They walked slowly up the stairs and then stopped outside the door to his office, and Harry looked, once again, at his name still newly painted on the opaque glass.
The light was on behind it. Someone was in his office, or someone had forgotten to turn off the light after them.
He tried the door. It was unlocked.
Someone might be inside, waiting for him? Was it the people who had tried to kill him, or the people who searched the office? Or the cleaner?
Harry looked at his watch. No, the cleaner had come and gone. Maybe he forgot to lock the door on his way out again? It was getting to be a bad habit.
Note to self: he needs to get a gun, if only for protection.
Harry cautiously opened the door and pushed it partway open, staying outside the threshold in case trouble was waiting on the inside. The door swung open with a creaking sound, to display an empty room, as empty as he could see within the arc. There was no telling if anyone was waiting behind the door.
He took a deep breath, counted to five, and walked slowly in, keeping out of range of the arc of the door should it suddenly close.
There was nothing behind the door, and no one in the office.
Felicity made sure Harry was comfortable on the settee with a blanket covering him and went to make coffee. He looked around the room and then at the ceiling, not looking at anything in particular. Perhaps Sykes was right, and it was time to consider some other occupation.
Then his thoughts strayed back to the case. How easily fooled he’d been.
Edwina; she had never looked the murderous sort, more like the little old lady who drove once a week to church and wouldn’t hurt a mouse. Who could have known what was hiding under a benign exterior?
Or behind a pretty face? Harry was going to have to be more discerning about the women he worked for and if he was going to be successful in this business.
Then he saw something, perhaps an envelope, almost under the cabinet behind the door. He got off the settee and went over to look. It was an envelope with his name on it. It must have been pushed under the door, but not all of the way, and got caught as the door opened and slid across the floor ending up almost under the cabinet.
It felt quite thick, and pliable. Documents? Perhaps from his father. His name was written on the front, and it looked like his father’s writing.
Harry opened it and two thick wads of notes fell out. Money. $100 bills. $20,000 to be precise.
Felicity came back, kettle in hand and saw him staring down at the wads of cash.
“What have you got there?”
“Money. A lot of it. Twenty thousand dollars to be exact.”
“My best guess, Jennifer and Edwina. There’s no note or letter with it, just used hundred-dollar notes. We need it, so it’ll be going into the bank.”
She was about to say something when there was a very loud thumping on the door.
They were both taken by surprise.
Another round of banging followed by, “Are you in there Harry?”
Harry went over and opened the door, and before he could open it properly, she had pushed past him, almost knocking him over.
“The bastard’s gone,” followed quickly by, when she saw Felicity, “Who the hell are you?”
Felicity smiled. “I’m Harry’s girlfriend. He said I would meet his mother one day, just wasn’t expecting it to be so soon.”
His mother shook her head and give him a glacial stare.
“What do you want, Mother?” he asked calmly.
“The bastard’s gone.”
She held out a piece of paper, one that no doubt she’d screwed up in a temper, then smoothed out again.
“Which bastard?” Harry asked, expecting it to be one of his brothers who had been acting strangely.
Red-faced, and very angry. He’d not seen her like this before. And her hand that held the piece of paper was shaking.
Harry took the sheet from her and read the hastily scrawled note aloud,
“Due to some unfortunate business transactions, I find himself in a serious situation where the only choice I have is to leave. This is of his own free will and is as much to protect you and the children as it is to protect himself.
I apologize now for the hardship you will suffer because of me and try not to believe what will be said about me, and the company, in the following weeks. Most of it is not true.
Do not call the police. Do not try to find me. Simply tell everyone I have left you for another woman.”
It didn’t take much for Harry to join the dots after the last time he spoke to his father. It was the business regarding the vacant block down at the docks. And, if he was not mistaken, his father was connected to the people who’d tried to kill him.
“What do you want me to do?” he asked.
“Find the bastard.” No mistaking her intent in that statement.
“He said not to,” Harry said.
“Of course, he would. But I don’t care what his reasons are, I want you to find him.”
“So I can kill him.”
Then Felicity piped up and said, “I think I might have some useful information about that. Does anyone know of a man called Florenz?”
His mother answered, “That’s one of his golfing partners. “Why?”
“It’s a name that I heard in passing that might be connected to your husband. As I’m sure there are many others,” she added hastily, just in case his mother decided to pay the man a visit.
“Last person I would connect to his disappearance.” It was the way that she said it, and the haste, that made him think there was more to it than a tenuous connection. It would, he thought, have to be handled with care.
“Well, thanks for the job. Now, if you don’t mind, I intend to get some rest and start first thing in the morning.
“How about right now?”
“I’m tired, and another day isn’t going to make much of a difference. I’m sure this isn’t the day after you noticed he’d gone, or that you received this note.”
She didn’t answer and that was answer enough. Relations between them had graduated into acrimonious over the last month, so he could have been missing since the day after he left Harry’s office. Either way, as he said, another day wouldn’t make much difference.
Felicity levered his mother towards the door, assuring her that Harry would be on the job first thing in the morning, and then closed the door and locked it.
No more visitors.
And on her way to the coffee machine, she said, “Never a dull moment with you, is it?”
Harry didn’t hear. He was asleep.
© Charles Heath 2020