Below is a short story about the curious case of an unexpected letter, a Grandson, and his eccentric Grandmother, who was recently deceased. (I limited myself to just fifteen hundred words) Thoughts, feedback and comments are welcome. Enjoy!
An Unexpected Letter
By Chris J Mitchell
Dear Mr Benjamin Rode, the letter began. I do hope this letter finds you in good health. As you are aware your grandmother recently passed away and it is my duty as her solicitor to fulfil her final will and testament.
Nutty weirdo, I thought to myself. She probably left me a stale baloney sandwich and a stuffed armadillo. Still, at least she had thought of me, but I could not imagine what she might have left me if that was the intention of this letter.
I assumed little was remaining after most of her possessions had been sold and the money invested for her beloved Francis. At least for the rest of his life he would get double the walks, silk pillows to sleep on and free-range chicken for every meal. That is the life of a lucky poodle.
I had not spoken to my Grandmother for about ten years and before that she was distant at the best of times in both location and conversation. She never made the effort to communicate or even reply to a Christmas card.
The letter continued, your grandmother asked me to pass on certain details, for it was her wish to recall certain nostalgic memories about her friends and she was most insistent that I recorded this.
Firstly Mr Caravaggio, number ten, Perth Street, London. No postcode.
Helpful! I thought, but I have no idea what this information is meant for. Then Mr Madison and Mr Doyle. Both of their addresses are in the appendix accompanying this letter. All three of whom were dear friends of Elizabeth your grandmother. She wished for them to be notified of her passing and all have been sent correspondence about her death, apart from, Mr Caravaggio, for whom we have no complete address. Elizabeth requested that if you could see them individually and pass on your condolences, she would be most grateful. She also mentioned that as you do not know them she would not expect you to do this, but as a favour for the dear friendships she held with them it would be appreciated.
I appreciate your sentiment, Grandmother, but not your practicalities. Three people, I’ve never met, who may themselves be dead or in no more contact with you than I myself. I will give it some thought, but appreciate the fact you don’t expect me to carry out the task.
I will not go into full detail here of our discussions and was not requested to, but needless to say if you wish for further details do call me and I will be happy to discuss all that I can remember.
Mr Madison was a great violin player and it brought joy to Elizabeth to recount him playing for her. The violin was learnt from his grandfather, who was once said to have played in front of the Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. How this came about I have no idea, but there is no reason to doubt it being the truth and I was informed that both Mr Madison and his grandfather were most resourceful and had achieved some quite astounding accomplishments.
Mr Doyle was a detective who worked on cases across the boroughs of London. Starting as a bobby on the beat, as she put it, he then worked his way up and finally became a detective. He investigated many murders and although not strictly allowed he would discuss all manner of details about how they occurred and what he did to catch the culprits.
Finally, Mr Caravaggio, for him she wished me to state that she had not a love affair, for he was a dumpling at best, but a great chef and loved to travel. In fact, they visited many corners of Britain and of Europe. It was from Mr Caravaggio that she gained great confidence and where she learnt a love of exploration, and how to take care of herself at home or abroad.
Grandmother, you are pouring out your heart, but I wish you had been a little friendlier when you were alive. I’ve no idea why you are communicating this to me now.
Elizabeth wished to communicate this to you now as she realised she may have neglected you and your mother in the past. But she wished to be alone and saw no reason why, as she put it, she should have to be chatty with people.
At least she was honest.
This now brings me to the final point of this letter. You may have noticed two old keys as part of this delivery.
I had indeed and I thought they were two fine looking antique keys.
Also, there is a map and an address to a cottage that your grandmother owned. I am afraid to say she has not left the cottage to you.
Afraid, but not surprised!
The cottage will be sold and the income will be provided to Francis. But she said all the contents you find within the cottage should be split equally between you and your mother.
Hmmm, this was intriguing and not what I’d expected. Perhaps she had left me something after all? Although I imagined I would likely see further stuffed animals at most.
The cottage was not more than a couple hours by train and perhaps a thirty minute walk from the station. It seemed like a quaint place so I decided to visit that weekend.
Your grandmother requested that you acknowledge receipt of this letter and keys. She wanted to be absolutely certain, so I will continue to make contact with you until I am assured that you have received both.
Of course, I would reply and I looked forward to seeing what she had hidden away.
That Saturday morning when I caught the train the weather was delightful. It was fresh, sunny and a comfortable temperature for walking. Not too hot, but not too cold. A little like a well-made cake with all the ingredients mixed to perfection. The carriage had three people in it including myself and I assumed this little village was not often visited. At least I would get a relaxing trip into the countryside and I was filled with anticipation in finding out what had been left. I had called Mum, but she did not have the time to join me and was quite surprised to hear of the letter and told me to keep her updated every step of the way.
Upon arriving at the train station it was deserted and the village was quite antiquated. The further I walked towards the cottage the ever more a remote location it felt. Finally, as I turned a corner onto a narrow lane that was being consumed by the roots of a giant oak tree I saw the cottage a few feet away. Paint peeling from the walls, moss on the roof and white-washed windows. There was also a sign saying ‘Protected by Python Security’ that was screwed into the decaying front gate. I assumed Grandmother had taken some precautions to protect the property.
I approached the front door and took what I believed to be the correct key and inserted it. The door lock opened the first time and my guess was correct. Inside the floors were bare and the rooms were empty. The place had a somewhat ghostly feel, but nothing menacing or ghastly. Now for the second key, it was larger, older and far more rusted. It took me some time to find the door it matched, but eventually I discovered one that appeared to lead to a cellar. The lock creaked and banged into place as I turned it and the opening door revealed to me a set of stairs leading downwards to a dimly lit cellar.
I walked slowly down the stairs and you may be surprised to hear what greeted me was not a complete shock. However, it did send a chill down my spine.
“Well, Grandmother. I should have expected it, but not even I thought you were quite this daring.”
When I was a child, I would see my grandmother occasionally and sometimes she joked that she had murdered her husband and locked his body in a cellar. He was a womaniser and a drunk, who supposedly ran off with a chambermaid. But she had good friends who had given her the knowledge and the ability to carry out such an action whether they were aware she did it or not.
I took her comments all in good humour, but considering all that had taken place before this moment maybe I should have expected to be met by a skeleton. There, laid with its arms crossed on its chest and in a dusty three-piece suit were the bones that remained (I assumed) of her husband. Still, the gold medallion, bracelets and other such jewellery will be of quite some value.
After the police finish their investigations they will be provided to their new owners. My mother and myself.
(© 2019 – Chris J Mitchell)
An Unexpected Letter is available to download for free on Google Play