The Enemy Within:

Chapter 1:

[at]It was an establishment in the provincial Spanish style that blended compatible atmospheres of; bar, cafe and local cultural centre. Most of the tables seemed reserved for members; whether based on custom or formal designation, one could not discern. Disappointment had been his initial reaction when entering, the result of politely being asked to sit at a table away from the other clientele, in a corner between an outside window and the toilets.

He ordered "arros a la cassola" with a beer and settled to watch the other customers. The men - because all of the customers were men and mainly attired in berets - ate, gambled, chased their cafe tallats with the local wine, discussed current events and, in a comic show of propinquity excommunicated one another from their respective tables.

Up at the long burnished counter, two men, one older than the other, and in similar leather jackets sat silently, the smoke from their cigarettes rising in parallel from the free hands not nurturing drinks. The diminutive swarthy barman with restless eyes was assembling bottles of current orders in front of him; like troops ready to be deployed against incoming incursions. Behind him hung joints of ham from which he occasionally carved slivers onto small plates to accompany drinks being served.

Chapter 3:
It was a long way and a considerable contrast from the Heathrow Airport that he had flown out from earlier that morning. To those that thought they knew him back in England, he was generally regarded as "a man of the world" - a well-rounded English gentleman in the eighteenth-century tradition. He resided between an imposing stone house in Gloucestershire, and a flat in an expensive part of London, but made occasional sorties to his Pall Mall clubs when the fancy took him. He was generally regarded as well established and affable, a bit of a character who collected old books [at]in an inexpensive, desultory way, admitted to a fast emptying cellar of wine and had numerous children whom, if [at]he were to be believed, he saw once a day when home, for ten, hopefully awe-inspiring minutes.

His reason for being in Spain? Quite simply he was having an affair. There was nothing wrong with his marriage as such. In fact it was generally regarded as a good one. No, it was a conclusion he had arrived at later in his life and after much reflection, that he liked the aspects of intrigue and living on the edge that an affair involved. It was the most absolute choice that he could make. When undertaken he knew that, whatever the consent of the other partner, in reality he was there on his own. It was against every code, rule and set of mores that he pretended to obey. Moreover it was also against what is termed better judgement, every lesson of hindsight and every shard of wisdom that is supposed to come with age. But his presence there today declared his choice and implicit therein [at]he could comprehend and feel the blood moving in his very being, as when he had been in the full bloom and thrust of early manhood.

Chapter 4:
The object of his desire on this occasion was a married signora, one Isabella Caterina Giro. They had been lovers in Madrid, many years before when he had come down from Oxford and subsequently embarked on additional studies in the Spanish language. They had remained friends, albeit at a discreet distance over the years as each had submitted to appropriate marriages arranged by their respective families. Her father he had met once; imperious and suave with the autocratic manners to go with it, but though he had been tolerated as a companion for the daughter in those days, as a foreigner he was not approved of as suitable for the family on a marital basis.[at]

His own father on the other hand, had been a cad of the first water; diffident and unreliable and who was capable of extemporising [at]decisions of importance relating to one's future with a felicity and unaccountability that would have had more reasonable characters baulking in indecision. In fact the father openly admitted on one occasion that it would be very wicked indeed to do anything to fit a boy for the modern world. Such was the background of his own unorthodox early years.

Chapter 5:
The time was approaching for his rendezvous outside of the town and further up the coast. He paid his bill and left.

He was a methodical man. Affairs are perversely somewhat formal. If you were going to bed a woman outside of marriage, it required elements of detachment regards the minimum [at]logistics of when and where. Any man who has embarked on this path knows, whether through hard experience or advice from those of a similar disposition, that there are also unwritten rules. Discretion is paramount but, off limits is to undertake such ventures near to home, at work, or with friends wives; unless that is, the individual concerned is a complete fool or thrives in living on the edge.

She was there on the deserted beach under a wind battered pine that appeared to spring out at right angles from the adjoining pink granite cliff. As he drew nearer to that Rubicorn of sunlit sand and the shadow under which she sat, recognition [at]mingled with apprehension and excitement was in their eyes and the memories came flooding back. It was three decades, four children and six grandchildren later. At first he looked confused, but then he beamed: that sunshine smile that still lit up her world. He kissed her warmly full on the mouth, exclaiming: "You're still so pretty!"

"And you are still so handsome, my sweet" she replied, the eyes looking up at him and saying more besides.

They bathed naked in the liquid folds of the sea and made love gently in the shallows. The sun having lost it's harsh heat of the day was now a warming balm upon their bodies. In the distance, the lighthouse of St Sebastia stood in sentient [at]silence. When the time came to part, he gave such a vulnerable impression. It resembled a leaf that a little boy strikes down from a branch with his stick, in that it's singularity made it conspicuous. [at]

Chapter 6:
The next day he was back in London. It was an area black with smartness; the Rolls-Royces and bowler hats of the men were black and it seemed even the correct formal office suits of the women. It was as if black was de rigeur, even down to the august flats and apartments, where bathing pools set into the floors of bathrooms were paved in black marble.

In one such spacious apartment he sat, in a book lined room with a desk, a dictaphone, a typewriter and furry rugs that accompanied great padded armchairs. A painting by Jack Yeats stood on the mantle; sombre, Celtic, yet delicate and it had something in common with the red pastel drawings by Henry Moore, whose sad classicism against the wall was in keeping with the brownness that dominated the whole room. It was his snuggery, or as our American cousins would have it "a den." [at] But on this occasion it was in a very English setting akin to those found in any vicarage or small country house in the shires. The only suggestion of an obsession, or of anything out of the ordinary was a collection of seventy-four different miniature whiskey bottles, ranged on top of a bookcase. It was the retreat of the man within the man.

But today he was not alone. Opposite sat another man who had recently arrived unannounced and who upon reflection looked uncomfortably familiar.

"Let me introduce myself signor. I am Remei Giro, the husband of the lady you are having an affair with. I understand that you are a something of a [at]distinguished writer?"

Dark, liquid eyes were fixed in repose upon him. The mouth gave no hint of either anger or triumph.

The face was now placed. It was the older of the two men who had sat at the bar in Palafrugell such a short time before.[at]

His precautions had broken down. Till now it had been so easy to cheat, as invariably there was so little evidence to leave behind. Infidelity had required but little effort to hide with no consequences. That freedom had been there and as a man he had taken it.

He remained silent.

Signor Giro continued as if unaffected.

"Why signor do you cheat on your wife? It cannot be the sex alone as at your age that must be waning? [at]Is it [at]that as a man you feel a need to? A need to try again?"

"I don 't deny what you accuse me of," the writer responded softly, "and since you ask I will try to explain. Monogamous love is the deception, or the cheating as you wish to express it. In fact it is those early, never forgotten loves of youth that are the the reality, the fated love if you will. That was the case when I knew Caterina, your wife, long before you did."

Giro looked at him stone faced.

"I think signor that I actually understand, but you on your side must also know that you have brought shame upon my family and it's name. For that, there are consequences."

The writer nodded. There was no fear. He had played the stakes and he had lost. Fidelity is a test that pits a man against his own instincts, urges him to ignore his opportunities, to muffle any sense of expansion. Getting married rotates the average man away from everything he has known about himself up to that point. How boring he had found individuals he had met at cocktail functions who had expounded on how much they loved their wives. With them he listened, kept his own counsel but knew instinctively that he had little in common with them.

Suddenly without realising it, he said out loud to the stranger; "I love my wife too, but it's nobody's business how I deal with that love. My local life is clean. I am more focused than you are. Stronger and better suited to what is near me - my family, my wife, my career. In some sense that's why I don't hesitate to cheat."

The Spaniard listened, but now considered it time to bring the meeting to it's conclusion.

"It seems signor as if, for you it is all about tests on your tolerance for risk. It must take a great deal of lonely effort on your part in creating the strata's of secrecy that require constant upkeep, one for the home and one for the bedroom, or beach on this occasion. There are by implication huge swaths of attendant risk involving communication. The stories must mesh. The memories must be private."

"You seem to know a lot about it," replied the writer, suspicion in his voice.

"Oh yes signor. I'm well versed, but on this occasion you are the bull in the Maestranza bullring as it were and I as an ex member of the toreros profession have control of the moment of truth. You see, on those occasions with our adversaries we faced death every afternoon."

Chapter 7:
The headlines the next morning were full of the story. "Famous man of letters run through by sword in his London study."[at]

Out in Gloucestershire Chief Inspector Irquart had just finished interviewing the widow in her drawing room. He was unsettled. Beneath her assumed shock/grief, (call it what you will), there was something else he could not put his finger on. Perhaps the pride of being a lady had something to do with it: the family connexions though not exactly aristocratic, were unquestionably "good."This would no doubt take into account her self control, but there was still something else there that disturbed him.

His assistant joined and enquired regards the recent interview.

"Nothing there" Irquart responded, " No known enemies, generally well liked by all that knew him. Anything found talking to the staff and the neighbours?"

" Very little Chief inspector, except for one thing."

"What was that?"

"Not sure if it means anything, but the night of the murder in London, the gardener in his lodge heard something outside at three in the morning. He rose and looked out and thought he saw the figure of a young man disappearing into the early morning mist towards the front gate, but he cannot be sure as he was still half asleep."

"Could have been something or nothing," said the Chief Inspector. "Perhaps the boyfriend of one of the maids."

"Yes that's a possibility. But one thing was strange."

"Ah ha what was it?"

"Strange way of dressing apparently as the man seemed to be wearing a cape."

The End.