Chapter Four

No Matter What

Chapter 4.  

Paul drove back to his sister’s house. He had a feeling that he was being followed but could not be sure, it was probably paranoid. He wondered if his dinner date with Elisabeth was a ploy. He hoped not but it more than likely was.

He had some time to kill before he had to leave, as it was still early, but the time was passing in slow motion. He could not sit still so he went out into the front yard where there were a number of cars parked in the street but that was normal for this part of town. Elisabeth had given him her card which had her mobile number on it so he rang it. He saw a light come on in one of the cars parked in the street, which quickly went out. The phone went straight to an answering machine so, Paul left a message which said,

“Hi Lizzy. Sorry our date ended early. May be we can do it again sometime.” 

He felt disappointed that she was sitting in a car, a Toyota Camry at that,  one hundred metres up the road and it showed in his voice. But he could not afford to allow himself to be distracted, so he went inside resisting the temptation to wave. He thought about ordering her a snack and getting it delivered to her car but he decided not to.

Lizzy was having a lot of trouble staying awake while sitting in her car just up the road from Paul’s place. She was having problems working Paul out which was not something she was use to. Lizzy had an ability to read people but Paul was a puzzle and she was fascinated by puzzles. Her training told her that Paul was no burglar but all of her instincts said other wise. 

Paul set the timers on the lights in the lounge room, bathroom and bedroom so that it would appear that he went to bed around midnight. Changed into some sporting type clothes and left the house via the back door. He got his bush bike out of the garden shed and went out through a back gate that lead on to a laneway and rode the bike to the garage about five kilometres away. There he changed again. This time into all black clothes, opened the garage door, pushed the Falcon into the laneway then closed the door and let the Falcon roll down the laneway. At the end of the laneway he started the car and drove into the night towards his targets. It was now just after midnight.

He arrived near his first target about 12.30 parking in a street just around the corner and then he quickly placed fake number plates over the real number plates on the car using Velcro. He then grabbed his back pack containing all his equipment and disappeared into the dark. Keeping to the shadows he made his way to the first house on his list. A large two story brick house with a high hedge down both sides and an ornate steel bar fence along the front. He quickly climbed the fence and made his way along the hedge line to the house, dealing with the front door easily. Paul then worked on the alarm system. He had one minute to bypass it and things were not going well when with only a few seconds left he managed to deactivate it. If his information was correct there should be no-one in the house but the house keeper did live in a granny flat in the back yard, so he needed to be careful.

There was enough ambient light for him to find his way around the house. He quickly located the study and much to his surprise, the safe was behind an art work, which is a traditional place for a safe hence, his surprise to find it there. He started the electronic safe cracker going and left it to work away at finding the combination while he looked around the house for valuables. He found jewellery in one of the bedrooms but he only took the gold, he continued searching but he could not find any other things of any value. He went back to the study to find the safe cracker had done its job. He entered the combination and opened the safe which contained cash plus some more jewellery. He closed the safe and left the place looking as though no one had been there resetting the alarm and locking the front door as he left.

Paul moved on to the next house on his list. This house presented no problems but it was taking a lot longer than he expected so he had to call it a night and headed back to his car. He removed the fake number plates and drove back to the garage. He wasted no time, not even looking at what he had taken, he just left it in the car. Quickly he changed into his sporting outfit and rode his push bike home, getting back just before dawn.

He changed clothes again and laid on the lounge thanking his lucky starts that he had got away with it. As he lay there he pondered on the right and wrongs of what he was doing, but it was the only option so he tried to put the feeling of guilt behind him. It was well and truly done now so it was time to stop questioning himself and get on with it. He fell asleep for about half an hour and when he woke he looked out the window to see if Elisabeth was still there. The car was still parked in the street so as it was just after 7.00 a.m. he phoned her. She didn’t pick up so he left a message.

“Breakfast, my place, 8.00. See you then,” Paul.

Paul started getting breakfast ready, cooking bacon and eggs, getting cereal and milk ready feeling confidant that he would have visitors soon. But when he looked out the window the car was gone. May be it was not her after all he thought to himself. Lizzy did not respond to his message or show up for breakfast so he concluded that the burglary’s had not been discovered. He had a big breakfast before heading to the garage to check on last nights haul, but he had to be sure he was not followed so he called a taxi. The taxi took him to the nearby shopping centre, he walked through the shopping centre and out the other side and waited for a bus. He got off the bus at a railway station and then another taxi to the garage. If someone was following him they were very good at it. At the garage he went through the haul from last night. There was about five thousand in cash plus gold, which he weighted and found it weighted 221 grams. He checked the internet for the price of gold it was $1,820.00 per ounce so he did a quick calculation, it was worth $14,200.00. Not a bad nights work but nowhere near what he was going to need to cover all the costs. He would need to get lucky and burgle a house with a lot of cash or gold. That would mean someone crooked and hiding cash or someone worried about something like divorce or business problems, who may be hiding gold to use as bolt money.

Paul went back to the grand plan to determine the amount of money he would need to break Janet out of prison. He came up with a figure of $300,000 so to be safe he set the target amount at $350,000. He had $150,000 left after paying out the bank, from the sale of his house so that left a pretty good sized amount of money still to raise.

He spent some time on the internet researching the owners of the houses still on his list to try to gleam something that might point him to which house to hit next. Two were going through divorces and therefore might be trying to hide their true worth and one of them was having business problems so just might be putting aside a nest egg. So he decided they would be his next targets.

The next problem was how to convert gold into cash. He thought about this for a while and decided he would get a prospectors licence and buy a cheap metal detector. He would then melt down the gold and then he could just sell it to a gold merchant. He would need to spend a few week ends in a gold area and may be even wander around with the detector a bit just to give it all an appearance of being legit.

After a productive day at the garage he headed home, which meant walking a few blocks to a main road and getting a taxi. On arriving home he checked his mail, there was a letter from Janet. She wrote about how she spent her time, the daily routine, and how pointless everything seemed. Life in prison certainly put things into perspective and if she gets through this ordeal she will look at life from a very different direction.    

The next day while eating breakfast he concluded that he was right about the burglaries not being detected yet otherwise he would have had a visit from Elisabeth Bennet. He rang a florist and organized a single red rose to be sent to her at the Police station, with a note, which read.

          ‘When, where, time, Paul.’ 

He decided to wait a few weeks before the next burglary as it was not like he didn’t have plenty to do. He needed to start learning to fly so he decided to start with a light plane and move on to a helicopter after that. He headed out to the nearest air field and found a flying school and signed up for twenty lessons. At two lessons a week, that means it would take ten weeks to get his pilots licence. The same school also did lessons for flying a helicopter so once he got his light plane licence he could move on to a helicopter. There was another company at the air field that did sky diving so he talked to them and signed up for a course in sky diving, which was something he was not keen on at all. The course did not start for a few weeks which suited Paul down to the ground as he was in no hurry to jump out of a plane.   

Just as Paul got home his phone rang. It was Janet’s Australian solicitor saying he had been contacted by the prison governor who wanted another ten thousand to keep Janet in the better cell and to maintain her privileges. He also had contact with the local lawyer who wanted more money both for himself as well as bribe money for one of the guards. Paul authorised both payments to be made. The local lawyer had reported that Janet was in good health but was feeling the pressure of her situation. Paul felt frustrated that he could not be there and that he could not call her as there was no phone facilities for prisoners at the prison.

He wrote her a long letter but as he knew it would be read by the prison personnel he said nothing about his plans he only wrote about the appeal. He did mention that he had met someone, which he knew would make her smile. He also told her that he missed her the other night as a Russel Crowe film that she liked was on TV it was called, “The Next Three Days.” That was the film about Russel Crowe’s character breaking his wife out of prison, as Janet did not like this film he hoped she would work out what was going to happen.    

Paul received a text message from Elisabeth Bennet late in the afternoon which simply said.

          Tonight, The Chicken House, 7.00, Elisabeth.

He thought about getting there at 7.30 but decided to be there right on time. As he arrived he saw Lizzy sitting at the same table they were at last time, looking just as good wearing a little black dress. He was not sure what to make of her accepting this date as he didn’t expect her to but no one could say Paul lacked confidence, so he walked over to the table and said.

“Hi Miss Bennet. What are you doing here?”

Looking somewhat puzzled she said. “Waiting for you.”

“My goodness, you are a good detective. How did you know I would be here?” Replied Paul.

“I sent you a text,” said Lizzy.

Paul just smiled at her, a smile that told her he was pulling her leg.

She smiled and said. “How has your day been?”

“Goodness gracious me, Lizzy, small talk,” Paul said as he sat down. “I had a busy day, how about you?”

“Much the same, busy,” said Lizzy.

“You look good”, said Paul. “Even though you must be tired after such a late night.”

“What makes you think I had a late night?” replied Lizzy.

“Just a wild guess,” said Paul. “Now Lizzy I have been good but I can’t go on with out asking you the question you don’t want me to ask.”

“Well, don’t ask it then,” replied Lizzy.

“Alrighty then I won’t ask. But I can’t promise you that I will never ask it,” said Paul.

“And I can’t promise you that I will answer it,” replied Lizzy.

“Fair enough Lizzy,” said Paul.

The waiter came over and asked if they were ready to order.

“Two chicken meals plus two orange juices,” said Paul. Looking at Lizzy.  She nodded with approval.

“How is your sister,” said Lissy.

“You are a good detective. She is doing as well as could be expected given the circumstances. She is a very strong woman,” replied Paul.

“Are you planning to go over there again soon,” asked Lizzy.

“It will depend on a number of factors but not in the short term, unless the legal situation demands it,” replied Paul. “But let’s not talk about it. It’s not a very uplifting topic of conversation.”

“Did you sell your house to pay the legal costs?” asked Lizzy.

“Well, yes, but more than that, the prison governor and guards also require bribe money. It’s not like here,” replied Paul. “And before you ask I didn’t sell my sisters house because it is our family home. My sister and I grew up in that house, so not yet.”

The waiter arrived with the meals and drinks and placed them on the table.

“Now Lizzy, why did you join the Police force? Was it the glamour, or the uniform. I hope not the power but if I was guessing I would say, the mystery or the puzzle solving.”

“It was a few things. Puzzle solving, mysteries, reading people,” said Lizzy.

As they were eating their meals the lights went out. After a few minute the waiters came around with candles, explaining that it was a power outage, which made things very romantic, and set a nice mood.

With the restaurant unable to cook meals or take credit card payments they were keen to push the customers out as soon as possible so Paul and Lizzy found themselves in the car earlier than expected.

“Would you like to come back to my place for …” Paul paused and grinned,  “… coffee?”

Lizzy said nothing for what seemed minutes but was only seconds, before saying. “No not tonight.”

“Maybe another night then,” replied Paul.

“We will see,” said Lizzy.

They said their goodbyes and went their separate ways. Paul and Lizzy had not been in top form during this date due to tiredness from both of them having had very late nights.                     Copy right Jim Pope 2021