Series Two Episode Four The Trespasser Written by James Oswald
Foxgrove Village Hall Notice Board
Bloomin’ lovely has been robbed! Shopkeepers: beware! Customers: Keep an eye out! If you happen to know any details please contact me, Gita as soon as possible. My shop is open 10am to 8pm everyday, unless corrie is on.
In other news, new stock includes bird seed! Come and get it while stocks last!
Gita stood back to admire her handiwork.
“Robbed?” Haresh raised a cynical eyebrow.
“Technically, I didn’t lie,” she smiled, “Ooh, doesn’t that look good, Haresh? Very professional, I’d say!”
“Really? A handwritten notice?”
“The printer is broken!”
“And why’s that?”
“It was lying to me! It said the paper tray was empty!”
“And was it?”
“...Yes, but I didn’t realise until after I threw it across the room,”
Haresh wasn’t best pleased to be dragged down to the Foxgrove Village Hall at eight o’clock in the morning for this and even less so having learnt his new Wifi printer was broken. Gita had persuaded him to join her under the pretense of ‘beating the crowds’, but in a village of Foxgrove’s size Haresh wasn’t sure there was a crowd to beat, on a Sunday morning no less!
Haresh sighed, “It’s not exactly truthful, this notice of yours.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“We don’t know we’ve been robbed, you probably just misplaced them!”
“I’ve got a hunch about this, Haresh. Trust me! When have I ever disappointed you before?”
Haresh opened his mouth to answer, but thought he best not as he might just suffer the same fate as their printer.
Gita frowned, “Anyway, I forgot to lock up and the next day my beautiful Honeysuckle seeds were gone, so yes, they were stolen. Now, I must get back to business! Flowers to sell!”
But Gita did not sell many flowers that day. Gita’s regular customers were too engrossed by the gossip of the town to pay attention to Gita, nor the contents of the shop despite her protests and rambling about her fantastic range of packaged bird seeds. Instead they used the shopfloor as a sort-of centre of gossiping with various old ladies, clutching their Marks and Spencers handbags under arm, came and went but not before passing on some exaggerated story about ‘the cat burglar of Foxgrove’, or so they called it.
“Have you heard?”
“Yes, a robbery!”
“I know, isn’t it exciting?”
“Oh, quite! I’ll certainly be locking up my doors tonight!”
“Oh, yes, me too! How about that cat of yours? I heard cats sell highly on the black market!”
“I ought to tell my grandaughter to keep her locked up. The darn thing is always meowing outside my window. At this rate, I wouldn’t mind if it found its way into the thief’s hands!”
“Erm… excuse me,” Haresh pushed past Mrs Wendover and Ms Hatran, stood in the doorway and made his way to the counter. They paid no attention to him and continued to gossip.
“Come in here! I’m doing something!” Gita popped her head around the entrance of the backroom.
“This really has gotten out of hand you know, Gita. I’ve had Constable Clarkson on the phone asking if it was true that your wedding ring was stolen along with our TV and- Woah,” Haresh was taken aback, “Is that-”
“Police tape - yup!”
“Er - why?”
“I'll explain in a second, but first,” she poked her head around the door, lowering her voice accordingly, “No one is buying bird seed!”
“The supplier had it on sale and I thought it would be a hit, so I bought loads and…” she frowned, “I've not sold any!”
“Bird seed…” Haresh repeated.
“Yes,” Gita mused, “Now, what were we talking about?”
“Um, the police tape - how did you get hold of it by the way?”
“A girl has her secrets,” she paused, “Now, we must investigate!” She ducked under the police tape which created a barrier around the far left corner of the room. The corner was practically empty apart from a shelf stacked high with cardboard boxes - stock no doubt. Gita’s attention was drawn to what appeared to be a small piece of fluff - frayed fabric that had broken loose of whatever it was a part of. She crouched down, and produced a piece of chalk from her pocket. She traced the outline of the fluff before picking it up to examine it.
“What is it?” Haresh cautioned to ask. Gita occasionally went like this - when she was pretending to be a spy, or gossiping about Mrs Hatran. Haresh always found it best to either ignore her or go along with it.
“No idea, but a clue is a clue!” She pocketed the fabric, and turned her attention to her husband, “Suspects, dear?”
“Suspects! You must have suspects!”
“Well, if they actually have been stolen,” he paused - Gita was glaring at him - he better pick his words carefully, “I think, maybe, the most likely suspect would be Candice.”
Gita nodded comprehensively, “Ah. Candice... Yes, likely suspect, but I like to think we are friends.”
Haresh frowned, “Are you sure about that? Gita, look,” he adopted a gentler tone, “I hate to say it but you’re too trusting. The first time you two met Candice tried to get you done for drunk driving.”
“We don’t know that!”
“Come off it, Gita! From the size of Foxgrove, I think it’s quite clear to see there is only room for one flower shop in the village. It’s us or her, and well, she’s taken it upon herself to make sure it is her.”
“I like to have faith in people, Haresh.”
“Why? Do you think she wants to be friends?”
“Do you think she would break into my shop to steal some seeds?”
“Well, no…” Haresh paused, “I don’t think anyone did to begin with.”
Gita crossed her arms, “Very well. You shall see.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Gita shrugged, the hint of a knowing smile on her lips, “You shall see…”
“Haresh! Wake up! Did you hear that?” “Huh?” Haresh blinked, wiping a line of drool from his cheek.
“The bird is in the nest!”
Haresh could barely bring himself to mumble in reply. When Gita had suggested all would be made clear tonight, he hadn’t expected her to arrange a camp-out in Bloomin’ Lovely’s back room.
“We will leave the door unlocked and see if we catch our culprit in the act!” she had argued. Haresh had seen enough of how exaggerated the rumours of this ‘robbery’ had become to know getting it over and done with would be the best option, even if he doubted their burglars would dare show their faces again.
Haresh stifled a yawn and decided sleeping behind a high stack of cardboard boxes in Gita’s backroom was probably not the best thing for a headmaster expected in school in - he checked his watch - seven hours’ time! He spoke up, “Gita, it’s a school night and I-”
“Shush! Someone is in the shop!”
Haresh, too tired to argue, complied and strained his ears. He could hear a rustling, followed by a smack - something had been knocked off by whoever this trespasser was. Subsequently a continuous rattle followed, like cereal being poured into a bowl, but Haresh knew better. For this was the sound of Gita’s bird seed being spilt all over the floor.
“No! Not my birdseed!” Gita verged on speaking loud enough for the trespasser to become aware of the two of them huddled in the backroom, “You’re helping me collect it all up and re-bag it! I don’t want a penny to go to waste!”
“Can you see who it is?” Haresh strained his neck but the view through the ajar door was blocked by Gita’s herb display.
“No. I think they’re coming! Quick! Duck!”
Haresh protested but it was too late. Gita threw her head behind the stacked boxes and tugged Haresh by his collar down with her. Subsequently, Haresh found himself in a very confused position, allowing him, for the first time in thirty years, to successfully touch his toes without bending his legs. Haresh wanted to quickly unfold himself but Gita’s hand placed on his back was surprisingly forceful. He could do nothing but listen.
The door creaked ever so slightly, and then Haresh heard the lightest of footsteps. In fact, the pitter-patter was so impossibly quiet Haresh didn’t think it was humanly possible to be so quiet when walking, but Haresh didn’t have much time to dwell on it. He shared a confused expression with Gita.
“Do I hear-”
“A bell? Me too.”
They peeped up from behind the boxes and staring back at them was a large white cat, one of those ones with long hair that Gita said only the posh people owned. It had a collar adorned with a small bell, and a name tag, but such a device was useless. Gita already was fully accustomed to this particular cat.
“Tricky, what are you doing here?” Gita embraced the cat who seemed less than pleased to be harassed by this strange woman who lived behind the boxes near its favourite corner. “Do you not remember me, my darling?”
Haresh grated his teeth. He remembered the trouble Gita had recounted to him after Mrs Hatran had asked Gita to catsit. Scratches. Bites. And she never got her head out of the food - so greedy, that cat. He paused.
“Hang on… do you reckon-”
“We’re best friends, aren't we, Tricky? We're putting our past behind us! Ooh, you're so pretty with you white fur. I bet Mrs Hatran is secretly rich and she can afford to get you shampooed.”
Haresh didn't like where this was going.
“I bet she only shops at Marks and Spencers or Booths, because that’s what rich people do…What are you meowing so loudly about, I’ve got yo- OW!”
Mollie, proud of her work, pounced from Gita’s arms and made its way to its favourite corner.
“Haresh, it bit me!”
“She bit me! Again! I was being so nice, and I thought we'd turned over a new page-”
Despite his imminent interest in how Gita thought cats were capable of 'turning over a new leaf’ and such, a spectacle of a scene was taking place before his eyes, “Gita! Seriously! Look!”
“Wha- oh. It’s peeing. In the corner of my backroom. Brilliant. Oh. And it’s now eating my Honeysuckle seeds. OH!”
Mollie made good progress of tearing open the package with its claws and teeth. Gita produced the frayed fabric from her pocket.
“Ah, well that explains this,” she held it against the cat’s own collar and they matched down to the frayed stitching, “Must’ve fallen off while it was devouring my lovely honeysuckle seeds. Oh yes, how could I forget? Honeysuckle has a similar effect as Catnip on cats - they go hyper for it.”
Haresh shook his head, “Do we have to tell everyone we were outsmarted by a cat then?”
“I suppose…” Gita’s eyes widened, “Or…”
Foxgrove Village Hall Notice Board It is my pleasure to announce the robber who has been breaking into my shop at night and subsequently stealing Bloomin’ Lovely inventory has been caught, by none other than myself, Gita Chandra. The robber, who shall not be named, put up a hell of a fight and a certain heroic shopkeeper was injured in the process, but all is well! The Foxgrove high street is now safe from this particular cat burglar!
P.S. In celebration, All honeysuckle seeds are now to be sold AT half price until the end of tomorrow! Be quick! Limited stock!
P.P.S. Bird seed is now out of stock.
Gita pressed the pin through the paper into the notice board and stood back to admire her handwork.
She smiled to her husband, “Technically, I didn’t lie.”