Category: Rory (ret’d)

Sunday serialisation – Rory (ret’d) 1.3

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 one, part three.

She had a point, but I wasn’t about to be deterred by legal niceties. “Don’t care,” I said, “We’ll gather enough evidence without that. It will, anyway, tell me a lot about them and their phone – where they are, whose name the account is in and a lot more, provided they don’t use a burner. It’ll give me something to work with.”

“Before we go any further, Rory, can we talk about your writing and your characters?”

“Christopher and Samantha?”

“Yes.”

“What about them?”

“How much of what you have them do – not that I’m criticising or anything – but how much of it is researched and how much is made up?”

“You’ve never actually seen me writing, have you?”

Penny relaxed back into the sofa. “No. I’m always at work. You’re ever so good, always here for me when I’m home. You never disappear into the study on me like a lot of men do.”

I matched my wife’s relaxed pose, crossing my legs for added nonchalance. “There’s a reason for that. I like being with you. Writing is a selfish business; it takes me over and I can’t give any attention to anything else. That’s why I’d rather do it when you’re not here. Can you understand that?”

“Of course. And I appreciate it, but that doesn’t answer my question.”

“Okay. If I spend eight hours in the study, usually only about one hour is actually writing.”

“So what do you do for the other seven?”

“Probably two hours of specific research, maybe a couple closed-eye thinking and the rest background reading.”

“Isn’t that what you do in the evening while I’m marking papers and doing lesson prep?”

“No, that’s general reading, which you told me I should use to explore other authors’ methods and use of language. Background reading is linked to research but is non-specific. For instance, if I’m setting a scene in, say, Bradford, I read everything I can about that city so I can be more realistic.”

“And how does that differ from what you called specific research?”

“Okay, here’s an example. I’m setting a scene in a dentist’s surgery in Bradford. The people in the waiting room, even the dentist and his staff, will be talking about Bradford things. Background reading will let me make their conversation authentic and accurate.” I uncrossed my legs and leaned forward. “However, when the dentist is talking to her assistant or to her patient about the procedures she’s doing, she bases what she says on years of study and practice. It’s technical and uses specific, focused language. Research lets me write authentic and accurate technical stuff. See the difference?”

“So you’re saying that the peripheral stuff is constructed using background reading and the specifics of what Christopher and Samantha do as sleuths are made authentic through research.”

“Yes.”

She raised her eyes slightly and peered over her glasses. “Detailed, specific research?”

“Absolutely.”

Leaning back again, she said, “Good enough for me. What do you want me to do next?”

“Let the alarm guys in, I think it’s them I’ve just heard come up the drive.”

We walked around the house to the front and met Priya from the alarm suppliers. She had a couple of guys in tow: a locksmith called Errol and handyman Rob, who could do a solid repair to the damaged door and frame as well as replacing the damaged control panel ready for Priya to configure. I watched while Priya carefully removed the damaged control panel – wearing the disposable latex gloves I gave her, of course – and dropped it into a lockable freezer bag. We then left Errol and Rob to do their work, while we walked carefully around the house with Priya and took her ideas on improvements to the security system. We accepted her proposals and quote, although she couldn’t programme the work in for a couple of weeks. That suited me. It meant we could leave everything untouched for a while longer. Priya and the guys did an excellent job and, an hour later, we were as secure as we had been before the break-in. It being a little before seven in the evening, Penny and I took the crew for a thank-you drink at the local hotel. I left them briefly with my wife, whilst I went through to reception and checked into one of their few available rooms for three nights with the option to extend to up to seven.

We eventually said our goodbyes to Priya and the lads, thanking them for their work, for coming out promptly and for not relieving us of too much of our money for the privilege. Penny and I went to our room, where our ICE bags, the constantly refreshed suitcases with enough of everything we need for an unplanned seven-days’ absence had already been carried up by the hotel staff.

I sat in one of the easy chairs, opposite Penny in the other, leaned back, sighed and said, “Okay, Mrs Rogerson, let’s think about our next move.”

Sunday serialisation – Rory (ret’d) 1.2

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 one, part two.

I opened the video-doorbell app on my phone and looked at the last video. Perfect. It was dark, but the scene was adequately illuminated by the security lights, and the camera picked up a clear view of a man who looked to be in his late teens or early twenties and a good quality audio recording of an interesting snippet of conversation. Their accents sounded local.

“Hey, Billy,” the young man said, presumably to his accomplice, “this fancy doorbell should fetch a couple of bob.”

“You know that’s not what we came for,” Billy replied, “but if it makes my little brother happy, go ahead. But nothing to the boss, okay?” The picture went black at that point. I replayed the video and took screenshots of the clearest images of the ‘alleged’ perpetrator’s face and saved them and the video itself to my cloud for future reference. I then used the app to report the theft to the manufacturer and gave the crime number that had been texted to me. Well, they say they’ll replace the bell free of charge if it’s stolen, so why wouldn’t I?

My next move was to photograph the aftermath of the doorbell theft and the damaged alarm box, before calling the alarm company to ask them to come to fix and upgrade the system. I tasked Penny with looking around carefully downstairs and, without touching anything, to photograph anything damaged or out of place, note anything missing then wait for me by the front door. I went upstairs and did the same thing. All the time I was looking around, I was playing over and over in my mind the words ‘not what we came for’. If it wasn’t a theft of high value, portable, easily sold-on goods, then what was it?

We compared notes. Penny said that nothing seemed to be missing, and the only damage was to a crystal vase that had been knocked off the sideboard in the dining room. All the drawers and cupboard doors were open, as they were in the lounge, kitchen and TV room. It was clear from the overall sense of disorder that they had been looking for something, though it wasn’t clear what. Upstairs, I had found a similar scene. The only room that was different was the study, where I do my writing. This may have been the last room they entered, as it seemed that their search was more frantic than in any of the others. All the drawers were ripped out of the desk – not just opened – and their contents strewn all over the floor, although everything seemed to be there. When I turned to leave the study, I saw it. The whiteboard that I use for various notes, reminders and so on had been wiped clean and someone had written, in a hand that would have had a nine-year-old drummed out of the brownies for not trying, ‘This ain’t over’. I showed Penny the photograph.

“What on Earth does that mean?” she asked.

“I wish I knew,” I replied, walking through to the lounge followed by my wife, “All I can get from it is that they were obviously looking for something and didn’t find it.”

Penny sat on the three-seater sofa. I took my favourite reclining armchair and sat facing her. “But what?” she asked.

“Your guess is as good as mine, Lover. As they left their cryptic note in the study, I have to assume they expected to find whatever-it-is in there, but it gives no clues as to what it could be.”

“Or what they’ll do next.”

“Or what they’ll do next,” I agreed, “but they obviously plan to do something.”

“Should we try the police again, do you think?”

“Maybe, but not yet. After what happened earlier, I can’t trust them to take it seriously. Look: the alarm people said they’d be here in an hour or so, and they’re bringing a locksmith with them to re-secure the front door. What say you we let them do their job, then book into a hotel for a few days so we don’t disturb the scene? That might also draw them out, as I expect they’ll try to phone us at home to make some demands on us or give us some kind of ultimatum.”

“But won’t it make them angry, if they phone and no-one answers?”

“Maybe, but I’m gambling that they, or the people controlling them, have done their homework and will try my mobile if they can’t get through on the house phone.”

“How will that help?”

“I can set my mobile to record all incoming calls.”

“I didn’t know you could do that.”

“I have an app that scans every incoming call to protect from nuisance or fraudulent calls—”

“I have the same one. But that doesn’t record the call.”

“It can be made to.”

Penny looked at me with the expression that says, ‘now tell me the bad news’. “How much?” she asked.

“Couple of quid a month. Which, before you ask, I’m paying already.”

“What about the legality? Aren’t you supposed to get their permission to record the call?”

“What, like they got our permission to break into the house?”

“Fair point, but would it be admissible evidence in a court of law?”

 

Sunday serialisation – Rory (ret’d) 1.1

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 one, part one.

My lovely wife had suggested – insisted, more like – that I should broaden my horizons and stretch my creative whatevers by what she called immersing myself in the works of the greats. She had me going to see plays, films, recitals, anything that would feed my imagination. She even gave me a reading list. How I’m supposed to find time to write with that lot going on baffles me, but there we go.

We’d been down to London to see a production of Timon of Athens, one of Shakespeare’s plays I’d never heard of – mind you, that could have been said about most of them before Penny. It’s a story about a rich bloke who pretty much gives everything away, goes broke, then lives in a cave where he rants endlessly until he finds some gold, which he uses to pay someone to destroy Athens. Then he dies. End of story. That’s what I remember anyway, but it was a while ago we saw it. Penny could give you a better idea.

After we’d seen the play, we stayed the night in a hotel in London and caught the mid-morning train back to South Edgington via Birmingham New Street. We picked up the car from the station car park and drove off through pouring rain and near-freezing temperatures, eventually reaching home in North Edgington at about three o’clock. As soon as we pulled up into the drive, we sensed that something was wrong but couldn’t put a finger on what it was. Everything looked normal, as far as we could see through the monsoon-like downpour but it felt wrong, if you know what I mean.

I pulled my jacket over the top of my head and ran to the house – if you can call what people of my build do running. As soon as I reached the front door I saw it. Or, rather, I didn’t see it. The clever video doorbell we’d had installed a few months earlier wasn’t there. I tried the door handle and met no resistance. I pushed the door open and prepared to disarm the alarm. No need. What we like to think of as the familiar welcome beeps didn’t happen. The front was hanging off the alarm control box and there was obvious damage to the electronics inside it. I stepped back out of the house, signalled Penny to stay in the car and called the police on my mobile to report that my house had been broken into. I gave the address and told them exactly what I’d found and what I’d done.

“It sounds like you may have compromised the scene, Sir,” the responder said.

“I don’t think so. I’ve had gloves on and haven’t touched anything that could leave fingerprints,” I told her.

“What about your wife, Sir? Has she touched anything?”

“Hardly, she’s still in the car.”

“Is the alleged perpetrator still on the premises?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t moved beyond the front door yet.”

“If the alleged perpetrator isn’t still on the premises, then there’s nothing to be gained by officers attending urgently at this time, Sir.”

“I can understand that. When will they be able to come, and what would you like me to do in the meantime?”

“Please hold…” I waited. And waited. Some minutes later… “Are you still there, Sir?”

“I am.”

“I’ve presented your report to my superiors, Sir, and they say that regrettably there’s nothing they can do.”

“Nothing they can do? What do you mean, nothing they can do? Are you saying they won’t investigate?”

“I’m saying, Sir, that my superiors consider that if the alleged burglary took place last night—”

“It’s not an alleged burglary, it happened. Would you like me to send you photographs of the missing bell and broken alarm?”

“That won’t be necessary, Sir. If, as you say, the… erm… burglary took place last night, there’s no prospect of a quick clear up—”

“No prospect of a quick clear up? What the hell are you talking about?”

“That’s what my superior said, Sir. And we don’t have the resources for a protracted investigation. I’m sorry, Sir. Your crime report number is 835726-A. The system will text you with a link to download it. Thank you for your call.” And with that, the line went dead. I was dumbfounded. For what seemed like minutes but was probably only a few seconds, I just stood there looking at my phone, as if it was about to come to life again and the police responder apologise and take my report seriously.

Penny must have sensed my mood. She got out of the car and walked purposefully towards me. “What did they say?” she asked on reaching the door. I told her. “So what do you plan to do?” she asked.

“What can I do?”

“Wrong question, Rory.”

“Then what’s the right question?” I asked, perhaps a little more tetchily than was necessary.

“What would Chris and Sam do?”

“What, the Connors? Christopher and Samantha?”

“Exactly. What, in these exact circumstances, would they do? More to the point, if you were writing this, what would you have them do?”

That stopped me in my tracks. I just stood there looking at her for a second before realising that once again she was right. Can you see why I love Penny so much? Do you understand now why I need her? She has a knack of knowing exactly what to say and when to say it.

Of course, what would Christopher and Samantha do in this situation?

I knew at that moment exactly what they would do, and I knew just what I had to do, too.