This evening as we were preparing dinner the phone rang. It always does. It was the farmer up the road. He told Bert he’d seen a van heading into the abandoned house next door and that it was sitting there with the lights off.
I was immediately suspicious. Bert and I had recently chased thieves of the property on two consecutive days. The first time I was out and Bert had heard banging noises. He went down to investigate and found a couple of young fellows in the act of taking lead of the roof. They did a runner when they saw Bert but managed to get a fair bit of the lead. The very next day we were both at home and heard banging again. I went down to see what was going on and there was a middle-aged, fair haired chap on the roof prising the remaining lead off with a crowbar. I asked him,
Does C… know you’re doing that?
Ah. Sure he does now. We’re after doing a job for him.
I don’t think so. C… would have told us if there was someone coming to do work for him.
Well he has us doing this for him. Y’can ask him and he’ll tell you. But anyway we’ll go now. Start the car now Pat!
The other fellow was a small weasel-faced man and he was in a great hurry to get off. The other man came off the roof and was affability itself despite his unnerving grasp on a great big crowbar.
Sure ‘tis a fine day altogether. D’ye have a job yourself?
I never answered him, instead saying,
There were boys here yesterday stealing lead off that roof. And that’s what you’re at too! Now clear away off before I call the police!
Stealing? Not a-tall. Sure I wouldn’t steal a thing. Tell me now d’ye have any oul bits of vans for sale a-tall?
But Pat was revving the motor and keen to be off. And between your man’s crowbar and the chance that Pat would run over me I was starting to feel a bit nervous and wondering where Bert had got himself to.
So being the good citizen I phoned the PSNI, gave the car number and as good a description of the two skitters as I could. Not that it would have done one bit of good for they’ll never be done for it. The police officer didn’t exactly say I was mental tackling them but he did advise against any further behaviour of that sort.
Afterwards Bert and I agreed that it would only be a matter of time before someone came back for the lead they’d left behind.
I noticed yesterday that the roof lead was gone. That’s about ten days it lasted. There is a bit over a front window left. There’s been a dig at it but it’s right at the front of the house and would need to be an evening job.
And wasn’t tonight a great night for the job. Dry and moonlit. Perfect.
Are we going down there to see what’s going on?
Wise up. I’m cooking mince.
But I headed off anyway and he after me, soon ahead of me on those big long legs. First thing I checked was the remaining lead. Still there. Bert’s in the gate and round the back of the house all light-footed in his deck shoes. He’s soon back.
There’s something going down. A van and a car. Some sort of confab going on.
Better leave it alone then. Maybe it’s a drug deal or something.
It’s some sort of a deal.
I was very curious. Lead stealing is one thing but some sort of major crime thing going on next door is far too scary. I approached the boundaries of next door from another angle, hid behind a pine tree and pricked up my ears. Heard absolutely nothing apart from twigs snapping. Took fear and returned to the house and the preparation of meatballs.
So what do you think is going on Bert?
Dunno. Maybe it’s just a couple in for a ride.
But why two vehicles?
Because that’s what people do when they’re having a sneaky affair. Meet up in separate cars. It’s what they do up in Tobernaveen Forest. Hey Bert! D’ye think next door has become some sort of dogging venue?
Maybe I should just go down there and check it out again.