Those of you who have visited us know that we have various outbuildings. Hardly anything of mine is in any of them, but the Sage has them piled high with Stuff. I’ve no idea what most of it is. Years ago – at least 15 years, I should think, when they were more useful buildings because you could get in the doors and do things once you were inside, the Sage had taken a pair of oil paintings down there because he was going to take them out of their frames because the glass was dirty on the inside and he wanted to clean it. Having taken them there, he left them for a few weeks, as you do, and when he went and looked again, one was missing. He looked around and was quite sure that a few other things were missing too.
So he went off and had a think, and checked every day after that, and a few days later some other stuff went missing from the same workshop. He’d carefully inspected the padlock by then, which appeared undamaged – well, it was undamaged, but he discovered that the screws holding it to the door had scratches by them: evidently, someone was removing the padlock without undoing it.
Our house is well off the road and there didn’t seem much likelihood of the police catching anyone in the act, so the Sage set a trap. It took him a few days to plan and implement it, and in that time we were burgled again – it seemed that it was always on the same night of the week. He didn’t want to physically catch the person, of course, just to be alerted, and please excuse me if I don’t tell you just what he did, just in case we ever have occasion to do it again.
The next week (there was still plenty of stuff in the workshop) we were woken by the alarm, which didn’t alert anyone else. The Sage phoned the police and said he’d meet them at the road, please don’t drive to the house. I sat by the open window and listened. This guy was pretty good, I can tell you. It’s a gravelled area and I never heard a sound except once, when there was a crack of glass breaking (which turned out to be the glass in the other painting, which he’d accidentally knocked against something).
The Sage was gone ages and I was really quite anxious. Eventually he arrived back again and explained that the police car had arrived with one person in (to make sure we were all right) but that he wasn’t allowed to go off in search of the burglar without reinforcements. Just as well that the reinforcements included a dog, because the man had long gone. Indeed, he was back in bed and asleep when there was a knock at his door. The Aladdin’s Cave cliché comes to mind – we weren’t the only people he’d been stealing from and he’d got all the goods piled up in the caravan where he lived. He’d walked across the field and got into our garden from there.
In due course, we were invited to the police station to identify and reclaim our stuff and the man went to prison – he had a lengthy police record. We heard that he spoke respectfully of the Sage to someone he knew. He had no idea how he’d been found, but quite admired the person who’d outwitted him.
There’s a follow-up to this story. Several years later, he went for a few drinks at a pub in the town and afterwards phoned for a taxi home (he lived in another village five or six miles away by then). The taxi didn’t arrive so he decided to walk. He’d walked the mile to here, then a couple of miles along the main road before turning off towards his village – it’s an unlit country road and it was late at night.
Sometime later, early next morning, he was found, victim of a hit and run accident. Whoever accidentally (no reason to think it was anything else) killed him was never found.