This is the fifteenth part of a fiction serial, in 788 words.
The sight of his novels in Eloise’s bookcase stopped Jon in his tracks. He was vain enough to have a full-size photo of himself on the back cover of every book. It had been taken professionally at the Brighton house, showing him sitting on his writing desk offering what he felt was his best serious writer look. And he hadn’t changed that much since.
Eloise had either never read the books, or knew who he was and was pretending not to recognise him.
He decided to try something as he was taking his leave at the front door, and complimented her on the amount of hardback books in her bookcase. She should have been an actress, such was her composure. For all he knew she may well have had a career in acting, prior to opening a guest house on the coast. “Oh, the books? Yes, I like to have a good reading selection available for my guests. Makes me feel my humble house is rather classy. Not that I read any of them myself, I’m far too busy usually”. He thanked her again, and walked to the car.
Her door was closed before he reached it.
Driving back to the hotel, he was sure he didn’t believe a single thing she had said. It had all been an act on her part, delivered with aplomb. That family was undoubtedly giving him the runaround, and on a huge scale. But why? There had to be a motive. He had to think like Inspector Johnson, maybe even Sergeant Chen. They would work it out by the end of chapter twenty-one.
A huge grin spread across his face as he parked the car in the hotel car park. That was it! If he stopped going along with their wild goose chase and just wrote the book, he would also solve the mystery at the same time. It was time to check out, get packed, and drive home to York.
There had never been anyone needing help, he was sure of that. It was all some kind of perverse game.
He telephoned Alanah from the room, letting her know he would be back later that day. She sounded very happy to hear he was coming back. “Tutankhamun will be pleased to see you, and so will I of course. I will feed him at four this afternoon, and leave your key on the hallstand”. He thanked her and reminded himself that he really must let slip to her that he was gay. It wouldn’t be long before she wasn’t satisfied with innuendo, and flashing her underwear. He feared she would move to the next level, and just lunge.
It was going to take him at least five hours to drive the two hundred and eighty miles back to his house, maybe six. But he should be home in time for dinner, and would pick something up at his favourite deli in the city. The hire car could wait until tomorrow, when he would phone the company and ask them to collect it. This trip south had already involved considerable expense, and there was no need to keep paying for a car he wasn’t going to use.
On the long drive, his mind was racing as he plotted out the story in his head. Only stopping once for fuel and a coffee, he was hungry by the time he opened his front door. Alanah had piled his post onto the hallstand, and placed his doorkey on top of it. He had to hope she didn’t come round later, and stop him working. As for Tutankhamun, he was curled up asleep in his basket, not even bothering to wake to to greet his owner.
After dinner, Jon took the remaining wine through to his study, and started reading through his notes before beginning the next chapter.
Typing feverishly, he soon had Inspector Johnson briefing a team. They would raid all three houses at the same time, armed with search warrants. This would involve officers from Hertfordshire and Kent police forces, as well as himself, Sergeant Chen, and Detective Constable Fox. it would be at first light, and give them no time to warn each other. If there was anything to be found, that would be the time. Naturally, Inspector Johnson chose to lead the team in Broadstairs. He had obviously been researching Eloise Parker-Hill.
Happy with the chapter, Jon reflected that it was just a pity he couldn’t actually arrange that. If the family members were indeed playing him, he could at least cause them some unwelcome disruption. He closed the laptop at ten that night, feeling tired after a long day.
When Alanah rang his doorbell twenty minutes later, he didn’t answer the door.