This is the final part of a fiction serial, in 1070 words.
Colin Farr had wanted to get away from Kettering for most of hs life. He yearned for the bright lights of London. Trouble was, by the time the swinging sixties started, he was too old to be a swinger, and too young to settle down. Drama School gave him big ideas, but the half-empty houses in theatres when he was touring in dull plays, and dressing up as something stupid during pantomime season was hardly the fame he had imagined. So he had been forced to stay at home with his parents, as he never seemed to have enough money to do anything.
When they both died in the same year, he stayed in the family house, living off the small life insurance payout, and pestering his agent to try to get him a television role. With no luck. It seemed you had to either be young and handsome, or old and a ‘character’. A northern accent would help too, with the popularity of those new ‘kitchen sink’ films, but he had never been good at accents, and still spoke with the refined upper class accent his tutors had urged him to develop. As it got close to his fortieth birthday, Colin faced the harsh reality that he was going to have to get a normal job.
Unusually, the postman rang the bell. He had to sign for the letter, so it was not going to be a birthday card.
After reading the contents four times, Colin still found it hard to believe what was written there. A relative had died, someone he had never heard of. It had taken almost two years for the solicitor to find any living heir, and they had eventually concluded that he was it. He rang the number on the letterhead as requested, and asked to speak to a Mister Paul Shipley, the name typed below the illegible signature. Shipley confirmed that everything was true. He had inherited a house close to Hampstead Heath, and a substantial sum of money too.
He arranged to meet the solicitor at the house in Hampstead the following day, bringing proof of identity with his birth certificate and passport. He would have to sign lots of papers, and then the money would be transferred into his bank account, and the keys to the house handed over.
Dressed in his best ‘business look’, Colin got the early train to London, and then a taxi from St Pancras Station. When they stopped outside the open gates with a driveway leading up to what was a huge old house, he asked the cabby if he was sure it was the right address, and got a grunt in reply. Colin stood and took in the sight. The place must have at least six reception rooms, and maybe ten bedrooms. An old coach house stood to one side, and the windows above suggested that must have rooms too.
Shipley arrived late, with a string of excuses and apologies. He wasn’t what he had expected. Maybe seventy years old, his suit creased and worn, and a worried look that stayed on his face throughout. He produced some keys from a battered briefcase, and they went inside. Colin shook his head, and whistled. The place was grand alright, but in a shocking state. Shipley explained that nobody had lived in the house since before the First World War, and it had taken him a very long time to trace the heirs through the name of Dakin. Finding one Dakin who had remarried to someone called Farr, he had changed direction, and eventually found Colin. He agreed that the place was in a bad state, but he was also sure that the large amount of money would enable it to be fully restored.
Hampstead was fast becoming one of the trendiest places to live in London, but Colin had no intention of living in this old mansion alone. He immediately knew what to do. He would employ architects and builders to convert the house into six luxury flats, and have the coach-house turned into a two-bed mews house for himself. Selling the leases for the flats would bring in a huge amount of money, and he would live rent-free in the coach house, and still own the freehold. He would love to have met the distant relative he had never heard of, and give them a huge kiss. He looked at her name on the paperwork when he was on the train back to Kettering.
Jemima Dakin. He wondered what sort of woman she had been.
One of the builders contacted him to ask what was to be done with a lot of the personal possessions they were finding during the work. Colin told them to store them in the coach house, and he would be down at the weekend to look through them. Sorting through piles of medical books and specimen jars, Colin found a battered old trunk, covered in dust. Inside were lots of papers, a few letters, and many bound journals. They were pretty old, with one he noticed dated 1660. That was over three hundred years ago. He treated himself to a taxi ride all the way back to Kettering, so he could take the trunk with him.
After spending the whole of Sunday reading through everything, sorting it into date order, and laying it all out on the dining room table, Colin could hardly sleep that night.
Early the next morning, he rang his agent, and told Manny to be quiet until he had finished.
“Look, I have found a suitcase containing all of my family history, all the way back to the English Civil War. It’s fascinating stuff, Manny. Murders, executions, locations all over the world, like India and South Africa. It is like the best family saga you have never heard of, believe me. This would be a great book, and an even better telly series, I tell you. But here’s the best bit, Manny. It looks like one of my relatives was the real Jack The Ripper. Honestly, it’s true. I can hardly believe it myself. We need to work on a pitch for this, Manny, and you have to give me a whole afternoon of your time to see how good it is”.
There was a pause at the other end, then a sigh.
“Let me guess, Colin. You want to be cast as Jack”.