Ethelbert's Sunday Afternoon
"I see," thought Matt, "that's how things are. But why, for fuck's sake, what's the matter with her? Everything was
fine a week ago."
Julia finished arranging a mountain of biscuits on a tray and took it into the other room, leaving Matt's coffee by the
kettle. He sighed inwardly and picked up the mug, following her into the living room. She stood by the sofa as if looking
for something else to do to further avoid conversation.
He sat down. This seemed to annoy her.
"So, how was Ghent?"
"Oh, you know, like Brouge only more... Dutch."
"Did your group manage to focus on anything in particular?"
"Not after a crate of elephant beer - it's 11%! I felt like Keith Richards after an epidural. Besides it was just boring
art stuff, nothing to interest you."
"What was the name of the hotel?"
"I can't remember, the... Phlegmingberg Hoidergurder Hotel, why?"
"Oh, no reason." There was no mistaking the venom in her voice.
"There's clearly a reason but what the hell is it?" he thought irritably. "Maybe I'll just finish my coffee, say nothing and
leave, try again tomorrow."
Julia, who was still standing with the tray in her hand, put it down and went through to the bedroom. Matt watched in
confusion through the open door as she opened the wardrobe and took out the hoover, followed by an ironing board."
"Is she going to iron the hoover?" he thought.
"Do you want a hand?"
"I can manage perfectly fine, thank you," she bristled.
"Pardon me for breathing. What the fuck is wrong with her?"
She unfolded the ironing board with great difficulty, almost trapping her fingers. She then marched back into the
kitchen, filled the iron and strode back into the bedroom with a single tea-towel which she proceeded to iron vigorously
for more than a minute.
"I bet that's a poor substitute for my face. Okay, Sherlock, she's pissed off at me for some reason. There's no way
she can know where I've really been, so why is she interrogating me about Ghent? I didn't think I needed a cover story
for my girlfriend."
Julia finished scorching the tea towel, folding it up and putting it on top of the wardrobe, before folding up the board
with equal anger and placing it back in the wardrobe. She reluctantly came back into the living room, sat down and
took a sip of coffee.
"Yuk, it's lukewarm."
"You should have ironed it."
"Is that supposed to be funny?"
"So, what have you been up to lately?" he asked in a final act of desperation.
"Oh, not much - keeping up with your meanderings via a private detective."
“Oh fucking arsing fuckballs! You stupid, stupid bitch. If he's found anything then we're in the shit up to our scalps."
He picked up his coffee absentmindedly and grimaced.
"God, that's stone cold."
"You should have blown some of your hot air on it then!"
He stood up, all humour gone from his demeanour.
"What was the name of this detective and where did you find him?"
"Ken Prenderghast. I found him online."
"Did you go to an office to see him?"
"Of course, I'm not stupid enough to give someone money without meeting them face to face."
"If he's really been following me then this is the stupidest thing you've ever done, not to mention him. I have to make
a phone call."
He went into the bedroom and shut the door. Julia shrugged petulantly and stormed off to the kitchen.
A few minutes later Matt was sitting on the bed talking on his mobile.
"I don't know what he found, I thought you'd want to pick him up A.S.A.P. I've just found his website and emailed
you the link, you should be able to find his home address in a few seconds from that. Of course I won't let her leave.
Flat C, 52 Partridge Road, but don't come in mob-handed. He probably found nothing; if so there's no need to
complicate my private life any further. Okay, fine."