We were robbed.
We have written about this before; we expect this will be the last time we address it, but who knows. (Our robber, after all, is still appealing his case.)
Cincinnati was hit by its final big winter snow on March 7, 2008. Erin’s school was cancelled but she attended an Asperger’s workshop at UC. Ben went to work but the store closed early, at three o’clock. His phone rang at 2:45.
“Hey, did you leave some drawers open?” Erin asked. “What do you mean?” Ben said. “There’s a lot of drawers open downstairs. The door was funny too.” “I didn’t leave any drawers open. I’m not sure what you mean.” “Wait, there’s a mess upstairs. I think someone has been in our house…”
Which is just about the most helpless thing you could possibly hear when your wife is home alone in a snowstorm. The second most helpless thing is what she said next: “Hello? Is somebody here?”
“You need to get out of the house,” Ben said.
“I’m going to get out of the house,” Erin said.
Erin called the cops. (After she called her parents and neighbor Katie Andolina.) Ben rushed home. When he arrived there were already cops on the scene. Erin’s parents had arrived too. Our bedroom had been ransacked. Drawers were overturned. Erin’s clothes were all over the floor. The guest bedroom was no better. Our laptop was gone. And our digital camera. And our iPod. Scooter Thomas was, thankfully, safe under the bed. It took him a half hour to come out.
Until the break-in we had always had bad experiences with cops. One positive outcome of the robbery was that we met some good po-leece, as Lester Freamon might say. Deer Park’s finest. Admittedly they seemed a bit overenthusiastic about breaking out the fingerprinting kit. But who can blame them. This wasn’t the kind of thing, we were told, that usually happened on our street.
Why us?, we wondered. Why our house? Did we have enemies? And why on the snowiest day of the year? School was cancelled, people were out shoveling sidewalks. Someone had tried to kick in our front door. Which is visible up and down the street, from at least six other houses. But when the cops asked around, no one had seen anything.
We talked about sleeping elsewhere that night but we came home. We taped the door jamb shut with duct tape since it wouldn’t close all the way. We put a chair in front of it with Christmas bells on the doorknob. Over the coming days and weeks we debated whether or not to install a security system. We already had security stickers in the windows for effect; they obviously failed as a deterrent. Most people we asked said to just buy a dog. Or at least put a big dog dish on our porch with a name on it like “Mauler” or something. Ultimately we decided on no dog, or alarm system.
It turns out one of our neighbors did see something, but we didn’t put that puzzle piece together until the next day. Those neighbors had been on their way out of town for the weekend when they saw two people, a man and a woman, exit our back yard around noon. They didn’t appear to be carrying anything with them, but they did look suspicious. Still, we were new in the neighborhood. We hadn’t introduced ourselves yet. Maybe we had sketchy friends who liked to skulk around in the middle of a snowstorm. Our neighbors felt terrible when they found out.
The hardest part was not knowing who these thieves were or why they picked us. Your home doesn’t feel like much of a castle when you know some faceless stranger has been in your bedroom handling your wife’s undergarments. We were learning to live with that ambiguity — what were the odds these people would ever be caught, really? — when those people were caught, really.
They robbed a house in Blue Ash but left a fingerprint. The cops matched it to the girl, who ratted out the guy. They picked our house because it was close to the bus line. They needed money for drugs. We were just unlucky. Beginning and end of story. (We recovered our laptop, iPod and camera.)
So what did we do last night to commemorate this strange anniversary? We rented Panic Room. It wasn’t until halfway in that we realized the irony. Maybe this will become a tradition.