This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 762 words.
Pleased with the delightfully smooth ride offered by the Mercedes, Jon made good progress south as he enjoyed listening to Radio Four on the impressive in-car entertainment system. Memories of his time in Brighton drifted in and out of his consciousness as he kept to the speed limit and watched out for the large trucks pulling into his lane too slowly.
These days, they would undoubtedly call it Grooming. The encouragement of an impressionable and overwhelmed student by an older, well-respected man. Someone abusing a position of trust in an educational establishment. Such stories were all the rage now, with court cases that were described as the pursuit of ‘historical offences’ But Jon harboured no resentment, sought no justice or revenge.
For him, Nigel had been a revelation, not a predator.
It all seemed so long ago. A room in a shared house at the cheap end of Brighton. Bus journeys to and from Sussex University. Then that first one-on-one meeting with his tutor, Nigel Downs. Although he was around the same age as his father, he was so different to him in every way imaginable. Dressed casually in the latest fashions, relaxed and chatty, quick to drape an arm around a shoulder, or gently pat a knee. Thinking about it made Jon smile, even now.
Flashing headlights in the rear view mirror broke his reverie. The car behind was just inches away, the driver shaking his head. Looking at the speedometer, Jon realised why. He had dropped to below fifty miles per hour, on a fast road. Checking the side mirror, he indicated and pulled over into the inside lane, allowing the man behind to swoop past, accelerating. Snapped out of that nostalgic dream state, something suddenly dawned on him.
How had the sender of the letter known he was living in York? On all his biographies and blurbs on the Inspector Johnson novels, it was mentioned that he lived in ‘The seaside town of Brighton, on England’s south coast’. Since moving north, he had not published anything, and as far as he could recall, very few people knew of his current location. Certainly not any readers of his old books.
The next service area came up in six miles, and he turned into it.
Sipping a tasteless coffee that he had no intention of finishing, he shifted around on the awful plastic chair. Smooth plastic and heavy velvet cord trousers were not a good combination, and the constant sliding was annoying him. Who knew he had moved to York? Well Claudia, certainly. He had sent her his address just in case he decided to reconnect with her in the future, as well as to receive his declining fan mail.
And there was young Lawrence of course. Splitting up with him had been the catalyst for the decision to leave Brighton. Lolly, the love of his life. Eyes meeting as he served Jon a glass of wine in a bar, like a scene from a corny old romantic pot-boiler.
Lolly only knew he was moving to the city, not his actual address. There seemed little point in giving that to him, after coming home unexpectedly and finding him in bed with a man old enough to be his grandfather. So much time invested. So much money shelled out. And all for nothing, in the end.
Reaching across the table for his phone, he pressed it to call Claudia.
“Daaarling, please tell me you have a new Inspector Johnson manuscript for me? Those old detective novels are enjoyed something of a renaissance, dear boy, and I am willing to forget our little bit of nastiness when you fired me”. Typical Claudia, he hadn’t even said hello before she launched into it. He asked her if she had told anyone about where e lived now. Not the usual people like his editor, or her publicist woman. Fans, strangers, someone who may have written in, or phoned the office.
“How could I possibly remember that, daaarling?” He heard her exhale cigarette smoke with such force, it reminded him of the steam trains he had seen as a small boy. “I mean, I can’t deny you do still get some fan mail, but that is always forwarded to you in a different envelope. I would never give a reader your address, daaarling. That said, you don’t get so much these days, do you dear boy? And I think it is very good of me to send it to you, considering”.
He thanked her, and hung up. It was time to get back on the road.