The day had started much the same as the usual Saturday. Then there was an unexpected knock at the door. Hannah opened it slowly to find two police officers standing on her porch.
“Can I help you,” she said hesitantly.
“Yes Ma’am, are you Hannah Wilson?” the first officer asked.
“Yes,” Hannah responded slowly.
“I am afraid there has been an accident,” the second officer said compassionately.
“Who? Where?” Hannah inquired.
“Hilda Wilson seems to have had a tragic fall,” the first policeman said.
“Oh no, not Aunt Hilda,” Hannah rasped in a shocked whisper.
That’s how it all began, but it wasn’t quite as straight forward as all that. Hilda had been found on the concrete patio at the back of her house. The experts calculated that she must have fallen from the window on the third floor, yet the investigators found the house locked, and the window closed and latched. How could she have fallen from a shut window?
The investigation made no progress, and after several weeks it was deemed “unexplained.” A funeral was held, to which only Hannah, the next door neighbour Mrs. Perkins, the priest, and the undertaker attended. It was at that solemn event that the undertaker handed Hannah a brown manila envelope. He explained that Ms Wilson had a prepaid funeral plan, and one of the provisions of it was that Hannah was to receive the package at the end of the service.
When she got home she opened the envelop to find a handwritten letter from Aunt Hilda. It read:
I know that you will find this difficult, but as you will obviously know – I am now dead. If it is in hospital, or obviously “natural” please know I enjoyed my life, and I love you. But while this is true even if my passing is “less textbook,” I have a favour to ask if it is less than straight forward. I need you to take the key you will find in this envelope and go to First Bank in Worthington and open Box 238. It will explain everything. All my love, Hilda.
This left Hannah in a conundrum. Should she check this out for herself, or hand it over to the police? Maybe, it would make the “unexplained” death – well explained.
She decided to check it out herself first. No reason to waste the police’s time, she thought.
The next day she rang the First Bank and arranged to come examine the box. On arrival she was shocked to find that her name was on the approved access list for the box, and that the sample signature was identical to her own.
She was guided to the vaulted safety deposit box room, and 238 was pointed out to her. She opened the lock and withdrew the inner box which she set on a table. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she opened the box. Inside there were fifty gold sovereigns, six passports which bore her image and variations of her name – one from Canada, one from Ireland, and two from the UK with the second one citing her name as Hannah Williams, and a matching pair from the USA. In the bottom of the box was another manila envelope.
Dearest Hannah, the enclosed letter began, I know you might be overwhelmed by all this, but if you have come this far, you must be convinced that my passing was not natural. If you are of that conclusion it is almost certainly right. Odds are, I have been murdered. Do not be alarmed, I have made my choices in life, and my path made this end a probability. Anyway, you will find in this envelope an “open” ticket for the Eurostar, and a connecting ticket from Brussels to Belgrade. Please do use them. When you arrive in Belgrade, go to the address attached to the enclosed keys. You will find all of the answers you need there. Love Aunt Hilda.
If Hannah had felt that the choice of the police verses the bank was a conundrum, what was she to do with this?
Serbia it was then.