This is the thirty-third part of a fiction serial, in 792 words.
Helen was keen to work late that day. She suggested ordering a Chinese meal from the restaurant in the next street, and said I could go and collect it. I agreed, knowing I would be too late for bar food if I didn’t eat then. When I got back, she had even found two very clean bowls, along with some cutlery that looked like it had never been used. I had bought myself a beer in the restaurant, knowing she would only have vodka to offer. When we had both finished eating, she lit a cigarette and continued talking, not bothering to clear the table.
“The day after the men left, Mrs Lee gave me a mobile phone, and showed me how to use it. It wasn’t one of those fancy phones connected to the Internet, it could just make calls and send text messages. She told me the number I had to ring for deliveries was the first one in the contacts list. I didn’t have to pay the bill for using it, as it was on government contract. That told me I would be monitored every time I used it. I still have it, it’s the one I used to ring in the food order. Then she told me I would have to pack, as the next day we were leaving for Hastings to get me settled into my house. Three suitcases were provided for me, rather old and battered ones, I have to say. The following morning, a man was parked in the driveway in a very large car, what they used to call station wagons when I was young. He loaded the cases into the back, and I could see the name of the car, a Volvo. The drive took over three hours, and I wasn’t allowed to smoke. I asked the driver to stop so I could use the toilet. He stopped at a service area, but I didn’t need the toilet. I just stood outside the car and smoked two cigarettes, one after the other, much to the obvious annoyance of Mrs Lee.”
Chuckling as she remembered that morning, Helen refilled her glass with vodka.
“When I saw this house as the car stopped, I have to say I was very disappointed. I certainly hadn’t expected anything fancy, but would have liked something more modern, perhaps a smart flat with a balcony facing the sea. The driver took the car to a public car park to wait for Mrs Lee, and she came inside to show me where everything was. When I asked her how long I would be expected to live there, she said I sounded ungrateful, and that houses like this one were very sought after on the south coast. Then she said I would be expected to live there for the rest of my life, and it had once been a popular MI6 safe house, used long before the last war, and as recently as the year before they gave it over to me. Reaching into her handbag, she gave me a small sheet of paper. There was the name of a local doctor on it, as well as a dentist, then a third number that she said I should call for any general repairs or failure of equipment like the washing machine or cooker. Then she suggested I walk around the town later, to locate the nearby shops and buy some food and provisions. After that, she gave me one hundred pounds in cash, wished me luck, and left. That was that, Martin. I haven’t seen or heard from any of them since”.
I had a few questions for her, but before I could even think about asking them, she started again.
“That afternoon, I went out and found a Post Office. I bought some notepaper and envelopes, and four books of postage stamps. Then in a newsagent’s, I purchased a copy of every newspaper they had for sale. I had something to eat while I was out, then came home and logged onto the laptop, using the password for the wi-fi that Mrs Lee had written on a card for me. I looked up every major publishing house still in business, and made a note of their names and addresses. I was determined to start trying to get my story told, and made up my mind to write to all of them, starting the next morning”.
She started coughing, and I decided it was getting late for her. I began to pack away my things, telling her I should leave. She nodded, waiting until the coughing had subsided before adding the last statement that night.
“And that’s just what I did. I wrote to all of them. It took all day”.