Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Evolving Robber

"I do not, and never will, see the point of book clubs." I said to Robin.
"It allows readers to come together and discuss their favourite books and why they're good." Robin replied. "Turn left here."
I nodded, flipping the indicator stick down. "But why? I enjoy Lee Child books, but I don't want to go and sit with a group of middle aged women and explain to them that it isn't the way it's written, the not very often supplied moments of sarcastic humour but in fact the gory violence that makes me enjoy them. Where now?"
"The next right. Then it's number 96. And anyway, we don't talk about Lee Child, or whatever book you're reading, we talk about the book our groups reading."
"Right." I muttered, indicating. Then I turned my attention away from driving as I pulled into the only available parking spot on the entire suburban street. I climbed out, and we began to walk down the street, looking for number 96. "Who chooses which book you read?"
"We take a vote." Robin explained. "There it is."
We quickstepped up the gravel drive, which held a Renault Espace, and I pressed my finger to the doorbell. "So, what have your group voted in to be discussed this week?"
"Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen." Robin said.
"As I said, why would I want to go and sit with a group of middle aged women and discuss Pride and Prejudice?" I asked, as the door swung open and we were bathed in the light of a normal, suburban hallway. A women, about my age, stood in the doorway and said, "Robin!"
"Rachel!" Robin replied, and jumped forwards, hugging her. When Robin moved back I saw her properly. If this was a poorly written children's sitcom, we'd cut to my POV and see her face surrounded by badly Computer Generated love hearts. But this is a slightly amusing recount of a series of intriguing break-ins, so instead I just saw her as she was. And that was more than beautiful enough.
Rachel smiled at me. "And who's your drooling friend?"
I attempted to act cool, trying to lean in the doorway but almost accidentally falling over, then I regained my posture, still looking slightly stupid, and scraped my hair back down my head. I grinned then completely forgot my name. "Er. Er."
"This is the great detective, himself." Robin said, gesturing to me. "Gabriel Rathbone."
"That's it!" I cried, punching the air. "Knew I'd remember at some point."
Rachel laughed and welcomed us in.

Two months later:

"Ah!" Cried Robin. The noise of her sudden fright awoke me and then suddenly I remembered she'd fallen asleep when we were going over the notes. "Ah." I moaned, then jumped out of bed.
"What're you doing here?" I heard Robin asking. I rushed out in my dressing gown, throwing my hands around and saw Rachel staring at Robin and Robin staring at Rachel. Both stared at me and asked, "What is she doing here?"
I smiled, then began to explain. "Rachel, Robin is here because we were going over some notes last night and she fell asleep. Robin, Rachel is here because she's my girlfriend."
"That's the first time you've said that." Rachel pointed out.
"I know. It feels all kinds of weird." I replied.
"You've got a girlfriend?" Robin asked me.
"Aye." I replied. "Anyway, I should probably get dressed. Lodders texted me. Multiple homicide at a cafe across the road from the Velodrome."
Robin jumped up and pulled on her jacket, which lay slumped over my chair. I returned a few moments later to an awkward silence between Robin and Rachel. "Come along Robin." I said, pointing her to the door, then placed a kiss on Rachel's cheek. "See you tonight."
I joined Robin at the bottom of the spiral stairwell that led from my flat and then we walked into the lift and it began to lower us down. We came to a stop in the garages beneath the large building and I took my keys from the guy behind the desk. This caused Robin to exclaim, "How will Rachel lock up when she goes home?"
As I searched the garage for where I left my car, I said "She has her own keys."
Robin looked at me. "What do you mean she has her own? She can't have her own keys to your flat!"
"Why not?" I asked, as I unlocked the Series One Land Rover.
"Cause I don't have keys to your flat."
"Why would you have keys to my flat? You're not my girlfriend."
She didn't have a reply to this.
The drive to the cafe across the road from the Velodrome was long and silent, but to call it silence would be like calling humidity warmth. The silence was filled with a language of it's own, the language of displeased crossness, something I've recently discovered girls seem to be experts in. I felt as if Robin was extremely angry with me, but I hadn't the foggiest why.
The anger filled silence ended- thank goodness- as we came to a stop in a small parking space between consecutive police cars. As we climbed out, I looked over at the Velodrome, and then at Celtic Park. Many years ago, I had joined a queue of devoted fans going to watch a match. It was quite possibly the most boring ninety minutes of my life, but somebody obviously disagreed at the time, as a collection of tents had been set up, in which devoted fans waited for the first seats.
"Whole different kind of camper there a few days ago." I muttered, remembering the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, merely a few days ago.
"Gabriel! Robin!" Lodders cried, striding over from the door. "You made it!"
"Yes, good to see you." I said. "Sorry we were late, I had to sort out a thing."
"No problem, not like the corpses are going anywhere."
"How beautifully put."
The corpses certainly weren't going anywhere. There were two of them, a man and a woman. The woman was shorter than the man, significantly so, and they lay amongst a shatter of glass from the from window, which had been boarded up. The man had a stab wound to the neck and the woman to the liver. A shaking girl sat outside, bombarded by paramedics and orange towels, and Lodders read me the notes from her.
"She came down when she heard the woman, her stepmother, screaming. She found the man, her father, choking up blood- through the wound in his neck, and her stepmother with the knife still in her liver. The stepmother ripped the knife out of her liver, and that just encouraged the bleeding. By the time the paramedics got here, about five minutes as a load of them are hanging around the pubs because of the amount of tourists from the Commonwealth Games, they were both dead. I know how you love the human element, Gabe,"
"Don't call me Gabe."
"Sorry. Anyway, she kept babbling about how her stepmother was so small she had to stand on the fathers feet to kiss him."
"She won't be kissing him anymore."
I dropped to my knees, having changed into a white body suit, and examined the wounds.
Robin joined me, and asked, "How long have you and Rachel been dating?"
"Two months." I replied, as I delved my gloved fingers into the gaping hole in the centre of the man's neck. Blood oozed out over my fingers. "The murderer impaled the larynx. Would have taken some thrusting."
"You've been going out since we went to the book club?"
"No. The day after." I said, standing up. "I was in the sci-fi section of Waterstones and found her browsing Ben Aaronovitch. I asked her if she wanted a coffee and things went from there. Turn's out she's a bit of a fan. Why's he wearing shorts?" I asked, pointing to the body.
"Optimistic that the weather may be nice." Robin suggested, sounding almost upset.
"Mustn't be local." I replied. I noticed some marks around his ankles, and I knelt down to look. They looked like curved imprints, like when you press your finger nail into your palm.
We moved onto the next body and had a look. The stab to the liver had also been done with quite a lot of thrust. "Same killer." I pointed out.
"I didn't think Rachel was your type." Robin blurted.
"Robin, in my entire life, I've had two girlfriends, one of which was Rachel. Besides the obvious point of them being female, I don't think there's enough variables to analyse for a type."
She scowled at me, then said, "She's got nice toenails."
"Really?" I asked. "I've never really noticed Rachel's feet."
"No!" Robin cried. "I mean the corpse."
I looked down and saw that the corpse had painted toenails, maybe painted to take the attention away from how long they were, but painted nonetheless. "Yes." I muttered. "Very nice."
Robin said, "Who else knows about you and Rachel?"
"Just you. We've been waiting for the right moment to announce it."
"Announce it?"
"Yeah. That we're going out."
I looked up at her. "Are you feeling all right today? You're slower than usual, and you seem distracted."
"I'd ask the same of you." She said. "You're obviously slower than usual."
"You're meant to be investigating the corpses, Gabriel, not chinwagging. And who's Rachel?" Lodders butted in.
I sighed. "She's my girlfriend. I tell you what, seeing as every policeman and his greyhound is going to find out, why don't you and Robin come around to my house tomorrow, and me and Rachel can invite some of our other friends and we can introduce each other to you all. Ok?"
"Firstly," Lodders started, "how did you get a girlfriend? And secondly, what other friends?"
I shook my head and turned back to the corpses, as Robin asked Lodders if she could borrow him and I said to the corpse, "I'm sure you're having a normal day." Then I looked down at the wound in her liver, where the blood had turned black. "Well, normalish."

The next night:

"Gabriel, are you in there?" Cried Lodders through the intercom and on my door. I pressed my ear to the phone at the top and said, "Yes, I'll be along in a second."
"Well hurry up."
I ducked behind the bar/kitchenette at the back of my flat and set the cockadoodle, just as Rachel emerged from the bedroom. She was wearing a beautiful green dress, unfortunately the same shade as the corpses nail paint. It fell around her knees, probably around the lower legs on most ordinary height people, but she was as tall as me, which was quite tall. Her hair, the same coal black as mine, sat around her shoulders, falling ever so slightly further, and obscuring the view of the necklace that hung around her neck on a golden chain. I straightened my shirt, feeling rather scruffy compared to her, and smiled, almost whispering, "You look beautiful."
She smiled back at me, her lips curling up in a great symbol of happiness. "Thank you! You don't scrub up bad yourself."
"Shall we go greet the dinner guests?" I asked, offering her my arm.
"Aye, I think we should."
Because the area at the bottom of the staircase was quite small, Rachel waited at the top as I went to the bottom and opened the door. Lodders and Robin waited at the bottom holding hands, with Sarrison the greyhound licking their ankles. "Well." I said. "Wasn't entirely expecting that. Come up, come up."
I led them up the spiral staircase, Lodders carrying Sarrison, and we came up at the top where Rachel said hello and shook their hands. I then set about making introductions. "This is Inspector Lodsbury of Scotland, and the house behind his, Yard and his prized greyhound, Sarrison."
"No, can't be." Rachel said, looking at Lodders. "Greyhounds aren't the humanoid."
I and Lodders laughed, but Robin simply giggled unamused, and I felt a pang of gladness rush over me that at least half of my guests approved.
"And this is Miss Rachel Lynda Kendrick of being my girlfriend fame. Of course, you both know Robin, obviously Lodders more so than I previously thought."
"Yes." Robin explained. "We're going out. Have been for a while."
"Really?" I asked, slightly confused. I looked at Lodders, who simply shrugged.
Rachel sensed the awkwardness and gestured towards the table we'd set up in the middle of the room, laid with a mixture of the best cutlery from both my and Rachel's houses. "My friends are probably going to be late, so we may as well sit down."
"Aye, good thinking." I said, and we all went and sat down. I sat opposite Robin, and- if the table was set out like a compass, at South, whilst Robin sat at North and Lodders and Rachel sat opposite each other, with Rachel at East and Lodders at West.
"So, what's the vivers this evening?" Lodders asked, using a word I hadn't heard for an extremely long time. Vivers, that is. Not evening.
"We've got soup for starters, then roasted pork for mains and, bearing in mind that the budget ran out, for deserts we've got tinned fruit."
"Ooh." Robin said. "I love a bit of tinned fruit."
The conversation continued for a bit, and I kept my eye on the cockadoodle, waiting for the perfect time to put the soup on. We eventually ended up talking about family, and after asking after Robin's grandfather, Lodders asked me how my family was. I told him my parents were as happy as ever, but that I hadn't heard from them since they'd moved to Norway and that my brother was still living in Edinburgh and that my sister was still comatose, however the Doctors did think she was showing promising signs of waking up. As I talked about her, I felt Rachel slipping her hand over mine. I smiled then changed the subject to Lodders himself, as I didn't want to talk any more about my sister, in case I got upset. "How's Madeline?"
"Good, thanks. Still driving me around the bend, but good." He replied.
"Who's Madeline?" Asked Rachel.
"My wife." Lodders explained
"You're married?" Asked Robin.
"You didn't know?" I asked.
"Well no." Robin said. She turned to Lodders, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"You didn't really give me a chance. I thought you wanted to talk to me the other day about the case, but actually it was all, let's pretend to go out to make Gabriel jealous, and you didn't stop talking till i said yes."
"Now sounds like the perfect time to put the soup on." I quickly interrupted.
"Good idea. I'll help you." Rachel said quickly, and then Lodders offered to help, too, leaving Robin and the greyhound alone.
We ate the soup, which was vegetable- which happened to be my and Rachel's shared favourite, funnily enough- and were just finishing the last droplets from our bowls when we heard a loud banging on the door. "That'll be my friends." Rachel said, beginning to climb up.
"No need." I said. "I'll get it."
"Thanks, sweetie." She said, and I couldn't help thinking of Doctor Who, which was another of our shared likes.
I quickstepped down the staircase and got to the door swinging it open, to reveal Mrs Ishabel Fraiser from downstairs, looking out of breath and distressed.
"Mrs Fraiser?" I said. "Whatever's the matter?"
"What was that, dear?" She asked, tapping her hearing aid which she turned to me.
I bent down and repeated my question quite loudly directly into her ear.
"Oh it's terrible! You've got to help me, Mr Rathbone. Somebody broke into my flat."

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