The Steal

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Chapter                Seven                Rain Stops Everything

Inspector Wragg was disappointed with the outcome.  They had lost contact with the car that the police were following, although they knew in which direction it was going and the Inspector called off the search and told everyone who were on the search to be in by 12noon.  It was about 6 o’clock in the morning when Wragg entered his house and fell asleep on the sofa.  Four and a half hours later, he was enjoying a sumptuous  breakfast of fried bread, three rashers of bacon, two eggs, baked beans and mushrooms, coffee and toast and marmalade.  He never seemed to put on weight and had a wiry sort body frame and his wife who was slightly plump was envious – because whatever he ate had no effect on him whatsoever.

Inspector Wragg decided to get into New Scotland Yard earlier than the allotted time he had asked his men to attend.  It was a lot less hazardous travelling on the road during the lunch time break.

Commander Brand was waiting for Inspector Wragg to make an appearance.  Sitting in Wragg’s chair, twiddling a pencil with such dexterity that he thought he might include it as part of his entertainment at the Policemen’s Christmas party.  He could juggle the pencil and toss it up in the air like a majorette and catch it again between two fingers – all he needed was the music to go with it.

Inspector Wragg made a sudden appearance at his office door and Commander Brand got up from the chair and walked round the desk and shook his hand and said, ‘Congratulations Wragg; you’ve been promoted to Chief Inspector.’ 

‘Well, thank you sir.’ 

‘Think nothing of it, you’re the best man we’ve got and you’ve proved yourself.’

With that Commander Brand went quickly out of the office and back to his office and picked up his telephone and dialled a number.

                             *                           *                           *

‘Chief Inspector Wragg.’ said Wragg, ‘very impressive – of course it means a lot more hard work, but my pension will be a lot better.  I must phone Gladys and tell her the good news.’

The sign writer came and knocked on Wragg’s door.  Wragg was still on the phone to his wife telling her of the good news and she sounded overjoyed but asked him to do some shopping on his way home tonight.  He hadn’t the heart to tell her that he might not be home tonight.  He signalled to the man at the door and replaced the phone.

‘I’ve come to change your new rank title.’ ‘Okay.’ said Wragg, ‘Go ahead.’  Constables Dotrice and Stone were the next two in and they congratulated him on his promotion. ‘It is now in my power to promote you two – you are both detective Sergeants and these orders are to take immediate effect.  You two better get your stripes on, nobody goes on my parade improperly dressed.’  Both Dotrice and Stone looked at each other and then at the Chief Inspector. ‘Thank you sir.’

‘Go on. Off with the pair of you.  Get those stripes on!’

Everyone was assembled again in the briefing room and Chief Inspector Wragg walked in and everybody clapped and whistled.  He appreciated the welcome, then on a serious note he bade the men to quieten down. 

‘We don’t want to wake Commander Brand do we!’

Everybody roared with laughter.  He quietened them down again.  The briefing lasted just half an hour and just as they finished the heavens opened and down came the rain. Chief Inspector Wragg looked out of his office window and rubbed his hands.

‘Good! I think we have more time to find this man.’

‘Telephone the weather man. Let’s see how long we’ve got.’ said Chief Inspector Wragg to Sergeant Stone.

‘Right away Chief Inspector.’

Chief Inspector Wragg stuck his head out of his office and said to the assembled group. ‘In future just call me Chief, it’s a bit of a mouthful to spout out my title all the time.’  Some nodded and a few murmured, ‘Okay Chief.’

‘Did you hear what I said Sergeant Stone?’

Sergeant Stone nodded, ‘Yes Chief – the weather bureau reckon it will be like this for two days, all over England and no let up.  Bonfire groups have cancelled their events until the following week, Guy Fawkes will have to wait to be burnt another time.’

‘Right oh! That’s good news, well good news for the victim. Let’s hope no-one decided to cover their bonfire pile with a rain-proof cover and light up this week-end.’ said D.C I. Wragg.

He announced to his force of officers that instead of a convoy of police cars going towards East Sussex, they were to travel at different times, a fifteen minute gap between each car and also different routes. East Sussex didn’t have too many routes, but D.C.I. Wragg suggested they used their imagination and even if the journey took longer it wouldn’t matter.  He stated that the use of sirens would be okay until they were in East Sussex, after that it was to be a silent approach.

                             *                           *                           *                          

Commander Brand slowly sat down listening to the man talking at the other end of the phone. ’Yes I have promoted D. I. Wragg to D.C.I. – I didn’t want to do that and I can’t undo the promotion – I don’t like the man.’  More silence as Brand listened.  ‘Why did you want him promoted?’  Brand listened. ‘I hope you’re not threatening me.  Yes I know I agreed to do this, but for heaven’s sake you can’t really mean to go ahead with this.’  Brand listened. ‘I know I said I didn’t like the man, all I wanted from you is to discredit him, if you kill him, there will be no kudos for me.’  Brand listened. ‘You want me to try and rescue him at the zenith hour and you think that will make me a hero if I fail? Sorry Roger I won’t do it.’   Commander Brand slammed the phone down hard.

Chapter Eight                   Subterfuge

D.C.I. Wragg was just organising the last four policemen to be sent to East Sussex giving them the grid reference on the map to search for the missing man.  He was pondering on what had happened today, his promotion was sudden when only last week Commander Brand had told him he hadn’t the bounce, the energy that he was looking for in a man and that he needed that man to do whatever he commanded and Wragg was not of that calibre.  The Commander knew how to make people feel small and insignificant and Wragg had felt deflated as he left the Commander’s office.  Now everything had been turned about and he couldn’t quite get his head round it. He felt there was something not quite right.  Whether the promotion idea had come from the Chief Constable and Commander Brand was forced to promote him, he wasn’t sure.  Wragg sat at his computer and typed out an email message to the Chief Constable. He needed to find out and as luck would have it, he and Eric Carter were good friends from way back.  Eric had shown a lot of promise of bigger things to come and had excelled in many exams and had a couple of degrees that would have looked silly on an ordinary constable’s record.  Eric Carter had risen through the ranks like knife through butter and eventually Chief Constable landed in his lap and he took on the duties as if he had been doing it for decades.  The message that had returned was;

“I am out of the office until 16th November if the matter is urgent. Please contact Commander Brand or I will contact you on my return.”

Wragg was disappointed but then again he might be able to contact him at home.  However he must concentrate on the matter that was currently blighting his horizon – finding this poor man who could be burnt beyond recognition and it would mean another visit to the relatives. It was a hateful job.   It was 4pm when the D.C.I. and his two Sergeants moved off in their car towards East Sussex, their siren blazing a trail along one of the M roads out of London.  The rain had not stopped and was coming down like stair rods. Visibility was quite daunting at times, although Sergeant Dotrice’s keen eyes were able to pierce the gloom that tended to be there one minute then clear the next.  Wragg looked as if he was asleep as he had closed his eyes as soon as he settled in the back seat of the car – the two sergeants would have assumed wrong as he was thinking about Commander Brand’s decision to promote him.  He being no fool he had his suspicions.  He was trying to fathom out the reason why and as soon as his friend and colleague came back he would know all.  The idea of telephoning him at home was still an option.  Sergeant Dotrice spoke mouthing sideways to Wragg. ‘Chief we are nearing East Sussex.’ 

‘Better cut the siren, we’ll creep in in silent mode,’ said Wragg.

The local county police had been alerted and had been doing house to house calls and asking whether they had bonfires in their back gardens. There were many and it was tiring work and after every hour and a half they had a break and tried to shelter from the bad weather.  The journey had taken a little longer than Wragg had estimated.  On several occasions the flashing lights on the overhead gantries on the M road had signified bad road surface conditions that had become lakes of water.  There were also a few drivers who couldn’t wait and had driven so fast that they aqua-glided themselves into the road barriers or other vehicles.  On several occasions Wragg had to show his credentials so that he could proceed without having to wait while the road was cleared.  He announced to those in charge that he was on a top priority mission and needed to reach his destination without further delay.

It was five thirty pm when they reached their search area, only to find that the local police force who were to meet them had already started.  He apologised to the man in charge and illustrated to him that the M road had been a nightmare to drive on.  The Inspector said his men were having a break as they had been on the go ever since receiving the message from him. 

‘That’s all right.’ said Wragg.  ‘I’ll just take a look down this lane.‘ 

I’m not sure whether there are any houses down there’ said the Inspector.  ‘There’s nothing shown on the map.’ 

D.C.I Wragg started to walk down the lane, his sergeants following him. They had to walk some distance and Wragg was about to give up when he spied a very small cottage laying a long way from the road. It was an idyllic spot, well away from civilisation.  As far as Wragg could see between the stair rods of rain this was the only building in the lane.  All three entered the gate to the front garden.  Wragg knocked on the door and after short while and some curtain twitching by two young girls, a woman opened the door.

‘Yes! Can I help you?’  The woman was taken aback from Wragg’s next question. ‘Have you got a bonfire pile in your back garden?’

‘Yes!’ she said.

‘Can we look at it please?’

‘Yes I suppose so, what’s going on?’

‘I’ll tell you in a minute, but first we must inspect your bonfire.

The three of them got stuck in and shortly Sergeant Stone let out a triumphant yell ‘I’ve found him chief!’  The other sergeant and Wragg hurried round to the other side of the bonfire.  Three anxious faces looking from the open back door saw a man being gently laid down.  ‘He’s been drugged,’ said Sergeant Dotrice.  ‘Let’s get him in the house out of this weather,’ said Wragg.  The man was soaked to the skin and the pallor of his skin was not looking good.  An ambulance was called immediately and Wragg announced to all units to stop looking for John Whip.

Rosalind Whip didn’t recognise the man as her husband at first.  All of a sudden she screamed and fainted.  Sergeant Stone placed her on the settee. Wragg turned round and saw what had happened. The two girls seeing their mother on the settee asleep, shouted. ‘Mummy!’  Wragg said, ‘Have you any strong drink?’  ‘Yes!’ they answered in unison. ‘We’ll get some.’  They came back with three bottles and a glass.  Wragg smiled, ‘One bottle will do!’  He found the whisky bottle and poured out a heavy amount and cradled the woman’s head in his arms as she came to.  He told her to drink it down. Rosalind started crying and in between the sobs said that was her husband.

The ambulance came and went with sirens blaring to the local hospital.  A police woman had been assigned to look after the children and two constables to guard the premises.  The rain was easing off.  Wragg thought how cunning the killer was in taking his victim to the place where he lived and while the family enjoyed their fireworks and the burning of their guy they would be unaware of……Wragg stopped himself from carrying on with his thoughts, it was too ghastly to think about.

D.C.I. Wragg was going to re-assess his killer. In a perfect world it would have solved the situation had this man pointed the finger and the Company and the fraud squad could have dealt with it. Simple tch!  Wragg’s mimicked his favourite Meerkats advert.

The hospital rang and he was pleased to hear that John Whip was stable and responding to treatment.  He was a cautious policeman and had posted three plain clothes policemen at the hospital. Whip was the only one who might know the identity of the killer.  The authorities had arranged for his wife and daughters to stay at the hospital as it would be dangerous for them to stay at home, because the killer might use them as a lever to blackmail or do something worse.  Wragg tried to stay one step ahead, but it was an impossible task and he felt sure the killer was getting inside information, but where from was the biting question.

Wragg decided to ask the local Inspector if he could mount a vigilant team in plain clothes to assume the identity of Mrs Whip at the cottage and also place a policeman who mustn’t be seen to safeguard whoever was impersonating her.  Arrangements had been made to inform the school of the situation and that the other person would bring the two youngsters as usual to the school and collect them and should anyone make any inquiries about the family they were to telephone New Scotland Yard immediately and give, if they could, a description of the person.  Wragg also stated that no one person should attempt to apprehend this killer, even if they thought they have the advantage. 

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