This is the fifth part of a fiction serial, in 724 words.
The annoying woman finally gave up, leaving the office mouthing a selection of expletives that would make a wrestler blush. Jon stepped forward, and produced the plastic bag containing the envelope from an Italian leather shoulder bag that looked as if it might once have been carried by Gianni Versace. The man behind the perspex screen was suitably unimpressed. “And?” Jon asked if he could possibly identify where the letter had been posted, and quickly added that he should not remove it from the plastic.
After the most cursory glance, the post office operative jabbed a finger at the post mark. “Aldenham, mate. See that number? That’s Aldenham”. John could not see that number, even after putting on his plus two reading glasses. But he was pleased that the man could. He asked him where Aldenham was, as he had never heard of it. Leaning on his counter, the man adopted a tone that Jon found rather patronising. Close up, it was also evident that his nostril hair was out of control, and resembled small bunches of brown-coloured broccoli.
“It’s a couple of miles north east, mate. Very much your sort of place, I reckon. Classy, know what I mean? Countryfied like. Let’s put it this way, I couldn’t afford a bedsit there, let alone a house. Anything else for you today, sir?” The last part was in such an offensive tone, Jon might usually have demanded to report him to a superior. But he quit while he was ahead, thanking the man for his help.
With his stomach rumbling, he walked back into the town centre, where he found a cafe serving the ubiquitous all-day breakfast. Ordering the full works with a mug of tea, he sat in a window seat, and watched the world go by.
Back in the hotel room, it was easy to find out more aabout Aldenham using his laptop. Almost four miles north, it was an ancient village, now marked as a conservation area. Despite its proximity to Watford, it oozed the old world charm of an archetypal English village, boasting some very desirable properties indeed. There was also a prestigious private school, a classic village green, and a medieval church originally dating back to Saxon times. Modern additions to the area included a well-used Country Park.
However, as far as he could tell from the online search there were no shops in the village, and no Post Office. Though there would surely be at least one post box, if not more. There seemed to be little point in changing hotels, as it was so close to where he was. He decided to drive out that afternoon and take a look for himself.
The satnav in his car took him along the busy A41, then under the bridge of the M1 motorway. There were only seven or eight roads making up the village of Aldenham, and it was immediately obvious that this was a wealthy area. Even the older housing stock and smaller bungalows were all well-kept, and it struck Jon that prices of property in this area would exclude most working-class people from being able to live there.
He stopped the car outside the imposing church of St John The Baptist, as he had seen a Victorian post box built into a wall nearby. If there were other post boxes, he had not spotted any as he drove around. There seemed no point in actually going to look at the postbox. It was unlikely to have any traces of blood on the slot for letters, and other than the huge church, nothing jumped out at him as a clue. It seemed likely that anyone posting a letter there would be a local resident walking past, but the worrying truth was that anyone could have driven there from any location in the country, with the sole purpose of disguising where the sender was, if that had been their intention.
Having to make a decision about how to proceed with his investigation, he concluded that there was only one avenue to pursue. Whoever had sent the letter had to have been nearby, able to walk there and post it, or have someone post it on their behalf.
If he allowed the other options, he might as well drive home to York and forget the whole thing.