Many of us enjoy watching high tension police thriller series, such as Line of Duty, which we’re following at the moment. To keep up with impossible to follow plots, who to trust and to understand police lingo and initials, you can follow social media groups obsessed with interested in your favourite programmes. But would you like your own boring everyday life to be like that?
Okay boss, CHIS leaving the house now.
Stand by everyone, moving on foot, approaching OSS, passing OSS… masking up, at the HGS now. Exiting GG, can you confirm UHW?
Armed response unit stand down, I repeat stand down. CHIS is unarmed.
CHIS reaching into back pack, could be a burner phone, can we get a trace…
Approaching ROG, can we get a check on a white van ABC 123D…
CHIS has crossed road, heading north, repeat heading north, has made contact with masked person, can’t identify.
Entering building S. unit 7 follow …
Can’t follow, security guard on door, don’t want to draw attention…
How long have they been in there now?
Fifteen, exiting now with UHW, looks like the real thing this time, heading south, ARU hold back, too many PONIs around.
Following CHIS south west, confirm unarmed, no further contacts made… approaching HB…
Line of Shopping Facebook chat room – guide to police terms
CHIS – Covert Human Independent Shopper
OSS – One Stop Shop
HGS – Hand Gel Station
GG – GreenGrocers
UHW – Unidentified Hand Weapon
ROG – redorangegreen – traffic lights
Building S – Sainsbury
ARU – Armed Response Unit
PONI – Persons of no Interest
HB – Home Base
Recorded phone conversation of CHIS suspect
I’m off to the shops.
( Muffled ) Yes wrapped please, they’re for my neighbour, she loves a nice bouquet.
Oh I thought we had spaghetti… and a bottle of wine? I’ll have to carry it, not much room in my back pack.
I’m baaack, whew, very busy at the shops and strange, lots of police around, I couldn’t see anything happening.
She stared out at the open hills, a view that would have made this the perfect holiday cottage, but this was no holiday, it was a living hell that she could never have imagined days ago.
A safe house, safe from who or what? Him, the press, everyone she did not want to see? How could she ever face anyone again? They would know about him and assume she was the ‘woman in her thirties’ arrested and then released.
She was almost glad to have been arrested, penance for the crime of being married to him. She had committed a worse crime, a sin against nature, giving birth to his children, his evil genes in their every cell, her sweet innocent children tainted for ever.
After a night in foster care they had been reunited and all of them bundled off to some remote part of Wales. They were still asleep, it was only 6 am. What would she tell them, they had only just started back to school, happy to get back to normal life. She couldn’t even pretend they were back to home schooling with no internet and all their school things locked in the crime scene. Not that their home was where the crime had taken place.
Surely any happily married wife would assume her husband was innocent, some awful mistake. But the police seemed so chillingly certain. She asked the family liaison officer to tell it to her straight as each bit of new evidence rolled in. Now it occurred to her that this was all part of a plan. She was a prisoner here and they were just waiting for her to break, give up trying to pretend she knew nothing.
Nothing was all she knew. One always imagines the wife must have known something, how could you live with a murderer and not know. If she had any suspicions it was that he was seeing someone else, his odd working hours the perfect cover. She had once been the someone else. His first wife left him, she had never met the woman, but did she leave him for more than adultery? What would she be thinking now, relief or guilt because she had discovered some aberration and got out quick?
No, their life had been normal, he wasn’t one of those super dads like her friends were married to; every weekend off to the park, baby strapped on their manly chests, toddler in one hand and the lead of the labradoodle in the other. But that didn’t make him a murderer.
Suicide, was that the only bearable way out? Or a new life on the other side of the world, new names, children told nothing, children told to never tell anyone anything; but murderer’s blood would still be in their veins. She could kill them, like that Greek tragedy, the worst punishment she could think of for the man she now hated. For the first time in her life she knew what true hatred was, a hatred so strong she could contemplate killing her own children. But she would be punishing herself, them, their grandparents… her mind was rambling now, his parents, thank goodness they weren’t alive to see this day, Covid had turned out to be a blessing for them. Slaughtering his children would not be a punishment for him, had he ever cared about his wife or children, how could a man that took an innocent life have any feelings?
There would be a support group somewhere, she would ask about it, support for wives and children of murderers the only people she could ever talk to.
The family liaison officer appeared carrying two mugs, young, probably her first case.
‘We need to talk while the children are still asleep, there’s more I need to tell…’
Before the young woman could finish her sentence there was the sound of pattering feet, strange on the wooden staircase.
‘Mummy, Mummy, are we on holiday, what are we going to do today, is Daddy going to come soon?’
Considering you were not to let him out of your sight, let us clarify how long you think he has been missing.
I’m not exactly sure.
And are you sure he is definitely missing, hasn’t just wandered into the garden or gone after the cat?
I… we’ve checked everywhere, not in the flat or the offices.
Not popped next door?
No they have not seen him, we have double checked everywhere.
What about the dog?
He’s not missing, he’s gone with her and the baby to her mother’s.
I’m not worried about that mongrel; so we know he hasn’t gone out with the dog… Bicycle still there?
Where he keeps it locked up of course, I know it’s your first day on the job, but you did do the induction and familiarisation, Sergeant?
Of course Sir and now you come to mention it, his bike has gone …and his rucksack and the keys to the cabinet…
WHAT! We now have only thirty minutes till the press briefing and we don’t want to call a major security alert.
I don’t think the press conference is our main worry Sir, they can delay it, won’t be the first time, or get that expert chap or one of the ministers? Not really our problem is it Sir, we’re just pro..
Precisely… remind me why you wanted to be a protection officer?
I wanted to do Royal protection duties, but they wouldn’t have me.
This is a most important press briefing, have you seen how many are outside? All we can do now is make sure this doesn’t get out, so before I suspend you from your duties as second in command of the Prime Minister’s protection team, could you contrive to leak some kind of cover up story to Laura Kuenssberg and the BBC.
No, we’ve already done that story, think of something else credible that she wont see through…
So what next? What in the world shall we do now? When shall we… don’t pan dem ic!
Has it ever been so hard to make decisions, for anybody, anywhere in the world? Perhaps only the odd hermit in a cave is carrying on as normal, without having to think any more than usual.
Pre Covid decisions such as what to have for dinner or what to wear often took me longer than the life changing ones such as moving across the world, choosing a job or a house, accepting or rejecting a marriage proposal… now we have even more banal decisions to make; where shall I wear my mask, when shall I take it off?
Now politicians and parents, councils and carers have to make minor and major decisions weekly, daily, hourly and I’m sure many of us wish we had Jacinda Ahern or Nicola Sturgeon telling us exactly what we should be doing next. In a pandemic it does help if you are an island or a small country, but in the modern world that is no guarantee of protection.
Did I imagine it or did I hear a police chief from somewhere say on the news ‘…and we will smash your car window and drag you out if you do not tell us where you are going.’
Countries, states, counties, cities, councils all over the world have needed and still need to make firm decisions and if your local leaders have taken the right decisions, tell us about them. But if your leaders are waffling, hesitating or spouting total nonsense, your household or business needs to make its own decisions. However, deciding what next is like trying to read those multi lingual leaflets you get with everything from medicine to your latest electronic toy. The print is so tiny you can hardly find your own language, let alone read it and if you do get out the magnifying glass you probably won’t understand the instructions anyway. Shall I open my shop/go to the shops. Can we send the children to school? Shall we book our holiday/wedding/funeral … shall we cancel our holiday/wedding/funeral? Is it even safe to open my front door?
Or shall we just hide away. It is strangely comforting in these times to follow domestic routines; washing on Monday, getting your on line shopping on Tuesday, posting your blog on Wednesday, vacuuming on Thursday, mowing the lawn on Friday will make you feel in control of your little life, even though it will make no difference to the rest of the world.
I started collecting picture post cards when I was eight and still buy them on holiday to send to the oldest and youngest in the family; people like getting mail through their letter box, including Pete who blogs as beetleypete. When he asked if people still sent postcards bloggers started sending them, as you can see on his blog post.
‘If anyone else would like to post one to me, you can read my address easily, and your card will be featured in Part Two. Thanks again to all of you who took the time and trouble to send me a card.’
When we were away in Whitby I bought an extra card and as I sat down to write ( and here’s my confession – I don’t get around to writing postcards till about two weeks after returning ) and saw the piece of paper on which I had written his address lying on the table, it gave me an idea for a dark story. The names and places have been changed to protect the innocent! Thanks to Pete for the idea.
Detective Inspector Greaves stepped through the front door, he needed to go no further to see the body. The scene was bloodless, but any impression that the woman had died of natural causes was cast aside when another step revealed a large syringe stuck in the back of her neck. Why would the killer leave the evidence when it could have been the perfect murder?
‘Where’s the husband?’ Greaves asked the uniformed officer.
‘In the kitchen, doing the washing up Sir.’
‘What! Crime scene, evidence… did you stop and think?’
‘No Sir, he said his wife liked to have everything clean and tidy if they were having visitors.’
Further discussion was pointless, he sent the officer outside to keep a little band of neighbours at bay and stepped carefully round the body to make his way to the kitchen, where a middle aged man was vigorously polishing a glass.
‘She always liked to leave the house tidy when we went out, in case anything happened to us while we were out and the police had to break in and…’
‘Mr… Mr. Stanton isn’t it? I need to ask you a few questions… When you came home was the front door locked?’
‘Yes, everything looked normal until I unlocked the door.’
‘And where were you today?’
‘With the chaps, four of us, been away on a three day golf break, they dropped me off first, drove off before I got inside.’
‘So they can confirm that. Did you call your wife while you were away?’
‘Was that the last time you spoke or had any contact, no emails, whatsapp?’
‘Yes, she was fine, enjoying the peace, no sign… who… it doesn’t make sense…’
For the first time the man showed emotion, but shock could do strange things. When Greaves had sat the man in the police car with two officers he returned alone to gain an impression of the home and the lives of these two people. An ordinary house in a quiet road that had never drawn attention to itself before; nothing could be assumed, but on the face of it this was a bizarre senseless murder.
In the dining room he spotted a piece of paper on the polished table; an address, no phone number or email.
Greaves checked the address book sitting neatly by the house phone and found no entry for a Geoff Jones or anyone in Norfolk.
Back at the police station Mr. Stanton was safely installed in an interview room, alibis checked, background checked. Inspector Greaves started with the only piece of evidence.
‘Who is Geoff Jones?’
‘Never heard of him.’
‘Has your wife got friends or relatives in Norfolk?’
‘No, she’s never even been to Norfolk.’
‘Mrs. Stanton, was she still working or retired?’
‘Retired, or she reckoned she was still working, did stuff on the computer, goodness knows what, I don’t go on the internet, but she was happy dabbling with her writing, left me in peace to watch what I liked on television.’
‘As routine procedure we will seize… er take your wife’s computer, I assume you have no objections?’
‘Well she won’t be needing it will she… oh God, I can’t believe this is happening…’
At that moment a female officer knocked on the door with a cup of tea, though they were supposed to have equality Greaves was glad to leave her to deal sympathetically with the overwrought husband. He had work to do.
Back in the office he handed out tasks to his small team. ‘Check this address and if it’s genuine get onto Norfolk Police and ask them to send someone round.’
In Cowslip Lane Geoff Jones was enjoying the evening news; the doorbell took him and the dog by surprise. On the doorstep stood a young man, trying to edge inside out of the torrential rain. He showed a warrant card.
‘Mr. Geoff Jones?’
‘Yes, that’s me, oh god, has something happened to my wife, no they send uniform for that don’t they?’
‘No, just a routine enquiry. Do you know a Mrs. Rita Stanton of Mulberry Close, Sandbourne, Dorset?’
‘Dorset, I don’t know anyone in Dorset.’
‘Are you, er do you live alone?’
‘No, my wife’s away for a few days at her sister’s.’
‘Might she know Mrs. Stanton or anyone in Dorset?’
‘NO, look what is this about?’
Andy’s first day as a detective constable wasn’t going well so far.
‘We’re making enquiries about a murder I’m afraid. Have you been outside the village in the last two days, work, visiting?’
Andy was gratified to see Geoff Jones look distinctly nervous.
‘No, I’m retired, well a writer actually, blogger; all I’ve been up to is taking Rufus on his two hour walks and doing my blogs.’
‘Can anyone confirm that?’
‘I haven’t seen a soul, no one else has been out in this dreadful wet weather, but what on earth has any of this to do with me?’
The young detective felt suspicion creeping into his bones, who would take a dog out for two hours in the torrential rain? As he tried to edge further into the hallway and avoid the very large dog, he got a glimpse into the front room. On every shelf and available surface were propped picture postcards.
‘You must have a lot of friends Mr. Jones, a lot of friends that go on holiday?’
The next police visit to Geoff’s house was in the morning. This time Andy was accompanied by a search warrant and an inspector from Dorset Police, who had driven up overnight. Fortuitously they met the postman at the door, with a postcard from Dorset. Jones’ computer was taken away, Jones himself was taken away and all the postcards collected up.
In the interview room Geoff Jones protested his innocence, though he hadn’t actually been arrested. ‘Blogging friends, I wrote a post about picture post cards and followers kept sending them.’
Greaves left him to stew for a while and went back to the office to see how enquiries were going and stared at the postcard posted in Sandbourne, Dorset.
Wish you Were Here!
Best Wishes from Rita Stanton ( Scribbletide )
He tried to curb the enthusiasm of the young detective.
‘We may have barged in too quickly, if this poor man is totally innocent we have some explaining to do. The card seems to prove what he told us about his followers. What have you found on the internet?’
‘Jones was telling the truth about the blogging and the post cards, what he didn’t mention was that a while ago he wrote a serialised story about a chap who wanted to commit the perfect murder.’
His wife was glaring at him and mouthing something.
‘Oh… yes, I’ve got leukaemia…’
‘..apparently one of the volunteers at the centre has had to leave, she’s seriously ill.’
‘Oh Dear… what’s the matter with her?’
‘Non Hodgkins Lymphoma.’
A moment’s silence… ‘Oh… that’s me.’
Cyberspouse has had two visits to the oncologist since chemotherapy. One scan showing everything stable and blood tests ‘all in the black’. Another scan is booked before the next check up. Check up means just a chat ‘How are you?’ I don’t know what happens to other patients, but I guess the oncologist has checked results and can see if you are looking fine or not and judge which aches and pains have any significance.
Life goes on normally with DIY, trips to the rubbish tip, outings and mini breaks and more planned and it’s easy to forget there is anything wrong.
When the Game of Life goes wrong.
There came news recently that a cousin had committed suicide; something that has never happened in our family before, as far as I know. But shock was not the first reaction because this was a cousin we hardly knew, he had cut himself off from his family, his sister tried to keep up some form of contact, obviously enough to hear the terrible news. I know nothing of his life abroad, what was it that led him to take his life? The only further details to emerge are that his sister is now very angry at what happened before his death. My aunt and uncle are dead, spared this final disappointment with their son’s life. I wonder what people in his life have been left behind.
The saddest news this week is the senseless murder of a young policeman, Andrew Harper. The fact he was married only a month ago and was due to go on honeymoon soon has touched everybody and kept his death in the national news. Anyone can imagine what his family are going through and any police family would be chilled by the reminder that no police officer knows what each shift might hold.
Cyberspouse did his thirty years in the Metropolitan Police, he and his colleagues got their pensions and time to enjoy a new life. Andrew Harper will never have sons and grandsons. If the young get incurably ill it is terrible, but sadly that is the unfairness of life and we have to accept it, but no one has the right to take another life before their allotted time.
It was Oliver Twister’s last job. His family, those who were still speaking to him, thought he was going straight. Well robbing a betting shop was not theft, the punters had already given their money away. His family and the probation officer thought he was clean and he was more or less, given that he could no longer afford to pay the drug dealers. Money was short; hence his latest plan. Nobody would stop him, who would risk their life to save the bookie’s money? Not that they would be risking their lives, but if they believed they were about to be shot or gassed they would flee the shop.
It was Bill’s last visit to the betting shop, that’s what he had vowed to himself. He was supposed to ring his ‘Gamblers’ Anonymous Buddy’ if he got the urge. But this was not gambling, it was a certainty; he had followed the horse since she was a filly and everything was in her favour for the ‘three fifteen’ at Ascot. The jockey had notched up several wins with her, the wet weather made for the soft track that she loved and Ascot was her ‘lucky’ course. When Bill read in Racing Times that the favourite was out of the race with a tendon injury, he knew he must place one more bet.
It was Samuel’s first visit to ‘The Bookies’. He had won ten pounds when he bought himself a lottery ticket for his eighteenth birthday, that in itself had been an act of rebellion against his Exclusive Brethren parents. A bloke at work assured him this was a good omen and gave him an excellent tip for the ‘three fifteen’ at Ascot; there was no reason why his parents or the elders of the church should find out. The only problem that he could foresee was that he had not a clue how to place a bet. When he walked into the shop trying to look casual, the first person he saw behind the counter was Lara, the beautiful girl he had worshipped from afar when she was in upper sixth and he was in fifth year.
‘Is it young Sam? I bet you don’t recognise me,’ she trilled ‘don’t tell the elders you’ve seen me working here, my aunty goes to your church. I need a part time job, my student loan isn’t enough.’ She helped him place the bet. ‘Just in time, you can watch it live on the telly in five minutes.’
There was only one other customer in, who looked like a regular, but their cosy chat was suddenly interrupted.
The door burst open and a gun entered, followed by an outstretched arm belonging to a large man wearing a contraption on his face that looked like a gas mask. They could not hear properly what he said, but they got the general idea when he waved his gun at Lara and Samuel. As Lara screamed, another primeval cry came from Bill the regular punter. He launched himself at the masked man, catching him off balance, but it was not enough. For a split second Samuel was paralysed with fear, but he focused on the dangerously waving arm and pistol.
Somehow the robber was face down on the floor. The older punter was sitting on him and Samuel had the arm pinned to the floor.
‘Don’t touch the gun,’ said Bill ‘it might go off.’
Samuel knelt on the robber’s wrist to make sure the weapon stayed at floor level, pointing away from them. A muffled cry came from the robber.
‘Shall I press the alarm’ said Lara, rather belatedly.
‘Not yet love, the race starts in two minutes.’ Bill pressed down heavily on the robber’s shoulders. ‘Nobody robs our bookies, no one threatens our Lara.’ He felt like a cowboy.
A faint gurgle was the only reply.
It seemed a long wait till the race started, but in seconds it was over. Bill cheered, while a confused Samuel asked which horse had won. Lara pressed the button.
The police were quick to arrive and Lara was thrilled to be surrounded by hunky officers, who seemed more interested in her welfare than the prisoner.
‘I pressed the alarm button straight away’ she said.
‘Well done.’ They turned to the men on the floor. ‘Okay chaps, don’t move till we’ve got the handcuffs on.’
The prisoner did not try to resist; when Bill and Samuel struggled to their feet the prisoner did not move at all. The officers turned him over and with difficulty removed the fake gas mask.
Suddenly all hell did break loose, one officer was urgently calling on his radio for an ambulance, while the others whipped bits and pieces out of their first aid pouches. Something was put on the robber’s blue face and a policeman started blowing, while another pressed on his chest.
Just as Lara kissed Sam’s cheek to thank him for saving her life, he looked down at the body and realised the full implications. He fainted.
Bill raised his feet while Lara patted his cheek.
The paramedics shook their heads, but soon had the man on a stretcher with an oxygen mask where the gas mask had recently been.
As the sirens receded into the distance the remaining officers chatted for a few moments in a surprisingly light hearted manner. Bill thought he heard one say ‘Oliver Twister’s finally got his come-uppance then, he won’t be missed.’
They put on more serious expressions as they turned to the two men.
‘We have to arrest you for murder of course, but it seems like a clear cut case of self defence, the CCTV will prove you saved the young lady’s life. You don’t need to worry about being charged with murder.’
‘CCTV,’ groaned Bill ‘I’m not worried about the murder charge… my wife will kill me when she finds out where I’ve been.’
‘We won’t be on the news will we?’ said Samuel ‘How am I going to explain this to my parents and the elders?’
‘At least you both won some money’ said Lara sweetly.
Do you ever spare a thought for the fruit seller and the uniformed policeman? You know the ones, they always appear in action movies and fast moving crime series on television. There is always a fruit stall in the path of a car chase; whether the hero is chasing or escaping, he screeches round the corner straight into the hapless fruit seller. If he’s lucky he escapes death, but his stall is smashed, his fruit rolling down the street. A day’s earnings lost, perhaps his livelihood… and that is all we ever know of his life. The hero cares nothing about the man and all his dependents, he’s too busy grinning at the sight of the criminal crashing into a plate glass window. Another business ruined, the shop owner showered with splinters of glass and someone else’s blood, suffering from shock at the sight of the criminal’s head thrust through the windscreen, almost separated from his body. But the viewer has already left the scene, unaware of the shop keeper’s future struggles with post traumatic stress.
But there is more than one criminal the hero has to chase, uniformed police have now arrived, but their role will be brief. The slightest brush with the villain’s vehicle and the police patrol car rolls over, crushed, occupants killed instantly. Our hero spins round deftly to continue his pursuit.
Often our hero is a maverick secret agent, answerable to no one except perhaps M, if he is James Bond. If our hero is a plain clothes detective he may condescend to return briefly to the police station, before meeting his glamorous girlfriend. In real life he would have a mountain of paperwork and a great deal of explaining to do. But our hero does not hear other officers talking in shocked tones about the death of their colleagues. He slips in to see his boss and avoids the collection going round for the families of the dead officers. It’s just another day for him.
One holiday not long ago we were on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall; a dog walker, a few sheep and a man tending a crackling bonfire in the garden of the solitary house. A strange noise made us look up into the evening sky. We zoomed in with our cameras, not a UFO, but the first drone we had ever seen. Not the sort that drops bombs luckily, but what was it doing? Watching us? Is there anywhere you can go without being seen?
The next day we returned and drove up a road to investigate the tall mast on Caradon Hill we had seen from afar. Warning signs said Private road, access only. We walked the rest of the way up the grassy hill, veering away from the unmade road, past the gigantic guy ropes, steel cables holding up the metal tower. There was a complex of buildings, entry by security pass only, CCTV in operation. Obviously a secret facility, we were being filmed and I expected armed troops to emerge at any moment to take us in for interrogation. The signs were headed by the word Arqiva – a sinister secret organisation for sure.
The truth was more prosaic when I looked the place up on Wickepedia.
The Caradon Hill transmitting station is a broadcasting and telecommunications facility. Built in 1961, the station includes a 237.7 metres (780 ft) guyed steel lattice mast. The mean height for the television antennas is 603 metres (1,978 ft) above sea level. It is owned and operated by Arqiva, a British telecommunications company which provides infrastructure and broadcasttransmission facilities in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
But perhaps that information was a cover up; we only escaped arrest because they had identified us as civilian ramblers.
We are all being watched, all the time. CCTV cameras we know about, on buses, station platforms, in shops. We don’t know if we are being filmed or watched live. Above us are police, military and coastguard helicopters.
It is not only people who are being watched, so is your vehicle. Drive down many main roads and your journey has been recorded by ANPR – Automatic Number Plate Recognition; if the car is stolen or of interest for any reason it will be spotted. Police cars can now carry similar equipment. Writers of thrillers or crime novels have a harder time than ever helping their characters hide or escape, though in fiction and real life criminals are often one step ahead of new technology.
But writers can find new inspiration for plot ideas.
Pity the chap whose neighbour offers to give him a lift to Heathrow Airport in his mate’s car. By the time they are driving through the tunnel they have already been spotted on the spur road. Unbeknown to the occupants of the car, the neighbour’s friend is a criminal or terrorist. When the car is stopped they will have a hard time explaining who they are, by which time the flight will have been missed.
We have all seen pleas on television for missing persons or witnesses to the movements of a murder suspect. There on the screen is a CCTV picture taken inside a bus with the exact time and date. A wife spots her husband, who never uses buses and should have been at work on the other side of the city. A good starting point for a mystery.
In Brief Encounters of the Third Kind the main characters fear they are not only being observed, but controlled. There is no rational explanation for inexplicable events and when they finally reach a glimpse of the truth it is not what they expected.