Fiction Mystery

From the moment someone was to meet Gavin, he could understand that something was strange with the guy. Of course strange doesn't mean that he was the weird kind of strange, or dumb for that matter. He was actually quite a brilliant character and an observant personality for what is worth it. From the moment I stepped into his office, in Cardon street, relying just a few minutes away from our house in the neighborhood, he pulled out some Sherlock Holmes tricks on me and made some accurate descriptions on my behalf that weren't quite obvious to figure out in the first place.

"I see you have been working in the garden again Peter," he said. "Planting anything new for the season?"

"Some Azaleas and Catmints. They are my aunt's favorites."

"Ah, excellent taste indeed. Purple must be your aunt's favorite color then."

"As a matter of fact, it is. But how did you figure this out, really?"

I wasn't really offended by his comments but I was curious to know how he came up to them with the confidence that he had. My aunt had asked me to help her with the plants that she had gathered so diligently for the summer and I had spent almost the whole afternoon preparing the soil and planting their roots in the ground, for these plants require extra care to find a proper fit. But all this work had taken place the day before my meeting with Gavin so any signs of it ought to have vanished by then. Or so I thought anyway.

"The same way I know that you have been working on the ceiling again and been covering hairlines and cracks. These things always tend to leave marks,".

I raised my hand on top of my head and felt the light grime that was ingrained in the top of my hair which much had come from the trims that fell of the roof after my clean-up. I felt embarrassed at the moment for not having spot any of this already but right then I realized that probably there were the same exact signs that gave up my work in the garden although this time they were attached subtly in the corners of my shoes but not in a way that they would draw someone's attention unless he was to look very carefully for them.

"Very observant Gavin," I said. "Very observant indeed."

"No need to feel bad boy," he said sensing my discomfort. "We've all been there I'm afraid at one point or another. So tell me again, what was it in the letter this time"

He stood expectant with his fingers crossed on each other like some sort of detective that was gathering all the elements of the crime scene. Although in my case I wasn't sure that our situation had anything to do with criminal activities or that Gavin himself was in any way suited to help us with the matter. But he was a good neighbor of ours and an ex-security guard before opening this plant shop that he was handling for the last years, and Marcy, my aunt, thought it was a good idea to let him know about the incident and maybe get his opinion on the subject. What happened was that for the second time this month we had received another one of these letters on our front step. One that was quite hostile and threatening in its nature, although nobody could pinpoint who could send something like that or what was its true purpose. "Judgment day is coming for you," the letter was saying, "and you shall pay for every little thing you've done so far". Certainly a very passionate threat for all that matters and one that felt strange to the way I and my aunt Marcy conduct our lives. I certainly cannot think of anyone who would like to hurt me personally to such a degree and Marcy herself, although she had her good share of bad relationships and broken records along the way, I doubt that anyone of her past personal history would come anywhere close in trying to harm her, let alone play games with threat letters and mysterious notes.

This is the second one that we had received but in both cases, the letter arrived in just about the exact same way. Enclosed in the standard envelope, printed in computer letters, with no indication of where it came from and with a note made of plastic letters, all glued close to each other to form each word with variegated, shiny colors, stuck close to each other in a way a kid that would merge them together. Seemingly done in a way that would make it hard for us to get any clue as to where it came from.

"It's a strange letter for sure," said Gavin scrutinizing the paper under the thick, thumb glasses of him that made his eyes narrow like two small pebbles. "Are you sure you have no idea at all as to who may want to do such a thing to you? Or scare you even?"

"Very doubtful Mr. Gavin. We have gone through pretty much everyone we came to known the last few years with aunt Marcy and nobody would really fit the profile of someone who would do such a thing. We tend to think it is more like a prank someone is playing on us rather than an actual threat we should take seriously for that matter."

Gavin reengaged the letter, wearing the goggle glasses back on him, without exerting any effort to let me know of his thoughts on what I had just said. A very strange behavior that never failed to pull on my nerves really. If it was me I would always make sure to let others know what I think, especially if it has something to do with something so possibly serious like this case over here.

"What did the police say about it? Have they made any progress in their investigation? Any suspects at all?"

He took the glasses off in front of his face and started chewing the thick frame like it was some sort of gummy bear candy while waiting for my response.

"As I told you, Mr. Gavin, we don't think that this issue is something we should take so seriously for the moment. And certainly, not one that we should take to the police for that matter. It seems like it is more like a joke someone is trying to play on us or some distasteful practice that kids propagate around. We just wanted to make sure if you have any idea who that might be,".

I had already started having regrets for having visited the guy already since his attitude started to get quite annoying. He would node and agree with me condescendingly with everything I would say and then he would make a question like this one that showed he wouldn't pay one God damn penny for what it was worth. Also, his expression didn't seem to be that sharp for all that it mattered and his demeanor seemed more like the guy who cares about nothing more in the world than his plants than a guy that he could do anything to help, and I wouldn't care to hear about his past experience as a security guard or anything for that matter. 

I noticed his thick eyebrows frown as she scratched his forehead and then he raised his eyes up to me again.

"I'm afraid this is the first time I see something like this,"

"I see," I said and was ready to end our conversation right then and there but he once again found the way to get me out of my ways.

"But I wouldn't rush to assess this as being an act of some youngster or anything of the sort. If I were you I would take the subject quite seriously,"

"Why is that?"

By that point, all I wanted to do, was just leaped up and leave but his confident manner made me give him one more chance, just to listen to his reasoning. Although I still found it quite strange that he was so sure of himself during the whole time.

"A kid would never think to buy such particular sticker letters to achieve a prank like this. I mean the result may look childish of course, but whoever did it must have put lots of thought about how to bring everything together so flawlessly and make it look impersonal."

I let a small grunt out but refrained from interrupting him.

"Also you will notice that the paper has a particular weight. This is not a simple leaf paper like someone would expect". He waved the paper up and down as if he was letting the air flow in his face from it. "It is a bit heavier than usual and has a quality that makes it naturally more durable. As if it was expected to be used with a fountain pen."

"Interesting," I said and tried to think how legitimate this clue could be to bring such a decisive conclusion.

"My recommendation, my dear Peter would be that you let the police know about the incident immediately. They might not be able to help with the facts they have now. But it might make the difference down the line if things need to be handled more urgently. Hopefully, it won't come to this, of course,"

He ended his comment with a big smile as if trying to sweeten up the bad news with a joyful attitude. Not that it would make any difference or anything. Especially thinking how impossible it would be to convince aunt Marcy that we should bring the police into this and make a whole report about the incident. She was actually quite absolute about the fact that she didn't want to bring to the issue any more attention that was merely necessary and that she found all this to be a vulgar joke we should try to forget. It was sure it wouldn't be an easy task to change her mind about the fact. And my disappointment must have shown because Gavin immediately jumped in with another suggestion. Still holding the same damn smile he had during the whole conversation.

"If nothing comes out of it, feel free to give me a call," he said handing me one of his professional cards. It was mostly white in its entirety apart from the big centered calligraphic letters with which his name was written and the contact details. "I might have an idea or two about how to uncover who is behind all this. If that is OK with you of course," he added feeling bad for taking such a forward step with a man he barely knows.

"Not a problem at all Mr. Gavin. I will make sure to let you know" I said and made my way out with a strong feeling this would not be the last time seeing him.

The summer heat had already begun to intensify during the early July days and I could sense the difference in me for having less appetite in doing anything. I guess that's the way heat always influenced me for getting out all my lazy predisposition and finding the excuse to not do anything at all. Aunt Marcy had also changed her ways by bringing the set of floral clothes that she always liked to wear for exactly the duration of the summer. After that, the pattern would be shut off and locked in the closet till the next year. But till then it was all light dresses with flower stamps all over the place and tied up hair revealing her long sweaty neck she had usually hidden behind her hair. 

She was also ill-disposed against the extra heat, I guess because she also avoided any of her usual tea sessions with her friends and wasn't much up for a talk as she used to be. Mostly she liked to seat on the balcony, all by her own, drinking some cold soda and reading through her standard girlie magazines, which frankly I never realized what was so interesting in them in the first place. 

When I brought the subject up of escalating the issue to the police and suggested to take a step for it, it was like a bomb had exploded right at the center of our apartment and I was the sole traitor of some implicit contract that somehow I managed to violate without my knowledge. 

"You can't be serious, are you?" her face distorted with sheer disbelief. The kind that leaves you no option but to remain silent for a while. "Peter, I think we have been through this already,"

"Yes, we have. But maybe we are wrong." I said to her. "Don't you think it would be better to let the police know and just let them handle it as they please?"

We had a long discussion about the subject but unfortunately, I made the fatal mistake of hitting her right in her weak spot for such matters. Triggering her pride and all. In the end, she leaped up from her usual spot and headed straight to her room just to control her nerves and she refused to talk about it for a long time. All until the third hit came, that is. This time with enough practical consequences to leave no option but to take the situation seriously.

When the rock smacked right through the living room window, I was already sitting lousily in my room trying to confine my mind into reading this English guidebook I was assigned to finish. Not that I had any real interest in it, but aunt Marcy thought it would be good for me to improve my language skills and she pretty much forced me into it without asking my opinion on it. 

I listened to the strong thud and the fallen crystals -what seemed like it from far away anyway- and then my aunt's scream that somehow pierced through the walls and reached my earlobes, maintaining its whole intensity. Whoever was behind all this had decided to step up his game from meaningless letters and had now embarked on very substantial acts to harm us. Something that made the point of how serious this was and helped convince Marcy of its urgency.

The police came, notebooks and all. They asked the same questions again and again as if somehow they would expect a different answer each time. But it was always pretty much the same standard answer they would get, that didn't seem to make much to satisfy their curiosity. "No we have no apparent enemy," and "no we have absolutely no f* clue of who could be behind all this".

It was just a few days later that I decided to give it another try with this guy Gavin. He was not the best option for someone to help with such a matter of course, but he seemed interested enough for such matters to give a hand without much pressure from my part. And sure enough, he jumped right ahead with a plan that came fast enough to raise some suspicion as to why he was so prepared for it. At least it seemed quite peculiar to me at the time for sure.

"Whoever did this must live somewhere around the neighborhood. If not being right there in the same square block with us."

Another one of those cryptics detective points he was keen on making. I would have scoffed in response if I wasn't so desperate in finding a solution to the whole thing.

"Why do you think that?" I asked.

"A person holding a grudge would rarely choose such a setting to settle his battle on. Whoever is doing it seems to be more obsessed about the house that he is with you in person."

"It could be," I said nodding.

"So if that assumption is correct, I guess all we have to do is to put out a little bait for them and see who is gonna bite first. All it takes is a simple mistake for them to be uncovered after all."

His plan was to set up a new security system in the house and around the garden using the company he used to work for before turning into his new eco-friendly activities. But the setup wasn't so much about the security itself, that the system would entail, but to expose whoever happened to show too much interest for what this was to be exactly.

"If their interest lies mostly in the house and they live in the area as well, they will most probably try to approach you and learn what the new setup is gonna contain. At least that's what I would do if I was in their position" he said.

And sure enough the day after the establishment -one that took place in the most extravagant manner possible with workers yammering around the house for the whole day- I saw Kelly Cooper being overly eager to know what these changes were all about. She ever tried to talk to me in person and snoop up as much information as possible about the new security system. 

"Are there any cameras?", "What areas are covered?", "What happens if someone tries to break in from the backside?". All questions that seemed quite innocent on their own, if we didn't know better about the nature of the criminal. And so it happened that it was revealed that her house right next to ours belonged to her name alone and being insured in a teetering theme that was supposed to secure her in case of fire. And damn me if this wasn't too much of a coincidence for something like that to be found all at the same time.

August 03, 2021 19:29

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Elizabeth Maxson
13:47 Aug 12, 2021

You create an interesting and realistic scenario in this story that draws a reader in instantly. You also pay very close attention to details which helps to extend the tension and establish scenes and characters well. I did feel the story was unfinished though. The coincidence of the neighbor's questions does not offer a satisfying conclusion to the mystery of the letters and the rock. Why would she want them to leave if her house was insured by fire? I would suggest offering more proof of the neighbor's involvement and possibly her arre...


Philip Baker
10:41 Aug 13, 2021

Thank you very much for the feedback and going through the story. Really appreciate it. Unfortunately I miscalculated the length of the story and only realized too late that I had no space left, to let the story undold as I had it mind. Which is why it leaves some parts without explanation. The gist of it was that the neighbour was after the insurance money for her house but wanted to orchestrate this whole event as to divert suspicion and draw the attention of the police to the wrong direction. Her plan was to start a fire in the neighbour ...


Elizabeth Maxson
22:21 Aug 13, 2021

That is totally understandable and please know that my disappointment is a compliment. I wanted to know what happened! Also, I liked how the woman wanted to commit a crime but still seemed concerned about their safety and seemed to be trying to get them out of the house before the fire. A criminal with a conscience is very interesting reading!


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