This Saturday saw the release of my latest story Diary Dates by Dreamspinner Press as part of their Christmas in July promotion. The story centres upon postgraduate student Andrew Chin who arrives in London not only to study, but to explore life away from his traditional family in Singapore. His adventure begins at the airport, where he finds the diary of a wealthy British businessman and endeavors to return it.
James Howard is twice Andrew’s age, and he’s not used to selfless youngsters. Despite a rocky first meeting, the two develop an unlikely friendship as James introduces Andrew to the city. James is looking forward to the festivities leading up to Christmas in London and maybe a celebration with Andrew. But will a nasty bout of the flu ruin their romantic holiday?
Not if Andrew has anything to say about it.
Andrew remembered the diary. Eager to get it back to its owner, he called the number he’d found in the book, but it went to voice mail.
A well-spoken masculine voice confirmed that it was the phone of James Howard. Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Andrew hung up while he decided what he was going to say. In the end he left a simple message telling Mr. Howard that he had found his diary at the airport and wanted to return it as soon as possible.
Jenny suggested they go out, so they left everything and ventured out into the busy London streets. After walking around, taking in the sights, they grabbed a sandwich for lunch from a coffee shop. Just as they were trying to decide where to try next, Andrew’s phone rang and he recognized the number on the screen as the same one that he had dialed earlier. Feeling a little nervous, Andrew answered. “Hello?”
“Hello, yes. You left a message earlier about my diary.” The man sounded business-like.
“Oh, yes, I think you left it at the airport. How can I bring it to you?”
“Thank you for calling me. My whole life is in that book. I will pay you a finder’s fee, of course. Can you bring it to me at my office?”
“I’m sorry, what is a finder’s fee?” Andrew had never heard the term before.
“I will pay you a reward for bringing the diary to me.” The man sounded a little impatient.
“Ah, no, Mr. Howard, I do not want any reward. Just to give your book back to you.” Such a thing had never occurred to Andrew, and it was certainly not what he intended. “I have only come to London today, but if you can tell me where to come so I will bring the diary to you.”
“My office is near Euston Station. Can you come there?”
Andrew remembered the name from the journey earlier. “Yes, I think that is not far. When can I come there?” He hoped that the man would not say now, because Andrew needed to go back to the flat to collect the diary first.
“I’ve got meetings this afternoon. Can you come at five o’clock?”
“I’ll text you the address. When you come to reception tell them who you are. They’ll be expecting you.”
“Okay, Mr. Howard. I’ll go there at five o’clock.”
For a moment Andrew thought the man was going to hang up without saying anything more, but then he suddenly asked, “Can you tell me your name?”
“Oh, sorry, sir. My name is Andrew, Andrew Chin.”
“Yes sir, I arrived from Singapore today.”
“Okay, Andrew, I must go. Thanks for contacting me.”
“No problem, Mr. Howard.”
The man at the other end had already hung up. Andrew, in his usual kind way, assumed that the man’s abrupt manner on the phone was just because he was a busy, important person.
Andrew told Jenny what was going on, but she said she couldn’t go with him because she was having a tryout for a waitressing job later. A text from Mr. Howard provided Andrew the address of his office. After looking it up, he decided that he could make his way there on his own.
They wandered the streets for another couple of hours and then went back to the flat so that Jenny could get ready for work. While he was waiting, Andrew looked up James Howard’s company on the Internet. It was a world leader in technical ceramics and Mr. Howard was the company’s CEO.
Jenny had warned him that he would arrive at his destination far too early if he left just after four, but he was nervous about being late. So it was that just half an hour later he arrived at the address and found himself in front of a modern office building.
He still had another twenty minutes to wait for the appointed time. Not wanting to be seen yet, he carried on walking until he reached the end of the road, where a low wall marked the boundary of another building set back a little from the road. Sitting himself down on the wall, Andrew took off his rucksack and removed Mr. Howard’s diary in its protective plastic bag.
Beyond the initial search for the owner’s details, Andrew had left the book unopened. Once he had realized that the book was a diary, it became a private thing. Now, however, the thought that the diary was about to pass out of his hands again nudged Andrew to take a look at it. If nothing else, he wanted to see whether the diary would give him any clues about the man he was about to meet.
The thick band holding the book closed was essential, since it held so many loose bits of paper and business cards between its pages. Removing this carefully, Andrew ran his slender fingers over the spine and cover. The black surface felt almost like fine leather, although it was too thin to be real. All the entries in the diary were neatly written, probably with an ink pen. This idea seemed a bit old-fashioned, but at the same time quite stylish. The multiple appointments on almost every page showed that this James Howard was indeed a busy man.
One of the most telling things was the odd pages, which were full of doodles. These were either geometric patterns or tiny drawings, but all quite neat. Maybe some of those meetings were not so interesting.
Another curious observation was that there was little difference between some of the weekend pages and those for the weekdays. Did this man never take a day off?
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