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 four.
“You’re the sleuth, my lovely,” Penny said, tilting her head and raising her eyebrows, “What have we to work with? And what are you thinking of doing next?”
“Okay. We’ve got a good clear picture of a local bloke—”
“How do you know he’s local?”
“His accent. I know that doesn’t tie him down to North Edgington, but it ties him to the region.”
“That’s a vast area. You’re virtually talking about the county, maybe even beyond.”
“I know that, but it’s a start. Anyway,” I started counting on my fingers, “we know he has a big brother called Billy and they’re not working alone – not even on their own initiative. We have video footage running up to the removal of the video doorbell – with sound. And we will probably have a good set of prints on the alarm control panel.”
“That’s mostly circumstantial, though, isn’t it? And what makes you think there’ll be fingerprints anywhere?”
“I’m guessing that these lads are opportunists. Nothing we’ve seen says professional to me. Does it to you?”
“No, but even so; what good are fingerprints to you? You can’t check them against anything.”
“You’re right, but I know a man who can.” I didn’t, but I was hoping to be able to cultivate a detective I’d spoken to a few times when gathering research material – police procedures, court protocols and the like.
“Who?” she asked.
Aha. Time to think on my feet. “Do you mind if I keep that to myself for the time being? I want to make sure he’s in a position to help before I name him.”
“Even to me?”
“Even to you. Sorry.”
Some people have faces so expressive that words are sometimes not needed. Penny’s face telegraphed a lightbulb to me. “Here’s a thought,” she said almost excitedly, “Don’t Trevor and Chloe, next door, have cameras on their house?”
By George, she was right. “They do,” I replied, “and I remember Trevor telling me that one of them covers our driveway, too. I think Charlie, on the other side, does as well. Tell you what. I’ll try and catch Charlie tomorrow to have a word with him; will you be able to talk to Chloe?”
“She owes me a coffee anyway. If we get there about ten, she should be in. Not sure about Charlie, though. He tends to keep to himself, so I don’t have a handle on his movements.”
“I had a chat with him over the fence last week—”
“You didn’t tell me about that.”
“I didn’t think it was important.” Why did I suddenly feel like I needed to justify myself? “It was on Tuesday, I think, when you were at home because of an electrical problem at school. Anyway, we were talking about work, the cost of commuting, parking problems, all that sort of thing and he told me that he works from home; some kind of software or web developer or something. When I told him what I do he offered to build an author web site for me. I can follow up on that as an excuse to get in the door and see if he knows anything about our little problem.”
“Did you notice any cameras?”
“Not from over the fence, but I can take a look as I walk up his driveway and broach the subject with him over coffee.”
“Okay, over a beer—”
“Or two, if I know my husband! No worries, though, as long as you don’t mind me driving back here afterwards.”
“As long as you’re sober, not a problem.”
My mobile rang. It was a number I didn’t recognise so I opened the recording app before answering it. Interestingly, a landline, not a mobile number, was displayed. The code I recognised as Brenthenham which covers a group of villages the other side of South Edgington. I hit the answer button.
“Roger Rogerson?” the voice said. It sounded a lot like that of Billy, the brother of the young man who liberated my video doorbell.
“Who’s asking?” I replied.
“That’s not important. You have some property that belongs to our principals and they want it back. And they’re prepared to become rather unpleasant in their efforts to retrieve possession of it.”
“You reading that from a piece of paper?”
“Because you’re clearly saying what you’ve been told to say. Those aren’t your words.”
“You don’t know that!”
“Oh, yes I do, Billy,” I said. The line went dead.
“Was that them?” Penny asked.
“What did they want?”
“Listen,” I said and replayed the recording.
“Was that wise?”
“Confronting him like that. You’re no further forward now, are you? And it’s more likely to turn nasty.”
“I think I am. I can now get an address – not necessarily their home, but at least where they made the call. I know that he was reading from a script—”
“I can’t see how you can assume that.”
“I wasn’t sure, which was why I confronted him with it—”
“And he denied it.”
“Did he? His words denied it, but the tone of his voice shouted out that I was right. On top of that, letting him know I knew his name has put him completely on the back foot. He slammed the phone down in panic. I can imagine the conversation he’s having with his brother now. ‘Why did you have to say my name, you idiot?’, ‘When?’, ‘When you were nicking the bloody doorbell’, ‘He won’t know I called you Billy’, ‘Those bells record video and send it to him all the time. That’s why they’re so bloody expensive.’ I can almost hear it. The next call will be different, you mark my words.”
We had room service send up a meal, then we watched some mindless junk on TV before turning in for the night.