I eyed the perfect house, a two-story contemporary in an upscale neighborhood in Revere, Massachusetts. Cased it night after night to learn the occupants’ schedule. Shattered a street light out front with a rock to cloak me in darkness, and then returned tonight for the heist. Learning the target’s habits is essential in good prowling. The last thing I need is an unannounced arrival or a half-asleep homeowner surprising me in the dark. I get in and get out. That is my specialty. Simple. Smooth. Stealth. Homeowner’s insurance cover the stolen goods anyway. It’s a victimless crime.
I waited for just the right moment to strike. The ideal opportunity when the neighbors’ homes blackened and all movement stopped inside the target property. To me, it was a dance. The music started slow as the first house-light extinguished, enhanced as the second home darkened, and then elevated into a vibrant symphony once the last glimmer eradicated.
Tonight’s target, a modern home constructed of wood and stone triangular shapes, jagged edges in a rich cedar encompassed smoked-glass walls, opaque for privacy. My favorite feature was the catwalk, made from the same wood as the house with chest-high railings that began at the front gate, traveled over a rocked stream– a kelly green manicured lawn on either side– and continued straightly to the front door.
The baluster rods of the railing reminded me of hundreds of nutcrackers standing at attention.
The owners’ two-thousand-and-fourteen Mercedes left the residence minutes ago. According to my calculations, I had plenty of time to complete the caper. I climbed the wrought iron gate, jumped off the top monogrammed crest and landed hard on the tarred drive. My knees barely had time to absorb the blow when I heard stomping of many feet heading in my direction.
I bolted for the catwalk in time to see a pack of Dobermans charging straight at me. Long, white canines snapped at my feet as I pulled myself up the railing and sprinted along the wooden slats.
Vibrations shook the catwalk.
Looking back over my shoulder I saw two attack dogs chasing me. Sleek muscles flexed with their fast-moving gait. Their short fudge-colored hair hackled, and their lips flapped with the force of their stride. As I walked the tight-rope-type railing they bared their teeth, snarling at me. Their long claws scratched and clawed at the baluster rods as they tried to knock me off.
My first instinct was to panic. My second, to pick a mark and narrow my concentration solely on that spot. I chose a small half-moon decorative window on the right side of the house. With one foot set in front of the other I moved cat-like, my arms extended out, poised on the three-inch railing like a balance beam.
The dogs barked, jumped and banged against the railing. White foam dripped off their sharp teeth as they spat at me. Being an animal lover, I didn’t want to mace them unless my situation turned dire and I had no other choice. I blocked out all distractions, kept my eyes fixed on that window all the way to the end.
Standing on top of the front entrance, I flipped the hungry Dobermans the bird. Then scaled the steep roofline around to the side, where I discovered an open window.
Slipping inside unnoticed, I shined my flashlight out in front of me. I was in a bedroom. Not the master, I assumed, because of the queen-size bed. In homes this exquisite the owners don’t cram themselves in queen-size beds. California kings? Absolutely. But not queens or fulls. Therefore, I guessed the room belonged to a young adult, or maybe it was the guest bedroom.
In the dark, something glinted in my light beam: gold atop a high, six-drawer dresser.
“Nice,” I remarked, stuffing a select few of the necklaces and bracelets into my backpack. In my trade, it isn’t wise to steal all the jewelry. It makes it too obvious they owners have been hit. Everything in moderation, that’s the key.
Wandering around in empty home made me feel alive. Invincible. My skin tingled with excitement. Padding down a long narrow hallway I noticed a door on my left with a sign that read ‘Enter at your own risk’. Of course I turned the knob. To me, the sign seemed more like an invitation than a warning.
Once I swung open the door, my lungs emptied of air.
A brass bed– the headboard, two interlocking s’s– cornered the far wall. A rainbow comforter lounged across the mattress with matching shams. Identical to the comforter set I had as a child.
The memory rushed back; there was no stopping it. It was my eighth birthday and I was out with my mother for a fun-filled day of shopping and ice cream. My baby brother, Austin, left behind with my dad. Mom and I had just finished lapping up the last remaining spoonful of chocolate syrup when I noticed the sheet set in a store window across the street. It didn’t take much begging on my part to convince my mother to take a peek inside.
I flopped down on the display bed, my arms outstretched like Jesus on the cross, and rolled from side to side to show Mom how much I loved the rainbows. Mom climbed on the double bed with me, and a tickle fest ensued.
This scrawny, pencil-neck geek of a store clerk angrily stood at the end of the bed, tapping his foot, his arm firmly crossed on his chest. “Excuse me,” he hissed. “This is the display model. This is not a place for you two to have fun.”
My mother lunged off the bed. I thought for sure she was going to scratch his eyeballs out. Instead, she gave him a wanly smile, and said, “I’d like to speak with your manager please.”
“He’s busy,” the clerk snapped. “Will you remove your daughter from the display, or do I need to call security?”
Shaking, I started to crawl off the bed when Mom stopped me. “No, honey. You don’t need to get up. You make sure this is the one you want.” She glared at the clerk with volcanic eyes. “Either get your supervisor or lose this sale. Your choice.”
“Oh, I, uh. . .” He cleared his throat. “I can help you with the purchase.”
Mom crossed her arms, tapped her foot.
The clerk pushed up the nosepiece on his thick coke-bottle glasses, cleared his throat again, and then excused himself.
I’d never seen that side of my mother before. In front of me, Mom was always timid, mild-mannered, wouldn’t hurt a flea. I didn’t think she had an aggressive bone in her body. At that moment I wanted to grow up to be just like her.
Without realizing it, I’d crawled on the comforter and was lying in the same position as that day in the store front. “I miss you Mom, Daddy, Austin.” A lone tear rolled down my cheek.
An electric garage door sounded below.
“Shit– they’re home.”
I sprinted back down the hall to the bedroom I first entered and climbed through the window.
Outdoor floodlights washed the yard in a bright yellow mist.
There was no way I’d get off the property the same way I came in, so I followed the roofline to the backyard. A massive ash tree with long, thick branches jutting out in all directions caught my eye. The ones closest to the roof plenty strong to hold my one-hundred-and-twenty-five-pound weight.
I lunged for the massive branch, caught it with my fingertips, swung my legs over and pulled up to a sitting position. Then my job got a lot easier. I scrambled down to the trunk and up the opposite branch that hung feet from a metal fence bordering the neighbor’s yard. Gripping the branch above, I swung back and forth. Propelled myself over the fence and on to the plush, thick grass next door.
Wiping grass stains off my black stretchy jeans I muttered, “What a fucking waste. All that planning for a few measly necklaces and bracelets.”
Jogging back to my car, I’d stashed blocks away, I veered into the Timber Point community on foot to cover my tracks in case the homeowners discovered they’d been hit.
Maybe I can salvage this night after all, I thought, scouting the properties. “Ooh, what’s this?”
Another modern home caught my eye. Fronted with glass and stucco the house had a stone-columned carport on the left side and no swing-set or signs of children in the home.
A perfect mark.
In the shadows across the street from the stucco contemporary I started my research. Which usually took several nights to complete. I probed each household member, jotted down each time they left and when they returned. What vehicle they drove and if they broke their normal routine. Everyone lives by certain patterns. By watching close enough I could learn that routine and determine the best possible time to strike. It became more difficult during the evening hours. At night most people don’t come and go with any regularity. However, there are those who do. And those who do are perfect targets for someone like me.
Movement occurred suddenly across the way. A dark-haired man rushed out of the house and into an ebony van, parked in the carport, and started the engine.
That was my cue to hide behind the nearest tree. I checked my watch as he drove off. It was twelve-oh-five a.m.
“That’s odd. Where’s he going at this hour? And why is he in such a hurry?” I made a note of it in my handy notepad that I kept in my back pocket. My case notes for future jobs, and the lifeblood of my work as a cat burglar.
He left the house in total darkness.
Did he live alone? Did he work the night shift? My interest peaked. I crept up the cobblestone walkway to the side of the house, where I spotted a sticker announcing an alarm.
Hmm. . . an alarm. Is the score worth the risk?
In my experience, most security companies only protected the doors and first floor windows. I’d only come across a few homes where the second-story windows were also safeguarded. Doing this work the last fifteen years I figured it was a safe bet. And one worth making considering the Timber Point community consisted of mainly half-million-dollar homes.
The van backed down the street and swung into the carport.
I dove behind a row of azalea bushes in the backyard.
The man got out and slammed the driver’s door, sputtering to himself as he stormed in the house, clearly pissed off about something.
I crept around the side of the bushes to make my escape when the back light suddenly blazed on.
The lavender azaleas’ sweet fragrance tickled my nose as the back door swung open and the dark-haired man stood in his doorway. He skimmed the yard with a flashlight that could’ve lit the entire city of Revere during a power outage.
I glanced to my right and saw my shadow reflected over the grass. Inching farther into the bushes I prayed he hadn’t seen me.
He stepped farther into the yard and twirled toward the azaleas.
With widened eyes I peered through the contorted branches to catch a peek at his face. All I could see was a silhouette behind a bright tunnel of white light.
“Timber” by Pit Bull cut through the cool night’s air like a long leather whip being snapped at a submissive.
As it did a sneeze roared through my sinuses and exploded in my hands, pressed firmly over my nose and mouth.