He was as gaunt and shrivelled as a frozen cadaver. Pale, red-rimmed eyes gazed at me from deep within shadowed sockets. His skin was papery, stretched thin over sharp cheekbones, and the sparse hair on his liver-spotted head floated about like thistle-down on the breeze.
He coughed once, delicately.
"Mr P-------?" he said and pronounced the family name perfectly, which feat of linguistic accomplishment was seldom achieved.
"Yes," I said in a guarded tone."Who's asking?"
He coughed again and licked dry, ashen lips with a red tongue like a cat's. "I am Geoffrey Twose. I represent the Old Established Company of Twose, Twose and Gottlieb. I require a few moments only of your time. It is most vitally important. If I might come in?"
"I'm sorry," I said, not in the least bit sorry, "but I'm very busy right now and..." I made to close the door but he put up one hand and with surprising strength, prevented me from shutting him out. "Hey!" I said, astonished and annoyed.
"I too am sorry," he nodded. "But this is a matter of most extreme urgency. If I might come in. It will only take a moment." I gave in, motioning him into the hall, inwardly fuming. I consoled myself with the thought that he would soon be gone. Soon, soon, I promised myself, you'll be relaxing, watching tv and getting slowly drunk in peace.
As soon as the door was shut he lifted his case up onto the hall table and snapped it open. A large cream envelope lay inside. It looked old, the paper grown soft and crumpled at the corners.He took it out and handed it to me.
"I have to witness you opening this and reading the contents," he said. "Then there is a paper you must sign. Please, open it. Oh, and I will also need just a few drops of your blood and one hair, pulled out at the root."
I barely heard him. The envelope was in my hands. It was quite thick, and as well as papers it contained something else. Something flat and thin but quite heavy, put in loose so that it slid to the bottom as I held the envelope up. I did wonder if he might have the wrong address, but he'd our name, and if I needed further proof my name, correctly spelt, appeared on the envelope.
Blood? Did he say blood? I thought. Ah well, I'd see what was inside the envelope first. My curiosity was pricked. He tries to pull my hair out and...