This is the twenty-second part of a fiction serial, in 863 words.
Jon didn’t let on to Dennis about the Hertfordshire connection, but he did ask him if anyone had been around asking where he lived. Dennis seemed surprised. “No, old love. Nobody ever asked me. Lolly mentioned that you were going to live in Yorkshire, but not where up there. To be honest, I thought you were putting him off the scent. I was sure you might go to London, get a lovely flat on the river or something. Did you actually go to Yorkshire then?” Jon nodded, but didn’t elbaorate. Taking out his wallet, he gave Dennis fifty pounds. He looked like he needed it, and made no attempt to refuse it. Then they stood up and shook hands, and Jon walked back to the hotel.
As he was changing to go down to dinner that evening, Claudia rang his mobile. She came straight to the point, her voice rising and falling in volume as she spoke. “Daaarling, I love it! It’s old school, but still very much an Inspector Johnson mystery. You have given it that Cosy vibe that has become SO popular these days. I have already spoken to Brian at the production company, and he reckons it would be snapped up by ITV for a six-part series. We would do well to wait for that, then sell the book on the back of it, with a photo of whoever stars in it on the cover”.
Making the right noises about being very pleased, Jon slipped on his Italian loafers, then managed to get her off the phone as he headed out the door.
Before going through to his table in the hotel restaurant, he stopped off at reception and cancelled the second night. There was no point staying longer, as he had no intention of driving to Broadstairs to tackle Eloise. He would go back to Hertfordshire instead, and examine the Radlett connection. As it turned out, the receptionist was happy to cancel as she was turning people away because of something happening at Brighton Conference Centre.
The waiter tried to debate that Chateaubriand was for two people, but as long as Jon was prepared to pay the full price, he took the order. A bottle of Beaune was ordered from the sommelier to go with it, and after a delicious meal, he retired to his room to write up some more of the book.
It was obvious why the television drama guy was keen to have an option. The location filming was close to London, and in picturesque spots too. It was all very English, meaning that it would also sell in America, and probably do well on a dvd box set too. If Claudia negotiated in her usual merciless style, Jon reckoned his share would be approaching six figures, plus repeat fees.
While waiting for the valet to bring his car the next morning, Jon rang the Premier Inn in Watford and was able to get a room for that night, but not for a second night. He took that, hoping it would be long enough. Amelia Bowes had some questions to answer, and this time he would make sure to ask them. That vicar would be a good contact to use. He would be able to draw Amelia out of her house on some pretext, then she could be spoken to somewhere public.
With time to kill before check-in, Jon drove straight to Radlett, arriving just after eleven thirty.
Strolling along the main street, Jon saw three restarants that served pizza. One was Domino’s, which he ruled out as not having a bar. Pizza Express was a well-know chain that had a bar, but was unlikely to employ a barman as the waiters probably got the drinks. The third was an Italian restaurant that served all the usual food, as well as hand-made pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven. It also had a smart bar that was fully stocked.
He walked into that one, deciding it was the most likely. It had not long been open for business, and he was offered a table in the window of the empty establishment. The middle-aged waitress left him with the huge fold out menu, and went to get the glass of San Pellegrino he had ordered while he looked at it.
When she brought the water, he ordered a pizza with porcini mushrooms, black olives, and asparagus, then casually asked her if she knew Lawrence Brooks. She folded her arms across an ample bosom and smiled. “He owe you money? He still owes me money. We let him live in the bedsit upstairs, and he was a good worker at first. But then he got in with that blonde woman and her mother. Regular customers, you know. They made a fuss of him, and I reckon he was under their spell, if you get what I mean. Anyway, he upped and left with no notice, and I had paid him two weeks in front. If you find him, tell me where he is, and my husband will pay him a visit”.
She walked off to check on his pizza as Jon realised that she was talking about Eloise and Amelia.