It is perhaps worth reminding the casual listener that at the time of writing, Matt Crawford was having an affair with Lilian Bellamy. And that Lilian, a good soul at heart, had recently purchased a job lot of gnomes from the hapless Eddie Grundy, who was as usual in severe financial straits.
I have postulated that Yvette (Matt's wife) is French-Canadian, and cod French-Canadian at that. I have no idea why.
Snug in the cosy depths of the marital mattress, head pillowed in goosefeather, the master of the house slumbered blissfully as dawn streaked the horizon and his wife rose to apply her daily camouflage.
A shattering scream tore at the tranquillity.
"Eet ees 'orrible! It is affreux! It is abominable, eh?"
Matt shook an errant plume of goose down from his mouth, groaned inwardly, and swung his sturdy legs to the floor. His wife, his spouse, the light of his life and the bankroll of all his hopes, stood by the balcony window, gazing across the dawn-lit garden. Not everyone would have been able to discern the horror in her surgically-tautened features, but Matt was alive to every nuance, and he could tell that something was very much up.
Wading across the shagpile, he summoned his inner resources.
"What's the matter, my sweet?"
"What - is - zat?" Yvette's immaculately manicured claw pointed, quivering, into the middle distance. Yonder, by the azaleas which flanked the garden gate, was a dot of unnatural red. Matt peered, and a clutch of foreboding gripped his vitals.
It was a scarlet hat.
* * *
Bloody 'ell, thought Matt, striving with the iron-hard soil, but this digging lark wasn't as easy as it looked when that tatty wench with the unfettered knockers did it on television. Sweat trickled down his features and dripped from the end of his nose. He rolled up his sleeves, but the dazzle of sunlight flashing on his Rolex blinded him, so he let them sag over his wrists once more. After some forty minutes he had achieved a trench of sufficient length and (he hoped) depth; breathless, he rolled the vile thing from its perch by the gate and toppled it into its grave, then hastily shovelled the piled earth back into the hole. Thank God it was smaller than a bloody badger.
His back would never be the same. He'd have to get his secretary to book him a massage.
Still. Yvette would be appeased.
* * *
"Urgh!" Matt came instantly to consciousness on the assumption that the police were surrounding the house. No, no, it was only his wife's banshee impersonation.
"What is it, map teat? Has something... upset you?"
Speechless, she raised an arm trembling like a twig in a thunderstorm, and gestured in the direction of the garden. In the near distance, Matt could make out a little red—no! TWO little red cones. And—he squinted—yellow waistcoats?
Hell's teef. Better get on to the osteopath.
* * *
"No! Nononononon! Eet ees too much! Thees vulgarity, theese—theese common theengs! So tasteless! So vile! Do something, Matthew, eh? Before aneebodee sees, eh?" Yvette's fragile form staggered backwards and fell into the capacious bedroom armchair, where she sat vibrating with outraged wrath.
"But sweetheart, couldn't we just..." he began, thinking of his lumbar region.
Cold beady eyes skewered him as he stood. "Get reed of them. Or..."
Quailing at the terrible threat in those implacable orbs, Matt hastened to pull on his worst trousers and got himself outside pronto.
Five of the little blighters now grinned up at him from the flowerbeds. Five! And was it his imagination, or were they getting closer to the house? They grinned at him insouciantly, and kept right on grinning as he loaded them into the gardener's wheelbarrow and trundled them round to the garage. They grinned as he hoisted them one by one into the back of the 4x4, and they were probably still grinning as he drove out to Home Farm.
It comforted him, a little, to think of them grinning as they sank to the bottom of the lake. Just so long as he could get out of here without being spotted.
* * *
He awoke to the unprecedented sensation a woodpecker attacking the back of his skull. It was Yvette, pounding at him with her tiny fists. She was too incoherent with rage to be able to speak, but there was no need. Fighting his way out of the wife-encumbered duvet, he staggered to the window.
Seven of them, in a line, heading up the garden path. Two of them had spades over their shoulders. He could almost hear the little blighters singing.
Right. No more Mr Nice Guy.
* * *
It had been quite exhilirating, what was the word, cafartic, yeah, that was it, laying about him with a shovel, decapitating the hideous little grinners. They made a good noise, shattering into icing sugar and shards of red and yellow. He had flung the shovel over his shoulder (ouch) and swaggered back to the house—then Yvette had made him pick up every sliver, and vacuum the path with the wossname her chauffeur used to valet the car. His back was killing him.
Time for some direct action. Tonight, he was going to set a gnome trap. That Woman wasn't going to get away with this any longer. He'd catch her in the act. He'd sort her out good and proper! Matt settled onto his shooting stick, checked the floodlight control was safely on his lap, and took a swig of Chivas Regal from his hip flask.
* * *
Dawn came. Matt, grunting with discomfort, awoke to find himself pillowed in damp gravel. The slender form he had been embracing was not his wife but the shooting stick, and his hip flask had emptied itself onto the perfect lawn, leaving a yellowing patch like cat's pee.
Must have dropped off for a moment.
Still, never mind. Lilian couldn't possibly have come into the garden without waking him up, and even if she had, it was still only just light. Wiv any luck he'd have time to get rid of the... of them before Yvette woke up. If there were any more. She'd have to run out sometime. After all, how many gnomes could she possibly have?
Matt surveyed the garden. Nope, not a scarlet hat in sight. Not one. Heaving a sigh of profound happiness, he turned to go inside.
A horde of tiny red-hatted figures met his appalled gaze. There were hundreds of them, waving cheery greetings or sitting on spotted toadstools or brandishing golf clubs or wielding fishing rods or doing, in one or two cases, unspeakable things with other gnomes. The house was surrounded by a grinning, scarlet-hatted army. In the forefront, raising a tiny cleaver, he could just discern a miniature Sweeney Todd.
His limbs turning to jelly, Matt raised his eyes to the long French windows at his bedroom balcony. A tiny, fragile figure in a silk negligée appeared at the window—he could not hear, but could supply for himself, the scream of despair, and as he watched, his wife, his beloved help-meet, his ovver half, his exceedingly rich wife with the meticulously crafted testamentary financial arrangements, collapsed in an overwrought bundle of bones and lingerie. With a mighty effort, Matt leapt forward—but his feet skidded on the Chivas-smeared grass, his back spasmed, his legs became entangled with the shooting stick, and he crashed head-first onto the York stone patio.
One hundred and eighty-seven gnomes grinned relentlessly on.
* * *
It had been a long and tedious day, but worth it. Doctoring the hip-flask. Getting up in the night to lay out one hundred and eighty-seven gnomes, including that spectacularly hideous specimen in the butcher's apron... she'd bought more than two hundred of the repellent little things, and shrewdly suspected she'd paid over the market price for them (all that guff about a discount notwithstanding), but they were worth every penny.
That'd teach Matt Crawford to squander his attention on another woman. If he survived, of course. The ambulance men had not been sanguine.
Bringing a glass of cognac to her lips, Yvette smiled.