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"This is the store surveillance camera's tape," Charles Lichworth told Police Inspector Hodge. "Watch carefully. You won't believe what you see."
Hodge stared at the television screen. It was a black and white picture of Lichworth's jewelry store, counters filled with necklaces, bracelets, watches, and rings. In the upper left hand corner of the screen a small message read MON OCT 26. In the upper right, a digital clock clicked off the time: AM 1:59:56, AM 1:59:57, AM 1:59:58, AM 1:59:59, AM 2:00:00, AM 2:00:01.
In that last second, an amazing thing happened: all the jewelry in the store counters vanished.
"There," Lichworth yelled, pointing to the screen. "You see? In one second my store was robbed by an invisible thief."
"Impossible," Inspector Hodge grunted. "Let's see the tapes from the other security cameras."
They all showed the same thing -- from different angles, perhaps, but nonetheless the same thing. In one second, the Lichworth Jewelry Store was robbed by an unseen thief.
Hodge pondered a moment and then grinned.
"This is simple," he said. "Someone turned off the cameras, robbed the store, and then turned them on again."
"Impossible," Lichworth shook his head. "The cameras are controlled by a computer located across town at the Baker Security Company. We can't turn them on or off here."
"Then someone tampered with the tapes," Hodge said.
"Again impossible," Lichworth said. "One of the cameras would have picked that up while the thief was tampering with the others. No, Inspector, I'm afraid my store was robbed by an invisible thief."
"That may be," Hodge said, "but I'm only used to questioning visible suspects. Since the burglar alarm never went off, I have to suspect anyone who knows you security code. Who would that be?"
"Well, besides me, Shellie Johnson, Louis Freeman, and Sharon Prooder, but you can't suspect them."
"Why not? I'd like to speak to them, please," Hodge said as he scribbled the names into a notebook.
Shellie Johnson was a perky blonde with horn rimmed glasses.
"I'm the one who purchased this security system," she told Hodge. "And I chose it because it can't be bypassed. Everything is totally automatic and controlled by an outside agency."
"The Baker Security Company?"
"Yes. They're a very reputable firm -- beyond reproach," Johnson pushed her glasses back on her nose.
"What would happen if the power to this building was shut off?" Hodge asked.
"To the system? It would shut down for a while. Then the backup system would kick in."
"Could that have happened here?"
"If it did, when the cameras came back on, you'd see a jump in the time recorder since the time is determined at Baker's company."
"And that didn't happen," Hodge grunted.
Louis Freeman looked like a jeweler. Short, balding, and with thick glasses from years of close-up work, he smiled, revealing tobacco-stained teeth.
"Whoever did this has my respect," he told Hodge. "All this high-tech stuff scares me to death. Anybody who is smarter than these machines deserves all the jewels he can steal."
"You don't seem very upset," Hodge said.
"Well, Lichworth's stuff is overpriced, and he works us to death. Besides, everything here is insured, so he won't lose out."
Sharon Prooder proved to be a petite woman with a vast knowledge of jewelry. After describing in detail every piece of stolen merchandise, she said, "But I don't see how it was possible. Our security system is supposed to be the best in the country."
"Well, someone beat the system," Hodge said. "Thanks for the description of the stolen goods. This will help us a lot."
"That's okay," Prooder said. "I know every piece of merchandise we offer and its value. To tell you the truth, a lot of our stuff is marked up a little too high, but Mr. Lichworth insists on that."
After his talk with the employees, Hodge returned to Charles Lichworth.
"Well?" Lichworth asked. "Did you learn anything?"
"A little," Hodge said. "Maybe enough to give me an idea who robbed your store and how the thief did it."
WHO DOES HODGE SUSPECT? HOW WAS THE ROBBERY ACCOMPLISHED?
Mystery Net Community Writing Mysteries Mysteries By Members Solve-it-Yourself and Puzzle Mysteries THE INVISIBLE THIEF
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