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Take Up a Bed and Walk

by Will Gray

Some years ago there was a call from the chief security officer of a high class store in the West End of London.

I was about to delegate pursuit of the enquiry to one of the detective constables when he shook his head in disgust and said, “Guvnor, it looks as if I’ve drawn the short straw.”

“What do you mean the short straw? It’s probably only a shoplifter.”

“It probably is, but this bloke who called has no time for the likes of us detective constables. He thinks that we are incapable and expects that all his enquiries should be dealt with by a Detective Inspector and upwards.”

“You are not taking the piss just because I have just been posted here?”

“No, Guvnor.”

I was new to the station. Seeing the looks of disdain on the faces of my young officers, I decided that I should go and see what type a fellow this “bloke” was.

On arrival at the store and after making myself known, I was shown to the chief security officer’s office. The walls were covered with a number of military photos. I found him to be an utter snob. He spoke as if he had a load of marbles in his mouth.

I introduced myself to him, but only after a hearing a full report about his army career. I had met this type before. My opinion was that this gink had never seen a shot fired in anger, that he was an office walla and probably a jumped-up Orderly Room clerk. Like my young officers, I thought he was a right plonker.

After all his preamblings about his army career, I learned that all he wanted was to report the theft of an expensive Indian Carpet. The price he quoted for this carpet was £3000. I thought that was over the top for an eight feet by three feet piece of woven material that would probably land up on some floor.

I queried the price of the carpet. The security officer was most indignant and replied, “My dear fellow, this hand-made silk carpet was exported all the way from India. Would you like to see an identical one?”

“At that price, I certainly would. I want our photographer to photograph it for circulation. It may be that this was stolen to order by one of the top-notch hoisters.”

The security officer delved into his folder and said, “No need for a photo. I have one here.”

He certainly had everything at his fingertips, even a statement from the window dresser telling how the carpet had been displayed in the main window that very morning. It was obvious he was a paper bandit.

“So it was stolen from inside the front window whilst on display. What about your security camera?”

He shrugged his shoulders saying, “I am told it was not working.”

“When I came in, I noticed that there are security cameras all over this store,” I said.

“So there are, but certain members of our clientele do not want their faces recorded as they enter and I find that today was one of those days. I know it seems ridiculous, but that is what happened this morning.”

“So to please one of your special customers, you have lost a carpet valued at three grand.”

“I am afraid so, but for insurance purposes we have to report the theft.”

I made a note of the time I had got there and when I left. On going through the front door, I noticed one of the uniformed security officers at the entrance and spoke to him about the loss of the carpet.

He said, “Who the hell would want to nick a rag like that? To me it looks as if someone entered the window, rolled it up and went off. He must have a buyer for it. They say it’s worth about three grand.”

“Your boss told me it was.”

“Hey Guvnor, the hoisters I sling out of here is nobody’s business. I wouldn’t think the carpet would normally be in their line. They generally make for the dresses and jewelry. Carpets, never.”

“So who do you think would nick a carpet?”

“Some idiot, I suppose.”

I said, “If you have any ideas, let me know.”

“OK, Guvnor.”

Some weeks later I was wandering through the charge room and I noticed a right down-and-out sitting on a stool. The arresting officer was busy sorting his belongings and recording them for the Station Officer.

I enquired, “What’s he in for?”

“Begging, sir.”

Among the belongings, I picked up a carpet, which I recognized as similar to the one that had been reported stolen some weeks ago.

I said, “I think you should charge him with the theft of a carpet valued at three thousand pounds.”

The uniformed officer nearly fell off his chair when I told him he had arrested the vagrant begging in the actual doorway nearest to where the carpet had been stolen.

I then asked the vagrant, “How did you come to have this carpet in your possession?”

“It was bleedin’ cold that day. I saw this rag in the window and put it over my shoulders and walked out with it. I have kipped out with it every night for weeks. It’s nice and warm.”

There you are. It’s not very often a vagrant is charged with begging and lands up being charged with the theft of a three thousand pound carpet.

I sent a young detective to take a statement from the Chief Security Officer. Talk about egg on his face.

Copyright © 2009 by Will Gray

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