This story was written in answer to Fandango’s One Word Challenge. Word – ‘Wanderlust’
This story also includes the Your Daily Word Prompt word – ‘Ameliorate’
Here’s what I came up with …
The Wanderer Followed
I’m sure I was born with the wanderlust; the itchy feet syndrome. My parents had it for sure. We moved to a different city, a different county every year. I’d always wondered why and asked frequently. I’d simply be told. ‘We have to move. We have no choice.’ And I’d never get any more information than that.
No wonder, I never settled as I grew older. In fact, I shunned houses and bought myself a campervan to live in. Whenever the wanderlust struck, I’d simply leave my current site and drive until I found another place that suited me. I made my living with online business and any odd jobs I’d find wherever I was, so work and money were never a serious issue. I kept my belongings to a minimum. Only one box of stuff remained of my parents and my old life. More than that, I had a few clothes, essentials and my laptop in the van and little else.
Like that, everything went well until I made use of a North Norfolk park and pitch site one evening. Cromer was a fishing town I remembered from my younger days. I could remember being here for about a year when I was ten and decided to spend a little time rekindling the past.
The first day, I got supplies at the local store and spoke to a couple of fisherman about work. They offered me work as a deckhand on one of their boats for a few days. Happy I set off toward my campervan along the stony beach.
I had company. Two men hanging back a fair distance. They’d been following me since I gave my name to the shop assistant this morning. Conrad Larsson is a little unusual for a name, I suppose. Of course, they must have recognised my name from before. The shifty two had on dark sunglasses, black jumpers and jeans. The short one was bald; the other had black hair and a matching beard.
I knew leading them to my van could cost me all I owned and my life. I had to lose them and so I bought an ice-cream from the beach café. I perched on the promenade wall further along and began to wait. It would have been nice to rest and enjoy the waves breaking upon the rocky groins. To watch the gulls and cormorants fishing in foamy water. Instead, I had to have an eye on my new greatest fans.
The two brought coffee and sat at the café to watch me.
I knew then, they wouldn’t approach until I showed them what they wanted. I had to change the game or be happy to piss about and never return to my van again. Standing, I walked straight between the white plastic chairs and tables and sat at their table.
“It’s polite to ask before joining strangers at their table,” said the bald one.
I grinned, “It’s polite not to follow a person all day.”
“We’re not following anyone.” The other scratched his beard, “Now, we wish to enjoy our coffee’s in peace – so, sod off.”
I almost believed him. The knowledge, they’d shadowed me all day told me I wasn’t wrong though. “Look, I’m a peace-loving guy. I came over to ameliorate the situation. I—”
“Amelio-what? Speak English would you,” said Baldy.
I chuckled, “I came to make the situation better. I don’t want to be followed; I don’t want to fight. So, what will it take to make you get lost?”
“Fine. You are Conrad Larsson. Your parents are Stella and Edvin, right?” Beard looked at his partner and nodded. “Don’t lie to us.”
“Yes, they were my parents. An HGV smashed their car off the road in Lincolnshire and killed them both when I was nineteen.” I said eyes locked on them both.
They looked at each other mouthing words for a few moments. “Sorry for your loss. Don’t suppose you kept up the family business?”
“I always knew something dodgy was going on. My parents had us up and leave in a hurry far too often. I never saw or learned anything about it though.” I told them truthfully as fabrication would get me nowhere.
“Really? So, why’d you come back?” Beard leant toward me a little.
“I’m a man of wanderlust. I travel around the country a lot. I decided to return here and rekindle some memories, that all. Now, how’s about some answers from you. What do you want?”
Beard took a breath and nodded, “Our boss was your parent’s boss too. The four of us worked ‘jobs’ together.”
“What jobs?” I was intrigued now.
“Let’s just say they weren’t technically legal jobs,” Baldy said. “Our last job was a success. We got out and disappeared until the heat was off. Your parents never showed up at the bosses place as planned. They had the takings from the job and stiffed us all. We’ve been paying for it since and now you will too.”
“Yeah, you want to er … Ameliorate —We want five million pounds.” Beard said with a deadly seriousness hardening his face.
I laughed. “Well, that’s not going to happen. I own about three hundred quid that’s all. What did my parents take?”
“Diamonds – lots of them. We took —”
“Shut your face.” Beard looked angry at his mate. “You pay or you really pay!” he revealed a stiletto knife.
“Well, at least if you kill me, I won’t have wanderlust anymore.” I yawned shaking off any fear I might have had. “Look, I don’t have diamonds or money. I’m a lone wanderer with nothing more than you see here.”
“He’s telling the truth. Let him go.” Baldy said.
“Let’s be sure.” Beard rose and came around the table. “Take us where you’re staying, or I’ll do for you.”
“Alright, fine.” I rose and set off along the promenade.
The men followed right behind me.
I was getting very itchy feet again. My wanderlust told me it was time to leave Cromer for good. I turned off the beach and began to climb a zigzag slope up the cliff face.
“I really hate these slopes,” Baldy complained. He and beard were both out of shape and panting like they were running a marathon by the fourth switchback.
“They don’t bother me,” I said feeling glad I’d been jogging every morning of my life since being alone.
“It’s kill—ing me!” Beard said. “Where —are you —”
I tripped over. Spinning as I dropped, I kicked Beard off his feet and bounded up blasting Baldy over the railing. Beard rolled like a barrel down the slope. Baldy just fell through the scrubby bushes on the cliff face and vanished into the weeds further down. By then I was running. I didn’t stop until I was at my campervan. I’d never started the engine and driven away so fast in all my life.
I kept driving until I was out of the county. Only then did I feel safe and find a place to stop. I went straight for that old box of belongings. My dad’s chess set, a few old photos. My mum’s favourite straw-filled bear and a crystal and silver decanter. I only kept that because dad had told me never to let it go. Now, I was wondering why. Pulling the spherical stopper, I saw the bottle was empty. The weight in my hand was odd though. The small stopper was almost as heavy as the decanter itself. Now, I looked more closely and smiled. The rubber seal was hiding a tiny hinge. Once I found the way to open it, I revealed the stopper was hollow. My excitement grew as I tipped a pile of shining diamonds onto the melamine tabletop. My eyes shone. “Haha! Oh, Beardy and Baldy – you’d be pissed if you knew. I think I’ll buy a bigger RV!”
Have a great day!