THE STRANGER THAT WASN’T
Mrs. Walker pushed past a scrawny man and shuffled to the desk. The clerk glanced up, shrugged and resumed her telephone conversation.
Breathless, Mrs. Walker lowered her plump buttocks into the squeaky chair facing the clerk and waited. Three minutes passed. Five. She tapped her cane on the floor. The clerk looked up, scowled at her and continued talking into the telephone.
“Oi want to make a report,” Mrs. Walker said.
The clerk raised an eyebrow, whispered into the telephone and turned to the harried woman.
“Oi think someone is following me, maybe wanting to kill me,” Mrs. Walker hurried on.
“You know who?” the clerk asked.
“If oi know that, oi would give you name.” The old woman glared at the clerk. “Oi said, someone.”
The clerk signaled her to wait, returned the telephone to her ear and begun to talk.
“You no taking report?”
“In a minute.” The clerk rolled her eyes.
“Is police commissioner you talking to on the telephone?” Mrs. Walker asked.
“Is me brother.”
The clerk shrugged staring at Mrs. Walker’s 1970s faded red suit, tattered straw hat and battered shoes. “And, the prime minister is your sister, I suppose.”
“Oh, ho, ho, no, child, is me niece.”
“Beatrice?” A loud voice called from across the hall. “Beatrice Walker. Is that you?”
“Mrs. Walker turned her head, squinted at the approaching stranger and returned her attention to the clerk. “Is him,” she whispered. “He is the one following me.”
“Following you?” The man glanced from Mrs. Walker to the bored clerk. “Dad said your eyesight was poor. I’m your nephew, David. I returned from London yesterday. Aunt Marge asked me to give you this.” He reached into his shirt pocket and withdrew an envelope.
Suspicious, Mrs. Walker leaned forward, her eyes darted from the man to the envelope. “Ah, blue envelope.” Her voice was wistful. “Oh, ho, Margie. How is me poor sister?”
“Same as you,” David replied.
“Ho, ho, shoulda seen us in our day, we were the only twins in the town, till she married that Londoner.”
“I’ll just let dad know I caught up with you. Miss, can you get Commissioner Townsend on the phone?”
The clerk’s face tightened. “Right away, Sir.”