Found in the files – my first effort at a contemporary crime story!

And it was a send up, of course. Part of an AU fanfic I wrote in 2008 in which two historical characters had modern day versions, and one of them was a crime writer, and this was part of “a story he wrote”, Death and the Wobbly Frame. That may make no sense to you but it’s entirely logical to me.

Part 1

Inspector Alex Hargreaves licked his lips and considered his options. All in all they were pretty non-existent. He watched the machine counting down the minutes and knew that when it got to zero hour then things would be pretty hopeless. He could not help admiring – grudging admiration – the mind that had set up such a plot, but then this had been one of his more talented adversaries; he’d set up a trap and the good inspector had fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

He should have guessed that Miss Chan would be far too smart to get herself trapped in a bell tower with a frame so unstable that if even the smallest of the carillon began to ring it could bring the whole structure down. But the text had come from her Blackberry and had been couched in her usual tones. Only one man could have had access to that device and known what to say to make the plea for help seem authentic; the same man who could have rigged up this whole set up. The same man who’d be on the scene immediately disaster struck and who could probably get rid of much of the evidence. Very clever; but at least he’d fallen into the same trap that many a master criminal had stepped into. He’d left his enemy some time – and therefore some hope, however small.

Hargreaves had always felt that the Arch Villains seeking to eliminate their rivals should just stab them and throw away the knife or bludgeon them with a joint of meat and eat the evidence. It was always a mistake to torment the good guy by letting him sweat in what seemed to be an inescapable position – James Bond always escaped in the nick of time and saved the world.

Only James Bond wasn’t here, just Alex Hargreaves, and he was trussed up like a chicken. And the clever little machine was still counting down – when it reached zero the cam shaft would start to turn and the sallie attached to it would make the largest bell of the peal begin to swing. And then down would come bell frame, Alex and all. He couldn’t reach the device and even if he could, he might well set the whole thing going anyway, unless he managed to get his hands free and disable the machinery. And even then the trapdoor into the room was bolted on the other side so he could well be stuck here for ages, or until his enemy returned with something sensible like a gun and finished him off for good.

He became aware of footsteps on the ladder and wondered whether his adversary had been smitten with second thoughts or common sense and returned with said gun to finish the job off properly. He could hear the bolt being drawn and prepared to meet his maker, sparing a thought for poor Vince, who’d be left heartbroken with a flat and two goldfish to look after. He hoped the bloke wouldn’t cry too much when the solicitor showed him the goodbye letter that had been left in his care, just in case.

“How could you be so stupid as to get yourself caught in a trap?” The flap of the trapdoor had been thrown back and, rather than Hargreaves’s enemy’s head appearing through it, there had come a neat crop of black hair, tied back in a ponytail, and then a pretty face that topped a boyish figure, looking for all the world like a schoolgirl playing a prank. The woman turned round, took one look at Alex and began to laugh; it was not the sort of thing that a Bond girl was supposed to do. But then Miss Chan wasn’t a bimbo of any sort. She was a lawyer, well respected in the city, the fiancée of the son of a lord and Alex’s occasional helper and rescuer.

“Hmohmhmohhmph…”

“Oh for goodness sake, let me get that duct tape off your mouth.”

“Thank you. How on earth did you find me? No, tell me later. You need to sort that bloody contraption out. My hands would be too numb. And don’t take a running jump at it or you’ll set the bell swinging. This is delicate work – you’ve got to detach that rope and do it gently – then the bell’s got to be lowered carefully into place again.”

Miss Chan took the situation in at once; there wasn’t enough time for knots and fiddling. She rummaged in her bag then began to set to on the rope, grasping it firmly above where she was cutting.

“A flick-knife – how the hell did you come by one of those? No, don’t tell me. I’ll shut my eyes and pretend none of this is happening so I can’t be questioned on the matter of what you carry around.”

“Perhaps I should tell you what you carry around.” Miss Chan sawed away at the bell-rope, brimming with competency. “Did you know Vince had rigged you with a tracking device in your wallet? Just in case we ever lost track of you. Good idea, don’t you think?”

For once, Hargreaves was lost for words.

“And before you start wondering if it’s because he doesn’t trust you, it’s just something he’s trying out for the bosses. Must be useful to be the 2008 version of ‘Q’ at times. He’ll be delighted it worked – on more than one front. There, got it.” Miss Chan gingerly let the rope go free. “Now for you,” she brandished the flick-knife, grinning impishly.

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