Sleep was hard to come by that night. Martin was too excited to settle down, and by the time he surrendered to tiredness, it was almost dawn. After less than two hours of deep slumber, he was woken up by the noise of the dustcarts shifting the bins outside. Rubbing his eyes, he jumped out of bed and headed for the living room, where his mobile phone was on charge. Still half-asleep, he connected the phone to the Internet, and signed in to his online banking. The sight of his available balance made him collapse onto the hard chair next to the table. £10,490. Changing the screen, he checked his easy access savings account, which had previously contained less than £300. His eyebrows raised so high at the amount, he felt they might slip under his hairline, and remain there. £48,880.
Inside his head, Martin heard the old saying ‘He couldn’t believe his eyes’. He now knew exactly what that meant. Scrolling through his contact list, he clicked on the number for phone banking. After pressing numerous numbered options, he finally got through to someone he could talk to. “Hello, Mr Harwood, this is Karen speaking, how may I help you today?” The accent was foreign, almost certainly Indian, and he doubted that Karen was her real name. But he was used to call-centres based abroad. “Yes, I was wondering if you could confirm the current balances in my accounts. I am not sure they are correct”. He was polite, calm, showing none of the excitement that was making his belly do somersaults. The pleasant girl repeated both figures. “And you are certain they are correct, and that those funds are available to be withdrawn?” She was completely professional. “Yes sir, I can confirm that for you. Is there anything else I can help you with today”. Martin hung up, forgetting to thank her, or say goodbye.
Placing the phone back on the table, Martin didn’t know how to feel. The impossible had happened, and the evidence was in his bank accounts. Yet he still couldn’t shake the feeling that it was some sort of trick. His suspicions overwhelmed the possibility that he could go to the bank and withdraw thousands of pounds. There had to be a catch, there always was a catch. Turning in the chair, he suddenly noticed something. On the old armchair where Pamela had been sitting, the large brown envelope had disappeared. She had left it behind, placing the photo directly into her bag as she departed. It had been there last night, he remembered catching it with his dressing gown as he walked past. Maybe it had fallen under the chair? He made a quick search, but had already guessed that he wouldn’t find it.
He had another thought, rushing into his mind like one of those trains that is not stopping at your platform. Picking up the phone, he checked to see it was still connected to the web, and signed into his Facebook account. Something he had used hourly at one time, but hadn’t looked at for almost a year. He entered a search for Pamela Murray. There were hundreds of them. He tried Daisy Murray, and got lots of those too. Checking the page of Harris-Coyle, his old firm, he found Moira. Christ, she was still there. He looked at her profile, and scrolled around her posts and contacts. It took a good thirty minutes of faffing around, but he eventually found a photo of Moira with Pamela. It looked like a domestic party in someone’s garden, a summer barbecue. Pamela was shown as Pamela Ryan, not Murray. More investigation into her own profile showed public photos of her with a smiling well-built man, and both of them with a small girl. Her husband, Steve Ryan, and their daughter, Daisy Ryan. After scrolling so fast it made him feel seasick, he found a photo with a big ’10’, in two helium balloons. Their tenth anniversary, last year.
Martin was on the verge of collapse now. Pamela had married some sap when she was pregnant with his child. They had a house on a crappy commuter estate in Essex, and Steve had his own business as a plasterer, a van was parked outside with his name on it. Daisy had his surname, and seemed to be acknowledged as his child. Pamela went to the gym a lot, and worked part-time in the office at the local primary school. Amazing what you can find out by spending some serious time on social media. One photo even had the name of their street, on a sign close to the house. If he had wanted to, he could have gone there and knocked on her door.
But he didn’t want to.
Coffee was needed. He carried the big mugful over to the table, and sat staring at the old Remington. Had Pamela even been there yesterday? Had it been a hallucination? Martin knew he wasn’t crazy, and he could still remember the smell of her perfume, and the clean clothes. The crease behind her knee, as he had looked up her skirt, and the glimpse of the reinforced top of her tights, when she got to the top of the stairs. No, she had been there alright. But he had written her out, in the process arranging a good life for her, and the child she had claimed was his. No point denying it, something amazing was happening, and he was going to embrace it. He finished the coffee, and went into the bathroom. After a long bath and a close shave with a new blade, he dressed in the cleanest shirt he could find, and put on one of the trendily-crumpled suits from back in the day. It was a little loose on him now, but at least the styles hadn’t changed that much.
The staff at the bank were friendly and polite. They didn’t seem to notice that he had next to nothing the day before, but was now drawing out two thousand pounds in twenties. A sultry-looking mature woman handed over the cash with a smile that was almost sly. She looked directly at him through the plastic screen. “Will there be anything else for you today, sir?” He wasn’t imagining it, she was definitely flirting. He checked the name badge above the swell of her large breasts. “Not today thank you, Vanessa, but definitely some other time”. She didn’t blush at all, and kept his gaze. “I will look forward to seeing you soon then”. He stepped out the bank with a pocket full of cash, and a spring in his step. As he turned in the direction of the street market, he laughed, and spoke out loud. “You’ve still got it, Martin old son”.
His next stop was the shop where he had bought the typewriter. He had decided to go back, and engage the shopkeeper in casual conversation. Perhaps ask for that receipt, as an excuse to drop in. He wanted to find out if that immaculate man had anything to say about the old Remington. To hear if he let anything slip about its history, or who might have owned it.
After weaving through the crowd in the market, keeping a close hold on his jacket in case someone dipped his cash, he crossed to the side where the shops were. The shop that had been full of things so recently was now closed up. The windows were painted black, and a large metal bar was fixed across the door, secured by a huge padlock. He got close to the glass, trying to see inside. But it was hopeless, as the black paint obscured the interior completely. The padlock was rusty, like it had never been opened, and there was thick dust on the metal bar too. He tried tapping on the glass, but got no reply. Then a voice made him jump. It was a man wearing an apron, with the name of the shoe repair and key-cutting shop next door embroidered on it. He was standing in the doorway of his shop, smoking a cigarette.
“Don’t bother mate. Nobody has rented that shop ever since I have been here. At least twenty years or more”.