Wednesday, March 09, 2011
The Joys of Burglary
The cops arrived about two hours after I phoned. In the meantime, I really had to use the bathroom because I'd been on the plane and subway all day, but the burglars had urinated in my toilet, and I wondered if I'd be destroying evidence. Could they get DNA from pee? I didn't know.
Sound irrational? Maybe. But I was sitting in an empty house and I had to pee really bad; that can make you crazy. I decided to hold out, and sat down with my legs crossed to piece together the holiday mail. The burglars had ripped all the cards in half searching for cash.
The cops showed up long after I'd given up and relieved myself. They were both rookies. One was a round, short woman so overweight she could hardly walk (which irritated me, I mean how can you respect any cop you can out walk?), and the other was a guy who spelled "also" as "all so" on the report. When the fingerprint detective arrived, the first thing he asked was, "Are you sure your roommate didn't do this?" He was suspicious because the burglars had taken everything, including the coffee table and rugs. Crackheads don't bother with home furnishings. So we got hit by pros. The cops said that pros wait for you to replace everything with your insurance money and then they come back after a few months. That didn't happen, but I watched for them for months.
Besides our stereos, computers, leather, compact discs, telephones, cash, televisions, VCRs and porch furniture, the burglars stole my nail file set, a nice one that I received as a present. I hope they like it. They loaded their bounty into my a 1986 Chevrolet Astro minivan according to neighbours and stole that too probably.
The fingerprint guy was the most interesting of the cops (Laurel and Hardy) who showed up: a detective who questioned neighbors and the fingerprint guy. He poked around, covering everything with a metallic dust that stripped paint off metal. He also was the last one to leave.
"How long you been a fingerprint guy?"
"Any common elements among all the burglaries?"
"Crack addicts. Kids. Not very smart. Don't wear gloves, so we catch 'em. Always eat something."
I noticed a carton of orange juice and a cup of blueberry yogurt on the kitchen floor. I pointed them out. The fingerprint guy picked up the yogurt.
"Plastic doesn't work that well," he told me. He tried anyway. He dusted my yogurt.
"If burglars always eat something," I asked, "could we leave behind some poisoned beer?"
He didn't answer, and I thought he was concentrating on the yogurt. Then he turned in the chair and fixed me with a cold stare. "Ever hear of manslaughter?" he said.
I didn't ask about the legality of a shotgun booby trap.
After the fingerprint guy had gone, I fixed the door as best I could and tried to sleep. I had the heeby-jeebies for months, even after my housemate installed an alarm system. Every sound became the echo of steps, every creak was a crowbar. The radiators popped without warning, that breaking-of-glass sound when you're not expecting it. You only needed to believe it for a moment and your heart jumped and you have to talk yourself out of it and try to sleep.
As the weeks passed, I became angrier that I suffered this anguish, tiptoeing around the house, not playing the radio because of my (irrational, certainly) fear that I wouldn't hear the crooks returning to tie me to a chair and say, "What should we do with him?" It's a strange leap, it was just a burglary and happens all the time and I was insured and it's certainly not as traumatic as being shot or raped or beaten. But when you've been violated in whatever way and you read about some guy on death row who killed two teenagers in cold blood and now wants a stay of his execution and has Mother Teresa asking people to pray for him, you think why not a fucking prayer for me?