This was shortlisted in a MASH stories competition a little while ago. There was (if I remember rightly) a word limit and three keywords set that you had to use in a piece of prose or a story. In this case the words were; congress, art and jealousy.



Marcus was a fastidious man who chose his acquaintances by the same guidelines as he chose his ties; they had to be expensive, classy and above all, discreet. He applied his high standards to every aspect of life that came under his control and very little didn’t. When he had no choice but to suffer the ineptitude of the average person he did so generally in silence, his impatience nonetheless obvious, seeming to ooze from his highly groomed person. Generally, other people were as keen to get out of his presence as he was to be removed from theirs.

He didn’t speak much, though he thought a great deal. Unbelievably, given that coldly immaculate exterior, most of his thoughts were of his sexual conquests. They were not too many, but Marcus had always preferred quality over quantity. When ensconced in a leather armchair in a quiet corner somewhere, nursing a large brandy, he would reflect upon these acts of congress, knowing them to be of an exceptional standard, just like everything else he ever indulged in. Importantly, they were his alonefor all that his erstwhile partners featured in these recollections, they may as well have not been there at all, except for practical purposes. Marcus would swallow down a large swig of brandy and congratulate himself on being a true master in the art of utter detachment whilst simultaneously being so caught up in the act itself that he could almost, only almost, lose himself completely. Exquisite bliss; he pitied those not capable of it.

Today though, his thoughts were of an entirely different nature. The police officer that had telephoned him, Detective Inspector Winslow, he recalled, had seemed casual enough in their brief conversation. Marcus, naturally, had been surprised to be contacted by a member of the constabulary, but of course he would assist them in any way he possibly could. They had arranged to meet at the station, a horribly pedestrian phrase that made Marcus cringe with embarrassment on the other end of the line, but what choice did he have? As he hung up, he pondered briefly on what the suitable attire for attending a police station might be.

He swirled the brandy in the glass, relishing the gentle lap of amber against its smooth sides. He wondered how they had found out, especially after all these years of practised expertise. What had given him away? He wouldn’t even entertain the possibility of having made a mistake; the thought was laughable.

Then he knew; of course he knew. His secretary, Esther, was almost as fastidious as he was. She must have noticed a discrepancy in dates or times somewhere, perhaps a bill for a motel or a hire car that was unexpected, a dry cleaning invoice or a credit card payment; some such detail no doubt. She had always been willing to ignore it before. Marcus sighed; strange creatures, women. Did they not realise that jealousy would be the death of them?

Copyright © S P Oldham 2016

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