Sunday serialisation – Rory (ret’d) 17.3

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 three.

That dinner proved to be a turning point for the Stokes family. Nobby opened up to his bosses the following week and found them sympathetic to his plight. Indeed, in the letter Nobby later showed me, his immediate boss, the Assistant Chief Constable, expressed admiration for the job his DCS had been doing and the way he had handled so much pressure over a long period. He also admitted to mild surprise that Nobby had held out so long without showing any sign of stress. He apologised for the Force’s failure to offer the routine support that every senior officer should expect and which could have prevented things from reaching the stage they did. In recognition of that, the Force agreed to grant Nobby paid leave of absence for as long as was needed, subject to a three-monthly review if it went on that long.

Nobby attended counselling sessions regularly, mostly alone but some with Zosia and a few with Joffrey, too. He was declared fit to return to duty on a part-time basis after two-and-a-half months of counselling, extending to full-time six weeks after that.

***

After a frank three-way discussion, Penny and Charlie agreed that their relationship should stop. The alternative was to risk a break-up of our marriage and the business, which none of us wanted. Charlie rationalised to himself by saying it left him free to, as he put it, pursue other interests; Penny and I – let’s just say that technology once again came to the rescue.

Whilst we were busy looking after Nobby and his family, Giles of Greene, Gilbert and Partners informed us that Peter Dodd had settled the business with his erstwhile tier-two lieutenants without the need for a court case and that represented the end of his involvement with what Giles was still amused to call the ‘dark side’. Having finally demonstrated to Greene Gilbert and to us that he was now clean, Penny and I agreed that Peter should now join RRW Investigations in a more active capacity. Charlie wasn’t completely at ease with this, he still harboured doubts that Peter was as clean as he claimed and that nothing from his past could come back and bite him and, through association, us.

Could Peter stay clean? And how would his skill set fit in as a permanent full-time director of RRW Investigations? That’s a story for another day.

As is the question of what happened next with Detective Chief Superintendent Norbert Stokes.

THE END?


Rory (ret’d) is available as eBook or paperback on Amazon UK, Amazon USor search your preferred Amazon store for B088RF9HNW

Starting next week

Andrea cover300

Andrea – in search of space, picks up where Making Merry left off.

Fresh from her work on Project Prodigialis, Rear Admiral Andrea Smithson takes command of the Terra II project.

Mariner II, the largest in-system luxury cruise liner ever built, had been refitted and recommissioned in the Royal Space Regiment fleet as HMDSV Colin Pillinger. Its mission was to identify, locate and survey a habitable but uninhabited planet which can be populated over time to take pressure off Earth and its resources.

For the cast of characters at the start of the project, click here

For a brief list of acronyms and initialisms used, click here

Sunday serialisation – Rory (ret’d) 17.2

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 two.

I called Nobby at home and arranged to call around later that evening with Penny, saying only that my wife was aware of his situation and felt she might be in a position to offer some pastoral support. His voice betrayed his unease at involving another person in his family’s current situation. He ultimately consented to the meeting, but only after I’d accepted that he could cut it short if it entered areas that he considered out of bounds. I hoped it wouldn’t come to that but agreed anyway. Just when I thought the conversation had ended I heard Zosia’s voice in the background. Nobby asked me to hold on. He came back after a few seconds to say his wife had insisted that if we were coming in the evening it should be for dinner and we should arrive at half-past seven for eight. Once off the phone, I passed this information to Penny who was not at all upset at being relieved of her turn to cook.

We arrived at the Stokes’ home a minute or two before the appointed time. Joffrey answered the door and showed us through to the lounge, where Nobby and Zosia were waiting for us. I introduced Penny to the family. Nobby pointed out that he and my wife had, as he put it, crossed swords on another occasion but accepted that she had acted entirely properly and within the bounds of her remit. His words, not mine. Joffrey leaned over and whispered something to his mother. She looked up at him and nodded.

“Mr Rogerson,” he said, “Mum says it’s alright for me to show you what my room’s like now.” Turning to Nobby he added, “That’s if it’s okay with you, Dad.”

“If your Mum says it’s okay then it’s fine with me, Joff,” he replied. Zosia looked at me and smiled at what seemed like a small victory. Nobby shrugged his shoulders. I was glad to see he’d conceded on that one. That left me wondering whether he’d finally managed to get his tongue around his wife’s given name, too. Joffrey walked out of the room and I followed, leaving Penny to get better acquainted with his parents.

Once upstairs, Joffrey pushed open the door to his room and sang out a victorious “Ta-dah!” What a transformation. Gone were the piles of dirty clothes, the half-eaten food and hairy coffee cups. His bed was made and his desk, which I had no idea was light oak, would not have been out of place in the most fastidious study.

“Wow, Joff,” I said, “This must have taken you ages. Did you get any help?”

“Apart from letting Mum run the hoover around and do a bit of dusting, it’s all my own work. And guess how long it took me in the end…”

“I dread to think,” I said, “maybe you could do it in a day if you go at it non-stop, but I’d think probably more.”

“How about less than an hour and a half?”

“Really?”

“Really. Dad was away, ‘helping the police with their enquiries’ – and that must have hurt him – and Mum went out shopping. She asked me if I wanted to go with her but I said I’d rather stay and do my room. She said something about believing that when she sees it.”

“And now she’s seen it?”

“She believes it. And I’m gonna keep it like this. It’s much easier to find things if nothing else.”

“You know what you’re doing, Joff?”

“What?”

“You’re growing up, lad. It comes to all of us in the end.”

We laughed together as we descended the stairs. Returning to the lounge, we found the three adults very deep in conversation. I gave a cough to let them know we were back. Penny raised a hand. Not a ‘can I leave the room?’ hand, more a ‘not now, Rory’ one. I seated myself and quietly listened.

“That’s fine in theory, Penny, and it might work in a school setting, but I don’t know how it’ll wash with the ACC or the PCC.”

Penny turned to me. “Just to bring you up to speed, Rory, I’ve suggested to Nobby that he come clean to the Force, admit he has an emotional problem and take a leave of absence to deal with it–”

“Three months, she suggested,” Nobby interjected.

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” Zosia said, “It’ll do Nobby good to have some time to himself, not worrying about his cases or the people under him, but he’s worried that the Assistant Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner, who are his bosses, won’t go along with it.”

“Why would they not?” I asked.

“Because they won’t believe that someone like me can need emotional support,” Nobby said, “Even if I tell them why I did what I did, they’ll still want to see me made an example of.”

“I don’t know these people, so I can’t be absolute,” I said, “but it seems to me that if you tell them everything and sign up for some counselling, they’ll have to accept it; especially given your length of service and your record on the job. My guess is that they’ll see it as a temporary aberration and that you’re taking steps to fix it.”

“So do you agree with your wife about three months’ leave?”

“If that’s what it needs. Look – if you sign up with a counsellor recognised by the police, and I’m sure you have access to a list, they will tell you when they think you’re ready to go back. Your chiefs should accept their recommendation and things can get back to normal.”

“So I could end up facing three months of unpaid leave? I don’t know if I can afford that.”

“What’s the alternative?” Penny asked.

Nobby looked thoroughly crestfallen. “I’ve got myself into a bit of a mess, haven’t I?”

“Your job and mine aren’t so different, you know,” Penny said, “We spend all our time looking after other people, getting them out of their messes, deciding whether they need punishment or support, to say nothing of the responsibility we have for the people who report to us. Added to that your job sometimes involves putting yourself in dangerous situations, situations where you have to be in control, where display of fear is never an option. It all takes a toll, Nobby. Something, somewhere has to snap. In your case, it led to some very dubious decisions regarding your family. In other cases, it leads to self-harm or even suicide—”

“And sometimes to murder,” Nobby added.

“Absolutely. And if your bosses can’t recognise a mild burnout reaction when they see it, then perhaps they shouldn’t be in the job they are.”

“Okay. I’ll set up the counselling and talk to my bosses.”

“This week?”

“Or next.”

“No later than that.”

“Okay. No later.”

“I’m glad that’s settled,” Zosia said, “now there’s only one thing to be done before we can eat – dinner’s ready, by the way.”

“What’s holding us up?” Joffrey asked.

Zosia looked at her husband. “What’s my name?” she asked him.

“You know what your name is, you don’t need me to tell you.”

“I want to hear you say it.”

“Zosia,” he said, his voice betraying defeat or resignation or something, “your name is Zosia.”

“Then why Sasha and why Jeff?”

“I think I can answer that,” I offered. I looked at Nobby. “Power game?” I asked.

“Power game,” he confessed.

“Then let’s forget about all that now and eat,” Zosia said.

“Thanks, Zosia,” Nobby said then, “come on, Joff.”

Sunday serialisation – Rory (ret’d) 17.1

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?”

“Exactly.”

“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.”

“Too hard.”

“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.”

“Cold?”

“Absolutely.”

“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.


We're almost there, but if you can't wait for the rest, Rory (ret’d) is available as eBook or paperback on Amazon UK, Amazon USor search your preferred Amazon store for B088RF9HNW