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Title: The Collector (part 7)
Detective Crawford sat at his desk with a coffee wondering why his town had become a magnet for petnappers. Over the past month the police department had received over 30 reports of pets disappearing. The odd dog or cat could have run away or been involved in an accident no one reported, but the range of animals involved led Crawford to believe a gang was involved. Though he had never heard of a black market for guinea pigs or rabbits but he supposed it was possible.
He was still working out what the next step was when his door opened. "Sorry to interrupt sir but we've just had a missing person report called in." Crawford held out his hand for the paperwork, "Teenage runaway?"
"No, it's the Nicholsons. Both of them."
"Why do I recognize that name?"
"Nasty car accident killed their son just over a year ago. Was not long after you moved here."
"Oh yes I remember. The other son," Crawford dredged through his memory, "the twin, witnessed the whole thing. Odd family if I recall." He read the missing persons report. Mr & Mrs Nicholson went on holiday for the anniversary of their son's death, had been expected back after just two weeks but neighbours hadn't heard from them in over a month. "Why did" Crawford referred to the paperwork "Mr Dawson wait so long before filing the report?" He said he was giving them time to grieve, but that now he was worried. "Ok let's pay this Mr Dawson a visit. Chances are it's nothing, just an extended holiday but I'm getting no where with the pet disappearances."
Sitting in Mr Dawson's front room Detective Crawford accepted the offered tea whilst PC Long took up her pen and notepad, "Thanks. Now if we could get back to why you think something has happened to your neighbours?"
"I saw their car a few weeks back, but it disappeared." Mr Dawson's hands shook as he drank his tea, "That son of theirs ain't right either, always been odd but got worse after Stephen's death." Crawford looked out the window towards the Nicholson's house. Apart from an unkempt garden, everything looked normal house. "So you've seen the son then?"
"Oh yes. Comes and goes at all hours he does."
Crawford returned the cup to the saucer and looked directly at Mr Dawson "And what does he say about his parents disappearance. Is he worried at all?"
"Well...." Mr Dawson was obviously struggling with something so Crawford sat in silence and indicated to PC long that she should do the same. He had always found that people with something to hide could never leave an empty space in conversation and he was proved right when Mr Dawson continued. "I may have misled you as to the nature of my relationship with the Nicholsons." PC Long rolled her eyes and mouthed 'stalker alert' towards Crawford. Suppressing a smile Crawford encouraged Mr Dawson to continue. "They keep themselves to themselves mostly, but I always see him in the garden, he loves his garden he does." Mr Dawson looked out his window, "Just look at it. A mess. Something's wrong I know it."
Crawford stood "Well thanks for the tea. I think I'll pop over and have a chat with him. I'm sure there is nothing untoward, maybe they've just spent more time away."
As they walked down the path PC Long cleared her throat, "He was a bit of an odd fish, don't you think sir?"
She pushed open the gate to the Nicholson's house. "I mean reporting people you don't speak to as missing without even bothering to check with the one person who would know."
Crawford rang the bell, "Some people are just lonely and observant. Doesn't make them odd."
"No but I think he comes close sir."
When no one came to the door he rang again and knocked. He heard strange muffling noises from behind the door but no one opened it. Whether it was his years of training or just his gut talking, Crawford knew something was wrong. He had seen a side path on approach to the house, "Why don't you stay here to see if someone opens the door, I'm going to have a look round back." Crawford made his way round to the back garden and was stopped in his tracks by what he saw.
Various cages or traps he supposed, were positioned everywhere he looked. Even in the trees. On closer inspection he saw that some contained birds that were frantically trying to escape. A young male was calmly walking towards the first of the occupied cages. Crawford stood still waiting for the man to spot him, but luck or fate was on his side as the man returned to the house carrying a couple of the cages but not once glancing in Crawford's direction.
Crawford made his way back to the front of the house. "Long, something's not right. I'm not sure what's going but I don't like it." He banged on the front door once again this time shouting "Open the door, it's the police. We know you're in there." He waited with bated breath to see if the man would open the door.
He heard a click and the door was opened a fraction. "Can I help you officer?" A small white face peered through the crack in the door.
"Good afternoon, my name is Detective Crawford and this is PC Long." Crawford pushed at the door to try and see further into the house. "We've received a report that Mr & Mrs Nicholson are missing. Can you shed any light on this?" Crawford watched as small beads of sweat appeared on the young man's face and he started to stutter "Th Th They, they're fine, just out at the moment."
PC long moved forward, "Could we wait inside? It's getting a bit chilly outside. " Crawford silently thanked her for her quick thinking. If the young man, who had to be the Nicholson's son, had nothing to hide he would let them in.
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Based in Dunfermline, Scotland, Laura is obsessed with all things horror and spends her time writing flash fiction which she hopes, on occasion, really scares her readers. Feel free to stalk her on twitter, @lejamez