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"Must be little aliens, it must."

Sarah paced back and forth the Awning cul-de-sac in Sonning. Her left foot kept tapping away at the pavement eager to force it into a witness to the nights antics. Her brows knit tightly as she examined the ground that previously held a mail box.

It had been going on for a week - a week of no witnesses to the theft of dozens of mailboxes all around Sonning, East England. At first it had been three, but the next night it jumped to five and it never slowed from there.She had been commissioned by her editor to write an investigative piece on such an open act of vandalism, but all she had was the tedious fact that "Yes, the mailboxes were indeed missing, and no evidence had been found." This was the fifth day she had risen early to try and capture some evidence, but the ground seemed untrodden and no one was spotted shouldering a mailbox. She had the unnerving feeling that the thief would not appear if she set up surveillance or camped outside all night long.

"Aaaah!" She yelled in apparent frustration with her hands flying up to the sky in support of her expression.

With nothing to show for her early morning, and apparently no witnesses, parents or otherwise, she turned and matched off to Henry's local diner to hopefully get her prescribed daily dose of coffee. It would be a godsend considering the sloth she had to endure from the bed and breakfast she stayed at. 

I must look a mess, she thought to herself. She had jumped out of bed with her 5 a.m alarm still blaring in her mind. She'd only paused to wear her thick woollen rustic-red coat, and her running shoes. With nothing to show for her nest-looking hair, she felt more critical of her dressing choices.

She saw Mr. Winsel walking across the never busy street to open up Winsel motors. He seemed annoyingly happy this morning in Sarah's opinion. His whistling seemed to be a mocking of her investigative skills. Mrs.Winsel, who was waving her final goodbyes to her husband in the opposite direction, turned back to give her two eldest sons a talking too-a regular occurrence since she arrived in the town. It was still strange seeing how close people in this town stayed to their work. She usually took an hour to commute from her house to get to work.

Sarah ducked inside the diner trying to avoid having to deal with the day-to-day human interactions, especially before her morning coffee. The diner was half empty and she turned to settle on a table by the window. Most of the patrons were either reading a paper or stuffing their faces in eggs Benedict-come to think of it, it sounded heavenly to her.

After ordering, she took out her notebook to try and draw some ideas into what was happening. It certainly had to be a really gifted thief, a group...no, a den of thieves. That sounded more reasonable to her despite the holes in her theory when it came to the perfect timing of the thefts. In her mind, the thief, bandit actually, had to know exactly when the families would not be looking out the window, and that was impossible for an outsider.

Two women walked into the diner, deep in some conversation. The first, well-dressed in a teal ankle-length dress had her hair tied up and wore a heavy grey woollen coat, or the coat dressed her judging by its huge size. Her companion wore a frizzy ebony knee length long-sleeved dress with a cardigan sweater.

"...my Timmy woke up all tired again this morning. Must be reading late," said teal-dress to her companion who nodded amiably.

"Hope it shows when the report card turns up next month, my Arthur is just the same. Had to shake him up several times to get him out of bed," came the high pitched reply from cardigan.

The conversation seemed stale and pointless as they two women walked to the counter, but she could not pay any more attention since her plate of eggs Benedict sat before her, next to a heavenly cup of coffee. Salvation!

"Thank you, Wendy," she mumbled with food already in her mouth.

"No problem. Have you been lucky in finding out who's behind the vandalism?"

Her voice was warm and welcoming, if not a little bit curious. She took a moment to swallow and another to give the disappointing No.

The sheriff should have solved this by now, she thought darkly. Instead, she was forced to look into the matter since she was the only one who thought it could be newsworthy. Journalism could surely take a wrong turn at times.

She finished her meal, paid, and was about to leave when she remembered the conversation with the two women. 

Tired children in the mornings seemed a little too far fetched, but since there were no reports of alien ships being spotted, or a master thief with a stringy two-finger massageable beard, it was as good a lead as any. If she could only develop a pattern. Mrs.Winsel scolding her children had been a regular occurrence to her, probably scolding for being tired and late.

She left for the Sheriff's station to see if her theory paid any dividends. She made sure to inquire from Wendy teal-dress and cardigan's names which were surprisingly Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Greavy, too normal by her account.

It was at the plump Sheriff Dawson's station that the entire mystery started to resolve itself. Each house had, or neighboured, a teenage boy who went to Dunnings School or Milwick Pine. It seemed unlikely that a group of boys could leave their homes for nearly a week without notice, but the mystery was finally making sense.

Her discovery seemed to make the sheriff bristle, probably due to the teenage boy he lived with, the one who probably had something to do with his missing mailbox. You could see the thrashing coming his son's way just across the Sheriff's face like a dark mask that was rarely worn, but never lost.

"Still proves there's no story here," sheriff Dawson boasted defensively.

To that, Sarah had no reply. She would have to find the truth first to counter that point, the Daily Sonning would determine whether it warranted a page or not.

"You could interrogate your boy to see if my theory is true, or, you could let me do it since I have no emotional bond to him."

The Sheriff would do anything to get her off his back and the boy had been acting suspiciously the past week. It would take only a phone call, a false emergency, and then Stephen would be out of class.

                                   *

It took nearly half an hour for the dark haired lean teenager, Stephen Dawson, to walk his way into the Sheriff's office, and it took less than that (a promise of imprisonment and a grounding from leaving the house until college) to get him to reveal everything.

It had been a comeuppance rivalry between the teenage boys of two schools. A rivalry that would end up with scoldings and thrashings all around Sonning. What interested Sarah Lenner most was how the mailboxes were so easily removed.

"Pour a jug or two of warm water around the post and it just comes up easily," informed a repentant Stephen Dawson, hoping to avoid any punishment.

The story would write itself, and the entire affair seemed dull without the mystery of The Mailbox Bandit. Ironic, the solving of this mystery, had the unintended side-effect of removal all excitement associated with it. Sarah understood it perfectly, it was what she lived for - that promise of a vexing mystery to absorb her mind - and it was the same thing that led her out of town that evening in search of her next fix.







October 25, 2019 10:38

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