This is the second part of a fiction serial, in 790 words.
Using a resealable clear plastic freezer bag, Jon sealed the letter inside, hoping to protect any forensic details as best as he could. A quick check on his laptop provided him with various districts in the Watford postal area, and the extra digit he couldn’t quite read on the postmark might help to identify exactly where it had been posted from.
It seemed to be a daunting task so far, given the wide area covered by Watford. He made a list of possibilities inside the morocco-bound A4 notebook his father had bought him the week before he left for university to study English.
Oxhey, South Oxhey, Carpenders Park
Bushey/ Bushey Heath
North Watford/Central Watford.
Garston, Leavesden, Aldenham, Letchmore Heath.
Rickmansworth. Kings Langley. Borehamwood.
There was only one thing for it, he was going to have to make the trip to Watford, and enquire at the postal sorting centre.
Alanah from next door could probably be relied upon again to feed Tutankhamun, his cat. She could be trusted with a key too, as in the past nothing had ever been disturbed. No drawers ferreted through, or things out of place. She was a spiritual type, and a cat-lover into the bargain. The two Siamese she owned never went outside the house, and as she would trust nobody with them, she rarely went very far either. He had always thought she might well have once been a full-time hippy. She certainly looked the part.
As he disliked having to change trains frequently, a hire car would be essential, and accommodation too. It was too far to travel for one day, so he would book into somewhere quite nice for a few nights. He could think of it as a holiday, even it it was only Watford. He telephoned Enterprise and arranged for a car to be delivered the next day, booking it for a week. As he rarely drove now, he decided to treat himself, and chose an E-class Mercedes.
If the book idea worked out later, he could claim the cost back against his taxes.
A hotel wasn’t as easy to find as he had expected. His first three choices had no rooms available, and he eventually had to settle for a Premier Inn, close to the football stadium. At least it had car parking, albeit at minimal extra charge, and he chose a double room to get a decent-sized bed to sleep in. A Google Maps check showed him that the main central post office was two miles from the hotel. He could walk that easily.
There was no difficulty getting Alanah to feed the cat. She was delighted when he asked as he handed over the spare key, and immediately invited him in for drinks. As it was only midday, he declined, inventing having to collect clothes from the dry cleaners as an excuse. She often smelled of whisky, and had a way of looking at him that made him uneasy. She also habitually sat with her knees apart, forcing him to avert his gaze. If it was his body she was after, she had very much chosen the wrong man.
With a standard check-in time of two in the afternoon, the hotel could allow a much later check-in if required. So he didn’t have to bother to leave too early. Just as well, as delivery of the car wasn’t promised until nine anyway. At almost two hundred miles, the journey south would probably take him four hours, not allowing for any traffic problems on the main roads. His Satnav was rather ancient now, but he got it out of the box and charged it up anyway. Then he charged his laptop and phone, before making a list of what he had to pack for seven days away.
Settling down in bed that night, Jon was feeling excited. He had a project, and one that really interested him. Although he dearly loved living in the city of York, a break down south would make a nice change from routine.
The young man who delivered the car just after nine the next morning was very nice. Much more his type. But he didn’t give Jon a second look, as he ran through the basics of the car, and showed that there was no damage. He had a colleague waiting for him up the lane in a small hatchback, so once the paperwork was signed, he scuttled off in a hurry. Jon watched him leave, in his chain-store suit, and brown shoes. Smiling to himself, he thought it was a shame the man didn’t have to come inside the house.
Well, you never knew until you tried, did you?
Charging the Satnav had been a waste of time. The new Mercedes had one built in.