5th April
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The Blue Plaque (1)

Having wrapped up all his meetings by midday, Douglas could devote the afternoon to Aileen, who had come with him, desperate to enjoy the city after the long, hard, northern winter and the completion of her new novel. They saw an exhibition at the National Gallery, ate an early dinner in Soho, then decided to stroll back to their hotel in Bloomsbury for a nightcap before bed.

Aileen kept pointing out the blue plaques, commemorating musicians, athletes, philosophers, scientists, politicians, inventors and so forth, that were displayed on the buildings in which they had been born, or had lived or worked. To Douglas she seemed almost infatuated by the plaques.

‘There’s even one at 221b Baker Street,’ Aileen said, ‘although not an official one. I saw it yesterday.’

‘What were you doing in Baker Street?’

‘I went to the Sherlock Holmes Museum, I told you.’

‘So you did. Sorry. Is that where it is?’

‘Well, of course. That’s where he had his rooms, at Mrs Hudson’s.’

‘Ah yes,’ Douglas said. Surely, he thought, Sherlock Holmes was an invention?

They had entered a square, on the far side of which stood their hotel. He quickened his pace, but Aileen had homed in on yet another bloody plaque, on a narrow, brick-built house with a grey door and shuttered windows.

‘Look how bright and blue it is!’ she said. ‘It must be very new.’

‘There’s the hotel, darling,’ he said. ‘Let’s get that drink.’

‘Wait a minute!’ she called. ‘You won’t believe this. It’s got your name on it! Your exact name!’

He returned nervously. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘it’s not that uncommon a
combination.’

‘It’s completely uncommon! Look, it even says “Architect”. How creepy!
Oh!’ Her tone suddenly changed, the frivolity draining away. ‘It says you lived here from . . . four years ago to . . . last year. And, Douglas, the date of your death! You’ve only got two years left!’

‘Darling, what are you talking about? That’s not me. It’s someone else with the same name.’

But she was staring at him as if the plaque told the truth, and he had uttered some ridiculous, betraying fiction.

He moved towards her. Even as he did, she rang the doorbell.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harp: Esther Swift
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