Together they fight crime...
After work on Friday, I went round to stefanc's place. He was most upset, because three of the four plant pots that had been sitting on the top of his front step had been stolen. Big ones, they were, too: two chunky terracotta pots full of busy lizzies and such like, and one large wooden planter that Stef had himself fashioned, as is his wont, out of old bed pieces.
Now, stefanc's father, being security conscious to the point of paranoia, had a security camera installed some years ago, and recently updated to a hard-disk version. Thus it was that we were able to see the crime itself: four individuals, three males and one female, appearing at 4:27am on Friday morning, quietly and methodically purloining said flowerpots. One of the three men is particularly identifiable, having forgotten about the security light on his second sortie, and having let his face be captured pretty much full-on and illuminated. We hear no car.
It is this final point that drives our little anecdote forwards with a delicious inexorability. I took an extremely excited telephone call at my house at around 2:30 on Saturday afternoon; it was Stefan, explaining that he had taken a quick cycle round the area surrounding his house, and had spotted our wicked tea leaves sitting on a step at the top of the road. He had knocked on some neighbouring doors to ask if he could peek into the suspects' garden, but alas to no avail, as no-one was in.
And so it was that, when I arrived chez Stef at around 6pm, he asked me to accompany him on a second attempt.
I must confess, I was somewhat dubious. I did not quite understand how Stef could have made such a positive identification, considering he had not actually seen his flowerpots. Nevertheless, when I reached the top of the road and crossed over towards the house in question, I had to admit he was right. I saw three of the suspects milling around outside the house; the particularly identifiable one from the CCTV footage was still wearing the same distinctive top, too, and his dreads in the same ponytail style. We walked past nonchalantly.
Firstly, we went around to the back again, to knock on doors. Nothing. So we walked back round to try the neighbours on the same side. A friendly Australian chap named David let us into his house, but unfortunately didn't have the key to let us in to his back garden. As we left, he suggested we come back around 7pm or so.
However, this turned out to be unnecessary, as glorious Fate intervened. For as we emerged from David's house, what should we see but Stef's wooden planter, being loaded into a white van.
We strolled up. "Nice plants," says Stef, "Where did you get them?"
The Cockney guy driving the van looks a little perplexed.
"They're mine," explains Stef.
"They were stolen on Friday morning," add I, "4:30 am; we have it all on camera."
The guy, and the woman with him, both start looking really worried:
"Oh that's nothing to do with us, mate. We're just moving them; you want to talk to the guys inside the house." [etc. etc]
At this point, Very Identifiable Male from CCTV Footage appears at the top of the steps, holding one of Stef's terracotta pots.
"Ah hello there! Would you mind explaining why you stole my plants, please?"
"Yes" (that's said by me, with faux querulousness, offering moral support)
"What do you mean?" says the guy, "I bought these."
I fix him with my best withering stare.
"No, you didn't." I simply say.
The guy comes down and we talk about it. He is not violent; to be truthful, he seems more scared of us than anything else. Stef walks off to call the Old Bill in private. I keep chatting to/watching people. White Van Man, very nervous now, establishes which plants are Stef's, offers to leave his phone number, then scarpers in his van with his female pal. VIM stays put, rolling something to smoke, looking a bit nervous, shaking in fact. Stef returns and we all sit around. It's a bit surreal by this point; the guy is still maintaining he has nothing to do with it, and just hangs round with us. At one point he offers to bring the other pot out, and I suggest he should (Stef was a bit upset by that, thinking it would be much better if at least one pot were dicovered in situ as it were; however, ultimately there was easily enough evidence so it didn't matter). He does.
So how does the story end? Happily, really. The police arrived; one of them took the guy down the station while the other viewed the CCTV footage to see if it was good enough to use; it is. The guy is charged and the police officer says he'll be back about 8:30 pm to take a statement, and to get a copy of the tape. Meanwhile, Stef and I take a sack trolley up the top of the road, and drag the pots back.
Apparently it made the sergeant's night; VIM turns out to be a well-known petty felon much disliked by the boys in blue round here.
But best of all, Stef has his little pots back. Welcome home, little ones.