‘No worries, Mrs. Spencer, you go and have a wonderful holiday.’
Gareth rolled his eyes and stifled a yawn as Mrs. Spencer prattled on the other end of the phone.
‘Yes, yes, we’ll be in touch as soon as...’
He tossed a peanut into the air with his free hand and caught it in his mouth.
‘Oh, lots of interest I’m sure. It’s a very desirable property,’ he said as he chomped on a further fistful of nuts.
‘Goodbye, Mrs. Spencer, have a great time.’
Fighting hard to suppress a shout of excitement, he replaced the receiver and typed a note onto the Spencers’ computer file. They were going away for three weeks. Three wonderful weeks without them breathing down his neck.
‘Why are you grinning like a fool, Gareth?’ The Old Git asked as he loomed into view.
‘Oh nothing, Mr. Bradley, just thinking.’
‘Well, less thinking, more doing, laddie. I’m away to show a young couple that flat on the High Street. I won’t be back today, so be sure to lock up properly.’
‘Yes, Mr. Bradley, I will Mr. Bradley.’
‘And first thing Monday morning, I shall be talking to you about your future here, so think on.’
‘Yes, Mr. Bradley, I will Mr. Bradley. Have a good weekend, Mr. Bradley.’
‘Oh, I will, Gareth, I will.’
Before turning to march out of the office, The Old Git gave Gareth a strange look, not his usual expression of intolerance verging on anger, no, it was a secretive, smug kind of look. What was that all about, Gareth wondered, before turning back to the picture of The Elms on his computer screen. It really was a fabulous property. An estate agent’s dream. And it was going to stand empty for three weeks. Three whole weeks. Gareth’s finger hovered over the ‘Close’ key as he wrestled with temptation. Three weeks. Dare he? The odd night here and there was one thing but three weeks? He’d stayed in some pretty incredible houses but his favourite had to be that penthouse apartment in the converted old mill. Wow, that was something else; state of the art kitchen, bigger than the whole of his bed-sit over The Taj Takeaway, granite work-tops, under-floor heating, surround sound system in the lounge. A very desirable residence. Gareth had taken full advantage of the vendor, a Futures Exec, whatever that was, being in Barcelona for a two-day conference. He’d got away with it so far but if The Old Git found out he’d go ballistic and Gareth would be dismissed on the spot. On the other hand, if he was for the chop on Monday morning, he may as well go out in style…
A noise woke him. It was half past midnight by the bedside clock.
‘What the..?’ Gareth lay still, straining to hear more and wondering if he’d left the window open in the ‘exquisite Italian-tiled bathroom’ after using the ‘luxurious walk-in shower with power jets’.
‘Better go and see,’ he muttered as he pulled on Mr. Spencer’s Jaeger dressing gown.
The sound of footsteps on the ‘American Oak hand-built staircase’ catapulted Gareth across the room to grapple for the light switch. As the ‘imposing Master Bedroom’ flooded with light, he frantically looked around for something to use as a weapon. Mrs. Spencer’s hairbrush? No. Hand mirror? No. Damn, why had he left his phone on charge in the kitchen? What sort of ‘fabulously appointed’ house has no phone extension in the master bedroom?
Juliet balcony! He crossed the room in three strides and dodged behind the heavy curtains. The ornate structure was barely deep enough to stand in, but if he could just cling onto the wrought-iron railings long enough for the intruder to get whatever he came for, he might be OK.
‘And this, my kitten, is the master bedroom,’ said a male voice as the bedroom door opened.
‘Ooooh, Derek, it’s gorgeous,’ a female voice exclaimed.
‘Hang on a minute, someone’s been sleeping in the bed,’ the male voice again.
‘Surely they didn’t go on holiday leaving their bed unmade?’ the woman asked.
‘And the light was already on wasn’t it?’ the man sounded bemused.
‘And it’s very draughty, Derek, is that window open?’
Gareth gasped as the curtains were swept aside and he found himself looking into the florid face of The Old Git.
‘What the blazes?’ The Old Git blustered.
‘Oh, er, hello.’ Relief that the intruder was saggy old Derek Bradley and not a well-armed burglar surged through Gareth. Better to lose his job than to be whacked over the head, gagged and tied up.
‘Get off that balcony and explain yourself.’
‘Careful Derek, he might be violent.’ The heavily made-up woman put a hand on The Old Git’s trembling arm.
Gareth took in The Old Git’s bulging eyes, spittle-flecked lips and sweaty brow. Never mind losing his job, at this rate he’d have a dead body and a hysterical female on his hands. How was he going to get out of this? Think Gareth, think. Turn it around, that’s it, turn it around.
‘Mr. Bradley! So, it was you all along. Sydney Place…Lansdown Court…The Old Mill...that barn conversion over Myfleet way... How many other properties on the market with the oh so respectable ‘Bradley’s Sales and Lettings’ have you used for your...liaisons?’
‘No, I never...this is the first...the only…’ The purple-faced Derek Bradley sputtered.
‘Really?’ Gareth sneered, beginning to enjoy himself. ‘Pull the other one. When a few prospective purchasers noticed signs of habitation in properties where the vendors were away or which had Vacant Possession, I decided to do a bit of detective work. Never dreamt it would be you, you sly old...’
‘Tell you what, Mr. Bradley, I’m sure we can come to some sort of arrangement.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘When we have our little chat on Monday morning we’ll be discussing my raise…’
‘You evil little...’
‘...and exploring the possibility of a partnership.’
‘Now, just you listen to me...’
‘After all, we wouldn’t want the Spencers to hear all about this when they get back from Madeira, would we?’
‘Excellent. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must dress and pack my overnight bag. Then I’ll get off home, mystery solved. Goodnight Miss…good night Mr…Derek, old chap.’
About the author
Retired Administrator Kate is enjoying sitting around and making things up. She’s trying a bit of everything and is delighted with her success so far: poems published by The People’s Friend; Flash Fiction in Secret Attic, Early Works Press and Briefly Write; and short stories shortlisted in various competitions.
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