to throw caution to the wind and make the call.
He wasn’t sure if it was his heart-melting charm or his shameless pride that wouldn’t take no for an answer, but it didn’t really matter in the end. Jill Wallis agreed to go out with him.
They might have ended up having sex in the multi-storey car park, if it wasn’t for a prying CCTV camera pointing directly at his car. He had only just pulled the car into a parking bay when their eyes met in a moment of intimacy, a quick check on the dashboard clock reminding him that they were already running late for their reservation at the restaurant.
The connection of hungry mouths, the endearment of two people alive with the sensation of touch, engaging in a flirtatious exchange of intimate enquiry, hormonal chaos exploding inside a young impulsive body, adrenaline fuelling oxygen, tremors of emotional bliss plunging into the well of her stomach, any thoughts of food brushed aside.
A sour faced Italian waiter looked at his watch and rolled his eyes before showing them to a table next to the kitchen. After settling into seats and ignoring the pandemonium of the noisy kitchen, a bottle of wine and the romantic voice of Eric Clapton singing “Wonderful Tonight,” eased the anxiety and lifted the mood.
Jill did most of the talking. He pretended to study the menu.
Behind the surreptitious mask of the menu he watched her fingers playing carelessly with an engagement ring, staring openly into her beauty and breathing in her essence of youth, his eyes discreetly roaming over promising curves and shapely breasts, wondering about the enchanting secrets beneath the table, watching her lips forming words, listening to her soft innocent voice, offering a sincere reply to every question, always responsive, never critical, making sure he laughed at every appropriate junction.
Faces almost touching, eyes locked together in a courtship of promising intimacy, closeness and touch fuelling the fire of passion, her blue eyes sparkling with excitement, her sensuous lips almost begging to be kissed, the engagement ring quickly forgotten in a warm exchange of compliments and endearment, the sour faced waiter arriving with the bill interrupting their moment of flirtatious acquaintance.
They shared a kiss in the car before reaching into the glove compartment and handing her a gift wrapped in silver paper with a red bow, the efforts of finding out her favourite perfume a subtle pretence to gain him precious brownie points.
“It’s my favourite…,”she smiled spraying a light mist over her neck as he pulled the car out of the multi-storey car park, pulling into the busy city traffic and heading towards the Tyne Bridge roundabout.
“I know it is,” he replied, confidently, the headlights beaming on the road signs ahead, an arrow pointing right to his flat in Gateshead, another arrow pointing left to Walker where Jill lived with her parents.
“It’s my favourite too,” he said, through a genuine smile, dropping down a gear at the approaching roundabout.
“How did you know…?”
“The first day I met you…,” he lied, interrupting her question, discreetly adjusting the growing lump inside his pants, mindful of the voices doing battle inside his head.
“Turn right at the roundabout. Take her back to your flat and give her a damn good fucking,” the voice of dishonour insisted…”You’ll be sorry if you don’t. She’s engaged. She’s going to marry that moron. She doesn’t want commitment from a man old enough to be her father. If you don’t fuck her she’ll think you’re homosexual.”
“Turn left… Remember your pledge. Be Patient. Gain her trust. Melt her heart. Win her affections,” the voice of virtue pleaded…”You can deal with that nuisance inside your pants as soon as you get back to your flat.”
He turned left at the roundabout.
The second date was much like the first. A candle lit dinner for two at Marco Polo’s, plenty of compliments and lots of endearment, the same music, the same sour faced Italian waiter, the same seat next to the kitchen.
Only this time when they left the restaurant he turned right at the roundabout.
The third time they met she wasn’t wearing her engagement ring.
They skipped the restaurant and went straight to his flat.
He wanted her. She wanted him. Engagement rings and any thoughts of wedding bells smothered under the sound of urgent footfalls thudding up the creaking stairs, two people overwhelmed in the heat of passion, the pursuit of coital expectation increasing arousal, hormonal chaos charging adrenaline, chemicals fuelling a visceral surge of sexual energy, pulses racing, heart rates soaring, clothes carelessly abandoned on the bedroom floor, hands sweeping over naked flesh in a courtship of promising persuasion, a mutual simulation of playful foreplay, touching and feeling, squeezing and groping, exploring the boundaries, testing the limits, embracing the warm sensation of each other’s nakedness, laughing one minute, moaning the next, rejoicing in their intimate moment of human sexual discovery.
They fucked each other with a forceful intensity, changing positions but never once breaking their passionate union.
A young woman swimming in an sea of mixed emotions, hovering on a plateau somewhere in heaven, a thousand butterflies fluttering inside her stomach, a burning compulsion manifesting between her legs, electric charges reverberating deep inside an aching vulva, the splendour of euphoria stinging her eyes, distorting her face and curling her toes, her lips pursing, words of endearment joining the occasional muted curse, an earth shattering orgasm shuddering in spasms and waves of euphoric release through a vibrant young body.
They never slept that Friday night. Two devoted bodies celebrating a special union of sexual discovery until the early hours of the next morning. Saturday and Sunday smothered in the heat of passion. The entire weekend lost to hours of mind-blowing sex.
They fucked on the bed. They fucked on the floor. They fucked in the kitchen. They fucked on the stairs. Him on top of her. Her on top of him. Multiple orgasms, bodies drained of energy, natural defences surrendering to exhaustion, catching brief moments of sleep, showering together, eating together, returning to the bedroom to continue their marathon of impetuous copulation.
They were married at Heyworth Methodist Church in Gateshead.
The wedding in the morning and the reception at the Five Bridges Hotel in the afternoon was a momentous occasion. The events unfolding during an evening function for family and friends, not so enjoyable.
The video camera of the wedding and reception turned out to be faulty.
His brother Frank was caught up in an argument with a woman. Her gallant husband ending up sprawled over the buffet table.
A power cut in the hotel ended the night prematurely.
He woke the following morning to find that his car had been stolen from the hotel car park.
Their honeymoon in the Lake District inevitably cancelled.
They lived in his flat for a short time before moving into a new house on a residential estate in East Gateshead.
They were deeply in love, their sex life was extremely active and they were seldom apart. Life couldn’t be better.
So why did he decide to invest in a newsagents business with his brother Frank?
And what was he thinking about when he put their life savings into a business partnership with a man whose sole outlook in life was viewed through the bottom of a whiskey glass?
And why did he preclude Jill from any of the financial arrangements?
If the truth were known it was probably because they both had different personalities.
His glass was always half full. Jill’s glass was always half-empty. He was ambitious. She was apathetic. She wasn’t the speculative type and she certainly wouldn’t take risks.
Ultimately his intentions were virtuous and all he wanted to do was to make a better life for him and the wife he adored. But he knew that if he had mentioned the business plan to Jill, she would have definitely said no.
After being discharged from the British Armed Forces on medical grounds, Frank had tried different jobs but none of them seemed to fit his undisciplined lifestyle. He started to get depressed and started drinking heavily and there were times when his drinking got so bad he ended up in trouble with the police.
So the day Frank arrived at his house his life was empty and his self-respect was in the gutter, but he was wearing his entrepreneurial head when he offered his proposals for a business venture and partnership.
It wasn’t as if he wanted to invest his time or his money in a newsagents shop, and if the truth were known Frank was probably the last person he could think of to form a business partnership.
Nevertheless Frank was very persuasive.
He said that he intended putting up most of the initial capital from the money he had received from his early retirement from the army. He also said that he didn’t expect him to leave his job and become proactive in the business. He was going to move into the vacant flat above the premises with his girlfriend, Maureen Turnbull and together they would manage the day-to-day running of the business.
Frank was so full of optimism and enthusiasm that day and it had been a long time since he had seen him feeling more alive and looking more like his old self. So when he declared on oath that he had changed for the better, he felt an overwhelming obligation to help him to get back on his feet.
The first year of settling into the new business arrangement was hard work but things were going to plan. There were no huge profits but trading was reasonable and the bank manager was happy with the annual business accounts.
Frank continued to collect the day-to-day supplies from the local cash-and-carry warehouse and Maureen managed the shop with a number of part time staff. Things were going quite well and it appeared that their future in the retail business held great promise.
After eighteen months of trading and Frank’s insatiable appetite for success, they purchased another newsagents shop.
After trying for a baby for almost ten months Jill happily announced that she was pregnant. They were both overjoyed with the news, now everything in their lives seemed perfect. Nothing was more important as they both prepared for the birth of their first child.
He continued to work hard at his job in the council offices and because Frank and Maureen seemed to have the business fully under control, he felt confident that he could leave it in his safe hands and concentrate on devoting all of his free time to Jill.
In the next financial year the business accounts continued to declare small profits.
Then Frank and Maureen met John and Monica Hastings.
The couple owned a transport business in a large industrial building on the banks of the river Tyne. John drove a Jaguar and Monica drove a Mercedes sports.
They lived in a six bedroom house on a plot of land extending over six acres. They spent most of their time either holidaying in the Caribbean or frequenting the casinos in London. Monica wore skirts that were too short and blouses that were too tight and John flashed his money like a millionaire.
That’s when things started to go seriously wrong with the business.
Frank and Maureen wanted to live a lifestyle like John and Monica.
In a short period of time they somehow managed to find the money to place a large deposit on a four bedroom detached house. The next thing they miraculously acquired was a new 3.0 litre Ford Granada.
So when the business overdraft crept up to a level that alerted the bank manager, they were asked to attend an urgent meeting at the bank with their accountants.
At the meeting the manager confirmed that the recent year ending accounts for the business had accrued substantial losses, and furthermore neither Mark nor Frank could give a satisfactory explanation for the deficit. To protect the banks interests the manager said that he had no alternative but to remove the business overdraft facility.
Without financial help from the bank it proved extremely difficult to continue trading and it soon became clear that if the economic situation couldn’t be improved, the outcome of the business was inevitable.
Their accountants advised them that they had about six-months to correct their trading account otherwise they were looking at the probability of going into voluntary receivership.
The threats against the business didn’t seem to register with Frank and Maureen.
They continued to socialise in the same upper class circles as their friends John and Monica Hastings, spending money irresponsibly, living well beyond their means and going about their lives as if the problems didn’t exist. They even arranged to go on a Caribbean holiday with their friends and like a fool he agreed to take time off work to look after the business while they were away.
Because Jill was close to giving birth to their first child he was up to his neck in matrimonial duties as well as trying to balance the finances and the accruing debts of the failing business, all the time making sure that Jill never got to know the true reality of what was happening.
Late one evening after closing one of the newsagent shops he was just about to get into his car when he was approached by a couple of dodgy geezers.
They told him that they had a large quantity of cigarettes for sale and asked him if he was interested in doing a deal.
At first he was a little apprehensive, but after a quick calculation he realised that the return from the sale of the goods would substantially reduce the business deficit and also remove the underlying pressure that was constantly banging inside his head.
Trapped in a financial dilemma, the pressure and stress seriously affecting his home life with Jill, reaching a point where he was losing sleep and it was beginning to affect his health. Seeing no better alternative to get them out of a hole that was getting deeper by the day, any thought of what the consequences might bring never once entering his head.
The deal with the dodgy geezers was done.
Jill Brand gave birth to a baby girl.
Apart from the ongoing problems with his brother Frank and the business finances, life in the Brand household couldn’t have been more fulfilling.
Motherhood seemed to come natural to Jill. She spent most of her time looking after their daughter Catherine, adapting to being a housewife, performing her maternal duties with the utmost care and attention.
Three weeks later and Frank and Maureen away on a week-end break in London with John and Monica, Gateshead CID swooped on both newsagents shops.
He was arrested and charged with receiving stolen goods.