He picked up the key and slipped it into his pocket, sure that no-one had seen him. He was wrong; a passing waiter noticed the surreptitious move but seemed not to care.
After a day of googling society pages and watching television celebrity news, he convinced himself he knew to which house the key belonged. He’d had a good look at the woman who’d dropped it while apparently searching her handbag for the valet parking ticket. The noise it had made dropping onto the wooden counter-top had been drowned by the rattling of jewellery on her wrist and noise of feverishly disturbed items in her handbag. The valet had tired of waiting.
‘Yours is the black monogrammed Lexus with the gold trim, right, Madame?’
She nodded and smiled with relief. She turned around to see who had witnessed the scene, noticed the key filcher and grinned at him. He nodded and supposed there would be a handy haul in the house where the beautiful woman and her expensive car resided.
He put a couple of canvas shopping bags in the boot of his ageing Camry and set out for the Melbourne suburbs. He hoped the woman hadn’t changed the locks. On arrival, he noted there wasn’t a car in sight beyond the wrought iron gates and he double-checked the address he’d garnered from the Internet with the help of his girlfriend’s young son. Light glowed in a couple of rooms in the house but absent home-owners often left lights on to deter people like him. His confidence restored, he mounted a brick wall, dropped silently to the ground, then circled the house and inspected its doors.
Two had locks that might yield to the key he held in his nervous hand. He tried his luck at a side door and was delighted when it soundlessly opened. He entered quietly, then waited while his eyes adjusted to the darker interior. Two minutes later, he strode across the laundry room and opened a door into a kitchen. He realised he’d forgotten to bring the canvas shopping bags and debated whether to return to the car. He decided against the move as the distance, time, and light changes were more inconvenient than the lack of the bags. He’d find some in the house; probably in the kitchen in which he dawdled. He wished he had a plan of the building. If there was a safe in the house it might be in a den or similar room. He entered what he would call a lounge area.
‘You took your time,’ said a female voice, ‘I was beginning to think you couldn’t work out where I waited.’
A lamp was switched on and showed the woman sitting on a sofa, wearing a flimsy nightdress. She smiled as she removed an ear pod.
‘Erm, yes, well, I wasn’t sure.’
He knew he should turn and run but he wanted her money, her gold, silver, and precious stones. She apparently wanted his family jewels.
‘Women often drop their keys for you, do they?’
‘It’d be a good day,’ he managed with a smile.
‘You didn’t exactly dress to impress, did you?’
‘I, I had something else in mind.’
‘Obviously. Time for a change of plans, I think,’ she patted the sofa, ‘Come and sit.’
‘How did you know?’ he asked.
‘I’ve been waiting for you, though I did think you’d press the buzzer at the gate; tell me you were returning my key. Good job I made allowances for alternate methods of entry.’
She pointed to a security screen on the wall.
‘Not that it matters a great deal. I watched you scale my wall and check my doors. I trust you’re as thorough in everything you do? My independent-minded son is paying his way through uni with a job as a white-glove waiter. He saw you pick up my key. It was intended for you, in case you have doubts. I like the look of you. It never occurred to me you might be a thief. But, a little extra spice works wonders. You game?’
He looked at her and wondered why he hesitated.
‘Yeah, I’m game.’
‘Good. Portable items of value are always locked away, so there’s nothing to divert your attention, is there, James?
Author: Peter Lingard, a Briton, sold ice-cream on railway stations, worked as a bank clerk, delivered milk, and laboured in a large dairy. He also worked as an accountant, a farm worker, and served in Her Britannic Majesty’s Corps of Royal Marines. His novel about life in the Royal Marines is available via peterlingard.com. Peter lived in the US for twenty-five years and owned a freight forwarding business in New York. He came to Australia because Australians speak English and is now a proud Australian.