This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 770 words.
That evening after dinner, Jon returned to his notes, and the rough draft of what might become his next novel. What would Inspector Johnson do, in these circumstances? It would be very differentwith police powers of course. Knocking on doors showing the envelope, checking the computer for likely suspects in the Aldenham area. Detailed forensics from the blood and fingerprints. And the missing persons branch could be contacted, collating the available information against anyone who may have gone missing.
There was also the option of working alongside the Post Office Investigation Branch, a civilian unit with extensive powers given to them by the Royal Mail. But if Jon contacted them, or the Hertfordshire Police, it would all be taken out of his hands. He would no longer be able to investigate, and it would be highly unlikely that any information about the case would be passed to him.
It was not going to be possible to write the story from his perspective. The Inspector Johnson mystery was going to have to be completely different.
After breakfast the next morning, he went to reception and extended his stay in the hotel for another week. Then he called the car hire company, exchanging the Mercedes for a Transit Van that would be delivered that afternoon. The bigger vehicle would give him room to spread out, and with white vans everywhere in the country, it would pass without notice parked on a street. As well as that, the panelled sides would shield him from public gaze.
While waiting for the vehicle exchange, he walked into town and bought a cheap sleeping bag in a camping shop. Adding a thermos flask, and a pair of basic binoculars to his purchase, he smiled to himself as he remembered the excellent wartime German binoculars in his study. It hadn’t occured to him to bring those.
Surveillance was an area Jon had covered many times in his novels. Imspector Johnson would often use specialist teams to keep tabs on suspects. Sadly, he would have to try alone on this occasion. He would have no access to CCTV cameras as the police did, and there would be nobody to relieve him after a shift.
Worst of all, he had no suspect to surveil.
That gut-feeling so often written about in police procedural novels and murder stories was on his side though. Years of life on the edge of society living in the Gay Community had sharpened his senses nicely. There was a certain satisfaction that those first impressions of people so often proved to be correct, and with this current project, he had that feeling that he would instinctively know if he spotted someone with something to hide.
The van arrived on time, driven by a smart young woman who was very efficient. Unlike the one in the photo on the website though, it was dark blue, not white. No matter, as it would still pass for a tradesman’s vehicle, something not uncommon in an affluent suburb like Aldenham, of that he was sure. The young woman inspected the Mercedes, then exchanged her paperwork for its key. Jon went back into the hotel and changed his car details on the parking permit to reflect the new hire vehicle, then went to his room to take down some notes.
The next morning, dressed casually for comfort, he placed the sleeping bag and binoculars in the back of the van, together with his fully-charged phone, and the leather-bound notebook. The thermos flask had been filled in his hotel room, using the complimentary coffee sachets. Breakfast would be exchanged for some sandwiches and cereal bars, purchased in the BP petrol station on the A41. The day was bright and clear, but Jon knew all too well how cold you could get sitting in the back of a van all day.
Well he had written that into some novels at least, so presumed it was true.
Parking directly opposite the post box was not a good idea, so he parked where he could see the area clearly using the limited range of the new binoculars. Sitting on the sleeping bag up against the back doors to be able to look through the two back windows, even after ten minutes, the ridged metal floor was very uncomfortable. Perhaps he should have brought the spare pillows from the hotel room. He would do that next time.
The postal collections were at nine in the morning, and five in the afternoon. The small Post Office van arrived just after nine, but between then and midday, nobody walked past.
And now he badly needed to pee.