Phyllis: Part Nine

This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 749 words.

Travelling as Phyllis was a refreshing change for Terence. It also saved having to pack changes of clothes to wear as a man. The hotel in Kensington was definitely a step up from the one in Bayswater. Although nothing grand, it was next door to one that was, so the atmosphere on the street felt good, with many foreign tourists as guests, including some very polite Japanese men who nodded respectfully as he checked in. The room was adequate, and three times the size of the shoe-box in Bayswater.

With no need to change before the dinner date, he did some more Internet research on Lawrence Colman-Tolliver. The man had no social media profile at all, not that unusual for someone that old. There was an entry for a Lawrence Tolliver that he had seen before, but that just related to a newspaper article from the 1980s about a planning dispute in Norfolk. There was no photo, but the similarity of the name made Terence uneasy. Why no Colman in that double-barrelled name? It was the usual stuff. Tolliver had been challenged over some property improvements that did not have permission. He went to court over it, and lost the case.

Dropping the name Tolliver, he found a Lawrence Colman listed as a cousin of the famous mustard family, and presumed that would likely be his man’s father. Maybe the Tolliver had been added after a second marriage before Lawrence was born?

On the way to Covent Garden in a taxi, Terence had to suffer the driver telling him that the restaurant was overpriced, and not as good as it had once been. He smiled politely, but had the feeling the cabbie had never actually eaten there and was just making conversation. The place had a uniformed doorman, which was impressive, and also a claim to be the oldest still surviving in London, dating back to 1798. There was a reservation in the name of Colman-Tolliver, but he was told the gentleman had not arrived as yet. Terence was seated at a table for two, and he asked to wait for the arrival of his dinner date until the menus were brought. Feeling awkward as the only person sitting alone, he asked the waiter to bring him a glass of Chablis.

Even that early, the restaurant was full. Most of the diners appeared to be foreigners, and everyone was very smartly dressed. Sipping his wine carefully, he noticed a few glances in his direction, most of which appeared to be favourable. Halfway down the glass of wine, the head waiter suddenly arrived at the table. “Madam, we have a telephone call for you, please follow me”. He was shown into a cloakroom and handed a portable phone handset. The waiter walked off a few paces, giving some privacy. Terence knew it had to be Lawrence, nobody else could possibly know he was there.

“Phyllis, m’dear. Profuse apologies. I got held up on the way to London, and I am still almost an hour away on a train. Would it be at all possible to meet at your hotel later? I am sure we could get something to eat there. I feel awful, I really do, but I had no contact number for you to alert you of the delay”. Terence smelled a rat. The voice didn’t sound old enough, and the hint of a badly-disguised Norfolk accent was unlikely in someone who claimed to be privately educated. So he gave the address of the swanky hotel next to his, and agreed to meet there in just over an hour. Then he paid for his glass of wine, apologied to the head waiter, and left. The uniformed doorman referred to him as ‘Miss’, as he stepped forward to summon a cab passing by.

Back in his room, Terence went over the situation. He didn’t believe a word of it. Someone was trying to con the con man. But why? he hadn’t given the impression he was that well-off, and the messages had seemed normal, with no hint of deception. Could it be sex? Was old Larry hoping to jump him in his hotel room after a hurried dinner? Mainly, he was annoyed at the waste of time, and the waste of money travelling down to London and booking the hotel. He was hungry too, but wasn’t about to splash out on an expensive hotel meal.

No, he would do something else. He would wait and see if Lawrence turned up next door

40 thoughts on “Phyllis: Part Nine

  1. (1a) “The hotel in Kensington was definitely a step up from the one in Bayswater.” So the elevation of the hotel in Kensington was between four and seven inches higher. (I figured this comment would get a rise out of you.)
    (1b) There was an old woman who lived in a Bayswater shoe box. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. But then she read about a triple-sized shoe box in Kensington. So she moved. And everything was fine…until she experienced another string of pregnancies!
    (2) I was going to say something about Lawrence Colman-Tolliver’s name. But in the end, I decided to drop it.
    (3) Now that I think about it, 1798 sounds like a good year for an Irish Rebellion. (In the meantime, I wonder what Napoleon is up to?)
    (4) Terence smelled a rat in the cloakroom. At least the rat wasn’t in the kitchen, where the chef was busy preparing a tasty ratatouille.
    (5) Overheard:
    Doorman: “Miss—”
    Terence/Phyllis: “You’re such a dear!”
    Doorman: “Miss the good old days. Back then, classy women. No more. Miss that.”
    (6) Terence wondered if Lawrence would show up next door at the Hotel Arabia.
    (7) Did you hear about the man from Fakenham who tried to write French text? Every diacritical mark was a badly-disguised Norfolk accent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You went with Fakenham. I live just off the Fakenham Road in Beetley, less than 10 miles from the town of Fakenham. I rarely have any reason to go there, but had to go there for eye tests on two occasions last year to get my driving licence renewal. It has a population of 8,400, but as it is on the main road to the North Coast beaches of Norfolk, I don’t think I would want to live there.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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