Mabel shivered and drew her coat collar up near her ears. She spied her neighbour and good friend, Myrtle shuffling briskly past her house. She called out, “Hello Mabel, are you off to the shop? If so, I’d hang on for a while.”
Mabel stopped and raised her eyebrows, “Why?”
“It’s full,” replied Myrtle.
“Ah, thanks, Myrtle, I’ll have a walk through the precinct. I’m not keen on mingling, there’s still too much of this flaming virus going around,” Instinctively Mabel dipped her hand into her coat pocket and lightly fingered her face covering.
When she reached the shop, it was practically empty. Mabel loosened her scarf as she shut the door behind her. “Phew it's blooming cold out there, Mr. Patel, but your shop is lovely and warm.” Mr. Patel smiled and stopped arranging the newspapers. “Hi, Mrs Heatherington, nice to see you, how can I help?”
“I need some milk, I’m cooking a rice pudding for Pamela, she may be in her thirties, but she still likes a rice pudding.” Mr. Patel took a carton of milk from the chiller and handed it Mabel. “Some things you never grow out of, Mrs. Heatherington, with me it's Smarties, I’ve always loved a Smartie.”
Mr. Patel lowered his voice and leaned forward, whispering, “Oh, yes, by the way, a youngish, smartly dressed lady came into the shop yesterday asking if I knew of a Pamela Heatherington living nearby. Of course, I said I wasn’t sure, but I’m not a very good liar, and I think she could tell. She handed me this.” Mr. Patel passed a sealed white envelope over to Mabel. Frowning, she turned it over, on the front was handwritten ‘Private and Confidential FTAO of Pamela Heatherington.’
Mr. Patel shrugged. Mabel looked mystified.
“Thanks, Mr. Patel, I’ll pass it on.”
(c) Graham Crisp