July 18, 2021

Book 5 – Mystery Deepens

By aarondkey

They got back into the car and carried on their journey in silence as though they were both considering what they had learnt.. The countryside rushed past in the corner of Timonthy’s eye. He concentrated on the road with intensity. He remembered making a similar journey many years before. Although they had started in London they had left the Motorway and travelled cross country just like this, although that time they had passed Stonehenge: an event that would never be repeated now the road had been improved. He remembered looking at the stones with some sort of respect for history then looking across to Lizzie’s face looking ashen and worried. Lizzie was Paris’s mother, not his wife although they had pretended for years to be a couple.

“I’m really worried about Johnathon this time,” she said shaking her head, oblivious to the beauty all around her. “He sounds like a man obsessed.”

“How many times has it happened before?” he asked her, wondering what the answer was himself. They were not in double figures but Johnathon did like falling in love, sometimes with the most unsuitable people. They had not always had to rescue him: sometimes he escaped naturally with no hard feelings on either side but there had been a few occasions where the going had been tricky. He did not like the sound of the letter Johnathon had sent him either, although he had not shared the information with her thinking the details unsuitable and the tone liable to make her more nervous.

Of course, he was sitting beside Paris this morning. She did not look exactly like her mother but there was enough of a likeness to promote that feeling of déjà vu. She had the same expression of worried intensity to keep him there in memories..

“He said that this time it was a young man, a trainee in the place he’s working in. That can’t work, can it? Hopefully he’s a graduate.”

The unspoken hope she expressed was that he would be twenty one, so Johnathon was not breaking the law or even worse society’s comfortable expectations.

“We will go and see. You know I think that Johnathon is getting more sensible. It’s been a while since the last one and although this seems odd perhaps it is something that could work, even if just for a little while.”

Memories left him as they came to the outskirts of the town and Paris turned to him excitedly.

“I’ve missed this old place,” she said. From a hill they saw the whole town in front of them laid out like a map on the edges of the sea but quickly turned away from the main road and found themselves in quiet village like roads again. Back up the same hill they had travelled down but on a different road a little further along they went and stopped in front of a little house.

The front garden was looking tidier than he had expected Timonthy was relieved to see. Did it mean that Stolid had returned and was keeping his return quiet or had he arranged for someone to keep an eye on his garden which surely meant that he had intended to return? He smiled reassuringly at Paris and they walked up to the front door together. They both got out their door keys simultaneously but he let her open the door. There was a little post waiting but not the mountains he would have expected for an absence of three months or more. That was strange. It was harder to find someone to sort through post than to tidy a garden. Perhaps it just meant that Stolid had been more organised than he had imagined and redirected his mail.

“It’s warm!” Paris said.

Timonthy realised that she was right. It wasn’t just the effect of the sunlight on the south facing windows but an artificial heat coming out of the radiators. Stolid might have left the heating on as it was winter, he supposed, but it seemed unlike him.

All the doors to the hallway were closed and the area was dark. Paris knew the house well and opened the door to the main room. Sunlight filled the whole house and they walked through. From here they could see the bay again, the distant island and the curve of the town. The whole back of the house was glass and they could see that the back garden was also looking tidy, almost lush in spite of the earliness of the season.

Everything had been left tidy inside too they noticed as they walked around. Even in the kitchen through glass double doors everything was spotless and in its place. Timonthy was surprised. After sharing this house with Stolid for two months last year he had expected a residue of mess, the house to look as if it had been deserted in a rush for a day or two. Somehow this looked more final as if Stolid was intending to stay away for a good while.

“I’ll run down to the shop and get some milk,” Paris said after looking, somewhat optimistically he thought, in the fridge.

“Good idea,” Timonthy said absently. “I’m going to have a look around.”

As soon as the front door had shut behind her he made his way back to the study and the bureau which had always been Stolid’s area in this room. It was unlocked as he had expected and the laptop was in the drawer. He had helped Stolid buy this last year: Stolid being the only man in England to make him look like a computer expert.

There was a password on the laptop but it was the one Stolid had painfully slowly put in when he had helped him set up the laptop. There was a broadband box flashing lights at him in the corner, so he was optimistic if slightly guilty as he looked at e-mails. The inbox was full of unread emails, so it looked like Stolid hadn’t accessed his account from anywhere else, but mainly with a few Christmas messages, gardening information, people desperate to sell him bulbs, sheds and other rubbish.  He looked at e-mails sent and found some to a few friends but all before Christmas.

Then he clicked on internet history. He was a little nervous. He had always had a feeling half of love and half of hate for Stolid. He had exaggerated the positive side of this when talking to Paris he realised. He had always used this imaginary love to excuse his own lack of progress in the courting game. Still he felt that there were many things that could make this comfortable delusion turn to dust and then he would have no excuses, would be laid bare himself – because Stolid’s soul was a closed book to him.

He was relieved to find himself in a comfortable world of gardening again and there a train journey planned. He made a note of the destination, dates and times. He quickly shut the laptop lid as he saw Paris on the path outside. He looked casually through a pile of papers in the bureau drawer. There was nothing there of interest except an envelope with a Scottish postmark. He opened the letter as Paris came into the room,

“There you are? Do you want a cup of tea?” she said brightly and left as he nodded agreement with a smile.

This was the letter he had hoped for: the offer of a visit at least at Christmas with the possibility of a permanent job. There was even an address at the top of the letter and a signature Peter ….he couldn’t read the surname.. but it could well be Macdonald? The letter said that train tickets had been included, and that he would be picked up from the station and taken by car to his final destination although Timonthy wished that phrase had not been used.