February 8, 2013
When I was in Frankfurt I was employed by a bank that held the personal accounts of all serving U.S. military and their dependents in Europe.
I could not believe my luck when the VP asked if I had any objections to being part of a team he was sending to audit the Hawaiian arm of the organisation. The branch there came under his aegis of operations because it was also the IT center which processed all transactions of the individual accounts. (Yes, I know, we’re in Frankfurt and the day to day processing is done in Hawaii? Go figure.)
Anyway, I travel to the Islands and check into a self-contained apartment, with kitchen, in the Ilikai in Waikiki which overlooks the Marina. I make arrangements to collect the self-drive and, on the Monday, set out for work. (On the way there I’m listening to the radio and hear the DJ tell, well to me anyway, one of the funniest jokes ever*.)
The other member of the team, JG, is already there. We know each other by sight in Frankfurt but aren’t friends. He’s much younger than I am and rather naive. Here, we get along famously.
At the end of the week JG says he knows of a former female employee from Frankfurt now working on the island. He arranges to meet her Saturday morning and he invites me along for the day. We meet P. at the Maritime Museum and spend some time together as she shows us around the area before going for a coffee in the restaurant. When she is about to leave I suggest a photograph of the two. They agree and stand on the wooden steps outside the restaurant.
The following Friday JG tells me he has to go to the airport as his wife is joining him for a few days. He seems embarrassed and is having difficulty in formulating a question to ask me. Eventually, he tells me his wife is extremely jealous and would I refrain from any mention of the very attractive sweet P. in her presence. Coming as I do from perfidious Albion, an assurance of this nature causes me no sweat and I agree, knowing full well that this promise is already doomed and a racing certainty to be broken.
I meet JG’s wife Griselda and it is plain from JG’s demeanour and behaviour, when in her company, just who is the dominant partner. She is everything he has claimed –intimidating and, to put it mildly, humourless —in other words, presenting me with too good an opening to miss.
Two days later I’m notified from HQ that I’m being sent onto Indianapolis to carry out a survey at a branch there.
It is time to act.
During our time in the hotel we have come to know the barmen pretty well and I ask one of them to give an envelope from me to JG , but only after I’ve gone, and only when Mrs JG is present and in hearing distance he should say,
“Bob left this photograph for you. He said you’d know which one.”
Two months later I met JG back in Frankfurt, unexpectedly happy to see me in the light of what had transpired. He and his wife were parting and the whole thing had been precipitated, a festering relationship brought to a head, by his initial rejection of the envelope, his wife’s insistence that he take it and open it, and his stubborn refusal to touch it, causing her to erupt into a stream of invective and to snatch the envelope from the barman. The print, and its transparent innocence, triggered a tirade and she launched into a litany of his perceived failings, including his timidity, lack of reliability, manliness and value. I could’t help thinking that, as much as JG welcomed the upcoming divorce, it was a pretty extreme outcome, based on the nature of the photograph that I had left for him.
*It was my birthday yesterday and the guys got together and got me a sweater. Nice gesture, but honestly, I’d rather have had a screamer or a moaner.