This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 710 words.
Trying to look interested, Jon actually took some photos on his phone as the vicar showed him around. He was trying not to think of the missed opportunities of being able to spot anyone who might be using the post box outside. His host seemed keen for the church to be included in any forthcoming book, and went so far as to suggest he might be a character.
“Of course, if you want to write me in, I won’t complain, Mr Ridley. My given name is Babatunde William Bolaje, but that might have come as a shock to my congregation. So I tell them to call me William. It used to amuse me when they asked where I was from. No doubt they expected some African jungle origin, and they all seemed very disappointed when I told them it was West Drayton”. He roared with laughter at his own joke, and continued.
“I suspect the Bishop was playing a cruel joke on the locals when he appointed me to this parish three years ago, but it has worked out very well, so backfired on him”. Stopping by a table near the main entrance, he picked up two leaflets. “These may well be of use to you. The history of the church, with some original drawings and a photo dating from the eighteen-eighties. This second one is information about the parish, church activities and special services.”
Reaching into his shoulder bag, Jon took out his notebook and opened it to slip the leaflets into it. As he did so, the plastic sleeve containing the envelope fell onto the stone floor, and the vicar quickly bent down to pick it up. Smiling as he tapped his finger against the front of the enveope under the plastic.
“I see you have received a communication from the redoubtable Amelia Bowes? Is that why you chose this church? I recognise her stationery from the numerous letters and notes she has handed me since I became the vicar”. Jon felt his mouth drop open, and a nice tingle ran up his spine. He thought fast, telling the vicar he was correct, but that Mrs Bowes had forgotten to put her address on the letter.
The huge smile returned, and he shook his head. “Really? That is most unlike her. She usually puts her address on her notes to me, even when she hand-delivers them. Come outside, and I will show you where she lives”. They walked to the end of the path, and standing close to the post box, the vicar pointed with his right hand. “Straight across the road, and you will see The Crescent. Her house has no number, it is called The Poplars. You will see why when you notice the Poplar trees along the side of the property”. He shook Jon’s hand, and held the grip for longer than usual.
“Please send me a copy when the book is published. And be careful of the widow Bowes, she is rather fierce”.
Deciding not to return to the van while the vicar was watching, Jon walked a little further down, and pretended to take some more photos of the church on his phone. The vicar soon got bored, waved a farewell, and went back inside the church.
Back in the van and writing notes furiously, he felt there was no longer any need to keep sitting and watching.
He had his first suspect.
Feeling cold and rather hungry he drove back to the hotel, got changed into something smarter, and went out for an early dinner. Or perhaps it was a late lunch, he wasn’t sure. On the way back to the hotel, he bought a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to drink in his room while he worked on the draft manuscript. A church and vicar might well feature in the book, but it was unlikely to be that church, and that vicar.
By the time he had started to feel tired, there were four completed chapters saved on his laptop, and he was having to stop himself from getting ahead of the story. A doughty widow who lived in a house with no number was an unlikely suspect indeed. Unless you were Agatha Christie of course.
Which he wasn’t.