by Nick Jarrold
Ben pulls up alongside the kerb, gets out of his black Mercedes into the winter sunshine and presses the lock button on his key fob. It was just after 12.30 on an unusually warm Wednesday in December. He longs for the summer when he could be here again, in shorts and a T-shirt eating an ice cream with the warm sun on his face. But that was another day, today is very different.
He makes his way down the pavement, until he reaches a gap in the sea wall. Strange, he thinks to himself as there are no houses along this stretch of road, just businesses, but this wall was here a long time ago, when it wasn't all burger joints and tacky amusement parks. He wanders on to the promenade and towards the beach. Even though it's coming up to lunchtime it’s quiet which is surprising given the weather. He hears the crash of the waves against the rocks, which he won’t be able to associate with anything else other than his current predicament and its resolution. One way or another.
He heads north towards the leisure centre and the run-down arcades housed next door. He stops briefly to retrieve the iPhone from his inside jacket pocket. There’s only one number stored in the phone’s memory, so he unlocks it and presses call, just as he'd been told to do at exactly 12.45.
The phone isn’t really even his. He received it in the post that morning, in a padded A4 brown envelope with his name and address – Ben Goodall, 26 Riverbank Gardens. It was typed in a generic font on a run of the mill label you could buy anywhere.
As he waits for the call to connect, his heart is beating out of his chest and his mouth is getting drier by the second. He doesn't know what he is going to say or how he’ll feel when he hears someone answer it.
“Yes,” says the voice on the other end of the phone.