Chapter 1: The Gathering
"Don't you 'but sir' me, laddie," said Cowley before Doyle could even start his sentence properly. "The minister wants this looked into and so look into it we will. It's theft, of a kind." He glared at both of them, particularly Doyle who might use his ex-policeman status to argue with him and went on, "And it's definitely unsettling someone who's important to the calmness and safety of the realm."
"Roses and lavender," murmured Bodie, which earned him inclusion in the general glare. Cowley didn't always appreciate having his own remarks quoted out of context.
"So someone has been stealing documents except that they aren't documents, they're just online," said Ray, his opinion of the internet dripping from every word.
"They mean a great deal to the person who wrote them," said Cowley. "They put a lot of work into that novel and to have it stolen and published on another site is both an insult and a theft of their profits."
"But I can't see how we can do anything about it, sir. We can't exactly chase around cyberspace in a pool car. And if, as you said, the thief is using a pseudonym, we can't hope to arrest him - or her." Bodie, for once, was being the reasonable one of the pair, but letting their boss know they were not happy.
"Hmph. You'll save on petrol, at any rate," was the only reply before Cowley dismissed them, shooing them to the door and looking meaningfully at his overflowing desk and his telephone.
Outside, they headed for the break room and a cup of tea. Only tea would do, in these circumstances.
"So no car," said Bodie, after a few slurps of tea. "I mean, I'm not keen on these new Focus jobs - or the Corsas. Too like the police cars by far. But at least they get us from A to B. Still, I miss the Capri."
"Nothing wrong with police work," said Doyle, but it was an automatic reaction and his heart wasn't in it. He was contemplating the car pool which they could see from the break room window, and his face was a picture of misery.
"Let your fingers do the walking," said Bodie.
"I think that was telephone directories but yes, we'll need nimble fingers for this one, and I hate keyboards."
"I hate computers. Period." Bodie sounded resigned rather than angry and sounded, too, as if he knew his partner would agree wholeheartedly.
Tea finished, and the staff biscuit tin raided, they returned to their work stations and the computers that had been installed. Bodie looked longingly at the packet of digestives he'd brought from the stash, but knew it was more than his job was worth to get crumbs on the Hewlett Packard on his desk. Maybe if he had to do much phoning he could tilt his chair back and indulge, but then again, maybe not. Who knew who might be watching?
Despite their hatred, they were well trained. The new IT department had seen to that. Within half an hour they had opened the files Cowley had loaded to their shared system and had familiarised themselves with the bare bones of the case. The minister's granddaughter, Marianne, known to her online friends as snakelover (lower case) had written a story called The Awakening about her favourite characters from her favourite film and uploaded it to a fanfiction archive, FanStory.org. Her friends had been shocked and distressed to find that the same story, even to the same headings and notes, had been uploaded three days later to the same site by someone calling themselves tuppence_oleary. The abuse team at the site had been sympathetic and had deleted the offending work. An email to tuppence_oleary had bounced. Next day, the story had appeared again, this time uploaded by shilling_macrobbery; the same sequence of events had taken place. The current offending upload was number five, and was originally under the name of fiendfyre_major who had orphaned the work (leaving their pseud associated) and deleted their account. Marianne, at this stage, had gone to Grandpa and cried. Grandpa had telephoned his old friend George Cowley and now Ray and Bodie were stuck at their computers instead of driving round London in a souped-up but nondescript car.
"So it wasn't really hers to start with," said Doyle. Bodie raised an eyebrow. "I mean," he went on, "she stole the idea from someone else, so how can she raise a hue and cry about a new person getting in on the act?"
"She hasn't used any words from the original," said Bodie.
"How do you know? You haven't seen those films, and so far as I know you haven't read the books, either."
"There's a thing called a transcript so far as the film's concerned, and it's open on my desktop. Yours, too, if you bother looking."
Doyle looked, and sniffed. "Magic," he said. "And moving staircases. And wands. Some kind of sexual metaphor, d'you reckon?"
"Nah. The birds have them too. It's a kids' story or at least that's how it started. And we're looking at a very adult version. Very adult indeed if the stolen one's anything to go by." Bodie's eyebrows were raised almost to his hairline by now and Ray craned his neck, not expecting to be able to read the screen from that angle but at least wanting to figure out what to google.
His own eyebrows rose equally high.
"D'you think Grandpa knows what sweet little Marianne is writing?" he said in a rather awed tone.
"I doubt it. She'll have said it was something to do with magic and he won't have bothered looking. Just called on George to dry her tears and make everything OK."
"So George calls on us. " Doyle sighed. "Best familiarise ourselves with the material then, d'you reckon? In the cause of justice, of course."
They read, glancing at each other from time to time, half gleeful, half embarassed and wholly engrossed.
"Aw no." Robbie Lewis groaned and Sergeant Hathaway looked mildly surprised. Both of them tended to be stoical when summoned by Chief Superintendent Jean Innocent. She was like the British weather - always present and ever-changing.
"Man, I just wanted ten minutes with nothing urgent to do. Was that too much to ask?" Robbie was frowning.
James' lips twitched in response. "It was probably far too much to ask, given the career you chose," he said seriously and then mock-flinched when Lewis pretended to punch him. "I could always get coffee if it would help," he added.
"Coffee always helps. Especially when you go and get it from outside the station. I don't think the stuff they brew here would help anyone get anywhere except to an early grave."
James picked up his jacket and headed for the coffee baristas of Oxford while Robbie made his way to Innocent's room.
"They did what?" he was asking, a few minutes later.
"They copied the exact wording of a Conan Doyle story and put it online under their own pseudonym, houndofdevon," said Jean.
"But surely Conan Doyle's been dead long enough that there's no coyright involved? And even if..."
"Dead, yes, but not forgottten, and his estate have been fighting tooth and nail to have the copyright extended," Jean interrupted him. "They haven't succeeded, of course, so anyone who wants to can write a sequel, or a new case, or something of that kind. But that's rather different from claiming authorship of the original."
"What I was going to say," said Lewis, not adding 'before I was interrupted' aloud but thinking it, "was that even if it was a copyrighted work, like, say the latest P.D.James, I don't see why it concerns us. A story about murder isn't in our purview, is it, ma'am?"
"The trouble is," said Jean, "houndofdevon, when investigated, seems to have posted a lot of works that weren't theirs. One of them was a story based on the BBC series Sherlock, by one of Oxford's dons. Of course, they didn't write under their real name. Their pseudonym is bakerstreetboy. They're making a fuss and when our dons make a fuss I need to do something. So you need to do something. It all has to be very confidential, of course."
"So who investigated in the first place?" Robbie was shaking his head in confusion.
"Two young ladies who are part of the Abuse team of FanStory.org where bakerstreetboy posted 'In the grey'. Their names are Jemima B and Amber Z and they stand - or probably sit at their computers - willing to help."
"And are those their real names or more pseuds?" At Robbie's mystified look James quickly corrected himself. "Pseudonyms, I mean," he said.
"I don't know and I doubt if it matters. They're on our side, whatever side that is, and they've traced twenty works plagiarised by houndofdevon. Some are published works and others are what's known as fanfiction like the story our don wrote. That's..."
"I know what fanfiction is," said James, gently. Robbie usually bowed to James' greater erudition but didn't like being shown to be behind the times or perhaps showing his age.
"So if you already know about it you can contact these women and get all the details," said Robbie, briskly. The don wants this plagiariser stopped, so Innocent wants him or her stopped, so..."
"...so we want them stopped," said James. "And then we can perhaps catch ten minutes with nothing urgent to do. Yours is the caramel latte with a touch of sea salt, by the way." And so saying, he addressed himself to his own double espresso with a hint of ginger, and to his computer screen.
"So you're telling me, Steven, that we're hurtling across the ocean to a country where we only just understand the language because the Governor's sister-in-law has threatened a drug overdose on account of someone stealing her thunder in a competition to see who could write the best story about a dwarf and a hobbit? And that that's why I've had to cancel my weekend with Gracie? I am not happy, Steven, not happy at all." Danny Williams loosened his tie, a huge, for him, concession to the idea of resting in an airliner, and glared out of the window at an innocent passing cloud.
Steve McGarrett didn't bother to reply. His lips quirked but he was too used to Danny's rants to allow them to worry him. They sat in silence for a while before Danny started a new conversation in a tone that suggested he'd calmed a little.
"Hobbits?" he asked. "What's a hobbit, anyway? Dwarves, I know." He waved both hands expressively, delineating someone even shorter than him.
"They're small," said Steve.
"Small is good," said Danny. There was an undertone that dared Steven to disagree.
"With furry feet," said Steve, apologetically.
"With WHAT?" Steven laughed out loud at Danny's clear horror.
"Furry feet, Danno, and they don't belong on this world. Hobbits and dwarves are part of Middle Earth, Tolkien's universe, or Peter Jackson's, depending on whether you prefer books or films. I bet Gracie knows all about them."
"We're going to England to look into a kids' story?"
"It's popular with adults, too. But we're going to England because the other teams who are looking into this are all there. We could Skype, but the Governor thought we might enjoy a little R&R in Oxford while we work. I wasn't turning that down. You can buy Gracie a present to make up for being absent, and we can taste that warm British beer everybody talks about."
Fuury feet. Warm beer." Danny sounded as though the second might be as much a product of fantasy as the first. Then the rest of what Steven had said penetrated. "Other teams?" he said.
"Yeah. Lewis and Hathaway of Oxford Police, Doyle and Bodie of CI5, and Jemima and Amber of FanStory.org."
Danny shook his head. Then he let his head fall back against the seat and closed his eyes. Whether he was sleeping or just silently processing all this information was not obvious. Steven, wisely, left him to it.
"Squee! Double squee! Guess what?" Amber's words skittered across the page in the virtual staffroom at FanStory.org.
"I give up. What?" Jemima had been online for a while and nothing exciting had happened. She'd dealt with a couple of cases of non-fanworks, set in motion the verification process needed before dealing with a lost password and discarded a rant about underage sex. Now she was bored, so anything Amber came up with would be better than nothing.
"They're sending us to Britain. You and me. To follow up on that plagiarism case. The one with tentacles."
Jemima knew Amber meant offshoots that reached into corners of fandom they had hardly known existed, rather than a sea creature but in keeping with the tone of the conversation she replied, "Do we need ocean-crossing sharks, then?"
"No! Real aeroplanes, all paid for and everything. The sharks can wait till we arrange to go to France to visit Marie and Sophie. This time, it's England, here we come! The hotel's paid for, too."
Jemima ran through the logistics of gallivanting off to Britain on org business. Child sitters, meals, dog walking, time off the day job... Still, at no point did she suggest it was too difficult.
"But why?" she asked, wonderingly, rather than worriedly. "I mean, we do everything online. What is there that needs our physical presence?"
"The whackadoodle has upset some important people! We're to assist some police and security guys in tracking them down for real!! It will be easier if we're all in the same room, with computers, yes, but with whiteboards and stuff, too!!! So get your passport dusted off, J!!!!" Amber's excitement came across in her punctuation.
"Have laptop, will travel," said Jemima. She'd always wanted to go to England. They both had. Who cared if it was on the trail of a pesky plagiarist?
Oxford, city of dreaming spires, look out! The A-team were on their way.
Chapter 2: A rose by any other name
The staffers find their new colleagues in need of a little education.
"Welcome to Oxford, ladies and gentlemen." Jean Innocent would have run a mile if asked to take any personal part in the investigation but as usual, she was more than happy to play the gracious hostess, at the same time subtly hinting that she would be keeping an eye on things.
"Female version of the Cow," Bodie muttered to Doyle.
"Cow bird," Doyle agreed, similarly sotto voce.
"We're glad to be here, ma'am," Bodie said aloud, stepping forward. "Major Cowley sends his regards." Jean smiled approvingly. Doyle, half hidden behind a whiteboard, rolled his eyes.
"Probably no malt," he said, mouthing the words silently and rolling his eyes again when Bodie obviously didn't grasp what he was saying. As a former police officer he knew perfectly well that whisky would not figure in a police station but as a CI5 agent he would inevitably whine.
"As are we. Commander McGarrett and Detective Williams at your service, guys." There was perhaps just a hint of stress on the title 'Commander'. Danny raised his eyebrows, anyway.
"I'm Amy Rivers and this is Jennifer Pine. We're so grateful to everybody for offering to help, and we're so excited to be here." The young woman everyone had thought was called Amber looked round the group, her eyes gleaming behind thick but very fashionable spectacles.
Seven pairs of eyes looked back, hard.
"We were expecting an Amber Sky and a Jemima Church," said Innocent, looking towards the door as if she expected these people to appear immediately.
"That's us," said Jennifer, brightly. "Oh! You mean you didn't realise we use pseuds on the site." She could hardly fail to hear Inspector Lewis' sigh of relief.
"But why? I mean, why are you secretive about your real names?" Danny Williams was the one to ask what they were all wondering. "It isn't as if you're undercover."
"It's a kind of cultural thing," said Amy-Amber, thoughtfully, as if she was only just working it out for herself. "For years anyone who wrote fanfiction hid behind a pseudonym to avoid family, friends or employers finding out. And no," she forestalled the comment McGarrett was clearly about to make, "it isn't illegal, but it can lead to personal friction and even being considered strange or perhaps unreliable. The staff on the site are recruited from members so we're all writers, artists or keen readers first, and only then do we start working for FanStory.org. We come with pseuds attached and a lot of us don't bother to change them."
"Besides," said Jennifer-Jemima, supporting her friend, "we answer to either. It's really only a question of what's on our passports or driving licences."
"Why would being a writer make people think you might be unreliable?" Robbie Lewis sounded genuinely puzzled and was ignoring the way Hathaway, his sergeant, was nudging him in a vain attempt to make him shut up and ask questions later.
"Well, you see," said Amy, a rather delightful blush darkening her already dusky features still further, "quite a lot of fanfiction is what you might call erotica, and people get embarrassed about being associated with it. Not that it all is, of course. Not even most. Just...a lot."
"We gathered," said Doyle. "We read the Harry Potter story we were sent." Bodie's lips were twitching and it was immediately clear that both agents had both read and enjoyed the work.
"And some of it," said Jennifer, in a small voice, "is porn. Not that we write porn. Or at least I don't. But we thought maybe you ought to know. Because we're investigating, and you might come across some rather strange fics."
"But why," said Hathaway, sounding bewildered, "would anyone bother plagiarising porn?"
The group were silent, contemplating the idea.
"I'll leave you to it, then," said Jean Innocent, brightly.
"It's for the hits and the kudos," said Amy. It was quite clear nobody other than her co-staffer had any idea what she was talking about.
"BDSM?" McGarrett ventured the guess very tentatively. Danny looked at him with admiration and the others waited with audibly bated breath.
"No, or at least not unless that's what the story's about." Amber-Amy and her colleague were trying not to laugh. "If enough people want to read or download your work your hit count goes up and people can be quite competitive. And if people actually like the story they can leave kudos. That's even more covetable. "
"Let me get this straight, " said Lewis. "People write stories about characters that are from other people's books or from films and TV shows. A lot of them are erotica, which is posh porn, and some of it is just plain porn. Other people express their approval with hits and kudos. And our angry don has bought into this system to the extent that he brings his complaint to the police?"
Doyle nodded. "Same with the minister's granddaughter, except that she went crying to gramps who contacted us."
McGarrett shook his head, a sign of disbelief rather than a negative. "Our governor's sister-in-law didn't report it herself. At least, not at first. It all came to light when she threatened to take an overdose."
"Inspector Lewis summed it up," said Jennifer. "But I think we should get something clear right now if we're to work together. First, we regard these stories as transformative works, perfectly legal, and in fact often admirable. Second, porn isn't illegal and if people want to read or write it they're welcome, on our site, anyway."
Hathaway responded with a slow and almost silent hand-clap.
"But what if children access the site?" Robbie seemed determined to be affronted.
"They have to sign to say they're over 18. And yes, you might all well laugh." Jennifer glared round at them. "It covers us, and in any case, if they're younger it's their parents' responsibility to monitor what they're reading, if they care. Don't forget that anyone can access a printed copy of something like Fifty Shades of Grey."
"I heard that started life as fanfiction," said Hathaway.
"And wandered off into the real world, making millions on the way. We had to read it to check a few works for plagiarism."
"By our current offender?" Bodie was getting interested.
"No. Or at least, not as far as we know. Usually teens copying it but replacing the names with their favourite bands."
"But why would we care?" Lewis was still in protest mode.
"Because nobody wants EL James on the warpath," said Hathaway. "And presumably these find-and-replace versions aren't considered transformative."
"I'm missing something here," said Lewis. "How come they replace the names with the names of the pop stars they like? Aren't they all lads?" The others, officers and site staff alike, just looked at him until he realised what they were probably saying and closed his mouth in a thin hard line.
"Well," said Amy, taking charge in the absence of any apparent hierarchy, "we've pretty well established that the plagiarist in each of your cases is the same person, and that we have evidence of a lot of other offences by them, too. We need to delete their works, of course, and get them off the site, but it's hard since they keep turning up with new pseudonyms and new IPs. Since they've upset so many people it would be good to know just who they are, as well. I'm not sure if you can arrest them for anything but they're spreading their activities like a jellyfish with tentacles so we might find something yet. And then, gentlemen, the ball would be in your court. Jemima, let's find our hotel and unpack, shall we?"
As they left, Lewis and Hathaway had gone into what was obviously a regular pattern of behaviour, marking white boards with coloured headings, filling giant sheets of paper with rudimentary mind-mapping diagrams, and attaching notes to a pinboard. Mindless busy work, but essential if they were to stand a chance of catching the plagiarist, whatever he or she was called.
Chapter 3: Settling in
The hotels are comfortable and the detectives are beginning to feel comfortable in their work
"I thought that went quite well." Amy dumped her case and her laptop bag on one of the twin beds in their really quite sumptuous room in the Bocardo. The org. had done them proud. Central Oxford, within walking distance of everywhere, and a glitzy boutique hotel at that.
"Apart from the grumpy older one." Jennifer said almost absently. She was brushing her hair and concentrating on that rather than the reason for their trip.
"OK, but his dishy sergeant seems to understand what we're about, so he'll probably lick him into shape before long." She smirked, realising what she had said.
"I prefer the Hawaiian one with all the tattoos, myself," said Jennifer, "but Amber, haven't you noticed something all our new colleagues have in common?"
"You mean that they're all detectives?" Amy was regarding a pair of Batwoman pjs and wondering whether they might be too warm for the Bocado.
"Duh! Of course they are, but that's what I mean. Think about all the cop buddies you've read about in fanfic."
"Yes. If they aren't already, it's because they've led sheltered lives. Our investigation might open their eyes."
"Sounded like Curlylocks and his friend had already had their eyes opened. That was a Harry/Draco fic they read."
"I wonder if they left comments."
No sooner had Jennifer spoken than Amy's laptop, with its proud EFF sticker saying 'Come Back With A Warrant' was open and ready. She clicked and scrolled quickly to the fic in question. They had hidden the allegedly plagiarised version and given admin access to the detectives, but snakelover's The Awakening was still on the archive and it was clear the author hadn't disabled anonymous comments.
"Could be 'sunshine'," said Amy. "Curlylocks is called Ray."
They spent the next few minutes contemplating possible pseuds for their new workmates and came up with blondie, working with mr_grumpy, curlylocks and secret_agent, and illustrated_man accompanied by shorty.
"I'd love to see their faces, Jem, if we told them," sighed Amy. Jennifer giggled.
"I think their faces are quite funny enough when we use our real names and pseuds indiscriminately as it is," she said. "Imagine the chaos if they started doing it, too."
Both of them burst into delighted laughter then headed for the Jamie Oliver restaurant on the ground floor of the building for sustenance before getting down to some more online work.
"I'm not sure I believe this." Robbie Lewis was rarely taken aback. After a lifetime in the police force he took most things in his stride.
"The content or the existence of the story in the first place?" James said, quite softly and rather neutrally, obviously not wanting to offend Robbie's suddenly-found sensibilities further.
"The very idea," said Robbie, "that a respected Oxford don would write about Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson as if they were... "
"...were what?" said James. "They're fictional characters to start with. You can do anything with fictional characters. And before you start, yes, you can do anything with other people's fictional characters once they're out of copyright, and quite a bit before that, provided it's all transformative enough."
"I think you've gone American on me. Transformative, indeed."
"OK, our 'Fair Dealing' guidelines might not be as broad as US 'Fair Use' but bakerstreetboy wasn't trying to make any money, he didn't use any of Conan Doyle's words, or the script of BBC's Sherlock, and it was unlikely to bring anything or anyone into disrepute."
"He only went and transformed them into a pair of queers!"
"That's just about canon if you watch Sherlock, which in turn is a remix of Conan Doyle's material. Plus, there's published stuff out there that does the same thing. Try My Dear Watson by L.A. Fields if you don't believe me. It's available on Amazon. And since when were you homophobic?"
"I wasn't. I'm not." Robbie was spluttering. "It's just that they've been part of my fictional world for a long time and I'd never read anything like that into their friendship."
"Welcome to the twenty-first century." Hathaway's last remark was addressed mostly to his laptop as he turned back to his desk.
"And then," said Robbie, looming over James' shoulder, "he has the nerve to complain when houndofdevon does the same to him. Copies his story, I mean."
"Ah, but that's where it's different. This really is a copy, a kind of reposting without permission."
"People re-blog things all the time. I know that. Our Lyn sends me things from that tumbler thing."
"They do, but either they have implicit permission or they credit the original creator. In this case, houndofdevon did neither. Our don never gave permission and houndofdevon posted the story word for word under his own name. Or her. Her own name, I mean."
"So they were either claiming it as their own or claiming the right to archive it publicly. I see what you mean. I'm glad you know about these things, James. I've never even read an e-book, never mind worried about its origins. "
"Yes, you have. That paper on modern fingerprinting techniques from that last conference we didn't have time to go to."
"Oh, that. Yes, I suppose so. I hadn't thought of it as an e-book though."
"And it certainly didn't have any same-sex romance," said James, sighing.
"Time to pack up, anyway," said Lewis. "These writers can wait till tomorrow. It isn't like murderers or cat-burglars or kidnappers."
"I'm sure most of our offenders would love to wait till tomorrow. It's the victims we need to worry about," said James. "But you're right, and I think I can hear a pie and a pint calling me from somewhere. How about you, sir?"
Robbie grinned. "You'd hear those from the other side of the city, wouldn't you? Let's go and eat then." And so saying, he picked up his jacket and headed for the door.
"Those birds are, well, different," said Doyle, trying in vain to get his hair to behave, if he had but known it mirroring Jennifer's actions at the Bocado. The CI5 agents were booked into the Holiday Inn and the despised Ford Focus was parked outside for the night. They intended to eat at the on-site restaurant and then spend further time online. Cowley would be glad to know the hotel had free wi-fi in all rooms.
"Different, how?" Bodie was making an attempt to unpack. He had already made sure his own belongings were tidily stowed, and knew he would have to organise Ray's if he was to have any hope of surviving their time in Oxford.
"Different from British birds, obviously,"said Ray, considering. "But not quite what I expected of Americans, either. No gloss or empty-headedness. Not cheerleader material."
"I don't think cheerleaders would make good detectives," said Bodie. "Unless the cheer-leading was a very small hobby on the side, of course. And these two seem to have done quite a bit of intelligent detecting already. I like that spreadsheet they produced. Well, as far as I like anything on a computer," he added hastily, at Doyle's incredulous look. He stuffed the last of Doyle's socks in a drawer and noticed the complimentary drinks tray on top of the chest. "Biccies!" he said, and proceeded to unwrap a shortbread one with a milk chocolate half coating.
"Oi! Leave some for me." Doyle's exclamation was half-hearted and clearly simply a rote reaction to a well-known situation. He filled the kettle and contemplated the array of teas.
"Earl Grey, Camomile, English Breakfast or Darjeeling," he said.
"Darjeeling, I should think. English Breakfast sounds as if it might have essence of marmalade in it and the other two are beyond the pale."
"Yeah. Herbs are all well and good in their place but I don't think their place is in my cuppa," said Doyle, extracting two sachets of the desired Darjeeling and making tea. The process was temporarily interrupted when he was unable to open the small milk pots but Bodie came to the rescue with a pair of nail scissors and all was well.
"D'you think they read a lot of that stuff themselves, then?" said Doyle, now happily ensconced in the room's only armchair, long legs stretched out in front of him and teacup cradled in his hands.
"Dunno. They probably have to if they get a lot of complaints like these. Wouldn't put it past them to write it themselves as well." Bodie reclined against the headboard of the bed he'd chosen, his own cup safely on the bedside table.
"...a bit of an eye-opener?"
"Not something you'd associate with young ladies."
"Not sure either of them would appreciate being called a young lady. Seem more like the suffragette type to me. Plus, snakelover really is a young lady in that's she's a teenager and she's the Hon. Marianne."
They drank in silence for a moment, thinking about Jennifer and Amy and about the story by snakelover that they'd read.
"If you eat any more biscuits," said Ray after a while, "you won't have room for your dinner."
"Yes, mum, no, mum, OK, mum," said Bodie. He got up, looking at his watch. "Dinner time, d'you think?" he said.
"Seeing as they serve all day and half the night, probably," said Ray. "You know, after reading that story, I wish we were heading for the great hall at Hogwarts instead of the Junction Restaurant."
"Along with Harry and Draco?" Bodie smiled to himself as he followed his partner out of the door.
"I just don't see," said Danny, "why we need to be here. Chin could get us all the stuff - the spreadsheet and everything - on his table top thing back at the office."
"He could, but then we'd end up with all of us following the case and it only needs two. Besides, I wouldn't turn down a free trip to Oxford. Why would you? And don't say because of Grace, because you can make it up to her when we get back."
"At least the hotel's comfortable," said Danny, "even if we have to share a room."
They were staying at the Cotswold Lodge, only a short walk from the city centre and they'd been told the food was five-star quality.
"Hope it's five-star quantity, too," said Danny. "I'm hungry."
"Hm." Steven looked at him. "You're beginning to sound like a hobbit - five good meals a day - and you're on the short side. Sure you haven't got furry feet?" He dodged a pillow thrown in his direction and dived into the bathroom, emerging only when common sense said Danny would have had time to calm down.
"Talking of hobbits,"said Danny, when Steven was back in the room, sitting on his own bed looking idly through a pile of hotel information leaflets, "I don't get it. It all sounds like a kids' story - hobbits and dwarves and trolls and goblins. And there's gal_with_a_lei writing adult stuff about the principal characters. At least, I assume they're the principal characters."
"I think Tolkien wrote the original as a kids' book, yes. A kind of easy introduction to his Lord of the Rings trilogy. But Jackson made the movies adult enough. Thorin and Bilbo were two of the main characters, yes."
"A dwarf and a hobbit. Same sex interspecies romance and sex in a hollowed out mountain of all places. Recently vacated by a dragon, too. Sounds like a really weird mix of adult and not."
"Fantasy can be adult too. Just because you haven't read the books or seen the movies..."
"I know. It's a good job we don't all have the same tastes. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Where's my hair product?"
"Probably in the bathroom. You seemed to be unpacking as though we would be here a week. Which, of course, we might be."
There was a pause while Danny located his gel and emerged from the bathroom wit his hair achieving a sculptured look a dwarf might have been proud of.
"I don't think they'll require a tie, Danny."
"They might not, though this is Britain so you never know, but I require it, to make me feel good. OK, I'm ready. Can we go and eat? I have no idea what time it is according to our body clocks, and those airline meals were just cardboard with pretensions."
"We're about ten hours ahead of ourselves."
"So we might have missed a meal or two. I never trust time zone changes. Let's eat, Commander, and there had better not be any pineapple involved."
Steven smiled. Some things never changed, and Danny Williams was one of them.
Chapter 4: The Stalking
The 'finest' of US and UK investigative personnel may have a leak.
"That slow-roast lamb was to die for." Amy flopped down on her bed.
"Um. Yes. Amber, this is weird." Jennifer had gone straight to her laptop and was frowning at it.
"The internet is intrinsically weird. What is it this time?"
"Just - somebody anon is commenting on my ticket. Somebody not on our team. They're coming up as anon, and they're telling me I'm a scumbag."
"On our admin tickets? How? What? Why?" Amy was instantly all business and leaning over Jennifer's shoulder at the desk where they had put their laptops. She opened her own and was soon looking at the offending ticket.
"I don't see how..." Jennifer sounded puzzled rather than worried. "D'you think the 8cockroaches site has got some wires crossed somewhere? I mean, it should still work here, right?"
"Of course. Cyberspace is cyberspace except when you can't get in at all or you're in China."
The ticket was one they suspected referred to their serial plagiarist. This time the pseud or account user name was penny_black and the fic was, again, in the Harry Potter fandom, this time a femslash story about Ginny and Hermione. There were definitely two versions on the archive though the earlier one was about Ginny and Luna. The plagiarist had copy pasted then switched names where needed.
"I just copied a boiler draft telling them we'd delete and how it wasn't enough to change names, and so on. And now this anon is shouting at me in our own space. I can't see how!"
"I suppose somebody has traced one of us from our social network or email and somehow got hold of access to 8cockroaches. Worrying about how will have to wait. At the moment we need to know who."
"it couldn't be one of our detectives? Some kind of prank? I suppose not. They don't seem the type and what would it achieve?"
"No, but that could have been anon's route in. Who's investigating the HP fics?"
"Curlylocks and his partner."
"So we could look to them to find a leak somewhere in their system. They aren't going to like that."
"Not our fault."
"No-o-o. But I guess we could toss a coin for who gets to tell them."
They tossed, solemnly. They used a Brit £1 coin, something that struck them as special and new. Amy lost and grumped her way back to the bed.
"And," said Jennifer, "there's a new ticket. Anon reporter wants to tell us we mustn't listen to any allegations against penny_black or tuppence_oleary. They only link to the ToS - the section on harassment."
Amy sighed. "Should we tell the others tonight or wait till tomorrow?"
"According to the IP our anon is in London, not Oxford, so I should think we could sleep on it and tell them in the morning."
"Good thinking, Jemima. I want to curl up with some fic and then go to sleep. Jet lag seems to be getting to me."
"Me too. I've brought my Kindle and I've got some Monaboyd I haven't opened yet." Jennifer yawned and both of them got ready for bed.
"You're telling me we have a leak?" Doyle's green eyes were narrowed.
"Or even a mole," said Bodie.
"We can't think of another explanation for how quickly they got access to the ticketing site and the comment area. " Amy was trying, and not managing, to sound unapologetic. After all, the mole or leak or any other force of nature seemed to be the province of CI5 and not FanStory.org or the police forces of either UK or US. But it was one thing knowing that and another telling two secret agents that their system was faulty.
A gasp from Jennifer drew everybody's attention her way. She was staring at her laptop, eyes wide and shocked. They all had their laptops open on a table in the room Jean Innocent had assigned to them in the police station. There were cables and chargers everywhere, and extension leads, and at least one external mouse with its accompanying mouse pad. That was Robbie's.
"My email," said Jennifer into the expectant silence. "Whoever they are, they've found my email. I mean not a ticket this time though that's why I was in gmail in the first place, to see if they were back. My personal gmail. It's from someone called Wendy Shilling with one of those throwaway email addresses. Says they know where I am. That's all it says."
"How could they know?" Amy voiced everyone's thought.
"Amber, if they have access to 8cockroaches they know we're planning to trace them. And they even know we're planning to work with the forces of law and order. We haven't exactly been secretive on what we thought was a secure site. And if the leak's in one of the other systems, then they know who's here, and perhaps why."
"It's a huge 'if'," said Bodie. "And what in heaven's name is 8cockroaches when it's at home?"
"The ticketing site," Amy hastened to explain. The platform we use to record reports and our reactions and actions. It's called 8cockroaches in some kind of attempt at humour. There are little beetles as decorations. Personally I'd like to crush it or spray it with roach repellent, but it's what we've got, and where all our evidence is. We call it 8cocks for short," she added, ignoring the silence that produced.
"Yes, well, we need to worry about this person, I think," said Robbie Lewis, suddenly all Detective Inspector. "If there's a leak, wherever it is, they know we're in Oxford all right. But surely they can't be dangerous - or can they?" He glared at Bodie as he mentioned the leak but Bodie just stared back and Hathaway seemed to be having trouble keeping a straight face.
"I'm not sure about the danger level," said Steve. "Internet trolling can escalate into stalking and stalking can escalate into personal danger."
"But this is a plagiarist, not a troll," Danny reminded him.
"Is it, though?" said Robbie. "Is all their plagiarism designed to annoy rather than to make a false name for themselves?"
"It could be. We hadn't thought of it that way," said Amy. "It would make a certain amount of sense. They're so prolific and by now their readers must realise there's something up. They upload works one after another in a number of fandoms and then they're taken down regularly and they change their name again but the style of the tags and summaries remains consistent and I think they tell people on their social networks that they've had problems and started again with a new pseud."
Consensus said working on the case was the best option, and keeping an eye out for further attempts to hack into either 8cockroaches or anyone's email. They settled at their computers, and Amy created a spreadsheet on Google docs that they could all work on together.
"Beats whiteboards," said Robbie.
"Yes," said James, smiling. "You can even take it home with you. But of course you mustn't forget to give the Chief Super access."
All of them contemplated keeping their senior officers out of the loop. There were a lot of grins.
"They worry me, those two," said Ray when Amy and Jennifer had left for the 'ladies' room'.
"Why, because they change names as often as you change your shirt?" Bodie was concentrating on his computer but he would always answer Ray.
"Nah. I've got used to that. It's only like them being undercover, except that they aren't consistent about it. That's the trouble - they think it's all a game and that it's all online. I know Amy, or Amber, whoever, agreed with that about trolls becoming stalkers, but I feel as if they haven't really internalised it. And they're innocents abroad in Oxford, which isn't their normal neck of the woods. Plus, they aren't armed."
"Nor are the rest of us," said Danny, morosely. "They made us give up our guns at the airport."
"And British police aren't usually armed unless there's a definite armed suspect we're going after," put in Hathaway.
Bodie and Doyle exchanged what could only be described as guilty looks.
"Like 007, are you then?" Robbie sounded neutral and genuinely interested. "Licensed to kill?"
"Something like that." Ray patted his shoulder holster. "I just hope we don't need these on this case. It sounded so trivial when the Cow briefed us. A copy of a fairy story that's a copy of a fairy story. But it's making waves all right."
"We have a fairy story too," said Steve. "Well, magic, anyway, and dwarves and things."
"The 'things'," said Amy, overhearing him as she came back into the room, "are hobbits."
"With furry feet," said Danny, under his breath and clearly still not on the same page as the story he was investigating.
Chapter 5: The vanishing
Tracking plagiarists is more dangerous than the staffers had imagined.
It took almost all day but at last the spreadsheet was finished. They had called in online help from a couple of other archives and a community on LiveJournal. Their serial plagiarist was well-known everywhere though the emails and hacked ticketing platform were a new departure.
"So," said Steve, stretching out his long legs and trying to get the kinks out of his neck, "this person has plagiarised at least a hundred stories in about a dozen fandoms.
"Favourites," said Danny, "being Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and Teenwolf. They do like their fantasy."
"Don't forget Sherlock," said Hathaway. "We didn't have any magical elements to worry about till you lot came along. Only a disgruntled don."
"And a disgruntled Chief Superintendent if we don't make some headway soon," said Robbie, closing his laptop and detaching the external mouse.
"I think," said Bodie, "we just have to wait and see if they contact either of the FanStory staffers again. But they should be careful." He turned to Amy and Jennifer. "Do you want an escort to your hotel?"
Amy laughed. "Hardly, though thanks for the thought. It's nearby, it's a city centre and we're grown ups."
"Unarmed grown-ups," said Ray.
"Surely you don't think we're actually at risk of anything other than personal heckling in the street?"
"Maybe not, but take care, all the same. Lewis, should you send them in a police car?"
"No!!" Both women spoke at once. "We'd never live it down," said Amy. "And before you say nobody would know, we would."
"All right. See you all here tomorrow morning, then," said Lewis. "We can start tracing all those IPs and maybe the messages to Jennifer-Jemima."
And on that note, they left.
The walk to the Bocardo was a short one. Amy and Jennifer meandered through the centre of Oxford instead of going straight back to the hotel. It didn't seem reasonable to come all the way to England and not at least have a good look at the famous city they were staying in.
They dutifully said 'ooh' and 'aah' to the exterior of the Bodleian library. Amy, who worked as a librarian in the time she had left over from writing, reading and her voluntary work for FanStory, wanted to go in but Jennifer suggested asking Lewis and Hathaway first and seeing whether they could get some kind of special tour arranged.
They were tempted to go to The Eagle and Child (commonly known as The Bird and Baby) for pre-dinner drinks and to pretend to be members of the Inklings, but decided they should share that experience with the Hawaiian guys since they were here on account of The Hobbit.
They wandered into a small second-hand bookshop and Amy became engrossed in a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. She knew she ought to read it because of all the plagiarism tickets they got, and it was only £1 but at the same time it was heavy and she could think of better uses for her weight allowance on the flight home. She wouldn't have time to finish it while they were on the current case. She had just read, and virtually memorised, the first page, which would probably be enough for the purposes of checking for plagiarism and turned to ask her friend what she thought about the merits of buying it.
But Jennifer wasn't there.
"What do you mean, not there?" Robbie didn't seem to believe Amy's almost incoherent phone call. "Did you..."
"...check the other aisles in the shop, yes, check the street outside, yes, check back at the hotel, yes. Did I try her cell phone? Yes. That's why I'm phoning you. She seems to have vanished from the face of the earth. Or at least, from Oxford."
There was a muttered conversation at the other end of the phone and it was clear Lewis was consulting Hathaway. Then with a curt injunction to stay where she was (the reception area of the Bocardo) he rang off.
Amy paced up and down past reception until the girl behind the desk could stand it no longer.
"I'm sure your friend will turn up," she said. "I'm sure she just got distracted by a shop and will be here any minute."
"And I'm sure that's not the case," snapped Amy. "Nobody gets distracted for half an hour by a shop,
and if she did, she had her cell phone with her."
"Her cell phone. Don't tell me technology hasn't reached Oxford yet." Amy knew perfectly well that it had. She had just reached Robbie Lewis on his phone. But she waved hers at the receptionist.
"Oh. You mean her mobile Why didn't you say? Only even so, did you get sim cards for here? Because a lot of tourists can't use their normal providers and we usually tell them to go to Tesco or somewhere for ..."
Fortunately for Amy's sanity, this speech, with its multiple misperceptions about her ability to use technology, her status (not a tourist) and her need for a local store rather than the help the Oxford police had already provided, was interrupted in mid-flow by the arrival of the entire team, apart from Jennifer. Lewis and Hathaway flashed their badges at the receptionist and everybody settled in the arm chairs grouped around a coffee table in the middle of the room. Hathaway loomed over the reception desk until the receptionist somehow conjured a tray of coffee and biscuits - quite a feat since the restaurant beneath them was not connected to the hotel and the breakfast room was not open. She then retreated rather loudly to an inner sanctum, leaving them in peace.
Once she had recovered from the shock of an iron grip on her wrist followed by what felt like a gun to her side, Jennifer meekly followed her attacker and got into the car standing at the kerb. The gun turned out to be a toy one, thrown contemptuously onto the back seat beside her, but the driver activated the child locks on the doors and set off, speeding through Oxford's early evening traffic as if it didn't exist.
Questions were greeted with silence and declarations of fury were equally ignored. Eventually Jennifer began to feel like a child asking if they were nearly there yet and decided to shut up until they reached their destination. The attacker seemed to be female judging by the wealth of red hair that spilled down her back. But Jennifer wasn't sure because she hadn't heard a voice.
The journey took about half an hour and for most of the time they were driving through completely unfamiliar English countryside in semi-darkness so Jennifer was somewhat disoriented when they finally stopped and the car door was opened. A young man holding what was almost certainly not a toy gun ushered her out of the car and up some stone steps into a house.
She walked in obediently enough. And yet they still felt the need to manhandle her into a tall wooden chair - one with a high back and arms - in the spacious entrance hall. She found herself handcuffed to the arms and the woman - certainly a woman now that Jennifer could see her face and chest - knelt swiftly and grabbed then tied something round her ankles, then stood and placed a newspaper in her lap. The man had a camera, and there was a bright flash after which he disappeared through a door to what looked, from a brief glimpse, like some kind of study.
"Could you maybe tell me what's going on?" Jennifer half hoped her American accent would make them think again, realise that they had the wrong person, perhaps, or that they would be unable to ask for a ransom. She knew she shouldn't antagonise them, provoke them to violence.
The woman laughed, unpleasantly. "What's going on, Jennifer, is that your colleagues are going to get a picture of you to prove you're alive and some demands that will ensure you stay that way. Or at least uninjured. We aren't really murderous at heart, just angry."
So much for mistaken identity or ransom purposes. "But why me? Why us? And what are you angry about?"
"Does it matter? To you, probably not. All that matters is that your colleagues might care to do something to bring about your release. As you don't know our names and we aren't on any criminal databases you won't be able to identify us so we could let you go. If our requests are met with respect, that is."
"Meanwhile, you realise I need to..."
"To use the bathroom and to eat and drink? Yes, we've thought of that. As I said, we aren't murderous or even particularly cruel."
There was another chair that turned out to be a commode. The way she was heaved from one to the other and enabled to use the 'facilities' was humiliating in the extreme. And yet if she tried to kick with her hobbled legs she risked further abuse. They brought water, in a bottle with a sports cap which they held to her mouth, and biscuits which they fed her with a pair of tongs, presumably to avoid her teeth although she knew she would not have bitten them. So far as she had been able to tell when they arrived they were in the country, with no immediate neighbours, so they would not worry about her screaming. That was a plus, since she dreaded being gagged. Eventually, she was left alone and the light was switched off.
She supposed it must be late, but had no idea of the time. Sleep didn't seem possible, and yet, after a while, she slept.
Chapter 6: Waiting
Jennifer is still in the hands of the kidnappers. The team learn more about fandom.
"So you're telling me," said Steve McGarrett, in a voice that must have terrorised Seal recruits, "that our Jennifer-Jemima has been kidnapped? In England? In the early evening in a busy shopping centre?"
"Steven," said Danny, "even if you find the kidnappers you can't hang them out of third storey window or over a cliff. This is England, like you just pointed out. Not that you should do it in Hawaii, but we know you do and there isn't anyone to tell you not to. I think Inspector Lewis might have something to say about it here."
"Well, somebody should. Hang them somewhere, I mean," said Steve, oblivious to the glares he was getting from Robbie.
"I could kneecap them," offered Bodie, equally oblivious to the glares from his own partner. The two ex-military members of the group were beginning to form a bond that made the others worry.
"Nobody," said Robbie, "is going to do anything violent. Unless, of course, the kidnappers start the violence first. The main thing is to find them, and to find Jennifer." James nodded his approval of this as a plan of action more suited to the situation than talk of mistreating suspects.
They were all, apart from Amy, accustomed to organising searches. Hers were restricted to words on the internet and didn't require fast cars, guns, or handcuffs. However, she was tasked with further research online to see if she could find any hint of who the kidnappers might be, and was joined by Ray Doyle, who claimed some expertise with the internet. Hathaway teamed up with Bodie and Danny stayed with Steve. There was, thought Amy, a faint suggestion that James and Danny were expected to keep their companions under some kind of control. They were all off to try to find witnesses while Robbie co-ordinated the search from the police station and kept in touch with everyone by phone. Ray and Amy accompanied him to the station, collecting coffee, sandwiches and flapjacks on the way.
It was evening, and most of the shops where Amy and Jennifer had walked were closed. The crowds were no longer the workers on their way home or the tourists heading for their hotels. Instead, they were the pub-goers and the people coming into the city for plays and concerts. Nobody had heard or seen anything at all.
All four active searchers came back to the station dispirited.
"We'll just have to wait till the morning," said Bodie, helping himself to Ray's flapjack. "We can do a shop to shop search for witnesses then with more chance of success."
"Wait," said Amy. Ray had turned to remonstrate with Bodie and was trying unsuccessfully to retrieve his snack. Amy had kept her eyes on the screen and she had received a new email. It was from a throwaway account and was unsigned. It was addressed to her FanStory account. It was also all in capslocks, as if the writer was shouting at her.
WE HAVE GOT YOUR FRIEND. WE HAVEN'T DECIDED YET WHAT TO DO WITH HER. IT'S GOING TO BE UP TO YOU. WE HAVEN'T HURT HER YET - MUCH. YOU ARE STUPID BITCHES, BOTH OF YOU. WE WANT AN APOLOGY AT THE VERY LEAST AND WE WANT YOU TO STOP YOUR INVESTIGATION. WE HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG. CALL OFF YOUR POLICE DOGS OR YOU WILL NOT LIKE WHAT WE DO. NOR WILL JEMIMA.
"I thought," said Ray, turning back to Amy, whereupon Bodie took a huge bite of the flapjack, "this fanfic thing was meant to be all sweetness and light, what our boss calls roses and lavender, with a generous gift economy and fangirls showering praise on their friends' efforts, regardless of merit."
"It also has trolls, wank and shipping wars," said Amy, sadly, ignoring the strange look McGarrett and Bodie gave her when she mentioned shipping.
It was Robbie who asked the question all of them wanted the answer to. "I think we've all heard of internet trolls, and wank is a fairly common term, but shipping? You presumably don't mean anything to do with the high seas?"
Amy smiled - though if Jennifer hadn't been in danger she might have giggled. "Not that kind of shipping. It's to do with relationships. If fans ship two people it means they think they would be perfect for each other. Like, like, well, like Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. But if some writer comes along and thinks that Sherlock should be shipped with Lestrade, for example, or even with Moriarty, or that John should only be shipped with Mary, there will be online wars."
"So," said Ray, rather tentatively, "is most fanfic about same gender relationships?"
Amy was clearly the expert here, and the rest were all hanging on her every word. "Not really. There are all kinds of fanworks. Some of them are what we call gen, or general, with no relationships at all, but there's a lot of slash around. And no, not slash as with knives, slash as with a slash mark typed between the two names people are shipping."
"But surely," said Robbie, probably speaking for everyone, "this kidnapping couldn't be about something like that. Isn't it more likely to be about the actual case, the plagiarism?"
"I'd have thought so," said Amy. "I was just trying to explain that fandom in general isn't a bed of roses all the time. And plagiarism is all over the place and is online theft. Still, the fact that it seems to have spilled over into real life is really strange."
"And really nasty for Jennifer," said Robbie.
They agreed to meet again early, to reach the shops as soon as they opened, and to get some sleep in the meantime. Lewis and Hathaway escorted Amy back to the Bocardo and also made sure the receptionist - or whoever took over from her shift - would contact the police if Jennifer turned up. It was possible, after all, that the kidnappers would simply let her go somewhere in Oxford.
Amy went to bed, but couldn't sleep. She kept having images of her friend locked up or worse, tied up and in the hands of total strangers, strangers who meant her no good. She kept her laptop open on her bedside table, hoping against hope that there would be some news, another email, something from Jennifer, something from the others. She knew she ought to sleep to be alert the next day, but her mind was seething with anxiety. What had started as a normal investigation then turned into an adventure had degenerated into a waking nightmare.
"I'm worrying about Amy as well as Jennifer," said Robbie as he and James drove back to the station to pick up James' car. "It must feel dreadful to have your friend snatched like that. I'm not sure I'd cope well if..." he tailed off.
"It must be frightening but I'm not sure how close they are," said James. I get the impression they're just colleagues. It must be different if someone you really care about... I mean, someone like your daughter, or....."
"I wasn't actually thinking of our Lynn," said Robbie. "Obviously, if it's family it would be devastating, but I was thinking of friends, of those relationships Amy was talking about."
"But she was talking about romantic relationships, not friendship."
"Yeah, well, sometimes you get to care about the most unlikely people." He glanced sideways at James then turned his attention back to the road.
"And you have someone you care about that much?"
Robbie was turning into the car park, avoiding Jean Innocent's car, and he didn't answer straight away. When he'd cut the engine he said quietly, "Yes, you daft bugger, there's someone I care about that much. And no, not Laura."
It was dark, so he couldn't see whether James was blushing but the silence felt awkward. However, James had dropped his hand from the door handle and was not showing any signs of running for safety.
Chapter 7: Daylight
A package is delivered.
In the morning, Jennifer was stiff, sore and tearful. She was given water, and a couple of biscuits. So she wouldn't starve, provided help came soon. There was another episode with the commode and then the woman stood over her.
Jennifer called her Bitch, but only in her head. No sense annoying her. Well, annoying her further, because she already seemed pretty hostile. But it helped to have a name to think about rather than an amorphous 'the woman who kidnapped me and tied me up and...'
"What shall we do with you? There's been no reply, you see." There was a gloating tone to Bitch's voice. The man (Jennifer had secretly named him Dog) called through from the study to say there were no emails.
She assumed the question was rhetorical and in any case she wasn't about to discuss her own fate as if it was just a matter of logic or some kind of weird set of rules. She didn't answer, and Bitch tutted.
"I think we could start with your hair." She produced a pair of scissors and stepped forward. Jennifer flinched, then realised that there was nothing she could do and her hair would grow again. So she relaxed - no mileage in expending energy getting upset. Her hair, usually worn in a short plait, was severed and after a moment, a moment filled with the strange sound of blades sawing through hair, the plait lay in Bitch's hands. Bitch was snorting with laughter.
"Look here!" She was calling to her companion who came to the door of the study. "We have her hair. We need to send it quickly." He shrugged and offered a jiffy bag. It was quickly filled and an address was scribbled on the front. Then Dog took the envelope and left, presumably to find a post box or post office. More likely a box, thought Jennifer. They wouldn't worry about postage and wouldn't want to risk someone remembering them.
Left alone with Bitch she wondered for a moment about trying to kick out and escape but she would be too stiff to run quickly and had no idea where they were. Maybe later. She tried to tense and relax her leg muscles, hoping to give them some semblance of movement.
Bitch suddenly giggled and brought a mirror from the wall to where Jennifer could see herself. Her face, tear streaked and tired, was in fact more of a worry than the uneven halo of hair, and besides, she would not give Bitch the satisfaction of showing distress. Her hair would grow. She would find a good hairdresser in Oxford as soon as she was released. They could shape and style it for her. When she got out of here. When, not if, she reminded herself fiercely.
Breakfast at The Cotswold Lodge was definitely a five star affair. A full English, with bacon, sausage, black pudding, egg, mushrooms, tomatoes and fried bread. That was after juice, and a choice of cereals. There was tea, there was passable coffee and there was a rack of toast sitting next to a dish of marmalade that looked home made. Danny sighed with pleasure and then remembered that they should be worried, not enjoying themselves.
"Any ideas in the night?" He addressed the question to his partner almost automatically. There was no reason to think any of them might have had any ideas. There were no clues, after all.
Steve grinned. "Ideas, yes, but nothing to do with the case, I'm afraid. Unless you count dreams about dwarves and hobbits, that is."
"You dreamed about them?"
"Yeah. But they were on one of our beaches, not in the caverns of Erebor. They were going surfing. After pizza with pineapple." Steve looked innocent as Danny mimed throwing a slice of toast at him. "Well, no, I made that up about the pizza, but the rest, yes. I think I was Thorin in the dream. I was definitely part of the story."
"So who was Bilbo?" Danny stopped, realising what he'd just asked and what the answer was likely to be. He busied himself with his plate of food. When he finally looked up, Steve was eyeing him speculatively. Nothing more was said.
"It seems such a genteel sort of place," said Bodie as they strolled towards the police station from their hotel. "You wouldn't think it would even need the likes of Robbie and James, let alone harbour kidnappers who prey on American visitors."
"To begin with," said Ray, "we both know perfectly well that an idyllic retreat can be built over a cesspit, and to continue, she isn't exactly just a visitor. The kidnapping is part and parcel of this case. Though how we got to plagiarism to personal danger in such a short time is a mystery."
As they passed the Bocado Amy came out.
"I waited indoors till I saw you," she said. "I was pretty sure you'd come this way. And if you hadn't," she went on in answer to a glare from Bodie, "I was going to call a cab."
"You realise taxis have to be suspect, too?" Ray wasn't sure just how much she did realise. Just how much danger she believed her friend to be in.
"I suppose. But you wouldn't want me walking alone, even in daylight, now would you?"
They had to agree that they wouldn't and together the trio reached their temporary office accommodation.
There was a huge but quiet fuss of some kind going on.
Robbie was storming around the room with a face like thunder. James was drumming his long fingers on the table and biting his lip. Steve looked as if in the absence of a possible criminal he might start interrogating one of his colleagues, and Danny was looking, with a stupefied expression, at the contents of a jiffy bag.
As Ray, Bodie and Amy came in, he tipped the contents onto the table and Amy uttered a kind of scream.
They couldn't really blame her. There on the table lay a plait of hair, roughly chopped from its source, still bound at one end with a black scrunchie, but fraying badly at the other. The colour was a match for Jennifer. They all knew that. And last time they'd seen her she had had just such a plait.
Once they'd got over the shock, they were actually able to piece together some clues. The jiffy bag had arrived with the post. It had no stamps and reception had been furious at being asked to pay excess postage. The postman had been sent away with a flea in his ear, told in no uncertain terms that this could be evidence, that no, the police were not subsidising the post office and that he could complain via the proper channels. Innocent, whose name was on the bag, had delivered most of this information and had then brought the bag to Robbie, leaving as soon as she'd placed it on the table after wishing them all a good morning and expressing a hope that they were further forward than last night.
James had opened it at Robbie's nod.
It was quite a large jiffy bag, much bigger than the kind used for items such as paperbacks and the like. So after very little research they were able to pin down a small number of stockists. Of course, it could have been bought some time ago but that seemed unlikely.
One of the shops remembered a woman coming in and buying a pack of five large bags the previous day. She had run into the shop from a car - a dark car but the shopkeeper hadn't seen the number and wouldn't have thought to memorise it if he had - and had rushed out again and headed in the general direction of Abingdon - or south, at least. The only reason he had remembered her at all was that people did not usually rush either in or out of his shop. Stationers normally have a customer base that enjoys browsing and deciding. People in a hurry for things like jiffy bags would commonly use the post office, but he happened to know the local post office had run out earlier in the day and were awaiting a delivery.
The bag even had fingerprints, though some of those would inevitably belong to the shopkeeper or another innocent party. The direction to Innocent was hand written, though, so it was worth concentrating on the prints near that. Prints wouldn't catch the sender but would at least be evidence to link them to their crime.
The post office depot was able to tell them that the bag was in a batch that had been collected from a box in Kennington. The first collection of the morning. Again, there would be post office prints to eliminate. The office were still smarting over the issue of the unpaid postage but were reluctantly helpful.
"So, south," said Robbie.
"South's a big area," said Bodie, sounding sarcastic.
"It's better than all the points of the compass at once," said Amy. She kept putting her hand over her mouth and it was clear she was nauseated by the ideas the plait conjured up. The Brits all just looked at her, unwilling to show too much sympathy in case it turned out to resemble some kind of anti-feminist thing, but the Americans were less inhibited.
"Amy," said Danny, putting an arm round her shoulders, "if anyone can find her, we can. If anyone can bring this lot to justice, we can. And it's only her hair. That shows they aren't joking but aren't planning anything worse, yet. And we've narrowed down the area to search."
And they had. Kennington village was on a narrow strip of land between the A34 and the bypass, near the River Thames (or Isis as it was known locally) and they decided that it was unlikely that whoever posted the bag had gone into Kennington randomly. They must have come from somewhere round there in the first place. It wasn't a huge place, and with the help of uniforms - help that would be forthcoming since a kidnap was involved - they could search.
"Don't..." Amy spoke hesitantly and her voice was low. The others looked at her. "Don't alert them. Don't panic them into hurting her. I know. I can't teach you your jobs. But she's my friend."
"Amy," said Robbie, looking straight at her and sounding sincere. "We'll get her back. I promise."
Chapter 8: The House
Jennifer's location is identified.
Somehow or another the uniforms had narrowed it down to three fairly isolated houses in the Kennington area. James suggested they had probably just knocked on a lot of doors and listened to a lot of people.
"Yes, that tends to get results," said Robbie. The others looked dubious but Jean Innocent nodded approvingly.
Bodie surreptitiously touched his gun holster and McGarrett touched where his would have been if it hadn't been for UK Customs. Not surreptitiously enough for a room full of detectives.
"We don't do things that way here," said Robbie.
"Here as in Oxford or here as in UK?" said Ray.
"On my patch," said Robbie, and they were all silent.
He assigned each pair to one of the houses and gave them a uniform team too. Innocent had pulled out all the financial stops since the safety of a kidnap victim was at stake.
"Don't forget," Robbie said as they headed to the car park (where the Americans would borrow a pool car), "Jennifer's rescue is paramount, even if you have to let the kidnappers go." He glared at Bodie and Steve to emphasise his words. Ray and Danny would probably - no make that possibly - keep their partners in check, but it didn't hurt to stress the need.
Amy, to her disgust, was left at the station to answer phone calls, with Innocent metaphorically holding her hand. She also promised to do more online research, trying to identify the villains who had so astoundingly upped their game.
Robbie's hand brushed James' fingers as they sat in the car. There was no need to speak. Each knew now that if the other had been the one taken they would move heaven and earth and even allow the Bodies and Steves their weapons to make sure rescue was effected.
The uniforms, in the person of a PC Stubbins, declared the area safe, with no apparent neighbours, stray postmen, electricians, or couriers. The house was dark, shutters closed on most of the windows.
James knocked at the door. Stubbins and others were stationed round the back, and they would all just hope there were no guns involved. Robbie waited tensely, leaning on the car, which they had driven as near as they dared; he could see the house and the door, and James.
A girl answered after quite a wait. She was pretty, tousled, and almost naked.
"What on earth? And what time is it?" Robbie could lip read the questions from where he stood.
"Police," said James. Robbie assumed he would use the formula they'd agreed on. There was a dangerous criminal in the area and the police were checking all property, especially houses like this that had outbuildings and no near neighbours.
The girl's eyes widened and she opened the door to its fullest extent. She should have checked James' identity, of course, but Robbie just sighed. She was unlikely to be anything to do with the kidnappers going by her behaviour so far. He stepped forward and followed James into the house, flashing his warrant card as he did so.
A cursory look round assured them that this was no den of kidnappers. A toddler was chattering to himself in a playpen as he built a tower of primary coloured shapes. A fat dog waddled in from the kitchen, decided the visitors meant no harm and settled near the child. A rather petulant voice from upstairs called to ask what was going on.
"Nothing," the girl answered, untruthfully. Then she scooped up the toddler and held him, presumably protecting him from both the criminal and the law. She looked far too young to be the mother.
"Are your parents in?" Robbie thought it was pointless dragging this out but they had to go through the motions for the record.
"Daddy's upstairs. He's still in bed," she said. "Mummy's in hospital so I'm kind of in charge, really. This is Dominic, my little brother. He's only two." Her tone dared them to disagree. As she spoke, two more children tumbled into the room, a teenage boy and a little girl of perhaps eight or nine. They all looked at James and Robbie expectantly.
"I'm Melanie," the girl went on. "Do we have to hide, or anything? Or do you want to use our house as an observation post?" Robbie reflected that television had a lot to answer for.
"No," he said, patiently, "but please don't answer the door to strangers until we give you the all clear."
Girl and policemen stared at each other, the utter hypocrisy of this exchange apparent to all. Then Melanie giggled faintly. James and Robbie left, anxious to be out of the way of the innocent family before the father became sufficiently conscious to come down and question them further.
They phoned Amy from the car.
Innocent suggested they join Bodie and Doyle at the next venue. She had heard nothing either from them or from Steve and Danny yet.
Bodie and Doyle had reconnoitred themselves. It wasn't that they didn't trust the uniforms but sometimes ci5 eyes saw what police might either miss or misinterpret.
However, it seemed the house was empty. When the inspector and his sergeant joined them they had just about agreed to break in. Robbie thought this was justified under the circumstances so James and Bodie together bulldozed the back door with their shoulders while Ray kept an eye on the front. The back door was of flimsier construction than the front. Robbie watched the windows at the south side of the house. The north side had a garage attached and as this was padlocked from the outside it seemed an unlikely escape route. He also occupied himself mentally writing the report that would include an explanation of their actions, and a letter to a possibly irate householder.
Sure enough, the house was as empty as it looked. Judging by the post on the doormat the occupants had been away almost a fortnight so were probably on holiday. This did not, of course, mean the house was not used in their absence for nefarious activities, but there was no sign of life and the men left the uniformed constables to barricade the broken door, put a prominent note in the hall suggesting a call to the central police station, and regrouped in the rather pretty garden. They phoned Amy, who sounded more despondent than ever, then set out to join the American team.
Robbie let his fingers stray to James' again in the car. They needed some kind of comfort as the case wore on, and besides, the next stop might well be the jackpot.
"It looks right, somehow," said Danny, surveying the house they had been assigned. "Big, gloomy, all on its own. It could be a film location."
"Which is why it's probably nothing to do with us," said Steve. "I imagine England is full of houses like this. Victorian Gothic, going on twenty first century crime scene."
"Not your average Hawaiian location," agreed Danny, "though the north east coast of the states has a lot of similar properties."
"Which is what gives it the film quality," said Steve. "So many crimes, so many ghosts, so many dysfunctional families. We've seen this place or its clones a thousand times."
They were almost sure of their assessment. So sure that when the door opened they had a sense of watching a story unfold and nearly missed the salient points. A young woman looked out, checking the step, possibly for a milk delivery, though the Americans would not have thought of that, and then looking around as if checking for strangers or strangeness.
"It's OK, Al," they heard her call. "You must have heard a car on the main road. There's nothing here, not even the milk."
A man appeared at her shoulder.
"Hardly surprising, Pen, since I cancelled it," he said, and then, "but we shouldn't use names in front of our guest."
Steve and Danny were hidden by a privet hedge but the door was very visible, as were the two people, and the words were clear. Before Danny could breathe, Steve had charged forward, barrelling between the startled pair on the doorstep. Seconds later he was there again, using Jennifer, still attached to the chair, as a battering ram to shove her erstwhile captors out of the way. Danny, by this time, had the woman held securely, and was relieved to see his colleagues running towards them. Robbie wordlessly handed him handcuffs for Pen, while Ray efficiently laid Al low and cuffed him at his leisure. Someone, James, Danny thought, gabbled a kind of 'these are your rights' statement, not quite the one he would have used but no doubt appropriate for England.
Steve had Jennifer free by now, cutting through her bonds with a knife he had presumably had hidden somewhere about him. She was pale, shaken, and groaning as she tried to stand.
"You're too stiff," said Steve. "Try a few stretches, then you'll be able to move. Don't worry, Jennifer-Jemima. We've got you. You're safe."
Jennifer was crying tears of relief, and when they phoned Amy with the news, they could hear her sobs, too.
The little cavalcade headed back into the city, the prisoners in the car with the uniformed police.
But whilst the team congratulated themselves and Innocent found a policewoman to look after Jennifer, the news came. Whilst being admitted to the cells, the prisoners had had their cuffs removed and were prisoners no longer. Al and Pen, whoever they were, were on the run.
Chapter 9: Reflections
Rescues are great but there are feelings in the aftermath.
"You're quiet." It was said in an accusatory tone and indeed, both of them knew that 'quiet' was not Danny Williams' normal mode.
"Mmmm," was the only response.
Steve sighed. He was unused to having to make all the conversational beginnings. He relied on Danny to ramble away in the background, sometimes louder than others depending on the issue involved, whereupon, he, Steve, could opt to interject or not. Today, that had not been the case.
It hadn't been so obvious at the station. Robbie talked a lot. Amy talked a lot. The others were not by any means the silent type, even when, like Bodie and Ray, they were strong. Innocent had been almost overwhelming, even to a US Navy Seal. There had been a great deal of talk, particularly about the idiots who had let the prisoners escape. He gathered it had been something to do with allowing them to be uncuffed to use the bathroom, and that at least one officer was nursing a sore head, but Innocent had made it clear, both to the staff involved and to the team, that there was no excuse and that heads, sore or not, would possibly roll or at least incur very dark marks on their records.
Jennifer had talked, too. She had described her kidnap and her time in the house. Brave girl, he thought, glad she had behaved sensibly and not incurred anything worse than the shorn hair. She had described the kidnappers, too. The conversation on the doorstep had been the first time she had heard names mentioned but she was able to give detailed accounts of both Pen and Al. Of course, he had seen them close up as well, but it was good to have corroboration and someone who could perhaps help a police artist develop a photo-fit picture.
Her reaction to hearing of their escape had been a predictable one of horror but then she and Amy had buckled down to looking through FanStory's database to find anything at all that might lead them to Pen and Al in the real world. Though the archive was definitely part of that real world now.
"Is it something I've done or said?" He decided to be patient with his newly-mute partner.
"Mmm? No." Not 'no Steve and why would you think that but of course you would because...' Just 'no'. This was serious.
"Danny, I can't work with you unless we communicate. Just a fraction. I have no idea what's bugging you. You haven't gotten bad news from home, have you?" He really really hoped not. He hoped Grace was as safe as anyone's daughter could possibly be. He wasn't worried about Danny's ex-wife so much, except that she was at least partially necessary for looking after Grace.
"No." Danny was standing at the window of their room, looking out over the car park. His monosyllables were beginning to grate on Steve, especially since he had no possible way of guessing what they were about or what to do about it. He considered, just for a moment, picking Danny up and shaking him, maybe upside down. It wouldn't be appropriate, but it might get results.
Instead, he tried again. "Danno." He made his voice soft, almost seductive. He needed to get the man to talk. "Is it something about this case?" Danny's head turned and his eyes flickered momentarily. "Something about the prisoners?" Danny shook his head, not even bothering with 'no'.
"So if it isn't about the prisoners, it has to be about our actions. Or the others. Or maybe Jennifer."
Danny turned to face him. "Yes," he said, words suddenly spilling out, "it's about Jennifer. About you and your knight-in-shining-armour rescue job. And yes, I know someone had to do it and I know you weren't in real danger though we didn't know that at the time and I know..." He stopped, clamping his lips together as if to stop himself saying anything else.
"So you know all that but you still aren't happy. I rescued her, yes. I was the obvious choice. I'm taller, I know all about lifting and carrying awkward things, I was the one most likely to ..."
"And I was jealous." Danny's murmur was so low Steve could barely hear it.
"I said, I was jealous. No, not of you and your oh-so-superior height and strength. I'm used to those. They're admirable and useful. It's just that when you came charging down the steps with Jennifer in your arms..."
"Jennifer and her chair."
"OK, Jennifer and her chair. Well, I realised I wanted..."
"You wanted to be a damsel in distress?" Steve's eyebrows were somewhere up near his hairline.
"Of course not. But she had all your attention and while half of me knew she needed and deserved it, the other half was screaming for a share. So I've been thinking it through, and I haven't gotten to the end yet, and if you keep on nagging at me I probably never will."
Steve was at a loss as to how to answer, or even whether to answer at all. Danny wanted his attention. Fine. Danny could have his attention, all of it, any time. But there didn't seem to be a way that wasn't awkward to tell him that just at the moment. And then something primitive inside him took over and made answering with words unnecessary.
Jennifer ran her fingers through her new hairstyle. She didn't like it, but then it hadn't been a choice. The hairdresser had been very competent, very sweet, and very clever, cutting away the jagged edges and producing a shape that would be easy to manage and would fall just so when she washed and dried it. It was just that every time she looked in a mirror or a window, and every time she remembered that she didn't have a heavy plait any more, she felt anxious, instantly thrown back to the moment when Pen had started cutting.
"It suits you, Jen," said Amy. "You'll get used to it." The subtext was that the rest of them would get used to it too.
"You'd have to say that, though," Jennifer pointed out.
They were in their room at the Bocado, getting ready to go to the restaurant below for dinner. Robbie and James were joining them, not happy about them appearing anywhere in public until Pen and Al were under lock and key again.
The men were arriving at 7.00pm and it was only 6.30pm. The day had been a roller coaster so far, with Jennifer's rescue, a lot of anger and relief all mixed together, a new haircut and a great deal of online activity. Both turned to their laptops to fill the gap while they waited for their police escorts.
The list of plagiarisers was long. But the IP list was short, and there were similarities in the names, too. The three fics that had led to the investigation were the tip of a very large iceberg and both Amy and Jennifer were beginning to feel like passengers on the Titanic. They already had most of the information on a spreadsheet and were reduced to staring at it, willing it to give up its secrets.
"I wonder if both of them do the plagiarising, or if one just supports and protects the other," said Amy.
"One could be the word handler and fic searcher and the other could be the tech expert," said Jennifer. "Whatever, they seem to be working together. We're assuming, are we, that Pen and Al are behind the plag cases? They didn't mention it."
"I can't see why else they'd have homed in on our work here, and on you in particular. They knew who we were and where we'd be. That means they hacked into some kind of information about the team and why would they do that if they had no links to the case?"
" I don't know. The others agree with you, anyway. I just feel there's more to it than that. I wish we could search 8cocks properly. I'd like to see if any of the plagiarisers ever had another ticket but of course there's no way. They'll have changed accounts as often as we've changed our underwear."
She was revelling in her newly clean state, showered and with a complete change of clothing. Every minute she had spent giving a statement had irked her, the feeling of sweaty clothes and messed hair making her cringe inwardly. Then they'd offered her a shower at the police station. The towel hadn't been soft or fluffy but the water had been hot, and Chief Superintendent Innocent had lent her some rose scented gel.
Someone called Dr Hobson had examined her bruised wrists and ankles, declared them good to go, and offered a kind of onesie in an odd disposable fabric. That's what she had worn to the hairdressers because Bodie and Ray had insisted on accompanying her and she hadn't wanted to insist, in her turn, on going to her hotel first. But when she'd finally got to their room and dressed in normal clothes, she started crying all over again and Amy had had to be very firm and very reassuring. Very understanding, too.
And now they were ready to eat. They had eaten at the station, of course. Someone had brought sandwiches from Marks and Spencer, and some cans of delicious iced coffee. And chocolate. Jennifer had appreciated the chocolate. But she was definitely ready to eat again.
Robbie shook his head as they waited in the restaurant. "Poor lass," he said. "She's bearing up well. If that had been our Lyn, I'm not sure how well she'd have taken it."
"But your Lyn doesn't do a job that risks that kind of thing," said James.
"No, but it could happen to anyone. Look at the people who get taken hostage in bank robberies, or post offices. And I don't really think these lasses ever thought voluntary work for a website would expose them to criminals."
"It wouldn't, normally. And you're right. They're taking it all remarkably well. I just hope nothing else happens to them."
"Well, that's why we're here, to make sure," said Robbie, and as he spoke, the subjects of their conversation came through the door from the lobby into the restaurant looking for all the world like tourists enjoying a stay in a quaint and historic city without a care between them. The policemen knew better. If they looked carefully they could see the fine lines of worry on Jennifer's usually smooth face, and the slight frown between Amy's eyes. But they were ushered to the table, the menus were handed round, and everyone prepared for what they hoped would pass as a normal evening after a particularly abnormal day.
Chapter 10: The Leak
A surprising piece of information may lead to the capture of the criminals.
"We think we found the leak," said Amy. After a pleasant but unmemorable dinner, they had said goodnight to their policemen and headed back up to their room. Jennifer’s kidnap and the aftermath had seriously interfered with their research and they both felt a need to catch up.
"So presumably you’re going to tell us," said Robbie, after a short pause while everybody looked expectant and Amy looked faintly embarrassed and slightly belligerent at the same time.
"We started looking through a number of the plagiarised works," she began. "Then we looked at the comments. A lot of them were people telling them that they were plagiarists and would be reported. Some were quite aggressive. But one or two were admiring and we focused on those. There was a fan, someone who followed them to different fandoms and different works and always liked what they’d done. After some digging we saw a comment from them that said they had to tell them they were being investigated and that the commenter’s boss had sent a team to Oxford to join others. There was an email address for them to contact for more information. The commenter had tried to disguise it but that kind of thing only works against spambots. Anyway, it said…" She turned and picked up a marker pen then wrote on their whiteboard:
betty_boop at hotmail dot com
"But I know that address," said Ray. " It's the Cow's secretary." He flushed slightly and amended what he'd said, glancing at Robbie. "I should say, Major Cowley's secretary. We tease her about her email name, sometimes. She isn't in the least like a cartoon or doll."
"Well, yes," said Amy. "We thought you might say that. The IP was consistent with CI5 HQ. You seem to have a fangirl there and one who's privy to all your plans."
"But why would she give away those plans?" Bodie was shaking his head. "She knows everything we do is confidential."
"She probably thought the world of fanfiction was outside her normal mode of operation. People have blind spots, and maybe her fiction idols were hers." Steve was frowning. The idea that CI5, the organisation that had to some extent been responsible for their presence here, might also be responsible for giving aid and comfort to the people he now thought of the enemy was worrying.
Ray and Bodie looked gloomy and after a quick glance at Amy's evidence Bodie contacted their controller. Cowley was clearly furious.
"How much did she tell them?" Everyone could hear his bellow.
"We don't know, sir, because they switched to email. But she used the email she uses at HQ so you might be able to find out." It seemed Cowley was going to find out very rapidly. Betty would not know what hit her. George might keep her as secretary - her knowledge and abilities were invaluable - but she would never be allowed to forget this lapse.
"I don't know that I'll be able to forgive, let alone forget," said Ray, looking at Jennifer. "If she hadn't interfered they wouldn't even have known we were here."
"They might," said Jennifer. "We have no idea who else they know, or how. Someone could have given us away either deliberately or without meaning to."
"The trouble is," said Robbie, "you all have these silly fandom names, Jemima." He emphasised her pseudonym with a slight sneer.
"I already told you that's become a tradition," Amy said. "Betty was bettyboop1 online and was quite easy to trace but some people use all kinds of stratagems to hide. They take a pride in it." She glared at Robbie, daring him to say anything else to Jennifer. He subsided but was soon muttering to Hathaway very quietly.
They were distracted from any further mild hostilities by Cowley, who contacted his agents to tell them he had Betty's emails.
"She's been keeping the authors informed all along," Ray reported. "Apparently she's now in floods of tears and can't imagine how fanfiction could possibly lead to kidnapping. But there's a silver lining to this. She thinks she knows where our prisoners might have got to."
There were some smiles at that news. Nobody had liked being made to look foolish.
It turned out they had got to the railway station and had boarded a train for London, presumably hoping to lose themselves and cover their tracks in the capital. Their car was in the Oxford station car park; whether they intended to come back for it was a moot point. Cowley sent Murphy and Jax to Paddington to meet the train, and a couple of other agents to the flat in Chelsea that Betty had pinpointed as a possible destination. She had, it appeared, become quite friendly with Pen and Al. Friendly enough to suggest a possible meet-up in person.
Cowley encouraged her to go along to the flat and make sure these were the right people, always assuming Murphy and Jax didn't collar them as they got off the train. Steve and Jennifer had worked hastily on a photofit that was sent straight to the London agents.
"We should go to London," said Bodie. "We can use CI5 HQ and we can interrogate them there."
Innocent agreed so they all set off. The CI5 agents took the H5O agents in their hated Focus. The Oxford detectives took Amy and Jennifer in a police car - an unmarked one they borrowed from the station pool.
"No point using our own cars," said Hathaway. "The paperwork claiming expenses takes all day."
They drove in a kind of mini-convoy to the M40, ignoring the exits for the M25 ring road and heading straight into the centre of London till they reached the building housing Cowley and his team.
"We have them," said Cowley as soon as they arrived. They were in the break room since his office was too small for the group. Murphy and Jax had joined them and looked pleased with themselves. A young woman with neat dark hair had burst into tears when they announced themselves so they assumed this was Betty. At least, Ray and Bodie knew it was, and the others assumed. Jennifer, at least, was glad to see some evidence of remorse.
"I'd like her to have spent time in that chair," she muttered to Amy then quickly stopped as Cowley came into the room and addressed them.
"My agents picked them up at Paddington," he told them, gesturing at the newcomers to the group. "Your pictures were excellent. We have them in an interrogation room here and believe me, they won't be going anywhere. We are not soft at CI5. No handcuff removal here. Not even for toilet arrangements. Or anything else." His soft Scottish accent somehow made the statement sound totally sincere and not just boasting.
"Well, we can't all interrogate them at the same time," Robbie pointed out. "Hathaway and I need to know more about the actual kidnap because it took place on our patch. Somebody needs to know more about the online stuff and maybe that should be Jennifer and Amy. What do most of you think?"
"I think you should ask them about the kidnapping, certainly," said Cowley, not letting his agents have any kind of say. "As for the online research, I think someone should be with the lassies - they aren't officers of any kind, after all, and they can't be used to this. But they can take the lead in questioning." Somehow, his term 'lassies' didn't sound as sexist as 'girls' or 'ladies' and Jennifer and Amy were happy to defer to his decision that they should have help. Some argument and posturing ended with Ray agreeing to accompany them but it was decided the kidnap should take priority.
"There's a one way window," said Bodie. "Steve and Jennifer can make sure we have the right pair before anyone begins. But we don't stick to police rules and regulations here," he added as Robbie looked inclined to interrupt.
So they looked, and Pen and Al were indeed the couple who were in the interview or interrogation room, handcuffed to uncomfortable metal chairs and with a wide table between them and whoever was questioning them. There was no sign of a camera or recorder in the room, but both were very evident on the side of the window where the rest of the team sat.
Lewis and Hathaway set off into the room, anxious to bring the kidnappers to book, regulations or not. They knew Innocent had conferred with Cowley by phone, and was fully aware of all the possibilities and implications.
It was almost ludicrously easy. Both of them admitted to the kidnapping charge straight away. They had obviously seen that they were not going to escape from this one. Lewis read them their rights and Hathaway wrote up their statements, allowing them one hand free of cuffs to sign. It was in some ways an anticlimax.
But then it was the turn of the 'lassies' and Ray Doyle.
Chapter 11: The Interview
Why did they do it? The team are about to find out.
This chapter ends the case but there will be an epilogue.
"So." Doyle spoke first. Everyone had agreed in wanting to give Amy and Jennifer an easy introduction to interrogation. It couldn't be an activity familiar to them and yet they were the ones with all the background information buzzing around their brains and at their fingertips. They had taken their laptops in with them, with Cowley's encouragement. Everything could be checked and double checked straight away.
The others were watching from behind the window. It was a huge mirror on the side facing the room and anyone in there had to know they were being observed. But not by whom or by how many.
Lewis sat next to Hathaway, feeling slightly smug at having got such an easy confession to the kidnapping. Their hands brushed, at first inadvertently and then deliberately. James looked at Robby, his eyes saying a great deal that he couldn't articulate in public. It was unlikely that the others would notice; they were concentrating on the scene in the interview room.
Well, some of them were. Steve and Danny were, like Robby and James, using touch they probably hoped was less than obvious to communicate. Only in their case it was their knees and thighs that seemed to have aligned.
Bodie and Cowley were looking at Ray, and sparing a quick glance for Amy and Jennifer. Betty, who had joined them at Cowley's insistence, having returned from outside the Pimlico flat as soon as she heard that the pair had been caught, was biting her lip and looking from Cowley to Jennifer and back, her eyes still welling with tears from time to time.
"You've confessed to the kidnapping, which was sensible," said Ray. "We had you bang to rights and you knew it. But you haven't told us why, yet, and these people from FanStory would very much like to know why they were targeted."
"I'd like to know," added Jennifer, "what on earth about fanfiction could have led you to treat me the way you did. Even plagiarism as blatant as yours seems to have been doesn't lead as a rule to behaviour like that." She tossed her head as she spoke, flicking her new hairstyle as if to flaunt it to them.
"And I'd like to know the ins and outs of the plagiarism," said Amy. "Just for the record, because I'm really tired of following you through your various pseuds and fandoms. It's an incredible waste of my time. I have to do it to offer satisfaction to your victims, but you make the trail so easy to follow that I don't understand why you're chopping and changing at all."
"To annoy you. To waste your time." Pen, or Penelope, as she was named in the kidnapping charge, was muttering but the mutter was perfectly audible. The room had been designed with good acoustics for interviewees who might be less than anxious to speak up.
Amy stared at her. "You mean the plagiarism was only to get at us? Not to pretend the work was yours? Not to steal from the original writers?"
"We couldn't care less about the original writers," said Al, Alasdair Lockhart according to the charge sheet. "We didn't even read the stories, just chose them at random, copy/pasted them and posted them with our pseuds attached. We used disposable addresses to get a number of accounts and just went for it." He looked arrogant and uncaring, and everyone watching wanted to smack him. Jennifer even lifted her hand and then looked wonderingly at it and put it down again.
"But why?" She managed to use words, instead.
"You're Jemima, aren't you?" Penelope asked suddenly and without apparent reason.
"That's my pseud on the site, yes," said Jennifer, sounding a trifle cautious and confused. "But I don't answer to it much, any more than you answer to Tuppence or Smaug, I imagine, Penelope."
"Oh please. Penny will do. And no, I don't answer to those pseuds because I don't use them often. Names like tuppence and shilling and so on seemed appropriate to go with Penny, you see, and of course smaug was an obvious for the Hobbit fics. He's houndofdevon and fiendfyre_major and so on." She jerked her head, unable to gesture otherwise because of the cuffs, at her partner in crime.
"None of which explains why you went after Jennifer-Jemima so aggressively," said Ray. The watchers heaved a collective sigh of relief that the interview might be getting back on track.
"It was her," said Penny. She spoke earnestly, as if offering a perfectly reasonable explanation.
"What was me?" Jennifer expressed everyone's bewilderment. Back behind the window, Cowley looked at Betty for further enlightenment but she shook her head, frowning in confusion.
"What in the world did our Jenny-Jemima do?" murmured Steve, ignoring Danny's sharp dig of jealousy at his knee.
Penny was looking astounded. "You mean you don't know? You can't be that busy. You must remember," she said.
"You'd be surprised," said Amy. "Now, suppose you tell us and refresh our memories. We must have upset you in some way but since you have a list of pseuds a mile long and we deal with a lot of cases, we really haven't a clue. And I expect whatever it was concerned yet another name?"
"Stella McGlamery," said Penny, rather sullenly. "Stella's my middle name so I used it for fanfic. I reported harassment and got pretty short shrift from you lot. You said you couldn't do anything since the people leaving thoroughly nasty comments were anon, apart from oleary2 who was just leaving negative bookmarks which you don't worry about anyway. That's where I got the oleary bit of tuppence and smaug oleary," she added.
"But Penny, we can't do anything about anon comments," said Amy, her voice a blend of patience and exasperation. She had immediately brought up the ticket on 8cocks and was staring at it in disbelief. Yes, Jemima had taken the lead on it, and she, Amber, had seconded. She showed Ray, who by now was fairly familiar with 8cocks and about as despairing about the platform as its regular users.
"That's what she said," said Penny, "but to add insult to injury she used some kind of format letter. I don't even think she read the comments I reported. I had to delete them myself in the end. And that’s when Al suggested getting back at you. And, well, it sort of escalated a bit, I admit, but it was fun while it lasted. Satisfying, thinking of you snooty mods having to trace all our actions and accounts."
"And then," said Alasdair, "you had to make it a police matter. We weren't breaking any laws or doing any harm."
Ray sighed. "You were causing a lot of distress to the people whose work you plagiarised, and we were asked to look into it and stop you if we could. It wouldn't have involved arrest at that stage but you had to take matters further."
"When we got that message from bettyboop1 we decided enough was enough."
Behind the window, Betty had tears trickling down her cheeks again.
"That house in Kennington belongs to my aunt," said Al, though he'd already told the Oxford police this. "She's on holiday - a world cruise - so it seemed ideal when Betty told us you would all be in Oxford. And of course Penny hates Jemima."
"I wouldn't have really hurt you." Penny looked hard at Jennifer. "Cutting your hair was as far as I was going to go." It didn't seem to have dawned on her that the kidnap itself, and the holding of their victim tied to a chair were serious enough crimes.
"They're still in a fictional world," mused James and Cowley nodded.
Amy was shaking her head. That a simple harassment case had led to this was hard for any of them to believe. Any of the staffers at FanStory could have sent that letter.
Once they had admitted so much, it was an easy matter to take them through the twists and turns of the plagiarism cases and mark them all solved. Cowley decided to hand them over to the Oxford team but sent them back to Chief Superintendent Innocent in a CI5 vehicle with agents to make sure they didn't escape again, either on the way or during their second check in at the Oxford cells. The others were relieved. Guarding them on the way back had held no appeal.
It was over, apart, as Bodie pointed out, from the paperwork. And some kind of debriefing and then deciding who was to give evidence, when, where, etc. And getting everyone back to where they belonged and soothing the ruffled feathers of the plagiarism victims whose complaints had initiated the affair. There was, they all agreed, quite a lot still to do.
Chapter 12: Afterwards
The team disperse, and reflect.
The paperwork was done to Innocent's satisfaction. Evidence had been given to the magistrate who decided to keep Penny and Alasdair remanded in custody. It was agreed that the Americans - both the Hawaiian partners and the FanStory staff - could go home, but might be called on to appear in person at a later date.
"In which case," Robbie told them, "we'll foot the bill."
The H5O team were already booked out of the Cotswold Lodge and had their cases at the station, ready to head for whichever airport someone had booked them from. Birmingham, as it turned out. A police driver was standing by to take them.
Amy and Jennifer had been given the go-ahead by FanStory to extend their stay at the Bocado by a couple of days to recover from their experiences. They had also been booked into a fan convention (hotel included) in Milton Keynes and told to be ready to speak at a panel on archives and perhaps run a stall with leaflets which they could print off once they arrived. This all appeared to dovetail neatly into their site's needs. They had a flight booked from Heathrow at the beginning of the following week, with connecting train tickets all taken care of. Meanwhile, they were looking forward to exploring Oxford.
Bodie and Ray Doyle were ready to head back to Cowley and CI5 HQ.
"No rest for the wicked," said Bodie.
"If you think a transatlantic flight with a change at JFK is a rest," began Steve, but Danny nudged him and for once he took notice and stopped.
"And if you think preparing a speech at a moment's notice is a piece of cake," said Jennifer, "let me tell you..." but Amy nudged her in turn and she also shut up.
Robbie, James and Ray just grinned. They had all got to know each other well over the course of the investigation.
But it was time to say goodbye.
"At least we can talk to gal_with_a_lei and put her mind at rest," said Steve, as they settled into their seats on the plane. "She might feel happier if she knows she was randomly chosen as part of a completely unconnected conspiracy."
"On the other hand," said Danny, "she might feel even more offended. It seems to be very hard to tell how these fanfic writers are likely to react to anything. Who would have thought this case would end up the way it did?"
"Not Jemima or Amber, certainly," said Steve. He checked that they did indeed have an unoccupied seat next to them and took Danny's hand. They couldn't do much more on the plane unless they were determined to test out the rumours about the Mile High Club, but there was no sense in wasting even the smallest of opportunities.
"They made good investigators," said Danny, responding with a tightened clasp. "Chin would have enjoyed seeing them at work. But I'm very glad you chose me to come with you," he added hastily.
"You're my partner, after all," said Steve. "I hope you didn't miss Grace too much." And then he half tuned out as Danny rambled on for some time about Gracie's texts and the things she'd been doing both at school and at home. It was enough to make vague noises of approval from time to time. If Danny asked a direct question and he missed it he could claim to have been distracted by something else in the cabin. Once, anyway.
The governor would be pleased, he mused as the plane taxied and took off into the clouds over England. And as for them, they had enjoyed Oxford and learnt a lot about fanfiction, websites, and plagiarism. And about each other. All of which was immensely valuable. Especially the latter. Danny was still talking and had reached something about a party Grace had attended on the beach so Steve settled in for the long haul, keeping tight hold of his partner's hand.
He thought he might watch The Hobbit when he had some time, and even explore gal_with_a_lei's fanfic. It had, after all, been instrumental in bringing one of his own fantasy's to a very satisfying real life conclusion.
"Enjoy Oxford, you two," said Robbie as Amy and Jennifer got ready to depart. "And if you want a really erudite guide to anything, just contact James here."
"I think we might take a rain check on erudite and just wander," said Jennifer, grinning. "We need to relax, especially if we're to be at our best in Milton Keynes."
"In that case, I'll give you a list of the best pubs and an idea of how to get a good short cruise on the river," said James. "I'm not just a brain." He looked at his partner, eyes brimming with affection and mischief that nobody could miss.
Both the women were grinning now, and goodbyes were soon said. They departed with the list of pubs, arguing amiably about which to visit first.
"I believe pubs aren't quite the same as American bars," the men heard one of them say as they left the room.
"They're about to meet an entirely different culture," said James.
"Fair's fair," said Robbie. "Their site and their case have introduced us to an entirely different culture too."
"Don't let Innocent overhear you or she'll want to know the far end of everything," said James.
"She's not getting any information on my private life," said Robbie, "or rather, our private lives."
"You don't think she'd argue it could affect our work?"
"Not if she doesn't know about it in the first place. Which is a good reason for taking this conversation to a pub for a pie and a pint."
"Not back to your flat or mine?"
"Probably not. Not in the middle of the day, anyway. We might even need to work this afternoon. But this evening..." He didn't need to finish the sentence. James was looking suitably happy.
It wouldn't, thought Robbie, take the powers of Sherlock, the original, the BBC version, or the one their Oxford don had written about to work out why.
Cowley wanted more paperwork, of course, and Betty had barely been able to meet their eyes. Nothing had changed.
"I hope Marianne and her grandpa are happy," said Ray.
"Sure to be," said Bodie. "We've stopped the plagiarists in their tracks."
"They rather did that to themselves, don't you think?"
"Well, yes, but we can claim the credit. Marianne doesn't need to know the details and I doubt if she'll follow the Oxford trial. If she does, or if her grandfather does, we can still claim to be the leading investigators from their point of view. We'll be there giving evidence, too."
"I wonder if the others will have to come back. We made quite a good team. It would be good to see them again."
They carried on typing and thinking and then Ray said, "Marianne did us a good turn, didn't she?"
"Reporting the plagiarism?"
"Yes, obviously, but I meant writing all that stuff about magic and so on in the first place. With the sex mixed in."
"The same-sex sex?"
"Yeah, though I was going to call it the magic sex. Suppose it just struck a chord."
"One we sang to, yeah." Bodie's words were partially muffled by a digestive biscuit.
"Where did you find that?"
"In my desk. I always have emergency supplies. You know that."
"And you weren't going to share?"
"Nah, you're always going on about eating healthily. Didn't want to tempt you."
"I could always have refused. The offer would have been nice."
"You mean the way you've refused other temptations."
They smiled at each other, in total harmony.
"I think we might just have been in the middle of some RPF," said Jennifer, sipping a half of lager and watching the river from their table in the beer garden of the first pub they'd chosen.
"Hardly fiction," said Amy. "Did you see the way they were looking at each other?"
"Each pair," agreed her friend. "Sweet, really. And to think FanStory brought them together."
"Did it, though? Maybe the credit is due to Penelope Stella McGlamery."
Jennifer shook her head, her short new style swishing around her ears. "I wouldn't even ask for a citation," she said. "It was our letter that set things in motion originally."
"Or the anonymous harasser."
"Well, we can't cite them either. And as I seem to remember they were a troll, I wouldn't want to."
"OK. FanStory it is. Our very own special slash case. What a pity we can't tell people about it."
"We know," said Jennifer, "and we can share the story with the team. That will just have to be enough." And she got up to stand nearer the water's edge, looking into the river Isis as it flowed rapidly on its everlasting journey to become the Thames and then join the sea.