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(or the case of the missing bra)
It was the summer of 2010; warm nights heavy with the scent of star jasmine; glistening bodies sleep; modestly draped with a light white sheet. A light breeze provides some comfort, clearing the body-fug, as it wafts fitfully through the open front door.
Against the possibility of an opportunistic dalliance, or larceny, open barred steel doors secure the front and the back entrances to the house. To come onto the property any nocturnal visitor must make their way past closely parked cars and a motion detecting flood-light on the veranda.
Yet things are going missing. Not watches or wallets; laptops or phones; but clothes: Did you put my socks in the wash? Where is my black and white striped shirt? I seem to be missing several pairs of underpants!
Most distressing are the bras. As any woman, and any man who has given a bra as a present, knows these can cost several hundred dollars. But worse, according to Wendy, a good bra is hard to find.
It isn’t in the wash. It has not fallen behind the sofa. I’ve looked a dozen times - it’s not at the back of the drawer. No, I did not leave it somewhere (very funny!).
Yet one by one bras are disappearing. Knickers disappear too. Someone is definitely stealing underwear!
So like good mid-summer detectives we draw up a list of suspects, ordering them by possible motive.
At the top of our initial list: our daughters with access to the house. They borrow clothes or shoes from time to time but not underwear. Both deny any knowledge; and the disappearances continue when they have cast-iron alibis (like not being in the city, the State or the Country).
Possibly it is our cleaners. But this seems unlikely as they have proven to be entirely trustworthy with cash and other valuables left lying about. And they are each Chinese women of diminutive décolletage who have no obvious use for the missing bras. Nevertheless to eliminate the possibility we do a stock-take before and after cleaning. They’re in the clear.
Ok, it’s someone repeatedly stealing underwear to satisfy a fetish. I can eliminate myself, unless I sleepwalk, which I don’t. And even awake Wendy is unlikely to be guilty of eliminating my underpants and a shirt without trace.
A fresh line of enquiry is needed. We focus on where the missing bras might be taken from.
They are never hung up to dry outside; and the house itself appears to be secure as no other portable valuables are missing. But the laundry is not as secure on warm nights when the outer door to the garden is left open to facilitate the breeze. They must be being stolen from the laundry basket.
This makes sense of my disappearing socks too. These must be being used as gloves to avoid leaving finger-prints.
The garden door looks like someone has tried to force it; more evidence that we are being robbed by some agile fence-hopper.
Wendy calls the police. We suspect that here is a snowdropper in the neighbourhood. A helpful cop offers to come around to examine Wendy’s underwear at once. But, she explains, she is not at home – she is calling from work. He will have to come around this evening when her partner is there. His enthusiasm for solving petty crime promptly evaporates.
It is interesting that the slightly humorous term ‘snowdropper’ seems to be an Australian invention; no other country seems to have an equivalent term. Is Australia the only place on the planet where this petty-criminal fetish is sufficiently commonplace to have a name; or are Australians more amused or more interested than most other nationalities by fetishes of this sort?
So I go ‘on line’ to see if the Web can shed any light on the kind of person who might be staging nocturnal panty-raids on our laundry.
All the post-pubescent boys in the neighbourhood immediately come under suspicion; along with those older men who might be closet transvestites, particularly those fit enough to leap a fence; perhaps as a diversion from running up and down the hill to Balmoral beach. We re-watch Woody Allen’s ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex’ for more information.
The ever-helpful Web provides an additional lead. Someone writes that their cat was a snowdropper. There is indeed a very self-contained Siamese cat that roams the neighbourhood; including our garden. It doesn't seem to have a bell; even though cats allowed out at night are supposed to wear one against predation on native fauna and other feline hi-jinx. Nevertheless the Web reference rings a metaphorical bell. This cat has used storage boxes under our house and a scratching post and sometimes comes unwanted into the house; walking straight between the bars in either security door.
In this it is not alone. Various other wildlife also come into the house from time to time including the occasional bird; huntsman spider and recently a blue-tongued skink (lizard), only about thirteen inches long (30cm) but chunky and quite strong and wiggly, and potentially scratchy and bitey, when picked up by the neck to be returned to the garden.
So the cat, together with one or more of the several possums in the garden, possibly steeling clothing for its nest, is now added to the suspect list. The lizard is not added; lacking both motive and method.
But could a cat or a possum be dipping into the closed laundry basket then replacing the lid?
Another year rolls by and during the winter the snowdropper’s activities seem to diminish. Perhaps he is studying for the Higher School Certificate or is taking it easy after a heart attack.
Then summer comes around and socks and underpants start to disappear again. The bras are now under special security; just short of an armed guard. Losses are more manageable but still annoying. I put a lock on my socks drawer.
This year it is cooler. But again on hot nights the solid front door to the veranda is left open; the barred security door locked.
One night Wendy falls into bed hot and exhausted, her underwear carelessly strewn on the bedroom floor. In the morning she unlocks the front security door to find her bra on the front steps.
Suddenly the cat has moved to the top of the suspect list. The following night my expensive Kalvin Klein underpants, bought in America, are gone. Bummer!
I have an idea. I can hinge an acrylic sheet against the lower part of the security door. If the cat is indeed the culprit, it might push its way in and then be trapped inside. But will a cat push past the acrylic?
Thinking this through a bit more: what will I do with a scared, and possibly angry, cat running amok in the house? I don’t fancy cleaning up after it if it gets really scared. And then what will I do with it? It's already cost us several hundred dollars but a vet or the RSPCA is hardly likely to put-down someone else’s probably pedigree Siamese moggie just because I accuse it of snowdropping; and how else could I cure it of its kleptomania? Electric shock treatment?
I don't want to deal with it in the old-fashioned (since 1580) way, like Little Johnny Flynn (Ding Dong Dell pussy's in the well)!
So murderous thoughts are put aside and I elect to simply fix the sheet solidly across the lower panel of the door to prevent cat entry.
A few nights later we hear scratching and there it is! The cat has been confronted by a clear but solid barrier to its entry. After a while it gives up and goes away. So on the following nights we leave all sorts of interesting clothing lying about without any losses. QED; it is The Cat (alias John Robie) after all.
So after three years of cat-burgling, and several hundreds of dollars worth of garments lifted, as in Hitchcock's 'To Catch a Thief', John Robie will have to retire; or find another house to raid.
But some mysteries remain:
- Why does the cat steal clothes and what does it do with them? A cat might think socks are kittens but why take bras?
- Has it been outfitting one of the neighbours with the matching bra size; or
- is The Cat the trained accomplice of a sinister master snowdropper; perhaps with many such feline agents and supply lines across the City, the Country or the World?
- Is this a plot for the next Cat Woman movie?
It's only been a few days. Is this mystery finally solved; or is there yet another twist in the tail of The Cat?
PS for a relevant clip from the movie 'To catch a Thief' follow this link.