The envelope had fallen face downwards on the mat. Nigel ripped it open without bothering to turn it over. Inside was a single sheet of paper. There was no sender's address at the top, and the writing was in careful block capitals.
"Mister Williams", he read. But that wasn't him: Mr Williams had been the previous occupant of the house. Really, the man should have informed the Post Office he was moving, not to mention telling his correspondents!
"Mister Williams, you still haven't paid us the ten thousand. We will be sending someone round to collect it".
He read the message three times, after which he was shaking with fear. What had this man Williams been up to? He knew nothing about him at all; had never even met him. The property was vacant when he moved in; the letting agent had shown him round an empty house. Now Williams's misdeeds, whatever they might have been, were catching up with him. That must have been why he'd left without a forwarding address. And here HE, Nigel, was; trapped and helpless, having to answer for someone else's crimes! A chill crawled up his spine as he imagined what would happen: a couple of thugs would come to the door and he'd try to explain that he wasn't Williams but they wouldn't believe him and ......... No, he couldn't bear even to think about it! They were probably watching the house even now! He must escape! There wasn't a moment to lose!
Without even bothering to pick up his coat, he ran to the kitchen door and outside to the rear garden, with some thought of getting away through the back hedge. But he was too late! There was a man, dark under the shadow of the trees, coming round the corner of the house and advancing towards him! Nigel stood there, tembling and quite incapable of movement, as time froze, and then the figure spoke.
"Morning, Nigel! How are you?"
"Michael! Oh thank goodness! You can't imagine how relieved I am it's you! But it was a rotten trick to play with that letter. You know what my nerves are like!"
"What trick? What letter?"
The cold panicky feeling started again, but at least he wasn't isolated and on his own any more.
"I got a letter just now, threatening me. Or not me exactly, but ......... Wait; I'll get it and show you".
But the letter wasn't there. He scrabbled around ineffectually for a while, and finally said, lamely, "I don't seem to be able to find it. But it was here!"
"That's all right, Nigel", said Michael. "I am your doctor, and I quite understand". Yes indeed: it was becoming more complex and fascinating by the day, the case of Nigel Williams.