Fred's Fifth Favour-Part Four (REPLACES OTHER THREAD)
At five to four, Fred left his house wearing a smart black shoulder bag.
As he approached her front door, Sally opened it, carrying her own travel bag in one hand.
'Reporting for duty, sergeant-major-SIR!'. Fred mock saluted and stamping one foot, assumed the 'attention' pose, stiff-legged-and-backed, then grinned.
'Oh you are a one, Fred!' she laughed. At that moment, a taxi pulled up outside her house and emitted a couple of blasts.
'Transport to the station's here, methinks,' said Fred.
'Righto. Before I go, let me just show you where Tom's bowls are.'. Fred followed her as they passed through the house to a conservatory looking onto the rear garden.
'There we are.'. Sally pointed to a cat's food bowl and a saucer near the rear door. Nearby them, a small fridge sat.
'His food and cream are both in there.'. Sally indicated the fridge. 'Don't know where he is now. Just roaming somewhere.’'
'Okay,' said Fred. As he spoke, his attention was caught by the garden adjoining Sally's to the right. Over the low fence, he saw a profuse tangle of weeds and long grass.
'Looks a mess,' Fred commented. Sally nodded.
'John's in his eighties. He can't really garden now, with his joints and back.'
'I should introduce myself. Else he'll wonder why there's a strange man.....'
'Oh, he knows you're going to be here. He knows you by sight, drove past while we chatted in the street. Not quite sure he's safe driving to be honest, with all his ailments. Anyway, I must dash. Taxi's waiting. Spare room's on the left at the landing top, opposite the bathroom.'
Fred saw Sally off at the front, then closed the door. Going upstairs, he went in the spare room, where the double bed was freshly made and unpacked pyjamas, dressing gown, toothbrush and change of clothes. Then, went down and filled the cat's bowls. It'd save doing it later.
Minutes later, he was knocked on the door of the house with the garden jungle.
The door was opened by a very frail looking elderly gentleman.
'The young man whose looking after Sally's place?'. The old fellow's voice was thin and quavering.
'That’s me. You're John, aren't you!?' The old man confirmed it.
'I hope you don't find this impertinent, but I notice your garden's in a state.'
'It is!' agreed the old man. 'I’m not in condition to garden these days, as you can see!'. He laughed, then started to cough. It took a moment for the fit to die.
'Every now and then, my kids or grandkids come and has a go at sorting it out-don't like to trouble 'em, though. They've got their own lives. None of them live that close....'
'I saw a shed...' began Fred.
'Just visible through the forest and undergrowth, eh!? Like somewhere from the bloody tropics, ain't it!?'. John laughed again.
'You still have your gardening stuff there?'
'That's right-though all it's doing these days is sitting there, going rusty....'
'Would you like me to have a go at sorting it all out-no really,' Fred persisted, as the old man began to politely protest. 'I like to keep active and it will give me something to do while I wait for Sally's cat to turn up!'
'Well...'. John seemed to be mulling whether to accept, but it was plain that the hesitation was mere politeness.
'Okay then!' came the answer, after a decent pause. 'If you're sure you'd like to do it, then I won't say no. Come with me.'
John led Fred round the side of the house and through the dense greenery to the shed with the faded, weathered wood in one rear corner. Inside, Fred found the place was indeed fully equipped: wheelbarrow, spade, fork, shears, pruning tools, a rake, gardening gloves, even a lawnmower which had clearly been long inactive. Everything he needed.
'That's your garden waste wheely bin, isn't it?'. Fred pointed to the brown container at the house side. 'Won't be big enough for all the cuttings, though. I'll need to get mine-and Sally's, too. I'm sure she'll be okay over it.'
Patiently and pain-stakingly, Fred wheeled his garden waste bin down the pavement to John's rear garden, then did the same with Sally's. He then set to work, soon perspiring profusely in the summer heat.
As afternoon dimmed into early evening, both sun and warmth faded, but Harry continued to sweat. At one point a black cat appeared, and positioned itself on a fence post between John and Sally's garden, staring at Fred inscrutably.
'Oh, hello Tom,' said Fred. 'Back at last, then? Yes, that's it. Just sit there on your fat backside and watch others do all the work!'
After four-and-a-half hours, the lawn at last looked passably neat, and three brown wheely-bins stood at the house side with their lids bulging open to show vegetable refuse. Fred's back was aching and his hands were blistered. He was tired, but paused a moment to look at a job well done with real satisfaction. Fred returned the two foreign bins to their rightful homes, then knocked on the front door. Old John opened the door to a dishevelled and red-faced figure covered in muck and sweat.
'All done, if you'd like to inspect it.'. Fred followed John to the house rear, where the old gentleman looked visibly impressed.
'It looks lovely!' he cried, with an approving smile. He looked at Fred. 'You know, it's right what Sally told me about you-you must be about the nicest, most helpful chap alive!'. Fred modestly disclaimed.
'I'm not Jesus or Mother Theresa-just like think past the end of my nose, do my little bit to help someone out if I can. If we all did more of that the world would be better.'. Suddenly he gave a little self-deprecating laugh. 'Well hark at me being all sanctimonious! Right, well now that's done, I really must go and get cleaned up.'
The pair parted with much gratitude on one side and assurances of these being unnecessary on the other. Back at Sally's, Fred relished the warm water in the shower, as it cleansed the dirt and soothed the aches and pains of labour. His appetite roused, he cooked and ate a hearty meal, which he ate with gusto. By this time, Tom the cat had taken up a sleeping position on the settee. Fred sat by him, savouring the chance to relax, and watched telly as the light outside faded. Presently, Tom got up and jumped down. A moment later, Fred heard the cat flap clattering. Enough rest for Tom: now more roaming and doing whatever sordid, depraved things cats got up to at night.
By now, streetlights glared against the darkness outside. The evening local news bulletin commenced. 'Police hunting the killer of pensioner Jenny Riley are seeking a man seen loitering near her house, shortly before the discovery of her body. The man is described as being above average in height, about six feet three to six feet six, with short dark hair. Widowed Mrs Riley was found beaten to death. She had been the victim of a sexual assault and a number of valuable items had been stolen...'
Harry seized the remote control: voice and picture yielded to a black screen. He did not want to be reminded of this story that had dominated local news for two days. Such a horrific murder. In his own home town, too.
As his father had never ceased to tell him, Evil was active, and only active Good could fight it.
Time for bed, he decided. He went up to the spare room and removing his shirt, placed it on the back of the chair.
'Well, doing that gardening for old John was favour number four for the week,' he said out loud. 'Just one more to do now, as five favours a week for man or beast keeps you sound with God and secure from Satan....See Dad, I didn't forget, did I? Yet, you always doubted I could do it, didn't you-be as good a Christian as you were, that is. You didn't think any of us could. You had faith in God, yet so little in your own family...'
Fred communed with his deceased parent, unaware an observer from outside was watching keenly.
From the bungalow opposite Sally's, from her front room, unlit from within, Christine Radford gazed through the window across the road into the lighted upstairs room opposite. As she did so, the chubby, grey-haired woman shook with silent laughter.
There he was, that bloke with his shirt off, showing his flabby chest and belly, and talking-evidently to someone just out of sight in the bedroom: surely what's-her-name who owned the house, for he lived in the bungalow next door, she'd observed that in the few days she'd been here. In that brief time, she'd picked up an unpleasant vibe from the established residents, one of snobbery. True, she didn't really know anyone here, but they always seemed so reluctant to even reply to her if she said good morning or afternoon. Perhaps didn't like her 'common' accent. The only ones she'd said more than that too were the couple next door to the right. Yet when she'd said her late husband made his money with a garage chain, she'd detected subtle disdain. All professionals or retired ones, here: lawyers, playing with fancy words, or financial folk, playing with fancy numbers: no doubt contemptuous of those whose business involved dirt, oil and tools and hard physical graft.
Well, here was the evidence of her own eyes that they were no better than anyone else: one of them hopping into the others bed! The downsizing to this bungalow after her husband's death had almost been worth it, for this! Nice bit of gossip for her old circle!
Then she watched, the curtain was closed. But he was still a little visible, outlined through the cloth by the light in his room....
Suddenly, she froze, transfixed by a keening noise coming from outside: an animal sound!
It took her a moment to detect the source. The black cat of the lady opposite could just be made out on the low front wall of its house, wailing at something: probably another cat....
But no! To the right of the cat, a figure was approaching, slowly. A tall man, very tall.
Pausing, the big man could be seen staring upwards, towards the lit window above, where Fred could just be seen, through the fabric, by the bulb in his room's illumination.
The light in the room went out. No more of Fred could be seen. But still the cat could be heard, giving a low moaning howl.
The head of the man in the street turned. As he did so, streetlight or moonlight glittered from the lenses of dark glasses. But she sensed the eyes behind them were trained on her. He was looking straight at her!
With a sudden sense of fear, Christine yanked her curtains closed.
Last edited by Phoenix Lazarus; 02-10-2018 at 11:55 AM..