I had only been there a few days. It was a nice house; the tenants seemed OK. Mr Jenkinson lived on the ground floor. He acted like a sort of caretaker, doing small repairs and stuff. Rumour had it he owned the place but didn’t want to let on. He’d been trying to talk to me every day since I arrived, but I’d managed to avoid him. I didn’t want him getting too close a look at me. There was a kitchen on the ground floor as well where the tenants could cook something to eat and take it back to their rooms. There were three rooms on the first floor and a bathroom. I had to pay a months rent in advance. That might seem a lot seen as I only planned to stay a few days, but as they say nothing ventured, nothing gained. And I had planned to gain a great deal.
Now you might think I’m paranoid, but I know if someone is watching me. It’s like a sixth sense. That morning, I was in the bathroom and I had that sense, you know, that feeling you get, that there is someone else there. It was only a small room, no bigger than 9 x 6 but I found myself turning the laundry basket upside down. I ask you! Who could hide in the laundry basket, why even a contortionist couldn’t fold up small enough to get in there. I even prized the bath panel away from the bath and peered underneath, but there was nothing to be seen except the remains of an old towel, covered in dust and cobwebs. I bet the old man found it hard to put that panel back in place. Serves him right!
Then when I was in the kitchen I thought I could hear something. A quiet, whirring sound. It seemed to be coming from the cupboards above the fridge. I took out everything that was in there. Pots of jam, cereal packets, custard powder, and tins of this and that. But nothing else.
When the pretty dark headed girl went out to work I slipped into her room. It was a nice room, clean and tidy. But I still had this feeling that there was someone there. I could hear sounds. The curtains were still closed so it was quite dark. I turned over the chairs and the settee to make sure there was nothing underneath. I pulled out all the drawers and cupboards and emptied them on to the bed. By the time I’d finished the place looked like a bomb had hit it. But there was nothing unusual there.
The other tenant had left early. From the look of him he worked on a building site. He wore overalls and a donkey jacket. His room was a tip. It didn’t take me long to go through his few possessions. I straightened up the furniture, hung up clothes that had been left on the floor. I was enjoying myself thinking about him coming back - looking around – trying to work out what had happened. Then I heard it again, whirring and clicking, very quiet, but definitely whirring and clicking.
I had been listening out for old Jenkinson to go out. Every morning this week he had left the house at 10 o’clock, and every morning I’d followed him. He always did the same thing. Into the corner shop for a few groceries then on to the newsagent for a paper, then into the caff for a cup of tea. Back in the house at eleven. As if on cue, the front door slammed. Going back to my room I quickly packed the pieces of jewellery, the cigarette case and a very nice silver photograph frame into the hold all which held the few clothes I had brought with me. The cash I had taken from ‘Wimpy’ man I put in my wallet and the very expensive watch, which he obviously didn’t like to wear to work, I slipped on my wrist. All I needed now was 10 minutes on the ground floor to locate the small fortune that the old man must have hidden away.
It took about three minutes to pick the lock on the door; not bad considering I hadn’t had much practice during the last few years I’d been inside. The sitting room was quite big but it didn’t take me long to search through, but I found nothing so I moved on to the bedroom – Nothing! Then I heard the noise again, whirring, clicking. Back in living room it was slightly louder and seemed to be coming from behind a door at the far end of the room. I was more angry than nervous and pulled open the door thinking “Right, now we’ll see what’s happening”. I could hardly believe my eyes.
It was a tiny room; a desk took up half the floor space with a chair positioned so that the person in it could look up comfortably at the bank of television screens mounted on the wall. Each of the screens showed a different room in the house. Would you believe it, the old man was a pervert, a peeping tom! There must have been hidden cameras in the rooms and he used them to spy on his tenants. What a nerve! All I wanted now was to find his money and get out of there. I heard a noise behind me and spun around. There stood Jenkinson and with him was two of the ‘Old Bill’.
My mind was racing – “Thank God you’ve come” I said. “I was just going to call you. This old geezer is using CCTV to spy on us”. The two policemen remained silent. “You need to arrest him” I gabbled, “It must be against the law”.
The old man gave me a withering look. “If you had let me in to talk to you” he said, “I would have explained that each room is fitted with a hidden CCTV camera in the smoke detectors on the ceiling. Tenants switch them on when they leave their rooms and off again when they come home. Any movement sets them off, so if an intruder breaks in they automatically start filming and a warning light comes on in my flat.
So this morning when you broke in to Margaret’s room I could watch everything you did. When you finished in Peter’s room I guessed you would wait for me to go out before coming down here. So I left at my usual time and went straight for the police."
Well, there you go. It was a ‘fair cop’. Caught on camera. What could I say? I think I’ll give up thieving. Nowadays, as the graffiti on my cell wall says:
Big Brother is watching me
He uses an invention called CCTV
Wherever I go over land or sea
Those TV cameras are pointing at me
By Kath Haughton
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015