As Stan tied up his trainers the adrenalin began to rise. The breeze rattled his window latch a little and breathed life into his room. It would be a fruitful night, he was sure of that, what with the weather wet all day and now so mild and windy, yes, the washing lines would be full. He put his ear to the door and listened; the hallway was quiet; the T.V. in the next room was the only sound, that, and the creaking of the broken bathroom door. Silently he slipped from his room and with a deft and practised movement locked his bedsit door.
Stepping out into the balmy September night, Stan took a deep breath, his nostrils quavering like a hound picking up the fleeting scents on the suburban night. It was his first mission of the week; he'd been on double shifts at the sorting office due to short staffing and hadn't had the opportunity to engage in his new found hobby. Today off though, a good six hours to daybreak, the night would surely bring rewards.
The streets were quiet, the car-obstructed pavements and the high, three-storey Edwardian houses with their lofty hedges afforded him good cover. The soft light spilling from the living-room windows was all to hint at human prescence. Stan slipped down the driveway of a house abutting the alleyway which crossed the railway track. Squeezing past the Range Rover, he crept past the house and paused on the patio. The kitchen light was on, he'd have to hold on a minute, probably someone making a sandwich or getting a beer from the fridge, no worries, patience was the name of the game. Sure enough, twenty seconds later the light went out and the back garden was bathed in silky darkness.
Stan deftly made his way up the garden to the whirligig and the few items of laundry swaying gently in the breeze; his hands clasped a pair of panties, taking in their texture, good quality, no cheap stuff. He prised open the pegs and thrust the underwear into his pocket. He swung the gig round to check the other things; no more underwear, but a nice Timberland polo shirt, just his size too. He quickly folded it and stuffed it down the front of his jacket. Sneaking out of the driveway, Stan loped off down the street, his left hand in his jacket pocket, clasping the silky panties.
At about 4.00 a.m., when the night was receding to dawn, the Knicker Picker silently let himself into his room. He spread his haul out over the bed and looked at it with satisfaction : three pairs of panties, a bra and a nightie. After inspecting and sniffing the undergarments he reached under his bed and added that night's haul to a near-full suitcase of women`s underwear. He would have to find another container soon, or better still, stash this lot at his mum's, yes, that was what he'd do, the next day, when he went over for lunch and to place her Saturday bets. After admiring himself in the stolen polo shirt, Stanley slipped under his grubby quilt and almost instantly fell asleep, flushed with that night`s success, soothing visions of dark back gardens and unguarded washing lines caressed him into blissful slumber.
It was an ugly drizzling morning, when Stanley left his dwelling clad in luminous orange post office waterproofs and his late dad`s pudding basin crash helmet. He had a hell of a job strapping the suitcase to the old Honda C90 moped with bungee straps. When he`d managed to get it half secure he kicked over the antiquated machine and spluttered off down the road. Groups of cruel youths roared with laughter and scorn as he passed them, it was water off Stanley`s back, he'd been enduring taunts since nursery school, now, as a boy of thirty-five, the abuse merely bounced off his mocked hard hide.
About halfway to his mum's, he failed to slow down enough on a greasy bend and felt the bike slipping from under him. A few seconds