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 fifteen, part one.
Over a couple of years, the flow of business from Greene Gilbert gradually increased and ultimately took up about half of our billable hours. That was about ninety per cent of our billed hours. There was only enough billable work to fill about sixty per cent of our available working time but we weren’t really doing it for the money, so running at between fifty-five and sixty per cent capacity was fine by us. In fact, for myself, I relied on working at that level as I was still trying to complete my latest novel. You remember – the one I said was untitled. I’ve now given it a working title of Go straight – to Hell. As you can imagine, it has parallels with what’s going on in our lives but is sufficiently segregated from it not to get me into trouble if I ever publish it. Penny was still running her school and Charlie his business, so we really couldn’t take on anything that would push us much higher than a sixty per cent load.
I had just reached a point in my book where one of its protagonists, let’s call him Ken, was trying to divest himself of certain business interests that would never have received the Chief Rabbi’s seal of approval. One of the few remaining less-than-reputable interests involved the trade at a retail level in controlled substances, through a form of pyramid selling of which he was at the apex. Ken wanted his three lieutenants who made up level two to purchase their branches of the business from him. His intention was that each of them would have their own pyramid organisation so Ken would receive no more income from the sales. Of course, the sale price would have to be enough to compensate him for the loss of income. The three lieutenants got together and decided that the idea of buying their pyramid structure from Ken went against their principles and, more importantly, their financial interests. So they decided to simply take it. Ken fought this idea and insisted that they compensate him at the price he had stipulated, whereupon the three men found someone sufficiently unscrupulous to sue him on their behalf. This was a difficult passage, as civil cases like this were as far outside my areas of expertise as tight-rope walking would be to a deep-sea diver.
It was whilst I was digging around the nether regions of my favourite search engine, looking for anything that would better prepare me to pen this chapter, that a message came in from Joe, Giles Gilbert’s junior clerk asking me to call him urgently. That immediately set alarm signals ringing all over the place. In all the time we’d worked for Greene Gilbert, this was the first time the word urgent had passed anyone’s lips. I called him straight away.
“You could have called me, you know,” I said.
“I didn’t know that you’d be in your office. If you were to allow Mr Gilbert to follow your location on his phone app—”
“Stalk me, you mean?”
“We’ve never thought of it as that. But he has asked on numerous occasions—”
“And I’ve said no every time.”
“Then I have to message you on his behalf and ask you to call us.”
“Look, we’ve been through this several times. I am calling you from my mobile phone. Now, what do we know about mobile phones?”
“Their batteries have a nasty habit of running out?”
“Apart from that.”
“If people let you, you can follow their location?”
“Using the app, of course.”
“And how would the app know where I am?”
“It just does.”
“Now Joe. Think about this. Here’s a hint. The answer is in the question. What attribute of a mobile phone, using the mobile phone network, allows the software to know where I am?”
“I’m not silly, Mr Rogerson. It’s mobile.”
“It’s mobile. Very good. And, when I’m out on a case, where is my mobile phone most likely to be?”
“I don’t know. In your pocket? Your briefcase? Your car?”
“In other words, it will be wherever I am.”
“Well, yes. That’s how we’d be able to know where you are, if only you’d let us follow you.”
“And when you want to speak to me, what is it that lets you do so, even if I’m not in my office?”
“You have your phone with you.”
“Bingo! So you don’t need to message me to call you back, do you?”
“I suppose not.”
“You suppose correctly, Joe; now put me through to Mr Gilbert, please.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
“Mr Gilbert is away this week at a conference.”
“So why did you want me to call if he’s not here to speak to?”
“Ms Elizabeth Bailey, one of our associates, is handling Mr Gilbert’s work whilst he’s away.”
“Then put me through to Ms Bailey, please.”
“Mr Rogerson?” a somewhat strident female voice asked.
“I am he.”
“Good afternoon, Mr Rogerson. Elizabeth Bailey here.”
“What is the urgent matter you needed to speak to me about?”
“Our mutual friend Peter Dodd is, as you know, attempting to divest himself of a number of his interests.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that. How is it going now? The last I heard it was progressing rather well.”
“And so it was, Mr Rogerson, so it was. But just at the moment, there’s a particular issue that we think would benefit from your firm’s special skills.”
“What’s the story?”
“One of the businesses Mr Dodd is offloading at the moment is a multi-level sales organisation—”
“Not important at the moment. Suffice to say that the four people at level two are refusing to pay the price Mr Dodd has demanded to buy him out.”
“So where do we come into this?”
“His four subordinates have raised a lawsuit against him in the civil court. They are claiming compensation from him—”
“That’s just it. The paperwork we’ve received from the courts doesn’t mention the nature of the cause, so we don’t even know that it’s actionable.”
“So what do you want RRW Investigations to do?”
“We need you – specifically Mr Watkiss – to … erm … take a look inside the county court systems to find out what the basis for their claim is, what evidence they have to support whatever it is they’re asserting and how much money they’re looking for.”
“So, let me get this straight. You want Charlie to hack into the county court’s systems and dig out their files for this case?”
“I didn’t say anything about hacking.”
“No, you said take a look inside their systems. I’m just a simple writer, unschooled in these things. Perhaps you could give me some idea how you expect Charlie to put himself in a position where he can do that without hacking.”
“Like you, Mr Rogerson, I’m no expert on these things, but I’m certain, from what Mr Giles has told me, that your Mr Watkiss will find a way to do it.”
“Okay, Ms Bailey. Leave it with me. I’ll talk to Charlie this evening.”
“Can’t he do it straight away?”
“I’m afraid not. He’s actually upgrading the security on the county court systems today.”
“Maybe, maybe not. I’ll get back to you.”