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The Island: 11 The Mysterious Pair of Pants
Wednesday 29th February 2012Jade Piggott sat opposite Donna Couchewell, her coffee going cold as she listened, slack-jawed, to what her boss was saying. In her five years as a waitress at the Bien Venue Guest House, she had only once before been asked to sit down for a chat. That was last year when Donna offered her the job as head waitress, but Jade wasn’t expecting anything similar now. She thought she was in disgrace having failed to do what she promised and check the guest house while her bosses were on holiday.
‘So there we were, me and Des, up in Room 5. We’d just found the…..’ Donna screwed up her face as she spat the words out: ‘underwear in the shower room..’ She shuddered. Jade twisted her mouth into a sympathetic grimace. She was familiar with the Y-fronts under discussion: she had been asked to remove and dispose of them earlier that morning.
‘At that very moment Des reckons he can hear something down below so we go over to the bedroom door and listen.’ Donna paused for dramatic effect. ‘And what do we hear?’
‘What?’ mouthed Jade.
‘Singing….loud as you like. And cupboard doors opening, saucepans banging. Somebody if you please making themselves completely at home in my kitchen.. Not content with making free while we were away – I did tell you about the soup can I found in the waste didn’t I? - they were doing it once we were home.’
‘No!’ Jade, who was inclined to find her boss melodramatic was genuinely impressed. ‘Who was it?’
‘Your guess is as good as mine.,’ Donna stopped and sighed. ‘Oh, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have been so impulsive. Des was all for stopping where we were and calling the police, but I was so angry I was down those stairs quicker than Cat Woman.’
‘Whoever it was – well, let’s face it we know it was a he because of the underpants – heard me coming and ran off. All I saw was a foot in a trainer as he shot out the door. I was going to the window to try and see him as he ran down the path but I tripped over his groceries. A bag of stuff left right in the middle of the kitchen floor. Can you believe it? Broke a finger nail and all trying to stop myself falling.’
Jade blew through her teeth, a silent whistle of amazement. ‘It’s like something you’d read in a story Donna. You wouldn’t think of it actually happening in Sandown.’
‘That’s not all – there’s more to come,’ said Donna.
‘More?’ Jade craned forward.
‘He only went and took my handbag. He must have turned when he heard me on the staircase and suddenly spotted it. Luckily…’ Another pause for emphasis. ‘Luckily I only ever take essentials with me on my holidays, so apart from a bit of cash and my make-up there wasn’t much in it. Des had my passport. But it was a nice bag – you know the red spotty one I got from Made on the Isle of Wight.’
‘Oh, that’s a shame. It really is. But what I’m wondering Donna is – how did he get in? Was there any broken windows or anything?’
‘That’s the mystery.’ Donna stood up. ‘More coffee dear?’ Jade nodded – the morning was slipping away and this certainly beat counting the cutlery.
‘The police can find no sign of a break in – nothing. It doesn’t even look as though he picked the lock. The police say it’s as if he had his own key, although of course that’s impossible. I told them apart from us, you’re the only one who has a key and even that’s only temporary – looking after it like while we’re away.’
She put two fresh mugs of coffee on the table and smoothing her skirt as she sat back down at the table, she missed the moment when Jade froze, her hand clapped over her mouth, eyes suddenly dark with panic.
‘By the way, dear, could you drop that key in as soon as is convenient? The police say we ought to get the locks changed. I don’t know – that seems a bit ridiculous when whoever it is couldn’t possibly have a key. But I suppose you have to listen. They say there’s a rash of break-ins. They’re trying to link our case with that of a poor woman in Brading. What was her name?’ Donna referred to the notepad she habitually kept in the kitchen. ‘Ah yes, Sally. Sally Thomas. It seems she was broken into and beaten up as well. That’s what the police think anyway. The poor old dear had a bang on the head and she can’t remember a thing about it. Not a thing. She’s been in the hospital a week already…..’
Jade was no longer listening. The words floated over her head. Donna could have been reading out her shopping list. Jade had stopped listening at the first mention of the key – the key she was supposed to be looking after. When she’d gone to lift it off the hook this morning and found it missing she hadn’t thought too much about it. She was late for work, she’d find it later. Now, with a jolt, she remembered something. A scene in her own kitchen. Not a scene, just a fragment. Long strong fingers – a man’s fingers - reaching for the keys. Jade watching those fingers through a blur of Baccardi Breezers.
And then? Forgetting where she was, Jade sunk her head into her hands, struggling to remember more. But the scene had slipped from her memory again. Just one thing was sure: the man hadn’t been there when she woke, head pounding, the next morning.