Beware! Things are not always what they seem.
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Theme - Mrs Cranshaw Spots a Burglar
A sudden shower forced Mrs Rosemary Cranshaw to abandon her gardening and take up the dusting whilst she awaited another sunny interval. She left the wheelbarrow by the backdoor as she hurried inside. She was polishing her windowsill with gusto when she spotted a youth hurrying into Druid's Rise. She was suspicious of him immediately. He was tall, well-built, had a shaven head, and was dressed in a scruffy white t-shirt, jogging trousers and dirty trainers - not the sort of person that Mrs Cranshaw would normally expect to see on the Hengeacre Estate.
As he came closer she realised that he had a sack of some sort over his left shoulder and was carrying what looked like a short pipe in his right hand. He came to a halt at the house next door. Mrs Cranshaw became very concerned. She leaned over the radiator getting as close to window as she dared, thankful that she was hidden from view by the net curtain.
The youth had dumped his sack and pipe onto the grass and appeared to be fiddling with the lock. Mrs Cranshaw knew she had to do something. She picked up her cordless phone, dialled the number of the local police station and resumed her vigil by the window in her front room whilst she waited for someone to answer the phone.
"Can you put me through to Inspector Green please?"
To Mrs Cranshaw it seemed to ring forever before the familiar estuary English voice identified itself on the other end of the line.
"Inspector, this is Mrs Cranshaw of the Hengeacre Neighbourhood Watch, I'd like to report a burglary at number 12, Druid's Rise."
"When did this occur, madam?"
"It's occurring right now. A young skinhead is attempting to break into Mrs Brown's house. He was fiddling with the lock on the front door now he's trying the windows on the ground floor. They all appear to be closed and I know she's recently had window locks fitted: Neighbour Watch insisted. Oh and he seems to be armed with some sort of pipe, a cosh perhaps."
"I'll send a constable over straight away. Stay inside and just keep an eye on what he's up to. Many thanks Mrs Cranshaw, it's a shame we don't all have neighbours as observant and as civic-minded as you." Mrs Cranshaw beamed; the late Brigadier Cranshaw would have been proud of his wife.
Variation 1) The Police Mobilise
Inspector Green put the phone down and addressed the room:
"So, we have an attempted break-in in progress. Suspect still on the premises. Currently under the surveillance of Hengeacre's own Miss Marple aka Mrs Cranshaw. Any takers?"
He was not at all surprised when virtually the entire shift were willing to volunteer. Certain members of the general public criticised the recent explosion of Neighbourhood Watch, but you couldn't deny they took their personal security seriously and were more than happy to keep an eye out for those they lived near. Most of the station had addressed them at one time or another, and they always got a good reception, and more often than not, a cup of tea and a biscuit to boot. Today's call from the ever popular Mrs Cranshaw would lead to an easy collar at the end of a long and uneventful shift, and a rapid return to base.
"OK, George and Matt it is then. Take car 2. Druid's Rise. See if you can't stop this miscreant in his tracks."
He knew Constables Holmes and Freeman would head off to The Viaduct straight after the arrest and would be the first to get the beers in. It was an unofficial prize for two of his most promising young officers. Inspector Green prided himself on his strong man management and people skills.
30 minutes earlier.
Variation 2) Dave
Dave sat at the table with Fern on his lap. Sitting across from them was Bentley. Between them was a handmade, square game board comprising 36 alternating black and white squares. On the board were a selection of Staunton pieces. They were playing Short Chess.
Her bald head, lash-less eyes, and deep concentration as she considered her next move, gave Fern's appearance an almost sphinx-like serenity. After a long period of silence, she finally leaned forward and advanced her Rook three ranks.
"Check, for the third time," she announced.
"And for the last time!" said Bentley. With great solemnity, he lay his King down on the board. "That's Check Mate!"
"Wow," said Fern, and punched the air with a tiny fist. "That's the first time I've won!"
Short Chess was a game that Dave had invented several months earlier. Because not all the children at St Bernadette's Hospice could manage physical activity, he offered to teach them how to play Chess so that they too could participate in "Safe Sport" Thursdays (another of Dave's ingenious creations). But Fern had tearfully declined the offer, saying she didn't think she'd have enough time left to learn.
He'd later found out that Fern had read on the Internet that most children with her condition had very limited life expectancies.
So overnight, Dave had put his woodworking skills to good use, and created a 6x6 chessboard. He figured that a shortened board would be less daunting, a game with the knights removed would be less complicated, and that those two things combined might tempt Fern into learning a Chess alternative. And he hadn't stopped there: He created a little wooden box for it which he adorned with vaguely middle-eastern looking lettering and added to it the pieces from his own prized Chess set, minus the four knights. And thus Short Chess was born.
When he'd returned the next day to drop off the game, Dave told the children that Short Chess originated in Iraq and was a simpler precursor to Standard Chess. Perhaps Fern would like to give it a go.
Was it wrong to lie if his overall intent was good? He didn't think so. Besides, she'd loved it!
"And now it's time for you two to go to bed," said Gemma, the nurse who had been waiting patiently for the game to end.
"Can we play one last game?" asked Fern sweetly.
"'fraid not. It's getting late, and Dave has got to get going."
"That's very true. I've got a busy evening planned: If I don't get your team's sports kits washed tonight, your friends are going to be stinky when they next play."
Gemma lifted Fern off Dave's lap and gently placed her in her wheelchair. Dave stood up and heaved a large laundry sack onto his shoulder and turned to go.
"Don't forget your Supersoftball bat!" called out Gemma. Dave looked up as Gemma tossed the bat in his direction. He caught it easily with his free hand, then headed towards the door.
Supersoftball had been one of Dave's first inventions when he started volunteering at the hospice. He took the principle of softball and made it safe enough for the residents of St Bernadette's to play by making an ultra-lightweight bat that the children could easily wield and a super soft ball that could do no damage to anyone, or anything. Supersoftball, and Dave, had proven to be very popular additions to the lives of those at St Bernadette's.
Now outside, Dave shoved the large laundry sack into the boot of his car along with the supersoftball bat. He then set off for his grandmother's house in nearby Hengeacre Estate.
15 Minutes earlier.
Variation 3) Mrs Brown Shuts Up Shop
Mrs Brown was locking up the Woodside Charity shop. It was a little earlier than usual, but it had been a stressful day. She was weary and hungry - she'd been rushed off her feet, and had only had time for a slice of toast all day.
She had planned to go out to the key cutters at lunchtime, but the shop had been short-staffed today. Maureen had called in sick mid-morning, and one of the volunteer workers had been a no-show.
She could have popped out and left a "Back Soon" note on the door, but that was not something that her conscientious character could bring herself to do: You just never know when much needed income might walk through the door.
In the end, the most lucrative business Mrs Brown saw all afternoon was the donating of an Aquaman action figure (in its original box) complete with a seaweed-coloured beard and clutching a miniature trident. Worth a lot should the right person just happen to walk in, but what were the chances of that? She could of course check out eBay for any takers, but that would have to wait until tomorrow. For now, she had to get to Timpsons before they closed, and then hopefully, she would be able to get back home before her grandson arrived.
Variation 4) Mrs Cranshaw Takes Control
From her vantage point by the radiator and behind the obscuring safety of her net curtains, Mrs Cranshaw watched the youth try all the ground floor windows to no avail.
Then he looked up and noticed that one of the small windows upstairs was open. He ran down the side of the house and returned a few minutes later with an extendable ladder which he leant against the side of the house up to the first floor window. Mrs Cranshaw cursed the stupidity of Mrs Brown for leaving such a thing lying around in such an obvious place.
As the youth started climbing the ladder, Mrs Cranshaw suddenly had an idea. Inspector Green had told her to stay inside; but how could she miss an opportunity as good as this? She quietly opened her back door and took hold of the handles of her wheelbarrow. She then ran across her drive and then across her neighbour's drive as fast as she could towards the would-be housebreaker pushing the wheelbarrow before her. She struck the ladder firmly at its base causing the youth at its other end to cry out in terror. Both ladder and youth came crashing to the ground just as a police car pulled up outside Mrs Brown's house.
"Good evening, my name is PC George Holmes," said the policeman as he hurried up the drive.
He looked down at the prone figure slumped on the front doorstep. "Well now, he's certainly not going very far is he?" said PC Holmes, with slight chuckle in his voice.
"This is PC Holmes responding to the burglary on Druid's Rise, please send an ambulance" he said talking into the radio on his collar.
"So what happened?" asked PC Holmes taking a notebook out of the top pocket of his uniform jacket and turning his attention to Mrs Cranshaw.
Before Mrs Cranshaw could answer a second car drew up at the front of the house.
Variation 5) Mrs Brown's Soliloquy
"Oh my God what have you done?" demanded a distraught Mrs Brown as she sprinted towards the house.
"Nothing to worry about madam" replied a calm PC Holmes "Your neighbour managed to apprehend this young thug before he could get into your house."
"That's no thug," Mrs Brown cried out. "That's my grandson!"
"But he was fiddling with the lock trying to break in" said Mrs Cranshaw desperately.
"He was fiddling with the lock because his key no longer fits. You made such a spectacle of yourself at the last Neighbour Watch meeting that I agreed to change all the locks just to shut you up. I haven't had a chance to give Dave his replacement key yet," she waved her newly cut Timpsons key in Mrs Cranshaw's face before falling to her knees beside her stricken grandson.
Mrs Brown was near to tears as she nestled Dave's head in her arms. "I just don't understand how you could think he was thug; he's such a kind young man, how could you make such a misapprehension."
"Well ... he's got that ... er ... weapon, and that ... er ... sack; that sack could contain contraband" said Mrs Cranshaw meekly, her voice starting to crack. She decided not to mention his brutish hairstyle and unkempt appearance.
"That's not a weapon, that's his supersoftball bat" she picked it up and threw it towards the policeman. It bounced harmlessly off his shoulder. "He's been teaching Safe Sports to the children of St Bernadette's Hospice for Young Children. He'd do anything to make the last months of those kids' lives a little better. You know he even shaved his head to show solidarity for those of the team who'd lost their hair as a result of their chemotherapy."
Mrs Brown sobbed: "As for that sack, it contains their sport kit. He came round here to wash it for them. He does that every Thursday." She looked up and glared at her neighbour: "Maybe if you were a little more observant, Mrs Cranshaw, you'd've known that.”
Variation 6) End Game
Twelve hours later Dave woke up in St Jude's Hospital. He had been rushed to Casualty the day before and treated for a dislocated shoulder, a broken ulna and radius, a fractured femur, a badly bruised fibula, two cracked ribs, and mild concussion. But as the first responder had pointed out at the scene, it could have been a lot worse had Dave not landed on a very large sack of laundry.
He'd been transferred to the orthopaedic ward as soon as the doctor was satisfied that his condition was stable.
"Looks like you've got a visitor," said an orderly who was arranging the furniture near Dave's bed.
Dave saw a small wheelchair at the far side of the ward slowly heading in his direction. As it drew nearer, he recognised its occupant: It was Fern. And behind her, pushing the chair, was Gemma, the Nurse from St Bernadette's. Fern had a big smile on her face, and a very familiar box on her lap.
"We were so worried when we heard about the accident" said Fern as Gemma slid the chair alongside Dave's bed.
"But now you're back in the land of the living, ..." With a little effort, Fern took the box from her lap and placed it on Dave's bedside table, "... would you like a game of Short Chess?"
"I'd love one," said Dave without hesitation.
"And as you're going to be in here for a few weeks, ..." Fern paused and fumbled in her pocket.
Dave waited patiently for her to continue. She finally brought out her hand now balled into a tiny fist, and placed it on his lap. She slowly opened her fingers to reveal one of the 4 Staunton pieces that Dave had removed from his original set.
"... perhaps you'll have time to teach me how the knights move!"
Decamot insired by the following items: Dave, slice of toast, Iraq, fern, Bentley, ring, doctor, sphinx, trident, viaduct