Text Box: Short Story 2015/2016 — Third Place

 

Neighbourhood Watch by Vanessa Savage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This interview is being tape recorded.

I am DI Thomas, also present is DC Fairfield.

There are no other persons present.

 

“What time did you walk through the park?”

“Eight? I was on my way to work so something like that. I usually get the bus but it was such a lovely morning.”

“And you saw the boy arrive?”

“Yes.”

“Was he on his own? Did you see anyone else with him or near him?”

“I don’t remember.”

“What else did you see?”

“Well… he just lay down.”

“Did he fall?”

“Not really – he just stopped walking and sort of… sank down.”

“Did you do anything? Say anything?”

“Well no – I didn’t want to be late for work.”

“And you went back through the park at…?”

“About five thirty. It would have been a bit earlier but I stopped at Marks & Spencer to pick up something for tea.”

“And the boy was still there?”

“Yes, still there. Lying in the same place.”

“And you didn’t think that was odd?”

“Well, I assumed he was probably on drugs or something.”

“He was fourteen.”

“Sorry?”

“The boy. He was fourteen.”

“I’m not very good with ages.”

“He was wearing school uniform.”

“I didn’t notice what he was wearing.”

“It didn’t occur to you to call the police? When you noticed the teenage boy still lying on the ground eight hours after you first saw him?”

“I suppose I thought someone else would if there was a problem.”

“But you’re here now.”

“I saw the poster in the park asking for information.”

“Four days after a teenage boy – a child – entered the park, lay down and died, you’ve come in.”

“It wasn’t just me. There were dozens and dozens of people in the park. Like I said, it was a lovely day.”

“Yes, dozens and dozens and no one reported anything. Twenty-four hours before someone called us. How many people do you think walked past his body in those twenty-four hours?”

“Look, I’m sorry, but it was nothing to do with me. I had no idea he was dead, I thought he was drunk.”

“He was stabbed. Murdered. As you walked through the park on a sunny Wednesday morning, someone, someone just like you, strolling through, walked up to him and stabbed him, then carried on walking like nothing had happened.”

“There was a murderer there? In the park while I was there? God… I still walk through that park – haven’t you caught him yet?”

“So far, twenty-six people have come in since seeing that poster. Which means over the twenty-four hours between the boy being murdered and the first call to us, we’ve already had twenty-six people telling us they saw the boy in the park, lying on the grass. Not one of them saw anything else or did anything. Our estimated time of death indicates he was alive when you first saw him fall.”

“Well, there you go.”

“What?”

“I’m not one of the ones who walked past a dead body and did nothing. He was still alive when I saw him.”

“But if you’d called someone then…”

“Look – I have a very stressful job. I was thinking about work. I barely noticed him. Can I go now? I have to get to work.”

“Just a couple more questions… you say you were on your way to work?”

“That’s right.”

“It’s just – we checked it out and you weren’t working that day.”

“What?”

“Last Wednesday – you weren’t working.”

“Umm…”

“So where were you going?”

“I was… I don’t remember.”

“We’ve also identified the boy as Steven Russell. Does the name ring a bell?”

“I don’t think so.”

“He lived in your block of flats. Next door but one.”

“I don’t really know all my neighbours that well.”

“He and his family are well known to us and apparently, according to some of your other neighbours, he used to cause you a lot of trouble.”

“Really?”

“He broke your window. He used to taunt you. Call you names. Graffiti your front door.”

“Says who? There’s no proof he did any of those things. That’s what your police officer behind the front desk said when I came in to complain. No proof, nothing you can do, that’s what he said.”

“But you believe it was him, don’t you? We have your complaint on record.”

“I don’t think I should say anything else.”

“One of your other neighbours – an elderly gentleman – had a heart attack after Steven Russell allegedly broke into his flat last week.”

“Mr Bentley.”

“You know him?”

“Of course. Everyone knows Mr Bentley. Such a lovely, lovely man. He grew beautiful flowers in his window boxes until… someone wrecked them. Destroyed them. Poor man just wasn’t the same after that.”

“Is it true you and some of your neighbours have formed a neighbourhood watch group to address some of the issues caused by Steven Russell and his family?”

“To discuss the Russell family? No, of course not. We’ve no proof they’ve done anything, have we? We’re just… a few neighbours chatting over coffee really.”

“What we’ve found strange is… all of the witnesses who’ve come forward live in your block of flats.”

“Really? Well, it was a lovely morning. Like I said. And the park is so close.”

“Indeed…”

“Oh – I’ve remembered now. Where I was going. Shopping, with some of my neighbours. We all had a day off so we went shopping, had some lunch.”

“And these neighbours, if we ask them, will corroborate this?”

“Oh, yes. Definitely. Can I have a break now?”

“A short break, yes.”

“I hope this won’t take long. I was hoping to finish work early today. Me and some of the other neighbours are off to the garden centre. We’re going to surprise Mr Bentley when he comes out of hospital by redoing his window boxes. And there’ll be no one to ruin them this time, will there?”

 

Interview suspended.

 

“What do you think? Did she do it?”

“Her? No idea. It could have been any of them – it was definitely one of them. Twenty-six people in the park and all of them from the same flats?”

“So what do we do?”

“Part of me is tempted to do nothing. Steven Russell was a little thug growing up into a big thug, like his brother, like his dad. He and his family would have been locked up a long time ago if we could get evidence of what they’ve been up to. Some might say the world’s better off.”

“So we let them off?”

“What are we going to do? Haul them all in – charge the entire Neighbourhood Watch group, average age fifty-two, not a criminal record between them? We’d be a laughing stock.”

 

“Sir? You got a minute?”

“What is it?”

“Someone just handed in a knife that matches what we’re looking for. Said they found it in the gutter near the park. And get this – two sets of prints on there that match Steven’s brother and his dad. Looks like we’ve got ourselves a little family dispute.”

“Who handed it in?”

“Some members of the local Neighbourhood Watch.”

First: Triangles by Sandra Crook

Second: Rosemary’s Baby by Sandra Crook