Having been returned safely, kept clean, spoken to daily (despite little reponse) and his plants well-watered, I'd tended to assume that the saga was over. That the neighbours were having a good chuckle occasionally but, not having had much of a chance to do more than wave, shivver and dash in or out depending on the time of day, we hadn't had sufficient opportunity to discuss WHO DUNNIT.
In the last few days he's had more cards than I have. And a present! Just to confuse matters Ann from No 4 addressed her card to 'Gnome House' which for a fleeting moment lifted her from No 67 to No 1 in the Chief Suspect charts. She's still in the top ten but subsequent deliveries tend to favour someone else. The cards don't give much away, one's from Grace to Uncle Gordon and the other's from big Brother Graham. Postmarks Milton Keynes and Norwich. Present posted in Hemel Hempstead but using in an envelope originally from University of East Anglia School of Environmental Sciences. For a brief second my previous No 1 suspect appeared to be confirmed when I read Graham but, of course, his parents spelt his name Graeme so that sort of drops his position somewhat.
So it's back to the drawing board. The Hemel and MK links favour Adrian but, unless he's playing a wicked double bluff, the obvious card he admitted to sending and pretty damn convincing maintenance of the "It ain't me, gov, honest!" line do rather rule him out. But I reckon he and Sarah know who did and it's definitely a village thing as he would normally have asked a lot more questions and been more surprised at developments.
I have to bring in a new suspect now. That's Penny & Richard. Now Richard does have a certain gnome-like appearance on a bad day, albeit the hair and beard are the wrong colour. The pair have a good sense of humour and he's good at puzzles which would make him good at, and enjoy, setting something like this for me. If the present turned out to be one of Penny's Productions on the automatic sewing machine then they're banged to rights or I am bang on or whatever the expression is. Richard could well get Environmental Survey stuff in A4 brown envelopes too. He's into Health & Safety theory (not practice as in hourly tyre-checking, though,) in a Big Way.
He's also bound to have contacts in the other odd towns cards have come from and the Norwich one ties in with UEA.
After that, the chart features the lady at No 6, purely on the grounds that I could imagine her handwriting being as naturally bad as that on most cards and using some pretty grotty pens too. Against her being the one is that I simply can't imagine her bothering - although I did give her daughter a rabbit hutch and saved them a few pounds which they might have put to the cause and the children may have helped with the idea. She comes from Liverpool way too. Maybe I'll put her in at No 2. Graeme stays at 3 and Adrian at 5. The lady at No 4's 'Gnome House' has to be considered, after all.
Much as I'd like to open the gnome's present, I have this thing about not opening Christmas presents until Christmas Day so you, like me, will have to wait. Unless, of course, the mail continues to come in!