The man hurried down the road, tutting at and avoiding the rubbish as he went. He pulled an envelope out of his jacket pocket and checked an address stopping abruptly as he realised where he was. “Number 50, Number 50” he repeated as he surveyed the street of houses immediately adjacent to his left. His heart sank. This end of town was brown and derelict, attracting few visitors, the kind of place people warned you against. He seemed to be thinking.
Having set off again he located No.50 and walked down its weed strewn path and rang the doorbell before he could think better of it. Nothing. He rang again, more insistently and longer this time. Still nothing. He stood there scratching his head while he pondered his next move. Cursing, he made his way back down the drive and was halfway along it when he heard what sounded like an ancient intercom crackling into life. He hadn’t noticed it earlier because it was partially obscured from view. “Mr.Williams?”, “Mr.Williams?” “Please return to the door, please don’t go”.
The door had swung open from within and he made his way back and directed by a small piece of paper went upstairs. He wasn’t sure of the proper procedure so he knocked at the first door he came to and an impatient sounding woman called out “Come in Mr.Williams, we haven’t got all day!”. He went in and sat down on the one seat free, a horrible orange and green fuzzy job that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place on a bus.
“Ah, Mr.Williams, you got our letter I see?”. The woman sitting opposite him behind a metal desk looked as if she had seen better days. She wore a faded blue suit and hair hurriedly thrown up in a chignon, a few tendrils softening her harsh exterior. He supposed as he studied her she had a very, very slight sexy secretary look if you were being kind and had had maybe one too many. He couldn’t see her legs unfortunately as they were hidden behind her side of the desk.
“Mr.Williams?” she repeated again and he forced himself to concentrate. “Yes, of course I did or I wouldn’t be here would I?” he said. “Mr.Williams, please don’t be sarcastic. I am here to tell you something to your advantage”. His ears pricked up. If she knew of a job opening that would be a relief. He hadn’t told his wife he’d been made redundant last month. She tended to worry so he’d been leaving home at the normal time dressed for work as usual. He’d have to tell her soon, the redundancy money wouldn’t last forever but he wanted to find a new job and present her with a fait accompli.
“Yes, what is it?” he asked. “Not so fast, Mr.Williams, I need to check some information with you first. ” She paused looking over her notes in front of her. “You are Samuel Williams? born 15th March 1946? Edgware General Hospital?”. The letter posted through his letterbox the night before had been very vague simply requesting his presence at this particular place and time. “Yes” he answered wondering where she had got his details from, still in this day and age with the internet anything was possible. “You live at 46 Westgate Gardens West Kilburn?”. He nodded again. “Of course we knew that already but I still have to mark it down on my form”.
He sat there growing increasingly uncomfortable while she cross-examined him, his parentage, first job, first house purchase, even his O Level passes. HIs curiosity was waning and he was beginning to get annoyed. “Look could we just get to the point please or I’ll see myself out”. “I’m sorry” she said, “I appreciate this is an unusual situation. You must be wondering what this is all about?. “Well, if you could just fill me in on the job details that would be great” he said.
“Job? Mr.Williams? What job are you referring to?”she asked. “What do you mean what job? That’s what you dragged me down here for isn’t it?”. “Firstly Mr.Williams, nobody dragged you down here. You came of your own volition. Secondly what on earth made you think this was about a job? Surely there are other ways and means of gaining employment , if that’s necessary?”. “Well, of course it’s necessary” he shouted “Unless you’re as rich as Croesus!”. “You’ve brought me here under false pretences”. “Nonsense” she said calmly. “If you could compose yourself for a minute I told you you would hear something to your advantage”.
“Now” she said, folding her arms in front of her. “Do you remember an all male trip to Holland one year?”. He hadn’t thought about that trip for years. It had been one of those work team building/getting to know you things and he had gone with Stu and Roger just for a laugh before he’d married and life had stopped being so much fun. He wondered what had happened to them. They’d all gone their separate ways when Oaklands had shut down.
“Distantly” he answered. It had been 20 years ago. “And do you remember one night the hotel had a party and everyone got worse for wear?”. He eyed her suspiciously. The conversation was taking an ominous turn. Where was she getting her information from? “Yes” he replied reluctantly. “And do you remember a certain waitress you got very friendly with in the hotel gardens?”. “No” he said firmly.
The truth was that whole night was a blur and that was how he’d prefer to keep it. The lads had bundled him half green and hung over into the coach home and he’d attempted to sleep it off.
“Well, no matter, this is your daughter” she stated as she passed across a 10 by 8 print to him indicating to him to take it. He sat there stunned not taking it but he could see from where he was a darkened image of a young woman who looked to be about the right age. She had shoulder length blonde hair and was fairly attractive.
The woman opposite looked like the cat who had got the cream. She hadn’t given her name he realised. “Of course you’ll be wanting to take responsibility for your daughter. That’s quite a lot of maintenance built up over 20 years but her mother is a reasonable woman and 20 grand should cover the initial expenses. And we wouldn’t want your wife finding out would we? She doesn’t look the understanding sort”.
He sat there working and reworking his mouth still unable to say anything. At last he got to his feet and walking across to her and leaning close in he said menacingly “I don’t know what kind of con you’re trying to pull or how you dredged up my whole life but look here you’ve got it wrong see? I have no daughter, can’t have kids, could never have kids. The wife and I tried everything before we accepted it. Now I’m going to walk out of here like none of this ever happened and you’re going to let me. ”
“Mr.Williams, we know where you live and ” she broke off suddenly as he ran past into the hallway, out of the door and into the street. Sighing she got a sheet of paper out of the drawer and crossed a line through his name. She opened the contacts list on her phone and dialed a number. “John? No. No. He didn’t buy it. You must have got your facts wrong. What? No, ” , she appeared to be arguing. “Don’t fret. Mr.Perez is next on the list. He’s ideal, older and more forgetful, we’ll have more luck with him, he’s a real cash cow”. That was the trouble with playing the long game these days, you had to know your mark well and getting someone bladdered down their local and letting them ramble on while you bought them round after round was no guarantee of success.
Three hours later Mr.Williams was still sitting on the park bench ostensibly watching the ducks. A light rain had started falling but he was unaware, lost in his thoughts. He was a liar. There had been a party and a drunken fumble that he’d regretted bitterly as an engaged man. Mary couldn’t have kids, something to do with an inhospitable uterus and it had made her bitter. After a time almost by mutual consent they stopped discussing it and the subject of children hadn’t arisen again. Although he had wondered over the years.
He made his way home and inserted his door key into the lock mentally preparing himself. “Mary, could you come in here please? I’ve got something to tell you”.
I know this is long but please bear with it.
Till next time.