Retelling a fairy story – Week 3 of the 52 week challenge



There was once a man called Colin who had worked hard all his life and was very honest: this honesty meant that he took pride in his work and made sure that everything was done properly. This did not go down very well with his colleagues, especially the management team, who wanted Colin to work faster and didn’t really care much about the quality of his work.  Colin smiled sweetly when his colleagues complained, and dreamed his secret dream of living in a shack on Venice Beach in California. He had been there on holiday with his wife Morag and their two daughters; the women spent their time shopping and seeing the sights but Colin just wanted to sit in the sunshine outside an old wooden shack and be happy.

His daughters grew up and left home; Morag became a senior executive in the same company as Colin. She did not want him to retire. She did not want him to live on Venice Beach. For some years Morag had been having an affair with one of her fellow executives. Carrying on the affair under Colin’s very nose added to the excitement for Morag,  she was also very possessive and wanted to make sure that she knew what Colin was doing at all times. As a consequence it was Morag that held the family purse strings and monitored their bank accounts.  Because of her position in the company, most of their wages were spent on ensuring that Morag looked the part; designer clothes, regular hair appointments to stop her grey roots showing and the odd spot of Botox so that she never revealed a wrinkle or a frown.

Apart from his secret dream, Colin had one other pleasure. He liked to bet on the horses. On Saturday mornings he would wander along to the village newsagent, buy a paper, sit in the cafe and study racing form before placing his bet at the bookmaker. Morag very graciously gave Colin thirty pounds each week from his wages for these bets. He had small wins sometimes but was too cautious to ever make any real money.

Every weekday morning Colin would sit at his desk and wonder why the pile of files in his in-tray never seemed to get any smaller. He knew that he had finished off innumerable cases, but however many he finished, the teetering pile was even higher the next morning. There were times when the usually genial Colin wondered if he would ever finish his work and be able to retire.

Due to a change of management, Colin found himself under even more pressure to speed up his working methods. His new manager, after a week of Colin’s snail’s pace progress, appointed a colleague to work alongside him. Young Alfie had already worked his magic in several other departments in the company and Colin’s manager considered himself very fortunate in acquiring his services before Alfie could be spirited away to another office.

Alfie and Colin got on with each other right from the start. Alfie understood Colin’s work ethics and managed to speed up the process without losing integrity. Colin told Alfie about his dream, and his sadness that Morag insisted that he carry on working because they needed him the money.  Alfie had the knack of getting people to confide in him and after making some discreet enquiries, he discovered the truth about Morag’s illicit affair, and her real reasons for blocking Colin’s retirement.

As well as helping him with his workload, Alfie  shared Colin’s interest in horses and made a few recommendations that increased the winnings at the bookmaker’s. He also persuaded Colin to open a new account at the Post Office with the proceeds. Colin didn’t really like the idea of keeping secrets from Morag, but was won round by Alfie’s suggestion that he see it as the Venice Beach fund and what a nice surprise it would be for Morag when there was finally enough for them both to retire on.

The biggest puzzle for Alfie was that however hard he and Colin worked to clear the backlog, the pile of files never seemed to go down. He decided to hide in the office one night and see if he could get to the root of the problem.

Not surprisingly, Morag was at the root. Alfie melted into the shadows of the large filing cabinets and watched as she crept into the room with her arms full of dusty files. She carefully cleaned them off and placed them at the bottom of Colin’s in-tray. Alfie watched her leave and decided to see what she did next. Colin had told him that Morag’s demanding job meant that she worked late most nights so he usually made dinner for them both after he had done all the housework.

Alfie disliked Morag long before he actually met her but working with Colin made him realise how much she took advantage of her kind and hardworking husband. That night he followed her upstairs to the office of her colleague. He couldn’t see anything through the frosted glass windows but judging from the noises that came from that room, they weren’t discussing business. Morag’s absence enabled Alfie to enter her office and have a look round. He didn’t know quite what he was looking for, but had a feeling that there was more to Morag’s behaviour than just the perpetuation of her affair.

It took a little while but magically, Alfie found just what he was looking for. The age of the Smartphone made gathering evidence SO much easier than it used to be in the old days. He snapped away happily and left the building long before Morag and her paramour had tidied up and departed by separate exits.

It was becoming obvious that most of the case files that appeared on Colin’s desk were those that had been abandoned by other staff, usually because of the death of the person concerned or due to a complete lack of interest by the case holder. Alfie sorted through the files and took the moribund cases for himself before Colin arrived for work. The pile of active cases was very small in comparison and by lunchtime the in-tray was empty for the first time in years.

Colin’s manager was very pleased by this increase in productivity – and at his own bright idea of getting Alfie transferred to his department. He suggested that Colin and Alfie take an extended lunch to celebrate. Morag, dropping into the office to check on Colin, was not best pleased at his absence or by his empty in-tray. She would have been even more unhappy had she known that Colin and Alfie were in the bookmaker’s waiting for the results of an accumulator that Alfie had put on in Colin’s name.

Colin won more that morning than he had ever won in his whole history of betting. Deciding that it was now or never, Alfie took the opportunity to advise Colin of Morag’s affair while they were sitting in the cafe eating an all-day breakfast.

Colin knew already. He had known about Morag’s infidelity for some time but turned a blind eye to it, hoping that it would stop when his daughters left home. What Colin didn’t know however, was that Morag and her lover had also been embezzling money from the company for years and putting most of it in an account in Colin’s name. Alfie explained that she probably intended to lay the blame at Colin’s door if the discrepancies ever came to light.

Alfie and Colin made a few stops on their way to the office, ensuring that they had assumed a more serious demeanour by the time they got back to work. Morag, undoubtedly tipped off by one of Colin’s colleagues, stormed into the office and gave Colin a good telling off for going out to lunch when there was work to be done. Not surprisingly the in-tray had filled up again in Colin’s absence. Morag also informed Colin that she was going to a conference in London for three days and would be leaving within the hour.

Using the luggage that he and Alfie had purchased, Colin packed up his world that night. It didn’t take long. He and Alfie had made some significant bank transfers at lunchtime so that Colin’s new account reflected his wages and winnings whilst the embezzled funds were to be found in an account that Morag had opened.

Colin was on his way to Venice Beach with a healthy but honest bank balance. Alfie saw him off at the airport before handing in Colin’s notice and presenting evidence of Morag’s duplicitous behaviour to their manager. Morag and her beau were arrested for fraud at a hotel in London at about the same time that Colin was sipping champagne over the Atlantic.

Alfie didn’t turn up for work the next day. He had problems to solve elsewhere.

And Colin? Well Colin Schumacher lived happily ever after of course.