I was going to write something else here, something fictional, but something happened today that made that impossible. I am therefore going to write this, which is a true telling of what happened today.
Last night was a good night. My wife came back from a long road trip. Because yesterday was the first day in some time that I had both my wife and my kids in my house at the same time, we had our Christmas present opening ritual. Gifts were exchanged and enjoyed.
We had dinner out, and when we came home people were tired. Kids put themselves to bed. Adults did adult things. Eventually the adults went to bed as well. Sexytimes may or may not have occurred. You don’t want to know about that. Eventually, people slept.
In the night, criminals came.
For reasons that I would prefer not to go into here, this is probably not the best house for home invaders to visit. This house has a certain quantity of dogs in it, and a certain sort of person in it, who the discerning criminal would probably not want to patronize. If criminals had access to an Angie’s List sort of service where criminals could rate the quality of households to be burgled, our house would receive a shockingly poor rating. HOUSE FULL OF ANXIOUS, ANGRY PEOPLE, the review would say. SWARMING WITH DOGS. CHEAP MOTHERFUCKERS. WOULD NOT ROB AGAIN.
That having been said, we were indeed visited by burglars. They entered my house while my wife and kids were sleeping inside and removed items. They left no prints, awakened no dogs or people, and molested nobody. They did, however, steal shit. Were these Master Cat Burglars? Read on.
We went to bed around 1:30. I woke up at 7:30 and came out to the living room at 8 to find my daughter already up. After some discussion, we decided we needed to look something up on the internet. I walked back to my usual nest in the dining room where my work laptop is always set up.
It wasn’t there. The bag was missing too. Nobody had moved it. My daughter gasped, “We’ve been robbed!”
Our garage joins onto our house. I went through the door leading into it. The garage door was standing open. My car was parked outside. My wife’s defunct car was parked outside.
My wife’s shiny new car was not parked outside.
I should mention her car. As a young girl, my wife made a set of goals she wanted to achieve before she was 40. She has achieved most of them. The one item she had left to cross off her list was to own a really spiffy car. A couple weeks ago, her old non-spiffy car stopped working well. This was taken as a celestial omen of sorts. We shopped around, haggled and niggled, and managed to buy a lovely new Mercedes C Class for a quite reasonable price.
Bonnie loved this car. We went driving across Texas in it a week ago. It was definitely the nicest vehicle I’ve spent more than 3 hours in. Bonnie would not let me put luggage inside it without laying down sheets to avoid scuffing. She insisted on meticulous policing of trash, including keeping a lint roller inside. My driving the vehicle made her nervous.
So, in the night, thieves broke in, took the two laptops that were in the downstairs part of the house, took two bicycles out of the garage (one old and battered, the other new but cheap), snatched one or two things that defied understanding (the bag I carry my gaming books around in? really??), and also grabbed the keys to both of my wife’s cars.
The Benz was gone. The Nissan, which I previously mentioned was not working right, was still there, but its doors were cracked. One of my toolboxes had been thrown in the back seat. The keys were still inside it. Plainly there had been two thieves, and they had planned on grabbing what they could and running off with two cars. Unfortunately for them, the Nissan refused to start, so they cut and ran.
How did we not hear these criminals? That is a good question. First, we sleep with a noisemaker on, and it’s been on pretty loud lately. (no longer.) Second, I sleep like a rock anyway. Third, my wife takes medication to help her sleep when she needs it, and that night she had taken some. Fourth, the dogs all chose to sleep in our room with us. So, we were all in the cone of silence.
The kids were upstairs. Thank goodness, the thieves didn’t go upstairs. There would have been a creaky stair and a gate at the top to get through; I’m sure that was a deterrent. I’m also happy the thieves didn’t come in my room, but I’m less worried about that, because then I’m pretty sure the dogs would have gotten up, and my dogs are on the large end of the scale.
Okay, so really quiet, capable thieves got into our house. Or did they? There were a few strange things. All of my wife’s jewelry was just lying around. They could have grabbed it but didn’t. My checkbook was out by my laptop; they didn’t take it. The big new TV, still in the box, was right next to where they took my wife’s laptop. It’s still here. But they took valueless bikes, computers that are effectively unsellable (they’re both getting old), and random shit with no obvious rhyme or reason to it? It was weird.
I called the cops. A cop came out. I would not describe this guy as an industrious cop. He looked around a little, said yep, you’ve been robbed. He looked at various doorknobs and surfaces and told us that it looked like hands had been all over them, but he didn’t think we could get any prints. We did determine that the likely point of entry was through my Prius; I often forget to lock it, and more than likely they used the garage door opener to get in. The car had been rummaged even though my keys were not accessible to the robbers, so that looks pretty likely. The cop asked us to list everything that was missing, filed a report, and took off. We gave him the information on the car and he bugged out.
We spent most of the morning making arrangements for getting the Nissan fixed (thank goodness we were too lazy to do it earlier), getting my wife a rental, and trying to make sure the kids didn’t freak out. Around noon, however, I got a call from the cops. We think we have a line on your car, they said. We’ll be in touch.
Several hours later the cops did call back. We have recovered your car, they said. It suffered some damage during the pursuit.
We have the perps out of the car and are ready for you to pick it up, they said.
Bonnie and I went to see. It was a horrible sight. Behind some seedy apartments only a few miles from my house, the Benz was in a lawn, well inside the curb, with the front end pressed up against a fence. All the doors were open. Patrol cars were lined up all around, and the entire neighborhood had turned out on their balconies and stoops to jeer at the fuzz. A wiry black man was sitting on the grass in handcuffs. He was jerking his head from side to side and was having trouble keeping his limbs still.
Yes, that’s right. Actual crackheads burglarized my house.
Of course, proving this will be tricky. The guy on the grass (and three other crackheads already in the back of the patrol cars) were plainly in possession of our stuff, as well as other peoples’ stuff, quantities of crack, and other things that will probably get them jail time. However, this does not prove that they were the ones who took our stuff from us. Crackheads trade things all the time for crack; it’s a plausible tale to say that they just got the stuff from a guy, and that might represent reasonable doubt. In my mind, they were the burglars, but whatever.
The car was torn up. The cops explained that they had been watching a known crackhouse when the Benz tooled by, easy as you please, with four somewhat disheveled persons inside. The cops found this to be suspicious and checked the stolen car line, and sure enough our report turned up. The cops turned on their flashers, and the crackheads decided that fleeing in a stolen vehicle was the smart thing to do.
A brief high speed chase transpired. The crackhead driver hit a patch of water and lost control of the vehicle. The right front tire hit a curb and the whole right side of the car tilted up. The car was at a steep angle to the street, Dukes of Hazzard style, and one cop thought for sure it would roll, except that the Benz has a low center of gravity. Somehow the car came back down on four wheels, but now the front axle had separated, and they had no control over the car. They jumped the curb and came to a halt in front of the fence. Amazingly they didn’t smash into it, and airbags did not deploy. The steering wheel probably smashed the driver in the mouth somewhere in the process, however, because there was blood everywhere.
There was also a lot of crack. They had been smoking it in the Benz. The thing reeked of it. Furthermore, they were drinking. There were several beers rolling around in the trunk. There was also (and this is where this story devolves into comic-book levels of stereotype) an actual bottle of Mad Dog 20/20, Kiwi Lime flavor, sloshing around and leaking in the back seat. The car was filthy, scratched up, the rims on the canted side were destroyed, and I have no idea how bad off the underside of the vehicle is. It was very bad.
My wife marched up into this scene with fists clenched. “Give me five minutes alone with him,” she said. This served as an icebreaker. The cops laughed. I was glad they were feeling relaxed. Only I knew that Bonnie wasn’t kidding around. Bonnie wouldn’t have needed five minutes, though.
There was random shit in the trunk that did not belong to us. Missing: the laptops. Missing: our random shit. Missing: our garage door opener. You sure this stuff isn’t yours? The cops asked. We looked. Bonnie frowned.
“Hey, motherfucker,” she shouted at the perp, “you’re wearing my stepson’s hat!”
Sure enough, jackass had on my son’s Toyota Racing cap. He had also been caught while wearing the leather jacket I handed down to my son, who is touchingly fond of it. These things now stink to high heaven. My son is torn about this. On the one hand, he doesn’t want to wear something foul. On the other, there is tremendous street cred available if one goes to high school wearing garb previously worn by an actual crack-smokin’ fool.
The cops on the scene now showed considerably more interest in fingerprinting our house. Lazy cop probably figured there was no chance the bad guys would get caught. The guys on the scene now had a situation where they had no direct evidence of Burglary of a Habitation, which is a rather more severe offense than being in possession of stolen things. Unfortunately, that bird had flown; the Nissan was already in the shop, the Prius had been driven around that day, and the Benz was on the premises. There was really nothing in the house that they could have left a print on.
So, the cops hauled the guy off, we hauled the Benz to the dealership (where we are hoping it will be totaled out, because that car will never, ever be the same), and I reset my garage door opener, rekeyed every lock in the house, and am making arrangements for other security precautions. We will have a gated driveway and a security system. I suspect we will also return to being a gun-owning household, now that my kids are older.
So now it’s night, and the day is almost done. My kids are fast asleep in their rooms; recovery from a scare is easy if you’ve never really been hurt. My wife is fast asleep in her bed, with a butcher knife on her night-table and a baseball bat near at hand. And I’m upstairs on the clunky old desktop, tapping away, still anxious and angry as hell.
Oh, trust me, I’m counting my blessings; nobody’s hurt, insurance will cover almost everything, and it’s all just possessions anyway. And also, trust that I recognize that I need to own the bulk of the fault for this, since I left my car door open and exposed my family to danger. I’m mostly angry at myself.
But the criminals took something from me. I will never get it back. They took the archive of Word documents I typed my yearlong writing project on. This project has taken on a lot of meaning for me. I’ve spent, I estimate, 700 hours on it this year. That’s a lot of time. Those files, which I kept only on my desktop and never backed up, because I’m a schmuck, were important to me. I mean the actual files, not their contents, which I can easily download off LJ again. I was going to burn that to a CD and put that in a keepsake drawer, along with my plastic HOTT.BOB cup and my old sports trophies and whatever other random things are stuffed in my cedar chest – things that proved that, every now and again, I was successful at something that was important to me.
I’ve been keeping a special file that I was going to turn into tonight’s writing entry. It was going to be called Fits and Starts, and it was going to consist of the dozen or so entries that I started writing and abandoned, for whatever reason. Some of them were just stupid. Others had flashes of brilliance – where I condensed _Moby_Dick_ into the verse of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, for instance, only in the end to reveal in the final confrontation that I was actually retelling “The Call of Cthulhu”. I’m sad that I never got around to finishing that guy.
But they’re gone now. The odds of us ever getting those computers back are vanishingly small. The perps likely traded them for crack long before they were caught. Crack dealing is much more often a barter transaction than a cash business. In fact, I told Bonnie how lucky we were not to have been shot in the night, and she said nah, that’s not something you usually have to worry about with crackheads, because guns are expensive and they usually trade them for crack as soon as they get one. So, my files are gone forever.
Bastards took my writing project. And sold it for crack.