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 three, part one.
I decided to stop off at a stationer’s shop on our way back to the hotel to buy a notepad and pencils.
“What do you want those for?” Penny asked me, “Can’t you take notes on your mobile?”
“I can and I do, as you well know, and it’s incredibly useful. I can even put photographs and scanned documents in the notes – including scans of my hand-written notes. And it will convert my handwriting to text.”
“Perhaps you should use it more. I can never read anything you’ve written. But I still don’t get why you want a notepad.”
“Sometimes, the physical act of writing something down gives you a different relationship to what you’ve written than if you’d typed or dictated it. It’s more personal, you’re more invested in it.”
“Are you sure Charlie didn’t ply you with beer?”
“You’re talking rubbish.”
“Before you write my ideas off, try it yourself. Don’t build your shopping list on line and don’t type it into your phone. Write it down. Try it for a couple of weeks and see if you still think I’m talking hogwash.”
“I may just do that.”
“So, are you going to be covering the hotel walls with pictures and ribbon?” she asked playfully.
“You’ve been watching too much television, my love. And no, I’m not going to strew photographs all over the floor, either. I’m just going to write a few things in a notebook.”
“Go on, then. And while you’re in there, I could do with something to read in case you’re busy writing notes in your notebook when I’ve finished my marking. See if you can find me a decent book – you know the sort of thing I like. On second thoughts, just get me a couple of magazines, I can download a book onto the e-reader app if I need one.”
Penny stayed in the car whilst I popped into the shop. I returned with a couple of reporter’s notebooks, a roller-pen and two magazines.
“Here you are, dear,” I said, handing the magazines to Penny, “People’s Friend and Puzzle Corner. Okay?”
“Perfect. You know me too well, husband.”
We went straight down for dinner when we got back to the hotel. Seated across the table from my wife, I started to talk through what we had learned so far. It seemed possible, if not likely, that Billy and his little brother had no previous record. If that was so, then the chance of getting anything from the photo or the prints was remote at best. We could possibly assume that they were used for this job precisely because they weren’t known to the police. That meant either they were small-time villains who’d been lucky so far, or they’re actually first-timers. If that were the case, then whoever was pulling their strings must have had some kind of hold on them. That being so, they were lucky to have been used for a bit of petty housebreaking rather than sent across the country to sell drugs. The risk of treading on someone else’s turf and getting injured or even killed for their trouble was immeasurably less here than in the drug peddling business.
Penny said, “Might you perhaps be letting your imagination run away with you, Rory?”
“Perhaps I am,” I said, “and perhaps I should wait until I get the text from Charlie, but isn’t it best to be prepared? To have a plan for every likely scenario?”
“Of course, but there’s a world of difference between preparing for every likely outcome and fixating on a hypothetical worst-case scenario.”
She was right. I had convinced myself that my imaginings were facts, not conjecture, and by following the train of thought, I had effectively closed my mind to other possibilities.
“I don’t suppose you have your laptop with you?” she asked.
“No, it’s in the house, and I’m not ready to go in there yet. Tomorrow, maybe, but depending on what Charlie says, I may try again to get the police interested – especially with the threat that Billy implied on the phone.”
“Okay. Does the hotel have a web-connected PC for guests to use?”
“To go back through the local papers and news to see if there’s any record of previous incidents like ours, of course.”
“I’m so glad I married you. What would I do without you?”
“The term headless chicken springs to mind…”
“I’ll go check,” I said. I got up, gave Penny a kiss on the head and wandered out of the restaurant and towards the reception area. Before I could reach it, my mobile rang again. It was another mobile, not a number I recognised. I started the recording app and hit the answer button.
“Is that Roger Rogerson?” a familiar voice said.
“I’m glad to see you’re not phoning from home today, Billy. Makes it too easy to trace you.”
“Stop calling me Billy. It’s not my name.”
“That’s what Joe called you when he nicked my doorbell.”
“His name isn’t Joe, it’s Alan,” Billy said, then after a brief pause, “Shit!” The line dropped.
I called the number back.
“How did you get this number?”
“You didn’t withhold your number.”
“How am I supposed to do that, then?”
“Do you seriously expect me to tell you that, Billy? You’re the one making the threats. I’m just going now to send the police to do a search of the house where you called me from before.”
“Don’t so that. My Mum …”
“So it was your parents’ house you called from?”
“Mum’s house, yeah, but don’t send the cops around… please.”
“If I agree to that, I need something in return.”
“Who are you working for?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“I just can’t.”
“Maybe Alan can.”
“Leave Alan out of it. He’s just a kid. I didn’t want to get him involved but he insisted on coming along. And I can never refuse my little brother anything, can I?”
“Okay, Billy. If you can’t tell me who’s making you do this or why, can you at least tell me exactly what it is you’re looking for? What is it I’m supposed to have that the people who sent you reckon is theirs?”
“Sorry. I’ve said too much already.” [click]