'Meet me at midnight' the note had said. 'You know where.'
Jake didn't know where for sure, but he had an idea. There had been notes before this one, all calling for a meeting, giving a time and a place each time. Intrigued, he had gone along each time. But so far, nobody had ever turned up.
Like the others, this note was handwritten but in blue ink not black biro. The nib size had swapped between thin and medium, which left smeary globs of ink on the page, but the other notes were all in black. The paper was different too. This was the first on thick paper, cream with a watermark, but Jake couldn't make it out. The other notes were on flimsy paper, scraps almost, some even ripped from pads or books like a school exercise book.
Jake wondered if the upmarket note might this time mean he would actually meet someone and not stay hanging round until he got bored of searching the deserted streets and went home to bed.
At 11.30 he slipped on a warm jacket and hooked a lead onto his dog's collar. The spaniel immediately started slithering about on her belly, wagging her tail and making little 'yip' noises. “Just taking the dog round the block, love. Don't wait up,” he called to his wife. He hurried through the front door of number 126, closing it behind him before her could hear her reply. If she even replied, he thought.
He took the route he had on the other evenings the last few weeks. He headed to the end of the road, zigzagged through the side streets around the old glove factory and took a right turn towards the canal. The dog was happy to be out for an extra walk, sniffing bushes and street signs. Jake checked his watch and slowed long enough to let her explore in the undergrowth, before tugging her lead and walking towards The Spot. The shelters opposite the locks, notorious for drug taking and smelling of urine. So why not the place for a midnight liaison?
Jake was a good ten minutes early so he settled into the shadows to wait, and watch for his visitor to arrive.
At number 126, the bell went three times – bip, bip, biiiiip. Jake's wife opened the door to Trevor from number 133 opposite.
“I saw him go.”
“Yes, he took the dog out. He'll be gone for a while.”
“Doesn't he suspect something? I mean, he won't head off into the night hopefully for ever.”
“True. I'm stepping it up a bit.”
“How so?” said Trevor, following Jake's wife up the stairs.
She led him into the bedroom. “Making the notes a bit more serious looking. I thought some lipstick or perfume on the next one.” She smiled. “Come on, I reckon we've got about an hour.”