Burglar Bess

Burglar Bess


She had always wanted to be a burglar, a stalwart striped jumper, salt of the earth classic burglar, bundling the silver salt cellars into his sack, like Burglar Bill in the old children’s book.   Or a sleek black clad cat burglar, impossibly shinning up the facades of luxury hotels in search of fabulous jewels.  Even a country house burglar, stealing in through the conveniently unlocked conservatory and making off with priceless paintings. She had no patience with your modern burglar; all messy break in and bust up, snatching credit cards, phones and laptops. No skills there and such soulless possessions. No, she wanted the polished undetected entry into a different world.

She would be a thorn, something pricking here and there, “Darling have you seen my pearls?”  “Wherever did that woman put the silver candlesticks, I can’t find them anywhere?”  “Why did you change these pictures?”  Oh yes, something to upset the apple cart.  Let’s see what they are really like, the colonel and his lady, sir and madam, all those sleek suits in the money world, behind the lies and the cover stories.  Was she muttering, it didn’t do to mutter, she looked around the tables, but no one was paying her any attention. Most of them were chewing their way through frightful plates of starch and fat; she nibbled modestly at her smoked salmon sandwich, and sipped her tea. She needed to make it last, this was her one free time, a weekly afternoon trip to town; a visit to the library, pick up a few groceries and tea in the supermarket coffee shop. She had left Harris with his minder, the next door neighbor who came in and watched a sports program with him. They had a beer and the neighbor, what was his name, Don, Ron whatever, would take Harrison to the loo and give him his tea.  It was worth the few pounds.

She sipped her tea, looking around, there, there was one of them, wafting down the wine aisle; Jennifer something from the house up on the lane, not far from the bus stop; one of the new money lot, all show and no substance.  Braying  away at her friend, something about going to the village concert that night, “Got to support the locals, you know. Why don’t you come along, John’s away, we can go back to the house for a glass of wine afterwards.”

The friend laughed, “We’ll need it, they’re bound to be frightful, see you there then, six, did

you say?” They moved off. She finished her tea and pocketing a few brown sugars and two or three unused napkins, she slowly gathered her things together and made her way thoughtfully to the exit.


The bus was crowded, standing room only, she was jammed between two scruffy,sweaty young men, bragging of their exploits with girls. She shuddered; no finesse, no polish.  The bus grumbled its way into the village and came to a stop by the war memorial. A handful of people struggled to the exit including the two young men. The taller red head, retrieved a long case from the luggage space and  turned to give her a helping hand down the steep step “OK, Gran?” he winked and followed his friend into the pub.  “Don’t often see that,” commented a woman behind her, Mrs. Holt from the shop, “most of the young have no manners. I wonder what they are doing here; we don’t often see that type thank goodness. I hope they won’t be at the concert and cause a ruckus. Are you coming?”

“No,” she said, “Harris you know, can’t really leave him.”

“Shame, oh well, ‘bye then.”

She walked along the road, Jennifer’s house, a modern build, all windows and gimmicks, a real fright, stood  at the top of its steep, graveled driveway set back from the row of bungalows, fronting on the lane, away from the village. She walked past and turned and came back again to her own gate, number four, where she and Harris existed. She looked back again, it would be possible to reach the back of the house on the lane by going through the back gardens of the bungalows. She felt a shiver of excitement, people would be at the concert, John was away, the couple had no dogs, serve them right if someone, her, was to slip across the gardens and into the house by the laundry room door, which she knew didn’t lock because Ron, Don who ever, had said he was going to fix it for Jennifer tomorrow.


Ron, Don who ever, opened the front door as she came up the path, “There you are, did you have a good shop then? We’ve been fine, he’s had his tea and we watched the footie, he got a bit excited so I gave him his pill, a bit early I know, but he’s dozing now so he’ll be all right for you this evening.”

He was a good soul, Ron, Don, “Thanks so much, it is such a help, my escape afternoon.”

“You could escape tonight, and come to the concert with Peg and me. He’ll not get restless now, if we get him into bed, he’ll be fine.”

“Oh, thank you, but I have things to do, and I really wouldn’t feel right leaving him. No, I’ll be fine.”

She watched him hop over the little brick wall between the front gardens and saw Peg open the door for him.  She went into the house. Harris was slumped in the big chair, breathing noisily. She pushed a stool under his feet and covered him with a rug. He didn’t move. The evening loomed ahead, boring, deadly, drab.


She hung up her coat, slipped off her good town shoes and  went into the bedroom, might as well get comfortable; she pulled on her old sweat pants, only used for gardening, and its companion sweater.

Sitting up on the bed she helped herself to a generous sherry from the bottle in the bedside cabinet and looked out across the yard to the windows of the house on the lane. The upper ones were lit, visible through the dusk, must be the bedroom and the bathroom, and the big one was the landing. She watched for a long time, a figure moved from window to window, Jennifer dolling herself up to astound the natives. A light went on in a downstairs window, the kitchen? Jennifer putting out the wine? The upstairs lights went off except for the landing, and another brighter light showed on the side of the house, an outside light, the laundry room entrance?


Harris snored on. She pushed her feet into boots and stepped past him through the French windows.  She crossed the garden and pushed through the hedges, sidling along them in the quiet and damp until she reached the fallen fences that marked the end of the big house property. She brought herself up to the laundry room and tried the door, open, she went in. The beginning sounds of the concert floated through the night air.


Some days later Jennifer and John had a huge row over the amount of whisky Jennifer had apparently consumed while John was away, “Three bottles Jen? And why is all the cash missing from my dresser, drawer? I want answers.”


She heard all about it in the supermarket café the next week.  Jennifer and her friend were reliving the row at the next table; her friend’s opinion was that Jen should leave. “Life’s too short Jen, what about that lovely violin guy you were talking to at the concert, he was giving you the eye all right.”

“That was just flirting” said Jen, “John can’t expect me to live like a nun while he goes off on these trips.”

Her friend giggled, “Not much nun like about you. Hey look isn’t that him now?”

The red headed young man from the bus was strolling up the biscuits and sweets aisle towards them. He caught her eye, “OK Gran?”

She smiled “Very OK, young man.”


Harris muttered and Ron, his name was Ron, held the whiskey glass to his lips. Harris obediently swallowed his pill with the whiskey. “Good chap,” said Ron, sipping from his own glass; Great stuff she kept, who would have known and quite a little looker too for a Gran; yes, there might be something here for him eventually.