The Letter

Johnny and I used to be good friends at school and got up to all the usual trouble.

Although we’d drifted slowly apart over the years, we still lived in the same neighbourhood.

Just like you or me, I’m sure he had good days and bad days, but they seemed to equal themselves out, and although he had his fair share of worries, he never appeared to let them get on top of him.

That was before the envelope dropped through his letterbox.

Johnny became an accountant on leaving school. He always had a head for figures.

He often said they preoccupied him, and he would take them home with him. Not that you would notice, of course, unless you were paying close attention.

If asked, he would just say that he had a problem balancing the books and respecting his deadlines.

It’s true, because when we met, and if I looked attentively, I would catch a furrowed brow or a furtive eye movement that led me to believe, knowing him, that he was probably calculating or recalculating something in his head.

You and I might be preoccupied with what clothes to wear or the colour of our shoes, but Johnny disliked distractions and always wore the same attire. Lately, however, he seemed dishevelled and unkempt and quite frankly, he smelt a bit off.

He had a social life of course. He even had a girlfriend, or at least I think she was his girlfriend.

I never really took much notice, but I seem to remember seeing them seated together at the pub.

One day I went back to my table with the lads and we almost collided. If I recall correctly, he had a pint and a glass of wine. Red I think.

It’s strange how some details stick in your mind.

I didn’t know anything about the letter of course, and on the rare occasions we exchanged words, he never mentioned it once.

Looking back now I did notice one or two things.

Once I remember the pub door slamming and when I looked over to see, Johnny was on his feet startled and wide eyed. He’d knocked his glass over and had spilt beer all over the table. I watched him mop it up with a serviette as he glanced anxiously around.

Another time I brushed past him coming out of the men’s room, muttering. I didn’t catch what he was saying of course, but I do remember thinking that it wasn’t like him to talk to himself.

I was worried the last time I saw him. He looked haggard and exhausted, ashen grey bags, under swollen moist eyes. He was wiping beads of sweat from his brow with a hand towel.

He didn’t even say hello and looked right through me.

Then yesterday, over breakfast, a photo of him in the local paper drew my attention.

The headline read: Trusted Accountant Found Dead at His Home.

Someone had tried to make a delivery and had complained about a strange smell coming from his apartment.

Eventually, the police intervened and discovered him lying in the hallway, a knife through the chest and a lot of dried blood.

They are still examining a sheet of paper clenched in his right hand.

It sounded mysterious, but you know what papers are like.

Continued on page 3.

I swallowed the last dregs of my coffee and brushed away wet crumbs of toast with the palm of my hand.

Turning to page three, I was about to read the rest of the article when I heard a sound from the hallway.

I went to the front door.

A large white envelope without stamps.

I ripped it open. There were letters cut from magazines stuck to the page.

JoHNNy woUldn’t lISten

NOw It’s your tUrN

‘tHe PoStmaN

(639 words)

Today’s challenge is to write about fear and being frightened.

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