DS Dixon put his feet on his desk, leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms overhead as he yawned expansively. He was a crumpled man, careworn by too many years spent with criminals, too much pacing in interview rooms and far too many meals eaten straight from their wrappings while sitting in his car. Retirement was in sight, but he had one more case to solve before he could move to that cottage in Seahouses he’d promised himself.
During the past month, there had been eight burglaries on the Highcroft estate, an unremarkable collection of homes built in the 1970s now definitely showing their age. But the houses had been well built and by today’s standards the rooms were spacious; and while there wasn’t room to graze a pony in the garden, you could certainly put up a greenhouse and still have space to host a barbecue. It was populated by middling families who weren’t doing quite as well as they’d like and who had aspirations to move either across town to Glebelands or into one of the nearby villages.
The first case had been reported by Mr and Mrs Jackson. They had returned from work to find that their TV had disappeared, together with their DVD player, a collection of films and a laptop. There was no damage or disruption, but still they felt violated. A crime number had been issued to satisfy their insurance company, but since there were no fingerprints or other evidence, Dixon and his colleagues knew there was little chance of finding the culprits. Certainly the items were long gone by now.
Then a couple of days later, the Browns reported a similar break-in, having lost not only everything electrical out of their living room, but also a lawnmower and two mountain bikes that had been stored in the garage. Again, no clues. The police, as they say, had nothing to go on.
Actually, to call these break-ins wasn’t strictly accurate, because there was no sign of forced entry. It was as though the thieves had simply let themselves in through the front door, taken what they wanted and left, locking up behind them.
Two similar cases is a coincidence, but eight within a two-mile radius? No, there must be a link. But Dixon, tired and fed up, was bereft of inspiration. There was nothing to connect these families. Some had left a spare key with a neighbour, but not the same neighbour. They didn’t work together, or belong to the same gym or support the same football team. In fact, the only thing they had in common was that they lived on Highcroft and were out at work all day.
Wearily, Dixon brought all four legs of his chair back to the ground. Perhaps inspiration would strike with a shot of caffeine inside him. As he approached the vending machine, he could hear a young PC complaining to his colleague: ‘I’ve taken my car in for a service so the wife dropped me off today on her way to work. Trouble is, I just remembered I’ve left my kit at home and it’s five-a-side practice tonight.’
Dixon wasn’t really interested, but he said,’ Can’t someone give you a lift home to pick it up?’
‘No point, mate. The keys are at the garage.’
‘Which garage? Are they any good?’
‘Speedy Service on the Harrington Road, on the edge of the Highcroft estate. Here, I’ve got their number somewhere.’ He dug into his pocket and handed over a business card.
A few days later, that young PC was moaning that he too had been robbed. Suddenly Dixon saw how simple it was to take the house key from a bunch hanging temptingly in the Service Department backroom, make a copy and return it. Job done.
“I wrote this short story to impress Solopress.”