Rory Rogerson is 67; an overweight, unfit, retired ‘protection officer’ (that’s PC for hired muscle). He is also a prolific and, by his own reckoning, successful author of crime fiction.
Penny (60) is his headmistress wife and Charlie Watkiss is the bloke next door.
Together, they make a formidable team!
Rory (ret’d). Chapter one, part one.
My lovely wife had suggested – insisted, more like – that I should broaden my horizons and stretch my creative whatevers by what she called immersing myself in the works of the greats. She had me going to see plays, films, recitals, anything that would feed my imagination. She even gave me a reading list. How I’m supposed to find time to write with that lot going on baffles me, but there we go.
We’d been down to London to see a production of Timon of Athens, one of Shakespeare’s plays I’d never heard of – mind you, that could have been said about most of them before Penny. It’s a story about a rich bloke who pretty much gives everything away, goes broke, then lives in a cave where he rants endlessly until he finds some gold, which he uses to pay someone to destroy Athens. Then he dies. End of story. That’s what I remember anyway, but it was a while ago we saw it. Penny could give you a better idea.
After we’d seen the play, we stayed the night in a hotel in London and caught the mid-morning train back to South Edgington via Birmingham New Street. We picked up the car from the station car park and drove off through pouring rain and near-freezing temperatures, eventually reaching home in North Edgington at about three o’clock. As soon as we pulled up into the drive, we sensed that something was wrong but couldn’t put a finger on what it was. Everything looked normal, as far as we could see through the monsoon-like downpour but it felt wrong, if you know what I mean.
I pulled my jacket over the top of my head and ran to the house – if you can call what people of my build do running. As soon as I reached the front door I saw it. Or, rather, I didn’t see it. The clever video doorbell we’d had installed a few months earlier wasn’t there. I tried the door handle and met no resistance. I pushed the door open and prepared to disarm the alarm. No need. What we like to think of as the familiar welcome beeps didn’t happen. The front was hanging off the alarm control box and there was obvious damage to the electronics inside it. I stepped back out of the house, signalled Penny to stay in the car and called the police on my mobile to report that my house had been broken into. I gave the address and told them exactly what I’d found and what I’d done.
“It sounds like you may have compromised the scene, Sir,” the responder said.
“I don’t think so. I’ve had gloves on and haven’t touched anything that could leave fingerprints,” I told her.
“What about your wife, Sir? Has she touched anything?”
“Hardly, she’s still in the car.”
“Is the alleged perpetrator still on the premises?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t moved beyond the front door yet.”
“If the alleged perpetrator isn’t still on the premises, then there’s nothing to be gained by officers attending urgently at this time, Sir.”
“I can understand that. When will they be able to come, and what would you like me to do in the meantime?”
“Please hold…” I waited. And waited. Some minutes later… “Are you still there, Sir?”
“I’ve presented your report to my superiors, Sir, and they say that regrettably there’s nothing they can do.”
“Nothing they can do? What do you mean, nothing they can do? Are you saying they won’t investigate?”
“I’m saying, Sir, that my superiors consider that if the alleged burglary took place last night—”
“It’s not an alleged burglary, it happened. Would you like me to send you photographs of the missing bell and broken alarm?”
“That won’t be necessary, Sir. If, as you say, the… erm… burglary took place last night, there’s no prospect of a quick clear up—”
“No prospect of a quick clear up? What the hell are you talking about?”
“That’s what my superior said, Sir. And we don’t have the resources for a protracted investigation. I’m sorry, Sir. Your crime report number is 835726-A. The system will text you with a link to download it. Thank you for your call.” And with that, the line went dead. I was dumbfounded. For what seemed like minutes but was probably only a few seconds, I just stood there looking at my phone, as if it was about to come to life again and the police responder apologise and take my report seriously.
Penny must have sensed my mood. She got out of the car and walked purposefully towards me. “What did they say?” she asked on reaching the door. I told her. “So what do you plan to do?” she asked.
“What can I do?”
“Wrong question, Rory.”
“Then what’s the right question?” I asked, perhaps a little more tetchily than was necessary.
“What would Chris and Sam do?”
“What, the Connors? Christopher and Samantha?”
“Exactly. What, in these exact circumstances, would they do? More to the point, if you were writing this, what would you have them do?”
That stopped me in my tracks. I just stood there looking at her for a second before realising that once again she was right. Can you see why I love Penny so much? Do you understand now why I need her? She has a knack of knowing exactly what to say and when to say it.
Of course, what would Christopher and Samantha do in this situation?
I knew at that moment exactly what they would do, and I knew just what I had to do, too.