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The break-in

13 March, 2015 0 Comments

First published in the September 2014 issue of Spotlight

Josh and Kieran sat in Mr Watkins’s back garden eating tomatoes. Neither of them really liked tomatoes, but these were stolen tomatoes from Mr Watkins’s greenhouse, so they were delicious. The high wooden fence hid them from the neighbours.

Mr Watkins was away again — gone to stay with his daughter in Leeds, Josh’s mum had said. They had seen him being helped to the car by his daughter, his sonin- law drumming impatiently on the steering wheel, and the grandchildren fighting in the back.

“We should get my ball back,” said Josh. “The one that landed in his roses.”

“What about my ball? And Liam’s?”

“Yeah, and Dan’s plane. I bet he’s got loads of things in there that he’s taken off kids over the years.”

“Yeah, loads,” said Kieran.

“Charlie reckons Mr Watkins used to be a bank robber and that he’s got loads of stolen money and jewels and stuff hidden in his house,” said Josh. Charlie was Josh’s big brother, almost a grown-up now.

“That’s rubbish. He’s having you on,” said Kieran.

“You saying my brother’s a liar?” said Josh and threw half a tomato at Kieran.

They scuffled for a few moments, before Josh said, “Let’s get my ball back.”

“How?” asked Kieran.

“We walk in and look for it,” said Josh, “and when we find it, we take it. It’s not stealing. It’s my ball. It’s my United one.”

“But even if it’s your ball, that’s burglary,” said Kieran. “We can’t just break into Mr Watkins’s house.”

“We don’t break in, we just walk in through the door. He always leaves a set of keys with my mum in case of emergencies. She’s put them in the cupboard in the kitchen.”

“What kind of emergencies?”

“How should I know? Hang on a minute.”

Josh peered over the garden fence before quickly climbing over and disappearing from view. Minutes later, he was back, holding a set of keys tightly in his fist.

It was strange walking into somebody else’s empty house. It wasn’t a nice feeling at all. “I don’t like this,” said Kieran. “Let’s forget about the stupid ball. You’ve got another one.”

Josh wanted to change his mind as well, but he wished to prove he was braver than Kieran. He liked to think of himself as the leader of their gang of two. “Don’t be a baby. What’s there to be afraid of? All the curtains are closed. Nobody can see us.”

They walked quietly through the darkened downstairs rooms, looking in cupboards and under furniture. “Got it!” cried Kieran. There it was, in a basket by the door, together with half a dozen other balls of different shapes and sizes.

“Great,” said Josh, grabbing it from Kieran. “Let’s look upstairs.”

“What for?” asked Kieran.

“For the jewels and things,” replied Josh.

“Let’s just leave it, can’t we?” But Josh was already halfway up the stairs, so Kieran followed, joining him at the top.

Josh pushed open the door to a dimly lit bedroom. There were cupboards along two walls and boxes piled up between the bed and the window. More boxes, bags and cases could be seen sticking out from under the bed.

Josh knelt down to pull at the handle of an importantlooking briefcase stuck between a cardboard box and a carrier bag. Kieran began to open cupboard doors.

“Bloody hell!” said Josh.

“Wow!” said Kieran.

Each looked around to see what the other had found. In the cupboard shone trophies, cups, shields and medals, all carefully arranged on two shelves.

“This is an FA cup-winner’s medal,” said Kieran.

“And look at this,” said Josh, waving the newspaper cutting he had picked from the pile that lay in the box. “John Watkins, scoring the winning goal for United in the 1948 Cup Final.”

“What? Mr Watkins played for United? Wow! Does that mean he’s really rich? Why does he live round here and not in a big, posh house?” asked Kieran.

“No, Charlie says footballers weren’t all rich in the old days. They just got paid normal wages like everyone else. Look, what do you think?” He placed his United football up on the shelf between two trophies. “Looks great, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, great!”

“What’s that?” Josh rushed to the window to peer through the curtains. “It’s Mr Watkins. He’s back! Run!”

After quickly shutting the cupboard and pushing the briefcase back under the bed, the boys ran down the stairs, through the house and out of the back door, locking it behind them before jumping over the fence.

Once they felt themselves safe, they collapsed in a breathless heap.

“Where’s your ball?” asked Kieran.

“It’s still in there,” replied Josh, “where it belongs.”

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