I’m awake and out of the bed before my conscious mind
half registers that there is something amiss. A sound only half heard where
no sound should be. There is a feeling… a prickling on the skin…
that tells me I am not alone in the house. I know without wasting time thinking
about it, that it’s not Duo. The fact that he’s not due home
for two more days is beside the point; he would know better than to move
around actively trying to be quiet when I wasn’t expecting him to
No, there is an intruder in my home and whoever in the hell
it is, they are about to regret choosing this house for whatever it is they
Because it can’t be anything I’m going to approve
The house is old and it has a million places that creak and
complain when you step there, but Duo and I both know them all by heart
and I slip out of the bedroom into the hall, breathing shallowly and listening
hard. Whoever it is, they’re good… it takes another five minutes
before I hear them again.
They’re moving around the living room, investigating
the electronics, from the sound of it. A thief then, looking for valuables.
The stereo system and the television are probably the only things of worth
in that room, but none of it is easily portable and I doubt they’ll
mess with it.
Sure enough, before very long at all I hear them hit that
squeaky board at the bottom of the stairs. They pause and I can imagine
them holding their breath and listening intently for sounds that anybody
was disturbed. Again, they wait a full five minutes before moving on and
I can’t help but assume I’m not dealing with a rank amateur.
This is someone who rifles through other people’s belongings on a
fairly regular basis.
I wait until they’re moving again before slipping to
the side, out of line of sight of the stairs. They’re using a flashlight,
but have it partially covered to keep the glare down to just enough light
to find their way.
I’m in position before they make the landing.
They’re keeping to the edges of the stair treads to
minimize the sounds, and moving slowly, stopping to listen every few steps.
It seems to take an eternity before they… he finally moves into view.
Both his hands are occupied with the flashlight, no weapon in sight.
He squalls like a baby and goes down hard when I kick his
right knee out from under him.
He loses the flashlight and it rolls away, flaring brightly
now that he’s not using his hand to half cover the lens.
Mid to late twenties, my agent’s brain catalogs. Mixed
race male, probably five foot four or five, dark hair under a gray stocking
cap. He’s wearing gloves, the thin kind that let you feel things fairly
well. His clothing is nondescript, layered for ease of shucking a piece
or two to quickly change a look. Nothing I can see with any sort of logo
or easily identified marking.
Oh yeah… not his first B and E.
‘Keep your hands where I can see them,’ I tell
him, and step over to hit the hall light switch.
He squints in the sudden flare, but keeps his hands up, palms
‘I’m not armed!’ he informs me. ‘I’m
I’m not either, at that moment, but it certainly wouldn’t
stop me from doing him serious bodily harm if I was so inclined, but I don’t
bother to tell him his reassurances don’t mean much. Either way.
It’s all for the sake of categorization when it comes
to his sentencing. I can’t help a snort of derision.
It makes him weirdly bold. ‘Come on man,’ he wheedles. ‘I’m
just trying to feed my family…’
Able to see him better in the full light, I have to stop myself
from laughing right out loud. Family my ass; he’s got all the earmarks
of your garden variety junkie. ‘What’s your kid’s name?’
I mutter, ‘Crack?’
‘That’s stereotyping…’ he responds
and I just roll my eyes and shift around him to go retrieve my cell phone.
Here was a guy who had been through the system a couple of dozen times or
‘Moron.’ I say. ‘You broke into a Preventer’s
He groans and sags back, the wide-eyed look of the desperate
‘family man’ forgotten. ‘Are you shitting me?’
I don’t bother to reply, just going to get my phone
from the bedside table. He never leaves my line of sight, not that he’s
so much as tried to sit up yet.
I can’t help but sigh, thinking about the rest of the
night spent with police in our house and paperwork shoved in my face. Damn
pain in the ass. It wasn’t even two in the morning yet. I’d
had plans that were pretty much out the window now.
‘Come on, man,’ the guy says, sounding resigned.
‘Put the call in already and let’s get this show on the road.
I got places to be.’
I glare at him but can’t say he’s wrong. He’ll
probably be back out on the street before Duo was even home from his New
Damn, but I didn’t want to have to tell Duo about this.
He would not… take it well. This place, this house… our home,
had become a safe place for him. Safe places do not have junkies wandering
around in them, looting and pillaging.
I take my gun out of the drawer while I am there and step
back into the hall to put the call in.
‘What the hell made you pick my damn house?’ I
ask him idly, frustrated with the shape my night is taking.He just snorts
and rolls his eyes. ‘Seriously? You gotta ask? Dead end street? No
other houses in sight? Rumor said there was nothin’ here but a couple
of light-weight pansies? No brainer.’
I hesitate with my thumb hovering over the dial button, staring
at him. ‘Rumor was wrong, huh?’
‘No shit,’ he groans and finally moves to sit
up, his hands going to rub at his knee.
I watch him closely, but he isn’t making any move toward
a concealed weapon. He honestly was just waiting for me to call the police
and have him hauled out. It was like he was playing a game and he failed
the level and was just waiting for the reset.
It makes me wonder just how many houses he’d broken
into. How many times had he been arrested? How many resets did one guy get?
It makes me wonder how in the hell he’d gotten in past
the alarm system to begin with. The guy wasn’t bad at what he did…
he knew what he was doing. He probably would not have failed tonight, if
he hadn’t been in my damn home. If he hadn’t been unlucky enough
to pick a house belonging to a pair of ex-Gundam pilots.
What all might he have taken? What all would he have dug through?
Our computers, for sure. The small amount of jewelry that we owned, mostly
mementos and gifts. All the more irreplaceable because of that. Was the
guy good enough to recognize and know the value of Duo’s art?
I have a sudden mental image of him cutting canvases off their
frames and I find that I am getting angry.
‘Hey,’ he suddenly says, maybe thinking that my
hesitation was coming from not wanting to deal with the hassle. ‘What
say you just let me go, huh? I’ll even promise not to come back!’
He finds this terribly funny and laughs. I do not find it
funny, and I do not laugh.
How many safe places had this man despoiled? How many irreplaceable
treasures had he taken and turned into drugs? And how many more ahead of
him? And how long before it wasn’t just peace of mind that he stole?
How long before he escalated to the next level and somebody died?
I do not want to have Duo’s peace of mind disturbed.
It had taken too long for him to ground and center himself. Too long for
him to lose that twitchy unease that had lived behind his eyes after the
accident. I knew I was at the heart of that healing, but our home was a
part of it too. Duo loved this place, loved his peace here, loved his art
and his gardens, and I would not see that stolen from him. He would not
be able to forget that this thief had wormed his way in, would not be able
to forget that this man had put his hands on our things, had crept through
The imagination and creative spirit that is at Duo’s
core… would feed on this and the damage it would do to his serenity
In the side yard there is a half finished flower bed. Duo’d
begun the job of lining it out and digging out the dry, sandy soil to be
replaced with rich top soil before the planting. I’d been working
on it while he was gone with the intent for him to only have the fun part
of choosing and putting in the flowers, when he returned.
It would not take overly long to deepen that bed another four
or five feet. I happened to have all night, and as it had been pointed out…
we were well away from the prying eyes and ears of any neighbors.
‘Maybe I’ll even tell you how I got in!’
he laughs, and then grins at me maliciously. ‘Or maybe I won’t.’
Duo’s peace of mind, the sanctity of this place that
is his… that is ours, is paramount. I will not see it broken.
I toss my phone and my gun on the foot of the bed and stalk
back out into the hall. Some levels only have so many resets. Sometimes
when you fail a level, it means…
Fiction : GW :