This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 735 words.
The road was too busy to chance being seen jumping over that back wall. Besides, it was a long time since Jon had jumped over anything, let alone a wall higher than he was tall. He would likely fall down and break something if he tried, as well as almost certainly being noticed by people walking around, and passing traffic. Best to stay in the van, and hope the man came back soon.
And hope it was indeed Roderick, and not someone else.
Inspector Johnson would have asked Amelia for a detailed description, with Sergeant Chen writing it down in her notebook as it was given. Once again, this mystery would be so much easier to solve in fiction. With no sign of the old Nissan, Jon was lost in his thoughts again.
The move back to Brighton had started a better chapter in his life, and he was relieved to get away from the overwhelming concrete embrace he always felt in London. And those terrifying kids too, so very different to his own schooldays. Brighton was about to become the gay capital of southern England, as more and more people moved away from London to enjoy life by the sea within commuting distance of their city jobs. It was the perfect time to live there.
He got in before the property prices skyrocketed, buying a lovely restored two-bed terraced house near Regency Square. There was an oblique sea view too, though only if you leaned out of any front window and looked left. The courtyard garden was just enough outside space, and the kitchen-diner in the basement opened out onto it. Within five years, it was worth four times what he had paid for it. By the time he sold it to move to York, it fetched a small fortune. Parking was a nightmare in that town, but he didn’t need a car. Everything he needed he could walk to, and there was a good train service up to London too.
That daydreaming almost cost him noticing the return of the old Nissan, and he suddenly saw it reversing from Chapel Street into the side street, parking close to the wall again. The man got out, and retrieved three shopping bags from the car, which he carried in through the front door, stooping to pick post up from the mat before closing it again. Jon hadn’t even noticed the postman delivering. He had to stop his thoughts wandering, and pay attention.
It dawned on him that he had no idea what to do next. No doubt Inspector Johnson would have convinced his superiors to authorise a search warrant. He would have knocked on Roderick’s door, swept past him as he opened it, and searched the house thoroughly, accompanied by a specialist team in white overalls. Then he would give Roderick a good grilling about the letter. Who sent it, and why? Sergeant Chen would have a Confucian moment, and discover something sinister under a floorboard.
All Jon could do was to sit and watch. Take notes, and hope for clues. But what if nothing happened? What if no clues were forthcoming? Soon he would have to decide whether or not to extend his hotel stay, and the vehicle hire. With nothing happening in Hemel Hempstead at the moment, any further chapters of the new book were going to have to be pure invention. Still, it was only day one. He had to be patient.
Not easy, for an impatient man.
As far as he could tell, there was no CCTV camera on Roderick’s house. Jon decided to stretch his legs, and walk as casually as he could along Chapel Cottages. If anyone asked why he was there, he would pretend to be lost, and ask for directions to Aldenham. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was all he had. He started by walking along the main road, past the front of the house. The curtains in the front windows were closed. If that was any sort of clue, it was the only one. Turning around, he strolled into Chapel Cottages, and past the old Nissan and the long white wall. In case anyone was watching, he took one of the church pamphlets out of his shoulder bag and pretended to read it.
In less than five minutes, he was back sitting inside the van.
None the wiser.