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Something I need to tell you …

by  Cornelia

Posted: Saturday, June 26, 2010
Word Count: 1511
Summary: A crime story with a suburban setting

‘Angela, I’m home…’

Damn! She’d hoped to catch Derek as soon as he came in from work. After Jean’s phone call, she’d waited what seemed like hours for his footsteps on the path. Then, way past the usual time, she'd slipped out to the kitchen to put the kettle on. Tea and a chocolate biscuit might help calm her nerves.

The state she was in, cooking was quite out of the question. It was as much as she could do not to jump when the water gushed out too fast. She almost dropped the kettle when the jet hit the sink like a gunshot and splashed up towards her. She fumbled to get the kettle back on its pedestal, swearing until the hole in the base slipped over the contact. Despite Jean’s warning, there was still a chance Derek wouldn’t find out. She’d have to tell him, though, just in case.

When Jean rang she'd been watching a programme with people auctioning junk they'd found in their attics. A woman clapped her hands to her cheeks as someone bid £200 for a ghastly tea-set made in the thirties. Angela switched to the shopping channel, hesitating only long enough for a celebrity to tell her 'You're worth it!'

Derek was already on the sofa and the TV switched on again by the time she entered the living room.

‘Sorry I’m late.' He was frowning at a list of programmes he'd brought up on the screen. ‘Train delayed yet again and we were all waiting to hear the excuse of the day. Turned out to be an obstruction on the line, so we were held up even longer than usual.’ He sighed as he loosened his tie then raised his eyebrows as if in apology, but his gaze didn’t leave the screen.

Angela sat down beside him and took a deep breath. ‘Derek, there’s something I must tell you…’

‘Don’t fuss about dinner just yet, Angela. I want to look at the news ... see if there’s anything about that delay. Someone mentioned a body on the line. Nothing about that in the announcement, though.’ He lowered the volume of 'Come Dine With Me', then kept his eyes trained on the images as he began rapidly switching channels.

Angela placed a restraining hand on his wrist. ‘Look, if you could just …’ It was even more difficult than she’d imagined, and she didn’t know what to say, but it would come better from her.

He lowered the volume but didn’t change the direction of his gaze.

‘I can’t get over the quality of this picture. These flat-screen TVs are fantastic. Good investment, darling. You can’t beat John Lewis.’ He laughed, and lowered his chin into his neck so the words came out as if he were a ventriloquist: ‘Never knowingly undersold.’

Angela suddenly sprang to her feet and slammed the cushion she'd been cradling against the back of the sofa. ‘Derek! For God’s sake, couldn’t you just for once listen.’

At last he seemed to realise she had something to tell him, something that apparently wouldn’t wait.

‘Sorry, darling. It’s just that everybody in the carriage was leaning out of the windows. No need to get all wound up about it. I know I should have asked you how your day went; probably as frustrating as mine. Your morning to help out at the Oxfam Shop, was it? Brenda getting the sizes all wrong again?’

Now that she had his attention he looked at her more closely.

‘Amazing. That dress looks brand new.’

Angela took another deep breath and considered the implications. What she had to say would affect Derek as much as her. More so, in fact. He was such a slave to his gadgets.

‘Oh, no, no, it’s not new. I think you’ve seen it before.’ She’d better tell him before it was too late and he found out the hard way. Just a matter of finding the right words.

‘Well, how you do it I don’t know. You’re a wonderful manager, always said so.’ Derek’s jauntiness seemed to have a calming effect, he noted. She obviously just needed a bit of attention. It was insensitive just to rush in and turn on the television.

‘It can’t all come from handicrafts and fete stalls, surely… How is the quilting group, by the way? Isn’t Thursday the afternoon you all get together?’

Angela glared at him again. Her reply was sharper than she intended. ‘Quilting? Why do you mention quilting?’

Derek laughed. ‘Don’t you remember that time I came home early and you were with those two women? New friends, you said. I hadn’t met them before but you had a quilt spread over your knees, quite a work of art, and you said you were checking the stitches. That was a Thursday, like today. I remember you wouldn’t let me touch it. I suppose with people willing to pay top prices for a real, home-made quilt these days you can’t be too careful with the fabric. I don’t suppose the baby was any help, either.’


'Don’t you remember the pushchair left in the hallway? I swore quite loudly when I tripped over it. Just as well I didn’t wake it up. But it was as good as gold. You’d have almost thought the pram was empty.’

‘Ah, yes, I remember now. Look, just stop talking for a minute, will you, because…’

Through the net curtains at the bay window, Angela spotted two men walking up the garden path. It was too late. She realised she’d missed her chance. Time to face up to the consequences and hope Derek didn’t judge her too harshly. After all, he’d enjoyed the benefits. Looked at that way, he was as much to blame as she was.

Derek took advantage of her inattention and clicked at the remote control, bringing up the sound. ‘At last! This seems to be it!’

On the screen, a reporter stood beside a railway line and spoke into a hand-held microphone. Behind him, a small crowd stood behind railings near a railway track.

‘Severe delays to rush hour services in the South East occurred this afternoon when a train approaching Bromley North was forced to make an emergency stop. An object, believed to be a large package, was later removed from the line. It was possibly thrown from that bridge.’

The camera panned upwards to show a bridge and a straggle of onlookers. A couple of people in the crowd waved and made faces.Then it came back to focus on the reporter.

As Angela listened for the doorbell, a studio presenter began to speak.

‘Police in South London today are believed to have arrested a gang of shop-lifters. Operating in suburban High Streets, the trio of women targeted jewellers, concealed the goods and distracting shopkeepers before making their get-away.

Angela made a final attempt: ‘Derek, if you don't listen now you'll regret it for months, maybe years. I really need to explain….’ but he made a chopping movement with his left hand and turned up the volume as the presenter continued.

‘Stolen goods were transferred to a waiting motorcyclist whom the police followed. They were too late to prevent a package being dropped onto a rail track, bringing trains to a halt and severely disrupting services. However, the motor-cyclist, later described as female, was arrested.

At that moment the door bell rang. After hesitating, then removing her apron, Angela went to the door.

Derek heard a man’s voice asking, ‘Are you Angela Timpson?’ On the TV, the newscaster continued:

‘When confronted with the goods, valued at £10,000, the motorcyclist, believed to be a Mrs Charlotte Smith of Sevenoaks, at first denied it.’

Derek turned down the volume and looked round the room. His gaze ranged over an exquisitely patterned oriental rug, a new DVD player and a laptop computer not yet unpacked from its box. Suddenly, with a loud cry, he dropped the remote onto the coffee table, where it fell with a clatter.

Angela came back into the room, closely followed by two uniformed policemen. They too looked round the room, taking in at a glance the quality of the furnishings. Before Derek could say anything, one of them moved in front of Angela, turned to face her and began to speak. His voice was kindly but firm.

‘Mrs Angela Timpson, I am arresting you on suspicion…’

Derek’s bewildered face turned again to the screen where the announcer was coming to the end of the report.

‘A full confession was obtained later, when a jeweller claimed to recognise the cloth in which the goods were wrapped. The women had used an empty child’s pushchair as a decoy and a distinctive patchwork quilt to conceal the goods.’

Derek snatched at the remote and clicked until the screen went blank. He turned towards the men and swallowed before speaking. As Angela stood with her hands clasped and head bowed he made the effort to speak, addressing the taller of the two men.

‘Does this mean we’ll lose the TV set, Inspector?’