There were thirty keys on the bunch and it was the twenty third that opened Aunty Joan’s room. I unlocked the door, still a little worried that she may be inside sleeping, and that I would give her a terrible fright.
She wasn’t in her room. I shut the door behind me and turned the light on. There was a double bed, a bin filled with fish and chip wrappings, Irn Bru cans and bits or ripped paper. A fifty inch plasma screen television was bolted to the wall opposite the bed, and a fully stocked mini bar took up the entire left hand corner of the room. I almost walked straight out again, desperate to get away from the stench of fried food and cigarettes, but then I noticed that Aunty Joan had already packed her suitcases, and that there were several documents resting beside them.
I looked at the passport. It was newly issued. Her surname was Miller. Her birthday was in January. She was born in Glasgow.
The British Airways ticket – to Canada – was for Saturday, as she’d said.
Underneath the ticket was an unopened envelope. Inside were ten one hundred pound traveller’s cheques. Replacing the traveller’s cheques, I noticed another piece of paper. When I took it out of the envelope, I realised it was a cheque, made out to Joan Miller… for £500,000. It was signed Barbara Hopwood and was post dated till Saturday.
Half a million pounds. Five hundred thousand pounds… I said it out loud a couple of times to get my head around it. I even counted the noughts, to make sure there really were five of them. Where the hell would my mother, a freelance researcher who purported to have no savings, get half a million pounds from? And if she did have money, why would she give it to Aunty Joan?