Mr. Eric James loved his cycle. It was the only form of mobility which took him to different places in and out of the small town in which he lived with his wife and children. He had a small shop where he sold gift items, flowers and confectionery. His wife Mabel helped him look after the shop and both his son Radcliff and daughter Selina loved sitting in the shop after school doing their homework in a corner.

Eric’s prized possession, his bicycle which he had named Prince rested on the wall next to the door of his shop ‘The Magic Store’. Sometimes Eric used to home deliver some flowers or gifts to people both in and out of town who were unable to visit him either due to some illness or time pressures. The town of ‘Rockville’ where Eric’s shop was, had a small village ‘Roseville’ as its neighbour. There was no such shop there and the villagers, specially the youth and kids used to walk or cycle to the Magic Store to buy goodies. The kids were very fond of the fairy cookies Mabel made herself and sold at the shop. Anyone who could not visit from ‘Roseville’ would call Eric and he would happily carry their requirements on his cycle to the village. The nearby small towns of ‘Seafront’ and ‘Riverbed’ also had customers flocking to Eric and Mabel’s shop.

One early Wednesday morning, Eric got a phone call from Rosemary Chapman, the local old widow who lived at the other end of ‘Rockville’. She needed some tea-cakes, cookies, jam tarts and chicken sandwiches for her card party. Eric took the order and kept the phone back on its hook after promising to bring the eatables round to her house around 4 pm. He asked Mabel to prepare and keep ready 6 pieces of light and fluffy tea cakes, 250 gms of cookies, 6 pieces of jam tarts and a dozen chicken and cheese sandwiches. He wasn’t going to charge old Rosemary for the cheese in the chicken sandwiches.

Around 3 pm everything was packed. Eric went to his cycle to store the eatables when he was shocked to notice ‘Prince’ gone from where it was parked. He came back to the store and kept back the packets on the side table. Mabel, Radcliffe or Selina, none of them had noticed that Prince was missing. Eric started worrying, “How am I going to get these things to dear Rosemary? She is depending on me for her party.” “Don’t worry father. I’ll ask my friend Rochester to help us out. He has a small van. Wait till I call him”, said Radcliff. Good, hope he helps us put or else poor Rosemary will have nothing to offer to her guests except tea. Rochester, when contacted, readily agreed to come and both he and Radcliff took the eatables to Rosemary’s ‘Wonder Hut’ which it was called. In the meantime, Mabel and Selina took charge of the ‘Magic Store’ while Eric went around town looking for Prince. He thought to himself, ‘if anyone wanted to borrow my cycle, they could just ask me. Why did they have to steal?’

After looking around and questioning people for about an hour, Eric decided to go to the police. The chief, Donald Sheraton was known to him. After filing a complaint and being reassured of getting back his cycle, Eric went back to his shop. “What happened father”, chorused his children. “Donald has said he will do all he can”, “Don’t worry darling. Prince will be found soon.” putting her arm around her husband.

By the time the shop shut down for the night, there was no news from the police station. The next day Eric went to inquire about his beloved bike, while Mabel opened the store. Donald told him he was about to call him. In the middle of the night, his friend from Riverbed police station Arnold Gotham had called to tell him that some new miscreants were involved in petty thefts around the nearby towns and villages and they might be the culprits. Donald had sent Constable Harry Fisher to Riverbed to find out what he could. “Just wait a while old chap, Harry is sure to have some news for us. Go back to your store and I’ll call as soon as I have heard of something”. Eric thanked Donald and went on his way. He met the postman Franklin Shutter coming towards his on his bike. “Oh! Mr. James, heard about Prince. I am real sorry. You can borrow my bike when I’ve done my rounds.” “Thanks Frank, I do appreciate. I’ll let you know if I need your help”, smiled Eric. At the store, there was a crowd gathered. They all wanted to know who had stolen Prince. The peoples’ concern brought tears to Eric and Mabel’s eyes.

The day wore on with no news of the missing bike. At about 4 pm, just when Eric was looking out of the store window with a forlorn look in his eyes, he glimpsed Donald and Harry coming on their police jeep. Eric rushed outside. “Here you are Mr. James, I found your Prince. One of the culprits from Riverbed had taken Prince while people were having their siesta and all was quiet. I’ve handed him to Mr. Gotham. He will deal with him,” smiled Harry. “How about a celebration old chap,” gurgled the burly Donald Sheraton. “Thanks so much both of you. Come in and we’ll have beer and sandwiches,” laughed Eric heartily clutching Prince to himself.

“You know Mr. James. As soon as I saw Prince, I recognised it. I saw your sticker with Prince written on it in multi colors on the side. Its good you did that. The thief didn’t know about it and while riding on it was caught by Arnold sir”, explained Harry all smiles. The kids helped make loads of sandwiches, tarts and cookies, for everyone who came to congratulate got a handful as celebration gift. Eric was the happiest man in town that day.

Contributed By: Amita is a budding poet, story teller and Spiritual Writer amita17149@hotmail.com

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