WRITTEN BY BARBARA FEATHERSTONE
Even under the most exceptional circumstances, one good turn always deserves another…
“This is it, babes. We’re here!” whispered Daisy. She stretched up on tiptoe, peering over the five-barred gate to the shadowy, tree-lined driveway. “Awesome, the house looks amazing, more like a mansion, really. It’s just as Mrs Delamare described it to me at the library last week.”
Lee shifted the large hessian sack he carried over his shoulder and scanned the silent, darkened street. “All the houses around here look like mansions. Are you sure it’s the right one?”
Daisy shone her torch on the ornate brass name plate on the gate. “FOX LODGE. Yep, this is the right place.”
“Clever Puss,” he said. “Give us a kiss!” He drew her small body into his arms, his hands moving over the smoothness of her sleek black cat suit, stroking the hollow of her back.
Daisy bubbled with laughter. “Steady now! I know we haven’t been married long but we’ve got a job to do.”
I’m gonna case the joint
They clambered lithely over the gate and padded down the driveway, keeping to the shelter of the trees. As they neared the house, Daisy giggled. “I’m gonna ‘case the joint’, like real burglars.”
She darted ahead, her trainers scrunching over the shingle. Lee caught up with her swiftly.
As they reached the front door, Daisy pointed. “Wow! Check that cat flap, babes; it’s absolutely huge! Mrs Delaware’s beloved moggy must be gi-normous.”
She mewed provocatively then leapt lightly out of the way as he reached for her again.
“Are you absolutely certain the house is empty?” muttered Lee, squinting at her under the porch light.
“I told you, babes. Today is a Wednesday. And every Wednesday Mrs Delaware and her friend spend the evening in town. They play Bingo and then go for a meal.”
She lifted the brass fox-head knocker and rapped heavily. Silence echoed back. She turned, triumphant. “Wait here till I let you in.”
Daisy crouched then thrust her head through the cat flap. Twisting and contorting, her shoulders disappeared, the rest of her body slithering in behind.
Wicked! The whole of our flat could fit into this hall
Moments later, the heavy oak door opened and Daisy appeared in the hallway, smiling. Lee slid inside and hugged her.
“Get off,” said Daisy affectionately after a bit. She flicked a switch. “Wicked! The whole of our flat could fit into this hall.” Suddenly, she was tugging off her trainers and padding barefoot in the thick pile of the rose-coloured carpet.
Grinning, Lee followed suit.
They left the sack and their trainers in the hallway. Then, hand in gloved hand, they explored the enoromous house.
Daisy did a twirl. “Pretend I’m the lady of the house. I’ll give you a tour.” She opened doors with a flourish. “This is the kitchen.” She stood in the middle of the burnt ochre and terracotta floor, staring about with wide green eyes. “Wow! It’s big enough to sit at least a dozen people.”
She closed her eyes for a moment and sniffed. “Mmm, strange… I can smell spice and the perfume of the Orient. I see lots of jewelled colours.” She stretched out her hands. “I feel silk slipping through my fingers.” She skittered about, sliding out drawers, opening cupboards, briefly fidgeting with gadgets.
Lee sighed. “Who knows, Puss? When we’ve finished our work here, you and I could have a kitchen like this – bigger, maybe.”
Daisy opened another door. “And now we come to the living-room.” She caught her breath. “I don’t think,” she began falteringly, “I’ve seen so many antiques in one place before, not even on that Antiques Road Show on TV.”
They wandered around the room, fingering delicate china. They gazed in wonderment at nineteenth century water-colours, ornate mirrors, pretty ornaments in gold and silver. They ran their hands over velvety polished walnut and oak that shone and glowed and gleamed with all the love and care that money could buy.
The sumptuous bedroom took Daisy’s breath away. She drooled over luxurious cream carpet caressing their toes, the four-poster bed with its petunia-pink duvet, the drapes in emerald silk and antique lace.
Do you think we dare…?
The bathroom was Lee’s favourite with exotic sponges, fluffy towels, creams and soaps, oils and lotions. He put a finger under the gold plated bath tap and caught a drop of water. He smoothed the drop over Daisy’s brow, “Do you think we dare…?”
Moments later two white bodies were tumbling and laughing under a sea of scented foam.
Afterwards, they dressed quickly.
“That was fun, babes,” Daisy said. “But we’re here on a mission.”
They looked in the last and only room they hadn’t searched yet – a dressing-room adjoining the master bedroom. Here was a matching four poster bed, but mini-sized, draped in the same emerald silk and lace. On the mini bed lay a large, beautiful Persian cat, languid and seductive and expensively perfumed. Her long white coat flowed over a plump petunia-pink satin cushion, her silken tail a broad, sweeping brush.
She raised her big round head, her ears small and widely-spaced. Unblinking, syrupy golden eyes stared at the intruders from an open, pansy-shaped face.
Lee reached a hand towards the lovely creature. She brushed her head sensuously against it, sweet and gentle, her quiet voice melodious.
“She’s such a gorgeous, pampered pet,” breathed Daisy. “We’ll get an awesome ransom for her!”
They stared silently at the big creamy-white cat with the impressive long hair and matching pedigree.
Daisy cleared her throat. “It seems a shame…” she began.
Lee nodded, knowing her so well. “And there are so many other beautiful things here…”
All those valuables, dear, but nothing taken
Next morning at the library, old Mrs Delamare was confiding to the kind, pretty young librarian who always spared time for a chat.
“All those valuables, dear, but nothing taken, and nothing out of place, except for two damp towels on the bathroom floor and a mysterious sack I found abandoned in the hallway.”
“The sack was only half filled, as if my ‘visitors’ had changed their minds. But, strangely, it didn’t contain jewellery or silver, as I had expected, but bedding and kitchen items…”
The old lady sighed.
“But it isn’t the risk of losing my costly antiques that concerns me. I was telling you only last week, wasn’t I dear, about my beloved cat, Seraphina? A pedigree Persian she is, so gentle and sweet-natured.
“She’s an affectionate puss, too. Such a dear companion for a lonely old woman like me. My Seraphina is my most precious possession of all. If I’d have lost her, I would have paid a Queen’s ransom to get her back.”
The pretty young librarian smiled, her cheeks just a little pink.
Mrs Delamare took a library book from her shopping trolley. “This book I borrowed the other week is all about pedigree cats.” She searched for a certain page. “It says here that it’s believed the forerunners of today’s Persian moggies were brought back to us by seventeenth century explorers with precious jewels, silks and spices from faraway Persia. So I filled my house with jewels and silks and the scent of spice to make my Seraphina feel at home.”
The old lady gave a little cough. “Although she’s a pedigree, I’ve always regarded my Puss as a free spirit.
“But after last night, I did wonder about the cat flap. Though it would have to be someone very small and agile to get into that small space…”
The pretty little librarian smoothed her skirt over her skinny hips.
There was no sign of a forced entry
Mrs Delaware’s bright brown eyes were just a little wise.
“There was no sign of a forced entry. That nice policeman that came by was mystified. He advised a burglar alarm, but perhaps I’ll buy another cat flap, too, one of those new-fangled ones activated by microchip.”
She reached again into her shopping trolley. “I’ve had a little clear out, my dear. Maybe you know someone who could make use of these…” There was a tip-tilted smile. “I’ve plenty more, so perhaps your husband would like to call by – FOX LODGE – I think you know the street…”
That night, the pretty, young librarian remarked to her husband, “Newly-weds, Mrs Delamare thought the intruders were – a young couple setting up home, perhaps.”
Daisy and Lee snuggled down together beneath the petunia-pink satin duvet, thinking of the large fluffy towels in their bathroom, and the tantalising array of new-fangled gadgets in their tiny kitchen.