James Patterson Short Story Writing Competition Entry 2017 “A note on the ground.”

The wind howled making the window rattle in its frame, Jennifer looked out at the rain sodden ground. It was not raining now.

Suddenly her eye caught a white paper something flying in the air, looked like a letter but it was difficult to tell. It landed on her patio the wind occasionally moving it in little swirls.

After watching it a few minutes from her window, curiosity suddenly got the better of her. It was probably nothing; a shopping list or something like that but she had to just know.

Opening her back door half ajar. The wind hit her body, going straight through her lacy cardigan; touching her skin below causing her to tightly wrap her arms around herself as she walked towards the note on the ground.

Jennifer found herself needing to skip across the paving slabs to just catch up with the slip of paper.

Finally she put a hand around it and brought it close to her chest before turning around and retreating back to the warm inside.

Pushing her hair away from her eyes, she peered at the blue ink on the letter writing paper. The handwriting was terrible, many larger spider loops and some words that looked like wiggly lines. Then she looked at the printed embossed address at the top.

The address was her next-door neighbour, not too surprising really, obviously it had blown over from there.

Her first reaction was simply to return the note. She hardly knew the man that now lived there but she had heard, when he moved in from chatty neighbour Christine, that he was a doctor and also he’d recently been made a widower.

Pulling her grey tweed coat off its peg in the hall, half-putting it on before suddenly thinking that maybe she should first check if this letter was of any real consequence at all or not.

Her eyes skimmed the handwriting. Suddenly she felt she needed to sit down even though this was awkward with her coat now half around her. She sat smartly down on a nearby chair.

She couldn’t really believe what she was now reading, maybe this note had been meant for her all along. His first few words referred to a neighbour living next door. There was no name but there was no reason on earth he would actually know a name anyway. The letter simply said he had seen her coming and going for some time next door and as he put it ‘liked what he saw.’ Would she consider having dinner with him one evening?

Jennifer was stunned, a man; her neighbour in fact was asking her out. She racked her brains to visualise what he looked like, she just about remembered seeing a tall slender even distinguished looking grey haired man pass along his front path. She didn’t recall him ever really looking at her, girls naturally usually have a sense for these things.

Her first reaction was ‘no way,’ what would happen if the encounter went wrong resulting in an uncomfortable standoff between them. Then she thought, did it really matter much, they had never spoken to each other before.

§

In the near darkness, near midnight later that week, a woman struggles to bury a body on rough ground in a shallow grave. She was still dressed in the same pretty cocktail dress and high heels, which was making it difficult to walk on the uneven ground and also dig. Her friend similarly dressed stood back still feeling dizzy; holding her head as she watched proceedings intently.

They had arranged to meet in a local restaurant that John the next-door neighbour knew. When her friend Christine had found out she said she would come along to make sure everything was all right. This was enough to reassure Jennifer to accept this blind-date invitation. Christine had surprisingly offered to drive her to the restaurant and even stay for dinner herself should he not show up, but when she saw John waiting for Jennifer at the table he had booked, she left immediately and went back to sit in her car. She was going to drive straight home, but as she was about to turn the ignition key something inside made her stop and stay in the darkness watching.

After forty minutes she observed two familiar people leaving the restaurant, it looked though for some reason that the man was supporting Jennifer as she walked to his car outside. When they both arrived, Christine was alarmed when she saw the man clumsily put the woman on her back flat across his rear seat before getting into the front himself and immediately driving away.

Christine started her car and followed from a safe distance as they left. After a few miles John’s car turned off the road and into a dense wood through a wide track with tall trees on each side. Parking her car at the end of the road Christine followed on foot, arriving just in time to see John climb out of his driver’s seat, walk around and open the rear passenger’s door wide, before leaning in and running a hand up one of the still unconscious body’s legs.

Instinctively she knew she had to stop him. From somewhere she finds a cut off short branch on the ground in the clearing, grabbing this she silently approaches the car, going behind the prone man now with his lowered trousers around his legs.

THUD, she strikes him decisively on the back of his head. The man immediately slumps down right on top of Jennifer with a slight groan. Opening the opposite side rear door next to her head, Christine pulls her friend straight out of the car and onto her feet. The cooler night air makes Jennifer start to regain consciousness; she suddenly asks what’s happening.

§

Later in the early morning, both women sat in Jennifer’s sitting room clutching steamy mugs of tea in their hands. Jennifer was now feeling more like her old self, but her memories of much of the previous evening were decidedly sketchy. Asking her companion, what had happened to her, Christine explained that she had been drugged and was lucky to be rescued in time.

“How did you know to wait and watch us?” she asked immediately.

Looking down at her still mud splattered feet, “He’s done this sort of thing before.”

“You are not the first woman he’s asked out in a similar way. A year ago it also happened to me, but I was never really sure what happened. When I woke up, fully dressed in my bed I was suspicious of course, but I could never be certain.”

“When you told me you had a date with the same man, this was my chance to observe him at close quarters, and for you I’m glad I did.”

“Now we have a problem, I’ve killed a man and got rid of the evidence, under the law you are as guilty as me.”

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