I knew I shouldn’t have, but when the postman mistakenly left the large parcel at my house, I opened it.
I didn’t open it immediately, mind you. I put it on the table and looked at it carefully for a long time. It looked large enough to contain a small microwave oven but wasn’t particularly heavy. And it didn’t have any of those ‘THIS WAY UP’, ‘FRAGILE’ or ‘HANDLE WITH CARE’ notices emblazoned on it. Actually, it was wrapped in boring old brown paper.
The address was indecipherable; heaven alone knows how the postie had decided it was for me. The only legible parts of it were #12 and Busselton. Could have been for anyone in the town, I thought. The handwriting for those two bits didn’t look familiar and of course there was no return address anywhere on the parcel. I even lifted it up and checked underneath.
Maybe the stamp would give me some clue?
No, it was all smudged, as if it had been over-printed several times and then wet.
Which all left me with a puzzle and a dilemma – what should I do? Return it to the Post Office? No, that was it’d end up in the depths of the Dead Letter (and Parcel) Department and no one, including myself, would ever know what had happened or what it contained.
So I opened it. carefully. And after putting my ear close enough to be sure there was no sinister ticking from inside it.
Within the package, wrapped carefully in lots of tissue paper, was a large and cuddly teddy bear. Its fur was pale pink and it wore a fluorescent pink frilly tutu.
For me? Who would send ME such a thing? I puzzled over this for days, and it wasn’t until one night, quite by accident, that I discovered the answer to the mystery.
I had been watching television; one of those horrible True Crime shows. Not that I normally indulged in such rubbish, mind you. A show I really wanted to saw was going to be on afterwards.
Not really concentrating, I jumped and became aware when the commentator said the words, ‘imported teddy bear toys’. Suddenly alerted, I stared and listened.
The show had been focusing on the doings of a gang of criminals. They had avoided both police and Customs attention for a long time by packing the items they wished to smuggle inside cuddly toys that were carried through airports and off ships by innocent children.
I was totally horrified that people would use children to do such things. Mind you, nothing that people do should amaze me and to be honest this wasn’t at least hurting the children. It was almost logical in a horrible sort of a way. Who would suspect a child carrying a cuddly teddy bear? And clearly, the toys hadn’t been used to smuggle drugs; those would have been detected by sniffer dogs however carefully they had been concealed.
I wondered if perhaps ‘my’ teddy bear had been used in the same way. Might there be something hidden inside it?
Something illegal? Jewels were the most likely item, I supposed, having dismissed drugs as being to difficult to conceal.
The show I had been going to watch was totally forgotten as I went and took the pink teddy bear down from the bookshelf where it had been perched since its arrival, a fortnight previously.
I examined it carefully for any sign of it having been tampered with.
Sure enough, in an area concealed by the tutu were fine stitches indicating the toy had been opened and closed.
What might there be inside? I found a pair of small but sharp scissors and, mentally apologising to Pink Ted, snipped at the stitches carefully.
My probing fingers discovered a soft cotton bag. I was trembling as I withdrew it and put it on the table. I dug around a bit more and found a second. And a third.
Although I was itching to open the bags, I made myself fetch a cloth to put on the table.
When I tipped the bags out I was dazzled. Each contained a dozen or so fine cuts gems – diamonds, emeralds and rubies. They glittered in the light and I stared, transfixed.
That was when I heard the knocking at the front door and the call of ‘Police!’ I nearly died of shock.
I was about to start, “I can explain … “ when I answered the door but I didn’t need to fear. It was a lovely young constable who was doing a courtesy call on everyone in the street to tell us there had been an alarm and we shouldn’t worry at the police activity up and down our street all night. Did we need to leave, I asked him.
No, he assured me, but it would be wise to lock all the doors and windows and stay inside.
Weak with relief, I closed and locked the door and leaned against it for several moments, regaining my composure. Then I hurried back to my kitchen, intending to lock my back door. Imagine my shock when I realised I wasn’t alone any more.
It was the lovely young constable. Well, not so lovely any more; he was pointing a gun at me.
“Oh dear,” I said. “You’re not really a cop after all, are you?”
“Nope.” He shook his head. “Lady, you really should have locked your back door. I could have been anyone. An axe murderer, a – “
“A jewel smuggler perhaps?” I suggested, with a much brighter smile than I felt. He laughed.
“Exactly.” He indicated the gems spilt all over the table and the sad looking pink teddy. “So, I’ll just take my property and be off.”
“Hmm? That easy? What if I go to the police – the real police – about you?”
He shrugged. “I’m a jewel thief, not a murderer. Besides, I move fast. No one’s going to catch up with me. And I’m a master of disguise.”
“And rather egotistical, too,” I remarked. He grinned. Dammit, apart from the gun I was beginning to like this young man. But something puzzled me. “I’ve only just found those jewels. What brought you knocking on my door tonight of all nights?”
“Oh.” He shrugged and explained. “I knew the teddy had been delivered to a place in this area, but I just wasn’t sure exactly which house. I’ve been doing my police act on and off for a while, asking around, and one of your friends mentioned your teddy. So – here I am.”
“Just coincidence there was an item about you on TV earlier this evening?”
“Was there? I don’t suppose you recorded it, did you?”
I couldn’t help myself. I laughed.
“No, I’m afraid not. Hmm, I think we can come to some sort of agreement.”
“Agreement?” He raised his eyebrows … and the gun. “You’re not really in a position to bargain.”
“Oh, but I am.” I pointed. “I belong to the local pistol club. I’m quite good actually. See all my trophies over there – “
I didn’t really expect him to be so stupid, but he turned away to check out the shelves I was indicating. But he was. I pounced and grabbed the pistol from him. Hah! As I had thought, it was a replica. I rolled my eyes. ”Really!”
“Um.” He looked at me and shook his head. “An agreement, you were saying?”
My neighbours and friends were rather surprised when I sold up and told them I was going travelling. Globe-trotting, as the term used to be. But I won’t be alone.
I have a handsome young bodyguard … and a pink teddy bear!