By Jayanth Ramganesh, age 9, United Arab Emirates
Gary opened the door to the closet and there, sitting on floor, was a locked chest.
No one needed to explain what it contained!
Gary looked around at the three other sets of eyes that were staring at the chest. One showed shock, one showed relief, and one looked stern.
Eight hours earlier –
Gary was walking along one of the corridors, carrying a heavy tray when he heard the doorbell ring. He stopped and looked at his mom with a questioning twitch of his eyebrows. She looked at the load in his hands and waved him off. She hastily went to the glass door and opened it. Some new guests walked in. Mom checked them in, and went up to show them their room. The bellboy followed them slowly, struggling to carry all their heavy luggage.
It was yet another busy day at the hotel owned by Gary’s parents. This was the first year that Gary had volunteered to spend his summer vacation helping his parents at the hotel.
Gary went back to work. He had to, if he had any hopes of earning his pocket money. His parents insisted on calling it his ‘salary’. In the past three weeks, he had understood beyond any doubt that his parents delighted in being known as the owners of the best hotel in town.
Mom came back to the reception desk and started checking the previous day’s books of accounts. Gary had finished his day’s duties as well; he was free to do what he wanted until lunch time. After all, he was all of fourteen years old and was supposed to be enjoying his summer vacation too.
From where he was, he signaled to his mom that he was going to the staff quarters, where he could sit back and rest. He normally played some game or chatted with the other staff who would also be enjoying their break there. Who will be there today? he thought and turned around in haste.
“Watch out, little master!” alerted a friendly voice, but not before he had bumped into the person who said it. He smiled at Jamie, the housekeeping supervisor. He had joined the hotel six months earlier.
“Sorry Jamie, didn’t expect you here. Am on my way to the staff quarters to enjoy my break. Wanna join me for some dominoes?” asked Gary eagerly.
“Ah. Don’t think so, Gary. Heading to the linen storage. Need fresh linen for the new guests,” he replied.
Gary shrugged in disappointment and went on his way.
The little restaurant in the hotel was always busy at this hour. Gary was rushing back and forth between the kitchen and restaurant, helping the staff with their duties in small ways.
Suddenly, he felt a big hand on his shoulder and before he could react, he found himself swung around involuntarily.
“Where’s your dad or mom? I need to talk to one of them immediately,” said Ms. Nora, a guest at their hotel. Did she seem to be in a hurry or was that worry in her eyes??
“Dad’s in the kitchen and mom must be at the reception. Can I ask one of them to see you after lunch, Ms. Nora? I hope that would be fine?”
Ms. Nora had spotted dad exiting the kitchen and rushed forward in his direction. Gary sensed something was wrong and followed her.
“Mr. Wayne. My diamond bracelet has gone missing from my room. I wanted to tell you before I call the police,” said Ms. Nora quite angrily.
Dad and Gary were shocked. Ms. Nora had said there was a THEFT in their hotel, which was the FIRST such incident in its history.
Dad was the first to recover his composure. Gary was amazed to see how calmly he spoke to Ms. Nora and gathered information. Apparently, she had kept an expensive diamond bracelet in a small wooden chest and had left it on the bedside table in her room that morning before going out somewhere. When she returned to her room just before lunch, it had vanished!
“My only mistake was that I forgot to lock it up before going out. I need to call the police now,” she said, her eyes seething anger.
Dad had to employ all his persuasive powers to keep Ms. Nora from shouting, lest the other guests in the restaurant overheard the conversation. He finally agreed to call the police himself and asked for a few hours’ time from Ms. Nora to retrieve, or replace the necklace at his own cost. Finally she relented.
“Only four hours for you, Mr. Wayne,” she warned and stormed out of the room.
Inspector Bedford, from the local police station was cooped up with dad in dad’s small office room in the hotel. The Inspector was dad’s good friend and had immediately turned up at the hotel upon dad’s request. For fear of jeopardizing the hotel’s reputation, dad had preferred to keep the issue under wraps and Inspector Bedford had kindly obliged. He had come alone to investigate.
They had spent the last two hours combing through all nooks and crannies in Ms. Nora’s room.
There was no sign of the bracelet anywhere.
Apart from Ms. Nora, only the housekeeping staff had entered her room in the morning. As a policy, no housekeeping staff were ever allowed to enter a guest’s room alone. That morning, a team of three staff had visited the room and had carried on with the regular housekeeping duties. They went in together and exited together. Even if they had seen the wooden chest there was no way any of them could have taken it out without the others’ notice.
They were hitting a blank wall everywhere.
In the last three weeks, he can come to understand how much his parents delighted in being known as the best hotel in town.
Gary could sense his dad’s growing consternation. He wanted to stay with his dad and know what was happening inside. But dad had suggested that he should stay in the reception and help mom with the other work. When mom was updated about the theft, she was distressed; but she tried hard not to show her worry outwardly. She was dealing with the guests and hotel staff as if it was a normal day. Oh! How Gary wished it was! How he wished Ms. Nora’s diamond bracelet appeared out of thin air and he could see the smile back on his parents’ face!
Abel, the restaurant manager came and informed mom that the lunch duties have been completed. Gary could see that the usual cheerfulness was missing from Abel’s face today. Not just him. Word about the theft had spread among all the staff now. Gary looked around. None of the staff looked cheerful. All, except one!
“Jamie, Dad wants to talk to you,” said Gary.
Jamie was sitting at his desk in the administrative office and writing something.
“Sure,” he said while he got up and followed Gary.
Dad was in the reception, carrying a cardboard box in his hands. When he saw Jamie and Gary, he waved at them to follow him.
He didn’t stop until they reached the linen closet.
“Jamie. Please open the closet. I want to keep these new tablecloth samples inside,” said dad, nodding in the direction of the cardboard box.
“Why don’t you leave them with me, Mr. Wayne? I’ll take care of that,” suggested Jamie politely.
“Er… no Jamie. I would also like to take out one of the fitted bedsheets from the stockpile. I need to show it to the new linen supplier. He’s got to get an idea about the standards we desire, right?” asked Dad.
Gary was standing closer to the linen closet. He could see tiny droplets of sweat on Jamie’s face now.
“I’ll bring it up to your office in a moment, Mr. Wayne. You can leave that package with me,” he replied urgently.
“Now why don’t you open up the door now, Mister? The whole business could be done in a moment,” replied Inspector Bedford. He had come into the room silently and was now standing right behind Jamie.
Jamie knew when he was beat. He took out the closet key. Gary snatched the key from Jamie’s trembling hands and opened the door to the linen closet and there, sitting on floor next to the pile of sheets, was a locked chest. No one needed to explain what it contained.
“You are under arrest for theft, Mr. Jamie Lawson,” said Inspector Bedford.
An hour later –
Gary, his parents and Inspector Bedford were sitting around a table inside the closed cafeteria.
Jamie had been taken away by the police. The diamond bracelet in its wooden chest was returned to a happy Ms. Nora, after Inspector Bedford took a written statement from her and Gary’s dad.
“Gary! Your plan worked. Now, for the benefit of all, can you repeat the sequence of events and how you found out the culprit? I’ll also record it as a witness statement,” said the Inspector.
“Sure, Inspector,” Gary obliged. He started recounting the day’s events.
“I checked with mom and understood that Ms. Nora had not requested any concierge service today, until she left her room in the morning. So the concierge staff are clearly out of any suspicion. The kitchen and restaurant staff have no business to go upstairs. The housekeeping staff always go about their daily duties as a team, as per the hotel policy. They couldn’t have been up to any mischief as well. The only other person who visits the guest room area every day is Jamie, the housekeeping supervisor. Only he is authorized to open the guestrooms for cleaning duty and lock them after the housekeeping is done. He moves along with his team. I wouldn’t have suspected him, had I not seen him visiting the linen closet today before lunch time. As per procedure, the housekeeping staff collect a full set of fresh linen for all the guest rooms and cafeteria from the housekeeping supervisor every morning before they commence their housekeeping duty. It just means that Jamie has no requirement at all to visit the linen closet a second time on any day. Today when I bumped into him in the afternoon, he told me that he had been to the linen closet to collect fresh linen for the room of the new guests who came in this morning. This made me suspicious. So I assumed that while he was in Ms. Nora’s room this morning to supervise the work of his staff there, he would have noticed the wooden chest with the bracelet on the side table. He would have exited the room with his staff as usual and locked the room behind them. As per my assumption, while his staff were cleaning one of the other guest rooms, he snuck again into Ms. Nora’s room and stole the chest. The only place he could conceal it safely was the linen closet, as he is the only one who has the keys to the closet. The spare key is at the reception desk. But no one has the need to use it at all otherwise. If Jamie hadn’t thoughtlessly told me that he went to the linen closet for a second time, I couldn’t have guessed that he was the thief,” concluded Gary.
“Well done lad. Now your dad doesn’t need the services of the local police at all. He has an in-house detective!” said Inspector Bedford, patting Gary on his back. Gary beamed.
His dad promised him that a new gift would be waiting for him tomorrow. Gary had never been as proud as he had been that day and he felt like a hero.