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The Delivery - the second part of our serial

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

We are taking turns writing a story from the prompt:

"Flowers came to my house every other Monday exactly at 1 o’clock"

We are each writing a piece, but we have no idea where it will end up, and can't wait to see where that will be.

This is Trevor Aston's contribution

Part Two

Scour Scent

by Trevor Aston

The lilies are merely innocent pawns in someone else's strange game, but nonetheless, my instinct is to toss the bloody things in the bin. But they are beautiful, don’t they deserve their moment of glory on display, otherwise, what would be the point of them ever existing? Their smell is cloying, it makes me gag. It used to seem nice, but now it’s like poison. Perhaps I’m influenced by the black ribbon lying next to them. The vase can go in the downstairs toilet, then I won’t have to see them.

So, what would Bertie do? He’d look for a link, that’s for sure. One person places an order, another person receives a delivery, and in between those two events is a chain of connections. ‘All you have to do, my Liebling, is follow it’ I say to myself, in Bertie’s voice. Or rather, the voice of the actor Radio 4 had playing Bertie, when they dramatised “The Swinging Glitter-Ball”. Surely, Bertie’s first act would be to track down the delivery driver, so, assuming there are to be more deliveries, all I need to do is lie in wait.

With my chair in the front bay window, there’s a good view both up and down the road, affording ample opportunity to surprise the man in the beanie hat. This is my only easy chair, my ex kept most of our furniture, but this rocking chair came from my grandmother, it’s mine. Just as well it’s comfortable. The lilies appeared on the doorstep every two weeks, but perhaps to make me uneasy the deliveries have become less predictable. Here we are, thirteen days since the last one and my breath is bated. The flask of tea has been drained, and now I need the loo, so after a quick check, peering up and down the road, I go to put the kettle on, then upstairs to the bathroom. That’s when I hear a van pull up. A few seconds earlier or later and it might have been possible to get down to the front door and spring my trap, but at this precise moment, let’s say I’m indisposed. So, another bunch of canna lilies, with another black ribbon. I find the lilies in the downstairs toilet have dropped all their petals, so I replace them with the new bunch.

For a change of scenery, I often go to work in the University library. Well, in the cafe, I can’t go into the library proper. But now the lilies in the loo have dropped their petals, so I’m back on my chair in the bay window, with the flask of tea, a packet of bourbon biscuits, and Radio 4. Bourbon is not my favourite, so a pack can last beyond Woman's Hour. The programme occasionally features successful female authors, but my agent is still awaiting an invitation. Now it’s You and Yours, something even blander than the cheese sandwich I’ve made for lunch. Obviously, the wireless will be cooling its valves well before The Archers, there are plenty of podcasts begging me for attention. Bertie would be listening to tuneless modern Jazz.

A familiar van appears outside, and I find my breath bating. A man wearing a beanie hat gets out and takes a bunch of lilies out of the back. Right.

‘Excuse me, I need a word,’ he shoves the flowers into my arms and runs away, ‘just a minute,’ I call out. He’s back in his van with me standing right in front of it. ‘I just want to ask you a couple of questions.’ He’s reversing. CRUNCH. Into a bollard. He’s swearing.

‘You might as well listen, you’re hardly going to drive over me, people are watching.’ He’s saying something: ‘I can’t hear, wind the window down.’

‘I said, what do you want lady?’

‘I just wanted to ask about the lilies. Where are they from?’

‘The flower shop, where do you think?’

‘Which flower shop?

‘Bertie’s Blooms.’

‘Did you say, Bertie’s?’

‘Yes, in Church Road.’ The shop’s familiar to me, but I’d never noticed that it had the same name as my sleuth. He’s rather taken the wind out of my sails.

‘Right, thank you.’

‘Can you get out of my way, please, you’re making me late, and now I’ve got to explain the dent in the back of the van.’

‘Yes, sorry.’ I step back onto the pavement, and he drives past saying something, I only catch ‘mad’.

There it is, Bertie’s Blooms. It must take ages to put all those buckets of flowers out the front. In half an hour, no one’s gone in, or come out, but I can see someone inside. I’m going in.

I sing a friendly ‘Hello,’ as I enter. A short woman of about fifty looks up from the book she is reading, quickly stubbing out the cigarette that I hadn’t noticed snuggling between two fingers.

‘Hello, can I help you?’ she asks in a voice that comes from years of smoking fifty a day. I want to break the ice before I start to question her, so I read the sign that hangs over the counter.

‘Say it with a bunch of Bertie’s – what a lovely sentiment.’

‘I think so,’ she growls. I explain why I’m here and she’s quite sympathetic but says she can’t help.

‘Don’t tell me, data protection.’ I say with resignation.

‘No, love, it’s an online order, from, we only get the order and the address. Could come from anywhere in the world.’

‘Someone must know who’s placing the orders.’

‘Don’t think so love, it’s all done by the algorithms. Untouched by human hands.’

‘Oh, I don’t suppose there’s even a real Bertie.’

‘Yes, there is, me. Roberta, I prefer Bertie.’

‘Don’t tell me, you a private detective too?’ I say, knowing she won’t understand the allusion, but in an instant, her countenance turns sour.

‘Who sent you?’

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