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 eight, part two.
I’ve never been much of one for buses. Even now, when I have my old bugger’s free bus pass, I prefer to go everywhere in my own car. Yes, I know, the ecological as well as the economic arguments in favour of using public transport over private are strong and becoming more so, and no doubt I’ll give it a try sometime. For the time being, though, I’ll stick with what I’m used to. Anyway, the upshot of all that is that I didn’t know there was a cafe at the bus station.
It had occurred to me that the bus station might be quite large and it could possibly have taken a few minutes for us to locate each other, so we aimed to arrive early. We went in Charlie’s car and parked in the central car park which connects with the bus station through a system of overpasses. On arrival at the bus station, Charlie and I looked around and speculated where the others were likely to be.
“They’ll probably be by the drop-off point for the 33 service,” Charlie opined, “the sign says it goes to their part.” I tended to agree.
Penny is an administrator and an organiser as well as an educator. She is the one who thinks things through with more logic than intuition. She applied her methodical approach to this situation. “The 33 runs twice an hour,” she said, “and the next one is due in ten minutes. That means the last one arrived twenty minutes ago. Do you seriously think Meredith and the boys would wait at that draughty stop for twenty minutes?”
Chloe answered before either of us could. “Not if I know my sister-in-law,” she said.
“Where would you expect her to go?” I asked.
“To the cafe, of course.”
“I didn’t know there was a cafe here.”
“You didn’t know there were buses here,” Penny said icily as we started to walk towards the cafe, “I doubt you’ve ever seen the inside of a bus station.”
“When I was a lad, I did,” I said, “most families didn’t have cars back in those days. You’ll remember that, won’t you, Charlie?”
“Well before my time, mate. I’m nowhere near as old as you, don’t forget.”
“Haven’t you got some software to debug, turncoat?” I asked, giving him a friendly jab on the arm.
Meredith, Billy and Alan were indeed waiting for us in the cafe. As we approached, Billy whistled shrilly in the direction of the counter and held up four fingers. At a nod from Meredith, Alan arranged four more chairs around the two tables they had already pushed together.
“I’ve ordered coffees,” Billy said as we seated ourselves. Moments later, a waitress arrived with four steaming mugs.
“Your phone, Alan,” I said, handing the younger sibling his mobile. His face lit up and I thought he was on the point of crying, but it seemed not.
“Is it… okay?” he asked, hesitantly.
“Yours is fine,” I said and explained how we thought he was given his as a cover to draw attention away from Billy’s.
“That’s hellish sneaky,” he said, “but I don’t mind. I could never have been able to afford a phone this good.”
We then handed Billy his phone and went into detail about it, how we believed it had been set up and monitored and what was in the latest WhatsApp text.
“Here’s the question, Billy,” I said, “Does location three mean anything to you?”
“Of course,” he said, “Location one is a place where I put very small things like letters and location two can take anything up to about this size,” he extended his arms to describe something about the size of a lever-arch file. “Location three is for bigger stuff. It’s further out of town and I usually have to change buses to get there, except Saturdays when there’s a direct bus.”
“Where is location 3?” Charlie asked.
“Near the football ground.”
“Which is why there’s a direct bus on Saturdays. Every Saturday?”
“Just match days.”
“Okay. Billy, we want you to go ahead with this as normal. Go to Halfords to collect the package then do the drop. Do you need to contact Mr E when you do it?”
“No. He seems to know when I’ve got the package—”
“Because he’s monitoring your phone and will know when you are at the collection place and when the QR code is opened. What about the other end? He will know from your GPS or triangulation when you reach the drop-off point.”
“Yeah, but he’s never there. I’ve never seen the bloke.”
“Well, Billy, he will still be able to track you and know when you make the drop-off, but this time, so will we. Not electronically, but we will be watching you from a safe distance. We’ll be far enough away that he or whoever he sends won’t know we’re there, but close enough to rush in if someone turns up and starts to get tasty with you.”
“Will I be wearing a wire?”
“Another one who watches too much TV,” I said, with a laugh, “No, you won’t be wearing a wire. Too obvious. You won’t be wearing a tracker, either. It’s easy to scan for those. If he has the equipment to scan you and he does it, he could be quite nasty if he finds something. We’re not prepared to put you at risk like that.”
“But you’re happy to put me at risk in other ways!”
“Hang on, sunshine. Let’s not lose sight of how this all started. You broke into my house, remember? Be grateful I’ve taken your side and not just handed you over to the police.”
“Say sorry to Mr Rogerson,” his mother instructed him.
“No need for that, Meredith. I just think it’s important to remember what the relationships are here.”
“Nevertheless,” Meredith said casting a steely look at her eldest son.
“Sorry, Mr Rogerson.”
I nodded. I would have apologised if she’d looked at me like that!
“We are… I am grateful for how fair you are being with my boys,” she said then, with gritted teeth, “especially when they’ve done nothing to deserve it.”
“Fairness is exactly what we’re aiming for,” Penny said, “would that the law were always as fair as we strive to be.”