The letter was postmarked Bunbury, W.A. He knew who sent it. There was only one person he knew of who lived in Western Australia.
“Dear Mr. Wallace,
Thank you for your interest in my husband’s most recent novel, The Sleazy Mouthpiece, and please pardon the delay in the dispatch of this reply. But I am sure you will understand when I tell you that my husband was involved in an accident and we have all been very busy since then. He was struck while crossing the Coalfields Road just south of where we live in Allanson around the same time your letter arrived. They are saying it looks like it may have been a hit and run. No suspects at this time. My husband is in hospital with severe injuries in Critical Care.
Your letter is typical of numerous similar letters we have received since the publication of The Sleazy Mouthpiece in America. Like you, other American readers have recited much the same experience with their legal systems as the main character in the novel. Attached is a list of the names and addresses of our American readership who have contacted us. I’m sure they won’t mind me giving you this information. You might find commonality if you contact some of them.
Pray for my husband, Mr. Wallace. And, if you could find it in your heart to help, we would appreciate anything you could spare through our ‘GoFundMe’ page. Details are attached.
Yours very sincerely,
Weeks back, when he first ran across this little e-book titled The Sleazy Mouthpiece, he checked out the author, Albert Wordswill. Turned out Albert was an Australian who currently lived in the Outback in a caravan with his wife, three dogs, and a pet crocodile. He had been a member of the New South Wales Bar Association (Barrister) but was no longer so associated. He’d published two other legal novels, Wrongful Representation and Fixed on Appeal, neither of which sat well with the Australian legal establishment, hence his current Outback address and reduced circumstances.
Nothing piqued Wallace’s interest like a book that purported to expose the slimy underbelly of the legal profession. He’d been roughly handled himself by that profession and he loved reading anything that smelled like the truth. And whether the stories came from Canada or South America or Australia, he knew that lawyers were the same all over. And that’s why he wrote to Albert Wordswill weeks back. He wanted to tell him how much he loved his book and how close to his own horrible experience with the Missouri legal system it really came. It was as if the main character and he were the same person.
Rereading the letter, he quickly decided to contribute to Albert’s ‘GoFundMe’ page and to contact a few of the folks on the list that Edith Wordswill had provided. The list was not a long one and some on it lived in nearby states. He did a quick internet check, got a few phone numbers, and settled back in to make the calls.
“Hello,” the voice answered, obviously tired.
“Yes, I’m trying to reach Mr. Terry Jenson. Is he home?” Wallace asked.
“I’m sorry. I guess you haven’t heard. Terry died a few days ago. Hit and run. Were you a friend?”
Confused, Wallace sputtered something inane and hung up.
And so it went with the next three calls. Four names, four deaths, four hit and runs. Coincidence went out the window after the second call.
By the fifth call, Wallace had changed his approach.
“Hello,” came a voice, again haggard and weary.
“I just heard that John just passed away. I knew him from college and I wanted to pass on my condolences,” he said, lying. “I understand it was a hit and run. Is that correct?”
The answer was immediate and irate. “How did you get that information? That was never released by the police or the family? And John never went to college! Who is this, anyway? I have your phone number now and you better have a good reason for having this information when the police contact you!”
Wallace hung up immediately and sat back, stunned. What was going on? Were the police investigating these hit and runs as being connected? Did they know about Wordswill’s book and the hit and run in Australia? Was he now in the middle of a vast murder conspiracy? Was he next?
He had to get away!
Meanwhile, back in Australia, Edith and Albert were relaxing on their porch, well out of the harsh Outback sun. Both were enjoying a fine Australian petite Syrah thanks to Wallace’s very generous contribution to their ‘GoFundMe’ page.
Edith turned to Albert, a wry smile on her face, and said,“Your relatives in America tell me that Wallace got five deep into the list I sent him before he gave up and stopped making calls. Your Uncle John took his last call, and apparently it was a special treat. He tried to pass himself off as a college friend of the deceased, but your Uncle handled it perfectly.”
Albert laughed and replied, “My guess is that our Missouri friend is now so scared he’ll crawl into a hole somewhere and not come out for a very, very long time, my dear.” Pausing to take a sip of his wine, Albert added, “And he certainly won’t be contacting us again, will he?”
Edith got up, stretched, and looked out over their vast land holdings. “I love it here, Albert, far away from the city and your law practice. I wish we could stay here longer than just a few weeks every year.”
“One day, my dear, one day. But before that day comes, you have to continue to write the novels and I have to continue to be a Barrister,” Albert added. “And with so little time to enjoy ourselves, toying with people like Wallace in Missouri is our only real outlet.”
“And we do so love doing it, too, don’t we, Albert?” Edith said lovingly, moving close to him and kissing him on the top of his head.