"This is Laurie, can I help you?"
"Laurie? Hi. This is Lori from the State Police Barracks."
My eyes went wide. Did I miss the arraignment? No, it was only 1:00, and the arraignment wasn't until 1:30. And besides, I'm not the homeowner, I don't need to be there.
I was just the one who got home Monday of last week to find the front door unlocked. Doors open that are never open. Clothing and unmentionables hanging out of drawers when I know I left things neat and tidy this morning. Boxes overturned and empty on our bed. My makeup scattered all over the floor.
I was just the one who took a pair of jeans and a shirt from the closet quickly, with shaking hands, and ran back out of the house on wobbly legs, sure that whomever had been in our house was still there. I jumped in my car, my breathing shallow and panicked and headed to my parents' house.
I was just the one who called Billy, who cut off his affectionate hello with "Did you go through your boxes this morning, empty them, and leave them on the bed?"
"Babe. We were robbed."
I was just the one who waited for the State Police to show up, after Billy called them. I was just the one who had to give my statement a hundred times, over and over, about what condition I'd found the house in, how I realized that we had been robbed, what was missing. "No, nothing of mine," I said to the Officer. "I even had a pair of big fake diamond earrings on the sink, and even though I know someone was going through the bathroom, they didn't take the earrings. And, I'm thinking, if I were a thief, and I saw earrings that might or might not be fake, I'm going to take them and hope they're real, right?"
"It does seem odd," he said, scribbling on his notepad.
I'm just the person who, four hours later, followed those same State Troopers downtown, stood on one of the main streets in town, and watched the cops lead the handcuffed perpetrator out of the rusty doors of the rundown hotel the kid was apparently calling home.
But I'm not the person on the deed. And I don't own anything that was taken. The doorknob that was pried open doesn't belong to me. It wasn't me who had to identify the items taken by the 20 year old who rifled through our belongings.
But it was me who was flooded with relief to see the kid sitting in the backseat of a cruiser, having already admitted to committing the crime. And it was me who praised the benefits of living in a small town, where local cops may not know who you are, but they certainly know who you're not, and you're not the William on that credit card in your hand. And was me who, despite the fact that the criminal was arrested and taken to jail that very night, was still afraid to go home, and more frightened by knowing I'd have to be there alone eventually.
Specifically, three days later, when I was in bed recovering from surgery. Where Billy left me for work, but made sure I was able to protect myself should the same thing happen again. "You know," he said, his voice crackly over his cell phone as he drove into work, "I think you should have your mom come over and just hang out with you. So you don't have to be alone."
Suffice it to say that I've been pretty willing to admit that I haven't had much luck these days, considering that I went in for a surgery and couldn't get it, my house was robbed, and then I went back in for the surgery to remove those cysts, to be stuck in bed, pained and miserable for three days, the whole time worried over every sound that drifted its way upstairs.
So it wouldn't shock me to find that I might've missed the arraignment today. Because that would make sense. Luck would have it that way.
"Are you okay?" Lori from the Barracks asked.
My face contorted in confusion. Wasn't this about the arraignment? "Yeah," I said, still unsure of why she was asking.
"Are you alone?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, except for my coworker."
"So no one else is in your establishment?"
"Nnnnooo?" I still didn't know where this was headed.
"Okay. Good. Can you lock your door? I think you should lock your door."
"There's a large man, in a trench coat and a hat who is walking in your direction. He was just in the business next door to you, and scared the hell out of those girls. We have a trooper on our way to you now, but just make sure you lock your door, and keep an eye out for this guy. You can't miss him - Tall, yellow track suit, coat, hat. Call me if you see him, okay?"
It's a hundred degrees outside today, and humid. Clearly, anyone who is walking around in that much clothing on day like this is either just plain crazy, or hiding something. I worried he was already in the building, that he'd slipped in while my coworker and I ate lunch.
"Okay, I'm doing it now," I breathed. I hung up the phone and ran to the door. The reassuring thump of the deadbolt was delicious.
"Lisa," I said, calling through the office. "I'm locking the door because that was the cops on the phone and they said there's a threatening guy walking around out there."
We stood at the glass doors and stared in opposite directions to see if we could see the guy.
Twenty minutes later, after we'd chatted with the trooper who showed up and after he'd parked in the lot of the business across the street from us, we watched as another police vehicle pulled in behind the first, and the crazy man in question made his way up the street. And we watched as the cops talked to him, and as their gestures became more stern, and until, finally, the State Trooper made his way behind the crazy man and cuffed him.
That makes the second time in ten days that I've watched someone duck into a police car, their hands pinned behind their backs. I don't know if I find it disturbing or comforting that this is happening in my teeny town. On one hand, you just don't expect it. Crime and craziness is everywhere, but when most people around here have known each other since birth, you think that the delinquents would be easy to weed out. But, on the other hand, both instances were wrapped up within hours, if not minutes. And there's something to be said for that.
Of course, I'd rather not have to know that my local and state police have surprisingly quick reaction times. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.
I need a drink.