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A boring lesson

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A boring lesson Powered By Docstoc
					                                   Krystyna invesitgates a school break in


        Her favourite lesson

        "What is a database?" asked Mr Dyer, the ICT teacher at East Ham School, addressing
Krystyna, who replied
        “A collection of data that can be used as information.”
        “How does the database organise the data so that it can be used as information?” asked Mr
Dyer.
        “It uses fields,” replied Krystyna.
        “Which are?”
        “Headings.”
        Mr Dyer nodded his head before resuming the lesson.
        Krystyna returned her attention to her computer screen. She enjoyed ICT. It was her
favourite lesson.


        Whodunit?

         Particularly databases interested her at present. This term during their ICT lessons Yr 7 at
East Ham School were building and using databases. It was the first time she had built a database. It
was the first time she’d used one built by herself.
         The database she was building and using concerned crime. It was a database of suspects;
their names, addresses, whether they were male or female, their age and physical description and
sometimes other information, such as where they were at a particular time and who if anybody was
with them; the sort the police used to catch criminals. That made it interesting to Krystyna, who
nursed an ambition to be a detective when older. Trying to solve crimes had already become a
passtime. ‘The Nancy Drew Mysteries’ were among her favourite books. She had watched them on
television; and also ‘Poirot’ and other detective programmes, including ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ the
Victorian fictional detective. It was he who interviewed the witnesses in the crimes on the database
programme used during ICT. Krystyna and the rest of 7R, her tutor group had to listen to the
interviews and match information to the database of suspects then try to find out who committed
the crime. The programme was called, ‘Whodunit?’


        A stiff letter ‘H”

         ICT was Friday mornings. They worked in pairs. Krystyna partnered Sunita. This morning they
were trying to solve, ‘The case of the Stolen Vase.’ They listened to Sherlock Holmes interviewing the
witnesses. After each interview they made notes and compared the information to the database of
suspects. They were able to eliminate them all except one; Mike Smith, aged 33, height 1.71 m, with
red hair. His red hair gave him away. The owner of the valuable vase had noticed a man about that
age and height with red hair near the house on the morning it was stolen. Several other suspects
were male and about the same age and height however didn’t have red hair. So Krystyna and Sunita
were able to eliminate them, leaving Mike Smith the culprit.
         “Well done,” congratulated Mr Dyer, affirming the result of their enquiry. “Check the
spelling of the surname,” he suggested however prompting the two amateur detectives to glance
again at the screen.
         “We’ve called him ‘Mike Smit,” noticed Sunita, prompting her partner to press again upon
the letter ‘H” on the keyboard, whereupon nothing happened.
        The surname was still spelt ‘Smit.’
        She pressed again, this time harder, whereupon the letter appeared correctly at the end of
the surname.
        Her ICT teacher noticed the difficulty and pressed once more upon the key then
acknowledged,
        “It is a bit stiff.’
        He fetched a yellow notepad and noted, ‘a stiff letter H.’


        Red hair

         He tore off the note and stuck it on top of the screen.
         The following Friday morning Krystyna was late for school; a rare occurrence. Mr Rahman,
her Form Tutor didn’t like anyone being late.
         “If I can be on time so can you,” he would often say to a latecomer.
         It was a cold wet morning unfortunately dissuading her from getting out of bed. Even the
thought of ICT and ‘Whodunit?’case failed to rouse her in time.
         “You’re going to be late,” warned her mother as Krysyna appeared in the kitchen to eat her
bowl of ‘Golden Grahams’ and slice of toast.
         She was still eating breakfast when her mother and Jermain departed for West Ham School
where they worked.
         Upon finishing breakfast she packed her bag then fetched her bike from the shed. In view of
the weather she put on her heavy green anorak and pulled up the hood even though it restricted her
sideways vision when cycling. She departed and cycled rapidly along Lonsdale Avenue to High Street
South, where however heavy traffic slowed her down. She could squeeze past the inside of static
cars until coming to a red double decker bus, a number 14 which turned left into Central Park Road,
the location of East Ham School. She remained stuck behind it approaching the school. When it
stopped across the road from the school to let passengers off then on she hand signalled and cycled
past and could see a large red van coming the other way. There seemed to be enough of a gap to
cycle to the pavement the other side of the road but nevertheless the driver of the large red van had
to slow down and was annoyed. She noticed that he had red hair.


        The Caretaker's keys

        It reminded her of the culprit in ‘The Case of the Stolen Vase’ and that today was Friday.
Soon she and Sunita would be trying to solve the next ‘Whodunit’ case. While pushing her bike
towards the entrance she noticed the large red van stop not far along the road outside the school. It
crossed her mind that the driver might be stopping to make a complaint about the way she had
cycled in front of him to the other side of the road. She kept watching the van until entering gate the
school but didn’t see the driver get out. She put the bike safely away in the rack and entered the
school then form room late. On this occasion her Form Tutor merely remarked,
        “You’re late.”
        ICT was lessons 5 and 6, immediately after break. Upon arrival at the ICT room Krystyna
could hear Mr Anderson, the School Caretaker telling Mr Dyer, the ICT teacher.
        “They’re not on the hook.”
        “When did you last have them?” wondered Mr Dyer.
        “When I opened up this morning,” informed Mr Andreson, adding. “Afterwards I left them
on the hook as usual in case any teacher had forgotten his key to his classroom.”
        “Maybe somebody has borrowed them,” suggested Mr Dyer.
         “In that case I hope they hurry up and return them. Otherwise I will have to change the
locks, especially this one,” stated Mr Anderson, indicating the door to the ICT room.
         At hometime Krystyna noticed the Caretaker’s keys.


        The break in

        Mr Anderson was carrying them along the corridor. He must have found them. Perhaps a
teacher had borrowed and not returned them immediately as Mr Dyer had suggested.
         On Monday morning the news reached Krystyna as soon as she entered the school gate.
        "There's been a break in," informed Sunita, after spotting her taking her bike to the racks.
        Krystyna remained silent, waiting for more information, which her friend duly provided,
adding,
        "The computers have gone."
        Krystyna's shoulders slumped at the prospect of no more ICT for the time being. That meant
no more ‘Whodunit.’
        "Strange that happening after Mr Anderson's keys went missing on Friday," she commented
before locking up her bike. “I wonder how they broke in?” she added after scanning the school
building and noticing no windows broken.
        That morning at assembly there was a groan when Ms Ravi, the Head Teacher informed
them of the break in and stated,
        “ICT will be off the timetable for a while.”
        After assembly on her way back to her form room Krystyna walked past the ICT room and
heard the Caretaker telling Mr Dyer,
        “It was as if there had been no break in. All the doors were locked as usual. I couldn’t believe
it when I opened this door and all the computers were gone.”
        That made her think about the coincidental disappearance of his keys on Friday.
         “The thief must’ve used keys,” she told Sunita upon reaching the form room.
        “But the Caretaker found them again,” reminded Sunita.
        “Not straight away,” reminded Krystyna, whereupon her friend replied,
        “But before the break in.”


        It wasn’t stiff

        Krystyna told her mom and Jermain when they arrived home from work.
        Jermain commented,
        “Our school had its computers stolen about two years ago. It happens a lot.”
        “I wonder why?” stated Krystyna.
        “Thieves can sell them easily,” supposed Jermain.
        “Where?” wondered Krystyna.
        “Second hand computer shops and over the internet,” supposed Jermain. “Or from home,”
he added. “They can advertise them in the local newspaper.”
        Krystyna fetched her laptop and connected to the internet then typed in, ‘Second hand
computers for sale.’ That got too many replies, persuading her to add ‘Newham’ to the enquiry.
There was still too many so she changed the enquiry to ‘HP second hand computers for sale
Newham.’ She knew the school used HP computers. There were still many, stating what sort of HP
computer. Most were either ‘HP Pavillion or HP Compaq. She couldn’t remember what type of HP
her school used.
        The next day at school she asked Mr Dyer while he was on playground duty at breaktime.
She got on well with him. She enjoyed ICT and worked hard during his lessons.
         “Compaq,” he replied.
         “There were a lot of Compaqs being sold over the internet yesterday evening. ,” she
mentioned.
         “They are popular. That probably why they were stolen. There will be a lot of customers,
who won’t know they’re stolen,” he stated.
         “There’s no way of telling,” supposed Krystyna.
         “We’ve given identification numbers to the police,” replied Mr Dyer, adding, “But you have
to know the stolen numbers and then turn the computers upside down to see them and nobody
bothers to do that.
         Later that day she discussed the matter with Sunita and decided,
         "I'm going to look for the adverts in the Newham Recorder.”
         “It comes out on Thursdays,” appreciated Sunita, adding, “That’s tomorrow.”
         “East Ham Library gets a copy,” appreciated Krystyna.
          On the way home from school the next day they visited East Ham Library, the Reference
Room upstairs and looked at the latest copy of the Newham Recorder. There were four adverts for
HP Compaqs, the sort of computer stolen from the school. Two were in Stratford. One was in Leyton.
The other was in Goodmayes, Essex, a bit further away. Sunita made a note of the contact telephone
numbers. Outside the library Krystyna extracted her mobile from her bag and began phoning. There
was no reply from either of the ones in Stratford. The one in Leyton a woman answered.
         "I'm interested in the HP Compaq you're advertising in the Newham Recorder," stated
Krystyna.
         The woman described its condition and mentioned that it was less than a year old. Krystyna
knew that some of the ones stolen from school were not very old though was unsure of their age.
         “It’s got Photoshop,” mentioned the woman.
         Kyrytyna knew that the ones stolen from school had Photoshop.
         “Could I come and have a look at it?” she asked.
         An immediate viewing was arranged. Krysyna and Sunita cycled to Leyton then found the
address. Upon opening the door the woman was surprised to see two schoolgirls. She invited them
in.
         “I’ve got the receipt,” she mentioned, convincing Krytyna that the computer wasn’t stolen.
         Nevertheless she had a look at it and pretended to be interested when the woman showed
her the software, including Photoshop. Upon being invited to sit and try it immediately she pressed
the letter ‘H.”
         It wasn’t stiff.


       One was ‘Whodunit.’

          “I will think about it,” she stated, getting up from the seat.
          “They sell quickly,” warned the woman. “If somebody else makes me a satisfactory offer I
will sell it them.”
          Krystyna nodded her head.
          Appreciating once more that computers were sold easily made her feel less guilty about
pretending to be interested in buying it.
          Before cycling back home she phoned the other number, the one in Goodmayes that Sunita
had noted from the Newham Recorder. There was a recorded reply saying: ‘Hello. Robert Crossley
speaking. Sorry I can’t answer your call right now. Please leave a message and phone number and I
will return your call as soon as possible.’
          Krystyna left a message and her phone number.
          That Saturday she and Sunita cycled around the main roads of Newham and some of the
surrounding shopping centres checking the second hand computer shops, having got some of the
addresses from Yellow Pages and the local Thompson Directory. There were some HP Compaqs for
sale. It was difficult to tell whether they had been stolen. The only way Krystyna could think of telling
was by pressing the letter ‘H’ and seeing whether it was stiff. She tried them all but none was stiff. In
one of the shops in Stratford she almost choked when Sunita asked the sales assistant,
          "Where did you get this computer?"
          “It was part of an exchange deal,” replied the assistant. “The boy wanted an AppleMac like
this,” she added, indicating a computer nearby.
          Outside the shop Krystyna immediately challenged,
          “Why did you ask her that!”
          “To see whether she could tell us,” replied her friend.
          “You didn’t expect her to tell us it was stolen, did you?” checked Krystna.
          “No,” replied Sunita. “But perhaps we could tell whether she was lying. She seemed to be
telling the truth.”
          One of the surrounding shopping centres they checked was Ilford, just beyond the Newham
border in Essex. They cycled there along the Romford Road then afterwards continued a little further
into Goodmayes. One second hand computer shop in Goodmayes had several HP Compaqs for sale,
positioned together upon a counter. Three other customers were looking round the shop. One of
them, a girl about the same age as Krystyna stood talking to a sales assistant, who was male with
short red hair.
          Krystyna and Sunita stepped towards the Compaqs.
          "They look about the same age as the ones we were using," whispered Krystyna to Sunita,
who nodded her head in agreement.
          They began pressing the letter ‘H’ on each of the keyboards. All except one they pressed
before being interrupted by a voice saying,
          "Can I help you?"
          "I'm interested in buying a Compaq," replied Krystyna, turning her head but then narrowing
her eyes.
          It was the sales assistant with short red hair. He had finished talking to the other customer.
Upon noticing the narrowing eyes he looked suspiciously in return at Krystyna, who wanted to try
the letter ‘H’ on the one remaining Compaq that she hadn’t yet pressed but didn’t wish to do it while
the sales assistant was looking.
          “They are popular computers,” he stated while looking at her suspiciously.
          “I was wondering what software they had,” stated Krystyna, trying not to stare any more at
the assistant, who informed,
          “They have the latest version of Microsoft Office and Photoshop. They also have some
Educational programs,” he added, upon realising she was a schoolgirl.
          “Which ones?” wondered Krystyna.
          “Let’s have a look,” suggested the assistant, approaching the nearest Compaq and using the
mouse to click on the ‘start’ tab, near the corner of the status bar at the bottom of the screen.
          He then clicked on ‘Programs’ to display a list of software, including some familiar
Educational titles. One was ‘Whodunit?’


        His face was familiar.

        That made Krystyna want to press the letter ‘H’ on the one remaining keyboard not yet tried
a few computers away.
        “Are these computers all the same?” she asked, looking for an excuse to move towards it.
        “Yes,” affirmed the assistant, selecting the ‘start’ tab on merely the next computer and
checking its programs. “That’s why they’re the same price,” he added.
       Krystyna could find no further excuse for trying the other Compaq so stated before moving
away from the counter,
       “I want to look at some more before choosing.”
       “These are popular and sell quickly,” warned the assistant.
       Krystyna nodded her head in acknowledgement before departing. Outside the shop she
checked,
       “Did you see ‘Whodunit?’
       “Yes,” affirmed Sunita, nodding her head, whereupon Krystyna added,
       “Also his face was familiar.”


        Asda's key cutting place

        She had seen it before somewhere but couldn’t remember where.
        “I wanted to try the ‘H’ on that other Compaq,” she sighed after failing to remember.
        “We could come back later and pretend that you’ve made a decision to buy one but want to
see which is the best,” suggested Sunita.
        “But then afterwards I’ll have to make an excuse for not buying it,” replied Krystyna.
        “We could get Daksha to try it for us,” suggested Sunita, alternatively.
        Krystyna nodded her head. That sounded a better idea.
        Sunita phoned her younger sister, who was always pleased to be included in Krystyna’s
investigations. She sometimes moaned when not included. There was however insufficient time for
her to cycle from East Ham to Goodmayes before the second hand computer shop closed at 6:00
pm. So they decided to postpone the check till after school on Monday.
        Daksha arrived home first from Plashet Junior School on the Monday and got changed out of
her uniform. Her elder sister came in shortly afterwards and likewise got changed. After Krystyna
had got changed across the road the three of them cycled to Goodmayes and stopped a short
distance away from the second hand computer shop. Daksha listened once more to the instruction.
        “The one furthest away from the door,” described Sunita.
        “Just check whether it is stiffer than the other keys,” instructed Krystna, again.
        Daksha nodded her head and went inside the shop. A few minutes later she returned and
informed,
        “It didn’t seem any stiffer than the others.”
        Krystyna sighed.
        “Are you sure?” checked Sunita.
        “I couldn’t tell any difference,” maintained her younger sister.
        “Was there a man with red hair there?” checked Krystyna.
        “There was a girl with red hair,” replied Daksha.
        “Maybe his daughter,” supposed Sunita.
        Krystyna didn’t know what to do. Though suspicious of the Compaqs in the second hand
computer shop she didn’t have enough evidence. It had ‘Whodunit?’ but perhaps that was a popular
program, used on a lot of computers. The stiff letter ‘H” noticed on the one before being stolen from
the school however was more unusual. That would perhaps give them enough reason to go to the
police.
        What to do next continued to occupy her. She considered another unusual aspect of the
matter, the Caretaker losing his keys for a while the day before the break in. There had been no sign
of a forced entry at the school. No windows had been broken. The Caretaker had been surprised
when opening the door to the computer room and noticing the theft; indicating that the thief had
used keys. Maybe somehow he had used the Caretaker’s keys even though they had been found
again before the break in.
        She decided to visit Asda’s key cutting place.
       A familiar figure

          “The thief must have used keys,” she maintained to Sunita and Daksha.
          “The Caretaker found his keys before the break in,” reminded Sunita.
          “But they had been missing a while,” maintained Krystyna. “Long enough for somebody to
get them cut.”
          “Then use the copies,” accepted Daksha, nodding her head.
          “Asda’s is probably the nearest key cutting place to our school,” supposed Sunita.
          They cycled to Beckton. Around the large supermarket was a number of smaller shops and
stalls, including a key cutting place. There were two people waiting to have keys cut. Behind the
counter was a man with tatoos on his arms. He was holding a copy of a metal key inside a cutting
machine. An unpleasant sound of scraping metal was interruped by a mobile phone ringing.
          Krystyna realised it was hers. It was Robert Crossley from Goodmayes replying to the
message she had left about the Compaq computer for sale.
          “Are you still interested in it?” he asked.
          “Yes,” affirmed Krystyna, before arranging a viewing the following day after school.
          It didn’t take long for the two people in front to get their keys cut. Upon reaching the
counter Krystyna asked politely,
          “Do you remember cutting any keys last Friday morning?”
          “Why are you asking that?” challenged the man behind the counter.
          “I think the person may have used the keys to steal something,” admitted Krystyna.
          “Belonging to you?” wondered the man.
          “Yes,” lied Krystyna.
          “What?” asked the man.
          “A computer.”
          “From where?”
          “Our house,” replied Krystyna, sighing because she knew that one lie often led to another.
          “I’m cutting keys all the time,” stated the man. “How do you expect me to remember one in
particular?”
          “For a man with red hair?” then probed Krystyna.
          “You don’t mean Bob?” checked the man.
          “Bob?” responded Krystyna.
          “Who owns the computer shop in Goodmayes,” added the man, affirming, “I cut some keys
for him Friday morning. But he wouldn’t steal a computer from your house.”
          “Thank you,” stated Krytyna, after glancing at her friends.
          That made the three of them more suspicious of the man who owned the computer shop in
Goodmayes. What to do about the suspicion however they still couldn’t decide. Tell the police?
What proof did they have? The man had keys cut the day before the break in; was that enough
evidence? They hadn’t decided what to do before returning to Goodmayes the following afternoon
anyway as arranged to view the HP computer for sale. Upon reaching the address Krystya suggested,
          “He doesn’t know about you two so it might be better if I just have a look.”
          Her two friends agreed then waited on the street corner as she approached the house and
rang the bell. The front door opened and there stood a familiar figure.


       She knew ‘whodunit!’

       "You've come about the computer," he realised before recognising her and narrowing his
eyes while adding, “It’s no different to the ones you saw in the shop.”
         Krystyna didn’t know how to reply.
         “Do you still want to look at it?” wondered the man.
         “If you don’t mind,” replied Krystyna nervously.
         She followed him inside a long living room. At the far end was a table with three computers;
the middle one a HP Compaq.
         “This is it,” indicated the man, before inviting her to sit down at the table.
         She sat down and looked at the familiar screen. The microtower beside it was familiar. So
was the keyboard. It all looked familiar. It looked like one of the computers stolen from school.
         “Do you want to try it?” offered the man.
         Krystyna put her hand upon the mouse and stretched her index finger to operate it and
select the ‘start’ button located on the left corner of the status bar at the bottom of the screen.
After the ‘start’ button she selected ‘programs’ and noticed ‘Whodunit?’ on the list.
         It made her think about this case. In the case of the stolen computers she had a suspicion of
‘whodunit.’
         He was standing behind her watching.
         She didn’t select the ‘whodunit’ program but instead ‘Microsoft Office’ then ‘Microsoft
Office Word.’ That was another familiar program. Also it gave her an excuse to try the different
letters on the keyboard. After opening a new document she moved her hands to the keyboard and
pressed some letters and watched them appear upon the document. ‘m,’ ‘k,’ ‘g’ and ‘p’ she selected
randomly without any problem before moving her left hand towards the letter ‘h’ and stretching out
her index finger, which was shaking.
         She pressed the letter ‘h.’ It was stiff.
         She knew ‘whodunit!’


        It’s him!

        He remained behind her watching!
        She pressed the letter again, then again before it appeared on the document, promping him
to check?
        “Is that key stiff?”
        “I think so,” she replied.
        He leaned forward and pressed the key a couple of times before it appeared again on the
document.
        “It is,” he agreed. “I’ll fix it or get a new keyboard,” he added. “Give me a couple of days
then phone again if you are still interested,” he requested.
        Krystyna agreed and rose from the seat.
        “Do you live locally?” he asked while leading her to the front door.
        “No,” she replied nervously.
        “Where do you live?” he asked.
        “West Ham,” she lied.
        “Do you go to school there?” he asked.
        “Yes,” she lied.
        “What computers do you use there?” he asked.
        “HP Compaqs,” she replied.
        “Like this?”
        “Yes,” she replied nervously.
        His eyes narrowed. She could tell he was suspicious of her and felt relieved upon reaching
the front door and stepping outside.
        Upon reaching the corner of the street she rejoined her friends and reported her experience
then affirmed,
        “It’s him!”


        The red van!

          There now seemed enough reason to go to the police. The three girls called into East Ham
Police Station at the top of High Street South. Inside the front entrance was a counter with a bell and
a notice to ring it. Sunita rang the bell. Shortly afterwards a young policeman appeared from a room
behind the counter and asked politely,
          “Can I help you?”
          Krystyna began telling the story of the stolen computers and the stiff key and the man who
owned the shop in Goodmayes.
          “I’d better make a note of this,” decided the young policeman, picking up a pen from beside
a notepad upon the counter.
          He then asked her to start again. This time he wrote down nearly everything she said and
kept asking for dates and times. It took him ages to write it down to his satisfaction. All the time
Krystyna kept thinking of the man in Goodmayes asking her those questions about her school just
before she left. When at last the young policeman had finished the note taking she mentioned,
          “I think he was suspicious of me.”
          “In what way?” asked the young policeman.
          “That I might be from East Ham School.”
          “And that you knew he had stolen the computers?”
          “Yes.”
          “We had better act quickly in case he gets rid of them,” decided the young policeman,
putting down the pen before returning to the room behind the counter.
          Shortly afterwards he reappeared with a woman police officer, who introduced herself as
Sergeant Ellis. She then asked Krystyna to repeat once more her story. Krystyna sighed, thinking of
the time that was being wasted, allowing the thief to get rid of the computers. Nevertheless she
retold the story.
          “Where did you see the advert for the computer?” asked Sergeant Ellis.
          “The Newham Recorder,” replied Krystyna, adding, “Last Thursday.”
          Sergeant Ellis stepped towards a computer on the counter and a few minutes afterwards
pointed the screen towards the three girls, who could see a copy of the advert inside last Thursday’s
Newham Recorder.
          “Is that it?” checked the Sergeant.
          Sunita leaned towards the advert and recognised the phone number.
          “Yes,” she affirmed.
          Sergeant Ellis phoned the number and pretended to be interested in buying the computer. A
few seconds later she informed,
          “He’s sold it.”
          “I’ve just seen it,” stated Krystyna.
          “Let’s go and have a look,” decided Sergeant Ellis.
          Shortly afterwards she led the three girls round to a car park beside the police station. There
waited a police car with a driver inside. She introduced him as Police Constable Jordan and got into
the front seat after the girls had got in the back. It was now about 5:30 and the rush hour. Traffic
was heavy along High Street North then the Romford Road leading to Ilford and eventually
Goodmayes. The girls directed Police Constable Jordan to the address. Upon arrival he and Sergeant
Ellis got out and approached the front door and rang the bell. There was no answer. They tried a few
more times before returning to the car, whereupon Sergeant Ellis requested,
          “Can you direct us to his shop?”
        Sunita told Police Constable Jordan where to go. The traffic was still heavy. Upon
approaching the shop Krystyna noticed through the car window a large red van coming out from a
narrow road. She watched it join the Romford Road and head towards Ilford.
        Upon reaching the shop and stopping outside, along the Romford Road Police Constable
Jordan and Sergeant Ellis got out the car and approached the window and peered inside. Krystyna
had already noticed that there was nothing in the window. When visiting the shop previously the
window had been full of computers for customers to look at and consider. Now the whole shop
looked empty, which was unusual.
        Upon returning to the car Sergeant Ellis confirmed,
        “It’s empty.”
        “That is suspicious,” stated Police Constable Jordan.
        “He was suspicous of you earlier at his house,” remembered Sergeant Ellis, addressing
Krystyna, who affirmed,
        “I think he suspected me of being at East Ham School.”
        “And knowing that he had stolen the computers,” realised Sergeant Ellis, adding, “That was
less than two hours ago.”
        “Which means he must have moved quickly to empty the shop,” stated Police Constable
Jordan. “Probably loaded them onto a van,” he added, prompting Krytyna to remember,
        “The red van!”


        We’ve lost him

          “The one coming out of here,” she added, indicating the narrow road beside the shop.
          “Yes. There was a red van,” remembered Police Constable Jordan.
          “Did you see where it went?” asked Sergeant Ellis, addressing Krystyna, who replied,
          “Towards Ilford.”
          They got back inside the police car and continued along the Romford Road towards Ilford.
There remained heavy traffic which meant they could only travel slowly, prompting Police Constable
Jordan to remark,
          “He couldn’t have got far.”
          “Put your lights on,” suggested Sergeant Ellis.
          “Make sure your seat belts are fastened,” warned Police Constable Jordan, addessing the
girls in the back seat before turning on the flashing lights and pushing his way aggressively through
the heavy traffic.
          Sergeant Ellis spoke into a police radio at the front of the car and asked colleagues to be on
the lookout for a large red van last seen in Goodmayes heading along the Romford Road towards
Ilford.
          “I saw that van outside the school on the day the caretaker’s keys went missing,”
remembered Krystyna, after checking her seat belt, whereupon she described the incident when late
for school and cycling across Central Park Road in front of the van coming the other way, prompting
Sergeant Ellis to warn,
          “You shouldn’t cycle across a busy road like that.”
          “There was enough time to get across,” defended Krystyna.
          “You said the driver had to slow down,” maintained Sergeant Ellis.
          “That’s when I saw him,” realised Krystyna, adding, “I knew his face was familiar. He stopped
outside the school,” she recalled.
           “The morning the caretaker’s keys went missing for a while,” considered Sergeant Ellis.
          “Perhaps somehow he knew where the keys were kept,” responded Police Constable Jordan.
          “The key cutter at Asda’s remembers him getting keys cut,” considered Sergeant Ellis.
         “The Asda key cutter could be another useful witness,” remarked Police Constable Jordan
while continuing to push aggressively through the heavy traffic along the Romford Road towards
Ilford as the girls in the back seat kept their eyes pealed ahead.
         In the distance was a large roundabout.
         “There’s a red van!” spotted Daksha.
         “Where?” replied Police Constable Jordan.
         “On the roundabout,” answered Daksha.
         Police Constable Jordan looked ahead at the roundabout but could see no red van.
         “It turned off,” stated Daksha.
         “Did you see where?” asked Police Constable Jordan.
         “The first turning,” affirmed Daksha, whereupon Police Constable Jordan continued to push
aggressively through the heavy traffic until reaching the roundabout, whereupon he took the first
turning into Winston Way.
         That led onto Green Lane. There was no sign of the red van.
         Sergeant Ellis spoke once more into the police radio, saying they had lost the trail of the red
van, which had last been seen entering Winston Way. Police Constable Jordan stopped in Green
Lane and waited for a possible further sighting and instruction from the police radio. That didn’t take
long in coming. After a few minutes there was a message saying that a red van had been spotted not
far away along the Longbridge Road heading towards Barking.
         Police Constable Jordan restarted the car and rejoined the trail however the Longbridge
Road towards Barking ended at a roundabout. One of the turnoffs was the Northern Relief Road.
That was a main road which led onto the North Circular Road. That was a major three which went all
the way around London. Just guessing, Police Constable Jordan turned off the roundabout onto the
Northern Relief Road. Not long after joining the North Circular Road there was a message on the
police radio saying that a large red van had been spotted ahead going towards the M25 motorway.
With the police lights flashing Police Constable Jordan drove faster until a large red van came into
view. He kept going until level with the van then using a microphone near the steering wheel asked
the driver to pull over to the side of the road. The driver did as requested.
         “It’s him,” affirmed Krystyna, watching and noticing his red hair.
         Police Constable Jordan and Sergeant Ellis got out and approached the van but before
reaching it the man with red hair drove off again. They returned quickly to the police car and
followed but before they could get back up to speed the van turned off the North Circular Road.
They continued and soon afterwards took the same turning into Chigwell Road however couldn’t see
it.
         Sergeant Ellis sighed then spoke into the police radio, admitting,
          “We’ve lost him.”


        He recognised them

        She gave the location at Chigwell Road.
        They stopped and waited about fifteen minutes before hearing of another sighting a few
kilometres away on the A10 past Enfield approaching the M25. While driving there they heard that
the van had joined the M25 heading east. They joined the the motorway and accelerated along the
outside lane and continued east for about ten minutes until noticing in the distance the red van on
the hard shoulder. A police car was behind it. Two policemen had got out of the police car and were
approaching the red van however like last time it drove off again rapidly. Fortunately this time their
own police car was near enough to catch up before it had chance to get away. Once more Police
Constable Jordan spoke through the microphone near the steering wheel telling the driver of the red
van to pull over onto the hard shoulder of the motorway. The driver obeyed. This time Police
Constable Jordan stopped in front of the red van. Soon afterwards the other police car caught up
and stopped behind. Two policemen got out of that car and walked up towards the van. At the same
time Police Constable Jordan and Sergeant Ellis got out and approached the front of the van.
        Krystyna and her friends watched through the rear window as Sergeant Ellis opened the
door of the van and spoke briefly to the driver, who got out and looked at the girls in the back seat
of the police car. They could tell that he recognised them.


        A successful investigation

         They watched him accompany the two other policemen to the car behind and get into the
back seat. Police Constable Jordan and Sergeant Ellis returned to their police car. The other police
car containing the suspected thief drove off.
         Police Constable Jordan then drove back to East Ham and dropped the girls home. Sergeant
Ellis got out with them and explained to their parents what had happened. She told Ms Kurowska
that Krystyna would be asked to sign a statement to be used as evidence against the suspected thief.
         “Your daughter has done well. She is a good young detective,” she commented.
         That pleased Krystyna and encouraged her ambition of becoming a detective when older.
         The stolen computers were found inside the red van. After the police had checked them for
fingerprints they were returned to East Ham School. Ms Ravi, the Head Teacher made an
announcement in assembly the day after they were returned.
         “ICT is back on the timetable,” she announced to a happy young audience. “We have two
children in particular to thank for their return,” she added before inviting Krystyna and Sunita to
stand up and be recognised for a successful investigation.

        (6,042 words)




                                  Krystyna invesitgates some stolen flowers

        ‘A Krystyna rose’

          "Mmm!" sniffed Krystyna, leaning towards a rose in her next door neightbour’s garden. "It’s
lovely," she sniffed again, inhaling the perfumed aroma.
          Then lifting her head she breathed out into the warm air circulating the colourful scene
around her. She was surrounded by roses of many colours. Some were crimson. Some were apricot
coloured. Some had more than one colour. Pink and yellow were mixed together on the petals of a
large rose near where Sunita was standing. Daksha was standing by a red and white one. The three
girls were helping Ms Rusanus with her gardening.
          "Is this a hybrid?" asked Krystyna, pointing to the red and white rose and showing off some
knowledge to her next door neighbour, who nodded her head and replied,
          “A cross between one of the Crimson Glories here and one of the Golden Times over there. I
call it a ‘Suzanne’ rose after my eldest granddaughter. Each year on her birthday I give her one of its
flowers. She pots it and keeps it in her bedroom."
          Daksha leaned over and sniffed it.
          “Do you like the smell?” wondered Ms Rusanus.
          Daksha nodded her head.
          “I would like to have one named after me,” stated Sunita, leaning over to smell the large
pink and yellow rose beside her.
          “Choose one,” offered Ms Rusanus.
         “Can I choose this one?” asked Sunita, indicating the rose beside her.
         “If you wish. Then each year on your birthday I will give you one of its flowers. You can pot it
and keep it in your bedroom.”
         “Can I have one,” immediately requested Daksha.
         “You can all have one for helping me with my gardening.”
         The three girls examined the variety of roses spread before them. Daksha selected the red
and white hybrid that Krystyna had her eye on. Krystyna swtiched her attention to some pink ones
near the front of the garden. She could see symmetry in the way each petal partly enfolded another.
         "What are these?" she asked, approaching them.
         "Bobby Charltons," answered Ms Rusanus. "Somebody told me he was a footballer. Would
you like one each year for your birthday?"
         Krystyna nodded her head as her next door neighbour approached and stated,
         “We’ll call it ‘a Krystyna rose.’


        On her nerves

         Krystyna felt honoured and later told her mom and Jermain, who was fiddling about with his
camera.
         "Bobby Charlton played for Manchester United and England," he informed while attaching
an autofocus telephoto zoom lens.
         It was a new lens, which he had bought to take with them to Paris in about two months
time. He was keen on photography and wanted the lens to take close up shots of the detail on some
of the old buildings in Paris. Jermain was a History teacher at West Ham School, where her mom also
worked. That was how they had met.
         “This should do the trick,” he remarked, pointing the lens at the front window and Deal
Grove opposite.
         “Let’s have a look,” requested Krystyna, standing up to join Jermain, who handed her the
camera.
         “Wow!” she exclaimed. “I can see Darren Davies’ door number.
         Darren Davies was a pain in the neck at school. He was in the same form as Krystyna and
kept calling her ‘a four eyed Pole’ in reference to her glasses and Polish surname, both of which
could cause her embarassment. She had started wearing glasses just before leaving primary school
and unfortunately couldn’t read clearly without them. When older she intended wearing contact
lenses like her mom. Her Polish surname was also something at times she wished not to have. It was
conspicuous People kept asking her how it was spelt. Some people like Darren knew it was Polish
and said things. Darren said there were too many Poles here and that they should go back to their
own country. Her mom had come here to teach. There was a shortage of teachers in London,
especially for Maths. Her mom had an MSc in Maths as well as a BA in English Philology, the study of
language. She had taught Maths using the English language on an International Baccalaurate course
in Wroclaw, Poland. Krystyna had started school in Wroclaw, an industrial city in the southwest of
Poland. She could speak Polish. It was her first language. She had learnt it before learning English.
Now however she could speak and read English better than Polish.
         Darren knew about her Polish background and made fun of it. His parents were from Wales.
Once when he had been telling her to go back to Poland she told him nearly the same.
         “You should go back to Wales,” she said.
         “Wales is here,” he replied.
         “This is England,” she maintained.
         “Which is part of Britain,” he maintained, adding, “Like Wales.”
         “Britain is part of Europe,” she maintained, adding, “Like Poland.”
         “It’s further away,” he maintained.
          Her mom had said it was better to ignore him. She tried but sometimes he got on her
nerves.


          Somebody’s picked one

        Coming home from school the next day, while cycling beside Sunita, Krystyna spoke about
an Environmental Science lesson earlier in the afternoon during which she had mentioned need to
disturb topsoil to allow oxygen to get through to the stem and roots of plants so that they could
grow. Most of the class had been impressed by her knowledge. Darren however had said,
        “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
        “I think she does,” replied Mr Choudhury, their Environmental Science teacher, who then
asked her how she knew, whereupon Krystyna told him about the gardening assistance given to her
next door neighbour and the rose recently given in reward as a birthday present.
        “It’s now called a ‘Krystyna rose,’” she informed with a smile.
        “A four eyed Polish rose,” she then heard whispered nearby, prompting laughter from Roger
Turnbull, seated next to Darren Davies.
        She was telling Sunita about it on the way home. Upon arrival she noticed her next door
neighbour bending over her garden of roses. Ms Rusanus stood up straight and mentioned,
        “Somebody’s picked one.”


          No case to answer

         It was a ‘Krystyna rose,’ one of the Bobby Charltons. Somebody had picked the pink rose
from its stem. Krystyna looked around to see if it had been dropped anywhere. There was no sign of
it.
         While telling her mom she considered mentioning a suspicion concerning the culprit
however refrained in case it was doing the person an injustice.
         The next morning, Thursday at school upon arrival at her table in her form room she was
confronted by the rose. There it lay, underneath an exercise book, its pink petals destined to die
rapidly.
         She looked round. Darren had his head down, over a book, which was unusual. Most
mornings he messed about.
         She took the decapitated rose up to Mr Rahman, the Form Tutor and told him about the
abusive remark the previous afternoon.
         "Darren!" called out Mr Rahman.
         Darren lifted his head from his reading book and looked vacantly at his Form Tutor, who
requested,
         "Come here please."
         Slowly Darren got up and approached.
         "Do you know anything about this?" inquired Mr Rahman, holding up the decapitated petals.
         "It's a rose," stated Darren, prompting a couple of pupils to laugh. “Is it a ‘Krystyna rose’?”
he wondered innocently.
         "Is it a rose you've picked?" replied Mr Rahman flatly.
         "Me Sir?" protested Darren, in a shocked tone.
         "You Sir?" affirmed Mr Rahman.
         "No Sir," denied Darren.
         "Does anybody know anything about this?" then enquired Mr Rahman, addressing the form.
"Did anybody see who put it on Krystyna's table?"
         There was silence.
         That was as far as the matter could be taken. Much as Krystyna and Mr Rahman and others
in the form suspected Darren to be the culprit there was nothing more they could do. They had no
proof.
         He had no case to answer.


        Another one missing

        By Saturday morning the matter had gone a step further.
        Krystyna did gymnastics at Newham Leisure Centre on a Saturday morning, starting at ten.
She had been doing it for years, ever since reading a book called 'Gilly the Gymnast.’ In all weathers
she went. This morning the weather looked fine as she opened the curtains before getting ready.
She put on her blue leggings and leotard then her jeans and jumper on top. After putting on socks
and trainers she descended the stairs and went to the shed in her back garden to fetch her bike. She
put a towel, some soap and shampoo into an Asda's carrier bag.
        “Mom. Where’s my gym shoes!” she shouted up the stairs.
        “Wherever you left them!” shouted back her mother.
        They were in the utility room.
        With everything ready she had some ‘Golden Grahams’ cereal to keep her going till
lunchtime. After rinsing her bowl she collected the carrier bag and headed for the front door with
her bike.
        Upon departure immediately she noticed – another one missing.


        Still no case to answer

         Now she was determined to do something about the matter. But what?
         Upon entering her form room on Monday morning she could see the rose underneath her
exericise book. Once more the suspect was busy reading. Once more she told her form tutor. Once
more the suspect denied all knowledge of the offence.
         There was still no proof. So there was still no case to answer.
         "We'll have to catch him red handed," she determined during the lunch break.
         “We’ll watch out for him,” stated Sunita, seated beside her in the dining hall.
         After school they got home before Darren and went to Krystyna’s to watch from behind the
curtain in the front bedroom, which offered a clear view of Deal Grove opposite. The front bedroom
was where her mom and Jermain slept. Krytyna felt guilty being there however was determined to
do something about the matter.
         “He must have gone somewhere,” appreciated Sunita, after a while.
         "He does karate after school on Mondays," remembered Krystyna. "I think that goes on till
half four."
         "In which case he should be home soon," calculated Sunita, glancing at her watch.
         "Providing he comes home straight afterwards," replied Krystyna, just a few seconds before
Sunita informed in an excited tone,
         "He’s here now!"
         Sure enough the suspect was approaching from the top of the hilly road. Sure enough he
stayed on this side of the pavement longer than was necessary for him to reach his home in Deal
Grove opposite.
         And sure enough he picked another rose.
         "We've got him now!," assumed Sunita, opening the bedroom window and shouting out,
         "We saw you Darren!"
         "You saw what?" responded Darren, looking up, seemingly shaken by the discovery however
sufficiently in control of his senses to deny the accusation.
         "You take that rose," clarified Sunita.
         "What rose?" denied Darren, keeping his hands in his pockets.
         "The one in your pocket," accused Krystyna bluntly.
         "All I’ve got in my pocket is this," claimed Darren, extracting an almost empty packet of
crisps from his right hand pocket.
         "Your other pocket," specified Krystyna.
         "There’s nothing in this one either," claimed Darren, taking an empty hand out the left
pocket of his jacket.
         "Let us have a look then," requested Krystyna.
         "Get lost!" asserted Darren. "I'm not having you rummaging through my pockets."
         "Because you've got something to hide in there," accused Krystyna.
         "Prove it," challenged Daniel.
         "I will, if you let me search your left pocket," assured Krystyna.
         "Get lost!" repeated Daniel.
         "We both saw you," maintained Sunita.
         "You're both lying," countered Daniel.
         "We shall tell Mr Rahman," stated Sunita.
         "I shall say that you're lying," defended Darren. "It's your word against mine. The word of
two friends trying to get me into trouble. You can't prove anything."
         With that he turned and continued home.
         "He'll get rid of the rose," guessed Krystyna, disappointed.
         Being a detective was proving difficult. She’d assumed that seeing him do it would be
enough.
         But maybe there was still no case to answer.


          Only one more left

          We should still tell Mr Rahman and his parents. Otherwise he'll do it again," maintained
Sunita.
        "Maybe we’ve frightened him off," calculated Krystyna.
        They let the matter lie, hoping it had come to an end. Their hope seemed justified. For a
week nothing more happened. Ms Rusanus was relieved.
        "Thank goodness they've stopped," she stated the following Sunday afternoon while
Krystyna and Sunita and Daksha were assisting again in the rose garden.
        Hopeful remained the situation until the following Wednesday when arriving home late from
school after both she and Sunita had stayed behind for netball practice.
        Upon escorting her bike up the garden path to the front door Krystyna noticed another one
missing. There was only one more left.


          Click!

          Her shoulders had slumped when she entered the house.
          "You look fed up,” remarked Jermain as she hung up her jacket and dropped her bag in the
utility room.
          She considered telling him what had happened however he seemed preoccupied with his
camera. He was getting familiar with the new autofocus telephoto zoom; focusing upon things in the
living room; the television, the settee and the cat as if photographing them. He focused upon the
front window.
         Then something clicked!
         And it wasn't the camera.
         "Would you show me how to use it?" requested Krystyna.
         Jermain showed her how to use the new autofocus telephoto zoom lens and later that
evening reminded her how to file and view and print the photographs on her laptop. He seemed
pleased with her interest. Her mom only pretended to be interested in photography and probably he
guessed as much. He agreed to leave the camera with her laptop so she could practise some more.
         The next morning at school Krystyna spoke to Sunita about a means to an end. After school
they returned to Krystyna’s and went again to the front bedroom. With camera in hand Krystyna
stood to the right side of the window, behind a narrow gap between it and the curtain, able to see
anybody approaching from the top of the road. She focused upon the front of the rose garden next
door, in particular the one remaining ‘Krystyna rose.’ Through the viewfinder she could see the
symmetry of its pink petals.
         “Let’s have a look,” requested Sunita, approaching.
          Krystyna handed her the camera.
         Sunita focused upon the one remaining ‘Krytyna rose’ and shortly afterwards exclaimed,
         “Look at this bee!”.
         Krystyna looked through the viewfinder and reckoned in reference to their Biology teacher,
         “Ms Govil might be interested in that.”
         “How do I take it?” checked Sunita.
         “There,” replied Krystyna, indicating a button on top.
         Sunita took a couple of photographs of the bee on top of the pink petals then handed the
camera back to her friend, who looked through the telephoto zoom lens at various items in view,
including the number 27 on the door of the house in Deal Grove opposite, where Darren lived.
         Then they waited.
         "I hope he comes before Mom gets home," stated Krystyna, after a while getting impatient.
         Sunita went to the bathroom. On the way back to the bedroom she stopped upon hearing
her friend inform fiercely,
         “He’s here!”
         Sunita remained rigid.
         Darren had appeared suddenly from the opposite direction, the bottom of the road and
caught Krystyna by surprise. Trying not to panic she held the camera ready as he stepped towards
the rose garden. Then however he stopped and looked up towards the window. She wondered
whether he could see through the gap between the side of the curtain and the window. She held her
breath until his hand moved towards the one remaining ‘Krystyna rose.’
         Then click!


       An idea

       She clicked again as he held the rose. As he looked up once more towards the window she
took another, focusing upon his face but still managing to include the rose in his hand.
       Sunita stepped forward.
       "What are you doing!" whispered Krystyna fiercely.
       "I was going to shout down that we’ve now got proof,” stated Sunita after stopping.
       "I haven't finished yet," stated Krystyna, peering through the gap between the curtain and
the window until Darren had stepped away from the rose garden.
          She stepped back towards Sunita and took another photograph of the culprit walking up
Deal Grove opposite. Then as he entered his front door with the decapitataed rose in hand she took
another, this time including the number 27 on the front door.
          "That should be enough," she stated as the culprit closed the door unaware of the case
being established against him.
          With Sunita she went downstairs and took the memory card out of the camera and inserted
it in her laptop then transferred the photographs to a folder. She named it, ‘Stolen flowers.’
          “What are you going to do with them?” wondered Sunita as Krystyna began printing a copy.
          “Monday morning I’m going to leave them on his table,” replied Krystyna, smiling.
          On the Sunday afternoon she and Sunita and Daksha helped again with her next door
neighbour rose garden. Ms. Rusanus was upset at the latest theft.
          "When will it stop?" she wondered.
          "Maybe now," replied Krystyna.
          “You think the thief was only interested in the ‘Bobby Charltons?’” wondered Ms Rusanus.
          “Maybe,” replied Krystyna.
          “They were going to be yours,” remembered Ms Rusanus. “You’ll now have to choose
another type for your birthday.”
           “Where did you get the ‘Bobby Charltons’?” wondered Krystyna.
          “I bought a cutting from a special rose market in Ketridge,” answered her next door
neighbour, adding, “A long time ago. It was expensive.”
          “How much?” wondered Krystyna.
          “About ₤10. Now it would be at least double that,” guessed her next door neighbour, giving
Krystyna an idea.


       The letter

        After the gardening she returned with Sunita and Daksha to her house next door and
fetched her laptop. With them she composed the following letter:

        Dear Sir

        Here are some photographs, which may be of interest to you.
        I could send copies to your parents, your teacher and the police.
        To stop me sending these copies you must go to the rose market in Ketridge this weekend
and buy a ‘Bobby Charlton’ cutting to replace the roses you have stolen from Ms Rusanus’s garden.
Take at least ₤20 with you because that’s how much it will probably cost. If by next Sunday
afternoon the cutting is not in the hands of Ms Rusanus copies of the photographs will be distibuted
to your disadvantage.

       Yours sincerely

       X

       They printed the letter.


       Another ‘Krystyna rose’
         On Monday morning Krystyna got to school before Darren and sneaked to the form room.
She left an envelope containing the letter and photographs underneath an exercise book on his
table, knowing he would come soon to put the decapitated rose on her table.
         Later upon entering the form room at the start of school she noticed no decapitated rose on
her table. Darren was unpacking his bag and avoiding her eye. Soon afterwards he had his head over
his book, this time probably for a different reason. Krystyna sat and read her own book, ‘Nancy Drew
and the mystery of the tapping heels.’
         Neither of them said anything to each other the rest of the day. They said nothing to each
other the rest of the week.
         On the Sunday afternoon when the three girls went to help with the gardening Ms Rusanus
greeted them saying,
         “Do you know what I found at my front door this morning?”
         Sunita shook her head, denying any knowledge. Daksha did the same. Krytyna didn’t answer.
         “This,” stated Ms Rusanus, showing them a cutting of a pink rose.
         The three girls remained standing, saying nothing.
         “From Ketridge,” added Ms Rusanus, looking at them. “Last Sunday you asked me where I
got the ‘Bobby Charltons’ from,” she remembered, looking at Krystyna before addressing her
directly and asking, “Did you get it?”
         “No,” replied Krystyna, truthfully. “
         Her next door neighbour continued looking at her.
         “Is it a ‘Bobby Charlton’?” checked Sunita, looking at the cutting and trying to remember
what what the stolen flowers were like.
         Ms Rusanus nodded her head and affirmed,
         “It’s another ‘Krystyna rose.’

        (3,359 words)




                                      Krystyna invesitgates a theft in Paris



        Parlez-vous francais?

         "Bonjour," greeted Jermain, upon arriving home.
         "Bonjour," replied Krystyna, folding a T-shirt and placing it inside a suitcase beside the settee
on the living room floor.
         "Tu es prete?" asked Jermain.
         "Nearly," replied Ms Kurowska, folding a dress and placing it inside a larger suitcase in front
of the settee.
         "Je ne comprends pas d’anglais?" maintained Jermain.
         "Pardonnez-moi," apologised Ms Kurowska, carefully folding another dress and placing it
inside the suitcase.
         Krystyna folded her favourite T-shirt, containing three colourful toucans against a white
background and placed it inside her suitcase in preparation for a week's holiday in Paris, where they
would be staying at the Royal Hotel, close to the Arc de Triomphe along the Avenue des Champs
Elysees, described by the brochure as the most beautiful street in the world.
        "You are taking a dress and a skirt with you?" checked her mother, noticing the latest T-shirt
being added to several others already inside. “We’re staying at a five star hotel,” she reminded.
        "I'm taking the clothes we sorted out last night," assured Krystyna, folding a pair of white
jeans and placing them inside her suitcase.
        “I couldn’t see the dress and skirt,” stated her mother.
        “They’re here,” assured Krystyna, lifting up a couple of T-shirts and showing underneath.
        “You might want to wear them,” predicted her mother.
        “I thought we were going on holiday,” remarked Krystyna.
        “You might want to wear a dress or skirt on holiday,” maintained her mother. “There are
some smart restaurants in Paris which we might want to visit.
        “They might not let you in wearing jeans,” teased Jermain. “Or if you speak English,” he
added.
        "How much French will we have to speak?" wondered Krystyna.
        "All the time," teased Jermain. "If you try to speak in English they will ask you, "Parlez-vous
francais?"


        A watch like Sunita’s

        One thing Krystyna regretted about the forthcoming holiday was that Sunita and Daksha
weren’t coming with her. They could have had fun together in Paris. She was going to miss them
over the next week.
        This was realised after setting off. She missed not being able to chat to them during the train
journey to Gatwick Airport, especially when reading Jermain's guidebook, called 'Fun in Paris,' giving
information on famous Parisian landmarks, including some night clubs. One, called the Moulin Rouge
was famous for its can-can dancers. Krystyna had already seen some can-can dancing. Older girls at
the dancing school she used to attend did some as part of a show put on for parents. Her mom and
Jermain had attended.
        "Some can-can dancers on at the Moulin Rouge," she mentioned to them, seated opposite.
"Shall we go there?"
        "You're too young," replied her mother.
        "They wouldn't let you in," affirmed Jermain. "You have to be eighteen."
        "I could put on some lipstick and pretend to be eighteen,” stated Krystyna, looking at a pair
of bright red lips on a photograph of another night club, called 'The Crazy Horse."
        The large pair of bright red lips were its emblem.
        "It will be a few years before you go to any night club," stated her mother.
        Krystyna's attention moved on from the eye catching red lips to photographs of famous
buildings, including the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe; places open to people of all ages. She
read what the guidebook said about them during the remainder of the train journey.
        At Gatwick Ms Kurowska made sure the suitcases were securely locked and clearly labelled
while waiting in a queue to check in. ‘Royal Hotel’ was printed in red letters against a blue
background on labels supplied by the travel agent. Ms Kurowska attached a label to each suitcase.
        "We wouldn’t want to lose our best clothes,” she stated while checking the labels were
securely attached.
        From Gatwick they took a plane to Charles de Gaulle Airport on the outskirts of Paris.
Krystyna enjoyed the take off. Less than an hour later they landed. Quarter past three was the local
time. Krystyna adjusted her watch an hour forward. They collected their luggage and passed through
customs then left the airport terminal for the coachpark. Nearby was a small blue coach with 'Royal
Hotel' painted in red on the side. The coach was empty. A lady in a blue uniform with a red sash was
standing by the open door holding a clipboard while ticking off the names of a girl and her parents.
The girl, about two years younger than Krystyna was wearing a mauve dress with long sleeves. She
boarded with her parents. Their luggage remained beside of the coach.
         Krystyna approached with her mom and Jermain. The lady in the blue uniform ticked off
their names. Krystyna could see the three other names already ticked off. The surname was
Hawthorne. Instead of saying ‘Mr’ and ‘Ms’ by the names it said ‘Lord’ and ‘Lady.’ Even by the
daughter’s name it said ‘Lady.’ She seemed a bit young to be a lady.
         They left their suitcases beside the coach to be loaded into a separate compartment
underneath the seats then boarded and sat down. While waiting for other passengers staying at the
same hotel to board Krystyna glanced out of the window at another coach parked alongside, which
had olive green seats like ‘Jade,’ the nickname given to her mom's Volkswagen Polo, whose seats
were an olive green colour. Jade was the olive green colour and source of the nickname. She noticed
the olive green seats in the coach parked alongside before catching sight of a young lady with a
watch like Sunita’s.


          Red lips

          It had a small white face and a slim black strap. The lady had dark hair and a slim face like
Sunita.
       The Sunita lookalike was sitting beside a young man with red hair and a ruddy complexion.
       And the redness didn't end there.
       The young man had a key ring with the emblem for the night club seen in Jermain’s
guidebook, ‘Fun in Paris.’ It was a black metal key ring with two red lips.


          The Royal Menu.

         Other Royal Hotel residents boarded. Some were smartly dressed. Two women boarding
together wore expensive looking jewellery. Krystyna could hear the young Lady Hawthorne saying in
a striking accent,
         "Mother, I hope we visit the Palace of Versailles."
         It was the first time Krystyna had ever heard anybody address their mom as 'Mother.’
         Shortly afterwards the coach departed for the Royal Hotel, situated close to the Arc de
Triomphe along the Avenue de Champs Elysees in the heart of Paris. A brightly uniformed doorman
stood outside the hotel.
         "He looks like one of those guards outside the Tower of London," remarked Krystyna,
adding, “The ones that guard the crown jewels.”
         "A beefeater," responded Jermain.
         “Probably guarding the Hotel jewels," joked Ms Kurowska, quietly. “The ones belonging to
the guests," she added, stepping down from the coach and approaching the entrance while a young
porter collected their luggage.
         Inside they met a man wearing a black suit and red bow tie and a beaming smile. He ushered
them into a nearby room containing brown leather armchairs and sofas. Krystyna sat down beside
her mom and Jermain. Lord and Lady Hawthorne and their daughter sat a short distance away. The
man introduced himself as 'Philippe, the Hotel Manager.’ He welcomed them to the Royal Hotel and
mentioned some of the facilities, including a hairdresser's, which made Ms Kurowska smile.
         He ushered them to the foyer. There they collected keys and waited for the young porter to
escort them to their suites. Jermain, Ms Kurowska and Krystyna had Suite 27 on the second floor. It
had brown leather armchairs like those on the ground floor. There was a balcony overlooking the
Champs Elysees.
        After unpacking their clothes and putting them tidily into bedroom wardrobes they went
down to the dining room. At the centre was a circular banquette from which they selected a starter.
Krystyna selected half a melon filled with strawberries. Her mom had half a melon filled with
raspberries. Jermain started with a baked pear. For their main meal afterwards the waiter handed
them ‘The Royal Menu.’ Krystyna selected some boeuf bourguignonne, a sort of beef casserole
cooked in wine. Her mom had some chicken in wine. Jermain had some porc a la creme, which
contained pork and mushrooms cooked in a sherry flavoured cream. For dessert Krytyna felt
tempted by a picture of some chocolate crunch pie but remained too diet and weight conscious. Her
mom was likewise tempted and conscious. In the end they decided to get one between them.
Jermain without hesitation ordered some mandarin gateau.
        To wash it all down Krystyna tried some iced lemon tea. Her mom and Jermain both had a
French coffee, served in a wine glass and covered in cream. It contained brandy, which Krystyna
sniffed while having a taste. She could see a picture of the French coffee on the back of ‘The Royal
Menu.’


        Sightseeing in Paris

         The next day, Thursday they went up the Eiffel Tower. At the top they could see nothing but
cloud. The following day they went up the Arc de Triomphe, which was near their hotel. It was not as
high as the Eiffel Tower yet more scary. A low perimeter wall at the top seemed not high enough to
stop somebody tumbling over.
         "That's far enough!" warned her mother as Krystyna stood about a metre away from the
wall, looking over.
         They went to the Louvre on the Saturday and saw some famous works of art, including the
Mona Lisa, by Leonardo de Vinci, which was surprisingly small, persuading Krystyna to check,
         "Is that it?"
         On the Sunday they visited Napoleon's Tomb. It was a large oak tomb positioned in the
middle of a massive circular room.
         The next day they visited Notre Dame, the main Cathedral in Paris. Jermain used the new
telephoto zoom lens on his camera to take some close up photographs of the stained glass windows.
He intended showing them to pupils during History lessons at West Ham school. After taking the
photographs he led Krystyna and her mom in circles up the tower to the belfry at the top. An
enormous bell was there.
         "This is where the Hunchback lived," he reminded.
         Krystyna could remember a film where the Hunchback of Notre Dame swung down on a
rope from the top of the tower to rescue a gypsy girl from an angry crowd. She glanced down at the
ground far below and wondered how he had managed it.
         She was enjoying sightseeing in Paris.


        A guest at the hotel

         On the Tuesday, the day before they were due to fly back home the hotel was organising a
trip to the Palace of Versailles. There was a brochure advertising it on the breakfast table. Krystyna
read the brochure while helping herself to some banana bread. While reading and eating she
glanced out of the window, which was the other side of the dining room. She wanted to see what
the weather was going to be like for the trip. In front of the window sat a woman whose face looked
familiar even though she was wearing sunglasses. The face was thin. The hair was dark. The woman
reached for a jug of milk upon the table. Upon her wrist was a watch with a small white face and a
slim black strap like Sunita’s.
        It was the Sunita lookalike, now a guest at the hotel.


        Companionship

         After breakfast she was on the coach due to go to the Palace of Versailles; seated at the
front talking in French to the driver as Krystyna boarded with her mom and Jermain. Shortly
afterwards Lord and Lady Hawthorne boarded with their daughter, who was wearing a blue blouse
and white trousers. Krystyna could remember her hoping to visit the Palace of Versailles. The
journey through Paris took about forty minutes. During it the Sunita lookalike kept talking to the
coach driver, who didn’t seem to concentrate on the driving.
         The Palace of Versailles was massive. Visiting its gardens exhausted Krystyna. She was glad
to sit down at a table in one of the gardens and have a rest as well as something to eat. While there
she noticed Lord and Lady Hawthorne and their daughter standing near a pool, feeding ducks. Soon
afterwards they left the pool and approached the tables.
         "A large palace," remarked Lady Hawthorne, in a distinct accent to Krystyna's mom, who
replied,
         "Very."
         "You need more than a day to see it all," stated Lady Hawthorne.
         "A week at least," agreed Krystyna's mom.
         "You have to choose which parts to see,” stated Lady Hawthorne.
         "I want to see the Hall of Mirrors," stated her daughter, in the same accent.
         “It’s near here,” appreciated Krystyna, scanning a map of the site on a leaflet purchased at
the entrance. "Beside the War Salon," she added.
         “That’s by the cafeteria,” appreciated Jermain.
         “I want a rest,” stated Lady Hawthorne, sitting down at the nearby table. “And maybe a cup
of tea,” she added, appreciating the location of the cafeteria nearby.
         “Have you seen the Hall of Mirrors?” wondered her daughter, addressing Krystyna, who
shook her head and replied,
         “Not yet. I want to see it,” she added, glancing at her mom, who suggested,
         “Why don’t you go now?”
         “Both of you,” suggested Lady Hawthorne.
         “While we have a rest,” added her husband.
         That was agreed upon. Krystyna and young Lady Hawthorne walked across to the Hall of
Mirrors nearby.
         “I’ve been to a hall of mirrors before,” informed young Lady Hawthorne on the way.
         “Where?” wondered Krystyna.
         “Alton Towers,” informed young Lady Hawthorne.
         They enjoyed the Hall of Mirrors. When not laughing at the funny shapes in the mirrors they
swapped tales of sightseeing. Each had a similar tale to tell. Each had seen similar sights. Each had a
regret about not being able to talk to somebody their own age.
         Each had missed companionship.


        Enjoying their selves

         "A pity it's taken till now to meet," regretted young Lady Hawthorne on the way back to the
tables near the cafeteria.
         "The last day," appreciated Krystyna.
         "Why don't we spend the rest of it together," suggested young Lady Hawthorne, upon arrival
at the table, where sat parents enjoying refreshment.
         “I’m not sure what we’re doing,” replied Krystyna. “What are you doing?”
         “I don’t know,” replied young Lady Hawthorne before turning to her mother and requesting,
“Can I spend the rest of the day with ………”
         “Krystyna,” informed a voice nearby.
         “Mine’s Michelle,” replied the daughter.
         “Krystyna may be doing something,” stated her mother.
         “Michelle is welcome to join us,” assured Krystyna’s mother to the delight of the newfound
companions, who continued to enjoy each other’s company for the rest of the afternoon at the
Palace of Versailles.
         They sat beside each other on the coach back to the hotel. Krystyna pointed out an ongoing
conversation between the Sunita lookalike and the young coach driver.
         Having spent much of the afternoon walking the adults wanted a restful evening and settled
for a leisurely boat trip along the Seine, observing from a different angle sights already seen during
the week. Krystyna and Michelle sat together on the upper deck in front of the adults and relaxed
amidst the warm open air while eyeing the passing scenes along either side of the riverbank. There
were famous ones like the Eiffel Tower and the Cathedral at Notre Dame. Krystyna and Michelle
with the help of a specially provided route map tried to identify other less well known sights.
Sometimes they asked the adults for assistance.
         Afterwards they returned to the hotel. The adults wanted to go to the hotel bar for a drink
but didn't know what to do about Krystyna and Michelle, who were too young.
         "We can go back to our suite," suggested Michelle.
         "Or ours," suggested Krystyna, alternatively.
         That was agreed upon. The adults handed over keys to the children.
         "You can watch television for a while," suggested Ms Kurowska.
         "We shan't be late," promised Lady Hawthorne.
         "We'll be alright," assured Michelle before asking,
         "Can we take a bottle of Coke back with us?"
         That was agreed upon. The two girls accompanied the adults into the bar, where Jermain
ordered the bottle of Coke for them at the same time as a round of drinks for the adults. While
waiting for it to be served Krystyna looked around and noticed the Sunita lookalike and the young
coach driver sitting at a table in the far corner. They both had a glass in their hand and seemed to be
enjoying their selves.


        Heirlooms

        With the bottle of Coke the girls went to Suite 27 on the second floor. On the way Krystyna
checked,
        "Did you see them?"
        "Who?" replied Michelle.
        Krystyna told her about the latest sighting of the Sunita lookalike. Upon reaching the suite
they sat out on the balcony overlooking the Champs Elysees. They could see the Arc de Triomphe.
        "Our view’s the same," informed Michelle, before asking,
        "Where did you get your T-shirt?"
        "’Next’ in Ilford," answered Krystyna.
        "I like it," stated Michelle, pleasing Krystyna, who took pride in her T-shirts despite
discouragement from her mom, who wanted her to dress more smartly.
        "Did you get your leggings there?" wondered Michelle.
        "’River Island’ in Ilford."
        "Do you live in Ilford?"
        "East Ham, nearby."
        "Is ‘Eastenders’ from there?”
        “Near there.”
        “Do you watch ‘Eastenders’?”
        “Sometimes.”
        “My mom always watches it.”
        “Mine does sometimes.”
        “I’d like to go there.”
        “Maybe you could visit us,” suggested Krystyna.
        “I’d like that,” replied Michelle.
        “Where do you live?” wondered Krystyna.
        “Chalfont St Giles.”
        “Where’s that?”
        “Buckinghamshire.”
        “What’s it like?”
        “It’s an old village, near the Chilterns.”
        “They’re hills,” appreciated Krystyna, taking a sip of Coke.
        “We haven’t got a ‘Next’ in Chalfont St Giles,” mentioned Michelle, looking again at
Krystyna’s T-shirt. “The nearest one is in Aylesbury. I will go there,” she determined.
        Krystyna showed her other T-shirts. Michelle especially liked one containing a badger’s head
on the front.
        “Can I try it on?” she requested.
        Krystyna agreed. The T-shirt fitted Michelle even though she was a bit shorter than Krystyna.
She was reluctant to take it off again.
        They went up to the top floor to where Michelle was staying. There was a balcony with
nearly the same view of the Champs Elysee, including the Arc de Triomphe. Michelle showed some
of her clothes, including a brown dress with short sleeves and laced cuffs. While Krystyna felt the
velvet material Michelle approached a dressing table and bent down towards the bottom drawer, in
the process revealing a silver bracelet that had slipped down her wrist.
        “I like your bracelet,” admired Krystyna, attracted by flower and heart shapes upon it.
        "Do you?" responded Michelle, slightly surprised.
        "Yes," affirmed Krystyna. "It looks elegant."
        Michelle looked anew at the bracelet.
        “Is it valuable?” wondered Krystyna, still attracted to the design.
        "Not very," replied Michelle.
        “Is it not real silver?”
        “It is real silver but not very valuable. We have more valuable jewellry in here,” stated
Michelle, opening the top drawer in the dressing table and extracting a small ornate wooden box.
        Inside were a necklace, some rings, a couple of broaches and a pair of ear rings, whose slim
green stones caught the eye of Krystyna, who wondered,
        "Which is the most valuable?"
        "Probably this," supposed Michelle, lifting the necklace and handing it to Krystyna, who
examined carefully what looked like diamonds.
        She held it around her neck.
        “Goes well with your T-shirt,” stated Michelle, laughing.
        “I would be frightened to wear this in case it got lost or stolen” admitted Krystyna, still
holding and admiring the necklace.
        “That would upset Mother,” admitted Michelle.
        “Is it worth a lot of money?” asked Krystyna.
        “It’s not so much the money,” replied Michelle before explaining, “Most of our jewellry has
been handed down down to us from my grandparents and great grandparents.”
        “Family jewels,” appreciated Krystyna.
        Michelle nodded her head and affirmed,
        “Heirlooms.”


        Nobody laughed

         Next morning Krystyna and Michelle sat together at breakfast. Krystyna's mom and Jermain
plus Lord and Lady Hawthorne were at the table. Addresses were swopped along with promises to
visit one another. Krystyna looked forward to renewing a newfound companionship.
         After breakfast while packing her suitcase she asked,
         “Do we have any wrapping paper?”
         “Why?” replied her mother.
         "I want to give Michelle a present when we leave."
         "Do you have one?"
         Krystyna held it up.
         Her mom laughed and wondered,
         "Will she like it?"
         "Yes," assured Krystyna.
         “There’s a souvenir shop a couple of doors up. They probably sell it,” stated her mother.
“But it’s probably expensive there,” she warned.
         “I’ll go and get some,” decided Krystyna.
         About twenty minutes later she wrapped up the present for Michelle and intended handing
it to her at Gatwick Aiport before parting company. She had become fond of Michelle and hoped
their promise to visit one another would be kept.
         Just before eleven a young hotel porter arrived to carry their cases down to the foyer. They
followed the porter and handed in their key at the reception. Phillipe, the Hotel Manager bid
farewell to them and other guests, including Lord and Lady Hawthorne and Michelle. The young
porter pushed a large trolley full of luggage outside the front of the hotel. He loaded the luggage
into the side of a coach then looked around for the driver, who was nowhere to be seen. The
departing passengers boarded the coach. Again the Sunita lookalike was already on board at the
front.
         Eventually the driver arrived. It wasn’t the same one that had driven from the airport and
taken them on the trip to the Palace of Versailles. This one was shorter and had thick almost black
hair and a beard and moustache. He wore sunglasses and a cap.
         He drove off and concentrated more than the one on the trip to Versailles had done. There
was no conversation with the Sunita lookalike. Silently and carefully he drove through Paris towards
the airport.
         Krystyna sat next to Michelle, reminiscing on the past week and looking forward to
exchanged visits. They agreed that it had been a good holiday in the end, thanks to newfound
companionship.
         "I've got you a present," informed Michelle. "You'll like it,” she predicted. “I'll give it you at
Gatwick."
         "I’ve got one for you,” replied Krystyna, laughing at the coincidence as the coach departed
from the main road onto one that was more narrow and winding.
         Soon there were grass banks that restricted the view. Shortly afterwards they turned into a
carpark of a picnic area with about half a dozen wooden tables and benches. There the coach
stopped and the driver got out of his seat. He had a gun in his hand!
         The Sunita lookalike stood behind her seat. She too had a gun in her hand!
         She began speaking quietly and calmly.
         “I want you to sit still and listen carefully,” she said in a French accent.
         Everybody was already sitting still. The detour from the main road had surprised them and
they had been waiting for an explanation. They remained still as instructed as the Sunita lookalike
continued calmly, saying,
         "Providing you all do as I ask there is no reason why anybody should get hurt."
         Krystyna glanced behind at her mom, who sat still and motioned to her to do likewise as the
Sunita lookalike stated,
         "In a minute you will leave the coach one at a time. You will leave everything behind. I don’t
want to see any bags or wallets or purses being taken. If you are wearing jewellery or a watch please
leave it on your seat."
         Just in front Krystyna noticed a lady glance at a gold watch on her wrist as the Sunita
lookalike added,
         "I don’t want to see anyone wearing a jacket. Please leave it on the seat.”
         Lord Hawthorne was wearing a jacket. He frowned as the Sunita lookalike added,
         “After leaving the coach please walk to the tables and sit down.”
         “Which tables?” checked Lord Hawthorne.
         “The picnic tables over there,” indicated the Sunita lookalike. “You can have a picnic,” she
jested.
         Nobody laughed.


        An unpleasant picnic

        She nodded to the driver, who opened the passenger door.
        "Don’t take anything with you," reminded the Sunita lookalike before nodding to a couple of
ladies on the seat immediately in front of her.
        Leaving everything behind the two ladies stood up and got off the coach onto the carpark
and then walked over to the picnic tables and sat down.
        The Sunita lookalike nodded to the front couple, a man and a woman seated the other side.
They stood up and got off the coach and walked over to the picnic tables and sat down.
        Next it was a young boy and his father, who left a jacket against the back of the seat.
Eventually it was the turn of Krystyna and Michelle, who left behind a watch. Krystyna left nothing
valuable on the seat but could visualise her clothes, including favourite T-shirts disappearing. Along
with Michelle she walked over to the picnic tables and sat down. Her mom and Jermain followed.
Then came Lord and Lady Hawthorne. Soon after that all the passengers were seated at the tables.
        Then the driver got back in his seat and drove off.
        Everybody remained quietly seated as if stuck to the picnic tables until Lord Hawthorne
remarked,
        "An unpleasant picnic."


        Back to the hotel

         The remark helped them recover their wits. Realization of what had happened sunk in. One
woman started crying. After a brief discussion it was discovered that one of them had a mobile
phone in his trouser pocket. It was decided to phone the hotel. The man spoke to the Manager,
Phillippe. Not long after that a police car swung into the nearby carpark. Two uniformed officers,
one of them a woman got out and approached. The woman officer informed that a coach was on its
way to take them back to the hotel, where statements would be taken. Arrangements would then be
made for them to leave or stay longer, depending upon their wishes.
         Soon after that a coach arrived. It was like the one they'd just travelled on. They went back
to the hotel.
        The driver

         Philippe greeted them with an apology, saying it was the worse day in the hotel’s history. As
Hotel Manager he felt responsible and would do all in his power to make amends. Everyone was
welcome to return to their same rooms for as long as they wished to sort out their sorry state of
affairs, he told them. New guests would be relocated.
         He then introduced Captaine Leroy, a grey suited gentleman seated in front of the window.
Captaine Leroy stood up and in a French accent yet clear English reaffirmed what the woman officer
had said earlier about statements being taken as soon as possible. After that everyone would be free
to leave. He gave an update on what had been discovered thus far about the case. The driver was
not employed by the hotel. Somehow he had replaced the intended driver, whose whereabouts
were unknown. The Captaine believed it to be a professional operation. Careful planning and calm
conduct were evident.
         Statements were then taken in their hotel suites. Lieutenant Durand, the woman officer
seen earlier at the picnic site took one from Krystyna, her mom and Jermain in Suite 27. After taking
the statement she asked them not to leave until the Captaine had looked at it.
         About half an hour late the Captaine arrived at Suite 27. He sat down opposite Krystyna and
checked her statement, particularly the part about the woman and young driver drinking in the hotel
bar the previous evening.
         "Where were they seated?" he asked.
         "The far corner," answered Krystyyna.
         The Captaine phoned somebody and spoke in French. Soon after that his phone rang. He
answered it then informed,
         "The barman confirms they were there till after midnight. Yesterday morning was the first
time you saw the woman in the hotel?" he checked, addressing Krystyna, who confirmed,
         “At breakfast.”
         The Captaine made another phone call. Philippe then arrived with the hotel register and
showed part to the Captaine, who informed,
         “Two women booked in separately the day before yesterday. Neither of them have yet
booked out. Would you recognise the young lady?" he asked Krystyna, who replied,
         "She looks like my friend."
         The Captaine asked Ms Kurowska for permission for her daughter to accompany him and
some police officers to the two rooms to see if she recognised either of the inhabitants.
         Ms Kurowska hesitated.
         “You can come as well,” added the Captaine.
         “Will it be safe?” checked Ms Kurowska.
         “My officers will enter first to make sure it is safe,” assured the Captaine, persuading Ms
Kurowska to agree.
         She accompanied her daugther and the Captaine and four police officers to Suite 34 on the
next floor. The police officers rang the doorbell. An elderly lady opened the door. After a brief
conversation in French the officers entered the suite.
         “She seems too old,” remarked the Captaine to Krystyna, who replied,
         “That’s not her.”
         Shortly afterwards they continued onto the next floor to suite 45 and rang the bell. Nobody
answered. The Captaine spoke to Phillipe, who departed and a few minutes later returned with a
key to open the door. They entered and found the driver.


        Disappointment.
        He was lying unconscious on the bed; having been drugged. The Captaine made a couple of
phone calls in French. Then they went to Philippe's office on the ground floor. There the Captaine
asked Krystyna some more questions about the initial sighting of the Sunita lookalike and the man
with red hair on the nearby coach the day of their arrival. About the man he asked,
        "Could it have been the driver this morning?"
        "The one at the airport had red hair,” considered Krystyna. “And didn’t have sunglasses,”
she added.
        “Was he about the same size?” wondered the Captaine.
        “It is difficult to tell because I only saw him sitting down,” replied Krystyna.
        “Is there anything particular you remember about him?” wondered the Captaine.
        Krystyna thought for a moment then remembered,
        “He had a key ring with two red lips like those advertising a night club. The one in Jermain’s
guidebook,” she added, glancing at her mom.
        “The Crazy Horse,” realised the Captaine. “That’s interesting,” he commented. “Would you
recognise him again?” he wondered.
        “I think so,” replied Krystyna.
        The Captaine smiled then wondered,
        “Would you recognise the coach?”
        "I only looked at the inside,” replied Krystyna.
        "Would you recognise that?"
        "The seats possibly," answered Krystyna, adding, "They're greenish like the ones in my
mom's car"
        "Would you be willing to have a look at the airport with us?" asked the Captaine. “It may be
a coach that often goes there,” he explained to her mother. “You could come along as well,” he
added.
        “I would like to tell Jermain first,” replied Ms Kurowska.
        They went to the lounge, where sat Jermain with Lord and Lady Hawthorne and Michelle. As
Ms Kurowska explained what was happening the interest shown on Michelle's face prompted
Krystyna to glance at the Captaine then Lady Hawthorne before asking,
        "Could she come with us?"
        “If the Captaine doesn't mind,” replied Lady Hawthorne.
        "If she wishes," agreed the Captaine, prompting Michelle to stand ready to accompany
them.
        They left the hotel and got in a police car to the airport. They entered the coach park. Row
upon row of coaches were parked there.
        "May as well start this end," decided the Captaine as the large police car drove through the
coachpark towards the terminal and parked in a space marked with yellow lines.
        They got out and approached the nearest coach, a large modern one. Krystyna knew it
wasn’t the one before looking inside.
        “No,” she informed, shaking her head.
        They approached the next coach, then the next. They continued approaching each coach in
turn and looking inside through the front window. Most were empty. At others the people inside
looked back at them, wondering what was happening. Almost at the other end of the coach park
they came across a white one with ‘Tours de Paris’ painted in yelllow on the side. After reaching the
front and looking through the window Krysyna stepped closer and nodded her head, saying,
        “This could be it.”
        “The seats are nearly the same colour as the ones in my car,” agreed her mom.
        It was empty. The Captaine walked round to the back and made a phone call in French. Then
he then led them back to the police car. On the way he informed,
        “I’ve arranged for somebody to watch the coach then follow it if the driver comes.”
         As they were getting into the police car the Captaine received a phone call.
         “We have an address of a 'Tours de Paris' driver who fits the description you gave,” he
informed shortly afterwards. “Apparently this driver only started working for ‘Tours de Paris’ a
couple of months ago and left the day before yesterday, which is suspicious. Rue d’Ebdell,” he
instructed the driver, who nodded his head then drove in the direction given, slowing down after
about twenty minutes and looking closely at a street sign.
         "Rue de Sibree," read Krystyna.
         “Rue d’Ebdell,” then spotted Michelle, as the car turned into another street.
         "Quarante neuf," stated the Captaine, after the police car driver had looked at a number on
a nearby building, prompting him to continue slowly along the street.
         "Forty nine," noticed Michelle, on the door of a three storeyed building nearby.
         They stopped and waited until another police car arrived. Officers got out of it. The Captaine
went with the officers to the door of the building and rang the bell. An elderly lady answered and
after a conversation with the Captaine invited them in.
         They were in there about half an hour. Afterwards the Captaine came back to the police car
and informed with a sigh,
         “Just too late. The coach driver left yesterday after paying his rent.”.
         The police car driver dropped them back at the hotel. Jermain and Lord and Lady Hawthorne
were sitting in the bar, drinking brandy.
         "Drowning our sorrows," remarked Lady Hawthorne to Ms Kurowska, who told them what
had happened with the police.
         "A pity," remarked Lord Hawthorne, upon hearing about being just too late to catch the
coach driver.
         Lady Hawthorne told Ms Kurowska about the jewellery lost in the robbery. Ms Kurowska
mentioned in reply her best clothes.
         The holiday seemed about to end in disappointment.


        The Crazy Horse night club

        Lord Hawthorne mentioned that he and his wife and daughter intended returning home on
the Saturday, three days time. There were engagements he didn’t want to miss.
        “A sorry end to the holiday,” he predicted gloomily.
        The adults stayed in the bar. The girls went for a walk along the the Avenue des Champs
Elysees, which had been described by Jermaine’s brochure ‘Fun in Paris’ as the most beautiful street
in the world. They looked at fashionable clothes in shop windows and talked about the robbery then
school in East Ham and Chalfont St Giles. They returned to the hotel in time for an evening meal.
Nobody felt very hungry. The robbery had taken away their appetite. Even ‘The Royal Menu’ failed
to rouse them. Kystyna ordered some tomato soup followed by a chicken and vegetable stir fry. The
tomato soup was however quite tasty and reminded her that she hadn’t eaten much since breakfast.
It made her look forward to the arrival of the stir fry. While waiting she noticed out the corner of her
eye the Captaine enter the hotel restaurant. He approached their table and asked,
        "Do you mind if I join you?"
        "Not at all. Please take a seat, " invited Lady Hawthorne. "Have you managed to track down
our bogus coach driver?”
        “I have tracked down the name used to rent the apartment in Rue d’Ebdell and get a job
with ‘Tours de Paris,’” replied the Captaine; sitting down. “He used the name and driving licence of a
coach driver who has died recently.”
        “How did he manage that?” wondered Lord Hawthorne.
        “Quite easily it seems,” replied the Captaine, adding, “As easily as he managed to rob you
and other hotel guests this morning. He telephoned the licensing office and told them the licence
was lost then asked for a replacement to be sent to his new address, the one we went to this
morning."
         “You found that out quickly" remarked Ms Kurowska, prompting the Captaine to inform,
         "When we checked the name and number with the licensing office they told us about the
recent replacement then gave us the previous address and telephone number. We checked that and
spoke to the widow of the recently dead coach driver. Our friend must have found out that the
coach driver had died and got a copy of his licence.”
         "Maybe for today's robbery," guessed Lady Hawthorne.
         "Maybe," agreed the Captaine.
         "In that case would it not have been better for him to get a job here rather than at ‘Tours de
Paris?" wondered Ms Kurowska.
         "He applied for a job here," informed the Captaine.
         "Really!” responded Lord Hawthorne.
          "He's on the waiting list."
         "What a nerve!" exclaimed Lord Hawthorne."
         “He didn’t wait," appreciated Lady Hawthorne.
         "A carefully planned robbery," commented Ms Kurowska.
         "Which gives us little chance of catching him," added Lord Hawthorne.
         "That might have been the case had it not been for this young lady,” replied the Captaine,
looking at Krystyna while adding, "I’ve come to see if we can make more use of her observations. I
have spoken to the Manager of The Crazy Horse night club and mentioned the key ring. He told me
the key rings were handed out only last Friday evening to members who attend regularly, in some
cases as often as once a week. With this being Friday evening there is a chance he might attend
again tonight. So we need somebody to recognise him,” he explained, glancing at Krystyna,
prompting her mother to check,
         “Is she not too young?”
         “Legally,” admitted the Captaine.
         “Does she not look too young?” wondered Ms Kurowska.
         “The way she looks now,” admitted the Captaine, before suggesting, “But dressed differently
and with some make up she could look older.
         “Our clothes and make up have been stolen,” reminded Ms Kurowska.
         “We can get you some,” assured the Captaine.
         Ms Kurowska raised her eyes.
         "Would we all go?" wondered Lord Hawthorne.
         “If you wish to make a crowd and keep her less conspicuous,” considered the Captaine.
“Apart from your daughter, who would look too young even with make up and different clothes, “ he
added to the disappointment of Michelle, who sighed.
         “In that case I will stay with her,” decided Lady Hawthorne. “It might not end till late and I
wouldn’t want to leave her on her own.”
         The Captaine nodded his head.
         “You will be there,” assumed Lord Hawthorne, addressing the Captaine, who affirmed,
         “With some plain clothed officers in the background.”
         "When would you want us go?" wondered Ms Kurowska.
         “As soon as possible,” replied the Captaine. “He might arrive anytime. We can get you
suitably dressed and made up on the way. And we can order you something to eat at the night club,”
he suggested, looking at the unfinished meal upon the table.
         Soon afterwards they left Michelle and her mother at the table. Outside the hotel they got
into a car, which had no police lights or markings. The Captaine introduced Lieutenant Morel, a plain
clothed police officer driving it. The Lieutenant took them first to ‘Au Printemps,’ a fashionable
department store in the centre of Paris. There the Captaine spoke to the Manager, who instructed
four assistants to help them choose suitable clothes and make up. A few minutes later Krystyna was
wearing a pair of white trousers and a bluish silk top. The trousers had wide legs. The top had white
patterns. She looked again in a full length mirror nearby and noticed also her glasses. When older
she intended wearing contact lenses like her mom, who presently looked elegant in a long black
dress with only one shoulder strap. Jermaine had on a red rugby shirt and grey trousers. Lord
Hawthorne was also wearing grey trousers but darker and with an open necked white shirt and a
silver coloured jacket. He looked smart.
         They departed from the fashionable department store and got back inside the unmarked
police car, whereupon Lieutenant Morel drove them a short distance to Avenue George V, location
of The Crazy Horse night club.


        Here already

         A poster containing the emblem, the two bright red lips was beside the entrance. The
Lieutenant drove past it to the car park. The Captaine made a phonecall before they walked back to
the entrance, where the Manager of the night club was waiting for them. The Manager escorted
them inside and spoke to a young receptionist before leading the way through double doors to a
nearby table. It was dark except for a light upon a stage, where four dancers, two male and two
female were performing with hardly any clothes on. There was a menu upon the table. When a
waiter approached the table they ordered food and drink. The Captaine suggested to Krystyna that
she order a glass of non alcoholic white wine to make her look older.
         The drinks arrived almost immediately. While they were waiting for the food to arrive the
receptionist brought in a register, which discretely the Captaine opened and placed upon Krystyna’s
lap. It had passport sized photographs of the club members. He asked her to see if she recognised
any of them. Krystyna looked down at the small photographs and realised it was a good job she had
on her glasses. Discretely she turned over the pages until coming across a photograph of a man with
red hair but also glasses.
         She continued looking at the photograph then stated,
         “This looks like him. But he’s got glasses here,” she mentioned doubtfully to the Captaine,
who replied,
         "He could have worn them especially for this photograph."
         Krystyna noticed the name. It was Monsieur Jerome Guerard. She read underneath an
address: '17 Rue de Comte.'
         “That isn't the street we went to this afternoon,” she recalled.
         "It shouldn't be, " replied the Captaine, adding, "if it's the man we're after. He had only been
there a couple of months. We're hoping to find his previous and real address in here.”
         Krystyna nodded her head.
         “We'll check this address," decided the Captaine, taking the register from Krystyna's lap.
         He made a phonecall then sipped a glass of wine.
         Krystyna sipped her non alcoholic wine.
         “We’ll ask the receptionist to alert us if he comes,” decided the Captain, before making a
brief phonecall then informing,
         "He's here already."


        A shock

        Krystyna glanced at her mother as the Captaine made another phonecall.
        “In a few minutes we'll walk around and look for him," he then informed Krystyna. "We’ll
carry our drink and pretend to be returning to our seats. I'll lead the way. You follow. If you see him,
let me know by gently tugging my arm,” he suggested.
         Krystyna felt embarassed while nodding her head.
         “What will you do then?” wondered Jermain, addressing the Captaine, who replied,
         “I will show him my police identity card and ask him to accompany me outside. Then we will
take him to the police department for questioning.”
         “What if he refuses to accompany you?” wondered Lord Hawthorne, after sipping a glass of
brandy.
         “Then I’ll arrest him,” replied the Captaine.
         Krystyna glanced at Jermain before taking another sip of non alcoholic wine. She replaced
the glass upon the table then glanced again at her mother, who checked,
         “Will she be safe?”
         “I will make sure she’s safe before doing anything,” replied the Captaine, after nodding his
head.
         Soon afterwards he received a phonecall.
         “Let’s go,” he then requested, addressing Krytyna, who picked up her glass of non alchoholic
wine from the table and stood up ready to accompany him around the floor of the night club,
looking for the suspect.
         "Just follow me. Don't worry about where you're going. Look at the customers but without
letting them know if possible. Then gently tug my arm when you see him,” he advised before setting
off on a slow walk around the dark floor of the night club.
         The only light was from the stage, where three female dancers were performing with hardly
any clothes. The floor was also crowded, making it difficult to keep an eye on customers without
bumping into chairs or tables or other people walking. Krystyna did her best to glance at as many
faces as possible while following the Captaine towards the stage then around to the side and then
back towards the bar. The customers were watching the dance or talking so didn’t notice her looking
at them until she tried to squeeze past a couple seated close together and accidently knocked one of
the chairs, prompting a man to turn and raise his head towards her.
         It gave her a shock.


        A smile

       It was him!
       He was seated beside the Sunita lookalike!
       Krystyna tried to stay calm.
       "Excuse me please," she asked as politely as possible.
       He moved his chair to let her past.
       Upon squeezing past him she looked ahead for the Captaine but couldn’t see him at first
because he had carried on walking, not aware of her having stopped. He had almost reached the bar
and was turning round, looking back for her.
       Upon seeing him turn round she approached.
       “You’ve seen him,” he guessed.
       “And the woman who looks like my friend,” affirmed Krystyna.
       The Captaine smiled.
       “Where?” he checked.
       Krystyna looked back and could see the couple deep in conversation.
       “There,” she indicated.
       The Captaine nodded his head then instructed,
       “Go back to your table.”
       Krystyna walked back to her mom, Jermaine and Lord Hawthorne, who checked,
       “You found him?”
       “And the woman,” affirmed Krystyna, sitting down beside her mom.
         From there she could see the Captaine standing near the bar. He had been waiting for her
return to the table. Upon seeing her sit down he approached the stage and the couple, seated in
conversation. He took out an identity card and showed it them. They stood up and began
accompanying him towards the entrance, where sat Krystyna with her mom, Jermain and Lord
Hawthorne.
         Then all of a sudden the man began running towards the entrance, on the way bumping into
a table and spilling the drinks, causing somebody to scream!
         The Captaine did not chase. It seemed the suspect was getting away.
         Upon reaching the entrance he pulled open a double door but then stopped.
         The music and dancing also stopped.
         Lights came on.
         At the double door stood two plain clothed officers. They looked tall and heavy.
         The man turned and ran the other way, bumping into another table and spilling the drinks
also there. Again the Captaine didn’t chase him. People on the floor moved out of his way. He was
heading towards a door beside the stage. Upon pushing it open however he stopped again.
         Krystyna couldn’t see the reason for him stopping but guessed there were plain clothed
officers standing the other side of the door. She watched him turn and look back towards the
entrance. He looked at the Captaine, who approached and arrested him.
         The Captaine escorted him to the Sunita lookalike, who had stood waiting in the middle of
the floor. He then escorted them both out of the night club.
         Shortly afterwards he came back inside to the table, where sat Krytyna, her mom, Jermain
and Lord Hawthorne.
          “There is a car waiting to take you back to your hotel,” he stated with a smile.


        Ma jeune assistant

         At about eleven o’clock the next morning they went down to the foyer of the hotel. They
had no luggage with them even though all of it had been found at the address of the driver,
discovered in the register of the night club the previous evening. The police were still checking it for
finger prints and DNA evidence. When the police were finished it would be sent to them. That meant
Krystyna and Michelle would have to wait for the presents each had bought for the other.
         “I’ll bring it when we visit you,” promised Michelle, while waiting in the foyer for the coach
to take them to the airport. “You’ll like it,” she predicted again.
         “You’ll like yours,” replied Krystyna, who was looking forward to the visit.
         She was also looking forward to visiting Michelle in Chalfont St Giles. She had hopes for the
newfound companionship.
         Soon afterwards she walked with Michelle to the coach. It looked the same as the one that
had taken them to the picnic site instead of the airport on Wednesday. But that one was now in the
hands of the French police, who wanted to check it for fingerprints and DNA evidence.
         It was also a different driver; the one who had taken them to the picnic site on Wednesday
now in a police cell awaiting trial. So was the Sunita lookalike. The driver who had brought them to
the hotel from the airport a week last Wednesday; the one who had also taken them to the Palace of
Versailles was now in a Paris hospital recovering from the drug overdose, probably received from the
Sunita lookalike.
         The new driver sat waiting for them to board. This time there were less passengers; a few
having already gone home, unable to wait. Phillipe, the Hotel Manager had telephoned them this
morning to give the good news about their luggage being recovered. He was presently standing by
the coach, bidding farewell and apologising for the trouble as the passengers boarded. Captaine
Leroy was standing beside him. The Captaine shook hands with Lord and Lady Hawthorne and
Michelle before they boarded. He shook hands with Ms Kurowska and Jermaine as they approached
to board. While shaking hands with Krystyna he stated,
        “Ma jeune assistant.”

        (8,405 words)




                                      Krystyna invesitgates a stolen bike



        She couldn't believe it!

       She looked around. There was no sign of it.
       She'd only been in twenty seconds. A ‘Hello’ and a ‘What’s on TV’ for her mom and a ‘Top of
the Pops’ for herself she’d bought. Only one customer had been before her.
       When she came out it had gone.
       She couldn't believe it!


        She wanted it back

         She phoned her mom, who told her to come home.
         The next day when her mom got home from work they went up to the police station. Her
mom had a copy of the receipt. A lot of money it had cost. Less than three months she’d had it.
         A young policewoman copied down details. ‘A Muddy Fox Kudos with 21 gears and dual
suspension,’ she noted. ‘Cycle Asylum, 700 Romford Road,’ she added before appreciating,
         “That’s towards Ilford. Was it locked?” she checked.
         Krystyna shook her head. She could see a poster on the wall behind the policewoman. It had
a picture of somebody stealing a bike. Below the picture was a warning: ‘Lock it! - if you don't want
to lose it.'
         Normally she did lock it. There was a granite steel D lock attached to the frame. Everyday at
school she used the lock. Whenever attending the Leisure Centre she used it. Whenever attending
anywhere for any length of time she did.
         “I was only in there twenty seconds,” she replied.
         “That’s all it takes,” assured the policewoman.
         Krystyna looked at the poster on the wall and sighed.
         “What’s the chance of getting it back?” enquired her mom.
         “Unlikely,” replied the policewoman. “The third one this week,” she informed. “The other
two were from outside the library, where students from the nearby college study and leave their
bikes for lengthy periods. Thefts are common there.”
         “It is codemarked,” reminded Ms Kurowska.
         “That will help if we do get it back. At least we know who the owner is in this case,” replied
the policewoman.
         Krystyna returned home with her mom. On the way she kept thinking about the theft.
         That night she didn’t sleep. How to cope kept her awake. She’d have to walk to school or
take the bus or get a lift from her mom and Jermain. Anyway it would mean leaving earlier. She’d
have to walk to the leisure centre on Saturday morning unless Daksha let her borrow her bike. The
prospective inconvenience annoyed her. She was used to having a bike. Before the Muddy Fox it had
been a Raleigh Sprite. That had been part exchanged for the Muddy Fox.
        What also annoyed her was that she enjoyed cycling.
        The Olympics had wetted her appetite for competitive cycling. All those gold medals had
persuaded her and Sunita and Daksha to visit the new cycling centre at Hainault, where they had
raced and participated in some BMX coaching. At school she and Sunita had participated in a
competition to see who could design the best VeloPark. The one to be built nearby at Leyton for the
2012 London Olympics was to be the best in the world and they would be able to use it afterwards.
So there was a lot of cycling in prospect if only she had a bike.
        The theft continued to annoy her at breakfast the next morning. The policewoman hadn’t
offered much hope of getting it back.
        Krystyna sighed.
        She wanted it back.


        No noticeable progress

         She determined to get it back. How was the question. Her mind wondered over previous
cases. She was becoming an experienced young detective.
         With the stolen flowers she could remember keeping a check on the scene of the crime; so
would do the same in this case.
         With the school break in she had checked the internet and local papers and shop windows
for second hand computers for sale. She would do the same for the bike.
         She was determined to do as much as possible to get the bike back.
         Straight after school upon arriving home she logged onto the internet and entered, ‘second
hand bikes for sale, London’ and received a large number of replies from shops. She checked those
in east London but most didn’t give enough detail, persuading her to phone the shops. One had a
second hand Muddy Fox but it was a Medusa with 24 gears and no dual suspension. She added some
of the local sites to her list of favourites and decided to check them every week.
         The following day after school she went with Sunita to the local library, situated at the top of
High Street South, near the junction with the Barking Road. It was Thusday, the day the Newham
Recorder and the Stratford and Newham Express came out. There were some second hand bikes for
sale but no Muddy Fox. She decicided to check the local newspapers every week.
         From the library they crossed the road and walked up to the junction. A few metres along
the Barking Road was ‘Ikra News,’ the newsagent where her bike had been stolen. They examined
the scene of the crime. From outside the newsagent they could see into the distance in both
directions along the Barking Road, making Krystyna realise the thief must have turned at the nearby
junction, either into High Street North or High Street South. The latter seemed the more likely. It was
nearer. She had been in the newsagent merely twenty seconds by which time the thief had
disappeared with the bike.
         It seemed pointless keeping an eye on the scene of the crime in this case however because
there were no bikes in view waiting to be stolen. They could wait forever for another bike theft
there.
         “We could keep an eye on the library instead,” considered Krystyna, remembering, “The
policewoman said bike thefts were common there.”
         “How do we do that?” wondered Sunita as they returned towards the library.
         “From inside,” suggested Krystyna, looking up at the window to the reference section they
had just visited.
         From the window was a clear view of the racks outside where bikes were parked.
         “We stand looking out the window,” considered Sunita, doubtfully.
         “There are tables with seats beside the windows. We could do our homework there,”
proposed Krystyna.
         That seemed more reasonable to Sunita, who nodded her head before agreeing,
         “On the way home from school.”
         They began doing their homework at the library after school and continued checking weekly
the internet and local newspapers. On the internet the following week there were no second hand
Muddy Foxes for sale locally. Neither were there any in the local newspapers, after they had waited
for people to finish reading them in the reference library. While waiting Krystyna had glanced at a
copy of the Radio Times and noticed ‘Poirot’ was on television later that evening. She intended
watching it.
         The following week in the local newspapers there were two second hand Muddy Foxes for
sale. Both had 21 gears and dual suspension. She noted the phone numbers then outside the library
phoned them. Neither was a Kudos; they were both ‘Rifts’ and yellow in colour. The owners still had
receipts.
         In an attempt to make more progress with the investigation she decided to extend it to
include also adverts in shop windows as had been the case with the school break-in.
         “That would mean trapesing round Newham,” discouraged Sunita, when informed of the
intention.
         Krystyna nodded her head.
         “How would you manage that without your bike?” wondered Sunita.
         “Maybe Daksha would lend me hers?” posed Krystyna.
         "What do you want it for?" was the first question fired by the younger sister when Sunita
phoned home to make the request.
         Sunita explained the request.
         "How long will that take you?" was the next question.
         "We're not sure," replied Sunita, glancing at Krystyna.
         "Can't I come?" wondered Daksha, feeling peeved at being left out of the investigation.
         Sunita related the request to Krystyna, who suggested,
         “Tell her it will be every week.”
         The three of them decided to share the weekly task of trapesing round Newham and
surrounding districts, looking at adverts in newsagents’ windows. Sunita would cover the eastern
districts near where they lived, including Ilford, Barking, Becton as well as East Ham. Daksha would
cover the central districts of West Ham, Forest Gate and Manor Park. Krystyna would cover the
western districts of Stratford, Canning Town, Silvertown and Custom House while borrowing
Daksha’s bike.
         Week after week they did this; trapesing around Newham and the surrounding districts
checking newsagents’ shop windows for adverts. Week after week they continued checking the
internet and the local newspapers. Week after week they continued doing their homework in the
reference section of East Ham Library.
         There was however no noticable progress.


        A fruitless investigation.

         Nevertheless Krystyna in particular remained determined.
         “Unless you can think of a better way of getting my bike back,” she stated to her friends
while sitting doing their homework in the reference library, which was used mostly by students from
Newham College nearby. Those that had bikes left them locked in racks at the front of the library,
visible from the windows in the reference section. It wasn’t always possible to get a seat at a table
next to a window because sometimes students already occupied them.
        The following afternoon on the way home from school Daksha arrived at the library before
her elder sister and Krystyna and occupied a seat by the window in the reference section, affording a
view of the bicycle racks outside. Krystyna and Sunita arrived afterwards and sat at the same table
but not next to the window. Forgetting her position amongst other students revising for their exams
Daksha suddenly called out,
        "He's stealing the wheels!"
        Several of the students looked up in annoyance. Nevertheless Sunita approached the
window to see what was happening.
        "He's taking them inside," informed a girl seated opposite, realising the situation. "So they
don't get stolen."
        Sure enough the young man carried the wheels into the library.
        "The assistant keeps them for him behind the counter," informed the girl.
        "You get a lot of bike thefts here?" checked Krystyna, taking the opportunity to speak to the
student, who nodded her head.
        "We haven't seen any," mentioned Daksha. "For three months,” she added before Krystyna
could stop her.
        "You've been keeping a lookout," then realised the student.
        "Because her bike got stolen," replied Daksha, still not noticing Krystyna's glare.
        "From here?"
        "The newsagent's across the road," informed Krystyna, taking control of the conversation.
        "And you've been keeping a check on the bikes outside here to try and catch him," realised
the student.
        "For three months," repeated Daksha.
        "There was one stolen about six weeks ago," informed the student. "A friend of mine had
hers taken."
        "When?" wondered Krystyna.
        "A Friday about this time if I remember right."
        "We should have been here then," reckoned Krystyna.
        "Maybe you missed him. These bike thieves are quick."
        "Don't I know it!" replied Krystyna.
        "About twenty seconds was all it took for hers," informed Daksha.
        "It wasn't locked," admitted Krystyna.
        "Even when locked they sometimes get stolen," stated the student. "Some of these bike
thieves have special tools for snapping weaker chains."
        That evening Krystyna left the library depressed.
        She was fed up with not having a bike, which meant her having to leave earlier for school
every morning in order to get a lift from her mother and Jermain to the junction of High Stree South
and Central Park Road. It meant her having to borrow Daksha’s bike every Saturday morning to
attend gymnastics at the Newham Leisure Centre. The inconvenience irritated her.
        Also she was fed up with a lack of progress with the investigation. Three months they had
been keeping a lookout from East Ham Library and checking the internet and local newspapers and
trapesing around Newham. Spring had turned into summer. Not only had they made no progress but
according to the student they had missed something.
         It was proving a fruitless investigation.


        A betting slip

        She sighed upon thinking of nothing to improve it.
        Upon leaving the library in a depressed state with Sunita and Daksha she called into ‘Ikra
News,’ along the Barking road, just past the junction with High Street South to purchase a ‘Hello’ and
‘What’s on TV’ for her mom and a ‘Top of the Pops’ for herself as had been the case when her bike
got stolen. Upon returning past East Ham library she noticed a young man with suntanned skin and
bushy eyebrows bending down beside a bike attached to a rack. There was a yellow slip of paper
dangling from his back trouser pocket.
         “He’s got trainers like Ahmed,” noticed Daksha, loud enough for the young man to hear then
turn round and see them looking at him.
         He stood up from the bike and walked away however the yellow slip of paper had fallen out
of his back pocket and was lying on the path beside the bike. He continued walking up to the
Barking Road then turned left along it.
         The three girls approached the bike at the front of the library and notced the chain attaching
it to the rack was broken.
         “He was trying to steal it,” appreciated Daksha, belatedly.
         “Probably belongs to one of the student upstairs,” appreciated her elder sister. “I’ll go up
and warn them,” she volunteered.
         Sunita returned to the reference section and warned the students, who looked out of the
window. The bike belonged to the one who had taken part in the recent conversation. She came
down and thanked them for saving it.
         Meanwhile Krystyna had picked up the yellow slip of paper from the path beside the bike.
On it was written:

              TOP HAT     KEMPTON 2.30

                £5 E W.

        At the bottom was printed:        Ladbrokes
                                          146 Woodgrange Road
                                          Forest Gate
                                          London E7 OJT

        Krystyna knew it was a betting slip.


        Annoyed

         Jermain often gambled on horses at the weekend. Afterwards he would watch them on
television and moan if they lost.
         "I wonder if this horse won," she pondered. "If it has then our bike thief might return to the
betting shop to get his winnings."
         "Without the betting slip?" doubted Sunita.
         "This is just a copy," informed Krystyna. "The top part is kept at the betting shop. He can still
get his money. We’ll find out if it won."
         "How?" questioned Sunita.
         "At the betting shop," proposed Krystyna. “There’s a Ladbrokes along High Street South.
We’ll check on the way home.”
         "We're not old enough to go in. You have to be eighteen," appreciated Sunita.
         "We’ll ask somebody to check for us," proposed Krystyna. "Somebody going in."
         They continued home down High Street South and on the way stopped outside the
Ladbrokes betting shop.
         "Each way," noticed Krystyna, looking again at the bettting slip and pointing out the
abbreviation ‘E W’ as they waited outside for somebody to go in.
         “It probably means there and back,” guessed Daksha, making Krystyna laugh before
explaining that it meant that the horse only had to be in the first three past the winning post for the
gambler to get some money back.
         She knew this from Jermain’s regular weekend gambling.
         Large photographs of horse races and football matches and other sporting events in the
window attracted their attention as they continued to wait for somebody to enter. Eventually an
elderly gentleman crossed the road and approached.
         "Excuse me please," interrupted Krystyna, as politely as possible. "Could you tell please us
whether Top Hat came either first, second or third in the 2.30 at Kempton?"
         "What do you want to know for?" immediately challenged the elderly gentleman, throwing
Krystyna off guard.
         Before she could reply the gentleman had disappeared into the betting shop. They waited
again. Not long afterwards a younger man approached from further up the High Street.
         Krystyna made the same interruption and request, holding the yellow copy of the betting
slip in her hand.
         The young man eyed her suspiciously before replying,
         “It ran on Saturday and came nowhere. There’s the date,” he added, pointing to the top left
hand corner of the betting slip in her hand.
         Krystyna knew that noticing such things was part of being a detective so felt annoyed.
         .

        Another waste of time

         She was about to throw the betting slip away but decided to keep it possibly as evidence.
         On Saturday morning as usual Jermain played football then on the way home called into
Ladbrokes in High Street South and put a bet on some football scores and horses. He then sat and
watched the horses on television. Krystyna noticed him check the betting slip and realised he did the
same thing nearly every Saturday. That made her wonder whether the suspected bike thief also did
the same thing every Saturday. She tried to remember what he looked like. All she could remember
was suntanned skin and bushy eyebrows.
         "Can you remember what he looked like?" she asked later that afternoon at her friends’
house across the road.
         “I can remember his trainers,” replied Daksha, adding, “They were Reebok like Ahmed's at
school.”
         Krystyna proposed they keep a lookout for him outside the Ladbrokes betting shop in Forest
Gate. The address was printed on the bottom of the betting slip. She knew it was near the station
and that there was a McDonald’s opposite.
         Her two friends sighed. They had already been keeping a lookout for him every day after
school at the library. Every week they were checking the internet and local newspapers in the
library. Every week they were trapesing around looking at adverts in newsagents’ windows.
         “There is a McDonalds opposite,” she informed. “Perhaps we could watch from there,” she
proposed.
         That was more acceptable to her two friends.
         About ten o’clock on the Saturday morning the three of them walked to the betting shop in
Forest Gate. The time of the race on the betting slip had been 2:30. They stood outside McDonalds
opposite and watched for about an hour before going inside and ordering a meal. Daksha went for a
Happy Meal; cheeseburger with large fries and large coke. Her elder sister was a little more diet
conscious and went for a smaller version of the Happy Meal, with medium fries and coke. Krystyna
being weight as well as diet conscious went for a grilled chicken salad and a blackcurrent and apple
fruit shoot. They nibbled their food and sipped their drinks to make them last as long as possible
while watching through the window the entrance to Ladbrokes betting shop opposite. Krystyna
watched for suntanned skin and bushy eyebrows; Daksha for Reebok trainers like Ahmed’s at school.
Sunita could remember nothing in particular.
         When unable to make their meals last any longer they continued watching from outside the
restaurant until 2:30, the time that had been recorded on the betting slip but saw nothing or nobody
in particular.
         They returned home disappointed.
         Three more Saturdays they did the same thing. After the third one Sunita commented,
         “Another waste of time.”


        At last!

         Krytyna shrugged her shoulders.
         “How else am I going to get my bike back?” she maintained.
         Again the following Saturday morning at approximatetly ten o’clock they walked to
McDonald’s and watched for about an hour before going inside and ordering their now regular
meals. Daksha had enjoyed her previous ones. On this occasion she buried her teeth into her
cheeseburger then nearly choked upon noticing a pair of white Reebok trainers like Ahmed’s at
school.
         "That's him!" she spluttered.
         Krystyna ignored a mouthful of cheeseburger and focused instead upon suntanned skin and
a pair of bushy eyebrows then nodded her head and sighed,
         "At last!"


        Bikes!

          On this occasion the young man was smoking a cigarette. He put out the cigarette before
entering Ladbrokes. After about twenty minutes he came out again and lit up another cigarette then
returned down Woodgrange Road. He turned left at Forest Gate Station into Forest Lane, beside the
railway line that went to Maryland then Stratford and after that all the way to Norwich and Ipswich
on the east coast. Forest Lane ran parallel to the railway line, which was high upon a grassy
embankment. There was a tunnel at a road junction connecting McGrath Road with Forest Lane.
Past the tunnel were some arches that went underneath the railway. These had wooden doors
enclosing them and were used. One had a sign saying, ‘Brent Storage Space.’ Next to it was an arch
with the doors open and some men mending cars. Above the open doors was a sign saying,
‘Specialist in Exhaust Repairs.’ Next to it was an arch with the doors closed and a lorry parked
outside.
          Krystyna, Sunita and Daksha continued following at a distance the young man. When
reaching the lorry he entered the nearby railway arch after opening briefly one of big blue wooden
doors enclosing it. Upon reaching the lorry the girls stopped before hearing the sound of coughing
then the door being reopened.
          “Keep walking!” stated Krystyna, immediately.
          The girls contined walking along Forest Lane and soon afterwards could hear footsteps
behind them.
          “Don’t look around!” whispered Krystyna, fiercely to Daksha, who had turned her head
slightly.
          They carried on walking. The footsteps could be heard getting nearer.
          “Let’s run!” whispered Daksha, starting to panic while looking up at Krystyna, who shook her
head as they reached a junction with Ash Road to the right.
        They turned into Ash Road and kept walking and listening and could hear the footsteps
continue along Forest Lane. They waited a couple of minutes then returned to the junction and
looked along Forest Lane but couldn’t see him. They walked along Forest Lane a short distance to
another junction to the right, this one with Wellington Road but couldn’t see him there either.
        They returned to the lorry parked outside the enclosed railway arch and examined the heavy
wooden doors for a gap allowing a glimpse inside. There was no gap. They examined the lorry, which
was the same colour blue as the doors to the railway arch.
        “A Volvo,” noted Krystyna, with a pencil and notepad, which she always carried on
investigations.
        She began making a note of the number at the back of the lorry. Before noting the whole
number however she heard a cough and went stiff. Sunita and Daksha looked at her in alarm!
        They could hear footsteps approaching. They sneaked around the other side of the lorry, out
of sight and could hear the footsteps approach the railway arch. Then they heard the door being
opened.
        Sunita sneaked back and peeped round and glimpsed inside the railway arch just before the
door reclosed. She turned back round to her friends and exclaimed,
        “Bikes!”


        Hello again

        "Mine?" wondered Krystyna.
        "Couldn’t see them clearly," replied Sunita.
        "We'd better tell the police," decided Krystyna.
        They walked back along the Romford Road and turned into High Street North towards East
Ham Police Station, located near the top of High Street South. There they spoke to the young
policewoman who had written the report about Krystyna’s bike being stolen nearly four months ago.
The young policewoman recognised Krystyna and found a copy of the report and used it to write
another, about the discovery of bikes in an enclosed railway arch.
        “Forest Lane goes all the way to Stratford,” she realised before wondering, “Can you show
us which railway arch?”
        “It had blue doors,” replied Krystyna nodding her head.
        “The same colour as the lorry,” added Daksha.
        “I won’t be a moment,” stated the young policewoman before opening the door to a room
behind the counter and entering.
        Shortly afterwards she returned with another policewoman, this one older and familiar;
Sergeant Ellis, who had sat in the front of the undercover police car chasing the van with the stolen
computers, in the case of the school break in. She recognised the three girls and greeted,
        “Hello again.”


        Just in time

        "Another interesting case you’ve brought us,” she remarked. “It may be better not to arouse
suspicion. We'll go under cover,” she decided before requesting, “Give me five minutes to get
changed."
        She disappeared into the rooom opposite then a few minutes later reappeared wearing an
old pair of jeans and a scruffy jumper. She escorted them to the carpark behind the police station.
There was the same red Ford Fiesta used to chase the van with the stolen computers in the case of
the school break-in. With the three girls in the back seat she drove up High Street North to the
Romford Road then turned left along it to Forest Gate. The railway station was in Woodgrange Road
off to the right. Just past the railway station they turned left into Forest Lane towards Stratford.
         "There it is!" spotted Daksha, along Forest Lane as they approached a blue lorry parked
outside a railway arch.
         "The engine's running," realised Sergeant Ellis. "We may be just in time."


        A long trail

         Sergeant Ellis was right. No sooner had she stopped at the side of the road than the lorry
pulled out from the parking space outside the enclosed railway arch onto Forest Lane and drove off.
         "Are you not going to follow him?" wondered Daksha, disappointed at a lack of reaction to
the lorry heading towards Stratford.
         "Not yet," replied Sergeant Ellis. "We don't want him to get suspicious."
         She waited about another minute before slowly pulling out and following the lorry, still
visible to the sharp sighted Daksha, who gazed after it. Sergeant Ellis spoke into the police radio in
the front of the Fiesta and informed somebody what was happening then continued following the
lorry towards Stratford to Maryland, where it veered right towards Leyton. It continued through
Leyton and Leytonstone then Wanstead to the M11. Soon afterwards from the M11 it joined the
M25.
         “Give your phone numbers to my colleague so she can tell somebody at home what is
happening,” suggested WPC Sergeant Ellis. “She can tell them we’ll get you home as soon as
possible.”
         The girls told the phone numbers to Sergeant Ellis, who repeated them to someobody the
other end of the police radio at East Ham police station. Shortly afterwards she suggested they also
phone home themselves and explain what was happening. Krystyna explained to her mom then said
hopefully,
         “Maybe I’ll get my bike back.”
         Sergeant Ellis followed the lorry onto the M1 towards Leicester then the M6 to Birmingham.
After bypassing the city centre the lorry continued to a place called Saltley, containing a lot of
factories and shops. One shop was called, ‘Dyson’s Second Hand Bikes.’ There the lorry stopped and
reversed into an enclosed yard nearby.
         Sergeant Ellis parked the car about twenty metres away, facing the entrance to the shop
then turned to the girls and admitted,
         "A long trail."


        A very long trail

        They waited but nothing happened apart from a light being turned on upstairs, above the
second hand bike shop. Eventually Sergeant Ellis spoke into the car radio and arranged to leave the
investigation in the hands of the local West Midlands police force. A few minutes later another car
pulled up and parked a couple of places behind. A young man got out. Sergeant Ellis got out also and
spoke to him briefly. Upon returning to the car she started the engine and affirmed,
        "We're handing over the investigation. We need to get you back home before your parents
issue a search warrent," she commented while laughing, before pulling out of the parking space
outside the secondhand bike shop.
        She drove the girls back home and thanked them for their assistance. Upon listening to the
account of the long trail to Birmingham, Krystyna’s mom remarked,
        "Maybe you'll get your bike back."
        “I hope so,” replied Krystyna.
        She did but it took longer than anticipated. Three weeks passed before Sergeant Ellis made
another appearance at their home and informed to Krystyna’s disappointment,
        "The investigation is continuing."
        That was before the summer vacation and a week's holiday in Paris. About a month after
that holiday; a couple of days before Krystyna was due to return to school Sergeant Ellis revisited
and informed,
        "It is still continuing."
        November she revisited and informed,
        "Not over yet."
        "It's taking a very long time," commented Krystyna, glancing towards the settee, where sat
Sergeant Ellis, who replied,
        "It's a very long trail".


        End of the trail

         "So far it had taken our various police forces to Manchester, Glasgow, Southend, London
and most recently Swansea," she informed. "That secondhand bike shop we saw in Birmingham is
now one of several involved in the case. We’ve trailed the lorry to the other shops.”
         “There could be more shops involved,” realised Krystyna’s mom.
         “We have a fruitful invesigation on our hands thanks to your daughter,” remarked Sergeant
Ellis.
         Shortly after Christmas the trail finally ended with the arrest of the lorry driver and eight
shop owners. On a snowy Sunday afternoon in January Sergeant Ellis called at the Kurowska
household and informed,
         "We have some stolen bikes in our possession and want to return them to their owners.
         "A late Christmas present," remarked Ms Kurowska.
         “Only for some unfortunately,” stated Sergeant Ellis, making Krystyna think she might be in
for a disappointment until hearing her explain, “Because not all the bikes have been marked and we
can’t trace the owners. One that has been marked however is a Muddy Fox Kudos with 21 gears and
dual suspension,” she then informed with a smile. “It has the identification number E6 4XJ. If the
owner would like to come to East Ham police station and collect it,” she added, looking at Krystyna,
who requested,
         "Can I do it now?"
         “I’ll take you there,” offered Sergeant Ellis.
         A few minutes later Krystyna stood up to accompany Sergeant Ellis to East Ham police
station.
         “Be careful on the way back,” warned Ms Kurowska, appreciating the snow outside.
         “This road is dangerous,” agreed the Sergeant Ellis before informing, “High Street South is
clear.”
         “I’ll get off and walk from High Street South,” decided Krystyna before accompanying
Sergeant Ellis to the police station.
         After signing a form there she collected the bike. The red Muddy Fox Kudos looked no
different to when it had been stolen, nearly a year ago. The granite steel D lock was still attached to
the frame. She cycled down High Street South then got off and began escorting the bike through
snow back home.
         On the way she recalled the theft nearly a year ago. All that time she had been without a
bike; having to leave earlier for school, having to borrow Daksha’s on a Saturday morning to go to
the Newham Leisure Centre for gymnastics. Almost a year she’d been trying to get the bike back;
checking the internet at home and the local newspapers at the reference library, trapesing around
Newham looking at adverts in newsagents’ windows, then keeping a lookout from McDonalds until
at last seeing the suspect enter Ladbrokes betting shop.
         She recalled the long trail to Birmingham and the even longer one after that for the police
forces.
         Upon reaching home and turning into the front path she glanced back at long line of
footprints and tyre marks in the snow. She sighed upon reaching the end of the trail.

       (5,233 words)




                                   Krystyna invesitgates a case of fraud



       A small problem

        Rain had penetrated the Kurowska household. It had got through to Ms Kurowska, a keen
gardener, who earlier this morning had remained cheerful. While looking out the kitchen window
onto the back garden she had remarked,
        "Good for the tomatoes."
        Krystyna shared her mother’s interest in the garden. Sometimes at weekends also she
helped her nextdoor neighbour with a rose garden however the horticultural interest didn’t extend
to being grateful for rain, especially when heavy enough to keep her indoors.
        Presently her mother was less grateful because the rain had got through the roof and in
small drips was coming through the back bedroom ceiling. Ms Kurowska was watching it happen.
        “Some of the tiles on the roof may need replacing,” she suspected.
        Krystyna looked at a pot on the bedroom floor underneath the spot in the ceiling where the
rain was slowly dripping through. She then looked up at the ceiling. Another drip was forming. She
watched it drop into the pot then remarked,
        “Only a small amount seems to be getting through.”
        Her mother watched another drip form and drop then replied,
        “Let’s hope it’s only a small problem.”


       A minor accident

        Shortly afterwards; glad to get out of the house, Krysyna accompanied her mother to Asda’s.
The windscreen wiper was operating at full speed. Her mother drove to the front of the carpark so
they wouldn't have far to walk in the heavy rain. Other shoppers seemed to have the same idea.
Finding a space to park wasn’t easy.
        “There,” spotted Krystyna, after winding down the side window to get a clearer view.
        Her mother drove round to the space and parked the car. They went shopping. Upon coming
back out with a trolley about half full Krytyna noticed somebody had parked too close to the car.
There wasn’t enough space for her to open the door on the passenger’s side and get in. Upon
putting the shopping away in the boot her mother got in the driver’s side and began to reverse out
slowly so that Krytyna could get in. Her mother was a careful driver. She had a no claims bonus,
enabling her to pay a cheaper premium for the insurance on the car, a green Volkswagon Polo,
about five years old. While slowly reversing reverse out she took care not to touch the car that had
parked too close on the passenger’s side. Krytyna watched to make sure there was no contact but
unfortunately while concentrating on the car that side they forgot about the one on the driver’s side
until hearing a woman shout,
        “Stop!”
        Ms Kurowska did but not soon enough to prevent contact. She realised there had been a
minor accident.


        A slight dent

        She drove the car forward again a short distance and got out to take a look at the damage.
She couldn’t see any.
        “Sorry,” she apologised to the woman, who continued examining the door to the car, an old
Ford Fiesta before claiming,
        “There’s a dent.”
        “Where?” checked Ms Kurowska, bending towards the car door.
        “There,” replied the woman, pointing to an area near the bottom of the door.
        Ms Kurowska bent further forward.
        “I can’t see anything,” she maintained.
        “There’s a dent,” repeated the woman.
        “Can you see anything?” wondered Ms Kurowska, addressing her daughter, who bent
towards the car door and examined closely before admitting,
        “A slight dent.”


        A major claim

         The woman opened the car door then looked in the glove compartment at the front for a
pen and piece of paper. She wrote down the number of Ms Kurowska’s car before checking,
         “Are you insured?”
         “Yes. But I will probably pay for the repair myself so as to keep my no claims bonus,” replied
Ms Kurowska.
         “In that case could you please write down your name and address?” requested the woman,
handing the pen and piece of paper to Ms Kurowska, who sat inside her Volkswagon Polo out of the
rain to comply.
         Soon afterwards the woman got in her car and drove off. Ms Kurowska noticed once more
how old the car looked. The red Ford Fiesta had rust near the wheels.
         “I seemed to be reversing too slowly to dent it,” she stated to her daughter, who reiterated,
         “It was only slight.”
         Upon returning home they put away the shopping. Ms Kurowska told Jermain about the
minor accident after he had returned home from a football match.
         “It shouldn’t cost much to repair,” he predicted.
         Nothing more was heard about the minor accident for a fortnight, making Ms Kurowska
believe the woman had decided not to bother repairing the dent because the car was so old or had
paid herself because the cost was so small. Then however she received a letter through the post
asking for payment. The repair was going to cost more than ₤800.
         She shook her head, unable to understand how the minor accident had resulted in a major
claim.
        An independent estimate

        “It was only a slight dent,” Krystyna remembered, upon hearing the news.
        "More than ₤800!" read again Ms Kurowska, shaking her head in disbelief.
        She told Jermain about it when he returned home from work. He advised,
        “Get an independent estimate.”


        Suggested fraud

        “I will,” determined Ms Kurowska.
        She phoned her insurer and asked for one.
        Meanwhile the problem with the rain coming through the roof persisted. A roofing
contractor came round to look at it. He spent about ten minutes upon the roof then came into the
house and checked,
        “Are you insured?”
        The question sounded familiar.
        “Yes,” replied Ms Kurowska.
        “Would you like to make some money?” he then wondered with a smile.
        “What do you mean?” replied Ms Kurowska.
        “I could add more onto the estimated price and we could split the difference,” explained the
roofing contractor.
        “That’s fraud,” realised Ms Kurowska.
        The roofing contractor smiled once more then justified,
        “These insurance companies have more money than they know what to do with. They don’t
miss small amounts.”
        “No thank you,” declined Ms Kurowska, shaking her head.
        She didn’t want to get involved in the suggested fraud.


        Suspected fraud

         The roofing contractor then gave an estimate of ₤250 for the cost of repairing the roof. Ms
Kurowska agreed to go ahead with the repair. They set a date and time, the following Saturday
morning at 10:30 am, whereupon the roofing contractor departed.
         Ms Kurowska felt satisfied with the estimate for the cost of repairing the roof. ₤250 seemed
a reasonable amount to pay unlike the claim for repairing the car. She hoped the independent
estimate would agree it was unreasonable. When it arrived in the post about a week later however
she was disappointed to read that the insurer thought more than ₤800 was a reasonable amount to
pay for the repair. She showed the reply to her daughter, who noticed,
         “It says, ‘a sizeable dent.”
         “I couldn’t see anything,” remembered her mother.
         Krystyna remained silent. The written description of the dent as sizeable puzzled her. She
noticed the reply gave the name and address of the car owner, nearby in Forest Gate.
         She had already told Sunita and Daksha about the minor accident and major claim as well as
the arranged repair to the roof of the house. She always kept her friends informed. Sunita agreed
that the description of the dent as sizeable was strange. It didn’t match Krytyna’s description.
         “You had your glasses on,” she checked; aware that her friend didn’t really like wearing
glasses and sometimes left them off.
         “I was wearing them,” assured Krystyna, taking a blackcurrent fruit shoot from the fridge.
        While drinking she continued to dwell on the matter. On the corner of the kitchen table was
the independent estimate from her mom’s insurance company describing the dent as sizeable and
saying the ₤800 quote was reasonable. Next to it was a bill for ₤250 from the roofing contractor,
who had come and replaced the tiles on the roof a fortnight ago as arranged. Now the roof was
waterproof once more. She could remember him suggesting a higher amount, saying he and her
mom could split the difference.
        That set her mind thinking about the quote for fixing the car door. She suspected fraud.


        A sizeable dent

         “But the independent extimate says it is reasonable,” reminded her friend, upon listening to
the suspicion.
         “It describes the dent as sizeable,” replied Krystyna. “It wasn’t sizeable,” she maintained.
         “That’s your opinion,” maintained Sunita.
         “And mom’s,” added Krystyna, before reminding, “She couldn’t see it.”
         Sunita shrugged.
         Krystyna glanced again at the independent estimate on the kitchen table and next to it the
quote from the lady driver’s insurance company and noticed once more the owner’s name and her
address in Forest Gate. It was Windsor Road, which she knew to be off the Romford Road and not far
from East Ham.
         “If the car is parked on the street outside the house you could have a look,” she suggested to
her friend. “See whether you think the dent is sizeable.”
         Sunita agreed then fetched her bike. Krystyna got hers. Together they cycled to Forest Gate.
Outside the house in Windsor Road was the car.
         Sunita could see immediately that it was a sizeable dent.


        A plan to verify the fraud

        Krystyna remained open mouthed before maintaining,
        “It wasn’t that size!”
        Somehow it had grown. The dent had become sizeable. How and why she couldn’t
understand while thinking back to the suggested fraud concerning the roof. The roofing contractor
had only suggested claiming it was worse. So why had the owner of the car actually made the dent
worse?
        Then she realised it was because of the independent estimate. The owner had made the
dent worse to get the independent estimate to agree with her claim. She told Sunita her realisation.
        She told her mom upon returning home. Her mom phoned her insurer, who stated,
        “This is a matter for the police.”
        About an hour later two police officers came to the house and asked Krytyna to repeat her
story and realisation.
        “You are sure the dent is bigger?” checked the younger of the two police officers while
making notes.
        “My mom couldn’t see it at Asda’s” stated Krystyna. “Sunita saw it immediately,” she added,
glancing at her friend, who confirmed the immediate sighting.
         “We would like to pursue this matter,” stated the elder police officer. “With your
cooperation,” he added before explaining a plan to verify the fraud.


        Glasses
         He had made of note of Krystyna’s optician, ‘Optical Express’ in High Street North. A couple
of days later she called into East Ham Police Station at the top of High Street South to collect a
special pair of glasses. Hidden in the frame at the front was a microphone and a micro camera about
the same size as the webcam on her laptop.
         “Stand near enough and look at him when he is talking,” reminded the elderly police officer
as Kystyna got into the passenger’s seat in her mother’s Volkswagon Polo, which now had a slight
dent at the back.
         The police had made the dent and taken a 3D photograph of it using software that allowed
them to measure the size. Her mom drove to Hampton Garage in Forest Gate; near Windsor Road,
where the owner of the old Ford Fiesta with the now sizeable dent lived. Underneath a sign that
said, ‘Hampton Garage’ was another saying, ‘Specialists in Crash Repairs.’
         Krytyna got out with her mom and walked towards the entrance and saw a man lying on his
back underneath a car that was raised upon a ramp. Upon noticing them he slid out from
underneath the car and stood up.
         “How can I help you?” he asked.
         “There’s been a minor accident,” replied Ms Kurowska. “There’s a slight dent,” she added.
         “Where?”
         “Here,” indicated Ms Kurowska, leading him to the back of the car.
         “What happened?”
         “We slowed down approaching a red traffic light at the top of High Street South in East
Ham,” Ms Kurowska began explaining.
         “And somebody ran into the back of you,” guessed the garage mechanic, an elderly man,
who seemed to be the owner.
         “He didn’t slow down in time,” affirmed Ms Kurowska.
         “So it was his fault,” appreciated the mechanic, beginning to smile.
         “He has admitted liability,” affirmed Ms Kurowska.
         “You are insured,” checked the mechanic.
         “Fully comprehensive,” affirmed Ms Kurowska.
         “Would you like to make some money on the insurance?” then wondered the mechanic.
         “How?” replied Ms Kurowska.
         “Claim more.”
         “How much more?”
         “About ₤500 between us is usually the limit. After that the insurance companies get
suspicious.”
         “I would have to quote him ₤500 more. He might get suspicious,” stated Ms Kurowska.
         “Maybe not too suspicious so long as it’s not his own money,” replied the mechanic.
         “What if he asks for an independent estimate?”
         “Then we would have to make the damage more serious,” replied the mechanic.
         “How?”
         “With a hammer,” replied the mechanic, smiling.
         “Okay,” agreed Ms Kurowska.
         She agreed to quote extra, making the repair bill nearly ₤900 then drove away. The following
weekend with her daughter, wearing the special pair of glasses she returned to the garage and
showed the mechanic a letter asking for an independent estimate. The mechanic shrugged his
shoulder and stated,
         “A hammer job.”
         “When will you do it?” asked Ms Kurowska.
         Her daughter stood beside her and looked at the mechanic as he replied,
         “Leave the car with me and I have it sorted by Monday.”
         Ms Kurowska and her daughter walked home. It wasn’t far to East Ham from Forest Gate. On
the Monday after arriving home from their respective schools they returned to the garage to find
the car more severely dented.
         “That’s about ₤900 worth of damage,” estimated the mechanic, showing them the now
sizeable dent in the back of the car.
         Ms Kurowska drove the car straight to East Ham Police Station. There Krytyna returned her
glasses.


       Charged with fraud

        Soon after walking the rest of the way home with her mother her friends came round. She
kept them up to date with the case.
        “A pity you couldn’t have kept those glasses,” stated Sunita, accepting a fruit shoot from
Krytyna, who agreed,
        “They were useful.”
        “What will happen now?” wondered Daksha.
        “I’m not sure,” admitted Krystyna.
        About a month later the elder police officer came to their house and informed them that
they were charging the mechanic with fraud. He was as suspected the garage owner. They were also
charging the lady owner of the old Ford Fiesta.
        “She will probably get fined,” predicted the police officer.
        “What about the owner of the garage?” wondered Ms Kurowska.
        “He may go to prison,” predicted the police officer.
        It took about another six months for the case to come to court. It was reported in the local
newspapers. In the Newham Recorder it made the front page. The headline said, ‘Garage charged
with fraud.’

       (2,495 words)

				
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