Friday, May 03, 2013

Smash and Grab

This is what happens: you come home from work, after a full and sometimes beautiful day. You go up the back steps. The security door is unlocked, and the inner door is ajar. Odd...spouse must have stopped home before going to choir practice. You go in, and notice another odd thing: the little jewel box in which you had stored some earrings for your trip last week is on the dining room table, upended. You're calling "Doug, are you home?" but there is already a strange sinking feeling in your stomach. You ascend the stairs to the bedrooms, still calling but getting no response, and see through the open door that there are many things strewn where they were not when you left, and it dawns on you that you probably shouldn't be in the house right now. What if the person who is responsible for this is still there, hiding in a corner...

    ....all your childhood fears of closets come rushing back in like burning coals behind your eyes.... you turn and walk back out of the house, pawing through the purse for the cell phone. You stand  in the driveway and call 911. The dispatcher seems calm and you try to match his calm with some faint echo of it in yourself. A squad car will be dispatched as soon as possible (is he still in the house? what will they find?) and you stand in the warm evening air and call your spouse ("I think someone broke into the house. I'm outside, waiting for the cops to come.")

You recall seeing the spare key, on its ring with its silly Chinese cloth shoes, in the lock of the inner door. You remember that you left the house before your husband, and those keys were on the counter by the door. You cannot recall if you locked the door behind you, and begin to wonder if a stranger saw you leave, came in through the unlocked door, grabbed the keys for later, and returned to do the deed.

The police come, two squad cars, not one. Three men, black, white, Asian, plus one woman, who is simply doing a ride-along, it seems. You tell your story, plus your speculation about the key, and they tell you to stay put with the woman while they do a sweep. After a surprisingly long time, they come out. It seems the thief got in not through the door as you imagined, but by kicking in one of the basement windows, a challenge since those windows are reinforced glass with imbedded wire mesh. He tried the door on the sun porch first, shattering the glass, but did not enter. The door from the sun porch to the house is a solid two inches thick, with only a small glass window, and a strong deadbolt. It would have been unbreachable. So this thief kicked in the basement window, came up the stairs, and started searching for...for what? As you walk from room to room with the police officers, you recall the little jewel box and tell them about it. The laptop is still there, the TV, the stereo. The icons of Christ Pantokrator and Sophia are still there. The guitar is still there in its case.

You go upstairs, and here the story is a bit darker. Your box of crosses (silver Cross of Lorraine, small silver Mexican cross, amber and silver cross) is gone, as is another box of earrings. Most are costume jewelry, but some are not. Drawers are pulled open - not much to see there - but the closet door is open, which is where your other jewelry box is. Gone, of course. In his haste, the thief has left a couple of things - one pair of silver earrings, one pair of amber ones - but everything else is gone. You only realize later that some jewelry of your mother's, a gold and aquamarine ring, a gold and garnet ring, are missing, and some precious gifts from your own history (pearl necklace from first marriage, amber heart pendant from  marriage to Doug, Russian brooch, silver necklace with your name transliterated into Arabic) are now elsewhere. In your bedroom, a pillow lies discarded on the ground. It is apparent the thief used the pillow sham to haul the loot - nothing like feeling like you are in a Dick Tracy cartoon. Drawers are open in the nightstand, where personal items of a female nature are now out for all to see.

Again, no electronics have been stolen, and you even find your good watch, the expensive one, on the floor. The thief must have dropped it. The door to your husband's closet is open and his old set of hunting and fishing knives still sit in the back, seemingly untouched. you walk back to the nightstand and see that a bottle of heavy-duty prescription painkillers that would fetch a good street price are still there. No drugs have been taken, although the label for the scrip is clearly visible.

You go down to the basement, where you see the broken glass all over the sofabed and the floor, but nothing appears missing here, nor elsewhere in the basement where there are tools (Doug's workroom) or financial records (your office).

You list what missing items you can remember for the police officer and await the arrival of the detective (Dick Tracy once again flashes through your mind) who may dust for prints. You think about the second bedroom, where you had not yet completely put away the clothes from last week's trip, how in disarray it seemed, how embarrassing it is to walk through that room with its piles of clothing on the bed, and wish you had put that stuff away before this happened.

You notice, in a moment of comic relief, that the thief has stolen a small box that holds studs for your clergy collar. You wonder what the street value of clergy collar studs are - they are certainly not precious metal - and laugh inwardly at the thought of the thief trying to pawn them.

The detective arrives and heads downstairs to look for blood on the shards of glass. "For DNA" he says. But after a long time in the basement and then upstairs, he opines that the thief wore rubber gloves and knew what he was doing. No sign of anything worth dusting, and no blood on the glass. One of the officers tells you that they had come directly from another B&E where the thief got a piece of jewelry worth $100,000. Your poor lost jewelry is a tiny fraction of that value (why would anyone keep that valuable a piece in their home? Who could possibly AFFORD that valuable a piece of jewelry in our neighborhood?) but you grieve the sentimental favorites.

Your neighbor comes by and offers his shop vac and his help. "I think we're okay for the moment," you say, even though you are not.

Your husband comes home, talks with the police, looks at the damage. The thief has not taken an envelope with cash in it from his nightstand drawer (sloppy work, jerk). Paperwork is exchanged and the police leave. Doug changes into jeans and a t-shirt, calls the neighbor, and they set about cleaning up the mess of glass and broken window frame. They nail a stout piece of wood over the gaping hole.

You feel the need to wash things. Laundry first, then wiping down places where the thief might have touched. Lysol disinfecting wipes. Cleans out the dirty feeling (violated. you know what violated really feels like. this is not the same. but it is still violated.)

You have a glass of wine with some beef stew for dinner - tried to call for pizza at the favorite local place, but they are closed for the evening (my goodness, how did it get to be 9:45 pm?)- and the food tastes bland, like the salt had gone missing along with the jewelry (and the sense of safety in your own home). The neighbor, dear sweet funny Roland, has left now. You go downstairs, swap laundry from washer to dryer, come up, check the locks on the front and back security doors - Doug has already done it but you need to do it once more - and sit on the couch for a few minutes answering emails and such before going up to bed.

Doug finds a shard of glass in the throw rug on his side of the bed - the thief must have tracked it in, must vacuum upstairs in the morning - and you go to sleep.

Until you wake up at 3 a.m.

And you can't get back to sleep.

And you decide to go downstairs to do some reading.

But you can't settle.

And it's almost 5 in the morning.

Time for some cheese with that whine.


Crimson Rambler said...

oh Mibi -- glad ( you know that I mean "relieved") that neither of you was? were? at home -- glad that the damage was no worse and the losses no greater. But plenty bad enough and great enough, I know.

Gladdest of all to hear your voice in this post this morning.

blessings and hugs from ehre.

Robin said...

Oh, Mibi - such a sense of violation and loss. It seems to me that it is worse than had the thief taken electronics and money -- I realize that from his (?) POV, he was just grabbing what was useful to him, but from yours, the value of what he did take was so much more heartfelt.

SO sorry.

RevTSB said...

Hope you recover your sense of security soon. Prayers.

Celeste said...

Mibi- so sorry you are going through this. It sucks I know all too well. Praying for you in these unsettled days. I can tell you that for me, it did get better even though that took time. Blessings and peace

Mary Beth said...

How awful. I hate that for you. Was thinking about you last night.


Deb said...

oh no! I am so sorry! I will tell you that when my parents were robbed (also a smash and grab) my mother felt the same way - had trouble sleeping, had to clean and vacuum and wash her clothes. She just didn't feel safe or clean...

May God's peace surround you to get a better night's sleep tonight. <3

DLM said...

Be well, M. A lot of prayers are with you, obviously.

PrJoolie said...

I'm very sorry this happened to you and your family. It's not whining to tell your story, it's cathartic, I hope. Peace to you and yours.

Kate said...

So sorry for this frightening experience, and for the loss of those pieces that were close to your heart. What a beautiful writer you are though-- Thank you for sharing this story, and for creating something tangible and lovely out of a hurting place.