This is the sixteenth part of a fiction serial, in 725 words.
Early the next morning, Jon walked to a local shop and bought chocolates and flowers for Alanah. When she came to her door, he presented the gifts, adding his thanks for looking after his cat. To forestall any offer to go inside, he told her he was going to be very busy with a new book, so she would be unlikely to see much of her for a while. Her disappointment at that news was eased by the sight of the largest available box of her favourite chocolate assortment.
Three weeks passed, and in the new manuscript, Inspector Johnson was making headway. Some interesting evidence had been found at the house of Roderick. Correspondence concerning a relative who had never been previously mentioned. He was an uncle, the older brother of Amelia. Checking all available records, it appeared this man had not been seen or heard of for some years. In fact, examination of more paperwork discovered at the Aldenham house showed that Amelia’s lawyer had arranged to have him declared legally dead, and as a result she had inherited his estate, including a substantial house in St Albans which had been sold the same year.
The Inspector would have liked to have arrested them all on suspicion of involvement in his death. But with no corpse, his case was shaky. At the suggestion of Sergeant Chen, he placed them all under observation instead, hoping that they might do something to incriminate themselves.
Jon was happy with the way it was going, and continued to make notes concerning the Inspector’s eventual seduction by Eloise, and how that would complicate the case later. Naturally, he had not used any actual names or exact locations, but to get back at the family for messing him around, he used names and locations that were so close to the real ones, anyone who knew them could definitely make a connection.
That evening as he waited for a pasta meal to cook in the oven, he wondered about contacting Claudia, and sending her the first few chapters as a teaser. After all, she had been the one to suggest he should write another book in the series, and it wouldn’t hurt to engage her as his agent once again. As he forked some of the chicken and penne into his mouth, he decided to sleep on it.
Not bothering with breakfast the next morning, he made a pot of coffee in his vintage percolator, ready to face the phone call to Claudia. Jon wasn’t good at eating humble pie, and he had no doubt she would serve him up a very large portion. He would just have to grin and bear it. After all, she was one of the leading agents in literary fiction, even though she managed to run her busy office on a shoesting, employing just one very put-upon assistant, and insisting on answering all the telephone calls herself.
Before he could dial the number, there was a sound from the door. His post dropping into the cage, and the letterbox snapping shut after.
The first two letters were in brown envelopes, one from the Inland Revenue, the other probably a circular. But the third was in an envelope that he recognised immediately, and bore the same clumsy address as the first one that had sent him on that search. Exactly like that one, it had a smeared bloodstain around the flap, and the stamp was a very old Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas. The Aldenham postmark showed it had been posted five days earlier.
On the one sheet of paper inside, there were more words this time. PLEASE DON’T LET ME DOWN.
Shaking his head, he found another plastic sleeve to put the letter into. He wasn’t about to play that silly game again. This time, he would take both letters to the police, and let them deal with it. He no longer needed to solve the mystery anyway, as he was convinced there wasn’t one. As for the new book, he could make up the rest.
As soon as he was ready, he prepared his notes and both letters, placing them in his shoulder bag. Despite the light drizzle, he could easily walk to Acomb Police Station, where he would speak to someone about the silly practical joke being played on him, and show them the letters.
Enough was enough.