Stanley Livingstone leaves his house at thirteen minutes past seven every morning. He is dressed in his high-visibility jacket, his running trousers and his bright red trainers, a Christmas present from a well-meaning but fashion unconscious relative. He checks his fitness tracker and starts his music playing as he sets off.
The sounds of repetitive bass fills his mind, pushing out all his thoughts of the day ahead. There is nothing but him and the music as he heads towards the beach. Stanley loves it at this time, when he doesn’t have to dart around tourists and dog walkers. He can even, should he so wish, get right down to the water and run through the spray.
On this day, he does so. His trainers sink slightly as he powers across the sand, pushing himself to the limit. He feels like he has to work the stress out this morning, as he’s got a very full day ahead.
Suddenly, his foot strikes an object hidden in the sand and he goes flying. He sees the ground rushing up toward him, barely with time to swear to himself before he’s sprawled in the sand. He flips onto his back to look at the thing that tripped him, to find a green bottle sitting in the sand. He starts to get up, only to pause.
There’s a piece of paper in the bottle.
He pulls the bottle from the sand’s grip and peers inside. The paper is tightly rolled, held in its coil by a lady’s hair tie. He considers, then decides to head home. His routine has already been disrupted and at forty-four minutes past seven the crossroads always gets blocked.
When he gets back to his flat, he places the bottle on his breakfast bar as he makes his food. The paper is sitting in his mind, niggling until he can’t take it any more. He picks the bottle from the table and slowly eases the cork from the neck. He’s never been one for mysteries but this has caught his attention.
The paper slides from the bottle easily and lands in his accepting palm. He quickly unfurls it and begins to read…
To whomever finds this note,
I had to write this down. I had to get my story out in the hope that somebody trustworthy will find it. My partner and I have followed this as far as we can, but the Molly May is sinking. We are far from the shipping lanes between the Cape of Good Hope and the Western tip of Australia. We thought that we’d found it.
We were wrong.
Now, if you find this note and I pray that you do, go to Hannigan’s in Perth. Take this note and apologise to Hoskin that we lost his boat.
We must have made a mistake with the Verses. Hoskin has a copy. Get them and go to Isobel McCluskey at ANU. Maybe she’ll find something in the physical copy that we missed.
Whoever you are, I hope this works out for you. I’m sorry.
Anna Harris and Peter Williams
Stanley looked at the note. He was still looking at the note when his mobile phone began to ring.
“Stan? It’s Jerry. Look, there’s been a change of plan. We need you to go to the Perth office.” Stanley said nothing, just looked at the phone then back to the note. This couldn’t be a coincidence. This was all a hoax, a big joke that they were playing on him. Perhaps everyone would be waiting at this Hannigan’s bar to laugh at him. “Stan? Stan? You gonna say something or you just gonna leave me hanging?”
“Yeah, sure. I’ll do it.”
“Great, we’ll send you the email ticket. You’ve got the company card still, right?”
“Excellent. You’re meeting some of our top clients out there, so take the good suit.” With that, Jerry hung up. No goodbye, no sign off, just the end of the conversation and a dead phone line.
“Ask for Hoskin. The Verses.” He muttered to himself as he went to pack. “Hmph.”
The Idiot in Tin Foil