This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 995 words.
Emptying the new container back into the drum was a tricky task, trying to get everything in without spilling the dangerous acid. When it was done, I used the wheeled trolley and small hoist to get the sealed drum back into storage under the floor of the smaller workshop. Before going back up to the house, I cleaned and disinfected the container where I had kept Shell and Danielle, ready for the next experiment.
There was nothing substantial in the house to eat, and I needed to drive to the supermarket for groceries. On the way, I wondered how long I could possibly wait until exploring the next opportunity for an experiment. Of course, writing up my notes and editing the video footage would take some time, and I wanted to be completly certain nobody had associated me with Danielle’s disappearance, and the freeing of the animals from the sanctuary. Back at home as I ate fresh some soup and warm French bread, I searched my mind to try to think if anyone who called at her house might have seen me. Happy that they had not, I still had to consider that she might have told someone about me working there.
I would have to wait for a while, to make sure she hadn’t.
Over the next few weeks, I was certainly tempted at times when it seemed I could easily take advantage of a situation. The man who delivered most of the parcels I ordered online was middle-aged, and small in stature. I felt he might be easy to overcome physically, if I had no chance to drug him. But his vehicle would be tracked, and his deliveries too. It would be so obvious where he had gone missing. Besides, I would have to engage him in a long conversation to discover his secret fear, and that might make him suspicious.
Then there was the woman cashier in the small petrol station where I habitually filled up my van. She made no secret of being attracted to me, and was keen to tell me as much of her life story as possible, in the short time it took to pay for my fuel. She would have been so easy, as she would undoubtedly have willingly met me elsewhere, had I suggested it. But even that humble business had CCTV, covering both the forecourt and the interior of the payment area. Should she go missing, I would become the number one suspect immediately.
Finding a new job and going back to work was definitely necessary. I had to be around a wider selection of other people to be able to pick someone suitable. Casual work seemed to be the best option, and I looked online for employment where there would be few questions asked, and nobody would care too much about my tax and insurance records. But there was nothing that felt safe for me, and the weeks passed, leaving me frustrated.
Taking a trip to the coast one day for a change of scene, I saw a notice attached to a tree in that small town. As I walked along the street, I saw other identical notices stuck on walls, or attached to cardboard hanging from some railings. Cheaply printed, the message was simple. ‘Agricultural Work Available. Cash Paid Weekly. Accomodation Provided.’ Underneath was a mobile phone number, and I entered into my phone contacts before driving home.
The man who answered my call was gruff, and had a heavy foreign accent. He told me that he was recruiting people to work tending crops in greenhouses. All he required from me was the ability to work hard, make no trouble, and be reliable. I would be paid in cash weekly, and static caravans were provided for the workers to stay in. He gave me a postcode for use in a Satnav, and told me to turn up anytime before Friday to be shown around. Checking the location online, I discovered it was almost one hundred miles from my house. The weather was changing, so I packed some warm clothes. The next morning, I telephoned Mr Dean, and told him I would be away for a while. He assured me he would look after the property in my absence.
The greenhouses were nothing at all like I had expected. There were six of them, each the size of a football field. Purpose built on some unattractive land in the middle of nowhere, they looked new, and inside they were very hot. Though I had never been abroad, they felt just as I imagined the tropics to be. The man I had spoken to showed me around. He said his name was Anton, and he looked more like a soldier than a farmer. Although his European accent was strong, he was easy to understand, and used colloquialisms that suggested he had lived here for some time. Behind the greenhouses were rows of unattractive static homes that looked shabby and unloved. He told me that each one held four people, and if I stayed there some rent would be deducted from my pay. I would also be provided with food, as they ate communally after work.
He looked surprised when I accepted the job without even asking the rates of pay, and seemed delighted when I told him I could start as soon as he wanted me to. He gave me a black overall, and said I had to wear my own shoes. I could settle into the accomodation that day, and start work at seven the next morning. There was no Internet access, and any mobile phone signal was erratic in that area. I shrugged at that, as it didn’t concern me. He produced a notebook from his trouser pocket, and asked my name so he could add me to his gang list. I told him my name was Richard Turpin, fairly certain he wouldn’t know the name of a famous historical highwayman. He smiled.
“I call you Ricky, okay?”