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 seventeen, part one.
Item one on the local radio news the following morning said that Detective Chief Superintendent Norbert Stokes, head of CID for the area, had voluntarily presented himself for questioning in connection with an incident involving the loss of physical evidence related to a recent drug bust. They were at pains to point out at this stage that there is no indication that any offence has been committed or that Detective Chief Superintendent Stokes is in the frame for any offence that might come to light.
I called Zosia to ask if she was okay following that news item. A male voice answered. It sounded far too old to be Joffrey Stokes.
“Nobby?” I asked.
“Aye, it is,” he said.
“Rory Rogerson here—”
“I gathered that.”
“I just heard that you—”
“They didn’t make it clear, Rogerson. I voluntarily went in to be interviewed. I wasn’t arrested and I left after a couple of hours.”
“So it’s all cleared up?”
“Nothing like. I’m going back again later with the stuff from the evidence locker.”
“So what was that all about?”
“The wife told me what you’d said, and you were about right. I didn’t want Jeff leaving home yet – not that I want to keep him against his will, don’t get me wrong – but I didn’t want him leaving without putting our relationship right first. I thought – wrongly, I now realise – that if he got into trouble and I managed, through my connections, to get him off that he might like me a bit better.”
“There are easier ways you know…”
“Like stop being a dick, you mean?”
“I wouldn’t have used those words, but…”
“No, you’d be right. Trouble is, I’ve spent so long on the job now that I can’t change my ways just like that. It’s who I am.”
“I get that, Nobby, I do. But there’s no reason Nobby the loving and supportive husband and father and Nobby the hard-nosed detective shouldn’t be two separate people.”
“And they are, mostly, but… I don’t know…”
“The lines get blurred?”
“Then unblur them.”
“That’s easier said than done, Rory. It’s hard to change at our age as you must know.”
“It’s not hard to change, Nobby. I’ll grant you, it’s sometimes hard to want to change, but if you want to, you can.”
“Nobby. Finding a peaceful solution in Palestine is hard. Reconfiguring the world’s economies to stave off climate change is hard. Changing your attitude to your family is just a question of making a decision and carrying it through. Isn’t that what you do at work all the time? Make a decision and implement it?”
“Well, yes, but.”
“I’ll leave you to think about that, Nobby,” I said, “If you think there’s anything we can do to help, give us a call.” I hung up.
“Do you believe that or are you just saying it?” Penny asked from the kitchen.
“I didn’t know you were listening,” I replied.
“You’ll have to learn to speak more quietly if you don’t want me to hear what you say.”
“No. I don’t mind you hearing. I just thought you were still upstairs.”
“I was. I came down just as you picked the phone up.”
“So you heard—”
“Everything, but only your side of it. Care to fill me in?”
I updated my wife on what I’d heard on the radio and what Nobby had said to me.
“So, back to my original question…” she said.
“I believe it. I really do. You’ve no idea how many times I said to various people that I could stop smoking any time I wanted to. What I didn’t tell them was that I was incapable of wanting to – either physically or emotionally or maybe even both. It wasn’t until the doctor told me about ten years ago – before I met you – that if I didn’t stop smoking and lose some weight it’d kill me that I made the decision and dumped the cancer sticks.”
“How did that go?”
“A bit difficult at first, but I’d decided to see myself as a non-smoker – not as someone who was trying to give up. That decision helped me through the period when my body and my brain craved the nicotine. You see, I wasn’t trying to give up; I gave up. When people offered me a cigarette, I didn’t say I was trying to give up or even giving up. I didn’t even describe or see myself as an ex-smoker. In my mind, I was a non-smoker.”
“Where did you get that idea from?”
“I read something; an article by a psychologist suggesting that what you are shouldn’t be dictated by what other people think of you but of what you think of yourself, and if you can control that you can achieve almost anything.”
“And that worked?”
“Like a charm.”
“And when are you going to apply that to losing weight, Lover?”
“Ooh, that’s harsh. Fair but harsh.”
This was a discussion in which one outcome and one outcome only was possible for me. That’s right, loser with a capital L. Happily for me, Penny changed the subject before I could end up once again painting myself into a corner.
“I thought so. No answer for that. Meanwhile, do you think Nobby will dig himself out of this particular hole?”
“If he has the will, he should be able to mend the rift in his family. Stopping that silly game with their names would be a good start. I don’t know though, how he will get around the trouble he’s made for himself by his antics with the evidence.”
“Perhaps I can offer a suggestion,” she said.
“Go on, then,” I replied, “what have you got?”
“Not now, Rory. Fix up a meeting for the two of us with Nobby and Zosia. In fact, get the lad in on it, too.”
“What about Charlie?”
“We won’t need his expertise on this one. Just the two of us will do. In fact, I want to talk to you about Charlie. I get the feeling he’s trying to take our little arrangement beyond where I’m comfortable.”
“You don’t have to enlarge on that, but I have noticed some worrying changes in his attitudes recently.”
“I’m glad you’ve spotted it. He’s becoming kind of proprietorial towards me. He hasn’t exactly said it in as many words, but I get the distinct feeling that he’d like me to leave you and move in with him.”
“And?” I asked, suddenly more worried than I could recall being about anything for a long time.
“Let me just say I’d rather be unsatisfied with you than satisfied with him. I can’t see any way I’d ever want to leave you, Rory.”
I breathed again as she subjected me to one of the strongest hugs I’d ever experienced from her.