Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Who's following who.

Another short story, this one slightly longer. This one's again a bit of fun, but is more crimey than the last. This also features my favourite, ageing-dinsoaur of a detective, DI Britwell, who actually has a cameo role in Seven Daze.

Who’s Following Who?

            Curling up her nose, DS Jill Walters scribbled a few words in her notebook. A quick glance at DI Britwell showed his eyebrows were raised and his nose also curled upwards. Jill later tried to recreate his facial expression but couldn’t.
            “And, you’re sure you’re being followed?” she asked.
            The interviewee, Gary Pratchell, ran chubby fingers through his greasy hair and nodded. “I think so. I mean, I don’t actually think it was following me. That wouldn’t be possible, would it?”
            Jill shook her head and smiled, encouraging him to continue.
            Gary squeezed his hands tightly together. A body language analyst would have a field day. “I think, whoever was following me was laying them down. Like a trail?”
            “And, you can’t think of anyone who’d, er, stalk you with pies?” She winced. Did she really just say that?
            Gary shook his head before twiddling his right ear between finger and thumb.
            “So.” DI Britwell read from his scruffy notes. “Over the past week, you’ve noticed pies appearing in odd situations. The last two days, while walking home, you thought you were being followed. Whenever you turned round, there was a pie lying on the pavement, but there was no one near. You’re not sure if it’s the same pie or similar ones, and, there’s no one you can think of who’d do this to you.”
            Gary nodded his head, looking more than a bit embarrassed.

            After Gary was led from the interview room, Britwell turned to Jill. “Well, Walters?”
            “He’s a fruitcake,” she replied.
            He leant his head on his shoulder, toying with the idea. “Assuming he’s not?”
            “Someone’s playing a trick.”
            “Mmmm,” he muttered. “I suppose it could be one of those miniature remote control cars? You know, stick a pie on top.”
            “Maybe, but I think the motive is probably more the point. Not actually how the pies appeared.”
            Britwell nodded.  “Can you see the desk sergeant, see if anyone’s reported a similar, err, crime?”
            “Yessir,” she replied.

            After two minutes of laughter, the desk sergeant regained his poise. Wiping tears from his eyes, he said, “It’s not a wind up then?”
            “No, unfortunately not. Sir says we should check, or rather you should check.”
            Chortling under his breath, the desk sergeant ran a search on his computer for the keywords, pie, pastry and stalker.
Unsurprisingly, the search returned no matches.
“No,” said the Sergeant. “You’re on your own with this.”


            The early morning phone call was part of the job. Like separating fighting drunks, dodging bullets and kissing your social life goodbye. Jill was glad it wasn’t a really early call, just five in the morning. However, after a late night catching up on paperwork, it felt earlier.
            “Sounds fishy to me, sir,” she said in between yawns. “Okay, I’ll be there soon as.”
Mumbling obscenities, she jumped in the shower. Five minutes later she pulled on some clothes and left her flat. Stopping at a drive-thru, she bought a coffee and rubbery egg-muffin breakfast which, to her disgust, she actually enjoyed.

            Though not a scene of devastation, the half-eaten steak pie on his pillow had clearly upset Gary. Jill couldn’t blame him for being upset either. If his story was true, she had serious doubts, but if it was true then someone had broken in, eaten half a pie and left the remainder on his pillow while he slept.
Shivering slightly, but not with the cold, she checked the back door and windows:  both locked. The dusty window latches hadn’t been touched in a long time. That left the front door, which both she and the bleary-eyed DI Britwell had just walked through, destroying any evidence.
Shrugging her shoulders at Britwell, she looked round. Typical bachelor pad: stale smell, no decorations or pictures and old, unwashed plates cultivating new life forms.
“Have you got a girlfriend, Gary?” she asked.
“Not at the moment,” he said. “My last girlfriend fini… well, it finished a month ago.” He broke eye contact after his first, aborted try at the sentence.
“Did she have a key?” She noticed Britwell’s eyes light up. She’d asked the right, if obvious question. He’d been like this a lot recently. As if he was testing her all the time. Either that or he was just being lazy. She settled on the latter.
“No,” Gary said. “I’ve only ever had the one key.”
“Is this your flat or is it rented?” she asked.
“Mine,” he said, “but I think I’ll sell now. Something like this in your own home. You know.”
“Shame. Not a bad area this?” said Britwell.
“It’s the school up the road,” said Gary. “Everyone wants to live here now.”
Jill smiled. Turning to Britwell, she mumbled, “Soco?”
“On their way,” he replied.

DNA tests on the pastry proved two things. Firstly, the saliva on the pie had no matches on the database. Second, and most worryingly, the saliva wasn’t Gary’s. Of course, Jill conceived an elaborate plan involving Gary using someone else’s half-eaten pie, but why? He was a normal, if messy, man. Why go to the trouble? What was there to gain?
“I suppose the ex-girlfriend’s next?” said Britwell.
It was a curious half-statement, half-question combination. Though unsure whether he was setting her up or he already knew the answer, she nodded. “If you want.”

Janice Pemberton seemed a pleasant, if slightly dippy girl. Trying not to be jealous of her figure and blonde hair, Jill asked her questions quickly while trying to spot dark roots on her scalp. It drew a blank on both fronts. She was unaware of the pies and, probably worse, she was naturally blonde.
Going through the motions, Jill asked Janice if she was seeing anyone else. Janice wasn’t. She hadn’t seen anyone since Gary. Jill suspected he’d put her off men for a long time. Janice was concerned by what had happened to Gary. She wondered if a small flame was still being carried.
When Janice consented, without hesitation, to the DNA swab, Jill noticed Britwell’s smile. Whatever his theory was, it’d just been proved right.
“Well, we seem to be no nearer,” said Britwell from the driver’s seat, the car parked five doors from Janice’s.
“Mmmm,” mumbled Jill. What had he seen? The flat? No. She tried to think back. He’d only really said one sentence the whole time they were at Gary’s and that was to do with it being a good area. This didn’t make sense.
“Hello,” he said. “Over there. That’s Gary. What’s he doing walking towards his ex’s house with what looks like an overnight bag.”
“Well,” said Jill, “I guess after we visited her, she rang him.” She paused, trying to work it through. “I also guess that, as they’re both still single and the split was amicable, she’s offered him the couch for the night.”
“So it’s him,” said Britwell. “We got our man. Very clever. He invented the whole thing to get her back. He nearly fooled me you know.”
She knew him well enough to know when he was taking the piss. She shook her head. “What was it you saw, sir? What have I missed?”
Britwell shrugged his shoulders, his smile the biggest of the month. Suddenly it hit her. Just a small acorn of an idea, but it grew so quickly. No, it couldn’t be that simple could it?
“Actually, sir, I think if we drive to his flat, we’ll find the answer.”
His smile turned into a nod as he started the engine.

“So, why are we here?” said Britwell.
Despite him still playing around she was enjoying it. He could have just told her at the flat, but no, he was up to something else. If she didn’t know him better, she’d think he was trying to help her.
“What do you notice about this street, sir?”
Looking around, he responded, “Can’t see much of it, what with all the builders skips.”
“Exactly. And what’s special about Gary’s flat?”
He shrugged his shoulders
“His flat is on the bottom floor. The two above his have sold signs. This road appears to be full of flats being converted back to houses.” Seeing his face full of false confusion, she continued, “The price of the flats combined into one house is more than just the flats themselves?”
He nodded. “Estate agents,” he said. “Of course. You have to ask yourself, who else would mess around with remote-control pies?”
“The key,” said Walters. “That’s when you got it. Gary only had one. Some estate agent has been keeping keys, scaring off buyers and no doubt buying the flats back at a low price. I wonder what else he’s been up to.”
“Look, there’s someone walking to his flat,” said Britwell. “If you wait, I reckon you’ll catch him in the act.”
And, they did.

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