Once upon a time, when Mel and I were engaged and he was working a Halloween night shift, we agreed that I would sit at his house and pass out candy to all the children we knew would come in their costumes. Being in a small town, we expected that everyone probably knew he was a safe person–word spreads quickly in a tiny town of 1,000, even though he hadn’t been here long.
So I went downstairs into the basement for a basket for passing out candy and was happily filling it upstairs when an alarm went off in that same basement where I had just been. Now, Mel has always been safety conscious, and I knew he had alarms set up, which was why I felt safe alone in his big old house. But he and I still had a few things to learn about each other.
I called Mel, who had just arrived at work. I was suddenly not in a party mood, but for some reason, he was, so he hit the speaker button so all his coworkers and any passing ER patients or visitors could listen in on our conversation. In the first place, I’d always hated that. In the second place, it garbled our voices and we couldn’t hear each other as well, so when I said, “Someone’s in the house,” he laughed and said, “What?” And then I said, more loudly, “The alarm’s going off!” and he said, “What?
So I screamed, “Someone’s broken in!”
He was silent. I hung up, figuring I’d better take care of this by myself. I went into the kitchen and found Mel’s largest and sharpest butcher knife, and entered the basement to face the ear-destroying alarm. I turned it off and turned on all the lights. Huge basement, of course. Lots of rooms. I went through the whole basement, shaking so hard I could barely hold the knife, and thinking about how stupid I was not to just call the police.
I found no one, so I went back upstairs, closed and locked the basement door, and waited. The alarm went off again. I focused on my breathing to keep from passing out. About that time, while I had a death grip on the butcher knife, the front door flew open and hit the wall. I leapt to my feet, brandishing the butcher knife. It was Mel, wide-eyed and breathing hard.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“You screamed! What are you doing with a butcher knife?”
“The alarm keeps going off and I don’t have a gun!”
“Get out of the house.” He reached for me, and we both went out the front door into the waning light.
Because Mel lived a block away from a questionable neighborhood, the police cruised past his house often. It just so happened a policeman cruised past just as we were stumbling out onto the front porch and into the yard looking terrified, with me still brandishing my knife.
Mike, who is now police chief, pulled into Mel’s driveway and got out. Mel and I explained briefly, then followed him down the stairs into the basement, taking care to stay behind him. We went through every room, looked under every table and behind every door, and were just about to come back out when, to our horror, in the window of the outside basement door appeared a huge head covered by a ten gallon hat.
All three of us nearly wet ourselves.
Then Mike recognized the country sheriff, whom he’d called for backup. After finding no one in the basement or upstairs, we tried to figure out why the alarm kept going off every time the basement door was closed. One of us stayed downstairs to see what happened when the others shut the door. We saw a wall-hanging move with the draft of air caused by the shutting door.
The police still cruise past our house several times a day. Sometimes, when I need information about small town police work, I’ll hop in my car or head out on foot to find a cruiser and ask a few questions. They always oblige.
No kids have ever come to this house in all the time we’ve lived here. I no longer buy candy or goodies. We no longer use that particular alarm system. Now we depend on our trusty four attack animals, and have never had a problem since.
Ah. Small town life.