This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 772 words.
Jon explained that there was no sender’s address on the letter, and wondered where he might find her son. Amelia was opening her door, about to go in. She showed little interest. “Roderick? Oh he lives in Old Hemel Hempstead. If you go down Chapel Street, his house is on the corner of Chapel Cottages, a small lane. You will find it easily. Good day to you”.
A quick check on his phone showed that the address she had given was almost eleven miles away. He would liked to have asked if her son would be home, but she had gone inside and closed the door so quickly, he had thought it best not to bother her further. It could well be that Roderick had brought the letter with him, posting it in Aldenham to avoid it having the Hemel Hempstead post mark.
It was definitely going to be worth staking out the man’s house, and seeing who came and went. Best leave it until tomorrow though, as he had some things to think about first.
Dinner that night was in an upmarket burger place that he had never tried. The meal was delicious, and after he had finished he continued to drink what was left of his bottle of wine as he took notes. Roderick Bowes. What was his story? Inspector Johnson would have asked Amelia so many more questions about her son, but he had been in no position to force the issue. Was Roderick employed? Did he have a social media profile?
Lying on the bed in the hotel room later, Jon added another chapter to the book. He changed the names of Amelia and Roderick, and made a lot more of the doorstep interview.
Sergeant Chen had one of her gut feelings about Roderick in his manuscript, and Inspector Johnson cautioned her to only look at the evidence. But inside, the Inspector was beginning to be impressed by his new sergeant’s pertinent observations.
There was something in this Confucious lark, no doubt about that.
In his real world, Jon had to be careful. If Roderick Bowes was not the sender, he might well be a victim. This was a game that could play out in so many ways, and take directions that Jon could easily have written around in a book.
But you can’t edit real life on a laptop.
As he settled down that night, sleep did not come easily. Tomorrow morning he had to drive to Chapel Street, and make a decision about what to do once he got there.
Amelia had been right about it being easy to find. The old white painted house on the corner bore a number corresponding to Chapel Street numbering, though most of the house extended back into Chapel Cottages. Parking was an issue. Like many old towns in his experience, those early Victorian streets had not been designed to accommodate cars, and in this commuter town for London, it seemed there were at least two cars for every one of the houses along the street.
Finding a space for the van less than one hundred yards west of the house in question, he had to park with two wheels on the kerb, and hope for the best. He had arrived early enough to miss the start of the runs to school and the train station, just in case Roderick left the house early. Hiding in the back, he looked through the windows, munching on a sandwich bought from the BP petrol station, and washing it down with a black coffee that tasted like dishwater.
The house was well kept. The stucco exterior painted a glowing white, and the window frames a gleaming dark green. Two large plant pots were placed either side of the front door, both containing mature Clematis bushes. But most of the property extended out of sight, with the white painted wall extending at least fifty feet along Chapel Cottages. Parking in that dead-end was at a premium, but an old Nissan Prairie was parked tight against the wall by the back gate, so Jon wondered if that could be Roderick’s vehicle.
After two hours of bum-numbing surveillance, he was rewarded by the sight of a very fat man in his forties coming out of the back gate, and walking to the car. He had sparse hair combed over a bald pate, and was dressed rather flamboyantly for his age. The Nissan drove out, and turned left, away from where his van was parked. Could the man be driving into town, to the shops?
Jon was excited, and was seriously considering jumping over that back wall.