This is the fourth part of a fiction serial, in 805 words.
His second experience of a Premier Inn proved to be a good one. The receptionist was very efficient, and his parking space was not too far away either. The room felt fresh and airy, with all the basics he would need. The bathroom impressed him with its squeaky-clean cleanliness, and he had to admit to himself that the hotel chain had definitely smartened up its act.
Not in the mood to tackle a visit to the Main Post Office so late in the afternoon, he had a walk around the town instead. Avoiding the depressingly similar shopping mall, he wandered up the pedestrianised area instead, checking out the selection of restaurants. There was a Zizzi not far from there, and that Italian chain was always reliable. Finding a traditional pub, he wandered in an ordered a gin and tonic, then found a quiet table at the back.
Opening the notebook he had carried with him, Jon jotted down more possibile names of people who might know he now lived in York, but perhaps not his full address. It was a small list, and gave him cause to reflect that his memory might not be as sharp as it had been. After a second drink, he strolled back to Zizzi and was shown to a table for two by a girl who looked like she had just arrived from school. As it was relatively early, there were few other diners. Ordering a large glass of red wine and a king prawn linguine, he was in and out of the place in around forty-five minutes, suitably full.
Perhaps the drive had tired him more than he had realised, but in no mood to walk back to the hotel, he took a taxi from the rank at the end of the street. The driver appeared to be unconcerned about such a short fare, so Jon made sure to give a generous tip.
Although the bed was comfortable, sleep wasn’t about to happen. His mind was too active; full of thoughts about the past, many interwoven with the current mystery he was investigating. Before midnight, Jon gave up trying, and switched on his laptop.
The Bloodstained Letter
An Inspector Johnson mystery.
By Jon Ridley
Okay, it was back to the old style, but if Claudia was correct that it was popular again, why not? By two in the morning, fighting back yawns that felt strong enough to dislocate his jaw, Jon had two chapters down, more or less substituting what he was actually doing with his familiar Inspector character tracking down a suspicious letter on behalf of Scotland Yard. Of course, the letter had been sent to the police, not to him, and had landed on the desk of Inspector Johnson, not his own doormat in York.
It had been surprisingly satisfying to get back to the familiar formula, and to bring it up to date, he had decided to create a new character to become Johnson’s sidekick. Covering all the politically correct bases, Detective Sergeant Chen was not only female, but from a Chinese family that had emigrated from Hong Kong. She was going to bring a nice slant to the book, with her Confucian philosophy and methodical style.
Hopefully, she would bring the Inspector Johnson books into the twenty-first century. And she might even spawn a completely new series, if Jon decided to promote her later.
When a final yawn made his jaw crack with a sound like a snapping breadstick, he switched off the lamp and went to sleep.
He never slept late, so to do so was most irritating. Hanging the do not disturb sign on the outside of his room door, a long hot shower was just what was needed. Breakfast could come later, perhaps even wait for an early lunch.
Dressed in a suitably artistic crumpled linen suit, and not wearing a tie, he found the Main Post Office easily, then followed a sign for a public entrance to the collection office where people went to pck up parcels, or pay for items requiring excess postage fees. There were two people in front of him, both female. The younger one at the counter was arguing with a disinterested-looking man behind the perspex screen. “Says on this card that I have to collect it, so where is it then? I mean, I can’t be in all the time, can I? And I had to get a bus here and all. Now you tell me you can’t find it, and it’s been sent back to the sender? Go and have another look”.
The second woman in the queue turned and looked at Jon, raising her eyebrows. As the heavily tattooed woman at the counter started to demand to see a manager, she shook her head and left the office.
That was good. Now he was next in line.