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Bumble’s home was six miles and one world away from my office. The closest bus stop still left me with a quarter-hour walk to get there. People in the hills didn’t need buses, they had taxi’s and private cars. That was probably why the sidewalks were so clean. I started to feel like I should have washed the dust off my paws before walking on them. Even the lamp posts were dry.
Bumble’s pad was predictably grand: an elegant house set far back from the road, and surrounded by an elegant if impractical wall, into which were set high, elegant wrought iron gates, behind which a large Doberman stood guard.
Ah, what the hell: He was elegant too.
“Are you expected?” he asked me when I announced myself. He had that Doberman way of speaking; impeccably polite, imperceptibly patronising, and as calm as a Nile-full of sleeping crocodiles.
“Sure I am,” I replied in the sort of cheerful tones guaranteed to get right up his perfectly straight nose, “she just doesn’t know when yet.”
“I’ll check that it’s OK to throw you out and hurt you.” He said – only he phrased it “I’ll just confirm that with the mistress, Sir.” – and disappeared off towards the house.
I decided to save him the long walk back along the drive, and squeezed through the bars of the gate. I was examining the driveway outside the back door when he and Bumble joined me.
“Excuse me, Sir, I don’t recall inviting you in…” he began
“That’s ‘cause you didn’t. Congratulations on your excellent memory.” I replied cheerfully. He took a step forward, but Bumble stepped in front of him:
“Thank you Saracen, please return to your post. Mr Barkalot has business here.”
Why do they always have names like ‘Saracen’ or ‘Sabre’? Why don’t Mr and Mrs Doberman ever look at their litter and say “Hey Honey, let’s call that one Scamp, and that one Patch…”?
“Poor Saracen,” Bumble smiled affectionately, as Saracen stalked off to glare at passers by, “I think you’ve upset his ordered view of things.”
“He’s a big lad, he’ll get over it. I thought I ought to take a look at the scene of the crime.”
“It’s a start: Whoever took the collar had to get to the house somehow.”
“So what can you tell?”
“Not a lot, there’s too many tyre tracks and paw-prints everywhere. Mind if we take a look inside?”
“I’m surprised you bothered asking.”
“I could fit through the gate, I can’t fit through your letterbox.”
Bumble swept into the house and I let my eyes drag my body after her.
We started with the rooms the party had been in.
“I’m afraid there’s not a lot to see, Mr Barkalot,” she said almost apologetically, “the caterers were here until two a.m. clearing up. They did a superb job” she added.
She was right, looking for clues was like trying to find a flea on a goldfish.
“Where do you normally keep the collar, Miss Bumble?”
“I have a safe in another room.”
“Was it in there on the night of the theft?”
“Yes. I took it out before the guests arrived, and put it away again after the caterers left.”
“Was the maid with you?”
“No, Charm was helping set up for the guests when I got it out, and she was in the kitchen making me a drink when I put it back.”
“Mind if I take a look.”
“That’s why your here, isn’t it? Much as I love your company Mr Barkalot, I’m not paying you for your repartee.”
She led me through to the drawing room, where the safe was hidden behind a painting.
“Nice picture.” I commented, “An Edgar Dogas. Or rather a good copy.”
“What makes you think it is a copy?”
“Dogas was left handed, the strokes on this one catch the light wrong. Besides the original belongs to a private collector in Europe.”
“I’m impressed, Mr Barkalot”
“I spend a lot of time in the city gallery.”
“You surprise me, I didn’t have you down as a patron of the arts.”
“Yeah, well entry is free, and they keep the heating on all winter.”
The safe itself told me little: a fairly standard four-tumbler combination lock. It was good, but a decent safecracker with a good set of ears would get it open in minutes. The police had already ruined any chance of finding prints.
“Did the maid know the number?” I asked Queen Bumble
She shook her head, making the hair on her ears dance like faeries on fire:
“No she didn’t. I’m the only one who knows the combination.”
“Not any more, Miss Bumble.”
There were no marks on the safe. It could have been cracked by an expert, but it was equally possible that a sharp eyed maid could have watched her mistress open it.
Finally we checked out the maid’s room. It was a perfectly normal room for a normal young woman, and that told me a lot: A small but comfortable bed, a drawer unit, a few toys; just what you’d expect. There were posters on the walls, and collars strewn on the floor. Finally I stood a chance of learning something.
I checked the drawers first: Spare blankets, a couple of coats and T-shirts, and a couple more collars. How many collars do broads need? Give a guy one collar and he’s dressed for life.
There was a small pile of banknotes under the blankets, not a lot; about what you’d expect for a girl who saves a bit but still enjoys a night at the pictures.
I examined the bed next. The blanket was the same one that she was laying on in the photo Bumble had given me. There were a couple of half eaten chewies in the bed, but all that told me was that this Charm had a decent set of teeth.
I cast my eye over the posters. Mainly movie posters. Cashy Nova featured on a couple of them, including the one that had pride of place over the bed, and Olivia looked out from another. I wondered how this young girl had felt to have two of her heroes in her home.
I thanked Bumble for her time, and we headed back out. As we walked down the drive I paused and took out the photos Bumble had given me.
“Excuse me, Miss Bumble,” I asked, looking around the garden, “whereabouts was this taken?” I showed her the picture of Charm sunning herself on her blanket.
“Oh, that wasn’t here,” Bumble replied offhand, “that was taken before she came here. I think it is the garden at her family home.”
“Ah, I didn’t think it was here, thank you.”
We reached the gate. I waited until Saracen started opening it, then squeezed out through the bars, just to annoy him.
This story The Case of the Sapphire Collar belongs to the original author we are sharing it with our readers with the express permission of the author. Please do not copy it in any form. The manuscript is going to be used to raise money for animal rescue as soon as drawings are completed of each of the characters. If you see this story appear anywhere other then Two Little Cavaliers please contact us so we can remedy the situation.