(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Copyright© 2017 Angharad
The garage door was an up and over variety and Toby unlocked it and opened it. It was a smooth process a bit better than the one back in my house in Bristol—I must go and check on that very soon—sometimes I think I’m too busy to work, which is what people say in retirement. The open door revealed a tidy area with shelves on the walls, assorted tools and a few paint tins and in the corner on an old wooden table were a pile of computer magazines tied up with string. Ben Smithers may have been potty, but he was very tidy.
The dust was missing from one part of the main beam which ran widthways across the brick built garage supporting the pitched roof. It seemed a slight surprise that he hadn’t converted the space into a loft storage given that he seemed otherwise very conscious of using space in the house.
Lastly, we went into the garden and checked out the shed, a wooden sort with a single window. It was full of garden tools and a mower with more paint tins and one of wood preserver. Toby locked it again and we walked back into the house. On impulse I asked, “Could we take all the computers?”
“If you want, your daughter going to have time to run through them?”
“Probably, she’ll be looking for hidden files and things like that,” I said not having a clue what I was talking about. With that we went upstairs and brought down a tower PC and a desktop type on which the monitor, one of those LED things, was standing atop. We shoved both in the boot of his car with the laptop and he suggested we went to a pub to talk about what we’d explored.
I talked him into taking me and the computers home and then helping me carry them up to Sammi’s room. Even though she didn’t spend much time there anymore, it still resembled a computer workshop. “This all her stuff? Your daughter’s I mean?”
“Sammi? Yes, I never touch anything in here.”
“I can see why, what’s this?” he asked picking up some electronic device and examined it in his hand.
“Here,” I said taking it and clipped it open, “her old travel alarm.”
“Oh,” he blushed, “can see that now.” He put it down still blushing, his face bright pink behind all the hair.
I’d sent David a text asking him to do us a snack meal and he did the most amazing tuna jacket spuds I’d eaten in a long time. Toby wasted no time in tucking into his once we were seated in my study with trays on our laps.
“So what did you think?” he asked as I savoured the delights of my lunch.
“That was simply delicious,” I replied putting my knife and fork down.
“About the house,” Toby rolled his eyes.
“Oh that, yeah.” I almost felt like licking the plate, instead I sipped the mug of tea.
“Yeah what?” urged my visitor.
“Yeah, I thought about it.”
He shook his head and was about to say, “Women,” in a tone of exasperation about as close to a flounce as men ever get when I interrupted him.
“Yeah, he was murdered.”
“Just like that?”
“Who d’you think you are, Tommy Cooper?”
I was about to repeat my statement when I think he meant something other than what he said.
“How could you possibly know that?”
“Where was the chair or stool he used to get the rope over the bean and then to stand on when he did the deed?”
“Uh, there was a wooden box. They took it away for forensics.”
“How big a box?”
“About the size of your tuffet,” he pointed at my footstool come sewing box with its top and sides upholstered to match the rest of the suite. Given that people have hanged themselves from radiators with a shoelace, I could hardly argue the point.
I also couldn’t say that there was something about the shudder I felt on entering the property, almost as if Smithers was about and wanted to tell me something. That he and his wife had been murdered seemed the most likely.
“There’s something not quite right there—the house.”
“Care to elaborate?”
“Don’t know if I can, but there is something.”
“Well I’ve seen your hunches in action before, so let me know if anything comes to mind. Want me to run you back to the university?”
“Please. My car’s there.”
“Not using the Jag?”
“Can’t afford to run it,” I joked.
“Tell me about it—oh very funny,” he glared at me as we got into the Saab.
“So why aren’t you using it?”
“Too many children to take to school.”
“Ah, haven’t seen mine for ages.”
I quickly changed the subject. “Could we go back via the Smithers’ place again?”
“Certainly—got an idea?”
“No, just felt a need to visit there again.”
“Okay.” We drove back out to the empty house and as we pulled up outside so we saw movement from the back, Toby gave chase but didn’t catch the fellow. A back window had been broken. He radioed for assistance and within moments police cars arrived from every direction. He gave them a quick description and they all drove off looking to apprehend our burglar.
“Just an opportunist break in?” I asked.
“Could have been, he wasn’t very old but bugger me, he couldn’t half run. About eighteen I expect, but we’ll get him.”
A few minutes later a dog handler arrived and after cocking his leg on Toby’s rear tyre, sniffed around and headed off with purpose his handler holding on tightly to the long leash.
“Get someone in to board this up,” Toby instructed a police sommunity support officer.
“Yes sir,” answered the rather plump, spectacled young woman.
“You knew something was going to happen, didn’t you?” he asked me when we were inside the house.
“Not really,” I lied and blushed simultaneously demonstrating that I still had the power to multitask.
“Come off it, Cathy. I know damn well you did.”
I shrugged, “I just felt we were being watched the whole time we were here and it wasn’t just nosy neighbours.”
“Right, so they know we have the computers?”
“Possibly, not sure if they could see that or not. They know we took something, your boot lid was up for a few minutes but from up the road...” I nodded where I’d seen a car with driver and passenger inside.”...they wouldn’t be able to see what we were collecting. The hedge hides the front door from that angle.
“So they won’t know we took them to your place?”
“I have no idea what they do or do not know, but I do know if there’s anything incriminating on there, Sammi will find it.”
“She’s that good, eh?”
“She is brilliant—MI5 go to her when they can’t do something on a computer.”
“Like the Apple phone thing a while back.”
“She unencrypted one of those in a couple of hours.”
“It only took that long because she was out to dinner while she did it.”
“But the FBI...”
“I told you, she’s good not an amateur.”
He roared with laughter, “Don’t tell the FBI, they’ll be mightily pissed.”
I have no intention of telling anyone.
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