Burglary! Picture by akaitori courtesy of flicker
Janice clicked away at the keyboard, her eyes glued to the papers she was transcribing. After a long while, she felt her back and stopped to stretch for a moment. Her eyes took in the screen and she groaned. Oh no! All the o’s were missing. Drat! Not again. She sighed, and one by one, began filling in all the missing letters, sometimes having to click two or three times on the sticky key before it responded. Ooph! Now the “p” key fell off. She stuck it back on again, and wondered, not for the first time, whether the time had come to replace her laptop. For the past year it had been slowing down, filling up and getting heavier and heavier every time she had to take it with her somewhere. She knew that added memory didn’t translate into added weight, but it had begun to feel that way. A new laptop: tempting, but as usual, she pushed the idea out from the corner of her mind and swept it clean. Money had been tight lately—what else was new?—and this was not the time to consider replacing something that basically worked. Sort of.
Uh-oh, she noticed that the battery was running low. Next to it, was the time. Could it really be almost four already? Oh my gosh, she had a four thirty appointment! Janice grabbed the laptop, connected it to the charger and ran downstairs.
As Janice left the house, she fought with the key as she tried to lock the door. Ever since she’d made new copies, the key and the door seemed to be warring with each other, especially when she was under pressure and in a rush to leave. But, come to think of it, when wasn’t she under pressure? She was always leaving at the last minute. She laughed ruefully at herself. Every time it happened, she swore to herself that she would take herself in hand and change, but at this point in life she seriously doubted that would ever happen. Finally! She heard the click as she managed to turn the key. She tested the door to make sure that it was actually locked, and ran to the car.
The door, not fully closed when she returned from her appointment, set off her inner alarm.
“Honey?” she called, but there was no answer. The stillness of the house seemed to mock her. She set her shopping bags down in the kitchen, and slowly walked towards the stairs. Papers were strewn all over them.
“Oh my God!” Fingers shaking she dialed Bob’s office no answer. Next she tried his mobile. No luck. He’d probably left his mobile on his desk and gone out. Shaking, she called the police. “Hello, this is Janice Walter…”
“Can you please speak up, ma’am?”
“This is Janice Walter from 310 Grover Road. I came home a minute ago to find the door open. Someone has been in the house.” She stifled a sob.
“Anything missing, ma’am?”
“I have no idea; I just walked in, saw the mess and called.”
“We’ll send a car right over. In the meanwhile, please don’t touch anything.”
Janice paced the living room carpet hugging herself as her eyes welled up with tears. She swallowed them down and tried Bob a few more times, until he answered.
“Listen, Honey, I can’t talk now…”
“Bob, I can hear you’re busy, but please, come home, the house has been broken into.”
“What? What happened? Are you okay? What did…”
The lights flashing outside the window signaled the arrival of the police car.
“The police have just arrived, I can’t talk. Just come home, please.”
She hung up the phone and walked towards the door. The police officer looked young with his hand resting for reassurance on his pistol.
“Ms Walters.” He nodded his head politely at her, the officer behind him doing the same.
Janice opened the door wider and let them in.
“Can you please tell us what happened?”
“I left the house at around four, for a four thirty appointment. On the way back, I stopped at the supermarket for some things. Then when I came home, I walked up to the door, and noticed that it was slightly ajar…”
“Any chance you left it open, ma’m?”
“No. Maybe. No.”
“Just relax, Ms Walters. Take your time.”
Janice took a deep breath. “No. I locked the door. I remember struggling with the key.”
One of the police officers studied the door. “No sign of forced entry.”
Janice shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe they left by the front door. There’s almost always a key on the inside of the door or on the ledge over there beside it.”
“Fred.” The older officer nodded with his head towards the door, and the younger police officer went outside to check the premises.
A moment later, Bob rushed in, all out of breath. “Janice, I got back as soon as I could. You okay?”
Janice nodded, then began shaking and burst into tears. Bob took her into his arms and held her tight.
Fred came back in. “There’s some trampled shrubbery out back. Looks like they climbed up to a second-floor-window. ‘Could be the point of entry.”
Janice and Bob followed the policemen upstairs. Janice stared with dismay at the storm of clothing and papers strewn all over their bedroom. The dresser stood stunned, echoing her shock, its drawers lying precariously beside it. Their contents had probably been dumped, although it looked as if they’d been thrown in the air to land where they would. She waded over the mounds of mess to her bed, where a towel lay spread showing off the remnants of some items from her bedside drawer. The drawer itself lay on its side, empty: Jewelry gone, reading glasses lying drunkenly at an odd angle on the bed. The carpet lay hidden beneath the mounds, the windows staring at the mess aghast.
The master bathroom, with the window gaping open was a mess as well.
“Ma’m, was the window open when you left?”
Janice shrugged. “No clue. I didn’t check it before I left. After I got dressed in the morning, I only used the bathroom near my office.”
Bob flushed. “I opened it this morning. Wanted to air it, y’ know…”
Janice sighed and opened her mouth. How many times had she told him to close that window! She noticed his downcast eyes and realized that he was thinking of that as well. She clamped her lips shut, biting back the words.
More tears welled up in her eyes and she choked down another sob. How could anyone do this, invade their home, their privacy? She hugged herself as she left their bedroom and followed the policemen into her home office down the hall. They turned on the light to find another mess, a veritable blizzard of papers pulled out of their binders, the filing cabinets and drawers, disks pulled out of their jackets scattered around reflecting the light. What was anyone expecting to find there?
She let her husband deal with the police as she looked about numbly.
She noticed her laptop, gone from its place of honor on the desk next to the fax, which, for some reason, had been left behind. She fingered the disc on key in her pocket with all her backed up files and smiled slowly.
‘Good luck to them with that old piece,” she thought to herself. “At least now I get to buy myself a new one.”