When Bill Overend was promoted to DCI he inherited most of his predecessor’s team but immediately made two additions from outside of Abbotsford, Detective Constable Boris Katarski and newly promoted Detective Inspector Tom Adamson.
And since that time Bill Overend and Tom Adamson had become very close.
Tom was a diminutive figure who trotted on his toes rather than walked in much the same way Jimmy Cagney did when he was dancing.
He was only five foot six inches tall and as thin as a racing snake with thinning Sandy hair. But despite his emaciated appearance he was extremely strong and had whippet like speed.
There is more than one criminal now enjoying “her majesties pleasure” because they underestimated him.
Also Tom was never seen without his notebook in which he often seen to scribble furiously.
He was notorious with regard to his notebook, he was almost fanatical about it and it is almost a given that if it wasn’t in Adamson's note book then it hadn’t been said or hadn’t taken place and Tom was proud of that.
At thirty-nine years old he was the most experienced Detective in the division, with the exception of Overend, but had never sought further promotion.
He liked being a DI, he had found his niche, and he was good at his job so it suited everyone.
DCI Overend was in Australia for his best friend Dave butcher’s wedding and in his absence DI Adamson had been subbing for him.
It had already been over two weeks and he still had another week to go and he was getting restless.
Tom hadn’t been out of the office for any meaningful reason for what seemed an eternity so he was perversely relieved when the spate of pickpocketing was reported.
The incidents had all occurred at the Phoenix Shopping Centre in Abbottsford, which as there were only two Detectives not already up to their eyeballs, enabled him to get out the office as well as doing some last minute Christmas shopping he still hadn’t got everything yet for his wife Rachel.
A large number of women had had either their pockets picked or bags stolen while visiting the Phoenix shopping Centre.
Interviews were conducted and information collated and nothing leapt out at them.
So he got DC Grace Suddaby on the case and from the information collected she compiled a crime map of the Phoenix Shopping Centre logging various markers such as the location the theft was discovered, shops visited prior to the discovery and the place where they were 100 percent sure they still had the stolen item.
And with that information Grace’s computer model managed to isolate the crime hotspot to the second floor.
The only other thing the computer model picked up was another common denominator being that they all visited Santa’s Grotto but that was treated as nothing more than an anomaly.
On Friday Detectives Tom Adamson and Grace Suddaby along with PCs Deacon and Hanratty, in plain clothes, posed as shoppers on level two of the Phoenix Center.
They were about three hours in and nothing had happened other than Tom had completed all of his Christmas shopping.
He was just about to go and get himself a coffee when there was another robbery reported so Tom went to the security office instead.
Tom recognized the woman sitting just outside security, she had been in front of him in the queue when he bought perfume for Rachel and furthermore she was ahead of him all the way from there to the Grotto because he remembered thinking what a cracking little arse she had.
Then within minutes of leaving the Grotto she noticed her purse was missing.
Tom produced his warrant card and entered the security room and spoke to the operator seated in a wheelchair in front of a bank of monitors.
“All those channels and still there’s nothing on” Tom said
“Hello guv” said the operator.
Ben Holmes had once been a uniformed Sergeant in traffic at Abbottsford nick before he broke almost every bone in his body in a high speed pursuit gone wrong when his bike left the road.
“Alright Ben” Tom said and shook his hand.
Ben was already checking the CCTV footage and had the woman on screen from eight different cameras and she was in sight the whole time and no one got anywhere near enough to dip in her bag.
“You were watching her very closely guv” Ben said
“What can I say I had her under close surveillance” Adamson replied with a smirk
Nothing had shown up on CCTV as they followed the women’s journey through the center and no one appeared to rob her.
So either she was lying or…
He called Grace and told her to meet him outside the Grotto.
The computer model had indicated the grotto was significant but they had assumed it was just an anomaly.
So adhering to the old Sherlock Holmes axiom
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”
“It must be Santa or one of his helpers”
And Gracie agreed.
So they went back to see Ben Holmes in security
“We need to have a look in the Grotto” Tom said
Ben twiddled a few nobs and a collection of images of the entrance of the Grotto appeared
“No I mean inside” Tom said
“We don’t have any cameras inside” Ben said
“That’s very convenient for Bad Santa” Grace said
Tom Adamson, Grace Suddaby and the two PCs had regrouped to a café in the food court where they planned their next move.
“We have the miniature camera gismos” said Tom “So we can catch them on camera”
“We need a child” Catriona Hanratty said
“What?” Said Tom
“We need a child” Catriona repeated
The other three all looked at her blankly
“Well you can’t queue up to see Santa if you haven’t got a child, it’s kind of for the kids”
“Damn” exclaimed Tom
“There’s one” said Gracie excitedly
“Hold on Gracie” Tom said “We can’t just grab one at random and deputize it”
“Trust me” Grace said and leapt up
“Oh God we’ll all get done for kidnapping” he said and put his head in his hands.
A few minutes later Grace returned with a woman and a three year old boy.
“Grace you can’t...” Tom began
“This is my sister Amy and this little deputy is my nephew Owen”
All around the store were little piles of colourful A5 size cards to be presented to Santa Elf’s for a free visit to Santa, all you had to do was take a card fill in your name and address and hand in the card to an Elf.
It was free to shoppers plus you got a free photo of your little darling sitting on Santa’s lap.
And it was because it was free to shoppers that it didn’t show up as a hot spot on the crime map and why it was so popular with the punters and why there was a long queue to get in.
Grace went back to the office and picked up a couple of miniature camera units and her laptop and returned to the Phoenix, inside half an hour.
She attached one mini camera to the handle of the buggy and second to the shoulder strap of Amy’s bag pointing straight down at the invitingly open bag.
And then they were all set.
While PC Dickie Deacon was at the rear entrance with a security guard
DI Tom Adamson and PC Catriona Hanratty were in the queue with Amy and Owen.
When they reached the front they waited patiently until the curtain opened and a young girl dressed in regulation Elfish clothes, green tights, and pointy shoes that kind of thing, stepped through.
After making all the usual happy, happy, Christmas spiel the Elf opened the curtain again and ushered mother and child through and Tom and Catriona waited by the entrance.
Gracie meanwhile was still seated at the café opposite with her laptop open watching the feed from the cameras.
Once beyond the curtain Amy and Owen were led down a gloomy pathway by Santa’s little helper and then Amy was halted at the end of the path by her escort as it opened out into the grotto.
Owen was then escorted by another Elf to Santa who was seated on his throne surrounded by presents.
Now the child had eyes only for Santa and the presents and Mum had eyes only for her excited child.
The second Elf helped Owen up onto Santa’s lap and then took up her position ready to take a photograph.
“Say Rudolph” said the Elf and the camera flashed.
Owen jumped down off Santa’s lap and ran back to his Mum brandishing his present proudly and as Amy settled him into the buggy it happened.
Gracie was intently studying the screen on her laptop when she saw a hand dip into Amy’s bag and withdraw her purse.
“That’s a go” Gracie said into her radio “that’s a go”
“Ok” Tom said “In we go”
Despite Adamson’s whippet like speed Catriona Hanratty was through the curtain ahead of him and they both rushed down the pathway towards the light.
Amy and Owen were already on their way out as the officers ran in and they made a space for her.
“You can’t come in here” the first Elf said
Hanratty took hold of her wrist and whispered
“Let’s not do anything to upset the child”
Adamson pressed on and grabbed Elf number two and expertly cuffed her.
Santa was up off his chair and headed out the back but reappeared seconds later under the purposeful control of PC Deacon.
“Well done Sticky” Adamson said
“Let’s get him out of the suit before you cuff him, we don’t want the kids of Abbotsford watching the police arresting Santa”
“Ok guv” Deacon replied
Just then Grace Suddaby arrived and asked
“Did we get them all Guv?”
“Three in custody” Tom replied “Well done everyone”
After a thorough search of the Grotto the police found a number of stolen items, purses, handbags, credit cards and phones.
Later they searched the residences of the three suspects where they found even more stolen items, plus evidence of identity fraud.
When Grace checked the camera she was hoping to recover the photograph of her nephew sitting on Santa’s Lap she found no memory card in it.
It transpired they were clearly only interested in the names and addresses on the cards which they could then use with the stolen credit cards.
When Tom Adamson went home that night it was with a strong sense of achievement for a job well done and half a dozen neatly wrapped presents for Rachel that he slipped unnoticed under the tree.