“They were there.” Mrs Winton was almost in tears, she was so beside herself. ‘Big enough to pick and ready to eat. A week’s worth of meals in each one and now they’re gone. What’ll I tell him when he comes home? You know how tight money is these days with the funding cut backs up at the lab.”
“Yes, Mrs Winton, we all know.” Constable Place did know and was very glad that his salary wasn’t dependent on the financial status of Halcyon Labs. It didn’t help the district that Halcyon had worked hard to be the only employer of size in the area. “At least your husband still has work – they let go the entire Small Animal Division last week.”
“I know,” the housewife and gardener wrung her hands, “and if I knew it was someone out of work and they hadn’t taken all of them, I wouldn’t have said anything but I was counting on one of those cabbages for this week…”
“Well, let’s see what we can find in the way of clues,” offered Constable Place. He’d never have picked Ned Winton as a wife beater or a domestic bully, too tired and grey, but it took all types he supposed.
After five minutes of looking he said, “Well Mrs Winton, you’ve had a lot of rabbits in here, haven’t you?”
“Not a one, up until today,” she told him and then asked, “but where did that hole under my fence come from?”
“Wire cutters, it looks like to me,” said Constable Place, “and here’s wool from a knitted jumper caught on the wire. There plenty of room for a kid to get through this hole,” but Constable Place sounded doubtful.”
“With my cabbages,” pointed out Mrs Winton.
“Yes,” he agreed, “but I can see rabbit tracks, marks that look like cabbages being rolled and no tracks from children.”
“Constable you’re not suggesting that my cabbages were taken by woollen-wearing rabbits, are you? Mrs Winton looked annoyed.
“And waistcoat wearing, don’t forget that,” Constable Place picked up a piece of cloth with a button attached.
“That’s ridicu-,” she snapped then her expression changed. “The Labs let the entire Small Animal Division go…” Her face went pale.
Constable Place felt his own face blanch. “Best not be setting any traps, Mrs Winton, while I make some careful enquiries.” The sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach told him that community policing had just gotten a whole lot more complicated.