A couple of months ago we were burgled. Somewhere between 17-19 June, when I left to do an Immersion English course, and Trevor had gone to the mountains with his friends. Nothing new there, millions of people are burgled every year. They took an old computer and all the paperwork pinned to the office wall - presumably to look for passwords? They opened every drawer and every cupboard, and tipped my jewelry case out on the bed, crow-barred open an old briefcase, and rifled in the office drawer looking for valuables.
Since then, however, instead of it being a one-off event, we`ve had repeated visits and drive-bys of sinister looking (and feeling, to my sixth sense) men, all with the objective, in my opinion, of surveilling the house until the next time we leave it.
It is my belief that there is a team of people, who take it in turns to come past the house, to see whether we`re in. So far - believe it or not - there have been: a man walking a horse with his two mastiff-type blonde dogs (I engaged him in conversation and would recognise him again); a man calling at the house for some water (I engaged him in conversation and would recognise him again); two young lads on bicycles calling out "Il y a quelqu`un" and "Cou-cou la maison" when they got near the house, not knowing I was there watching (I engaged them in conversation and would recognise them again); a man on an old bike, dressed for Winter on a hot day, with a black beard and long black hair, and two large black and brown dogs, who went up the valley, came down again, and then headed off towards St Girons on the Piste Verte from Rimont (I followed him from a distance).
Also the man who came for the water had an old banger of a vehicle, although I didn`t get the numberplate. He said he was a `tourist` in broken French, and asked for the `auto-routes` (sic). The numberplate of the car was `09` however. I believe it is this car that I saw on the hair-pin of the forest track behind our house on 20th August, when I was leaving for a meeting. A little further on, the same day, there was another old banger, empty, at the top of the descent of a track that leads to the river. Finally, yesterday, another trip up the forest track revealed the second car (same numberplate) moving off slowly (I slowed down and said `Bonjour` to the driver, to get a look at his face, although I`m not sure I`d recognise him again) and further on, unbelievably, another old banger with a passenger sitting there, but no driver.
No point me mentioning this to anyone, as no-one takes me seriously, but I know for a fact they were not mushrooming, as everyone will say. It was the wrong time of day, the wrong weather and the wrong sort of cars and people. My sixth sense tells me these were people taking it in turns to watch our house. Funny that out of the few things that were stolen were a pair of good binoculars.
The first man I mentioned, alongside his horse, met at Milles with a man in a car coming the other way - a white Twingo the same as ours, and the driver was white, middle-aged with a fluffy white beard. It is my belief that had we not been `at home` (it was 14th July) then the Twingo would have parked on the drive and they could have broken in and taken all the tools, without anyone passing batting an eyelid. I should mention here that the day before I left for that Course in June, there were horse-droppings on the drive, indicating a visitor, plus some more up at the top of the forest track - from where you get a very good look at the back of our house (which is where they entered, breaking two double-glazed windows and forcing door).
The man who came to ask for water could indeed have been a tourist, except for his lack of teeth, his filthy trousers and his eyes, which darted everywhere whilst I escorted him off the premises. I indicated the way to the main road, and he left, only to turn round at the bottom by the bridge, and go back up the hill, thinking I wasn`t watching.
This morning, Wednesday 26th August, I found another piece of used toilet paper at the top of the forest track, and my husband confirmed that one of the dogs had had it earlier. Later in the day the same dog ran up to above the road, and sure enough, found what looked like a half-buried pile of human excrement. That is the third time I`ve found similar near our house, identified by used toilet tissue, which animals don`t use!
Finally this evening, 26th August, my nephew and I went out late to look for some abandoned kittens down near Milles. On coming back, we both saw a strong red light just behind our house, which shone for a while and then went out. It wasn`t two lights, as in car lights, it was one strong light. We went down the forest track, but there was no car there, nor was there sign of one going up the hill (at night in the woods it`s easy to see far away cars from their headlights, especially when there are no street lights). Very bizarre.
So there you have it - a string of incidents which I wanted to note down somewhere. On 20th August I did telephone the Gendarmerie at La Bastide de Serou again (that is where I filed the original report after the break-in) to ask if they could circulate from time to time in our valley, but he said the area is too large for them to patrol and it wouldn`t really be useful. I do understand, of course, that there is nothing they can do until after the `event`, as all of this is just anecdotal evidence, and it`s not illegal to park up by someone`s house!
For the record, however, here are the three car numberplates: 1st car: 5704 GW 09, a Citroen ZX, colour dark green; old and in bad condition; 2nd: DH365 YC 09, Renault 1.9, dark grey, old and in bad condition; 3rd car: 6028 GB 09, Ford Fiesta, dark blue, old and in poor condition.
It is a testament to my dark sense of humour that I have entitled this post `wet work`, which is a term used by the Mafia when they wanted someone `taken care of`. The word was put out, and then the target `met with an accident`. I just hope that we don`t have a `bungled burglary` on our hands any time soon, where someone gets hurt, but I must admit, I`m nervous.
UPDATE : Yesterday, 23rd of August, three family members and the two dogs left the house to go for a walk. As they were going down the hill, a rather strange man was walking up the hill carrying a red umbrella. He didn`t appear to want to talk, and carried on up. This is in a valley where there are hardly ever walkers, as it`s too far to come, and too steep, so maybe two-three walkers a year come past our house.
The family members carried on exploring the valley, and when they started coming back up the hill, the man with the brolly was coming back down. The time elapsed had not been enough for him to visit the next nearest hamlet, Pombole, so we can only assume that he had gone some way past our house, turned round and come back down again. Where was he going and what was he doing? Strange.