The Hunt for Mr White
to leave you like this sweetpea,” cooed infamous
jewel thief The Scarlet Rose while checking her latest target was secured.
“Actually, I’m not sorry at all. You just look so adorable like that.”
Porscha Hindbury, twenty seven year old heiress to the Hindbury Finance fortune, was unable to respond with nothing more than a huff and an indignant wriggle. The intricate ropework the intruder had subjected her to was why. Her bound wrists almost reached her conjoined and crossed over ankles, linked together by a length of white cord. Additional ropes formed a harness around her upper arms and body, pressing the deep blue silk of her strapless ball gown against her body. She writhed about in the duvet of her double bed, the stiletto heels of her blue coloured sandals jiggling in the direction of the ceiling. She growled through the white rag pulled over her lips, shaking her long chestnut tresses vehemently as the Scarlet Rose reached behind her neck and unfastened her sapphire necklace.
“Ooh this looks expensive. Mind if I borrow it permanently?” The Scarlet Rose cooed, sliding the jewellery into her handbag.
“Ggggvvv ttthhhttt bbbccckkk!” Porscha cried out as The Scarlet Rose sat on the bed, smirking gleefully and running her hand through her frizzy, sandy blonde hair. Porscha watched as her captor crossed her legs over underneath the silk of her long purple ball gown, before she leant over and lifted up her chin with her index finger.
“Sorry this wasn’t how you expected this evening to pan out,” she whispered. Then, the thief planted a lingering kiss on the cheek of Porscha, leaving a lipstick imprint against her skin.
Half an hour ago Porscha wouldn’t have minded such an intimate gesture from the beautiful woman she’d first met over champagne and canapés. Little did she know, having brought her back to her London flat, this woman (who had given her name as Sylvia Rosemary), had other motives, chiefly tying her up and robbing her. But Porscha only realised just how pre-meditated this actually was when The Scarlet Rose pulled down her portrait of a Venice canal, which she’d used to conceal the location of her safe.
Using a handheld device similar to a smartphone, the Scarlet Rose scanned the high tech safe using an infra-red light. Through it she could see the four numbers on the combination keypad with the highest concentration of fingerprints on them. The thief laughed and said to the furiously squirming heiress, “You know, they always recommend you don’t use your little sister’s birthday!”
“NNNNNMMMM LLLLLVVV TTTT LLLLLNNNN!” squealed Porscha as the safe was thrown open by the Scarlet Rose, horrified at the prospect of losing her most valuable possession.
But both she, and the Scarlet Rose, got a huge shock. The safe was completely empty.
“Sorry love, first come first serve!”
The Scarlet Rose whirled around, while the hogtied Porscha writhed about a little to try and see the source of the mysterious voice. After some serious jiggles she clapped her eyes on the strangest dressed man she’d ever seen. He wore a sharp dark suit complete with waistcoat and shiny shoes. A cloak was draped over his shoulders and he wore white masonic gloves on his hands. But she couldn’t describe his facial features due to the plain white mask covering his entire face, with his hair concealed by a large bowler hat.
Arch criminal Mr White had different objects in both hands. In one he held aloft a camera phone, aiming it at the Scarlet Rose. But Porscha was more interested in what he held in his other hand. Her most valuable possession.
“Say cheese!” Mr White said cheerily, just before taking a picture of the motionless Scarlet Rose.
A look of disdain formed on the beautiful face of the jewel thief. “So, finally decided to pick on someone your own size?”
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance also,” Mr White replied coolly. “I’ve been following your work for quite some time now.”
“Oh, you mean, when you’re not picking on teenagers,” sneered the Scarlet Rose.
“Picking is such a childish word. I prefer the word ‘irritating’.”
“Well maybe you should stop irritating me and hand that thing over before I call the police.”
Mr White gave a low laugh. “That wouldn’t be very wise. All I have to do is send this picture of you to every policeman within a five mile radius, and the next journey you’ll be taking will be in the back of a prison van.”
“There’s no way you could organise something like that,” scoffed the Scarlet Rose.
“Try me,” invited Mr White, waggling his phone at her. “I’m quite the whizz at all this technology malarkey.”
There was a brief stand-off between the two criminals, as the Scarlet Rose weighed up her options. She pursed her cheek and stared at the ground, hating the thought of complying but seemed she had little choice. “What the hell do you want?”
“To ask you a question,” answered Mr White gleefully. “Then you can be on your merry way; you and your cute little plaything on the bed. And don’t try pretending you don’t know the answer; I know full well that you know the locations of what I seek.”
“I’m all ears,” growled the Scarlet Rose.
Mr White took exactly three steps forward, then held up the tiny, golden statue of the elephant headed Hindu god Ganesha; the one he’d stolen from Porscha’s safe. “Where are the remaining lost idols of Calcutta? I would so like to complete the set.”
“Well, I’ve read far less interesting police reports,” Inspector Suzanne Sharp of Scotland Yard remarked, closing the case file.
Her partner, Inspector James Marlowe, was reading the same report with a confused look on his face. “So, what exactly is so special about these lost idols of Calcutta? I mean, a tiny gold statue is hardly worth two notorious crooks bickering over.”
“The spiritual and historical value of those statues is worth more than their weight in gold,” explained Commissioner Derrick Pilkington, a flabby, bespectacled man whose days on the beat were long behind him. “They were highly prized idols coveted by a large Hindu community in India during the days of the British Empire. But, as with many of these artefacts from this period, they were stolen by the colonists, transported to London and sold separately to private collectors.”
“Why the big interest in them all of a sudden?” asked Inspector Marlowe, nodding in the direction of several British newspapers which had pictures of the four statues on their front pages.
“Because after years and years of political pressure our government has agreed to return the idols to their community, as a goodwill gesture designed to strengthen trade and diplomatic relationships with India. The owners were all identified and secretly compensated. Porscha Hindbury was going to give the statue to the government once payment had been processed, that is, until Mr White struck.”
Suzanne nodded, hooking back a strand of her long dark hair behind her ear which had fallen loose from her tightly fastened bun. She wore a dark trouser suit with a maroon coloured shirt and dark high heeled maryjanes, and concealed under her shirt was a tiny crucifix. She’d certainly progressed quickly through the ranks of Scotland Yard, now one of their most successful and prolific inspectors, and all by the age of thirty two. She looked again at the file of Mr White, which lacked a picture but instead had an artist’s impression of his now infamous white masked attire. “I’m guessing he intends to use the statues to extort money from the government?” she theorised.
“Or sell them to the highest bidder,” grunted an exasperated Commissioner Pilkington. “Regardless of his motives the government has had enough. The newspapers have been obsessed with Mr White’s activities for weeks. Every single moron with a near a radio mike or with a Youtube account is questioning why we haven’t arrested him since he stole two more of the idols. So from now on, we do everything in our power to find this lunatic.”
Inspector Marlowe, a black man in his late thirties of Jamaican descent native to London with short hair, dressed in a dark suit with matching purple shirt and tie, gave a low whistle before remarking, “Best get cracking then. So who’s this Mr White really?”
Pilkington frowned at his subordinate before answering, “We don’t have a bloody clue.”
“How can you not have a clue?” Suzanne blurted in a voice far sharper than she’d intended. “What about physical descriptions? DNA? Fingerprints?”
She received an even sharper frown from Pilkington as he shook his head at her. “All we do know about this Mr White comes from Detective Inspector Harry Philips from the small town of Carrington. He and his family have had more encounters with this pantomime weirdo than anyone.”
“What kind of run ins?” asked Marlowe as he opened up the new case file handed to him by Pilkington.
“Well this isn’t the first bloke to go around calling himself Mr White. The first one, a man by the name of Nathan Norton, led a vast criminal network throughout the eighties and early nineties, operating out of Carrington. Eventually Harry Philips and his now wife Caroline aided in his arrest. He was sentenced to life, but a couple of years ago contracted terminal cancer. During a stay at hospital Nathan Norton was abducted and subsequently murdered by the man we now believe has taken up his old mantle.”
Suzanne listened to this story intently, already hypothesising several theories about this mysterious thief. “What else do we know?”
“Only that he is extremely adept with technology and computers, able to hack even the most secure of databases and systems. He is a master of deception and has links with many of the country’s biggest criminal gangs. He has a real taste for theatrics, and prefers to use old fashioned, cliché traps when attempting to dispose of his enemies.”
Marlowe couldn’t restrain a smirk as he digested all this information while glancing at the artists impression. “Does he hire someone to play an out of tune piano while he ties a damsel to a railway track?” he sniggered.
“It’s no laughing matter Marlowe!” Pilkington barked. “This man is as prolific as he is dangerous, and will no doubt be after the fourth idol. I’m assigning you both to interview the latest victims. See if we can at least establish a motive or a connection.”
“What about the fourth idol? Is it secure?” asked Suzanne.
“We have it in our possession already, so there’s no way that masked freak will be getting our hands on it from the vaults of Scotland Yard,” replied Pilkington with a trace of smugness. “Our priority is recovering the three he’s already taken. Marlowe, you travel to the residence of a Mrs Donna Crane. She and her daughter were held hostage by Mr White only two nights ago when he stole the third idol. And Sharp, you interview a Miss Destiny Bertram, who owned the other missing idol, while I go deal with the vultures at the press conference.”
As the two inspectors got to their feet Pilkington couldn’t help but add, “Oh, and I’m updating the Prime Minister on this issue personally. So let’s bring that masked freak to justice!”
Marlowe couldn’t restrain his indignant grunt as he got out of his car onto a tree covered avenue in one of the swankiest London suburbs. He had East End running through his veins, and had better things to do with his time than interview a pair of posh birds who would no doubt offer him a glass of earl grey tea.
But he was pleasantly surprised when his knock on the front door was answered by one of the most beautiful young women he’d ever laid eyes on, with bright red hair and a pale face, wearing jogging bottoms and a grey hooded top. She looked flustered and surprised to see him there, but was polite enough when she asked with her posh accent, “Can I help you?”
Marlowe was a self-proclaimed ladies’ man, thoroughly single but a sucker for a pretty face. He relaxed instantly, and giving her a pearly white smile he replied, “I would love it if you could. My name is Inspector James Marlowe of Scotland Yard.”
Before he could state his purpose she interjected, “Oh you must be here about the other night. Please come in!”
She brought Marlowe into her four storey Victorian townhouse, guiding him straight into the white tiled kitchen in the basement. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?” she asked him as she poured water into the filter.
Grateful it wasn’t earl grey, Marlowe answered. “Black thanks, with three sugars.”
“You have a sweet tooth?” remarked his host.
Trying to make eye contact with her Marlowe replied as smoothly, “Well I do like to indulge myself on the finer things. Would I be right in assuming you’re Mrs Crane’s daughter?”
She nodded. “My name’s Paris. I’m afraid mummy is out at the moment and won’t be back until tomorrow.”
“That’s ok, I can take your statement now and return for hers at another date…provided you feel up to it of course.”
“Oh, anything to catch the awful villain who appeared on our doorstep Thursday night. Daddy was away on business you see, so I went around to keep mummy company. Well I answered the door and there he was, dressed all in black with that white mask over his face. I was so stunned that I didn’t see the silenced pistol in his hand at first.”
“Did he threaten you?” asked Marlowe.
“Not physically or even violently. But the way he spoke, so icy and determined. He forced me and mummy into our living room, made us sit back to back on a pair of footstools, and then wound duct tape about us. Around and around he went securing us together with tape around our arms and waists. He then bound our wrists together in front of us and then secured them into our laps. Then finally our feet were taped together. Thank goodness I was wearing my old jeans instead of my new trousers, or they’d have been completely ruined.”
“And then he took the Idol and vanished.”
“Yes, after slapping tape over our mouths and making sure to gloat about our predicament. Then he pocketed the statue of Vishnu my family has held onto for decades and ran into the night.”
Marlowe jotted all this down in his notebook, before rising to his feet and saying, “Well, I’m sorry you had to go through that. At least you and your mother were unharmed. I will have to come back for your mother’s statement…and, maybe, take you out for a drink?”
The red headed woman gave him a cheeky smile. “Wouldn’t that be breaking Scotland Yard protocol?”
“Not if it’s for a second interview,” winked Marlowe. “Listen, I’ve got to dash, but thanks again for the statement and I’ll be in touch.”
The young woman thanked him, and accompanied him to the front door. Once Marlowe had jumped down the steps back to his unmarked police car she shut the front door and made her way upstairs. She entered the master bedroom and was greeted by a tall, muscular, Italian man dressed in a grey hooded top with matching jogging bottoms. “Excellent work Bryony. Superb improvisation,” he told her.
“Wasn’t hard. Just had to flutter my eyelids at the rozzer for him to swallow my story,” Bryony smirked. Nodding to the pair of bound and gagged ladies lying side by side on the bed in rigid hogties she added, “What about these two Adriano? Didn’t make too much noise right?”
“Llllltttt ssss ggggmmm!” chorused the real Paris Crane with her mother Donna, as they both bucked and strained against their bonds, ruffling the sheets through their efforts. The two red headed ladies, wearing almost identical maroon tops and blue jeans, murmured constantly behind their tape gags, as if in disbelief that for the second time in three days they were tied up in a home invasion. Though this Bryony and Adriano were not thieves. Just like Marlowe, they had come for information regarding Mr White.
As he and Bryony re-affixed their hoods over their heads, Adriano said, “Thank you for the information belladonna’s. I apologise for leaving you bound, but we can’t have you alerting the authorities about our visit. But rest assured that we will use your information to ensure Mr White’s crime spree comes to an end. Buona notte!” With that he and Bryony abandoned the hogtied mother and daughter in the bedroom, their muffled cries of frustration filling the house.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you Vera. Only I have a…”
“Inspector Suzanne Sharp of Scotland Yard!” Suzanne introduced for the stunned looking PA as she barged past, straight into the office of the blonde haired woman in her mid-forties wearing a dark, pinstriped Armani trouser suit.
Vera merely smiled at Suzanne’s bold entrance, and standing up offered her hand to shake. “Vera Middlemarch, at your service. What can I do for you?”
“I need to interview a Miss Destiny Bertram. Her maid said that she’d be gone for a couple of days when I called. When I pressed her for more information, she provided me your address.” Suzanne’s nose wrinkled as she stared about the lavishly decorated office in what was otherwise a decrepit and run down warehouse. “So if you could provide me with her location I would very much appreciate it.”
Vera’s smile did not recede as she replied, “But of course. Destiny is just downstairs. She’s one of my best clients. Though you’ll have to excuse her for taking her time. She’s a little tied up right now.”
“I can wait,” Suzanne retorted brusquely, plonking herself down in the opposing swivel chair.
Vera simply nodded, then said to her PA, “Denise, be a dear and fetch Miss Bertram would you?”
After the PA had left the office and shut the door behind her, Suzanne felt it necessary to remark, “Please don’t think Destiny is in any trouble. I only need to interview her regarding a burglary at her property.”
“Ah yes, that would be the unfortunate stealing of her statue of Krishna by that masked madman,” Vera sighed wistfully. “The intruder bound her to her kitchen chair and gagged her with a tea towel. Fortunate however that Destiny is a lady accustomed to such situations.”
Her words intrigued Suzanne, but before enquiring further the office door was flung open, and in burst a tall, burly man wearing a balaclava. “Hey Vera, we managed to track down Blanche!” this masked man exclaimed in excitement, unaware of Suzanne’s presence. “She was hiding out in a greasy spoon restaurant beside one of the suitcase drop zones. I think she might be losing her…”
“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?” roared Suzanne in disbelief, as she looked beyond the masked goon and saw another similarly dressed man walk past with a woman slung over his shoulder. She had short cut hair dyed a bright white, had her hands, legs and feet bound with plastic ties, and had a red ballgag jammed in between her teeth. She didn’t even moan as she was hauled away. She simply looked furious. Almost as furious as Suzanne, who instinctively leaped to the obvious conclusion. “Oh I hope you can explain that!” she snorted, folding her arms in a ‘this-had-better-be-good’ sort of manner.
Vera barely batted an eyelid as she reached into a drawer in her desk and pulled out a contract for Suzanne to read. “You’ll find everything in her to your satisfaction. A legally, ahem, binding contract signed by Blanche allowing us to subject her to situations like you just witnessed. And the same applies for all the women, or men, who pay for our services.”
Suzanne raised her eyebrow as she perused Blanche’s contract. “This some sort of kinky club then?”
“Oh I prefer to view it as a kind of sport!” Vera smiled. “You experience the thrill of the hunt, the exhilaration of the chase, with a financial incentive for the winner and a bit of kinky fun for the losers!”
“And all completely legal I presume?”
“Well put it this way. Challenge my legality with the MP’s, judges, high ranking policemen, businessmen, aristocrats, lords and ladies who all pay good money for my services, and see how many of them support you.”
Suzanne didn’t reply, instead she continued to browse through the contract as if searching for a loophole. Vera was intrigued by the Inspector sitting in her office. She analysed Suzanne intently, noting her limited but effective use of makeup and the lack of a wedding ring. But she mostly paid attention to the crucifix she saw dangling about Suzanne’s neck. “Are you religious inspector?”
“Would it be any of your business if I was?” Suzanne replied curtly, no longer disguising her dislike of Vera.
“I was just wondering. It must be tough enough being a high ranking female in the police force, without also having to contend with prejudice against your religion.”
“I get past that by getting results!” Suzanne informed Vera gruffly.
Vera leant over her desk, and with her face suddenly serious she said, “Let me give you some advice. Forget all about adding Mr White to your arrest figures.”
Leaning closer herself Suzanne hissed, “What do you know about him?”
“Only what I have been told by my contacts. I do business with many unsavoury people inspector, but none are as feared as much as him. Only Mr White can appear out of nowhere and hide in plain sight. Only he can hack almost any computer or electronic device like he’s playing Xbox. Only Mr White has managed to keep his identity secret not just from his vast criminal network, but all the law enforcement agencies of the world.”
Suzanne couldn’t stop herself laughing. “And there’s your problem. You’ve started giving him a mythology. Your fear of him is causing your imagination to spiral out of control. I won’t make that mistake. Whoever this Mr White is, he’s just another man to put behind bars.”
Vera nodded, but there was no smile on her lipstick plastered mouth now. “You are right of course. But believe me, the worst thing you could do is underestimate this man’s capabilities.”
Before Suzanne could respond the office door was opened and Vera’s secretary returned, pushing in a young woman in her late twenties with curly light blonde hair cut short and wearing a brown office dress and matching tights but minus her shoes. Her hands were bound behind her back, ropes enveloped her upper torso and a red ballgag dangled around her neck. “Good evening Inspector, my name is Destiny Bertram,” she introduced politely as if she was discussing the matter over tea and biscuits. “I presume you wish to interview me regarding the theft of my Krishna idol?”
As Suzanne looked the bound woman up and down, she quickly decided that she’d had enough of this place. “This won’t take up too much of your time,” she said as she flicked open her notebook to take Destiny’s statement.
Suzanne returned home late, and had to flick the lights on in her hallway and step over the days post as she opened her front door. As she walked into her living room she was greeted by her pet tabby cat Theodore. She gave him a pat on the back before she hurled herself onto her sofa, not bothering to kick off her high heeled maryjanes as she rested her feet on the armrest. Not in the slightest bit inclined to cook dinner this evening, she used her smartphone to order a pizza, then pulled her long dark hair out of its bun and slumped her head against the cushions.
She was exhausted, mentally and physically. After her bizarre visit to the Kidnap Club, she had spent the day comparing notes with Marlowe back at Scotland Yard, trying to find some kind of link in all of Mr White’s past crimes. They thought they’d made a breakthrough when they found the blog of a rookie sleuth from Carrington, who had documented all her encounters with Mr White in great detail. But they made no headway, and Commissioner Pilkington had given them an earful for that fact before they’d gone home.
Suzanne rubbed her eyes tiredly. She wished that she could just go to the pub and watch a football game like Marlowe to help her forget about work. But when a case grabbed her imagination there was no shifting it. So from her bag she pulled out all the case notes she’d been able to take home, and started re-reading them intently. She was getting increasingly frustrated. How had a man managed to get such a firm grip on the criminal underworld in only a matter of months? The more she delved into this case the more determined she became to solve it.
She almost jumped out of her skin ten minutes later when the doorbell buzzed. Cursing herself for letting her nerves get the better of her, she swung her legs off the sofa and walked back into the entrance hall, heels clopping off the wooden floorboards. She pressed the button on the intercom and asked, “Who is it?”
“Pizza here for you. Special delivery.”
Suzanne’s hunger quickly won out and she eagerly unlocked her front door. But she quickly realised this was no ordinary delivery when she saw a tall man dressed completely in black standing on her front steps holding a pizza box.
“It’s a very special delivery Inspector Sharp,” said the man smoothly, before he flipped the box open.
Suddenly Suzanne was surrounded by a thick cloud of white smoke, causing her to cough and splutter. She wanted to bellow at the man, or turn back into the house and slam the door. But her strength was immediately sapped from her body, her arms and legs becoming numb and unresponsive. Her head swimming and her vision becoming blurred, Suzanne caught sight of the plain white mask covering the man’s face before she blacked out.
“And with that 3-1 victory, Manchester United draw ever closer to winning yet another Premier League title…”
Marlowe gave a frustrated snort as he stood up from the table. “Bloody United; the day they get relegated can’t come soon enough,” he exclaimed to his friends circling the table, yelling to be heard over the crowds filling the pub. Checking his watch he said, “Gotta run lads. Working on a big case and the boss is expecting me at work early. See you at five a side this Sunday?”
After saying his goodbyes, Marlowe left ‘The Rusty Plough’ pub and crossed the road to the car park. The roads and pavements were all deserted, the wet tarmac glistening from the orange glow of the street lights as the inspector darted through the parked vehicles. He had made sure to stay below the drink drive limit, but when he approached his silver Audi A4 and saw a darkly dressed man leaning against it, whose face was covered by a plain white mask, he began to wonder what had actually been in his only pint of the evening.
“Tsk tsk, hope that drink didn’t go to your head Inspector Marlowe,” taunted Mr White brightly, his cape billowing in the sharp, wintry wind.
“You!” stammered Marlowe in disbelief, initially unable to process that the man he’d spent hours investigating was now a matter of metres away. Then regaining his composure he announced, “Mr White…if that is your real name. I am arresting you on the suspicion of theft, breaking and entering…”
“Kidnapping, murder,treason. You do not have to say anything. Blah di blah di blah,” Mr White interrupted with an almost mocking tone in his posh, icy voice. “Well it’s a fair cop inspector. I’ll come quietly. Though your beautiful colleague may not appreciate you arresting me before saving her life.”
“What are you blab…” Marlowe began before the phone in his pocket beeped.
“Got a message inspector?” taunted Mr White. “I suggest you open it.”
Reluctantly Marlowe did as instructed, and when he saw the picture sent to his phone his legs almost gave way in shock. It was of Suzanne, still in the trouser suit she’d worn to work, seated on a wooden chair with ropes ensnaring every limb of her body. Her arms welded to the sides of the chair by the white nylon cord, her ankles lashed together and fixed to the crosspiece, even more rope surrounding her torso, lap and knees welding her against her seat. Clear tape had been slathered over her lips, and through it Marlowe could see a small rubber ball peeping through her mouth, serving as an effective gag. Suzanne’s dark eyes were squinting at the camera in a look Marlowe knew all too well as her death glare, from the number of times he’d been on the receiving end. She was defiant and angry when that picture had been taken, but she was undoubtedly in serious trouble.
A red hot fury rose up inside Marlowe at the sight of his colleague in peril. Had Mr White not produced a pistol when Marlowe began to advance on him, there would have been no telling how many police protocols the inspector would have broken. Instead all he could do was roar, “Where the hell is Suzanne?”
“Within reach, if you jump straight into your car and drive like the clappers to her house!” Mr White sneered.
“Look, if it’s the passcode to the safe containing the last idol you want, then I’ll get it for you. Just don’t…”
“Oh please Inspector Marlowe, I raided Scotland Yard’s safe and stole the remaining idol hours ago,” Mr White gloated triumphantly. “I gained access during the earlier press conference posing as a journalist, cracked the safe code and nabbed it there and then. And you lot haven’t even noticed it’s missing yet. Good to see the tax payer’s money being spent effectively.”
“But if you already have the last idol, why did you kidnap Suzanne?” asked Marlowe in confusion.
“Just to prove how serious I am. To make sure you know never try to finding me ever again. Not to mention it’s a huge amount of fun. Now off you pop. Save the damsel in distress. After all, you’re her only real ‘shot’ of survival.”
Marlowe remained incredibly wary as Mr White swaggered away from his car, almost kicking his heels in delight as he moved into the shadows where the streetlights ended. Suddenly gripped by a wave of determination, he then unlocked his car and wrenched the driver’s door open. “I’ll nail you for this one day you psycho. I swear it!” he bellowed out into the night.
“No you won’t,” Mr White replied in a sing song voice which echoed off the surrounding brick walls. And by the time Marlowe had activated his blue police light and stuck it to his car roof, Mr White had disappeared into the night.
“Llllssssnnnnn ddddmmm yyynnnn!” Suzanne grunted through her gag in frustration, though her agitation in her mind was not reflected by the movements of her body. Even despite being so tightly tied up, she dared not move a muscle. For tied about her waist was a loop of thin wire which tightened every time she jiggled. This was especially bad given the other end of this wire was tied to the trigger of a primed and loaded handgun propped up on her nearby dining room table, a handgun that was aimed right at her head.
Mr White had subjected her to this deathtrap just before he left her house. She knew exactly what the deal was. Any sudden movements on her part would apply yet more pressure to the trigger, and if one movement in particular was too vehement then the gun would fire and that would be it for her.
As a result the inspector dared not twist her legs, jiggle her shoulders, adjust her position on the chair or even flick her head to remove a stray end of her dark hair from her vision. All she dared move were her hands and wrists very gingerly, as she tested the effectiveness of the knots fixing them to the sides of that chair, and wriggle her toes inside her shoes to stave off pins and needles. Anything more than that and she risked losing her life.
The effects of Mr White’s knock out gas had left her thirsty, and whatever this ball in her mouth was made out of it dried out her tongue even more. She gave defiant croaks and moans through the layers of clear tape plastering her lower face and jaw. She knew full well that it was only a matter of time until her body gave an involuntary jerk. Her only hope resided in being found before that happened. She’d given up crying out for help; no-one would hear her and given the complexity of her peril she knew only a professional would be able to disarm the gun and save her life.
After being locked in this position for over an hour, professional help eventually arrived in the form of Inspector James Marlowe, entering her house via the brick he used to smash her front window.
“God Suzanne, are you alright?” breathed Marlowe as he clambered through broken shards of glass and took in the sight of her bound to the chair. “Let me get you out of tha-“
“MMMMMRRRRLLLLLMMMMM LLLLLLKKK TTTTT!” Suzanne screamed, hoping he would notice why she wasn’t even turning her head to look at him. She couldn’t afford for him to blunder into the wire connected to the pistol.
Marlowe’s initial reaction was indeed one of confusion. But then he saw the glint coming off the gun barrel on the table top, and realised just what the situation was. Slowly he crept forward, taking great care not to trip the wire as he approached. He carefully gripped the pistol in his hands, flicked the safety catch, then pulled out the bullet cartridge before tilting the gun away from the bound and gagged Suzanne.
The danger over, he ran over to his extremely relieved colleague and peeled the tape away from her mouth. After Suzanne spat out the rubber ball from her mouth she breathed in deeply for a few seconds, before she panted breathlessly, “You’re paying for that front window James.”
“I’ll see if I can get it sorted on expenses,” Marlowe replied with a laugh of relief. As he proceeded to untie her left wrist Suzanne responded with a relieved laugh of her own.
“I’ve just realised, we’ve been working together for over three years, and yet this is the first time I’ve been round your house,” Suzanne remarked as Marlowe brought her a steaming hot chocolate.
“Well your house is a lot nicer than mine, even if your front window has recently been shattered by an irresponsible policeman,” Marlowe replied as he sat down beside her on his sofa, cradling his mug of black filter coffee. They sat side by side in silence for a few seconds, sipping their respective drinks, until out of nowhere Marlowe pulled his arms around Suzanne to comfort her. “You ok?” he asked with genuine concern in his voice.
Suzanne nodded, while rubbing her chafed wrists which still had ropemarks against her skin. She shook her raven hair as she replied, “Just wondering how furious Pilkington is going to be when he realises the idol was stolen from our own safe.”
“If he’s more pre-occupied with his own self-image than in the safety of his police officers then he’s more of a selfish prick than we already know he is,” Marlowe told her.
Suzanne sipped the steaming drink lightly, before she asked a question that had been on her mind from the moment she’d first stepped into Marlowe’s house an hour ago. “Why didn’t Mr White kill me?”
“Don’t think like that,” insisted Marlowe.
“No seriously James, any other madman would have just used that gun to kill me there and then,” theorised Suzanne. “But Mr White went to great lengths to set up that death trap, and only to tell you that I was in trouble. And for what?”
Marlowe shrugged. “Maybe he likes making people dance to his tune. He enjoys putting people in danger and seeing if they can wriggle out of his scheme. He’s just a control freak who relishes in manipulating his victims.”
“Mmm, perhaps you’re right,” Suzanne answered simply. But the whole episode had only intrigued her about Mr White further. Was the man only interested in causing misery and chaos, and trapped innocent victims in his schemes just for his own amusement? Or was there something else driving him into being the devious and elusive criminal who remained very much at large?