11 Ladysmile Lane – Episode 05

“Sign here… and here,” Alex said, passing a pen and a couple of documents across his desk to Harrison.

Harrison broke off from his musings about the desk, which he thought was a splendid old thing. Alex had told him it had already been here when he had taken on the rear office at 11, Ladysmile Lane.

In contrast, there had been nothing in Harrison’s office when he’d moved in. But his den did have a stained-glass window, beautiful when the sun hit it.

He signed the papers John Harrison, these being official documents, though he rarely used his first name, and passed them back to Alex.

“I always think,” Alex said as he checked over the signatures, “it sounds a fantastically exciting thing to be – a private investigator.”

“It might sound it,” Harrison replied with a wry smile, “but don’t believe everything you see on TV. Normally I’m just serving papers, or tracing the occasional missing person.”

He paused.

“That can be good, though, reuniting people. Lost relatives and so on. Do you have your bill for the work you’ve done? I’ll settle it now.”

He reached into the pocket of his jerkin for his cheque-book.

Alex waved his hand, indicating he should put it back.

“I haven’t done it yet. Ann sorts out things like that when she comes. Besides, I usually leave it a few weeks in case there’s anything else that needs attending to.”

“Fine, if that’s your system.”

But Harrison suspected that Alex was actually just giving him a bit longer before he needed to pay. Having prepared the accounts, Alex would know Harrison’s business wasn’t exactly prospering. In fact, it was close to collapse.

He looked at Alex, slim and fair-haired, the same as his daughter. He was dressed in a corduroy jacket and open-necked shirt, which was on the casual side for the type of work he did. But he looked reliable, which counted for a lot. A good bloke, Harrison reckoned.

What was the story about him moving here to Ladysmile Lane? From a conversation in the shared kitchen – the hub of the office building – he knew that Alex had once had a high-flying job in the financial world.

Why had he changed to doing the books for little set-ups like Harrison’s? Working alone, apart from Ann coming in a couple of half days?

Whatever the reason, Alex was certainly doing better than Harrison, though that, he knew, was largely his own fault. He’d regarded this enterprise as something to pay the bills while he thought about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

But he’d neither put enough effort into it to ensure it was able to meet his needs, nor had he given any thought to the future. All he’d done was brood about the past…

He stood up.

“OK, I’ll hear from Ann. And thanks, Alex, for your help. I’ll get back now and see what awaits.”

“I hope there’s an interesting job – worthy of a TV series,” Alex replied, his tone sincere despite the joke. “Profitable, too. Maybe a bit of industrial espionage for some big multinational company, eh?”

Harrison grinned.

“That would do, all right!”

He shook Alex’s hand – a firm grip, he noted.

On his way to the door, he felt in his pocket to make sure his mobile phone was there. It had been so silent for the past few days that he’d got into the habit of checking just to make sure he hadn’t forgotten it.

It was, and just as he opened the door it started to ring…

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.