Pick a Box
Gina stood in the dingy, smelly basement (or ‘the dungeon’ as it was colloquially referred to) and cringed inwardly at the sight of row upon row of boxes stacked on shelving units. There must be hundreds of them, she thought.
‘Pick a box. Any box,’ Senior Detective Matt Rankin said with a smug grin. ‘Every one’s a winner and every one’s a loser. I’ll leave you to it then,’ he said as he turned on his heel and walked out into the passage that led back to the relatively bright lights of Police Headquarters.
Her shoulders slumped as she moved woodenly towards the shelves. Gina had recently been upgraded to Detective Constable and transferred to Headquarters to gain experience. She knew as the ‘newbie’ she wouldn’t get the cushy jobs, but this seemed unreasonably cruel. Detective Rankin had instructed her to choose one of these boxes that contained details of an unsolved crime, and to thoroughly research every aspect of the case.
Well, I won’t get anywhere just standing here. May as well get on with it. She walked past a number of rows then turned into the next one. Moving along the aisle, she counted twenty steps then stopped, put her right hand out and touched one of the boxes. She pulled it towards her, removing it from the shelf and brushing the layer of dust from the lid. ANDERSON, B.W. and ANDERSON, C. B & E and Robbery with Violent Assault. 14-12-98. Open Case.
Gina wrote her details in the record book detailing who was taking what and for why. As she walked back to the office, she realised the box was quite heavy and must, therefore, hold a heap of papers and evidence. Good one Gina. Next time, pick a lighter box.
While she made a coffee in the small kitchenette, one of the civilian employees came in. ‘Hello Gina. How are you settling in?’ she asked cheerfully.
‘Better before I got this assignment.’
‘Bit tough eh?’
‘Yeah. Never mind. Something useful to do. How about you Wendy?’
‘Yeah, I’m okay. Data entry is never terribly exciting but at least it pays the rent.’
Gina walked slowly back to her cubicle, sipping on the hot coffee. She sat at her desk and removed the lid from the box. Peering inside, she saw a heap of files and sighed. There were also some plastic bags holding items of evidence. She took the first file and began to read, writing anything she thought worthy of follow up in her notebook.
Brian and Christine Anderson lived in Markham Park, an upmarket suburb north of the city. In their early seventies, they’d had a quiet evening at home together, watching Netflix shows. Around ten thirty they’d gone upstairs to bed.
They were woken with shouts of ‘Get up. Get up. Get out of bed.’ Blankets were yanked back and they were grabbed by their arms and dragged out of bed. Christine fell to her knees in the darkness and was jerked to her feet by a man dressed entirely in black, wearing a full head gorilla mask. He shone his torch into her eyes so she couldn’t see. He said, ‘Don’t cause any trouble and you won’t get hurt.’
She was confused and her brain was still fuzzy from sleep. She heard Brian struggling and shouting at his assailant to let him go, then she heard a thump, a cry of pain and another thump as her husband dropped to the floor. She called out, ‘Brian. Are you alright? Brian?’ She could hear him moaning.
The assailant with Brian shouted, ‘Get up you useless bastard or I’ll drag you down the fucking stairs.’
The man who gripped Christine firmly by the wrist, dragged her towards the door and called out, ‘Take it easy. Don’t knock him out altogether. We need the combination to the safe.’
The intruders dragged the couple downstairs and into the office. ‘Right old man,’ one of the men growled, ‘Open the safe and I won’t hurt your wife. Any funny business and I’ll break her leg,’ he said, waving the bloodied jemmy bar at her. Christine gasped with horror.
‘Don’t hurt her,’ Brian said groggily, blood trickling from his head that was thumping with pain from the hit he took upstairs. ‘I’ll open it for you.’
Christine was thrown onto a chair while Brian opened the safe. One of the intruders pulled a sack from his jacket pocket and started stuffing jewellery boxes and cash into it. His partner took some rope from his jacket pocket and tied Brian, hands behind his back, to one of the chairs. He then tied Christine to her chair, leaving her hands tied in front. ‘When we’re gone, you’ll be able to undo your ropes and untie your husband’s.’
One of the intruders stayed in the office while the other made a quick search of the house. He came back with two mobile phones and some more cash from Christine’s handbag. They ripped the landline phone cord from the socket, smashed the connection and threw the mobiles out the window into the garden, picked up the bag of valuables and ran.
Immediately, Christine started plucking at the knots tying her shaking hands together. ‘Are you alright love,’ she asked Brian. Blood was running down his face from the gash in his head and he looked pale.
‘Yeah, Hell of a headache but otherwise I think I’m okay. Are you alright?’
‘Yes. If I could only get my hands to stop shaking and get these damned knots undone.’
When she’d untied Brian, she almost collapsed. He placed her gently into a chair while he retrieved the mobiles from the garden and called the police.
Well, well,’ Gina thought, Look who was one of the officers attending the crime scene. Detective Constable Rankin. Fancy that. She imagined him as a young man at the beginning of his career, just as she was. Somehow, he seemed more like a human being now. She read through the interview notes, in DC Rankin’s hand writing.
They had no idea who the intruders were, couldn’t think of anyone it could have been. They were average height and build, nothing unusual at all. They were dressed in black, sneakers, gloves, gorilla masks. Ridiculously, she’d suddenly remembered her brother saying someone had eyes ‘like piss holes in the snow’. That’s just what they looked like,’ she later told DC Rankin, ‘piss holes in the snow.’ One had a small jemmy bar that was probably used to open the laundry window to gain entry to the house, most likely also used to hit Brian on the head. They didn’t say much, but their voices sounded odd, as if they were speaking through something. Actually, one of them was quite reasonable in a way, tying the knots where Christine could get them undone, not smashing their mobile phones or taking all their credit cards and things.
DC Rankin wrote in his notes – Nice B & E robbers???
Another folder contained details of the jewellery and money stolen. She flicked through the photos that had been taken for insurance valuations. Very nice stuff, Gina thought. Wouldn’t mind if I had a husband who bought me diamonds and rubies and solid gold bracelets.
On the Friday before SD Rankin left for his holidays, his wife came into the office to collect him. She introduced herself to Gina. ‘Hello. You must be the new DC. I’m Anna, Matt’s wife. I’ve come to pick him up. We’re on our way to the airport for a couple of weeks in the snowfields.’
‘How lovely,’ Gina said with a smile, as she shook Anna’s hand. Glancing at her hand, she said, ‘What a beautiful ring.’
‘Yes, it is isn’t it,’ Anna said proudly holding her hand out for Gina to have a good look. ‘Matt designed it himself as our engagement ring,’ she continued. ‘When all the family were gathered together for Christmas lunch, he got down on one knee in front of them all, and asked me to marry him. I don’t get much opportunity to wear it and thought today would be a good time.’ Matt came in while they continued chatting.
‘So you designed this?’ Gina asked him. Matt nodded his head while Anna beamed a loving smile at him.
‘Very clever of you.’
Anna said they had to get going. ‘Don’t want to miss the plane.’ She said with a wave of her hand.
‘Have a great holiday,’ Gina called as they walked away. There’s another lucky woman whose husband gives her beautiful jewellery.
She’d come to a standstill with the Anderson file. December 1998 was a long time ago. With the victims already in their seventies, it was no surprise to learn they’d passed away, and there were no other witnesses. Some of the jewellery turned up at a city pawnshop, but the robbers had vanished without a trace.
As she cleared her desk and packed all the folders back into the box, she felt disappointed she hadn’t found anything useful. It would have been a real buzz to have solved her first case!
She hesitated as she picked up the folder containing photos of the stolen jewellery. She had one last, longing look before returning the box to the dungeon. One of the photos caught her attention and she held her breath as she stared at it. One of the stolen rings was exactly the same as the one Anna wore, a massive emerald surrounded by leaves wreathed around a wide gold band. Gina was sure of it because it was so different, there couldn’t possibly be two exactly the same.
She was stunned. Other staff members called ‘Good night’ as they left the office but she sat staring at the photo. Matt and Anna would be away for two weeks, so she had two weeks to decide what to do.
Here’s the dilemma. He’s her boss. He’s had an exemplary career in the police force over the past thirty five years. Are her suspicions strong enough to prove her theory? What would happen to her career if she cast a shadow of doubt over a senior officer? Even if her suspicions were proven true, dobbing a fellow officer in was generally frowned upon. She’d possibly be ‘encouraged’ to move interstate.
He was a young officer trying to make a future for himself and the young woman he wanted to marry. It was almost Christmas. An opportunity to give her a spectacular engagement ring proved too much temptation for him. He made a foolish mistake, she could understand that, but it was still a criminal offence. And how would Anna feel if she discovered the made-to-order engagement ring, supposedly designed by her husband to be, had actually been stolen?
If Gina confronted him with her suspicions, things could quickly turn very nasty. Even if she told him she wouldn’t report him but gave him the option to speak with the Police Commissioner himself, it wouldn’t be a pleasant work place for her. She’d definitely have to be transferred.
What a bloody mess. All because she picked that particular damned box.
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I think this story has a lot of potential. I liked the plot, setting and characters, but truthfully, would have like to have seen a resolution at the end. Preferably one when the dirty cop gets what's due. I do have a nagging question: was it was the police officer in the gorilla suit? I couldn't tell. It seemed possible with the references to a nice B&E burglar. Or did he get the ring from the pawn shop (which would let him off the hook). This reminds me of why I don't write crime fiction because there are so many details to consider to m...
I like your story and agree with Tommy's comments, this could be a longer more developed tale. I like the detective's name and wondered if it was a nod to the fabulous Ian Rankine? If not it's a great example of serendipity.
Thank you for your interest in my story Wendy. Sorry to say, I don't know Ian Rankine, please forgive my ignorance. As you suggest, I could write a follow-on story when I get some inspiration to do so. Thanks.
Ian Rankine is a crime writer, he writes about a Scottish detective called Rebus. He is a character with issues, hence why I wondered. It is just a great co-incidence!
Interesting use of the law here...not the same as justice, is it?
Thanks for your interest and comment Kendall. I think, like beauty, 'Justice is in the eye of the beholder'.
hmmm Clear writing. good pacing. Plot? Or character? I can think of no plot to hide the ring longer. It is about 2 paragraphs of a cliffhanger before the reveal. I did find an interesting moral quandary. What if the new constable, the narrator, so severely likes what Rankin has (the life) that she wants to protect him? Just add a little more in the part where she gets the box and talks to the data processor. Write about her idealization of Senior Constable Rankin's life. (This way the actual crime is an illusion). The ending is current...
Hello Tommy. Thank you very much for your interesting and viable comments. I don't think she wants to protect the detective so much as she wants to protect her job. Also like your suggested conclusion that she puts the box back and chooses another one. Thanks again.