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The Case of Double
It was a cold, wet morning. The sheets of rain beat on Jack's window. He sat in his favorite blue chair, as usual, sipping tea rather than coffee, which was actually quite contrary to his norm. Ace, his cat, lay in his lap, and his sleepy dog Jesse in its bed nearby. Jack was so engrossed in a fascinating article on equine behavior that he started when the phone rang right next to him.
It was Inspector Burrow.
Apparently, a very large sum of money had been stolen from a retired major living in the country.
“I'll be there in half an hour.”
The major lived in an old manor about 9 kilometers out of Enfield, England, where Jack lived.
Jack caught a taxi. The manor sat on a large estate, with a good shrubbery and stables. Once inside, Jack was led to a large room upstairs. He judged it to be the major’s study, having a large wooden desk and walls lined with book shelves. The two windows overlooked the front yard from the center of the house. In a corner of the room stood a great old safe; the door stood ajar, and a key lie on the floor nearby. Smudged with grease, it would have been nearly impossible to get an accurate fingerprint from it. Jack picked up the key with a pair of tweezers.
“Yes, we've discovered that,” the inspector said irritably.
Jack grimaced, but said, “What other evidence is there?”
Jack finished his scrutiny of the smudged key before inspecting the rest of the room.
“Well, I don't see any other abnormalties. Not even oil on the door handle…” He looked troubled. The major, standing nearby, coughed. “But if you’d be so kind, Burrow, could I speak with the suspects?”
The group suspects was comprised of everyone who had been staying at the house on the night of the theft. Questioning them was at first unfruitful: most of the people were upset about the whole affair, and for some that would be to say the least. Thus, not too many of them were very cooperative. But, Jack was able to gain some helpful information upon questioning the major and his son. Though questioned separately, what the two said was perfectly cohesive.
“Well, Mr. Mason, the most likely suspect I can name,” began the major, without much facial expression, “although I don't like saying it, is my son James. You see... well, we've not really been on the most intimate terms, ever since... well, ever since I refused to give him his full inheritance, his request of which was quite premature, I must say. After all, I’m not dead yet, Mr. Mason, as you can clearly see!” Jack laughed and agreed.
On questioning the major's son:
“What, uh… what were you doing the evening before the theft, Mr. James?” Jack inquired. Yes, although a pretty generic question, it was indeed necessary. He tried to say it in a sensitive way, not being overly straight-forward.
“Ehh, working on one of my cars. That's a hobby of mine, you see.”
“Ah. And, what kind of work were you doing?”
He seemed pretty casual... too casual... Anyone else would have been offended if asked such a question. And it all fit too perfectly. The son grows angry at his father for not giving him a no doubt large sum of money; the son is doing engine work the evening before the robbery of a very large sum of money from the father; and the key used to unlock the safe was smudged with motor oil. Yet, the father and the son had both told Jack exactly what he needed to know, and little else, in order for him come to the conclusion that the son had indeed stolen the money. Why would the son be so casual about it! So, Jack concluded, either it was all a coincidence and his suspicion was unnecessary, or something was going on behind the crystal evidence.
This sparked a vague sense of caution in his mind. It was somewhat of a long-shot, but...
The next day, after mid-morning tea, the major insisted that Jack accompany him for a walk round the garden, so he went along.
“I say, what a remarkably fresh and exhilarating morning,” Jack remarked enthusiastically.
“Yes... yes, indeed. Most agreeable.”
The two rounded a corner behind a grove of beech trees. There were a few large birds overhead, and Jack and the major were looking up and talking about them in passing. But Jack's part of the conversation was rudely curtailed when a large, course hand clamped over his mouth. That and the major still talking about one of the birds were the last things Jack remembered.
He woke up in a dirty, dusty room, gagged with his hands bound behind him. In a far corner, three men were talking; but they immediately stopped when they noticed Jack was awake. One rather large fellow walked over, a cruel and vaguely familiar smile upon his face.
“How's it feel, Mason? Huh?” said the large man walking nearer. “How's it feel to be tied up and left in a corner? Don't think you're so big now, do ya? Huh? Huh!” He struck Jack across the face, slamming his head against the wall. The man went off chuckling darkly to himself. Jack then remembered the man’s name: Latch. Looking over at the others, he recognized one, whose name he remembered to be Mitch. Him and Latch were two criminal partners Jack had helped imprison about four years before. The third man was the major.
Jack’s captors didn’t stop him from standing up and stretching his legs, which he was thankful for. When they weren’t looking, Jack would snatch glances through the cracks in the boarded windows. He was able to ascertain that he was in a rather run-down looking neighborhood. It appeared to be abandoned, save for him and his captors.
The place he was held in was a dirty, musty place. It had trash lying about, most everything covered in dust. Jack wondered how anyone could possibly live in such an environment.
The pain from the blow that had sent him unconscious back at the estate took a few days to subside enough for him to think clearly. It was then that he tried to start devising his plan of escape. Such an endeavor would be a rather difficult one, he knew; he would have to catch them careless.
Day after day, hour after hour, Jack waited for his signal; the unintentional one given by his captors, that would tell him when to make his move. He was generally a man of great patience, but this was terrible. Good thing, he thought to himself, there wasn't a clock in the room to tick away the seconds.
What the Latch and the others did throughout this time were things like: talk among themselves, sleep, eat, talk to someone on the phone- probably a colleague- and wait around. What are they waiting for? Jack thought. Someone they’re working for? He didn’t know why they were waiting, but he was, in a way, thankful: at least they hadn’t killed him already.
Finally, Jack’s patience paid off.
Latch had just hung up the phone from speaking to someone of apparent importance.
“The Eagle?” Mitch said eagerly.
“Yeah, finally,” Latch spat, standing up. “Majorboy and I are going to meet up with him. You stay here and watch Mason.”
“Fine,” replied Mitch. “When'll you be back?”
Latch left with the major, and Jack heard a car drive off.
He knew this was the time: he’d received his signal; so now for his method of escape. This Mitch fellow who had stayed behind to watch him, had been yawning as the others left; so perhaps, Jack thought, that would be his chance. But for the moment, Mitch was awake.
“Sooo…” Jack said.
Mitch looked at him and grunted, then slid out on his chair and sat back, closing his eyes.
Jack let him sink into deeper sleep before attempting to get up. He was sitting in his corner, hands bound behind him. He knew he had a bit of a task before him; even when he wasn’t trying to be quiet, it was pretty difficult to get up with his hands behind his back. But, after taking a moment to consider the best way to do this, he finally gathered his courage.
He slid his foot underneath him. Then, securing that Mitch was still soundly asleep, he slowly unfolded his leg, sliding up the wall on his back. Again he paused. But now, on his feet, he very carefully maneuvered across the room to the other corner. He had to step around the various pieces of trash. The only things that weren’t covered in a layer of dust were some empty chip bags, and small boxes that had previously held food; these Jack’s captors had recently discarded on the floor. The other things included old broken chairs and a table on its side, with an old table cloth lying about it; there were other things as well, but for the most part they were unidentifiable, broken in pieces and covered in the dust.
Well, Jack’s next move might actually have been the most difficult. He had seen a knife sheath on Mitch’s belt; no other sharp objects were visible that could be used to cut Jack’s bonds. So, it appeared as though the only option would be for Jack to attempt to retrieve the knife from Mitch’s belt, with his hands tied behind his back.
Well, Jack turned around and backed up slowly. Straining to see his hands, he painstakingly bent down and moved slightly closer to the knife handle. Beads of sweat burst out on his forehead as his heart raced. He barely breathed.
Finally he felt the handle, and tried to get hold of it. Ahk! This process took forever! He had to go slow, so as to not bump Mitch. A couple times he had to just pause in position to breathe for a moment.
Ok, he had the knife half way out the sheath. But- Oh no- he almost had it out and he started leaning forward, and he wasn’t able to catch himself. The last bit of the knife was jerked out of the sheath as Jack tumbled forward on his face and hit the floor with a grunt.
Behind him he heard a shout and he spun around onto his back and simultaneously swung his leg toward where he knew or hoped Mitch’s leg would be. He felt contact, so continued in the motion. Mitch tumbled back onto the chair and to the floor; Jack spotted a pistol in his hand.
Hurriedly Jack focused on cutting his ropes with the knife he now held. Thankfully, Mitch was taking extra-long at recovering himself and getting up, having fell in an awkward position. But, he didn’t take long enough.
Jack had to stumble to his feet before he had completed his task; and just as Mitch had regained his own footing, Jack dove his foot into the man’s gut. With the margin of time he had, Jack vigorously cut at the ropes behind him. Mitch was falling down in front of him from the blow. Jack kicked the pistol from his hand, then kicked him across the face and moved away to finish cutting the ropes.
Jack felt a hard shoulder in his gut and the two fell back to the floor, and struggled to gain their footing once more. But during that time, Jack finally regained full use of his arms, and wielded this ability with vigor.
At length, Jack managed to get to his feet, and dove for the man’s gun on the floor behind them. As he was grabbing it up, he heard behind him Mitch getting up; so he spun around with the pistol held out, and Mitch stopped a short distance away.
They both froze in their positions; the only sound that could be heard now was their heavy breathing. Finally Jack said,
“Turn around.” When Mitch didn’t adhere to his command, Jack held the pistol higher, to the man’s face; hesitantly, he turned around. After a moment Jack stepped closer behind him and clonked him on the back of the head with the barrel of the pistol.
So, Jack escaped; Mitch was bound, unconscious, in the corner Jack had previously inhabited.
Now came the task of finding out where he was, and getting back to the city. He looked around, walking a little ways. He was indeed in an old abandoned neighborhood, evidently isolated from other houses, within the forest.
At first he didn’t recognize anything. Apparently he was far enough from the city that the tall clock tower was hidden from view. But, as he continued to look around, he did spot a curious outcropping of rock that jutted out above the trees. That looked a little familiar… yes! There were exactly three trees on it, two beeches and a holly. He knew he’d noticed that on the road to the estate so many days earlier.
So, he began cutting through the forest toward it. Once there, he considered climbing to the top and seeing what he could see; it was at an angle, and he might be able to make it up the slope. But, he wasn’t feeling too good about it, so decided to try to find the road instead. As he remembered, the outcropping had loomed fairly close to the road. So, it must be close…
He remembered the rock outcropping had been leaning parallel to the road. So, he cut straight through the forest from the outcropping, and did indeed succeed at finding the road. Now… when I was driving, the outcropping had leaned… toward the estate; it pointed the same direction I was going. So, he went that way along the road: the direction the outcropping pointed.
Well, it took about half an hour of walking to get to the estate. The sun had peaked the sky a good while before he had reached the road, and it was now in descent, bringing on the evening.
Nearing the place where the forest gave way to the extensive estate lawns, Jack slowed. He wanted to be wary; if the major and his son had been trying to help capture Jack, it might not be wise showing his face there again, until the perpetrators were secured. So, he stayed a short distance inside forest and crept around to the other side, where his car was still parked. He would have to cross some uncovered ground to reach it though, so paused to scan the area before showing himself.
No one was visible on the grounds, and, peering into the windows of the house, Jack couldn’t see anyone. So, he gathered his courage, and made a run for it to the near side of his car. He crouched there a short while, listening for the sounds of anyone that had spotted him.
But, before proceeding, he put some thought into it. He wasn’t so sure this was the safest way to go.
How else would he get back to the city? He couldn’t just catch a taxi, or take somebody else’s car, which- if he had the keys- might be justifiable. But he had to decide… So, he decided to proceed, but very carefully.
When he’d been captured his pockets had been emptied, so he didn’t have his keys or his phone. But he always kept a spare key stuck on the bottom of his car; so, using that he got in from the back seat, and climbed up to the front. He glanced around before he put the key in the ignition; still, he didn’t see anyone.
Well, here it came; he’d have to start the car. He did this very carefully; and slowly. You see, he figured that his captors might have- just might have- been smart enough to think of the possibility of his escaping. As he turned the key, he listened for that sound: the sound of a car bomb being detonated. His mind instantly shot to the time 3 years before, when Inspector Burrow had shown him what that sound was like. It had been a sunny summer day, fairly warm, but with a pleasant breeze. He remembered that, because Burrow and him had shared a Coke.
But now for the task at hand. He had to do it. He turned the key twice, and on the third time the car came to life. Nothing. He hadn’t heard it. And even several moments afterward, he didn’t hear anything, and nothing happened that wasn’t supposed to.
Oh what relief swept over him! and he was able to relax, and rest his head back. But he quickly after put his car in reverse and got outta there, before somebody did see him.
7:00pm. Burrow and his men were in position. Jack’s men were ready. Burrow gave the signal, and they all moved in on the building in which Jack had for so long been held captive.
The door flew open, and the first three men aimed through the doorway. Then the rest of them filed in.
“It’s over,” said the inspector once they had all entered. “Put your hands behind your heads and get on your knees. Sergeant, take over.”
“You have the right to remain silent…”
The failing light shone through a crack in the boarded window like a scar on Latch’s face. He was looking at Jack.
“… Anything you say or do will be held against you in the court of law.”