There's nothing quite like showing a bit of neighbourly concern.
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 an age 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 short pipe."
"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.
By now the youth had tried 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 afternoon, 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. "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.
"Well he's certainly not going very far is he?" asked PC Holmes rhetorically. "What happened?"
Before she could answer a second car drew up at the front of the house.
"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," shouted Mrs Brown angrily. "You’ve killed 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 Joe his replacement key yet." Mrs Brown was near to tears. "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. She decided not to mention his brutish hairstyle and unkempt appearance.
"That's not a weapon, that's a baseball bat; he's been teaching baseball 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. As for that sack, it contains their baseball kit - he came round here to wash it for them - he does that every Thursday. Maybe if you were a little more observant, you'd've known that.”