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 two.
I opened the video-doorbell app on my phone and looked at the last video. Perfect. It was dark, but the scene was adequately illuminated by the security lights, and the camera picked up a clear view of a man who looked to be in his late teens or early twenties and a good quality audio recording of an interesting snippet of conversation. Their accents sounded local.
“Hey, Billy,” the young man said, presumably to his accomplice, “this fancy doorbell should fetch a couple of bob.”
“You know that’s not what we came for,” Billy replied, “but if it makes my little brother happy, go ahead. But nothing to the boss, okay?” The picture went black at that point. I replayed the video and took screenshots of the clearest images of the ‘alleged’ perpetrator’s face and saved them and the video itself to my cloud for future reference. I then used the app to report the theft to the manufacturer and gave the crime number that had been texted to me. Well, they say they’ll replace the bell free of charge if it’s stolen, so why wouldn’t I?
My next move was to photograph the aftermath of the doorbell theft and the damaged alarm box, before calling the alarm company to ask them to come to fix and upgrade the system. I tasked Penny with looking around carefully downstairs and, without touching anything, to photograph anything damaged or out of place, note anything missing then wait for me by the front door. I went upstairs and did the same thing. All the time I was looking around, I was playing over and over in my mind the words ‘not what we came for’. If it wasn’t a theft of high value, portable, easily sold-on goods, then what was it?
We compared notes. Penny said that nothing seemed to be missing, and the only damage was to a crystal vase that had been knocked off the sideboard in the dining room. All the drawers and cupboard doors were open, as they were in the lounge, kitchen and TV room. It was clear from the overall sense of disorder that they had been looking for something, though it wasn’t clear what. Upstairs, I had found a similar scene. The only room that was different was the study, where I do my writing. This may have been the last room they entered, as it seemed that their search was more frantic than in any of the others. All the drawers were ripped out of the desk – not just opened – and their contents strewn all over the floor, although everything seemed to be there. When I turned to leave the study, I saw it. The whiteboard that I use for various notes, reminders and so on had been wiped clean and someone had written, in a hand that would have had a nine-year-old drummed out of the brownies for not trying, ‘This ain’t over’. I showed Penny the photograph.
“What on Earth does that mean?” she asked.
“I wish I knew,” I replied, walking through to the lounge followed by my wife, “All I can get from it is that they were obviously looking for something and didn’t find it.”
Penny sat on the three-seater sofa. I took my favourite reclining armchair and sat facing her. “But what?” she asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine, Lover. As they left their cryptic note in the study, I have to assume they expected to find whatever-it-is in there, but it gives no clues as to what it could be.”
“Or what they’ll do next.”
“Or what they’ll do next,” I agreed, “but they obviously plan to do something.”
“Should we try the police again, do you think?”
“Maybe, but not yet. After what happened earlier, I can’t trust them to take it seriously. Look: the alarm people said they’d be here in an hour or so, and they’re bringing a locksmith with them to re-secure the front door. What say you we let them do their job, then book into a hotel for a few days so we don’t disturb the scene? That might also draw them out, as I expect they’ll try to phone us at home to make some demands on us or give us some kind of ultimatum.”
“But won’t it make them angry, if they phone and no-one answers?”
“Maybe, but I’m gambling that they, or the people controlling them, have done their homework and will try my mobile if they can’t get through on the house phone.”
“How will that help?”
“I can set my mobile to record all incoming calls.”
“I didn’t know you could do that.”
“I have an app that scans every incoming call to protect from nuisance or fraudulent calls—”
“I have the same one. But that doesn’t record the call.”
“It can be made to.”
Penny looked at me with the expression that says, ‘now tell me the bad news’. “How much?” she asked.
“Couple of quid a month. Which, before you ask, I’m paying already.”
“What about the legality? Aren’t you supposed to get their permission to record the call?”
“What, like they got our permission to break into the house?”
“Fair point, but would it be admissible evidence in a court of law?”