Illustration by Caty Bartholomew.

Mary Kate Spellman went to the Golden Pages telephone directory where you can find every possible trade and service and found the Private Investigators grouped together on Page 246. She called the first name on the list.

It was Ace Investigations, and the man who answered had a slight English accent and a careful way of doing business. He asked for her telephone number first and then asked if it was okay that he called her back.

She said it was okay and left down the phone. He called her back immediately and asked how he could assist.

Mary Kate Spellman said that she wanted her husband followed through Cork City the following weekend. She suspected he was having an affair.

Alec was the detective’s name. He said he could take the work on and they discussed the fee. Mary Kate Spellman found it reasonable enough.

They agreed on the payment system (credit card) and her deposit. She gave Gerry’s details, including the car registration and the hotel he had told her he was staying in for the weekend at the symposium and said, yes, she would forward a recent photo of Gerry to Ace Investigations by that evening’s post.

They agreed that they would meet in Limerick for Alec’s report on the following Tuesday. Mary Kate Spellman had the deposit paid and the photo of Gerry posted before six o’clock that evening.

Gerry was home early and stayed home for the evening on Wednesday night and Thursday night both. On Thursday night he brought home a bottle of wine, helped her cook dinner, and afterwards played with Ashling and Sile for a while in the garden before they went to bed.

Later they watched TV until midnight together.  He was very charming and loving, and it felt almost like old times.

On the Wednesday night they made love before falling asleep, and he gave her breakfast in bed the next morning before heading in to the office. When he came home on Thursday evening with the wine he asked her what she thought of his haircut.

He’d had it cut very short. She said, accurately, that it made him look about 10 years younger.

Gerry was pleased at that and she saw him glancing later at the mirror in the hallway. He was, she thought, still a very handsome man at 42, three years younger than herself.

She told him that her younger sister Gillian was coming down from Dublin for the weekend to keep her company when he was gone to Cork. They’d go shopping with the kids on Saturday afternoon and maybe bring them to the circus as well. He said that would be lovely.

On Friday morning Gerry got up 10 minutes earlier than usual, again gave her a cup of tea and toast in bed, packed briskly as he was going to the symposium directly from work, kissed her on the cheek and was gone.

She got the kids off to school and sat in the kitchen for a while drinking coffee and wondering exactly what it was that had led her to suspect Gerry of having a fling. There was nothing she could put her finger on, but somehow she felt that his attitude to her had changed subtly about six months earlier.

He had been more distant since, more remote somehow and dramatically better behaved at home. He never threw tantrums any more, like about one every month before, he’d only been away from home for two weekends in that period and only worked late about six times in the office, which was about the norm for him in all their 12 years together.

More than anything else, she decided, it was the fact that he was lavishing such love and attention on their daughters.  He’d always been a very good father and provider but now, she felt, it was almost as if he was loving them in the almost desperate way of a parent soon to lose touch with them.

Gillian, bubbly and bright as ever, drove down from Dublin after work. The kids were allowed stay up later to say goodnight to their favorite aunt, nearly knocking her over with the warmth of their welcome when she breezed in the door, laden with presents.

Mary Kate Spellman cooked a light meal for her sister after the girls went to bed.  Afterwards they had a drink and a chat in front of the fire.

Gillian was out of love again but happy about it. Mary Kate Spellman did not tell her anything about Ace Investigations following Gerry in Cork even as they were speaking.

Next day they went shopping and later took Ashling and Sile to the circus and afterwards to the new McDonalds in the town. Mary Kate Spellman’s purchases included a new pair of boots.  Gillian bought everything in sight as always.

It was a good day and pleasant evening afterwards. Gillian read the girls to sleep as always when she came. The sisters had a glass of white wine each before going to bed themselves.

They went to 10 o’clock Mass the following morning and Gillian, again as always, left for Dublin about four o’clock in the evening so to avoid the heavy traffic.

Gerry got back after 10 o’clock.  He was tired but upbeat about the symposium. He brought back small presents for everybody and was asleep as soon as his head hit their pillow.

She met Alec in the Limerick hotel on Tuesday morning at 11.  The girls were at school.

He was sitting exactly where he said he’d be, wearing the red sweater. He was about 60, burly but with a dignified presence to him. He had a briefcase.

He stood up from his chair until she was seated and ordered coffee for them both. Mary Kate Spellman can be bluntly direct when she has to be.

“Okay,” she queried.  “Is there another woman?”

Alec said a flat “no” and then reached into the briefcase as her spirits soared with relief. He handed the batch of photographs to her silently.

In the first photograph Gerry was standing on the hotel balcony wearing a white bathrobe and with his right arm around a boy of about 16 or 17.

In the third photograph of the sequence the two were kissing passionately on the same balcony.

The shot was taken in the early morning because the sun was glinting on the face of the watch Mary Kate Spellman had given Gerry the previous Christmas.

On the back she’d had inscribed, “Together forever, Mary Kate.”