This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 770 words.
The first line was suggested as a short story, by writer and blogger, Jon Risdon. https://wilfredbooks.wordpress.com/
I decided to expand it into a longer serial.
After the postlady had pushed the letters through the letterbox, Jon noticed a smear of fresh blood on one of them.
Below the usual stack of bills, circulars, and card statements, the envelope stood out. It was small and square, like the kind that usually contains a greeting card. Sand-coloured, the edges were decorated with maroon squares, in a geometric design. The wide smear of blood was around the stuck down flap at the back, as if whoever had licked the glue had blood around their mouth as they did so.
The name and address was written in block capitals, with what looked like a marker pen of some kind. Not that it was a proper address, Jon had his moderate fame to thank for it being delivered at all.
MR JONATHON RIDLEY, YORK, YORKSHIRE.
Obvously, someone at the postal sorting office knew him well enough to have put it into the right bin, where it would have been collected by the pleasant lady who had been delivering his post ever since he had moved to the city some years back. The stamp was a Christmas stamp, second-class and probably bought some time ago,. The design was a drawing from Raymond Briggs’ book, ‘Father Christmas’. Jon tried to recall when those Christmas commemoratives had been issued, but couldn’t remember. It was a long time ago though, he knew that much.
Still, the one good thing about stamps with 1st or 2nd printed on them was that they would always be honored, no matter how old.
He took the post into what had once been the dining room, but was now his study. Taking the antique letter opener in the design of a Toldeo sword from a Moorcroft pot at the back of his desk, he opened the strange letter with great care. Inside, a thin sheet of notepaper bore the same design as the envelope, and there was just one word written on it, in large capital letters.
Sitting down into the green leather captain’s chair that he always used for his writing, he studied the postmark using an ivory-handled magnifying glass that looked as if it could have once been owned by Sherlock Holmes. Around the circular design was printed Watford Mail Centre. The date was faded, as if the machine was running out of ink, but he could clearly make out the number fifteen. The fifteenth of this month then. That was four days ago, about right for a second-class letter with an incomplete address.
Although he prided himself on knowing and having visited most parts of the British Isles, he was certain that he had never been to Watford. All he knew of it was that it was an unimpressive commuter town to the north west of London, and that it was the last stop on the Metropolitan Line of the London Underground network. And as far as he knew, he didn’t know anyone who lived there. Not personally, anyway.
One of his readers pehaps? A person who enjoyed his crime novels and thought he was someone who could actually solve such mysteries in real life. For many years, his Detective Inspector Johnson series had been required reading in the genre, and sold well in hardback long before the paperback was available. He had run to twenty-six books in that popular series, before losing the muse. When he told Claudia that he wanted to change direction, to write science fiction and fantasy, she had shaken her head as she lit a cigarette.
“Daaaarling”, she drawled. “Write what you know. Write what sells”. He had waved away the cloud of smoke she exhaled, and parted company with his literary agent.
Moving almost three hundred miles from Brighton to York had not been intended to be his retirement. But when rejection after rejection flooded in for his sci-fi manuscripts, it turned out to be just that. He even tried to rework his detective novels into the future, something along the lines of ‘Inspector Johnson In Space’. But even he thought they were so obviously a rip-off, he never sent them to the editor.
Life in York wasn’t so bad. Years of success and the inheritance from his mother’s house sale left him comfortable financially. And his reputation was still good enough to allow unaddressed letters to be delivered through his front door. He pushed the piece of notepaper around with the tip of the letter opener as he sat thinking. A mysterious letter was indeed great inspiration for a new novel. It would require some research first of course.
He would get onto that tomorrow. First thing.