“I’ve gone from ecstasy to agony all in 24 hours, Brigid,” pensioner Bert Sweeney told Miss Flanagan on the phone after early Mass on Saturday evening. “There I was thinking I was going to be driving a brand new car on Monday and then someone steals the scratch card! I can’t believe it!”
“I’ll be over straight away. Touch nothing,” the Benford detective said before heading off.
Bert’s home certainly wasn’t the tidiest looking place. Assuming that he used his back door most, she headed round the back of the house but discovered that it was all a bit of a wilderness, so she beat a hasty retreat. He was a front door only person, by the looks of things. She’d have to brush her coat when she got home with all the vegetation stuck to it, she knew, but what matter? Worse things had happened to her on this job.
Inside, Bert explained the situation. He had bought a scratch card from an on-street seller the afternoon before – Friday – he said, and had been in a state of excitement after realising that he had the three car symbols meaning he had won a car.
“I was gobsmacked,” he said, “and me needing a car so badly. My own is in the garage as we speak. I had to get a lift home from town yesterday after leaving it in. I was chuckling to myself all the way back, relishing the fact that I was going to driving around in style next week then I come home to this!
“I put it in one of them fake bean cans for safe keeping among the other tins in the cupboard but now it’s not there!”
Miss Flanagan accompanied him to the kitchen asking him again not to touch anything, wondering two things at the same time – was he just imagining he’d won because he needed a car so badly or was his memory going and he couldn’t remember where he had put it?
He wasn’t a young man after all and forgetfulness could hit anyone… No, Bert was in full charge of his senses, she decided. She’d heard nothing on the grapevine about his memory going.
She told him that putting anything in a fake tin can wasn’t the wisest thing to do, though.
“They’re mass produced and any thief could pick them out immediately, I’m afraid,” she said.
After putting on some gloves she searched the kitchen. No sign. No sign of a break-in either – the windows were intact but what about the back door?
Bert looked a bit sheepish now.
“It was unlocked when I came home but I’m sure I checked it before I left. I seldom use the door except when I fancy lying in my hammock among the birds and bees. It’s nature’s paradise out there.”
Saying she was sure it was, but looking somewhat askance at what some folk would deem a wilderness, Miss Flanagan set about dusting the door for fingerprints as Bert didn’t want the Gardai involved just yet – but would a thief be silly enough not to wear gloves, she thought? Depended on their intelligence level, she decided.
After that she took a lot of photographs of the rear of the house particularly where entry must have occurred.
When she was finished she sat Bert down to get all the details she needed. Who had been at the house since yesterday eve? Who had he told about the win? Had anyone seen the ticket?
Bert didn’t think so. He had scratched it in a café while he waited for his neighbour Matty Cullen to give him a lift but had said nothing whatsoever about it on the way home.
“And you’re sure nothing else was taken?”