November 2014 – get right – The Burglar by John Pilling

The Burglar

by John Pilling

Deep in thought, detective sergeant Reese walked over to the window and looked down at the terrace three floors below.

“You’re quite sure ma’am that the bracelet was on your dressing table?”

“Positive,” said Lady Mary. “It’s part of a set of three you see and I remember looking at them in the case and thinking that I must put them back in the safe. I was away for no more than a few minutes and when I returned one was missing.”

“Did you hear or see anything?”

“I thought I heard a scuffling noise from outside the window but when I looked out I couldn’t see anything. There was a young lad in the road staring up at the house.”

“Anything else?”

“Well… there was a sort of rank smell in the room but it faded very quickly.”

“Who else was in the house?”

“ My husband was working in his study. Mrs Elder, our cook, was in the kitchen preparing lunch.”

“Could anyone have come in from outside?”

“I don’t think so, you remember the fuss the dogs made when you came?”

“Yes indeed, well thank you Lady Mary”

* * * *

“It just doesn’t make any sense sir, room on the third floor, only one door in. Both windows were open but it’s a straight drop onto the terrace, impossible to climb. Only one piece of jewellery taken from a set. She has to have mislaid it.”

“Hmm,” Inspector James Forbes rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

“What about the scuffling noise and the smell?” he said.

“Imagination sir?”

“Unlikely, I know Lady Mary, she’s not given to imagining things… right, get a description of the bracelet circulated, then get on to records. See if anything similar has been reported.”

* * * *

A couple of miles away across town, Mr Aaron Knowles was examining a gold and diamond necklace that he had just been handed. He liked the bracelet very much, but he decidedly didn’t like the black hairy hand that gave it to him, nor the rank smell that was beginning to fill the little room behind his shop.

“Where’d you get it then?” he asked. The taller of his two visitors shrugged.

“Just lying about, it was,” he said, “d’you want it or not? Plenty of other buyers.” Mr Knowles glared at him but finally greed overcame caution and he handed over a roll of notes.

“£500, right, and you’ve never been here.”

* * * *

At the police station there was consternation in the Inspector’s office.

“Thirteen previous cases! Why haven’t they been flagged up before?”

“It was just single items going, nothing of any great value, so the collator was told to record them as insurance claims. It’s all been happening on that big council estate in Marley in Y division, they put it down to kids.”

“I know it’s a difficult balance to get right, but thirteen cases. Well if it is kids, they’ve hit the jackpot this time…and why suddenly in this area. Ask region to send the files over, see if you can spot any connections. I think I’ll pay a visit to the local council offices.”

* * * *

“Yes indeed inspector. Two families have been transferred from the Marley estate in the last few weeks, one was a straightforward family matter but the second was rather unusual situation in that the move was requested by the family’s neighbours. They started a petition…got lots of signatures too.”

“Why was that?”

“Apparently the son is mad on animals, had a virtual menagerie in the back garden…totally against the rules of course. Neighbours started complaining about the smell, worried about them escaping and attacking children.”

“What sort of animals?”

“Mostly apes I think, anyway there was a lot of ill feeling. It was thought better that the family make a fresh start away from Marley. I think the lad was allowed to keep one as a pet, the rest went to the local zoo.”

“Thank you,” said the inspector thoughtfully, “that’s very helpful… can you let me have the family’s old address please? And their new one.”

Back at the station, the Inspector called the sergeant into his office.

“Did you find anything in the files?”

“ Several people mentioned a smell Sir, also all the thefts were in the same area.”

“Anywhere near this address?”

“Yes Sir, pretty much all around there.”

“Ah!” said Inspector Forbes with deep satisfaction. “Right, come on sergeant, I think we need a couple of search warrants.”

* * * *

Later that day Inspector Forbes received a telephone call from his superior.

“Afternoon Jim, I believe congratulations are in order.”

“Thank you sir.”

“How did you manage to nail that slippery customer Knowles? He led me a merry dance when I was there.”

“Bit of luck really sir, I had this strange case of a lad who’d trained an ape to steal jewellery. He’d take it for a walk and send it in through any open window he saw. He’d been getting away with it in Marley so when the family moved he thought he’d start around here. When he couldn’t explain all the money in his room he panicked and pointed the finger straight at our local fence.”


“Yes indeed, we didn’t just find the bracelet there. Our Mr Knowles was unable to explain the presence of quite a few items. He’s being interviewed about that now.”

“Well done Jim.”

“Thank you sir.”


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