A sigh of dismay escaped Trudy’s lips when she pushed her front door open. On the welcome mat was a rectangle of card. Puzzled, Trudy shoved the door shut behind her and stooped to pick up the card.
“Sorry we missed you,” the card said. “We tried to deliver your parcel.” It then listed a number of options. The parcel could be stashed behind the house. It could have been returned to the depot. It could have been returned to sender. Or, and the box next to this option bore a large tick in blue biro, it could have been left in the care of a neighbour.
That’s something, Trudy reflected. She would have preferred if the parcel had been stashed somewhere near the back door rather than have to trouble her neighbour. This was better than having to contact the depot and arrange a new delivery, or worse still: make her way to the depot and collect the parcel in person.
She looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. Too late now, she told herself. Mr Grubb would probably be in bed. It would have to wait until the morning.
She sloughed her coat and left it draped across the back of a chair, before kicking off her shoes and padding barefoot into the kitchen to put the kettle on.
Working late every night was killing her. There was never enough time to do things that needed doing. She wasn’t getting enough sleep. She wasn’t eating properly. She wouldn’t have time to go to some depot on a godforsaken industrial estate miles from anywhere…
You don’t have to, she reminded herself. Mr Grubb has got the parcel.
The kettle boiled. Trudy made a mug of hot chocolate and took it upstairs. It went cold on the bedside table when she fell asleep with a paperback novel on her chest.
In the morning, she bumbled around, getting herself ready for another long day at work. She groaned to see she would have to dash for the bus. As she gathered her keys from the coffee table she noticed the delivery card and picked it up. Oh yeah; the parcel.
At that moment she heard Mr Grubb’s front door close. She hurried to her doorstep but it was too late; he was already tootling away in his funny little van. Part of Trudy was relieved she didn’t have to face the creepy old bugger this early in the morning, but the rest of her knew she was only postponing the necessary interaction.
She looked at the card again. The company name, Mercurial Couriers, was unknown to her. She had never seen its logo of an intertwined M and C before. There was a telephone number but no address. She recognised the numerical prefix as a premium rate line. She wasn’t falling for that one. She’d just have to wait until the evening and try to catch Mr Grubb then.
The morning at work dragged. A coffee and a chocolate bar at her desk constituted her only break. She used this snatched five minutes to search the net for the delivery company. It came up with no results. Perhaps she had misremembered the name; she had neglected to bring the card with her.
She left early –well it was dark by the time she switched off her computer but it was a good couple of hours earlier than usual. The bus was on time and she even got a seat. Things were looking up, for once.
At her front door she paused before she inserted her key. There was a light on in the house next door and Grubb’s van was parked on the street. Steeling herself, Trudy approached Grubb’s door. She remembered the last time she had spoken to him. Months ago, there had been a problem with the drains and she had had to alert him to the fact that workmen would be coming to do what was necessary while she was out at work. He hadn’t seemed to listen. He had smiled inanely, practically drooling as he stared at her tits. The memory made her shudder. She made sure her overcoat was fastened around her, masking her figure before she knocked.
It took Grubb a few minutes to answer. Trudy was on the point of giving up and let him keep the parcel, whatever it might be!
Come to think of it, she didn’t know what was in the parcel. She couldn’t remember ordering anything and couldn’t think of anyone who might send her a present out of the blue. It was all rather weird, she realised and was just about to give up and lock herself into her own house when the door opened and there was Grubb. His gummy mouth widened into a fish-like grin to see her on his doorstep.
“Hello, um, sorry, I think you’ve got a parcel. Sorry, thanks,” Trudy babbled, just wishing he’d take his lecherous eyes off her. She guessed her neck and face were bright red; they certainly felt hot enough.
Slowly, the words seemed to sink in. Grubb nodded. He said she’d better step inside while he found it. He didn’t want to let the heat out.
Trudy stepped over the threshold and he shut the door behind her. He assured her he wouldn’t be half a tick and disappeared into a room just off the hallway. Trudy shivered. What was he on about, letting the heat out? The house was as cold as a morgue.
Later, when he was tidying up, Mr Grubb congratulated himself on the genius of his idea. Busy girl, on her own, tired and distracted, she hadn’t seen through his ploy.
He peeled off his rubber gloves and dropped them into his incinerator. His gaze fell on the printer on the counter. There was plenty of ink in the cartridge, he reckoned, and another lonely girl just two doors down.