Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

'Not only was he cheating on Angie, he'd killed her off!'
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The Independent Online

I've always harboured a secret fantasy about playing detective, and hooking up with a spy. So I was very excited to have the wine to meet Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 and now Master of Pembroke College. He's a real-life version of Daniel Craig's James Bond, but a bit more refined and greyer.

At a drinks reception in Cambridge, we were chatting about the town's cycling culture, but all I could think about was whether the hands that were wrapped around his wine glass had ever throttled the life out of someone.

I had the same reaction with M, the very fit security consultant who's been helping me iron out the details on surveillance for my third book, a murder-mystery. He's been showing me all of the hi-tech gadgets he works with, and I'm loving it.

I was at my weekly pole-dancing class with my girlfriend Amy and a mutual friend, Angie, telling them about M's pinhole spy cameras, when Angie blurted out that she suspected her husband, Tom, was having an affair. "Would you find out for me, Cat?" she asked. "I was going to hire one of those honey trap agencies, but this would be so much simpler, since I know that he's into tall brunettes. Please? You would be saving me a fortune."

I had some reservations, but Angie and I agreed on the ground rules. I would stick to polite conversation only, with absolutely no sexual overtures.

So four days later, I found myself standing outside Monument Tube station, holding a crumpled photograph with a micro-cassette recorder in my handbag, sweating profusely. I hadn't wanted to wear anything revealing, so I'd chosen a high-necked, ruffled, white maxi dress that was more Minnie Mouse than Mata Hari.

Angie had phoned Tom, so I knew which bar he was in. I approached him with a wide grin on my face, and coolly asked if he was Roger.

"No," he replied, laughing, "should I be?" I noticed that he wasn't wearing a wedding ring. Bastard.

"It's just that I've been stood up," I said. "Would you mind if I sat with you guys until I figured out what was going on?"

I told Tom that I was a flight attendant, and he made a lame joke about the Mile High Club. I asked him if he was married, and he got a sad look on his face and told me that he was a widower, and "didn't want to talk about it". Not only was he planning to cheat on Angie – now he was killing her off!

When he put his hand on my knee, I could feel the bile rising in my throat. So I told him that I would meet him later, in his hotel, and jumped up, only to have the contents of my handbag, including the recorder, spill out. I thought I'd been rumbled, but collected myself and got the hell out of there, giving him strict instructions not to call me until he was "in his room and comfortable". I needed to buy some time.

I'd survived my first honey trap assignment, but the worst was yet to come: I had to tell Angie what had happened. I felt horrible, but she assured me that she was happy to know the truth after torturing herself for years. We both knew this wasn't a one-off.

That night, my inner spy slept well. I may not have saved the world from terrorism, but at least I had the satisfaction of imagining Tom calling the number I gave him and getting my cab firm instead.