The Serial Burglar

by Stredwick
The Serial Burglar
             Austin Mitchell
       Chapter One

             Las Marriot was in disbelief that Monday morning in April that his shop and bar had been broken into. He was a medium sized man going on forty. They were living in the village of Keswick down in north east St. Catherine.
          “I can’t believe this,” he said to his wife, Vita, who was also looking on in consternation.
           Vita, was the same age as Las and was a chubby woman. She had borne him four children, two girls and two boys.
           It was about six o’clock in the morning and Vita had woken up to get the children ready for school. She had gone into the shop to get some things to make breakfast. She had turned on the lights and noticed things flung all over the floor. She immediately alerted Las and the children. Juby, their yard boy, had been sent to get the police.
          Las could think of several persons who might have robbed his establishment. Two names came to mind, Bender and Latty.
        “Las, I don’t think it would be a wise idea to send the children to school today,” Vita stated.
         “They must be shaken up by all this. As a matter of fact, we could all be dead now,” Las opined.
          The children had gone back to sleep. Las and Vita went out to the front of the shop. They could see where the bars at the top of the two large front doors of the shop had been plied apart enabling a small child to climb through. The heavy doors had been pushed back in. Las regretted putting bolts on the doors instead of padlocks.
          “That’s how it happened Las, somebody used a crowbar to widen out the steel bars and then pushed a young boy through,” Vita stated.
           Several persons had come onto the scene now.
          Jack Distant who lived across the river, came up to them.
          “I heard about it Las, last week they went in on Mundle, cleaned him out,” he told them.
             Suddenly they saw the police car coming up the road. Out of it came Sergeant Whitely, Corporal Morris and Constable Ellis. Dick Lamey, the local district constable, must be the only one left at the station, Las thought. He was surprised as normally the police didn’t start working so early. Maybe it was the spate of break-ins that had spurred them to start working earlier than usual.
          “What happened here, Las?” Sergeant Whitely asked.
          “Vita went into the shop to get some things to make breakfast for  the children to go to school when she came upon the break-in.”
            The Sergeant took out his notebook and began to write.
            “There has been a spate of break-ins. They robbed Mundle and Miss Trina and Mister Deacon both had their shops broken into during the past week,” Whitely reported.
             “We suspected Latty and even went for him, but he had nothing on him. We searched his house, even put Dalby to watch him, but with no luck so far,” Corporal Morris reported.
            Whitely looked sharply at Morris. He didn’t know why Morris should be bleating out that Dalby was one of their spies when he knew of the contempt most persons had for informers and the dangers the job carried with it.
            “Let’s go into the shop and bar, Las. I’ll warn you not to touch anything. I’ve phoned Spanish Town and they’ll be sending a detective up here to do some fingerprinting,” Whitely told Las as they made their way into the shop.
            Las turned on the lights in the shop. It could be observed that things were strewn all over the floor.
          “They took all my cigarettes and all the liquor they could find,” Las reported to the policemen.
           “You can bet that somebody will buy those things from these robbers,” Corporal Morris stated.
           “I’ll have to get Dick Lamey to go around to a few of the shops and bars in Keswick, Nelson and Howell’s Content. I’m sure that he’ll pick up something,”Sergeant Whitely said.
            They made their way over to the bar and could observe that what Las had said was true.
           The three policemen stopped to eat some of Vita’s breakfast before heading back to the station in Keswick.
             Las was left in a quandary as to what to do. The next day, he put in stronger burglar bars and padlocks. He was now sleeping with his machete. He had hired Dalby to help him and Juby watch the shop and bar.
             Dalby was sleeping in an out-house with a machete. Juby was in another room, also armed with a machete. Las had been encouraged to buy a gun and was giving serious thoughts to doing so.
            Two weeks later Las was at home when Dalby came in with the news that Bender had been caught breaking into George Chin’s bar and grocery. Immediately, they set off for the police station. When they reached there they saw people milling around.
            “We went to his house, but didn’t find any of your stuff there Las,” Sergeant Whitely reported.
              George Chin was also there along with his wife, Alice and their eldest son, Chunkie.
           “Police don’t know what they ‘re doing. They have Bender locked up, I’m sure that it was he, who broke into your shop Las,” George said as he drew him aside.
            “I think it was he, who broke into my shop and bar,” Las agreed with George.
            “He has a lot of children to feed. He uses some of them to help him break into people’s houses and their shops,” George stated.
           “I hope the police don’t let him escape this time,” Las remarked.
             Bender was slapped with several charges by the police that day. Las didn’t know what the charges were.  He heard that they were going to raid his hideout, which was a cave above the Dawson river.
              As Las walked home that evening he knew that it was unlikely that the police would find anything in Bender’s cave. The man was known to have a lot of women and children. He knew some of the women. Some of them had been to school and were even working. He wondered how such women got involved with a man like Bender.
            Bender was a reputed praedial thief,
going into people’s fields and stealing their produce. He was also a goat thief. Rumor had it
that he operated at nights. He would then end up either in Kingston or Linstead to sell the goods he stole. Rumor also had it that he had a butcher’s license. Several persons had reported seeing him selling meat in the Linstead market. Las had been surprised about two years ago to see him with a stall at the same market and he was selling like the devil.
             When Las reached home, Vita had his
dinner ready. As he ate, he updated her about Bender. A little later that day a police detective came from Spanish Town to take fingerprints. He also took photographs of the shop. Las felt that it was a waste of time. However, the detective said that the robbers’ fingerprints were still fresh despite the lapse of time.
              Things calmed down for the next few
days. Las suspected that the police were doing the paper work for Bender to be transferred to the Spanish Town lock-up.
             Two days later Las woke up to the news that Bender and another man named Leslie, had broken out of jail. Las went out to the police station to find out what was going on.
             Leslie was even more dangerous than
Bender. He was suspected of holding up several buses plying the area. Last year he was the main suspect in the murder of a local  butcher, Tooksie, over in Nelson district. He was being held on that charge, Las suspected.
           “They dug a hole in the roof and escaped,” Denny, a local farmer, told him.
           “I can’t understand why they have that kind of material holding up a police station,” Las remarked.
            Three days later Las heard that Leslie had
been recaptured, but Bender had avoided capture by fleeing into the woods of Lobban’s ridge.
         “Nobody is safe, while Bender is out there,” Las remarked to Vita.
          “What can we do?”
           “We have to hope that they re-capture
him soon. I think that he was the burglar who broke into our shop and bar last month. I just hope the he doesn’t try to break in on us again.”
         Two mornings later, Las heard a strange sound coming from outside the shop. It must be minutes after four o’clock, Las thought. He grabbed up his machete, went to the out-house and woke up Dalby and Juby. They crawled out to the front of the shop. As they reach it, they saw a man and two young boys running down the road. Both Las and Dalby sprinted after them, hoping to capture one of the boys, but they jumped down into a gully. They stood at the edge of the gully and heard them rolling down it. Juby on Las’s instructions, had remained behind to guard the shop and bar.
            “Let’s go after them, Las. We could
capture one of those boys and let him tell us what they were doing out here.”
             They both jumped down into the gully.
They ran down to the Keswick river, but saw the boys and Bender floating downstream.
         They ran on the banks of the river and waded into the water. Bender jumped out of the water and sped into the bushes.
          “Let’s hold these boys, Dalby. We can catch Bender another time. Maybe these boys can tell us what they were doing out here at this time of the morning.”
           The two boys were trying to escape, but Las and Dalby were fast for them. They grabbed
both boys and dragged them out of the water. Both Las and Dalby knew the boys. The taller boy was called Lippy and the shorter boy, Fred.
           Both boys looked to be the same age, around twelve years, Las thought.
          “What are you boys doing out here at this time of the morning?” Las demanded.
           Both boys remained silent. Dalby went for a huge piece of stick lying on the river bank.
         “Talk or else I’ll beat both of you with this stick,” he threatened.
         “We’ll take them to the police station. Maybe they will get them to talk.”
        Neither of the boys seemed frightened by
his threat to take them to the police station, Las realized. He noticed that the expression on neither boy’s face had changed.
           “The police can’t do us anything. We didn’t
steal anything from anybody,” Lippy protested.
         “Why are you guys holding us? We haven’t done anything wrong. My father has gone for his gun. He told us that he was going for it.  If he comes back and sees you holding us like this, he’s going to shoot both of you,” Fred warned.
          “He’s bluffing you, Las. Bender doesn’t have a gun as far as I know,”
           Dalby countered.
          “We’re taking them to the police station.”
           “Let’s beat them.”
             But Las would have none of it. So they
marched the boys up the road. It was still early so they left the boys tied up at Las’ house.
              Las and Dalby were in for a shock when
took the two boys up to the police station. They claimed that Las and Dalby had kidnapped them. They had gone to the river for an early morning swim and to catch shrimps when Las and Dalby came down there and held them.
            Las accused them of trying to break into his shop and bar. He said they and Bender were going to do the burglary. When Corporal Morris asked Las if he saw the boys committing the crime, Las shook his head.
            Dalby said that they saw the boys and Bender running down the road.
             The corporal told them that there was
nothing with which he could charge the boys. In the station yard both boys threatened to stone Las and Dalby when they were going home.
             Las decided to remain at the police station, talking to the policemen. He told them that the boys’ real intention had been to break into his shop and bar again. Las felt that the policemen were more interested in capturing Bender. They had no interest in arresting his sons.
              Just as he and Dalby came out of the
station yard, Dex, a local farmer, drove up and
offered them a ride in his pickup. They had driven a quarter of a kilometer when Las saw Lippy and Fred on a hill, piling up some huge rock stones.
           The boys had seen Dalby in the back of the pickup! They started raining down stones on him.
          Dex stopped the pickup and rushed out of the vehicle.
          “Hey, you  boys, are you mad or what?”
           He had drawn a machete out of the back of the pickup. Las had also come out of the pickup.
         “Fling any more stones down here and
mash up my vehicle and see what I’ll do to you boys.”
          “It’s Las and Dalby we’re after, Dex,” Lippy shouted.
          “Drive away and leave them to us so that we can hit them down with our stones,” Fred advised Dex.
            Las and Dalby took a pickaxe and a digging bill out of the van back respectively. Together with Dex, they raced up the hill after the two boys. Lippy and Fred had seen them coming and jumped down into a gully and raced away into the bushes. Las and Dalby threw stones after them. Las doubted if  any of the stones hit either boy.
            When Las reached home, he told Vita about what had taken place at  the police station. He didn’t tell her about the confrontation with Bender’s sons.
             News came two days later that Bender
had been sighted but he had again escaped into the bushes.
            Las was thinking of going after Bender,
himself, but he would need help. He spoke to both Vita and Dalby about it. Dalby was enthusiastic, but Vita was cautious.
          “I heard that Bender has a long gun, Las. He
will shoot you with it. I heard that Hep Johnson lost his gun. I don’t know if it’s that gun,Bender stole. Don’t go, Las. I don’t want him to kill you.”
         Las assured Veta that he didn’t think Bender had a gun. True he had heard that Hep had lost his gun, but he didn’t think it was Bender who had stolen it.
           Over the next several days, Las discretely
discussed his plans to run down and capture Bender. Several of his friends warned him about the imminent danger in such a scheme. Las assured them that he wasn’t afraid of Bender. He told them that he didn’t want word getting out to Bender about him trying to capture him.
           So Las began to plan the adventure. He
decided to take Dalby with him. Dalby was a very fast runner, although he was short in stature. As far as Las knew, Bender was fast like lightning. He had once out sped a police jeep, before jumping down a gully and disappearing into deep bushes.
             They planned to leave from that Friday morning and to return by Sunday evening with or without Bender. Las had been a scout in primary school and a cadet in high school. He had therefore spent a lot of time camping. They would take sleeping bags with them, food to last them the three days and cooking utensils.
            Both Las and Dalby took a machete and a
well cured piece of pimento stick with each of them. They also took a rope with them to tie up Bender should they catch him.
              Vita’s eldest sister and her two teenaged  
boys and little girl came to stay with them from Thursday evening. They would help  her in the shop in Las’ absence. Juby would guard the shop and bar during the three days.

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