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He thought that he had finally made sense of everything. It was only twenty-four hours since the alarm had been raised and he was convinced that there was more to it than met the eye. Dug had been walking from the large kitchen garden down to the orchard looking for his gardeners, always hard to find when it was time to dig over the big vegetable patch, when he saw the car speed off down the long drive from Hartingwell Manor. It wasn’t just that he didn’t recognise the car; he was suspicious of the manner in which it was being driven. Dug had run as fast as he could to get to the large ceremonial gates at the end of the drive to get a good view of the driver. Darkened glass. He couldn’t even tell how many were in the car and all he could do was to remember the mocking licence plate. It was GOT II – with a carefully placed dot between the bases of the two number ones. He stood for the shortest moment leaning against the golden sandstone pillars to get his breath back. Walking back to the house, Dug thought through what would have happened and headed for Cal Meakin’s office. He would know what had happened. The office was empty, a very unusual thing, so Dug flipped open his mobile phone and dialled 1. The speed dial worked and Cal’s voice came over as calm but concerned. “Dug, we have a problem and we need to sort it out quickly and quietly. Wait for me in my office and we will think about the best way forward.” Cal suggested before ringing off. Dug sank into Cal’s heavy leather office chair and waited. Lord Hartingwell was having another leisurely day chatting to his two of his gardeners, Coney and Boyle, about the old days. He loved the Manor and he loved being Lord of the Manor. He thought that things simply couldn’t be better. The three of them stood talking about their time in Africa and how they missed the heat during the cold, British winters. Although all three of them loved skiing, they didn’t love snow when they were attempting to keep the hall dry and warm. In the distance, they heard a shout and a car accelerating and thought that it was Jenson Blast upsetting Dug Hall by spraying gravel over the grass. They chuckled at the thought of the red faced gardener shaking his fist at the back of a speeding sports car screaming down the drive way. It was only when Lord Hartingwell’s phone rang, at the same time as that of both of his two companions, that they all wondered if there was a problem. Calls made, they all headed to the estate office. It had been a busy twenty-four hours for everyone at the Manor after it was decided that the police would not be called. The meeting in Cal Meakin’s office had been quiet with Cal and Zak, one of the gardeners, doing most of the talking. Dug sat in silence listening to the incredible developments and wondering at how one of his gardeners was so knowledgeable about the movements of diamond thieves and collectors around the world. Dug thought to himself that he didn’t show the same interest in cabbages and leeks. The story had begun just before 10 o’clock when Jenson Blast, the chauffeur, had driven Jackie Oliver into town to buy some things for dinner that night. They were chatting happily when Jenson had to brake sharply to avoid a car with blacked out windows which was coming round the corner of the sharp bend. “Ooh I wonder who it is coming to see the Lady!” Jackie squealed excitedly as she thought about whether she would need to buy some more food in. “I bet it is one of those girl groups she is advising,” grumbled her driver “which means lots of giggling and shouting all night.”
They continued towards the shops with no thought of the car. Several minutes later, as they arrived, the black Mercedes was just turning into the gates of Hartingwell Manor. It cautiously made its way up the long gravel drive avoiding the front of the house but parking outside the doors to the now empty kitchen. The driver stayed in the car whilst his two passengers jogged into the back of the stately home and got on with their task. They moved through the house with a confidence which seemed to suggest that they knew where they were going and that they would not be disturbed by anyone. They crossed from the kitchen, up the stairs, through the hall and up the main stairs taking them two steps at a time. Only 30 seconds after entering the house a dirty footprint was left in Lady Hartingwell’s dressing room and less than 2 minutes after that the car was being chased by Dug Hall down the drive. It was all over so quickly. The intruders had not bumped into anyone, they had not disturbed Lady Hartingwell and the house looked as though no-one had even been in. Cal and Zak told the group in the office that they had been waiting for something to happen for the past few weeks after they had heard that Donnie Sparkle, the world famous jewel thief, was in England. They had installed cameras around the house and had hired a private detective to trail Sparkle whilst he was staying in London. They also admitted that they could find no sign of anything being stolen from the house. It was very puzzling. They all looked worried and all of his team looked towards Zak like a leader. It was decided that they would go through the house with a fine toothcomb and check to see if anything was missing. Dug asked whether they should call the police but was told very quickly by his Lordship that he didn’t want to waste their time. Throughout the day they searched through the house and found nothing. Dug decided that he would try to find out as much as possible as he could make notes after each discussion. He had always enjoyed being a detective and it was like being back in his old job. By the end of the day it was clear that no-one had been hurt and nothing appeared to have been taken. Lady Hartingwell was very shaken and kept telling everyone how she had been metres from death as they had been in her dressing room whilst she was in her room with Dolly Wilson, her maid. Everyone thought that she had been lucky as all of her diamonds were in the safe when the raid took place. Dug felt very sorry for Dolly as she was only young and had been worried for the ladyship. She was very loyal and had been grateful for Lady Hartingwell’s offer of some time off. Mrs Jenkins was more cross than she was upset. She didn’t like the idea of someone coming into the house without the permission of Parkin. The two of them spent most of the afternoon blaming teachers for the terrible state of the country and saying what they would have done to the gang if they had caught them in the house. Dolly also said that Mike Rush had telephoned from his trip to a zoo in France to see how everyone was after she had texted him. It was clear from listening to the two men running the meeting and his Lordship that it was Donnie Sparkle who was responsible for the break-in but what was not clear was what had really happened. Dug decided that the best thing to do was check the CCTV films and see who was responsible. After the first check of the house, Dug fired up the main computer and logged into the security system. He watched the film feed from every camera and leant back with a furious sigh. He called Zak and Cal through from their discussion explaining that what they were about to watch made no sense at all. The three of them sat in silence as the film showed the car, with its taunting licence plate, speed down the drive and move out of view. Dug switched views and pressed play so that they could all see the car screech to a halt on the gravel, the driver was in full sight of the camera but his cap and dark glasses made him hard to recognise.
Zak and Cal grunted in frustration as they were unable to see the passenger side of the car and the two raiders getting out. Dug switched cameras again to show them the view from the kitchen. The whole thing was the same as the car stopped in a blind spot from which the passengers were not visible. Once again, Dug pressed the button to switch views only for the screen to go blank at the time that the car pulled up outside the kitchen. He repeated this for every camera between the kitchen and the area outside Lady Hartingwell’s dressing room and every time his two work mates let out shouts of anger and rude words. “How can every camera stop working just like that?” demanded Cal glaring at Zak. “They didn’t,” he calmly replied “camera 3 appears to have hairspray on it and the picture on number 6 looks as though it has bubble gum on it.” There was a short silence before all three men looked at each other and nodded as Cal said what they were all thinking. “So it is an inside job.” Dug hadn’t felt like this for years; he was back on a case! He called Lord Hartingwell and asked him to join the three of them in the kitchen. Jackie carried on preparing dinner pretending not to notice their conversation. Dug shared his fears with them and asked his Lordship if he would take them up to his safe in his dressing room. Lord Hartingwell asked why they were going to a room which hadn’t been visited. “Your Lordship, we simply don’t know where they went as each camera appears to have broken, switched off or been sabotaged at the time of the raid. It is clear that someone inside this house knew what was happening. We only know that they went to your wife’s dressing room as there is a dirty footprint inside. No-one saw them go in and no-one has found anything missing,” Dug took a deep breath and continued his long explanation. “Let us think about this differently. If someone is prepared to put bubble gum on a camera lens, would they also make a dirty footprint to confuse the police?” The group of the four men strode purposefully up the back stairs looking for new clues, which had been missing on the main stairs, whilst they talked about what could have happened during the break in. They stopped as Cal found a piece of gravel from the drive stuck in the carpet pile. Dug pointed out a small stud earring lying on its own. His Lordship looked flustered as they reached the door of his dressing room. He looked at the four faces staring back at him and took a deep breath. “Right then Dug. What are we looking for?” Dug paused. He knew that he could lose the respect of all of the other men. He also knew that he could lose his job if he upset Lord Hartingwell. He answered hesitantly “Well...erm...firstly I need to ask you what we should expect to find in the safe, Your Lordship.” “There is only one thing in there, Dug and that is the Khanda Diamond.” They all took a breath as Lord Jonny Hartingwell turned the dial for the last time and swung the door open...
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