Artwork by Rhea Mehta
D A Y 3 (continued)
Twelve fifteen rolled around and Aditya saw Matthew head for King’s Cross. His thoughts during the journey were predictable – a muddle of confusion, a hint of fright, and a heavy helping of curiosity. But amidst it all there was something else. Something that confused Aditya, something that he felt wasn’t meant to be there. Yet there it was all the same – a thin, streaking line of golden hope, cutting through the rest. It fantastically punctuated his view of the tube seat opposite Matthew, ironically highlighting a skull scrawled in black sharpie.
The train reliably arrived at Hatfield in thirty minutes and Matthew got off. A ten-minute walk later, Matthew had made it to Number 4 Hogback Lane, but things weren’t as either of them expected. The house clearly hadn’t been used for a number of years. Creepers had taken over the front walls and the sides were damp and crumbling. Aditya was confused and felt it in Matthew too. The former’s field of view became entirely tainted a dark purple.
Matthew walked up to the front door nonetheless and immediately saw that something was amiss. Aditya didn’t understand it himself, but he felt Matthew think it. He watched Matthew look all around the porch for that little something that bothered him. When he found nothing by simply examining it, he dipped into the inner pocket of his coat and put on some gloves. He moved his hand steadily across the door, looking for something out of the ordinary. When he found nothing there, he moved on to the rest of the front wall. He repeated with the right side and the window on it and then finally found what he was looking for on the left. A lose brick, ever so slightly too small for the gap. Aditya would never have seen it for himself and even now he couldn’t tell.
Matthew got a pocketknife out and opened its flattest edge. He slid it under the brick and pressed down, sliding it out simultaneously. A piece of paper, just as nondescript as the one that came in the post, fell to the floor.
THERE’S A SCRAPYARD TWO BLOCKS TO THE RIGHT. MEET ME THERE, MR MUNNERLYN.
If Aditya wasn’t already interested, this would have done the trick.
Two blocks later, Matthew came up on a scrapyard as promised. The scene in front of them was a bit like something out of a movie or a book, perhaps even one that Aditya would have written himself. The scrapyard was littered with broken down cars, rusty metal tubes, and other small bits of metal. An old XJ stood a little way off – some might have called it a vintage. Aditya himself never understood what made something “vintage”. A man in a black suit leaned on the side of the car, looking very relaxed and even a little bit bored. Another man stood off the back of the car looking every bit as tense as the first was relaxed. Aditya guessed he was the guard, which would make the man leaning on the car the one who sent the letter.
Aditya was impressed and a little scared. He didn’t recognise the man at all, but it was clear he was looking at the man who had ordered his death. He wondered if he wanted to recognise him at all, feeling as though that would have only scared him even more.
“Hello Mr Munnerlyn. I see you figured out my little puzzle.”
Matthew nodded. “What was the point of all of that, by the way?”
“It’s simple, Mr Munnerlyn. I need someone who, along with the rest of your portfolio, which we’ll be getting to in a moment, can notice the small things. Can figure out, just by looking at someone, if there’s something off about them. Can find a brick just a little smaller than all the others in a wall covered with moss.”
Matthew chuckled. “There’s one thing bothering me though. You keep calling me Mr Munnerlyn and that’s all well and good, but I can’t help but feel as if this is a bit lopsided.”
“You can call me Finney. Sebastian Finney.”
“That’s not your real name, is it?”
“That’s not of concern. What is of concern, is you, Matthew. You’re ex-MI6. Don’t bother trying to figure out who told me. I can assure you it’s none of the names on that list I can all but see you crossing people off of.” Finney stopped leaning on the car and started pacing. “You were doing well there, Matthew. Several commendations and not a single infraction on your record. But then a dishonourable discharge?”
(Wow, he told me he left the service because he needed a change of scenery. Had enough of all that for one lifetime. Even had a reference and everything.)
(I suppose that was forged though. Easy enough to fix that sort of thing up, really.)
“That’s not of concern, Sebastian.” Matthew laced his name with a tinge of provocation, and Finney got the message and backed off.
“Well played. But I must ask – why do you work as a driver, Matthew?”
“Not that it’s any of your concern, but it’s a bit hard finding a job in this country when the only recognition the government will give you would make things worse.” Matthew then put his hand in his pocket and pulled out the card that Finney had sent him in the mail. He held it up for him to see then said,
“You said you wanted to talk. I’m assuming it wasn’t just about the circumstances of my employment.”
“We could talk about your niece and nephew, if you like. Wouldn’t you like them home more often than just in between terms? Anne would be starting college soon too, wouldn’t she?”
Matthew ran forward and grabbed Finney by the collar, determined to punch the smug grin off his face, but the guard intervened and pulled him off. Aditya felt the anger coursing through Matthew’s thoughts and his view of the world was suddenly soaked in a deep red.
Still struggling in the guard’s arms, Matthew spat out,
“What the fuck do you know about those kids? You so much as glance at them and I’ll put you through so much fucking pain you’ll be begging for death.” Aditya’s world became darker, as if blood had already been drawn. He had never seen Matthew like this and was getting scared even though there was no threat to him. Finney though, looked calm as ever. He readjusted his tie and dusted off his suit, then spoke in a voice just as collected as before.
“I assure you, Mr Munnerlyn, no harm will come to those children. My particular line of work may not care much for the law, but I do have principles. I was merely showing my hand.” Matthew eased up a bit and the guard let him go. He straightened up and Finney continued talking. “You see, I am in the business of information. It’s my job to know everything about everyone I meet.
Now, coming to the subject of this particular meeting. I didn’t call upon the circumstances of your current employment in vain, Mr Munnerlyn. I called upon it because it is the subject of this meeting. As you may or may not know, one of your employers, Aditya Singh, has been shadowing one of the officers on the local police force as a part of his research for his next book. Unfortunately, he was present when the police discovered something rather damning about someone very powerful. Naturally, he wants Aditya – and his husband – removed immediately.”
(Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. They assured me nothing would happen to me. They made me sign NDAs. KURT DOESN’T EVEN KNOW ANYTHING.)
“Who might this someone be?”
“That’s none of your concern, Mr Munnerlyn. You only have to concern yourself with the offer I’m presenting you with. Eight thousand more on top of the two I’ve already given you – you can keep that irrespective of your decision, by the way; do with it what you like – and, if all works out, a job in my organisation. Put that government training to some use.”
“And what organisation might this be?”
“You ask a lot of questions, Mr Munnerlyn. That could get a man killed in my line of work.”
“I prefer to know who I’d be working for.”
Finney clicked his tongue before replying. “Hoffman Tressler’s. Now, that will be all, Mr Munnerlyn. Here’s my card. You have twenty-four hours to reply to my offer. I hope you choose wisely.” With that, Finney and his guard got into his car and drove off, leaving Matthew to debate the matter for himself.
Over the next twenty-four hours Aditya couldn’t make any sense of his thoughts whatsoever. There were no discernible emotions and the world was permanently tinted some strange mashup of every colour there was. It didn’t matter though. Aditya knew his final decision. So, it came as no surprise to him when he bought a burner phone from Freddie the same night and texted Finney’s number two words.
He got a reply almost immediately.
Good. Bring the bodies where we met once the job is done.
Matthew didn’t bother replying. He clicked the phone shut and went to sleep. Aditya wasn’t tired, but he felt compelled to sleep too so he obliged.
Liked the intrigue? Subscribe and tell your friends - a good mystery is a group activity!
If you’re a Substack writer, please consider recommending Innocently Macabre:
Thanks so much for reading!