“Dad, the light in our upstairs bathroom just went off,” Grey whispered fiercely.
I froze. My heart did a funny skip. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck bristle and tingle.
It was late evening and dark. We had just exited the car after parking against our curb. Nora and Pippa were away.
Grey, in the great tradition of King men, wasn’t the most observant of kids. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” He needn’t bother answer, I could tell from his expression that he was sure, and that this wasn’t a joke.
This wasn’t exactly a Sully-level moment, but it felt like it to me. I had a split-second window to decide what to do. Should I storm the house or call 911? Fight or flee?
I’ve told you about crime in Baltimore and our determination to live here anyway because we feel called to it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t take precautions. I didn’t feel brave enough to confront the home invader.
With shaky hands, I clumsily dialed 911. A torrent of information was pooling up in my mouth, ready to spill over my tongue in a messy cascade of words for when the dispatcher answered.
Busy signal. “Son of a…” I could barely process it. I didn’t know that was possible.
What happens when you flee and your path is blocked?
I pivot toward the house, cutting across the lawn, telling Grey to stay behind me. I can feel his eyes burning into my back, watching intently, I imagine, for signs of bravery…or fear.
As I approach the front door, all I can see indoors is two flashlights bobbing down the stairs. Two of them!
I picture them with stockings pulled down over their heads, straining under bulging Santa-type bags over their shoulders. Bags filled with the beautiful garnet tennis bracelet I gave Nora for our anniversary. And the flat screen TV we purchased after years of scrimping and making do with a vintage combo TV-VHS player that weighed more than some adults. And the small coin collection I’d been slowly building, one careful acquisition at a time.
When I reach the front door, my well-developed sense of self-preservation kicks in. I vigorously ring the doorbell, imagining the effect will be the same as a spotlight turned on rats, flushing them out the back.
I wait a few beats, then put my nose to the door window. They’re still there!
I squint for a better look at the brazen intruders, then one of them lunges toward the door and opens it. “Barnaby, is that you?”
“Hannah!?!” I casually un-fist my hands and step out of my crouch. “What are you doing here?”
Turns out, our good friend and neighbor Hannah had locked herself out of her house, then came to our house with her boyfriend to retrieve the spare key. She had used our secret outdoor key to get inside. Once inside, she used the upstairs bathroom to relieve herself – that was the light switching off that Grey had seen.
“Hannah, you’re welcome to stop by any time if we are here or not, but don’t be all walking around the house with flashlights – you had…Grey…concerned there was a burglar in here.”