‘Just follow the instructions,’ said the exasperated father ‘you put too much water in last time.’ ‘But it looked so beautiful and shiny.’
‘Sparkle and glitter are no good if it doesn’t work properly. You need to get the axis straight for a start.’ ‘The axis would have been fine if my stupid sister hadn’t thrown lumps of rock.’
‘You must learn by your mistakes, the structure has been unstable all along, you were over ambitious. Now it’s time to get back to basics and before we can do that you need to dismantle E1. It’s all recycling these days… Don’t look at me like that, you knew we’d have to put them down; you can have new pets when I’m satisfied with E2; not so many this time, pets that don’t eat each other or kill one another.’
He still had the same smile, sitting on the bed, arms open in greeting.
‘We found him in a bag in the loft when we were moving.’ My mother’s voice startled me.
Teddy was the only recognisable object in the bedroom. Just back from a year in Australia, I had no choice but to stay with my parents while I searched for a job. During my absence they had downsized. I was consigned to the tiny guest bedroom.
‘I’ll go and put the kettle on.’ Mum retreated to the kitchen and I picked up Teddy.
He never had a name, but once upon a time he had been my best friend and I used to wish that he could speak. Mum assured me that if I held him close and listened carefully I would hear him. I responded by repeating his conversation, perhaps I really believed he spoke. Teddy was a poor substitute for a brother or sister, but I told him all my secrets.
Now I had other best friends and 677 Facebook friends.
‘Is it okay if I use the computer?’ I asked after dinner.
My father’s new computer had been given a bigger room than me.
‘You can borrow your mother’s lap top, we’re on Wi Fi now.’
‘No one goes in Dad’s den’ laughed Mum.
‘It’s only till I get a new phone; you’re not on Facebook yet then?’
‘Load of rubbish,’ said Dad ‘we only got e-mail to keep in touch with you.’
‘We Skype Aunty Dot in Canada’ added Mum.
Things had moved on since I’d been away.
I spent a busy evening checking e-mails and looking up old friends instead of career opportunities.
By the next evening I was trying out my new smart phone, the latest model. After a few phone calls I checked out Facebook. You have one new friend.
Strange, I had not accepted any new friends.
The new friend was born 5th June 1987, a week after me. There was a picture of him with that familiar smile. It was Teddy. Who was playing a joke? Only my parents knew about Teddy, but they didn’t know how to get on Facebook and they didn’t have a sense of humour.
I scrolled down to see what other friends were up to, hoping I had imagined Teddy. Parties, weddings, jobs and feeble jokes, plenty had happened since I had been in the internet café in Sydney. I scrolled back up. Teddy had made a comment. I’m back, the dark days are over.
I left Teddy on the windowsill where I had put him last night and went downstairs. My parents were watching a ‘Nordic Noir’ drama.
‘I thought you said you didn’t do Facebook, which of you put Teddy on?’
They were too busy reading the sub titles to take in what I was saying.
‘Oh people put such rubbish on the internet.’
When the titles came up they came back to life. ‘Any luck yet? It’s not easy for anyone to get a job at the moment. Have you been in touch with your uni. friends? You have to network these days.’
I retreated with the genuine excuse that I was still suffering from jet lag and went to bed with a book, but I could not resist one last look at my phone.
New e-mails; Come over and see my new flat, Dilly. Welcome back, do you want to meet up for a drink for old time’s sake? Tom. Where are you staying? P.S. Like your new Facebook friend, L.O.L. xx Tim.
I went on Facebook. Teddy now had 5 likes and 1 comment from Tim. Welcome back Teddy.
I logged out and tried to get to sleep, Teddy was still smiling on the window sill.
I slept in, woken by my phone ringing. It was Kate. Sorry to wake you, but there’s a position going at my place, thought you might be interested… is everything okay, only you unfriended me on Facebook.
The house was quiet, my parents had gone to work. Teddy had not moved since last night. I sneaked into Dad’s den, perhaps on the large screen everything would be normal. You have been tagged in Teddy’s picture.
A picture of us together when we were both the same size. I went into the tiny lounge. They had kept the best bookcase and in it were the precious photograph albums. Amy, one week old, with new friend.
There I was lying on the sofa with Teddy. There had to be a rational explanation. I returned to the screen. My bear now had 35 friends, my friends. I looked up his details. Work and education: St. Bear’s Infant’s School. Interested in: Humans Activities: Chillaxing at home.
Teddy had been the only pupil at St. Bear’s, I was his teacher.
When I glanced back at the page he had posted a message. Ho Hum, sitting on the windowsill…
That was how he spoke to me when I was a child, he always prefaced each sentence with Ho Hum when he whispered in my ear.
Another phone call; friends at a conference nearby; a proper evening out with sensible adults, but when I got there I did not get the warm greeting I expected.
‘What’s going on Amy, you’ve unfriended us all on Facebook.’
‘No, it’s a great joke, I’ve got a teddy bear for a friend’ said one of the guys who had drunk too much, already keying into his phone. ‘Another message’ Ho Hum, all on my own, Amy’s gone out. ‘Hey, you’ve been tagged in his picture… I like the underwear.’
Despite my best intentions I had taken my phone out of my bag and logged onto Facebook. Teddy had posted a picture of me in the bedroom, about to put on the dress I was wearing now. On the windowsill behind me he sat smiling. Teddy has 196 friends.
I checked my details. You have 1 friend.
‘You Have One Friend’ is one of the stories in Dark and Milk – download for only 99 pence.
A short story featuring one of the briefer cases for the camper van detective in my new novel.
At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream
Debbie spotted the camper van as she walked across Riverside car park in her lunch hour, it was a handy short cut between the shops and the library. She read the poster in the window and imagined the private detective inside as a slightly seedy, middle aged man thrown out by his wife. But perhaps he could solve their library mystery. When the serious young man welcomed her she was worried he would consider their case flippant, but it seemed unlikely a private investigator operating out of a car park would be taken seriously by people with important cases to solve. She sat down on the narrow bench seat as he placed two mugs of coffee on the pull down table between them.
‘Mr. Channing, this case may sound unimportant, that is why we have not reported to the police.’
‘Many small events take on an importance only in retrospect; you must have reason to be concerned.’
‘When events went beyond the library we became worried, but it started several weeks ago. Books went missing; according to the computer they were on the shelves, but neither we nor library members could find them. Days later they would turn up; slipped amongst the DVDs, next to the public computers, even in our office or tea room.’
‘What sort of books?’
‘Always Agatha Christie, that’s what made it creepy, someone obsessed with murder or just a practical joker?’
Debbie saw Mr. Channing was taking her seriously, perhaps too seriously. She smiled ‘Some of our regular library members were not happy. …a big library and I can’t even get an Agatha Christie novel, suppose she’s not politically correct…’
‘Describe your library.’
‘A rambling Victorian building, two and a half floors, lots of rooms, nooks and crannies, easy I guess for things to happen… there were the fires.’
The private detective sat up straight. ‘Surely those would need to be reported?’
‘Tiny fires, the first in the waste paper basket in our office, luckily a quick thinking visitor dashed in and put it out before the smoke alarm went off. But we couldn’t think how it started, it’s not like the days when staff smoked in the office. Then strangely it happened again, in the tea room bin. I smelt smoke, poured the kettle over; it must have started only a few seconds before.’
‘Have you noticed anyone strange hanging around?’
‘Half our visitors are strange… I mean they might be perceived that way. This is a big town, we welcome everyone. It’s somewhere warm and free to pass the time, people with learning difficulties or mental health issues,’ she glanced up at his framed psychology degree ‘or the unemployed… some look shifty, think everyone is staring at them.’
‘Okay, a very busy library, visitors wandering around, plenty of places to lurk unseen…’
‘And then there are the chocolates, left in our office, or on the shelves, but this week three of us found a box on our doorstep when we got home…’
The young man’s expression alarmed Debbie.
‘Why didn’t you say before, you’re rightly worried that someone is following staff. I’ll take you on, expect to see me wandering around the library, but do not acknowledge me. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to call the police if something…’
‘We could hardly dial 999 to say someone gave us chocolates’ she laughed nervously.
The library staff were fascinated by their private investigator, he revealed nothing of himself and blended in with library users.
For a week events continued, flowers appeared, the young detective showed staff a picture on his mobile phone, a young man with dark features.
‘Oh, that’s the chap who put the fire out.’
‘He’s not a member?’
‘No, you have to prove you are a local resident, we tried to explain to him… is he homeless?’
‘…and stateless. Calls himself Dave, he is mentally frail, but harmless. He has nothing to prove who he is; brought on a very long journey from a village as a young boy. He could have been born anywhere from the Balkans to Afghanistan. He loves the library and the staff, hence the ‘presents’, the fires… attention seeking. I have found a charity that can help him.’
‘But why Agatha Christie?’
‘His grandfather loved Agatha Christie, the most widely translated author in the world. Dave remembered how he cherished the books. It was all the old man knew about England, when he told the boy where he was going. Reading them was Dave’s only link with the past.’
‘So he didn’t want other readers taking them away!’
Later, the staff realised Mr. Channing had asked for no fee, curious, Debbie set off once again across Riverside car park, but the camper van was gone.
Toby had spent a week trailing around the Middle England town, from the bus station to all night MacDonalds, 24 hour supermarkets and of course the library. Toby even found himself sharing a changing room at the swimming pool with ‘Dave’. Finally he got to talk to him at the Salvation Army, letting them believe he was also homeless and as a young single man unlikely to get help from the authorities. The suspect was as lonely as himself, as lost as Anna, but ‘Dave’ was not missing, because he did not exist, did not have a sister to go and visit or a mother to ring him up. Toby had certainly learnt a lot about real homelessness and if The Salvation Army officers had suspected he wasn’t genuine they had kept it to themselves, for it was Toby who had managed to draw ‘Dave’ out of himself. He hoped the young man would take the help offered by a specialist charity organisation. The library staff had loved the story and promised no authorities would hear about the events at the library.
Any writer can submit, but the word count must be exactly 75 words. The first paragraph is one I had accepted a while ago; we became addicted at writers’ group to thinking of new 75 word paragraphs.
As Long As
How cleansing to see your overlarge house blown to matchsticks in a cyclone. How purifying to see the detritus of modern life swept away in a tidal surge, to know Gaia has won, to face God naked. I put these thoughts on Facebook, take my meal out of the microwave, turn up the heating and settle in my reclining chair to watch the news and soaps on 3D television… As long as it’s not me.
… real life experiences, being born, don’t remember. Make a list: rolling down a grassy slope, cycling with the wind in your face, ditto galloping on horseback. swimming in the ocean, standing on a high hill, making love, giving birth, sailing a yacht, flying, escaping mortal danger. And the ultimate, dying, not asleep in bed, that would be cheating… how much time there is to think in the seconds it takes a plane to plunge, engines ablaze…
A crystalline cold dawn; heavy snow had reached their valley for the first time. His master had just made it back. Usually Nicolai hated the long winter nights, but each breath that seared his lungs brought hope. In late afternoon the clear sky brought a violet shimmer to the virgin snow at the graveyard. Nicolai thrust his stick through crystal layers; it juddered on the iron cold ground. The master would not be arising tonight.
Years of training for ten seconds. In other events you can change tactics, put on a last minute spurt. Diet, training and mental attitude will help me reach my ultimate speed; my reflexes honed for the starting block. I lost my job, friends and family; but I’m racing for my country at the Olympics. Men’s one hundred metre final. The starting block feels unreal. I hear the pistol; for a second I hesitate.
You can read more flash fiction in Someone Somewhere
When Karina left her home in Bolivia to spend the last few weeks of the year with distant relatives in England, she was looking forward to curling up with a book by a roaring fire, Christmas shopping in large brightly lit stores and snow. She did not expect it to involve rubber suits and colourful parachutes.
The drive in the dark from Heathrow Airport had been endless; on the map of little England her cousins’ town had looked close to London.
When she was woken up the next morning it was still dark.
‘Sorry to wake you early Katrina,’ said Aunty ‘it’s an ordinary working day for us, but you relax and enjoy the start of your holiday. You won’t be on your own, we have students staying with us and I have four more coming in for a lesson this morning.’
There were young people coming and going and she wasn’t sure which were her cousins. One expectation came true, it was cold, the house was freezing. She was sent out to the shops with two of the students, as Aunty had to wait in for ‘The Gasman’ because ‘Centralheatingsontheblink.’
Outside, the prevailing colour was grey; the sky, the buildings, people’s clothes. But the students were friendly, assuming her to be one of them, completing a tally of one from each continent.
The next morning was Saturday and the house had taken on a more relaxed atmosphere and brighter aspect; looking out of the front window Katrina realised the sky was a washed out blue instead of lowering grey.
‘Isn’t it a wonderful day,’ said Uncle ‘we have a treat for you, the boys are getting the gear ready, there’s a good breeze, you can help your aunt pack a picnic.’
Katrina wondered nervously if a treat for a girl from a land locked country would be a trip on a boat and if so, what sort of water was involved? In a house full of people she had soon realised that each assumed someone else had told her what was going on.
Outside the front of the house several young men were hoisting huge rucksacks onto their backs; a couple of girls beckoned her to follow. The sun was not as bright as back home, but it was so low in the sky it blinded her. They set off down the road and it came completely as a surprise to Katrina when they arrived at a cliff top and the ocean opened out in front of her. The sky above the water was blue, but a cold wind caused her to shrink inside the borrowed coat.
Down a winding path they came to a beach and were not alone; people were strolling as if it was summer, young children played on the beach dressed in boots and bulky clothes and dogs of all shapes and sizes ran circles around everyone. Stranger things were to follow. She trailed after the others to a quiet stretch; her relatives looked as if they were setting up camp. Bags were ripped open; the young blokes dragged black rubber suits on, hauled out boldly coloured kites with tangles of line, then strapped themselves into harnesses. Karina thrilled to see the curling waves, but hoped she would not be expected to go near the sea. Even as she wondered what would happen next, the kites had floated into the air and turned into parachutes dangling the men like puppets; they jumped onto small boards skimming the waves. She watched the wind take them out to sea and her stomach flipped as a black and red curved canopy soared up, taking the young man high up into the air…
If you haven’t posted your Christmas cards yet it’s probably too late, except for the hand delivered ones and why would you give cards to people who live nearby? Why do we put ourselves through Christmas card angst? What has gone on behind the scenes before those cards come through your letter box?
I sat down to write the Christmas cards while Terry was watching the football. I was going to be ruthless this year, especially with the price of stamps; no cards for people we were going to see anyway or for people we were never going to see again. That would mean sending hardly any cards at all… Terry roused himself to take an interest, though I couldn’t hear him properly with the television on; why do football commentators have to scream and shout, why can’t they just say quietly and calmly…
…looks like he’s going to get it in the net and save the match, oh dear what a pity, he’s missed.
‘Did we get a card from Brian and Jean?’ said Terry.
‘Oh you mean Alan and Sara, yes, last week, they must do theirs in October. Did you see the card from John and Julie? Well you should be interested, he’s your ex colleague. They’ve got another grandchild… yes you did, Harry’s nearly three now, we sent him that present. Don’t you want to know whether it’s a boy or girl? Guess what they’ve called her… Faustine… unless it’s the bad handwriting.
Are we sending a card to Geoff and Val? You remember, they went to Spain, well they’re back now, Euro trouble. They say we must meet up. No nor do I, I’ll just put Look forward to seeing you in the New Year.
Oh, Deborah says Stephen is engaged to Vicki… she doesn’t say who she is, but it’s about time, I guess they want us to know he isn’t gay after all.
How shall I address the envelope to Wendy? Of course we’re going to send her a card, just because she walked out on your brother…
Shall I save some cards for you to take to the office? I bet they call you Mr. Grumpy, still just as well, we haven’t got many left.
What’s the name of Amelia’s youngest? You should know, they’re your nieces and nephews.
Hasn’t it finished yet… not extra time again… I don’t know why you bother watching football it’s always nil-nil. No I haven’t finished yet, I’ve only got as far as the Ms, I should have bought more stamps.’
The sky was clear, the temperature had dropped and the first frost had arrived; the town viewed from the hill looked beautiful. The water sparkled under the full moon and the roofs and tops of trees formed a colourful pattern, but Joe prayed for high tides and rain again, hoped the river would continue rising and the water would stay. Joe wasn’t his real name; it was one of half a dozen he had given to people at the community centre.
Now it was time to get back before everyone settled down for the night. He greeted a couple of women, then tiptoeing past sleeping children, headed for the kitchen to help with the evening round of cocoa and coffee. His volunteer badge had been borrowed off someone’s jacket. In the confusion of the last week many people were strangers to each other and with his helpful and cheerful manner Joe had made new friends. Truth to tell, Joe had no friends in this town until the storms and floods. Before it featured in the news, the little town was just another anonymous place in Joe’s wanderings around the country.
When tedious officials came round form filling Joe told them he had been sleeping on a friend’s sofa, gave a false name and address for the mythical friend, then changed into a different outfit from the collection of clothes donated by kind residents lucky enough to live on the hill. It was a long time since he had been so warm and comfortable.
Now he had a fantasy; houses took for ever to dry out, especially in winter. Lots of people would go to relatives, or be given emergency accommodation, priority to families and the elderly he presumed. But he hoped enough people would be left to keep the community centre open till Christmas. Perhaps he could learn to cook, help prepare a Christmas dinner….
Short stories for all seasons in my four collections –
When Ollie started at Mulburys’, work brightened up and so did the windows. He arrived just in time to create the Christmas window displays and he brought new ideas.
‘Every window tells a story,’ he would say to the other window dressers. ‘Most of your window shoppers could never afford the dresses in the window or the houses the models appear to live in. But we’re going to make them feel they could one day… that’s the magic of Christmas.’
It seemed natural that Ollie and I would become close. Ollie knew how to treat a lady and my confidence grew as I worked with him. ‘Nobody leaves Izzie in the corner,’ he would joke.
True to his word, Ollie had created a story which started at the side of Mulburys’, opposite the tube station. An old man sat at his computer, Skyping. On his mantelpiece were plenty of cards and photos – photos that matched the moving pictures on the computer screen. The next few windows took shoppers around the world and around Mulburys’ until they reached the main entrance. Scenes of the old man’s family getting ready for Christmas, a BBQ somewhere hot, a ski hut somewhere very cold, a cruise ship; every scene so realistic, but always with glamorous women dressed in Mulbury outfits, from bikinis to winter coats.
On the other side of the main entrance was the busy airport scene, followed by the airliner up in the clouds with Father Christmas waving as he passed by. The window on the corner showed a street scene, Christmas trees in windows and the old man taking his dog for a walk, looking longingly at the bright windows. How the children loved these scenes; to find out who was in the plane they were directed upstairs to the Christmas grotto. I was dressed as the glamorous elf welcoming children and adults to the final scene, bigger than any window could accommodate. The old man opens his front door and surprise, surprise all his family have arrived.
In the middle of December Ollie bought himself a shiny new red car and parked it at the front of Mulburys’ in the ‘ten minutes only pick up zone.’ Just long enough for us to look admiringly from the window. There was much amused chatter about the new traffic zones; single occupant cars were banned from the city centre, everyone had to be seen to be car sharing.
‘No probs,’ said Ollie, ‘I shall give Izzie a lift.’
I was as surprised as everyone else, or rather they were amused. Ollie knew what my circumstances were, but gave no hint that I had no home to have a lift to.
Like the gentleman he was, he helped me into the leather passenger seat. ‘Well, darling Isabella, how jealous other drivers will be when they see my glamorous girlfriend.’
I couldn’t help smiling, I thought we were just good friends; any physical closeness had been within the confines of the store windows. How I enjoyed the drive, looking out at the Christmas lights, watching the busy pavements as shoppers and workers made their way home.
Ollie’s flat was not in a smart building, but as he helped me up the narrow staircase and opened his front door I was delighted to see the interior decor had the same style as Mulburys’.
‘I can tell from your enigmatic smile that you like it Isabella, but it hasn’t been a real home till now, with you here.’
He sat me down on the comfortable sofa. ‘Relax and watch television while I rustle up something to eat.’
And so my evenings were no longer lonely, Ollie and I had the same easy relationship we had at work, but I had to admit I preferred it when we were alone. At the weekend he had a few friends round, not from work, people I didn’t know. They seemed to enjoy their visit and laughed and talked a lot.
‘So this is the delectable Isabella, the mystery woman I saw you with at the traffic lights.’
‘Yes, the woman of my dreams.’
‘Has she got a sister?’
‘She has actually, but I’m not going to introduce her, she’s too good for you.’
After a few visits, I began to realise I was different, I thought I must have one of those syndromes. I couldn’t really join in the conversations, never quite understood what they were talking about, although it was obvious they were often talking about me.
Other times I felt totally ignored. Like when Joe from work dropped in looking rather wobbly, I thought he was never going to leave. I think Ollie was fed up with him but too polite to say so. Joe went on and on about someone called Milly.
‘How am I going to get through Christmas, I was going to propose to her, now she’ll be in New York with Miles.’
‘You’re best off without her mate, she’s a bitch, we could all see that except you. I know it’s unbearable, I’ve been there, but it will get better. Reckon I’m the lucky one. Isabella would never look at another man and would never utter a word to hurt my feelings.’
I almost blushed at his words, but I wondered where it was that he had been and how did words hurt your feelings.
‘You don’t know how I feel Ollie, you have a wooden heart, just like your cold girlfriend there.’
I glared at the awful Joe, so different from the Joe we knew at work. I was not cold, never felt the cold; that’s why I was happy to wear the low cut sleeveless dresses Ollie loved to see me in.
Christmas Eve came and Ollie was going to a party.
‘Sorry to leave you by yourself Izzie, but I know you don’t enjoy parties. Come and sit by the window and look at the lights, have you seen the great big tree in the garden opposite? Tomorrow it will just be us, no work, we’ll watch sentimental Christmas telly together.’
A few merrymakers passed by and waved to me, I almost felt as if I was back in the shop window. When at last Ollie came home he was a bit wobbly, but his hands were as gentle as they were at work when he undressed me.
‘I bought you some new lingerie, well actually I pinched it from work. You and me go well together, two lonely souls. Won’t you tell me truly what you think, do you love me? If I wished hard enough, in ten minutes time at the stroke of midnight would you talk to me, would the blood run warm in your veins?’
I did not understand his words, but I was just glad to have Ollie home again, where he belonged, with me. But for some reason I wasn’t keeping him cheerful, there was water running down his cheeks, like the dreadful Joe had that time, but with Ollie I wanted to reach out and hold him. For a moment a strange feeling came over me, just below the neckline of the lovely red lacy garment. But as the clock on television started to strike twelve I felt cold for the first time.
Ollie turned away from me and covered his face, then turned back. ‘It didn’t work, did it? Beautiful cold Isabella, this isn’t a fairy tale, you will never be a real woman. On Boxing Day I shall take you back to the shop window where you belong, in time for the sales.’
This story was first published two years ago on line at Thanet Writers.
They first saw the house in late summer, the neat suburban cul-de-sac ‘Little Glades’ may have seemed a cliché, but to Helen and Sam it was their dream home. They did not dwell on the large deposit and huge repayments; Helen pictured pushing a pram, chatting to neighbours and admiring the beautiful front gardens. Sam pictured mowing the long lawn and throwing sticks to a large dog in the park. They both dreamed of peace and quiet after years of renting the cramped flat above an all night shop at a busy junction.
Even with heavy curtains, lights of every colour flashed into their flat; the neon lights of Price Saver below the bedroom window, the endless amber, red, green of the traffic lights. On the other corners the glowing cross of the twenty four hour chemist and the pulsating purple night club sign. Even the tiny kitchen-diner at the back was never dark, security lights glared until dawn. Then there was the noise; sirens, squealing brakes, dogs barking; supplemented at dawn with the arrival of delivery lorries and rubbish trucks.
Autumn came and went, but at last they exchanged contracts, then completed the sale. They planned to spend Christmas alone, enjoying the peace and quiet of their new home – and it would be quiet, the asking price reflected the fact that there was nothing convenient nearby, no bus stop, shops, pubs, schools or railway line.
It was quiet on the morning of December 13th as they drew into ‘Little Glades’ with the small rented van. All day they tidied, arranged, explored, determined not to set foot out of their home until it was time to return the van. The furthest they ventured was down the damp garden and through the little gate into the park. When it started getting dark they were busy in their new kitchen cooking together.
But something was not right.
‘I hope there’s not a fire,’ said Helen ‘I thought I saw a flashing blue light.’
Moving into the hall they saw colours moving on the ceiling, they didn’t need to open the front door to hear
SO HERE IT IS MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY’S HAVING FUN…
When they did open the door they did not recognise ‘Little Glades’ – they had been transported into a dystopian grotto. Neat semi-detached houses transformed into flashing cartoon parodies of their real selves. Monster inflatable snowmen swayed in front gardens, brightly lit sleighs and grotesque reindeer balanced on roofs and a sinister Father Christmas climbed up a lamp post.
An even scarier Father Christmas approached them, a mittened hand extended.
‘Gary, acca Santa, number six. We thought we’d leave you in peace to settle in and now… welcome to Glades Grotto on our opening night. Every night is party night till January the sixth. Every year we raise thousands for charity, visitors from miles around, hope you don’t want to get that van out till morning.’
I started collecting picture post cards when I was eight and still buy them on holiday to send to the oldest and youngest in the family; people like getting mail through their letter box, including Pete who blogs as beetleypete. When he asked if people still sent postcards bloggers started sending them, as you can see on his blog post.
‘If anyone else would like to post one to me, you can read my address easily, and your card will be featured in Part Two. Thanks again to all of you who took the time and trouble to send me a card.’
When we were away in Whitby I bought an extra card and as I sat down to write ( and here’s my confession – I don’t get around to writing postcards till about two weeks after returning ) and saw the piece of paper on which I had written his address lying on the table, it gave me an idea for a dark story. The names and places have been changed to protect the innocent! Thanks to Pete for the idea.
Detective Inspector Greaves stepped through the front door, he needed to go no further to see the body. The scene was bloodless, but any impression that the woman had died of natural causes was cast aside when another step revealed a large syringe stuck in the back of her neck. Why would the killer leave the evidence when it could have been the perfect murder?
‘Where’s the husband?’ Greaves asked the uniformed officer.
‘In the kitchen, doing the washing up Sir.’
‘What! Crime scene, evidence… did you stop and think?’
‘No Sir, he said his wife liked to have everything clean and tidy if they were having visitors.’
Further discussion was pointless, he sent the officer outside to keep a little band of neighbours at bay and stepped carefully round the body to make his way to the kitchen, where a middle aged man was vigorously polishing a glass.
‘She always liked to leave the house tidy when we went out, in case anything happened to us while we were out and the police had to break in and…’
‘Mr… Mr. Stanton isn’t it? I need to ask you a few questions… When you came home was the front door locked?’
‘Yes, everything looked normal until I unlocked the door.’
‘And where were you today?’
‘With the chaps, four of us, been away on a three day golf break, they dropped me off first, drove off before I got inside.’
‘So they can confirm that. Did you call your wife while you were away?’
‘Was that the last time you spoke or had any contact, no emails, whatsapp?’
‘Yes, she was fine, enjoying the peace, no sign… who… it doesn’t make sense…’
For the first time the man showed emotion, but shock could do strange things. When Greaves had sat the man in the police car with two officers he returned alone to gain an impression of the home and the lives of these two people. An ordinary house in a quiet road that had never drawn attention to itself before; nothing could be assumed, but on the face of it this was a bizarre senseless murder.
In the dining room he spotted a piece of paper on the polished table; an address, no phone number or email.
Greaves checked the address book sitting neatly by the house phone and found no entry for a Geoff Jones or anyone in Norfolk.
Back at the police station Mr. Stanton was safely installed in an interview room, alibis checked, background checked. Inspector Greaves started with the only piece of evidence.
‘Who is Geoff Jones?’
‘Never heard of him.’
‘Has your wife got friends or relatives in Norfolk?’
‘No, she’s never even been to Norfolk.’
‘Mrs. Stanton, was she still working or retired?’
‘Retired, or she reckoned she was still working, did stuff on the computer, goodness knows what, I don’t go on the internet, but she was happy dabbling with her writing, left me in peace to watch what I liked on television.’
‘As routine procedure we will seize… er take your wife’s computer, I assume you have no objections?’
‘Well she won’t be needing it will she… oh God, I can’t believe this is happening…’
At that moment a female officer knocked on the door with a cup of tea, though they were supposed to have equality Greaves was glad to leave her to deal sympathetically with the overwrought husband. He had work to do.
Back in the office he handed out tasks to his small team. ‘Check this address and if it’s genuine get onto Norfolk Police and ask them to send someone round.’
In Cowslip Lane Geoff Jones was enjoying the evening news; the doorbell took him and the dog by surprise. On the doorstep stood a young man, trying to edge inside out of the torrential rain. He showed a warrant card.
‘Mr. Geoff Jones?’
‘Yes, that’s me, oh god, has something happened to my wife, no they send uniform for that don’t they?’
‘No, just a routine enquiry. Do you know a Mrs. Rita Stanton of Mulberry Close, Sandbourne, Dorset?’
‘Dorset, I don’t know anyone in Dorset.’
‘Are you, er do you live alone?’
‘No, my wife’s away for a few days at her sister’s.’
‘Might she know Mrs. Stanton or anyone in Dorset?’
‘NO, look what is this about?’
Andy’s first day as a detective constable wasn’t going well so far.
‘We’re making enquiries about a murder I’m afraid. Have you been outside the village in the last two days, work, visiting?’
Andy was gratified to see Geoff Jones look distinctly nervous.
‘No, I’m retired, well a writer actually, blogger; all I’ve been up to is taking Rufus on his two hour walks and doing my blogs.’
‘Can anyone confirm that?’
‘I haven’t seen a soul, no one else has been out in this dreadful wet weather, but what on earth has any of this to do with me?’
The young detective felt suspicion creeping into his bones, who would take a dog out for two hours in the torrential rain? As he tried to edge further into the hallway and avoid the very large dog, he got a glimpse into the front room. On every shelf and available surface were propped picture postcards.
‘You must have a lot of friends Mr. Jones, a lot of friends that go on holiday?’
The next police visit to Geoff’s house was in the morning. This time Andy was accompanied by a search warrant and an inspector from Dorset Police, who had driven up overnight. Fortuitously they met the postman at the door, with a postcard from Dorset. Jones’ computer was taken away, Jones himself was taken away and all the postcards collected up.
In the interview room Geoff Jones protested his innocence, though he hadn’t actually been arrested. ‘Blogging friends, I wrote a post about picture post cards and followers kept sending them.’
Greaves left him to stew for a while and went back to the office to see how enquiries were going and stared at the postcard posted in Sandbourne, Dorset.
Wish you Were Here!
Best Wishes from Rita Stanton ( Scribbletide )
He tried to curb the enthusiasm of the young detective.
‘We may have barged in too quickly, if this poor man is totally innocent we have some explaining to do. The card seems to prove what he told us about his followers. What have you found on the internet?’
‘Jones was telling the truth about the blogging and the post cards, what he didn’t mention was that a while ago he wrote a serialised story about a chap who wanted to commit the perfect murder.’