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Looking For Mr. Wright
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Kate Hawkins

Crime

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The pain was excruciating. Tears ran down my face as I struggled to walk. If I put my heel down the pain shot up my leg. If I put the weight on the ball of my foot my ankle collapsed. I sobbed as I leant against the wall. It hurt. It hurt so much I just wanted to sit down on the road and not move. I looked at my foot. Why didn’t it look broken or swollen? It was hurting so much I thought that there must be some visual sign of injury, but apart from my the dirt on my joggers my ankle looked okay.

I pushed myself upright and hobbled towards my car. Not far now, come on Gina, I said to myself. I bleeped the Eos open and got in behind the driving wheel with a sob. I locked the door. I switched the engine on and then the air-con, directing the cold air full blast down onto my feet. As I sat there in the dark, more pain made itself known.  The stinging from the grazes on my knees, the palms of my hands. A nice mix of gravel, dirt and blood. I reached for the wet-wipes from the glove compartment and wiped myself down. God, I looked a mess. I wrapped a long tube of wet-wipes around my hands, tucking the ends in to make a make-shift bandage. The pain in my ankle gradually subsided to a dull throb and I decided that I was ready to drive home.

I parked my car in my designated bay and limped across the drive way to my flat. I thanked my lucky stars I’d decided on the garden flat, rather than the 2nd floor one that had also been for sale when I was buying. Inside I locked the door and slid the bolt across.

I didn’t switch any lights on, but turned the bath taps on whilst I got undressed. I cursed my bra clasp which seemed to have a mind of its own. I dropped my clothes in a heap, but then reached down and grabbed my trophy which I put carefully on the window sill. After all the trouble I’d just been through, there was no way I was going to lose it now.

I sat in the bath with a glass of neat whisky, which I alternately sipped and shuddered at. Gradually the knots in my stomach eased as the warmth from the alcohol worked its magic.  God you stupid idiot I thought to myself. What if I’d been caught? I felt sick as I realised how close I’d been to discovery. When I got out my fingers were wrinkled but clean.  My ankle was now swollen and a very large bruise was started to show. I wrapped myself in a warm towel from the towel rail and climbed into bed, keeping the towel on.  I put the radio on snooze, for the company more than anything, as every time I heard a noise my heart gave a huge thump, but I fell asleep quickly.

Sometime in the night I must have got too hot, because the towel was on the floor when I woke up in the morning. I stretched slowly, waiting for the aches and pains to let me know where I hurt most. My hands felt a little stiff, but not too bad; but, oh Bugger, my left ankle was stiff, still really swollen. I hoped like hell I hadn’t broken anything, but it moved without a grating noise, though moving it made me flinch and sweat. I looked at it with dismay. Still, as long as it was just my ankle, I thought I’d got off lightly last night and a twisted ankle would be easy enough to explain away.

I phoned in sick, so I could just hibernate for the day and feel sorry for myself. Trouble is, I have no-one to blame but myself. My name is Gina Meredith. I’m single, aged 35, with a bunch of very close friends and a very active social life. So why did I have to open my mouth? I could have just listened and sympathised, but oh no, I have to try and do something. As I settled on the sofa with a bowl of muesli and a mug of coffee I thought back two weeks.

 “Now, let’s go over to our Sussex reporter, Lucy Porter, who is outside the Glamorous Brides, bridal showroom. Lucy, what can you see?”

“Good morning David. Well, I’m standing outside the shop and the windows are covered up. I can just see inside and the showroom seems to have been stripped. There are rows of empty rails and just a few boxes littering the floor. With me I have two mothers’ of the bride…”

I tuned out of listening to the local radio as I listened instead to the sound of the rain on my bedroom window. I shivered and snuggled back under the duvet. God, this is supposed to be June not October. I checked the time on the bedside clock; the alarm had been set to the radio, so I must have been listening for a while. The time was now 6:30 so I really, really must get up and into the shower.

Later that morning I as I sat worrying over some discrepancies in the Purchase Payments daily report my mobile rang. I checked the name and flipped the phone open:

“Hi Suzie”

“Lying, cheating, embezzling, nasty, sneaky little sods”

“Who?”

“Glamorous bloody Brides, Gina that’s who”

“But you’re not getting married”

“No, but they owe me three months back payments for cleaning their bloody shop”.

Suzie explained that she’d heard the news on the TV this morning about the shop closing and had tried calling the owner, but both the shop phone line and the owner’s personal mobile had been disconnected. So she’d tried her accountant, only to be told that they’d not heard anything but would ask around. Then they had phoned her back, to say that a number of businesses were also in the same position. Glamorous Brides owed money all over the place.

“I’m sorry Suze, you must feel gutted.”

“Yeah, but sorry to let it all out on you, but I knew you wouldn’t mind me letting rip”.

I decided to buy a bottle of wine and go round to Suzie’s after work. When I drove up I had to park behind a BBC outside broadcasting van. Suzie was being interviewed for local TV and was making the most of it. She had her best business suit on. Her hair, usually pretty messy, even she would admit, had been re-styled. No wonder her business was expanding, what a fantastic business woman she was. I looked on in admiration, lost for words as she explained how Glamorous Brides had been very good payers until recently, so she had overlooked the missed payment, then the bounced cheque. Now she was angry that the owner had not even had the decency to let her know that the company was in trouble. As for those poor brides!

We watched the reporter and camera-man pack up their equipment and drive off. Then we went inside, where I handed Suzie the bottle of wine.  The sun had come out earlier that afternoon, so we sat in her sun-trap of a back garden on the two ancient recliners.

“You know, it’s not just the money that bugs me” Suzie said “it’s the cheek of the bloody woman. I thought we got on really well, then to do something like this to me - and the brides of course”, she added as an afterthought

We finished the bottle of wine between us, sharing a takeaway pizza and dough-balls. Sometimes it’s the little things in life which count. Though if I count the calories I’ve just consumed I would probably feel extremely guilty. So I decide that I had been doing a good deed, which means I get dispensation. Is that an excuse I can give at the gym? I try to calculate how many extra minutes I will have to run to use up the calories, but give it up as a bad idea, when I realise that it’s an extra 4 hours on the treadmill.

Next day the sun was still shining, but I was stuck inside my flat. “What do you mean you couldn’t find it?” I was on the phone to Parcel Power. I had been expecting a delivery. The website said it had been despatched, but nothing. All day I’d waited in. Nothing. Not a squeak from them. I’d tried phoning, but had just been told to check the internet site as I had ordered On-line. Now the stupid woman on the phone was telling me that they hadn’t been able to find my place.

“Are there any features around that may help us? You know, a Church, a park or something”.

That’s when I rather lost it;

“So, you’re telling me that you can’t find my home? The one where you delivered to last week? The one where I regularly see your driver delivering next door? – So much that I even know his name? That address? Is that the one you can’t find?”

So I got passed on to the manager. Who apologised and said they promised that they would deliver my package tomorrow morning.

I was expecting a new bookcase. My current bookcase was groaning under the weight of paperbacks and hardbacks. I could no longer find a book I wanted as they were all piled on top of each other. It didn’t look at all like the bookcases you see on TV make-over shows. You know, where books are lined up on one side. Then three (has to be an odd number!) ornaments, maybe a picture or two. Now I’d have to stay in again tomorrow morning, so I’d have to find something to do with my time, rather than going shopping as planned.

What I did was use the internet. I ran some searches on Glamorous Brides instead. Using Companies House website I spent 3.99 which let me download information about a couple of outstanding county court judgements and some very interesting results. Sheila Dickson was listed as having two previous businesses, each of which had also ceased trading. Hmm, now that is interesting. How had she managed to set up business again? I carried on reading the Insight Report. She had a partner, Andy Wright, who was listed as the owner of Glamorous Brides, with Sheila as financial director. Really! Honestly, the gall of some people. Still, there’s nothing else here of interest. What I could really do with is a home address. Don’t you just love Electoral Rolls? Everything you need in one easy place. Full name, address and telephone number Andy Wright, but Sheila Dickson wasn’t listed, so she was either new into the area or had kept her information private. Still, if I pass the information on to Suzie then maybe her accountant could serve notice on him; take Mr Andy Wright to the small claims court perhaps.

A couple of days later, Suzie called around to see me. She told me that her accountant had tried phoning the number I’d given her and had sent mail by registered post, but that this had been returned undelivered. Suzie had even taken the step of driving by the Andy Wright’s house. A BMW had been parked outside on the driveway so Suzie had gone up and knocked on the door. Now Suzie, when riled has a very loud knock, as I know to my cost! But no-one had come to the door, no curtains had twitched.

“I’d like to help?” I said.

“You?”

“Okay, don’t sound so amazed. I’m quite resourceful you know”.

From the look on Suzie’s face, that wasn’t how she would describe me. Now I was pissed off. I wanted to tell her about how I’d solved a problem not long ago for some friends, but I couldn’t, being sworn to secrecy. Bugger, fuck and damn but you don’t keep friends by blabbing do you.

“What have you got to lose? Give me a week. I’ll find this Andy Wright and what’s happened to your money”. Okay, I admit it, I didn’t like the fact that Suzie obviously thought that a girl with long finger nails, a caffeine habit that occasionally got out of control and who worked as a financial consultant in a rather lush office, would be able to do something that she couldn’t.

“Nuts. You are - you know that don’t you? So what are you going to do? Camp out out-side his house all day? When you’re supposed to be in work? How’s that going to work?”

Okay, I hadn’t thought it through. I had no idea what I was going to do, so I decided to just look all mysterious and told Suzie that I had my ways. Hadn’t I already found out personal details more quickly than her accountant? 

A raised eyebrow and a pursed mouth. “All right, one week. My accountant will keep trying to get in touch, but if you can do any better” She trailed off, obviously thinking that I wouldn’t be able to.

After she’d left I sat, staring out of the window. So, how was I going to be able to track this man? If his car was there, then surely sometimes he must go out? Well I knew where to go first. I logged on, and went to one of my bookmarked pages. Here we go. A personal vehicle tracking system. Just what I need. Very nice.  Not much bigger than a memory stick, with a magnet to attach to the car and an internal GPS tracking system to record the driving information. Easy, peasy. What could go wrong?

Early next week a little package, wrapped in bubble wrap, was lying on the doormat when I got home from work. I eagerly un-wrapped it and read the instruction booklet. Simple. Stick it somewhere unseen on the car, let it do its job, recording every journey the car makes, then get it back and read the results. The only other application you need it Google Earth. I like this. It’s even better than the phone tracker, I’d used before, because it keeps a log of all the journeys made. I decide to drive past “the target’s” house and carry out a “recce” whilst it was still light.  Now I was talking inside my head like an FBI agent. Not particularly pertinent for a Home Counties girl. The only black outfit I owned was my LBD, usually worn with my 4” stilettos. So coming back down to earth, I put on my jogging outfit, placing the little magnetic logger in the pocket of my top.

I cheated a little. I drove to about half a mile from Andy Wright’s house. I parked the Eos in the car-park of a Waitrose supermarket and then jogged down the road to the house. I glanced into the drive. A brand new BMW was parked there, facing the road. I stopped as if out of breath and did some stretching exercises against a tree whilst I took a good look around. What a nice neighbourhood. Tall hedges separated each of the houses and no kids were playing outside. I stood up and “accidentally” dropped my key ring.

“Whoops”. I bent down to pick the key up and slid my hand under the front bumper. The logger clunked into place. I stood up; waving my key ring, but everything was still quiet. Just to be on the safe side I started jogging and ran around the block and back to my car.

Over the next couple of days, I drove past the house on my way to and from work. Once the BMW was gone in the morning, but back in the evening. The house itself still had the curtains drawn, so I had no idea of whether anyone was inside or not. I decided to leave the logger in place until Monday. There would probably be too many people around at the week-end for me to attempt to collect it.

Monday evening came and it was misty and cloudy. Typical summer weather really! I repeated my journey to Waitrose and after walking out of the car park, started jogging down the road. My heart rate accelerated as I got closer to the house. The BMW was parked in the drive, but I stared in dismay as I jogged past. It was now facing the house, so I’d have to go up the drive and close to the sitting room window to get the logger back.

This time I turned around when I reached the end of the street. Then I slowed down as I got closer to the house. I stopped under the tree and looked around. I couldn’t see anyone around and there were no lights on in the house.  I listened, trying to hear anything over the noise my pulse was making. I walked slowly up the drive trying not to make any noise in the gravel. I stood next to the car and breathed out slowly trying to slow my breathing. Then I knelt down. I felt underneath the bumper. Nothing! I couldn’t feel it. My heart was in my throat now. Oh God, where was it, please let it be there. I leaned further forward. My outstretched fingers felt the outline of the logger and I gave a gasp of relief. It was covered in dirt and sticky to touch. My fingers were having trouble getting a good grip on it. I wiped my fingers on my joggers and tried again. This time I got a good grip but as I pulled it I slipped on the wetness on the drive. My hand banged hard on the car. The sodding car alarm went off. I scrambled up, gravel from the drive digging into my hands.  The noise from the car alarm was hurting my ears. A light came on in the house. I panicked. I slid rather than ran down the drive. Behind me I heard the door open and light flooded the drive as I flung myself around the hedge. I waited in the darkness, not daring to move in case I was spotted. The noise from the car-alarm stopped and I held my breath. I heard the door slam behind me. I didn’t wait to find out whether anyone was coming, I just ran. Then, as I turned the corner I twisted my ankle.

Later in the day, after two more cups of coffee and two ibuprofen, I felt ready to find out what Andy Wright had been up to. I logged on to my laptop and plugged the logger into the USB port. I opened Google Earth and then clicked on the logger icon.  Okay Mr Wright, let’s see where you went.

A short drive, Ah, I was familiar with this location. A half hour visit to Waitrose, then straight back home. The next journey was all the way across town. Ooh, cheeky. Broke the speed limit then Mr Wright. The logger showed that he had parked up for two hours before driving back home.  I downloaded and enlarged the picture of the place where he’d stayed.  I recognised the area and Google Earth very kindly had an icon which pointed out the location was near Priory Church on the other side of town. I couldn’t tell precisely which house on the road next to the Church that he had parked, but this was well worth examining in person.

Priory Close was another very nice place to live. A small cul-de-sac with detached houses, widely separated by landscaped gardens. I bet some of these even have swimming pools in the back garden.  I drove to the end of the road, but the BMW wasn’t in sight. I was starting to wish that I’d had the nerve to go back again and put it back on the car so that I had some extra information to try and find him.

There was a small green at the end of the road which acted as a natural roundabout. As I turned to leave the Close I did a double-take. The BMW was just pulling into a drive in front of me. The car pulled up next to a brand new black Mercedes SLK Roadster. A man, mid-thirties, tall, dark spiky hair got out of the car. He was wearing very nice jeans and Converse trainers. If this was Andy Wright then why is it all the bad ones who look worth chasing after?  The front door opened, an older woman with blonde, though rather obviously dyed hair came out and gave the man a hug. Hmm - didn’t seem an obvious choice of partner, maybe his mother? I’m sure I recognised the dress she was wearing from Hobbs window. Her heels flashed red as she turned and walked inside the house. Nice, very, very nice. Hopefully one day, I’d earn enough to have a pair as well.  Outside the house was an estate agents “For Sale” sign.

I parked in the Church car-park and gave Suzie a ring. I asked her what Sheila Dickson looked like. She asked why I wanted to know and whether I had found anything out; but I just told her I would phone her again very soon.  Her description matched the woman I’d seen at the house. So now I had both of them, together. Well for now anyway, but I needed to find out what they were up to. So I drove into town and made my way to my favourite coffee shop and over an espresso and chocolate twist thought of a way to maybe, hopefully, find out a little bit more about Sheila Dickson.

I walked up the High Street and into the Estate Agents. I explained that I was looking for a house for my parents. They had friends in the area and were very interested in buying an established property, particularly in the Priory area. I pointed to one of the pictures in the window.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you that that particular property has just been sold. Indeed we will be completing tomorrow. However I’m sure that we have other properties very similar”.

I looked over a few pictures and said I would take them for my parents to look at, then we’d come back soon. As I threw the pictures on the back seat of my car, I smiled. My parents would be most surprised that I was moving them! They’d divorced many years ago and Dad now had a fantastic waterside apartment, whilst Mum would never leave her beloved garden.

“Hi Suzie. If you tell your accountant to send the court order to this address tomorrow morning. I can guarantee that your Brides woman will be there to collect it.”

“”What? How? What is this address? How did you find it Gina?”

“Sorry Suze. Trade secret. Give me a call tomorrow and let me know how you get on”. Then I put the phone down and smiled. Now for a little bit of extra insurance!







“So Lucy, can you tell me what the scene is outside the house now?”

“Good Morning David. Well, the scene here is incredible. There are about 50 people standing outside the house of Sheila Dickson, the manager of the bridal shop, Glamorous Brides, which closed its doors so unexpectedly two weeks ago. Some of the crowd are waving placards and some are chanting “where’s my money, where’s my dress”.

“Can you tell me if Sheila is inside the house?”

“Oh, yes David. She and her business partner a Mister Andy Wright, have been inside the house all night. Apparently a number of people received phone calls yesterday saying that they knew where Miss Dickson lived. The police arrived at about 4:30 this morning, in response to a call from Miss Dickson. However a Police spokesman has said that as the protestors are not blocking the highway they are prepared to let this peaceful protest continue”

I smiled as I listened to the radio. Get out of that then Sheila Dickson and Andy Wright. See if you can disappear now! Then my mobile rang. I picked it up and grinned and the name and picture being displayed. “Hi Suzie” I said.





© Kate Hawkins, 2008





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