It's eighteen days since the burglary, and I've only just now finished writing out my account of the event for our insurance claim. Boy, does my hand hurt. They wanted detail. I gave them detail.
I'll try to hit the highlights, because I feel like I've left everyone hanging on this one. Laura called me at the office at 3:45 that fateful Friday to tell me that our upstairs neighbor Jason had called her from his cell phone to say there'd been a break-in. I left the office immediately and got on the subway. I had a book in my bag, but I couldn't read. I was consumed with a sick anticipation of what might be missing. My laptop, surely. Stereo components? Possibly. What else? I didn't care what else. I just hoped the mess wasn't too bad.
When I changed trains, I realized that I didn't want to think any longer. I want to read about violent things happening to bad people. Fortunately, the book in my bag was Hard Freeze by Dan Simmons, and he and his antihero Joe Kurtz cheerfully obliged me for the next segment of the trip.
Thirty minutes after leaving the office, I reached the house. Jason was standing in the street outside with a police officer. I joined them. Jason had not yet been inside. He had been coming home from class when he saw the front door open and a panel missing from the bottom of the solid-wood inner front door. Through the hole left by the kicked-in panel, he could see that the door to my and Laura's apartment was open. Rather than going in, he called Laura's cell phone, then called the police.
The officer with him had not been responding to the call. Jason had simply flagged him down as he drove past, since no one else had showed up yet. Two more officers showed up within the next few minutes, and the three of them went inside the house with their hands on their guns, to be sure the place was empty. It was.
Going inside, I inspected the panel that had been removed from the inner front door. The trim from around the panel had been pried off and stacked neatly to one side, along with the panel itself, which had split lengthwise. Every police officer I spoke to that day put this down to the work of crack addicts, lying down in the tiny vestibule out of sight of people passing in the street. They all used that phrase exactly"crack addicts." By the end of the day, it started to sound like "boogeymen," or "weapons of mass destruction." Scary, meaningless phonemes.
Inside the house, the door to our apartment had been kicked open. My office was in disarray with items from the desk strewn around the floor. I saw immediately that the laptop was gone. I'd been right about that. I also registered the absence of Laura's Palm V, which she hasn't carried with her for several months, from its cradle.
In the bedroom the mess was worse. Every drawer of every dresser had been opened. Much of the contents had been laid out on the floor. Her jewelry chest had been dismantled and the small drawers were all laid out neatly on the bed. Not being familiar enough with the jewelry, I couldn't say immediately what might be gone.
In the living room and kitchen, every cabinet had been opened but nothing appeared to be missing.
The door from the entry hall to the basement was open, and downstairs the door to our neighbor Charlie's apartment had also been forced open. I could see a mess inside, but didn't go inside.
The upstairs apartment was intact, perhaps thanks to Duke, the dachshund who lives there and barks whenever someone opens the front door.
Jason's roommate Chris showed up before long, and Laura wasn't far behind. Shana accompanied her home from the office and stuck around for the next couple of hours, for which Laura and I both were grateful. Laura, agitated, went in to have a look around. She emerged from the house with a cigarette in one hand and a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label in the other.
To the assembled residents and police officers she announced, "Well, thank God they didn't find the good scotch!"
Laura told me it looked like the modem was missing. I gave a statement to one of the investigating officers, reporting the laptop, Palm, and modem as stolen. Then the police left and we sat around to wait for the evidence team to arrive.
Meantime, I found the modem. It hadn't been taken; it had simply been knocked behind the desk. The connections were still intact, so I booted up, sent some email, and made a brief LiveJournal post. Laura called the bank to cancel our accounts, because there might have been information about them on the Palm.
Around 8:00 two officers, a man and a woman, showed up to dust for prints. They came up with nothing, although Laura learned a lot about printing from the female officer, and I learned a lot about burglary prevention and how it's only a game of holding them off long enough, not stopping them, from the male. After they were gone, we started cleaning up.
The cleanup actually went quickly, unlike the time this happened to Laura in the East Village. The burglars had not trashed the place. They had removed a lot of items from their proper places, but had done so fairly purposefully and methodically. We had everything straightened up in half an hour or so. (Is it right to be thankful for disciplined burglars?)
In the course of this, I found an opaque blue plastic shopping bag lying in the middle of the office floor. Inside was a couple hundred bucks in change, a pair of headphones, and Laura's Palm. It looked as if the burglars had thrown these items into a bag they found in the kitchen, then set it down or dropped it and forgotten as they left.
Sadly, the laptop didn't turn up, and Laura was also able to catalogue her missing jewelry. Five or six pieces, all sentimental.
Our friends Stephanie and Andrew, who lived in the apartment before us, brought us dinner that night. They also very generously watched the place the next day, devoid of locks as it was, while we went into the city to deal with the bank accounts.
We managed to get a bunch of new locks installed fairly quickly, but we're still working out more of the physical repairs to the house. We're also trying to get the insurance all squared away. Fortunately we have renters insurance this time, and we'll probably be able to replace the laptop. But who knows about the jewelry? Probably not.
The more difficult thing is replacing our sense of security at home. The new locks and other measures help, but Jesusburglars at one end of the spectrum, terrorists at the other. It's enough to make you want to kick a panel out of reality's door and wriggle through.