[Music treat at the end. This story will be posted in full after the Challenge for those of us that like to read everything in one complete telling,]
OBSTRUCTIONS – Saturday Late Afternoon
Odious odours and smoke obscure the scene at the junction of Snowdon and Madog. I thread my way through the onlookers and under the police tape. The fire was fierce, destroying most of the corner building’s façade. A charred signboard hangs dangerously loose.
A group of North Wales firefighters are dousing down. One acts officious.
“Late as always, Meinwen. I solved this hours ago.”
Unlikely. Owen Anwyl might be a fire investigator, but his solutions depend on others.
I’ve known him all my life, but I’m the eldest sibling by a year.
“Some of us have other cases to occupy our hours.”
His smirk prepares me for more taunts.
But a man in blue slacks, red shirt and white flannel jacket pushes his way through the barrier towards us. 5 foot 11, athletic, tanned, dyed black hair.
“Hugh Arbuthnot. I own this shop.” His voice pronounces every word like another royal invader. His icy stare flicks between us, then he selects my brother in his dusty uniform – casts me away. “Officer, I need to know what happened here.”
His equally posh lawyer will be next – or his accountant to count the losses.
“A car mounted the pavement and skidded into your shop front. Then the ruptured fuel tank exploded. Petrol – that’s the acrid odour. A simple accident.”
Owen leads the owner around the burnt out 4×4 – torched by the ram-raiders. No accident. Nor the petty thief we at CID are tracking.
I assess the interior. Any robbery evidence is obliterated by arson. Convenient – for the perpetrators.
Tattoos tingling, I tap my bracer. A for Arson. R for Robbery. O for Organised. Deliberate. ROAD. But not road rage.
“Why the police tape? Do you suspect a crime?”
“No, just routine to keep onlookers back.” More Owen bull-shit.
“I disagree, this is a crime scene.”
“Who are you?”
I’m not dressed as a cop. So, I reach inside my biking leathers for my warrant card.
“An opinionated observer who’s operating without her lezzie partner – for once.”
I scowl at Owen, but the posh Englishman flinches – one gesture short of crossing himself.
“I’m Detective Sparkle Anwyl, CID. This officer requested our involvement in this suspected arson, which I believe was a ram raid robbery.”
Glancing at my ID, Hugh Arbuthnot frowns, hands behind his back. “I demand another detective – a second opinion. Not from someone like you.”
“So, not Welsh,” I say, twisting his insult. “Not easy in North Wales. But my partner is Tamil – her family immigrated from South India. And she’s a more senior detective. Plus, our boss, Detective Inspector Ffion Baines approves of our teamwork. Now, do you want to obstruct us or resolve this case?”
I’m out of order but annoyed. Ffion would agree. Owen is stirring. He requested me on purpose. Petty sibling rivalry.
A for Arson and Arbuthnot. R for Ram-raid and Robbery. O for Owner and Obstructions. D for Disagree and Disgrace.
ROAD. Ignoring the rage, where to? Trace the 4 x 4.
“Officer Anwyl, finish off your fire investigation, then please allow our forensic team to gather what they need – like that vehicle.”
At the outside corner of the shop, I wait for Hugh Arbuthnot. He will talk to me. He has no choice.
I gather more evidence. The angle of the crash is deliberate. The torched vehicle designed to obliterate evidence but not destroy the building. Measured. Observed in advance.
“My official objection will be lodged. I can give my opinion but no more than that.”
“That’s your right, sir. For now, I need to know how long you’ve owned this shop, what would the robbers take, and have there been any other occurrences?”
He paces, throwing glances at the building and the burnt-out car.
“My wife bought The Jewel Box two years ago.” He grits his teeth and taps his left foot. “She died in the spring. I’ve attempted to run this gift shop, but I have my own work. I’m a movie producer with a demanding professional schedule.”
He hands me a fancy card – Hugh B Arbuthnot, Oriole Productions, Executive Producer.
“Who runs the shop when you’re working?”
“My daughter, Olivia and her husband.” He snorts, head held high. “Poulsen.” He slaps his left palm to his forehead. “He mixes in shady circles. Some of his cronies did this.”
Opportunistic thieves? Or convenient coincidence? Whose production?
For those that wondered, yes this is my #WEP/IWSG post for April so part of the 2019 WEP/IWSG Challenge. This incident will be explored further over the course of the next four #WEP/IWSG posts. In the meantime, please enjoy Azure Spark, another case for Sparkle Anwyl and her colleagues.
Word Count 731: MPA
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And now for something completely different.
“Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” William Congreve – The Mourning Bride