This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 846 words.
In the reception of the police station, Jon had to wait behind a scruffy-looking youth who was signing in under his bail conditions. Then he went and asked the middle-aged woman if he could see a detective. In a monotone, she made a short speech that she must have made thousands of times before.
“If you want to see an officer, you have to give me some idea of what it’s about. I can issue you with a crime number for minor offences like the theft of a phone, so there’s no need to see an officer for anything like that”.
Using his best authoratitive tone, he explained that it was serious, a possible kidnap or forced imprisonment, and that it was definitely necessary to see a detective, preferably someone senior.
She remained totally unimpressed. “Take a seat, and I’ll see what I can do”.
He sat on the perforated metal bench which was divided by the plastic armrests running along it. The woman picked up the phone, and was soon talking to someone, glancing across at him as she spoke. He couldn’t hear her, but his instincts told him that she was describing his appearance to whoever was on the other end of the line.
Forty-five minutes later, a side door opened, and man called his name. Jon approached a chubby man who had a moustache like something out of the early seventies, and was wearing a faded brown suit that was too tight to be able to button the jacket. “Hello, I am detective constable Terry Skinner, please come through”. He was taken into a small room hardly big enough for the desk and four chairs that were the only things in it. The policeman sat opposite, and smiled. “So you mentioned an abduction, I believe? Please tell me everything you know about it”.
Jon began to tell the story from the arrival of the first letter, sliding his evidence across the desk as he did so. He also consulted his notes, mentioning Amelia Bowes and her son Roderick. By the time he got to the part where he was about to travel to see Eloise in Broadstairs, he suddenly noticed that the man had no voice recorder operating, and was taking no notes in the classic police pocketbook. When he mentioned this, the cop waved away the comment.
“Don’t worry, it is all going in here”. He tapped the side of his head. “If I decide that there is something worth investigating, I assure you I will take a full statement.” Continuing to recount the events, Jon produced the second letter, and sat back. If he expected the detective to be amazed, he was sadly disappointed by the man’s response.
“Let me make sure I have got this right. You are, by your own description, a famous writer of crime thrillers, including the Inspector Johnson mysteries, which I have to tell you I have not read. You get a strange letter asking for help, with what you say is blood on the sealed flap. Yet you don’t bring it straight in so we can begin an investigation, oh no. Instead, you decide to play detective by driving down to Hertfordshire, and mounting surveiilance on a family based purely on the fact that they also own stationery of the same style? Am I correct so far?”
Jon nodded, and the man continued.
Then you travel all the way to Kent to follow up on what you believe is a lead, and when you see that this woman has your books in her bookcase, that seems to confirm your suspicions. You say you are a famous novelist. How many copies of those books have you sold in hardback?” Jon told him it would be in the tens of thousands, and the detective rubbed his face with both hands. “Then you just came home and forgot about it, using the whole thing as a storyline for your next book. Incredible”.
He slid his chair back with a noisy scraping sound, and placed both hands on the desk.
“Well, here is what I think. If you had really believed someone was in danger, you would have been here on day one, showing us that letter. Seems to me that you have a book in progress that one day you would like to promote and market. So you reckon you can come to us after the event, get us running around like headless chickens, and then use the press coverage of a wild goose chase to get your name and your book in the newspapers. You are very lucky I am not going to bother to charge you with wasting police time. Now, what I would like you to do is to pick up all that stuff on the desk, place it back into your very nice shoulder bag, and go home”. He stood up, indicating the interview was over.
Almost unable to believe the insolent attitude of Skinner, Jon was back at home before he thought that he should have demanded to see someone more senior than a detective constable.