This first line of a fictional short story was suggested by blogger and author, Jim Webster.
Bertram was slowly discovering that being dead for administrative reasons was not perhaps the success he had hoped.
It had seemed like a very good idea at the time. The six lottery numbers had come up, and the bonus ball. Not exactly a bumper jackpot week, but six million was enough to keep him very comfortable during his remaining years. Winning had its drawbacks though. Even refusing publicity, people were surely going to find out. Buy a new car, move to a bigger house, and someone was eventually going to notice. The begging letters would follow, and worse still the darker episodes in his past would undoubtedly surface.
Those ex-wives would be queuing up with their hands out, and he could think of a few young women who might be approaching the newspapers hoping to sell their grubby little stories.
Only one thing for it, Bertram Ponsonby had to die. Cease to exist. Disappear off the radar. Go completely off grid.
Week by week, he drew out as much cash as he could risk without alarming his very satisfied bank manager. By the end of the year, he needed two more suitcases in which to store the money. Then he gave some thought to his suicide note. He wouldn’t be the first lottery winner to be unable to cope with unexpected wealth, so his departure from this life would be no real surprise. He took a taxi to a local used car company, and paid cash for a nondescript vehicle. The salesman helped him load the five suitcases in the back, presuming he was taking a very long trip.
Which of course he was.
Bertram had left his modest house unlocked, his old car parked on the driveway, and the suicide note displayed prominently on the hall stand. When no bills were paid, and his absence was eventually noticed, he would be far away, and presumed dead. His body never to be found.
The first few years suited him very nicely. Travelling from hotel to hotel, occasionally renting a holiday home or short-term let for cash, using his new assumed name. He had chosen one he wished he had been given at birth, Richard Rogers. He had always liked the way that sounded, and how easily it rolled off the tongue. When meeting sexy young gold-diggers, he would smile and say, “Call me Ricky”.
Then came an unexpected encounter.
He was flagged down in a routine traffic stop. The car was registered to a Richard Rogers, with an address that came back to a luxury cabin rental in Scotland. Asked to show his driving licence, Bertram told the policeman that he had left it at home. The lawman’s suspicions were aroused, and upon searching the car, he found a large suitcase stuffed with cash. Bertram’s excuse that he didn’t trust banks was not acceptable to the young officer. He found himself in the back of a police van heading for the local custody suite.
Facing possible charges of everything from driving without a licence to money laundering, Bertram had no option but to come clean. He told a bored-looking detective the truth, and felt relieved to be able to explain it all away. After some checks, the cop returned with a colleague, both looking very keen. “So, Bertam Ponsonby is dead. Who are you, and where did you get all that cash? When they refused to believe him, Bertram insisted on a solicitor.
A woman who looked very young arrived a few hours later. She read through the notes quickly, and shook her head. “You are going to have to tell them the truth, or I can’t help you. Is there someone who can confirm you are who you say you are?” He thought for a moment. Ex-wives who would love to refuse to identify him. Young women who might tell tales that would get him in even worse trouble. Former colleagues he was sure still hated him. And nobody to really call a friend.
There was a lightbub moment. Frank Pardew would speak up for him. He had enjoyed himself at some of the seedier house parties Bertram had hosted, and could be counted on. He gave the young woman Frank’s details, and she went outside to make some calls. Back just five minutes later, she shook her head. “I’m afraid Mr Pardew died two years ago. Anyone else?” He thought for a few seconds. “The bank manager. He will remember me drawing out large sums of cash”. She left the room again.
“Your branch has closed down. The manager retired and nobody knows where he is. Besides, they won’t talk to me, or anyone else, about Bertram Ponsonby’s account as he is dead and his affairs remain intestate. Can you think of anything else?”
After some moments of silence, Bertram swallowed hard, gently shaking his head.