To be Frank
Updated: Sep 14
What is the MI5 doing in Horley? And should you think twice before dodging TV license? Find out this, and not much more, in Lucy's thrilling, chilling short story.
They must have tried my door at least thrice before the hollow knocking gave result. It’s not just that all sounds gets muffled through the carpeted floor, nor that the blackened stairwell is a particularly tough climb, but, you see, I’m not the kind of guy to be expecting visitors. Not now - not ever.
On my porch stood one woman and one man. Trench-coated and serious-faced, they clearly were neither locals nor delivery drivers.
”You really should get that doorbell fixed,” the woman said.
I couldn’t decide whether a shrug or a frown was more appropriate to get my feelings across, so I went with both.
”And who are you then? The Police?”
”No,” she said. ”MI5. Agents Andersen and Reese. Came down from London this morning.”
They flashed their ID cards in unison.
MI5 on my doorstep? MI5 in Horley? MI5 on my doorstep, in Horley? Perhaps rural England is not as forgotten as we’d like to think, after all.
”Look,” I said, ”I know why you’re here - but it’s not what you think! I knew I should’ve replied to that threatening mail, but hey, I thought; innocent until proven guilty right? I mean, I don’t even have the damn thing. No young guy does! It’s all over the internet these days anyway. It’s not that I don’t want to help, if it makes old people happy or whatever. But I’m already struggling with the bills as it is, and well, I suppose I don’t appreciate BBC shows much, personally…”
It was the agents’ turn to look confused.
”What?” the woman - agent Andersen - said.
”You’re not here about my TV license?”
”No. I’m afraid you’re gonna have to come with us to the station. But, don’t be nervous - it’s only procedure.”
”Unless you have something to hide, that is,” the man - Reese - added, to further comfort me I am sure.
I did as requested. Couldn’t see any harm in a free tour of the local police station. As far as I was concerned I had done nothing wrong, and had, in effect, nothing to hide. Part of me even found a certain thrill in the accusation - regardless of it’s nature -, or, perhaps, as a consequence of it’s uncertainty.
Andersen sat across the table from me. She had placed a tape recorder between us, and doodled in her notebook. I realised that what for me was an unexpected and thrilling experience, for her must be nothing more than routine day-to-day work. I’m not going to bash my own home town, but perhaps this was not the career she had envisioned for herself.
Reese entered the interrogation suite with three coffees balancing in his hands. Someone offered me milk and sugar. I said I took mine black. Said I was easy that way.
Andersen sighed, put down her pen, and turned her attention towards me.
”So, Frank - I can call you Frank right - ?”
I said that was okay.
She opened a folder and passed me three A4-sized pictures.
”Do you recognise these women?”
I took a quick glance at their faces. The pictures had been snapped from social media profiles, I judged, by their poor quality and obvious use of filters and too much make up. That was enough to make me shudder.
”Yes?” said Reese.
”Yeah. But, uh, only from the papers. Victims of some serial killer on the loose, right? He - or she - found the victims on a dating app and dumped the bodies days later outside of town? Horrible, horrible stuff.”
”Indeed,” said Andersen, sipping her coffee; slowly, as to get a chance to read my expressions.
”Uh, so… what do you need me for then?”
Andersen piled the pictures back up and gave a short smile.
”Like I said, Frank - only procedure. You fit the profile.”
”The serial killer profile. White male. Aged 17 to 35. Unmarried. Unemployed. Unhappy. Not to mention the way you take your coffee.”
”It’s statistics, really,” Reese said. ”Bloody more reliable than chasing witnesses - and easier on the budget, too.”
I wish I could tell you I didn’t fit the description, but let’s be real. In any case I couldn’t help but feel slightly offended on behalf of my race and gender.
”Is this a joke? That could be practically anyone!”
”No,” said Andersen. ”Not in this town.”
”Are you saying I’m the only single 28 year old man in all of Horley?”
She glanced at Reese, who in turn glanced down at some paperwork.
”Pretty much,” he said. ”You’re one of few with a criminal record, and your neighbours describe you as a ’computer-gamer, loner, freak’.”
”Who said that? Don’t tell me it was Mrs Harrison? I’ll kill the hag. Figuratively speaking, of course. Uh.”
Andersen raised an eyebrow above her mug.
”Sorry if this is affecting your self-esteem.”
”Not at all,” I lied. ”Gotta say, it sounds a bit thin. For what it is worth, I didn’t have no criminal record last time I checked.”
”Says here you haven’t payed your TV license the past five years,” said Reese.
”I don’t have a TV. And I’m not some lunatic killer.”
”So you say.”
We got interrupted by an officer bashing the door. Duty calling for agent Andersen.
”Oh, bugger,” she said, rising. ”Reese, do me a favour and tell James I’m working overtime?”
”’Course. And what about this loser?”
Reese nodded in my direction.
”Let him go,” Andersen shrugged. ”We don’t have enough to hold him. Later, yeah?”
I was driven home in the back of a police car. Tired after a night’s, and subsequent morning’s, endeavours, I lounged back in the warm blankets of my sofa.
Like a habit, I turned the TV to full volume. It was currently sports, which incidentally is perfect for masking the screams from downstairs. I planned to rid her later today, but come to think of it I might just let her suffer another 24 hours or so.
She had it coming, I mean, to be frank, her appearance is nothing like that on her Tinder profile. Meanwhile, people are accusing me of being a liar?
She is also a South London musician, barista, and proud union member. Check out her psychedelic rock band here
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