A postal worker notices that the mailbox at one of his stops is overflowing, even though the family’s two cars are up the driveway. He is a temporary worker and forgets to report this fact to his superiors. He gets another job the next day, and doesn’t bother to return to complete his two weeks assignment on post relief.
Colin Cross, the regular postie, had been away for nearly two weeks doing up his house, but now he had been asked to come back a day early because the temp had left. He was not a happy chappy, but the promise of overtime was hard to resist. It was Friday and he could hopefully finish the job over the weekend.
On his first day back on his round Colin wondered if Mr and Mrs Chadwick who lived in the pretty thatched cottage at 39 Church Close had gone away on holiday, thinking that it must be a long one as their mailbox was so full and they didn’t normally get a lot of post these days. That was the way of the world now, with the internet. Most of his customers’ volume of mail had been gradually dropping over the last few years, as people signed up for paperless billing. Junk mail made up for most of the loss usually, but these people had asked for no junk mail to be delivered.
Colin was curious why Mr & Mrs Chadwick hadn’t also asked for their mail to be held at the Post Office until their return, if they knew they would be away for some time. They usually did. They were very organised normally. And their cars were always gleaming. Not like they looked today. One was bespattered with mud, the other obviously hadn’t been cleaned since the acid rainstorm a week ago when sand from the desert had been washed down from the sky. This was not at all like them. He decided to try knocking on the front door and ringing the bell, just in case. No-one came to the door.
Colin made his way round the back of the cottage. He perhaps shouldn’t have gone through the back gate, but it wasn’t locked, and he was starting to get a bit worried about his customers. They were a friendly couple, Tony and Janice Chadwick. They always chatted to him when he delivered their post if they were at home.
In the back garden, there was nothing much untoward as far as he could tell. Almost empty bins were neatly in place behind a flower-decked trellis, but the lawn obviously needed a good cut, and their flower tubs were looking very bedraggled. Colin wondered why they hadn’t arranged for someone to tend their lovely garden while they were away.
Just as he was about to leave the garden, he thought he heard a knocking noise from inside the back of the cottage. He went to the first window at the back, and pressed his nose against the pane, peering into the room beyond. It was a bedroom, bed linen neatly turned back. The next window obviously belonged to a bathroom, he thought, as he couldn’t see through the frosted panes. The back door to the kitchen was also of frosted glass, but he peered through the little window which was above the sink. Breakfast things were on the kitchen table, two full cups of tea beside dishes of cereal, a whole loaf of crusty bread on the breadboard and a jar of Keiller marmalade beside the butter dish. People don’t go on holiday leaving their breakfast behind.
Colin knocked on the kitchen door, then tried it. It was unlocked. “Tony…..? Janice…….?” he called. No answer, but there was the knocking noise again. He called again as he walked into the kitchen. There was a strange pungent smell in the house. Colin nearly choked on it. He held his handkerchief over his nose as he went into the hallway. Mrs Chadwick lay on the floor, quite obviously dead, congealed blood around her head on the marble floor. Colin picked up his mobile and dialled 999. Where was Mr Chadwick? And what was the knocking noise he had heard? There it was again. It was coming from the sitting room, he thought. As he was talking to the emergency services, he opened the door. There was Mr Chadwick, tied up on a chair, with a gag over his mouth. He was very weak and unable to speak, but alive.
Colin untied Mr Chadwick and supported him as he flopped over. He was so very weak. He helped him gently to the sofa and laid him down as best he could. He comforted him and went to the kitchen for some water. He held him while he tried to sip the water from the glass, but he was too weak. He moistened his parched lips with the water and gently dropped a quarter-spoonful into his mouth. There was nothing much more he could do, but the emergency services would now be on their way.
At last they arrived. They congratulated Colin on rescuing Mr Chadwick, and soon he was whisked away to hospital in an ambulance. Colin gave his account of what he had found to the police inspector, and returned to work.
The headlines in the paper the next day read “Village wife savagely murdered by thieves but tycoon husband miraculously saved by vigilant postman.” Colin was so glad he had come back from holiday a day sooner than planned.