This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 783 words.
So there was to be no valid experiment involving Edward Cobden. Even his fear of the birds did not overcome his rage at them stealing his fruit, and he had been determined to scare them off with his shotgun.
I disconnected a cable inside the bird-scarer, so that it would fail to work if tested. That would provide a reason for Ted to have arrived with his shotgun, and the accidental shooting that followed. Naturally, I would leave his body in the field, to be discovered in due course. As nobody had any idea that I was working there, I could take my time removing any trace of my stay at the farm.
There was reason to be thankful for Ted being such a private man.
Packing away my clothes, bedding, and toiletries was easy enough. I contemplated removing fingerprints, but that would also have removed Ted’s, making it suspicious. And there would be no reason to treat the house as a crime scene, once it had been concluded that it was simply an accident. After loading everything into my van, I went back inside, and wandered around. I imagined that I was a policeman, looking for any trace of someone else being there. At the last moment, I remembered to check the washing machine and drier, finding some underwear of mine still inside. As time was getting on, I thought about staying the night and leaving first thing. But I was reluctant to tempt fate, with Ted’s body nearby.
Back at home, I ordered some Indian food to be delivered, and left a message on Mr Dean’s answerphone to tell him I was back. After eating, I looked online at local job advertisements. Ted hadn’t paid me of course, but that wasn’t an issue. I had more money than I could ever spend, but I wanted to get back out into the world to find a new subject for the next experiment. Office work didn’t appeal, as there were too many people gossipping about your business. And I didn’t want to work so close to home again, particularly as Shell was still officially missing. At the end of the vacancies, I spotted a different category.
Most of the advertisements were for charity shops looking for volunteer staff. In the middle of the page, I noticed one for help wanted at an animal sanctuary, and clicked on the link. The place was little more than a large detached house, about fifteen miles south. The gardens had been taken over by a series of enclosures and sheds, and according to the blurb written by the owner, she was in need of someone else to help, for as many hours as they could offer. There was no pay, obviously, and also no expenses paid. The woman ran the place on a shoestring by all accounts, and scraped by on whatever donations she could get. There as a short personal bio of her too, with a photo.
Danielle Goldman. She looked to be around thirty, and to go along with her name, had the appearance of someone who might be Jewish. I thought that it was unusual to find a Jewish person running a sanctuary. Father had always told me that Jewish people were sharp in business, and were good to have as friends. Danielle’s dark hair and brown eyes were accompanied by a prominent nose, and a wide smiling mouth. She was not conventionally attractive, and quite obviously very overweight. There was no mention of any other staff, or of a husband or children. I sent her an email offering my services four days a week, from eight until four.
When I checked my emails the next morning, I saw that she had replied during the night. She obviously stayed up late.
The reply was enthusiastic, asking me to call on her any day before six in the evening, to look around and see if I would be happy to work there. I telephoned the number she gave on the email, and arranged to visit her at four that afternoon. Danielle answered the door wearing a stained tracksuit, and Croc sandals on her feet. The smell of animals from inside was overwhelming as she ushered me in. She was surprisingly short, definitley under five feet, and almost as wide as she was tall. After showing me around the various cages and pens containing cats, dogs, hedgehogs, injured birds, and even a miniature pony in a shed at the end of the large garden, she turned and smiled. “Well, Paul. What do you say?”
I told her that I would be happy to start the next day, and was surprised when she leaned forward and hugged me.