Authors: Michael Fowler
Edith Thompson flashed open her eyes and strained her ears. Something had disturbed her. She thought she’d heard footsteps in the kitchen.
Is it the carer?
Is it time to get up?
She was confused.
It was still dark.
Now it sounded as if someone was shuffling around
in the lounge the other side of the bedroom door.
Lifting her head from the pillow she leaned across and switched on the bedside light.
“Hello,” she called out. “Dan, is that you?” Sometimes her grandson came to stay when he’d fallen out with his mum.
dith pushed aside the sheets and swung her legs out of bed. She grimaced as a sharp pain registered in her right hip. Her arthritis was playing up again. She waited for it to subside and then planted her feet on the floor, tracing out her toes in search of her slippers.
She took her time sliding them on. Then dragging her dressing gown from off the bottom of her bed she clenched her back muscles
to support her and eased herself up.
Putting an arm through one sleeve
she listened again. Nothing! She shrugged her shoulders. She must have been mistaken.
Never mind, I’m up now.
I’ll get myself a drink.
Opening the door into the lounge she was confronted by a wall of darkness
which took her by surprise and it caused her to step back. Quickly fumbling for the light switch she turned on the light.
The first thing she saw was the
man dressed in dark clothing standing in the doorway that connected the kitchen. He made her jump.
She felt her heart race and she clasped her chest.
“Who are you?” she yelled. “What are you doing in my house?”
“Police,” the man in black replied. “You’re back door was unlocked. I’m just checking everything’s all right.”
She could have sworn she had locked up. She looked the man over. He didn’t look like a policeman - too scruffy looking.
She remembered what her grandson had told her.
“Show me your identification.”
He stepped towards her, reaching inside his coat and Edith caught the look in his eyes. She knew what she should have done but her legs wouldn’t let her.
A panicky fear enveloped her – froze her solid to the floor.
She let out
the start of a scream as he approached her and he swung out a fist. The punch rocked her sideways, buffeting her against the wall. She choked back the remainder of her cry as she tried to stop herself falling.
Then he was on her, grabbing at the front of her dressing gown, hoisting her towards his menacing face.
“I’ll fucking kill you if you scream!”
She noticed that his breath smelt strongly of stale cigarettes.
Her John used to smoke. Where’s your fucking money? Tell me where it is now, or I’ll hurt you?”
She wanted to tell
him that she didn’t have much, only what was in her purse, but the words wouldn’t come out. Her chest was getting tighter. The breath caught in her throat.
He began shaking her and shouting.
Edith couldn’t make out what he was s
aying. The sound seemed distant. Bright flashes and stars cascaded before her eyes. She thought she heard her John calling after her and she smiled to herself. Then, she realised it couldn’t be her John. He’d been dead ten years.
* * * * *
Hunter was surprised to find the station so busy.
Detectives seemed to be everywhere. He went into the locker room to grab his kit and found his tutor there.
“What’s up?” Hunter enquired flicking his head back over his shoulder.
“I’ve never seen so many CID.”
Roger slipped on his pullover. “An old lass was attacked in her home last night.
Aggravated burglary! She’s in a critical condition, and you and I have been hand-picked to be in on the job.”
“Doing crime enquiries?”
“Don’t get carried away young Kerr. Nothing so exciting. House-to-house.”
“Yes, checking if there are any witnesses, seeing if anyone saw or heard anything, filling out forms. All that exciting kind of stuff.” He pulled out his overcoat and draped it over an arm.
Hunter noted the note of sarcasm in his tutor’s last sentence.
He said, “But this is exciting for me.”
eaning into his locker door Roger turned, meeting Hunter’s gaze. He broke into a smile. “Ignore me Hunter. This is what years in the job does to you.” Then fastening the door shut he added, “Make sure you’ve got all your stuff, this could be a long day and we might not get the chance to come back to the nick.” He set off towards the parade room. “Briefing’s in ten minutes.”
* * * * *
At briefing Hunter learned that Edith Thompson had been found early that morning by her carer in a heap in the lounge. She had suffered a heart attack and had bruising to her face. The carer had also found that the rear door had been forced and had immediately alerted the police.
In recent weeks t
here had been a spate of burglaries in the area with a similar MO, but this was the first where the occupant had been hurt and a team of detectives had been marshalled to investigate. He and Roger were amongst half a dozen uniformed cops assigned to carry out house-to-house enquiries in and around the streets surrounding Edith’s bungalow.
* * * * *
Hunter strolled along the road scrutinising the last form he had completed.
It was the tenth house-to-house questionnaire he’d done on his own and he was pleased with himself; he was into a roll with the process. For the first two hours of the day he’d been with Roger, watching and learning. After that he had convinced his tutor that he could go it alone. Not only that, he told Roger, but they could cover twice as much ground. His tutor had agreed, with the added proviso that Hunter contacted him immediately should he get information worthy of following up. Hunter had acknowledged with a nod and set off into the next street with a bundle of forms.
That had been four hours ago Hunter determined
as he checked his watch. His stomach was churning. Despite the numerous cups of teas he’d drunk during the form filling he’d only managed to snack on a sausage roll, during the time he’d been door-knocking and now he was running on empty. Seeing that it was only 7pm made him cringe. He had another hour and half to go before he could return to the station. He was also busting for a piss. He looked up and down the street and gathered his bearings. He realised that he was approaching an area at the end of the road which had been earmarked for development - several rows of old Victorian terracing was in the early stages of demolition. It was the ideal place to go he thought – there would still be toilets in some of the outbuildings.
He picked up his pace
, and turning the corner he spotted the long row of boarded up terracing stretching out before him. Then, tramping across waste ground he soon reached the rear of the old Victorian housing.
He checked half a dozen outhouses before he found one with a suitable toilet.
Hunter was just fastening up his trousers when a clattering noise, followed by a human curse sounded nearby making him jump. Stiffening, he held his breath and listened. Another burst of noise happened and Hunter recognised it as the sound of metal upon metal. He eased open the door and poked out his head. Autumn daylight was beginning to give way to evening and a dull orange glow was filling the horizon, but Hunter could still make out his surroundings. He stepped out of the building and edged slowly into the clearing of the waste ground. There he spotted movement. It was a silhouette at first – a human form crouching over something. Hunter’s fingers searched out his hasp. He secured them around its metal handle and increased his footfall towards the figure.
Ten yards from his destination the character straightened and he immediately recognised George Arthur Hudson. He released the grip on his hasp.
On a deeper than normal note Hunter commanded, “What are you doing Jud?”
George spun around
, his face displaying a mix of shock, surprise and amazement.
He coughed a
couple of times before replying, “Fucking hell young un’ you made me jump.”
“What’re you up to?”
“That’s a nice greeting. I’m not up to owt. Just doing my job that’s all.”
Hunter took a few steps closer.
Behind George he saw a wheelbarrow containing a couple of copper hot water cylinders. “What’re you doing with that lot?”
“I’ve just said
, doing my job.”
Hunter scrutinised his face. “Explain.”
“I’m on the security here. We’ve had a load of break-ins. Folks nicking the scrap. It’s my job to lock it in the compound for the night.” George pointed out metal mesh security fencing surrounding several Portakabins a hundred yards away. “It’s going in there.”
Scrutinising the contents of the wheelbarrow Hunter checked his face again. George had a dead-pan look. “Okay, well make sure you do that.”
George bent down and picked up the handles of the wheelbarrow. “Sure no problem.” Pushing the laden barrow in the direction of the builder’s compound he called back over his shoulder, “It’s good to see you around here, there’s no end of thieves about you know.”
ge go Hunter couldn’t help but smile. He’s some need to talk, he thought, as he headed back to the street to finish off his house-to-house enquiries.
- ooOoo –
Cradling a mug of steaming tea Hunter listened to the bulletins the sergeant was reading out at briefing. It was back to normal duties. He and Roger had completed their previous day’s house-to-house enquiries and had been released from the investigation. Hunter would have liked to have been involved longer but he had already been told that there was no chance of that unless he was part of CID, and as he watched his plain clothed counterparts go about their business he had already decided that’s what he wanted to do in the future.
Suddenly, one of the pieces of information made his ears prick up.
Sergeant Marrison read, “Report of theft of copper boilers last night from the houses being knocked down on Cadeby Terrace. The builders say it’s the third lot that’s been taken in the last ten days.” He looked up from the bulletin and cast his eyes upon the group. “I want scrap dealer checks done on your travels – see if anyone’s weighed them in.”
Hunter didn’t hear any more. His heart was pounding so hard he feared it would burst from his chest.
He scoured the faces of his colleagues hoping they had not latched on to his burning face. How could he have been so stupid? What had his tutor told him about George Hudson.
His mind raced throughout the remainder of the briefing,
only half-taking in what was being said while deciding what he should do. He had the semblance of a plan as it finished.
Twenty minutes later, as he steamed towards George Hudson’s home, Hunter was a smouldering screwed-up ball of anger and by the time he reached the three-bedroom council house he was
lathered with sweat.
He rapped loudly.
“Who is it?” a voice shouted from behind the half glass door.
Hunter recognised George Hudson’s voice.
“Police Jud! Open this door before I kick it in!”
Less than ten seconds later
George had flung open the door, cursing beneath his breath, hands pulling a leather belt tight around a pair of camouflage trousers. He had on a T-shirt and Hunter could see that George was a sinewy, wiry man.
“Hey op young ‘un – is it a social visit? Shall I stick kettle on?”
Hunter’s mind was screaming. He shot out a gloved covered hand, aiming an index finger at George’s chest like a pointed gun.”
“You can get your coat on – you’re under arrest.”
George took a step back. “Whoa! What’s up?”
“You know what’s up.
That gear I caught you barrowing last night was nicked from the old houses. You told me you were on the security there. I’ve checked - you’ve never worked there.”
His face took on a startled look. “What gear?”
For a split-second George’s reply threw him. Recovering quickly Hunter said, “You know what gear I’m talking about – those copper boilers.”
George shook his head. “Don’t know what you’re on about.
Search the place if you want. You won’t find any copper boilers here.”
comment caught him aback again. He stumbled for a reply and found none. Instead he darted his finger forward, stabbing George in the chest.
George tried to avoid it and fell back
wards against the edge of the kitchen units. He winced.
Hunter finally spat out, “
Get your coat on Jud we’ll sort this out back down the nick.”
“You’re gonna look a fool you know.”
Hunter stepped back. “What?”
George returned a sheepish look,
“I don’t want to tell you your job or anything, but I ain’t gonna cough anything in interview. It’s gonna be your word against mine.”
“Your word against mine! I caught you red handed.”
“And how’s that gonna look with your bosses eh? You let me walk away with stolen gear.”
Hunter was flabbergasted. He couldn’t believe George Hudson’s cheek.
“Look young ‘un give me a break and I’ll give you something in return. You’ve had a few house burglaries just lately - yes?”
Hunter’s thoughts were racing. “What do you know about those?”
“I hear a lot. I know an old lady was hurt the other night.”
“You know who did that?”
George shook his head. “Not yet I don’t, but it won’t take me long to find out who’s done it. What’s say you and I make each other a deal?”
Hunter fixed him with a penetrating glare.
“Don’t look like that at me. We’re haggling here over a bit of scrap. You give me a break and I’ll get you promotion.”
Hunter was going to tell him the job didn’t work like that, but he bit down on his lip.
Clearing his throat he said steadily, “So I forget what happened last night, and in return you tell me who’s been doing the break-ins and attacked the old woman – is that what you’re saying?”
George pushed himself away from the kitchen units and straightened
up. The look on his face changed and his eyes lit up. He nodded. “Exactly.”
Hunter thought about it for a moment.
He said, “You’ve pissed me off Jud – no doubt about it. I don’t like anyone pulling the wool over my eyes. Especially a two-bit villain like you.”
George interrupted, “Look I know, but like I say this is just between us two.
You could take me in and I’ll play the system - maybe I get prosecuted or maybe I don’t – that’s the risk you take. The other way is you let me off for nicking the scrap - I promise I won’t do it anymore, and in return I give you a bell the minute I find out who’s done the burglaries. What do you say?”
Hunter pulled his hand away and thought through what George had said.
After a few seconds he replied, “Let me tell you this Jud, if this is more of your bullshit you and I will fall out good style. I’ll tell you now, if I don’t hear from you within the next fortnight I’ll hound you like there’s no tomorrow and I’ll put it out all round the estate you’re a grass.”
George returned a wide-eyed look and nodded eagerly, “I’ll give you a bell – I promise.”
Hunter turned on his heel and left the house without closing the door behind him. Inside he was smarting but he knew George Hudson had one up on him. Though, the last thing he wanted was to look the fool in front of his colleagues, especially as this was his probationary period.
- ooOoo -