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When the telephone beside her bed rang, Miss Flanagan sneaked a guilty look at the clock on
her bedside locker – 9.10 am and she was still in bed! This was a scenario previously
unheard of, for Benford’s finest detective to still be cosied beneath her duvet cover when the
rest of the town was up and about its daily business. However, it was no ordinary January
morning. Temperatures had hit minus eight degress outside, and the whole island of Ireland was enduring a spectacular cold snap. She answered the phone with a wary “hello.”
“Ah, Bridget, how are you this hardy morning?”
It was Sergeant Reilly.
“I’m not too bad, thank you Sergeant, nice and warm if I’m being honest,” Miss Flanagan
replied, omitting the fact that she was still in the bed.
“Well, I’m nice and warm here in the station too, Bridget, and a lot of it is thanks to you.
Those thick warm cosy socks you gave me for Christmas have kept the ice from my feet, and
they couldn’t be in better shape.”
“That’s good to hear, Sergeant, but I have a feeling that you are not ringing me this early on a
Monday morning to thank me for a pair of socks,” Miss Flanagan said with a chuckle.
“How astute you are, Bridget. Well, as you know we have been going through a cold snap
over the past week, and you wouldn’t believe it, but some opportunist thief has seized the day
and gone on a car-stealing spree! Between last Thursday morning and this morning, three
cars have been reported stolen from the salubrious area of Benford known as Pacific Falls.
And in all three situations, the same thing has happened. The owner has gone out to start the
engine to thaw out the frost on the car, and then left the engine running while they went back
inside to get the kids ready for school”
Miss Flanagan fixed the pillow behind her back. “I read about this happening before in the
national papers,” she said, “It’s been happening in estates in the city for a while. I can see
why car owners would do it, and they would never think a thief would be hiding in the bushes
in a quiet little town like Benford.”
“Precisely, Bridget, and especially at that time of the morning – the whole thing sounds
“Let me finish up my few bits and bobs here, Sergeant, and I’ll meet you for a coffee at 11 if
Sergeant Reilly smiled, “I’ll book a table for two at ‘The Cosy Café’, Bridget, see you there!”
Miss Flanagan blew the steam from the top of her mocaccino and mumbled so no one next to her
could hear, “Of the three cars that were stolen, did any of the owners give you anything that could
possibly give us a lead to work on?”
Sergeant Reilly dipped the tip of his fork into the centre of his egg yolk and delighted as the golden
runny goo spread itself freely across the white plains below, “Two of the cars were ‘222s’ Bridget,
with no outstanding identifiable marks, but I’m afraid the thief bit off more than he could chew with
the third car! Would you believe that the third car, which was the first to be stolen on Thursday
morning last, was an automatic Toyota Corolla. Nothing too strange about that, you might say, but the
owner was having problems with the automatic gearbox – when he would put the car into reverse, it
was hit and miss if the gears would change, meaning sometimes he wasn’t able to get the car to
reverse for him.
“He intended to get it to an automatic gearbox specialist to look at, but Christmas came and he
thought he wouldn’t be needing it so he was waiting until the new year. He certainly wasn’t expecting
his car and its dodgy gearbox to be stolen!”
Miss Flanagan was listening with extreme interest.
“Am I right in saying that fixing automatic gearboxes is a specialist skill, Sergeant? If so, the thief
would need someone with that skill to fix the car, or it would be no good to him to sell on?”
Sergeant Reilly already had his phone out and was Googling the nearest “automatic gearbox”
specialists. “Here we go,” he chirped, “there’s a Polish man named Artur Podolski, and he has a
garage in Pitney town, just an hour from here. I’ll give him a call …”
As it turned out, Artur Podolski had taken in a car matching the description that Sergeant Reilly had
given him, though with a different number plate. Sergeant Reilly called the owner, Michael Larrissey,
and asked him if he could accompany both him and Miss Flanagan to the garage to identify his
As soon as they pulled into Artur’s garage, Michael was in no doubt that it was his car. “I recognise
the scratch underneath the door handle on the back right door,” he said, “someone parked too close to
me in the supermarket car park and scraped their door off mine. They scarpered before I could do
anything about it though.”
Artur explained that the switch was gone which communicated messages between the ignition and the
gearbox, and it would cost €180 to replace, plus labour.
“You right as well go ahead and do the work,” Michael said with a laugh, “in a funny way the thief
has done me a favour – at least I’ll have my car back in working order.”
Sergeant Graham asked Artur to call the number that the man had left, then he, Miss Flanagan and
Michael Larrissey sat into their car, out of sight, and waited for the thief to appear. When he did
finally appear, Sergeant Reilly wasn’t in the least bit surprised to see who he was.
“That’s ‘Lightfingers Lou’, as he is known down at the station,” he said, “he has a string of convictions
longer than anyone I know in Benford. Now, watch this!”
Sergeant Reilly put on his garda hat, climbed out of the car, and marched over to where ‘Lightfingers
Lou’ was standing talking to Artur.
“Good afternoon, Lou, in the market for a new car are you?” boomed the detective. Lout turned on his
heel and was about to make a run for it when Sergeant Reilly reached out and collared him.
“We’ll give you a lift back to Benford Garda Station, Lou, I’m sure you know where that is, and you
have a lot of explaining to do for yourself!”
As Miss Flanagan watched the detective march the thief over to where they were sitting, she said to
Michael Larrissey, “Well that really is what you would call a reversal of fortune, thank God for your
dodgy gearbox or he would have got clean away with it all.”
Michael Larrissey laughed, “Glad I was able to help, Miss Flanagan, and my wife will be even
happier that she will be able to reverse the car again!”