This is the twelfth part of a fiction serial, in 814 words.
That evening after dinner, Jon wrote up the next chapter, based on what he had been thinking about today. Inspector Johnson got his search warrant, and arrived with his team. When there was no reply, they forced entry. But after an exhaustive search, there was little to arouse suspicion. They took away an old-fashioned personal computer to see if that revealed anything, and then left a uniformed policeman standing guard on the door until a locksmith repaired it.
It would never have done to have solved the case so quickly. Sergeant Chen would have to wait for her moment.
Settling down to sleep, Jon had a thought. A long garden like the one at Roderick’s house might well have a shed, perhaps even an outbuilding. It would be good to be able to get a look inside anything like that. But how to accomplish that? He might have to be bold.
An undercover policeman might pretend to be a utilities inspector. Show a convincing identity card, and say he had to inspect the property because of water leaks, or sewage issues. Most householders just let people like that in without a second thought, hence why so many fraudsters were able to steal from houses. But he wasn’t an undercover cop, and he had no way to fake an identity card.
There was only one thing for it, he was going to have to confront Roderick Bowes.
Steeling himself the next morning, he didn’t bother with breakfast, hoping to doorstep Roderick before he could go out. Arriving in the middle of the school run, there were lots of parking spaces in the street, so he parked almost outside the house. Dressed in a corduroy suit and carrying his shoulder bag, he strode up to the front door, and banged the brass knocker twice, very hard. As he heard a bolt inside being pulled back, Jon swallowed hard.
The man opened the door, then raised his plucked eyebrows at the sight of an unexpected caller. He was wearing a silk dressing gown adorned with embroidered peackocks, and had some very feminine feathered slippers on his feet. Jon asked him straight out if he was Roderick Bowes, and when the man nodded, he pulled the plastic sleeve from his bag, and asked if he had sent the letter.
The reply was delivered in a voice that sounded female, and heavily affected. What Jon’s father would have described as ‘fey’.
“Sent that? Dear me, no. I would never have addressed a letter like that, and I cannot even remember the last time I ever sent one anyway. Besides, that stationery is my mother’s, she never uses anything else, and I would know it anywhere. I wouldn’t be seen dead with something so pretentious. Back in the day, I always used Basildon Bond. Whoever suggested I could have sent that must have confused me with my mother, and given you the wrong information. Is it a rude letter? A threat, or something? Why are you so bothered about who sent it? You might as well come in, I’m hardly dressed for chatting at my front door”.
He turned into the hallway, and Jon followed. There seemed to be no danger from this patently effeminate man, and it was very obvious that the letter had completely surprised him. With no offer to sit, and the usual hospitality of tea or coffee ignored too, Roderick stood with his back to a fireplace that was so large, it made the small living room feel even smaller. Without waiting for Jon to reply to his earlier questions, he cupped his chin in the palm of his hand.
“Just had a thought though. Could be my sister, Eloise. She still visits my mother. I haven’t been to the Aldenham house for over twenty years, not since the inheritance from my grandfather when I was twenty-one, and I bought this house. When my mother came to look at it the week I moved in, she described it as a ‘rather pathetic cottage in a slum town’. We haven’t spoken since. Hang on, and I will write down Eloise’s address for you. I know she still sees mother, because she visited me last Christmas and told me so”.
Shifting his bulk across to a cluttered Victorian bureau under the side window, Roderick opened a red book with ‘Addresses’ embossed on the front in gold print. Then he tore the bottom section from a gas bill, and wrote his sister’s address down. “She still uses her married name, Eloise Parker-Hill. Been divorced for years though”. He extended the piece of paper with a leer. You are not going to tell me what it’s about, are you? If Eloise is involved, I’m guessing it’s an affair of the heart. Did she break yours perhaps?”
Jon grinned as he took the paper, concluding that Roderick’s Gaydar was not tuned in.