Preview:   Sorrows to the Stone

Chapter 1


My dear sister,


How well you know me!  Yes, I was responsible for that headline.  Did you ask because you were impressed with its poetic quality, its shock tactics or, dare I suggest, because you thought it better than most of my efforts?

Most people to whom I have spoken are polite but imply that it is rubbish!  However, I thought quite hard about it.  The original was “Burnt body baffles police” but I changed it to “The strange case of a charred body, a necklace and a stone” when our new editor told me.  I could have a double-line headline and, anyway, the original was more suited to one of our tabloid cousins!

No, I do not know much more about it all than appeared in my article but, if you are interested, I will keep you posted.  The police are indeed baffled, not only because there are no combustibles around to suggest it was suicide but also because there are no suspects; they cannot even identify the body.  All they have is the necklace.  

By the way, the stone has gone missing.

Your loving brother,


Julian


Chapter 2


“Come in,” said the tall, broad-shouldered, black man at the door.  His outlook was benign with a half smile, deep brown eyes and open-armed gesture.  “I am Adedayo.  I will look after you.”  He led the way and she followed, through the narrow hallway, whose walls were decorated with wallpaper that was once light cream with a yellow flowered border but was now speckled with dirty brown damp patches, interspersed with fine outgrowths of green mould.

She followed him up the narrow staircase edged by a cheap, wooden bannister covered in flaking varnish.  As she walked round the one-hundred-and-eighty-degree bend at the top of the staircase leading onto the landing that led to the second floor, she stopped by a small icon on the wall, dedicated to the Nigerian Yoruba god, Shango.  She heard noises.  She concentrated.  A woman’s voice crying, a man’s voice grunting and a second man’s voice jeering.

“This way,” said Adedayo hastily, whilst beckoning her firmly with his outstretched hand.  “Up the stairs.”

She followed.  He led her onto the upper floor and turned the light onto a room about ten feet by six.  In the middle, was a double bed.  By the wall, was a low table, on which was a large Victorian ceramic bowl and a cheap modern pottery jug full of water.  As she passed through the door, a cockroach scurried beneath the skirting board that was buckling up from the wooden floorboards.

“This is your room,” said Adedayo, gazing without emotion into her eyes, “where you can relax.”  After a few seconds, he added: “And where you will work.”   He turned away from her to leave but she stopped him.

“Please! What work am I to do?”

“What were you told?”

“They told me that I would stay in your house and you would find me work and that I would pay for my keep from the money that I earned.  They could not say exactly what work it would be because it would depend on what was available when I got here.  But they said that you had many contacts and there was no doubt that you would find me enough work to pay my way and more besides.”

“Do you have any money?”

“My family in Nigeria has some money and I brought enough with me to, well, to deal with some problems I have.  But I do not have enough to pay for rent, food and so on as well.” 

“I was given some money by…”  She paused, then continued, “...by someone back home but that was to pay for my airfare here.”

“So work is important to you?”

“Oh yes,” she said, “I will not be able to live here without it.  And I have to live here for some time, I am not sure how long.”

“We will bring the work to you,” he said, “meanwhile settle in.”  With a smile, he turned and walked back down the corridor.

   C    © Harvey Sagar 2013