Friday, May 19, 2006

 

In Which Many Things Run Wild...



I was going to post something completely different today, but then I went home early this afternoon. I had to oversee a photo shoot at a studio nearby, so I came straight to the house from the shoot. My mind was still on work and one or two thorny issues I have to deal with. But as soon as I pulled in the driveway, the two little girls who live across the street came running over to greet me. Their dad is never home until after dinner and their mother is taking evening classes to finish her degree. One of the girls is Thomas' age, the other is slightly older. They aren't quite latchkey kids. Their older brother--who just turned 12--looks after them on days when the parents come home late.

"Hey," I said, looking at my watch. "Thomas is at a birthday party, and I think his mom and the Brownie went with him. But I'll let them know you came over to play--"

The older girl--let's call her Kay--interrupted me, and I realized at once she hadn't come over to play. "We weren't looking for Thomas," she said. "We can't find Buddy."

Buddy, incidentally, is not their older brother. Buddy is their spastic Irish setter who lives in their fenced-in backyard.

"How'd he get out this time?" I asked. Last summer, Buddy was a frequent reddish blur, seen whizzing past windows--and whizzing in flower beds--throughout the neighborhood.

"I don't know," answered the younger girl--we'll call her Bee. "Dad fixed the fence gate so he couldn't get out. But when we got off the bus, the gate was open."

"Where's your brother? Out looking for the dog?" I asked absently, as I grabbed my bag from the car and headed for my own door.

Kay shook her head. "Gary got off the bus at Justin's to do some rollerblading on the trail behind his house," she said.

"We've been looking for Buddy all by ourselves since we got home," Bee added.

"Oh," I said, unlocking my door. "Well, I'll keep an eye out for Buddy and if I see him, I'll put him back behind the fence."

"Okay," the girls chorused, then started back across the street to their house while I went inside.

A second later I was back on the porch and yelling across the street.

"Bee! Kay!"

The girls stopped on the walk leading to their back yard. I dashed across.

"You just got off the bus, right?" I asked, looking at my watch. It was about 10 to 5 and the bus usually comes around 4:30.

"Yeah," said Kay.

I looked around quickly. "Have you been in the house yet?" I asked, noticing their bags were still left in a careless pile on the driveway.

"No," said Kay. "When we saw the gate open and saw Buddy was gone, we started looking for him right away."

"He almost got hit on the big street last time he got out," added Bee.

"Any chance he would be inside?" I asked, peering up at their house.

Kay shook her head. "He stays out. He's too muddy. And he rolls in poop."

As they talked to me, I walked into the backyard, looking around. "Do you guys have a key to get in?" I asked.

"No," said Kay. "Gary does." She dropped her voice a notch. "But Mom leaves the back door open when she has class, just in case."

I stared at the girl. "What?!?"

Bee nodded. "Gary lost his key once and we were stuck outside--"

I put my hands on both girls' shoulders and guided them back out front. How to do this without freaking them out? I wondered. I briefly thought about inviting them over, but with the kids and Her Lovely Self gone, being alone with me might weird them out. I looked down the street and saw Dana Doohickey, one of my fellow Neighborhood Watchers.

"You know, since Gary's not home and your parents aren't either, let's go down to Mrs. Doohickey's."

"Why?" Asked Kay. "Me and Bee are home alone all the time."

"Gary never stays with us," said Bee.

I shook my head. I am just being paranoid, I thought. I am just a total hypochondriac of danger. That's all. I called to Dana and she came up the sidewalk with her own kids--both toddlers--in tow. The girls ran to meet the kids and while they played, I hastily filled Dana in on my odd encounter with the mysterious stranger in the black Volkswagen last weekend.

"And now the girls come home alone today and their back gate is open and their dog has been let out and they haven't been in the house yet but their mom leaves the back door unlocked and I am being a total drama queen but--" I rambled.

Dana had the decency to humor me by turning as pale as I felt. "That is too much of a coincidence," she hissed emphatically. "I wouldn't want them going in the house alone either. A 10- and a 7-year-old girl? No way." She turned and said, "Hey girls, you want to help me baby-sit my guys? You can stay at my house til your mom gets home and watch TV and have dinner and everything." The girls, incidentally, love her kids and are always asking to baby-sit them, even though they still need babysitters themselves. As the girls squealed with delight and began herding Dana's kids back to her house, Dana turned to me.

"Do you have a cell number for their mom or dad? I don't."

I shook my head. "I don't think they have mobile phones. I'm calling Peltz," I said, meaning the police liaison to the Neighborhood Watch. Dana smiled and nodded. "You go, MM!" she said.

I ran back up to my house and found the phone. I dialed Peltz's cell phone from memory. He has Caller ID, but to his credit, he picked up.

"What's up this time, MM?" he asked in a partially bemused, partially tired voice.

"Did you check out the plate I gave you this weekend? The guy in the Volkswagen?"

There was a pause that told me instantly that the answer was "No."

"Er...why do you ask?" he asked.

"Listen, the girls got off the bus by themselves today--their parents are both out til at least 6--and they found their back gate open and their dog had gotten out."

"So their dog got loose and you want me to keep an eye peeled for it," he said in a patronizing voice.

"Or...someone let their dog out so he wouldn't bark his head off. Like he does when strangers come around the house."

Peltz was silent for a moment. "Are the girls in the house?" he asked.

"No," I said. "They're with Dana Doohickey. They hadn't gone in yet."

"Did you see any signs of forced entry? Open doors? Broken glass?" he asked.

"No," I said. I had checked the basement windows when I was in back with the girls. "But their mom leaves the back door unlocked and--"

Peltz sighed. "Look, you know this is probably nothing. If it's the dog I'm thinking of, he was all over Christ creation last summer. Probably got out on his own. And if that fella from the weekend WAS up to something, you probably put the scare in him good. He saw you writing his plate down. You don't think you're making too much of this?"

"I probably am," I said. "Wouldn't you like to come over and check out the house and prove me wrong?"

Peltz sighed again. "Unless there are visible signs of break-in, I can't enter a house without the homeowner's permission."

"The back door is open!" I cried.

"You just told me the mom leaves it open. Listen, you said the girls are safe, so if you can't reach the parents, my advice is to wait til they come home and tell them your story. If THEY want me to check out the house, they can call me and I'll come right over."

"You are so useless," I said before I could stop myself.

"WHAT did you say?!?" he asked, his voice rising an octave.

"Never mind," I said, and hung up.

I ran upstairs and changed into an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt, then came back out and put my shoes on out on the porch. I was watching the house across the street, looking for Gary to come rollerblading back, looking for one of the parents' cars to roll into the driveway.

Looking for a shadow in the windows. A face in the glass. Some indication to tell me something was amiss.

Behind me, the screen door opened a crack a poked me in the back, making me jump. Blaze peered out at me, making a questioning kind of growl. I grabbed his leash from inside, hooked him up and brought him out with me. Together, we sat on the porch, watching the house. Blaze sniffed the air and kept looking at me. Expectantly, I thought.

"Oh goddammit!" I finally cried, slapping my hands on my thighs. "Fine! Fine! You want to go over there and check the place out?" Blaze just looked back at me quizzically. "All right, all right!" I stood up and went inside to get my flashlight. My big metal flashlight that my Big Brother gave me. The one with the weighted end that could crush a man's skull.

"Okay!" I said, tugging Blaze's leash. "This was YOUR idea, so let's go."

We crossed the street and walked into the back yard through the open fence gate. Blaze sniffed all around, stopping to urinate on every bush between the gate and the back porch.

Tentatively, I hunkered down and peered in the basement windows, shining my big light inside. All I could see was some boxes and what appeared to be a futon. No sign of life or movement.

Blaze tugged at his leash and clambered up the back porch steps. I followed and stood in front of the back door. Once again, I peered through the glass of the door into the darkened kitchen beyond. I lightly put my hand on the doorknob and without even turning the knob, the door creaked slowly open, a dim shaft of afternoon light illuminating the merest patch of kitchen floor.

Blaze stopped sniffing and started growling. He immediately wedged himself in front of me and I saw that his hackles were raised as he stared into the half-light of the kitchen.

"We shouldn't do this," I said to nobody in particular. "We should wait."

Then I thought: If this was your house, and it was Thomas and the Brownie alone, you'd want someone to check.

"If it was Thomas and the Brownie, I wouldn't leave them alone," I said. At the sound of their beloved names, Blaze looked up at me, then he nudged the back door and slipped into the kitchen, with me right on his heels...


Comments:
Now, we faithful readers know you wanted to be a detective...can it possibly be that you have actually caught a criminal this time?

(Or is this going to be one of those "I got arrested for breaking and entering because I was worried about my neighbors" kind of stories that you so excell at?
 
Aaaaargh! Another cliffhanger!

Don't you know that my nerves can't take all of this tension?

My adrenalin is pumped up to the max for those girls, and I've got a performance review in a few minutes, so I'm probably going to end up being untypically vehement and forceful in it, so erm.. Thanks. :)

I hope you didn't get arrested, but the fact that you're blogging about it seems to suggest that you didn't. Unless they provide internet access in the cells these days.

Owl.
 
Mmmmm, another classic MM cliffhanger. Looking forward to seeing what happens next!
 
Oh, my.

Seven and ten? Very scary, indeed.

I do hope everything was okay...

and that you kept Blaze off the carpets...
 
Why do you think I give you things like the Police Issue Flashlight/Baton for your birthday? Because you are always letting that damn dog talk you into doing the dumbest shit!

Hope it was nothing.

Or if it was something, hope you smacked his fackin head in.

When two guys are caught on a B&E and one kills the other, what's the law say about it?

Pelts is gonna wish he just checke the place himself.
 
Wow. I have a three year old so perhaps I'm not quite as knowledgeable on raising older children BUT at 10 and 7 or 8, they are still CHILDREN... who shouldn't be left alone. However this story plays out, those parents are damn lucky to have a neighbor like you.
 
argh! why?? why do you enjoy tormenting us this way?!?

let me guess, you went in and then putz, er peltz, came by and arrested you - or really wanted to, at any rate...

hope all's well around the magazine mansion and its environs.
 
Just because it is the season for cliff hangers doesn't mean you can do this to us!

What happened?


Take Care
Michael
 
Oh great! And now I've gotta wait until Monday for the wrap up!?!?! (I don't read on weekends if I can help it). You and your cliffhangers!!!
 
Holy CRAP I'm tense now! I work in news and we've been doing a lot of stories about child predators lately.

I'm really hoping for a good resolution to this one.
 
Somewhere -- A noted magazine editor and his dog were caught in a neighbor's house along with a burglar in a bizarre case of multiple breaking and entering.
MM, an editor with Really Big Magazine, has served as head of his local neighborhood watch recently and was alerted to suspicious circumstances by his neighbor's children, who were searching for their dog.
"Dad fixed the fence gate so he couldn't get out," said younger daughter Bee. "But when we got off the bus, the gate was open."
This and their mothers' habit of leaving the back door unlocked for the children to get in led MM to become even more suspicious.
MM decided to leave the girls with a neighbor, who further agreed with his suspicions.
"That is too much of a coincidence," said neighbor Dana. "I wouldn't want them going in the house alone either. A 10- and a 7-year-old girl? No way."
After conferring with local police officer Z. Peltz, whom MM called "useless" after he tried to convince MM that it was probably not a problem, MM decided to investigate it himself.
BB, MM's older brother, said he found the whole situation at this point mildly amusing.
"When two guys are caught on a B&E and one kills the other, what's the law say about it?" BB asked jokingly.
At first, MM said he didn't want to enter the house.
"'We shouldn't do this,' I said to nobody in particular. 'We should wait.'"
But concern led him to override this common sense and proceed into the house. Despite the danger and illegality of the next move, MM said he felt justified in doing it.
"'If this was your house, and it was Thomas and the Brownie alone, you'd want someone to check,' I said to myself.'"

I'll finish this when you finish this story. I have to deal with your damn cliffhangers so as not to lose my mind... GAH
 
Wowzers, heart pounding -- wanting to know very much how this concludes.
 
Why do I get the urge to read your stuffs on a friday, I will never know. Now I have to wait for the ending.

You don't for a magazine. You write for fox or some other network that deals with drama and soaps.
 
Oh great, there goes my weekend. I had it all planned out and now I'll have to forgo all the fun so I can sit here and obsessively check this blog for an update.

I don't know what I hate more, the cliffhangers, or that fact that you do them so well. There ought to be a law or something

Well, guess I'd better go get a pot of coffee started, it's going to be a looong weekend.
 
You know, I am not going to sleep tonight for worrying about how this turned out.

I was sick to my stomach when you told of that driver trolling your neighborhood during trash day, and now this? Well, I don't know that i am ever going to let my kids play outside alone.

... ahhhhhh more cliffhangers!
 
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