Sunday 23 – Monday 24 April 2017
DS Ali Corbyn knew she locked the front door when she left her house that morning for work. That it was now ever so slightly ajar concerned her. It took microseconds for Corbyn to consider the scenarios that would lead to the door being open, and her basic police training and on-the-job experience kicked in. She crossed the street, and knocked on the door of the house directly opposite her own.
Essie McClennan shuffled to her front door from the kitchen, unaware that Ali was in desperate need of sanctuary, to assess the potential situation at her own home.
‘Oh, hello, love. Haven’t seen you for a few days. Everything alright?’ Essie smiled as Corbyn tried to keep a lid on her rising panic.
‘Hiya, Essie. Ah, no. Got a bit of a problem actually.’
‘What’s that then, love?’ Essie asked.
‘Looks like someone’s broken into my house, and I –’
‘Oh, that’s not good then. You’d better come inside, love.’
‘Thanks, Essie. I won’t be here long. Just need to call it in, and have the crime scene team come around.’
Corbyn stepped inside, and Essie bolted the door after her.
‘Just pop through to the kitchen, love, and I’ll put a kettle on while we wait for your copper friends to come around.’ Essie gave Corbyn a gentle shove in the back to get her moving.
‘I’d rather stay where I can see my house, Essie. Just in case someone’s still in there and, y’know, they come out when they hear the police sirens.’
‘Always on guard, aren’t you? Fair enough. You go into the sitting room. My front window’s got a lovely view of your front door. Get yourself comfortable, and I’ll bring you a cuppa.’ Essie shuffled off to the kitchen before Corbyn could utter a reply.
Ali dragged an armchair around to face the street outside. Her front door was easily visible from almost anywhere in Essie’s front room. She dialled Fraser’s number, and settled in the armchair. He answered after three rings.
‘What’s up, Marple?’
‘Someone’s been in my house.’
‘Are they still there? Are you in the house now?’
‘No, I’m across the road at a neighbour’s house. Don’t know if anyone’s still in there. Got home, looked at the front door, and it was ajar. I know I shut and locked it this morning.’
‘Stay where you are until I get there. I’ll have some uniforms check it out, and I’ll get forensics or scene of crime, whatever the hell we’re calling them this week, to go through your place with a fine-toothed comb. I’m on my way.’
‘And stay the hell out of that house until it’s been checked. You hear me?’
‘Loud and clear, Jack.’
Essie delivered a steaming hot cup of tea right on cue as Ali disconnected the call.
‘What’s your police friends say, love?’
‘They’re on the way, Essie. Do you mind if I stay here until they arrive?’
‘No, of course I don’t. You’ve got to have your cuppa anyway. And I’ve made a nice batch of scones this afternoon. How about scones and jam and cream? How’s that sound?’
‘Perfect, Essie. Thank you.’
Within ten minutes the uniforms had arrived at Corbyn’s home, and were investigating inside. Fraser arrived just as the two uniforms were going in the front door. Ali raced over from across the street to stand at her partner’s side.
‘Your big plan was to hide out at a little old lady’s house? Good one, Marple.’ Fraser waved to Essie who’d taken up a prime observation point at her front door.
‘Essie’s trustworthy, Jack. And sweet. And she makes an outstanding cuppa. And her scones are to die for. Let’s just leave it at that.’ She turned and waved at the old lady. ‘Go back inside, Essie. It’s all okay now. Thank you.’
They watched Essie wave back, then follow Ali’s instruction of going back inside.
‘What’s your thinking here, Marple?’ Fraser approached the front door of his partner’s home with caution.
‘Not sure. I know I locked the door. I know it was ajar when I got home. That’s all I know.’
Fraser knew what she was really thinking but too afraid to say aloud. ‘It could simply be a regular break and enter.’
‘Yep, could be,’ she replied without conviction.
‘You think it’s Mackey?’
‘Don’t know. Maybe.’
‘I’ll say it then, shall I? It’s a bit of a coincidence that your place gets broken into after Anderson’s alleged suicide.’
‘That’s what I was thinking.’
* * * * *
‘Eventful evening for you, DS Corbyn.’ Pendleton paced around his desk, notebook in hand.
‘Indeed,’ she replied.
‘Forensics find anything?’ Burkett joined the conversation, delivering cups of tea as he spoke.
‘Door handle had been wiped clean,’ Fraser called from his office. ‘No forensic evidence anywhere, so that leads us to believe this was more than an ordinary break and enter.’
‘Targeted attack then?’ Pendleton asked.
‘Targeted attack,’ Fraser said. He took the tea Burkett offered to him, and sat down next to Corbyn at Pendleton’s desk.
‘What’s the plan, Guv?’
‘Pendleton, make sure there’s a surveillance crew at DS Corbyn’s home. Burkett, get a list of everyone associated with Roy Mackey. When you’ve compiled it, we’ll divide it up, and pay them all a visit. See who we can rattle.’ Fraser patted Corbyn’s shoulder. ‘And you and I will see what we can get Mr Mackey to say.’
‘We’re going to see Roy Mackey?’ Corbyn was surprised by Fraser’s idea.
‘Yep. Let’s talk straight to the horse.’
‘Right you are, Poirot,’ she replied.
* * * * *
Kevin Norton had only needed to be in her home for ten minutes to get a feel for the layout of the residence. Preparation was key in his line of work, and having almost killed Corbyn once before, he was determined not to make the same mistake again. This time, she wouldn’t be making it out of hospital alive. In fact, if he played his cards right, she wouldn’t be making it to hospital in the first place. Instead, the first responders would be calling the medical examiner not the paramedics.
He examined every photograph he took of Corbyn’s home. Every room, every nook, every cranny that could be used for an ambush attack on the Detective Sergeant. He imagined what it would be like to inflict tremendous pain on her again. It was a prospect he was looking forward to, and all with the backing of Roy Mackey.
‘Two birds, one stone,’ Norton whispered to himself. ‘Corbyn gone for good, and Mackey behind bars. What more could I possibly ask for?’
. . . To be continued . . .