A Priceless Mistake

Thomas is reading his newspaper, he is on his way home from work, he is sat in his same seat, with the bus following the same route, but something has happened tonight, tonight the bus is diverted and caught up in a traffic jam. He looks out of the window, wiping the condensation away with his arm, so he can see clearly. He glances at the driver, he is sighing and talking frantically on his radio and Thomas decides that he’s going to get off the bus and walk through the nearby park in the hope of getting home quicker.

Having bailed from the bus, as some of the other passengers had done, Thomas is walking through the park, it is busy, probably due to the chaos of the streets, he quickens his pace, there’s a bite in the wind so he pulls his collar up and heads towards the exit gate.

Now he is walking down a street, it’s a street that he doesn’t recognise.  There are big houses either side of the tree lined street. Thomas’ interest is peaked; there’s something we don’t know about Thomas, he’s not what he seems, he’s a burglar.

Oh yes, he has a job in town, which earns good money, but not enough to buy the sort of things his wife loves. She doesn’t know about his extracurricular activities, of course, she thinks that he’s going to the gym when he picks up his black holdall and heads out. Instead of a clean towel, change of clothes and shower gel, it is full of equipment to break into homes, sheds or cars, to enter silently and stealthily, take whatever looks valuable and then quietly leave.

There is an international removal company emptying a van outside one particular house, there are lots of boxes, but the ones that interest Thomas are marked ‘Fragile’. He slows down in order to have a good look at the house. It is overgrown in the front, with ivy growing up the walls, an overgrown bush and a large tree in the front garden. Thomas thinks this house has the potential to be his next target and overhearing one of the removal men saying that they had until the day after tomorrow to finish unpacking as the owners wouldn’t be moving in until then, he knows that he has hit the jackpot.

Thomas finds a small cut way at the back of the houses and he discovers the back entrance to the house. With a low back gate and a glass panelled back door, Thomas knows that this house is definitely his next target.

As he walks home, he makes his plans, he needs to do it tonight, to be sure that no-one is around. After having tea with his wife, Shona, discussing their days, Thomas picks up his black holdall, shouts to his wife that he’s heading to the gym and walks out of the house.

It doesn’t take him long to get to the house, and, under the cover of darkness, he steals his way up to the back door. There’s no sign of an alarm, so Thomas smashes a small glass panel in the kitchen door and reaches in to find the key in the lock of the door. As he unlocks the back door and enters the kitchen, Thomas cannot believe his luck, this job is going so smoothly. He enters the living room, he is grateful for the large tree and overgrown ivy hiding him from prying neighbours. There are packing crates left all over the floor and Thomas shines his torch around the living room until the beam rests on what he has been searching for.

Thomas retrieves his crow bar from his holdall and forcibly opens the crate. When he sees what is inside, he is amazed, never in all his years has he come across anything like this, it looks like a native man wearing some sort of mask. Deciding that it must be valuable, Thomas puts it in his holdall and not wanting to get caught, he quickly leaves by the back door.

On arriving home, Thomas puts the black holdall in the cupboard under the stairs, he knows that this needs a specialist to take a look at it, but he’s not quite sure where to go, this will take some research. This will buy Shona an unbelievable gift, perhaps even that new car she has been hinting at. He carefully closes the cupboard door, so the squeaky hinge doesn’t wake up Shona.

The next evening, Shona has a surprise for him, his twin brother, Dominic is returning from Peru, where he had been staying with his wife for the past five years and better still, he’s moving to the same town. They are having a housewarming party tomorrow night and of course, Thomas and Shona are invited.

As he’s getting ready for the party, Thomas remembers when they were young, growing up as twins, Dom and Tom, the terrible twins, their teachers used to call them. Dom was the intellect of the two, having gone to University to study archaeology, while Tom enjoyed making things with blocks and bricks and had gone on to become an architect. He smiles as he remembers the fun they had confusing the teachers and even sometimes their friends, it was fun to be somebody else now and again. They had each married within months of each other and Dominic had moved overseas, Thomas had moved into the next town to where they had grown up, to Shona, who was a hairdresser. He had found a job in an architect’s office, which had provided a good wage for them both, but then Shona’s demands for bigger and better things escalated to where Thomas’ wages weren’t enough.

His first foray into the world of crime wasn’t planned, he was shopping in a big department store and saw a diamond bracelet, it was left on the counter top whilst the assistant had gone to answer the phone, he was sure that Shona would love it and there was no way he could afford it, so he simply took it, slipped it into his pocket and walked out of the shop.

When he gave it to Shona, her face lit up and he loved the feeling that it gave him, that he could spoil his wife and from there it simply escalated, stealing from cars, breaking into sheds and then houses.

They arrive at the address that Dominic had emailed Shona, and park in the street, near a lighted lamppost as it is dark. Whilst walking up to the front door, Thomas thinks how tidy the front garden is, like it has just had a makeover. He rings the doorbell and his brother answers, it is good to see him after all these years and they spend time catching up.

As they sit on the settee, Thomas looks around him, there is something about this room that makes him feel uneasy, he can’t quite place what it is, but it is definitely making him feel unnerved. After the laughs and jokes, Dominic informs Thomas and Shona that the day before they moved in, their house was burgled and an ancient artefact was stolen. The statue was from Peru, it was an Inca artefact and was priceless, it was what Dominic and his wife had been searching for, for five years in Peru.

Suddenly the penny drops, Thomas realises that this is the very house he burgled two nights ago, he remembers seeing the settee that night, how the front garden is now tidied up, that’s why he didn’t recognise it. Dominic asks him if he is all right and Thomas stutters a reply that he just needs a glass of water, he goes into the now familiar kitchen, with the small pane of glass boarded up in the back door, he needs to leave.

When they return home, the dog has knocked over a houseplant, there is dirt surrounding the fallen pot plant. They discuss the burglary, Shona questions what sort of lowlife would steal an artefact and she asks Thomas why he wanted to leave so quickly, he mutters that he isn’t feeling very well. Thomas goes up the stairs to clean his teeth, he hears the squeak of the hinges of the understairs cupboard as Shona opens it to retrieve the hoover. He freezes as he hears her shout to him, that she will empty his black holdall to wash his gym clothes…


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